Friday, May 3, 2013

Singapore slinging - part 5: Newton Food Centre

This is the final post on my Singapore trip of late last year. After days of feasts of celebration, chilli crab, fine dining and more, as part of a large group we made a beeline to a locals' favourite outdoor food centre in the Newton area.

Newton Food Centre, also known as Newton Circus, offers extensive under cover seating and row upon row of hawker stalls, all plying their specialty fare.

Food stalls at Newton Food Centre, Newton, Singapore
It was a relatively cool, rainy night which may have deterred the usual crowds so we had no trouble finding a table for our large group and subsequently cover it with impossible amounts of food.

Food centres in Singapore tend to be filled with hawker-style stalls that specialise in a particular type of cuisine, much of it Singaporean and/or Malaysian.

Cage of crabs on display
As per Malaysian hawker stalls, you order food at a stall - or indeed, a number of stalls - then give them your table number (which you should 'bags' or reserve first before wandering off to order food), wait for the food to be delivered to you at which point you pay for it (cash only). It's not exactly a logical system to the Westernised diner but it seems to work quite seamlessly.

We had three separate groups disperse to make food orders and on return, it appeared double orders and eyes bigger than stomachs had completely filled our table with plastic plates of food - I'm not sure I've ever seen so much food outside of a buffet, and certainly not all on plastic plates.

There was a rush on the cockles when they arrived, simply boiled and served with a kumquat or kalamansi lime like citrus fruit.

This is definitely hands-on food, with a trick to opening the quite pretty, small, textured shells: give the hinge-end of the shells a squeeze, pinched between two fingers. The shells seem to magically spring open, and the sea-sweet, just chewy cockle meat can be picked out easily with a toothpick.

Deep fried baby squid
I'd never seen baby squid before, let alone baby squid deep fried to a crunch and covered in a caramelly sweet sauce. Their crispness gave them an air of snack food crisps and they were downright delightful and odd.

Oyster omelette
There's something mysterious about the oyster omelette; quite possibly in relation to the source of the oysters. Freezer, jar or shell, it doesn't matter all that much as it's about the texture within the golden cooked egg which covers most of the soft, squishy molluscs, while the tart, spicy sauce is the dominant flavour.

Char kway kak - radish cake
Also cooked with egg was the char kway kak radish cake dish: wok fried and diced pieces tossed to a near scrappy but deliciously moreish pile.

Grilled chicken wings
Simply but perfectly executed were the grilled chicken wings: sticky and tanned brown on the outside - easily making the skin the best part - with meat full of spiced, marinated flavour.

We thought we'd add a rojak fruit and vegetable salad to up the nutrient count of the meal, and did it ever in a huge serving size.

Apple, cucumber, pineapple and fried tofu all came slathered thick in dark, sweet sauce pungent with belacan shrimp paste and a hint of chilli, garnished with thin, dried squid or cuttlefish ribbons.

Hokkien mee
The plainest dish on the table of almost 20 plates was easily the Hokkien mee: soft Hokkien noodles in a simple sauce flavoured with soy, tossed with bean sprouts and a couple of prawns, and with a fiery sambal chilli on the side. This was pure comfort after quite the evening's gorging on big flavours and exotic food.

But while Singapore does have the exotic, it's the simple stuff that's most pleasing and the source of most cravings. Fine dining would struggle to challenge a good Hainan chicken rice in satisfaction and comfort, but Singapore certainly makes the best of both worlds.

So long, Singapore, I look forward to returning for the cheap-as-chips chicken rice, balmy nights on rooftop bars, more chilli crab and a Singapore Sling.


Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

I went WOW as soon as I saw that rojak. Amazing. It's funny how much food you got to eat during such a short trip to Singapore. If only sydney was like that... to an extent.. lol

milkteaxx said...

omgsh so much of my fav foods there, ive only been to newton once and i wish i could go back there now!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Oh so many family favourites in this post! I wish I could be transported there! :D

JB @ said...

I question the healthfulness of having these dishes. Everything's fried!

I have to say though... Last time I was in SG, after a long night of boozing, all I could think of on the way to the hotel was char kway teoy! I guess it's the SG equivalent of a kebab at 3am.

That rojak looks amazing too.


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