More on the Singapore Photo-Collage

[update : “Gaylan district” corrected to “Geylang district” in the fresh bean curd description]

As promised in an earlier post, some more details about the 9-photo collage. Through the wonders of digital photo editing, I broke the square into three rectangles, and will explain them from left to right.

  • Yam puff. A crispy fried pastry filled with pureed yam. Often it is spiced with curry powder (and hence called a “curry puff”), but this one wasn’t. And thus it was somewhat bland. Source: Maxwell Road Food Center
  • Pancake with peanut filling. A thick crepe flavored and colored with pandan leaf (Pandanus latifolius, P. amaryllifolius), then spread with a mixture of ground peanuts and sugar, and rolled into a coil. The one in the photo was only so-so, as it must have sat around for a little while before I purchased it. Source: Maxwell Road Food Center
  • Carrot cake. This dish is classic hawker’s fare, with a mysterious name. It usually contains no carrots and often doesn’t resemble a cake. One of the guidebooks I consulted says that the “carrot” in the name comes from the giant white radish (a.k.a. daikon), which apparently is also called “white carrot.” In the carrot cakes I ate, the white carrot did not appear as a diced vegetable, but instead is first formed into some kind of steamed cake. The cake is cubed before tossing into the wok with the other ingredients (eggs, soy sauce, pickled radish, bean sprouts, some chili sauce). Although some hawkers form it into a pancake before serving, it is just as often mounded onto a plate for service. Despite consulting many books about Singaporean food (at the gleaming Singapore National Library), I was unable to learn the ingredients or method for making the radish cake. If you know of a recipe for the cake, please provide a link in the comments. Source: Makansutra Gluttons’ Bay food center near the Esplanade performing arts center.

  • Khandvi, an Indian chaat. I had not seen this dish before, so naturally I ordered it right away. The yellow cylinders appear to be made of a steamed dough that has been lightly seasoned with tumeric and other mild spices. Source: Ghaangothree restaurant on Hindoo road in Little India.
  • Cheese murtabak. A murtabak is a filled pastry that uses the same dough as roti canai. (a classic Malaysian street food). To make the murtabak, the roti master takes a ball of dough and stretches it into an impossibly thin sheet, then folds it around the filling and cooks it on a griddle. Here is a video of a roti canai master, and another. The Source: Mr. Prata, near the Botanical Garden.
  • Fresh bean curd. Tofu at its purest. Freshly made, flavored with a spoonful of palm sugar syrup. The ultimate in subtlety. Source: Rochor Bean Curd, on Sims Avenue in the Geylang District.

  • Char kway teow. Rice and egg noodles in dark sauce, with bean sprouts, and usually prawns, Chinese sausage and cockles. This particular version was served on a large dried leaf (bamboo?). Source: Makansutra Gluttons’ Bay food center near the Esplanade performing arts center.
  • Dokla chaat. A cake made from a mixture of rice flour and chickpea flour (besan) which is fermented overnight, then steamed in blocks. In this case, it is served with yogurt, tamarind sauce and herbs. Source: Ghaangothree restaurant on Hindoo road in Little India.
  • Teh tarik. Literally, “tea pulled”, this very common hot beverage is a mixture of long-steeped tea, condensed milk and sugar (usually a lot, as Malaysians and Singaporeans love sugar!). “Pulling” tea involves pouring it back and forth between two vessels that are separated by several feet–sometimes as many as five or six feet! The pulling does three things: cools the drink, makes it foamy, and dissolves the sugar in the liquid. The excellent blog Rasa Malaysia has a link to a video showing the pulling in process. Source: you can find this drink just about everywhere.

For more authoritative explanations, I recommend cookbooks published by Periplus Publishing (e.g., Authentic Recipes from Malaysia), the Lonely Planet World Food Malaysia & Singapore, as well as bloggers who live in Singapore or Malaysia (too numerous to link).

Indexed under Travel, Malaysia and Singapore
Technorati tags: Singapore : Food : Travel


  1. FYI: Khandvi is a popular snack in the Indian state of Gujarat. The dough used to make it is a lentil (Bengal gram) flour. That it is being sold in Malaysia tells me that there is a significant community of Gujaratis there as it is not a snack that is popular throughout India. Khandvi is definitely a regional delight.

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