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The Thy Tracker (continued)


May 15–23  Peranakan  24–25  27–29  Sireh  30a  30b  30c–31
Malaysia: Melaka June 1–2, Kuala Lumpur 3–4, Penang 6
Vietnam: Saigon 13–16  19-20  22  26  27 30
Nha Trang July 7a 7b, Hue 14a 14b, Hanoi 19–20
India: Pondicherry 31, Bangalore August 2–4, Kerala

SINGAPORE (continued)

  1. with mere inches on either side.

May 30, Wednesday night

In Chinatown

Huge blocks of ice help keep grass jelly, lemon water, pineapple drink, and soy milk cold through Singapore's hot afternoon.

For those with more healthful leanings, iced herbal teas promise to sooth and heal as well as quench thirst.

A sign points the way to pork jerky and helps control the queue.

They slice pork thinly, grill or roast it, and then dry it just enough to make a chewy treat. This is the best jerky ever.

The hawker chooses out her freshest Nonya ricecake for my bus trip tomorrow.

For my last dinner, Moses and I eat at Soup Restaurant in the heart of old Chinatown, on Smith Street. The strip is now really more of a tourist area, although there's still the occasional store still catering to the local community, rather like Grant Street in San Francisco. Soup highlights the simpler cuisine of the Samsui women, a sisterhood from southern China who dedicated themselves to manual labor. They were known for their distinctive red head coverings that protected them from the sun while they worked. And did they work! Among the first women allowed to immigrate from China, in the 1930s, they helped build some of the biggest buildings of the time. Since they took a vow not to marry, many having escaped arranged marriages back in their home villages, they later found themselves with no family here in Singapore. Many died poor, and only a few old Samsui women remain in Chinatown, often living in extreme poverty.

Full of goodness.

Steaming highlights the simple flavors of fresh ingredients.

The restaurant specializes in medicinal soups. We tried one with black chicken and mushrooms and another one that would help relieve stress. Roots, berries, spices, and other unidentifiable ingredients were visible in their clear broths. They were wonderfully aromatic, with just a hint of sweetness. Both tasted much better than I imagine real Chinese medicine does. The ginger chicken, eaten with a rich ginger sauce and cucumber slices on crisp lettuce cups, was not as good as the Hainan chicken rice I've been enjoying. But the very tender, fresh steamed fish, the curly steamed prawns, and the yao mak chye ("duck vegetable" because even the ducks in the countryside would rush for it) with sambal helped make a feast to remember. To finish, we enjoyed "Boiled Snow Frog with American Ginseng"—the ingredient in question being a pleasantly crunchy fungus.

I also managed to snag some chewy, barbecued pork at Lim Chee Guan, where people will queue for three hours during Chinese New Year for a pile of their meat. It was very good. Moses asked me if there was anything I'd wait in line for three hours to eat. I actually couldn't think of anything. I now truly understand just how dedicated the Singaporeans are to eating.

More Singapore >

May 2001