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It’s Always Time to ‘Makan’

April 2, 2011

Makan, makan! (eat, eat!)

A couple weeks ago, Y (one of my best friends) introduced me to a fellow Singaporean via Facebook messaging. It went something like this:

Y: “Hey guys! How are you doing? Sorry for the late introduction, but N – this is J, my awesome Singaporean friend who will be moving to London soon. J – this is N, my awesome childhood friend who lives in London. I thought you guys could get together and go grab a bite once J arrives.

Now obviously since Y is a close friend of both of ours, I trust her judgement when she tells me that I should meet her friend as she thinks we’ll get along. Seeing as I’m half-Singaporean and J is full Singaporean, however, means that this is a safer bet than you’d think.

Food is important to everyone in that without-food-we-will-be-hungry-then-die-and-that-would-not-be-good sort of way, but to a Singaporean (or even half-Singaporeans as the case may be): food is a way of life.

We eat. And while we eat, we talk about food. And once we have eaten and can eat no more, we discuss where and what to eat next. We Singaporeans love food so much that we don’t recognise this three meals a day mumbo-jumbo. Three?! Ha! We can put away four or more without batting an eye. It’s not uncommon to have breakfast, lunch, dinner and then supper (late at night). One of my good friends, C, back in Sydney would often call me up between the hours of 12am and 1am. I would pick up the phone and more often than not, the first word out of his mouth would be: supper?

Oh, the good old days.

And because Singapore is the melting pot of cultures that it is, you are absolutely spoiled for choice in the lion city. Personally, I never eat western food in Singapore. It’s not that you cannot get a good European meal; it just seems so illogical to not take full advantage of the local offerings whilst travelling, especially when in a country that is renowned for its food.

My favourite places to eat are the hawker centres and kopi tiams – outdoor food markets where each stall sells just a few dishes which are generally different from the surrounding stalls. They can be found all over the country (all 699 km² of it), but most predominantly within residential areas.

Once there, you can wander around comparing the offerings and inhaling all the delicious aromas that drift towards you as these specialised cooks work their magic. The worst mistake you can make – especially if you’re as indecisive and enamoured with food as I am – is to arrive hungry. I am not fond of making decisions at the best of times, but when I’m hungry… I can walk lap after lap around a hawker centre simply unable to choose a dish because I want everything.

In any case, J finally arrived into London last Saturday and as discussed, we made plans to meet up in a few days time. Meetings were rescheduled on Monday, however, and when I texted J to see if she might want to meet up that day I received a slightly tearful phone call in reply. Clearly she was missing family and feeling a bit homesick, so we decided to do what Singaporeans do when… well, what Singaporeans do whenever. Eat.

An hour and a half later we were sitting at one of our favourite haunts: a Malaysian restaurant called C&R in the middle of Chinatown. As we tore into our dishes we discussed food (of course) and told each other a bit about ourselves. Food aside, I was surprised to find how much we had in common. The meal was punctuated with emphatic nods of agreement – wide-eyed, cheeks full, chopsticks suspended in mid-air – as the other spilled her story.

With our 3 o’clock meal packed away, we went for a wander (to digest, of course) whilst deciding whether to go have a cupcake at The Hummingbird Bakery. Did that sound believable to you? No, it didn’t to me either. The truth is we both knew that that was where we were going to end up; even before we lamely mumbled, “well, let’s see if we have space later” and “can also next time, lah“. Then there’s the fact that we just so happened to be ‘walking off’ our second lunch in the direction of – oh my, how convenient! – The Hummingbird Bakery.

Pathetic. But hey, we are who we are and we love our food, we do! Now if only we had Y here as well, what a merry little trio of food lovers we would be… isinit?


 

C&R

Telephonic numerals 0207 434 1128

Location: 3-4 Rupert Court Road, London W1D 6DY. It can be tricky to find at first. Remember, it’s just off Whitcomb Street (in between Gerrard Street and Lisle Street). There is another C&R at 52 Westbourne Grove (W2 5 SH). I’ve yet to visit this one, but it has reviewed well.

Opening hours Monday – Sunday from noon until 11pm (according to yelp.co.uk)

And? I’ve not had a bad meal, but one of my favourites – both for nostalgic reasons and for the fact that they do a decent job – is the Nasi Lemak (malaysian chicken curry with coconut rice, a boiled egg, ikan bilis [deep fried dried anchovy with peanuts] and a generous dollop of sambal).

 

THE HUMMINGBIRD BAKERY

Telephonic numerals 0207 851 1795

Location There are 3 locations in London to date: Soho (155a Wardour St), Notting Hill (133 Portobello Rd) and South Kensington (47 South Brompton Rd).

Opening hours vary from store to store, but they are all open 7 days a week from latest 10am until at least 5pm. Check their website for more details.

Website www.hummingbirdbakery.com

And? Red velvet cupcakes; what more is there to say? Oh, I suppose it may be worthwhile to note that they have a range of gluten-free offerings called ‘Made Without’.

 

N


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