Few weeks ago I read about the Singapore Food Trail, our first 1960s-themed food street, and made a note to visit the place. Last Saturday I finally got my chance. After my free visit to Asian Civilizations Museum (thanks Jerome for the heads up), I trooped down to the Singapore Flyer via Anderson and Esplanade Bridge for lunch.
I found the food street beside Republic Boulevard, where Singapore Flyer is located. Food street is actually a misnomer; there is no tar on the ground and the place is entirely indoors .... just like a food court. As you read their introduction, are you excited over our latest heritage attraction?
Singapore Food Trail is a unique 1960s themed food street in Singapore and an exciting dining attraction, which will bring back fond memories of the good old days. Be transported back to a bygone era, to a time when we savoured popular local delights along the road side from the makeshift carts and stalls. You can reminisce about those carefree good old days ....
What I saw outside the food
I guess they brand this heritage attraction a food street to differentiate it from the food courts with similar heritage theme - Food Republic at VivoCity (see this blog) is what I can think of now. Perhaps the intention was to bring the outdoor eating environment from the 1960s indoors, but in all honesty I think they are not wildly successful at creating the atmosphere - the smoke, the perspiration, the stench, the rubbish, the noise and what else? The decor is nice though; you find road signs, a trishaw at North Bridge Road, even corrugated zinc sheets over your heads.
The street signs were what caught my eyes. Initially I was excited over them, could they be "geo-tags" for the stalls in the Singapore Food Trail? For example Bugis Street (see photo above) was famous for .... sorry I do not know the culinary specialty at Bugis Street. I do know the place was famous for transvestites though. My geo-tag theory found support in one such stall - look closely at my cleaning aunty photo above, in the background the rightmost stall is this Bugis Street Famous Hainanese Chicken Rice (白沙浮亚发驰名海南鸡饭). However after I made a note on each stall and tried to match them with the signs, I did not think that was the case.
My main course for lunch. Was this a famous stall in the 1960s?
What did I have for lunch? I was spoilt for choice obviously so to cut short the decision process, I chose one of my favourite food and coincidentally the stall had no long queue. Actually most of the stalls had no long queue and the place was not really crowded on that Saturday afternoon. You can see the view from my table.
Coincidentally a group of DJs were sitting at the next table - Glenn Ong, Vernetta Lopez, Jean Danker and one other lady (probably Yasminne Cheng). The Class 95FM DJs just finished hosting the Stiletto Race. I wanted to secretly catch them on my camera from my table but stopped when I saw Glenn had pretty big muscles compared to mine and Vernetta had that dreamy but tough stare. The two were in my direct line of sight.
What I ate for lunch. I think it set me back by $4 (they had three sizes - $4, $5, $6), still pretty affordable compared to other food courts. It wasn't appetizing, a little bland and fell short of my standard. I hope standard was better in the 1960s.
For dessert, I ordered .... guess what, ice ball! It was a wonderful surprise seeing Ice Ball or 冰球 advertised from this push cart (they also sold Cheng Teng). Now, this is really a 1960s dessert considered extinct in Singapore today. Before the man moulded the ice into a ball, I checked his ice shaver. Disappointingly or rather luckily, it was not the first or second generation kind blogged by Chun See.
I was a little surprised when the lady (who took over from the man) poured syrups of different colour (four of them) over the ball. Why? The first time I heard of ice ball was from my dad, many years ago. We were buying Chendol from Hollywood Desserts at Bedok Interchange Food Centre (back then it was probably called Hawker Centre) and he told me he used to buy from them outside Hollywood Cinema at Tanjong Katong. I think he was a student then so it must be during mid or late 1960s. He added that last time nobody ate the dessert like today, in a bowl full of ice. The form then was the ice ball, to be eaten cupped in your palms. I agreed with the logic then because Hollywood served quite big portion with solid coconut milk, beans and sugar; it was Herculean trying to finish their Chendol to the last drop. From then on, I associated the Ice Ball with Chendol.
My first ice ball! I was expecting Chendol but it turned out to be Ice Kachang! I took another picture of the content inside. Luckily it was not only a ball of ice.
All the while, I was sharing my table with a middle-aged woman who ordered a plate of chicken rice. She did not say anything when I was eating the Hokkien Noodles. When she saw my ice ball, she asked me for the price. I said $2. She told me last time it was only 10 cents (or 15 cents, I can't remember). According to Victor's blog post, it was 10 cents in the 1960s.
Before I left, I spotted the Kachang Puteh Man. He must be a small celebrity of sort, judging from the clippings at the stall. I think he could be one of the last traditional sellers around. The last time I bought Kachang Puteh must be many moons ago; when I saw the wide assortment of nuts, I forgot how Kachang Puteh was ordered. Can I mix and match? Eventually I settled on this nut in white coating, after reading one of the clippings that said the puteh (meaning white) could have originated from the white coating.
What I ordered for $1. Could this be the original kachang puteh? I remember last time the cone was not folded from white paper but colourful magazine pages.
I left the place with a good impression. Our latest heritage attraction lived up to my expectation and I told myself I would be going back again. Admittedly the 1960s atmosphere was not there and at times I felt like eating in a museum. That is the beauty of it, the decor and vintage displays are worth a visit whether you are young but love vintage or oldie reminiscing about the past. The best part is since the place is a tourist attraction, they will not stop you from taking photos. The price of food is not exorbitant and they do have famous stalls like Alhambra Satay Club and Selera's Adam Road Nasi Lemak. Read the food review at soshiok.
Vintage display at one corner. The place was like a museum, the best part being admission is free.