In durian-loving Singapore, the fresh fruit is famously banned from mass transportation, most hotels, and many other public accommodations; confected durian knows no such restrictions. Top: durian salat (S$1, about 75 U.S. cents at the time), blended with the coconut jam called kaya, on sticky rice. Below: a durian-filled pukis (Poo-kiss, 90 Singapore cents), a molded cake native to Indonesia, childhood home of the founder of the Bengawan Solo chain.
Bengawan Solo International Plaza, 01-17 10
Anson Rd., Singapore 65-6221-0638 (One of many locations) www.BengawanSolo.com.sg (From a summer 2010 visit)
"...know your food prices, order at the stalls" and not, presumably, from roaming touts. A response, in all probability, to a notorious incident of overcharging by a BBQ seafood vendor the year before.
"Don't pay more than you should..." Newton Food Centre, Singapore (From a summer 2010 visit)
Dirty work: Lotus roots (technically, rhizomes, but we'll stick with the usual moniker) are typically harvested from the bottom of ponds. These, still slicked with mud, were otherwise indistinguishable from the roots at extreme left. Perhaps the mud was retained as a mark of freshness; it certainly seemed to help sales.
Produce stall Chinatown Complex Food Centre, stall B1-130, Singapore (From a summer 2010 visit)
In the Malay language, "air" means "water"; "kathira," or "katira," offers a sticker problem in translation. The proprietor, and a couple of passers-by, could offer no insight except that it's a common fast-breaking beverage during Ramadan; as with eggnog, many drink it, but few can elaborate on the etymology. Possibly "kathira" is a loanword from Urdu, denoting a gum derived from sap and used as a thickener.
Of several available flavors, I eventually settled on pale green pandan (S$2.00, about US$1.50 at the time) over golden durian.
Air kathira stall At a Ramadan bazaar on Geylang Road near the Joo Chiat Complex, Singapore (From a summer 2010 visit)
Fish sticks, after a fashion: Keropok lekor, a specialty of the northeastern Malaysian state of Terengganu, are a blend of fish paste and sago. Traditionally they're hand-rolled, though these have a mass-produced, extruded look, then tossed in the deep fryer. My fellow Ramadan bazaar browsers and I got a half-and-half order (S$2.00, about US$1.50 at the time) — four chewy, four crispy.
Fried-food stall At a Ramadan bazaar on Geylang Road near the Joo Chiat Complex, Singapore (From a summer 2010 visit)
Most of the wares at this Malay-run stall reflected the owners' heritage. I'd only recently arrived from Kuala Lumpur, where I'd had my fill of Malaysian sweets (if you can believe it), but I let myself be tempted by this Middle Eastern style custard. Very eggy; decorated with raisins and slivered cashews.
Sweets stall At a Ramadan bazaar near Sultan Mosque, vicinity of Muscat St., Singapore (From a summer 2010 visit)
No matter how many times I visit Singapore or how long I stay, there's never enough time to hunt down every dish. The last time I was out in this neck of the woods, the shutters were down and the hotplates were cold.
"Hotplate deer meat" Old Airport Road Cooked Food Centre, Singapore (From a summer 2010 visit)