Three countries in a week! Sound more ridiculous than adventurous? Maybe!
Working for one day in Malaysia has its advantages. We were so close to everywhere else in Asia, that we thought we’d fit in a quick four day side trip to see Angkor Wat. But before we’d booked our flights, Scoot came on the scene, so that brought a couple of nights in Singapore on the way…
Here are a few highlights for you to enjoy!
On our last stopover in Singapore, I’d become violently ill eating periwinkles at the Lao Pa Sat Hawker Centre. Probably just a virus, but with no inclination of a repeat (so to speak), we headed to Newton Hawker Centre on our first night in Singapore to enjoy Chilli crab. We’d heard discussion from other expats as to whether Newton’s was a rip off, whether it was better to go to the East Coast, but we were pleasantly surprised at both the price and service at the hawker centre.
At S$4 for 100g and delicious to boot, we had a fabulous meal on a 1kg crab, topped up with huge Garlic butter prawns after our entrée of Chicken satay. Grilled over charcoal fire rather than coconut husk, there wasn’t the dusky smoke flavour to the satays which we love about Balinese satays, but they were still delicious. What’s also to love is the accompanying rice Ke tu pat (rice cake), onions, cucumber and spicy peanut gravy. Our crab was fished out of the tank live, so the cooked meat just fell apart, and the tomato and chilli gravy was of medium heat, as requested. At S$30 each ($30 AUD accompanied by a tall Tiger), it was a really affordable and tasty dinner in a clean under cover area.
The main purpose of our stop was to see the Gardens by the Bay – the multi-billion dollar development beside the new Marina Bay Sands casino, hotel and shopping complex. Wow! Eat your heart out Gold Coast, is all I can say. After spending hours in the gardens and Flower Dome, we popped up to Ku De Ta, on the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, by far the coolest place to sip a drink as you look out over Singapore and contemplate the logistics of creating an infinity edged pool 73 storeys above the ground.
Lunch at Din Tai Fung in the Marina Bay Sands shopping complex hit the spot.
We’re yet to find Xiao Long Bao (Steamed pork dumplings with soup inside) on the Gold Coast, and DTF’s version are melt in your mouth lip smackingly to die for!
Anxious to take a look at the graffitied Haji Lane, we hit the Arab Quarter as evening prayers were being sung. Bassorah Street provided lots of dining choice, and our meal at Istanbul Grill’d & Bar was interesting but not outstanding – not too different to some of the Lebanese food we’ve eaten on the Gold Coast, but a safe choice before travelling on to Cambodia.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
One can eat well in Cambodia for very little money, but if you’re willing to spend $10 AUD you can eat international standard fusion food. Unless you’re really cash strapped, only carry US dollars – it’s all you need. Our hotel was only 100m from Pub Street, so after a day’s trekking or stair climbing around some of the 92 or so temples of Angkor Wat, we mostly ambled down the road and enjoyed Spring rolls, Red duck curry, Fish Amok (Fish in coconut) and other local cuisine served to international standard and prices. Meals cost about $5 – $7 AUD.
There are a few opportunities to dine at ‘not for profit’ restaurants, which help local orphanages and schools, so consider dining at Joe To Go, Haven or Green Star.
One night we ventured out to a Cambodian Barbeque of 10 different meats: kangaroo, chicken, snake, crocodile, beef, squid, pork, prawn, fish and emu seared on a tabletop grill accompanied by a vegetable soup, and of course the perennial Tiger!
The French-Cambodian restaurant Le Malraux, just a stone’s throw from the Old Market, was worth a stop, dining al fresco surrounded by orchids.
Our most scenic meal, however, was enjoyed on a boat in the floating village – Fish Amok, as its family ‘ran amuck’, jumping out of the water beside us, perhaps looking to see what their own fate would be!
But then we found Aha, opposite the Old Market, a handy haven as we sought escape from a persistent but questionable child beggar, complete with a baby on her hip, who demanded that we follow her to another location to buy milk formula. Aha has fabulous minimalistic ambience, reliable Illy coffee, good fusion tasting plates to share ($8US) and the two desserts we tried (Pandan and sticky rice crème brulée and Hokey pokey ice cream) were to die for! Aha is just one of the more upmarket restaurants in Siem Reap. We could have , but we ran out of time.
Kuala Lumpur was the last port on our whistlestop tour. KL’s cuisine could be categorised into Malay, Chinese and Indian, with combinations of all three influenced by surrounding nations. During our stay we ate from all three – Indian vegetarian thali outside Batu Caves, Chinese and Malay at the Taman Desa hawker markets (where meals come as cheap as $2 AUD each), and of course we indulged in world cuisine at Jalan Alor, the local eat street in town.
Jalan Alor is not fancy. You sit outside on plastic chairs at plastic tables, but it’s a great place to dine while you view the passing parade. We enjoyed a feast of chicken fish (a coral eating fish we’d not seen before), stingray (the meat shreds easily apart and is simply delicious) and prawns (not in taro pastry as we’d originally thought, but coated in an egg floss), calamari with vegetables as well as the ubiquitous satay. Check out the wares of each stall before you settle in to relax with great food and a beer. Too soon the adventure is over, and it’s time to board the plane to come home. (No, we’re not going to discuss airline food!)