Saturday, October 07, 2006

Killeney Kopi Tiam, Purvis St, Singapore

Killeney Kopi Tiam, Purvis St, Singapore

Breakfast today was at this little place on Purvis St. The nervous middle-aged woman took my order. Her clouded eyes showing signs of stress and overwork. I chose a Kaya Toast and Half Boil Egg. These arrived speedily and I went back to order some plain toast to go with my (two) eggs. After paying again, she got very flustered and came to me:

"Your toast is already here. You want again-ah?"
"Oh no, I just want some plain toast."
"No kaya?"
"Just bread, thanks."

Her consternation was plain to see.

"Aiyah, this one is toast, how come you don't say you want plain-wan?"

I thought I'd made it 'plainly' obvious by asking for "plain toast", but that obviously confused her because "plain bread" comes toasted as a matter of course. It would seem "toast" is synecdoche for "kaya toast" in this linguistic microcosm.

The bread for the kaya toast was a little stale, and they stinged a bit on the kaya and butter, I thought. I'd expected a bit more given the marketing swathing the shop, "...established in 1919 Killeney Kopi Tiam serves crisp kaya toast...etc." The Half Boil(ed) Egg(s) was tepid, but slippery smooth and perfectly done. I prefer mine a little firmer, but that's because I've always had to make my own and I'm not very good with the timing, so tend to overcook mine. It's just what I'm used to I guess.

This street seems to be the Hainanese street as it's lined with hainanese establishments, although Hokkien was spoken at Killeney.

Pig Organ Soup

I'd forgotten how ubiquitous the Food Court is in Singapore. There's really no such concept in London or Europe. My meals aren't provided for my first two days here, so I found a 24h Coffee Stop just outside from my hotel. There's a stall there specialising in "Pig Organ Noodle Soup".

The price difference between 'Western' and local food is astounding in Singapore. Last night I met up with a former colleague and we went for drinks at the bar on level 70 at the Swissotel. We were hoping for a lovely view of Singapore but the haze from the Indonesian bush fires kinda put a grey damper on everything. It was Happy Hour and drinks were 40% off, but when we got the bill the prices were exactly the same as the menu. Ah, we were told, we were given the special Happy Hour Menu. I think that's a little bit sneaky to say 40% off and lead one to think that the prices would be less than the menu. We bought a snack of chicken wings for $22 (eight pieces). We went on to an Irish bar in Chijmes - apparently I'm staying in the 'wealthy expat' area - where one could order a burger for $22.

I chose not to eat because the drinks were expensive enough, approximately London prices or more for the same. I'd previously had chicken rice for lunch and paid a princely sum of $3. Of course my eyes then bugged-out at the price of my coconut juice, $4 - it's not often that the drink costs more than the food. While I'm on the topic of prices in Singapore, the hotel 'drugstore' sells toothpaste for $3. I think this practice is shameless as the 7-Eleven across the road sells it at half the price.

I also forget about the lack of serviettes with food. I must get myself some tissues if I'm to maintain decorum whilst eating. It's also annoying that they add on all sorts of tiny taxes at the end of things. All food and hospitality bills are quoted with a +++ at the end, e.g. $160+++. "Plus plus plus" - that just sounds stupid anyway, just add it on!

Tea Bone Mind Zen, Seah St, Singapore

This little shop specialises in specially selected teas and teawares sourced from Taiwan, Japan and China. The owner Carrie only carries wares where the artist has had six solo exhibitions - so that the work can be consistent. Personally I think that's a rather high bar to set because you can get artists that might do good one-offs. Each piece of ware is hand-painted and a work of art. I fell in love with a crane-pattern set; I didn't even ask the price because I knew I couldn't afford it.

Umami recommended this shop and tea-house as a lovely diversion during my stay at the Carlton on Bras Basah Rd, Singapore. Carrie wasn't in, but her assistant served me lovely cups of refined oolong tea. I love the idea of the smelling cup and the careful attention so as not to overstew the leaves. She boiled the water on an electric brazier - so picturesque-wan. We had a long chat about the art behind these beautiful wares, their uniqueness and their collectability; unfortunately the names of the artists went in one Westernised ear and out the other. Apparently Bill and Chelsea Clinton are avid collectors of one of the artists.

She served me home-made snowskin moon cake, my first time trying this variety, made by one of the shop's associates. I detected that a kind of bean flour is used for the white topping. She pointed out the fullness of the lotus seed filling and the thin-ness of the coating - delicious.

I looked at several delicate items to buy as a gift for my flatmate Pat. The lily-pattern teacup with porcelain strainer or the porcelain mug with Chinese crystal handle stood out for me. I decided on the mug for practical reasons: it would be rare for Pat to drink Chinese tea but he does like English tea with biscuits.