Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Enjoy Malaysian food fare in Singapore

Enjoy Malaysian food fare in Singapore

Resorts World Sentosa has opened Malaysia Food Street but you can find Malaysia-style hawker cuisine elsewhere.

Never in the field of hawker food has so much been owed by so many to so few.

Nostalgia always plays a major role in the search for stars of the street food scene, and reminiscing about places like pioneering stalls from the Car Park on Orchard Road and legendary hawkers from the old days tends to bestow an aura of invincibility on classic hawker fare from a generation or more ago.

Memory lapses aside though, it's difficult to dispute the notion that with certain exceptions, the best now can't compare to the best then.

For some reason - more healthy diets, food safety regulations, charmless food courts perhaps - hawker food is never as good as it was back in the days when hawkers plied their trade with mobile food carts and the local food scene was ruled by singlet-wearing, cigarette-smoking cooks.

Still, the art of stall-spotting has been passed down through the generations and it remains a popular activity among hawker food aficionados.

Typically, a trip north of the border is involved, but the folks at Resorts World Sentosa have just made things a little easier by opening Malaysian Food Street, located at the Bull Ring; open daily from 11am to 10pm (Monday-Thursday), 9am to midnight (Friday and Saturday) and 9am to 10pm (Sunday).

Here are some of the best (based on eight months of arduous research) hawker cuisine from Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca brought to Singapore and assembled under one roof.

The latest hawker destination in town features 17 stalls, including dishes such as Jalan Alor Hokkien Mee, Ampang Yong Tau Foo and Penang Lor Mee.

Not content with merely bringing a taste of old world hawker fare to Singapore, RWS also created an entire 1950s-era street scene at night - not unlike a film set - to revive memories and put diners in the appropriate mood.

The 22,000-square-foot space includes rows of scaled-down shopfronts, complete with store signs, rooms lit with bare light bulbs and purpose-built food carts selling a variety of popular dishes.

Wooden chairs and tables flank the "road" that runs between the shophouses and the ceiling is painted black to effect the night-time sky. The area is also decorated with street signs, bird cages and even a colonial-era postbox.

It's fun and also feels quite authentic, and air-conditioning the entire space makes it a whole lot more pleasant.

The stalls are operated by RWS staff members who have been trained by the original stall owners. The owners will come down for a few days every month to ensure that quality - including their recipes - is adhered to.

It's a bit of a compromise solution as the uniformed staff behind the carts detracts from the sense of individuality that makes the actual hawker experience so interesting.

The products won't taste the same either.

If you're looking for the real thing, you'll have to bring your passport with you but if you want a quick fix, this is a decent option. You won't be transported all the way back but there is still some sense of familiarity.

Among the standouts so far are Ah Mei Hokkien Prawn Mee, which started in Penang in 1985, Heun Kee Claypot Rice from KL and Ah Long Lor Bak (marinated mince pork rolled in bean curd skin and a variety of other items, served with a starchy pork broth dip) from Penang. The ice kacang and chendol at the dessert stall are also worth a try.

Try to avoid going during peak meal times as the Malaysian Food Street's location right next to the Universal Studios entrance makes it easily accessible, and its recent appearance hasn't gone unnoticed among the staff at RWS either.

"A food court is very normal, but a food street with good food is a destination and a great attraction," says the street's operations director Teo Sian Keong. He's right about that.

The preoccupation with Malaysian street food is not restricted to Malaysian Food Street, of course. There are more than a few places in Singapore where Malaysian-style hawker fare can be found.

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