International Cuisine | 24-300717

Popiah and Carrot Cake. Monday lunch at the local hawker centre. My friend and I share a plate of freshly made popiah (julienned veggies wrapped in a thin crispy skin made from fried wheat flour lathered with sweet bean sauce on the inside) and ‘carrot cake,’ a savoury dish made entirely from steamed rice flour and cubes of white radish (apparently, the Chinese word for daikon can also refer to a carrot) fried with garlic and eggs. The two dishes come to a total of $4 and are definitely recommendable for a quick and tasty, and only slightly greasy, local vegetarian meal.

Plain Vanilla Mornings. Two of the mornings this week, S and I start off the working day in the quiet, sun-filled workspace at Plain Vanilla in Tiong Bahru. Warm whole grain toast lathered with Vegemite, cold-pressed pineapple juice and soy flat whites framing our laptops. We get a lot of stuff done – and when the place slowly starts filling up around 11am, we leave for our respective offices. Another morning, I head to a gym in the CBD to do as many laps in the outdoor pool as my knee allows (after about half an hour, it starts feeling sore), and then I discover a new branch of Plain Vanilla on Robertson Road, just next to the gym. Sleek and minimalist Scandinavian/Japanese-style decor, very calming and modern, with floor-to-ceiling windows filling the tiny place with morning light. Green-painted walls like its slightly more rustic and romantic TB sister. I drink a cup of coffee here while doing emails, and still manage to get to the office by 9am. The exhaustion I’ve been feeling the past few months, which has meant that I’ve slept to 8am or even 10am on some days, has finally worn off completely. I’m back to waking up naturally at 6-6:30am and getting a lot out of the mornings, my favourite time of the day.


Tapas Nights. Three of this week’s dinners are Mediterranean in style and flavour. On Tuesday, I host a girls’ night (the first in ages!), filling the dinner table with small bowls and plates of marinated olives, chorizo, tomato salad, smoked fish, hummus, pesto, ciabatta bread, berries and baked almonds. A bottle of chilled rosé and lots of coconut water. One of the girls brings cupcakes from Plain Vanilla; the other brings a bouquet of white orchids from Tiong Bahru Market. One has just returned from a 3-day trip to the UK (!) and the other is off to work from Bali the day after, so they only stay a few hours before they have to go home and unpack and pack respectively, but it’s a nice and easy way to catch up and be reminded that I have friends here – these two live just around the corner. On Friday, S and I lay out the same spread when S’s colleague and her boyfriend come over for dinner. She is Spanish, and on her personal travel blog, she has just posted a guide to her hometown, Sitges, just south of Barcelona; S and I drove right past it a few weeks ago! It’s the first time I meet her (them), and she is just as full of sweetness, humour, curiosity and knowledge as I had imagined from following her blog. She has brought jamón from home, and bottles of very good wine from her dad’s vineyard. It’s way past midnight when we drink the last drops of it. Finally, on Saturday, S and I dine at Esquina, a tapas restaurant led by Carlos Montobbio, who trained under the Roca brothers. Seated at the bar in front of the open kitchen in the small white shophouse, we have a mesmerising view of the artistic creations and the impressively kind and efficient teamwork of the head chef, the other cooks and the waiters. I like the place a lot – small and cosy, perfectly balancing rustic and modern notes. From the juicy padron peppers to the nigiri-resembling bacalao and bell pepper to the scrumpy scallops served with black garlic to the refreshing basil sorbet – sensational dishes, and ditto Ribera del Duero, service and ambiance. We talk about going out for a cocktail or to dance after dinner – but end up walking home to watch Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo in Begin Again with a glass of sake on the couch.

Full of Luck Club. On Wednesday, I’m back at the contemporary Cantonese joint in Holland Village for a quick dinner with a friend. Such tasty food (due to the amount of sugar and oil in the dishes, I’m sure) in such pretty surroundings. Roast duck, prawn bao and ample jasmine tea. This time, my fortune cookie encourages me to listen to my creator rather than my critics. I save the small piece of paper in my wallet, go buy a huge water melon in the nearest supermarket and take a taxi home to join S on the sofa.

Alone Time. The following evening, I eat a bowl of boiled quinoa, steamed vegetables and lentils from Grain Traders on my own, in the sunset down by the bay. I then go for a swim at the gym, where, in the darkness only lit up by yellow squares of light from the surrounding skyscrapers, the pool area has shaken off its practical and sporty day-time look and almost appears romantic. Added bonus: I have it to myself. After a good hour of splashing back and forth, I walk home via Duxton Hill, picking up The Power from one of my favourite small indie book stores, Littered with Books, on the way, and finally curl up on the sofa with the – very powerful! – book until S comes home from a team dinner that lasts until 1am and tells me stories from his night.

Saturday Chilling. Edible flowers cover our green avo smash brekkie at small, leafy Botanist on Saturday. From there, we stroll over to the nearby Duxton Plains Park to chill for a few hours, reading, watching people, chatting, napping… popping into a massage parlour on the way back for a long, thorough full body massage.

Sunday Beach Morning. Swimming lazily back and forth along the beach, walking along the edge of the warm, clear water hand in hand, reading novels in the sand, eating chunks of watermelon and homemade banana pancakes, drinking coffee and fresh coconut water from the beach club…


Little India. From Sentosa, we head to Little India to meet up with some friends for an authentic Malayalee meal at Premaas, right by the arcade. Banana leaves dotted with heaps of brown rice, fish curry, dhal, rasam and pickled vegetables. Yum. After the spicy and very filling meal, we wander around the colourful streets to buy next week’s supply of ripe, flavourful mangos and enjoy the beautiful sunny day in what always seems like the hottest area of Singapore.

This Week’s Specials:

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