Singapore Adventure

Friday, September 09, 2005

by venitha

On a glorious summer Friday afternoon, I called Jim from my Agilent office in Colorado. "Can you hear that?"

"What?" He's at his HP office, in the building right next door.

"Shhhh. Just be quiet and listen. I think it's getting louder."


"I've been hearing it off and on all afternoon, but I just finally figured out what it is."


"Margaritas! From the Rio! They're calling to us!"

Thankfully, the attraction of the Rio's phenomenal margaritas doesn't reach all the way across the globe, so I haven't had to send any of Jim's kind-hearted co-workers headed to Asia down to the Rio first to surreptiously pour a melted margarita into a travel flask. Yes, that would be frozen, with salt, thank you very much.

The voices that beckon to us here in Singapore are more coherent, thanks to their only downside: tequila is in no way involved. And they compensate for this shortcoming by sending smoke signals from my second favorite food group: chili.

Oh, yum. The popiah at Sim Lim Square.

Popiah, pronounced POPE--uh, is a kind of Asian burrito. The shell is a thin rice flour pancake coated with Hoisin sauce... or maybe plum sauce? Is there a difference between those two things? I have no idea, but regardless, it's just the right combination of sweet and tangy.

Next add garlic and chili for just the right amount of spice. For me, that means lots of chili. The auntie behind the stainless steel counter always looks at me dubiously when I also ask for a side of chili, but nodding enthusiastically, I insist. Love that chili.

Then pile on minced peanuts for just the right crunch, crumbled hard-boiled eggs for just the right texture, and some cooked-up vegetable goo made of turnips? jicama? bean sprouts? carrots? bamboo shoots? Well, I don't know what all is in it, but it is just the right flavor, and it melts in my mouth. Amusingly, it looks not unlike those tasty onions that you scoop out of the vat of beer that you boiled your brats in if you've been properly schooled in Wisconsin bratwurst cooking etiquette.

Roll it all up in a neat little package, slice it into convenient bitesize pieces, and hand it over to the salivating ang moh.

Mmm mmmm, delicious. And at S$1.50 a pop, popiah has easily got the Rio's margaritas beat. But wait. Did you hear that? I gotta go. I think I can just make out a smoke signal in the distance!