Singapore Adventure

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Soylent Green
by venitha

Work has been very quiet this week, as many of my co-workers are still away for the new year holiday. The silence is nice, but come lunch time, hmmmm... what to do? The cafeteria is mired in a rut of inedibility, and when I ventured to the nearest food court for a popiah fix, my favorite stall, the one where they recognize me and make it extra extra spicy without my even having to ask, was closed. Drat this holiday!

Unable to face the cafeteria, I continued on through the maze of parking lots, narrow back streets, and quiet HDB void decks and was amply rewarded with take-away vegetarian rice at the whopping price of S$3 (US$2) from a popular Indian stall. Hooray for Indians! Within minutes, I was back at my desk, unpacking a bag of the following:
  • Two crispy papadam, which are a cross between potato chips and tortilla chips. I don't quite get the appeal of these so I rarely eat them, but, like many things in Singapore, it's easier to smile and accept them than it is to communicate the fact that you don't want them.
  • Two tied bags of spicy soup and/or sauce. The orange one had lentils, and the brown one was just a broth. Tying liquids into puffed-up plastic bags like this for take-away is very common. I've tried to do it myself and concluded that it requires lessons. Getting the liquid out of the bags is no small trick either, so I'm proud to say that I didn't end up wearing any of this, in spite of the fact that I was dressed in white.
  • One brown paper package of four delicious veggie toppings on a bed of rice. A cabbage dish, a carrot dish, an "I don't know what that green vegetable is but it's good" dish, and... looks like meat, it tastes like meat, it smells like meat, it must be... meat?!? Nope, believe it or not, that is not meat. I was completely stunned way back in June when I first enjoyed numerous dishes of what-had-to-be chicken, mutton, and beef at what-couldn't-possibly-be a vegetarian Indian buffet. I clarified with the owner, the cook, the bus boy, the guy behind the counter, and more than a few of my fellow diners that it really truly honestly no kidding absolutely was vegetarian. And then in the "Inconceivable! I do not think that word means what you think it means" way, I clarified that by vegetarian, they meant not meat.

And if it's really truly honestly no kidding absolutely not meat, then what is it? Someone told me: onions and garlic. My guess: soy and textured protein. My suspicion: soylent green. Lucky for all of us, I have no more time to explore that line of thought. It's yummy. I ate it. Back to work.

The Indian are vastly superior to anything I've had in the US. Clearly, Givaudan needs to send my favorite food scientist and her husband to Singapore ASAP for in-depth analysis.