Some of the food I mention here are no longer available because either the person who served up the dish is no longer around or the stall might have stopped operating altogether. Some are still being served but by lesser cooks. The last item I would definitely like to have the opportunity to sample before I die but, sigh... it's not up to me. (I mean the sampling, not the dying although both are not up to me).
I don't know why but I like soups of all kinds. Maybe being Cantonese has something to do with it. Or it could be because when I was still single and staying with my mum, she served soup at almost every dinner, hence cultivating my liking for soups. So here goes:
1. One of the most memorable soups I have not tasted for a long time is salted fish head soup cooked by my mum. Although an unusual soup, it is actually quite simple to cook (I think). Just chop up the head into pieces and soak them in water for a while (so the soup won't be too salty). Then transfer them to a pot of hot water and let it simmer for a while. Just before serving, cut up a slab of tofu (bean curd) and throw them in the pot. Sadly, I may not have chance to try this soup again before I die because my mum passed away in 2003 and so far, I can't find any food stall or restaurant that brews this soup anymore.
2. Another soup that I love is turtle soup. Long ago, on learning my penchant for turtle soup, one of my colleagues exclaimed in amazement and disgust, "Omigosh, how could you ever eat turtle soup? I used to have a pet turtle you know?" I replied her nonchalantly, 'To you it's a pet. But to me, it's food. Remember, we Chinese eat any animal that moves with it's back facing the sky." Many years ago, I tried the turtle soup sold by the famous shop at Lorong Tai Seng. The soup was thick, dark and full of body. You could taste the distinctive wine and medicinal flavour. It was just heavenly. Sadly again, this shop had since been torn down. I know that there are many other shops serving turtle soup now. Some of them even sport the 'Tai Seng' label. Although I have not tried them all, I suspect that none of them cooks soup that comes close to that served at the original Tai Seng shop.
3. I also love mutton soup, both the Hainanese version as well as the Indian one called soup kambing. For the former, you can get any part of the lamb's anatomy in your soup; you only need to ask for it. One perenial favourite with old men 'who can't get it up' is what is known as the 'best of the lamb' or lamb's penis, otherwise known as c***. Just in case you are wondering, I haven't tried it yet. It's not that I dare not to, mind you; it's just that I don't need the extra boost. (Uh-oh, the blogo-policeman is going to cry foul again on 2 counts - my use of that dreaded 4-letter word and boasting about my capabilities yet again.)
The Indian version comes with various options as well:
a. otak (brain) - quite gory-looking, I must say. Like a scene from a horror movie;
b. mata (eye) - even more gory than the otak, I feel. Imagine a pair of eyes staring at you from your soup, as if asking, "Why are you eating me?"
c. lidah (tongue) - with which the lamb says
d. tulang (bones with tendons) - very good for
e. isi (meat) - all other parts of the lamb not already classified above.
I have only tried the last two items on the menu, mostly isi. Dipping bits of French loaf into the soup provides for a more filling (and fulfilling) meal.
For Hainanese mutton soup, the one at Golden Mile Food Centre (Beach Road) is best in my opinion. It's called Queen Street Mutton Soup. There is another stall in Dunman Road Food Centre that comes a close second. As for soup kambing, I used to patronise a stall at Haig Road Food Centre where I lived almost 30 years ago. The seller was an Indian man who wore all white which showed the curry stains on his attire very clearly. He not only sold the soup, he also smelled like it as well, hehe. I must say that his soup kambing was second to none which was why I always asked for a second helping of soup which came free if you had ordered bread as well. This
man stall is no longer around. I heard that there is another stall with the name "Razack" at Blk 17 Upper Boon Keng Road that serves excellent soup kambing but I haven't tried it before.
4. Beef is my favourite meat. Hence I like beef anything, cooked anyway (but not anyhow). I like beef stew, beef noodles, beef brisket noodles, beef steak and beef balls (not the organs but those made from minced beef). If I had to choose just one dish, I would choose the Hainanese dry beef noodles. Long ago, there used to be a famous beef noodle stall in a coffeeshop near to the old Odean Theatre in North Bridge Road which I mentioned in an earlier post. That stall is no longer around but you can find another delicious beef noodle stall at a coffeeshop at Blk 203 at Hougang St 21. However, be prepared not only to self-serve but also stand in queue for up to half an hour before you get your food. If you can, you must order the cham-cham (mixed) version. This comes with tripes (stomach) which has a rubbery texture and balls (of minced meat, not the organs). And don't forget the chilli and the chinchalok (fermented shrimp sauce that is dull pink in colour). Hmm... it makes my mouth water just thinking of the beef noodles.
5. Last but not least, I would really like to try Evan's homemade popiah before I die. It looks so very delicious that it is kind of sadistic to let us only see the photo but not taste the food. To show you what I mean, I am reproducing her popiah photo here without her permission. (Hope you don't mind, Evan):
Don't let the uncles wait too long, Evan. For the uncles may not have very long more for waiting (or for anything else for that matter). You can see that the other four items above are really unhealthy food and should best be consumed as deathbed food. But your popiah is different - it is healthy, nutritional and life-giving - something I would certainly die for.
There Evan, you can do my meme now.
If not, I don't friend you.