If you know me you’ll know I have a bit of a thing for food. I love eating food, whether at home or out and about, and I love cooking it as well. Living in Singapore has given me the chance to massively indulge my inner food geek. Although there are certain ingredients which I find hard to get hold of (and the lack of any information about animal welfare or origin – free range eggs? Cannot lah!) Singapore is a great place to be a foodie. There are some things which I am not sure I will ever try – pig organ soup is one that springs to mind – I am pretty open-minded when it comes to sampling new dishes and ingredients. I think I am one of the few people who goes into raptures at the sight of the Mustafa’s produce section! I love that I can easily pick up things that were tricky to get hold of, such as Kaffir lime leaves (which are also great in a G&T if you are that way inclined!).
I got invited by notatourist.sg to attend an event organised by NCompass Mobility called ‘Eat for a Cause’ in support of the yellow ribbon initiative, which helps rehabilitating ex-prisoners and drug addicts. To support the cause we ate at two restaurants that only employ ex-prisoners and drug addicts to help them reintegrate into society. One of the things that has surprised me about living in Singapore has been the lack of (or certainly the low-profile) of charities or social enterprises that exist to help the more disadvantaged. Having worked in this sector in the UK, it’s something I feel passionate about supporting, so I was really looking forward to going along and finding out more.
We headed up to Jalan Kayu to visit New Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh. The story behind this place is great. The owner was in and out of prison as a young man, and in his most recent stint he worked as the prison’s chef. On being released, he set up New Soon, serving Bak Kut Teh which is his favourite dish. He now employs other ex-inmates, giving them a chance of gainful employment and an opportunity to rehabilitate. You can read more about his story here.
So what is Bak Kut Teh? It is essentially a soup with pork ribs. There are several different versions, and the broth can vary between herbal and peppery. We tried the herbal version which was delicious. The pork ribs were deliciously tender and the meat fell off the bone. I was able to get it off with my chopsticks and I’m not the most skilled at using them! The soup was served up with some steamed rice, salted vegetables and the ubiquitous chilli sauce. It was one of things that having tried, I think I would definitely eat again as its such a flavoursome dish.
After our Bak Kut Teh, we wandered up the road a little to get some Roti Prata which is essentially a fried flour-based pancake. I’d only had the savoury versions before, but here we ordered dessert prata. Some of the others went for chocolate but I ordered strawberry, seduced a bit by the idea of fresh strawberries nestling in a yummy pancake. Sadly the strawberry here was some kind of artificial syrup stuff (I should’ve guessed that!) so although it was enjoyable, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. We also got to try Teh Tarik, otherwise known as ‘pulled’ tea. It is a hot, milky tea drink and is usually made with condensed or evaporated milk giving it a sweet taste. The mixture is ‘pulled’ to give a frothy texture – this involves pouring the tea backwards and forwards between two containers to aerate it. Apparently this is quite a skill, with some teh tarik vendors putting on a show for their customers – I suppose similar to the showmanship that sometimes accompanies getting a cocktail in other countries!
I really enjoyed my lunch; trying out new food, meeting new people, and supporting a great cause. I also really enjoyed meeting the people at NCompass, who did a fantastic job of arranging the lunch, but also do great work supporting expats in their moves to Singapore and lots of other countries.
Thanks to NCompass for organising the event and notatourist.sg for the invitation.