Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Hit The Bun

Singapore is one of the premier take-away food capitals of the world. For example, take the humble Otah (local name for Otak-otak), a regional speciality of mixed fish paste (usually mackerel) and spices, wrapped in a banana leaf and either grilled or steamed. There's variations using shrimp, cuttlefish or chicken. I don't especially like it as it's fiddly to eat and insubstantial but it's common to get some to add to a meal or as a snack. Yet this relatively minor dish has its own otah takeaway website.

There are the main food chains, McDonalds obviously and pizzas both of which follow the Western-style take-away scheme of drive-throughs and home delivery by suicidal moped rider. Staff are cheap and plentiful in Singapore so having 2 or 3 delivery guys on duty at a little McDonalds is feasible.

Having said all that, most take-aways are a "da bao" from a local shop. There is an online delivery service called DaBao, but in conversation, da bao will always be understood to mean going out yourself. Da bao is literally "hit the bread", or perhaps "strike the bun" for reasons I've never been able to fathom. Now we are talking rice (plain, sticky, fried), noodles (plain, egg, salty, thin, flat), satay+sauce (may need to be pre-ordered), rice porridge (plain, fish, meat), dim sum, bao (buns, either sweet or savoury), rojak (indian, chinese), glutinous rice in banana leaf (yummy with chestnuts), beancurd/tofu (plain, sweet, fried, egg, spicy), yam cake (plain, carrot, fried), perhaps steamboat or a clay pot stew, and so on.

I can have a sit down, Indian-style rojak for 2 people for about SG$4.50 (<£2). It's cheaper and much easier than shopping, cooking and washing up. Adding a big bottle of local beer (Tiger, Heineken) would be an additional SG$5.20 (£1.75) which seems poor value in comparison. Might as da bao, walk 1min back to the flat and pull a beer from the fridge.