Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Seafood Feast In The Alleys of Geylang

1. Stir-fried Mud Crab
2. Beer maid serving Thai Singha beer
3. A hearty fish stew
4. Pictorial Menu
Singapore has a reputation as a country where everything works, the streets are safe and clean, and everything has been carefully planned. But there are a few areas in Singapore where the more colorful, unplanned and chaotic side of society can be seen. The enclave of Geylang, once notorious for its Triad gangs, prostitution and gambling has been sanitized, but not totally. Red-light areas have been designated (only permitted on even-numbered roads) and the girls who ply the trade have their hygiene enforced. But the new face of Geylang is as a place where the Mainland Chinese workers and immigrants gather. The large numbers of mainland Chinese come from all regions of China from Jilin in the North, to Central provinces like Hunan and Hubei, Western provinces like Sichuan, and the coastal provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. Dozens of restaurants and food stalls have sprung up to cater for the different regional tastes. Where once, all we had in Singapore was Chinese food mainly from Guangdong and Fujian, now there are Chinese dishes from many different regions of China.There are many Mala [numbing hot pepper] steamboat [hotpot] restaurants a dish typical of the Chongqing and Sichuan areas. The people of the Central provinces have a fondness for duck feet, neck, head, and even the tongue -all deepfried or braised and eaten accompanied by beer. The colder regions such as Jilin and Inner Mongolia have many Mutton dishes and steamed dumplings.
As is typical of cuisine from poor and cold regions many dishes are spicy, and oily, not too suited to the humid Singapore climate, and few Singaporeans have a craving for such foods. On the other hand Yunnan province which has a more equitable climate, being part tropical and part temperate has beget a unique cuisine. Yunnan dishes include Chicken soup cooked [and distilled] in an odd-shaped earthen vessel, light noodle dishes and lots of steamed fish and salads imbued with the spices and flavors used by the many hill-tribes in Yunnan.
Many of these eating places in Geylang are situated in alleys and you can see one such eating place in the photos above. Top picture shows a dish of stir-fried mud crab with ginger, capsicum, dried red chilis and rice wine. Strips of dough are added to the dish for a balance of taste. The next picture shows a customer being served his Singha beer. The beer is a popular Thai beer. The fish stew has ginger and is a hearty stew which when accompanied by a bowl of rice is a meal in itself. Many of these stalls do not have a menu written in English , and if you can't read Chinese, you'll have to make a choice by looking at photos of each item on the menu.

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