A trip to Singapore must always come with eating old favorites in new places -- preferably in undiscovered hawker centers. In the Lion City last week for a business trip, my first call was to friends who knew my propensity for cheap, good local food.
Lavender Food Square is a popular hawker center that I had not visited yet. It is very conveniently located in the city and is on Jalan Besar road and is near the Farrer Park MRT stop.
The place was pretty full when we arrived at dinnertime. Lots of people coming from work, stopping off for a bite to eat before going home. My friend said that the wanton mee from one of the stalls was the best ever in Singapore but the long lines put him off from having it that night.
Lavender Food Square is not as large as Newton Circus or Lau Pa Sat Food Center but the stalls seemed to be a bit more differentiated and interesting. Eminent Frog Porridge at the very entrance was intriguing, to say the least.
I remember eating frog when I was very young, my father would cook it in soup, tinola style or stewed as in adobo -- what can I say, it tasted just like chicken!
Even if I were not vegetarian, I would not try turtle soup for any reason in the world. Even my baser foodie self balked at the thought of killing any of these gentle creatures for food.
This Fish Noodle stall according to my friends is a popular and well known favorite. It used to be in another location but has since relocated to this hawker center.
These handmade fish cakes were highly recommended. They are best eaten, thinly sliced, with an order of fish ball noodles.
Here is what we ordered -- dry fish ball noodles with fish cakes. The fish balls and fish cake came floating in broth and the egg noodles were served separately, with an overly generous dose of chili paste. Egg noodles with just chives and chili paste are deliciously vegetarian!
I also ordered my other vegetarian favorite - "white" carrot cake, without the prawns of course.
My hot and spicy noodles were complemented by a tall cold bottle of Tiger Beer. Which I had to finish, since both of my Singaporean friends were not beer drinkers.
Yong tau foo -- made with all kinds of fried and boiled soy products like tofu skins, tofu pockets and yes, chili stuffed with tofu rounded out all the vegetarian goodness. Singapore is really a very vegetarian friendly place!
Time to leave Lavender Food Square! The tables outside were still full -- with regulars catching up for a late snack or dinner.
We didn't realize until we walked back to the car that we were parked very near a Tibetan Buddhist Temple, right around the corner from the hawker center. Pictures of the Dalai Lama were on the walls and there were quite a number of people listening to a monk's lecture.
Incense urns lined the sidewalk and passers by would buy incense sticks, light them and turn towards the temple to say their prayers.
This huge Tibetan prayer wheel was on one side of the temple. My buddhist friend encouraged me to spin it and say the mantra to myself -- to bring benevolence and blessings.
As I spun the wheel, I felt I had already been blessed -- to have enjoyed an evening of conviviality and friendship, once again, in Singapore.