I already wrote about the putu piring, but there was so much more going on at the Geylang Serai pasar malam. Blocks and blocks of tents were set up for a giant market that runs through Ramadan, adjacent to the hawker food centre where we ate. Outside, the streets are decorated with lights and in lots of places, decorative ketupat holders. Inside you can buy most anything, but if you are in the market for some spiffy new headscarves, then you have really come to the right place. We spent a happy couple of hours wandering around the stalls.
This carpet and pillow seller was all to happy to be photographed.
Apparently, Malaysians really like coloured lights for the holidays, and who doesn't?
But for me the excitement really began when we reached the clothing part of the market. There were so many seriously sparkly outfits! Obviously, short of an unlikely conversion to Islam, I'm not going to be buying any of these super-fierce tunics any day soon, but aren't they gorgeous? There was also a section of utterly adorable gold-encrusted dresses for toddlers that made me wish I knew a very small and seriously femmy child to buy one for.
This one is a little uncanny. Can you spot the real women? All three broke into grins about a second later – they're not actually attempting to hide among their mannequins – but that part didn't get photographed. I suspect the sinister part is that it looks like the mannequins are staffing the stall…
When we eventually moved from the sparkly clothes aisles to the food aisles, people were queuing up for all manner of fried things. I think this is a feature of all street markets everywhere. Supposedly the battered prawns are good, but we held off.
I have no idea what an almond London is.
The food court was buzzing, and we had to walk around several times before we could snag a table.
Finally, the food! My notes are a bit fuzzy on what we ate here, and once again resident Singapore food expert Kenny took himself off and returned with plate after plate of food. This was some kind of thick noodle soup, possibly with mutton. It tasted like meat had been braised in it for 24 hours, then the meat shredded and returned to the thickened broth. You can certainly taste the Indian influence in Muslim Malay food, and there was a dense layering of spices here along with a soulful meatiness.
This one was some kind of soto ayam, chicken noodle soup in a broth that is thin and clear but packing a powerful hit of flavour. It might not look like much but this was my favourite dish of the night, with a broth you could drink by the pint. Good and spicy too.
We moved onto biryani, this one with chunks of mutton on the bone hidden like a prize under the heap of rice. Kenny wanted to know if I had ever had such a good biryani and I had to answer honestly: never in the UK but once, weirdly, in the US where a little storefront in Providence, RI makes a spectacular goat biryani. So, ok, tied for first place, but still a treat of moist rice and long-cooked meat.
Overall, I don't think this was the best food we ate in Singapore, but the bar has been set pretty high. Certainly, the soto ayam could compete with most anything else we tried. There's a lot more of Singapore that I will come back to later, but I'm so far behind that I think it's time to move on. Next stop, Penang!