Author Divya Anand explains how she drew from her own life for her first picture book in verse.
“Maggi”, “kuruvi koodu” (bird’s nest), “baal ki dukaan” (shop of hair), “spring mudi” (springy hair)…these were only some of the names that Divya Anand was teased with for her “thick, frizzy, unmanageable curly hair. I was in my late teens by the time Hermione Granger came on the scene and even she was described as having ‘bushy hair’. You aspired to be as smart as her, not look like her” she says, as we discuss her latest picture book, I Hate My Curly Hair (Puffin).
Floating markets are an integral part of life in Thailand. These charming markets are on the country’s biggest attractions – after all, what could be better than eating freshly caught seafood right off the boat? Damnoen Saudak is the most popular of the lot, however, we chose to visit Taling Chan floating market because it’s one that the tourist buses skip. While Taling Chan can be reached by public transport, it’s fairly complicated and so we chose to take a cab instead. Be warned that there is something called Wat Taling Chan before the market, which also has a few food stalls on a pier. Walk ahead to the actual market.
The entry to the market is lined with stalls selling flowers, fruit and knickknacks, almost like a farmers’ market. The restaurant area is on a large boat with stalls on either side.
The vendors on the boat take orders and get the freshly prepared food from vendors in smaller boats off the side of the big boat. Remember – Taling Chan is a small, local market and vendors here only take cash. Also, your translate apps will come in handy here as will sign language as not too many of the vendors speak English. The market is only open on weekends from 8AM – 5PM – go early so you can work your way through all the delicacies on offer.
If you’re visiting in the summer, remember to keep some space for the amazing mango sticky rice dessert as well!
Singapore is known for its hawker centers – market areas filled with stalls serving inexpensive food. These centers were set up to provide sanitary food at affordable prices near the business district and public housing areas. The hawker centers are a great place to find a variety of cuisines, and even of the cheapest Michellin starred dishes in the world (Tian Tian chicken rice anyone?). These are our top picks for the best hawker centers in Singapore.
If you’ve spent a few days travelling and are craving some good, homestyle Indian food, Tekka Center is the place to go. Whether it’s biryani, mutton keema, prawn vadai, or just some masala dosai that you’re craving, you’ll find it all here. Try out Allauddin’s for Biryani or prawn noodles at Whampoa Noodles (recommended by Anthony Bourdain himself!). Be sure to visit the wet market nearby – it’s the largest in Singapore.
Newton Food Center
The best chilli crab in Singapore is probably at Newton Food Center. Alliance seafood was in the Michellin guide for their chilli crab and are a huge draw. However, you’ll see that there are many others serving exotic seafood including stingray and oyster omelettes. Most stalls here also show you the crab before they cook it, allowing you to pick exactly what you want.
Maxwell Food Center
Maxwell Food Center, home to Tian Tian chicken rice is in the heart of the business district. Try the popiah at ‘Rojak, Popiah and Cockle’, or Hainanese Curry Rice (Stall 68) if you’d like to get something other than the chicken rice.
Old Airport Road Food Center
I fell in love with Kaya Toast while I was in Singapore, and you cannot miss the toast at ‘Toast Hut’. I went back for seconds. The other big draw at this center is Xin Mei Xiang Lor Mee which is best identified by the serpentine queues near it. The quality of the ingredients here is par none. If you’re a daring eater, you can even find organ soup here.
1.East Coast Lagoon Food Center
The best way to sample everything at a food center is to work up an appetite before you get there. Do the bike ride through East Coast Park before you stop at the food center so you can try it all! Also recommend sitting by the beach for an amazing view while you read. Try all the local favourite – char kway teo from Choon Hiang, popiah, carrot cake from Lagoon and satay from Haron satay. Explore, and see if you’re in luck and can find the Moreton Bay Bug here. And when you’re done eating, wash it down with an ice-cold glass of sugarcane juice. You’re welcome!
Singapore is a melting pot of Chinese and Malaysian cultures. The abundance of food centres makes it easy to find and experience a variety of food. Whether it’s Michelin starred chicken rice (at Tian Tian chicken) or local char kway teo and lor mee, you can find everything in a food centre. The city-state is also a great place to find some bizarre foods. Here are our top picks.
The stinkiest fruit in South East Asia – so stinky, it’s banned on public transport. Even Andrew Zimmern who’s eaten some truly bizarre foods met his match in the durian. And yet, in my opinion, fresh durian tasted like an inferior jackfruit. So maybe it’s just the smell putting people off, and not really the taste.
Salted Egg Yolk Ice cream
Singapore has a salted egg fetish, and for some reason they thought it was a good idea to make it an ice cream. Available at Tom’s Palette, which has an extensive range of ice creams, this tasted like frozen egg yolk. It’s a savory-sweet, creamy mix that some people thought was perfectly balanced, but somehow didn’t work for me. I will stick to Kaya toast for that taste instead.
Pig Organ Soup
For the adventurous foodies who have graduated from eating bizarre species to all parts of the animal, this organ soup gives you a little taste of everything. The broth is boiled with a mix of pig offal including liver, heart, intestines, blood cubes, stomach and tongue along with pork meat slices, salted veggies, chopped onions leaves and pepper. This one is for the foodies with a strong stomach – look out for it at a food center.
A thousand-year egg, preserved and waiting for you to try it. Even though the Thais and Laotians refer to it as ‘horse urine eggs’ in their native tongues, that’s not true. It tastes like a regular egg, with the bite of the yolk dialled up. It’s a popular topping to most dishes, and for the strong-willed, you can get it as a side to taste the undiluted flavour.
A Chinese delicacy, this is a braised version of the webbing on a goose’s feet. While it would seem that the meat would be tough, the braising makes it soft, and almost melt-in-the-mouth. As per the Chinese, this dish will make you a better swimmer. The best place to experience this delicacy would be at the Imperial Herbal restaurant.
Singapore is the Food Center of the Earth and we had our fill of Bizarre Foods there. From Durian Ice Cream to Crocodile Tails and Moreton Bay Bugs to Tongue Soup, we had it all.
When you travel with someone who is on a quest to eat the most bizarre foods in the world, you come across a lot of truly bizarre foods. Whether it’s a new type of sea creature, a type of egg, or various animal parts – I’ve seen them all. Do you think you have a strong stomach? If so, I urge you to try some of these on your next trips!
Don’t imagine eggs that originated from those tiny red ants or even the bigger black ones you see in the city. Ant eggs, a delicacy in Thailand, come from weaver ants that live in the jungle. When the eggs are heaped together, they look like a mound of puffed rice. These eggs are tangy, because mango leaves are the staple diet of the ants. Find them at Khlong Tooei wet market in Bangkok.
Birds Nest Soup
One of the world’s most expensive foods – in Hong Kong, a bowl of this soup could cost you $100. This clear soup with a sweetish taste looks fairly innocuous until you realize that the nest in question gets its flavor from the saliva that the Swiftlet uses to make the nest. If the thought of eating birds’ saliva doesn’t gross you out, head to Hua Seng Hong in Bangkok’s Chinatown for an authentic bowl of the soup!
If someone handed you a rotten egg, what would you say? If you were a Vivek-like person in ancient China, you probably decided to eat it and then lived a long, happy life. Century eggs are eggs preserved with clay, ash and salt until the yolk is dark green and smells of sulphur. For modern day food adventurers who would like to extend their lifespan, you can find the century egg across food markets in China and Singapore.
You know you’ve reached the top tier of a list of bizarre foods when you spot fried tarantula. Not for the faint-hearted, this delicacy can be found at the ever-present insect carts in the streets of Cambodia. If you’re trying to summon up the courage to eat it, remember that it’s a little bit like eating bhujia, just of the insect variety.
I call this the test of true love. In the first month of our marriage, I had to shoot a video of Vivek eating balut – a Filipino delicacy that is half duck, half egg. It’s not a sight for the faint hearted, and definitely not something you’d imagine your spouse to cook at home. Balut is a popular street food that can be found on the streets of Phnom Penh, as well as in Philippines, Laos and Vietnam. This Valentine’s Day, test your love with the balut method!
Some people get their adrenaline rush from jumping off buildings and bridges, others get theirs by eating food that could kill them. Fugu, or puffer fish is one of the most dangerous foods in the world. The fish contain a deadly poison that is many times more poisonous than cyanide. And there’s no known antidote. Dare Eat That?