Regardless of their own beliefs Singaporeans take the national holiday off for Vesak, Buddha’s birthday. My friend and I head to Chinatown to eat vegetarian food and visit a temple. We are not Buddhist, but are interested in sneaking a peek into the religious celebration.
I’ve been to Ci Yan Organic Health Food before on a weekday when it was nearly empty. Today only six seats remain open. After waiting ten minutes to be unsuccessfully acknowledged by a waiter, my friend and I leave hungry. It will be faster to order from one of the street food stalls on Smith Street right outside. Ci Yan, see ya later! Get it? Ci Yan sounds like see ya…
The first food stand we encounter sells drinks. We order two baby coconuts, a set of round trip tickets to heaven.
We walk a lap around the food stalls, patrolling for a lunch spot. One food stand sells small fried snacks. I get a cute Potato Shrimp as an appetizer. The thin ribbons of potato that look like pH Paper Test Strips, are wrapped around each shrimp and fried to a crisp. So juicy, so oily.
As we complete our lap, we order lunch from Chinatown Ah Hock Steam Fish Head. I get the Black Bean Sauce Steamed Fish Head to try it for the first time. Costing me 19 SGD, a hefty price for a street food, I pray to the Gods of Foodism that I’ve ordered wisely.
You’ll be pleasantly overwhelmed by the size of the fish head until you dig into it. Think of it as a solid balloon; appears substantial but just contains a generous amount of air. Maybe fish head usually is this air-headed. I make it a mission to try more fish head dishes in the near future to make smarter assessments.
Except for the occasional scales that the chef missed to skin off, I savor the soft fish meat and slightly tangy sauce. My friend describes the fish head as the following: flavorful, greasy and very Chinese. She finds the fish to be too “fishy.”
My friend lunches on the Black Pepper Beef with Rice. The meat is soft, peppery and mildly sweet. It comes with a spicy sauce, which I recommend should be used conservatively. Onions and green bell peppers accompany the beef while garlic chips top off the white rice.
Our initial plan is to visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple to experience the Vesak celebration, but we forget due to our sugar cravings. We walk one street over to Mei Heong Yuen Dessert and finish our meetup with cendol.
Chinatown Food Street
335 Smith St, Stall No. 16
Tel: +65 6225 3633