Friday, December 23, 2016

Food For Thought

So there we were in one of the many fancy restaurants that seem to be sprouting up in Singapore every time you sneeze. You know the ones…they charge you $300 per person, serve you seven courses of tiny portions of pretty food, and two minutes after you’ve had dinner, you’re at your local tze-char joint on Serangoon Avenue 2 munching on a plate of beef hor fun because you’re still famished.
            The third dish had just arrived on a huge white plate, big enough to hide your face behind in case you spotted the paparazzi behind the potted fern – a small scallop wallowing in a pool of green sauce and carefully decorated with blue and yellow flower petals.
            “This is the chef’s signature dish,” our waiter began helpfully, but then he started mumbling, in Malay-accented French, the rest of the ingredients.
            When he ended triumphantly with “…and finished with an aniseed brot!”, Amanda smiled at him politely and murmured, “Wonderful, thank you!”
            Meanwhile, Saffy was positioning her iPhone over the dish. “The light in here is so bad, it’s almost impossible to take a nice picture. By the way, did you understand a word of what he just said?”
            “What’s an aniseed brot?” I asked.
            “I think he meant broth,” Amanda told me quietly as she inspected her dish.
            Saffy looked up. “You see, that’s what I don’t get about these restaurants. Why torture us with broth? Why can’t you just say soup? And why is everything finished with something?”
            The fourth person at our table piped up. “Aiyoh, you all, ah,” said Sharyn. “Why must eat so atas food? This scallop so small, confirm afterward I still hungry, one!”
            Amanda cut delicately into her scallop and took a bite. She closed her eyes and smiled beatifically. “Oh my God, it’s so good!”
            Sharyn looked at me. When we’d first arrived at the table and she’d glanced at the menu, her eyes had grown bug-eyed. “Hah?” Even at a fierce whisper, her voice, honed by years of shouting at her husband and children, reverberated around the dining room. “Tree hundred and fee-ty dollar plus plus? So, four hundred. For seven course? Sixty dollar per course? Siow, ah?”
            “Can you please lower your voice?” Amanda had pleaded. “Anyway, tonight it’s my treat. I just got a very nice bonus!”
            “Next time, you got bonus, you just give me the cash, can?”
            And now, Sharyn glanced around the table, her critical eye finally settling on her sixty dollar after taxes scallop.
            Saffy had finished her dish in a single scoop of the spoon, and already, she was busy Instagraming what she just ate.
            “Isn’t this just amazing?” Amanda swooned. “I could eat like this every day!”
            Sharyn snorted audibly. I didn’t dare look at her.
            What surprised me was how long the meal took, especially since most of the dishes were barely more than two bites each. We sat down at 7.30pm and we didn’t leave till three hours later.
            “I feel like I’ve just been in a time warp,” Saffy said as we emerged into the still evening heat. “How did that meal take three hours? It’s not as if we ate a whole cow!”
            “You eat whole cow lagi cheaper, ah!” Sharyn whispered to me.
            “I’m still hungry, though!” I complained.
            Amanda looked astonished. “How is that possible?”
            “Well, excuse me, but every dish we had was the size of a thumbnail!”
I was, of course, exaggerating – when I’m hungry, my hormones are completely out of whack – but not by much. Saffy was right. Looking back on our meal, we had a tiny cup of custard, a small round of thin steak, little mounds of vegetables strewn with flowers, lots of colourful dots of sauces, and a tiny cut of fish. I’d already forgotten what we had for dessert – all I could remember was a lot of smoke billowing from a huge bowl.
“Yah, I oh-so still hungry. Come, we go to Old Airport Road and have rojak!”
Saffy’s bosom inflated. “Oooh, that’s such a good idea! I want the carrot cake!”
“I wonder if the oyster omelette guy is still open!”
“Should be still open, lah! If not, we go to my place. I have Bengawan Solo and curry puff!”
“You’re seriously still hungry?” Amanda demanded.
“Thank you for the lovely dinner, Amanda!” Saffy cooed, suddenly remembering her manners. “Ooh, look, there’s a taxi! Quick, get it, Shazz!”
Sharyn was already by the curb. She bent into the open window to talk to the driver. She turned back and shouted, “Ay, he say still open!”
“How can you all still be hungry?!”


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