I hate Arab Street.

Well, I did as a kid when my late mom would spend hours looking at kain ela and Chop Gadja kain ‘pulicat’. After hours on end waiting, made worse by the fact we had earlier shopped for my Star Wars action figures at CK Tang[1] on Orchard Road, we’d adjourn for some nosh at a nearby restaurant. This is when I couldn’t really remember if we had eaten at the famous Zam Zam Restaurant. In my younger days, I didn’t eat murtabak because of its conspicuous bawang content[2].

Anyway, since I have been hearing about their famous murtabak of late, we headed north east on a short cab ride towards Arab Street. We had the best table facing the five-foot walkway by the cashier after a mere 5-minute wait. Unlike the murtabak that I’m used to consuming, the size of the murtabak depends on the number of people ordering. Ours was for two (dua orang makan) and it was still impressive size-wise. If I have to be honest, it tastes like… well, murtabak, but with an additional subtle zing likely from the spices they used, the type of which I have absolutely no clue about. The skin was crispy as was some of the meat pieces (we had beef).

I really enjoyed it and it is no wonder I have been recommended to buy extra on my last day to bring back[3]. Singapore Zam Zam Restaurant is a very old establishment (it has been around since 1908), reminiscent of Bismillah in Taiping, and is at 699 North Bridge Rd.

Thereafter, we hit Orchard Road starting at Ngee Ann City which houses Takashimaya. I was advised to check out the food court but since we were satiated from the murtabak, we headed to Kino instead. If I remembered correctly, our shopping trips to Orchard in days of yore was limited to Tangs or Robinsons, but looks like 29 years have changed the landscape so much that Orchard Road has a posh section that was reminiscent of Omotesando or Avenue des Champs Élysées.

I swung by *SCAPE to check out the merch for the evening’s SCANDAL gig and managed to meet up with a friend who was kind enough to help me get the tees as he was gonne queue for it anyway. It looked like the queue had begun since Friday night after the autograph sesh at Bugis+. Talk about dedication.

We had our lunch pretty late and we headed up to Geylang Serai market in search of the elusive rojak Singapore. We used to enjoy this at a hawker centre that used to be on Clarke Quay which has since been demolished. Despite my attempts on Google and my Lonely Planet guide, it was pretty much a gamble as I only read the intro in a blog post that described the rojak can be found in Serangoon, Beach Road, Geylang and Ayer Rajah. Wasn’t convinced of Beach Road (the tulang merah thing wasn’t my cup of tea), so Geylang it was. As kids, we used to hate Geylang too (can you see an emerging pattern now?) and we called it “kedai kampung“. Yup, we kids love only the aircon and bright lights of the malls. Anyway, after checking out the hawkers which were mainly of nasi Melayu variety we found a mamak selling rojak Singapore at a stall cleverly named, err, Rojak & Mee Siam (mee Siam mamak, huh). My portion included a potpourri of fried beancurd, cucur (both plain and udang), and fish cakes. I’m not a big fan of offal, so perhaps this photo would not do it justice.

And, yes, the rojak tastes as good as it looks, especially the mild piquant dip which is chilli-based. The stall had a few certs and paper cuttings indicating good reviews of the food, but I recently found something interesting about this hawker’s recent history online. People are still queuing for it and I am still around, typing this blog entry. Rojak & Mee Siam is at #02-126 Geylang Serai Food Centre (stall shuts on Monday).

After the gig at *SCAPE, we grabbed a quick bite at BK and headed to Orchard Road again, but this time walking from Bras Basah via the Cathay building. Besides, with it being nighttime, it was more bearable. The number of shopping outlets had indeed grown and I learnt that certain malls that had been around from my last visit have become the stomping ground for certain migrant populations of the city. A few more memories came flooding back and tried to take some shots, which I shall put up in the usual space soon-ish.

Oh ya, as I said in my last post, this is my first visit to this city in nearly three decades. There was no MRT at that time. Very the nice one, comparable to any mass transits I’ve been on in the cities I’ve visited. Although, I don’t like the ‘stand on the left’ rule on the escalators[4].

[1]What it used to be called in them days.
[2]Don’t ask.
[3]No time, meh.
[4]Being right-handed, I’m more used to London Transport‘s rule.