Newton Circle Jerk

The food court at Newton Circle is 10 minutes walk from E@L GHQ (a luxurious low-rise condominium with a car-park full of Lexa and Mercedii - I'm about the only expat there, and I don't have a car). I don't go to the food court often as I had been told it is a rip-off place, too central, mainly for tourists or pretentious locals (like from my condo?), and I have had confirmatory experiences as well over the past three years. A friend and I once spent $70+ there on some standard hawker seafood fare, totally outrageous. $70 bucks in a hawker stall, get fucking real! $6 for some kailang? Surely not. Where are the $3 laksas? Not here. Catch the 960 to Tekka Mall if you want cheap.

And when I do go to Newton Food Centre, the aggressiveness of the touts is just so off-putting it usually throws me straight into a severe attack of "irritable ang moh" mode. I tell touts to fuck off, I roll my eyes at the prices and I generally act like a total jerk of the "I am NOT a tourist" variety, an attitude most often seen in tourists or recent arrivals. Eventually I find some stall where I haven't sworn at or threatened the tout or chef with violence for some months and sit down for a hasty, occasionally much regretted meal.

Of course I could have gone to some Crystal Jade franchise if I'd wanted to be ripped-off, and at least been I'd be able to breathe.

One of the features of the newly "upgraded" food centre is the way the choking smoke from the charcoal grills has been captured by the circular design, allowing it to spiral within itself, forming a miasmatic asthmagenic fog of foul air that looms over the open areas and is positively Beijingian under the eaves. The roof that covers all the cooking stalls is a medium pitched cathedral vault which, through a brilliantly perverted piece of short-sighted design, attenuates the fumes from the cooking and concentrates the smoke and smell. There is no venting. A series of fans pull the warm smoke down from the ceiling directly onto the diners, and the overflow leaches out into the central open arena where it rotates in a sulfurous vortex of that burns your throat and your eyes, just as the prices burn your wallet.

The architect of this "enhanced hawker experience" should be fucking-well taken to Kafka's punishment farm and have those three words etched into his back until the drills come out the other side.

But tonight, after I had taken a brief "uncle nap" (or delayed siesta) after a rather tiring and depressing day (more later), I was up at 10 and realized I hadn't eaten since lunching on some overly sweet chicken kung pao ("special sauce", yeah right) at the new and incompetently staffed Cz'zar restaurant in Great World City. Options were limited as I had left the fridge door open all day and had to throw out everything previously edible. So I hitched some over-sized cargo shorts over my lazy butt and with the only pair of shoes that don't kill my feet (some Teva sandals) I hazarded my pedestrian self across Newton Rd, Kampong Java Rd, Dunearn and Bukit Timah Rds (same road but different names according to which way you are heading!) and hit the dubious hot-spot of Newton Food Court.

I was hungry. I was very hungry, I didn't feel like annoying anyone, I didn't feel like making a choice, so I sat right down at one of the first stalls I came to: no 76. I ordered some Chicken Fried Rice and Cereal Prawn. And a Tiger Beer from stall 75. "Bing, che che." With ice, please.

Some of the stalls were closed as it was getting on to 11pm and the smoke and crap air was not so noticeable.. The food came, it was good. Cereal Prawn has more MSG per square centimeter than any dish known to man, but this one has lots of chili to kick my arse for complaining. The beer was nice.

Uncle from the food stall sat down and we had a little chat. When he ate prawns he did so with the shell and all, but not the heads, as he saw me picking out the flesh form mine. Sometimes I do too. A big serve for $15 bucks. Pricey for a hawker stall, I guess. But cheaper than at No Signboard on East Coast on Saturday, or at least I think it was (Smoot settled the bill), and more of them, and spicier. Mmm. MSG, is there nothing, etc...

Chatting away with Uncle. He complains about the smoke and the design of the roof. We agree. I told him I had been living in Hong Kong before coming here. Revealed my appalling lack of Cantonese (can't even swear). He was a pleasant guy, not hassling, not annoying me by pushing for more orders. The chef came out and sat with us as well. They were open until 2am, but it was already getting quiet. Chef takes a Chrysanthemum tea from the windowed fridge of stall 75, I buy another beer, with bing. I pop two cubes into the glass and the beer froths over. We all smile.

For once I didn't act like a jerk. And the people were nice. And I haven't got sick with the food yet... Who would've thunk?



Posted by: expat@large on Aug 08, 07 | 12:13 am | Profile


OMG...E@L has good experience with Singaporean Culture...Hold the Press!!!

You just need to be open to this happening and it called Karma...and my name is...

Posted by: Indiana on Aug 08, 07 | 6:49 am

Ohh and at Newton BBQ Stingray, shop 54 :-)

Posted by: Indiana on Aug 08, 07 | 6:50 am

I was there at #33 from ten past until almost 11 pm! Gah. Fate, she was playing with us yesterday.

Posted by: knobby on Aug 08, 07 | 12:41 pm

I am in Singapore next week if you fancy meeting up, having a drink, meal and a whinge about the decline of western civilsation (and the east).

Read 'The Black Swan' by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and see what you think. His last book 'Fooled By Randomness' was great.

Posted by: steviefboy on Aug 08, 07 | 7:17 pm

What is this world? A mere curl of smoke for the wind to scatter.

Abraham Cahan

Posted by: Sister on Aug 09, 07 | 12:26 am

Very nice that (apart from the outrageous prices). Sounds like you might be finally going native.

Posted by: Dick on Aug 09, 07 | 4:54 am

Indy: unique experience for me in Singapore. Not been a stingray fan since (genuflects, signs the cross) the demise of St Steve (Irwin).

Knobby: Did you have the CD with you?

Stevie: do I know you? I might sound friendly (ha!) but I'm really an arrogant rude prick. You haven't linked your blog - why? Shy? Embarrassed? Actually you are Gahmen Agent with entrapment on his 'mind'?

Mariah: I thought they called the wind Mariah?

Dick: waiter, more chili-sambal sauce, over everything please, just keep pouring it on...

Posted by: expat@large on Aug 09, 07 | 4:29 pm

CD? No, didn't. That would have been too much!

> Not been a stingray fan...
All the more reason to eat 'em?

Posted by: knobby on Aug 09, 07 | 10:42 pm

what a heartwarming story! :p

i concur with the knobby - shouldn't you be eating them more as errr revenge?

Posted by: valkyrie on Aug 12, 07 | 3:36 am

Val: To errr is human, to forgive divinely tasty... You know me; it was just a joke. I love eating stingray.

Posted by: expat@large on Aug 12, 07 | 7:37 pm


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