Forkfuls of deep-fried sticky sweet salty peanutty goodness at Singapore Deli.

Anyone remember that warped idea of mine at the start of the year to create a Best Seven of 2011 list as I ate my way through the year? If you don’t, well yeah, t’was I who had founded this most ludicrous list of best eats – confined to seven, and only seven, because…seven rhymes with 2011. yeaaaah.

Right. So moving on, I’ve discovered not one, not two, but THREE, strong contenders for the list, all of which are on par with the other seven that have already made it to the top. I have been harrowed to bits trying to figure out how to shove these newbies into the list – should I call it a tie? [cop-out.] should I make it the Best Ten of  2011 list? [bigger cop-out.] should I pretend like I never came across the three newbies at all? [BLASPHEMOUS.] – or should I just stop overthinking it, change it to Best of 2011 and admit that my brilliant idea was bonkers to begin with? (ps. that’s never happened before) So yep, unless one of you out there is going to revolt against this switch, I’m officially converting over to a Best of 2011 list. And if you do fancy a revolt, let me take you to Singapore Deli, which ironically, serves Indonesian and Malaysian food (or not so ironic, if you realize that Singaporean cuisine is after all, at the confluence of many neighbouring ethnic flavours)…and feed you a  forkful of this:

The plate of crunchy saucey peanutty clutter that calls itself Sambal Tempe.

If I were a mad scientist and fused together the sticky crunchiness of caramel popcorn, with the sweet salty nuttiness of a peanut-loaded fruit and nut bar, and then skinny dipped it all in a pool of thick dark soy sambal (chilli sauce), that up there would be the monstrously delicious creation that would emerge from my test tubes. A creation worthy of none other than…you guessed it, my Best of 2011 list.

Now typically Sambal Tempe has both deep fried tofu and ikan bilis (aka anchovies) in it, but Singapore Deli does a fishless version for the simple reason that anchovies drive up the cost. Their brilliant and cheaper alternative strategy is to throw in potato chips, that when dunked in sambal, transform themselves from ordinary potato chips to…

…is it a potato chip? NO!

…is it a magic potato weapon fashioned out of Malaysian sambal? NO!


Hell yeah.

Other awesome eats at Singapore Deli that may not have been profound enough to make it to the list but that will forever hold a special place in my ever-hungry heart:

Skewers of peanutty Chicken Sate over a mound of stir-fried Nasi Goreng. Satay sauce is like cheese for me – a crappy dish can almost instantly redeem itself if you splash enough of it on. Though in this case, the wiser choice is undoubtedly the chicken skewers over the somewhat chewier mutton ones – the chicken just does a better job of being that tender vehicle you need to sponge up and transport the satay sauce from the plate and deposit it into your mouth.

More deep-fried goodness in this plate of Tahu Goreng…soft chewy tofu cubes barely peeping out from under this thick satay-like peanut gravy. With some cucumbers on top for that healthy crunch that will undoubtedly redeem you from the cholesterol hell that you’re plunging into with every deep-fried peanut-soaked soy bite.

And this fabulously foamed up milk tea tarik, the technique behind which is described way more eloquently and pictorially by Ms. Scribblecious on her blog than I ever could. All I’ll say is, if you’re ordering tea tarik, then go with the ginger version. It’s like one of those fire-in-the-throat stunts – the tea just races down your throat with this heady burning sensation that makes you (a) want to get up and run around the block, or (b) do twenty jumping jacks, or…maybe, when you realize that (a) and (b) are non-options on a deep-fried tempe sambal stuffed belly, you just (c) sit back down, curl up on a cosy couch, and enjoy the soothing gingery warmth of it all.

Here’s the mega list of everything else that spilled out on our table that day. This is what happens when you have a bunch of foodies drooling over a restaurant review (courtesy again, Ms. Scribblicious) for a week, so that when they finally drag the reviewer back to the restaurant to get a taste for themselves, they lose it and go wild ordering practically everything off of the menu.

Super succulent falling-of-the-bone steamed chicken. This dish wins extra points for having a name that I could pronounce without making a jackass of myself – “Chicken Rice Steam.”

And this hoard of dishes, top-left to bottom-right, would be: Mie Laksa, a brothy bowl of coconut-milk drenched noodles and more tofu. Tahu Isi, or tofu spring rolls served up with sambal sauce. Nasi Lemak, the Malaysian national dish of rice cooked in coconut cream, with a side of chicken, peanuts, omelette strips, and sambal. And last, curried beef with rice, aka Nasi Rendang. FooDiva mentioned that many a photographer has complained about it being impossible to make Rendang look like anything other than goop on a plate. She had hopes that I could pull off a glamour shot and revolutionize the image of Rendang forever.

Sorry Diva, I have failed you.

Here we have a plate of Mehoon Seafood, with vermicelli noodles draped around shrimp.

Were I a string of vermicelli, I’d demand to be bathed in shrimp-chilli flavour and powdered with ground peanuts. But since I am not a string of vermicelli…[sad. choked. unable to complete sentence.]

This last and final dish – Nasi Tumpeng –  was ordered to the table solely because of that adorable yellow rice hat [three guesses for which foodie on the table lobbied for this hatted dish]. The chicken on the side and tiny pile of sambal tempe were lost on us. We were smacked silly out of our minds with food coma by this point.

Wondering how anyone could eat through all that? Let me assure you it’s not that unrealistic. You can do it with a jug of Singapore Deli’s soothing lemony iced tea to revive you every time you think you’ve drowned past the peanut-overdosed point of redemption. You can do it when you have a ravenous group of foodies who’ve been fantasizing about the restaurant for over a week (and on the note of ravenous foodies, special welcome to Didi Paterno, a Filipina food blogger visiting Dubai, who took precious time out of her honeymoon to join a bunch of foodies who she’d never met before and who could’ve been a creepy bunch of pyschos for all you know. Gotta take risks, all for the love of food baby.) You can do it when there’s a feast of peanut and sambal and deep-fried goodness laid out on the table, all of which are pretty good, but at least one of which is so profound that it becomes one of the BEST things you discovered on your plate in 2011.

Singapore Deli
Opposite Burjuman, take the right after Pizza Hut and drive straight down toward the large parking lot, past Al Farooj on your left.
Phone: +971 (4) 396-6885

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

15 thoughts on “Forkfuls of deep-fried sticky sweet salty peanutty goodness at Singapore Deli.

  1. saleem says:

    Guess you leave no choice but for us to try it out – well written and photos are tempting.

  2. elainegan says:

    Haha, love how you described the Sambal Tempe (fused together the sticky crunchiness of caramel popcorn).

    GREAT read as always :D

  3. FooDiva says:

    You underestimate the power of your photos – incredible! And that Sambal Tempe looked exactly like your photo – mind you I would love to try it with anchovies. Must admit I didn’t rate the Nasi Goreng. Currently the best I have had since Ginseng closed, is Wok In Chow Down’s (at Moevenpick Deira). The search continues for an even better version. Much thanks for the link.

  4. Elainegan says:

    I will be trying out this authentic Indonesian eatery (recommended by a friend) soon, shall update you if their Nasi Goreng is any better ;)

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @saleem – you bet! We’ll ask them to amp up the spice levels just for you :)

      @Elainegan – Thanks for bringing us here and setting us up with that truckload of food. I went back and bought those deep-fried peanutty chips at the counter…no surprises on that one. ;)

      @FooDiva – thank you!! true, I would like to try the anchovy version too. And agreed on the Nasi Goreng, and same with the Nasi Lemak – compared to the sambal tempe and tahu goreng and chicken sate, they didn’t wow me to the same extent. If I haven’t raved on about a dish that I have mentioned up there, then it probably ain’t good enough for me to order again!

  5. Didi says:

    Thanks for the super warm welcome :-) The trip was worth it.

    Won’t they serve sambal tempeh in the cinemas soon? Hehehe! Imagine munching on a big bucket of sambal tempeh while watching a movie…ohhhh yeah!

  6. Yasmin says:

    "Were I a string of vermicelli, I’d demand to be bathed in shrimp-chilli flavour and powdered with ground peanuts."
    String vermicelli should ALWAYS be served with anything shrimp flavor. Absolutely LOVE that combination!

    I knew that list was going to get longer, it was only a matter of time ;)

  7. Figs and Saffron says:

    the food was good but i was disappointed when my noodle soup (mie laksa) came with spaghetti! later I asked the waiter if it comes with rice noodles and he said i can order it with it…. next time i hope.
    love the photos and it was great seeing you all.

  8. accordingtodina says:

    Loved the post!!!!! Gosh I must go there soon….my mouth waterssssssssss U did it again!!!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Didi – There are so many more awesome things than plain popcorn that they should serve in cinemas. I can’t believe no one’s started an alternative-ethnic-eats-to-plain-Jane-popcorn company. Wanna start it with me? We could become rich and famous.

      @Yasmin – Me too!! (as in I love that shrimp + peanut + vermicelli combo…but I would never have anticipated that my well-thought-out Best Seven of 2011 list would…let’s not talk about it, it hurts to see the seven go. I do so love a good rhyme.)

      @Figs and Saffron – was awesome bumping into you there! ah didn’t know that about the mie laksa…well we’ll just have to go back and do the rice noodle version together then.

      @accordingtodina – hehehe thank you, yes you must go check it out. but first I need to drag you for momos. ;)

  9. Ameera Khan says:

    Great pics!! I have passed by Singapore Deli a gazillion times but I have never thought of going in there. Im definitely going to pay them a visit soon to taste all those heavenly things you have so mouth-wateringly described…(I think your blog should have a warning : Pls dont read on an empty stomach!)

    And, Sambal also happens to be a Tamil word for any spicy chutney that is made without tempering…interesting how the influence must have come about…

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Ameera – oh new factoid, I never knew that! Would love to hear what you think of the food, and whether the sambal tastes anything like the Tamil version.

  10. Gin says:

    Finally made it to Singapore Deli and I really wanted to like the food but my first experience was disappointing.  Spaghetti noodles in the laksa, ramen noodles in two of our other dishes, broth that tasted like a Koka packet… Maybe we went on an off night – always willing to give a restaurant a second chance, esp when staff seemed so friendly and helpful.

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @390da7a88e9f77ef2b6c669c70972be0:disqus – You know, you may not be wrong, especially if you’ve had the authentic deal in Singapore / Malaysia. I have personally got to back there after my recent trip to Malaysia. I think once you’ve tried it in the place of origin, it makes a gigantic difference to the experience.

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