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!
...is it this SUPER DOOPER SEMI-CRUNCHY SEMI-MUSHY WILDLY STICKY SALTY PEANUTTY TANGY U.F.O. THAT’S GOING TO ZAAAAP ME OUT OF MY MIND?!
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.
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.
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