Aloha Singapore! Henna tattoos and dinner at Ding Dong

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Although Singapore is an island, and we did a LOT in a week, I couldn’t help feeling that there was so much we missed, too. I don’t know about Doug and Edwina, but I started my last full day in Singapore wondering how much I could shove into that last stretch.

We started early because they were on a mission to get official “SG50” anniversary souvenirs, and those are hard to find. Since many food spots are not open before 10 a.m., we went to Toast Box on Orchard Road — which was perfect for a last Singaporean breakfast.

DSC07405 DSC07406Toast Box is a popular cafe chain that is owned by the same people who own the Din Tai Fung franchise. You go to get their toast, of course, but they offer many other baked goods (Western and Asian style).

My cousins Emma and Jordyn Lines with their assortment of toasts for breakfast.

My cousins Emma and Jordyn Lines with their assortment of toasts for breakfast.

DSC07407I love kaya, so can’t bring myself to eat other kinds of toasts, but here they had thick-cut toasts spread with peanut butter or (at top) pork floss. These are all popular toasts that are eaten in Singapore for breakfast or a snack. The peanut butter is pretty straightforward, but the pork floss is more savory. I like it, but I can see where it might be a bit of an acquired taste.

DSC07421My proper Singaporean breakfast. See that pale strip in my kaya toast? That’s not cheese. That’s a thick slab of butter over a layer of kaya. OMG! Also, on this morning I found out that you don’t have to take your coffee the same way all the time. In fact, a Singaporean blogger created a little chart to show you the different ways to order kopi (coffee) like a pro, lah.

DSC07414Edwina had a bowl of laksa — which, by the way, is Peranakan!

After breakfast, we headed out to wander Orchard Road a little to see if we could find those damn SG50 souvenirs.

DSC00955Along the way, we happened upon Mr. Oh Ow Kee, a busker who demos and sells “Woola wood ball chains,” which seem to be an extreme form of fitness practiced by ancient Chinese monks. The neat thing about this guy — who’s very famous in Singapore — is that he used to be a karang guni man until about 2000, when he discovered the chains and started using them to keep in shape. The balls are made by a furniture shop and his wife strings them together. This must be the secret to his long life.

I would show you a video of Edwina trying to swing one of these chains, but it was basically her swinging the chain and them falling to the ground.

DSC07426One last ice cream sandwich on rainbow bread before leaving Singapore … with durian ice cream, of course!

From there we headed to Little India to get one last haul from Mustafa Center, but got distracted looking for saris for Edwina. This is just a small sample of the many sari booths at a nearby market. Aren’t they gorgeous?

DSC00963 DSC00968While in Little India, we wandered to Dunlop Street to look for a place that Anthony Bourdain visited on one of his shows, but no luck — we didn’t have the address and the one place that seemed to match the name looked kind of sketchy. Ah, but it wasn’t a wash; we ducked into one of many places offering henna tattoos for just $5, and got one for ourselves.

DSC07431 DSC07435Edwina’s was a little more intricate, so it cost $7.

DSC07443 DSC07452Mine was even more intricate, so it cost $10. As you can see from the photo in the catalog, my design wasn’t exactly as pictured, but was still really nice. And she did it all freehand, really quickly!

Henna tattoos typically last about one to two weeks, possibly longer. Click here for a list of FAQs on getting and maintaining it, so you know before you go.DSC01015DSC01008DSC01009 DSC01011
For our last dinner in Singapore, Celia and Viv suggested Ding Dong at 23 Ann Siang Rd. This is a very cool, hip area with popular bars, clubs and restaurants — much like our Chinatown, but exponentially cleaner. Ding Dong is a narrow restaurant, but goes three stories up, with the kitchen on the first floor so you can gawk at the crew when you first enter.

DSC07473They have interesting cocktails, served in interesting vessels. This is the Fujiyama, comprised of yogurt sake, elderflower liqueur, fresh strawberries and yuzu liqueur. Refreshing!

DSC07469DSC07471The crispy pig ears with Sichuan pepper and lime is a perfect appetizer! They’re fried to a delicate crunch (I say this because sometimes pig ears are so hard they can crack your teeth) and seasoned perfectly. I want to squeeze lime on my fried pig ears all the time now.

DSC07461Burnt nasu (eggplant) with crab and crispy shrimp. Many of these plates are really small, but they do fill you eventually.

DSC07465Vietnamese chicken cole slaw.

DSC07468Scallop ceviche with fresh coconut, wrapped in Chinese cabbage. I tried to take a photo of this after we opened it, but it was a mess! Trust me, it was delicious anyway.

DSC07475One of Ding Dong’s most famous signature dishes: The Vietnamese Scotch eggs. These are quail eggs wrapped in Vietnamese-spiced pork, breaded and fried and served with a vinegar dipping sauce. Brilliant.

DSC07481Roasted duck dumplings and shiitake mushrooms with duck consommé. When you get this, be sure to get a spoon to get all the dashi, it’s so good!

DSC07485Eek. I believe this was crispy pork belly and pickled vegetables with sour toddy dressing. It was good, though!

DSC07483Roasted black miso kingfish wing. This is served on a sheet of nori, and you get a bowl of rice.

DSC07491Tom kha crispy quail. The foam was a lot more dramatic when it first came to the table, but you know me … I have to take a bazillion shots of a dish.

DSC07487Asam pedas salt water barramundi with okra and baby eggplant.

DSC07493This is a bad photo, but there was no way I could get a good shot of this dish. I need to show it to you, though, because I do recommend it: Waygu beef done char siu style with pickled papaya and cherry tomato. What? Why would you do that to a nice piece of Wagyu? They know what they’re doing — this was one of our favorite dishes, too. It’s got light char siu flavor, plus the beefiness of the super tender Wagyu. I don’t think every restaurant could pull this off, but Ding Dong did it well.

DSC07496 DSC07498I believe this was the Mah Lai Goh “Malay Steamed Cake” dessert, served in a bowl with dry ice for added dramatic effect. That black thing is actually a black sesame Chinese pretzel, which I learned on this trip is not Chinese at all. Yes, Will Chen, you were right. It is Malaysian.

DSC07505This is called “textures of kaya and chocolate.” Who would have thought?

DSC07509Our favorite dessert of the night: Cendol — pronounced “chen-doll” — is Southeast Asian shave ice served with syrup, ice cream, and other condiments. This one was topped with corn ice cream, popcorn, and Malacca honey. Amazing! Someone in Hawaii should do this. Wink.

And that just about wraps up the trip! Thank you for following along, I had a great time and am thinking of going back next year, too. We’ll see what the fares look like! To see all of the photos from this trip, click here.

Last blog post in this series: Singapore travel tips, plus getting around the airport.