Sunday, October 28, 2012

Searching Singapore for a Taste of Texas

We've finally found good Mexican food in Asia at Cafe Iguana

I've just returned from a weekend in Singapore, and I must admit that food is one of the things I was really looking forward to. I first visited this country back in 1997, and I remember reveling in eating authentic Asian food while actually in Asia. This time around, after living in Malaysia for over a year, I was keen to dine on food that reminded me of my Texas home. I am not alone in this strange endeavor. When one of my Penang expat friends visited Bangkok for the second time, I remarked that she must have really enjoyed her first trip. She told me what she was really going for was the Mexican food since her attempts to convince the chef to move to Penang had been unsuccessful. Good Mexican food is impossible to find in Penang. Chili's Bar and Grill is your best option other than ingratiating yourself with your Mexican friends. I really need to work out a homemade ice cream for Cochinita Pibil bartering system.

Nom, nom, nom... Shredded Steak Burrito

A Texas expat recommended Cafe Iguana at Riverside Point by Singapore's Clarke Quay, so it was at the top of my list. A waitress brought us a small bowl of chips and salsa as soon as we sat down, and I cautioned the kids to savor it slowly since it probably wouldn't be refilled. (It wasn't.) I had to laugh at the overly complicated Margarita pricing system depending on the time of day, but the drinks were delicious. The family ordered quesadillas, chile relleno and shredded steak burritos. We loved every bite! I was initially expecting "good Tex-Mex considering you're in Asia"-level fare, but this restaurant could hold its own back in my Austin, Texas home. (Well, if they would only keep the chips flowing.) The steak burrito was loaded with meat, not mostly rice and beans as I'm accustomed to getting at Chipotle in America. I did have to augment it with a little salsa and Cholula Hot Sauce to give it the kick I wanted, though. We were quickly seated walking in at 8 p.m. on the eve of a public holiday, but they do accept reservations. I'm definitely headed back there the next time I'm in Singapore.

Finding ice cream in Singapore from my hometown Houston, Texas

Growing up in Houston, Marble Slab Ice Cream has always loomed large for me. I remember driving to Marble Slab with friends back in high school on a Friday night. After finishing a particularly grueling Freshman Chemistry exam at university, another friend and I treated ourselves to a Marble Slab double scoop waffle cone dipped in chocolate and rolled in Butterfingers. Like the exam, this dessert proved more than we could handle. Imagine how happy I was to find one in Central @ Clarke Quay, across the street from my hotel! It's like Texas was waving hello to me all the way in Asia. Even though we were stuffed from dinner, everyone got a scoop with mix-ins. It's going to be months before we see another Marble Slab, so I didn't mind splurging on money or calories.

At Singapore's Changi Airport, I made sure we stopped by Texas Chicken. It's the same company as Church's Chicken but has been renamed for the international market. Honey Butter Biscuits for breakfast? Yes, please!!

Fried Chicken and Honey Butter Biscuits at the airport

 The strangest part about my American-food-in-Singapore fixation is how much I looked forward to eating at Subway. They have this chain in Malaysia, but all the food is Halal (prepared according to Muslim dietary laws). That means there's no pork products at all. Also, Malaysian Subways offer a variety of breads, but inevitably, everything but the Italian is "finished already" whenever I go.  In Singapore, I discovered I could get a "real" Italian B.M.T. with ham, pepperoni and salami on 9-Grain Honey Oat Bread. It's not the filling I regularly order in America, but once again, I found myself making unusual choices after living in Malaysia. And they had Doritos!! It's been so long since I've seen Doritos. Rumor has it that you can buy Doritos in Kuala Lumpur, but they are nowhere to be found in Penang. Hubby thought it was strange that I didn't get a cookie with my combo meal. I explained to him, "I can make cookies. I can't make Doritos."

Lest you think that I spent my entire weekend chowing down on Western food, I'll confess that I also indulged in a few iconic Singaporean dishes. Jumbo Seafood is the place to go for Chilli Crab and was recommended to me by my Texas friend currently living in Singapore. The fresh crab flavor comes through even though everything is drenched in a yummy chilli gravy. (Not Texas chili, by the way.) I love sopping up the sauce with deep-fried buns called Man-Tou. Last of all, I finally had a Singapore Sling while sitting in Singapore. It took until my third trip here to accomplish this, and I thoroughly enjoyed every sip.

Related Post:
Singapore Sights: Part 1
Singapore Sights: Part 2

This post is part of Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom? Check it out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. Wow! I didn't realize Texas had its own ice cream chain.

    1. There's also Blue Bell Creamery which is sold in the grocery stores. It's probably the most famous one and beloved statewide.

  2. I really shouldn't click on food related posts righ before bedtime :) It's great to see how you and the kids enjoyed the comforts of home in Singapore. I love how the kids look so happy and content especially at the Marble Slab. I was in Singapore in '98 and didn't try a sling either so hopefully next time. I'm not sure I can handle living someplace without authentic Mexican food.

  3. Well, this is a surprise. I wouldn't have guessed you could find such good Mexican food in Singapore. Cool. It looks good, too.

  4. I am floored that you liked the Mexican food you found overseas- usually, we can't stand Mexican food anywhere but it Texas and NO we are not that loyal...... :))

    So happy you could get a little slice of home! Thanks for linking up this week!

  5. When you're traveling for more than a week or two, finding food that's familiar can really seem like a treat. I remember a fantastic hamburger at an Irish Bar in Indonesia and a plate of steak frites at a French bistro in Hanoi that were very welcome during some extended travel in Asia.

  6. I would really miss Mexican food if I moved to Asia. How nice to find the flavors of home!

  7. i didn't know there is a Marble Slab Creamy in Singapore interesting...

  8. Next time you're in town, you should try the restaurant Salsa over on Dempsey Hill. I find it's a little more Mexican than Tex-Mex but still really good. Sadly, they don't refill the chip bowl either. What's with that?? LOL!


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