Dumpling Devotion In Singapore
Slippery steamed parcels, skewered and dipped into a salty-sweet sauce. Hot chewiness bursting onto taste buds, a soothing savory warmth.
I’m a late starter in the school of dumpling devotion.
Our first batch of guests in Singapore demanded dumpling satisfaction but we had nothing to offer. We were empty-handed, empty-headed in the world of dumpling fever.
In fact, when my friends told me of their dumpling obsession, my reaction was a puzzled “huh?” I thought of my father’s freezing European winter-inspired dumplings, a sticky and stodgy dessert cooked up when Mum’s dinner didn’t fill all corners of our stomachs.
Dad’s dumplings were divine. Sweet sticky balls steeped in syrup. Engorged raisins (so much more elegant than sultanas), self-raising flour, margarine and heat. My dad was the emperor of afters, the supreme sweet-man, the prince of pudding.
New to Singapore, oblivious to the wonder of the Asian dumpling, my friends’ dumpling devotion seemed an outlandish entreaty. And so we took them out for Peranakan food (and lost our one and only baby spoon, which our friends rescued from under the table for a lonely life languishing in a drawer in Melbourne).
Little did we know that dumpling heaven lurked just three doors down from Peranakan paradise.
After our first Singapore dumpling discovery, dumplings seemed to leap out at us from every corner.
At the supermarket, I looked up from a pile of plump plums to see a lady steaming dumplings in the freezer section.
We wandered over for a look. The auntie offered us half a dumpling skewered on a toothpick.
Miss M, who has declined to eat that day, opens her mouth like a discerning baby bird to accept the dainty offering.
She frowns when I taste it first, then smiles as the tiny treat hits the target, her cheeks plumping like the dumpling she is devouring.
The steamer lady smiles and begins her hard-sell. I succumb, soullessly. A icy package is slammed into our basket.
At home, Darling Man rigs up a steaming system – a plastic drainer dish perched on a pair of crossed chopsticks wedged into the bottom of our biggest saucepan. The baby accepts more morsels. Bereft of vegetables, we snack on S$10.90 of steamed dumplings, then fall into bed for our much-needed weekend afternoon naps. I am not sure if we shared one or two or three kilograms of packaged pleasure… but we slept well.
The very next day I’m assaulted again. This time I am perusing the produce in the back alleys of our local hawker centre in Singapore.
I stand open-mouthed, staring at the dumpling options, steamed and fried, delectable and disgusting. (Black bean chicken feet, anyone?)
I join the queue and order a trayful of treats. (I love Singapore where just about everyone speaks English. If the shall holder doesn’t, someone in the queue will.)
Neptune dumpling stall, Marine Parade Food Centre, Block 84 Marine Parade Central
Dedicated to the lovely Ms P.
8 years ago