Chong Qing Grilled Fish, Liang Seah Street

I’m in two minds about the recent influx of Chinese immigrants.

Yes, their ambition to nab places in the country’s prestigious universities, while admirable, is putting greater pressure on local-born students to perform or lose out. Sure, few understand western toilet etiquette. Okay, some of them can be rather unruly and unkempt. However, their presence has exposed most Singaporeans to the real effects of an open economy. Long have we enjoyed the fruits of a largely liberalized economy thanks to bilateral ties, free trade agreements amongst other policies – from online shopping, easy access to media and culture from abroad and ease of doing business – that we’ve forgotten a door can be opened from both sides. As a city with no hinterland, the nation’s prosperity has always depended on how much it whores itself to the winds of economic influence. Expel all the foreigners, Yusei? Willing to go back to the time when policemen wore shorts? That’s the not-so-bright future that awaits.

That being said, I think it’s time urban and transport planners stop pretending that Singapore’s a small city, because it isn’t. It’s ridiculous. Urban renewal projects along existing rail lines effectively double the urban density without realizing that the existing transport infrastructure can’t be “doubled” just by “doubling the train fleet”. New rail lines, like the Circle Line, have trains half the size of the older lines while new purchases of articulated buses have been banned, which is particularly fatal for SMRT Buses as their depots weren’t built to accept double-decker vehicles.

Where was I? Yes, Chong Qing Grilled Fish is a thousand-year old dish and was recorded as far back as the AD 200 where it’s a reputed favorite by Taiwanese-Japanese psychopath and war strategist, Zhuge Liang, a perfect doppelgänger for Takeshi Kaneshiro. The eatery of the same name, which has two outlets, has achieved cult status with Central-Western Chinese, local food bloggers and accidental diners, and it’s not hard to see (or rather, taste) why. Simply put, it’sreally good, and best of all, it’s extremely affordable considering the portions and price range. When you think about it, the “gastronomics” of it is just a winning formula – the grilled exterior of the fish gives it an earthy flavor which is porous enough to lock in the tender and juices of the meat inside, while being bathed in the marinade of spices that is the broth.

My friend and I also ordered the mouth-watering chicken (which is surprisingly not literally translated as it’s actually “saliva chicken” in Mandarin) which looks a lot spicier than it looks, and tasted a lot better than we expected.

Overall, I can’t wait to return to try the “Black Bean” broth, which is no doubt, a local take on the dish.

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