Tagalog killed this Singa star.
There’s something comforting about sausages. The idea behind it is revolting: taking bourgeois hackneyed spare parts, grinding them into a mince and stuffing it into a cleaned intestine. The result? A brown, wrinkled roll that has more than a passing likeness to the male genitalia. Yet this peasant dish has not only survived into the modern-day, it’s thriving, and has become a proverbial cultural icon, existent in its many forms across the globe. Perhaps the most well-known sausage dish is the hotdog. This typical brash American democratization of this classic street favorite struck down all barriers and preconceptions, and turned it into a kind of “anything goes” dish. Much like the burrito and taco of Tex-Mex and Italian pizza, the hotdog was reduced into a mere conduit to send a lot of ingredients into deep space of the human body. Yet, it’s in this day of pedestrianism that the sausage ironically got its bravado. Like street artists eager to put their stamp into society with graffiti, the hotdog became a pseudo work of edible art.
If our cultures are defined by what we do with our sausages, then Singapore, quite appropriately has none. Today, we quite literally buy supermarket prepackaged sausages and eat it straight out from the packet. We’d steam or barbecue it, dip it in a chili sauce at the very most, but otherwise, it’s solely a very mundane affair. I suppose I could get a little poetic and draw parallels about how locals get so caught up in their nostalgia for the “90s Singapore”. Oh how they miss A&W and its delicious curly fries, root beer and waffles; how they miss the traditional dragon-tiled playgrounds of the old estates. There’s so much misplaced nostalgia that they’re blind to the bountiful opportunities now and tomorrow that real Singaporeans never ever had yesterday. And I suppose, the people are lost because they’ve lost their cock and balls…I mean, their sausages. Really now, we desperately need a national sausage dish.
Standing up in attempt to hold the frontline is The Mustard Incident.
When I first read about it “somewhere”, I was eager to try it, but when I came down and ordered my first dog, I regretted it even before my first bite. The Mustard Incident is a gourmet hotdog stand at the basement of Tangs Orchard. Where exactly is it? It’s opposite Krispy Kreme, you really can’t miss it. The space is small, but it packs a punch, recalling the swinging classics of old-school New York diners. It’s not all American, as the counter staff attempt to persuade you that it’s really inspired by American, Mexican and Southeast Asian flavors.
First impressions are good, except it’s not. This small stand is manned by a Filipino staff whom I’m sure satisfies all the criteria of The Mustard Incident’s owners, but as a budding new start-up, the inability to present a more local face was at best, disappointing. I’m more tolerant than most and am almost nearly accepting of the current cosmopolitan nature of Singapore society, but that injection of non-Singaporean blood at The Mustard Incident was a case of “too early” (I mean, they aren’t even a chain or a full-fledged restaurant yet). Of course, it doesn’t change the taste of the food, but it does taint my goodwill somewhat. There’s a sense of detachment from it all because I’m not feeling the emotional resonance – even though you’re telling me you’re Singaporean, you’re coming to me as a Filipino – and I’m unable to connect with that. The face you present me is courteous and polite, and at the same time, generic and soulless, and in this world of corporate commercialism, I need a recognizable human connection to latch onto.
Unfortunately for The Mustard Incident, I thought it was an anti-climax in terms of expectations and flavors. The menu is stocked with a good mix of recognizable classics like the Coney Dog and Chicago Hotdog, as well as the more experimental flavors, such as the Frankenstein, which as far as I can tell, is the biggest, baddest, meanest hotdog I’ve ever seen – a surreal Siamese twin of beef and pork sausages topped with fatty crisp fried bacon and other sinful ingredients. Me? I start with something a little more traditional: the Hawt Dog.
The menu hypes, pumps and excites you for something amazing, but the result is more Prometheus than The Dark Knight. “A fiery dog of spicy pork sausage topped with TMI Hot Sauce, tomato and onion relish”, so says the menu. In the local context, the hotdog was barely hot. I’ve had chicken rice without chili that tasted more spicy than this bland piece of s**t. Even if you wanted me to suspend my beliefs and just go with the American definitions of it all – just like how a “chili” is really a minestrone meets Bolognese meat sauce, and how “spicy” is really used to describe anything that has pepper, salt, saffron, turmeric and all those other spices – I still couldn’t accept it. For all the sausages being allegedly “specially tweaked to certain specifications which are processed using quality cuts of beef and pork” and the buns apparently “freshly baked by a local artisanal bakery”, all of that extra effort and premium failed to come through in the flavors. The result is a very gourmet looking hotdog that tastes positively simplistic and unworthy of the SGD 9 to SGD 12 price tag.