With my dad at home, I was like, “I’m outta here”.
You see, like some sons across Singapore, I don’t have a good relationship with my father. Yes, there are some Asian parents who’re traditional and subscribe to the whole “打是疼，骂是爱” (pronounced da2 shi4 teng2, ma4 shi4 ai4) philosophy of tough love. Whether all those incidents were committed and said in rage or not, there’s no denying that that it has been most regretfully mentally and psychologically traumatic on my psyche.
I really want to try Tapa King, which is a Filipino chain. It’s all part of my “go ASEAN” policy (which begins this month with my maiden trip to Bali) this year in commemoration of Southeast Asia’s first steps come December in realizing a plan for a single economic community. But having said that, Century Square and Lau Pa Sat are simply too far for lunch.
After a bit of Googling “nice food in _______ (insert “Ang Mo Kio”, “Bishan”, “Yishun”, “Hougang”, “Novena”)”, I found Lau Wang Claypot Delights on SG Food on Foot, which is a public transport-based food site (love the idea, hate the site layout and photography, though). It was definitely an option: it was affordable and convenient enough for me to get to, but when I spotted the Claypot Ginger and Spring Onion Kidney Liver, it became a “must go”. Innards are defintely a “go-to” comfort food for me – whenever I’m in Hong Kong and dining at those cha chan tengs, it’s always on the menu. “Cow Tongue Rice”, “Beef Tripe Noodles”…it sounds disgusting, but it’s more often than not, sooo good. The textures are always exciting, and they seem to lap up Asian spices a lot easier than regular means, it seems. In Singapore though, I’ve to make do with pig’s organ soup and kway chap which are either lacking in innards, or it’s not well cooked. So, with a quite a bit of anticipation, I made a trip down.
The stall’s located in the ghetto part of Serangoon Central. Unlike other rejuvenated town centres across the Singaporean suburbia, there’s little integration between the old Serangoon Central and the new Serangoon Central, symbolized by the modern behemoth that is nex. Like the slums of Dharavi and untold luxuries of South Mumbai in Mumbai; and the dirt poor of the Morumbi favelas alongside the rich opulence of Paraisopolis, the contrast that defines Serangoon’s centre is stark. I could get all ethical and discuss how the society’s unfair, but I rather not. Instead, I choose to appreciate the diversity of this twin town centre. Like Aung San Suu Kyi said when she visited Singapore most recently, she appreciates the comfort and high standards of modern living here but wonders if we’ve lost touch with the things that truly matter.
From the bus stop heading west and northwards towards Ang Mo Kio and Yio Chu Kang Road along Serangoon Central [road] (after the stop for nex and Serangoon MRT station), walk along the road, pass the coffee shop which houses a KFC, and turn left at the corner of the western-style cafe, Artease until you reach the end of the block.
From where I was seated, I had a good view of the kitchen. And like most places in Singapore, the “claypot” is mostly in presentation only. Instead, the dish is really cooked in a deep stainless steel pan, before being transfered into a claypot for several moments before serving. But it seems like even those precious seconds made a difference. As you taste the rich spring onion, ginger and soy sauce gravy, there’s an undeniable earthen flavor which could only come from being (somewhat) prepared in a clay pot. The heaviness of the seasoning is crucial: it neutralizes the immense pungent smell of the kidney and liver while preserving their game flavor and keeping them tender. The sliced bird’s eye chili sprinkled in with the dish gives one a nice endorphin inducing rush, motivating the hearty fix of innards.
In spite of it all, the intensity may be too strong for some diners. Some of my friends for example, have a strong aversion to the concentration of dishes like bak kut teh, pig’s trotters, Teochew fish soup, meat dishes with mutton or even beef, and find Chinese curries smelly. Then again, those friends of mine who are, rarely see my company. Anyways, if you’re one of those, you should probably opt for the eatery’s signature, Claypot Sesame Oil Chicken.
This is definitely one of my faves so far.