Sunday, April 6, 2008

Singapore: all the comforts of home, but with better food

We enjoyed a family vacation in Singapore last week, a rare assembly that included my mother, older brother, younger brother, sister, wife, daughter, aunt, and two cousins.

Safe, friendly, and English-speaking, Singapore should be a favored destination for Americans and recent media coverage reflects that outlook. Since 2005 the city has been profiled in Budget Travel, Smithsonian, the New York Times, and—by Pico Iyer—in Conde Nast’s Traveler.

My mother hadn’t left her home in San Diego since a riding accident in 2001. In a sense, we planned this trip to revisit the flavors of her childhood: simple pleasures like mangoes and papaya, along with such complicated indulgences as fish-head curry and the heady mix of Chinese, Indonesian, and Malaysian that Singaporeans call nonya cuisine, after a Malay word for “auntie.” It’s a term of endearment, and for good reason.

Over the next few days, I’ll post restaurant reviews and descriptions of favorite dishes. This picture shows a layered dessert called santan agar agar, which—I must admit—is more fun to look at than it is to eat.

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