Texas Barbecue in Singapore

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Having too many restaurants to choose from for is admittedly a first world problem. So for last week’s date night, we went back to our roots – Texas barbecue.

Neither of us is from Texas but we have fond memories of our time there. Especially the barbecue. We’ve been missing that wood-smoked, juicy goodness since we left. Our favorite spot in Texas was Schoepf’s in Belton. But where to find good barbecue in Singapore?

neon sign

Fortunately we heard about Decker Barbecue on Robertson Quay. Walking up to Quayside, we saw the stacks of wood outside which was a reassuring sign. When we got to the counter, we saw the meat being dished out on butcher paper instead of plates. Another good sign. The customer in front of us was from Texas. We were starting to feel right at home.

Co-owner Elliott Decker was slicing up the meats personally. We opted for a three-meat plate for two people ($75), which comes with two sides. Brisket, ribs, and pulled pork. Delicious. The mac-n-cheese and cornbread made it even better.

Texas bbq

With U.S. beers on hand and delicious desserts as well, this meal hit the spot. Go check it out.

Decker Barbecue, 60 Robertson Quay, +65 6635 8565

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The Library – A “secret” bar in Singapore

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When Scooby and Shaggy are old enough to have a drink, they’ll appreciate a place like The Library. On Keong Saik Road in  Singapore’s Chinatown district, this “hidden” bar is not a well kept secret but it is a great place to check out when you’re in town.

Start next door, at a restaurant called The Study. The decor suggests a studious mind and the menu is very English. You can eat here without any issue.  Alternatively, you can ask for the secret password and walk next door. The “front” for the Library changes every month or two. Sometimes it’s a working tailor shop. Other times it’s an art gallery or a wine dealer. Give the attendants there the password, and they’ll open the secret door to The Library.

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Chicken Rice – Singapore’s national dish

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Singapore is justifiably famous for it’s food, especially the tasty treats concocted at hawker stands across the country. There are over 100 hawker food centers in Singapore, serving cheap eats at all hours of the day. But the best dish of all, in my opinion, is chicken rice.

On the surface, this is a very simple dish. Steamed chicken (sometimes roasted), served with a side of fragrant rice. It’s served with a broth soup, some spicy chili sauce, and maybe some veggies. But it is soooo good!

If you pay more than $4 for it, you’re eating in the wrong hawker stand. Here are a few of my favorite locations.

  • Empress Mall
  • Zion Riverside Food Centre
  • Toa Payoh Food Centre
  • Chinatown Complex
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Strange Fruits

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These strange fruits are probably not coming to a grocery store near you. Unless you’re shopping at an Asian grocery store. One of many small surprises I’ve found while traveling is that even fruit is different in different parts of the world. This was something that I never considered as a kid, growing up with apples and oranges. Seedless grapes were considered a novelty.  But a Indonesian friend of mine had never heard of an apple until he visited America. To him, they were the weird and exotic fruits.

So below are  four fruits common to Southeast Asia but not to America. They are presented in order from least weird to weirdest, which is entirely subjective on my part.

No, not the bananas. The other fruit.

Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) – Mangosteen is typically purple. It is also known as “the honest fruit,” because the number of points on the bottom of the shell corresponds to the number of fruit segments inside. The fruit sections are white and pulpy, with a taste both tangy and sweet.

Purple dragon fruit

Dragon fruit – Originally native to Mexico, dragon fruit is widely cultivated in Southeast Asia. The flesh is either red or white, and the taste is mild or bland. The black seeds are crunchy and edible. Overall, this fruit is visually appealing but not very tasty.

Known as snake fruit because of its scaly skin.

Salak – Salak is native to Indonesia. It’s also known as snake fruit, for what should be obvious reasons. The peel is not edible. The fruit is creamy white and comes in three sections shaped like garlic cloves. The taste is similar to strawberries, while the texture is similar to a walnut. Don’t eat the seed in the middle.

The King of Fruits

Durian – There are dozens of subspecies of durian, and they all smell. The smell is the first thing that you’ve probably heard about the “King of fruits,” assuming you’ve heard of it at all. Everything you’ve heard is true. It smells like rotten garbage. It smells unbelievably bad. So bad, in fact, that it’s banned in ritzy hotels and prohibited on public transit in places like Bangkok and Singapore.

In Singapore, there’s a $500 fine for not obeying posted signs.

If you can get past the smell (a very large if), the texture of the fruit is creamy like custard. I can’t describe the taste, because I’ve never made it past the gag reflex that I have from the odor. If you have, share with us in the comments.

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Opal Thai

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Ever been surfing and had a hankering for good Thai food? If you happen to be surfing on Oahu’s world-famous North Shore, you’re in luck. Head to Opal Thai in Haleiwa for some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had. And I’ve been to Thailand.

This local favorite has been featured on the Food Network twice, with good reason. Eating at Opal’s is an adventure. First, drive past the two or three other Thai places along Kam Highway. I don’t know why sleeping little Haleiwa has this many restaurants featuring Southeast Asian cuisine. Maybe it’s the connection between sunny North Shore and the fabled beaches of Thailand. Or maybe they’re trying to cash in on Opal’s fame.

After pulling into the parking lot in front of Longs Drugs. If you’re thirsty for something malted, pop into the drug store and get some beer because Opal Thai doesn’t serve alcohol. But they’ll be happy to keep it cold for you in the kitchen. They also don’t take credit cards, so bring cash.

The first thing that strikes you about the restaurant is the size. It’s small, maybe 10 tables. Eating here is a very cozy affair. The next thing you’ll notice is the owner/chef, Opel himself. He comes out to greet each table.

The first time we ate at Opal’s, I thought that I knew Thai food. He quickly dispelled that notion. “Really,” he said with an arched brow. “Name five Thai dishes.”

As I sputtered on my response, he came to my rescue. “Never mind,” he said. Spreading out his hand, he ticked off the questions. After asking which spices we liked (cilantro, onion, garlic) and which proteins (beef, chicken, pork, tofu, shrimp), he disappeared into the kitchen and dishes started appearing on our table. I couldn’t tell you what all of them were. I only know that they were delicious.

Some people don’t like this routine where the chef orders for you. If that’s you, then don’t come. I’ve never heard of someone ordering off the menu, which Opel takes out of your hands with a smile as he comes out to shake your hand.

But if you want a very satisfying meal and a good time, drive up to the North Shore. You won’t be disappointed. And take pictures of your food. Because when you come back six months later, Opel will remember you but he may not remember what he cooked for you last time. Judging from the line stretching out the door, I can’t really fault him for that.

Do you have a favorite Thai spot or a favorite North Shore spot? Let us know.

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