Taking place end July, the Singapore Food Festival located at Chinatown Food Street is definitely one for those on a budget with most of their dishes being priced at 50-cents (Yes, cents) and none going over $2. You know what this means – not only will your tummy be full but also, your wallet will be (relatively) full as well.
Attractive prices aside, an air of bittersweet nostalgia will permeate the streets with the place being temporarily transformed into 1980s Singapore. Think 80’s pay phone booths, road name signages, campaign posters of the 80’s and more, how could the 80’s kids not be transported back in time? As for those born after this era, this is the perfect opportunity for you to experience life in the 80’s as anecdotes come to life in the form of food, ambience and games.
What would a 1980’s themed festival be without their food selection distinctively encapsulating the essence of 1980s Singapore? Of course, legendary favourites which have captured our hearts from the 1980s till now, such as TuTu Kueh, Carrot Cake, Laksa and Hokkien Mee will be available. But definitely, the hidden gems among the food selection will have to be the dishes which were once popular in the 80’s but even chancing upon it now would be rare.
Here’s a peek at some of the dishes that will be available among the plethora of food and drink selections.
Hakka’s Abacus Seeds
A cultural dish not typically found at any hawker centre like other ubiquitous local dishes, the Hakka Abacus Seed was indeed a sight to behold. We’d admit, our curiosity was piqued by the fact that we had never come across this dish before but yet, it still delighted our tastebuds despite its “foreign” appearance.
The yam, moulded into a shape which falls between a circle and an oval is reminiscent of similarly-shaped seafood such as scallops or oysters. Upon biting into it, the yam “balls” are chewy but yet of an appropriate toughness such that it does not stick to your teeth but rather, provides a rather satisfying and albeit, addictive, chewing experience. Garnished with generous servings of crunchy black fungus strips, mushrooms, spring onions and dried shrimps (which essentially, is an explosion of umami in your mouth), these different elements blend well gustatorily to supplement the simple yet earthy taste of the yam balls.For a dish that has not been accepted into the list of mainstream hawker foods, the Hakka Abacus Seed which has been priced at $1.00 per bowl is definitely one to try to have a cultural yet gastronomic experience.
Sure, one might say that the Ice Ball is simply just an Ice Kachang in the shape of a ball but the Ice Ball which was wildly popular in the 1980s has definitely occupied a place in the hearts of the 80’s kids. The parent of the Ice Kachang, we would say that just simply eating it is an experience in itself – different from the civilised way of eating Ice Kachang with spoons.
Here’s how to have an experience of the 80’s – savour the different flavoured syrups by sucking the icy liquids from the ice ball after which, if you’d been blessed of not experiencing the pains of sensitive teeth, you could then bite into the ice and experience a brain freeze that will have you smiling in sugary delight.It would be a double treat if your parents or grandparents tell you a story of their 80’s experience with these legendary Ice Balls while you create an experience with your own! The Ice Ball is priced at $0.50.
The closest to seeing an actual UFO, you could see Singapore Food Festival’s take on extraterrestrials with their Fried Oyster Cake or as they would like to call it, UFO.
Hailing from Fuzhou in China, the Singapore Street Festival’s rendition of the Teochew UFO hides a succulent and juicy oyster in the centre of this batter-filled pancake. Topped with crunchy peanuts for a medley of textures together with spring onions, the UFO is then plunged into oil. What is birthed from this is a pancake with a glowing bronze hue that is crispy on the outside yet all it takes is one bite to reveal how its moist yet fluffy texture on the inside. This crispy goodness is only priced at 50-cents per pancake so do eat to your heart’s content!
Salted Egg Yolk Crab
Probably one of the more evolved and modern dishes at the food fest, the Salted Egg Yolk Crab, like anything else Salted Egg Yolk flavoured has come into trend in the past couple of year with plentiful stores incorporating it into their dishes.
Unlike other Salted Egg Yolk Crabs that have disappointed us with their watery and bland salted egg yolk sauce, the crabs served at the Singapore Food Fest are showered in a thick, viscous yet rich salted egg yolk sauce. You know the sauce does not scrimp on its essential ingredients as even a drop of sauce on your tongue results in an explosion of the characteristic flavour of salted egg yolks in your mouth. Though you would be filled with guilt from this sinful delight, it would be hard to resist licking the shell clean of all the sauce before you begin that arduous journey of prying open the crab to reach its succulent yet tender meat. Of course, we would advise you to go easy on the number of portions you order, we don’t want those cholesterol levels to skyrocket! The Salted Egg Yolk Crab is priced at $2.00.
Kong Bak Pau
Yet another traditional favourite, the Braised Pork Bun or more commonly known as the Kong Bak Pau will be one for those who are constantly on the search for that best melt-in-your-mouth meat experience.
Featuring a thick slice of fatty pork belly which goes through deep frying then either steaming or braising in soy sauce, the pork belly which has soaked up all the flavours of the soy sauce is then sandwiched between a fluffy steamed bun.As the sweetness from the freshly steamed buns blends with the savoury pork belly, you can be sure you will be in for a divine medley of flavours from this traditional Hokkien dish for just $1.00.
Generously coated with sugar and crushed roasted peanuts, the contrasting flavours not only strike a harmonious balance of sweet and salty but also, provides that crunch to the tender chewiness of the sticky dough. Priced at a price cheaper than all other night markets, $0.50 per bowl is all you have to fork out to be greeted by a generous amount of thick and big pieces of muah chee.
Despite it being called the Singapore Food Festival, this 1980’s themed festival definitely does not exclude all the other elements of what truly contributes to the ambience of the 80’s.Main dishes aside, there will also be a pop-up Mama Shop which will carry a plethora of your favourite childhood biscuits, sweets and snacks that will have you pointing in childlike excitement of how you used to eat them when you were younger (at least we did). Stepping into this pop-up Mama Shop will surely call for a lot of reminiscing of the past, especially for the parents and grandparents.
Of course, what would the 1980’s be without their trademark activities of Five Sticks, Zero Point, Hopscotch, Brick game and Aeroplane? For those who want to take a break from the games on their digital devices and take a trip down memory lane, do lookout for these games which will not only have you take a break from eating to digest but also, for that taste of bittersweet nostalgia.
There will also be a variety of fringe activities that will better immerse you in the 1980’s vibe such as being able to sing along to familiar acoustic tunes of the 80’s, dedicating those mushy love songs and listening to daily story telling serials and news readings which were once routinely blasted for everyone in the household to hear.
No 1980’s street festival will be complete without costumes so dig up your or your mom or dad’s wardrobe and come down dressed up in your best 1980’s fashion and stand to win prizes! It will make for the perfect Instagram OOTD as well.