When I was visiting my sis in Singapore last October, we were of course feted.
I mean, Singaporeans are just as proud of their food culture as we are. We’re so similar in many ways. And to add to this, I met up with so many Malaysians (not to mention a whole group of Penang folks, thanks to my sis). Like all good hosts, food was definitely the order of the day.
As we stayed for a few days in the pleasant suburb of Tiong Bahru (actually come to think of it, which suburb isn’t properly planned and pleasant by Singapore standards? It better be nice or else the complaints will rain!), we particularly enjoyed having breakfast at Ya Kun, just a 5-minute walk away from her apartment.
Ya Kun is the modern version of the old-style kopi tiam – something like our Old Town Cafe. It serves half-boiled eggs with kaya toast. Small yet cosy (but with airconditioning), Ya Kun is really an old establishment, started yonks ago by a Hainanese man named Loi Ah Koon – the picture of the founder in the typical white cotton shirt is on the wall.
Probably Ah Koon would never have thought his old-style Hainanese coffee (made the same way since 1944) would be transformed into a modern coffee and breakfast place. Ya Kun is an upgraded version of the old days. Ya Kun has personality too – there’s an indelible pride in the Hainanese coffee culture with a very Asian twist too.
Ya Kun is creatively funny – I liked most their cheeky and clever posters on the wall. It made me chuckle!
One said “Screw the French press – we’ve got the sock”. Another said “Want a skinny latte? Stop at half a cup!”
Like Andrew Sia’s article in The Sunday Star a few weeks ago, I find that we Asians have a lot to be proud of.
Slowly but surely we are realizing we are living in an area steeped in fantastic culture. That’s the reason why Ang Mohs are here. While I love blue cheese, there’s nothing compared to durian. While I may enjoy going elsewhere for a while and wishing for spring weather all the time, there’s really nothing like rain which seeps into your bra and sun so strong it makes your skin freckle. Or the familiar smells of street food. One can never go hungry in Malaysia – there’s some food stall on some corner open at some ungodly hour.
Other than Ya Kun, there’s another famous breakfast place called Toast Box. Some who have eaten at Toast Box say it’s nothing special though people have been seen lining up for the food. But then again, every place we go to seem to have lots of Singaporeans especially cafes and restaurants.
What is lovely though is that customer service is taken very seriously in the island republic. You do get service with a smile, unlike some cranky waiters and waitresses in most restaurants in Malaysia. And if you complain, someone somewhere will respond to you. Here we’d be lucky if they even bother to open their emails!
I wouldn’t want to live in Singapore – but visiting for a few days and eating my way through the island is indeed fun!