Singapore – in search of the humble Poh pia

Each time I return to Singapore a little of what I associate with the place has disappeared. I suppose this is inevitable, it happens to all places. But in the case of Singapore the process is faster and the effect startling. I have lived in Singapore for two short spells: in 1987-1988 and in 1999-2001. The changes seem to escalate over time. Now, I come back once a year or so, on a brief stopover travelling between my two home-countries.
Buildings and whole blocks vanish at a frightening speed, and both buildings where we once lived have ended their short lives and been replaced by new ones, three or four times as high.
But it is the food that I miss the most. Today, you can have almost any international culinary experience imaginable: French, Italian, Mexican. There are hamburger places, steakhouses and olde English pubs. But where is the essence of Singaporean food? I don’t mean sanitized hotel versions of it, but the real thing. The little street vendors selling satays in the streets. The roti parata joints. The sweaty market stalls with carrot cake and Poh pia? A hunt for the latter, the wonderfully spicy, tender Singaporean version of a burrito. An unfried soft spring roll asembled while you wait, filled with yams, eggs, pork belly and chilli.
I found construction sites, overbuilt markets and closed food courts. But no poh pia. On my last day I was ready to give up and went for a last foot massage (Fuji, best in town, though Sam is no longer there). I asked the girl who was working away on my feet if there was anywhere in town still selling poh pia. She said very few. But told me that there is now a food court at Wisma Artrium in Orchard Road, on the fourth floor. And in the farthermost corner there is a stand selling all the old foods.
So, I took myself there. And eventually I found the little stand, hidden in the far courner, as she had said. And there it was, my poh pia. And carrot cake (not the Western kind, this is savoury dish). And satays and chicken wings grilled over an old fashion coal fire.
It should be protected!

  1. Jeannie Says:

    “I found construction sites, overbuilt markets and closed food courts. But no poh pia…eventually I found the little stand, hidden in the far courner, as she had said. And there it was, my poh pia.”

    In’t it nice to be able to find your favorite authentic foods when traveling? Foods get attached to memories and good times we have had, so it is always nice to be able to taste them again.

  2. Timothy Cassar Says:

    Yeah, pity that many traditional food gets lost over time. This applies not only to Singapore but also in many other places. As you tightly said, such traditional foods should be protected!

    Timothy Cassar
    Webmaster Cash Advance Loans

  3. kitchenaid mixer Says:

    I agree with you that when I leave a place, the food is what you really miss. There is just something about the fact that you can’t get that food anywhere else…and the fact that you can’t only strengthens the want for it more. I experienced that with the sushi in Japan. There are sushi places everywhere in the states, but there is something about that authentic Japanese way of serving it.

  4. Allison Clark Says:

    Yuumm…sounds delicious. Your description of the ingredients and the way you craved for it makes me want to taste the pho pia too. I’ll take a mental note to look for one when I go to SG.