The bazaar last year was plagued with controversies surrounding the halal certification of some stalls. Many Muslims voiced their displeasure online and vowed to boycott these stalls. This year however, the unhappiness has originated from another issue. Nope, it isn’t Mahathir scrapping the High Speed Rail. It’s ‘hipster’ food.
“All I see is Thai milk tea la, salted egg whatever la. Where’s Ramly even?”
Ahmad, a regular visitor of the annual bazaar was muttering under his breath when I asked him about the Geylang Serai Bazaar. The time to break fast was soon approaching but his mind was on something else. He admitted that he was unhappy because he promised to buy his mother putu piring to bring back home for dessert. But he was struggling to find a stall that sold any.
There was probably a stall somewhere but it was hidden in throngs of visitors or largely inaccessible.
“Bro, my mom is gonna look at me stupid when I tell her it was tough to find putu piring in the bazaar. All I see is Thai milk tea la, salted egg whatever la. Where’s Ramly even?”
His distress grew and I decided not to continue rile a man during his fast. It was time for me to get to the bottom of this. Is affordable traditional food really being engulfed by the wave of Instagrammable treats? Is the spirit of the bazaar fizzling out to make way for overpriced rainbow food?
Have it or trash it?
We went to the bazaar and tried the food that were making their rounds on social media. With our honest review armed and ready, we set out into the crowds.
Blow Torch Beef Cubes by Beef Bro
Beef Bro is co-owned by Danial Ashriq, the famous child actor who played a role in Police & Thief and many other Malay television shows. The stall tries to emulate Taiwanese beef cube dishes but with a Japanese and local twist added in. Props to serving a halal version of the beef cubes but at a pricey $12, we needed to dig in to see if it’s worth it.
At first glance, the beef cubes looked appetising with strips of seaweed sprinkled on top. Steam rose from the plate as we scooped a dollop of their homemade sambal belachan on the side.
I was disappointed. Almost as disappointed as I was at the end of Infinity War. The beef cubes were too chewy and far from tender. It was hardly flavourful and if not for the belachan (which was average) the dish would be fairly passable.
For it’s price, I expected a slightly more tasty experience.
To be fair, we could have been unlucky. It could have been from a poor cut of beef and maybe my expectations for sambal belachan were too high. If only the dish was a few dollars cheaper.
Verdict: Trash it.
Chicken Satay Meatballs in a Bucket by Sofnade
If you’ve seen food in buckets on your Instagram feed, it is most likely an item from Sofnade. There was a winding queue along the pavement leading up to the stall. We hesitantly queued up, expecting to wait approximately 15-20 minutes to order. A sacrifice for our readers.
We headed straight for the Ramadan Special which was the Chicken Satay Meatballs in a Bucket. The meatballs were drowned in a thick peanut sauce with rice cakes nestled at the bottom. The sauce is flavourful and not too spicy. The meatballs were chewy and go well with the sauce. To add, the rice cakes were bland but went very well with the sauce because of its texture.
But the sauce is rich and can get overwhelming after a few scoops. Thus, we recommend sharing this with another person which justifies its price of $9.
If you’re a fan of satay peanut sauce, this is on the top of your list.
Verdict: Have it.
Martabak Manis by Markozar
Martabak manis is a popular Indonesian dessert usually sold at roadside stalls. Not to be confused with Murtabak you have at supper joints, Martabak is sweet and is closer to a pancake.
We tried the Nutella Falls Martabak Manis by Markozar which came in a cute little box. The chocolate fountains at the stall counter made me salivate in anticipation.
Maybe I anticipated too much.
The nutella was scarce despite being the best part of the pancake. More like Nutella Sprinkle.
On a positive note, the shreds of cheese were subtle and not overpowering which complemented the nutella well. However, the crisp pancake was very thin and hardly filling. Unlike other Martabaks we’ve tried, Markozar seemed to be stingy with their ingredients.
Definitely a dessert with a lot of potential but lacking in portion. For $6.50, other snacks may be worth a try.
Verdict: Trash it.
Raclette Rosti by The Raclette Factory
The Raclette Factory returned with a new and improved raclette cheese dish. There is now rosti added into the mix.
It is still quite pleasing to see a knife slice away the top of melted raclette cheese into your plate. The cheese oozes and melts, coating the rosti and sausages. Sadly, that’s where the satisfaction ends.
The cocktail sausages were salty and became worse when mixed with the cheese (raclette is slightly salty in nature). The thought of booking an appointment to check my sodium levels flashed across my mind as we tried to finish the sausages. The rosti was also burnt at the bottom.
The cheese tried to save our experience but the rest of the dish defeated it. Overall, the dish was poorly done and more of a gimmick, personally. For the price of $13 I heard my wallet howling in pain.
Verdict: Trash it.
Ribbon Fries by Alley
Alley is not new to the Geylang Serai Bazaar and continues to introduce new items to their menu for every bazaar. They started with churros in 2014 and introduced Ribbon Fries this year. Alley combines the sweet and savoury with chocolate coated Ribbon Fries for $6.
Alley is generous with their chocolate sauce and the fries are stacked beyond the brim of the cup they offer it in. There was no other choice. We had to get down and dirty.
At first bite, an unfamiliar taste creeps in. Different from chocolate flavoured potato chips that come in a bag.
The Ribbon Fries were crispy and thin. They didn’t get soggy which was a delight. The fries were also lightly salted but its flavour did not clash with the sweetness of the chocolate. It was apparent that we couldn’t stop helping ourselves to the snack although its flavour wasn’t spectacular. Maybe it was a habit developed from binge eating potato chips because the snack was not special or spectacular.
It can get very messy eating this so avoid wearing white or the top you took forever to pick out for your Instagram Geylang Serai Bazaar post. Yes, we know.
Verdict: Have it.
Thai Ice Cream Rolls by O.M.G
Thai ice cream rolls are still a staple dessert at night markets and bazaars in Singapore. Despite the introduction of other new and interesting desserts in the past few years, customers still flock to dessert shops selling these Thai delicacies.
It is also a treat to see the ice cream chefs work their skills for all to see while creating this dessert. In the unbearable heat and humidity of the Geylang Serai Bazaar, Thai ice cream rolls could have easily been a gift from the heavens.
I’m not one to reject gifts.
O.M.G‘s Thai ice cream rolls are served in a combination of two flavours. Our choice was Oreo and strawberry. After looking at the ice cream chef smash the ingredients to a literal pulp, the rolls were topped with colourful sprinkles and whipped cream.
The flavours of fruit and Oreo go well together and the ice cream didn’t melt too quickly. The sweetness was just the right amount and the creaminess was maintained until the last scoop. For the price of $5, the choice for a second serving lingered on our minds.
Verdict: Have it.
Worth the hassle?
Overall, the food was expensive and lacklustre. There were gimmicks, certainly. But don’t let that tarnish the reputation of other food stalls which aim to serve good affordable treats.
After all, the rising prices may be a symptom of the expensive rent that vendors face rather than an exploitation of social media savvy consumers.
However, it is tough to deny that some of the more popular food items are simply meant to look good. The taste and affordability comes as an afterthought. The good ol’ Ramly burger, putu piring and vadai become much less common than before. Due to expensive rent, these stalls resign to cheaper booths which are located further away from the heart of the bazaar.
Ahmad, we feel you. Hope your mother didn’t scold you.
[tw_posts layout=”1,2″ title=”Trending Posts” posts_per_page=”6″]