Poh Pia by Dad Bear
Poh Pia, a photo by Dad Bear on Flickr.

We had read much about the new Singapore Food Trail (SFT), a high end hawker centre located at the Singapore Flyer. It was recently opened in March 2011, and the chief idea was to invite the kingpin Singapore hawkers to set up a branch there. The decor is a retro-inspired theme, with relics and memorabilia from the 50’s to the 70’s.

I decided to bring my brood for a night’s out at the SFT. My intention was to let the kids taste some of the long lost dishes and also have a look at some of the items on display.
I must admit that my previous experience at the Singapore Flyer 2 years ago, when I actually went up in it, was a rather negative one. I felt it was a tourist trap, an expensive one at that, with the kids bored to death halfway through the ride. At the same time, it was truly expensive, both the ride and the makan after the that. I recall that 2 years ago, I had spent some $250++ for everything, having brought along the 6 of us plus my maid and my niece, a total of 8 people. Not something the man on the street would consider as a value proposition.

This time round, with me mentally prepared to get hit hard in the pocket, we found that food prices were expensive but not exorbitant. A bowl of Hill Street mee pok cost $9 for a big bowl, when the original one would cost $6 max. A bowl of home made fish ball @ 73+1, cost $5 for 6 fish enormous home made orbs. Tasty, but at almost 90 cents a pop, it is indeed pricey. The kids got to try a bottle (yes, a glass bottle) of Green Spot orange soda, now all but extinct, play with a manual type-writer and a roller dial telephone, and they ended the day with a ice ball to suck on. They had wanted to try the ice ball from the get go, as grandma had told them of how she and grandaunt H would pay 5 cents for an ice ball 50 over year ago when they were in school. The ice ball uncle would pour sweet syrup colorings on the ice ball, and Grandma and grandaunt H would split it into 2 to quench their thirst in the hot sun after school in Katong. I did consider ‘ta-powing’ one back for Grandma but @ $2.50 a ball, with the risk of it melting on the way, it was a definitely no go.

The dish which left the most impression on me tonight, was the simple but delicious Poh Pia (pictured above). The Poh Pia or ‘薄饼’ which literally means thing biscuit or thin pastry in Chinese is a dish which originated from Southern Chinese dish popular amongst the Fujian or Hokkien people. Popular during the Qing Ming festival, it is eaten all year round, and is a well liked food in South East Asia, especially China and Singapore.

The skin of the pohpia is thin and crepe like. It can be machined made or made the old fashion way, where a thin film of batter is applied on a hot pan and allowed to dry. I definitely prefer the hand made one. I feel it is more airy and not so thick. It is a healthy dish, with lots of vegetables to give you the roughage you need. To prepare the Poh Pia, you take 2 Poh Pia skins, and let them overlap slightly. Taking care not to overfill with ingredients. You first add a sweet sauce, and place 2 lettuce leaves to add as the foundation layer. Then according to taste, you add egg (whole boiled and cut into little minute pieces) along with peanut powder, cooked and de-shelled prawns, chinese sausage, garlic, chili paste, fried shallots before finally adding the piece de resistance, the shredded turnip mix which is the main ingredient of this dish, it make the Poh Pia filling and nutritious.
My mum in law holds the best Poh Pia parties, where the whole family sits down around the table and busy themselves making their own Poh Pia’s, each crafted to suit the individual’s tastes. We can each easily wolf down some 3-4 Poh Pia’s per person at each seating, though my father in law claims that since the Poh Pia is almost all veggie, it is digested very quickly, and one gets hungry very soon after.
At $2 a Poh Pia, it offered good value and nutrition. However, all things taken in consideration, it would be a long time before I come back voluntarily to the SFI. It is a good place for tourists in town to try local fare, but for the locals, there are better and more economical places to consider. I can imagine the high rentals that these master hawkers have to overcome every month. 5cents for an ice-ball? That really seems like centuries ago. Perhaps Singapore is really becoming too expensive to live in. On that note, I worry about our kids. Can they even afford to enjoy the simple pleasures of life in the future, something as simple as sucking on as ice ball, without having to pay the moon for it?

More pictures from the Singapore Food Trail can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tanyongkuan/sets/72157626968665526/