Sorry I’ve been so MIA on this blog! I’ve been sick for over a month (along with the fractured foot) and only eating bland pasta/rice dishes. I used the time to get my guts in fighting shape for a business trip I needed to take to one of the most flavorful dining locations I’ve ever visited – Singapore. Lucky for me, I started to heal up just in time to try some exciting vegetarian (and hopefully vegan) cuisine! I didn’t have much free time to get to off-the-beaten path places, but most of the restaurants I ate at had decent vegetarian/vegan options. I was there for a few days, so I’ll post dining highlights over the next month or so.
My disclaimer: when I travel abroad, I try as hard as I can to confirm that what I’m eating is vegan, but I also strive to be polite and not insult my hosts by asking too many questions that may seem offensive. Sometimes, language and cultural barriers just make it hard to get accurate ingredient info. So while I do my best to avoid anything that obviously contains dairy or eggs, all I can be certain of is that what I ate in Singapore was vegetarian, but it may not have always been vegan.
One of my greatest fears as a frequent vegan traveler is being stuck on a 17-hour flight with nothing to eat. I of course brought along enough snacks to keep me full for a week, but it’s always a nice surprise when the airlines actually have edible vegan food. For dinner on my outbound trip on Singapore Airlines, the main entrée was a light rice dish with mixed vegetables. It could have used some soy sauce, but given my condition and the long flight ahead, I was happy for the blandness. I liked the bread with olive oil too.
The mid-flight snack was also vegan – pasta with red sauce and more mixed vegetables. It wasn’t really what I’d normally want to eat at 5:00 in the morning Phoenix time, but the pasta filled the void just fine. Breakfast was a little lame – a very small fruit plate, followed by a soggy attempt at a hash brown over some kind of stewed/overcooked greens and a cooked tomato. Some protein would have been nice, but overall it was a decent start to the morning, or night – whatever it was. I was confident that everything they served was vegan, and appreciated that it wasn’t just steamed veggies. Sorry, no pictures. The camera was packed away.
I arrived early on a Sunday morning, so I had free time in the afternoon to attempt to find lunch nearby.
The hotel concierge said there was a vegetarian hawker stall at the Ion Center on Orchard Road (which is close to where I stayed) that was “very popular.” I hadn’t seen it in my pre-trip research on the Vegetarian Society Singapore website, but I was up for an adventure so I went in search of this mythical place. After wandering around a shopping mall far longer than I should have with my foot in a walking cast/boot and joints painfully swelling from the humidity, I gave up and found an information desk. The attendant said no such vegetarian place existed, but there was an Indian stall that had vegetarian food.
One more pass around the food hall confirmed that Go India Express was the only place that even used the word “vegetarian” on the menu. I ordered a vegetarian samosa (how could that be bad, right?) and something called a Veg Masala Seekh Wrap.
The samosa was so greasy I could barely eat three bites of it, and I’m not sure what all was inside. The filling was brown, overcooked, tasted like burnt chili and just seemed like leftovers from the grill to me.
I didn’t fare much better with the Veg Masala Seekh Wrap.
I had asked about the contents of the wrap as best as I could “no egg, strict vegetarian?” and was assured it was good to go. The wrap itself was a nice, medium-thickness bread (not as thick as naan, not as thin as roti), but I really have no idea what was inside. There were standard greasy onions/peppers, and then a mixture of some sort that did not distinguish itself. It could have been tofu, it could have been cream cheese, it could have been egg. All I know is it was white, and that scared me off from having more than a couple of bites. The flavor of the white stuff was actually pretty interesting – a slight hint of lemon which was counter-balanced by a very strong, dark chili red sauce that the onions and peppers were cooked in. The onions were overwhelming. An entire cross-section of an onion was included without even breaking it into individual slices. Yuck! Inedible!
I left the Ion Center still hungry and a little worried about how my still-healing guts would react to what I had just done to them with those few bites of greasy food fail.
As I walked back to the hotel, I noticed that one of the vegetarian restaurants I had researched prior to leaving was right in my path back to the hotel (I blame the oversight on sleep deprivation). LingZhi is an Asian vegetarian restaurant on the 5th floor of Liat Towers, at 541 Orchard Road (note: they have another location at 238 Thomson Road too). Since I still had some free time and didn’t actually eat lunch I decided to check it out and see if I could get something small to get me through the afternoon.
While many of the items on the menu contained egg (in particular I was warned off any of the fried food) there were still several good vegan options to pick from. I wanted something light (and not greasy!), so I selected the Poached Crispy Rice Soup in a hot pot, which was the perfect choice.
I’m always partial to anything cooked in a hot pot, but this was a very unique dish. The base was a miso soup, which thickened quite nicely as it simmered. In the hot pot was a mixture of rice, corn, kidney beans and onions, and the broth was topped by fried rice-puffs at the table. The flavor was very mellow – almost like eating a bowl of warm morning cereal, but it was comforting, healthy and something I’d eat again any day. I’d highly recommend LingZhi to any vegetarian or vegan traveler to Singapore, and am sorry I didn’t have time to go back and try other menu items!
That’s it for my first Singapore vegan food adventure post – but there’s more to follow! I’ll try to update the site more frequently now that I’m back in town and on the mend!