One of the most interesting papers I sat for during my post-graduate degree days include the sole non-technical paper there was – the English proficiency test. A pass exempts the candidate from having to attend English lessons on top of the even more taxing modules. Like solid state mechanics and materials characterisation. Coming from where English makes way for the compulsory national language, my daily conversations consisting of mainly Chinese dialects and the preference for bootless reading materials, the paper was expectedly challenging. The last part required the candidate to compose an essay and the topic, which I vaguely remember, revolved some sort of discussion on the pros and cons of science and technology. Back then, my mind was still attuned to express the usual view on this issue. Yes, those very same ideas provided by most secondary school revision books these days; health benefits, convenience, nation building etc.
Except for the line I quoted from Coldplay’s The Scientist, I doubt that my answer script will be any different, if I were to sit for the test again today. This is afterall, a formal assessment and I can’t possibly be expressing the microscopic joys that technology has brought to my gluttonous life and how good food in obscure places can easily be located at a touch. Not a push anymore, but an effortless touch on my mobile phone. If it’s not for the existence of this blog, I don’t think there’ll be another way for me to share this fantastic dinner that I had, in which the discovery would have been considered a miracle without the help of technology and an inexpensive data plan subscription.
A grand reunion dinner is usually harmonized with the first day of the lunar new year being of mostly vegetarian. It applies to birthdays too, I guess. After a pleasurable fine-dining experience and some suicidal bites of the infamous durian puff, I was good to go simple. Sweet and sour pork, XLB suggested. Excellent choice, I must say. But we were at Plaza Singapura, away from any tze char that is presumed to be reasonably…homely?
In a few seconds, a search using the HungryGoWhere application (this is not an advertorial, by the way) generated a list of recommended restaurants and topping the list was Moonstone. A few touches later and we were led to another application, GoogleMap (no, they obviously don't need meagre bloggers like me for advertising purposes), that provided the direction and buses available to get to Opal Crescent. The SG Buses application estimated the arrival time of the bus and once boarded, it was back to GoogleMap for orientation. The journey, though slightly long, was one that's worth the time. The evening stretch along Serangoon Road was one buzzing with Indian men and women, all gathered for a good time on a Saturday night. Indian restaurants were mostly filled while the Sri Veerama Kallamman and Masjid Angullia, both separated only by a few small lanes, provided the worshipers of the respective religions with some peace from the madness of the outside world. I truly enjoyed this view from the upper deck of the SBS bus.
We alighted correctly at St. Michael's Place and walked another 500 metres or so before turning into the dark, quiet Moonstone Lane. If not for the erection of Moonstone Residences, the area would have looked even creepier in the early hour of 8. The coffeeshop, located right opposite the blocks, was as typical as it could get. I never would have expected anything extraordinary from the tze char stall in the shop if not for the recommendation. Perhaps it was the last night of the lunar new year celebration that caused the coffeeshop to be deserted, with only 2 or 3 tables occupied and it's quite reasonable to assume that they were nearby residents.
The lovely ladyboss insisted that we must have the day's special - crabs. I declined a few times, for fear of the hefty price as it was afterall, the LAST dinner of the lunar new year celebration aka the final-chance-to-squeeze-diners'-wallets-dry night. I knew I was wrong the moment the dish of stir-fried crabs with pumpkin and salted egg yolks was brought to the table. For S$28, we had 2 large crabs coated with a sauce that was rich, salty and naturally sweet. Perhaps I'm not exposed to the different styles of cooking crabs but it was my first taste of a pumpkin/salted egg combination. The freshness of the crabs worked really well with the flavoursome, golden sauce. I'm glad I took the plunge and canceled the stir-fried noodles for this. Later, as we studied the bill, I realized that when the ladyboss said special, she actually meant a special, discounted price. My bad for being a skeptic. The feast continued with the fish steamboat or 魚爐, which I get confused with 魚露 (fish sauce or nam pla) all the time, due to the phonetic similarity. Another great order as there was a breath of smokiness (okay, that's partially from the oil, I'm sure) in the soup. Every scoop was filled with an abundance of ingredients that made the dish very much substantial - yam sticks, tofu, seaweed, tomatoes and a generous serving of red grouper. We came for a good sweet and sour pork but unbeknownst to us, this was no ordinary version as it was incorporated with fruit juice, giving the sauce a lighter, more refreshing taste. And when the deep-fried pieces of pork turned out to be really crispy, you know it's going to be a memorable dish.
The dinner at a quiet little corner of a small coffeeshop away from the bustling part of town and with some evergreen Mandopop tunes filling the surrounding was a good end to the beginning of a lunar new year and the turn of a new decade in life. It was blissful. Much like the time I received a notice that I'd passed the English proficiency test.
Moonstone Coffee House
41, Opal Crescent
Tel: (+65) 6295 2838