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Home flavors of the Lion City

By Pauline D. Loh | Shanghai Star | Updated: 2014-11-28 07:31

Home flavors of the Lion City

SIDE DISH: A tedious dish to prepare, beef lungs need to be thoroughly cleaned and seasoned before being fried with spices and herbs. The result is almost like a beef jerky. [Photo by Pauline D.Loh/Shanghai Star]

There is no doubt Singapore’s most famous eatery offering this wonderful, colorful buffet is Hajiah Maimunah’s restaurant tucked away in a little lane off Arab Street.

By 11:30 am every day, neatly attired office workers will be congregating here, jostling for space with ethnic Malay housewives and retirees garbed in their Sunday best. Often, the latter group would most likely have just come from morning prayers at the famous mosque on the main street.

The restaurant space is dominated by three glass counters, the largest showing off a kaleidoscope of dishes including red and yellow curries of chicken or beef.

Seafood features prominently, with prawns in milky coconut sauces, squid cooked in its own ink or smothered in a fiery spice mix of onion, chili and garlic.

Hajiah Maimunah also offers something that is no longer commonly seen — the classic Malay "ikan bakar" or roasted fish. A whole leather jacket fish is roasted, skin and all, and served with a black, sweet, spicy sauce dotted with chopped shallots and bird’s eye chili.

Once you get the hard skin off the fish, the meat inside flakes off easily and justifies the name the Malays give it — chicken of the sea.

My favorite vegetable is a green aubergine or eggplant, confited until it is silky soft and then smothered in a thick, bright red chilli jam. It looks really spicy, but is in fact a mellow tasting and very addictive dish — even if you do not normally like eggplant.

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