It has been said that porridge is one of the few iconic food of Singapore which will stand the test of time. I am not a fan of porridge at the best of time – save for those days when I am too ill to take solids – so the genre of food is usually lost on me.
So when my buddy and host for my recent Singapore trip took me to Alishan Taiwanese Porridge at Upper Serangoon Road recently, I was amicably intrigued. I knew that my dinner will consist of porridge with some side dishes, similar to Chinese economical rice (where you mix 2-3 dishes together with rice to form a meal), but with certain key characteristics.
The side dishes are definitely Taiwanese style. While I can’t really describe how to tell the differences in words, but if you are familiar with Chinese dishes the way I do, one glance at this stall is all you need to know that you’ll be in for a different experience… though still of the Chinese kind.
Is it the cold dishes? The steamed seafood? The alien-looking minced meat? Be my guest in your guesses, but I select my dishes with a relish, and tucked in with a gusto.
My ultimate favorite is the minced meat with Chinese sambal. I called it Chinese sambal because the taste is distinctively un-Malay or Indian like. The chopped chilli gave the minced meat a fragrant twist with a bite. Usually I like them in 3 portion meat, 1 portion of sambal ratio, but this was more like 50-50, which went surprisingly well; not too spicy… at least not enough to make me perspire in the sweltering heat.
Another favorite dish of mine is the steamed squid, served cold. I never can resist the tentacles of cooked squids; this one was no different. The steamed squid was fresh, great eaten as it is without any sauce so that you can appreciate the full flavour of its freshness. Many a squid were overcooked, resulting in overly chewy meat, but this was done just nice. Definite thumbs-up.
I was told that the quality of food at porridge stall can be judged from its steamed fish options. From mackerel to sea bass, the trick is to use only fresh fishes, steamed fresh, served fresh. Many may try to cover up the “odour” that often come from low quality fishes with too much salty (preserved) vegetables. I am happy to report that the steamed fish that I had, while was garnished with some salted leaves (which left much to be desired), tasted great. Too small to be truly filling, but hey with that many options available, while gorge yourself with one dish?
I am sure that Alishan Taiwanese Porridge is just one of the many good places in Singapore to have great porridge. There’s also an option for porridge with sweet potatoes – what a treat! I wonder what the Hong Kong food scene may have in store for me?
Verdict? For a sample of what it means by Taiwanese porridge, head down to this little neighborhood joint at Upper Serangoon Road.
Alishan Taiwanese Porridge
1008 Upper Serangoon Road
(65) 6283 2577