Singapore: A cheap treat

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Singapore: A cheap treat

Singapore is awash with cheap eats and fine dining. From the outdoor restaurants in Chinatown and Little India to the exquisitely presented fine cuisine at the Zhang Jin Jei-designed My Humble House, it would be a hard heart or a cynical palate that couldn't find something interesting, if not outstanding.

Local knowledge is always helpful when looking for a place to have dinner, so when my sister -- who lives in Pasir Panjang -- said, "We should go to Samy's, it's a great place" it seemed reasonable to take her advice.

However eating out in Singapore had been a mixed -- and sometimes dangerous -- affair. We'd already had a hilariously bad buffet one night aboard a junk to celebrate her partner's birthday, tried the terrific duck'n'noodle place at the end of her road, and chowed down at an outdoor Indian place where my brother-in-law Warwick pushed his plastic seat back and almost disappeared down an open drain a metre deep.

But when my sister described Samy's as cheap, earthy, shabby and lots of fun it sounded irresistible.

Samy's -- an Indian place which is a former civil servants' cafe apparently -- couldn't be worse than the floating buffet, or more dangerous than the corner shop where we almost lost Warwick.

The clincher was that few tourists knew about it, it didn't take reservations, was hard to find -- and as far as she knew the menu never changed, if there was a menu at all.

Samy's is just off Dempsey Rd and is a large, canteen-like open room with no air conditioning, just a few semi-functioning fans. Anyone looking for good table service will come away disappointed. A couple of tall, silent Indian guys gestured us towards a large round table, muttered something about curry and then placed huge banana leaves in front of us.

Then the food arrived: squid, mutton, an almost intolerably spicy fish head curry, chicken . . .

Samy's is one of those places where you just nod and they load up the leaf, then you nod and they stop. We nodded to start and left a long time before we cried, "enough".

The southern Indian-styled food was delicious, sometimes hot, always spicy and utterly delicious.

And thats about all there is to tell of Samy's.

There is a menu -- it was pinned to the wall and we spotted it when leaving -- and you may be asked to become a member on entry (cost maybe a dollar) although we weren't.

We drank beer to cool down, washed our hands in the dripping tap near our seat, and all up it probably cost us $12 a head, the beer more expensive than the food.

There should be an amusing anecdote here, possibly some dark event in Samy's 25-year history to recount, maybe some recommendation from the menu. But no, nothing really. Its just Samy's. No drama, no airs and graces, but no one leaves hungry.

Samy's has opened up a new place in some neon-lit food hall in the city centre -- but the Dempsey Rd Samy's is the real thing and Im very glad my sister knew about this semi-secret place.

Local knowledge spreads far and wide however. As it is right now.

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