No matter what anyone tells you, being different is a good thing, especially in the culinary world. With the opening of Singapura—a Malaysian, Hakka Chinese, and Thai restaurant in Curry Hill—a new niche is born in the land of chicken masala that looks like lamb curry that could be rogan josh. Far away from Indian cuisine, and too unique for the mere term “Asian fusion,” Singapura finds a very happy home in being different and delicious.
Hit dishes are found all across the menu, from the starters and main dishes to the desserts, which basically translates to: it’s all good.
Appetizer favorites include the tangy and ginger cauliflower Manchurian that tastes like spare ribs, the roti telur—a Malaysian-style pancake with egg and potato curry—and the heaping portion of sweet and peanut-y papaya salad.
From the main dishes, the chili chicken’s Hakka Chinese-style gravy filled with green chilies and ginger, is a must-order. And for those seeking veggies, the spear-shaped eggplant with basil is crisp and flavorful thanks to the large onion and pepper wedges. Whether you’ve saved room or not (does it matter?), there’s no missing the sweet sticky rice with mango dessert that you’ll dream about post-sandwich the next day. Somehow, they made healthy taste good—we don’t know how, and we’re not asking – just accepting.
And with Singapura’s lotus-shaped lights, attentive staff, and cozy booths, it’s not just the food that brings you back.
So, let’s say you decide to take a vacation to glorious Malaysia. The allure’s hard to resist: pillow-soft white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, the smell of beef rendang wafting through the clean, beautiful streets, the kind people, all of it. Let’s say–in this theoretical vacation situation– you would like to have sex. It’s vacation, right? Maybe you want to have sex with the significant other you’re traveling with. Maybe you want to have sex with some person, a fellow tourist, a local, that you meet there. Heck, maybe you’re so totally wholesome you’re standing around in your hotel room, nervously fumbling around with a ring in your pocket, getting ready to propose to someone, on this, your beautiful vacation in Malaysia. You know what happens next, right?
BANG! FUCK YOU! YOU’RE UNDER ARREST, YOU HEATHEN CRIMINAL ASSHOLE!
Fifty-two unmarried couples could face charges of sexual misconduct and jail terms after being caught in hotel rooms by Malaysia’s Islamic morality police. Scores of officers conducted raids on budget hotels on New Year’s Day in the western state of Selangor. Those detained in the early hours of New Year’s Day were mainly students and young factory workers…If convicted, the couples could get a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine.
Okay, so maybe not you, per se….
Sharia laws in Malaysia apply only to Malay Muslims, who make up over half the population.
But still, that sucks. Malaysia’s now got the highest potential for ironic proposal destinations of anywhere in the universe, now that cops have raided a hotel and arrested unmarried couples. Since that last line is buried somewhere towards the bottom of the BBC’s report on it (which is now the most clicked piece on their site today), the Malaysian Board of Tourism might want to kick it into overdrive in order to get the message out that no, they only bust down the doors of their own people getting their New Year’s Eve drunksex on.
Basically any civilized nation that doesn’t hold I Am Sasha Fierce in the same gilded regard as they do the King James Bible is clearly committing heresy. But this lets Malaysia off the hook, as it’s regularly touted as one of the world’s largest Islamic populations. Nevertheless, people with ears the world over should find it disturbing that the Malaysian government has more or less banned Beyoncé from performing in their lush island kingdom, claiming that Bey’s hip-swiveling performances would promote “Western sexy performances.” Although the punishment for being “Western” and having a “sexy performance” isn’t terribly strict, considering the nearly $3,000 wrist-slap administered to the Pussycat Dolls’ management after one of the Dolls accidentally spilled out of her top. But this raises more pressing questions. Questions that should make us question mankind. Questions that should make the Earth spin off its axis. Questions like, “If they’re not listening to Beyoncé … then what are Malaysians listening to?”
Naturally, they’re still listening to Beyoncé, but just not straight from the source. The truth isn’t pretty. But that’s because few people in Southeast Asia ever properly rip videos off the TV at high quality and onto YouTube. One of Malaysia’s own has had no problem belting out a classic or “Halo”. As evidenced, adherence to a performance that is markedly not “Western sexy” in its sensibilities trumps all ability to sing. Here, she’s joined by two other divas, all tipping their proverbial hats to Dreamgirls, which has more or less been appropriated into Bey’s oeuvre.
The curious thing about the exchange of divas in that insular part of the world is that as averse as they may be to “Western sexy performances,” the bevy of culture ministers have no problem with domestic prima donnas belting out these “Western” songs, so long as the “sexy performance” is hardly so. Which is why the Philippines’ homegrown answer to Beyoncé would still have more luck singing “If I Were A Boy” and “Irreplaceable” in Malaysia than Beyoncé herself. Here she performs a noticeably less “sexy” version of “Single Ladies.”
Probably the saddest truth is this: Even less charismatic obscure singing sensations have a better shot at singing Beyoncé’s songs without government interference than Beyoncé does, so long as they remain decidedly un-“Western.”
Seemingly improbable smoking bans are fun because everyone bitches and moans for a while that it´s tantamount to cultural heresy and bodes certain death to the very essence of a city/country/romantic way of life. It happened in New York, Paris, Buenos Aires, London, Hong Kong, etc. Yesterday the tobacco-lovingest Turks implemented one of the strictest bans on smoking in all of Europe (though they are technically partly in Asia, but that´s another matter) that makes smoking illegal in all closed public places, including the typical Turkish tea and coffee joints where one might light up a traditional nargileh.
But even though smoking seems like a birth right in Turkey, polls suggest most people are actually cool with the radical measure. That might be because 100,000 Turks die from smoking related illness each year, so it makes sense to try and cut back a little. Or maybe it´s because they´re comparing the 2009 edition of the tobacco ban ($50 fine for lighting up) to the previous, 17th century ban for hitting the nargileh (execution by order of the gnarley Sultan Murad IV). I´m guessing the old ban was probably more effective at curbing repeat offenders. Either way, there are worse places to be if you need to calm your nerves with a neuron-numbing substance, like Malaysia, where yesterday an enlightened religious court sentenced a 32-year-old Muslim model to six lashes of the cane for drinking a beer in a club. So the next time you´re up in the club nursing a Miller High Life and jonesing for a smoke, just be grateful you don´t have to face section 136 of the Pahang Islamic and Malay Traditional Practices Enactment 1982 (amendment 1987).