[ By Akram Kamal ]
As I walked towards the Student Life Centre, it was clear that something special was taking place. The aroma of fresh air and crisp leaves had been replaced with the tantalizing smell of homemade Asian cuisine, teasing your nostrils until you move to get a taste. As I walked on, I found that the entire area had been transformed from a school hallway to a genuine night market. From long lines to vendors shouting “Buy 5 free 1!”, to food being cooked on the spot and paper lanterns zig-zagging overhead, the Asian Culture Street truly lived up to its name, offering many delicacies from multiple Asian cultures.
The first stall had Chinese-style cheese dumplings, which were being fried by the vendors on the spot. I watched the hand-crafted dumplings go from pale white to golden and crispy while my mouth watered the entire time. When I tried them, my tastebuds went on a roller-coaster ride from the sweetness of the dough to the saltiness of the cheese inside, accompanied with the savory aftertaste of a truly genuine dumpling.
The second stall, just next door, housed Japanese wraps shaped as triangles ready made for consumption, called onigiri, a very popular snack in Japan. Three flavors were offered here, starting with tuna mayo, hotdog and Katsuobushi (bonito flakes), which are fish flakes. I went for the hotdog and was very tempted to buy a second but alas, more foods had to be tried.
Just opposite was a local stall selling fish balls in curry and tom yam, and the aroma of the curry pot had overtaken and overwhelmed the entire strip of food stalls. Divine would be an understatement when describing these fish balls. The curry sauce was cooked to perfection and with every bite a little bit of curry oozed out – it was truly magnificent.
Next was the ever-so-popular Korean rice cakes served with homemade kimchi sauce and cabbage. Now this was the most surprising taste-test of the afternoon. When I looked at it I expected it to be very spicy and salty (as most spicy rice dishes are) but when I took my first bite I was taken aback, as it was actually sweet and warm and had a very surprising undertone which made the dish stand out amongst the others. The kimchi sauce accompanied with the cabbage and the sticky rice authentically complemented each other to conjure the honourable classic, Tteokbokki. The line for this next dish was just so long it was ridiculous, but not a letdown at all.
With flavours such as original, black sesame sead, kaya and many more offered, mochi was here to save the day. As I watched the vendor lather the slice of mochi into a pile of peanut and sugar crumbs I started to feel bad because I was going to have to work extra hard at the gym, clearly. But for the time being, I was completely satisfied. Soft, warm and mushy along with the sweetness and tanginess of the sugar and the peanut crumbs, the mochi was definitely not to be missed.
And finally, just as I was leaving, the final table at the end of the street was the soy beancurd pudding from Taiwan, offered in two different flavours: original and green tea. As a green tea fanatic I opted for the latter and was not disappointed at all. Now I’ve tried many different beancurd puddings in my life, but this one takes the cake. The many pots stacked on top of each other on a bed of ice left the pudding pots cold and refreshing throughout, a very nice treat to end the day.
With affordable prices, tempting aromas and delectable foods, the Asian Culture Street definitely lived up to its name, offering foods from different parts of Asia, all in one street, giving us a flurry of tastes and scents not to be missed out on.