new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Sup Tulang: Singapore's Most Obscene Food (And Possibly The World's)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sup Tulang: Singapore's Most Obscene Food (And Possibly The World's)

Haji Kadir & M Baharudeen Sup Tulang
Address: 505 Beach Road, #B1-13/15 Golden Mile Food Centre, Singapore
Tel: +65 6294 0750
Opening Hours
Daily: 12pm – 1am

This is a blog post about Sup Tulang, which is one of the more viscerally carnivorous things I've ever eaten, and in the incredibly civilized locales of Singapore, to boot. It's a Malay-Indian dish of beef or mutton bones, which are cooked in a spicy cumin and chili infused (and BRIGHT red) stew until the marrow inside gets soft and spreadable. You may have seen Anthony Bourdain slurping down the marrow with a plastic straw on TV, which is where my Dad got the idea from.

Hell bent on consuming sup tulang in his lifetime, my father put me to the task of finding out the best place to eat it. The Internet food oracles told me that would be the Golden Mile Food Center, closeish to Singapore's Little Arabia district. After an Indian breakfast and a morning spent wandering Little India and buying all manner of counterfeit shirts, we headed for the food court and the Haj Kadir food stall.

The stall, thankfully, is easy enough to find - bottom floor of the shopping center, to the right of the entryway - and is advertised with big, slightly green-tinted pictures of gory looking marrow bones. The elderly stall-men took our order, we sat down at a picnic table, and ordered fresh lime juice and lemon tea, as well as a serve of chicken-rice for my mother, whose sensibilities are more delicate than those of my father and I. Soon enough, a plate of four marrow bones for 7 Singapore dollars were plonked down on our table. We were given plastic straws for the marrow and some bread for the sauce.

It's a pretty obscene food. Tasty enough, but pretty obscene. The sauce is delicious: it's got some gamey, mutton infused, smoky flavor, with chunks of chopped chili floating in it. The bones don't have much meat on them, but the meat isn't the point, really, it's the marrow inside.

I decided to go for the marrow first - the sounds you make when sucking marrow out of a big-ass bone in a public place, well, I'll leave those to your imagination. Then, I picked up the bone, which was really very slippery, and gnawed off the meat. I don't think I made any growling sounds while I was doing this but I also can't say I didn't.

It was a very happy experience for me, as I am a dedicated carnivore and everyone who knows me is pretty sure I retain ancient race memories of Stone-Age ancestors. In that I'd be super happy crouching by a fire tearing big chunks off a mammoth haunch while snarling and snapping at the semi-domesticated wolf pack that might bother me for scraps. Napkins, what are those?

The old men who ran the stall sat at the table next to us and watched me eat the marrow out of the bones while talking animatedly to each other in Malay. According to my mother, they appeared to be somewhere in between profoundly disgusted and impressed by the enthusiaim and verve with which I went at the marrow bones. Probably more disgusted.

Two cute little Singaporean ladies were eating sup tulang at a table near us, wearing cute little clothes, and they were somehow eating sup tulang *delicately*. I have no idea how but am fairly certain whatever dark magic they had been trained in to pull this off is far, far beyond my meager powers.

The real problem with sup tulang is encountered after you're done with it, when you realize that the red dye they use to color the sauce doesn't come off your fingers, even if you scrub them really hard with liquid soap in the cleanish dining hall bathroom sink. It sort of comes off your face, but only sort of.

Therefore, every Singaporean will know for the rest of the day that you have eaten sup tulang. This is not exactly embarrassing, but few foods we encounter in the Western world actively mark you for the rest of the day. I ended up taking a long bath with a lot of intensive scrubbing, and my fingers were still stained red for a couple days. Although at least it took care of the facial Marks of Doom.

Anyone even vaguely squeamish about eating meat should probably steer well clear of both sup tulang and the people who are willing to eat it, is what I'm getting at. I suffer from no such moral compunctions and think most cute animals are preferable roasted on a spit with a nice marinade, but I know I'm not speaking for everyone.


Khairul Ashraf said...

You're such a fantastic writer, I hope you enjoyed the sup tulang!

Mohd Rafi Hj Abu Bakar said...

Bravo..well said about the dish..glad you enjoying!

Mohd Rafi Hj Abu Bakar said...

Bravo..well said about the dish..glad you enjoying!

Mohd Rafi Hj Abu Bakar said...

Bravo..well said about the dish..glad you enjoying!