Chicken Sherbet: Traditionally Singaporean or Shall We Blame America?
By Dave Fox
Today is National Day here in Singapore — the 46th anniversary of the country’s independence — marked by a huge parade and fireworks this evening. I have celebrated thus far by having lunch at a traditionally Singaporean restaurant: Swensen’s.
If you grew up in the United States, you might recall this purveyor of ice creamy goodness — always a silver medal winner behind Farrell’s — but when your parents weren’t willing to take you to a restaurant that herded you through a gauntlet of highly nutritious, old-fashioned candy and video games at the end of your family outing, Swensen’s would suffice.
I thought Swensen’s had gone the route of Farrell’s years ago and gone out of business, but apparently, the restaurant still thrives in a few select pockets of the United States. Nevertheless, I was surprised to discover the chain, boasting its San Francisco roots, is thriving in practically every shopping mall in Singapore. (Farrell’s for the record, has recently re-opened in a few spots in the US.)
To put this in perspective, Singapore, a small island city-state, has roughly 5-million inhabitants, and roughly 3.7-million shopping malls. That’s a lot of locations to open a Swensen’s franchise.
After a sweat-depleting hike through the MacRitchie Nature Reserve today, Kattina and I were craving healthy food and air conditioning. We mulled over a food court in a nearby shopping mall. (Every shopping mall in SIngapore has roughly 17 food courts. If you are doing the math, we’re talking 62.9-million food courts in this nation of 5-million people. This does not include the hawker stalls, non-air-conditioned places that blur the lines between food courts and street food, where you can sweat profusely and enjoy a hearty serving of tasty, traditionally Singaporean chicken rice for a mere two dollars. There are roughly twice as many hawker stalls as food courts.)
(All of these statistics, of course, are going to provoke a handful of uptight Singaporeans into sending me irate e-mails, accusing me of making the numbers up. This is a humor blog, lah. Chill.)
Anyway… here were Kattina and I, trudging back from our outing, feeling hungry, craving AC and healthy food.
“You know, what I could really go for,” I said to Kattina, “is a chicken Caesar salad.”
She looked at me skeptically. “You know where to get a chicken Caesar?”
“I saw one on a menu somewhere. Where was it? Oh yes! Swensen’s! And look! Right over there! Six different shopping malls! I think I saw a Swensen’s in that one!”
So we did something very traditionally Singaporean, and went to Swensen’s at Thomson Plaza.
There was a chicken Caesar on the menu, but that’s not what I ordered. I spotted something much more intriguing: the lime sherbet chicken salad. The name speaks for itself, but it’s bizarre enough that I should confirm, yes, it is a chicken salad with a scoop of lime sherbet on top. I do not know if this exists at the original Stateside Swensens’ (the SIngapore outlets have some Singaporean twists on the menu including chili crab pasta and durian ice cream), but I had to try it.
It’s something I recommend trying once. It is not something I recommend trying twice. Like me, it was a little weird.