Ask Singaporeans what is so great about Singapore, and you'll get various attempts to describe the abundance of food. I used to think it was a cliche - and if I was in a slightly more Marxist mood, I would say it shows how the state has brilliantly distracted our minds into thinking that food matters so much. I don't think food matters so much just to Singaporeans. I think good food is good food; it fills us up, you talk at the table, if there's dessert, you'll talk more and enjoy more. I will make Socrates and Aristotle turn in their graves and assert: good food makes us happy.
I don't have to put up a list for anyone to find out what are the best food options in DC. We can all spend an afternoon perusing Google and Yelp for that.
I will however kindly point out two must-try simple options for students, local and exchange. In both options, it's not just about the food - which may even be terrible - but also what you can do with your time.
Maine Avenue Fish Market
Less than 15 minutes away on the Blue Line Metro or a 40 minute walk from campus is an open air seafood market in Southwest DC. You can search Google using the above subtitle and you should be directed to the same seafood market I am talking about. I joined Reza and Andreas, my two roommates, on the Metro, choosing the quicker option considering my impatience when I'm hungry.
You'll find fishes, crabs, shrimps, scallops - whatever comes to mind when you think of seafood. They are cheaper here compared to those you find in groceries and because the seafood here is fresh, it tastes way better as well.
Some shops will offer to cook the fish/crab you purchased for you. We chose a shop just behind for the deals and combos they offered.
You can choose to eat in a container-makeshift-eating-area (someone invent a word for this please!) by the river with birds looking very curiously at your catch of the day. Andreas couldn't wait and stole a few fries as Reza and I made the decision that the makeshift eating area - although exclusively reserved - may be too messy.
Or, you can walk a little towards the pier and eat by the boats. We figured the birds would be a nuisance and decided to have a picnic by the boats. After a hearty meal and reflecting over the times we spent as trusty roommates-without-roommate-agreements, we thought of fish we can buy and cook at home - which is the whole point of coming here. You get a great view of murky water and seagulls, you can have cheap but awesome seafood with your pals, and you can shop for fish to cook during dinners for the rest of the week. Reza bought a red snapper, Andreas got a brick of tuna, and I got myself some trusty tilapia.
Exchange Room Dinners
I must qualify that I haven't been to many of these but I must say there is something good about eating with exchange students (myself not included). Think about it, depending on who you visit, you'll get to know people from different countries and eat all sorts of food. Why bother going to Malaysia Kopitiam when you can have a ten times cheaper but a million times better experience visiting a Singaporean or Malaysian - if he/she/they can cook.
The Chinese Singaporeans held a surprise, private dinner at one of their rooms showcasing some of the food you will get if you visited our home - including chicken rice.
I must say, it was an educational experience for myself as I have never tasted halal-versions of food they will usually eat back home. Shiying made popiah, Shu Hui cooked chicken in all kinds of broth, there were shrimp fritters and Ma Po Tofu by Mark.
Reza and I guiltily bought brownies and cake for dessert to contribute. We all had a great chat about our plans once we were done with exams and finals. Some of us are leaving early to travel while others are planning to go straight home for Christmas.
I'm heading home straight with a stop-over at London by myself. It's only a few weeks away and I'm already sick with the flu, maybe because of heightened anticipation.
Have a happy and awesome Thanksgiving everyone!