SINGAPORE - Nothing excites me as much as wandering through supermarkets, going down every aisle and picking out things I want to eat and drink. I find much to love at FairPrice Downtown East and FairPrice Finest at Artra, a condominium development in the Alexandra Road area. Come explore these supermarkets with me, as I look for posh nosh at FairPrice.
FairPrice Downtown East
This huge supermarket was recently renovated, and is now bigger, to take in a Unity pharmacy. My jaw drops at the range available. What catches my eye: a tray of live hairy crabs, a big selection of mala and other spicy condiments, and Woh Hup's new range of sauces.
Where: Downtown East, 1 Pasir Ris Close, e! Hub, 02-127
Open: 8am to 11pm daily
What to buy:
Indofood Balado Merah and Balado Hijau ($4.20 for 200g pouch)
Uleg Sambal Terasi ($3.50 for 10 20g sachets)
Find these in the halal section, which has a huge selection of essentials, sauces, condiments, baking products and snacks.
These sauces are made in Indonesia and are feisty and punchy - they do not hold back on the heat. But even a chilli coward like me can appreciate how good they taste, and how easy they are to use.
Have the sambal terasi with nasi lemak, grilled fish or fried chicken, but a great way to use it is to spread some on a slice of bread, slap some cheese on top and toast until bubbly.
There are serving suggestions for the belado sauces, but I think the possibilities are endless. I prefer the hijau because it has freshness and nuance, and does not make my head explode from heat. I would marinate lamb chops with this and throw them on a barbecue. The merah version is super spicy. Use it as a base for a different kind of nachos. Stirfry onions and minced beef with the sauce and spoon over tortilla chips, blanket with a mix of shredded mozzarella and cheddar, bake until golden brown and tuck in.
Vit's Italian Mee Goreng Aglio Olio ($3.45 for a pack of four)
I have seen - and eaten - many versions of instant noodles, but Italian mee goreng? Vit's from Malaysia is offering something very different. The olive oil could be better, but there is nothing wrong with the springy texture of the noodles, or the pouch of dehydrated vegetables, which spring magically to life when tossed with hot noodles. There is just enough chilli to excite (but not paralyse) the tastebuds, and a gentle kick from garlic.
VietJoy Tea ($19.95 for 2 boxes, each with 20 teabags)
This brand is a collaboration between Singapore and Vietnam, and involves Nanyang Polytechnic, National University of Singapore and Saigon Technology University. The idea is to showcase Vietnam's fruit and vegetables, and help farmers there earn extra income.
I could go on and on about the supposed health benefits of tea made with moringa, mulberry, soursop and guava leaves but nothing will make me drink them unless they taste good. My pick of the lot would be moringa, with its fragrant, herbal flavour. It almost tastes like nori seaweed. In any case, each box comes with sachets of the other flavours, so you can figure out which ones you want to buy next. And while stocks last, you get two boxes of noni fruit tea with every two boxes you buy.
FairPrice Finest at Artra
This is the newest FairPrice Finest supermarket and it has an upmarket feel, in keeping with the swanky condominiums in the area. Half the store is devoted to fresh and frozen food, compared to 30 to 40 per cent in other supermarkets. Shopping here is a little like wandering through a farmer's market, with beautiful displays of fruit and vegetables. When I went, there was a gorgeous Halloween display near the entrance.
If you are planning a party, ask for help from the store's concierge, who can help you put together a feast. There are also Fresh Ambassadors on hand to help you pick the ripest, sweetest fruit.
Where: Artra, 10 Alexandra View, 01-18
Open: 8am to 11pm daily
What to buy:
ComCrop Sweet Basil ($3.95 for 50g)
Grown in Singapore, on rooftops - basil does not come fresher than this. I made a pesto, to go with zucchini noodles and to work into the dough of a tomato bread I'm working on. You will, of course, find pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese in the store.
Gullon Gluten Free Crackers ($4.90 for a 200g box)
This store carries a well-curated range of products for people with food allergies and intolerances. But I would get these crackers anyway because they taste good.
These savoury crackers, with a smidgen of sweet, are made with corn, potato and rice starches. They are phenomenally crisp and make good blank canvasses for jam, peanut butter, smoked salmon and sour cream, pate or charcuterie.
Hook Coffee Cherry Bomb Drip Coffee Bags ($18 for a box of 10)
I start my mornings with a cuppa and I'm going to want Cherry Bomb every day now. Despite the fact that it is made with Ethiopian beans, and I usually find them way too bright for early in the morning. Not this one. I don't have to wear sunglasses. It has a touch of acid but then the cherry starts bombing the palate. Juicy. Okay, I'm going to make myself a second cup. And enjoy reading the funny copy on the box of this Singaporean brand of coffee.