Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
When I was a ninth-grader in Singapore, one thing sustained me during the waning hour of many a school day: beef ball noodles.
The beef ball noodles at the food court of Scotts Shopping Centre, to be specific.
When school let out at lunchtime, my girlfriends and I would eagerly pile into a bus, alight at the downtown shopping area, and make a beeline for the Scotts Picnic Food Court, a place that was famous in its own right—it was the first air-conditioned food court in Singapore.
There, a bowl of thick vermicelli waited. It came topped with springy beef balls and bean sprouts and drowned in a glop of brown gravy that was beefy and sweet, laced with tinges of spices like cinnamon and star anise. We would dump in some fiery red chili sauce, toss everything together in the bowl with chopsticks, and stop our teenage chatter for several long moments as we devoted our energy to shoveling mouthfuls of slippery, gravy-coated noodles into our mouths instead.
At age 14, I thought these noodles were sheer bliss in a bowl.
It was a feeling that would last for many years. Long after I graduated from high school and moved to the U.S., I would occasionally return to Scotts to seek them out, until one day when I visited Singapore in 2007 only to discover that a big hole existed where Scotts had once stood. I knew it had been too good to last—the ceaseless march of modernization and redevelopment had finally claimed the beloved food court of my teenage years.