To celebrate my first 20 followers mark (a small win at least), I decided to feast a bit and also allow my readers to get a glimpse of a dish that apparently only exists in Singapore. So, if you are in Singapore, why not give Sup Tulang a try:
What is Sup Tulang
Unlike what its name suggests, it is not served as a soup. No big bowls of piping hot soup (which is reminiscent of its cousin dish – Kambing Soup (Mutton Soup)) here. Instead, you have this glorious looking plate of mutton bones more akin to a stew. While the dish looks fiery hot with its sweet and spicy red “soup”, the overall heat is mild to moderate depending on your heat tolerance. What makes it red is the tomato puree that is cooked together with the chillies and the other spices.
This dish is associated with the Indian Muslim community but has no actual link to continental India. Singapore Infopedia documents the history of the dish as being created in the 1950’s:
Soup tulang is associated with the Indian Muslim community but is considered a Singapore invention. It is believed to have been created in the 1950s at an Indian Muslim stall along Jalan Sultan run by a stallholder named Abdul Kadir. To make the stock for his mee kuah dish, Abdul used mutton bones that he later served as a side dish at the request of a patron.
Abdul’s son, Mohamed Iqbal, continues to sell the fiery red stew consisting of chillies, tomatoes and mutton stock at his popular Haji Kadir stalls at the Golden Mile Food Centre and in Tampines. The Al-Sheik Mee Stall at the Adam Road Food Centre also became well known for its version of the soup flavoured with eggs, spices and various vegetables.
As it evident from the photograph, there is not much meat on the bones. Instead, the dish revolves around the unseen – The bone marrow hidden inside the bones. The marrow is sucked out using (drumroll…) a straw or tapped out of the bone onto a plate. Bread is served on the side to help soak up the red “soup”:
Where to have Sup Tulang
There are a few stalls scattered around our sunny island that serves Sup Tulang. You can head over to Tekka Market at Little India and there are a couple of stalls serving this dish. If not, you can head over to the place that purportedly invented this dish: Haji Kadir @ Golden Mile Food Centre.
I chose the latter.
One, because I tried those in Little India before.
Two, because of the reputation of Haji Kadir. Anthony Bourdain ate there before and I remember watching how he devoured the marrow and the bits of meat left on the bone.
Before heading down, I did my prep work. A tip for all those attempting to try Sup Tulang is to bring along a packet of wet tissues. This will help keep the mess in check as you will end up using your hands. No cutlery here.
My Sup Tulang
If you ever wondered how a dog felt munching away on a bone, look no further as you too will enjoy an experience where you will be munching on the soft tendons and also the tender pieces of meat left on the bone whilst holding the bone using both of your hands.
When the dish was served, I decided to dive right in and taste the “soup”. I took a slice of bread and gave it a good dipping into the fiery red gravy. The taste is mildly sweet at first before you start feeling the heat from the chillies. As the gravy was made from mutton stock, the gravy itself was full of flavour.
Then came the essence of the dish. A plastic disposable spoon came with the dish. Ignore the “spoon” side as its largely useless. Instead the trick is to use the “handle” side to dig into the bone and extract the awesome marrow:
In terms of taste, it’s something unexpected. Its creamy and very rich in flavour. If you ever had a good lamb chop with that tiny bit of fat that comes with the meat, the marrow has the rich taste of the fat but not the oiliness. The marrow just melts in your mouth.
I decided to combine some of the marrow with the gravy and use it as a spread over the bread. My god, it was delicious.
As I was struggling with the spoon and trying to take photographs, the stall assistant took pity on me and passed me a straw. Instead of scooping out the goodness, why not just slurp it all up?!?!
3 bones later, I decided to save the last bone for the finale. I then went for the bits of meat left on the bone. The meat was tender and well flavoured having been cooked with the gravy. The texture is also balanced out with the tendons that gave it some bite and really adds to the experience of you munching away on a delicious bone.
I must have looked pathetic as I was going back to the “expended” bones trying to extract some more marrow from the already emptied bone cavity. One cannot simply get enough of the marrow.
However, all good things must come to an end. As I mopped up the gravy using the remaining slices of bread, I wondered to myself when will my next sup tulang session be.
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