Singapore may be small, but we are inundated with choice when it comes to eating out. Sometimes, this can lead to the first-world problem of CHOICE(!) ANXIETY(!!) If, like us, this leads you to becoming a sad creature of habit who keeps eating at the same old places, check out our bite-sized JUNK food reviews for what you should be eating next (or not!).
“We’re past the point of no return! Do it!” cried one of us, as the other dangled a ribbon of raw wagyu beef over a churning, boiling chamber of sweet, milky bubble tea. Although we knew what we signed up for, right to the point of the raw meat skimming the boiling liquid, we still could not fathom the morals of doing this – and of more concern: would enjoying this meal mean us, falling into some dark culinary hole, our tastebuds forever remapped by this experience? (What this bah kut teh needs is more sweet milk tea! Amirite?)
A recap. You may have noticed that there has been a bit of a bubble tea thing going on here at JUNK and to close off the week, we decided to head to Spice World for the Bubble Tea & Spicy Hot Pot, partly because we were curious, but mostly because it sounded like a disaster.
So mid-week, we found ourselves in Clarke Quay, at the doors of Spice World, entering a restaurant decorated in a style best described as “KTV-red”.
After a slightly lengthy wait – the wait staff apologised, saying they needed to prepare the pot – clearly no one else was ordering this – our hot pot arrived; a two-chamber pot, one filled with a sweet milk “stock” covered with a dense, sweetened milk foam head. (You know that LiHo cheese milk tea topping? That, but just not cheesy.) The other was occupied (literally) by frozen, spicy, beef fat stock in the unlikely form of a teddy bear. Macabre, we know.
The start of the meal was a bit of a faff, but we played along. You’re first instructed to first take a swig of the lukewarm contents of the bubble tea pot through bubble tea straws – this exercise unfortunately revealed a milk liquid with no tea, and also no tapioca bubbles 🙁 . Their definition of a “bubble” is a fruit pearl. Disappointing, but we were too swept up in the process to take issue.
Once you’ve bizarrely had dessert before your mains, they skim off the milk foam, leaving the thin milk liquid and crank up the heat, where in the second act, it’s the solemn spectacle of the demise of beef fat teddy bear, melting in a pool of clear soup stock, dried chillies and mala peppercorns. We watched with some concern as teddy started to sink gently in the heat before eventually keeling over dramatically. A brief gasp of concern gave way to – “Okay enough of this madness, we just want to eat!”
We will say this now. The bubble tea hotpot was great. (So was the mala, but that’s not the focus of this review) Somehow, this franken-hot pot meal worked! Boldly pushing past our trepidation, we found the milky sweetness of the milk stock softened the flavours of the base ingredients and acted as a mediator between food and dipping sauce/powder.
The rest of dinner became a fun experience of scrolling through the ordering iPad and wondering what would be fun to cook in the milk without pushing the envelope too far.
The Wagyu Beef Slices worked well, with the accompanying powdered Sichuan Mala dip mix accenting the soft sweetness with a satisfying, numbing MSG kick.
The Meter-Long Mutton Slices? That worked too – the the sweet milk stock curtailing the muttoniness.
Enoki mushrooms? Definitely a candidate for a sweet milk makeover. The mushrooms gamely absorbed the stock, which primed their flavour for any sauce you wanted to dip them in.
We agreed to veto any seafood – we were not that ballsy, were we? But at the last moment, and with our confidence building, one of us likened our milky soup stock to the milky soup in fried fish soup… so surely it would be fine? So we ordered some fish, and not just any fish, but the cheapest on the menu – farmed Tilapia. Nasty. But a dunk and a scoop later, and lo and behold, we had soft, rubbery chunks of fish that were lightly salted, baking soda tender and milkily sweet. It was a somehow tacky yet delicious!
Other things of note? Well, there were some bizarre-and-good details: e.g. a wall of cucumbers functioning as an elevated breakwater between the soup chambers, thus minimising Mala/Milk spillovers. Then, there were some bizarre-and-just-bizarre details: e.g. a barbie doll dressed in a wagyu meat skirt, leaving us to undress her over the course of the meal. It’s Lady Gaga’s meat dress, fun-sized. Still, a bit odd in the age of #metoo.
Some of you may be still persisting with the puke emoji 🤮 in your head at the thought of this meal, but if you regularly go for hot pot, and want a bit of a diversion, give this a go. HDL can feel a bit repetitive and soulless after too many rounds, and we hesitate to drop big much money at Imperial Treasure Hot Pot unless you have a reason to be baller. Spice World claims a spot somewhere in between.
What was the Spice World Bubble Tea & Spicy Hot Pot experience? Well, We didn’t just get dinner, but entertainment too! Din-tertainment? So for the amount of smiles, laughter and the fact that we cleared the table of all the food, Spice World gets 4 wings!