Regular readers of this blog (there must be one, somewhere…) would be forgiven for thinking that i’ve had falafels on the brain lately, given my recent missive on Tokyo’s finest pitaria – Kuumba du Falafel. There is a certain truth in this, and it was precisely this mindset that propelled me back to Singapore’s finest pitaria over the weekend – Fill-a-Pita. Well, that and that fact that I have not been back for a shamefully long period of time. Although in my defence absence does makes the palate grow fonder, desu ne?
During my hiatus, there have been a few developments. A swish new signboard has been installed behind the counter, some of the prices have been slightly re-jigged, and the infamous koshari rice has been allocated a more permanent place on the menu. And, perhaps most importantly of all, proprietor Hassan has been awarded the Singapore vegesphere’s equivalent of an Oscar – the Hungry Ang Mo award for “Best Service” in 2014. To say such a lofty accolade is well-deserved is to state the obvious; he sets the standard for service in Singapore. Ever-present, ever-helpful and ever-charming, I even noticed him returning mugs to the neighbouring drinks stall. Talk about a symbiotic relationship!
Despite droning on about falafels so much, this visit was all about expanding my appreciation for Levantine cuisine. So the fava bean pita (SGD 7.00 for a whole one) seemed like the perfect place to start. I have always thought of fava beans as the slightly more sophisticated sibling of the legume family. To be perfectly honest, this is most probably due to the fact that they first settled on my culinary radar after watching Anthony Hopkins’ endorsement (of sorts) in The Silence of the Lambs. Whilst human liver may not be the most obvious pairing (not for a vegetarian, at least), it’s probably the Chianti association that has helped elevate the humble fava bean’s brand to the upper echelons of the culinary A-list. Well, in my mind it has.
And indeed, the f. bean pita does not disappoint. Served cold in order to better showcase the complexity of the filling, the fava beans, tahini and cumin coalesce to form a luxuriously rich and energetic array of flavours. Generous chunks of crunchy red cabbage and the zingy acidity of fresh lemon juice provide nuance to every bite, serving to further expand the spectrum of flavours and textures. It’s as intelligent as it is tasty, and a more than viable alternative to its falafel counterpart. Fava beans are the fodder that has sustained generations of Egyptian farmers and cognoscenti alike; once you try Hassan’s fava bean pita, it really isn’t difficult to see why.
The very first time I visited Fill-a-P., Hassan gave us a small dish of labna to taste, and since then I have been meaning to push the boat out with a whole sandwich. Labna is another Middle Eastern staple – it’s essentially a sort of strained yoghurt that has the thickness of cheese and the slightly sour taste of yoghurt. The labna pita (SGD 6.00 for a whole one) helped to balance out the aromatic warmth of the fava beans (above) and the fiery spice of the koshari rice (below). Clean and elegant, it reminded me a lot of the British summertime equivalent of a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich. It’s the focus on simplicity that is the common denominator. Paired with cucumber and green olives, this sandwich relies on fresh and cooling flavours and silky textures to relax and rejuvenate the palate. Larrrvely.
And finally the koshari rice (SGD 6.00), oh the koshari rice. The first and last time I ate this stuff was in Hong Kong, and I have been meaning to try the Fill-a-P. version ever since. It’s the national dish of Egypt, and contains a rather interesting mélange of macaroni, rice and lentils intermixed with a fiery, arrabiatta-like tomato sauce. Whilst the Hong Kong version I tried seemed more koshari-lite, Fill-a-P.’s provides a spicy suckerpunch that will, if nothing else, leave you with a hairier chest, a more sonorous voice and a tingling mouth. I loved it. Pair it with an espresso and you’ve got your daily dose of rocket fuel, yes!
Reading some of the other reviews out there, it would appear that just about everyone that visits Fill-a-Pita has a good time. What I like most is that it’s packed full of pleasant little surprises, all of which are buttressed by the absolute commitment to impeccable service and high quality. Without doubt it’s the go-to place for a Levantine lunch in Singapore; an all-round experience that is not to be missed.