In my earliest days visiting Singapore with my dad, sometime around the late 70s, I remember him bringing my mom and I to eat Sup Tulang at a hawker center. Sup Tulang, literally translates to “Soup Bones”, is an Indian Muslim dish consisting of lamb bones swimming in bloody-red gravy. I wouldn’t exactly regard this as a soup, but it’s served with so much gravy I guess that’s why they call it a soup. It is normally served with baguette pieces to mop up the gravy. The appeal of this dish lies in the little bits of meat and tendon clinging onto the bones, as well as the bone marrows. Super delicious!
Last week our family was driving to have dinner somewhere and my dad randomly brought up the subject of mutton which somehow led to a discussion of Sup Tulang and how delicious we remembered it was. My sister mentioned that Anthony Bourdain had done a segment showcasing this dish on his TV show. My brother-in-law, who had never tried Sup Tulang before, became extremely curious about it. Before long, all of us were salivating while imagining this tasty dish that can only be had in Singapore. So I googled for Anthony Bourdain’s show and decided to go to the same exact hawker center to have my fill of Sup Tulang for nostalgia’s sake.
Golden Mile Food Centre
505 Beach Road #B1-13-15
12.30pm to 1.30am
Closed alternate Wednesdays
Turned out this establishment, Haji Kadir at Golden Mile Food Center at Beach Road, which Anthony Bourdain went to, is truly super famous for its Sup Tulang! One local taxi driver whom I encountered previously had also recommended this place. (I love chatting w/ taxi drivers about their favourite local joints for good and cheap food; hey, might as well get some insights on what the locals love to eat while sitting in a taxi, right?)
Haji Kadir menu (and conveniently, the phone number for home delivery).
There it is… Sup Tulang (Item #15), MmMmMmMmmMmMMmmmMMM~~~!!!
I ordered an $8 portion, bungkus (ie. bring home to eat). I’ll tell you why later, keep reading.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Sup Tulang. A humble dish of just lamb bones without a lot of meat, as you can see, in thick tomato-based gravy that is both sweet and peppery. What’s that green straw doing on the plate? Ah, that is to aid in sucking the marrows out of the bones because you don’t want to waste anything. Many will say that the marrows are the best part! And I absolutely agree; if you have never had marrows before, the best way I can describe it is sorta like a jelly-like substance. A rich source of collagen, I say, although some think of it as artery-clogging food. This is hardcore food indeed.
Now there was a very good reason why I packed this dish to enjoy at home. Because it can get VERY VERY messy!
My tips for eating Sup Tulang:
1. Do not wear white clothes!!! These bones are slippery and they will fly out of your hands.
2. Be prepared to get your hands and fingernails dirty (but fortunately the gravy washes off easily w/ soap and water post-feast).
3. Make loud slurping sucking noises while getting as much marrows out as possible, even with aid of straw.
4. Wet wipes. The sauce will get all over your face.
4. Dental floss. The bits of meat will be stuck all over your teeth.
Sounds like too much trouble to eat? HELLZ NO!!! The experience of gnawing on a lamb bone, soaking up a piece of baguette with gravy and getting to the marrows are all worth it. Trust me, this dish is really very delicious. If you’re up for it, ask to kick up the spice for an even more finger-licking, lip-smacking euphoria. Perfect for supper with a mug of ice cold beer on the side. :)
By the way, I must note that even though this is mutton, there is an absence of that gamey-ness commonly associated with lamb. Not really sure why, maybe the gravy overpowered it in this case. FYI, I was reading an issue of Cook’s Illustrated recently which said the strong gamey flavour is caused by and comes from the fat layer in lamb, so try to remove as much of the fat as possible when preparing lamb at home. Perhaps because Sup Tulang is mostly bones and there’s virtually no fat around the meat, this does not smell pungent at all.
Edit: Recently I read a tweet somewhere that mutton is not lamb. Is mutton lamb or goat?! O_o