Ah Lim Jln. Tua Kong Branch Mee Pok (Singapore): A Spicy Noodle War

IMG_9351A minor war of sorts has been taking place not far from my home in Singapore.

In a sleepy pocket deep in the East Coast, on each side of a tiny carpark, two eateries selling the exact same dish, with very similar names, have been facing off for years now. On one side, you have the large, often more crowded Jalan Tua Kong Lau Lim stall and across the street, there’s a tiny stall in a cozy kopitiam (coffeeshop) called Ah Lim Jln. Tua Kong Branch.

Both specialize in mee pok tar (which means “dry wide noodles”), a Teochew-Chinese dish featuring tagliatelle-like egg noodles tossed in a spicy chili oil gravy and topped with items like fish cakes, fish balls and minced pork.

Of these two, the larger one is talked about more — the people who run it come from one of the old and beloved mee pok families in this country, after all. Having tried both however, the smaller stall is my favorite — the gravy has more zing and it’s just a better bowl after all. Why? Let me tell you …

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Posted in Asian, Chinese, Noodles, Singapore, Singaporean, Tales From the Road, Teochew | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Selera Rasa (Singapore): A Classic Malay Breakfast

Selera Rasa

Breakfast in Singapore truly is something to behold.

For starters, it’s incredibly varied, with Indian, Chinese and Malay offerings ranging from rice and noodle dishes to piping hot roti prata and fried meaty treats. A classic must, however, is nasi lemak — a Malay dish comprising fragrant coconut rice with hearty ingredients such as fried chicken and crispy anchovies. It’s so popular and commonly eaten that some hawkers have it packed ahead of time into tightly folded banana leaves for a quick and tasty breakfast to go.

While I’m fortunate enough to live not too far from one of the great nasi lemak joints on the island — International Food Stall in Changi Village — I’d been hearing about another place for years, one that’s supposed to be the absolute best. Selera Rasa, in fact, is so well-regarded that the Sultan of Brunei supposedly pays a visit when he’s in Singapore, ordering up dozens of packets for takeout.

“Look for the long queue,” Singaporean food personality KF Seetoh counseled, when I asked him about Selera Rasa a few years ago.

A long queue? Singaporeans, an impatient lot, don’t queue for anything unless it’s worth it. I knew right away that I had to get myself to Selera Rasa, to find this said queue …

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Posted in Asian, Breakfast, Comfort Food, Hawkers, Malay, Rice, Singapore, Singaporean, So Good It Must Be Bad For You, Southeast Asian, Tales From the Road | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bakery Andante (Edinburgh): Visiting the Divine

Bakery AndanteA pilgrimage is in order each Saturday I’m in Edinburgh.

First, a stop for coffee in Morningside (and maybe a bacon roll), then a quick pop-in a few doors down to visit a teeny tiny bakery that’s just packed to the brim with buttery treats.

When I first visited Andante Bakery, I wondered what might be so special about it — sure, its pastries and breads always looked fetching, but I’ve had plenty of fabulous baked goods all over the world.

A little poking around, however, showed that this artisanal bakery set up by a former marketing guy who threw in the towel about six years ago to pursue his passion for baking has some serious cred. It’s won all sorts of commendations and was featured on the ITV show “Britain’s Best Bakery.”

Also, I found the name charming — the bakery’s site explains that andante is “a musical expression meaning ‘at a slower tempo’, which perfectly describes how we think bread should be made.”

Aside from all that though, what I have learned is, what’s truly lovely about this place is, it’s simply a delight to visit …

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4 Morningside Place (Edinburgh): Tasty Beginnings

4 Morningside Place

I’m not generally a big breakfast person in New Yorkon the road, however, that’s an entirely different matter.

If I am to face a new, strange city, a good start to the day is a must. In Edinburgh, a city that’s become less unfamiliar to me in the past year, I recently found a delightful place that offers delicious, healthy breakfasts and much much more.

Now, you know I don’t usually write about places where I’ve stayed on this blog — rather, I tend to do that for places like the Travel section of the New York Times. I’ll make an exception here though for a charming bed and breakfast I just discovered in Edinburgh’s leafy yet fashionable Morningside neighborhood — 4 Morningside Place …

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Sodaeng (Edinburgh): Korean, Or Something Like It

YukgaejangThe thing about a good thing is, sometimes you shouldn’t shrug off that nagging feeling that it’s not going to last because, well, that may be true.

In this case, I’d be referring to my recent elation over discovering that, contrary to my previous belief, the Korean food scene in Edinburgh is terrific.

After being surprised by a very tasty lunch at Kim’s Mini Meals and then chasing that with an outstanding meal at Cafe Andamiro, I had decided to eat my words. Perhaps this city actually does do Korean well, I thought.

But then I paid a visit to Sodaeng …

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Bia Bistrot (Edinburgh): A French-Gaelic Mélange

Donkeyote GarnachaAmid the fashionable cafes and boisterous eateries of Edinburgh’s Morningside neighborhood is a little storefront so unassuming it’s easy to breeze right on by.

I had, in fact, done just this on a few occasions before D.B. pointed bia bistrot out one day. The fact that he liked the place — and had eaten there regularly — is noteworthy. This is a man who has given just four Edinburgh restaurants his stamp of approval in all his years here. And bia bistrot is one of them.

When we finally made it in for dinner this week later, I certainly saw why …

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Snax Cafe (Edinburgh): A Scottish “Caff” Breakfast

Snax CafeDainty brioche buns and buttered toast with tea are fine and good for a few mornings. But as gray, drizzly Scotland morning Number Four revs up today, I feel a grumpiness setting in.

I tell D.B.: “I need something hot and meaty.”

What I’m craving is a greasy diner breakfast – eggs, meat, toast, burnt coffee. Fluorescent lighting and gruff service would be a plus. Where to find this in Edinburgh? I’m not entirely sure.

D.B. just packs me into a car and starts driving, however. Somewhere near the city center, barricaded by construction machinery and hard-hatted men, there it is, a beacon: A small neon “coffee” sign. Next to it, “SNAX CAFE. Famous for its breakfasts!”

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Mother India’s Cafe (Edinburgh): A South Asian Delight

IMG_6428For the past year, I’d been hearing about this little Indian place in Edinburgh, usually whenever my craving for something spicy inevitably popped up.

“Mother India,” D.B. would say. That’s the place to go in the city for good Indian food.

As much this name was invoked, however, we never seemed to make it there. And as the months passed, I began to think of it as something of a unicorn — did this mythical place actually exist?

Finally, after a gloomy, drizzly April Monday in Scotland, it seemed like a spicy dinner was in order. So, off we traipsed down a narrow lane packed with old stone buildings near Edinburgh’s Old Town, and soon, there it was: Mother India’s Cafe …

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Spoon (Edinburgh): Haggis and Harry Potter

Jams

J.K. Rowling, as you might imagine, is big in Edinburgh.

The Elephant House, with its sweeping picture window views of Edinburgh Castle, is constantly packed with camera-toting tourists, as Rowling wrote bits of Harry Potter there — back when she could still wander the world incognito, of course.

Besides this cafe, however, there is one other spot that is something of a Rowling shrine — though one that’s considerably less mobbed, as it’s morphed into something else since its Rowling years: Spoon, a bright and cheery first floor restaurant that used to be Nicolson’s Cafe, otherwise known as the place where Rowling wrote some of the early chapters of Harry Potter.

As much of a fan as I am of the series, I’ve never wanted to get in the perennially long line at the Elephant House. Spoon, on the other hand, not only doesn’t have the lines but is also a restaurant whose food I’d heard good things about.

So on a drizzly Sunday, D.B. and I set off for a little look-see …

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Café Andamiro (Edinburgh): Stellar Korean

Yuk Gae Jang

As you’ve probably gathered from some mutterings on this blog, I’ve had rather low expectations of the Asian food scene in Edinburgh.

There is one Vietnamese restaurant in town. (Well, two if you count Saigon Saigon, which really is a Chinese restaurant that decided to go with a slightly more exotic name.) And my trusty Edinburgh food gurus over at Asian Cajuns inform me that there’s pretty much only one place that serves good ramen in the city.

There is, however, a narrow street right by the University of Edinburgh that is speckled with ethnic food joints. When I mentioned to Lar over at Asian Cajuns that I’d sampled — and adored — the Korean place Kim’s Mini Meals along that stretch, she immediately asked, “Did you go to the other Korean place a few doors away? It’s good.”

Another Korean place? I had to see for myself.

The very next day, I headed straight over to the charming Café Andamiro …

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Posted in Asian, Comfort Food, Japanese, Korean, Scotland, Soup, Stew, Tales From the Road, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments