Xing Ji Rou Cuo Mian (Singapore): The Taste of Home

photo 2My mother and I have a ritual each time I land in Singapore.

The moment I’ve cleared customs, we hug, rev up the car and head over to a little hawker center in nearby Bedok. At 1 in the morning — my usual landing time, coming from New York – the streets are quiet and dark. As we near Fengshan Food Centre, the beacons of fluorescent light from the rows of still bustling hawker stalls beckon.

The Teochew-style oyster omelettes (orh luak) here are terrific, as are the barbecue chicken wings. But on these nights, only one thing calls to me, a dish I’ve usually spent the entire plane ride back (and often weeks before that) thinking about: bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) at a little stall called Xing Ji Rou Cuo Mian

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

Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall (Singapore): New-School Hawker

Ah Sam Cold Drink StallI’m generally skeptical of “It” places. The more anyone tells me I simply must try this restaurant or that bar, the less inclined I am to make the journey.

Recently in Singapore, Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall has been the name on many lips. This speakeasy-style bar in touristy Boat Quay has been foisted on me in many a discussion when the topic of boîtes has arisen. So naturally, I’ve resisted.

That is, until I found myself in Boat Quay this week, thinking of where to go next for a drink and a bite. With Ah Sam just around the corner, I thought, why not …

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Posted in Asian, Boites, Cocktails, Comfort Food, Singapore, Snacks, Tales From the Road | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Xin Lu Teochew Fishball Noodles (Singapore): Sampling An Old Favorite

Fishball noodlesSunday afternoon at Meiling Market in Singapore and the hawker center is bustling. Amid the hubbub and the action-packed food stalls, there is an alluring energy: The place is simply brimming with possibilities for the brunch ahead of us.

There’s the shredded chicken noodle shop round the corner, or perhaps a spot of hearty duck rice. I’m sometimes at a loss when I come here — it’s not a market I know well (yet) and my first response is often bewilderment. I can’t decide because I simply want to eat everything.

Well, the sampling of every dish here could possibly be accomplished, but that’s got to start somewhere. Today, my father has a few wise words: Go to the fishball noodle stall with the long queue, he says. It’s very good.

And so, I do …

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Cafe Angsana (Singapore): Malay Comfort Food

Mee SotoGoing to the hospital is never a pleasant thing — but if you do have to do this in Singapore, there is a big silver lining: The food there? Just brilliant.

I’ve had to make a fair number of visits to Singapore General Hospital in recent years — trips I’ve dreaded for various reasons. In the midst of the usual muddle of long waits and shuffling from ward to ward, however, I’ve found something to look forward to — jaunts to the various cafeterias sprinkled among the buildings.

On a recent visit to the National Cancer Centre, I found a new gem: Cafe Angsana, a delicious little outdoor eatery …

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Chen Ji Wanton Noodles (Singapore): Getting In Line

Wanton MeeA truth about many Singaporeans: If they see a long line anywhere, they’ll get in it. The idea is that if there are that many people in a queue, there must be something good at the front of it.

As much as I think this is silly (and enjoy mocking it), this urge does strike me — but only when it comes to food lines. So when I spotted a long line snaking out from a Singapore hawker stall this morning, that was it. I stopped walking, turned around — and immediately joined the queue.

Peering around the bodies ahead of me, I figured out the breakfast that lay ahead of me: Wanton noodles, one of my favorite Singaporean dishes …

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The Clam (New York): Feasting in Fashion

Clam stuffiesThe early chilly days of fall always have me nostalgic for the summer feasts of very recent memory.

Which is how I found myself thinking about one of the most perfect lunches I’ve had this year — one that happened during New York fashion week, no less, a time that tends to be focused on fitting into clothes than eating any food.

On the last day of this season’s shows, my very dear friend Clifford Pugh, editor-in-chief of Houston’s CultureMap magazine, called, wanting to toast the end of the week after Ralph Lauren and said, Let’s eat.

Well, you don’t have to ask me twice, which is how we ended up having the loveliest lunch at a little place called The Clam …

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Singaporean Sardine Sandwiches: A Secret Food Love

Sardine Sandwich I recently found myself in a situation of looking at a small list of lunch sandwich choices and having a friend ask me what he should pick. The list featured the usual: Ham, cheese, tuna. And then: Sardine.

My very good-natured friend, the author Alek Popov (read his hilarious novel “Mission London” if you haven’t), listened to my advice — the sardine, of course. For Alek, this new sardine adventure turned out to be a lunch so horrid I wouldn’t hear the end of it at dinner that evening.

For those who didn’t grow up eating sardine sandwiches like I did, I suppose the experience could be a little jarring — it’s intensely fishy, mushy and well, those two sensory things may not be what many seek in a lunch. For me, however, sardines are heaven. I love eating them in sandwiches, in puff pastry buns, on their own. (Not that I broadcast this information — I’ve learned my lesson since my last public show of sardine love.)

So when my Let’s Lunch group decided on making a dish featuring a secret food love — an item you’re so ashamed of eating you don’t talk about it much — sardines came to mind. What to make with it? A Singaporean classic …

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Posted in Fish, Let's Lunch, Recipes, Singaporean, Snacks | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Polish Pickle Soup: Tart, Bright Warmth

IMG_6214I have a great fondness for pickles — in sandwiches, on their own, with charcuterie, you name it.

I have even, on occasion, found myself standing in front of the fridge having woken up hungry  at some ungodly hour of the night, snarfing down a fat dill pickle with slices of ham and cheese wrapped around it. (Yes, perhaps I have a problem.)

The topic had been on my mind recently, especially after a lovely chat I had with New York chef Wylie Dufresne on how to pickle just about everything.

The conversation made me think — what dishes would taste great with pickles in it? That’s when I thought about a tart Polish soup I came across a a while ago that had been on my mind.

So when Anne Marie over at Sandwich Surprise suggested pickles as the topic for our Let’s Lunch feast this month, it was a no-brainer. Polish pickle soup it was… Continue reading

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Jelberts (Cornwall, England): The Best Ice-Cream

photo (26)The noodging began the moment I mentioned traveling to Cornwall for work.

“You must go to Jelberts.”

“It’s really the best ice-cream.”

“You have to go.”

All this coming from a man who has given very few foods the slightest compliment in the short time I’ve known him.

I’m not a big cold sweets person myself, but two things swayed me — Dorset Boy simply adores ice-cream. And, he spent chunks of his childhood in Cornwall, a fairly short walk from Jelberts, in fact.

So when I finally set foot in Cornwall, on this southernmost bit of England, I decided I had to see what the fuss was all about. Or, never hear the end of it …

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Wilma Jean (Brooklyn): Fried Chicken, Down-Home

photo 1 (11)

It’s been a rough few weeks over here — between the stresses of packing up the lair for a move, wisdom teeth extractions and trying to squeeze in writing somewhere in there, I tell you, it’s all been enough to send a girl running out for fried chicken.

Which, it turned out, was not a bad idea.

Some chefs with rather tasty chops had just opened a new casual Southern restaurant near me in Brooklyn in July, after all. The specialty? Fried chicken …

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Posted in American, Brooklyn, New York, Poultry, Restaurants, So Good It Must Be Bad For You, Southern | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment