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

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

Posted in Let's Lunch, Recipes, Soup | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

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

Char Bee Hoon: The Real Singapore Noodles

Char Bee HoonChoosing a favorite summer memory from my girlhood in Singapore can be difficult — since the country is right by the equator, it’s summer all year round.

Yes, that means all my childhood memories are summer ones.

But when Karen over at GeoFooding asked me to choose a favorite childhood food memory to write about for this month’s Let’s Lunch virtual lunchdate (which happens to be on Julia Childs’ birthday — happy birthday, Julia!), one dish instantly came to mind.

In fact the thought of it was so intense I almost felt I could taste it right there and then — my mother’s char bee hoon …

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Posted in Asian, Chinese, Let's Lunch, Noodles, Recipes, Singaporean | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Seaweed-Bok Choy Noodle Soup With Peppery Pork Balls: A Kitchen Experiment

RamenA few years ago, I vowed to log all my random kitchen creations on this site.

Well, I’m a little embarrassed to say that other than a delicious Singapore-inspired turmeric-sambal chicken stir-fry I concocted one early spring night two years ago, this endeavor has rather fallen by the wayside.

And then this week, I whipped up a quick lunch that had me reaching for pen and paper at first bite — a garlicky seaweed and bok choy soup noodle studded with super peppery pork balls.

From the first taste, I knew this was a keeper …

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Posted in Asian, Chinese, Comfort Food, Korean, Noodles, Recipes, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mile End Delicatessen (Brooklyn, N.Y.): Poutine Paradise

PoutineAs you might imagine, I have a gigantic soft spot for fries, gravy, meat and cheese.

Separately, each of these rocks my world. Faced with them together? I get instantly weak-kneed.

Recently, I’ve had the extremely good fortune of living near Mile End Delicatessen, a little New York City mini chain that specializes in poutine, that scrumptious Canadian dish that combines fries with cheese curds and meat gravy.

And so, on a recent Sunday, I just happened to wander over …

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Perfect Summer Pesto: A Lazy Al Fresco Lunch

IMG_2913People may wax lyrical about spring and its blossoms and fall or its ripe beauty, but for me, summer is always ma saison préférée.

This may come as no surprise to anyone who knows I grew up on a little tropical island, but my favorite meals always go something like this: Outdoors, at a little table surrounded by dear friends, gorgeous water on the horizon, azure sky above, the promise of a fresh simple feast before us.

So when my trusty Let’s Lunch bunch decided to do al fresco dining for our monthly lunch date this month, I was all over it.

Now, I’m fortunate that New York City and its nearby beaches offer me these ingredients on a plate. And recently, I found myself in the Hamptons enjoying one such meal with one of my dearest friends, chef Simpson Wong.

What was to come? A little summer pesto …

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Posted in Beach, Hamptons, Italian, Let's Lunch, Pasta, Recipes, Tales From the Road | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Dark Sauce Pork Noodles: A Touch of “Singapore Noir”

Dark Sauce Pork Noodles

In the twenty years that I’ve lived in the U.S., whenever I mention I’m from Singapore, all too often I’ll hear one of the following words: Caning. Fines. Chewing gum.

It’s always frustrated me that Americans tend to think of my native country as this sterile, boring place with strict rules where no adventures happen. Anyone who’s ever been so Singapore, of course, knows that this isn’t true — we have a seamy, dark side just like any other country!

So I was especially thrilled to have the opportunity to put together “Singapore Noir,” an anthology of dark fiction set in this little city-state perched on an island near the equator.

The book, which launched in the U.S. this month, has run me ragged so far, taking me from New York to Washington, D.C., to far-flung Los Angeles and San Francisco. (Chicago, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Miami and New York are still up — swing by a book signing if you’re in one of those cities!)

So when the intrepid Let’s Lunch crew settled on a Noir-themed lunch this month to toast the book, a certain Singaporean comfort food immediately came to mind: Dark sauce pork noodles

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Posted in Asian, Chinese, Let's Lunch, Noodles, Recipes, Shameless Promotion, Singaporean | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments