Malay Ayam Masak Merah: Sugar and (Lots of) Spice

Ayam masak merahIn many ways, the holiday season in Singapore is not unlike that of many other cities.

Forests of tinseled trees and explosions of twinkling lights take over malls and shopping streets; there is an unceasing assault of cheeseball tunes wishing you a Holly jolly Christmas. And tables everywhere are packed with glistening hams, turkeys or perhaps, a big plump goose.

This being Singapore though, my family often likes to include a local favorite or two at a Christmas meal — which is how we sometimes find ourselves chasing a plate of hearty roast beef with something curried. So when my sweet Let’s Lunch friend Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club suggested sharing a non-traditional holiday dish for our monthly virtual lunch date, I started craving something spicy.

One of my favorites? Malay ayam masak merah, a dish of fried chicken doused in a complex tomato-based gravy that’s both fiery and sweet …

Continue reading

Posted in Asian, Holidays, Let's Lunch, Malay, Poultry, Recipes, Singapore, Singaporean | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Kim’s Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee (Singapore): A God of Noodles

Kim's Hokkien MeeIf you happen to wander into the cozy hawker center perched on a sleepy bend in Singapore‘s Bedok neighborhood, an incongruous sight may catch your eye.

Amid the usual phalanx of hawkers in jeans or shorts sweating over hot stoves and churning out bowl after bowl of tasty cheap fare, you’ll see a stately man in a tailored black trousers, a white dress shirt, his hair neatly slicked and combed back. With a gold Rolex watch on one wrist and a towel casually draped over one shoulder, this man silently and deftly stir-fries woks of Hokkien mee, a delicious Singaporean Chinese dish featuring three different kinds of noodles stir-fried with shrimp, eggs and squid in a thick shellfish-inflected gravy.

When I first spied this on a recent trip home, I had to stop and stare for a moment. Who was this man? Why was he dressed like a banker to fry up noodles?

Most important — how was his Hokkien mee?

Well, there was only one way to find out …

Continue reading

Posted in Asian, Chinese, Hawkers, Hokkien, Holidays, Noodles, Seafood, Singapore, Singaporean, Southeast Asian | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Nomad (New York): One Last Feast For The Road

The NomadThe thing about starting the tradition of sending a visitor off from your city with a terrific last meal is that well — you’ve got to keep that going.

I’d quite royally spoiled my fashion editor friend Clifford Pugh when we feasted on delicious stuffed clams and vegetable crudites in a memorable green goddess dressing in New York City, right before he hopped on a plane back to Houston after the September fashion shows. So when Clifford came back to New York this month (for my birthday!), I knew I had to plan something good for his final lunch here.

The place had to be comfortable and chic, like Clifford, and the food — well, after our last meal at The Clam, I knew it had to be pretty darn great.

Which is how we found ourselves converging on a place that instantly came to mind: The Nomad, at the rather fashionable Nomad Hotel

Continue reading

Posted in American, Breakfast, Brunch, New York, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chinese Tea Eggs: Lucky Birthday Treats

Tea eggs One thing my mother always taught me about birthdays: You’ve gotta have eggs.

Sure, cake is nice and tasty. And candles — definitely the icing on, well, the icing.

But eggs? No two ways about it. That was the absolute must.

Every year on my birthday, she’ll either make me hard-boiled eggs or call to make sure I’ve had them. The eggs symbolize life and birth, after all. Paired with a bowl of noodles (for longevity) in a slightly sweet broth (for a sweet day and year ahead), this is just the super lucky trifecta I simply had to have every year.

So, when the super lovely Karen over at GeoFooding suggested doing a favorite birthday treat for November’s Let’s Lunch to toast my special day this year, I didn’t need to think twice. My mother’s voice was already in my ear — eggs it was … Continue reading

Posted in Asian, Breakfast, Chinese, Comfort Food, Let's Lunch, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

New Ubin Seafood (Singapore): Eating The Dream

New Ubin SeafoodFor months now, I’ve been tortured by Instagram.

Specifically, a seemingly endless stream of Instagram photos from a place called New Ubin Seafood in Singapore. In the middle of the night in Brooklyn, I’d find myself scrolling through photo after photo of gigantic crabs, split open and doused with gravy, wooden platters piled with glistening chunks of steak — and I would think, why have I never been to this restaurant?

Thankfully, I have good friends who wanted to fix this right away. So on a humid Saturday night, I found myself wending the desolate night streets of an industrial estate in Singapore’s Sin Ming neighborhood …

Continue reading

Posted in Asian, Chinese, Meat, Restaurants, Seafood, Singapore, Singaporean, Tales From the Road | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bedok Mian Fen Guo (Singapore): Perfect Peanut Pancakes

Bedok Mian Fen GuoMy mother rarely let us have sweets in the house when I was a child — something I have a great appreciation for now. (I realize I have her to thank for my lifelong aversion to soda and overly sugary pastries.)

There was one treat that she shared — rather, showered us with, however: Bee chian kueh.

Magically, this spongey Singaporean pancake — filled with crushed sweet peanuts — would appear in our kitchen, usually following a trip she’d made to the wet market for groceries. It’s typically eaten for breakfast, with strong coffee, or as a late morning snack. When done well, the pancake’s firm sponginess encased in a crispy crust, combined with the crunchy peanut filling, is just delicious. And if you bite into it while it’s still hot, it’s simply divine.

I hadn’t had this pancake in many years — it’s not something I’ve found in the Chinatown haunts of my adopted home, New York, and when I’ve visited Singapore, I’ve tended to focus on crossing off the meals I miss, not snacks I somewhat dimly remember.

In recent years, however, this pancake has started magically appearing in my Singapore kitchen again. One day, my mother took me to a nearby hawker center so I could see why …

Continue reading

Posted in Asian, Breakfast, Comfort Food, Hawkers, Singapore, Singaporean, Snacks, Southeast Asian, Sweets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eleven Finger (Eu Kee) Scissors Curry Rice (Singapore): A Cut Above

photo (30)A few years ago, after I mentioned my big love for Singapore‘s Hainanese curry rice to an old friend who knows her food, she immediately asked, “Have you been to that ‘Nine Fingers’ place?”

Now, if you’ve ever had curry rice, you’ll understand why that name might be disturbing. It basically comprises a bunch of different dishes of your choosing (breaded fried pork chops, crispy fried eggs, curried squid, braised tofu or chicken wings, etc.) snipped up into bite-sized pieces with a gigantic pair of scissors, dumped on a plate of rice and then doused with mellow Hainanese curry.

“Nine fingers?” I asked, wondering whose plate that lost digit might have ended up in.

“I forget how many fingers,” my friend Jill said. “But it’s good.”

Since then, I’ve been intrigued by this curry rice — finally, this week, I decided to make the journey. It turns out that it’s eleven fingers, not nine. Not that that makes the name any less bewildering …

Continue reading

Posted in Asian, Chinese, Comfort Food, Hainanese, Hawkers, Rice, Singapore, Singaporean, Southeast Asian | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sin Heng Claypot Bak Koot Teh (Singapore): Peppery Pork Rib Perfection

Sin Heng Claypot Bak Kut TehThere are very few people I trust whole-heartedly when it comes to making food decisions. Especially if I’m in a city for a limited time, I find few things worse than a bad or even mediocre meal — that’s just one valuable eating slot needlessly squandered.

In Singapore, I’m fortunate to have several food gurus — among them, I have absolute blind faith in my dear friend Willin, who has never steered me wrong. He’s a chef, after all — check out his newly revamped Wild Rocket if you haven’t — so he is particularly discerning.

When I recently mentioned to Willin that it’d been ages since I’d had bak kut teh (which means “pork bone tea”), a peppery pork rib soup that’s a favorite dish of the Teochew Chinese of Singapore (i.e. my people), he immediately had a suggestion.

“Go to Joo Chiat,” he said, referring to a small neighborhood on Singapore’s East Coast that has recently become a hotbed for eats (and Vietnamese prostitutes). “That place on Joo Chiat Road is one of the best.”

Since this was Willin, I didn’t need to think twice. As soon as we found ourselves hungry again, my mother and I headed over …

Continue reading

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

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

Continue reading

Posted in Asian, Chinese, Hawkers, 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 …

Continue reading

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