Red Wine Beef Stew: Warming The Home

IMG_6416Home and the warmth and security of it have been on my mind recently. After 10 years in an apartment I love in New York City, I’m finally moving out — where to? It’s hard to say.

When I look back on the years and think about what I’ve adored about this little Brooklyn pad, there are far too many things to list. But I do know that what started to make it feel like a home when I first moved in was that moment after all the boxes were unpacked and the dishes put away, when I could finally pull out my pots and make a good meal for me and the Ex.

So when my Let’s Lunch group decided on the topic of “housewarming” for our virtual lunch date this month — in honor of HapaMama‘s new kitchen finally getting done — I started getting hungry for a comforting, hearty dish that would truly make me feel at home in any new place.

What to make? Well, how about a classic? And so, red wine beef stew it was …

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Gingery Chicken & Bok Choy Noodle Soup: A Winter’s Bowl

IMG_6393If I had to name one food I absolutely could not live without, it would have to be noodles.

I ate noodles almost daily as a child in Singapore, then craved it daily when I moved to the U.S. many years later. And once cold weather hits? Forget about any other dish — I make myself a hot bowl of noodle soup at least once a day, for dinner, lunch and yes, even breakfast.

In a recent Wall Street Journal interview I did with Kenshiro Uki of Sun Noodles, which has supplied noodles to some of the country’s best noodle joints (Momofuku included), he said that a bowl of noodle soup is, in a way, the perfect, all-encompassing meal. Calling it “the ultimate bistro dish,” Uki explains, “in a bistro, you start out with a soup or salad, then you have starches, protein and vegetables—a bowl of ramen is all of that together in a bowl.”

In my Brooklyn kitchen, unless I have just five minutes for a meal, I insist on making my noodle soups from scratch — once you have certain ingredients on hand (garlic, ginger, scallions, good organic broth and perhaps seaweed, dashi or quality miso), this is a fairly easy and quick process. And it’s one you can endlessly experiment with — add some Japanese seven-spice powder one day perhaps, or toss in some kim chi the next.

So when my international Let’s Lunch club decided on sharing a noodle dish for this month, the topic wasn’t hard. I just had to choose which one of my daily experiments to share…

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Posted in Asian, Chinese, Comfort Food, Let's Lunch, Noodles, Soup | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Thanh Da (New York): A Noodle Soup To Remember

Bun RieuThe Ex and I have been on a bit of a quest recently. After a Thrillist list of “10 Best Pho Spots in NYC” by the lovely Patty Lee caught my eye a few months ago, we decided hey, why not check them all out?

My immense love for pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) is well-documented on this blog — not just places in New York, but also Edinburgh, Berlin and even Wichita, Kansas.

In New York, however, I’ve found myself going to the same place over and over recently — the always reliable Xe Lua in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a little place that Chef Simpson (of Cafe Asean) introduced to me and one that I absolutely love. (The pho broth there is intensely aromatic and meaty — very satisfying.) So when this list presented itself, we said, let’s try them all!

With a big blizzard about to hit our fair city, a bowl of hot Vietnamese soup seemed just about right. So off we went, on the trail of Thanh Da, in the sprawling Chinatown in Sunset Park, New York

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Sayur Lodeh (Malay Vegetable Stew): Firing Things Up

IMG_6337It’s been a harrowing weather week here in New York City — especially for those of us who were spawned in the tropics.

With temperatures in the teens and 20s (and windchill dipping well below zero occasionally), this Singaporean transplant has never been more miserable. But with each gash of wind battering my cheeks, the thing that’s kept me going is one thought: Something hot and soupy — preferably with a little spicy kick to it.

Soup noodles are always terrific, but stews — now that’s a meal that has some heft for these climes. What to make? A surprising choice, actually, for anyone who’s read “A Tiger in the Kitchen“ or this blog and knows what a carnivore I am.

But if you’ve ever tasted sayur lodeh (pronounced sy-yer loh-day), a heady Malay vegetable curry that’s fiery with a tinge of sweetness, you’ll know why it came to mind when my intrepid Let’s Lunch crew decided to whip up some stews for our January virtual lunch date …

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Posted in Asian, Comfort Food, Let's Lunch, Malay, Malaysian, Singaporean, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Ramen Lab (New York): Umami in a Bowl

Ramen Lab

When it’s 20 degrees out (with a windchill of far lower), just about nothing will get me off the couch and out of the house.

Nothing, that is, besides the possibility of excellent ramen.

I’d been reading and hearing about Ramen Lab for months, a little Tokyo-style noodle joint that Sun Noodle, which has been supplying noodles to some of the country’s best ramen joints (Momofuku, Ippudo, etc.), was opening in New York. Two days ago, after much anticipation, Ramen Lab finally threw open its sliver of a door in NoLita.

Would it live up to the hype? I had to find out …

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Posted in Asian, Comfort Food, Japanese, New York, Noodles, Restaurants, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 …

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Posted in Asian, Holidays, Let's Lunch, Malay, Poultry, Recipes, Singapore, Singaporean | Tagged , , , | 8 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 …

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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

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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

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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 …

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