St. Giles’ Cafe (Oxford, England): A Literary Lunch

St. Giles' CafeSomewhere along my very first English roadtrip, as my finger trails our route on the map, a massive excitement starts to set in. I’ve realized two things:

1. We have to stop somewhere for lunch.

2. At about the place on the map where we have to stop, I find my finger hovering over a small dot that says “Oxford.”

There are many reasons I’ve long been fascinated with Oxford, though the increasingly sad truth was that I’ve never visited the place. As for the question of where to lunch, once I learned that W.H. Auden used to frequent a little greasyspoon called the St. Giles’ Cafe — well, that was that …

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Feng Kee Hainanese Curry Rice (Singapore): A-List Rice

Feng Kee Hainanese Curry RiceOne of the great joys of Singaporean cuisine for me is Hainanese curry rice.

I had my first taste of this as a teenager, at a small stall in Singapore where you pointed at troughs of items in a glass case then watched as the hawker quickly used a big pair of scissors to snip everything you’d picked into bite-sized pieces, piled it onto rice and then sloshed a ladle of curried gravy over everything, turning it into a brownish yellow mound. The final product may look like swill, but each mouthful of this heady combination of flavors and textures is divine.

So when Singaporean writer Colin Goh, a friend whose tastes and appetite I respect, mentioned having a go-to curry rice place in Singapore, I knew I had to check it out. “It opens at 4 am, and you eat with the port workers,” he said. “Make sure you drench your rice with ALL 3 GRAVIES.”

Well, he certainly didn’t need to tell me twice …

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Mr. and Mrs. Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata (Singapore): Gold-Standard Prata

Mr. and Mrs. Mohgan's Suoer Crispy Roti PrataRoti prata is one of those staples of Singapore eating — this fried Indian bread paired with curry is so beloved as a breakfast or late-night supper dish that Singaporeans often love expressing strong opinions on which they think is the best in the country.

Recently, I’d been hearing about a tiny Indian stall a little hike from the beaten path that various food experts have waxed lyrical about, some even declaring it’s one of the best. What apparently makes this version special, I’d heard, is how crispy it is.

Well, if you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ll know my massive love for all sorts of crispy foods. So as soon as I could persuade my mother, we hopped in her car and were on our way to Mr. and Mrs. Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata …

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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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Rolina Curry Puffs (Singapore): A Bite of History

There’s been some chatter on Twitter about curry puffs recently — talk, even, of taking a stab at home-made versions of these deep-fried pastries filled with curried potatoes and hard-boiled egg.

Making these puffs — which are divine, especially if eaten piping hot and freshly fried — has never once crossed my mind. This is due in large part to the fact that they’re ubiquitous in Singapore, where I grew up. At 50 cents Singapore (roughly U.S.$0.40) — about what they cost when I was growing up in the 1980s — these puffs were so inexpensive and easy to buy that not many people thought of creating their own. (I salute @WokStar‘s attempt for our Let’s Lunch date next month.)

Among all the hawker stalls that sell curry puffs in Singapore, however, a few stand out. During a visit to Singapore earlier this year, I had the great fortune of stumbling upon one of them while cruising a hawker center, searching for lunch …

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