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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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 … [Read more…]

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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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… [Read more…]

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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