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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Selera Rasa (Singapore): A Classic Malay Breakfast

Selera Rasa

Breakfast in Singapore truly is something to behold.

For starters, it’s incredibly varied, with Indian, Chinese and Malay offerings ranging from rice and noodle dishes to piping hot roti prata and fried meaty treats. A classic must, however, is nasi lemak — a Malay dish comprising fragrant coconut rice with hearty ingredients such as fried chicken and crispy anchovies. It’s so popular and commonly eaten that some hawkers have it packed ahead of time into tightly folded banana leaves for a quick and tasty breakfast to go.

While I’m fortunate enough to live not too far from one of the great nasi lemak joints on the island — International Food Stall in Changi Village — I’d been hearing about another place for years, one that’s supposed to be the absolute best. Selera Rasa, in fact, is so well-regarded that the Sultan of Brunei supposedly pays a visit¬†when he’s in Singapore, ordering up dozens of packets for takeout.

“Look for the long queue,” Singaporean food personality KF Seetoh counseled, when I asked him about Selera Rasa a few years ago.

A long queue? Singaporeans, an impatient lot, don’t queue for anything unless it’s worth it. I knew right away that I had to get myself to Selera Rasa, to find said queue …

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Jelberts (Cornwall, England): The Best Ice-Cream

photo (26)The noodging began the moment I mentioned traveling to Cornwall for work.

“You must go to Jelberts.”

“It’s really the best ice-cream.”

“You have to go.”

All this coming from a man who has given very few foods the slightest compliment in the short time I’ve known him.

I’m not a big cold sweets person myself, but two things swayed me — Dorset Boy simply adores ice-cream. And, he spent chunks of his childhood in Cornwall, a fairly short walk from Jelberts, in fact.

So when I finally set foot in Cornwall, on this southernmost bit of England, I decided I had to see what the fuss was all about. Or, never hear the end of it …

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Wilma Jean (Brooklyn): Fried Chicken, Down-Home

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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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Nur Indah Kitchen (Singapore): Indonesian Fried Chicken Perfection

Nasi Ayam PenyetAnyone who knows me even for a nanosecond usually picks up fairly quickly on the fried chicken fanatic that I am.

Besides noodles (and perhaps¬†meatloaf), fried chicken is just about my favorite food. And the kind that I tend to crave is Asian fried chicken, specifically Malay or Indonesian, which usually is marinated in a melange of Southeast Asian spices — turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander and more — before getting deep-fried to crisp perfection.

While this may be fairly hard to find in my adoptive home of New York City, there’s a plethora of it in Singapore — especially, lucky for me, at the closest hawker center to my family’s home on the country’s idyllic east coast. At the cosy Bedok Corner Food Centre, there is not one but four excellent stalls, all side by side, serving nasi ayam penyet, an Indonesian dish of crispy spicy chicken that’s been smashed for greater tenderness right before serving.

So when I was sitting at home in Singapore today, daydreaming about the perfect lunch, the decision was easy …

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