Mum’s Pork & Chinese Yam Soup: Rejuvenating the Soul

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In 1993, Straits Times editor Felix Soh gave a teenage news intern a tip that an illegal puppy mill might be operating in Singapore and said, “Check it out.”

After some digging and a little undercover work, a story ran that drew swift justice — authorities instantly shut down the mill, which had been keeping dozens of dogs in the most deplorable conditions. And I’ve been hooked on journalism ever since.

Felix, the man who walked and talked faster than anyone I know and had an infectious child-like glee whenever he smelled a good story, was the best first editor, teacher, mentor and friend that anyone could have — he taught me how to write a news story, never to be afraid to ask the tough question and pushed me to always, always be both curious and skeptical. I would not be where I am today without him.

It was with great shock and sadness that I learned Felix had suddenly passed away last week. I had just arrived back in Singapore for a visit and had been thinking of checking in. Although it’s been over 20 years since I was his intern, Felix has always been something of a journalism father figure to me and I greatly treasured the catchup lunches he’d managed to squeeze into his busy schedule.

Felix and I shared many things in common — a big passion for newspapering, the same birthday and most of all, a love for good food. During our lunches, he was always trying to teach me something about food, whether it was taking me to a new terrific Hainanese chicken rice joint or savoring foie gras chawanmushi at the Shangri-La’s Nadaman, an upscale Japanese restaurant he knew I likely wouldn’t have tried as as a college student because I simply could not have afforded it.

While I can’t make either of those dishes, I did want to share a recipe for the memorial-themed Let’s Lunch that my online cooking club was doing this month. This Chinese soup is not a tribute to Felix in the sense that we never enjoyed this dish together. Rather, it’s what my mother whips up whenever she thinks I’ve had a trying time and need a little pick me up.

And so after returning from paying our last respects to my old boss, this ensued …

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Café Andamiro (Edinburgh): Stellar Korean

Yuk Gae Jang

As you’ve probably gathered from some mutterings on this blog, I’ve had rather low expectations of the Asian food scene in Edinburgh.

There is one Vietnamese restaurant in town. (Well, two if you count Saigon Saigon, which really is a Chinese restaurant that decided to go with a slightly more exotic name.) And my trusty Edinburgh food gurus over at Asian Cajuns inform me that there’s pretty much only one place that serves good ramen in the city.

There is, however, a narrow street right by the University of Edinburgh that is speckled with ethnic food joints. When I mentioned to Lar over at Asian Cajuns that I’d sampled — and adored — the Korean place Kim’s Mini Meals along that stretch, she immediately asked, “Did you go to the other Korean place a few doors away? It’s good.”

Another Korean place? I had to see for myself.

The very next day, I headed straight over to the charming Café Andamiro …

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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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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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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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