Keema Chili: Texas, Meet India

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you may have noticed a monthly eruption of messages with the hashtag #LetsLunch.

It happens the first Friday of every month, when a motley group of bloggers from around the world get together to break bread over Twitter. This virtual monthly lunchdate began almost three years ago when three women in three cities who had never met found themselves wishing (on Twitter) at the very same moment that they had a BLT before them. Well, the Parisian, the New Yorker and the San Diego baker made a lunchdate for a BLT. This turned into a monthly affair, which grew larger than we anticipated. Now, we have bloggers in Australia, Paris, London, Canada and all over the United States gathering once a month to share a meal.

It’s been very sweet and genteel so far — we’ve sipped high tea together and shared age-old family holiday recipes. But that was all before someone brought up chili — that’s when the oven mitts came off and a smackdown began …

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Nam Seng Noodle House: Old School Wonton Mee


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It may sound shallow, but the name of a hawker in Singapore can sometimes be an easy way to tell how good its food is.

If the place is known by or bears the name of a locale that’s nowhere near its actual location, that’s often a sign that you should just drop everything, get in line and order something. Once a hawker stall has made its name somewhere, after all, its faithful will want to follow, wherever it ends up.

The much-beloved Hill Street Char Kway Teow, for example, is currently parked in Singapore’s Bedok area, nowhere near Hill Street. And one of the best places in my parents’ neighborhood for ta meepok, a dish of spicy tagliatelle-like noodles tossed with fishballs and pork, is named Jalan Tua Kong even though, frankly, I have absolutely no idea where Jalan Tua Kong is.

So when I started hearing about the “Old National Library” wonton mee shop — now situated near Singapore’s financial district, far from the former central library — I knew it was a must.

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Winging It: An Easy Chicken Stew


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My mother will be the first to tell you that she is not a cook. 

(Even though she is. Sort of.)

In my family’s Singapore home, however, it is our maid Erlinda who does the magic in the kitchen most days. Her dishes are typically simple, delicious and never fail to hit the spot.

Like many good home cooks, improvisation has been the mother of many of Erlinda’s inventions. One of my favorite dishes is a super-easy chicken-wing stew that she first tossed together while thinking of the adobos she grew up eating in her hometown of Baguio in the Phillippines.

The stew she makes here, however, is quite different because my mother typically doesn’t stock vinegar in her kitchen. Instead, dark, sweet soy sauce is the main ingredient — but the result can be just as satisfying.

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Burgers: A Marriage of Shrimp & Tofu


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I now appear to have a regular lunch date with a gregarious bunch of new friends.

We love to cook and we love talking about cooking — so this little thing about never having met hasn’t exactly stood in the way of our growing friendships.

It all began with a lazy Sunday morning conversation on Twitter when three women, one in Paris, one in San Diego, and one in New York, started craving BLT sandwiches. That blossomed into our first intercontinental BLT lunchdate, which nudged us to new levels of creativity.

Ellise in Paris made a beautiful BLT with chipotle mayonnaise and Poilane bread and Karen in Atlanta created a mouthwatering grilled fontina cheese BLT. Nicole in San Diego actually baked a truly unusual Basque sheepherder’s bread for her BLT. (You’ve got to check out Nicole’s sheepherder’s bread pictures — it was a yeasty architectural wonder if I ever saw one.)

Our virtual lunch left us (temporarily) sated — but hungry for more.

So, for our next lunch, we decided to tackle another standard: Burgers.

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A Tale of Six Meatballs


CIMG4598 It’s a little scary what can happen when a journalistic killer instinct is directed at something seemingly innocuous.

Like, meatballs. And the battle to be voted top meatball chef in a six-way competition.

There is the non-stop smack talk. There is the repeated invocation of maternal units. There is, even, the reflexive forming of menacing kung-fu gestures anytime the word “meatball” is mentioned.

And we haven’t even gotten to things that my fellow competitors did.

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