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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Sayur Lodeh (Malay Vegetable Stew): Firing Things Up

IMG_6337It’s been a harrowing weather week here in New York City — especially for those of us who were spawned in the tropics.

With temperatures in the teens and 20s (and windchill dipping well below zero occasionally), this Singaporean transplant has never been more miserable. But with each gash of wind battering my cheeks, the thing that’s kept me going is one thought: Something hot and soupy — preferably with a little spicy kick to it.

Soup noodles are always terrific, but stews — now that’s a meal that has some heft for these climes. What to make? A surprising choice, actually, for anyone who’s read “A Tiger in the Kitchen” or this blog and knows what a carnivore I am.

But if you’ve ever tasted sayur lodeh (pronounced sy-yer loh-day), a heady Malay vegetable curry that’s fiery with a tinge of sweetness, you’ll know why it came to mind when my intrepid Let’s Lunch crew decided to whip up some stews for our January virtual lunch date …

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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…]

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…]

German Pancakes: Comforting Kummerspeck, or "Grief Bacon"

A few months ago, I came across a term that intrigued me: Kummerspeck.

The German word means “grief bacon” (and we all know how much I love bacon). Despite its bacon reference though, the word has a rather negative connotation — it refers to weight put on due to emotional overeating.

Nonetheless, the word fascinated me — and the Let’s Lunch crew, as it turned out. So off we went, dreaming up ideas for the perfect kummerspeck …

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