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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International Food Stall: A Nasi Lemak Breakfast


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It was at Nyonya, a Malaysian restaurant in New York City, that I recently found myself with the legendary and insatiable Gael Greene, trying to explain the wonder that is nasi lemak, a Malay dish of coconut rice topped with a fried egg, fried chicken, crispy anchovies, cucumber slices and fiery sambal chili sauce.

“We eat it for breakfast — or lunch,” I said, explaining that some Singapore hawkers will have packets of the rice tightly wrapped up in banana leaves set out in the morning, ready for the harried to buy and eat on the run.

“Breakfast?” she said, looking intrigued.

Granted, it’s hard to appreciate nasi lemak as one of the best ways to start the day when the New York version set before you is a mound of flavorless rice paired with a mushy mess of sodden chicken and anchovies that are limp and cold instead of crunchy and tongue-searingly hot.

But if you’ve had the real thing for breakfast while sitting in a humid hawker center in sweltering tropical heat, trust me, you’ll be a convert. Oatmeal and French Toast will be all but a distant, lesser memory.

In Singapore, one of my favorite places for the stuff is a little stall in Changi Village, a somewhat sleepy nook by the sea. It’d been many years since I’d been there — but I’d heard its lines remained as impossibly long. (Always a good sign.)

Clearly, it was time for a revisit …

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Pluck: Super Easy Sweets


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I’m getting tired of being asked a certain question: Where did you buy that dress?

Recently, I’ve been asked that a fair bit. And recently, my answer has tended to be the same: Pluck, a little boutique along Singapore’s tiny Haji Lane that sells both new and vintage dresses and accessories.

It’s an answer I hate to give because most of the people asking have been my American friends. And with Pluck, well, it isn’t exactly close enough for them to pop in for a quick browse. (As an immediate gratification kind of person, this kind of thing just will not do for me.)

I recently discovered a bit of good news, however — Pluck just started selling online and yes, it delivers overseas as well. So I’m writing about this here so that a) people can stop asking me where I buy my dresses and b) well … a) pretty much covered it.

How does this relate to food? Not as tangentially as you’d think.

Pluck also sells ice-cream and dessert. While I heartily recommend the pear riesling and lychee martini ice-creams, it’s been the little crunchy and sweet nibbly bits that co-owner Aisah sends out with tea and coffee that have piqued my interest.

When I bit into one recently, I immediately thought of the little cookies that mums would set out as snacks for visitors or after-school treats when I was a child. 

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