Lotus of Siam: The Best Thai Restaurant in America?


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When a nationally respected critic declares in only the most revered food magazine in American history that a restaurant is the "single best Thai restaurant in the country," it's hard not to sit up and pay attention.

Now, ten years after the Pulitzer Prize-winning Jonathan Gold penned those words about Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas in Gourmet magazine, the restaurant has opened a branch in New York

The excitement and the buzz has been palpable since its early November opening, naturally. So the first chance we got, the lovely and insatiable Gael Greene and I were making plans to meet there for dinner.

Would it live up to the hype? We were eager to find out…

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Birthday Noodles: To Sweetness & Longevity


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One birthday is good, but two is always better.

Growing up in a Singapore, a country that follows the lunar as well as the Western calendar, celebrating two birthdays each year was always a given. Cake, flowers and presents are lovely for Western birthdays. But for lunar calendar birthdays — or Chinese birthdays, as my family calls them — things are several notches simpler. The star of this show is always a bowl of noodles, symbolic of longevity, a pair of hardboiled eggs, representing fertility or life. And all of this comes in a sugary soup — "so the whole year will be sweet," as my mother says.  

For too many years in America, my Chinese birthday — which I'm fortunate to be able to remember easily because it falls on Diwali each year — passed with little fanfare. Sure, my parents would call New York to wish me well. But the noodles, the eggs and the sweet broth — that always seemed like just a little too much trouble.

This year, however, as Diwali began today, I found myself temporarily stranded in Singapore due to unforeseen circumstances. So for lunch, my mother had a little treat planned: birthday noodles. "You must eat this," she said. "For luck."

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Nantucket: The Art of Winging It


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I’ve always envied people who can look in a fridge, grab a bunch of things and whip together an impressive meal.

The times that I’ve done that, I’ve managed to oh, muster up a ham scramble.

As someone who entered the kitchen fairly late in life, my insecurities always get the better of me. So when it comes to cooking, I’m much more of a planner — I like to think things through a fair bit first if I’ve never made a dish before. I’ll look up dozens of recipes before settling on what to make. And I’ll read a recipe several times over to plan any changes or additions before setting foot in the kitchen.

But, watching the ease and freedom of chefs who cook purely by instinct — that confidence always gets me. I can’t help but feel like the child on a tricycle, watching far braver kids whizzing past on ten-speed bikes.

How to bridge that gulf?

In the kitchen of a little beach cottage on Nantucket, I started taking baby steps.

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The Breakfast Dinner


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In every relationship, there inevitably is that one early thing that you disagree on.

Ours was pancakes.

Mike, he’ll eat them any and every day of the week for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Me, I love me my sweets but even at brunch, give me noodles or a hunk of red meat and eggs over pretty pancakes anytime. 

You learn to compromise, of course. And so over the last eight years, Marion Cunningham and I have become well-acquainted.

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Saveur's Prize-Winning Take on Breakfast


I was at a New York dinner party a few years ago when someone noted that he thought Singaporeans were "weird" because of their breakfast choices. "They eat noodles for breakfast," he said. "That's WEIRD."

CIMG3288 I refrained from saying anything about how, when I first came to the U.S., I had thought that big hunks of steak breaded, deep-fried and served with a massive glop of fatty gravy and eggs were a rather odd choice to start one's day myself.

But hey, I'm a polite person who keeps an open mind. (And besides, having tried it, I'll now happily order chicken fried steak and eggs whenever I see it on a brunch menu.)

And so it was that I was thrilled to see Saveur's "A World of Breakfast" October issue on how different countries and cultures kick off the day. With features devoted to breakfasts filled with "the spicy tang of fresh chile sauce in Indonesia, the briny bite of
plump olives in Turkey, the sweetness of just-picked peaches on a
California farm," the issue aimed to show that "the diversity of breakfast foods prepared around the
world is proof of one thing: that the first bite of the day is also the
best."

Having long been partial to curries and noodles for breakfast myself, I suddenly felt vindicated. And I was elated to hear today that Saveur won a National Magazine Award for "Single-topic issue" for its Breakfast edition.

I've so far managed to stop myself from mailing my copy of the issue to the noodles-for-breakfast-hating friend with the note, "How do you like them apples?"

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