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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Spiced Oatmeal: Edible Morning Mush


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I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve had some pretty decadent meals recently.

(And you haven’t even heard about the roasted foie gras with a candied almond crust or the pasta tossed with truffle oil and topped with Oscietra caviar I recently devoured at Gunther’s in Singapore.)

My own kitchen, however, is where I can right some of these delectable wrongs.

And I’ve chosen to start with breakfast, a meal that I usually skip. Well, unless it involves eggs and super-crispy bacon. And perhaps a stack of pancakes. But I digress …

Now, having read about the virtues of oatmeal as a cholesterol and fat fighter, I decided to put aside my years-long aversion to the morning mush and take the plunge.

But how to make it palatable? That was the trick.

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