Char Siu (Roast Pork) & Broccoli Stir-Fry: Lazy Chinese

A Singaporean auntie laughed when I once mentioned my late grandmother’s “gambling rice,” a one-dish meal she concocted that was easy to make — and for busy gamblers to eat — in the little gambling den she ran.

“Gambling rice?” my auntie said. “We called it ‘landuo fan!”

Lazy rice — a name that’s stuck with me ever since.

I’ve been all about lazy food in my kitchen recently — with a book deadline looming, food has become immaterial. (During a recent month of writing at The Studios of Key West in Florida, strong Cuban coffee was my main sustenance some days.)

So recently in Brooklyn, cooking has become all about looking in the fridge and throwing dishes together. Some of these winged-it meals, however, have turned out so much tastier than expected that I’ve started recording the haphazard madness that led to their being.

One of the favorites so far? Chinese roast pork with broccoli in an easy home-made char siu gravy. It’s so easy that dinner took a little over 10 minutes to make. Want the recipe? Just click on through …

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Kok Kee WanTon Noodle: Battling a Memory


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"It is impossible," my Singaporean chef friend Willin said to me one day, "to please everyone when you make wanton mee."

This Cantonese-style noodle dish, which is ubiquitous in Singapore, is usually served dry, with the broth in a small bowl on a side. The thin yellow noodles come swimming in a salty sauce that's usually some combination of soy sauce, a sweet and dark thick soy sauce, sesame oil and, perhaps, oyster sauce. Slivers of Chinese roast pork, vegetables and wantons (which is how wontons are spelled in Singapore) are scattered on top and a smear of chili sauce is scooped onto the side for added fire.

There is one fundamental problem with wanton mee, according to Willin. It's fairly easy for hawkers to make and there are so many variations on the dish out there — each hawker center in Singapore usually has at least one, if not two or three, stalls selling just wanton mee. The noodles could be more al dente at one place; the gravy could be thicker and saltier at another. The wantons could be soft, boiled versions or crispy and deep-fried.

"Everyone ends up loving the exact kind of wanton mee they grew up with," Willin says. "So unless you're making that exact kind, they're not going to love it."

It's an interesting perspective, but I still wasn't sold — until I trekked to a spacious hawker center in Singapore's Lavender neighborhood to sample the dish at Kok Kee Wanton Noodle, a little stall that had come highly recommended by some of the most discerning palates in Singapore…

 

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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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