Oyster Omelette (Or Luak): The Food Of Love


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Food, love, passion. They’ve always been intertwined for me.

Sure, diamonds and Louboutins are perfectly nice and all that. But a man who knows how to feed you well? Now that’s truly priceless.

I’ve been thinking about why that is the case ever since my Twitter Let’s Lunch bunch, a global group of cooks who have a monthly virtual lunchdate, decided to put together aphrodisiac-laced dishes in honor of Valentine’s Day. In a story this week in the New York Times, food researchers say that the powers of aphrodisiacs have been rather exaggerated. Very few of the usual suspects — asparagus, chocolate — have proven to be able to boost the libido, apparently.

But how else to explain oyster-induced tinglies or the quickening heartbeat that truffles inevitably seem to cause?

Science be damned. I’d rather carry on believing in the potent sexual powers of food, thank you very much.

For my Let’s Lunch afternoon delight, oysters immediately came to mind. They’ve gotten me into trouble more times than I choose to remember. And, they’ve also long been regarded as aphrodisiacs perhaps they’re filled with zinc, which is a key nutrient for testosterone production.

Besides, there’s a Singaporean fried oyster omelette dish that never fails to get my heart racing at the mere thought of it. 

Just like it can be with love (or what comes after love), however, this dish proved to be a little tricky to pull off …

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786 Yassin Restaurant: "Drunk Food" To Remember


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The moment I heard about 786 Yassin Restaurant, a place in Singapore that reputedly serves outstanding Indian mutton soup, I instantly begged to be taken.

When done well, soup kambing, as it’s called, is a hefty flavor bomb that’s hard to forget. It comes infused with coriander, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg and star anise (among other spices) and dotted with crispy fried shallots and soft onion chunks.

This, no doubt, is the Chanel of soups.

When to have it, however, turned out to be something to consider.

“You can’t have soup kambing now lah,” said my friend Basil, who had told me about Yassin, prompting me to immediately suggest heading there for dinner. “It’s mabuk food.”

Ahh, drunk food — the dishes that are the perfect panacea when you’re leaving a bar at 2 a.m. and looking for something to quell your hunger and sober you up. In the case of soup kambing, this heady concoction of spices does an especially efficient job of clearing your head and helping you wade out of your Chivas fog.

I didn’t want to have to get drunk in order to try Yassin’s though. So after some persuading, we were on our way.  

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Indian Chicken Curry: A Grandmother's Recipe


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A few weeks ago, I found myself on the phone, frantically shuttling between calls to my aunt and my grandmother, trying to jolt their memories and nail down the ingredients we needed for my Singapore family’s take on chicken curry.

As the calls got more confusing and the ingredient list grew more nebulous, my friend Basil, a Singaporean of Indian ethnicity, sat nearby, listening in with an increasingly incredulous look.

“You’re sitting next to an Indian,” he finally said, “and you’re not asking him how he makes his curry?”

A very good point.

It turns out Basil, better known to his friends as the hard-to-miss, gregarious guy at any bar that he frequents, also knows how to cook. He learned 20 years ago in his grandmother’s kitchen, when he was drafted as a teenager to help her after she’d lost a leg to diabetes. “She would park her wheelchair at the entrance to the kitchen and bark out instructions to me,” he said.

Well, her lessons must have stuck because Basil then proved that he could rattle off her curry instructions as quickly and surely as he can list the latest Manchester United stats.

The moment I got back to my Brooklyn kitchen, I knew I had to try it.

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Chicken Adobo: Baguio Beckoning


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As we were hunched over the stove, embroiled in some recent kitchen experiment, my Singapore family’s maid Erlinda noted in passing that it’d been almost two years since she’d eaten her own home-made adobo.

Two years? This seemed like an interminably long time for a Filipina not to be enjoying her national dish, cooked by her own hand.

My mother doesn’t stock vinegar in the kitchen, she explained, which instantly makes brewing a pot of the vinegary pork or chicken stew impossible. And the soy sauce that we Chinese use happens to be just a little too sweet for real adobo, it turns out. 

Now, being a massive lover of the stuff, I immediately decided that Erlinda’s adobo drought needed to end. (This had nothing to do, of course, with the fact that my mouth often starts to water the moment I hear the word “adobo.”)

So, with some instructions from Erlinda on what she needed for her adobo, off we went.

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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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