Sum Kee Food (Singapore): Simple Does It

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One of my Singapore cravings is a simple dish: Fried braised tofu with a big pile of minced pork on top.

You can find this in some hawker stalls — but you’ll likely find the better versions at zi char restaurants, which are casual Chinese eateries that serve inexpensive homespun dishes. (“Zi char” means “stir-fry” in Hokkien.)

As much as I adore this tofu dish, I hadn’t had a good version yet this trip back, so when my father mentioned liking a little zi char place his old schoolmates had taken him to recently, it was settled. Dinner at Sum Kee Food it was …

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Mr. and Mrs. Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata (Singapore): Gold-Standard Prata

Mr. and Mrs. Mohgan's Suoer Crispy Roti PrataRoti prata is one of those staples of Singapore eating — this fried Indian bread paired with curry is so beloved as a breakfast or late-night supper dish that Singaporeans often love expressing strong opinions on which they think is the best in the country.

Recently, I’d been hearing about a tiny Indian stall a little hike from the beaten path that various food experts have waxed lyrical about, some even declaring it’s one of the best. What apparently makes this version special, I’d heard, is how crispy it is.

Well, if you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ll know my massive love for all sorts of crispy foods. So as soon as I could persuade my mother, we hopped in her car and were on our way to Mr. and Mrs. Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata …

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Ah Lim Jln. Tua Kong Branch Mee Pok (Singapore): A Spicy Noodle War

IMG_9351A minor war of sorts has been taking place not far from my home in Singapore.

In a sleepy pocket deep in the East Coast, on each side of a tiny carpark, two eateries selling the exact same dish, with very similar names, have been facing off for years now. On one side, you have the large, often more crowded Jalan Tua Kong Lau Lim stall. Across the street, there’s a tiny stall in a cozy kopitiam (coffeeshop) called Ah Lim Jln. Tua Kong Branch.

Both specialize in mee pok tar (which means “dry wide noodles”), a TeochewChinese dish featuring tagliatelle-like egg noodles tossed in a spicy chili oil gravy and topped with items like fish cakes, fish balls and minced pork.

Of these two, the larger one is talked about more — the people who run it come from one of the old and beloved mee pok families in this country, after all. Having tried both however, the smaller stall is my favorite — the gravy has more zing and it’s just a better bowl. Why? Let me tell you …

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Sayur Lodeh (Malay Vegetable Stew): Firing Things Up

IMG_6337It’s been a harrowing weather week here in New York City — especially for those of us who were spawned in the tropics.

With temperatures in the teens and 20s (and windchill dipping well below zero occasionally), this Singaporean transplant has never been more miserable. But with each gash of wind battering my cheeks, the thing that’s kept me going is one thought: Something hot and soupy — preferably with a little spicy kick to it.

Soup noodles are always terrific, but stews — now that’s a meal that has some heft for these climes. What to make? A surprising choice, actually, for anyone who’s read “A Tiger in the Kitchen” or this blog and knows what a carnivore I am.

But if you’ve ever tasted sayur lodeh (pronounced sy-yer loh-day), a heady Malay vegetable curry that’s fiery with a tinge of sweetness, you’ll know why it came to mind when my intrepid Let’s Lunch crew decided to whip up some stews for our January virtual lunch date …

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Malay Ayam Masak Merah: Sugar and (Lots of) Spice

Ayam masak merahIn many ways, the holiday season in Singapore is not unlike that of many other cities.

Forests of tinseled trees and explosions of twinkling lights take over malls and shopping streets; there is an unceasing assault of cheeseball tunes wishing you a Holly jolly Christmas. And tables everywhere are packed with glistening hams, turkeys or perhaps, a big plump goose.

This being Singapore though, my family often likes to include a local favorite or two at a Christmas meal — which is how we sometimes find ourselves chasing a plate of hearty roast beef with something curried. So when my sweet Let’s Lunch friend Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club suggested sharing a non-traditional holiday dish for our monthly virtual lunch date, I started craving something spicy.

One of my favorites? Malay ayam masak merah, a dish of fried chicken doused in a complex tomato-based gravy that’s both fiery and sweet …

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