Mum’s Pork & Chinese Yam Soup: Rejuvenating the Soul

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In 1993, Straits Times editor Felix Soh gave a teenage news intern a tip that an illegal puppy mill might be operating in Singapore and said, “Check it out.”

After some digging and a little undercover work, a story ran that drew swift justice — authorities instantly shut down the mill, which had been keeping dozens of dogs in the most deplorable conditions. And I’ve been hooked on journalism ever since.

Felix, the man who walked and talked faster than anyone I know and had an infectious child-like glee whenever he smelled a good story, was the best first editor, teacher, mentor and friend that anyone could have — he taught me how to write a news story, never to be afraid to ask the tough question and pushed me to always, always be both curious and skeptical. I would not be where I am today without him.

It was with great shock and sadness that I learned Felix had suddenly passed away last week. I had just arrived back in Singapore for a visit and had been thinking of checking in. Although it’s been over 20 years since I was his intern, Felix has always been something of a journalism father figure to me and I greatly treasured the catchup lunches he’d managed to squeeze into his busy schedule.

Felix and I shared many things in common — a big passion for newspapering, the same birthday and most of all, a love for good food. During our lunches, he was always trying to teach me something about food, whether it was taking me to a new terrific Hainanese chicken rice joint or savoring foie gras chawanmushi at the Shangri-La’s Nadaman, an upscale Japanese restaurant he knew I likely wouldn’t have tried as as a college student because I simply could not have afforded it.

While I can’t make either of those dishes, I did want to share a recipe for the memorial-themed Let’s Lunch that my online cooking club was doing this month. This Chinese soup is not a tribute to Felix in the sense that we never enjoyed this dish together. Rather, it’s what my mother whips up whenever she thinks I’ve had a trying time and need a little pick me up.

And so after returning from paying our last respects to my old boss, this ensued …

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Sinaran Cahaya Bedok Corner (Singapore): So-So Mee Soto

Mee sotoIn Singapore, I have the great fortune of living right by a popular mosque.

What this means is, the closest hawker center to me — a rather small one named Bedok Corner Food Centre — is a veritable smorgasmord of incredible Malay food. From dawn to past dinner time, there are stalls there selling hearty Malay noodle soup breakfasts, turmeric fried chicken lunches, satay and more. While lunch and dinner are always delicious, my favorite meal there is breakfast.

I love walking in when the place is still a little sleepy — you can smell the chicken that’s just been fried; some hawkers have commandeered whole tables and are hunched over benches peeling potatoes and chopping onions.

My favorite Malay breakfast, mee soto, is offered at not one but five stalls. After hopping around and sampling versions from two or three over the years, I finally decided to analytically work my way through the lot and decide once and for all which one I liked best.

And so it began bright and early this morning. First stop: Sinaran Cahaya Bedok Corner …

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Kim’s Mini Meals (Edinburgh): A Little Korean Gem

Soondubu JjigaeI’ve not been in Scotland long when I have to confess: “I’m craving something Asian, spicy.”

Now, Edinburgh is a sizable city, and a fairly cosmopolitan one at that. What it isn’t however, is terribly varied in its Asian cuisine offerings. Yes, there are Indian restaurants and cheap Chinese takeouts galore. But when it comes to cuisines or dishes that go beyond the basic 101 of Asian foods, there’s not a whole lot.

So it’s not entirely unexpected that Dorset Boy retorts: “Asian food? Where do you think you are?”

I know there must be something good here though — I just have to believe it. In fact, in our many car rides through the city, I’d spied a handful of promising places. A little blue storefront in particular always caught my eye because whenever we drove past, there was often a long line of people waiting outside.

The sign up top? Kim’s Mini Meals …

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Thanh Da (New York): A Noodle Soup To Remember

Bun RieuThe Ex and I have been on a bit of a quest recently. After a Thrillist list of “10 Best Pho Spots in NYC” by the lovely Patty Lee caught my eye a few months ago, we decided hey, why not check them all out?

My immense love for pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) is well-documented on this blog — not just places in New York, but also Edinburgh, Berlin and even Wichita, Kansas.

In New York, however, I’ve found myself going to the same place over and over recently — the always reliable Xe Lua in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a little place that Chef Simpson (of Cafe Asean) introduced to me and one that I absolutely love. (The pho broth there is intensely aromatic and meaty — very satisfying.) So when this list presented itself, we said, let’s try them all!

With a big blizzard about to hit our fair city, a bowl of hot Vietnamese soup seemed just about right. So off we went, on the trail of Thanh Da, in the sprawling Chinatown in Sunset Park, New York

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Ramen Lab (New York): Umami in a Bowl

Ramen Lab

When it’s 20 degrees out (with a windchill of far lower), just about nothing will get me off the couch and out of the house.

Nothing, that is, besides the possibility of excellent ramen.

I’d been reading and hearing about Ramen Lab for months, a little Tokyo-style noodle joint that Sun Noodle, which has been supplying noodles to some of the country’s best ramen joints (Momofuku, Ippudo, etc.), was opening in New York. Two days ago, after much anticipation, Ramen Lab finally threw open its sliver of a door in NoLita.

Would it live up to the hype? I had to find out …

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