Monthly Archives: July 2013

Lion City

We depart Singapore this afternoon and I’m uploading my remaining photos. This city/state is truly impressive, in every sense of the word. We were here about five years ago and we’ve been stunned at how many sparkly new skyscrapers have been erected since our last visit.

Singapore is the fourth leading financial center in the world, and has the fifth busiest port in the world. From our hotel room we can see dozens of freighter ships lined up in the harbor waiting to be liberated of their haul. Singapore’s name derives from the Malay Palembang word Singapura, which translates to Lion City. English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil are the four main languages spoken in Singapore and their population is diverse. All signs in Singapore are in English first, which makes navigating the city/state super easy. It also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and you feel safe walking the streets no matter what time of the day. The people of Singapore are uber friendly and take a genuine interest in getting to know about you and where you come from. Many questions are asked of you while you ride in the back of their taxis. It’s very sweet.

Singapore gained its independence from the UK in August of 1963 and they have prospered beyond everyone’s wildest imagination. They will be celebrating their nation’s 48th birthday (independence) on August 31st and we’ve been witnessing (daily!!!) their rehearsals for the upcoming festivities. The stadium where the big event will occur is directly across from out hotel. Last evening we had dinner at Ku De Ta (www.kudeta.com.sg) in the Marina Bay Sands Tower 3 on the 57th floor and we watched the “rehearsal” fireworks during our meal. It’s clear that no expense will be spared to ensure a flawless ceremony!

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We have enjoyed some AMAZING meals! The last time we were here we couldn’t get into Iggy’s so we were  psyched that we were able to get reservations. We went with friends and ordered off on of their three tasting menus. It was both imaginative and yummy. Here are a few photos of the dishes we were served-

Nicoise: tuna, butter bean, quail egg, and anchovy.

“Nicoise:” tuna, butter bean, quail egg, and anchovy.

"Chlorophyll:" Sea and soil.

“Chlorophyll:” Sea and soil.

The small caper-looking balls are called sea grapes. This pretty seaweed is made up of tiny balls. It grows on rocks and coral rubble in small clumps.Very intriguing!

The small caper-looking balls are called sea grapes. This pretty seaweed is made up of tiny balls and it grows on rocks and coral rubble in small clumps.Very intriguing!

"Fava:" fava and truffle risotto

“Fava:” fava and truffle risotto

"Salmon:" salmon, lily bulb, rhubard, and clam stock.

“Salmon:” salmon, lily bulb, rhubard, and clam stock.

"Peanut:" peanut, orange, and celery. The white crumbs are the peanut flavored chunks that have been frozen with nitrogen.

“Peanut:” peanut, orange, and celery. The white crumbs are chunks of whipped cream that have been frozen with liquid nitrogen.

It was an amazing experience.

If you’re ever in Singapore, you should take a ride on the cable cars, visit the aquarium, go to the botanical gardens, visit Chinatown, and hit one of their very cool Hawker Centers. Hawker Centers contain a melting pot of different cuisines: Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, etc., etc. We happened to visit Lau Pa Sat: http://www.laupasat.biz/home.html. Frankly, Roger and I wandered around for about an hour before we could finally decide where to get some food. We were short on time so we went in the late morning before the crowds arrived. There were MANY exotic dishes being offered!

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IMG_1981IMG_1980IMG_1962IMG_1965I’m going to wrap this post up with our unbelievable experience driving to the airport (I’m in the airport typing this now) today. So, we (Roger and me) were the lucky recipients of another smiling, friendly, and elderly taxi driver. Our luggage was packed into the car and we climbed in the back taking a last look around as we were drove away from our hotel. About 10 minutes into the drive we were on the freeway heading to Changi airport. I knew something was wrong when I noticed our car driving slower and slower and beginning to swerve into the other lane. I looked forward at our driver, who had been asking us a million questions two minutes prior, and I noticed that he had his Samsung smartphone out and he was typing on it….while trying to read from a piece of paper! Needless to say, we began to get very concerned. I leaned forward and asked what he was doing; he informed me that he was setting up a FB ACCOUNT! NO JOKE! On the FREEWAY! We have had some crazy taxi experiences in our lives (India and Hanoi stand out the most), but this one took the cake. He saw me leaning forward with a look of concern so he passed me the phone and instructed me (in heavily accented English) to fill in the blanks for his new FB account. We made up a password for him and began to fill in the other empty spaces when I just handed the phone to Roger. Roger showed much more patience than I and had entered all of his necessary information when we realized that he supplied us with his home phone number rather than his mobile phone number, therefore, there was no way to reply to the text FB would send confirming his new account. I kid you not. You can’t make this s**t up.

WTF?

WTF?

Bye bye crazy cabbie!

Bye bye crazy cabbie!

So, the cabbie drops us off and we walk into the terminal to check into our flight. Imagine our surprise (NOT) when we discover our cab driver took us to the WRONG terminal. Unbelievable. Anyway, all’s well that ends well. We’re about to walk down to our gate and climb on board our plane. What an experience. We would like to give our cab driver, Mr. Chin, a shout out for the laughs and the interesting experience.

Eat well!

April

Durian McFlurry and Coconut Custard with Bird’s Nest

170px-Singapore_MRT_FinesYesterday was a day full of interesting foodstuffs. After breakfast we decided to head over to Singapore’s aquarium (claims to be the largest in the world) in Sentosa where there are lots of familiar western shops and a Universal Studio. As we were walking through the shops heading towards the aquarium, we happened by – sadly – a McDonalds; however, I was amazed to see that they were advertising a durian McFlurry and curry fries!

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If you’ve ever been to Southeast Asia, chances are you’ve seen, tasted, or caught a whiff of durian. Durian is a very large spiked fruit that carries a repulsive bouquet reminiscent of raw sewage. Its smell is so repulsive that it’s banned from certain hotels and most public transportation. I tried durian many years ago in Thailand and it had a custardy flavor, but because I was pinching my nostrils closed while eating my portion, I don’t believe I got the “full” experience. Of course, I HAD to try both the fries and the McFlurry. As you can imagine, you either love it or hate it.

Durian in all its reeking glory!

Durian in all its reeking glory!

To my surprise, both the McFlurry and the fries were delicious! Happily, the rank bouquet of raw durian was completely missing from the McFlurry and it tasted of almonds and mangoes and the curry fries tasted just like BBQ chips.

McFlurry

McFlurry

The fries come with a packet filled with the curry seasoning enabling you to add as much or as little as you'd like.

The fries come with a packet of the curry seasoning, which give you the control to add as much or as little as you’d like.

We’re here in Singapore to visit with family (they’ve been living here for about a year) and to attend a large conference. Generally there are group dinners attached to these large conferences as a thank you to the speakers and those participating. Occasionally they’re hosted by locals who look forward to sharing their culture and local cuisine. Last evening was no exception. We were entertained by a most gracious host who has lived in Singapore his entire life and he coordinated a dinner at a very interesting venue called Xi Yan. Our chef, Jacky Yu, is something of a celebrity here in Singapore. He prepared an 8 course meal with a sake pairing. I took some photos of the more intriguing dishes.

Greenhouse tomatoes in wasabi sesame sauce.

Greenhouse tomatoes in wasabi sesame sauce.

Pagoda dongpo pork belly with preserved veg stuffing and mushrooms. If you look at the bottom of the meat pyramid, you will see that the entire pyramid is one long strip of meat that they unwind for serving.

Pagoda dongpo pork belly with preserved veg stuffing and mushrooms. If you look at the bottom of the meat pyramid, you will see that the entire pyramid is one long strip of meat that they unwind for serving.

Stir fried lobster with salted yolk in Teochew satay sauce.

Stir fried lobster with salted yolk in Teochew satay sauce.

Steamed whole coconut custard with bird's nest.

Steamed whole coconut custard with bird’s nest.

Okay, let’s talk about the coconut custard with bird’s nest. Personally, I found it visually  repulsive and it did not have a pleasant odor. My husband likened the smell to wet linen. I really really really tried to choke down at least a couple of spoonfuls, but I could only manage one. As you can see from the photo, it had a slimy consistency that just didn’t agree with my sensibilities. The locals at our table were thrilled with this exotic dish and they were gobbling it all up! The dessert has bird’s nest in its title for a reason…it’s made with a swallow’s nest. The swallow’s nests are harvested from caves and dissolved in liquid creating the gelatinous quality you notice in the photo above. It was an intriguing dish but definitely not my cup of tea. That being said, I truly appreciated the experience and the chance to try such an unconventional dish.

Having dinner at Iggy’s tonight and I’m very excited! Stay tuned.

Eat well,

April

Breakneck Black Bean Soup

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The day before we left for Singapore (from where I type this post), I needed to create a quick/nutritious meal for five people with what was in the fridge and pantry. We had some leftovers from our 4th of July bash, but I wanted to save those for the two teenagers who would not be joining us on our travels. That’s right, you read that correctly, we have left two of our teenagers at home….alone. Mind you, the youngest will be 18 in a few weeks (her twin is visiting with family back East) and the oldest is 19 and a sophomore in college. Both have always made good choices and we shall see how truly self-sufficient they have become. I also have peace of mind knowing that my good friend is only 10 minutes away and will be checking in on them. Anne Frank once said, “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” We shall see!

I digress! Now back to the soup. Who wouldn’t love a nutritious meal that costs under $15 and is ready in under 20 minutes? Nobody. Add a salad, and or, a loaf of crusty bread, and you’ve got yourself a meal fit for a king. You will need the following:

  • 1 roasted red bell pepper (any pepper will do, but I happened to have a lonely red pepper rolling around the crisper drawer)
  • 2- 10 oz. cans of black beans-drained and rinsed
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chile pepper powder

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  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1- 4 to 6 quart saucepan
  • 1 tbsp. EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Fage Greek yogurt and chopped basil or cilantro for garnishing.

Serves 4

IMG_1821First thing you need to do is roast your red pepper, which is super easy if you have a gas range. If you don’t, you could substitute a fresh roasted pepper with roasted peppers in a jar (Trader Joe’s has a nice product you could use).

I place the pepper right on over the flame and flip it over so that each side becomes charred. Once it's charred, place it in a plastic bag and seal it. The pepper will sweat and make the skin easy to peel off.

I place the pepper right over the flame and flip it over so that each side becomes completely charred. Once it’s charred, place it in a plastic bag and seal it. The pepper will sweat and make the skin easier to peel off.

You can use a papertowel to peel off the charred outer skin.

You can use a paper towel to peel off the charred outer skin.

Remove the seeds from the pepper and roughly chop.

Remove the seeds from the pepper and roughly chop.

Rinse beans under cold water.

Rinse beans under cold water.

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of the saucepan and add the roasted red pepper, salt,  and the chipotle powder. Warm both until the chipotle chile powder begins to bloom (the  smell will intensify). Blooming seasonings is important for developing a more complex flavor profile. If you add seasoning to liquids without this important step, the flavors of your seasonings will not develop properly and become muddled. Indian cooking relies heavily on this technique.

Now add all of your other ingredients and bring to a slow simmer for about 15 minutes.

IMG_1825To complete the soup, I used an immersion blender but you could use your blender, too. The end result will not be silky smooth, but rather it should have a bit of a chunky texture, so don’t over blend…..unless that’s the way you prefer your soup. Check your seasoning (salt and pepper) and adjust to taste. I garnished our soup with a quenelle of 2% Fage yogurt and bit of basil. You can also use cilantro or whatever floats your boat!

IMG_1829As I mentioned earlier, we’re in Singapore. We will be heading over to one of the  many Hawker Centers in the next few days. I’ll take lots of pics of the street food and share them all with you. It rained a TON yesterday, which put a serious damper on our sight-seeing. We were here several years ago but it was merely a stopover and we had only a day to cruise the streets. This trip will allow us plenty of time to seriously check out the amazing food scene…so many fabulous food cultures melting together! Oh, and we’re having dinner at the famous Iggy’s on Thursday night, so I’ll have lots to post! Signing off for now.

View from our hotel room in Singapore

View from our hotel room in Singapore

Eat well!

April