I’ve been meaning to start the food part of my blog for sometime now, but never seem to get round to doing it. After my short but inspiring visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair though, my enthusiasm to do it has fired up again, so heres my first post!
What has my visit to the book fair to do with cooking? Well, I came back with an arm full of cookbooks of course! And obviously on Singaporean cooking, the only kind that really matters to me. With all the recipes in the books reminding me of my childhood in Singapore, and my father or his sisters cooking in the kitchen, I’m now eager to try and recreate those smells and tastes that bring me home, while still in cold foggy Ulm.
But first of all, let me give you a little introduction to Singaporeans and food, cause you can’t separate one from the other! We love eating so much, we eat 5 times a day (really!), that we often greet each other by asking “Have you eaten?” I sometimes still do that, even after 25 years away from home!
Singaporean cuisine is a mix of all the cultures that live in Singapore. Indien, Chinese, Malay, Eurasian and Peranakan, which is a mix of the Chinese and Malay cultures. And the best place to try these dishes are in places we call hawkers centres. We have over a hundred of them in Singapore! These are places which have individual stalls selling everything from fresh fruit juices to coconut jam (kaya) on toast, chilli crabs, noodle soups and fish head curries!
Typical hawker centre. Always head for the stall with the longest queue, you won’t go wrong!
They are also the places where you often get the best, yet really affordable meals in Singapore! And with the health campaign that pushed the vendors to omit MSG from their cooking, it has become quite healthy too. Most families will buy their daily meals home from these centres, and when I go home with my family for a holiday, we take our
Breakfasts (Roti Prata-Indien bread with curry, Chwee Kueh-rice flour cakes with salted radish, Nasi Lemak-coconut rice with sambal anchovies or Bak kut teh-pork rib soup…),
Morning Snacks (curry puffs, nonya cakes or peanut pancakes…)
Lunches (chicken rice, duck noodles or laksa-shrimp curry noodles …)
Afternoon snacks (Pandan cake-coconut sponge cake, Roja-vegetable & fruit salad or Tahu Goreng-Soja bean curd cakes with peanut sauce…)
and Dinners (Hokkien Mee-seafood noodles, Fish Head curry, chilli sting ray, chilli crab, satays…)
After dinner snacks (durian, oyster omelette or almost raw cockles…)
all from these centres too!
2 of these hawker stands have even won the firsts Michelin stars awarded to this type of establishment! It is I can safely say, the cheapest Michelin star meal you can have in the world, at around 4 Euros a dish for the famous chicken noodle dish from the Hong Kong Soya Sauce noodles and rice stall! But you’ll have to start queuing at 10h for at least 2h, as they don’t take reservations!
One of the Michelin star chef Mr Chan and his stall. He prepares the dishes behind the window of his stall in a tiny space.
Travelling across the city and waiting in a queue for ages, for what they believe is the best dish in its category, is very normal in Singapore. You will see large luxury cars parked in front of these places along with simple construction workers on foot, all equal before the humble food stand. And you can see this at all times of the day… and night! One of my favourite food memories is piling into the back of an open pick up truck with my friends, at 10pm, to go off in search of the best after dinner
So now you have been quite adequately introduced to Singapore cuisine, let me get back to the cookbooks I brought back from the fair. This first one is by a Singaporean who used to live in London, and started the first Singaporean supper club there. Besides the sumptuous recipes, it makes for a very entertaining read too!
I have actually met one of the chefs in the supper club, Jason, who cooked for us at my cousin’s hen night in London in June. Thats him below with my cousins and friends and some of the delicious food he made for us that was truly a taste of home! Check out his Facebook page.
The other books I brought back belong to a series which highlights the cuisine from the different cultures in Singapore. My mother had given me one a few years back, which is still my go to book for Peranakan dishes so I was really excited to find other books in the series.
I can’t wait to start trying them out and will post pics of my efforts. I have already invited some Singaporean/Malaysian friends to come next week to try out my dishes to give me an honest opinion of them!
Before I end this rather long post, heres a pic of my breakfast this morning.
Nothing like a hot noodle soup to cure a hangover I had! Its a minced meat rice noodle soup made from a broth of roasted chicken and chestnuts. My very own invention!