Thursday, May 31, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Undoubtedly, some of the best food in Singapore can be found at unassuming hawker centres. Singaporeans call this simply "local food" - it draws from the various cuisines of Southeast Asia and China, but the dishes travel to Singapore and are made the island's own with nuances that are rarely found elsewhere. Not only is hawker food cheap (you can get a full meal for less than $4 USD in a country where a mid-priced car easily costs $150,000 USD), it's the stuff that I dream about when I'm not here. It's important to note that all Singaporeans are food-obsessed by nature - eating and shopping are the two national pastimes, and any Singaporean will argue adamantly about which stall has the best version of their favorite dishes. The country does have an excellent gourmet restaurant scene as well, but when I'm here, I tend to focus on what one writer called "homesick Singaporean food." So here's Part I of a primer on local food:
Duck Rice (or Braised Duck)
Soy sauce braised duck rice with herbal soup is Teochew (a Chinese dialect group) in origin. Tradition says that the dish was originally braised goose, but since duck was more readily available, the recipe was modified and Teochew braised duck was born. If served with accompaniments like eggs or tofu, everything is usually cooked n the same braising sauce, though sometimes it's served with white rice. It's one of my favorite dishes.
Popiah originates in Fujian and Chaoshan. It's a variant of the spring roll, a soft, thin crepe filled with chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, carrots, tofu, eggs, and Chinese sausage (the ingredients vary somewhat, but these are standard). And like the above duck, it also owes much to Teochew cooks.
This country takes good food seriously: The first thing a Singaporean will ask you is whether you've eaten. (Mind you, this is a slightly different question than asking whether you are hungry.) I remember a visit years ago where both sides of my family had conferred with each other weeks in advance of my trip to organize most of our meals. As for this trip, they may have to roll me home in a wheelbarrow.
Related: More things to eat in Singapore: Ipoh hor fun and fish head curry. Yum.
Friday, May 18, 2012
As seen in Singapore: "Kickapoo: Original USA Joy Juice Recipe." Given that I live in the US and I'd never heard of "joy juice" (I know what you just thought - this is a classy blog!), I inspected the can to discover that Kickapoo hails from Atlanta, Ga. A sip told me that "joy juice" was similar in flavor and mouthfeel to Mountain Dew. So, I thought, perhaps Kickapoo was a small, unknown company in the States that found a following in Asia?
"The two famous comic characters on the can are best buds Polecat and Hairless Joe from USA [sic]. They're the creators of the original Kickapoo Joy Juice, a magical concoction that leaves people all over the world happy and cravin' for more. Get that kick today!"
I was about to ask Atlanta readers if they'd ever heard of "joy juice," but a quick Google search turned up the tidbit that Polecat and Hairless Joe are indeed from the US - as fictional characters in the comic Li'l Abner. As for Kickapoo Joy Juice? In Li'l Abner, it was "a liquor of such stupefying potency that the hardiest citizens of Dogpatch, after the first burning sip, rose into the air, stiff as frozen codfish." Well, then. Not-Mountain Dew is rather disappointing in comparison.