Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chicken Rice: Singapore's National Dish

Chili crab, sting ray, oyster omlettes, beef noodles, spice, spice, spice! But Singapore's national dish comes down to simple chicken rice.

The chicken is steamed whole, then chopped and doused in a thin garlic, ginger gravy. Hot sauce optional.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The original Sprinkles in Beverly Hills

...Sprinkles is apparently the first ever cupcakes-only store. I sampled its chai tea latte cupcake and it was fabulous. Fluffy, moist cake; smooth tea-flavored frosting.

Whoever thought of the combination is a genius.

Mexicali L.A. taco truck!

...right across the street from my girlfriend's condo. They come out after 9 p.m. in a virtually empty parking lot and if you know, you know.

We had two corn tacos, one steak, one chicken; Cachetada, melted cheese and ground chorizo on a tostada; and the Zuperman, triple meat cheese quesadilla. Plus four kinds of homemade salsa and guacamole, and grilled onions and hot peppers.

This was the real Mexican deal... All costing US$10.50.

L.A. you have my heart.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

La-La-Land: Arda's Cafe

... Woke up early and found a random family-run downtown breakfast eatery called Arda's Cafe, and had this delicious monstrosity -- candied bacon eggs Benedict (US$7.99). Perfectly soft poached egg, crispy sweet and salty bacon that wasn't too much of either, toasty chewy cheese bagel, and fried potatoes.

Great stumble-upon on Day 2 of random L.A. vacation.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beef ball noodle soup, and sting ray!

My cousin Agus took me to another hawker food centre that is well-known/famous for its simple noodle soup of beef balls and minced pork.

My photos may not be the most appealing but it was dark and this is all I have. I liked this dish a lot but the minced pork in the bottom was a bit too soft for my tastes.

Agus also had me try stingray for the first time. The stingray tasted like a white fish, which I didn't mind, but the sauce on top of it wasn't very appealing.

Travelling in Singapore and trying different species that rarely show up on North American menus was challenging for my eco-mindedness. I normally use Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood WATCH to choose sustainable options but stingray doesn't even come up on the list.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Singaporean Mickey Dee's

I am strongly against supporting fast food companies, especially McDonald's (forget watching Food Inc. or Fast Food Nation documentary; read the Fast Food Nation book by Eric Schlosser).

BUT I have a weak spot for McDonald's ice cream cones -- especially when it's only S$1 and has cool add-on flavours such as green apple (above), raspberry and beloved chocolate.

I tried all three eventually, but plain vanilla is probably still my favourite. :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Elevated Tea

Once in awhile, I like to create my own cherished moments where I can sit, indulge and enjoy my own company. Every person is different—what they love to indulge in—is it a surprise that mine is food?

My parents received this fine China set for their wedding more than 30 years ago and I never knew of its existence till my sister discovered it in old boxes about a year before they were divorced (about six years ago). We took it to the new house but my father never used it.

I grew to love the fine gold trim and petite delicate pink flowers with soft ridges.

I've been drinking this wonderful loose leaf Moroccan green tea infused with peppermint that I received at my friend Chantal's engagement party a few weeks ago. Then tonight, my sister gave me a lemon tart from Southbrook Farms. So I decided a perfect cap to the weekend, and start to a new week, would be to have both with the fine China.

I thought about reading or watching TV while drinking and eating, but realized quickly, sitting in the quiet peace of my house, and tasting every sip and bite carefully would be the most pleasurable. The tart had a perfectly tender, slightly crumbly crust, and the lemon filling was smooth and silky. It was a timeless 10 minutes.

It's so refreshing and soothing when you take the time to treat yourself.

The Cleanest Chinatown I Ever Saw

On the first Sunday I was in Singapore, my Uncle Edward let me loose to explore Chinatown on my own. It was a great sight to see, as the city was gearing up for Chinese New Year 2010.

It doesn't look like much at first, but when you walk a little farther down, the streets are suddenly lined with lots of stalls and shops selling all sorts of Chinese-y things.

Like teapots...

And chili ornaments (yum!) ...

And chopsticks...

And elegant paper fans...

And high-end chopstick sets...

And wooden abacuses and chess sets.

Plus food!



Fake flowers...

And knick-knacks and toys galore! For some reason, these fat little buddhas and Chinamen reminded me of my cousins in Florida even though they're the fittest little Tae-kwon-do black belt masters ever.

I thought this was a rather beautiful building in Chinatown.

Singapore has all these positive signs for random things.

I randomly found some pretty yummy cream puffs at a Chinese pastry shop for less than a CDN$1. (Canadian dollar to Singapore dollar is about 1 to 1.30.)

I was craving an egg tart too but this one was so disappointing. It tasted gross actually. Maybe the worst egg tart in recent memory.

Dried Chinese sausages and chicken right on the street!! Kind of gross, actually... considering the heat and humidity.

Asian candy. (I didn't try any. I don't have fond memories of Asian candy as a child.)

I saw these little dresses and thought of the New Baby my sister was going to have in a few months. Turned out to be a girl. :)

I visited this Buddhist temple. And decided afterward, the story of Buddha means nothing to me. (Though I still have faith in Buddhist principles and concepts of compassion.)

I still prayed for strength. (To whom, I wasn't sure...) And I love the smell of incense.

Inside where the monks were chanting and praying.

Riding the elevator to the upstairs museums. I had to cover myself with a shawl and sarong (lent out at the temple entrances for free) because I was wearing shorts, a sleeveless top and sandals.

There was a rooftop orchid garden but I didn't see the orchids that I'm used to.

The most memorable Chinatown experience to date.
Love is not a thought, it is an action. And each loving action that we take infuses us with more energy for loving action in the future.
-Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

Friday, October 29, 2010

A woman of great taste

It would be too easy if I were talking about myself.

I'm talking about my friend Yasmin (@yasminATlesauce) who runs an amazing food blog at She's a true lover of food -- someone who if feeling lazy about dinner would braise leeks as the easy way out. Her blog consists mostly of her vegetarian recipe creations, and she believes in eating well from tomato on toast for lunch to day-long cooking feast for friends and family.

This past summer, she recently resigned from over eight years at St. Joseph's Media working in various marketing roles in the consumer magazine industry to embark on a career that intersects her love for food, photography, writing and publishing. I love when people reach that point where they're ready to leap into the unknown. I strongly have faith in the idea that when you have nothing, everything is possible. (Not to say she has nothing but you get the idea, I hope!)

In any case, after a year of being one of her religious blog followers, I finally pushed my own lazy butt to cook one of her drool-over-the-computer-screen-worthy recipes.

I was poking around my fridge and noticed some parsley that I just knew was going to go bad any day now. Then it clicked in my head -- I remembered I read a post by Yasmin about how herbs never go bad in her house because she uses it in all sorts of creative ways. So a quick search and I found the fried almond and olive pasta with fresh cilantro and parsley recipe.

I was amazed at how simple it was to make yet so, so delicious. I shared the meal with a friend who came over last minute and doesn't even like olives but he was so impressed at how good it was. Below is the photo he took on his Blackberry but it doesn't really give the dish justice, so you have to check her photos out. (P.S. I just used rotini instead of linguine because it's all I had.)

If you're looking for food inspiration, I highly recommend you check out

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pause: Subway Love

I stepped on to a crowded subway train this morning. A man drew my attention to a Modern Family banner ad above the doors I came through. "Now that makes my day," he said to his friend.

At first I thought he was referring to the hilarious TV show that was airing a new episode tonight. Then I noticed two subway transfers folded into white paper hearts that were tucked into the ad.

I couldn't help smile at how our world is wonderfully connected -- that in the smallest ways, in places and times we would never expect, we find the light of love.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Zouk Dance Break

Before I continue my food adventures in southeast Asia, I have to pause to record the first night I went to Zouk, one of the biggest clubs in Singapore where all the major European DJs play.

 Outside the club...

 Inside the club with 2ManyDJs from Belgium loving the crowd...

 ...and the crowd loving them back.

Oh, those crazy Singaporeans... Or is it the Belgians?

One food/drink-related matter I discovered I like: a popular mixer with vodka in Singapore is room temperature green tea. I was skeptical at first but it tastes like tea! Easy to like.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Brockton General

Brockton General is a new low-key bar on Dundas Street West that opened in early to mid-August. The kitchen serves a simple menu Thursdays through Saturdays, while the bar is opened every day.

The walls are bare, and the tables and chairs look like they were plucked out of a grandmother's basement, but the wait staff and buzzing, laid back patrons makes this place easily attractive.

I came on a Friday night for a drink before a dinner reservation at Enoteca Sociale, which is right across the street. Then spontaneously returned the next night to sample its locally sourced, daily changing menu.

By the looks of the patterns, the China plates seem to have came from the same grandma's basement, but I absolutely love the repurposed old classic English porcelain China sets.

For starter, we shared pickled radishes with fried ricotta, dressed with parsley, a vinaigrette and sliced chilies (pictured above). I've never had pickled radishes before and I'm not a huge parsley fan, but I like the clean, simple, fresh tastes.

We split two mains: a poached egg on brioche toast. And a lovely, lovely lamb shoulder, done pulled-pork style, served atop a grilled eggplant, dotted with goat cheese cream. It was so dreamy and textured, I forgot to take a photo.

For dessert, we tried fried brioche dough, done in a kind of beignet style, with husk cherries (which are these tiny yellow tart balls that are nothing like the sweet bing cherries I love...oh crap, I completely missed cherry season this year!) and a lovage-mint sauce.

We each had a glass of Ontario wine, and it came out to just over $80 all together.

It will be really interesting to see how the place evolves as it's young cooks just doing what they love to eat and play with. It didn't blow me away but I loved the atmosphere and the people.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"The intersection of happiness is NOW."
-Philly D, inspirational hip hop yoga instructor, Moksha Yoga Winnipeg

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Noodle King in the PATH

Another recommendation from my sister who's worked in finance district for years now and knows a lot of PATH goodies. Noodle King is under the Sheraton and tends to have a line-up that rivals McDonald's.

I've been craving simple broad noodles like this for ages. I went to Kenzo Ramen a couple of Fridays ago and wasn't that impressed.

Today I had pork wontons ($4.35) but will probably opt for spicy beef ($5.95) next time. The dish wasn't the tastiest noodles ever but the simple, clean flavours and sweating over the steaming bowl brought me back to the food of Southeast Asia for a moment... in a good way.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lawry's The Prime Rib: Singapore

It's been over six months since I travelled to Singapore so my memory is a little hazy. But I do believe the day after arriving and eating at the Newton Hawker Centre (my first hawker experience ever!), my uncle took me, his son Augustus, and Agus's girlfriend to lunch at Lawry's The Prime Rib fine dining restaurant that originated in Beverly Hills in 1938.

My uncle isn't a very wealthy man but him and his family are on the "richer" side of Singapore's population. In any case, I wouldn't have eaten here if it wasn't for his generosity and excellent food taste.

The experience starts off much like any other a la carte restaurant. You order what kind of prime rib cut you would like first from a menu. Though they are called by many different names, the options essentially range from a thick slab to a very thick slab to a very, very thick slab.

Then the experience takes a small (or maybe big) turn. A little while after everyone orders, this huge steel cart is wheeled out by a chef, decked out in the white suit yards, and slices your cut for you right in front of the table.

You're also given creamy mashed potatoes with a hefty dose of gravy, and a vegetable side option. I chose creamed spinach. I can't quite remember but I believe I finished my entire plate.

Plus we had a traditional Lawry's salad, some kind of soup, and Yorkshire pudding (pictured above). If you didn't know, turns out Yorkshire pudding isn't "pudding" at all — at least not the J-E-L-L-O kind I'm most familiar with from growing up with those Bill Cosby commercials. Yorkshire pudding is a very flaky bread that's kind of laid out like a pie. If you don't know, I love flaky pastries of all varieties so this was a welcomed surprise for me.

Lawry's was easily the most classiest lunch I've ever been served but what I love about Singaporean style (or maybe just my Singaporean family?) is that we showed up in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops with no problems or looks at all.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Homemade Chinese Steamed Buns my daddy! A rare treat. The bun itself is so fluffy. Look at all those air pockets. And the filling is sauteed ground pork, red onions, diced carrots, mushrooms.

My dad used to make homemade steamed buns all the time when my siblings and I were kids. Sometimes my childhood food memories taste better than the modern recreations. But this matched the memory.


Due to popular demand, I asked my father for this "secret" family recipe and revealing it for all. These are just estimates off of the top of my dad's head, hence the weird yield (17 buns?). I'm not a recipe writer and even though baking is more scientific than cooking, this is technically steaming not baking.

The Buns
8 cups of all-purpose flour
3 to 4 cups of water
3 to 4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 whole eggs, beaten - if you want a whiter colour, just use egg whites

Active yeast (1 tsp; follow the instructions for proofing)
1/4 tsp of sugar in the yeast

The Li Family filling is ground pork, and diced carrots, white onions and white mushrooms, sauteed in a pan with oyster sauce, salt, pepper and a little soy sauce. But as my dad says, filling is easy. Make whatever you like. There are some classics but I'm all for experimentation. For a vegetarian substitution, he suggested diced carrots, white onions, white mushrooms, bamboo shoots and chives.

(Okay, the following instructions I know are a major fail because I'm not sure how to write it out, as I just watch my dad do it and know from experience.)

Combine wet and dry ingredients till it forms a soft dough. Let rise two hours.

Knead dough. Form into even-sized "balls" (they won't really be balls because the dough is very soft). Place filling in center of flattened ball, and pinch sides to top to fold in and close. Pat in hands to form back into a "ball." Let rise for another 10 minutes. Cook in steamer for 10 minutes if you sauteed the filling beforehand. Cook for 20 minutes for uncooked meat; and 12 minutes for a veggie filling.

And report back with how it went... 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Deep Fried Butter at The Ex courtesy of my cousin Bryan.

It tasted like fried butter, really. I didn't get the funnel cake flavour and when you bite into it, it's mostly hollow with melted butter coating the inside batter. Selling at $5 for four pieces, it's a great gimmick to attract a constant long line-up.

The very friendly vendor also had other similar wonderful delights available, such as deep fried Mars bar, chocolate-covered bacon, and some crazy chocolate- and nut-coated Twinkie creation.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chicken tikka at Casa Lina

My aunt can whip up the most delicious food from Italian to Indian to Chinese at a moment's notice. I never go hungry at her house.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Singapore, Newton Hawker Centre

After three days eating my way through Kuala Lumpur as much as I possibly could, I took the 8-hour train ride to Singapore to meet my uncle who lives there. (Can you believe I didn't have to pee the whole time? Mind over matter, my friends.)

My uncle was awesome. He was waiting for me as soon as I got in at about 10:20 on a Friday night. He immediately offered to take me home to shower and change, then to do what Singaporeans do best -- eat.

We went to Newton Hawker Centre, which is one of, if not, the most famous hawker centres in Singapore among tourists. It's open concept with food stalls lining the perimeter, serving all sorts of Singaporean dishes. You sit at a numbered table, go up to the stall, order, give them your table number, and in a few short starving moments, your food arrives. You pay the food runner and dig in.

While we waited for food, my uncle ordered lime juices to satiate our thirst. This is a very common drink in Singapore, and it's exactly what it sounds like plus sugar. Considering how much I love citrus, it was perfect for me.

My uncle ordered an enormous feast, considering it was just me, him and his super skinny competitive synchronized swimming 17-year-old daughter Priscilla. We had Singaporean classics: oyster omlette and chili crab; as well as little clams in a spicy sauce, some fried greens, and seafood tom yam soup (not pictured).

The chili crab came with little warm bread rolls that kind of reminded me of marshmallows if you can imagine.

I'm not sure what this cost because my uncle paid for everything, but each dish, since they were all seafood, probably ranged from S$7-S$15; and one Canadian dollar equals about 1.5 Singaporean dollars.

Singaporeans seem to love spicy foods, sauces and seafood. How they cook and eat it all in the thick humidity year-round is beyond me. But thank goodness they do because this is like their version of fast food, and I really, really love that. Hot, super tasty food and lots of it!