Tag Archives: Singapore

Pastry Post-Doc: Indonesian Terang Bulan / Apam Balik / Martabak Manis

terangbulan

Terang Bulan stand in Indonesia by Roman

Indonesia_flag_largeIf fried dough is one of the most popular pastry genres worldwide, sweet pancakes or crepes must be a close second, and we can’t complain about that. The latest pastry post-doc feature is a sweet pancake from Indonesia, Terang Bulan. Terang Bulan means full moon, and it is named because of its round, moon-like shape. It is basically a thick, puffy pancake, folded over and filled with evaporated milk and other fillings like chocolate, chocolate sprinkles or nuts. Terang Bulan is also popular in other parts of Southeast Asia under different names, like Martabak Manis and Apim Balik. Here is a recipe from Ridha’s KitchenFood.com, and a Malaysian version with peanuts from Curious Nut.

terang

Terang Bulan by Abby

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Go 4 Food: Chilli Crab in Chicago

chinasingaporeOne of our formative food experiences was eating chilli crab in a hawker market in Singapore in 2010. Since it is not too common of a menu item in the US (especially in Chicago), we were delighted to find a place that offered chilli crab in our area, the oddly named Go 4 Food, (212 W 23rd St, Chicago) in Chinatown. We went there with one singular purpose in mind – Chilli crab – so this is not necessarily a review of the whole restaurant’s menu, but the chilli crab in particular.

Go 4 Food

Go 4 Food

Go 4 Food is located on a quiet side street away from the bustling Chinatown mall area and has a somewhat odd, but endearing 1980s futuristic vibe. It is also BYOB, which seemed to be a bit of a draw as well. The menu has both classic Cantonese dishes and some more modern fusion offerings. When you look at the menu, there are several preparations of crab: including shell-on, shell-off and softshell. They definitely take seafood seriously here! We ordered two crab preparations (market price: the two together cost $35), the Singaporean spicy crab (chilli crab) and the abstractly-named “fusion” crab. The fusion crab was in more a Indian curry-like sauce while the chilli crab is more tomato based. Our server assured us that the fusion crab was by far the more popular choice, but we wanted chilli crab so we went for broke and got both dishes (which we knew going in was going to be way too much food!)

Go 4 Food Crab

Go 4 Food Fusion Crab

Both of the dishes came out pretty quickly and we were astounded by the veritable mountain of dungeness crab before us. The crab legs were huge: deep fried in the shell, which was a somewhat unusual preparation, and not one we had encountered before. Both of the dishes were drenched in a soupy sauce, which made it a bit difficult to actually extract the meat from the legs, even with the provided shell/nut cracker. The fusion dish was mild, with a heavily spiced (but not spicy) tamarind and turmeric flavor while the chilli crab packed some definite heat. The crab itself was sweet and tender, and as we worked out way through the dish, we would like to think we became more adept at cracking the crab legs and claws (and whatever else). We worked our way through 40+ napkins trying to do so.

Go 4 Food Crab

Go 4 Food Spicy Singaporean Crab

We really enjoyed our gluttonous crab feats at Good 4 Food, though the chilli crab we had there was not really the chilli crab we remembered from Singapore. Still, even though it is not quite what we were seeking, it was still quite delicious. We look forward to trying other dishes off the menu, especially the French-style beef which we hear is excellent. We would definitely go to Go 4 Food again, but maybe bring a bigger crowd with us.

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Sedap, Malaysian Nyonya Cuisine in London

malaysiaWe ended up at Sedap (102 Old St, London EC1V 9AY) thanks to a concert that never occurred. We were in the impossibly trendy Shoreditch waiting for a concert that was supposed to begin at 7, but by 8:30, the show had no signs of starting, and was being filled with more young teenagers than a One Direction concert. We decided to just cut our losses and grab a bite to eat. We had heard good things about Sedap’s unique take on Malaysian cuisine, so we decided to give it a try. Located within walking distance of Shoreditch, in a much more low-key (and less trendy) area, Sedap serves authentic Malaysian Nyonya food in a simple, serene setting. To contribute to the calm, there was even a little fountain in the corner where we were sitting (It was dark so unfortunately the picture did not come out at all).

Sedap

Sedap’s Interior

Nyonya cuisine (sometimes called Peranakan) is the result of the intermingling of indigenous Malay, Indonesian and Chinese techniques and ingredients, and is rare to find outside of Malaysia and Singapore. When we visited Singapore in 2010, we tried Nyonya cuisine for the first time, and we instantly loved the complex and diverse flavors. Sedap’s menu was pretty concise and we saw some dishes we had not seen since our trip to Singapore, which was welcome, including the emblematic Hainanese chicken rice, in a chili and soy sauce (£8.80). Also on offere were several Laksas, including Singapore Laksa, thin vermicelli noodles with fish cakes andshrimp in a curry sauce (£8.95). “Laksa” is a common type of dish in Nyonya cookery and refers to noodles in a soupy coconut milk curry (of which there are many, many variants).
???????????????????????????????We ordered one of our favorites from Singapore, Prawn/Shrimp Lemak (£8.70), and a new-to-us dish: Beef Rendang (£7.95). Both dishes came out pretty quickly and were perfect portions to share. The Rendang was advertised as being in a spicy, “almost dry” curry, meaning it was more of a thick paste that coated the meat. Not a photogenic dish, but spicy, flavorful and tender. The prawn lemak was a coconut milk curry, with plenty of lightly spicy soupy-ness and a strong lemongrass flavor. Both dishes were flavorful and complex, and had clearly been cooked to order. Overall, we found the food at Sedap to be unique and reasonably priced (for London) for the quality. We wish we had more time in London to explore more of Sedap’s Nyonya dishes and flavors. But even if we won’t be back for a while, we encourage people to get off the tourist track and try something new beyond the typical curry.

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Red Tortoise Cakes (Ang Ku Kueh) for Chinese New Year

China flagHappy Lunar New Year! In China, today is the start of the year of the horse, and it’s time for delicious, celebratory treats as well. We’ve always loved the pretty Chinese cakes made in traditional wooden molds, like mooncakes. But the Red Tortoise Cake (In Hokkien dialect, “Ang Ku Kueh”: 紅龜粿) kicks it up another notch by being shaped like a turtle! Red Tortoise Cake is filled with mung bean paste and covered with a skin of glutinous rice flour and sweet potato (colored red), then steamed on a banana leaf.

Red Tortoise Cakes

Red Tortoise Cakes by chooyutshing

The turtle represents longevity, and auspicious cakes are popular for Lunar New Year, birthdays of elders, and to celebrate a baby’s first month. Due to this, you can find them year-round. Along with China, the cakes are also popular in areas with Hokkien-Chinese communities, like Singapore. You can get a turtle cake mold online, and try a recipe from Nasi Lemak Lover. Or perhaps you have your heart set on a tiny, clay rendition of a Tortoise Cake!

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Curry Debal / Devil’s Curry for Boxing Day

singaporemalaysiaBoxing Day is one of those holidays that we always remember every year, but we are never quite sure what to do or make in honor of a day which was historically for giving gifts to servants (perhaps some Downton Abbey themed recipes would be appropriate?). There really is nothing to do in the US to celebrate Boxing Day except perhaps to enjoy an extra day off from work, do some shopping, or continue your holiday binge. However, in Singapore and Malaysia, there is a special dish to mark Boxing Day – Curry Debal – also known as “Curry Devil” or “Devil’s Curry.” Devil’s Curry varies household to household, but is basically a strong, spicy, ginger and chili curry made from whatever leftovers (usually meat) that you have around the house from Christmas celebration feasts.

The dish descended from Eurasian communities in Southeast Asia, and perhaps even has a historic Portuguese influence, when Portuguese traders coming from Goa arrived in what was then known as Malacca. The dish remains extremely popular in Malaysia and Singapore today, and it seems  pretty easy to make. The previous links will provide you a great basis for Curry Debal – but don’t be afraid to experiment with your own leftovers!

Devil Curry in Malaysia

Devil Curry in Malaysia by CloudyWind

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Singapore: Chilli Crab

Chilli Crab is the national dish of Singapore – a whole fresh crab cooked in a spicy tomato and chili broth. We’d been craving Chilli Crab for about a year before we went to Singapore, when the dish was introduced to us by way of a recipe attached to a miniature chilli crab stuffed animal, who took part in our chilli crab adventure below. There’s nowhere to get it in Chicago, and we are definitely not ambitious enough to do it on our own in seafood-starved hometown (Here’s a Recipe if you feel like DiY-ing it). We saved our chilli crab experience for our last hawker center experience in Singapore, saving the best for last, you could say.

We went along with one of my (L’s) colleagues, who had recently moved to Singapore, along with two other friends to the Newton Food Center, just outside of the Singapore city center. The Newton Food Center specialized in seafood, and it shows the second you enter. There were many chilli crab stalls with many eager chefs ready to call us to attention. The stall we settled on was my colleague’s favorite, and when we saw a cage of real live crabs for picking we knew we were in the right place. Once we picked out our crab (Sorry little guy!) we paid by weight and went to sit down for our chilli crab to arrive.

After about 15 minutes a gargantuan plate landed before us. The chilli crab, still wholly intact arrived steaming in a plateful of spicy hot bright-red tomato and chili broth. The only way into the dish was with our hands. Good thing we had a lot of napkins….  It took some elbow grease to crack the claws, but the reward was great. The crab couldn’t have been fresher and the chili sauce was the perfect blend of sweet and savory. Despite the intimidating name, the dish itself wasn’t terribly spicy (perhaps to the disappointment by the heat-seeking M).

For side dishes we got mantou and the misleadingly named carrot cake. Mantou are tiny steamed wheat rolls taken from Chinese cuisine which are perfect for sopping up the chili broth. Carrot cake, as we described in our Malaysian post is a stir fry with eggs and root vegetables. Our final Hawker market experience in Singapore was definitely our best and our group ate like kings. We will be thinking about our swan song meal in Singapore for years to come.

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Singapore: Nonya Cuisine

Another cuisine unique to the culinary playground that is Singapore is Nonya (or Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine) a mix of Chinese techniques and Malaysian spaces a product of marriages between Chinese workers and local Malays in the early days of Singapore’s history.

Possibly the most famous Peranakan dish is Laksa Lemak, which we sampled in a hawker market in Chinatown. Hawker Markets are basically giant food courts (either open-air or inside) with tons of stalls specializing in different cuisines and sometimes different foods. We enjoyed our Laksa in a hawker market in Singapore’s Chinatown, which was also the site of our first Durian encounter.

Laksa is quintessentially Singaporean and Malaysian and is a spicy seafood curry, and one of the most popular Nonya dishes. The primary ingredients are coconut milk, chili paste and shrimp, though depending on where you get your laksa you might get a dish with the addition of blood or cuttlefish. Rasa Malaysia has a recipe for Laska, as does Top Hat, a famous KL eatery.

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Classic Singaporean Food: Kaya Toast

In a nation obsessed with food – one of the more iconic Singaporean dishes is Kaya Toast. Kaya Toast, coconut jam (kaya) on bread is peddled in most coffee shops, and make an awesome pick-me-up or a classic Singaporean breakfast. Kaya has a creamy consistency and is typically made with coconut milk, eggs and pandan leaves. Chain specializing in Kaya Toast have even sprung up over the years, the most famous being Ya Kun Kaya Toast, founded in the 1940s.

We got this Kaya Toast at Nanyang Old Coffee in Singapore’s Chinatown, along with an iced coffee and an iced milo (a chocolate malt milk drink – M’s favorite). The coffee shop also boasted a little museum dedicated to the history of coffee in Singapore. Kaya is even easy to make at home: check out these recipes  from Susan Feniger and Chubby Hubby.

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Coming in June… Asia Tour 2k10

L and M head to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia.

We’re excited.

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