Sunday, August 1, 2010

My life in 10 dishes

Inspired by Muzbot, here is my food biography:

1. Nestum. A brand of cereal that was very popular in South-east Asia. Every kid in Singapore probably grew up eating it. The cereal came in a tin and I still remember the wonderful aroma when the lid was opened. Grandma used to mix the cereal with hot water and condensed milk. Delicious.

2. Pork intestines. I guess it might seem disgusting but I have fond childhood memories eating a pork intestine and rice noodle dish from the produce markets when I was living in Singapore as a kid. I last had it when I went back to Singapore for a holiday in 2002 and it was exactly how I had remembered it from when I last ate it as a six year old.

3. Chicken congee. A savoury rice porridge, congee is another childhood favourite. I used to love having a freshly cracked egg in the bottom of the bowl which would poach in the hot congee.

4. Chicken rice. This is pretty much Singapore's national dish. And it's such a humble dish too...poached chicken with a deliciously chicken-flavoured rice. My mum used to work in a shop at the Hilton Hotel in Orchard Road and we would buy the chicken rice for lunch. It was always wrapped in a special grease proof paper. When unwrapped, the wonderful aroma would waft out and I would eat it behind the counter at the shop.

5. Meat pie. I still remember the first time I saw someone eating a meat pie. It was during winter in primary school in Canberra and the kid ended up with the meat all over his fingers. I remember putting in a lunch order for my first pie and how the tuck shop ladies would plunge the nozzle of the tomato sauce squirter into the pie to dispense the sauce. For the record, I NEVER got the meat sauce all over my fingers.

6. Grandma's fish and garlic chive dumplings. We used to go to Sydney to buy spanish makeral and garlic chives for making this northern chinese dish (because Canberra, in the early 80s, was no match to Sydney when it came to good produce). I remember grandma mincing up the fish with a big meat cleaver, roll out the dough for making the dumpling 'skins' and expertly pinching the dumplings together and setting them aside on a giant bamboo tray until they were ready to be boiled. Strangely, my favourite dipping sauces for fish dumplings were tomato sauce or thousand island dressing. Truly east meets west.

7. Rock lobsters. On a family holiday to Tasmania many years ago we ended up staying in the beautiful seaside hamlet of Bicheno. During a walk along a beach, we came across a fisherman with rock lobsters in hand. We ended up buying them from him and dad spent the early evening preparing them at our motel. We ended up having them in salad, as sashimi and, my favourite, grilled with cheese.

8. Dad's peking duck. Did I mention that my dad is a chef? His peking ducks are to die for. It's a rather labour intensive process to get the crispy skin that involves separating the skin from the meat (using either a bike pump or, in the good old days, by blowing through an opening in the skin at the neck). Then the duck needs to be air dried for a bit to remove any moisture from the skin before the actual roasting process. Dad used to make the wafer thin pancakes for wrapping the duck too.

8. Seafood bouillabaise, Finland. My favourite restaurant in Helsinki specialises in dishes made with garlic. The stand out dish, without a doubt, is their seafood bouillabaise. Everytime I go back to Helsinki, I always make a point of going to that restaurant and ordering the dish.

9. Red snapper curry. The Waterfront restaurant on Southbank used to do a delicious red snapper curry dish. The presentation was wonderful with the whole fish fried and presented on the plate, the filleted flesh steeped in a delicious red curry sauce and topped with fresh herbs, chilli and bean shoots. Alas, the restaurant recently changed their menu and my perennial favourite is no longer available. Yes...I complained to the manager.

10. Tuna bake. Nathan's speciality. It wasone of the first dishes Nathan ever cooked for me. And even though the sauce comes out of a jar and the dish is like a billion calories per serve, I still love it.


Muzbot said...

Yum! Chicken rice is great. Fantastic variety there.

Cazzie!!! said...

Yumm, x10! I am going to go to The Waterfront sometime soon!