Three friends and the food they love



An Immigrant to the World of Food.

More than a decade ago, when circumstances brought me to the city of Singapore, all I knew was that it was a clean, efficient gateway to the world with glitzy malls and a superb airport. The years have flown by and as I have my eaten my way through the passage of time, Singapore has rewarded me with food experiences that will remain an integral part of my life for a very long time. Along the way, my food horizons have expanded significantly.

Sitting on a Singapore Airlines flight in 2003, I may have predicted a few events and gotten them mostly wrong. But I would not have predicted craving a morning breakfast of Kaya Toast (Kaya is a local jam made with coconut, eggs, pandan and love) dipped in runny soft boiled eggs, spiced up with pepper and soy sauce and washed down with Kopi (the local coffee with its own set of alphabetical suffixes, Kopi – C, Kopi –O. Almost like vitamins, only more nourishing). I would not have thought that poached chicken with rice prepared in chicken broth with dollops of garlic and chilli sauce could set right a hectic morning at work. And not in my wildest imagination would I have thought that craving for late supper would mean Ba Kut Teh (a peppery pork rib soup that is accompanied with salted vegetables, rice and chilies) on Balestier Road.

Yes, the city is a global ‘hub’ of anything and everything. That reflects even in the sheer variety of cuisine available in the restaurants ranging in affordability from astonishing value for money to eye-wateringly expensive. But if you are the sort who loves a local meal, Singapore could reward you with a different meal every day of the year and have a fair bit to spare. In a city of immigrants, what is local is difficult to define. But there is something unique about being an immigrant in Singapore. You feel like a local not by what you do or how you speak. You feel local by how you eat. The day you stand in queue at a hawker centre and order your first plate of prawn noodles, have it served to you in minutes, help yourself to the sambal in the sauce pot, queue again to order a fresh fruit juice or a cold barley, and then train your eyes to spot an empty seat –you’ve settled in. You start having favourite hawker stalls, because the prawns are good, because the aunty gives you a familiar smile and knows your preference, you think nothing of selecting dried tofu skin and extra fish balls for your yong tau fu as if you have done it all your life. There is no easier way to settling in. It helps if you are ready to eat anything. It helps if anything is mostly delicious local food that is an amalgamation of centuries of different cultures, carried to its shores by commerce and conquest.

I used to be a regular at the Serangoon Gardens Hawker centre in Singapore. It’s a large, bright hawker centre that offers a wide variety of fare. Lunch hour brings out office workers in droves to sample the many delights dotted all over Serangoon Gardens. As I walked around, I would contemplate my choices. I could opt for a plate of fried Ipoh Hor Fun (flat rice noodles with some greens and fried dumplings), or maybe some Nasi Lemak (Malay-style rice served with a selection of meat, vegetables and dried anchovies). Ultimately, I may settle for a Black Carrot Cake (made entirely of radish and eggs with chilies and dark soy sauce) and washed it down with a glass of fresh sugarcane juice.

Continue reading “An Immigrant to the World of Food.”

A Bali favourite

On our first trip to Bali, we stayed in Tanjong Benoa, around resort central in Nusa Dua – and the best feature of our resort was that it was right next to the best restaurant we ate at, in Bali and is still among my all-time favourite restaurants.

Bumbu Bali is a labour of love of Heinz von Holzen – a chef who has taken it upon himself to showcase authentic flavours of the Balinese kitchen and create a home dining experience. The moment you step into the restaurant, the decor, aromas and the warm welcome of the staff immediately connect you to the atmosphere and vision Chef von Holzen is striving to create.

Then begins the gastronomic joyride of your life. Smoky, perfectly spiced, melt-in-your mouth satays that arrive at your table on their own little grill, succulent pork in sweet soy sauce, braised beef in coconut milk, roast duck in banana leaf, and finally beautiful, delicate local desserts. Waddle home with twice the amount of food in you than the recommended limit, laze around with a book for the afternoon, take a walk or go for a run in the evening if you can bear it. Repeat. Yep, I could get used to that.

Bumbu Bali offers two more things we have to try out on our next visit – a cooking course that starts with a morning market visit and seems to be quite exhaustive and hands-on; and the Rijstaffel – which translates to Rice Table. It is a monstrous meal that the Colonial Dutch seemed to have devised to kill friends and family with. I think I counted a mere 16 courses on the menu and Priya (literally) didn’t have the stomach to take that on. Think Shoggy and I will need to take the Rijstaffel on, together.


Five reasons to move to San Francisco

  1. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana – Where the chef has won awards in Italy for his pizza, where the bartenders can guide you to the finest eating establishments around the city and your fellow diners squabble about your holiday itinerary having not known you 5 minutes ago. Order the Pizza Margherita, but the real surprise star of the show was an appetiser –  The Chorizo Mussels. Toasted bread, tomato chorizo sauce, fresh mussels, cheese. Tony's
  2. Kokkari – Recommended at Tony’s. What food! Divine sole, grilled octopus to die for. Fine dining, but a lively vibe. Go with an appetite.
  3. Hog Island Oyster Company – Recommended at Kokkari. It’s a great way to eat through a city. Happy with a meal? Ask the staff where to dine next! This is an institution attracting tourists and locals in droves. The name says it all. Fresh oysters, amazing fish soup, views of the wharf. Slurp the sea.
    Continue reading “Five reasons to move to San Francisco”

Platform for Peace and Infinite Yumminess


You may be a fan of Vietnamese food. You may be planning that holiday that takes in the sights, smells and sounds of natural beauty, fresh herbs and 2-wheeler chaos that is uniquely Vietnam. As you read about Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, you are planning your meals of pho, fresh seafood and the caffeine overdose that is Vietnamese coffee. What I would highly encourage you to plan for, is pizza.

A bunch of Japanese have brought craft, perfection, fresh ingredients and a very hot oven to Pizza 4P’s. Originally a Ho Chi Minh City establishment, now with a branch in Hanoi. Pizza 4P’s has been the most unexpected pleasant surprise in a long line of peasant and good things since we have set up a base there. Continue reading “Platform for Peace and Infinite Yumminess”

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