Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Welcome to Singapore

Honestly, what's not to like about Singapore? The weather is tropical, the buildings are new, the gardens are blooming year round, the streets are clean, and the food is delicious. Everything I ate in Singapore was expertly prepared, bursting with flavor, and distinctly Singaporean. I don't think I've had a single meal where dopamine did not go firing off in every neuron cell in my brain. Their cuisine is diverse and dynamic, ranging from the most slippery broad noodles to fresh seafood covered in chili sauce to peppery pork rib soup. It's sweet, it's hearty, and it's addictive. I did not miss Cantonese, Jewish, or any other cuisine for a second in this country.  So sit back, relax, and journey with me through the ethnically diverse, foodie driven cuisine of Singapore. 

(Disclaimer: This is just a taste of Singporean cuisine. I wish I had more time to eat even more than I already did! Good thing my hotels had pools for me to swim it all off.) 

Chow kway teow is my favorite Singaporean dish by far. Silky broad noodles
stir fried in premium dark soy sauce with egg, bean sprouts, and fatty pork
bits over high heat. On the right is morning glory with chilis. 

Newton Circus Food Centre has a great variety of hawker stands

Sambal stingray is grilled, slathered in a chili shrimp paste, and served on
a banana leaf.  

You can get Hainan chicken rice anywhere -- at hawker stalls, at malls, or
even at luxury hotels. It's just steamed or boiled chicken served over the
most aromatic oily rice. Remember the chili garlic and dark soy sauces! 

Who doesn't love a good old classic oyster pancake?

Durian ice kachang! Don't worry, the tap water here is drinkable. 

Newton Circus

Our first meal in Ion Mall, chow kway teow and chow tow kuay. Chai tow kuay
is basically pan fried radish cake with egg. Not my favorite, but popular for sure.

Nasi Padang, just a typical Indonesian cafeteria style lunch in Ion Mall.

Chili crab and fried white steamed bun! The chili crab sauce is tomato based.

Curry mustard fries and Asian sliders made with fatty dark soy sauce
braised pork belly at House in Dempsey Hill

Fried chicken and fish paste nasi lemak with laksa, the thick rice
vermicelli in a spicy coconut gravy. 

Starker Fresh Beer in Holland Village. Beers were on average $15 a glass. Yup. 

And last but not least, my favorite was bak kuh teh. It's pork rib tea made with
spare ribs boiled for hours with herbs, pepper, and Chinese medicine. I promise
you that this is the ultimate late night meal slash hangover cure EVER.
It is simply rich, savory, flavorful, and magical. 

Singapore is a place where you could easily see yourself getting comfortable. They speak English and Mandarin, the two most spoken languages in the world. They have the Asian super city feel with a laidback Southeast Asian vibe. Singapore wouldn't have been the same if Dave and Janice didn't give me and Jun-Wan the incorrect travel dates, if Jason didn't take the time out to drive us everywhere, if we didn't go clubbing with a group of ex-soldiers, if we didn't spend endless hours in and lost around Ion Mall, or if every other person didn't own a Ferrari. It could've been better if Dave didn't have food poisoning from Thailand/Malaysia or if beer were cheaper. But even though nothing's perfect, Singapore may just be close to it. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

3 Ways to Handle a Whole Chicken

For the first time ever, I finally mustered up my courage to purchase a chicken from a live poultry vendor. I don't know why it took so long, since I live right next door to one. I walked in to a fluorescent lit room lined with squat metal cages stuffed with brown feathered chickens. I asked for a small one that was about 5lb (they charge $2.80/lb). I got it dead, plucked, and stuffed in a plastic bag several minutes later. 

At home, I decided to use this chicken for three different recipes. First I will make the classic Chinese white cut chicken, then I will use the broth to boil a watercress soup, and finally I will soak the leftover chicken in rice wine overnight for drunken chicken. It makes for a great week of meals! 

White cut chicken with shallot dipping sauce

Clear watercress soup

Drunken chicken

White Cut Chicken 白切雞 (serve with shallot dipping sauce)
1 whole chicken
10-12 cups water

1. Bring water to a boil.
2. Once boiling, submerge entire chicken (with entrails) into the water.
3. Boil on low heat for 40 minutes.
4. Carefully remove chicken and set broth aside. Cut chicken into 2in pieces. 
5. Serve with shallot dipping sauce

Clear Watercress Soup
10-12 cups chicken broth leftover from making white cut chicken
2 bunches watercress

1. Bring chicken broth to a low boil.
2. Simmer watercress in broth for 2 hours. 

Note: You can save the leftover watercress soup and boil it with another vegetable the following day. I've already made a tomato soup this week as well! 

Drunken Chicken
1 cup shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 (or more) leftover white cut chicken

1. Boil shaoxing rice wine and brown sugar until all the alcohol evaporates.
2. Soak white cute chicken in wine overnight covered and in a cool place.
3. After 6-12 hours, pour out alcohol and refrigerate until serving.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Denver, Colorado

Me and Neil sitting at 5280 ft above sea level. 
I made it up to Mile High City! Denver is a young city filled with health conscious citizens preoccupied with the outdoors. There's a lot of beer, a lot of game, and a growing farm to table scene. My first evening in Denver with C.J., I was easily out of breath after walking down a few long streets. Being a full mile above sea level really takes a toll on your lungs and your thirst. During the day, downtown Denver was a quiet walk-able city. There were many specialty food options, football or Native American / Wild West related gift shops, and the occasional recreational dispensary. At night, I went to a few bars and had a cold beer or Moscow mule in one hand and a Coors cup filled with ice water in the other. I really could get used to the high ceilings, wooden furnishings, and constant sports broadcasts. 

Neil was very excited to show me around Denver and to get hot dogs at Biker Jim's. We shared a Jack-a-Lope, a hot dog made with antelope and jack rabbit topped with "The Conspiracy," which was blue cheese, bacon and red onion marmalade, lemon zest, and french fried onions. It was juicy, flavorful, and sandwiched in a soft bun. Neil really wanted me to have the rattlesnake, but they were unfortunately sold out. Next time for sure. 

Extras: They recently upgraded from just a cart to an entire restaurant. Plus: Anthony Bourdain approved!  

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
2148 Larimer Street
Denver, CO

For dinner on Valentine's Day, I met up with a friend I met in Hong Kong several years ago. C.J. recently moved to LoDo and is enamored with the city and its proximity to the mountains. He made a reservation at Vesta, a local American restaurant with creative dishes and a never ending list of inventive dipping sauces. We decided to share a variety of small plates:

- Chinese BBQ pork belly
- bibb lettuce salad with honeycrisp apples
- venison kielbasa with apricot and bourbon mustards
- golden ponzu shrimp
- pan seared scallops 
- duck potstickers 

I was surprised by how much Asian influence there were on the small plates, but I'm always down to try how different chefs use Asian flavors. The food was fun and the conversations engaging. The seafood was cooked well, but unfortunately the quality was a bit lacking. Well, that's what you get for ordering seafood in a landlocked state. I would go back for the kielbasa and pork belly and definitely to try more of their sauces. It's a great place to share, catch up, and kick off the night. 

Vesta Dipping Grill
1822 Blake Street
Denver, CO

Neil was super excited to eat here with me because this was where Adam Richman of Man vs. Food visited when he was in Denver. Cherry Cricket is a burger joint with an extensive beer and scotch list to satisfy any drinker. They offer an assortment of appetizers, salads, and chilis, but all we focused on were the burgers. I got a little cricket, which was a 1/4 pound beef burger cooked to medium rare slathered with American cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and grilled onions. Neil got a half pounder with pepperjack cheese, blackened seasoning, and green chiles. And damn were these some seriously juicy burgers. The meat in Colorado is good. Tender, oozing with juice, and grilled to perfection. Classic. 

Cherry Cricket
2641 E 2nd Avenue
Denver, CO

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pick A Bagel

Yup, this is yet another post about how much I miss my hometown. But trust me. If you were from New York, you would miss it all the time too. 

Bagels are one of the best things to ever happen to wheat. They have a firm golden brown crust, they are soft on the inside, chewy to the bite, sometimes warm and toasty, and other times fragrant with melted butter. If you don't enjoy a plain bagel with butter, that just means that you are getting your bagels at the wrong place. Every New Yorker can name off the top of their head their favorite places to get a good bagel. There are always the really famous places like H&H, Absolute, Ess-a-bagel, and Barney Greengrass. But those are at times out of the way or overly crowded.

Because my brother goes to school on the Upper East Side, he spends a lot of time up there and has had a fair number of meals around the neighborhood. His favorite neighborhood pick? PICK A BAGEL. Really their bagels are very dependable quality and this place does breakfast right. The staff is friendly, the service is quick, and their black and white cookies are delicious as well. Plus you know it's legit because they have a display case stacked with Nova, Lox, smoked salmon, and a never ending choice of cream cheeses. There are actually several Pick A Bagels around Manhattan, but this specific one uptown on 2nd Avenue has the best bagels. Don't ask; just go try for yourself. I go all the way uptown just for a bagel sandwich, so you can too. It's just a high quality friendly neighborhood bagel shop. 

These are some of my family's favorites whenever we eat bagels (which is at least 1-4x a week):
- lox and scallion cream cheese on a toasted plain bagel
- toasted plain bagel with butter 
- white fish salad on a toasted plain bagel 
- sausage, egg, cheese, and tomato on a toasted everything flagel (crispy flat bagel)
- lox spread on a toasted pumpernickel bagel 
- toasted poppy seed bagel with cream cheese  

In summary: I miss New York. Breakfast sandwiches from delis are the best. Get me a bagel. 

Pick A Bagel
1475 2nd Avenue
New York, NY