Yemeni Dish in Singapore: Lamb Mandi

One of the best things about living in the Southeast Asia region is the ability to travel across the different countries, as most are a 2-3 hour plane ride away (if that). I’m currently based in Thailand (Bangkok) but have been traveling to Malaysia and Singapore a lot… and immensely enjoying the food.

More than enjoying the eating, I’ve been learning a lot about foods from different cultures, more than I did when I was living in San Francisco, New York, D.C., or LA. It seems so strange how some Asian countries are more diverse than the United States or even London (pre-Brexit).

Each region’s local food is mind-blowingly delicious — especially in Malaysia and Singapore. Malay and Singaporean foods are heavily influenced by Chinese and Indian and there are many dishes with roots from China and India but unique to the region. (More on that later… actually, there will be a piece published shortly about Malaysian food I wrote – yay!)

But what a lot of the more developed cities of the region (Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, are the top three) do well, are foods from various countries (outside of China and India). For example, Bangkok — believe it or not — excels in Italian food. Pasta, antipasto, even mains such as osso buco are extremely delicious and a lot of establishments even import brick ovens from Italy for their pizza.

Singapore has pretty decent Middle Eastern / Mediterranean communities and those whom know me, know I loooooooove Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. From the spices: cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, paprika, saffron, sumac to the aromatics: mint, parsley, dill, oregano… I can keep going but I can’t get enough of the warm, deep, flirty flavors of Middle Eastern foods and the fresh, bright, acidity of Mediterranean foods.

The other day in Singapore, I had the tastiest lamb mandi, a Middle Eastern dish so I just have to share.

lamb mandi
Byblos Grill

Originating from Yemen, mandi is a one plate dish consisting of a protein (usually beef, chicken, goat, or lamb) with rice cooked with a special blend of spices. The menu description reads: roasted lamb marinated with saffron and Arabic spices served with mandi rice and homemade mint tomato sauce

In actuality, it was the most tender leg of lamb cooked in this clay pan-like thing with this lovely fragrant rice. I couldn’t get the flavors out of my head, so I googled recipes and tried with chicken at home. It was good but not great – I’m blaming the cooking method (traditional mandi is cooked underground) but I’m hoping practice will make perfect 😉 Recipe is after the jump.

By the way, if you’re ever in Singapore, Byblos Cafe is highly recommended. Not pictured are the four other dishes my dining companion and I ordered… for lunch. There were only two of us and we ate enough for like five haha

Byblos Grill
14 Bussorah Street Singapore 199435
11am – 12am
+65 6296 8577

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Need to properly update, but quickly, a recommendation. Pulled from my review on Facebook. I am not ashamed to admit I ate this many times during the one week duration of my stay — even ordered takeaway (which is called dapao or tapao).

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Non-takeaway nasi lemak from Village Park

The flavors and textures ebb and flow through your mouth until the final bite; why can’t this dish be never-ending?

Can’t get enough of the sweet, salty, savory, crunch with soft fluffy rice… the nasi lemak ayam goreng at Village Park is so magical, I consumed — on repeat — more times than I care to admit.

Easily one of my top three dishes of all time #legendary

PS: to all the complainers, dapao omits dining-in woes — check photos, even delivered, it’s the best thing I’ve put in my mouth in a looooooong time. But yo, this isn’t a Michelin white table cloth spot; manage expectations properly 🙄

Village Park Restaurant (Lunch only)
No.5, Jalan SS21/37,
Damansara Utama,
47400 Petaling Jaya.
Tel: 03 – 7710 7860

https://www.facebook.com/Village-Park-Restaurant-1639483826264341/

Hokkaido Shinkansen

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I am in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan in a Starbuck’s killing time before my flight. My traveling companions are eating soup curry (super runny Japanese curry rice that looks like this — one of the things Sapporo is super famous for).

Hokkaido is the most northern island of Japan. It is the island known for their glorious seafood and the motherland of kombu.

I’ve had some incredible food here I will get around to posting but for now, here is a quick re-cap of what I learned from my second visit to this area in two months.

  • The bullet train is expensive ($200 USD for a one-way from Tokyo to Hakodate <– Hokkaido’s most Southern city; flights are about the same or cheaper. I rode in the Green Car, the equivalent of Business Class)
  • Hokkaido is MASSIVE. It takes about three hours from Hakodate to Sapporo on a super slow, lame train.
  • I much prefer Hakodate to Sapporo. Sapporo to me feels like Tokyo, where the city is so big there are many hits and many misses. The nightlife (bars, etc.) is similar to Tokyo. Hakodate has lots of small bars with more a cozy feel.
  • There is such thing as too much seafood. I’m so seafood-ed out, I am craving meat more than fish. Seriously such a first world problem in the highest order but I’m kind of over uni.

I’ll update with my recommendations in Hakodate (I’m still learning Sapporo).
Until then!

 

SF Trip

I stopped sharing food from trips (I was in France in July, London a bunch more times and a few other cities this year) but I just came back from an epic SF trip filled with lots of friends, laughter, too much wine, tacos and even more tacos. It was my first trip back home (I grew up in the Bay Area) and way too short but much, much needed. I have lots to update including one of my most memorable and delicious meals at State Bird Provisions but until I get around to editing, posting the photos, here are some quick snaps.

In San Francisco, even the hot dog stands serve food that is locally sourced, organic, grass-fed.

I ate way too many salads than I care to admit. But, the produce in California is really something special. The greens are so crisp, flavorful and delicious. That’s my salad from The Rotunda restaurant inside Neiman Marcus. The food is reallllllly tasty there. It’s a bit fancy though. More on that later.
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That’s my salad that came with my lunch at Boots and Shoe in Oakland. One of my best friends used to live in the neighborhood which is really cute and the food at Boots is super yummy. More on that later too.

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I trolled the markets at Rockridge Market Hall where friends fed me the tastiest meat from Marin Sun Farms. They have a great story so do please check out their site. The produce there was also, really something else.

I really missed the wine and cheese in the Bay Area, of course I had to put together a spread. On top is Cowgirl Creamery (one of the most loved cheese makers in California)’s standard Mt. Tam. The middle (and one of my favorites) is Humboldt Fog. Also another super popular and beloved local goat. It’s a very beautiful cheese. And the one on the bottom is a sharp cheddar – forgot where it was from but, it was the Whole Foods’ cheese monger’s #1 recommendation for cheddars.

Ahhhh I’m getting hungry writing this.
Stay tuned for more SF eats. I really, really, really, missed the Bay Area.

Destinations with the Best Food

Bowls of Taiwanese noodles via CNN

CNN polled FB and the people have spoken: “Top 10 Destinations for World’s Best Food”. Surprisingly Asia dominated the list. Maybe there are more Asian Facebook users. Or perhaps the people willing to take polls have a bias towards Asia? Who knows what the answers are, but it’s nice to see so many regular people take a fancy on Asia.

The winners in order:

  1. Taiwan
  2. Philippines
  3. Italy
  4. Thailand
  5. Japan
  6. Malaysia
  7. Hong Kong
  8. India
  9. Greece
  10. Vietnam

In Asia, I’ve never been to Taiwan or Vietnam but I can say:

Philippines: the Southern region has amazing food (Davao, Boracay) — lots of seafoods — and their take on ceviche called kinilaw blew me away. The adobo (Filipino staple) even tastes better when cooked down south. I think it has to do with the fresh ingredients available to them. My favorite ex boyfriend’s recipe for adobo and kinilaw is here.

Thailand: Last summer I spent a few weeks in Bangkok and loved every second of it. I was extremely impressed with the food. There’s a sort of food movement happening there and lot of ex-pats are contributing to the food industry with a focus on sustainability.

I was invited to a dinner event where Seven Spoons, an establishment owned by Americans and serves Mediterranean style food, collaborated with a craft beer distributor (Beervana) and local organizations / non-profits helping Thailand’s food ecosystem. For example, this dish:

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4th Course: Crusted Snapper with Lao dragon nut, paired with Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA

The Lao Dragon Nut was foraged in the deep forests of Northern Thailand. In rural areas, there are lumber poachers. Lumber poachers are locals who illegally cut and sell trees (mainly Siam rosewood) to the blackmarket of wood — mainly China. One of the organizations working to prevent poaching, takes poachers, teaches them how to forage rare foods and the org distributes to restaurants. Seven Spoons held the special dinner specifically to highlight these organizations and their efforts.

At the dinner, I met lots of people from the Bangkok food scene, and also learned what the chefs are experimenting with ex: hydroponics. And that’s just one of the many instances of Thailand’s surprisingly exciting food scene.

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My Ex’s Out of Control Adobo and Kinilaw

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Padada City, Mindanao, Philippines

You should’ve had my baby.

What a way to start a conversation.

Last week an ex almost gave me a heart attack with that text. But he is constantly inconsistent and full of surprises which is why he is, and will always remain, my favorite ex. He is not the first guy I dated but the first who stole my heart.

The year was 2007. May of 2007 to be exact. I was splitting time between NY and LA and visiting the SF Bay Area where I was raised. As soon as I landed, several girlfriends dragged me to “Two Dollar Tuesdays” at a local club. We walk in, grab our drinks and take over the dance floor like we always do at clubs. A group of guys try dancing with us, like most groups of guys at clubs do. A birthday was being celebrated and I end up dancing with the birthday boy.

Out of the corner of my eye I spot him.

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London Daydream

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They say short-term memory lasts only for 20-30 seconds but long term memories can last a lifetime. Daydreaming helps me remember unforgettable moments and I spend more time than I care to admit daydreaming.

At least once a day, I think of that perfect London Sunday. The sun was out, the sky bright blue and the rays were illuminating down onto London’s stunning city scape. It was the perfect day to spend outdoors.

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Hi Peas. It’s me, not you. Really.

During this recent trip to London I discovered peas suit me best consumed in limited quantities. When they are served in a pile, the nutty pea taste is too concentrated. The pea smell – wait that doesn’t sound appetizing… pea scent? flavor? None of them sound delicious. I blame the English language, where pea the vegetable sounds the same as pee a form of human waste: urine. Oh boy, I am not helping my case of trying to like peas.

Peas are a delightful addition to foods, especially Indian. I love them in curries and samosas, where the peas offset the spices and adds a slight sweetness. I also love wasabi peas – the dehydrated peas encased in a wasabi crust. Yum. But peas served starring in a side dish? No way. Forget about it.

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My Week as a Reluctant Vegetarian

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I don’t remember you this thin.” he said, as his hands ran up and down the curves of my body. I looked over and said “Who says that?” with a half smile, one brow arched. Our eyes met, he pulled me into his arms and we both started laughing.

This type of playful banter basically sums up the week I spent in London. With him. It was a last minute trip, booked on a whim. We met in Tokyo at some gross bar in Roppongi. On impulse I blindly ended up in London about to spend a week with a man I barely remembered.

Before anyone thinks I am completely bat shit crazy, there is a back story. I swear.

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Masala Zone, Covent Garden, London

 

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Dahi Puri and Samosa

As a reluctant vegetarian while visiting London, we ate a lot of Indian food. And boy, is it true what they say: the Indian food in London is fantastic. So creative and easy on the eyes, I wonder why I’ve never had Indian food like this while in the States.

One of my favorite small plates were puri — whole wheat or semolina shells so crispy and light, with filling, usually mashed potatoes, mashed chick peas and a chutney.

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