Mashaallah is an oft heard refrain when it comes to conversations about children, something I’ve been hearing all around me lately since school started.  I have five grandchildren – mashaallah!  My daughter is two years old – mashaallah!  They’ve just started school and they love it – mashaallah!  My son is learning karate – mashaallah!  It goes on.  What’s interesting is the term mashaallah is said by all and sundry, no matter what religion one is.  In southeast asia (and dare I say, anywhere else apart from the middle east), it is generally perceived that anything arabic with the word Allah in it, has something to do with Islam.  In the middle east however, the phrase is used freely by anyone, as are many other ‘islamic’ phrases. Read More →

The last few weeks have been spent struggling with the dilemma of what lunch to pack for the kids since at this time of writing school starts in two days.  If they liked the same things this would be easy, but turns out they don’t.  One likes easy-and-fast-to-eat food with simple, straightforward flavours and is generally averse to anything being too hot (basically all cooked food), while the other prefers warm food that is packed with flavours and moulded against a carb base like rice or noodles.  On top of all this, the school does not allow any nuts or chocolate, so nutella spread is out (not that it was very nutrient dense to begin with but still..) as are granola bars and peanut butter and brownies and chocolate chip cookies and oreos and cupcakes and just everything in my world.

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We’ve been in Jeddah for exactly two months now, and despite not having our things with us yet, we feel like we’ve begun to settle in to our temporary home.  We’ve made certain supermarkets our favourites, we’ve sussed out some places to snack at, we’ve tried now two modes of ‘public transport’ and decided which we like best, we’re settling slowly but surely.

front yard is sad but we're trying to get it happy

front yard work

I am currently obsessed with trying to revive the plants we inherited in the small front yard, a hibiscus and a bougainvillea.  Through a little reading, I have discovered that a magic ingredient typically found in pharmacies might just do the trick – magnesium sulphate, or otherwise knowns as epsom salts.  Something I easily found in Delhi, I’m surprised that the two pharmacies we tried last week didn’t stock it.  But then, nutmeg is banned here so I’m not sure what’s normal anymore. Read More →

I feel a bit bashful for putting up a recipe for Chicken Rice.  There are countless versions on the internet, many handed down from mothers or mums’ mums, others gleaned from chefs who sell chicken rice for a living, and most written by Chinese, and rightly so because Chicken Rice as we know it is Hainanese in origin.  And if you didn’t know (though I’m sure you do.  Right?) the Hainanese are Chinese.

But here I am, this Malay chick who looks sort of Chinese, whose accent has an identity crisis, who’s spent more than half her life away from her non-birthplace of Singapore, is going to share with you her version of Hainanese Chicken Rice.

At this point, I’m writing this post to myself because I’m sure at the end of that last paragraph, anyone reading would have shut their browser tab on me.  So I console myself that this post is for me to remember, for posterity, for my children when they’re grown, given I’m still around to pay for my domain. Read More →

It’s Ramadan in Jeddah, and we have no car.  What this means is that we don’t have the option of heading out for iftar when everything is said to come to life.  In Saudi Arabia, Ramadan sees the closure of all the food shops during the day, til about 4 or 5pm when they open and ready themselves for the throngs of people who want to break their fast just after 7pm.  It’s at this point that all the shops and all the eating establishments remain open through most of the night until it’s time for the last meal before sunrise, and people head home to fast for the rest of the daylight hours and presumably to sleep.  It is in the night that bazaars, and markets and events are held, and the day sees a very sleepy town instead.  Having said that, the embassies still function, albeit for shorter hours, which doesn’t leave us much leeway in terms of exploration since we are awake for most of the day, as are the office drivers, who also fast.  So to request for the driver to bring us out to get dinner for iftar strikes me as unkind as they would be breaking their fast in the car, without their family, or on the road.  My point is, this is a bit of a shame because this is a city filled with burger joints from the US, burgers that we can actually eat! but we can’t because there are still two weeks left of Ramadan.  That’s right, we’ve got all out priorities sorted.

Since arriving in Jeddah, I’ve been dying to go back to The Counter burger joint at Stars Avenue in the north end of Jeddah.  But, and I wail, we have no car!  Right now, they’re closed in the day, only open at night, I refuse to overwork the driver, we have no car to drive ourselves, and getting an Uber at iftar time may not be guaranteed, so what do we do?  Attempt a recreation in the kitchen.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

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One half of us would eat nasi padang any chance he gets, while the other half, would rather a bowl of noodles if faced with the choice (and if it isn’t Rumah Makan Minang that we’re faced with).  So, even whilst hungry because we skipped breakfast in our haste, and having trekked through unfamiliar Chinatown, in the drizzle, pushing the stroller through puddly, narrow lanes with one hand, and trying to keep the six-year-old next to me from slipping or getting lost, we came upon Nur’Ilham June and Family Nasi Padang Stall in Manhattan House (151 Chin Swee road), and I admit I was less than thrilled.  I don’t know, everytime I see a nasi padang stall, I think generic flavours, no punch, lots of blind chilli, under seasoning, and not a whole lot of love or care for detail.  It’s just the token Malay guy in the HDB block.  Yay.

the stall, at first glance

the stall, at first glance

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I am not in Singapore.  I was but am not currently.  And the eatery’s name is I Am.  Say it carefully and you might say Ayam (chicken).

Located in the now-hip area of the Arab street vicinity, it sits on the corner of cool Haji Lane and busy as heck North Bridge road.  It has the usual industrial hipster boxes all ticked, dark and broody, ceiling fans, no air conditioning, and tables spilling out on to the little road that it sits alongside.  The real draw to this place is the promise of tasty Western style halal food that has not been doused in cheap chilli sauce.  I’d read about it on various blogs and it honestly looked good, and bonus! we can eat anything on the menu.

The Bear Burger (background, hot wings)

The Big Bear Burger
(background, hot wings)

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hidangan

hidangan

O Rumah Makan Minang.  If only you weren’t so far from my flat in Sengkang, I would have lunch with you every week.

I’d like to state for the record that I was the first to really discover this little outfit and one of the people responsible for propelling it into the popularity stratosphere.  This was before the area became this cool place to hang out, with grafitti on the walls, and industrial hipster styled eateries popping up.   Read More →