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 →

Two weeks in the middle east and I’ve got a terrible craving that wouldn’t exist had I my own kitchen out here, but I don’t have my own kitchen.  At least not yet.  I think I must have instinctively known this before I left Singapore because on the day we left, I somehow managed to have time to make this second version of Dan Dan Mian.  That or I was simply trying to finish up the rest of the la mian I had in the fridge before we took off on the plane for a noodleless land. Dan Dan Read More →

nasi goreng jawa

Javanese fried rice.

This is typically made with a dried shrimp paste called belacan but it is very pungent and I have had friends living in Europe who had complaints made against them by neighbours because of their cooking with belacan.  I very rarely use belacan in my own cooking so I don’t feel it’s worth the space in my crammed pantry to have it there, but I know most Malay kitchens wouldn’t be complete without it.  As a substitute for belacan, I’ve found that using canned anchovy results in a satisfyingly similar flavour without the pungency that some can’t bear.  Even if you do use belacan, I would recommend you not use more than 1/2 a teaspoon, and it should be added to the wok and dry fried, set aside before proceeding with the recipe below.  Add the toasted belacan back to the wok in place of the anchovy.  (If you buy belacan, get the Malaysian variety for this one.  Thai belacan is not the same as Malay belacan and tastes very different) Read More →

Malays and Indonesians and quite certainly the rest of Indo-China, have a vast array of chilli dips, also known in Malay as sambal.  Maybe you already know this, but it is always eaten in small amounts, perhaps a teaspoon or so, on the side of your dish to add to your food as you eat your way through the meal, not to mix in with your meal to a homogenous flavour.  In each mouthful you are supposed to have nuances of sour, heat, salt, sweet, whatever the particular sambal is made of, in differing levels and strengths, lilting upwards and then downwards like a colourful song, not as a boring monotone.

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beginning to feel there is no way to photograph this flatteringly

fried bee hoon served with chicken curry (possibly the worst photograph ever taken of a meal)

Did you know that vermicelli is an Italian word that means ‘little worms’?  Thank goodness for us, we always call this noodle Bee Hoon instead.

In Singapore, and probably Malaysia too, we call this thin white noodle bee hoon or sometimes mee hoon, depending on who you’re talking to.  It’s bought dried in clear plastic packaging at any supermarket, the most popular brand seemingly being Chilli Brand with two red chillies pictured on its front.  Before you cook with it, you have to soak it in either hot or cold water.  Cold water takes longer, my mother has said, even an hour, but she says it will never be over soaked or soggy.  Noodles need to be springy!  Soggy noodles are not on.  Hot water is faster, 10 mins at the most, and anything more you’d end up with noodles that break too easily when you fry it later.  You get ricey looking noodles (although I know some families who do fry their bee hoon deliberately chopping it up as they go so that it resembles rice).

Fried bee hoon has so many permutations, it’s hard to pinpoint any recipe as being The One. Read More →