Sunday, 31 August 2014

Singapore Food Adventures: Thai Food

Ah, to fall in love all over again!

The first time I had Thai food was at a local restaurant about 12 years back. At that time Thai food had not gained popularity in my little corner of Mumbai (Thane). So they served only two dishes, the quintessential Red Thai Curry and Green Thai Curry. I fell in love with the creamy and coconuty spiciness of the curries with the first fiery spoonful. And the love affair never stopped.

Now that I've been to Singapore with a better understanding of Thai food and more adventurous tastebuds, I've fallen in love all over again with this cuisine. These are the dishes in Thai cuisine that have made my tastebuds sing Hallelujah! 

Stir Fried Greens

Stir Fried Greens

There is one thing all of us agreed on, Thai cuisine really knows how to treat vegetables. This dish used only oil, slowly browned garlic and salt as spices. However, the main taste in the dish was the fresh, original flavour of the greens themselves. It may seem simple but it will require quite some experience to get the balance just right! 

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice
Thai Pineapple Fried Rice

This is fried rice taken to another level. Thai sticky rice is stir fried with vegetables, egg (optional), fried cashews, hint of turmeric and diced fresh pineapple. The pineapple adds a delicate fresh sweetness to this dish that is enhanced by the slight pungency of the turmeric. The vegetables and fried cashews add a crunchy texture to the rice that sticks to your teeth. And when it comes to your table served in a pineapple boat, you can't stop smiling at it!

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a popular street food. It is believed to be introduced to Thailand by Vietnamese traders. Soaked rice noodles are stir fried with bean sprouts, cut up tofu, eggs (optional), vegetables and local sauces. It has the traditional Thai taste profile with a balance of sweet, sour, pungent and salty. 

Thai Dessert: Black Glutinous Rice with Thai Mango in Vanilla Sauce

Black Glutinous Rice with Thai Mango in Vanilla Sauce

Believe it or not, the black sticky rice is black in colour naturally. There are no food colours added to it. I had seen this dessert on a food show and was intrigued by how popular a dessert made of black rice was. Now I completely understand the why! The sticky sweet rice simply melts in your mouth. Have it with the mango and vanilla sauce and there is a burst of different kinds of sweet flavours in your mouth. 

Lemongrass Juice
Lemongrass Juice

If you think lemon juice is great, you're going to flip over lemongrass juice. That's what happened to me. It has the citrusy flavour of lemons and lemongrass without the sour taste of lemons. This drink hits the right notes for me. 

Where to Eat Thai Food in Singapore?

For the Mains I found the most authentic and pocket friendly Thai food at small restaurants in the Thai quarters near Nicoll Highway. I would recommend at least one visit there. Food courts in malls or outside specialising in South East Asian cuisine also serve good Thai food. For more pricier options, Bali Thai is a great place. 

For Desserts: Honeymoon Desserts located at Bugis junction has a wide range of Thai desserts. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Singapore Food Adventures: Turkish Food

Singapore is true multi-cultural country. It has people from many different regions across the world living there. They've managed to bring their own cultural heritage to Singapore and preserve it. You will, therefore, find a lot of different cuisines in Singapore, not just from regions of South East Asia, but beyond that too.

One of the cuisines I tried here was Turkish food. Turkish cuisine has many influences which also include Middle Eastern cuisine (think dips and Mezze platters), Mediterranean  (think olive oil and fresh vegetables), Caucasian cuisines (think kebabs and dolma).

Here's a short introduction to the foods in Turkish cuisine that I've tried.

Turkish Mezze Platter

Turkish Mezze Platter

The word mezze in Turkish means "taste, flavour, relish". Mezze Platters are usually a dish of various savoury and creamy dips and snacks served with local breads. The dips that we had were: hummus the quintessential dip made of boiled chickpeas, sesame paste (tahini), lemon juice, garlic and olive oil (for the recipe, click here)Baba Ghanoush which has roasted eggplants with sesame paste and garlic, muhammara dip made of tomatoes and green onions with spices, cacik dip of yoghurt, dried mint and cucumber etc. The platter also had a dolma (stuffed snack) of vine leaves stuffed with cooked soft rice flavoured with tangy gravy and spices. 

Lavash Bread

Lavash Bread

We had Lavash, a leavened bread that puffs up like a bhatura when cooked in the oven, to scoop up the dips in the mezze platter. The lavash bread comes topped with black sesame seeds that add a great texture to the bread.

Kebab Platter
Kebab Platter

Turkish cuisine loves it's charcoal grills and serves a wide range of succulent and spiced up kebabs. The kebabs are served like a plated meal with rice, pan-grilled vegetables, rich gravy on the kebabs and herbs and spices to top it all off.

Having had all this heavy food, we needed something to wash it off and digest it, right? So we had:


Ayran is a salty yoghurt drink, kind of like our chhas.

Turkish Mint Tea
Turkish Mint Tea

Being a tea lover I have heard a lot about Turkish mint tea and now I've had it too! Turkish people have tea at breakfast and throughout the day. The mint tea has a strongly brewed full-bodied black tea served with fresh spearmint leaves.

Where to Find Turkish Food in Singapore? Arab Street area has many great restaurants serving authentic Turkish cuisine. Here I would recommend visiting Alaturk and Nasreen.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Singapore Food Adventures: Korean Barbecue

Barbecues have always appealed to me. The smoky charcoal and the red hot grill, the skewered vegetables and meats, the sizzling sounds of the grilling and roasting, and the spicy sauces create an experience that is unparalleled!

Korean Barbecue at Singapore

Since barbecues fascinate me and I like trying out different cuisines, how could I have missed this?

The basics of Korean barbecue are the same as we know of barbecue to be. There are different skewered and marinated meats which are then grilled on an electric barbecue (I am guessing fire safety in the mall). Then it is slathered with a sweet and sour barbecue sauce with hints of paprika and cumin and a pungent chilly sauce. She asked me before putting on the chilly sauce as it is "spicy" but the Indian palate could easily go: bring on some more spice!

I was happy to see was that there were two or three vegetarian options, which to most Indian tourists abroad is like hitting jackpot!

Where to find Korean Barbecue?  I came across this stall serving Korean barbecue at the food court in the Bugis Plus Mall. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Punjabi Chhole Recipe for Chhole Bhature

I find it fascinating to learn about local food traditions. And one of the ways I love to do that is by talking to people and asking them questions. My curiosity and love for food ensure that most of my conversations are sprinkled with questions and discussions about food.

It was during one of these conversations with my neighbour that I found out that there are two versions of chhole. One version is the curried version with the tomato and onion gravy that is had with rice. The other is what is had in the classic street food combination of Chhole Bhature. Bhature a fried bread made of a refined flour dough fermented overnight. Bhature are best described as huge (each is at least 10 inches in diameter), soft and spongy. 

Punjabi Chhole for Chhole Bhature

This made me curious, so I asked her for the recipe of the Chhole Bhature version of chhole. It turned out to be a very easy preparation with very basic dry spices. And it has no onion or garlic, which makes it perfect for Jain eaters. The trick of the dish is to let it simmer in the pan for as long as possible to bring out the spices in the dish.

Punjabi Chhole for Chhole Bhature

Punjabi Chhole Recipe for Chhole Bhature

Preparation Time: 8 hours (to soak the chhole)

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4


2 cups white chickpeas
4 cups water

2 tbsps oil
3 tsps roasted cumin (jeera) powder
2 tsps turmeric powder
3 tsps red chilly powder
2 tsps garam masala powder
4 tsps corriander powder
Salt to taste

Onion rings (optional) and lemon wedges to serve


Thoroughly wash the white chickpeas under running water. Soak them in the 4 cups of water overnight for at least 8 hours.

Pressure cook the chickpeas for 4 whistles till they're done. Drain the extra water from the chickpeas.

In a saucepan (preferably iron saucepan or kadhai) heat oil.

Lower the flame and add in the roasted cumin powder and the turmeric powder. Fry for about 15 seconds.

Bring the flame to a medium high and throw in the boiled chickpeas. Give it a good stir.

Now add in all the other spices - the red chilly powder, garam masala powder and corriander powder. Add in the salt to taste. Mix all of this well with the chickpeas.

Keeping the flame at a medium high, let the chickpeas simmer with the spices for about 5 minutes, ensuring that you constantly stir them.

Lower the flame and let the chickpeas cook with the spices for another 15-20 minutes. Stir constantly so that the spices don't burn.

Serve with lemon wedges and onion rings, parathas and dhaniya kadhi

Punjabi Chhole for Chhole Bhature Paratha and Dhaniya Kadhi

Monday, 11 August 2014

Singapore Food Adventures: Indonesian Bamboo Cakes

Imagine you're walking down a narrow street in a colourful and crowded market. At its corner you see a small cart piled with colourful little steamed balls. You almost walk past it, till you see a certificate of skill in making Indonesian Bamboo Cakes displayed on the cart. Wouldn't you stop and try it?

That's exactly what happened to me! And that was the day I tasted these delectable Indonesian Bamboo Cakes.

Indonesian Bamboo Cakes at a Street Cart in China Town Singapore

I ordered a mix of the available flavours in the Bamboo Cakes and got this box for $2 only! These bamboo cakes are made of palm sugar, cardamom and coconut wrapped in a rice flour paste. They are then steamed in bamboo pipes.

The steamed cakes have a very delicate texture. The palm sugar, coconut and jaggery add on to the mild nutty flavour of the steamed rice flour making it a delicious dish to eat.

Oh, and these are completely vegetarian, so no worries there for all vegetarians!

Where to Find Indonesian Bamboo Cakes? I found them in the Chinatown market. If you get down at the Chinatown MRT station, walk down as the road goes and take the first right where the eateries start, you'll see this at the corner of the street going towards the right. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Singapore Food Adventures: Breakfast Like A Local

Let's start at the very beginning,
A very good place to start
                                - The Sound of Music

As I was thinking about what should I write first about from all the crazy food adventures I've had in Singapore, the notes of this song played in my head and I said, why not? So here I am starting at the beginning, the first meal of the day: breakfast!

A breakfast that is close to the Singaporeans' hearts is Kaya Butter Toast with some Kopi (coffee) or Teh (tea) to dip it in.

Kaya Thick Toast with Kopi at Toast Box Singapore

Kaya is a spread made by slow cooking coconut milk, sugar and eggs till the sugar caramelises giving a golden colour and rich taste to the spread. Kaya toast can be made using a thick toast or two thin slices of bread. In both versions, there is a thick slab of salted butter and a thick layer of kaya, either on top or between the two slices. The slightly salted buttery taste brings out the caramelised sweetness of the kaya on the toast.

Kopi or coffee is a local coffee blend that makes a strong brew. It is served with evaporated milk (think condensed milk, minus some of the sugar) which makes lends a distinctively delicious taste and consistency to the coffee.

If you ever go to Singapore, do breakfast like a local!

Where to Find Kaya Toast and Kopi? Small tea shop and eateries selling Kaya toast and kopi are everywhere. Just walk into one of these and enjoy the authentic experience. There are also chains of brands like Toast Box located in malls or individually around Singapore that serve Kaya Toast too.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Singapore Food Adventures: An Overview

Hello dear readers. I know I have been MIA last month, but I have good reasons for it. I have been on a relaxed vacation where I have really skipped even looking at my blog. 

This July I was taking my first international holiday in Singapore. I was hosted by my lovely to-be sister-in-law and her husband at their beautiful home and my fiance was able to join me the last two weeks of the trip! My fiance's best friend and his family are also in Singapore making it a great tourist and family vacation.

If you've been in touch with my Facebook page you'll have read of the food adventures I've been having there. How could the foodie in me miss out on all the variety of tasty food available.

 Here is a snapshot of all the great food memories I've carried back with me!

This past month I've had breakfast like a local, eaten authentic Thai food, sampled Korean barbecue at a stall in the mall, had three Vietnamese cuisine dinners, fallen in love with Indonesian bamboo cakes (that require a certificate of skill), had Swedish meatballs at IKEA, celebrated tai's birthday with Greek food, finally had authentic Mexican food, devoured burgers from American burger chains, dipped my toes in the ocean of Japanese food and celebrated my love for Turkish food (phew!). 

I will be writing about these over the next few posts, so watch out for them.