A taste of Singapore with friends in Melbourne

How was everyone’s Queen’s birthday long weekend? Soy and I had a quick getaway to Melbourne, where we caught up with old friends and had lots and lots of lovely food, including a home cooked meal that tasted well… of home. The concept of ‘home’ is becoming increasingly blurry for me. After 7 years in Australia, I feel more and more that home is wherever you make it, but, Singapore will always be ‘home’ in the sense that that is where I became a person, and where my earliest food memories are. I am so lucky that I have always been surrounded by good cooks, so I’ve never had unsatisfied cravings of Singapore food, because we all just got together and cooked it! Some of these special people are SM and J, dear old friends of Soy and I, who now live in Melbourne. The best type of long weekend is one that is filled with food and friends, and that is definitely what we had! On Saturday night, we gladly played kitchenhand to SM and J, who put together a veritable Singapore feast!

Hainanese chicken rice is synonymous with Singapore food, and tastes so comforting. It’s also pretty easy to make- you just need to put a number of different components together- poached chicken, chicken flavoured rice and the all-important chilli. J’s poached chicken was velvety soft, the rice fragrant (and made my tummy rumble even while it was cooking) and went brilliantly with the garlic chilli SM made in their little bullet blender. I’m proud to say I contributed by being SM’s chilli taste tester ;)

J also made braised pig trotters with nam yee, which is  fragrant red fermented bean curd (available in jars at any asian grocer’s). Anyone who knows me knows that pork is not my favourite, and neither are gelatinous textures, so while I didn’t eat the pork, I thoroughly enjoyed the sauce and the bean curd sticks (tau kee) that had soaked up and softened with all the delicious juices. And everyone else loved the melty pork pieces as well.

We also had another Singapore favourite- sambal prawns, fried with a rempah made by SM’s mum, who is also a brilliant cook. Soy and I have sampled some of the best Asian dishes in her home, and she makes everything from scratch. I really marvel at the fact that she can fry up copious amounts of rempah, but Soy and I are very happy recipients. :)

“Even more food?” you say… But yes, an overflowing dinner table is another Singaporean trait. Oyster sauce kai lan and a simple cabbage and carrot soup made the meal complete. And you can see the chicken rice and scarlet chilli in the background.

We polished off every last morsel of that meal, and even had dessert! Matcha ice-cream from a local Japanese restaurant was really brilliant- Soy was in love instantly, as she loves good green tea ice-cream, and is the only flavour she ever orders at Baskin Robbins. I also tried pandan gelato from Il Dolce Freddo (my favourite gelateria anywhere in the world) for the first time. The green colour of the gelato was really incongruous- it was a jade green, which you definitely do not associate with pandan, but it did taste like pandan. And, it went even further than pandan. I sat there for a few minutes trying to put my finger on what exactly the pandan gelato tasted like, and then I got it! Kuih salad, the Malay cake that has a bright green pandan-kaya layer on the top, and glutinous rice at the bottom (which, by the way, SM’s mum makes brilliantly). The pandan gelato tasted exactly like the kaya layer! That was just bizarre, but it was definitely an interesting first experience!

We all stayed up talking til 2am. Moments like these with friends that you have known forever are something that I truly treasure. It puts a silly smile on your face and a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The warm fuzzy feeling could also have been caused by the coffees that SM makes proudly with his precious Rancilio machine. I’ve actually given up buying coffees, and have only had coffee this year when SM and J have visited us or vice versa. Maybe I’m subconsciously keeping it that way so that it won’t be too long before we see each other again.

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