So, what was the first dish I cooked?
I was very young. I can hardly remember the details. It was at the canteen in the Guinness Stout factory along Federal Highway (it is still there).
My Mum ran the business at the three canteens there - Western, Chinese and Malay. Much of my primary school years were spent working and hanging around there. The Western one has an air conditioned room and caters mostly to expatriate management staff. The cook was a Hainanese man. My Mum called him Ah Chek and I called him uncle.
Bee Hoon is a "stand by me" friend which every Chinese home cook should get familiar with.
Like pasta for Italians, it is a staple which is useful for different occasions and can be cooked in many ways.
Here in Singapore, it seems you you can find fried bee hoon everywhere: wakes & funerals, parties, catered buffets spreads and hawker stalls. I must have eaten a lot of bee hoon growing up, second only to rice. It actually is made from rice and that may explain it’s staple appeal to Asians.
It is easily available in most global world cities. Dehydrated like pasta, it can keep for months in your larder. Quick and easy to cook, it is also a favourite party dish as it can be served as a stand-alone dish, vegetarian one or to accompany another meat dish. It can be served at room temperature. Unless it is a soup recipe, it will still taste good if you serve it many hours after it is cooked.
If you love pork, you will love Sio Bak: the Chinese way of roasting it.
The meat is cut into bite size cubes and you use a pair of chopsticks to dip it into some sauces. The skin is crisped, crackling and flavourful and the meat is moist and tender.
I have been to some Western restaurants (Michelin-star, mind you) offering roast pork belly as a dish and I have to say that using a knife and fork to eat a slab of of it just does not make culinary sense. The crackling skin cracks apart when knifed. I have seen versions where the skin is offered separately. Why separate the perfect marriage of the layered skin, fat and meat, which offers a burst of different flavours and texture in a bite?
Slices of large red onions and fried ikan bills is added towards the end. The onions introduce texture and the ikan bilis adds salty and umami flavours to the sambal.
My favourite cooking companion, Auntie Lucy and myself have been fastidious in trying to improve on the rice of our Nasi Lemak recipe. Our favourite approach is to cook it in the rice cooker before steaming it in a steamer. It is definitely better than just cooking it in the rice cooker as the rice turns out fluffy. However, when you are cooking a big pot of rice in the rice cooker, inevitably some of the rice will stick together as the cooker cooks unevenly.
I have already written a post on Rice Wine Chicken.
It is the ultimate confinement dish. I am not sure how I got to like it so much as I have never been confined :). I suppose when I was a child, there was always someone who has just given birth. And in those days, it is common for households to brew glutinous rice wine in large jars. And there were always some chickens running around in the backyard. So, sans one, we get to enjoy bowls of this.
Fast forward to modern urban Singapore and you will find that this home-made brew is indeed very uncommon. Commercial Korean ones are quite good and sometimes it is the only option I have.