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eG Food Blog: nikkib (2011)

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#1 nikkib

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 06:05 AM

Welcome to my Singapore food blog for e gullet! The blogs are one of my favourite things about egullet and the standard of writing/photography not to mention eating and drinking has been incredibly high so i hope i don’t let the side down! I suppose I should start with a bit about me really, My name is, as you had probably guessed Nikki and after spending the first 10 years of my working life in London managing restaurants i realised somewhat belatedly that the hospitality industry is the same the world over and if i was going to continue working anything up to 16 hours a day i might as well do it somewhere interesting. My first port of call was Lebanon, and i fell head over heels in love with the country, its food, its wine (and arak) and of course its people (especially my boyfriend who i am enjoying early morning skyping with as we try to settle into this long distance/6 hour time difference phase of our relationship) I wish I’d got round to blogging more when I was there – i am kicking myself for not doing a food blog then. To sum up, if you haven’t been, add it to your list – it truly is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been, am hopefully heading back to see the boy in January so maybe i’ll do another one then if i’m allowed.... Kuwait followed (very briefly for many many reasons i won’t go into here lets just say i HATED every second of it and flew back to Beirut almost every other weekend so i didn’t lose my mind) and now i find myself on the other side of the world in Singapore.
I live in an area called Little India so a lot of what i typically consume is Indian – I’ll try to mix it up this week though- besides, Percyn covered India beautifully and i am hoping we will see Jenni blogging sooner rather than later as well.....I love living in this area, Singapore can feel very sanitized & organised but there is a “realness” about Little India that i warmed to immediately. The smells of Jothi flowers for prayer offerings mix beautifully with incense and spices not to mention all the street food and there is a great sense of energy surrounding the place. I also love hanging out in Arab Street where i can go to smoke arguileh/drink coffee at any time of day or night – I’m struggling to find good Arabic food so far but i am having so much fun with everything else it doesn’t really matter.
Apart from the strong Indian influences here in Singapore, there are also Malay, Chinese, Indonesian and Peranaken ( descended from the early Chinese settlers in Penang, Malacca, Indonesia and Singapore who intermarried with Malays and thus created a whole new culture and foods with it) not to mention Thailand, the Middle East, The Philippines and Sri Lanka. You also see “Chindian” food too where local chefs will take Indian ingredients and use them in their recipes as well which is interesting.
Having seen a shot of my fridge in my teaser photos, you will not be at all surprised to learn that this week my intention is to show you what Singapore is possibly most famous for – Hawker Centres and its rich multi cultural culinary influences from the myriad of different nationalities who now call Singapore home.
PLease feek free to ask any questions, request any food and enjoy the ride!!
"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#2 Jenni

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 07:03 AM

Oh I'm so jealous of your lifestyle! How is it that you can so easily move all over the world? Are you with a particular compnay that has hotels or restaurants in many places or do you just look for an entirely new job each time? Sorry for being nosey, ignore it if it's too personal!

I am very excited about this blog! :biggrin:

#3 LindaK

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 07:36 AM

This blog is going to make me very hungry. I've enjoyed your posts from Lebanon and elsewhere, you have a talent for finding great food, wherever you are.

To ask the obvious question from your fridge photo, does this mean you eat out rather than cook? Assuming you cook at home sometimes, I wonder if you adopt the cuisine of your new home or if you have some favorites from home that you like to make for yourself.


 


#4 ChefCrash

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 08:48 AM

Hi Nikki,
I truly enjoyed your food adventures in Lebanon and Syria, and am looking forward to this blog. I must admit I'm not one of the bright ones, all along I thought it was Nick. I have to adjust:)

#5 nikkib

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 09:23 AM

I was told to me obscure in my teaser photos - glad it worked, subtlety is not one of my strong points.... Jenni i have actually swapped companys a few times, i look for an interesting project and location first and foremost and decided that i should be as mobile as possible until i settle down and start having kids (inshallah!) when moving around like this will get more difficult, i can't stand the idea of looking back and thinking what might have been....LindaK - Thanks! I am a bit of a glutton really (in a good sense of the word!) and so finding good food wherever i go is a must. I actually joined Egullet initially to suss out great food when i first visited New York and people like Chefcrash's posts on Lebanon gave me a head start on where to go when i got there. I eat out a lot simply because it suits my lifestyle more than eating at home - whilst i LOVE cooking, cooking for one is depressing to me and due to the shift nature of my work can lead to either a lot of waste or eating the same thing for days on end which drives me nuts. I literally didnt pay for groceries in lebanon for weeks at a time due to the small quantities i was buying - my local shop keeper would laugh at me when i went up to the counter with one or two individual eggs, a pepper or an onion and a potato for example and refuse to take any money as the total sum of what i was buying barely came up to a chargable amount. If i buy 6 eggs i will undoubtedly throw at least 3 in the bin for example. Also cooking areas/kitchens in Singapore appartments that i looked at where tiny which makes things harder too (i will post more on this but am having trouble uploading pictures today for some reason)Eating out locally here in Singapore is extremely cheap as well - often cheaper than eating at home, especially if you take wastage into account so thats another consideration. It also opens your eyes to the culture you are living in and is a real experience in every sense of the word. In terms of what i eat, i do tend to adapt as much as possible to the local culture and don't crave much "home food" When i went home to the Uk from lebanon for the first time my Mum cooked a few of her world class roast dinners ( i had partridge the first night i was back with about 6 different vegetables) as well as sosme great desserts like Bread and butter pudding or Treacle tart that i would never make myself (or order in a restaurant because they won't be as good as i can get at home)but enjoy immensely. When i came back briefly from Kuait i gourged myself on charcuterie for example, i suppose as a reaction to being denied pork for 3 months.

Edited by nikkib, 13 November 2011 - 09:24 AM.

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#6 nikkib

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 09:36 AM

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Jenni posted about Idlis a while ago so as soon as i saw them i knew i had to try them and they have become a favourite breakfast of mine if i wake up feeling hungry – today i decided to add vadas(mentioned in percyns brilliant blog - finding them became somewhat of an obsession for me) along with a Diet coke all for the grand sum of $2.90SGD which works out at about $2.40 or £1.50 depending on where you are from. This was in the Mon Ami Cafe a mini hawker centre near my house with about 4 different Indian stalls open the best part of 24 hours a day, i have become somewhat of a regular there and as a lone blonde woman amongst the predominantly male Indian crowd (certainly late at night if i go for a snack and a beer when i get home) i get very well looked after indeed :wink: The breakfast/lunch crowd is much more mixed.I should point out i tend to eat "breakfast" anywhere between 8 and 11am depending on what time i am due at work - if you see a breakfast like this you can assume its later in the day rather than earlier so i will alreday have had a coffee (Arabic cofee probably one of the few times i use my stove or if i am running late an instant Local coffe)and it will double up as lunch too. If like in my teaser photos its coffee or Kopi as it is called here in Singapore and Kaya (a local speciality which is a type of coconut and egg jam - weird sounding but delicious)then it will be an earlier breakfast and i may try to sneak a late lunch in too.
"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#7 Jenni

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 09:53 AM

Oh I hate you right now! Being in North India, the local restaurants version of idli-sambar is not up to my standard and it's hard to prepare at home for just one person so I have not had a decent version for months now! Going to rectify that next month though as I am going to Chennai. Oh but I want some now!

ETA: Diet coke?! Where is your South Indian filter coffee young lady?!

Edited by Jenni, 13 November 2011 - 09:55 AM.


#8 Yajna Patni

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 10:59 AM

Hey jenni,
don't get me wrong, i am far far too lazy to get this together for my own breakfast, but I find iddi quite easy for one.
If you make a tub of batter it keeps for nearly a week in the fridge, and you can steam up a few as you go. If you make a whole load of iddli you can also freeze them, and take them out singely. I have seen microwave iddli makers but don't have a microwave.
Sambar also will keep in a tupperware or something for nearly a week. I take it out portion by portion and heat it. I bet you could freeze it in single portions too. My freezer is not really good enough to hand that kind of task.

Again. I am far too lazy to do this kind of work, esp for breakfast, but if you are not, I think there is a way!

#9 Jenni

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 11:07 AM

^^
This is technically true, but I do not do leftovers or frozen food! Idli batter is ok for a few days (though I'm such a "fresh" freak that I prefer it made to order, and then use any leftover batter the next day to make utthappam), so I can manage that. Sambar for one portion is hard but I have done it before and it is just about workable though not as good or easy as big batch sambar. It's just not the same as making a big batch of idli-sambar-chutney for the whole family....having proper Southie filter coffee afterwards (another thing that is crap locally - and sadly I left my South Indian filter in the UK so cannot make it myself! Will have to pick one up next month)

ETA: Also I must say that I think microwave idli makers are vile. The idlis are not cooked completely by steam, they are cooked by the microwaves themselves. Don't have a microwave anyway, and have always avoided their use, probably for no good reason, but what can I say - I like flames for cooking my food!

In this case it doesn't matter as idli steamers are widely available here. You see North India does know of the idli, of course it does. But in many places it is shown no care and the texture and taste are not right...perhaps often it is made from those horrible instant mixes, who knows. And god knows the sambar is not often up to scratch. Mind you, humourusly I don't like all Southie sambar either - what is up with Bangalore sambar?! I suspect this may be because, if I may say so myself, I make a killer sambar. And homemade (in many people's homes, not just your own) trumps restaurant sambar easily.

Edited by Jenni, 13 November 2011 - 11:14 AM.


#10 heidih

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 11:14 AM

Looking forward to images of the glorious produce, artfully arranged, and spilling out from the stores onto the sidewalk tables :wub:

Can you explain a bit about the various sauces served with your breakfast items?

#11 Yajna Patni

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 11:20 AM

fair enough Jenni! I am used to cooking for one, it is most of what I have done for years, it does get easier!
I am with you on the microwave. I am happy to hear the microwaved iddlis are vile, another nail in the microwave's coffin.
You have a lot more energy for food prep than I do! It is wonderful to know people do it properly though. I cook because it is cheaper and most food i eat out is disgusting, but mostly i just want it to be fast.
Kudos to you!

#12 nikkib

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 05:43 PM

Heidi - the more liquidy accompaniment is a sambar, a medium spiced vegetable stew/ curry. It has the occasional piece of vegetable in it but more often than not it is just things like curry leaves and tomato skin that give it texture. I believe there are also lentils in there too as the texture is a little "grainy" if that makes sense. As for the other sauces- the white one is a coconut chutney with mustard seeds which us used to temper the heat of the other sauce which is somewhat spicer - I believe it is a tomato chutney but could be wrong...
"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#13 nikkib

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 05:59 PM

Lunch yesterday was a banana i grabbed after our Lunch period had subsided afterwhich i attended a wine tasting of German wines which we might add to our winelist. We tasted 8 all in 8 and i was really impressed - we ended up drinking the 8 bottles of wine between the 8 of us (oops) These were my favourites

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They are a Pinot Gris that i would never have believed to be German - it had a great fruit flavour, nothing like some of the insipid pinot grigios around. The Riesling that followed was incredibly crisp and minerally with a nice tropical fruit undertone And the last bottle pictured in Trollinge a red wine, served chilled with the appearence of a Rose wine. It was very light indeed but the cherry and strawberry flavours were undeniable. Our host described it as a beer replacement for those in the know in the region of Germany it is produced. We tried another couple of rieslings, a pinot noir that was simply outstanding and a Cabernet blended with a German grape whos name i forget that was also very impressive - not leats when i was told it retailed at around 7 Euros.
"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#14 nikkib

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 06:07 PM

Dinner was at another hawker centre near my house, this time for a local Singaporean dish known as Prawn Hokkien Mee. It is a dish of thin vermicelli noodles, with thicker wheat noodles, prawns and strips of calamari. It is served with a spicy chilli sauce and a lime to add freshness. The photo i took doesnt want to upload for some reason so please accept this "library image" i took last week when i had it for lunch! Washed down with a Tiger Beer, our local brew. This came to something like $10 (6 of whhich was for the beer!)

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"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#15 nikkib

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 06:09 PM

Ok i better dash to work, will be grabbing a Kopi and Kaya Toast en route and hope to have something good for lunch as i only need to work until 2:30pm today.
"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#16 Jenni

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 07:04 PM

Nikki, sambar is made from toor dal (split pigeon peas - a hugely popular dal) with tamarind and a spice masala that includes dals as well as spices all roasted and ground. A tadka including mustard seeds and curry leaves is done at the end.

Vegetables are an important part of sambar and it sounds like you are just getting a bad serving if you are not getting any veg. Restaurant sambar is usually mixed veg but home sambar can sometimes be single veg which some people say has a more refined taste. I love sambar with drumsticks (it's a vegetable, not chicken!) and okra as part of the veg.

Sent from my HTC Wildfire S A510e using Tapatalk

Edited by Jenni, 13 November 2011 - 07:05 PM.


#17 haresfur

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 07:05 PM

Could you tell us a little about your work environment? Does the wonderful looking street food influence (flavour?) the other dining options?
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#18 nikkib

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 07:29 PM

Haresfur I manage an upscale restaurant in one of the larger hotel chains. I won't name it here as this is a personal blog and all opinions expressed are my own and not those of the company blah blah blah but needless to say if anyone finds themselves in Singapore PM me as i can treat you to some amazing views of Singapore and a little drink perhaps... The operation is large - around 150 people can sit at any one time and very busy. We don't serve "local cuisine" rather a Modern European menu and our clientele is very evenly split between locals and tourists. In terms of other dining options, Singapore literally has it all - Marina Bay Sands that opened fairly recently has everything from Mozza (by Mario Batali) to DB Moderne, Guy Savoy and santi as well as the more local Waku Ghin.Singaporeans eat out the whole time so i assume there are many empty fridges across singapore and not just mine - many appartments even state in the rental adverts - no cooking. There are some great Mexican places, fish and chip shops, tapas bars, Arabic restaurants, high end sushi/teppanyaki/robata etc Australian, German, Russian - you name it, you can eat it here. The Hawker Centres have everything from Indian,Thai,Chinese,Malay and Korean to more Western items too - i will post some photos for you to get an idea later in the week.
@Jenni - there is occasionally a piece of okra in the sambar but not much apart from that, and i eat it in many places :hmmm:
Also - apologies for the embarrassing amount of typos in my posts - i do know how to spell/punctuate etc but for some reason these posts seem to be error strewn "stream of conciousness" for reasons unbeknownst to me.....
"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#19 Kent Wang

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 08:15 PM

I'm very excited to read this as my girlfriend and I are coming to Singapore right before Chinese New Year. I'll definitely be in touch.

Are the wine import taxes quite hefty? How are prices for wine at retail and in restaurants, compared to Europe?

What about the prices at the international restaurants like Guy Savoy and Mozza? With the current slide of the USD against the SGD, maybe not so good compared to New York prices?

#20 nikkib

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 12:47 AM

Hi Kent - wine is expensive here, I haven't seen any in the supermarkets for less than $25 or so and it's hardly appealing stuff at that. Restaurants tend to start at around $12 and up for a glass, anywhere "international" you can almost double that. There are bargains to be found and happy hours run in most bars for several hours (a beer in a central bar will cost around $10...) my meals at mozza and Db moderne came in at around $100 for a glass of wine, main course ( pizza or charcuterie) coffee and a scoop of ice cream - not sure how that compares to the States though...
"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#21 nikkib

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 01:23 AM

Lunch was at the Hong Lim Hawker Centre, located just around the corner from China Town and i chose a strong competitor for Singapores favourite dish - Hainanese chicken rice. Chicken is boiled whole in a pork/chicken stock with maybe a little garlic or ginger and then, when cooked it is plunged into icy water to allow the layer of fat between the meat and the skin to firm up and solidify. These birds are then hung up and portioned up when ready. Served with boiled rice (often cooked in the same stock as the chicken for a richer flavour)a chicken broth and several sauces. These can differ from place to place but there is usually a thick ginger sauce, a spicy chilli sauce and some dark soy sauce. Everyone will have their own preferred way of eating this, i tend to throw all the sauces into the rice, mix well and eat with the chicken (which is served at room temperature)It's not one of my favourite dishes to be honest, not that there is anything wrong with it, i just think there are a lot more interesting dishes on offer but it was what i felt like eating today so why not....

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"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#22 rarerollingobject

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 01:28 AM

Very excited that you're blogging, Nikki! Apart from the intolerable heat, Singapore is one of my very favourite food places and I BEG you, on behalf of all eG, to go all out on the gluttony! Six meals a day, if you can help it! Show us everything! :biggrin:

#23 nikkib

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 01:38 AM

Some photos i snapped at the Mustafa centre supermarket, i will show you some markets/smaller shops later in the week too. Chicken Ham - i forget who was asking about this in Percyns blog but here it is
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A selection of the fresh fish on offer

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Fresh Tumeric, vegetables and herbs

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Local Juice selection and spice packets

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"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#24 nikkib

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 01:46 AM

Also feel i should show you the rest of my fridge/cupboard photos so you can see i do have some food (although i just checked and the eggs went off on the 9th - all 5 of them and the apples have seen better days too..)

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"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#25 nikkib

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 07:12 AM

After lunch i felt like a bit of a walk so ambled down to the Tekka wet market and hawker centre, mainly to get some photos as i had already eaten and i think we have established i won't be buying groceries this week. Initially known in Hokkien as Tek kia Kha "foot of the small bamboos" due to its proximity to the nearby Rocher Canal where bamboo was plentiful. The wet market sells everything from fresh seafood to eggs, mutton and meat ( no pork - all halal here) as well as vegetables and homewares. The food stalls are predominantly Indian, Malay and vegetarian.

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"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#26 nikkib

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 07:21 AM

And some more..............

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"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#27 nikkib

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 07:38 AM

I ended up in Arab street where i met a friend for shisha and tea and spent a few hours relaxing and sheltering from the rain. On the way back i stopped at barKode http://www.greatnewp...om/c862-Barkode where i sampled an Earthy Temptation - Martin millers Gin, Earl Grey tea, lemongrass and marmalade. It was good but perhaps a bit too subtle for me, never the less this is a great bar - definitely worth a visit.

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Then it was back to the Tekka Centre for dinner - Char Kway Teoh, another local noodle dish, this time with prawns, cockles, fried egg and fish cake slices as well as a good dose of chilli.

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Whilst not food related i thought you may like to see the Jothi flower garland sellers that pepper the route back to my house amongst the different temples, restaurants and shops.

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"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

#28 Shelby

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 08:27 AM

Haresfur I manage an upscale restaurant in one of the larger hotel chains. I won't name it here as this is a personal blog and all opinions expressed are my own and not those of the company blah blah blah but needless to say if anyone finds themselves in Singapore PM me as i can treat you to some amazing views of Singapore and a little drink perhaps... The operation is large - around 150 people can sit at any one time and very busy. We don't serve "local cuisine" rather a Modern European menu and our clientele is very evenly split between locals and tourists. In terms of other dining options, Singapore literally has it all - Marina Bay Sands that opened fairly recently has everything from Mozza (by Mario Batali) to DB Moderne, Guy Savoy and santi as well as the more local Waku Ghin.Singaporeans eat out the whole time so i assume there are many empty fridges across singapore and not just mine - many appartments even state in the rental adverts - no cooking. There are some great Mexican places, fish and chip shops, tapas bars, Arabic restaurants, high end sushi/teppanyaki/robata etc Australian, German, Russian - you name it, you can eat it here. The Hawker Centres have everything from Indian,Thai,Chinese,Malay and Korean to more Western items too - i will post some photos for you to get an idea later in the week.
@Jenni - there is occasionally a piece of okra in the sambar but not much apart from that, and i eat it in many places :hmmm:
Also - apologies for the embarrassing amount of typos in my posts - i do know how to spell/punctuate etc but for some reason these posts seem to be error strewn "stream of conciousness" for reasons unbeknownst to me.....



Wow, that seems so utterly foreign to me! So interesting!

Does this mean that one would literally get kicked out of their apartment if they, for example, microwaved a snack? Or, does it mean that there are no kitchens in the apartment?

#29 Jenni

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 08:52 AM

Well, I must say I'm surprised that you can usually only detect a few tomato skins as the only vegetable. Sambar may have one type of vegetable or several but always some. Sometimes you may go out and get an unlucky scoop with just a few fragments but in that case I would finish my bowl quick and get a refill!

I'm not saying it should be chock full to the brim with veg, but there should be some chunks. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you about how much is actually there. I love the vegetables in sambar and would be very disapointed not to get any (and perplexed...and annoyed!), but I suppose as long as you personally are enjoying it then it's working out ok.

Anyway, ignore all this, show us more delicious local food! Did you know that extra calories consumed during the making of an eGullet blog are burned off immediately?! :laugh:

#30 heidih

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 09:57 AM

Nikki - What helped me with the heat were the wonderful freshly squeezed juices sold at the markets. I was particularly fond of watermelon and cantaloupe. Do you enjoy them? As to the vast variety of foods on offer at the centres - were you basically familiar with the cuisines or has this been a grand experiment?





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