My big bad breakfasts.

I am “officially freelance”. Or “technically unemployed”. Lonely, lazy, sad, come to any conclusion you want. The fact is, most mornings, I don’t actually HAVE to be anywhere. But I tell myself I do. So I get up early, meditate (more on this phenomenon later), throw on some comfy threads and walk Rebecca down to the MRT. This serves five purposes. One, I am forced to get dressed. Two, I feel like I have a job as I walk purposefully with all the commuters down to the train. Three, I get some quality time with Becca. Four, I can feel the weather, rather than just see it through the window. Five, I can sit and eat breakfast with all the retired men of Pearl Bank Hill.

For $1.60, I get a delicious spread that awakens my senses, fills me up and, I am pretty sure, is making me fat. Fast.

Singaporean coffee, or kopi, is similar to Vietnamese in that it is black as night, served with a generous lashing of condensed milk and sipped with the teaspoon still in the glass.  YUM, and made all the more so when teamed with Kaya toast. This is buttery, sugary toast that is often smeared with a thick layer of even more sugary, coconut spread. And if I pay a little more, I get a couple of runny eggs to dip it in. Sounds weird for cereal/jam-on-toast types, but it has become a tradition for a reason. And it’s a deliciously, sweet, friendly tradition that I am loath to give up, despite some of its less desirable effects.

*note reading material. The New Paper. Today (26/09/11) I read about an expat wife who threw herself out her window and exactly what was left at the murder scene in another apartment. Singapore is a gritty place I tell you.

Peri peri yummy

Sometimes when you have a lot of something, you get sick of it.

Not if it involves peri peri chicken, and you are my friend Lauren. She would eat Nandos every single Sunday, but her boyfriend does not really like going to Nandos every single Sunday. Thankfully, she now has her own bottle of the chain’s special spicy sauce, and can replicate the famous chicken recipe at home whenever she jolly well wants to, Sunday or not. In this case, it was Monday. I was guest of honour.

Shaking Nandos peri peri sauce and spices sourced from Sri Lanka into a hot pan, Lauren set out to recreate her favourite fast food. Hot hot hot chicken + crunchy imported salad + warm wrap + golden, crisp lemon-peppered potato wedges. My taste-buds flushed and my heart exploded.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s fair to say that Lauren knows how to romance a lady friend. Earlier, she took me bike riding along the East Coast at dusk. We drank from coconuts and watched people learn to windsurf. We dodged the muscly lycra-d men on rollerblades. And we survived a taxi ride with a driver who did not use his rear vision mirrors. We ended the evening curled up watching a couple of episodes of Go Girls, the best series in the whole of New Zealand ever, which I dutifully brought over for her in my suitcase.

Then she sent me home on the MRT with hokey pokey icecream in a cone. That’s right, Lauren found the New Zealand delicacy in Giant and she keeps it locked away in her fridge for hot dates such as these.

I will never get sick of evenings with you, Lauren. Thank you. And thank you for your tireless campaign to move me to Singapore. No regrets.

Pulau Ubin-ites

Last week there was a public holiday (hurrah!) for Hari Raya Puasa. Like many people, we (Jacqui, Joe, Lauren and myself) thought we should find something “fun”, “awesome” and “oh-so-cool” to do… unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea. Despite the crowds everywhere, we decided to jump on a bumboat (for $2.50) and ride over to Pulau Ubin, just off mainland Singapore, for a bike ride, some foods and a giggle or two. ‘Pulau’ means island in Malay, while ‘ubin’ means granite. This isn’t really relevant to the blog, it just makes me look smart.

So! Off we went, chugging along on our bumboat for 10 minutes to get to the island. See? 

 Ubin was TEEMING with people. There were bicycles everywhere, with children darting between them – most of whom I’m sure had never ridden a bike before in their lives. Upon arrival, we managed to find a spare seat at one of the little food stores on the island (one of only a few) and were delighted to find they sold big giant coconuts!  A feast before the biking begins? Of course! Lauren bought herself two-minute noodles to take home (she was very excited to find a flavour she had failed to locate on the mainland), Jacs and I bought three packets of ‘gems’ – animal cracker-tasting biscuit things with a dollop of dried, hard and colourful icing on the top – and we all, Joe included, devoured the best coconuts we have ever had. I nearly broke my spoon scooping out every bit of coconutty flesh I could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post-coconut feast went something like this: hire bikes, ride for five minutes, Joe’s bike breaks, change bikes, Becca’s gears decide to get stuck, she struggles up hills, we hang out with mangy dogs, we park bikes to walk along the boardwalk at Chek Jawa in the pouring rain, eat more gems and Twisties along the boardwalk, leave because of screaming child, get back to bikes, ride some more, Becca and Joe give up to eat another coconut, Jacs and Lauren carry on for 15 more minutes, take some funny photos then come back for more coconuts. It rains again, we leave during a storm (my genius idea to make sure we got a seat on the 12-seater boats; it worked!) get back to mainland Singapore……and decide to go and eat FISH AND CHIPS.

I didn’t know real, proper, battered ‘fush n chups’ existed in Singapore, but it turns out the Brits have got it oh-so-right over here. Smith’s Authentic British Fish and Chips in Tanjong Katong tastes just like the battery goodness back in NZ… complete with perfect chips, white bread to make chip butties and a, er, scotch fish egg. They also do mushy peas! It’s safe to say we were in heaven after a good four hours of trapsing around an island (although we were wonderfully hydrated, thanks to all the coconut).

 

 

The trip to Ubin is completely worth it, and there is more to eat there at the seafood hawkers, but we didn’t bother. Smith’s Fish and Chips is at 230 Tanjong Katong Road, with two new venues opening soon. Go to http://www.smithsfishandchips.com/

Craving of the day: Din Tai Fung

Chances are, if you’re my (Rebecca’s) friend, you like dumplings. And by like I mean love. And by love I mean would die for.

Last night was an unexpected affair, which resulted in one too many Jagerbombs (one is really too many) in Boat Quay and so now, Joe, Jacs and I are feeling a bit seedy. This ultimately leads to a discussion as to which hangover food is best. Right now I could slay some nacho cheese Doritos (Q: What did the Mexican say to the cheese thief? A: That’s nacho cheese!), while Jacs is craving pretty much anything to snack on (you should have seen the Ryvita cracker she just caked in Marmite) and Joe is probably keen to get on the Pimms about now to bring the last 24 hours around full circle.

But, if Din Tai Fung were a wee bit closer to our apartment. We would be there. Devouring these like there is no tomorrow:

The ones on the left are pork dumplings, filled with a hot soupy liquid at the bottom, which oozes out when you chomp into it. The ones on the right are also pork, but topped with one perfect shrimp, like a ripe cherry perched on pursed lips. Soak them in soya sauce and vinegar, and top it with finely sliced ginger and you’re good to go.

Ohm nom nom. Perhaps we could fit in a trip to Din Tai Fung before the Jagerbombs begin again this evening?

Every day is a purple kind of day

Just when we thought Singapore’s amazing hawker centres couldn’t get any better, along came something so delicious, so perfect and so unbelievably refreshing that when Joe or Jacqui asks me the following question, I can physically feel my tastebuds hugging each other in anticipation: “So, do you guys feel like getting a purple juice?”   

This question is normally met with a resounding and desperate “YES!”. Once you have had the pleasure of ingesting the almighty Purple Juice (yes, it deserves capitals) you will understand the crazed looks in our eyes when we know it’s juice time. It’s kind of like our (very Singaporean and not at all illegal) version of crack. 

Purple Juice is actually the delightful and surprising combination of red dragonfruit and soursop. For those of you yet to experience the taste of either, red dragonfruit is the brightly purple-coloured sibling to regular (rather tasteless) white dragonfruit. Soursop (which, I’ll admit, doesn’t have the most appealing name) is from the same family as the pawpaw and kind of looks like colourless, syrupy snot with black lumps (seeds) in it when it’s chopped up. I may not be selling this to you very well, but wait for it: when you put these two unassuming fruits together, in a blender, blended by a little old man (who now doesn’t even have to ask “wha you wan?” when we visit him) you are transported into JUICE HEAVEN. Dramatic? Yes. An exaggeration? Absolutely not.

Now, I may have to tell you here that we cannot take credit for the Purple Juice discovery. I’m not even sure locals know about it – in fact, judging by the confused and stupified looks I’ve received from other (less awesome) juice vendors when I’ve requested it, I’d put money on the fact that most locals won’t have tried this concoction. So, as much as I’d like to claim it as my own discovery, it was actually our dear friend and fellow Kiwi export, Lauren, who is responsible for spreading the purple joy throughout the lives of all my friends/visitors/random people I talk to. The juice vendor is probably pretty happy about it, too. I’m sure Fruit Juice #848 at Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown has noticed a significant jump in his profits since the Kiwis came to town.

So, that’s the purple juice story. Or what I’m now calling The Purple Juice Phenomenon. You heard it here first!

Warning: Do not ever think that any other juice will do when Purple Juice is around. Today, Jacs (stupidly) decided to go for an avocado smoothie, which she had been craving since her arrival 10 days ago. You can see how well that went by looking at the attached photo.

Also, I should probably warn you, purple juice can lead to some other purple, er, things. Or, as our friend Lex dubbed it, Purple Rain. You have been warned (we’re responsible people here at Kai Ora; don’t ever say we don’t care about your health).

HANKERING FOR HOME

For weeks, the whare has largely been a caffeine-free zone. While this is largely a ripple on effect of Rebecca’s health kick, on Wednesday this week, it was just a case of not having any milk in the fridge.

The supermarket seemed so very far away, and Joseph and Jacqueline became convinced the one thing preventing them from becoming ensconced in their “freelance” writing assignments was a lack of caffeine. They started dreaming of the creamy, powerful flat whites of home, and then Joseph remembered a fellow Kiwi’s rave about a “Melbourne” style café in Chinatown. Melbourne is famous for fashion, music and fantastic coffee, and Auckland is not far behind. While Singapore has plenty of Starbucks and Coffee Beans around, Melbournites and Aucklanders know sugary chain coffee is just not the same as a perfect espresso topped with aerated soy milk. So, armed with their laptops, they set off in search of the perfect c’office (café office). It took a while to find, as The plain hides behind minimalistic signage, but it was worth the effort.

Not only were the flat whites flat whites, but the eggs were eggs, the Vegemite Vegemite (a thick salty spread commonly eaten on toast in Australia and New Zealand which is not nearly as good as New Zealand Marmite – NOT THE SAME AS SINGAPOREAN MARMITE) and their bircher muesli amongst the best Jacqueline has tried. And she eats a lot of bircher muesli.

Every Wednesday night The Plain holds “hump night” night (which probably alludes to the sign in the window, “coffee drinkers make better lovers”),  where they sell Australian beer Little Creatures and puts on a spread of surprise snacks that even the staff don’t know about until they are serving them. Kai Ora plans to head along next week, or possibly the week after. Stay tuned.

The Plain, 50 Craig Rd (off Neil Rd), Singapore. Espressos $2.80, flat whites $3.50 – $4.50 (depending on whether or not you take soy); bircher $5.50 (small); no more than $11.50.