In this episode, Angela May digs into the diverse, multi-ethnic mixing bowl that is Singapore cuisine. And, Bobby Chinn samples some of the unique Indian delights in Chennai.
Singapore is famous for being an ultra-modern Asian economic trading hub, with a soaring urban skyline that reveals little about the ethnic groups that make up this island’s diverse population.Host Angela May discovers that underneath the spotless urban surface, Singapore is colourful and flavourful ethnic blend of spicy street food traditions and early fusion tendencies – thanks to the cohabiting immigrant population of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European people.
First stop, a breakfast at the port – now one of the world’s biggest and busiest. Both the port and sea trading are the source of Singapore’s earliest boom years when coolie labour fromSouthern China unloaded boats along the banks of the Singapore River. Food Blogger Leslie Tayintroduces Angela May introduces her to a hearty breakfast of Pork Rib Soup as they discuss the fine points of the origins of this dish as the preferred power breakfast of the dock workers.
Afterwards, Angela explores the fabulous Victorian-era Raffles Hotel, an icon of Victorian colonial luxury, and she notes that the hotel’s original “Tiffin Room” serves Indian food, as ithas done for over 100 years. This is because of the original Indian immigrants – who were already British colonial subjects – came over with their British officers. The Indians now a thriving minority on the Singapore scene, stayed and prospered – their tastes becoming adopted by other cultural groups. The proof can be seen inIrene Jansen’s favourite dish passed down by her Chinese grandmother. Jansen, a cook book author and native Singaporean, who is of ethnic Chinese, and Eurasian roots, prepares this recipe with Angela May. It shows strong Indian influences infused with tropical, and Chinese flavours. Her Chicken Curry infused withCoconut Milk, paired with lacey Roti Jala breadis a classic Singapore hybrid dish.
Angela now visits one of the dozens of open-air food courts or “Hawker Centres” that are a signature trait of Singapore life. Individual street food hawkers, mostly family run businesses for generations, have been organized by the government in these modernized malls, and have become a Singaporean habit for the young,old, rich and poor. Every kind of speciality imaginable, from Malay, Chinese, Indiancuisines, mixed with some adopted European elements, is on offer. After giving us some tips on how to deal with the lunchtime rush, Angela gets a cooking lesson from a “master Hawker” at his family stand. For 30 years, he has specialized in Prawn Fried Noodles (or Hokkein Mee)
At the lushly decorated True Blue Restaurant, Angela learns about the Peranakans and their culture. Originally a society formed by prosperous straits Chinese traders who inter-married with local Malay women, the Peranakans are famed for their elaborate, decorative style, and equally elaborate food customs. Owner Benjamin Seck prepares Ondeh-Ondeh, a sweet potato and palm sugar pastry that is one of many brightly coloured Keuh (or pastry specialities), associated with the Perankans. Angela also visits a neighbourhood Keuh shop, where the brightly coloured artisan pastry is bought by the boxful.
Willin Low, the trendy young owner of the Wild Rocket Restaurant, has coined a new phrase“Mod Sin”, (as in Modern Singapore) to define his nouvelle Singaporean cuisine. A smart, contemporary destination for Singapore’s serious gourmets, Wild Rocket features new twists on old favourites, such as Low’s Laksa Pesto Linguiniwhich he whips up for Angela, admitting his grandmother would never approve.
Finally, inspired by all the the flavours and colours of this tiny but thriving island republic, Angela prepares her own barbeque on the East Coast beach, with a fresh whole fish from the morning market that she has smothered in a pungent paste of local herbs and spices such as fresh coriander and leaves leaves, and then wrapped in a banana leaf.
Meanwhile, on his tour through India’s 4th largest city Bobby Chinn samples some of Chennai’s vegetarian delights including those served up at one of the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurants. Woodlands was established in 1926 and here they still cook their food on wood-fired stoves.
Bobby then visits one of India’s biggest sweet producers and exporters, Krishna Sweets, which has 80 stores nationwide and 30 just in Chennai making more than 125 varieties of sweets. These sweets, which rely heavily onsugar, milk, condensed milk and clarified butter (or ghee), are popular festival foods throughout India.
Finally, Bobby visits one of Chennai’s numerous street side restaurants where the food in literally home made. Mummie’s Mess Restaurant is located in a suburban residential neighbourhood – eats easy to spot due to the large groups of people standing in the street outside eating the delicious food on offer at the front door.
Planet Food Singapore Recipe: Laksa Pesto
Ingredients (makes 1 cup)
- 2 cups fresh laksa leaves, packed
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 chilli padi
- 1/3 cup of candle nuts & sun flower seeds
- 1 bulb garlic cloves, minced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Combine the laksa leaves in with the nuts and seeds, pulse a few times in a food processor.
2. Add the shrimps and garlic, pulse a few times more.
3. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.
4. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended.
5. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Singapore: Crispy Roti Jala with Chicken Curry
Image Source: http://kellysiewcooks.com/2013/03/18/roti-jala-with-vegetable-curry
Ingredients – Roti Jala
- 150 gm plain flour, sifted
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups of cold water
- 5 pandan leaves (2 for shredding, 3 to tie into a knot and use for brushing oil)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
Ingredients – Chicken Curry
- 4 chicken thighs, cut into smaller pieces
- 3 medium-sized potatoes, cut
- 3 medium-sized carrots, cut
- 3 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp fresh coconut milk
- 2 ½ cups good quality chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon light soya sauce
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salf
- ½ tsp pepper
- Handful of curry leaves
- Handful of fresh coriander leaves
Method – Roti Jala
1. Combine flour, eggs, salt and water in a bowl and mix into a smooth batter. Pour mixture through a strainer to remove grit.
2. Using the knotted pandan leaves, brush some oil onto a heated non-stick pan.
3. To create the “lace” pattern, you will need a special utensil. Pour the mixture into the utensil while moving it over the pan in a swift circular motion, allowing the mixture to flow out until it forms a lace-like design.
Note: it’s important to move your hands in a consistent manner to get the desired effect.
4. Fry the roti jala on both sides until crispy.
Method – Chicken Curry
1. Rub chicken with curry powder, and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. In a heated pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the onions for 2 minutes. Add the carrots and potatoes, and sauté until they turn a light shade of golden brown. Set aside.
3. In the same pan, pour in the remainder of oil and fry the curry leaves and curry-seasoned chicken for about 10 minutes.
4. Throw in the vegetables and pour in water and chicken stock. Next, add salt and pepper, coriander powder, sugar, light soya sauce, and simmer at low heat for about 25 minutes, or until curry is cooked.
5. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk, and let it simmer for 5 minutres.
Remove dish from heat. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.
TIP: Avoid overcooking the coconut milk to ensure a smooth curry texture. If you don’t have the utensil for the roti jala, substitute it with this one: Take a plastic cup and create 5 to 6 holes at the bottom using a toothpick.
Places Mentioned - India, SingaporeShare the series