The latest trend in Bangkok seems to be dog fighting. Not the cruel sport pitting canine against canine, mind you, but the culinary sport pitting hot dog vendor against hot dog vendor. Thankfully, the winner of this contest is the frankfurter-hungry consumer. Two hot dog companies have opened recently: Superbdog and Corn Dog Dude. Their promise is true American style hot dogs. Accompanied by my Floridian friend John, we set out on a recent evening armed with antacid tablets, ready to try both companies’ offerings.
Two weekends ago, Tawn and I took a break in Singapore. It was a busy four days filled with seeing friends and eating. Singapore is well-known as a foodie’s paradise. Dinner the first night was with a group of Singaporean friends who took us to Number 3 Crab, an excellent seafood restaurant in the Tiong Bahru neighborhood.
Tiong Bahru is one of the the oldest housing estates in Singapore and has been undergoing something of a gentrification in the past few years. It is becoming quite a hip and happening place thanks to its charming mix of vaguely art deco government flats and traditional Chinese chop houses, with residents ranging from local Singaporeans to expatriates from all corners of the globe.
Having a drink (a Singapore Sling, of course) in the lobby of our hotel, the Millenium Orchard Hotel, located conveniently on the far end of Orchard Road, a short walk from the MRT station.
Number 3 Crab has been acclaimed as one of Singapore’s finest restaurants and its owners, Thomas and Wendy Lim, have an edge on the competition: they are purveyors of seafood, not just restaurateurs, and own a fresh seafood stall at a local market.
The menu, illustrated with large color photos, includes just about every type of seafood you could imagine, including crocodile paw, something we didn’t get around to sampling. In addition, they offer several meat dishes and a good selection of vegetables, so you can round out your dinner nicely.
Here is our dinner, in the order that the dishes arrived:
Stir fried greens – spinach, I think – in a light broth with fried silverfish on top.
Pork spareribs in a sweet, sticky, and rich coffee glaze. These were so wonderful, I almost forgot that we were going to eat crab and gorged on the ribs!
Crispy fried beancurd (tofu) which I think had chopped shrimp mixed into it. I may be wrong about that, though. In either case, it was tasty and the texture was a perfect contrast of crispy exterior and silken interior.
This is the clams with special sauce, which I think was enhanced with soy milk. I might be wrong about that, but it sure was tasty.
Hong Kong style steamed fish with a soy and oil sauce. This fish was really lovely, light, delicate, and perfectly cooked.
The first of our two crabs (serving seven of us) was prepared with a chili sauce. They give everyone a large plastic bib because there is no way to eat the crabs without making a mess of it. The sauce was nice, more sweet than spicy.
The second crab came with a special pepper sauce, which I found even more enjoyable than the chili sauce. The pepper sauce has a more complex flavor, using different types of pepper to add depth.
To get a sense of how large these crabs are, here’s me hoarding the first one. A lot of the time, I don’t see the point of messing around with crabs because they are too small to make the effort worthwhile. In this case, the crabs were huge and there was plenty of meat inside. The crabs were also very fresh, pulled from a tank kicking and screaming (well, kicking) and killed to order.
This dinner was a good example of Singaporean food at its best: simple dishes prepared with tremendously fresh ingredients and cooked with great skill. As a sign on their wall puts it, their name may be “Number 3 Crab” but they are definitely number one.
Recently, I was invited to attend a dinner sponsored by WORLDFOODS, a Malaysian based maker of high quality Asian-inspired sauces, marinades, chutneys, and pastes. I walked away with a bag of several of their 51 different products and a challenge: come up with and blog about new and creative ways to cook with their products.
The first product I used was their Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade. It was a weeknight and I needed to prepare a quick meal. One chicken breast and thirty minutes later, I had a tasty protein ready to cook and add to a salad. There were two things that caught my attention about the marinade:
First, one reason I cook a lot is that I want to know what I’m putting in my body. Looking at the ingredient list, I was pleased to see familiar, pronounceable words. No artificial colors, preservatives, flavorings, MSG, or gluten.
Second, the flavor was remarkably good and remarkably authentic. Unlike a lot of “Asian” products that are watered down versions of popular sauces, the WORLDFOODS products have the same ingredients (and the same amount of chilies!) that you find when eating these foods in their home country. While available worldwide, you won’t find any “Americanization” of the flavors.
Wanting to find ways to use the marinade differently than its traditional use, I put the right side of my brain to work. The idea I settled on was to do roasted root vegetables, something I associate more with olive oil and rosemary, and use the Chilli Coconut Marinade as a glaze.
I decided on a combination of yams and beets (about 1.5 pounds or 750 grams total), with two yellow onions and a handful of garlic cloves. These were scrubbed and, except for the yams, peeled. Then I sliced them into approximately 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces.
When I cut open the yams I was surprised to discover that they did not have the orange-colored interiors I am familiar with. Instead, they are purple. In the end, the flavor wasn’t that different, although it did lead to a slightly more monochromatic dish than I had anticipated.
Once the root vegetables, onion, and garlic were combined, I coated them with about 1 cup (200 ml) of WORLDFOODS Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade and 1/2 cup (100 ml) of chicken broth. You can substitute water or vegetable broth, if you wish to keep the dish vegetarian.
The vegetables were poured in an ovenproof dish and then placed in a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for about 25 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to keep the vegetables coated with marinade. There is enough marinade that it forms a bit of a pool at the bottom of the dish, helping cook the vegetables by steam as well as direct heat.
Once the yams and beets were getting soft but not yet fully cooked through, I stirred in about 4 cups (90 dl) of kale, washed and cut into wide strips. The dish returned to the oven for about ten more minutes, enough time to finish cooking the root vegetables while still leaving the kale a little crunchy. You can cook the dish for longer if you prefer your vegetables softer.
Uncommitted to the idea of this being a fully vegetarian meal, I also pan fried a plate of Northeastern Thai style sausage called Sai Oua, sliced it, and served it on the side.
The end result was very nice. The marinade had thickened into a nice glaze, coating the vegetables with a sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce which countered the natural sugars in the yams and beets. The kale provided a fresh contrast that made for a very satisfying meal.
All in all, I’m very pleased with the WORLDFOODS Malaysian Chilli Coconut Marinade and look forward to trying it in other dishes, as well as to trying their other products.
While WORLDFOODS is based in Malaysia, its products are available in major countries across the world including Australia, the UK, the United States, and Canada, as well as most Southeast Asian countries. To locate a store which carriers their products near you, use this store locator. In the United States, you can also order WORLDFOODS products for home delivery through MyBrands.com.
Full disclosure: While I am not being paid or otherwise compensated to write this entry, I did receive the products for free and dinner that night was paid for by WORLDFOODS. It’s important to me that you know that the opinions expressed in this blog are my own and are not bought or paid for by others.
Last week our weather was a little cool. Well, relatively speaking. Several days were overcast and drizzly all day long, more Seattle-looking than our usually rainy season weather which owes more to Midwestern summer thunderstorms than anything else. It seemed an appropriate time to cook some warm, hearty comfort food, so I dug up a recipe for Mexican Black Bean Chili and made it in a Monday night meal along with some buttermilk cornbread muffins and a tasty red cabbage and apple slaw.
Beans are super-healthy, incredibly inexpensive, and easy to use. Make a large batch and freeze up the extras so you can thaw them out and make a fast and easy weeknight dinner like this one. This chili uses chopped onions and peppers (I added some carrots, too, as I had some on hand), and plenty of cumin, lime juice, chopped cilantro, and dried chipotle pepper to add a nice kick. One thing I add that isn’t in the recipe is a few tablespoons of cornmeal. I add then to the aromatics as they are sauteeing in a little bit of oil. This creates a roux that thickens the chili and adds a nice flavor, too.
To garnish, I used a little leftover homemade salsa and avocado cilantro lime cream sauce from fish tacos a few nights earlier.
The slaw is a nice alternative to the usual green cabbage slaw. Not only does this offer more vitamins, it also has more flavor. The recipe is based loosely on the one from Blue Smoke BBQ but I play around with it. For starters, I leave the peel on the apples (more fiber and flavor) and slice them thin instead of chunks, which adds more visual interest to the dish. Additionally, I play around with their dressing recipe, reducing the mayonnaise, using apple cider vinegar for their white balsamic, leaving out the chilies, and adding some nigella seed. Sitting alongside a cornbread muffin, I think it is quite pretty.
The combination makes for a very tasty and very healthful meal. To top it off, chili is one of those dishes that benefits from a night or two in the refrigerator, so it made even nicer leftovers later in the week!