Month: January 2009

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Kumi’s Gyoza

One of my all-time favourite categories of food is dumplings. Especially pork dumplings. I like them fried, steamed, boiled… you name it, I’ll eat it. My two favourites are gyoza and xiao long bao. Neither S nor I have made the (from what I gather) rather monumental effort of trying to master the latter, but fortunately, a number of years ago, a Japanese friend taught us how to make amazing gyoza.

Our friend, Kumi, like many Japanese ladies, has impeccable taste and is also rather obsessively meticulous. Which means she’s always fabulously turned out and can knock out a fantastically complex multi-course menu while insisting the whole time, “oh, this? It’s nothing special. Just simple home food.” My very first taste of mentaiko pasta and nikujaga (whose name she helped me remember by telling me, “think of Mick Jagger”) were at dinners that she and her husband hosted. Her husband, I might add, mixes some pretty mean drinks and is one of only two people that has had the honor of getting S drunk in the past decade–something even I haven’t been able to do.

The Reuben (yup, a sandwich post)

One of my favourite scenes in Robert Redford’s fantastic film Quiz Show takes place over lunch. Ralph Fiennes’ character, Professor Charles Van Doren, has taken Rob Morrow’s character, Dick Goodwin, to the Harvard Club for a bite. The special that day is a Reuben, about which Goodwin decides to “educate” Van Doren. He tells Van Doren that the “Reuben sandwich is the only entirely invented sandwich”, having been invented only “two years prior by a man named Reuben Kay at a poker game in Nebraska”. Then, referring to the obvious WASPishness of the club’s clientele and the underlying Jewish origins of the Reuben, Goodwin remarks, “Unfortunately they have the sandwich here, but, uh, they don’t seem to have any Reubens.”

For the two of you out there that don’t know what a Reuben is, it is a sandwich made with toasted Russian Rye, corned beef or pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing. When made well it can be sublime. The best I have ever had — which is pretty darned surprising after having lived in New York City, home of the Reuben, for 14 years — was just recently, over my Christmas break in Columbia, South Carolina, at a small cafe called Ela’s European Market & Deli. Run by Jimmy and Ela, who have Cuban and Polish roots respectively, this tiny hole in the wall made such amazing sandwiches that S and I insisted on visiting it three times in one week. Jimmy’s Reuben was pretty amazing. Buttery, crisp, thin slices of Rye. Delicious layers of homemade corned beef; not piled so high you can’t fit the sandwich in your mouth (a pet peeve of mine with several famous NYC delis). Homemade sauerkraut and homemade Russian dressing. All the elements were perfectly proportioned so that every bite was a pleasure.

Simple and best way to cook prime rib

It’s said that it’s pretty darned hard to ruin a good steak. Now, while I do believe that you don’t have to do a lot to turn a great piece of meat into a great meal, I have had some pretty badly cooked steaks in my time. Which is a great shame when you’re working with a gorgeous (and usually expensive) hunk of beef.

Here in Singapore, there are only a few top butchers. Most recently, S and I have been buying a lot of our meat from Huber’s Butchery, a fantastic butcher shop opened by the family that had originally started Swiss Butchery. Huber’s, as you would expect, stocks beautiful meat, plus other items, such as the best spatzle I have found in Singapore, a nice tight collection of wine, and super-yummy terrines and rillettes prepared by the chef from Au Petit Salut.

Mary’s Kafe

I’m pretty sure that with this post I am going to upset a pretty big group of Singaporeans who have been keeping a collective secret for the past two years. That secret is Mary’s Kafe, one of the best places for Eurasian food on the island.

For readers unfamiliar with Singapore’s history, here in the Little Red Dot, Eurasians are considered a race. And while in most parts of the world, the term can refer to any person of mixed European and Asian heritage, here, historically, we mean the descendents of 19th century marriages between Straits Chinese women and predominantly Portuguese or Dutch men. Eurasian food, as you might already have guessed, is early fusion fare — the result of the mingling of these different cultures. Some of the most famous and popular Eurasian dishes include Devil’s Curry (a super hot chicken curry), Feng (a minced pork curry), Smore (a beef stew), and Shepherd’s Pie. A lot of the dishes are traditional European or Straits Chinese dishes that have been tweaked significantly over time.

Hominy Grill

We had some exceptional meals during our trip to South Carolina. Our favourite restaurants were Ela’s European Market & Deli in Columbia, FIG in Charleston (both of which I mentioned in my previous post), and Hominy Grill, also in Charleston.

I wish I had a place like Hominy Grill in my neighborhood back here in Singapore. But that would be pretty dangerous. Because I’d be there at least once a week, if not more often. And then I’d go from being a chubby hubby to a corpulent corpse. The food at Hominy Grill is marvelous, but it is anything but healthy.