Posting Date: August 24, 2003
WebWord Comment -- While on the way to get some durian, we passed through a red light district. An actual sign at a Singapore "hotel" posted rates of $15 per minute. Wish I had my camera...
Tell us about eating durian. I've been tempted to buy one just to try it.
Ah, Singapore. I can tell you about food to try. :)
Have you tried:
1) Laksa (Yummy soup)
2) Mee Goreng
3) Char Kway Teow
4) Beef Rendang
5) Hokkien Mee
6) Nasi Lemak
7) Roti Pratta
8) Mee Siam
9) Sambal Udang
10) Poh Pia
11) Gulai Ayam
12) Ayam Buah Keluak
14) Gado Gado
15) Sambal Kangkong
All of them are wonderful dishes. No, there's no "exotic meat" in any of them. ;)
Were you in the Geylang area by any chance? That's generally the red light zone. $15 per minute? Must be a typo. That's the per-hour rate at some of the hotels there.
(No, I'm not an expert, but I stayed at a hotel there on my first visit to S'pore without knowing about the area's reputation. I was later told about it by a friend. So much for Internet research.)
Gado Gado is sensational! We have a little Indonesian place around the corner from our office that makes very home style meals like this. All Usability folks invited :)
I was with John on the trip, and I can tell you that Durian is one of the most vile, disgusting things I've ever smelled and tasted. I put it in my last 20 things I'd ever want to eat again. John put it in his last 10. It's hard to describe without trying it, but it's got these off-white lumps inside it that have a skin on them and a sweet-ish goo inside them. Blech.
We tried a whole slew of delicious dishes, but I don't know their non-English names. Some of the best were pepper prab, chili crab, shark-fin soup, scallops wrapped in mashed yams, and drunken prawns. (Did I miss any, John?) We did have Satay as well, which was great.
Durian is indeed a very strong smell. But not a patch on burnt tofu! My goodness ... enough to bring tears to the eyes :)
RECIPE: GADO GADO
Gado Gado is a wonderfully light vegetable dish that doesn't follow any fixed recipe. In fact, it can be made with any leftover vegetables in your refrigerator. This makes it highly versatile. Use the veggies in this recipe as a guide but use whatever you have. If you want a totally vegetarian version, leave out the boiled eggs.
WHAT YOU NEED
Cabbage - 100 gm (1 cup) - shredded
Beans - 200 gm (2 cups) - cut into 1/2 inch lengths
Carrots - 4 medium-sized - peeled and sliced thinly
Cauliflower florets - 100 gm (1 cup)
Beansprouts - 50 gm (1/2 cup) washed
For the garnish:
Some lettuce leaves and watercress
Eggs - 2 - boiled and quartered.
Potato - 1 medium-size - boiled in its skin, peeled and sliced
Cucumber - 1/2 - thinly sliced
HOW TO MAKE IT
1) Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Then blanch each of the vegetables in it separately. Drain in a colander and set aside. To save myself the labour of constantly draining the water and putting it back in the pot, I use a Chinese wire mesh strainer to hold the veggies and then dunk it into the boiling water. When I pull it out, the water stays in the pot.
We're blanching them separately to avoid overcooking. The vegetables must be tender-crisp, not mushy. You can do beans, carrots and cauliflower together if you want.
Beans, carrots, and cauliflower: ~4 minutes Cabbage - 30 seconds Bean sprouts - 10 seconds
2) Arrange the lettuce around the edge of a serving dish. Then pile the vegetables in the middle of the dish. Arrange the eggs, sliced potatoes, and sliced cucumber on top.
Prepare the peanut sauce as given in the recipe below. Add more water if it is too thick. Pour the sauce over the vegetables. Serve.
* RECIPE - Peanut sauce (Sambal kacang)
There are many recipes for peanut sauce. I have two that I use. One is this one which is made from water. Another is a much richer-flavoured peanut sauce made using coconut milk and is also flavoured with lemon grass and more chilli. That recipe for that will have to wait another day.
Ignore recipes that call for using peanut butter. Sure, it's convenient, but can't come close to the flavour of freshly roasted crushed peanuts. This sauce also goes well with any grilled meat preparation.
WHAT YOU NEED
Peanut oil - 2 tablespoons
Raw peanuts (without skins) - 200 gm (approx. 1 cup)
Garlic - 3 large cloves - chopped
Shallots - 4 - chopped
Shrimp paste - 1 tsp (optional)
Salt - to taste (try 1/2 tsp and adjust later)
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Palm sugar or brown sugar - 1 tsp
Dark soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Water - 2 cups (500 ml)
Tamarind water or juice of a lemon - 1 tbsp
HOW TO MAKE IT
1) Roast the peanuts. Heat a skillet on low heat. Don't add any oil. Put in the raw peanuts. Roast on low heat for about 10 minutes till the colour turns to a light brown. Stir (or toss) frequently to make sure they don't burn and turn black. Burnt peanuts taste terrible. Once they're roasted, take it off the burner and leave it for about 15 minutes to cool.
2) Grind the peanuts into a fine powder using a blender or coffee grinder
3) Blend the garlic, shallots and shrimp paste in a mortar or in a blender with a pinch or two of salt. Heat the 2 tbsp peanut oil in a wok or non-stick frying pan. Fry the blended paste in the oil for about 3 minutes on medium heat, reducing the heat if anything starts to burn.
4) Add the chilli powder, sugar, soy sauce and water. Bring this to the boil, then add the ground peanuts. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce becomes thick; this should take about 8-10 minutes. You're looking for the consistency of... oh, thousand island dressing. Add the tamarind water or lemon juice and more salt if needed.
Ta da! Your peanut sauce is ready. You can now refrigerate it in a covered jar if you want, where it will stay for a week or two. When you need some, take out the required amount, put it in a pan, add a few tablespoons of water, and reheat on a low flame.