Beginner’s Choice: Discovering New Flavours and Textures

Treats for Teresa

International travel has started again. Teresa, a teenager from Spain, is here on holiday. She wanted to visit a country where she could practise her Mandarin. Singapore is the perfect place as she can get by with her fluent English, and have exposure to spoken Mandarin.

This morning after attending Mass in Mandarin in a church in town, someone suggested having an Indian roti prata breakfast. Teresa is always game to try something new, but she had already tried roti prata last week. Someone else said that there was Elena’s breakfast at home and it wasn’t to be missed, so the decision was to head home. Elena’s breakfast consisted of omelette, cheese, and cranberry cake. Yes, definitely not to be missed.

Elena’s Cranberry breakfast cake

The Durian Encounter

Teresa has tried durian, and to everyone’s surprise, she took to it quite well. She had been warned about the fragrance (or some people who call it odour, though I would politely call it a “unique smell”). From her expression, we could tell that she was surprised by its soft and creamy texture.

Teresa’s teenage friends wanted to introduce her to as many local dishes and desserts as they could, which included pandan cake. We have pandan leaves in the garden. Pandan is used for flavouring and colouring, and in some cases as air freshener in cars. I know someone who boils it with lemongrass to make lemongrass and pandan tea. Very soothing.

Nyonya kuehs – a precious gift

Teresa’s friend Suzy dropped by with a box of Nyonya kuehs, which Teresa shared with everyone. Nyonya kuehs are local desserts made from glutinous rice, rice flour, coconut milk, yellow beans and other local ingredients. They are usually very sweet, gooey and chewy. Ondeh Ondeh is usually a favourite. It’s a green ball of glutinous rice flour with coconut and gula Melaka (palm sugar) inside and coated with shredded coconut outside. It’s a bit like lava cake, the liquid gula Melaka oozes out when you bite into it.

Julia’s Spanish Experience

While Teresa enjoyed discovering the Asian flavours (some more strange to her than others, like Chinese herbal soups), Julia, a Singaporean teenager, had a taste of typical Spanish cured meats served in tapas, and was also discovering new tastes and textures.

Some of the Spanish sausages look like giant lap cheong (Chinese sausages), but since they are cured, they are not served cooked. Julia was surprised by the strong meaty taste of jamon serrano. I must admit that it took me a while to get used to Spanish cured meats when I visited Spain. Jamon serrano is expensive here, so we only have it once in a while on special occasions.

Italian dumplings

We had a celebration dinner last Sunday. Elena introduced us to Italian dumplings or ravioli. We agreed that dumplings are international, and they appear in many forms. A Polish friend who visited Singapore made strawberry dumplings for us for dessert. They looked exactly like wanton (Chinese meat dumplings).

The culture of moderation

There is the concept of moderation, fasting and penance in most cultures. Many years ago, I noticed how there was always someone in the office who was fasting when I was on business trips in India. A colleague explained to me that it was common for people to fast one day a week. Some people fast to be in solidarity with the poor.

Val’s Friday Lunchboxes

Abstinence from meat is another form of moderation and penance. For those who abstain from meat on Fridays, it’s always hard to think of what to cook.

Val has managed to be creative and to come up with exciting Friday lunchbox meals.  Japanese and Korean cuisine are good for Fridays.

Val’s fried fish noodles

Fried fish noodles for Fish Friday today. Was very happy to have found shishito peppers on sale at a Korean grocery store when I was out for dinner with Regina. The peppers add a nice freshness and mild heat that cuts through the richness of the fried fish and milky broth.Val.

Celebrate each day with something beautiful

Have a good week ahead.

By Chayo, HomSkil Editor 1, 3 July 2022

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