First bento of 2010! Very excited to get back into the groove of things, I will say 2010 has started out quite bumpy for me, so having something familiar to come back to is nice. I've got loads of new themes that I hatched up over the holidays and I'm excited to be able to try them out.
So how do I kick of 2010? With a little trip to Singapore! Singapore cuisine is heavily influenced by it's neighbors and it's history. Many of the dishes I sifted through, I've had variations of growing up with just a few changes here and there. Many of the ingredient changes show heavy influences from Thai, Indian, and Malaysian cuisine. It is interesting to see these ingredients fuse together and taste the resulting dishes. There's easily several bentos worth of cooking I could do to explore further, but I gotta get on with this post!
Hainanese Chicken with Rice is probably the most common street food you'll find in Singapore, it's extremely popular and has several variations (mostly in the sauce). In this case I cut the rice since I already have a starch and went with a sauce more familiar to my tastes. It's an extremely simple dish and probably one of the first things I turn to when I get sick because you have a wonderful chicken stock after you're done. So here's how it's done: you take a whole chicken and poach it with garlic and ginger slice it up and mix up a simple sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Voila done! It's often served skin on because fat just tastes good, but for health sake I removed the skin. To complete the dish as a meal you garnish with simple raw vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes and sliced carrots and cook up the rice with the resulting chicken stock.
Recipe requested: find it here
Singapore Style Noodles, ok I confess this might not authentically be of Singapore origin I have read it could be one of those European/American restaurants that labeled their dish for a foreign flare. However, it's not really a far stretch to believe that it might be something that is made in the restaurants of Singapore. All of the ingredients and cooking techniques are easily found in South Asian cuisine from the rice noodle to the use of basil and pork. The only odd ball out is the use of curry powder, not something indigenous to the cuisine. Curry powder is an invention of the British during colonial times, and since Singapore was at one point a British Colony I could see how the spice would have wormed its way into becoming part of a staple. Either way, the dish itself has an exotic spice-laden taste to it, and fish sauce provides the necessary salty component, when combined it's quite a tasty combo.
Recipe requested you can find it here
For some light palate cleansing I put together this Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad. Very similar to the quick cucumber salad in past bentos, the changes here included the addition of garlic powder and my decision to include some Thai bird chilies. I think the sweetness really begged for some heat which is not uncommon to the cuisine. I only added two little chilies and got some notice that it was close to "too hot" and others that wanted me to "pile it on", next time, I'll just drop a few whole chilies on the side to let my eaters decide.
Last but never least is dessert we have a Sweet Green Mung Bean soup with coconut milk. Again, growing up I had this same dessert just without the coconut milk. The addition of the coconut milk adds a nice rich texture to what would normally just taste like mung beans in sugar water (exactly what it is). I think it's a solid improvement. Here mung bean is boiled for a while much like an Indian Dal but instead of savory we go sweet by adding sugar. Other variations include adding re-hydrated dates, lotus seeds, and tapioca pearls.
I really enjoyed making this lunch not just because it was fast to produce and the first for the year, but going through the various dishes I had in mind it was easy to see how in Singaporean cooking they took dishes from one nation and applied simple ingredient changes from other cuisines to really enhance or change the nature of a dish. It makes me want to turn a more critical eye to some of the things I'm use to producing and see what few foreign tweaks I can make to turn a dish on it's head.
Anyhow that's all for now, thanks for reading.
- Hainanese Chicken
- Singapore Style Noodles
- Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad
- Sweet Green Mung Bean soup with coconut milk