Malay, Chinese, Indian and cucumbers!
Since this picture was taken, we’ve been enjoying the fruit of this particular labour very much! On average, my kids and I consume about 5 large cucumbers a week, so, if we had to grow a single vegetable, it stands to reason that we would grow this crunchy cylindrical vessel of water that passes itself off as a veg/fruit! We are patiently waiting for the other crops to catch up!
Now when I first embarked on our current theme of Singaporean and Malaysian food, the idea was to do it for just a month as with our other past themes. We are now at the end of our second month and I’ve decided to do a third! The main reason is that I’m having such a good time – it’s been a fun filled, delicious walk down memory lane and as there are still a few more dishes that I just have to do before I sign off on it for a while, the decision to extend the period was a bit of a no brainer!
I have been a bit lax with my posting, I know but as George keeps telling me, “It’s your blog, you can post when you like!”. He’s right of course, but I’m sure all you fellow blogger friends can identify with that feeling of where’s the time gone?!
Back to our food, just to illustrate the diversity that is Singaporean and Malaysian food, I am doing a Chinese Hawker dish called Char Kway Teow (Fried Flat Noodles), a Malay breakfast rice dish called Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice, although literally, Rice Cream) and the last needs no translation - Masala Chai or Cha, for some of us.
I talked briefly before about the Malays, the indigenous people of Singapore and Malaysia and their typical food. Chinese cuisine of course forms just an important part in the food of these countries. The Chinese are a minority in Malaysia but do form upwards of 80% of the population of Singapore, perhaps this is the reason many people raise their eyebrows in disbelief when I tell them I was born in Singapore! Native Chinese Singaporeans are descendants of immigrants from China in the 19th and early 20th centuries, mainly from South China.
There are many Chinese dialects (10 that I know of!), spoken in Singapore, all reflecting different areas in China although 4 or 5 of these are more common than the others. The largest of these Chinese dialect groups is the Hokkiens, incidentally, the only Chinese dialect I spoke (not having used it in 2 decades, it’s all gone!). I found it easy on the ear compared to Cantonese and Mandarin, the latter I tried to learn recently but gave up after 3 attempts! Of course, you have the Hainanese, from the island of Hainan and to many lovers of Singaporean and Malaysian food, I can stop right here, I guess, because who hasn’t heard of Hainanese Chicken Rice? Then you have the Cantonese who I think are synonymous with Chinese food internationally and the Teochews whose influence is definitely obvious in Thai food just as you see Malay and Indian influences in the foods of South Thailand.
Char Kway Teow is apparently of Hokkien origin and is a hawker food. Hawker Centres are found all over Singapore and Malaysia and while they used to all be outdoors, have in recent times been set up in comfortable, air conditioned indoor areas. These are basically, an all under one roof place to eat, a food court that will consist of anything from half a dozen to 2 dozen different food stalls, selling different foods and drinks. As an example, you’ll have a Chinese stall selling a variety of noodles, a Malay stall selling rice with a dozen side dishes, a Chicken rice stall, a South Indian stall selling all types of roti and so on and so forth.
I’ve often read claims (many of these of course written by non Singaporeans) that Singaporeans hardly ever cook because of the prevalence of cheap, good food. While this may be true of young married professional couples, I have to vehemently disagree with this silly and misguided generalisation. After all, most, and that’s not an exaggeration, Singapore homes employ a full time live in domestic help, usually from the Philippines or Indonesia. These “maids”, as they are called, are also expected to make the family meals if the lady of the house works.
There you have it folks, click on the links below for the recipes:
2. Nasi Lemak
3. Masala Chai - spiced tea
Family and I are off for an adrenaline charged week of quadbiking, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and plain old splashing in the pool! I reckon I’ll need a weekend of lie-ins to recover!
Till the next time, make yourself a hot cuppa masala chai and read over the recipes!