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배추김치 Baechu-kimchi – Korean Cabbage Kimchi

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If every country has their own “national dish”, Kimchi must surely be Korea’s. This spicy pickled Napa cabbage is so immensely popular, it is almost synonymously linked to Korean food culture. Its versatility deems it not only good to be eaten on its own, but also cooked in a large variety of ways from soups like kimchi jijae or kimchiguk, to kimchi fried rice (kimchi bokkeumbap) as well as flavouring the base of hotpots like dubu kimchi jeongol. Its versatility also means that it is eaten is in practically every Korean meal, be it casual street food on the go where one would find kimchi pancakes (kimchijeon), to very formal royal meals like the Susarang. Even if it is not eaten on its own, the paste for making kimchi is used as a dipping sauce, from hotpots to live octopuses!

In Korea, kimchi comes in a large variety of forms. From the spicy version which evokes the liberal use of chilli pepper powder to the non-spicy and thus milder versions like the “water kimchi“. A large variety of ingredients are also used for pickling from white radish to cucumber but by far, the most popular and thus most common form of kimchi is made from Napa cabbage which the Koreans call baechu, giving rise 배추김치 Baechu-kimchi, that is Korean Cabbage Kimchi.

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삼계탕 Samgyetang – Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup

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For many of us, 大長今 Daejanggeum was an important starting point and stepping stone into the world of Korean cuisine. It created a wave of sensation all over Asia and subsequently the whole world. Together with the rich cultural and historical context it provides, Daejanggeum brought Korean cuisine onto the international platform, allowing folks all over to get to know more about Korean food like kimchi and bimbimbap. It also brought the world into Korean cuisine, getting people curious and inquisitive to try “Hansik” (Korean food) for the very first time. Despite being highly dramatised, it was quite an eye-opener even for those who claim to already know “Hansik“. It was most certainly so for me. Several things intrigue me even till today, like the use of honey with dried fruits and nuts in cuisine, something relatively unheard of in the south. Until Daejanggeum came along that is.

The show also popularised the Korean cuisine all over the world, with Korean restaurants springing up in Singapore in quick successions following the show. Now we even have a “Korean food street” in Singapore, in the Tanjong Pagar area which is dotted with many Korean restaurants. Korean supermarkets also became in increasingly common sight with various chains operating in Singapore making it really convenient for those wanna try preparing Korean cuisine at home.

For me, Korean cuisine presents a world of extremes. It could be something as plain as a bowl of clear soup with beansprouts and tofu, yet at the same time, it could be something with far more “wow!” factor like swallowing live octopuses dipped in kimchi sauce or feasting on the unthinkably bizarre and exotic. This seeming clash dietary habits bewilder many but is perpetual not only in the culinary cultures in Korea and many others around the world.
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微熱山丘鳳梨酥 SunnyHills Pineapple Cakes

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Pineapple tarts 凤梨酥 are very popular in this part of the world where I live. From the Indonesian “Nastar”  to the Peranakan “Kueh Tair“, pineapple tarts practically dominate the confectionery scene in Singapore and Malaysia especially during the Chinese New Year festive season. I make pineapple tarts as well, to entertain guests during their visits as well as gifts for friends and relatives. So pineapple tarts have in a way become symbolically analogous to Chinese New Year and part and parcel of our lives. Further up north  in a country where I call my second home, Taiwan is another place which is very famous for their 凤梨酥.  And when it comes to reputable 凤梨酥, one name has emerged rapidly over the last couple of years which these small finger-size confections are synonymously linked with, and that is 微熱山丘鳳梨酥 SunnyHills Pineapple Cakes.

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Rawon – Indonesian Black Nut Stewed Beef

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Rawon is a classic East Javanese dish which either you’re gonna love or loathe. It extracts its unique flavours from the use of the “Indonesian black nut” commonly known as “buah keluak” or “kluwak/kluwek“, or more scientifically Pangium edule. In Singapore and Malaysia, buah keluak is better known as part of a signature dish in Peranakan cuisine “Ayam Buah Keluak” to which it lends its name. In fact, the recipes are so similar that I would like to think that one is necessarily evolved from the other! So if you love Ayam Buah Keluak and like to give it a little twist by using beef instead of chicken, Rawon is definitely the dish for you.

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Sup Buntut – Indonesian Oxtail Soup

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I love oxtail for several reasons. The flavours from any meat off the bone is amazing, robust and rich. And what more with oxtail, it comes with lots of collagen! Oxtail is also a perfect cut for stewing, allowing the flavours to develop over prolonged periods of cooking, teasing out that essence of all the ingredients added. When I knew that there is an Indonesian oxtail soup called “Sup Buntut“, I knew I have to make it! And I’m glad I did… it was simply delish!
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Rujak Kedondong Ulek Terasi – Spicy Indonesian Fruit Salad

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This is my first food post in the longest time. In fact, I’d neglected my blog for more than a month, being engaged in several events and activities, but mostly due to laziness actually. Indonesian month for AFF is coming to an end soon. So I better put up my posts before it is too late!

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On the Trail of the Phoenix – An Insight to the Guided Tours @ The Intan

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After my night account to the Intan in January, I had the privilege of visiting this private museum again twice over the last two months under the kind invitation of its owner, Baba Alvin Yapp. I had the chance to experience the guided tours led by Alvin and even interact and share with some of the tour participants what little I know about the Peranakan culture. So it was quite an experience for me on many accounts!

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