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31 December 2019

Best Bites Round 1: Singapore

2019 was a busy year for us. Through the course of the year we hit 8 countries, Maui, and the New England coast. Over the next few weeks I'm going to highlight some of the best individual dishes from the many places we traveled in 2019. First up: the island city state of Singapore.

Pancake. Bacon. Flight. Magic. Bearded Bella (8 Craig Rd, Singapore 089668)

First, I must admit I'm very partial to the Duxton Hill area in general. Cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and bars fill the charming terrace houses of this most quaint neighborhood in Singapore. But only one cafe has a bacon flight. Bearded Bella, the quirky and lively little cafe less than a block from the former Tiger Balm Headquarters, has the hands-down most interesting way to start your day. Maple infused pancakes, spicy butter, and onion jam all work brilliantly with the trio of bacon slices. On this particular day there was a traditional bacon back, a maple glazed, and the most singularly amazing slice of bacon I've tried in years: Paprika spiced.

Black Pepper Live Mud Crab New Ubin Seafood Chimes (30 Victoria St, #02-01B/C Singapore 187996)

Chili Crab is often listed as the "Must Try" dish of Singapore, but I would say this crab preparation pioneered by Long Beach Seafood in 1959 is actually the superior preparation. While available at many restaurants around the city, the setting of a Convent converted into an eclectic high-end restaurant center makes New Ubin my personal choice. The wok fried crab is less saucy than chili crab, and much less sweet, with the black pepper and oyster sauces coming through beautifully. Just make sure to order Man Tou Buns to sop up all that sauce.

Beef Katsu Sando The Feather Blade (90 Club St, Singapore 069458)

The Feather Blade is a restaurant that absolutely knows what it is. One entree. Four sides. Occasionally a special. No muss, no fuss, just stunning meat done to perfection. But it is one of those specials that I want to talk about. Seared USDA Prime flat iron, breaded and fried in beef drippings, then pressed in buttery brioche that is lathered in an umami bomb Katsu sauce. While this is a dish intended for sharing, I recommend ordering one as an appetizer and one as dessert.

Twice-Cooked Angus Short Ribs Xiao Ya Tou (6, #01-01 Duxton Hill, Singapore 089592)

Xiao Ya Tou, the little imp of Duxton Hill, is a modern Asian restaurant that revels in the quirky and naughty reputation this area of Singapore has worked hard to shed. The vintage menu art alone makes a stop worthwhile, but the menu is one of the best in the city top to bottom. Narrowing down a best bite from Xiao Ya Tou from the eight dishes we tried was pretty difficult, but the succulent short ribs just kept calling us back again and again. Go with a crew, order the entire menu, you won't be disappointed.

All The Roast Meats Foong Kee Coffee Shop (6 Keong Saik Rd., Singapore 089114)


For our last dish we cross the street out of Duxton Hill onto Keong Saik road to find a roast meats window nestled between two ancient brothels. Cheap white plastic tables overflowing with those lucky enough to find a seat, Foong Kee is famous for its char siew, but the roast pork belly and duck are also out of this world good. This stall has stayed relevant from the days when Keong Saik was considered a slum to today for one simple reason, it has the best roast meats in Singapore. 

16 August 2019

Recipe: Korean Beef Bowl in the Instant Pot

So in my quest to get the most out of my Instant Pot, I picked up the Ekovana Stackable Steamer inner pans. Naturally my first thought was to make a rice dish. I wanted to try a dish that would give amazing flavor while highlighting the rice on its own. So, in comes this quick and easy take on a Korean classic. A minimum of prep, maybe 5 minutes of total work, and 14 minutes total in the Instant Pot. Serve on its own for a tasty dinner or paired with banchan, the traditional Korean side dishes (see below for a few examples).

Special Equipment:
1 Instant Pot
1 Stainless steel long legged trivet
1 Stainless steel steamer pan with lid (the one with holes)


- 1 Teaspoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1.5 pounds lean ground beef (Pork also works wonderfully)
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 6 Cardamom pods
- 1 stick Cinnamon
- 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
- 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon White pepper
- 1 teaspoon Gochujang (for mild) 2 Tablespoons for HOT (If your store doesn't carry this amazing chili paste, you can substitute sambal Oelek, but I urge you to find some. It's so worth it!)
- 1 Asian pear, diced (You can substitute 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce in a pinch.)
- 1/4 cup Joseon Ganjang (Or dark soy sauce)
- 1 teaspoon toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 large egg per plate (fried)
- Sriracha (optional garnish)
- toasted sesame seeds (garnish)
- diced scallions (garnish)

For the Rice:

When cooking rice in the Instant Pot, weighing out the ingredients is the only way to have perfect rice every time. Also, pay specific attention to the type of rice a recipe calls for. There are many varieties of rice, and each has its own culinary uses and cooks differently. Using a rice other than the type specified could lead to a total culinary disaster.

- 1 pound Calrose Rice (rinsed)
- 1 pound filtered water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar


1. Set Instant Pot to sauté and allow to heat 1 minute.
2. Add olive oil, wait 30 seconds, then add cardamom and cinnamon. Toast until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add onion and meat. Using a wooden spoon, break the meat up as much as you can, no more than 1 minute.
4. Add ginger, garlic, fish sauce, salt, pepper, gochujang. Mix.
5. Add in pear and Joseon Ganjang (or applesauce and Soy Sauce) and sesame oil. Mix.
6. Place trivet over meat.
7. Place rice and water in steamer pan. Top with butter. Place lid, and set on top of trivet.
8. Lock lid, set pressure valve, and cook on high for 4 minutes. Allow to naturally release for 10 minutes before opening valve to release remaining pressure.
9. Remove lid and carefully lift insert from Instant Pot. Add Rice vinegar, fluff rice, and divide into bowls. Top with beef.
10. Garnish with sesame seeds, scallions, fried egg, and Sriracha.

Banchan (side dishes):

Banchan, the traditional Korean side dishes, run the gamut of flavors from sweet to salty to extra extra spicy. Here are some quick and easy ones, but I also recommend Kimchee (obviously), marinated soybean sprouts, radish kimchee, braised potatoes, and stir fried eggplant.

Oi Muchim (Spicy Cucumber salad)


- 1 hothouse cucumber
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon gochujang
- 1 tablespoon chopped scallion
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon plum vinegar (you can substitute white distilled vinegar)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Using a mandolin, slice cucumber as thin as possible. Toss with salt, and set aside for 20 minutes.
2. Drain any liquid. Combine with remaining ingredients, and chill at least 30 minutes before serving.

Hoban Bokkeum (stir fried zucchini)


- 1 medium zucchini
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices.
2. Add fish sauce.
3. Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add zucchini, fish sauce, and garlic. Cook 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the remaining ingredients and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook for another minute or two, stirring, until the zucchini is softened and turns translucent. Serve room temperature or chilled.

09 April 2019

Tonight's Episode: Eating Local in a Tourist Trap (Fiji Edition)

Fiji. Four simple letters that combine to immediately transport your mind to Paradise. Clear waters, warm beaches, epic sunsets.....Fiji. So you book your flight, enjoy your 11 hour nap, and arrive at Nadi International Airport. At this point, unless you stayed where we did (post to come) you will likely end up at Denarau Island. Either you will stay on Denarau Island for one of its eight large resorts or, if you are the more adventurous type, you will be boarding a boat for one of the many smaller island resorts. Either way you will quickly see that the Marina (and island at large) is one large tourist trap ready to separate you from your money as fast as possible. But if you walk quickly past the souvenir shops and Hard Rock Cafe to the back corner of the shopping center, you will find a warm and authentic welcome at Nadina Authentic Fijian Restaurant.

In our week on the Fijian main island of Veti Levu we dined at Nadina 3 times. This entailed a 45 minute drive each way through the rural expanse of the West coast, and was so worth it every time. Our first trip was to visit Denarau's shops, our second and third trips were in spite of them. Nadina's food, and people, kept calling us back.

Now before I dive into the food, I need to talk about the family at Nadina. I don't mean blood relations, I mean the amazingly warm and loving employees who immediately make you feel at home. While the entire staff was amazing, you will remember Aggie, in particular, for the rest of your life. A striking woman with a larger than life personality, who puts you at ease with her warm demeanor and makes you feel at home with her teasing manner. At our last meal before heading to the airport, we exchanged contact info, hugs, and tears with this woman who we thought was just here to feed our bellies, not our hearts.

Local rum, with more local rum, and a third local rum. And some juice. 

Ok, on to the food! Nadina focuses on locally grown and foraged ingredients and techniques. The signature Kovu ($38-65 Fijian dollars) is probably the dish you think of when you think of South Pacific cooking. Fresh meat, seasoned with coconut and spices, wrapped in banana leaves....don't be put off by the 40 minute cooking time. It is worth it for these delicious packets of fresh and bright flavors. There are multiple proteins to choose from, but my favorite was the walu (fish). The slaw side dish was also incredible with cabbage, local pumpkin, other veg, and a squeeze of bush lemon juice. It was one of my favorite things I ate the entire trip.

The Fijian curries ($30-37 FJD) are also exemplary and a favorite of the Girl. The prawn and coconut curry in particular is a stand out, with its mild-in-heat but heavy-in-spicing flavor. Another standout on the menu is the Kokoda. Best understood as the Fijian equivalent of ceviche, and available in appetizer and entree sizes ($19-40 FJD), Kokoda is deep water walu fish cured in bush lemon juice and miti (Fiji's coconut based condiment that makes kokoda creamy as opposed to the vinegar bite of ceviche). The Kokoda at Nadina is so good that I stopped eating the version at the resort for fear of ruining the flavor for me.

The final dish I want to talk about are not only the single best tasting dish of the entire trip, but one of the top 10 best dishes of my entire life: RouRou Balls ($30 FJD). RouRou balls are actually a vegetarian dish that starts with taro leaves torn into small pieces and cooked down for more than an hour before being combined with onion and garlic. The balls are lightly breaded and shallow fried before then being simmered in coconut cream. Earthy, fragrant, garlicky, and sweet from the coconut, the rourou balls are almost a tropical play on a Swedish meatball and so singularly delicious.

Walking out of Nadina for the last time was far more difficult than leaving the lush resort. The incredible food and real comforting warmth of everyone made each visit uniquely special, and the memories of each meal will linger far longer than even the best Fijian sunset. I just hope one day soon I will hear Aggie say "Bula" before welcoming me home again.

04 April 2019

Recipe: Instant Pot Shrimp Risotto

So in my last recipe, I gave you the keys to cooking a traditional style risotto with a far more forgiving base than the traditional Arborio rice. That recipe still took all the time and effort of a risotto, but it reduced the likelihood of dinner being ruined through inattention. But what if you still want that umptious traditional rice risotto without all that endless stirring and ladling in of stock? That's where the Instant Pot swoops in to save dinner.

Utilizing the Instant Pot's sauté and pressure cooking functions, you can achieve nearly flawless risotto with a minimum of effort. So put that wooden spoon back in the drawer, and pour yourself a glass of wine (just save a cup for the risotto), and let technology do most of the work for you.


4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided into 2-2 tablespoon quantities
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 quart seafood stock
1 pound medium shrimp, deveined and peeled (You can use uncooked shrimp if you wish but pre cooked work just fine and is one less step)
1/2 teaspoon Fenugreek 
3 stalks thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 shredded parmesan
2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives


1. Set Instant Pot to sauté  add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once heated add shallots, carrot, and celery. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 

2. Add rice and garlic, and stir to coat before adding wine. Cook 1 minute

3. Add Seafood stock and thyme. Close lid and set to High Pressure on manual for 9 minutes.

4. After starting the Instant Pot, heat a large non-stick pan on medium heat with the remaining olive oil. Season the shrimp with salt, pepper, and fenugreek. Add to pan and warm the shrimp, about 3 minutes.

4. Add the peas to the shrimp, cook 1 minute.

5. Once the Instant Pot has finished cooking, open the pressure valve for rapid release. Add the shrimp, peas, chives, and grated parmesan. Remove woody thyme stems. Serve with shredded parmesan and a cheese crostini. 

20 March 2019

Tonight's Episode: The Most Interesting Appetizer in Scotland

My mother was from Scotland, born and raised. This gave me an insider's knowledge of the two main culinary achievements from the land of William Wallace and the Loch Ness Monster: batter and fry it or shove it in a sheep gut and boil it. The former being such delicacies as deep fried Mars bars, deep fried pizza, and deep fried kababs (all real things). The later is, of course, the dreaded haggis.

If you are somehow unaware of haggis, it is a savory pudding (fairly close to a sausage) that starts with sheep heart, lung, and liver. These are then minced with oatmeal, suet, and spices, loaded into a sheep stomach, boiled, sliced, then fried. If you are now wondering why this is even a thing, I refer you to Charlie from So I Married an Axe Murderer: "Most Scottish cuisine is based on a dare."

I'm actually a defender of haggis, the national dish of Scotland, and it is having something of a moment. It is rare to find a high end restaurant in Scotland that doesn't have an artisan farm-to-table haggis on the menu. This brings us to the single most interesting appetizer in all of Scotland, the Haggis Italiano from La Vita Pizzeria, Glasgow.

The base is a perfectly toasted crostini of homemade Italian bread. The haggis is then perfectly grilled, topped with an over easy fried egg, peppery arugula, and an aged balsamic drizzle. The richness of the egg gives a much needed moisture to the haggis, the crostini adds great texture, the arugula's peppery bite and freshness cuts through the heaviness, and the sweet balsamic mutes the minerality of the pudding.

I'm not sure what madman decided a marriage between Italian flavors and.....haggis....would work, but boy does it ever work. This isn't the only dish at La Vita that plays with Scottish-Italian fusion. There is a haggis carbonara, a black pudding linguine, even a black pudding pizza! But it is this simple, perfect little appetizer that not only sets the mood for the menu but shows you that haggis isn't only for a lost dare.

La Vita Pizzaria, George Square, Glasgow


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