Nasi Lemak Burger

Capture

Singapore’s National Day was August 9. To commemorate the island’s 52nd birthday McDonald’s released some special, limited time only menu items.

Top of the list was the Nasi Lemak burger: coconut flavored chicken covered with a fried egg, fresh cucumbers, grilled onions and spicy sweet sambal sauce. For drinks, there was Bandung McFizz and for dessert Kueh Salat cake, Chendol McFlurry ice cream and fried Coconut pie.

Local TV personality Genevieve Loh gave her impressions on the McD treats. It’s a riveting film clip. Not only because of her eye catching lashes (I watched with full expectation of them falling into her food ūüėČ ) but because of her reveal that Singaporeans like their fries dipped in ice cream! I challenged my friend Lisa on the claim. Lisa was quick to clarify that only some Singaporeans do this. Only the old timers from her & my generation. The new timer kids eat fries with ketchup and chili sauce. Ahem. That’d be the Singaporean chili sauce … a hot & tangy tomato ketchup … not the American style chili with ground beef and beans.

But back to the Nasi Lemak burger. The pictures looked good and the McDescriptions tantalizing. I had to try and because it was McDonald’s, I up-sized to a $10 set where I had 510,000,000 calories worth of burger, fries, bandung drink & coconut pie.

So how did it taste?

Well, first things first: Appearance. The official pictures looked like the image above.

My burger looked like this.

My Nasi Lemak Burger

It’s a saucy, sloppy mess of a burger. The sauce, onions and cucumbers slip around and it was challenging to get a good grip and¬† solid bite. Hunger, conviction and a whole lot of napkins saw me through. The chicken was good.¬†It was real chicken not a pre-fab patty. The first bite of crunchy chicken had a strong hit of coconut flavor followed by a surprising taste of … fish?

At the second bite the fishy taste was even stronger. Everything was freshly made so where did this fishy taste come from? I dialed back to an image of traditional Nasi Lemak and remembered that aside from fried chicken, sambal & coconut rice there was always heaping pile of dry fried anchovies, ikan bilis.

Ha! Now I knew why my burgers tasted of fish. I also remembered why Nasi Lemak was one of my least favorite Singapore dishes.

Verdict: Not bad. Tasty but probably not worth the expense of calories and clogged arteries.

How about the Bandung McFizz? What’s bandung anyways?

Bandung is a local drink made with rose flavored syrup, evaporated milk and crushed ice. It looks a bit like strawberry flavored milk. It’s a favorite of Malaysians and Singaporeans, smooth and soothing after a spicy curry laksa. The McFizz version had all of the sweet syrup and none of the milk. It was super concentrated sugar water. Kind of like a fizzy lemonade with no lemons.

Verdict: Nasty.

The fried coconut pie reminded me of a Taro pie I had in McDonald’s Beijing. Warm and creamy filing with a strong taste of coconut. The Beijing version had soft cubes purple yam. The Singaporean version had cubes of hot nato de coco. The Beijing version was delicious on a cold and wintry day. The Singaporean version ‚Ķlets just say that Genevieve‚Äôs idea to mix it with ice cream might be a good idea.

Verdict: Has potential but we’ll need to wait until Singapore cools down to a chilly 10C to truly enjoy it.

Singapore. August 2017

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Ice Cream Sandwich

The New York Times posted an article on The Joys of a Classic Ice Cream Sandwich.  It says

“Designer ice cream sandwiches, made with amped-up cookies, fancy sprinkles and crazy flavors, can be tasty, but the classic combination of a chocolate base and vanilla ice cream pleases everyone”

Singaporeans might disagree.

This is what a local, traditional Ice Cream Sandwich looks like.

 

I had mango flavor but I could have had red bean, corn or durian.

It’s a thick slice of ice cream wrapped up with pillowy soft, rainbow colored bread because it’s a sandwich.

Singapore. June 2017

Bak Chang

The wonderful thing about Singapore is the availability of a diverse range of foods.¬† The country is very modern but traditional foods and customs from its¬† Chinese, Malay, Indian and Peranakan heritage abound.¬† No time is this more apparent than at festival time … and because there are four official religions, it is always festival time.

It is Duanwu now and Chinese rice dumplings are everywhere.¬† Sometimes made at home,¬† oftentimes made for sale by specialty shops, the dumplings are handmade, shared and eaten as snacks and ‘light’ meals.

I can’t do justice to describing the range of dumplings.¬† For that I¬† share¬† this excellent article in Soshiok.com’s Bak Chang 101

For my recent experience in making Bak Chang,¬† here’s¬† my re-blogged post.

The Sandy Chronicles

20160603_170146 Bak Chang rice dumplings

If we were having coffee … I’d invite you to have the last of my stash of bak chang. I have three types: Nonya, Hokkien and Kee.  My favorite is the Kee which is also called  crystal chang. It’s  delicious with gula melaka and heady with the scent of pandan and bamboo leaves.

What is bak chang?

Bak chang is the Hokkien word for sticky rice dumpling. ¬† It is also called zongzi in Mandarin and joong in Cantonese.¬† In the US it‚Äôs sometimes called Chinese tamale but that‚Äôs just wrong ‚Äď let‚Äôs not refer to it as that.¬† These pyramid shaped, leaf wrapped dumplings show up in Chinese shops and eating houses every year¬† around June.¬†¬† It¬† is a celebration food for the Duanwu festival and Dragon Boat races.

Chinese legend goes that when the beloved scholar Qu Yuan committed suicide by throwing…

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There’s no Mango in Mangosteen

The Sandy Chronicles

MangosteenIf we were having coffee we’d be looking at the gift of mangosteens from my hubby’s tennis friend. It’s an old, familiar Chinese tradition, to bring gifts of fruit when visiting. When I was young, my Aunties used to do it and depending on whether they were shop keepers or gardeners, I’d have little treats of imported grapes or homegrown mangoes.  It’s a cordiality of friendship that I’d almost forgotten while living in Canada.

Outside of birthdays and Christmas, Westerners do not typically exchange gifts.  In fact, a business colleague once told me how uncomfortable he was when his Chinese employee kept giving him little gifts or souvenirs from her vacations abroad.  I remember feeling similarly dismayed in Beijing,  when direct reports gave me elaborate gifts for Chinese New Year and Harvest Moon Festival. US corporate policy promptly stopped the business habit.  I hear that in newly reformed China,  it…

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TangZhong Bread

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Hokkaido Milk Bread

I mentioned that I have a new hobby? ¬†I’m still at it.

Having baked and eaten several loaves of ¬†chewy homemade bread I began to wonder why Asian breads are so different. One of the reasons why I started experimenting is that it’s so hard to get ‘regular’ bread in Singapore. Forget about regional Jamaican specialities. ¬†Boules, sourdoughs, baguettes are impossible to find.

Let me qualify that.

Specialty breads are impossible to find at reasonable prices. European and artisanal breads can be bought¬†but it’s at places like Paul’s Boulangerie, where they fly in specially milled flour and charge exhorbitant prices. ¬†My neighbourhood has bakeries galore but they all make Hong Kong style breads. ¬†Light and fluffy, the breads are pillowy soft, have an¬†ephemeral crumb and are always slightly sweet.

A little research uncovered a technique called the TangZhong method which originated in Japan but is widely used in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. ¬†It was first publicized by a Chinese author, Yvonne Chen who introduced¬†it in her book ‚ÄėThe 65¬ļ Bread Doctor’. ¬†The technique involves¬†cooking a flour and water roux and adding it to the dough during mixing. ¬†The science behind the roux has something to do with gelatinizing flour and its¬†subsequent hydration effect. ¬†After a little bit of YouTubing and a whole lot of Googling, I decided¬†to¬†try ¬†PastryGirl’s Hokkaido Milk Bread on her Desserts First¬†website.

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Fine, even grained crumb with a touch of sweet

TangZhong breads have half as much flour as a Basic Bread recipe and the technique calls for twice as much kneading.  Many recipes recommend using  a bread maker or upright mixer for the heavy kneading.  However, my under-powered Oster upright  was not up for the job.  After 20 minutes the machine began to overheat and I could smell  traces of burning metal.  I scraped out the dough and spent the next 20 minutes developing my biceps.  For the final proof, I  folded rolls into two regular pans and gave them a finishing  glaze of egg wash.  It resulted in a beautiful, brioche looking bread.

The taste was lovely¬†– just like the breads in the better Hong Kong style bakeries. ¬†¬†I’m not sure if¬†it was¬†the tangzhong or the 40 minutes of kneading, but the bite and chew was definitely lighter and more tender. The tangzhong articles say¬†that the roux keeps the bread moist with a longer shelf life. ¬†So far, my breads haven’t had a problem with shelf life (they don’t hang around long enough) but I can say that these rolls were just as delicious the next day.

It’s an interesting thing, this tangzhong method. ¬†It got me thinking about another hard to find bread from Jamaica, the eponymous Hardo bread. ¬†A non-verified source says that the Hardo was introduced to the island by Chinese bakers. ¬†The distinction of ¬†Hardo is its resilient, fine grained crumb and its ability to keep fresh over a long period. My French born husband would argue with the ‘resilient’ attribute. ¬†He’s¬†described¬†hardo¬†as heavy and brick-like; solid enough to build houses with.

Notwithstanding, the connection between the bread and Chinese baking is intriguing.   Maybe that will be my next project.

Singapore.  April 2016