Sensational recipes from the star of south-east Asia
Have you ever been bored of eating the same old sabzi and chapatti or rice and dal? No doubt after a long day, none of us have the energy to trouble our minds with new recipes. But we still want to eat something different and tasty without the hassle of spending long hours in the kitchen. So here are some easy-to-cook recipes from Singapore, the place known globally as the ‘food heaven’. Eating good food is a national pastime in this country and a common topic of conversation among Singaporeans, who are simply obsessed with eating. With a rich, multicultural heritage you are spoilt for choice when eating out, with a wide assortment of Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Peranakan and western cuisines. Sometimes they are fused together to make up a unique dish! Eating out is a daily routine for Singaporeans with long queues outside famous hawker stalls during lunch or dinnertime. In fact, the majority even eat five to six meals a day and yet, the country is not on the list of obese nations! So try out these recipes and enjoy a taste of Singapore.
Char Kway Teow
This dish is made from flat rice noodles (kway teow) and is typically a hawker stall dish in Singapore and Malaysia. This spicy version of noodles can be prepared as soon as the ingredients are assembled. However, it is important not to overcook the vegetables and noodles, as this can affect the final flavour.
1 packet pre-cooked flat rice noodles
1 bunch spinach, washed and cut in 3cm length
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small hard cube of tofu
1 sliced red chilli
2-3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 lemon for serving
Oil for cooking and frying
2 tablespoons chilli paste
For the rough ground chilli paste:
2-3 fresh red chillies
4-5 cloves garlic
1 small piece ginger
1 tbsp lemongrass chopped
1-2 tsp sugar
2-3 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
Salt to taste
Take the pre-cooked noodles from the packet and separate them. Dry the tofu by pressing it lightly between a muslin cloth or paper towel. Cut into medium-sized cubes and shallow fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain excess oil on a paper towel. Next, fry the rough ground chilli paste in hot oil for a few seconds, then add the chilli and mushrooms, cook for a minute. Add the kway teow noodles, soy sauce, tofu, spinach and bean sprouts. Cook till all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Serve hot with lemon wedges on the side.
Fried brown rice
As we are all so health conscious nowadays and are constantly trying to lose weight, why not try this variation of fried brown rice? As a vegetarian, I substitute meat with mock meat (made from soy), which is commonly used in vegetarian Chinese cuisine.
2 cups Macro brand cooked brown rice
½ cup mock meat, char siu pork (available in the frozen section of any Asian grocery store)
2 cups chopped mixed vegetables of your choice
½ cup cooked bean sprouts
1 cup sliced mushroom
1 hard block of tofu, cubed and shallow fried
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
Oil for cooking
Heat the oil on high flame in a non-stick pan and cook the mock meat till tender. Add the vegetables, stir fry for a few minutes till just tender, but still crispy. Once cooked, add the brown rice, bean sprouts, soy sauces and tofu. Cover and cook for a few minutes till the rice absorbs all the flavours. Serve hot with chopped fresh red chilli in soy sauce on the side.
This is a generic name for any type of fried tofu, commonly prepared in Indonesia, Malysia and Singapore. This dish is usually prepared at hawker stalls, with the fried tofu covered in a spicy-sweet-sour peanut sauce which leaves a lasting impression on your tongue. Only the tofu needs cooking and the sauce can be made in advance and stored in the fridge, making it an easy meal to prepare. You can cook the tofu by steaming or shallow frying with minimal oil, for a healthier version.
1 block of fresh hard tofu (per person)
1 packet bean sprouts
1 continental cucumber, cut into thin triangles
2 cups peanuts, roasted and skinned
5-6 garlic cloves
2 fresh red chillies
1-2 tsp sugar or gula melaka (palm sugar)
2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice or tamarind water
2-3 tsp dark soy sauce
For the peanut sauce
Crush the peanuts coarsely in a grinder, ensure that the result is not too fine. Pound the garlic and chilli in a mortar and pestle. Mix together the crushed peanuts, garlic chilli paste, soy sauce, lemon juice and sugar. Add just enough water to create a pouring consistency for the sauce. Keep aside for an hour or two before serving.
Cook the tofu by steaming or frying. The traditional way of cooking tofu is by deep-frying the block and then cutting it into cubes, but you can use the healthier option.
Dip the bean sprouts in hot water for a few seconds and drain. Serve the cooked tofu with the delicious sweet and sour peanut sauce topped with cucumber and bean sprouts.
You could let the tofu sit on a thick paper towel or a muslin cloth, which will help absorb excess water to minimize splattering in oil. All ingredients for these recipes can be found in any Asian grocery store.