Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fish Eye of Truth

Fun fact: Did you know that popular American Chinese food dishes, such as General Tsao's (or Tso's) Chicken and Lo Mein, don't actually exist in real Chinese cuisine? Also, fortune cookies are not a part of Chinese meals. In fact, those cookies are not of Chinese origin, but of Japanese origin.

Singapore is well known for its fusion of Chinese, Malaysian, and Indian dishes, but if you do some digging you might be able to find authentic foods, or at least as close as ya gonna get, as if you were in that very country. After walking through all of the Chiinese restaurants I could find in Chinatown, Singapore (the closest I will get to China this summer), I figured that I might happen across some delish Chinese dishes that I am used to seeing in America, such as the flavorful Lo Meins and Teryaki Chicken dishes. I looked and looked with no success--not a "Tsao" or "Mein" in sight--but I still perservered. I decided to bug my Chinese buddies that I met here in Singapore about food comparisons in America and China, and they pretty much solidified the cuisine conundrum.

Come to find out, most Chinese people do not like to cover chicken in breading and teriaki sauce because the dish is too heavily laden. American style Lo Mein is also non-existant in China for reasons I can't even explain. What I do know is that Chinese Lo Mein is actually just plain noodles cooked in hot water that can come with shrimp and vegetables--not noodles doused in oil and savory sauces, even though it is good nonetheless. It was funny because I asked a Chinese restaurant clerk for Lo Mein and he just stared, gave me a perplexed look and laughed out loud. I will never look at American Chinese food the same way again.

Tonight, I went to a traditional Chinese home-style restaurant with a few of my co-workers and it was QUITE an experience! The food was actually served in big portions, but not American single-serve portions, these were meant to be shared by everyone at your table. For example, everyone will grab food from one big platter of, lets say, Oat Fried Prawns (shrimp, and very good) and place it on their own plate of white rice. So we ordered five huge platters (Hong Kong-style Medium size grouper, Thai-style Fried Chicken though not Chinese, Kangkong vegetables, and Potplate tofu to name the rest) to share with six people. Everything had a unique flavor that was unlike anything I had tasted before. Shrimps fried in oatmeal was surprisingly delicious and Thai-style fried chicken was actually served with an authentic sweet and sour sauce that was slightly spicy. I topped it off with a lime juice, which I actually liked better than lemonade. There is one moment that I will never forget, hmm maybe I shouldn't share but hey I shall continue! So, the grouper fish was brought whole (I have pictures), which was a shock to me, and after the fish was almost gone, I decide to take the little bit of remaining meat near the head without actually touching it. So I pull and what do I do? I ended up pulling the fish spine OUT with an eyeball still attached... no comment.

On another note, it was someone's birthday today so a cake was brought out at the restaurant and we wished him a happy 23rd birthday. Afterwards, we played an interesting numbers game such that if you pick the wrong number, you have to take a shot of the hottest pepper sauces mixed together, and thank goodness someone else picked the wrong number before me (whew!). Then I come to find out that there is a little tradition with my lab group that the last piece of cake has to be eaten by somebody or else the birthday person will get caked in the face, which was pretty funny because that actually happened today lol. My birthday is next week and my co-workers are already planning on a cool place to go!

Overall, my chosen favorite Singaporean dish is Laksa, and drinks are Sugarcane juice and lime juice. Laksa is a noodle dish with shrimps and chicken in a coconut-based seafood broth served with lime. That's all for now!


  1. Lynnicia,
    Your description of the food makes my mouth water. I can't wait to hear about YOUR birthday dinner!
    Lily Young

  2. Yum. All this talk for food makes me hungry. I think I would love Laksa!