The Foodist Monk: Singapore

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My travels always seem to be connected to a business trip. This journey to Singapore was no exception. Singapore is a dynamic city-state that is a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts and architecture. Being very close to the equator, the weather is hot and humid in this island nation, even when I was there in April. And something I could relate to was: Singaporeans are passionate about eating.

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In almost every corner of the island, there is an endless variety of food, served hot or cold, at any hour of any day. Many of the dishes in Singapore are influenced by the cultural diversity of other countries, particularly China, India and Malaysia. So it was with this in mind that launched me on my journey of culinary exploration.

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One of the dishes I had heard so much about was Hainanese Chicken Rice. It was originally a dish brought over by Chinese immigrants from the southern province of Hainan and adopted into Malaysian and Singapore cuisine – a perfect example of food cross-pollination. Continue reading

The Foodist Monk: Wuyishan, Fujian Province, China

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At the end of a business trip, friends pointed me to Wuyishan, saying it was like the emerald of China. Since it was only an hour flight away from where I was staying at Xiamen, it wasn’t that far of a jaunt. When I arrived all the cabs had been scooped. I decided that a bus from the airport in Wuyishan was going to get me to the hotel a lot faster than waiting for the already dispersed cabs to return from their drop-offs. And traveling by public transit was a lot more adventurous than being driven anyway. For 1 yuan, I was able to get part-way to my destination. But when I was dropped at the unmarked bustop, I realized that finding my hotel wouldn’t be that easy.

Another 4 yuan later, I was dropped directly at my hotel by a man with a motorbike. There I found my host, Ah Feng. She allowed me to go wash away my journey before demanding to know what dinner I was up to trying. Local fare has always been my staple. And it would be no different tonight.

With relish and delight, Ah Feng took me to her favourite establishment, a remote restaurant towards the mountains where they specialized in the dish of Wuyishan City – Wu Pu Se – Five Steps Snake.

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I questioned the name of the dish… strange name. She explained that should I wander into the shaded cliff areas in the parkland, I had to be careful of falling snakes. These pit vipers were so prevalent here. And should I have the misfortune of being bit by one of these vipers, within five steps I would be dead. Lucky for me, the snake was going to be dinner tonight and not vice versa.

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After the snake was presented and weighed, it was taken into the back kitchen where it was prepared for our dinner. Continue reading