Singapore And The Food Blogger's Irony

It's now the middle of December, 2016, and I haven't blogged in exactly ten months. Why, you ask? Did the Gourmet Male lose his passion for food? Has he gotten lazy? Has he signed a multi-million dollar cookbook contract? Um, yeah, no. Although the last one is.... most certainly not true. In late January of this year I packed up the house and moved to Singapore to take on an incredible new work opportunity and to experience living in Asia for the first time. Now, I know, most people's reactions centres around just how much food there is here in Singapore and why the move didn't improve my blogging. Well, let me explain.

The blog has never been focused on restaurant reviews. I would never feel adequate enough or knowledgeable enough to challenge the food delivered by an experienced chef. There is so much sweat, blood, and passion poured into a restaurant and I think, "Who am I to judge?". When I do visit an amazing restaurant, I make sure to get a post up about it. I've always focused on food experiences, recipes, and travel. And to be honest, it's easy to get caught up here in the hustle and bustle and forget to reflect and share some of the amazing food opportunities in the city where they greet you by asking, "Have you eaten yet?".

To make things worse, I left the kitchen of my dreams in Sydney and have had to make do with the horribly tiny kitchens here in the land of the Merlion. And I mean TINY. I ended up in the best place I could find, with gas and induction burners in an open plan kitchen. You can imagine my disappointment when I was told that I couldn't use the gas burners as they would torch the back laminate. Hmmm, who designs these places? And now I have a full-time, live-in helper so am not doing so much cooking. Suffice to say, the food blogger gods have been working against me. 

So, what have I seen? What have I eaten? What's it really like to live, work, and eat here in Singapore? I'll try to sum things up in five points:

1. You can spend a bomb on food here, if you want

No doubt about it, Singapore has some of the most expensive food in Asia, if not the world. I've been taken to Cut for a $300 steak - and that's before caviar, wine, and dessert. Even one of my favourite places, No Signboard Seafood, can run north of $200/person if you're not careful.

And there's Waku Ghin, Tetsuya's new-ish Michelin starred restaurant at Marina Bay Sands. That'll set you back more than $400/person, ++. Don't ever forget the ++. That's another 17% for GST and service charge.

But if you want to really splurge and eat some amazing food, Singapore has many options to quickly rack up those frequent flier miles on your favourite card.

2. Then again, you can spend an absolute pittance on a great meal

I still can't believe the first hawker centre that I visited over at Maxwell, near Chinatown. $4 for a tasty plate of chicken rice... and that's at "tourist" prices! Tall longnecks of Tiger beer around $6. And no messing around with any ++, either. These are nett prices, and probably only cash. But the options are endless. Just pick a hawker centre close by and go nuts! The old advice to find the longest line for the best options probably still holds. Just get ready to wait.

In my neighbourhood, near Dhoby Ghaut, are many universities, arts schools, and the like. And we all know what students are searching for - cheap eats! One of my local favourites is a Koren BBQ called I Am Kim (underneath School of the Arts). The prices are cheap, the food is good, and it's a great place to bring a crowd of Ang Moh and live it up with Soju Bombs and some K Pop.

3. The mid-level food scene is improving

Even since I've been here there have been new mid-level options crop up as well as increased visibility of some other restaurants that are gaining in popularity. I absolutely love the brunch at Open Door Policy in Tiong Bahru, as well as a bookstore and coffee browse afterward.

If you like BBQ, check out Meatsmith or MeatLIQUOR.

One of my latest finds is a new Aussie restaurant, Cheek By Jowl, over on Boon Tat Street. Catch your breath, people, this lunch for two was $35++/person. Amazing. I went back for dinner and sat at the kitchen stools while chatting with the chef. This will definitely become a regular spot for me, particularly as it's only a 10 min walk from my office.

4. Have food, people will visit

The real food fun in Singapore involves entertaining. I was taught pretty quickly that if you want a group to show up, thrown on a feed. Back in my first few weeks in the country I was lucky enough to meet the guys from Iskina Cebu and made a call then that they HAD to do a full manual lechon for my birthday in July. Let me say, they didn't disappoint and the 30 people that joined us were blown away. It's probably not the best option, though, for a modern communal dining area in your apartment complex. They are indeed adding new rules to the tenant's guide by the day due to my shenanigans.

5. Get up here and eat yourself silly

It's cheap and easy to get here from Australia, New Zealand, or anywhere in Asia. It's the perfect stop-off when coming through Changi in transit (incidentally rated the best airport in the world many years running). It's incredibly safe, easy to get around, and the people are so very friendly. There are food options everywhere. 

I've accepted that it's not about my cooking so much anymore. Really, it's all about food with new friends and enjoying what the local chefs are all about. 

Just prepare yourself for $20 beers. ++.

Three Blue Ducks - Chilli Duck Salad w/ Green Mango & Mint

We are always so privileged when amazing chefs offer (or agree!) to  join us on this Gourmet Male journey and provide their favourite recipes or experiences. Recently, I attended Ominvore as part of Sydney's Good Food Month and met the Three Blue Ducks team and had the privilege of eating their food later that night at the afterparty. So to my incredible delight, they agreed to share a recipe from their new cookbook, "The Blue Ducks". I love their laidback style and their love for food and will be making a beeline to Bronte soon! I can't surf but love to cook. But be sure they excel at both!

Many thanks to the boys and their publisher, Macmillan for joining in and sharing this amazing recipe. This is absolutely my favourite from the book and one of their signature dishes. Cook and enjoy the "Chilli Duck Salad with Green Mango and Mint". And there's a surprise below so keep reading...

Cilli Duck Salad_4497.jpg

From "The Blue Ducks", courtesy of Darren Robertson and Mark Labrooy:

This is one of our signature dishes and when we bring it out at festivals like Big Day Out, it is a real crowd-pleaser. Save the duck fat and use it the next time you bake potatoes to go with a roast – the flavour is amazing. Croutons are also amazing cooked with duck fat. If you have any of the chilli jam left, you can keep it in the fridge – it adds a punch to lots of other dishes.

Serves 4

To make the chilli jam, put the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the chilli breaks down. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes too dry and starts to stick to the pot. When the chilli is soft and look as though it will blend, remove from the heat. Tip the mixture into a food processor and blend for 45 seconds until it is a slightly chunky paste, then set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Heavily season the skin side of the duck breasts. Put a large heavy-based frying pan on high heat, add the oil and when it is almost at smoking point, add the duck breasts, skin-side down. Fry until the skin is crisp and golden. Turn the breasts over and cook for a further 2 minutes. There should be a lot of fat rendered off the duck (save this for cooking other things!).

Place the breasts on a baking tray, smear 1 tablespoon of chilli jam on each breast, place in the oven and roast for 7–8 minutes. When cooked, remove the breasts, cover with foil, and leave to rest. Peel the mango and finely shred the flesh with a peeler. In a large bowl, mix the mango, sprouts, onion, cherry tomatoes, coriander and mint. Add a good splash of nahm jim dressing and gently stir.

Slice the duck breasts into 3-mm thick pieces and toss through the salad. Sprinkle over the peanuts and shallots, squeeze over some lime and serve.

Now here's the interesting bit. The boys and their publisher have provided us with a couple giveaway copies. Let us know your favourite Three Blue Ducks dish or comment on your experiences in their restaurant in a comment, on Twitter, or on Facebook. The top comments will win a free copy (Australia only)!

Disclosure: I bought my book, full price. And I contacted the boys, unsolicited.