Five Things To Eat Before You Die
'Tis the meme of memes that seems to be doing the rounds, started by the über flogger Melissa from The Traveler's Lunchbox. Since I've been tagged not only by my friend and Singapore's most famous flogger, Chubby Hubby, but also by Jared of Alaska Cooks, I am of course more than glad to participate.
So here goes:
1) Baba Ganoush at Naguib Mahfouz Cafe in Cairo
Before I entered this bustling eatery in Cairo's Khan al-Kahlili bazaar, I was a baba ganoush virgin. But one taste of this creamy, tangy eggplant dip and I was hooked. Alas, throughout the rest of the trip, no other baba ganoush — from Cairo to Istanbul — lived up to our first encounter. None other to date has, in fact. Perhaps, as the saying goes, the first time is the best. But if you're ever, ever in that vicinity, you simply must give it a try. Incidentally, the cafe is named after Egypt's (and the Middle East's) most famous writer and the first Arab to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Mahfouz passed away last week on 30 August, at the age of 94. The cafe is open daily from noon to midnight. 5 Sekket al-Badistan, Khan al-Khalili, phone 590-3788 or 593-2262.
2) Cheok Kee Braised Duck Rice
So wonderful is this dish that I enjoy it no matter how I'm feeling—gluttonous, sad, sick or happy. Served in the traditional Cantonese style, a robust, thick dark sauce is poured over the tender duck meat and is accompanied with either yam rice (when gluttonous or in need of comfort food), rice noodles (for happy slurping) or rice porridge (for sick, sad or cold days). It helps that the guy at the stall always serves it up with a smile and is very generous with the gravy and two types of chilli—in sambal and a vinegar sauce. Stall 29, East Coast Lagoon, Singapore
3) Thai street noodles
I don't know what these noodles are really called, but you see them sold on every street side in Thailand. It's essentially egg noodles served with fishballs, porkballs, minced pork, or sliced chicken meat, in a seriously tasty broth. Whenever I'm in Thailand, I make it a point to eat a bowl (or two) for breakfast every day I'm there.
I once tasted a poached oyster at some restaurant as a child, but it was so vile I spat it out right at the moment the manager came over to ask us if we were enjoying our meal, casting immense shame on our family's name. That put me off oysters for a long, long time and until I met my partner C almost seven years ago, I had never tasted a fresh oyster. I am pleased to report that I have since more than made up for lost time.
5) Cocoa Nibs
Right now, at this very point in my very greedy life, I am obsessed with experiencing the cocoa nib. I've never tasted a cocoa nib in my life and were I to die today, I would be really pissed that I haven't gotten down to putting one of those things in my mouth. I recently found a place in Singapore to buy them, but I can only buy them in a one-kilogram bag. Which I will — I've already placed my order. So, soon. Soon there will be cocoa nib ice cream and other confections. There are recipes flagged with lime-coloured post-its in numerous cookbooks, waiting for my nibs when they arrive.
I better be alive this weekend.