I think about food. A lot.

Not just because I love to eat: I also think that food is politics, history, culture, and the best lens through which I can learn about the world.

I've been lucky to have eaten extensively across the world. I've also worked on several cookbooks. Now, I write an occasional food newsletter, obsessively review tacos, and develop recipes that are at once traditional and outright absurd.

    • Bukit Merah Days

      When I'm back in Singapore it can be easy to fall into old habits: sleeping in till late, staying out late, doing all of those things I used to do. On my recent trips, I'm trying to remind myself that I've been away for so long my parents aren't getting younger. My parents' daily routine starts with: picking a different hawker centre every morning to eat at. I try to join them, if I can wake up (they leave extremely early).

      Bukit Merah View is one of my mum's favourites. It's relatively low key and quiet, but has some heavy hitters. More importantly, there's a wanton noodle stall there run by one of our distant relatives (my mother's cousin..?). It's very simple, but always tasty. It was even recommended in Michelin Bib.

      The nice thing about a hawker centre is that it's usually attached to a wet and dry market. After a leisurely breakfast I was able to wander over to the other side to pick up some essentials: like the Feng He Yuan first extract dark soy sauce. None of the dark soy sauces I get in the US compare, and it is absolutely essential for some of the traditional Hokkien and Teochew dishes that I try to cook abroad.

      While I don't relish waking up at 6 in the morning when I'm on vacation, food, and family is worth it: and in this part of the world, food and family is one and the same.

      A scan of a medium format square color photo of an older Chinese lady wearing a face mask and tending a store in a market in Singapore

      Purveyor of soy sauces, chilli pastes and dried goods in Bukit Merah View market.

      A scan of a medium format square color photo of an older Chinese lady wearing a face mask standing at a stall in Singapore looking at dried goods to purchase

      Carrying a retro TLR camera around my neck was fun. Many older people in Singapore looked at it, wide-eyed, and told me that they used to love their Seagull or Yashica cameras too.

      A scan of a medium format square color photo of two older Chinese people eating noodles with chopsticks

      Breakfast with my parents.

      4. A scan of a medium format square color photo of a wanton noodle stall in Singapore that says Yong Chun wanton noodles

      My distant relatives' simple, but very good, wanton noodles. If you're expecting KL style lardy savory wanton noodles, you will be disappointed: this is a basic Cantonese Singaporean style plain wanton noodles with bouncy noodles and good, basic ingredients.

      A scan of a medium format square color photo of a wet market in Singapore with tall buildings behind it

      View of the wet market in Singapore with tall public housing behind it.

      (All photos taken on Yashica Mat 124G, Portra 400, self-dev in Bellini C-41 kit, scanned on Fuji Frontier)

    • My Little India

      Of all of the neighbourhoods in Singapore, I've probably spent the most time in Little India. Not only was I born in a hospital on its edges, I also lived and studied near here for several years. Every trip abroad had to start with a visit to Little India, for foreign currency, electrical adapters, or extra supplies at Mustafa Centre.

      1. A scan of a color photo of three glasses on a table top in front of blue and tan walls

      Filter coffee.

      2. A scan of a color photo of coconuts sitting on a counter at a restaurant


      3. A scan of onions and potatoes being displayed at a little India grocer with a blue tarp over it

      Aloo pyaz.

      4. A scan of a color photo of colourful windows (painted green on wood and brown) with purple and green and bright green or yellow colors around it


      5. A scan of a color photo of two men in little India sitting at the back of a restaurant. An alley opens up into them, and the foreground wall is painted with geometric clay color and shapes, indicating it is part of a Hindu temple next door


      All photos taken on Nikon FE, 50mm, Kodak ProImage, dev and scan by Triple D Minilab, Singapore.

    • A Perfect Singapore Food Day

      My favorite cup of coffee at Tiong Hoe, S$5

      I start the morning at Tiong Hoe Coffee, one of my favorite coffee spots anywhere.

      a photo of coffee in a beautiful ceramic cup on a wood table

      Tiong Hoe was set up decades ago by Mr Tan Tiong Hoe, who started as an apprentice in a Dutch coffee company in 1960. Today, the cafe is run by another group of younger folks, but you can still see Mr Tan in the cafe drinking coffee and talking to people.

      Their house blend "Gachala" is an all time favorite espresso blend. It actually tastes better than many single origins I've had elsewhere. They also tend to have a wide range of coffee beans from all around the world. Unlike many San Francisco roasters which, I find tend to lean way too sour (just like the damned bread in that city), Tiong Hoe's coffees are balanced. Fruity when they have to be, smoky or heavy at other times, but always with interesting notes (the "Gachala" house blend has 'gula melaka' flavors!).

      The chicken rice I like at Sin Kee, S$6 with extras

      a photo of chicken rice, with condiments, on a tray

      My favorite 'white' chicken rice

      There is no such thing as the best chicken rice.

      There's only the best chicken rice, for tourists who have never had it and who would like to stand in a line (Tian Tian).

      The best chicken rice, for people who like dark style chicken with caramelized eggs (Tong Kee).

      The best chicken rice that is not Tian Tian, but is in the same building and that has shorter lines and is similar in flavor (Ah Tai). Then there's the best chicken rice in the north, in Katong, best after-clubbing chicken rice, best in the east.

      For me, I prefer Cantonese-style chicken rice and I tend to not venture far from the south / west / central parts of the country. So Sin Kee is my spot for 'white' chicken rice, and Tong Kee for 'black' chicken rice. I don't claim them to be my best, they're just my spots.

      If you've never had chicken rice like this before, don't make the mistake of thinking they're just plain, boiled chicken. Cantonese and Hainanese people do 'white chicken' in very skillful ways. They use specific types of chicken, different from the kinds we'd get in western supermarkets. They have a technique of blanching, steaming or boiling the chicken that I find difficult to replicate at home. It's definitely more than just boiled chicken. It's the flavor of home, for me.

      Blue pea flower ice cream at Birds of Paradise, S$6.80

      After walking through the city on a hot day (haha, that's every single day!), I am craving for ice cream. There's a significant craft ice cream scene in the city. It's one of the things I love about it. But today, I am closest to Birds of Paradise, whose Craig Road location actually used to be the space of a well known agile software development web shop (Pivotal), so I feel like it's my worlds colliding. Ice cream and software are the two main things I live for.

      a photo of a light blue and white ice cream in a cone

      Macadamia blue pea flower ice cream with thyme-infused cone

      I'm a sucker for blue pea flowers. I love them in drinks, in dessert, in everything really. I love them most of all in ice cream. In Tanjong Pagar alone, there are at least two places for bougie blue pea flower ice cream. Birds of Paradise, and Apiary. I'm a fan of both. And that's not even a fraction of all the good ice cream spots we've got.

      Mazesoba at Kajiken, S$14.80

      a photo of dry ramen-like noodles with many toppings, including a soft boiled egg

      Japanese 'Taiwan mazesoba'

      While I like ramen, I love mazesoba. I think it's the perfect blend of supple noodles, tasty condiments and ingredients. It's a mix of Japanese and Chinese noodles for me. This style originates from Nagoya, Japan, which confusingly calls it a 'Taiwan mazesoba'. I like the one at Kajiken. There's a Kajiken in San Mateo now, which makes me happy.

      All in, I got to check off a lot of things on my 'places I always go to'. I'm happy!

    • Rawon Setan, Surabaya

      a photo of scallion pancake

      Rawon Setan, Surabaya

      My all time favorite Indonesian food is nasi rawon.

      I love it so much I will order it every time I see it. Surabaya, Malang and other East Java cities, tend to make the versions I love the most.

      This spot has delicious rawon. Beefy, but light, with the spices and flavors of the keluak nut. Since I haven’t found a source for keluak in the US, I don’t make this at all. In a pinch, the Bamboe brand of premade spices (available at Richmond New May Wah in San Francisco) has a good rawon packet, but it’s obviously not as great as having it here. Still, I’d rather have rawon from a pack when I’m in California, than none at all.

      I’ve also noticed that most of the Indonesian restaurants in NorCal where I live tend to be western Javanese or Balinese, or really some pan-Javanese / Asian flavors that are much, much lighter than the intensely savory Eastern Javanese food that I prefer.

      So I am over the moon to be back in Surabaya, having the dishes and flavors that feel just right.

      P.S. Apparently, if a restaurant in Java has ‘Setan’ in the name it means it is open late. Because obviously only devils stay out late (that’s what parents would call kids who stay out too late).

      Rawon Setan No 78/I, Jl. Embong Malang Surabaya (Map)

    • What I Ate in Singapore

      Sept 22, 2023

      It was my first full day back in Singapore. Here's what I ate, and where.

      a photo of scallion pancake

      Excellent scallion pancakes and fried dumplings from 喬記面館

      a photo of a bowl of noodle soup with a shrimp

      Mee hoon kuay from China Whampoa Homemade Noodles

      a photo of a latte, next to a nikon film camera

      Excellent coffee at Kurasu. Today, they had a coffee bean from Yunnan. I had to try that since I’ve never tried Chinese espresso beans before. Very fruity!

      a photo of pearls at a bubble tea shop

      Rock salt macchiato oolong bubble tea with daily special pearls at Hollin

      a photo of hotpot with four soups

      Family hotpot at Hai Di Lao