It’s never easy to leave such a great and beautiful city like Chicago behind, especially around the holidays. Last year around Thanksgiving my fiancé and I took a trip around Southeast Asia. More than anything we love eating and learning about what, who, and why people are cooking food that is near and dear to their hearts.
We started our long journey in Singapore, a very modern and tiny nation. It only takes a little over an hour to drive across the entire country. Despite its size, Singapore is not lacking in the food department. Singapore is a melting pot for the region containing food from India, Malaysia, China and all around Southeast Asia. Besides the Singapore Sling (a more western creation) the more nationally recognized dish would be Hainanese Chicken Rice.
You can find chicken along with what seems like hundreds of other food options in one of Singapore’s Hawker centers, the government’s way of regulating “street food” by bringing all the options into a “food court” style setting indoors to promote cleanliness. We visited the Tiong Bahru Hawker center, one of Singapore’s famous Hawker Centers and Market.
We sampled many different dishes including chicken and rice, roasted duck with Hong Kong style noodles, a small helping of Biryani, an Indian rice dish and a delicious sugar cane juice. We got all of this food for around 5 dollars; you can’t beat that deal!
We spent the rest of the day relaxing and shopping trying to avoid the 100-degree heat with what seemed like 200% humidity.
That night we ate dinner at a restaurant named KILO which has a Japanese and Italian-inspired menu that seems to have sparked a lot of other fusion restaurants in the area.
We split some intriguing and delicious dishes: a Japanese Caprese with tofu instead of mozzarella, squid ink rice with lightly fried octopus and fish roe. This was a dish that I could only describe as a sashimi ceviche, but the fish was light and delicious. Then there was the decadent sea urchin served with a ratatouille of veggies and seaweed puree, a truly fantastic meal.
Our trip continued to Thailand, specifically Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands. The food there was out of this world, plus you can’t beat eating fresh fish and Thai Curry with your feet in the sand. The condiments are a huge part of cuisine here in particular Prik Nam Pla.
What sticks with you are the sights, sounds, and smells of Thailand. From people on their motorbikes going about their daily routine speeding around in nonsensical traffic to the off the beaten track lunch spots where you are not quite sure what you are eating but it tastes good and different and you think better than to ask what is in it. You realize how ignorant you really are, but you never want to stop feeling like this.
The Chopping Block offers many different menus for private cooking events and one of my favorites is our Traditional Thai menu featuring Pad Thai, Thai Beef Salad, Spring Rolls, Spicy Coconut Curry Chicken and Toasted Coconut and Mango Sundaes.
Our Taste of Thailand hands-on cooking class is coming up at Lincoln Square on Tuesday, January 9 which includes the delicious soup Tom Kha Gai (Spicy Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup). Hurry, there are just two spots left!
Stay tuned for next month's post when I describe the second half of our journey which included Cambodia and Vietnam.