I recently went to Asia for the first time. I flew in to Singapore and stayed for a few days, then went to Indonesia for a hot and muggy second, and then spent one day in Tokyo.
I’m glad I started off with Singapore. It’s sort of like Asia-lite for westerners. Everything is in English, the city is safe, spotless, and easy to navigate–and yet it’s Asian. The people are Asian, the stores are asian, and the food is definitely asian.
When I told people I was going to Singapore I got one of two reactions: 1) “Wow cool, are you going for shopping?” No. I’m not an Olson twin. I don’t have the money to go to another country to go shopping. And 2) “OH THE FOOD THERE.”
Indeed, oh the food there. Aside from the many lovely and delicious restaurants (I’ll get there in a second), there are clusters of food stands around picnic tables under the shade scattered all over the city. Here you can find a stall that specializes in ramen, next to a dumpling place, next to a vegetarian indian food stall, next to someone specializing in fried animal parts, next to a Mr. Avocado.
Mr. Avocado was my favorite. He specializes in Avocado shakes in a variety of flavors you wouldn’t normally have thought of for an avocado. You can choose any flavor from banana, to dragon fruit, to chocolate. Since avocado is usually used in savory dishes, I was worried it would somehow taste like a big garlic smoothie, but it was great. Many raw and vegan recipes also use avocado in place of cream to make mousse and cookies. I tried this when I got home and I absolutely did not succeed. I discovered that the type of avocado is extremely important. If you’re going to to try it, don’t get the little ones, get the big watery kind unless you really want it to taste like avocado. I’ve included a recipe at the end of this post.
These shakes were actually not exclusive to Mr. Avocado. They all over Singapore and at the resort we went to in Indonesia. It would sometimes come mixed together, and sometimes come with a swirl of what looked like a ribbon of hershey’s syrup cutting through the bright green of the avocado shake. At a different food stand dedicated to more decadent smoothies, I got an avocado shake with crumbled Oreo chunks.
My excuse for this sugar bomb is that I had just spent the summer in Germany, and I had gotten used to my daily Müsli, crusty Brötchen, seed-encrusted spelt breads, italian gelato, espresso drinks, bountiful sugary yoghurt varieties and the occasional splurge of hearty meat dishes. After a couple of days of sushi, doughy dumplings, and miso soup I actually felt some withdrawals from gluten and sugar. I hadn’t had anything crunchy, heavy, tough or sweet in days. My teeth and jaw felt useless in the face of so many squishy umami dishes.
Don’t get me wrong; dumplings, sushi, miso, lentils, rice, and avocados, are among my very favorite foods, but I just wasn’t used to it. I would eat and enjoy my food immensely, and my stomach would become full, but somehow I still felt like I hadn’t eaten anything because my jaw had barely moved a muscle. Needless to say, I had a couple of breakdowns that involved some sort of crunchy sweet thing. And oddly enough, just when I got used to living without sugar and crusty bread, I was back in the US craving (of all things) sushi.
I’ve been searching the web for some sort of medical proof for this phenomenon. Isn’t this the basis of how a detox works? You stop eating the bad thing and start eating good things and your body begins to crave salads rather than brownies. Or am I completely making this up?
Anyway, the charm of Singapore is that it is a hub of many different cultures. We took a walk through Little India (which seems like a different world entirely), and Arab Street, and visited various Chinese and Japanese pockets of the city. Orchard road was a favorite. Here, we found a Din Tai Fung dumpling house.
Mouse over these pictures to view the captions, or click on them to start a slide show:
Din Tai Fung is a dim-sum style restaurant whose specialty is their Xialongbao or steamed dumplings. These are not your run-of-the-mill dumplings. They are filled with the regular dumpling filling (in our case shrimp and pork) as well as a bit of broth, so when you bite into them, they are like incredibly delicate, savory gushers.
Aside from the sushi and the dumpling extravaganzas, we found the absolute best soymilk. It’s multi-grain. I’m not sure what that means in terms of milk, but it tastes like a shake all on its own.
I blended it with banana, coconut water, and chopped dark chocolate one morning for breakfast. I don’t know if I want to talk about how amazing it was because it cannot be found in the US.
Since I was in Singapore in September, I was looking for the right time to have a mooncake. Mooncakes are Chinese pastries made in intricate molds served during the lunar celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. They consist a thin layer of dough around typically lotus, red bean or sesame paste. They often contain a sweeter center of date paste, mango or peach, or–most traditionally–egg yolk. I really like them because they are not too sweet, and I love that sort of savory grittiness of the paste in the center.
I wish I had had more time.
For the original avocado shake recipe (and a couple of other healthier ways to enjoy it), click here to go to the In Search of Yummy-Ness blog. I made the first version last night for dessert (with a squirt of hershey’s syrup), and it was really decadent, and had an ice cream-like consistency. For a more drink-like version, you could cut it 1/3 c condensed milk, and 2/3 c milk. I experimented with the recipe a bit, and decided I actually like it better without condensed milk, but it still needs a sweetener, otherwise you’ve got soupy guac. I also wanted to make it vegan, so I used a combination of almond milk and coconut water (which is very naturally sweet). I used honey today, and it was delicious and light, but agave nectar would have a more neutral sweetness to it.
You will need
- 1/2 large avocado
- 1/2 c Coconut water
- 1/2 c Almond milk
- 1/2 c Crushed ice
- 2 1/2 T Agave nectar or honey
- Optional: 3 T chopped dark chocolate