#AtoZChallenge – G is for Goreng Pisang

For the A TO Z CHALLENGE, I’m blogging for 26 days in April (except Sundays) based on the alphabet, and my theme is #foodiefiction, inspired mostly by the foods of Singapore. 

G is for Goreng Pisang

I used to eat Goreng Pisang nearly every day, I don’t do that anymore.

I used to walk past one every morning on my way to work. It just so happened to be right behind the bus stop and you could smell it when the bus doors swing open. So to be standing there each morning waiting for the bus to arrive, it was pure torture.

Sure, I could have easily walked further down to the next bus stop to get away from it. But the weather is so hot these days, sure to sweat and sweat, and I don’t want to get to work all sweaty.

One day I didn’t just walk past the stall but stopped and bought a goreng pisang. I hadn’t had one in years, maybe the last time was when I was a teenager, before pimples and all that.

That crispy crunchy batter, the creamy soft and sweet banana within, it was such bliss, such a satisfying breakfast that from then on I gave up on my cereals that looked and tasted like cardboard and my sad rye bread slices.

And every morning I bought a fried banana from the goreng pisang stall behind the bus stop.

It was best when it was just out of the fryer. And only the first batch of the day was excellent. The rest were fine but there was something about that first batch. Whether it was the start of the day, the freshness of the oil or the batter, or just eating it in the cooler morning air, I couldn’t figure it out. But I was always the first customer, the one who got the pick of the goreng pisang.

At first the auntie who owned the stall would ask, “just one?”.

The next few times, she would ask me to try something other than the banana. Green bean patty? Yam? Sweet potato? Chempedak?

But no, those weren’t for me. It was called ‘goreng pisang’ after all, pisang of course being the banana. And I was a goreng pisang purist. It had to be only goreng pisang and the pisang had to be pisang raja, the best type of banana for cooking, with its sweet and custardy flesh.

After a while, she knew to just hand over my food and accept her money, no small talk needed.

I always made sure to finish my goreng pisang before my bus arrived. Once, my timing was off and I had to rush on board with my breakfast still in hand. No eating on the bus so I brought it into the office with me. That distinctive banana smell brought colleagues to my desk, and they were appalled by my breakfast of choice.

“So oily!”

“Wah fried foods for breakfast!”

They sure had a lot to say about my humble and cheap breakfast.

Last Monday, I was late for work but stopped to grab my usual at the stall. But instead of the old woman, there was a young man who didn’t look like he belonged. He wore a black striped apron with a white tshirt underneath and looked like he should be working for Jamie Oliver.

He beamed and said, “good morning! Ah you’re my first customer! Goreng pisang right? Just one?”

I nodded. He must have seen the look on my face as he quickly added: “don’t worry. She had a fall from the bus the other day, hurt her foot but otherwise ok. I’m her nephew. I’m between jobs so I thought I’d come help out for a bit.”

He grabbed a hot goreng pisang then added, “how about I jazz it up? Add a little something to this? She said you always eat the same thing every morning, said I should watch out for you, that you’re her favourite customer, but that maybe you could try something different once in a while.”

I stared at him dumbfounded.

“I’m talking too much right? I should just give you your food, but here, let me do this!” he said as he drizzled some syrup on my goreng pisang.

I was aghast. How dare this young punk try to “jazz up” my breakfast! What was so wrong with eating the same thing every morning?

I didn’t know what to do. As you may guess I’m not the confrontational type and I just didn’t know what to say to him. I just grabbed the syrup-drizzled goreng pisang from his outstretched hand and was about to give him my $1 coin when he put his hands up and said, “it’s on the house today. I forced it on you. So you know what, if you like it, come back tomorrow and I’ll let you try something else. If not, just come back tomorrow anyway and I’ll give you your usual plain goreng pisang.”

You know what, I loved it. He had drizzled some maple syrup on it and oh it brought out the sweetness of the banana even more. But the genius had actually salted the batter more than his aunt’s recipe, and so there was a gentle extra hint more of salt to combat the maple syrupy goodness.

It was goreng pisang heaven.

But I never went back.

I never went past the stall anymore. I went out of my way to walk to the next bus stop, sweating all the way. With his one moment of culinary genius, he cleared my head, refreshed my palate and I no longer wanted to eat a plain goreng pisang anymore. I didn’t want any of his fancy concoctions either. It made me realize that I was missing so much.

And really, the guy just talked way too much.



Goreng pisang is fried banana. It’s also known as Pisang Goreng. Many Goreng Pisang stalls in Singapore sell not just fried bananas but other varieties dipped in batter and deep fried, like sweet potato and yam and green bean patties.

#AtoZChallenge – F is for Fried Rice

For the A TO Z CHALLENGE, I’m blogging for 26 days in April (except Sundays) based on the alphabet, and my theme is #foodiefiction, inspired mostly by the foods of Singapore.

F is for Fried Rice

They called him ‘Mr Fried Rice’.

It wasn’t because he was exceptionally good at making fried rice. In fact, he wasn’t much of a cook at all. When he was forced to cook – and it would always be fried rice as that was the only thing he could cook, if ‘cook’ meant throwing things into a hot wok and making a mess – the windows would all have to be opened, fans at full blast, to rid his flat of the smell of burnt garlic. He preferred to have other people cook for him. His flatmate, tired of his clothes smelling of burnt garlic, was in full agreement and could churn out some decent fried rice. There was always plain cooked rice in the fridge, for who knew when the urge to eat fried rice would emerge.

His love for fried rice knew no boundaries or international borders. Traveling for work – and he traveled quite a lot as he worked for an international hotel chain – he always sought out Chinese restaurants and ordered fried rice. He claimed to have eaten fried rice in thirty different countries so far, from India to Spain to South Africa.

He loved to reminisce about the curry powdered fried rice he had at a noodle shop in Los Angeles. And the prosciutto-topped fried rice he had discovered in a small takeaway joint in Sydney. But his favourite fried rice was still the one his late mother cooked, and which his sister tried her best to replicate whenever he visited. But after many unsatisfied goes at it, she decided to give up. It was never quite right for him.

The first was not salty enough.

The second, the rice was too wet and clumpy. Ok, fair enough, she thought.

The third, too salty.

The fourth was almost there but it was lacking something, that special something that made Ma’s fried rice the best he had ever tasted.

“Oh no you don’t!! Don’t you dare say that the special ingredient was ‘LOVE’!” she spat out.

“Well, I was going to say maybe she used lard or something,” was his reply.


They decided that the only way to get it right was to pay a visit to their aunt, an angry, easily irritated woman who seemed to disdain their company although they only saw her at Chinese New Year these days.

His sister had thoughtfully brought along a homemade cake, organic artisan tea and her children’s drawings. His bag held a few bottles sake, clinking all the way to the aunt’s flat in Punggol.

Their proffered gifts caused raised eyebrows.

“What is it you want? Money, right?” their aunt asked.

When they explained their quest, she snorted and headed to the kitchen.

She returned with a can of Ma Ling luncheon meat and handed it to them.

“Nah. There’s your secret ingredient. You know, you could have bought many of these for this one bottle of sake. So thanks hor.”


Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/38/Yeung_Chow_Fried_Rice.jpg

Fried rice was one of the first dishes that my mum taught me to cook. It is a quick fix for a meal and a great way to use up leftovers. It works great with a  variety of proteins and vegetables. Leftover rice that has been refrigerated really is the best for fried rice as the rice will be dry and easier to cook.

#AtoZChallenge – E is for Egg Tarts

For the A TO Z CHALLENGE, I’m blogging for 26 days in April (except Sundays) based on the alphabet, and my theme is #foodiefiction, inspired mostly by the foods of Singapore.

E is for Egg Tarts

‘The Queen of Hearts,
she made some tarts,
All on a summer day:
The Knave of Hearts,
he stole those tarts,
And took them quite away!”

When Fay first heard the rhyme about the Queen of Hearts‘ tarts in Alice in Wonderland, she thought the tarts were egg tarts, those wibbly wobbly golden yellow egg custards set into a biscuit-like pastry, her favourite dim sum treat.

She never had to request for it. When the cart came around, her grandfather, would give her a nod, and she would ask for two platters of egg tarts, one to eat there, one for her to take home.

Her dim sum lunches with her grandfather had become a monthly treat since she started primary school. Her mum would drop her off at her grandfather’s restaurant every third Saturday at 11am. Her grandfather would be outside waiting for her. The restaurant was on the ground floor of a shophouse in Chinatown. As Fay and her grandfather walked into the restaurant, all the staff and even some of the regular diners would say hello. Someone would inevitably ask about school or remark about how big she had gotten, although Fay doubted that she had grown much since the last month.

They would walk through to the kitchen where she waved hello to the cooks and kitchen assistants. Luckily most of them would just nod, wave a utensil at her or shout hello.

Her grandfather always insisted that she eat proper food before the egg tarts. Some kai lan, he would say, dipping the bright green leaves in the oyster sauce and placing it on her plate. My famous siu mai, he would add, and some char siew bao of course. He would squeeze some cheong fan on her plate, next to the har gao. And Fay would dutifully eat it all. Sometimes her grandfather would eat a bao or a siew mai just so that she would have company. The first time they had dim sum together she had felt so awkward as Grandfather just sat and watched her eat. Her mother explained that as he was at the restaurant everyday, he was probably tired of eating his own restaurant’s food. She had giggled at that. But at their second lunch, had bravely reached out and placed a char siew bao onto his plate. Since then, he would have a few bites to eat as well.

When it came to the egg tarts, he would have one, she would have one and the third would be split in two. They would solemnly eat the egg tarts in silence, then sip some chrysanthemum tea after.

Fay loved these monthly lunches with her grandfather. He treated her like an adult, let her choose the dishes she wanted (although she always chose the same things), she drank hot tea from porcelain tea cups instead of water from plastic cups that most other restaurants provided for children. And more importantly for a seven-year-old, he listened as she prattled on about school and her friends and her many activities like piano and ballet and swimming. Eating egg tarts and bringing extras home was just icing on the cake.

One day, Grandfather didn’t take an egg tart. Fay hesitantly ate hers, wondering if she had done something wrong. She carefully split one of the two remaining tarts and offered half to him. He looked sadly at her and explained that his doctor had told him that he shouldn’t be eating desserts like egg tarts anymore, that it wasn’t good for her health.

“Why don’t you just have my half?” Grandfather said, pushing the plate towards her side of the table.

Fay didn’t quite know what to do. She loved eating the egg tarts partly because it made Grandfather happy but now he seemed so sad. And…was he sick? Was he dying? What was happening to him? She stuffed the half in her mouth then quickly gobbled down the rest, just to get those offensive golden yellow custards off the table, nearly choking on the crumbs.

She didn’t know how to, dare to, ask about his health. So they sat in silence until her mum came to pick her up.

“Don’t forget your egg tarts!” the waitress said.

Fay returned to the table where her grandfather still sat, gave him a big hug and thanked him again for the meal.

Then she told him, “Grandfather, if you can’t eat egg tarts, then I won’t anymore. We’ll do this together.”

He burst into laughter so loud that the receptionist out front craned her head into the restaurant to see what was going on.

“Fay, you really are my favourite granddaughter,” he told her after he finally stopped laughing.

“Grandfather, that’s because I’m your only granddaughter,” she laughed back.

Their lunches still took place every Saturday, but they stuck mainly to the steamed dishes and ate fruits at the end of the meal. Fay still ate egg tarts when she was wasn’t with her grandfather – it isn’t easy for a young egg tart lover to go cold turkey after all.

And she was ultimately disappointed when one day she learnt that the Queen of Heart’s tarts were jam ones. She had liked the thought of bright yellow egg tarts being zigzagged away by the Knave.


Egg tarts are a popular snack/dessert in Singapore. It probably has its roots from the British (a Hong Kong version of the custard tart) or Portuguese (a Macau interpretation of Portuguese egg tarts). The pastry is either a shortcrust or puff pastry and it is filled with a sweet egg custard. Most egg tarts are round but one of the most famous and oldest egg tart bakeries in Singapore (and my personal favourite) makes them in diamond shapes.


What’s your favourite dim sum dish?

(Also I realize my stories are getting longer and longer. So thanks very much for reading!)


#AtoZChallenge – D is for Durian

For the A TO Z CHALLENGE, I’m blogging for 26 days in April (except Sundays) based on the alphabet, and my theme is #foodiefiction, inspired mostly by the foods of Singapore. 

D is for Durian

I was born on the night of the inaugural Durian Block Party. My mother and some of our neighbours had concocted this party in a bid to foster a deeper sense of community and togetherness, to instill a sense of pride for their block, so they said, but really they just wanted an excuse to eat all the different types of durians with likeminded durian aficionados. This was especially crucial for my mother, who was married to my durian-hating father. My father had agreed to this Durian Block Party on the condition that it take place on the very night that his favourite rock band was playing (One night only! Live in Singapore!). My rock music-hating mother hastily agreed. (Did these two actually have anything in common, you might be wondering, well, they had me and I like to think that I was all they needed).

Whether it was all the excitement, the tantalizing aroma (or as my father would have said, putrefying stench) of the durians, the buttery yellow flesh, that rich intense indomitable taste, no one really knew.

But as my mother finished her fifth piece and reached for the unusual orange-red flesh of the ‘Red Prawn’ variety, she felt a stabbing pain where there shouldn’t be any, knew something was wrong and reluctantly relinquished the durian to head to the hospital with our worried next-door neighbour.

My father, enthralled at his rock concert, pretending to be a teenager again, hadn’t heard – couldn’t have heard – his cellphone ringing. And besides, I was three and a half months too early. He wasn’t prepared. She wasn’t prepared. She hadn’t even packed a hospital bag yet and had to make do with a few things she stuffed into a plastic bag that smelled of durians.

My father finally arrived to take his place beside my mother, an hour or so after I was born. She never really forgave him for not being there during my birth, so she claimed dibs on naming me, giving up on their mutually agreed “Jamie”.

My mother named me ‘Jin Feng’ or ‘Golden Phoenix’, after a variety of durian from Pahang, Malaysia. At least it wasn’t ‘Hong Xia’ or Red Prawn.


Durians are known as the ‘king of fruits’ in Singapore and many other countries in Southeast Asia. Most of the durians sold in Singapore are imported from Malaysia. It has a rather overpowering aroma and as a result durians are banned from the MRT trains and some hotels in Singapore.



#AtoZChallenge – C is for Chicken Rice

My theme for the 2016 A to Z Challenge is #foodiefiction

C is for Chicken Rice

He had tainted chicken rice forever for her. It had been her favourite go-to meal. A quick dinner. A late night supper. A brown paper package tied up in a red rubber band, transported home in a small pink plastic bag. Then he came into her life and whisked her away to their first date at a fancy-pants hotel for its $27 chicken rice. Where the chicken meat was carefully plated in a seperate sampan-shaped bowl, the rice a perfect dome, the greens gently laid out, the cucumbers and tomatoes in artful slices, the trio of sublime sauces (black, yellow and bright red) in their own little vessels. Every thing had its place. Nothing was encroaching on another’s space.

After that, hawker centre chicken rice, where meat was piled on rice, a pale green sliver of watery cucumber tucked in as an afterthought, could never compete. Her friends laughed at her obsession with expensive chicken rice, they never failed to inform her how many plates of $3 chicken rice they could buy for just one of hers.

So she no longer told anyone about her late night runs to the hotel café for her chicken rice fix. Not even the man who first brought her there. She wasn’t in contact with him anymore, that tall, slightly awkward but sweet guy who charmed her on their first date, bowled her over on their second, then stopped answering her calls, stopped replying to her emails and text messages for no apparent reason after that. She had moped for a while but knew there was no point in pining for someone who hadn’t felt anything for her.

She still thought of him sometimes as she sat alone at her favourite table at the hotel café, just before she savoured that perfect platter of chicken rice. That one thing in her life she could always depend on. She wasn’t sure whether to curse him or thank him.




Chicken rice or Hainanese Chicken Rice is considered one of Singapore’s national dishes. The chicken is usually juicy and tender as it is poached in stock, and the rice is fragrant and rich with the flavors of chicken stock, ginger, garlic and pandan leaves. Chicken rice can be found everywhere, from the humble neighbourhood hawker centres to Hainanese eateries specializing in chicken rice to five-star hotels on the Orchard Road shopping belt.

#AtoZChallenge – B is for Bakkwa

My theme for the 2016 A to Z Challenge is #foodiefiction

B is for Bakkwa*

– You’re sweating! Stop it!

– I can’t help it. I’m so nervous…

– Ok ok. Maybe we can just explain that you’re a bad flyer. I can’t believe you get so worked up over this. Come on, the line is moving.

– What to do! It’s bakkwa. The bakkwa you find here is nothing like the ones in Singapore. That sweet-savoury goodness, that slice of tender meat. So good on its own. So good in a white bread sandwich. Sigh… maybe I should have brought more. Those few pieces aren’t going to last me very long you know.

– Well then you shouldn’t have eaten so many pieces on board the plane! You ate one before we even took off!

– Can’t help it mah. It’s bakkwa. It’s irresistible. It was calling my name… Daniel Daniel, come eat me!

– Yes but is it really worth it? You heard what May said about her friend, she got caught with some meat product or something and now every time she returns to the US she has to go to the special lane and they open her bags. Every time.

– We won’t be so unlucky one lah. My mother gave me the good luck charm. I believe in it. I believe in us. I believe in the power of bakkwa!!!

– Shhhh!! It’s our turn next! I really hope the customs officer doesn’t smell the bakkwa on you!


*bakkwa is a form of grilled meat, usually minced pork marinated and pressed into squares. It’s a sweet, savoury treat most often eaten at Lunar New Year but available all year in Singapore. Bakkwa, as a form of meat, isn’t allowed into the United States. Please note that this is entirely fictional and I have never attempted to bring bakkwa into the US although it is one food I desperately miss.



#AtoZChallenge – A is for Ang Ku Kueh

My theme for the 2016 A to Z Challenge is #foodiefiction

A is for Ang Ku Kueh*

No one had remembered to cancel the catering order for the first month treats. So when the van pulled up outside the house and a hundred pink boxes full of red eggs and ang ku kueh were delivered, Jian’s heart skipped a beat and he reached out to steady his wife. He worried that she would collapse, but she simply stifled a sob, then started handing out the pink boxes to the departing mourners.


* In Singapore, ang ku kueh or red tortoise cake (glutinous rice flour skin wrapped around a sweet filling like mung bean, red bean, or peanuts), is often gifted to family, friends and well-wishers during a baby’s first month (man yue) celebration as it symbolizes longevity and good luck.

Thank you very much for reading my post. This is the first time I’m taking part in the A to Z challenge, after many years of reading my friend Melanie’s posts. Also, to my fellow book bloggers, I still intend on posting bookish bits while doing this challenge for the month of April, so please bear with me! Thanks! And I really appreciate you reading this!