Thursday, June 28, 2007

Welcome to Singapore!

Locals complained the line uttered by Chow Yun Fat in Pirates 3 is inaccurate, since during that time Singapore was called Temasek. Er, it's a movie about pirates.

Singapore (or, Singapura) is Malay for ''Lion City''. Legend has it some prince in the 6th century saw a lion here. Since there are no lions in this part of the world i assume the nice prince was herbally medicated, something you can not do in modern Singapore under penalty of death.

My first trip to the Lion City was brief - just 3 days - thanks to the invitation by the government to speak about comics. But what I really want to talk about is food and misconceptions.

Something to know first - Singapore is a city/state (like, er, Rome when it was Rome) of 4 1/2 million people squeezed into a tiny island barely visible on the map. A British colony since 1819 and independent since 1965, it fits snugly between Indonesia and Malaysia and it's population is a mixture of ethnic Chinese (mostly hakka), Malay, Indonesian and Indian. It has 4 official languages - english, chinese, malay & tamil.

This blend of people has a profound impact on its food, which is very spicy and draws its influence from many culture. The best spot to eat local food is at ''hawker centers'', which are structures built to house the street food vendors and here you will find national dishes such as Chili Crab (fat crab stewed in a rich & savory chili sauce), Chicken Rice (broiled chicken and broth flavored jasmine rice and 3 kinds of dipping sauce), Laksa (literally, ''stuff'' - a bowl of seemingly left overs) and Grilled Stingray (meat is tender and flaky, reminds me of halibut but less fatty). Freshly squeezed sugarcane juice helps to wash down the food. The variety & intensity of the flavors is really quite remarkable. Love the food!

Before this trip my only image of Singapore is its street are clean and it's illegal to chew gum. Wrong! Singapore is really not that different than other major southeast asia cities like Bangkok or Hong Kong. It is hot, humid, congested and yes, the streets have garbage, people smoke everywhere and even (!) jaywalk. This was a relief as I was afraid to go to jail for wearing unclean jeans.

Verdict - great food, very friendly people, excellent opportunity to mingle with multiple Asian ethnic groups at once. The place is small enough to do in 3 days so would be a nice stop as part of another trip. I'll definitely be back to eat chili crab and visit my new friends.

Locus Award

Baby Crumpet took us to the Locus Awards banquet which doubled as the 70th birthday bash for Charles Brown.

Crumpet wore a fashionable chinese silk dress and hawai'i leis. Photo (w/t Amelia Beamer from Locus) courtesy of award-winning artist John Picacio.

Also had dinner w/t SF writer Greg Bear and his family - Astrid, Alex & Erik. Astrid prepared a stupendous meal of beef stuffed w/t raisins & pine nuts, tomatoes slow roasted and many other delicacies. Meanwhile Greg Bear showed off his impressive home entertainment center while regaled us with stories of working with Homeland Security, The State Department and the FBI on helping with prepare by coming up with bad stuff that they have not though off yet

One thing Crumpet loves to do is to sit on a ledge her size, anyway. We have since named these ''Mia ledges''

visits & cheese festival

Aunt Doris & cousin Wendy came by for a visit - they're about to go off on a month-long African safari tour.

Baby Crumpet thought to impress them by showing how to bite the head off a python.

Crumpet also took us to the 2nd annual cheese festival at the Pike Place Market. Really quite a remarkable event considering the free-for all atmosphere: entries were free but ''donation'' were accepted. Not that there were any physical barriers as tents & tables were set-up across the cobble stoned front end of the market with vendors giving away delicious cheese for free.

Our favorite was Cougar Gold. A mild cheddar made by the students at the Washington State University (home of Drew Bledsoe thank you very much). Texture is velvety with a rich, nutty & buttery taste and a nice blend of saltiness.

Listening to Bryan Ferry's covers of Dylan songs. Quite odd, really.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tulips Festival

Baby Crumpet took us & the McQuinns to the Tulips Festival in Mount Vernon, Washington.

Certainly a sight, acres & acres of tulips in beautifully bright colors. It's one thing to see a nice bunch of flowers in a vase, it's quite another to see THOUSANDS & thousands of tulips. It's both the scale and the patterns.

Afterward we stopped by a local winery and tasted, well, some of the worst wine ever. The tulips were really beautiful, though, and Baby Crumpet looks ravishing.


Baby Crumpet took us to China for two weeks.

No, this is not the post.

I need a few more weeks to filter the thousands of photos and remember everything.

The food was really good.