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16 September 2010

Authentic Hokkien Lunch

Today I met a friend for lunch and it was lovely to have a catch up with her.  She is a local and I got to known her through my fiance as she is his HR contact in his job.  I worked in HR when I was in the UK and she has been helping me in my job searches and we've struck up a friendship through that.

She suggested Chinese for our lunch (fine by me) I told her beforehand that I wasn't that keen on sea food so as long as there were other options I would be absolutely fine.  So she took me to a Hokkien restaurant where she planned to select several dishes that were traditional Hokkien food for me to try.  Hokkien is one of the Chinese dialects spoken in Singapore and so I was very excited to give it a go.  She mentioned that there was fish but that it wasn't that overpowering so I figured I would be fine.

Yet again I got to practice with chop sticks and yes my quirky style is coming along nicely now.  I'm sure I'm probably holding them wrong but to be honest I manage to eat the food that way so I'm not going to worry about it too much.

My friend selected a number of dishes starting with a soup.  She mentioned it was slightly fishy but I said I'd be happy to try it and it was very nice.  She even told me which bits were the fish.  However when I asked her what type of fish it was she was a little vague saying it was fish maw, that it was a part of a fish but not to worry as it was nothing nasty.  When I got home I looked fish maw up on the Internet and discovered that this is actually the part of the fish called the swim bladder, gas bladder or air bladder - nice!  This part of the fish isn't actually anything to do with the bladder but is the part of the fish that helps it control its buoyancy so she was right it isn't used for anything unpleasant when the fish is alive.  It was actually very nice and I gather it is quite a delicacy.  However I admit if I'd know what it was even though it was nothing nasty I'm still not sure I'd have been that keen to try.  Maybe this should be my philosophy from now on, don't ask just eat and decide if you like it on that basis!!

After that we had prawns (yes more sea food) mixed up with some other meat (not sure what) which were similar to spring rolls and dumplings.  We had a number of dips and sides to eat with them in including possibly the hottest chili I am yet to taste.  It was tiny but bought tears to my eyes and left a warm glow inside me for quite some time!

We then had a dish of spinage cooked with garlic, followed by some noodles with yet more sea food thrown in.  After this we had what I can only describe as similar to a bread roll but a more doughy consistency, white in colour and sweeter tasting.  These are split open and you put slices of pork in them (which has the fat left on it) and other fillings, i.e. the chilli's, if you want to and eat them rather like a sandwich.  I gather that these aren't eaten that often as they are not very healthy (I can believe it).

Finally we had dessert and this was the part that I didn't finish as it really is an acquired taste in my opinion and one we just aren't that familiar with in the UK I guess.  The dessert was yam (which is a type of sweet potato) served with pumpkin and some luminous yellow beans which are meant to be good for the brain.  I'm not sure if that is the case as I can't remember what they were called, however I only ate one so perhaps my brain wasn't given enough.  It wasn't unpleasant but had a strange consistency and although it was sort of sweet it was savoury as well.  I gather that they actually fry the yam in onions and you could taste the onion which to me seemed a bit bizarre.  Other than that though the meal was lovely.  We washed it all down with a glass of a warm barley drink (similar to barley water but not as sweet) and some traditional Chinese tea which was very nice.

I really was delighted to try what was real food that the locals would eat.  I can't wait to go again to another one of her restaurant choices so she can pick my meal again and I know she is determined to get me eating every possible type of seafood she can before she has finished!

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