Thursday, August 23, 2012

Unusual Eating Habits

For the longest time I could remember, whenever I ate a piece of bread, I would put half a soda biscuit inside. Soda biscuit is a plain biscuit commonly sold in Asian countries. It is plain, crispy and a little salty. Newer varieties are more buttery; some even coated in sugar. I much prefer the plain ones. They are not oily at all nor too crumbly.

I could be eating a jam sandwich or a peanut butter one and I would still put a biscuit in-between. I just love the crunch when I bite into it. My siblings know my habit, and I am the only one among them who eats like that.

If I have a twin somewhere, I suspect he would do the same.

How did this habit start? I don't know. It could be that I have always been rather experimental with food. When I was a kid and accompanying my mom to that "siew pasat" (small (indoor) market) at the junction of Lor 17 and Geylang Road, I would order my tau-huay drink from that roadside stall together with chin-chow. The uncle would jokingly call it Milo because of the resultant color. These days, people simply call it "hei-bai" for black and white.

I would do the same with chee ma wu and fa sung wu (black sesame and peanut paste desserts respectively). Whenever I buy them from the two old lady hawkers who would come by to our backlane and visit our neighbour, G Cheong Fun-soh. Her shop also made egg-noodles that they would sell and deliver to hawkers.

Whenever I ate the paste desserts, I would ask for a mix. I just loved to see the brown peanutty paste swirl on grey-black sesame. The result is a kind of ying-yang symbol.

When I moved from Geylang to Rangoon Road and had Indian neighbours, my dad would order chapati from them for breakfast. We would eat the chapati not with curry but peanut butter and jam. So, as you can see, my taste buds since young have always been rather unusual. It is a habit that I have carried forth till this day.

When I eat a doughy Butterfly fritter, I would like to put nasi lemak chilli on it. Down the centre where it is sugared. It gives the fritter that sweet, sourly, chilli-hot taste. It's excellent like that. But as in the past, I still get comments about my so-called 'weird' way of eating. If only people try, they would see for themselves how well that tasted.

The same with you tiao or "yau char kwai" (those long/paired fried fritters) and curry puff. In primary school, all of us kids ate curry puff during recess. They were delicious and cheap. Not the fat ones sold by Old Chang Kee; more like the skinny and 'airy' ones sold three for $1. They were filled with either some curried potato or sardine with cut chilli and onions. Back in our school canteen, this curry puff would be served on a small piece of white paper. We would drench it with an orangey chilli sauce. It's garlicky and limey at the same time. This sauce went well with youtiao (a long skinny fritter) too.

Since my school days, I've not come across such a chilli sauce until I ate a bao in the canteen of a polyclinic. The food sellers there had been with the place for a long time and they used to sell food at a nearby school. Talk about chance and serendipity!

And guess what? That bao tasted good with that chilli sauce as well!

Being adventurous in food can certainly help bring out flavours. For example, I have loved baked beans since I was a kid. My mom used to make them with minced meat and potato cubes. It's the most delightful thing to eat with white rice.

A few years ago, I started making my own. For one thing, I found a good can of beans. Not Heinz but a 365 brand from Germany. I liked that brand because their beans were small. What surprised me even further was the fact that they tasted great straight out of the can. They were not all tomato-y nor sweet but served in pork sauce!

And to make them even better, I added some Asian sauces and pepper. That immediately lifted the flavours beyond compare. These days, I only prepare/eat my baked beans this way. For breakfast, I would serve the beans on a piece of toast first layered with mayo. It is filling, nutritious and tasty. I've introduced it to a few folks and they have asked for the recipe. Heheh...I've come a long way since chapati and peanut butter!

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