Keema Chili: Texas, Meet India

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you may have noticed a monthly eruption of messages with the hashtag #LetsLunch.

It happens the first Friday of every month, when a motley group of bloggers from around the world get together to break bread over Twitter. This virtual monthly lunchdate began almost three years ago when three women in three cities who had never met found themselves wishing (on Twitter) at the very same moment that they had a BLT before them. Well, the Parisian, the New Yorker and the San Diego baker made a lunchdate for a BLT. This turned into a monthly affair, which grew larger than we anticipated. Now, we have bloggers in Australia, Paris, London, Canada and all over the United States gathering once a month to share a meal.

It’s been very sweet and genteel so far — we’ve sipped high tea together and shared age-old family holiday recipes. But that was all before someone brought up chili — that’s when the oven mitts came off and a smackdown began …

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Miso-Bacon-Corn Chowder: An Umami-Packed Liquid Lunch

The recipes, of course, have been lovely. As have the beautiful photos of creative dishes ranging from BLTs to kitchen-sink concoctions.

But in the close to two years that I’ve had a monthly virtual lunchdate with food bloggers spread out from California to Paris, the thing I’ve most adored is the friendships that have formed, firmly sealed via a shared love for cooking.

Over Let’s Lunch dates and regular Tweets, this trusty band of bloggers has gotten rather fond of one another. So when our dear Karen mentioned that she couldn’t join us for lunch in May because of a strict liquid diet due to cancer surgery, our decision was clear. If Karen had to have liquid lunches in May, then well, so would we.

What to make for lunch? After regretfully dispelling the idea of martinis — delicious, though probably not the most healthy — a filling, hearty chowder came to mind …

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786 Yassin Restaurant: “Drunk Food” To Remember


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The moment I heard about 786 Yassin Restaurant, a place in Singapore that reputedly serves outstanding Indian mutton soup, I instantly begged to be taken.

When done well, soup kambing, as it’s called, is a hefty flavor bomb that’s hard to forget. It comes infused with coriander, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg and star anise (among other spices) and dotted with crispy fried shallots and soft onion chunks.

This, no doubt, is the Chanel of soups.

When to have it, however, turned out to be something to consider.

“You can’t have soup kambing now lah,” said my friend Basil, who had told me about Yassin, prompting me to immediately suggest heading there for dinner. ”It’s mabuk food.”

Ahh, drunk food — the dishes that are the perfect panacea when you’re leaving a bar at 2 a.m. and looking for something to quell your hunger and sober you up. In the case of soup kambing, this heady concoction of spices does an especially efficient job of clearing your head and helping you wade out of your Chivas fog.

I didn’t want to have to get drunk in order to try Yassin’s though. So after some persuading, we were on our way.  

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Indian Chicken Curry: A Grandmother’s Recipe


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A few weeks ago, I found myself on the phone, frantically shuttling between calls to my aunt and my grandmother, trying to jolt their memories and nail down the ingredients we needed for my Singapore family’s take on chicken curry.

As the calls got more confusing and the ingredient list grew more nebulous, my friend Basil, a Singaporean of Indian ethnicity, sat nearby, listening in with an increasingly incredulous look.

“You’re sitting next to an Indian,” he finally said, “and you’re not asking him how he makes his curry?”

A very good point.

It turns out Basil, better known to his friends as the hard-to-miss, gregarious guy at any bar that he frequents, also knows how to cook. He learned 20 years ago in his grandmother’s kitchen, when he was drafted as a teenager to help her after she’d lost a leg to diabetes. “She would park her wheelchair at the entrance to the kitchen and bark out instructions to me,” he said.

Well, her lessons must have stuck because Basil then proved that he could rattle off her curry instructions as quickly and surely as he can list the latest Manchester United stats.

The moment I got back to my Brooklyn kitchen, I knew I had to try it.

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Gayatri Restaurant: One For The Road


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Your last meal in any city is no small matter, I’ve always believed.

It’s the meal you might still be able to taste as you look out at the diminishing skyline from the plane; the one that you’ll be thinking of to tide you over until you return again.

During my most recent trip to Singapore for book research, where to have my last supper was a particularly hard decision.

I’d eaten well. In just a few weeks, I’d clocked not one but two visits to Hock Lam for the umami bomb that is its gooey beef ball noodles. I’d trekked to the seafront Changi Village to sample the nasi lemak, a Malay dish of coconut rice with a fried chicken wing, sambal chili, fried egg and crunchy anchovies, from a hawker stall I loved but hadn’t visited in over 10 years. And I’d had a lovely lunch at Iggy’s, a high-end restaurant that served up a custard-like French toast dessert topped with thick flecks of truffles that was truly unforgettable.

When plotting the appropriate finale, one thing instantly came to mind.

My friend Basil had told me a few weeks back about taking some people to his favorite restaurant in Little India to eat spicy mutton, drink beer and watch the world go by. 

The choice was obvious.

Come, I said, let’s go.

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