The Spice Market Epiphany

Fear is my new friend.

He sat down next to me at a Singaporean cooking demonstration at Spice Market in New York City Friday afternoon and I have not been able to shake him off since.

CIMG3839 Watching Singapore food TV host KF Seetoh whip up dishes like harjeong gai, chicken wings slathered in a thick shrimp sauce and then deep-fried, and laksa, a spicy curry noodle soup involving what seemed to be something like 7,000 ingredients, with Spice Market owner Jean-Georges Vongerichten‘s highly skilled battalion of chefs behind him prepping Southeast Asian noodles and frying up chicken, I suddenly began to feel nervous as I thought of the nine months ahead of me.

I had recently decided to spend chunks of the next year eating and cooking my way around my native Singapore. The hope is to learn enough to be able to bring my family together at next year’s Chinese New Year for a meal cooked by me — the Americanized, prodigal daughter who never earned her stripes in the kitchen as many proper Singaporean teenage girls do. I don’t even want to think of the “loss of face” it is to my parents that I’m now more adept at whipping together meat loaf than fried rice. (And no, it does not help that my meat loaf is pretty darn good — if I do say so myself.)

I had thought this quest would be pretty straightforward, perhaps even possibly a piece of cake. But watching Seetoh produce an entire tray of tiny bowls filled with chopped up ingredients just to make char kway teow, a basic but delicious fried noodle dish that I had completely taken for granted up until this point, I started to think, “Holy (something a nice Singaporean girl wouldn’t say)! That looks like a heckuva pain in the (something else a nice Singaporean girl wouldn’t say)!”

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Food Porn: An Easter Dinner of Pig’s Ears And Fried Banana Flowers

It's not every day that you're at a dinner party and the following is uttered: "I grew up eating lungs … but I like the ears better than the lungs."

We're talking pig's lungs (and ears), of course. In this case, the ears come pan-fried, bearing a delicious lemongrass-peanut crust, beautifully sliced and plated with a vibrant green mache salad.


No matter how pretty the plate, it's hard to get over the fact that you're eating pig's ears, however. Biting through the crunchy cartilage — a sensation that's akin to what I imagine gnawing on a rubber hose would feel like — is a challenge. But Chef Simpson is experimenting and we're all his Easter dinner guinea pigs so, really, there's no complaining allowed. (Well, you could complain but it might earn you a second helping of pig's ears.)

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