It’s the first of forty. Days when one resists the temptations of sin, prays and abstains from all forms of luxuries as an offer form of penance. It’s Lent. While most of us are reeling in from the fun and frolic of the Carnaval that went by, I find myself in a rather precarious position at the start of this holy month. In Singapore for work, and my abstinence in the form of an autocratic and totalitarian option of vegetarian meals is an interesting story in itself. A confluence and blend of cultures and a stirring hotspot of multiple nationalities – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesia and Western influences, the food is diverse. Many lip smacking; mouth-watering dishes surround you as you enter China town- much like the temptations of Christ’s walk in the desert for 40 days and nights being tempted by the devil himself- my grandmothers bedtime story version, may her soul rest in peace.
Focusing on food as one item to abstain from, its rather difficult when one gets an aromatic whiff of pork and mutton skewers being chargrilled by the roadside not to mention a leaner option in the steamed chicken rice cooked in chicken stock and the Hard shell chilli crabs with that taste bud tickler of a Katong laksa- rice noodles in spicy coconut curry soup with shrimp, fish cakes, egg and chicken meat!
However this is not about any of the above. It’s an account of a weak willed admitter to a world of gastronomic carnal sin- a food survival guide in Singapore. After some soul searching, I stumble upon Whole Earth- a Michelin BIB Gourmand Award winner in the heart of the city. An interesting concept much like the Trick eye museum of Sentosa where one gets to challenge and bend their imagination. What if I told you I ordered the Handmade Honey Ribs. First reactions, people. Blasphemy!! Sacrilege, Ill never get into the pearly white gates now. Quite the sinner, huh? However this is one their masterpiece creations with a myriad of ingredients including monkey head & shitake mushrooms, quite the Indiana jones version with lotus root, individually hand rolled to perfection and glazed in harmony with a delightful blend of honey sauce. MY conundrum has never been about the food, rather what can be consumed by one and all. That’s where the devil lies- finding the protein in everything I eat, given the strenuous workouts and heavy energy laden activities one has to endure as a traveller.
Enter the holy trinity of super foods that I have come to depend on especially in times like these. Why lazy? Seeds, yes like a bird- including flax, chia, sesame, and sunflower, are packed with protein and “good” fats with a nutty taste to them, with flax being more prominent. Both flax and chia seeds contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. These are available in a myriad of flavors and allow me to ditch the potato chip packets as a snack in between meals. Next is the Beans & Legumes. The combination of beans and rice make for a great complete protein. Beans and lentils, of course, also provide you with the necessary carbohydrate aspects for overall sustenance.
The trifecta ends with another Super seed. In 2013, the UN declared and dedicated an entire year to this seed. Quinoa. A complete protein, it consists of all nine of the essential amino acids the body can’t always produce on its own. Also look at the abundance in variety. Did you know? There are over 120 varieties of quinoa! Here’s one of my easy to make preparations- the Pineapple Fried Quinoa. All you need is 1 cup of uncooked quinoa, 2 cups water, 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, 1 medium finely chopped onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 Tablespoons of fresh minced ginger, 1.5 teaspoons dried red chili pepper flakes, 3/4 cup peas, 1 diced red, 1.5 cups of fresh pineapple and you are ready to go. This is a great family snack and serves 4. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Set aside and cover it for 10 minutes. Add the coconut oil to a pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the peas, bell pepper, and pineapple, and cook over high-heat for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pineapple just starts to caramelize. Add in the cooked quinoa, liquid and some cilantro for extra zing. Mix well and cook for an additional minute and voila.
Till we meet next, have a blessed season.