I really, really enjoy food and am happy whether eating tried-and-true favourites or discovering new flavours. That’s why, when this is over, I look forward to visiting two of my favourite cities – Singapore and San Francisco – and eating my way through them.
After university, I moved to Singapore for four years, and I think I ate at their amazing hawker centres almost every day. I can’t get enough of char kway teow, prawn mee or satay.
For other foods, my top pick for brunch is Artichoke (161 Middle Road, Singapore 188978, tel: +65 6336 6949). The modern Middle Eastern restaurant is so inventive and has the best garlic sauce.
Last year, I visited Candlenut (Block 17A Dempsey Road, Singapore 249676, tel: +65 8121 0176). I’d been wanting to go for years, even before they became the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant, and I made the splurge for my birthday. The 15-item “ah-ma-kase” menu allowed us to try a bit of everything.
My favourite was the wok-fried sambal belacan with blue swimmer crab and petai beans. The sweetness in the crab paired so well with the sweet heat of the Malaysian condiment and the bitter, fragrant beans. Sadly, it’s not a dish we can easily find in Hong Kong, and I dream of going back.
Last year, I visited San Francisco for the first time and had many wonderful meals. I grew up in Canada and really miss big diner-style breakfasts.
It was such a treat to visit Sweet Maple (2101 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California 94115, tel: + 1 415 655 9169) and indulge in things like scrambled eggs with breakfast sausage, cheese, home fries, veggies, cornflake-crusted French toast, and eggs Benedict with their signature “millionaire’s bacon” baked with brown sugar, cayenne, and black and red pepper. A perfect first meal of the day.
Visiting chef Corey Lee’s Benu (22 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, CA 94105, tel: + 1 415 685 4860) was a special treat. Each dish was unique and was portioned so we could thoroughly enjoy each dish without either wanting more or becoming too full.
Despite premium ingredients, I didn’t think the food was at all pretentious. Take the dried fish rice with spicy caviar and egg yolk, for instance. Unexpected, beautifully presented – and yet most of us were taken aback by the super strong fishy smell. Ended up being delicious, though.
I also love finding discoveries in Hong Kong. Aaharn (1/F, Armoury Building 02, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2703 9111) is a great find. The food is fantastic – full of bright, punchy flavours – and the mains are served family style. It’s elegant and relaxed, with a lovely resort vibe.
Another is New Punjab Club (World Wide Commercial Building, 34 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2368 1223) for its complex spices, over-the-top interiors and service. It’s hands down the best South Asian food I’ve ever had. I highly recommend this spot for a date night.
Chinese-Canadian Jenni Lien is a Christian blogger (jenniexplores.com) who also writes frequently about food.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.