Spice of Life

Alamelu Vairavan, a Whitefish Bay resident, is an author and culinary instructor. Alamelu has a passion for educating the public about the use of spices and legumes in preparing healthy and tasty foods. She is also interested in educating the public about the growing research that points to the enormous health benefits of spices in preventing many diseases. Her mission is to enrich people's culinary experience and to inspire them to discover that cooking and sharing healthful foods can be an especially joyful experience.

Visit Alamelu's web site, CurryOnWheels.com.

A Foodie in Singapore

My husband and I set out on a trip to Singapore, Malaysia and India in Spring 2010.  Our travel to Singapore was through a 16 hour non-stop flight to Hong Kong. I decided to have a relaxing time by reading, watching the map route of our flying direction, watching great movies and getting up to walk almost every two hours. The pilot came on and said, we were going to fly over Canada, Arctic Ocean, Russia, Mongolia, and Beijing to Hong Kong! I was watching our air route map in the monitor and was tickled wondering about the people who live in the various areas.

We were transit passengers in Hong Kong. After several security checks we had time to freshen up and have coffee. Then we took a 3 hour flight to Singapore. We arrived in Singapore around midnight after almost 30 hours of travel since we left home from Milwaukee.

I was happy to see my nephew Saravanan, and his wife  waiting at the airport to pick us up late at night. They were  gracious hosts who made our stay comfortable and memorable in Singapore.

I noticed how modern and clean Singapore was. Singapore is an island city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. The population of Singapore is highly diverse. It includes Chinese, Malays, Indians, Caucasians and Asians of different origin. It is a very colorful and vibrant city. I was told that Singapore has one of the highest percentages of foreigners in the world. Singapore became independent from Britain in 1963. Singapore consists of 63 islands, including the mainland Singapore. It has a tropical climate. Temperatures range from 71 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit.  About 23% of Singapore’s land area consists of forest and nature reserves. Singapore has been rated as the most business friendly economy in the world with thousands of foreign workers in multinational corporations. Employment continues to grow strongly as the economy maintains its rapid expansion. 

Singapore is a popular travel destination making tourism one of its largest industries. The currency of Singapore is the Singapore dollar, represented by the symbol S$. It is a multi-religious country and the home of many faiths like India! It is amazing to see how harmoniously people of many diverse religion and cultural backgrounds live and work in a small area. It is also a multi-lingual nation. English is the common language and then there is multitude of other languages spoken in the country. The Singapore government recognizes four official languages: English, Malay, Chinese (Mandarin) and Tamil. (Tamil is my native language). Singapore is not only an extremely clean and beautiful city but it is relatively free from crime. The government has zero tolerance for crime.

Singapore cuisine reflects the diversity of its people. The cuisine is influenced by Chinese, Indian and Malay cuisines. Sea food is very much enjoyed by the Singaporeans. Singapore can be a significant culinary and cultural attraction for visitors.  The foods were a feast for the eyes and the palate.

As a cookbook author, I was interested in trying the mixture of flavors and cooking styles that is the hall mark of Singapore today. Delicious recipes from Asia’s food capital-including all the classic Singapore dishes like Chilli Crab (ah…so good and by the way I learnt how to cook this dish), Malay-style Sambal Prawns (see recipe below), Indian-style Fried Noodles, Chicken in Spicy Coconut Milk (like my chicken kuruma dish), Malay Lamb Stew,  Singapore Rojak (Spicy fruit and vegetable salad) were mouth watering and was delightful!

I enjoyed every moment of our stay in Singapore relishing the foods and beautiful sites before flying to nearby Kuala Lumpur.

Here is an easy shrimp recipe to prepare, modified to suit Alamelu’s taste. Serve with steamed brown or white rice. Heavenly…from Alamelu’ Whitefish Bay Kitchen!

Recipe for Malay-style Sambal Prawns (Shrimp) from Singapore favorites..Modified recipe.

3 tablespoons oil

1 lbs. fresh medium prawns (shrimp)

½ tablespoon tamarind paste (available in Indian and Asian markets)

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 tomato, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

Coriander leaves to garnish

Seasoning Paste:

5-6 red chillies

6 shallots, peeled

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 slices fresh ginger

1. Peel and devein the shrimp. Rinse and set aside. Pat it dry.

2. Grind chillies, shallots, cloves and ginger with a little oil in a blender.

3. Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Stir-fry the seasoning paste until fragrant about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until they turn pink about 2 to 3 minutes. Add tamarind paste, onion, tomato and salt. Stir-fry until shrimp is cooked, another 2 minutes.

4.Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice.

Enjoy mouth watering fllavors!

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