Living in London from 2001-2006 was an incredible experience. I didn’t regret leaving Singapore once. Except when my tummy grumbled. The food. I missed the food. And there were only a handful of places where you could get Singaporean-Malaysian cuisine in London back then. We would frequent Mawar on Edgware Road whenever cravings arose… but NOWHERE could you nor can you today find proper genuine chicken rice. Or satay. Have you had the satay here? It sucks. You don’t make satay from a single piece of chicken breast. Get it right, fools!
So, no big surprise that when I turned up at plusixfive’s lunch supper club yesterday afternoon, it was rammed with Singaporeans. You could feel the collective relief and joy as everyone tucked into their satay sticks and little bowls of laksa. Home.
Hosting the lunch at his flat in Islington, Chef Goz even decorated his flat with red blue and white to commemorate the recently passed 46th National Day in Singapore. I arrived as he was plating up the first course. Chef Goz recently went back to Singapore and stocked up on ingredients you can’t normally find in London. The little green jellies in chendol. An ice-grinder to make ice-kachang. Helped in the kitchen by his girlfriend, with front of house covered by WenLin Soh (of goingwithmygut fame), the trio served a meal to remember. It isn’t often you find a Singaporean who knows how to cook. We are a culture of hawker centres and small, unused home kitchens. And when you do come across one, they are usually well-versed in something western. Pasta. Hamburgers. Steaks. We rarely challenge ourselves in the kitchen with local delicacies, because, well….there’s no need. The hawker centre provides us with it all, and better.
But what do you do when you’re miles away (thousands) from the nearest hawker centre? You learn to make your favourite dishes reminiscent of home, in a small London kitchen, with what ingredients you can muster up from the local markets. Just as Chef Goz did. It reminds me of my time in Cairo, desperate for some Singaporean food….I resorted to making my own chicken rice and sambal. The chicken rice came out decent enough. The sambal: total disaster.
As Goz passed the little bowls around he asked me, ‘You know what sea soconut is right?’ Me: ‘Sure I do!’ Goz: ‘Okay explain to your table can’ Me: hah?! Explain? I don’t actually know what it is! Does any Singaporean truly know the answer to this eternally baffling question? What is honey sea coconut?I just googled it. Still nothing.
My favourite course: gula melaka ice cream with a small dollop of sago. The ice cream was homemade and DELICIOUS! I am craving it so much I am going to make my own tomorrow. oh yes.
Home. In a plate. It’s a metaphor we Singaporeans often sigh and muse over. It is our national symbol, the tug at our hearts. And Chef Goz is definitely doing a commendable job of serving it up in a little corner of Islington.
Visit their website on http://plusixfive.wordpress.com
Khana Commune is currently ‘traveling’ and we are throwing a special dinner right here in London (the one and only!) this week. Read our blog post here and book your tickets here. Ours is also technically a ‘Singaporean’ supper club in London (for this week) but at the heart of it, we are really a Bengali supper club 🙂