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So Long, Scandie #3 – the Unpronounceables

In Danish, Danish, Eats, Recipes on June 30, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Usually, when I travel to non-English-speaking countries, the only words of the local language I could speak would be hello, thank you, and the words on a menu. Usually, those words and a few hand gestures are more than enough to satisfy me (it gets me the food I want) and satisfy my server (who happily serves me the food I want). But after FIVE months of eating rugbrød (rye bread) sandwiches and smørrebrød (open sandwich) in Denmark, and hearing their names being pronounced a million times by a million different people….I still can’t say it right. Anyway, whatever you’re saying in your head right now, is probably not right too.

Photo credits: <http://magnesiumagency.com/2010/01/17/the-food-we-hate-to-love/&gt;

The way I hear my Danish housemate say it, rugbrød sounds something remotely like ‘ROALLB-BPLOALLH’ or ‘ROW-BLOW’ pronounced with a frikadeller/fishball in each cheek; and smørrebrød uhhhh…sounds s o m e t h i n g like ‘SMOUHR-BPLOALLH‘. Even if I’m given a script of ten random words and an audio guide, I don’t think I can manage to pick out which word is rugbrød and which one is smørrebrød. I’m thankful that at least ‘Thank you’ is as easy as ‘tak’ (pronounced as it looks)…. though the response of *##$@$* that I hear from the cashier almost every other day has never ever been understood by my Asian ears.

Smørrebrod is a traditional Danish open-faced sandwich that originated from the words ‘smørre og brød’ or ‘butter and bread’. It’s usually served on rugbrød, which is a Danish dense rye bread that is as healthy as it looks (very high fibre low calorie – 9g fibre and 180kcal / 100g while keeping you full for twice as long) and definitely a lot more flavourful and moist than it looks (thin and almost-black rectangular slab of grains bounded together). Unlike most other sandwiches that are dominated by the bread, Smørrebrød features the sandwich ingredients while the rugbrød quietly supports from under with pleasing contrasts in flavours and textures. And unlike most other sandwiches that are modes of nutrient delivery, smørrebrød is a work of art, pleasing to the eye and extremely easy to impress the observer.

The basic idea of smørrebrød is to TOTALLY cover the buttered rye-bread with toppings such as salad vegetables, shrimps, fish, meat, egg, cold cuts, sauces, cheese, liver paste… whatever you have in the fridge in the combination that you would like to eat them. DON’T even try to pick it up with your hands. Eat with fork and knife.


How to make your own Smørrebrød (Video instructions here!)
1. Cut a piece of rugbrød in half.
1*. Lavish butter on it (I didn’t have butter with me then)
2.-4. Start stacking your ingredients until you can’t see the bread.
5. Stack more ingredients.
6. Put sauce or something with a sauce (I had a last bit of marinaded herring in mustard)
7. Add more ingredients until your sandwich threatens to topple…. then, DEMOLISH IT!

That was my version from ingredients that were available in my refrigerator at that time. Check out these typical Danish combinations from the Danish Food Culture Website!

Smørrebrød. Rugbrød.
It’s healthy, delicious, pleasing to the eye. I’ll miss you, roallb-bploallhh. I’ll miss you, smouhr-bploallh.

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Teochew-style Steamed (Freaky) Fish

In Chinese, Recipes on May 13, 2010 at 10:52 am

FINALLY, spring is here and the garfish has just started streaming into Danish waters. It’s time to hit the coast and scoop up some of these eel-like fishes that have a wonderfully textured meat similar to our beloved stingray (ohhh, would somebody pleeaseprettypleeeease bring me some grilled sambal stingray from Changi?). It’s such a pity that such a palatable fish hides some skeleton in the closet under its skin that often sends people’s faces scrunching up in fear and disgust when discovered. BLUE-GREEN BONES. Can you handle that?

The housemate U had told me about this unusual colouring of its bones and scales before I had seen it for real, but I must admit, I still shuddered when I first set my eyes upon it. Of course, now I think it’s darn funky cool (I’ve saved some bones, anyone wants to make art with it?). The colour is due to the presence of the pigment biliverdin, which is a product of heme metabolism (same pigment responsible for the blueness of our bruises). In mammals, biliverdin is reduced and converted by enzymes to be secreted in bile, but many marine animals are believed (not yet strongly established in research) to lack the necessary enzyme for the metabolism and hence accumulate these pigments in their bones, muscle, skin, scale, etc….

By the way, this was supposed to be the product of my first fishing trip but the meet-up with the fishermen of 2nd floor biological department failed as a result of double phone malfunctioning… but a big DANKE SCHÖN to the mighty kind fisherman T for offering me part of his catch and the good ol’ housemate U for delivering it right into my refrigerator shelf! 😀

As it was my first time eating this fish, I wanted to cook it in the best way possible that will allow the taste and textures of the fish to come through… and I couldn’t think of any better way than Teochew-style steamed fish, just the way mom does it. Preserve the taste, preserve the moistness, preserve the nutrients! Food for the soul. 😀

Teochew-style steamed fish recipe produced from eating mom’s cooking for 24 years.

  • One garfish / fish to serve two
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 onion
  • handful of preserved vegetables (substituted with shredded pickled cucumber)
  • 3cm of ginger (slice half, shred half)
  • 1-2 tsp soya sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • shallots
  • scallions (spring onions)

*dried chinese mushrooms not available, but would have been awesome

1. Fill the base of a steamer with water and heat to a boil. Or mom’s suggestion: fill the base of a large pot with 3 cm depth of water and place a small bowl in it, on which you can set your plate of food upon.
2. Wash the scale and wash fish and rub with salt and pepper.
3. Make deep slices in the fish meat and insert slices of ginger.
4. Arrange slices of onion at the base of a soup plate and lay the fish on top.
5. Top fish with pickled vegetables, sliced tomatoes, shredded ginger and sprinkle soya sauce over.
6. Steam for 8-12min (until fish turns white and flakes easily).
7. Heat up oils in small pan and fry some shallots. Pour sizzling oil over fish and top the dish with chopped spring onions.
8. Serve with rice or rice porridge! *spoon the sauce gathered at the bottom of the fish over your rice / porridge — MMMM!!

King and the Lucky Queen

In Recipes, Singaporean on April 1, 2010 at 10:35 am

No, this is not an April fool’s joke. Yes, a real King crab in Singapore’s famous chilli crab sauce on the blog of a Poor student. King-sized King crab. Gosh, I haven’t even had the luxury of eating King crab of any affordable form in Singapore, it’s always those small puny crabs that you’ll expend half the calories of your meal trying to crack the shells to reach the meat. Not that those puny crabs are any inferior (in fact, the orange gooey stuff beneath the shell and the art of picking the shells are irreplaceable), but WHOAA KING CRABBB ah…!


So what actually happened? Well, once upon a weekend, my housemate, U was having a guest T over, and he decided to purchase some fish roe from the fish shop. They didn’t have any, and so they offered him this eye-popping bag of crab legs for 200kr (SGD$50). I’d estimate that was some 2kg of King crab (and yes, you’re right, the bigger the crab, the larger the proportion of meat to shell).

What would you do, faced with a crazy offer like this, but not expecting to spend 200kr? Would you grab it? (OF COURSE LAH) But this buyer has not had crab before to realize the gravity of the matter, and he risked an offer of 100kr instead. The seller’s response: “oh alright, you can have it”. OMG OMG OMG!! I think if this were in Singapore, it would have been YOU SIAO AH!??!?!*daylight robbery*

I know that as a student, the first thing I do when I assess a recipe is: can I afford it? YES I know crab is expensive, but while cooking it, I realized that the sauce already tasted pretty amazing even before putting the crab in. Why not simmer in some shrimp instead or if you’re a stingy student like me, those tiny frozen shrimp and surimi sticks are what I use to add that umami (delicious, savoury flavour) kick to any stir-fries. Shiok ah! 🙂

Singapore Chilli Crab Recipe inspired by Almost Bourdain’s recipe

  • 2 onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4-8 chilli padi (depending on your tolerance for spicyness!)
  • half inch ginger
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • couple of tomatoes
  • 6 tbsp ketchup
  • 3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 tbsp sambal belachan if you have it!
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • Juice of 1 large lime or half a lemon
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Crab / shrimp / surimi crabsticks
  • 2 eggs
  1. Throw the first 5 ingredients into a blender, otherwise, happy chopping!
  2. Stir fry (1) in oil until fragrant!
  3. Add in ketchup, chilli sauces (up to you to adjust), vinegar, lime / lemon, sugar and water and bring to a boil
  4. Taste and adjust sweetness / spicyness / saltiness as you wish (tasting is important unless you really know your ingredients)
  5. Throw in the crab / shrimp / surimi and simmer until flavours infused
  6. Thicken sauce with corn starch dispersed in a little water
  7. Stir in 2 eggs into simmering sauce
  8. Serve with rice, man tou (chinese steamed bun), or simply white fluffy bread!