I flew back on SQ last week, along with students returning to the US after weeks of being pampered and well fed at home. On my end, I think my sisters were only too happy to see me off because we all overate during the entire duration of my stay.
We didn't just have three meals. There was that all-important fourth - tea. In our household back in Singapore, there is this nagging worry about what to have for tea time. On any given day, one sister will call to say that she is bringing "some curry puffs over for Pa." At the same time, another will send over pineapple cookies she had bought from Taiwan. A third will buy mini doughnuts from Ngee Ann City. And I will buy Bengawan Solo kueh, and Bread Talk buns, and Kim Choo kueh chang. All that could all be for one afternoon tea, and the main beneficiary is actually my father who has this standing appointment at 3.30pm for his tea and snack. All the extra food gets recycled for tea on the days thereafter. Such is the scenario at home. I don't know if other families follow the same routine but this has been happening in mine for as long as I can remember, a habit I gather they've picked up from colonial days. My parents would sit down to their cup of tea and tit bits. Thankfully, they use the informal mug and not a proper cup and saucer, that would be too much. Back in NY, it's just me and some Fortnum's Royal Blend on a lazy afternoon, to keep me awake before I crack the homework whip.
One particular snack that reminds me of my family tea ritual is Roti Babi. Here's an excerpt from my book. Enjoy.
Bread Toast Topped with Minced Pork and Shrimp
My all-time favorite sinful sandwich is Roti Babi, especially delicious when the bread is crispy yet drenched in oil, top heavy with a tasty pork and shrimp stuffing. We sometimes had it at teatime because I can recall the warm frying sensation in the middle of a hot afternoon.
6 to 8 servings
12 square slices white bread
450g or 1 pound minced pork
230g or ½ pound shrimp, minced finely
1 yellow onion, diced finely
1 red or green chili, seeds removed, diced finely
¼ bunch Chinese parsley, stems removed, chopped finely
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
½ teaspoon Lea and Perrins sauce
4 cups vegetable oil
Toast the bread slightly to stiffen the bread.
Meanwhile, combine the minced pork, minced shrimp, egg, onion, chili, Chinese parsley, cornstarch, salt, light soy sauce, and Lea and Perrins sauce. Knead into a fine mixture. Scoop one tablespoon of the pork topping on each slice of bread and spread the topping with the back of the spoon.
Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add the oil until it reaches about 4cm or 1½ inch deep. When the oil is hot, use a slotted spatula to transfer 3 to 4 slices of bread to the pan. Do not overfill the pan with too many slices of bread. Use the spatula to gently press down the topping on the bread to ensure that the meat is fully fried in oil. When the bread turns light brown, turn it over. Flip back to the top again and transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper. Best served when warm.