And like the world’s worst well-travelled traveller, I had no plan and no itinerary. I didn’t even know the exchange rate from Dong to Dollar. I spent the morning doing some research and decided on a food tour in an open-air jeep from the Soviet Era. What kind of crazy traveller decides to go on a food tour in a jeep when it’s raining and cold outside? Yes. It’s yours truly.
Islam was introduced to China by Arab traders during the Tang Dynasty: which is considered by many to be a golden age in China’s history. The Muslims who settled in China married the local Han Chinese in the area. The Great Mosque was built to honour the founding fathers of Islam in China.
I’m relatively familiar with history of the Uyghur Community in Xinjiang Province – since it’s covered in the news a fair bit – but I was largely unaware of the Hui People of Xi’an. But ignorance is nothing that a bit of light reading and personal experience can’t fix. The origin of the Hui People is believed to have started on the Silk Road as a result of the intermarriage between Muslim traders and Han Chinese.
You take the mini spatula and slowly slide a little bit over the hot plate till it’s brown and slightly crunchy. You have to do it a little at a time and very very slowly if you want to get the desired results – slightly burnt and crunchy baby food. The whole experience is pretty damn mendoksai troublesome. When I take my first bite, I like it. The flavours are fairly mild so we douse it with chilli flakes, seaweed and fish flakes. It takes us close to an hour to get through the first one.
The table is set for two. It’s been a while since I cooked for another human being. A while since I planned out an evening. A while since I embraced being in the kitchen. A while since I listened to Tracy Chapman and sipped on red wine while nibbling on Camembert cheese. This whole process feels really old to be so new.
No one does chicken rice like Boon Tong Kee. Like all famous Singaporean things, it has a couple of branches. I’ve been going to the one on River Valley Road for close to 16 years. I order the exact same dishes whenever I’m home. I don’t even need to look at the menu. Half a chicken – steamed, not roasted. Mui chai slow-cooked pork. Poached spinach with three kinds of eggs.
I’m back home for a week. I can’t say I was particularly excited by the thought of coming home. My heart was filled with a mixture of dread and a wee bit of excitement. The latter mainly due to all the yummy food I’m going to eat. And man do we Singaporeans know how to eat.