What I ate, shot and posted in 2009

Well it’s the last day of the year and I want to take the opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy and Bountifully Blessed New Year ahead. 2009 has been a great year for the blog and I want to try to summarize the highlights of the year and re-live some of the most significant blog posts.

The Find of the Year would no doubt have to be the story of retired Hong Kong Masterchef, Gen Shu, who felt that retirement was just too boring and so he decided to continue to share his passion for Hong Kong cuisine with Singaporeans by opening a stall in a hawker centre. That means that you can partake of years of culinary prowess for less than $2. We have our kaki, Cactuskit to thank for this wonderful discovery.

Another eatery that really got our kakis all excited was Bismillah Biryani, which I stumbled upon while waiting for a couple of friends in Little India. Subsequently, our kakis (you guys) swarmed the restaurant which motivated the owner Arif to write:

“What I think I have been trying to achieve together with you guys in this past six weeks have been most gratifying. I feel now that past six years haven’t been a waste as a result of this. It is quite subjective to say that what I have achieved is the holy grail but I sure have got on the right track and the pursuit now is ‘the perfect Singaporean biryani’. I want to emphasize that it would not be possible without you being an accidental tourist to my restaurant and the faith you guys have placed in my passion.

If you are surprised that these words were written by a hawker, I don’t blame you. It might help if you knew that he is a retired journalist from Pakistan who migrated to Singapore years ago.

The post that got the most comment last year was one about the super soft buns from Barcook Bakery. It was quite unexpected because from my point of view, it was quite an ordinary post with a photo which I wasn’t really all that excited about. I guess Singaporeans really love their buns. Another post which really got people excited was Arnold’s Fried Chicken which shows how much we Singaporeans love our crispy fried chicken even though the standard of fried chicken at our biggest chain, KFC, is appalling when compared to neighbouring countries. Fried chicken is unhealthy enough even when it is fried correctly, how much more if it was drenched in oil?

This is the year of the Crab and we have Malaysia’s Tourism Minister to thank for sparking my interest to blog about the crustacean which is dear to many a Singaporean tummy. The Malaysian claim on Chilli Crab sparked off my own discovery of Roland Restaurant‘s original Chilli Crab recipe as well as getting the ieat Global Crab fest going which was probably the most sought after makan session of the year. We had to close the registration within 6 hours of posting the invitation. The Singaporean passion for Crabs is never in doubt. What was in doubt is whether Chilli Crabs are still the National Crab Dish. But our polls show that we Singaporeans still love our Chilli Crabs. So hands off our National Dish Minister Ng!

Actually, if you ask me, Singapore should be considered the Crab capital of the world. Seriously. I think we got the most variety of crabs and the most number of ways to cook them in the world! Next year, I will continue to search out the best places to eat the other crab dishes. So do write in and tell us where the best Salted Egg Crab, Crab Bee Hoon and Black Pepper Crabs are.

The other Singaporean passion is undoubtedly for the spiky green food which the Ang Mohs feel smell like the puke after one had just ingested month old smelly socks worned by rugby players. Durian Degustation IV attracted over 200 people within 12 hours. Yes, yes I hear you. We will get to work on Durian Degustation V next year!

Our regular readers will know very well that I am most interested in eccentric little places which are owned and run by passionate chefs. With the blossoming of Japanese food in Singapore, I was pleased to find a little Japanese lady who still insists on making everything herself at Chako restaurant. The only complaint that I ever hear of this restaurant is the fact that you have to wait a long time to eat. I think we Singaporeans are often too rushed to be able to just sit down and enjoy the pitter patter of a little Japanese lady making her own tempura batter in the kitchen. In terms of foreign cuisine, I am planning to do more Japanese and Italian posts next year since our polls are quite clear that these two cuisines are very popular amongst Singaporeans.

I have also started to do video blogs this year. This all came about when I met my videographer, Melvyn, while we were shooting for an episode of Planet Food. We thought it would be interesting to see how well Video clips can complement the blog. By far, the most popular Video Blog to date has been the one where Chef Nogawa taught us how to enjoy sushi in ieat learns to eat sushi. Many readers have also written in to tell me how much they enjoy the series on with Chef Tom. The first episode of the ieat learns to cook an egg series shows you how to peel an egg without using your fingers and there are many more tips in the upcoming episodes. So if you are keen to start learning how to cook, the egg is a good ingredient to start with. If you have suggestions on what topics you would like to see, do write in and let me know.

Besides Japanese food, I have also been having fun in my kitchen. The most satisfying recipe that I have posted was my dissertation on how to make Tau Huay after one month of researching. The reason to embark on this seemingly useless exercise (since you can easily buy a bowl of tau huay for less than $1, why bother?) is the fact that I just love the challenge of doing something that everyone else seems to think is too difficult. The results are extremely gratifying and for the $2 you spend on buying the ingredients to make Tau Huay for your dinner party of 10, I guarantee that you would generate more oooohs and aaaahhhs than if you were to buy an expensive chocolate cake from some fancy bakery.

The most unusual food that I had this year had to be Balut which I got to eat when I visited Manila. Don’t worry, I am not about to start blogging more about earthworms and bugs. I don’t seek to eat these things, but if I come across something exotic which everyone seems to like, I wouldn’t mind just taking a bite.

Talking about foreign posts, the most popular in terms of comments I got was also from the Philippines and that just happened to be a wonderful Steak which we can only dream about in Singapore. Unfortunately, I couldn’t interest them in opening an outlet here, but the owner of Mamou informed me that my post is now hanging on the wall in their restaurant. So, if you happen to visit Mamou, do me a favour and point to the post on the wall and ask them again to open their restaurant here.

Many people tend to forget that the blog name is ieat, ishoot and ipost. So, even though most of the posts are about what I EAT, a lot of my passion also lies in what I SHOOT. This year I upgraded my trusty Canon EOS 450D to the awesome Canon EOS 5D Mk II. At first I was a little apprehensive about lugging around an even bigger camera since most people already thought that bringing around a EOS 450D with the big 17-55mm f2.8 lens was bad enough. But it was a switch that I never regretted. The EOS 5D MkII is an excellent camera which made the whole experience of capturing the excitement of a plate of Hokkien Mee even more enjoyable. Having a good photo to post is often teh biggest motivation to sit down and write a review. It is my belief that a good photo should be one that would make you stop scrolling and admire for more than 2 seconds. This is not easy to do since the lighting conditions at hawker centres and dimly lit restaurants can be challenging. So it helps to have a camera which can handle low light conditions.

This year, the one series of photos that got many people to stop and stare for more than 2 seconds started with a leftover pau after a dim sum lunch. We were going to leave it behind when I suddenly remembered a David Blaine levitation trick and applied it to the pau. The floating pau photo got quite a good response from our readers and the interest that was generated then gave way to a photo competition which saw many people applying the same technique to levitate their favourite food. I am planning more photography workshops next year for our readers. The first one is happening in January and is already fully booked by readers who have bought the Powershot S90 camera through the group buy. If you are interested in photography workshops, be it for general photography or food photography, do write in and let me know.

October was a significant month for the blog. Ieatishootipost turned three this year and in October, the blog underwent a professional makeover to give the blog a cleaner look. In the same month, the blog was also featured in the pilot episode of “Food Specialists” which was a significant milestone for me personally. Then at the same time, the blog was voted Best Food Blog in the Asia Pacific Blog Awards. As I said, October was a good month for the blog.

The most significant post for me personally was the one on Bee Garden. It was the one which I felt most satisfaction for having started blogging in the first place. I was privileged to have been able to follow the story of Chris from the time he was struggling with insurmountable debts to the time when his stall won the Gold Medal in the Channel 8 series “Buzzing Cashier”. To share in his struggles and then to celebrate his victory is the one aspect of blogging which I am most grateful for.

I am often asked why I blog. Well, there are many reasons, but looking back at 2009, I can say that the most valuable thing that I have gained from blogging are the many friends that I have made through the blog. These are the kakis who volunteer their time to organize makan sessions and continue to provide the support I need to continue blogging. Thanks very much guys for making the blog a part of your lives!

Finally, I have to thank you, dear reader for continuing to read this blog. A blog without readers is a like applause that no one is around to hear or hitting a hole-in-one when there is no one around to see. But don’t just sit there and read, write a comment, join the facebook, forum and twitter, come join the makan sessions and get involved! We are always looking for new kakis to go out makaning together!

Work is already underway to publish ieatishootipost into bookform. I will be using the book as a means to raise support for planting literacy centres around the region. It is a real privilege to be able to use the blog to contribute something back to society and based on the generosity of our readers in the past, I know that I can count on your support for the cause.

That is about it for this year! I wish everyone a Happy New Year and let’s get on with the next exciting food discovery!

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