So all the lovers were celebrating yesterday and I’m sure they are still high from the adoration for each other. Speaking of love, here’s a hawker’s love story…
In Singapore, Hainanese (a minority Chinese dialect group) are known to be good cooks. In fact, Hainanese men rather than women are known to be the better cooks and every hotel has at least one Hainanese cook. As a tourist, you cannot go back home without sampling a sliver of Hainanese cuisine and say that you’ve been here. Hainanese cuisine, I dare say, is a crucial part of Singapore’s ethnic culinary scene!
From our famous Hainanese Chicken Rice to Hainanese Beef Noodles, these are but just tip of the iceberg for the cuisine. By now, almost everyone is familiar with our Hainanese Pork Chops; the crispy planks of boneless pork fillet coated with crumbled cream crackers deep-fried till golden, served with British-cut potato chips and tomato ketchup but our cuisine does not end here. Did you know that Hainanese Curry Png (“png” is rice, with all kinds of cooked secondary ingredients) is an all day meal, literally round the clock, from breakfast to late night supper?
You may notice I kept using the words “our Hainanese” and that is because the style of cooking is basically fusion or adapted by Singaporean Hainanese immigrants. Singapore’s Hainanese style of cooking can be traced back to 1819 when these immigrants from Hainan Island, after the British established a trading port here, were the latest to embark and could only take on kitchen jobs (leftovers/unwanted jobs by the other Chinese immigrants who had arrived earlier).
In the colonial households, these Hainanese men were known as the “cookboys” and they learnt to make standard British dishes. These cooks later intermix the English and Chinese food with Southeast Asian touches. One example, our Hainanese Chicken rice has pandan leaves and chilli sauce which is not the norm in Hainan.
After the kitchen jobs have dissipated with the withdrawal of British troops when WW2 was over, Hainanese cooks began setting up street stalls and snack counters selling British-inflected Chinese dishes. This marked the beginning of Hainanese cuisine in Singapore.
By the way, if you have read some of the tidbits I posted in my peer awards, you would have known I’m a Hainanese
Max Ng is a Singaporean Hainanese in love with a girl who loves to eat traditional herbal Hainanese Mutton Soup. To woo her, Max tried his hand at the dish and of course he did win her heart or I would not have anything to write. In fact, Max cooked the dish so well, she ended up marrying him. He started selling his love potion and name the stall after her – Ivy’s Hainanese Mutton Soup .
The best mutton soup I have tasted in my life up till now was sold by my school mate’s dad, yes another true blue Hainanese, who used to operate in Lau Par Sat in the ’70s and I am happy to proclaim that the same can be said of Max’s aromatic traditional herbal Hainanese mutton soup.
Herbal soups are invigorating to the mind, body and soul… Simmered for hours with more than 20 kinds of tonic herbs and spices, the soup is delicately flavoursome with the meat fall-off-the-bone tender, crunchy wood ear and chewy tofu strips (腐竹 fuzhu), Max’s brew will make you yearn for more, especially on a cold winter’s night or in Singapore, any day. Hey, we eat steamboat in our humid weather!
*I am speculating some of the herbs and spices to be
angelica sinensis (当归 danggui),
astragalus root (北芪 beiqi),
cinnamon (肉桂 rougui),
cloves (丁香 tingxiang),
garlic (大蒜 dasuan),
old ginger root (姜 jiang),
peppercorns (白胡椒粒 baihujiaoli),
radix codonopsis (党参 dangshen),
radix glycyrrhizae (甘草 gancao),
red dates (红枣 hongzao),
Sichuan lovage root (川芎 chuanxiong),
Sichuan peppercorns (花椒 huajiao),
Solomon’s seal (玉竹 yuzhu),
star anise (八角茴香 bajiaohuixiang),
wolfberries (枸杞子 gouqizi),
wood ear fungus (木耳).
Good food is close your eyes food. Eating Max’s bowl of soup makes me closed my eyes and reminisce the good days where home-style wholesome flavour was everything.
LATEST & CURRENT UPDATE (from 2016):
Ivy’s has re-opened at
121 Pasir Panjang Rd, Pasir Panjang Food Centre Stall 4, Singapore 118543.
Operating hours: Closed on Sundays
Mon – Sat: 11.30am – 9pm