A long long time ago (about 1990) I was very lucky and went to work in Singapore for a few years. The reason it was so lucky was I’d just lost my job and the two alternatives on offer in my local Devon newspaper were plucking chickens at a poultry factory or working at a school in Singapore – so off I went.
I had a great time there – the other teachers at the school were all friendly and at times it felt like being on one huge lovely fascinating fun holiday. We were mostly young and couldn’t be bothered to cook when there was so much to see and do so we mostly ate out at our local (very cheap) hawker centre where there were lots of stalls of different foods to choose from.
One day one of the men who went round the tables taking customers orders suggested we try something he called ‘carrot cake.’ When it arrived it certainly wasn’t carrot cake as we knew it – not even orange coloured! A sort of cream coloured mush on a plate but as we dug in with our chopsticks all of us agreed it was delicious and from then on whenever we went there we asked for ‘carrot cake’ although none of us had the least idea of what it actually was. When we asked what was in it we were met with a smile and a shake of the head but we kept on ordering it and whenever friends came over to visit they tried it too and liked it just as much as us.
When I came back to England I tried to find the recipe or discover what it actually was we’d been eating but no luck. It didn’t seem to be in any cookbook. And then… a few weeks ago I realised what it had been – it was stir-fried tofu. When we were in Singapore all those years ago we probably wouldn’t have even tried ‘carrot cake’ if we’d known it was mushed up bean curd with some spring onions and probably a little garlic added and none of us had heard of tofu but the excitement of something new and puzzling kept us coming back for more – and like I said it was delicious.
When I’m writing my books I like to imagine what the characters might have eaten (quite often what dogs or cats or cows might have had). I found a recipe for carrotade when I was researching WW2 and one for turnip tonic too but I haven’t tried making them yet.
Have you tried any unusual foods or something you’d have thought wouldn’t have been nice but turned out to be delicious? Or something you thought would be yummy but was actually yuck.