Getting an invite to a friend's home for a meal is always a treat because I eat out all the time.
On a rainy evening, I turn up at my friend's place and the smell wafting out of her apartment makes me hungry instantly.
The highlight of dinner is chicken rice, made with a brand of French chicken my friend has been getting from Supernature (B1-05/09 Forum The Shopping Mall, tel: 6304-1336). St Sever's Poulet Fermier is not cheap. It costs an eye-popping $45 a kg, which is to say one chicken will set you back about $65.
But my friend, who is Hainanese, is willing to splurge because the chicken tastes so good. She is right. The flavour reminds me of the free-range chickens from a Bordeaux farm I visit recently. It is naturally sweet and full-flavoured, unlike the plump but bland supermarket birds we usually cook with.
Other dishes that round off the meal include soup made with the chicken poaching liquid, slender green beans with sambal, and chives stirfried with tanghoon, sliced pork and prawns.
The last dish is one that my friend's late mother would always serve with chicken rice. And now, she is carrying on the tradition.
FOR THE LOVE OF PHO
I know that Vietnamese food is not only about pho and I love the breadth and depth of the cuisine. Still, I am drawn to the beef noodles because of how comforting it is.
When I lived in Sydney, Australia, which has many good Vietnamese restaurants, the owner of one of them told me that she and her husband drink a bowl of pho broth every day, and they almost never fall ill.
Since then, I have made it a point to have pho when I am feeling poorly.
I wake up with a scratchy throat one day and decide that I have to have pho for dinner. So I head to So Pho (02-43/54 Novena Square, 238 Thomson Road, tel: 6258-4220), which is close to the office, for a bowl of Pho Bo Dac Biet ($9.80).
It is endlessly satisfying. I remember dining at the chain's Paragon restaurant and its pho was unremarkable.
The version at this branch is hearty but not heavy, and the noodles are topped with slices of brisket and beef balls.
I wake up the next day feeling right as rain.
We have a food table in our office called The Usual Place or TUP for short. In fact, every section in the paper has one. It is where we share snacks and other eats we buy when overseas, or food we are sent.
Recently, a colleague plonks a slab of The Honeycake at TUP and it disappears so fast my head spins. She tastes it while on assignment in Perth, Australia, and decides she has to bring a few back home. We are the lucky people who get one of those cakes.
Layers of honey cake are sandwiched with caramel and the whole thing is topped with crushed walnuts and ground honey crumbs. It is said to be based on a centuries-old Bohemian recipe.
What I taste first and foremost is aromatic honey, and then comes waves of the lightly sweet caramel and the toasted nuts.
I cut myself a woefully tiny piece and when I go back for more, well, there is nothing left. Not even crumbs.
Perth is never on my radar of places to visit but perhaps it is time to go back. If you are heading there, check out The Honeycake website here.
A friend and I get into arguments sometimes because I cannot believe she willingly eats fast food fried chicken. I cannot bring myself to because I always feel terrible after. The pieces are always too greasy and I go into some sort of a funk post meal.
Other kinds of fried chicken I love and embrace, and these include Korean Fried Chicken and those addictive ones in Bangkok's Greyhound Cafe chain. The city's Soi Polo fried chicken is the breakfast of champions, but it is good only if freshly fried and not left sitting around.
I also have a weakness for the kind of fried chicken mothers all over Singapore make.
Since my mother and I cannot bear the thought of the mess that deep frying causes, I have to get my fix elsewhere.
Ocean Curry Fishhead (Block 92, Toa Payoh Lorong 4, 01-264, tel: 6252-2168) does a good version for $1.80 each. It is crisp and greaseless, with juicy meat under the golden brown skin.
My parents and I attack our wings like piranhas and I contemplate ordering more. Maybe when I have a night off, I'll get a bucket of wings from there and make like a happy couch potato.
Mandarin Orchard's boneless Premium Honey Glazed Gammon Ham ($298 for a 4.2 to 4.5kg ham) is something I look forward to every Christmas.
Over the years, the ham has grown in size, and it is always excellent. The layer of fat covering the ham and the smoky skin are both irresistible, and the flavour is one that stays consistently good year after year.
I take one bite and flash back to Christmases past.
The recipe is said to have been perfected over three decades.
In Singapore, where consistency in a problem that plagues all levels of the food and beverage industry, anything that is still good after 30 years is quite an achievement.
To order the ham, call the hotel on 6831-6272/6320.
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