I Ate This: Eat Well Embrace Life Sweet and Spicy Black Bean Hummus

To know me is to know that I could easily live off nothing but crunchy things with soft dips. Tortilla chips and salsa, Fritos with cheese dip, wavy potato chips with French onion, melba toast and spinach/artichoke dip…yum, yummy, and yummiest! But outweighing all of those dips is the king of ’em all – hummus. Give me a container of hummus and something crunchy – carrots, pita chips, multigrain crackers – and you’ve got yourself a very happy camper. And I thought I knew all there was about hummus until one fateful day when my husband informed me of a hummus so unbelievable, so fantastical that I completely thought he was making it up.

Black bean hummus with corn relish.

How did he come across such a magical-sounding concoction? A friend at work who brought said (completely fabricated?) mixture to share with his unsuspecting co-workers. After trying it, my husband raved and made the utterly firm statement that my life would not be complete without trying it too. Having never heard of said “black bean hummus” (if it even existed), I queried as to where one could get such ridiculousness. The answer came in the form of Wal-Mart. Ah-ha! We have one of those! And so I went. However, as I discovered, our local, regular-sized Wal-Mart with a pitiful “grocery” section had nothing in the way of hummus, regular or special. The disappointment was swift. So my husband bartered with his co-worker to obtain a container post haste. And eventually, this container of what I will shortly describe as pure ecstasy for the palate made it in our house.

Want. NAOW PLEEZ!

Folks, I’m going to level with you. If you like hummus, if you like bean dip, if you like food that makes your head and heart swoon in joyous rapture, I urge…nay, demand! that you to seek out Eat Well Embrace Life’s Sweet and Spicy Black Bean Hummus. Know first and foremost that it is spicy, and it is sweet, and it is all delicious.

(Seriously, I literally want some right now and it’s just downstairs in the fridge and it’s all I can do to continue typing this but as soon as I’m done it’s all about the black bean hummus and there are no punctuation marks in that!)

But let’s get real for a moment. Why exactly is Eat Well Embrace Life’s Sweet and Spicy Black Bean Hummus superior in all ways to regular hummus? Well, it’s not…not really. For one, it’s not a replacement for regular hummus at your Greek or Middle Eastern meals. For those you totally want to stick with the real thing, which is magically delicious no matter how you spice it. Plus, it’s definitely got a little heat to it, so if you prefer the mild, then you might want to try Eat Well Embrace Life’s Tuscan White Bean Hummus. (Which, of course, I had to try once I found it. Bottom line: really tasty but not as quite as tasty as the black bean hummus.)

As a dip for crunchy things from both man and nature, this black bean hummus really, truly is just about the best thing going in our house at the moment. It’s thick like hummus, and has a smooth yet textured finish also like hummus. It tastes very much like what you might expect from a black bean dip — rich, earthy, and slightly smoky — except there’s that hint of heat in the background, a little peppery like hot sauce. Plus, it contains tahini like regular hummus, so there’s a slight sesame aftertaste that’s not at all terrible. Its crowning achievement though is the corn relish that resides in a ring in the center of the hummus. If you chose to scoop some of it as well (and why wouldn’t you?), you’re greeted with the sweet tastes of corn, pepper, and light fruitiness. It’s an enveloping mélange that beautifully compliments the heady hummus itself. The whole thing is so dangerously delicious that it’s easy to polish of an entire container in one sitting. And that’s one person not sharing. Try this hummus and you’ll find that you want to sing its praises with a side of “get your own!” as well.

Okay, okay, I’m gushing…a lot. So let me see if I can come up with any downsides to this hummus… Um…uh… Huh. Wait! Got one. Like with regular hummus, sometimes you’ll get a container where the oil has separated a little from the mixture. It’s not visually appealing, but a quick stir will take care of it. And if that’s the worse thing about this hummus, then maybe “worse” needs a new definition.

A couple months ago, my hummus habit completely changed when I discovered that, while the Wal-Mart provided to be only a letdown in regards to its hummus neglect, one of my local grocery stores in fact carried this delectable treat. I’ve since tried Eat Well Embrace Life’s other types of hummus, but I always return to the one and only Sweet and Spicy Black Bean. I haven’t gone back to regular hummus for snacking, and I don’t think I can at this point. The deed is done and there is no turning back.


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

I Ate This: Thai Basil with Lemongrass

It looks like “Nua/Gai Pad Krapao” (beef/chicken variants) is popular around the globe because Liore beat me to this recipe only two months ago! I made this dish for the first time myself last night and it was both easy and incredibly yum. Here’s what I used in addition to Liore’s ingredients in case you’re looking to add some extra vegetables and flavors to this excellent recipe:

  • Baby-corn x6, sliced in half
  • Okra x6, sliced in half
  • Green beans, chopped
  • Thai eggplants x4, quartered
  • A small handful of fresh green peppercorns
  • A small stalk of lemongrass and 4x Kaffir leaves (both to be removed before serving)
  • About 1.5dl (5 fl.oz) of meat/veggie stock

I started off frying the shallot, garlic, chilli, pepper, lemongrass and ginger for about 2mins before adding the rest of the vegetables. Stiry-fry for 5 more minutes before adding the meat/veggie stock and Kaffir leaves and let simmer for an additional 10-15mins. Once you added the meat and Thai basil towards the end, don’t forget to remove the stalk of lemongrass and Kaffir leaves. Optional: 2 spoonful of coconut milk before serving – I am a sucker for that stuff!

thainomsSyl writes over @ mmogypsy.com – a blog about video game design, MMOs, RPGs and high adventure. She also co-hosts the Battle Bards VGMusic podcast and can be contacted via twitter @Gypsy_syl.

I Ate This: Old El Paso Bold Nacho Cheese Stand ‘N Stuff Taco Shells

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the nacho cheese (a la Doritos) taco shell is a staple at most Taco Bells, yes? I don’t frequent the joint, but after all the fuss that surrounded the introduction of such creations a few years ago, I imagine it became a menu standard. But if it’s not a thing at your Taco Bell, then you might want to head to your grocery store, because there you may be able to pick up this product with a loooong name: Old El Paso Bold Nacho Cheese Stand ‘N Stuff Taco Shells.

NEW! and BOLD — what could be wrong with that?

When Taco Hell Bell introduced the Doritos Locos taco, we had to head to the nearest establishment to scoop up a couple. While I did not indulge in them, I was assured by my husband that they were quite delicious. After the meal, we wondered how long it would be before we’d be able to get nacho cheese flavored taco shells in the grocery stores. The gods of taco shells must have heard us that day; however were seemingly too busy (with stand-up flour tortillas, perhaps) to answer our call right away. Yes, it took a couple years, but eventually we were enabled by the people of Old El Paso to recreate the Doritos Locos taco at home, safe from the trappings of Taco Bell’s “food.”

Old El Paso’s Bold Nacho Cheese Stand ‘N Stuff Taco Shells, aside from having the least user-friendly name in the history of taco shells, are just like regular taco shells, except that they are each infused with a coating of neon-orange nacho cheese.

Awaiting the oven’s fiery glow…

As far as I know, they only come in the “stand and stuff” variety. No harm done there except that you only get 10 shells per package as opposed to 12 that generally come in your regular packages of regular taco shells.  So is the content cut and intense color worth it?

Yes…for the love of Tex-Mex, YES!

In fact, these nacho taco shells have become our new staple, and they are the only taco shells I currently purchase. Let’s review the pros and cons (if I can think of any while I’m typing).

PROS

  • They are a tad bit thinner than normal taco shells, which means they crisp up nicely in the oven and stay crispy once filled.
  • Though the box claims a BOLD flavor, the cheese flavoring is actually subdued with hints of bell pepper, black pepper, and onion. They are spicy, but not hot. (They have more taste than regular taco shells, but they don’t taste like Doritos.)
  • Because the nacho cheese doesn’t overpower the shells, the flavoring lends a lot to your own ingredients. So if you don’t like super spicy taco meant and/or beans, these shells would be just the ticket to add in some spice without getting too risqué.
  • The cheese is not super powdery, so you’re not left with orange fingers after eating a round of tacos.
  • Though you get fewer shells per package than you might with normal taco shells, the price for the nacho cheese shells is comparable to other products. No wallet strain.

CONS (okay, I did think of a couple)

  • The cheese flavoring is a little salty, so you may have to experiment with the spicing of your fillings accordingly.
  • Once in the oven, they crisp up very quickly – in about 3-4 minutes in a 375 degree oven as opposed to 5-7 minutes with normal taco shells. If you leave them in too long, they’ll absolutely burn, so you have to keep a very close eye on them while they are warming up.

I highly recommend Old El Paso’s Bold Nacho Cheese Stand ‘N Stuff Taco Shells, especially if you fancy those Doritos Locos tacos but don’t want to hassle with actually going to Taco Bell. They won’t break your grocery budget, are very tasty, and will easily spice up any “Taco Tuesday.” Even if you try them for novelty’s sake, I bet they’ll become a regular addition to your pantry too.

Homer *drooooools*


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

Miso-Laced Chicken Noodle Soup for the Ailing Soul

Cooking for the first day a bad cold or flu hits you is simple.

You don’t.

With your body’s thermostat acting like it’s found itself in the middle of the Arctic Circle one minute and abandoned in the Sahara Desert the next, all you’re pretty much concerned with is downing as much medication as humanly possible and finding a position on the bed (covers on? covers off? where do the tissues go?) that will actually let you go to sleep.

Food is the absolute last thing your body is concerned with.

It’s the day the fever breaks though, that you surface and recollect the memory of hunger, but also realize that standing upright for an extended cooking session would be a colossally bad idea. (Nor is there desire to wash the collected debris of said hypothetical session.)

A one pot meal would be ideal.

Soup sounded fantastic.

Rummaging around in the pantry cupboard revealed that the only clear soup left was a can of Campbell’s borsch soup, which sufficed for two meals, but to this miserable soul’s dismay, there was no more chicken noodle soup or anything that might be loosely converted into something vaguely resembling it… except maybe a packet of instant Tonkotsu ramen noodles (but urgh… a sodium-laced soup when sickly didn’t sound appealing at all.)

Therein lies the advantage of knowing how to cook and improvise with ingredients to hand.

It was back to the fridge, where the first thing that stood out was a fresh box of miso (bought with initial plans of seasoning salmon for grilling, before illness so rudely interrupted.)

Ok. If I couldn’t have chicken soup, I might perhaps have miso soup. That sounded reasonable.

But miso soup without dashi? Was it even possible? I surely wasn’t going to run out for bonito flakes.

Some quickly Googled references suggested vegetarian miso soup was indeed possible, all you needed was a vegetable broth of some kind.

Ok. We could do this. There is an onion here. We have some garlic. There is even some young ginger. Even if it was just aromatics in a bot of boiling water, to which miso would be added later, we were going to construct a clear soup broth of some kind.

Set out one pot of water to boil.

Coarsely chop an onion, and I mean coarsely, because one is sick here and has no finesse left.

Garlic is said to have antibacterial properties of some sort, right? Skins and chops a couple of cloves.

Ginger is usually a little too spicy for my preference, but you know, miso is said to pair well with ginger, and this cold really needs a dose of ginger… so, what the heck, we’ll slice an inch of young ginger to go along.

Sauteing the aromatics would probably bring out more flavor, because one is desperate here, so… urgh, let’s just use one more pot – a nonstick one with some butter.

In go the aromatics, to be mostly ignored while one searches through the fridge once more.

Oh hey, there is some celery! And underneath, some carrots!

Perfect, we have the standard western soup trifecta of onion, celery and carrots, after all.

In they go into the saute pot, haphazardly chopped as well.

And what is this, in an as yet untouched plastic container? A glorious piece of soy-sauce roasted chicken breast from a whole chicken takeout a day or two before the plague struck down the household.

Looks like chicken soup is back on the menu.

Cut into chunks and lightly saute that as well. Dump the entire contents of the now-sauted soup stuff into the pot of boiling water.

Reuse the saute pot to boil up some thin pasta noodles with some salted water.

Dump noodles into the now simmering soup.

Wash the saute pot. We’re back down to one pot of soup, which we would ideally boil until everything is soft and the flavors have come out into the broth, but really only lasts 30 mins or so before one gets terribly hungry about the whole affair.

Turn the heat off and taste the broth – yep, still needs salt and umami, since no lavishly rendered stock was involved in this preparation.

In comes the miso to save the day. (Boiling miso is a no-no, which is why we remove the heat first.) Add a spoonful or two to taste until it’s just right.

This soup will win no style awards, nor is it the absolute best rendition of its kind, but you know what… when you’re sick and miserable… it’s good enough.

misochickennoodlesoup

Eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with leftovers to go in the fridge for the next day. (The photo is pretty much the leftovers, when I regained enough clarity of thought at midnight to think of snapping a picture.)

And the flavors get seriously better over time. (Or maybe that’s just my nose un-stuffing itself from all the garlic and gingery goodness.)

TL;DR: Onion, garlic, ginger, celery, carrot, chicken breast. Saute. Add to boiling water and lower heat to somewhere between boil and simmer. Add cooked pasta noodles. Go for 30-60 minutes of boil/simmer. Take off heat. Add miso to taste.

I Ate This: Reese’s Spreads Peanut Butter Chocolate


2014-12-02 13.50.06

I absolutely love peanut butter and I absolutely adore chocolate. In other words, there’s no doubt that peanut buttercups are one of my all-time favorite desserts. While Reese’s are usually my go-to for their convenience factor, they are not my ideal peanut butter cup. Ideally, I want one with more peanut butter and a darker chocolate. Still, there’s something to be said for the overly rich and incredibly familiar nature of a pack of Reese’s, and – for better AND for worse – their Peanut Butter Chocolate spread is exactly that but now in a jar.

Here’s a warning up front: do not buy this product if you have no self-control. If you already eat Nutella by the spoonful, but you’d prefer something closer to a Reese’s peanut buttercup slathering your toast/bread/bagel/whatever, this product will do just that. It brings the same richness, the same calories, and the same fat too. Heaven and hell, this spread is a work of pure genius and pure evil. Don’t go it alone – have friends in mind to split these delicious, delicious hedons with!

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Beyond the fact that this is Reese’s as a spread, I also love the texture. It remains slightly grainy, which gives me the impression that someone chopped up and blended a ton of buttercups to make it. It spreads like room temperature butter too. It’s ugly, but what did you expect from blending two nasty shades of brown together? Rainbows? It tastes like rainbows.

I am lazy, so I opted for a kid-friendly approach and slapped it on a piece of white bread to make a sandwich. My waistline won’t think me, but my soul felt like it was being hugged. This is a concentrated boost of pure Reese’s goodness. It’s too rich for me to eat regularly, especially in sandwich form (and especially considering the large glob I used). I think mixing in some more peanut butter would do the trick. I’m personally a bigger fan of Reese’s Big Cups anyway since the cloying sweetness of milk chocolate has lost its luster in the wake of several years of cultivating a taste and love for the darkest of chocolates.

The possibilities are endless for this stuff. Unlike the extra effort it takes to buy Reese’s and chop/blend/transmogrify them, you could take a big spoon of this and add it to your milkshake/powershake/icecream/morning coffee. How about adding it to your waffle? Or maybe even adding it into your pancake batter? If Hershey ever thinks to manufacture it in larger containers, then surely the obesity crisis here in the United States will reach Zombie Apocalypse levels of civilization meltdown.

You’ve been warned and alerted. Do with this information what you will!


C. T. Murphy can more regularly be found over at his blog, Murf Versus. You can also find him on Twitter, where he is frequently at his weirdest. His favorite food is Thai, though his roots are in Soul Food, and he only ever cooks Tex-Mex. He’s a strange fellow.

 

A full Fridge says more than a Thousand Words. Or: Your Food Essentials.

About once a week I go grocery shopping for essentials and foods that spoil easily, like fruit and veg. There are times when I am a good kid and ate all my greenery and times when I shop with all the best intentions but end up throwing some of it away. Alas. Winter is a time for less spoily food and since I’m generally a summer fruit person (berries yay!), winter veggies and the odd pear are all I’ll get (I try to buy seasonal). The second half of the year is all about comfort food around here, potatoes and cheese, sausages and soup, roasts and quiche. And of course wine.

Fridges around the world tell a thousand stories about people – where they come from, how they live. No fridge or pantry is the same. No matter where you go on holidays, it’s exciting to browse foreign food and get to know (and get grossed out over) eating habits.

Our fridge right after grocery haul.

Our fridge right after grocery haul.

My weekly grocery haul

My food essentials are more or less the same every week. There will be different yoghurts (chocolate and coffee pour moi!), real awesome butter and cream, eggs, different cheeses (hard, soft, mozzarella, cottage cheese, Fondue), pickles (for Fondue), bacon (strips or diced), potatoes (usually for Fondue), milk and O-juice which I need to wake up in the morning. The odd fruit will roll around and make a mess, maybe some salad, avocado, olives and sausages. Sometimes there is peanut butter. I love the creamy kind.

Of course I also keep sauces (mayo, mustard, Sriracha etc.) and chutneys (Branston!) in the fridge but they keep a long time. I love me my sauces.

Dry stuff and storage

We don’t buy bread most of the time but I like Swedish dry breads to put things on. When you stop eating much bread, you realize how much you miss having a “base to carry stuff on”. Ever since we got our own bread-maker, we try making our own bread on demand (we used to throw away so much bread or eat too much of it anyway). There’s no pantry or storage room of any kind except for a shelf or two where we keep canned beans, pellati and tuna, as well as some dry pasta and wild rice. There’s two ceramic pots with garlic and onions which we use up pretty fast (anything needs garlic and onion!).

All pretty standard and plain. If you want to eat a real meal, you’ll have to cook it from scratch and plan ahead. There is chocolate of course (in case you were wondering) but sweets of any kind are a rare treat in my home, not a staple. Also, Lindt chocolate never makes it past the next day.

The freezer

We don’t have a freezer worth mentioning except for an integrated shelf inside the fridge. What’s usually in there are ice cubes (duh) and Parmesan which keeps forever that way. If I’m feeling very adventurous, there will be a cup of Ben&Jerry’s icecream or pizza for emergencies and bad hair days.

Show off your fridge!

What food goes into your fridge every week and what do you always keep on stock?
What secrets does a freshly stuffed fridge tell the world about you?

I Ate This: Melt Organic

The debate between butter and margarine is as old as the pyramids. (Really! It’s in all those hierogly…okay, no it’s not.) Personally, I always have both on hand: butter for cooking and baking and margarine for spreading on toast, pancakes, waffles, and other baked delights. Both are so ubiquitous in my house that it’s hard to imagine what I’d do without them.

Only then, I had to do without them when a portion of my extended family announced they were (temporarily) giving up dairy. It took me a while to wrap my head around this very foreign concept. Making things doubly confusing was that this announcement came right before a family get-together for which I was supposed to bring dessert.

I’m willing to bet that those of us without food allergies and severe dietary restrictions probably don’t pay much attention to what’s in our food. Outside of checking packages for meat and its byproducts, I had never given any thought to just how much of what’s in the grocery store comes from or contains milk. Well, after my family’s “dairy-free age” began, I had to take notice. Lots of things immediately went off the table, such as cake and brownie mixes, chocolate chips and the like, some glazes and other confections, cream cheese, and, of course, butter and margarine. My search for non-dairy butter substitutes brought me to Melt Organic.

melt

Now, let me first say that Melt Organic is not, not, NOT milk-free. During a stressful round of shopping I basically went for all the “top shelf” non-dairy products in the dairy section, picked several things, and hoped for the best. Once I got everything home, I read the labels more carefully, and good thing too, because I discovered that I couldn’t use Melt. I ended up going with something else I had bought and the Melt just sat in the fridge.

But it didn’t go to waste. After completing everything I needed to for my special non-dairy dessert (whoopie pies, of all things, which were delicious and the recipe for which I’ll share at some point), I decided to start using Melt Organic as my regular margarine. It’s quite good but…different.

Melt Organic (the original “flavor” as it also comes in honey and chocolate), boasts the use of good fats (Omega-3’s and -6’s) from fruits and plants: coconut, palm, flaxseed, canola, and sunflower. And everything’s non-GMO, organic, makes the rainforests happy, etc., etc. On the outside it looks like it’s all good environmentally-speaking. On the inside is a mixture that’s very light, creamy, and spreadable. Its consistency is somewhere between glossy margarine and whipped butter that isn’t fooling anyone about being “smooth.” Not only is it easy to retrieve from the container, but it glides easily over everything from tough toast to delicate and delicious pancakes. So chalk one up to Melt’s consistency – it’s pretty darn good.

Those pancakes...d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

Those pancakes…d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

But how does it taste? Well, that’s where the “different” comes in, because it tastes like coconut. No flourishes or fanfare, just coconut. Or, that’s the most prominent flavor I get from it anyway. And I’m not talking coconut like a Mounds bar or those furry “coconut”-covered Sno-Balls. I’m talking about a subtle coconut taste that becomes quite noticeable on food without overwhelming flavors, again like toast or pancakes. On those things, plain things, sweet things, it’s delicious. But then again, I like coconut, and I think the taste pairs well with syrups, jams, and honey. The problem comes when using it for something savory. For instance, I used it to make three things for which I regularly use butter and/or margarine: garlic bread, grilled cheese sandwiches, and scrambled eggs. Each turned to be infused with hints of the flavor of coconut, with the most pronounced being the coconut-tinged garlic bread. Again, it didn’t taste like garlic bread topped with coconut shavings, it just had an odd, sweet, and nutty palette that didn’t mix well with the garlic. Not exactly what you want with your spaghetti. I’ve not yet baked with Melt, but I’m not really inclined to as I simply prefer to use real butter when baking.

So Melt Organic in my house wins with sweet but loses with savory. Because of this limitation, it’s probably not something I’d buy again as I’d rather just stick with my all-purpose margarine. Though, cost-wise, it definitely wins out over real non-dairy spreads – a 13-ounce tub me cost $2 on sale [with a coupon], with true non-dairy things costing upwards of $4-$5 for similarly-sized containers. Plus, it does have some health benefits, which is appealing when you start to look at what’s really in margarine. If you fancy trying a unique, healthy (I guess), non-butter spread and you don’t mind the taste of coconut with your marmalade, you might want to give Melt Organic a try (if you can find it on sale, maybe).


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.

I Ate This: Salad Potpourri

Everyday the fresh salad buffet at my workplace features some staple as well as different seasonal salads for the hungry customer base. Working in a clinic comes with its perks and having three healthy menus per day prepared by a brigade of diet chefs is definitely one of them. The salad buffet serves both as an alternative and recovery station to anyone passing on that warm lunch; leftovers from previous day menus will be utilized in salads of the next day. Needless to say, this keeps the salad buffet exciting as well as most viable. Almost any vegetable side can be turned into a yummie salad with some good olive oil and vinegar.

Friday lunch noms

Today’s plate: nut lettuce, basil tomatoes, beetroot, cervelas, beans, olives, egg and yesterday’s brussels sprouts. Who said salads were boring?

I Ate This: Two Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins

Finger food is one of the greatest things to have on hand for snacking while you game. Muffins are especially great, come in all different flavors, and don’t have messy frosting to deal with like cupcakes. My sister-in-law shared a picture claiming you could make muffins using only two ingredients, a cake mix and a can of pumpkin. I had to try it!

pumpkin_muffins

I have to say, these turned out really well. I changed things up a bit and used a cake mix with Splenda to drop the calorie load down slightly. A 15 oz can of pumpkin mixes in really well and creates a perfect muffin batter consistency. I also added some pumpkin pie spice, but have heard you can use a spice cake mix instead of the classic yellow mix. This made 12 big muffins, plus some extra that I put into a ramekin. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, game food nirvana.

Kipper Kedgeree? Salted Fish Fried Rice?

aka possibly the most fusion thing I’ve ever concocted while starving and improvising…

The story starts with a canned tin of fish.

You see, a while ago, I was on an experimental kick to try different types of tinned fish than the bog standard tuna in cans.

Not that our tuna is similar either.

A very popular brand in Singapore supermarkets is Ayam brand tuna.

Beyond the normal range of chunks and flakes in all varieties of oil and water and mayonaise (plus mildy spicy and hot blends), there is chili, tom yam, tomato chilli, curry, and black pepper flavored tuna, as well as seasoned spicy tuna to stir into Malay fried rice or “Nasi Goreng” (nasi is Malay for rice, goreng for fried.)

The problem is, it’s all tuna. Cooked and prepared in many different ways, yes, but still tuna.

So I branched out to sardines.

I was never an extreme fan of sardines, mostly because our Asian style of sardines fished and prepared and tinned somewhere in Thailand are extremely chunky monsters with bones that are distinctly not ignorable. Their backbones are about the size of a cotton bud’s shaft.

I’ve known people who cheerfully crunch them down regardless, but me, I end up performing spinal surgery on each halved fish before I can face the prospect of chowing down.

Flavor-wise, there’s the same broad profile. Olive oil, olive oil and chili (ridiculously spicy, by the way), chili and lime, black olive and caper, and sardines tuned to more Asian tastebuds with teriyaki sauce or black bean sauce.

Ultimately, I decided I was the biggest fan of the black bean sauce, except the sardines in that tin are fried (no wonder they’re tasty!) and probably best eaten sparingly.

Having exhausted the local brand, I started eyeing the imports. John West and King Oscar are fairly common brands here too, if nearly double the price.

I ended up falling in love with King Oscar sardines. The brisling variety of sardine is a lot finer and more delicate, with no need to extract any bones and a purer fishier aroma.

From there, it was on to tinned anchovies.

Which I’ve never managed to consume whole (such a waste just eating it), but end up using like Chinese-style salted fish or our local ikan bilis to add flavor to other things. It simply dissolves upon heating into the oil to form this ridiculously tasty umami-laden sauce – mix with pasta and vegetables, for example.

Canned salmon was right out, since fresh salmon is available, but what is this curiously labeled tin of “kippers?”

Today, I pulled this out of the cupboard, having run out of ideas for anything else I could eat in a hurry.

One test mouthful revealed a very smoky, intense-flavored fish.

It wasn’t too bad, but it sure was very intense – full of smoke and fish essence with every bite. Not quite as distilled flavor as tinned anchovies, but not exactly on a sardine scale where one would be just inclined to eat them out of the tin.

Well, you could, if you liked mouthfuls of smoke.

Paired like the pictured serving suggestion with bread and a poached egg, both of which are more flavorless in themselves, I could see how smoked kippers might go well.

No bread here, alas. Nor was I in the mood for boiling eggs.

At my wit’s end, I Googled up “kipper recipes” to find a myriad of suggestions for kedgeree.

This is, apparently, a dish of curried rice, flaked fish and boiled eggs, an Anglo-Indian fusion born from the days when India was a British colony.

Despite Singapore being a British colony as well, with Indians represented in our population, this particular dish has never quite made it here, so I have no clue if what I came up with is the least bit authentic.

Probably not, but when you’re dealing with a fusion dish that seems to be improvised from what was available at the time, I doubt it hurts to improvise even further.

1) Set nonstick pot on stove. Dump in generous amount of butter.

2) Lacking onions, substitute with garlic as an aromatic. (Garlic fried rice is tasty, after all!)

3) Scoop out kippers from brine, reserving liquid, and gently fry in butter to aromatize.

4) Dump in washed rice in buttery-kipper mixture to further aromatize. Add some curry powder for spice and toss everything around for a while to coat in oil and heat up.

5) When deemed sufficiently flavored through, add reserved kipper brining liquid and additional water as a stock for the rice to absorb while cooking. Liquid should just about top the layer of rice, sort of a 1:1 ratio. Too much liquid, say a 2:1 ratio or more, and you’ll get savory porridge or congee instead.

6) Cover and steam at a low simmer until rice is about done.

7) Add frozen peas, rinsed and washed beforehand to lightly thaw them out. Stir and continue to heat everything through.

8) Crack in two eggs, let cook slightly, then stir them through the rice to make everything fluffy and “fried rice”-esque.

The last bit was just me being lazy.

Apparently, kedgeree needs to have hard boiled eggs. I’m not that big a fan of either eating nor preparing them that way (an additional pot means more washing up to do!) but I do love me some eggy fried rice any time of the day.

So the result is not quite kedgeree, except that it has curried rice, flaked fish and eggs.

Nor is it quite fried rice, since it wasn’t intensely wok-fried or drenched in oil or started with precooked rice.

fish&rice

Whatever it was, it tasted pretty good.

To further confuse the fusion issue, I took a page off the Malay Nasi Goreng, which pairs its fried rice with crunchy prawn crackers.

There was also Indian murukku in the house, and some of it got crumbled on top of the rice too.

Not wishing to be left out, a Western influence also insisted on being present as toaster-oven roasted carrots and plum tomatoes.

Guess that thing about necessity being the mother of invention is true after all.