Leaving Europe for the first time in my life to go East it was to me all about discovery and excitement for the unknown.
As for many Italians when it comes at Asia they cannot help theirselves to think nothing but a bunch of stereotypes: martial arts, Chinese Wall, Marco Polo, rice, spring rolls, and, of course, that as much effort they will ever put in making their food, it will be always one step behind Italian, at least one.
As for Malaysia, I think the only thing that an Italian can think of is Sandokan, the “Malayan tiger”, brave and fiery fictional book hero, born from the mind of Italian writer Salgari, who thrilled for over a century the fantasies of Italian children with his adventures and, eventually, tons of forever young dads and uncles who started following the Tiger on telly, through the wilderness of Malaysia, whilst he was trying to defeat the cruel “White Rajah”, symbol of the oppressive British colonialism, and win Marianna’s love over each and every adversity.
As for Singapore, well, there is this song which was very popular back in time when my parents were teenagers …
…claiming for this exotic country of Singapore the status of perfect getaway from the everyday life routine. God knows why but that is what my mum sang to me over the phone when i told her i booked the flight -.-
So, to cut it short, I was pretty much clueless about what to expect.
Well, to be totally honest with you, adventure books and old songs left in the cupboard, I’ve got to say I’ve been lucky enough to know a few people from Malaysia and Singapore here in London. They introduced to their food, culture and life style which, as a Sandokan adventure would do, started tickling my mind and made me imagine of what was actually happening on the other side of the world and when I got the chance to visit Singapore, invited by my friend Wen Lin and Sarah from Smothering supperclubs, to run one of the BackDoor Kitchen event I could only say “hell yes!” .
It takes about 17-18 hours to get to Singapore and you are welcomed by the most humid hot weather (35 ° C) which, coming from London, is always nice to feel on your skin once in a while. Just the time to leave my luggage at the rather cozy, rustic and warm tiny flat on the East Coast where Sarah lives with his husband and then straight to the market, thrown in the vibrating environment of Tekka, one of the most popular and variegated marketplace in the country right at the centre of Little India.
Here you can find tomatoes from Italy or Spain (which are very expensive, of course, but extremely tasty) but also thousands different varieties of spices, some of which I didn’t even know the existence, unusual fruit as the Durian, aka “the King fruit” or “smells like hell, tastes like heaven) and the Jackfruit or their more famous cousins the Dragon Fruit, the Stair Fruit and so on. The atmosphere is flaming with traders moving their fists in the air to attract customers to the stall’s latest offer, butchers are focused on finely cutting their meat or loudly chopping and dicing, scientifically beating their knives on the thick wooden boards. Sugar cane drink stalls make the most awful noise whilst cracking and grinding the canes with their machines to spill out all the juice they can, small sharks are exposed on the counters along with giant crabs (and I when I say giant I really mean it), Indian ladies are all buys making flowers garlands which are usually worn during temple rituals. People chat, sat down along communal table, drinking coffee and eating. Street food is everywhere.
The aromas coming from the grills where meat has been finally defeated by the Maillard reaction or the fragrances diffused by the big pots where stews or soups are slowly cooking in mix of herbs, spices and ingredients whose pungent and exotic flavour gradually spread all over the market making your soul, just before your mind can give any neural signal to the body, absorbed by such pleasures so to find yourself indulging your eyes in spying every sauce pan, fridge or hidden place just for the sake of satisfy a renovated hunger for knowledge and curiosity.
Sarah brought me to her favourite veggies but mostly introduced me to her personal butcher. Conversations wasn’t that broad as they were mostly speaking in Mandarin, which i’m not particularly strong in, but we found a common language over food as I bought his incredibly succulent pork ribs and he complimented me with some melt in the mouth pork skin, perfectly suitable for a traditional Roman stew Sarah and me have been talking about for ages. If fresh ingredients are really good and available at reasonable prices, cheese is a huge issue. Hard to find, almost all cheeses come at crazy prices, even four times respect to London. Easy to explain as cheese is not much popular in the local diet and only people who travelled or so called foodies are into trying the Western dairy delicacies which consequently don’t find much room in the market and go up in price. Example: a tub of ricotta (250g) comes at £5.00 which is not bad at all.
But this is not really about my journey in South East Asia, is it? Sandokan wouldn’t complain over Ricotta cheese prices. So shouldn’t i. This is just about how my adventure through new food, cultures and people started. So if you enjoyed this, follow me in the next posts.
Soon i’ll be talking about Chinese New Year’s tradition in Singapore!
Yes we held a supperclub in Singapore and, I can proudly tell, it was a complete success. Reproducing the same energy and vibes, propose that kind of dishes I so much like to work on, bringing the flag and have new guests discovering absolute new produces, combinations and emotions around food just made me feel in the right place, happily carrying on the challenge of showing MY Italian cuisine: unusual, traditional, innovative but always authentic.
How can I resume my first supperclub experience? There was this little girl, a 4 years old bundle of smiles and vivacity. We set up children portions for her, being worried of giving her too much food and consequently giving her a bad experience to remember, but she actually ate as much or more than all the adults. At the end of the lunch she came close to me, asked for my attention and whispered in my ear: “ I love the food you cooked, it was are really yummy, can I have more dessert to bring home?”. This is the kind of inner smile a supperclub experience should give, regardless everything else both to the hosts and the guests.
See you soon on this page or at our next event which you can book here or by emailing us at
Have a good life, eat something new, surprise yourselves.
The date is FEBRUARY, THE 24th – 8pm
and now go and BOOK YOUR SEAT
SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER