Buying Organic Produce in Singapore

I’m trying to eat more organic, and source local produce as much as possible. Cost, next to availability and convenience, is probably the most prohibitive factor that keeps people from choosing to buy organic, and is the reason I haven’t been. After hours of furious Googling, it became clear the most efficient way to obtain organic produce in Singapore is via online ordering and delivery. Fortunately, there were a few places that specialize in organic produce, including local farms (reducing distance bonus!). I like to think I’ll eventually try all of them and see which I like best. In the mean time, I’ll share my experiences here.

Buying locally will mean reducing the food miles travelled, and therefore carbon footprint, before reaching my plate. Cities are big on consumption (and waste), and even moreso in a resource-limited place like Singapore. Imported goods are inevitable to feed the growing population (that is being encouraged to propagate the species and up population numbers). This posed a greater dilemma than I expected in how to proceed. So for now, the less food miles, the better, which means eating more seasonally. Pai tsai, cai xin, wild bayam and sweet potatoes are not part of my regular grocery list and encouraged me to be more creative in preparing meals.

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The other day I volunteered at Comcrop, Singapore’s first sustainable rooftop farm. They use aquaponics and grow organically. Well, the thing about not using pesticides is someone’s got to remove the bugs off the leaves, and this is painstaking work! No wonder organic is always more expensive. There’s an organic food store here that charges exorbitantly high prices on their produce that it’s not even funny. It’s ridiculous that the evolution of the food industry has led to high costs associated with eating healthy. It’s no wonder that diet-related health problems are a growing problem, and will continue to do so unless we do something about it.

But fortunately eating well doesn’t have to break the bank too much. I found some farms that charges reasonable rates and I only paid slightly more than usual for produce. It’s also nice to know my hard-earned dollars will be supporting someone, versus a faceless multinational corporation. I’m voting with my dollars, and you should consider it too! On that note, the Environmental Working Group‘s guide to organic will help you prioritize which food items to buy organic.

Have you purchased organic products online? What are your thoughts?

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Eating In: Hummus + Baguette Chips

Hummus and baguette chips were next in the next series of “using up what you have” ingredients, namely baguette near its end, as it gets hard. In the tragic phase where bread no longer becomes bread as it hardens, chips are the next best thing. Hummus is expensive (and mostly unavailable) at the nearby grocery store, so why not make hummus? It’s just chickpeas all mushed together right? Well… apparently it’s chickpeas and tahini, but of course it would be without tahini this time.

hummus + baguette chips

hummus + baguette chips

hummus + baguette chips

hummus + baguette chips

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Eating In: Tempeh Bruschetta

I tried to find something to cook using ingredients that were sitting around before they start growing mould, namely the baguette and pasta sauce from the other day. Insert the tempeh bruschetta. Growing up, tempeh was a staple for our family dinners, deep-fried deliciousness. Much like tofu, it takes on flavours of the host like a charm but is more firm in its consistency, since it is made out the soy beans themselves caked together with yeast.

bruschetta

bruschetta

For the tomato sauce I used:

  • 1 cup of pasta sauce
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes sliced in halves
  • Half a block of tempeh, diced and marinated (at least 4 hours) in balsamic marinade

Air-fry the tempe at 200ºC for 5 minutes, (or pan-fry) or until golden brown. While tempeh is frying, heat up the pasta sauce and add in the sliced cherry tomatoes. Add tempeh into the pasta sauce. (Note: I didn’t dice my tempeh till after frying since I didn’t know what I wanted to make, but doing it before marinating will allow the marinade to soak in the tempeh more).

bruschetta

To serve:

Cut up 5 thick pieces of baguette and toast the baguette. I toasted mine for 2-3 minutes until soft (all about soft loaves). The bread would be good with a little drizzle of olive oil as well. Garnish with some parsley.

bruschetta

All that’s left to do is eat it up, and that’s the easiest part.

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Eating In: Beans and Barley Inspired Balsamic Tofu Sandwich

Beans and Barley is a wonderful deli/café/grocer at the heart of Milwaukee’s East Side, and a place I happily frequented back in the day. There’s not a Milwaukeean that doesn’t love this place and it’s not hard to see why. Their mouth-watering offerings, available at the hot bar or at the restaurant, including scrambled tofu for breakfast, artichoke parmesan dip, housemade kombucha, and burritos dripping with cheese, and are enough to keep the hungry soul coming back for more. As an added bonus, day-old hot bar meals are available for student-wallet-friendly options, and visiting the hot bar at the end of the day will get you 50% off your purchase.

One of my favourite meals at the café is the balsamic tofu sandwich, with balsamic marinated tofu (obviously), spinach, red onion, pepperoncini, and Veganaise served on a stirato roll. I’m a former vegetarian, but to avoid the recent pain that plagues my stomach after eating meat, I’ve been choosing vegetarian protein sources, and was inspired to re-create a great classic with a bit of a twist.

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For the balsamic tofu:

  • UNICURD plain Tau Kua tofu
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Rice vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, flattened and sliced
  • Basil leaves

Cut the tofu in half into two square pieces. For the tofu marinade, I mixed about two tablespoons of olive oil and added balsamic vinegar until there was enough to marinade the tofu evenly, continually adding as necessary. I also added 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar and sliced garlic into the mix; sprinkle in some basil leaves. I let this marinade for 4 hours, although it wouldn’t hurt to let it marinade for longer. To prepare, I used an air fryer at 200°C for 8 minutes (lightly pat the tofu dry before air frying). Cook time depends on tofu thickness, but be sure to flip the tofu at the halfway point. Alternately, pan fry the tofu until it browns and (for tau kwa tofu) the outside is a bit crisp.

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Instead of Veganaise, an avocado spread:

  • 1/4 of an avocado
  • 1 tsp of apple cider vinaigrette found here

Mix the vinaigrette with the avocado. Hopefully your avocado is more ripe than mine, in which case, smush up the avocado to create a spread. For less ripe avocados, just cut into thin slices and mix in the vinaigrette.

For the rest of the sandwich fixin’s, here’s what I used:

  • 2 slices of beefsteak tomato
  • 2 pieces of lettuce
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • Alfalfa and broccoli sprouts (more is always better in my book!)
  • 4-5 thinly sliced cucumber
  • Baguette (ciabatta would have been delicious, but the baguette was the closest thing I could find)

Lightly toast le baguette! Arrangement idea: from baguette bottom, lettuce, tofu, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, avocado, sprouts. Of course, if the avocado spread was actually a spread, it would probably be better on the top side of the baguette.

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I over-explained a lot of things, but we’ve come to an end here. Yay! Serve with a side of carrots and as always, enjoy.

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If you try this, let me know how it goes! What are some of your favourite “eating out” recipes you’ve re-created at home?

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Eating Out: Chinatown Food Street

The other day we explored Chinatown in search of food and crafting goodies. Chinatown hosts a multitude of eating places offering local and international fare, nestled in between rustic shop houses, and is home to some of Singapore’s trendier social gathering places (Club Street or Ann Siang Hill anyone?). This time we opted to dine at Chinatown Food Street.

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The stalls were designed to give an “old-timey” feel. It’s borderline kitschy but somehow it works. A majority of the vendors offered variants of Chinese food, from steamed fish head to chicken rice, though there was an Indian vendor as well. We circled the stalls indecisively multiple times…

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… before deciding on Kung Pao Chicken (S$15, Large Portion) and Baby Kai-lan in Oyster Sauce (S$10, Large Portion). It was a good decision, namely because it had been one of the best kung pao chicken dishes I’ve had. The chicken was very tender and the sauce actually spicy, though I wouldn’t recommend eating the chili pepper unless you’d like to cry for the remainder of your meal (or, if you decide to, at least do it at the end of your meal). The kai-lan in oyster sauce didn’t disappoint, though this is a hard combination to mess up.

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Mother told me to eat my greens.

We worked off those calories walking along the rows of shop houses that line the area. I used to scour stores in Chinatown (and Arab Street) for unique cushion covers, and found some beautiful embellished ones for S$10.

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A day in Chinatown is always a good day! Have a lovely day!

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Exploring: Johor Bahru

I love Singapore for its proximity to neighbouring countries. This past weekend, Aaron and I crossed the border to Johor Bahru, or JB, Malaysia to visit the family I used to live with. Many Singaporeans cross the border and take day trips to JB where good eats are plentiful. The exchange rate for S$1 is approximately RM2.50.

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The trip was maybe a 15 minute bus ride on bus 170 from Kranji MRT station and probably was not more than S$2, if at all. If you’ve never done this before, I’d encourage you to. This is extremely easy (although peak hour traffic is ghastly, so avoid like the plague). We got off the bus at Woodlands checkpoint to immigration. After passport stamping, we hopped on another 170 bus to cross the Causeway. We got off the bus again at the Malaysian immigration to do the same thing, and you can choose to hop on another bus or just walk out of the complex to the city centre.

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We stopped by a kopitiam, the equatorial version of Cheers, where everyone drinks coffee loaded sugar instead of beer. From chatty regulars to the mismatched brightly coloured stools, everything about the kopitiam was charming. Within minutes, our friendly neighbours were chatting us up–‘you just returned from the US?’, ‘how long is the flight?’, ‘oh, 8 hours to London? 24 hours to the US? 2 hours is my maximum!’.

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All conversation accompanied by kopi. Art direction by the kopitiam staff who set up this shot and loaned boiled eggs for this picture.

At the kopitiam, we had the beloved Malaysian classic, Nasi Lemak, and Mee Rebus. The nasi lemak only came with an egg, so you can choose other sides to accompany it as well. And the mee rebus? So good! The tangy aroma from the lime makes it difficult to stop eating.

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Mee rebus

Gained a couple of pounds from in two days, so I’d say it was a successful trip! #fattiesforever

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The Search Continues

Behold, the king of fruits.

Behold, the king of fruits.

My favourite way of eating the durian is after freezing it for a few hours. It’s like eating durian flavoured ice-cream that actually tastes like durian. Getting it home to a freezer is a challenge. Have to figure out how to cart around durians through public transport without getting dirty looks or fines. Hmm.