He bottled Asia!

It is so hot in Singapore at the moment. You wouldn’t think that it could get any hotter, but it can and it did. Hot, humid, sticky, and for once the rain seems to have disappeared. It has been a good 4 or 5 days since we last had any rain, very unusual for Singapore and I wish the rain would come back and cool us all down!

This weather reminds me of where I spent a good portion of my childhood. On a small island off of the north-west coast of Australia. A remote part of the world called the Buccaneer Archipelago. You could call it a tropical island but not in the stereotypical sense. There were no palm trees or white sandy beaches being lapped at by crystal clear blue water.

There was however an abundance of sharks, crocodiles and three of the world’s deadliest snake species. The human population of about 2,000 (at its peak) learnt to live with them and what a life it was!

During my childhood the island was a BHP iron ore mine. Four generations of my Dad’s side of the family lived and worked there over the years. My Great Grandmother Nanna Previ, Grandfather Roy and Grandmother Doreen, Dad and his two sisters all emigrated there from Wales in the 1960s. My Mum and I would move there early in the 1980s and lastly my little brother Alex would come along in the late 1980s.

It was a magical place to grow up. Slightly dangerous at times, but mostly magical. At the top of its long list of wonderful attributes it had - hands down - the best fishing in the world. Uncontested!

We were surrounded by an abundance of fresh fish, prawns, oysters, mud crabs … you name it. Yes, that fish down there is bigger than my Dad (on the right)!

If you did a job for a mate he’d pay you with a carton of prawns or a giant trevally he had caught that morning out on the boat. Probably a beer and a chat as well.

My brother was very stubborn as a young child and went through a phase when he was about 3 years old of demanding mud crabs for lunch every day. He would sit outside on the concrete under our patio, naked (never a fan of clothes, part of the aforementioned stubborn-ness), with a hammer, chopping board and a mud crab - lunch was served!

Suffice to say I love seafood and it still forms a large part of my regular diet. I don’t think the seafood I get here in Singapore is anywhere near as good as what I got as a kid. But let’s face it I am biased and was spoiled from a young age!

The seafood here does the job though, so I can’t complain. I especially can’t complain when I pair my BBQ’d seafood with Andrew’s amazing “Bottled Asia”.

Andrew makes an amazing sauce that to me, is Asia in a bottle. In every mouthful is a wonderful memory of one of my adventures I have been lucky enough to have since living in this part of the world.

The sour and salty tang of the fish sauce reminds me of a visit to Vietnam where I traveled down the Mekong River. I learnt how to make rice noodles, stuffed them into rice paper rolls and dipped them into a simple sauce of Nuoc Mam and chopped chilli.

The smell of the fresh coriander and zing of the kaffir limes reminds me of attending cooking classes in Thailand.

The fire in the red chillis reminds me of one diving trip off of Indonesia where late one night we sat on the dive deck catching squids. We ate the squid right there on the back of the boat. Sashimi style, with chopped chilli and fish sauce, our feet dangling in the water and a million stars twinkling high above us.

It is more than a sauce. For me it is a lot of tasty and delicious memories. I am not sure when this sauce first made an appearance or how Andrew came up with it. No doubt a culmination of his own cooking adventures around Asia. Now that it is here though, it is staying!

"Bottled Asia"
created by Andrew  

2 cloves of Garlic
Solid knob of fresh ginger
3 large red chilli's (scrape out the seeds if your a bit heat shy)
Large bunch of coriander
6 kaffir lime leaves
Fish sauce (4 parts)
Lime juice (2 parts)
Andrew usually makes this with the Bamix hand mixer and its spice grinder attachment, but you can make it just as easily by chopping up the individual ingredients and mixing them all together. So into the grinder goes the garlic, ginger, chilli's and lime leaves (stem removed), very roughly chopped (if at all!). Add the coriander stems and roots only - so much of the flavour in coriander lies in its roots. Top it off with fish sauce and half as much lime juice and give it a good zing in the hand mixer.

Once everything has been thoroughly diced and mixed, you should be left with a lovely looking red sauce with a good amount of chunkiness to it. Chop the coriander leaves roughly and stir it through the sauce to add a hit of freshness.   

The sauce is so versatile. Use it as a dipping sauce for BBQ’d seafood or chicken, Vietnamese rice paper rolls, Thai fish cakes... it even goes with pork chops. Spoon it on top of raw oysters or use it as a salad dressing for a green papaya or green mango salad. It gives an incredible kick to brunch time Bloody Marys too!

Asides ...
This morning we went and tried a new bakery that has popped up in Singapore, Dean Brettschneider's  "Baker and Cook", in Greenwood.

The baked goods are impressive and delicious. We tried the baguettes, which were perfectly crusty (although not as good as Andrew's!) ...

... and a pie that sported a tart cherry filling and flaky, buttery, melt in your mouth pastry.

I recommend dropping by and picking up take away goods. The atmosphere of dining in was too hectic and cramped.

This little boy might have had the right idea, take your baked goods to the curb for some piece and quiet ...

As for the apartment farming, it has been a quiet week. We are yet to see any little tomato babies pop up. Upon further reading we have discovered that if it is too hot the tomato plants may withhold their crop. I hope Singapore's current weather hasn't spoiled our chances of a first crop. Time will tell.

Aside from the heat the poor plants are also battling some new inhabitants. We found this colorful little bugger setting up house among the stalks this week, he was promptly evicted ...