Just over 20 years ago, my family and I were living in Bangkok. Dad was posted there by his company and boy! We loved it there. The amazing food, the lovely people, the crawling traffic… Ok maybe not so much the crawling traffic. What I loved most was schooling there.
Kor and I attended an international school while in Bangkok and I enjoyed the ability for us to be creative, think out of the box, and grow into our own. Every break time i.e. recess, we would play Catch, or Jacks, or Duck Duck Goose. It was there as well where I learned to swear, play poker and uhm… understand the concept of virginity. We were naughty, cheeky little kids, but it was also here that I began to grasp what it took to be a friend.
Last weekend, after 20 too-long years, I was reunited with one of my friends from Bangkok – Stevie. I never imagined that we would ever reconnect face to face simply because I knew that she’d settled down in America and even if she did come to Southeast Asia, I didn’t think she’d come look me up. She did!
And so, in honour of her popping over to Singapore while on her holiday to visit her family in Bangkok, I baked up a batch of Pandan Poppyseed Spelt Flour Blondies specially for her and her sweet hubby, Allen.
It’s a recipe that uses my original Spelt Flour Blondies recipe actually, just with some substitutions. Nevertheless, I’ll be sharing this little number after I wax lyrical about our weekend with Stevie. Mind you, I was terrible at all the photo-taking so most of these photos are credited to Stevie and Allen.
We got off to a slightly iffy start Saturday evening when I’d suggested to meet at Raffles Place Station’s 7-11. Unfortunately, Raffles Place is a huge station with multiple 7-11s. Needless to say, Stevie and Allen were at a different kiosk from the one I had in mind and had to pass by a couple before they finally got to the one I was waiting at. Thankfully, things picked up very very quickly from then on.
For some reason, even after so many years apart, most of which we were hardly in close contact, we managed to start talking, and pretty much never stopped the rest of the night. Flo and I first took them up to his office lounge where they had a beautiful bird’s eye view of all of Marina Bay. Then, we HAD to take them for dinner at Din Tai Fung which never EVER fails to please any of our visiting friends. They loved the Xiao Long Baos so much they actually went back themselves for lunch on Monday!
We then had a quick drink at Kinki‘s before we called it a night.
Sunday afternoon, we met at Gardens by the Bay and visited Cloud Forest. Even though I live here, I’ve never been to any of the domes, choosing instead to be a stingy poker and stroll around the surrounding gardens for free.
I was quite blown away by how beautiful they’d made the Cloud Forest to be. It was all the more exciting being able to share the first-time experience of it all with Flo, Stevie and Allen. The minute we stepped in, we were greeted by the roar of the manmade waterfall.
And as we walked, we saw gorgeous flowers and plants that are more accustomed to growing in cooler climates.
After walking around the ground level, we took a lift up to the top where a ramp slowly spirals its way down once more leading us towards the exit.
Allen’s wide-lens camera ftw! Managed to get a wefie of us all just by the waterfall!
Oh and right at the top, they had this pond as well surrounded by these amazing plants and wooden sculptures.
We also spotted this uber cute little tree.
Not sure if it counts as a bonsai since it doesn’t have the typical bonsai characteristics but it is a tree and it is rather miniature so… Yeah can you tell? My knowledge of plants are limited to rose, sunflower, flower, flower, flower, violet, tulip, flower, flower, flower, palm tree, tree, tree, tree, palm tree. That being said, I still admire and appreciate the beauty of flora even if I’m hardly an expert on them.
Oh these ones I know! ORCHIDS!
Which, by the way, is our National flower. Or to be more exact, the Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ Orchid is our National flower.
After exploring the dome, we showed Stevie and Allen through to Marina Bay Sands before we headed for some dinner. I was quite adamant that they try one of our National dishes – Chilli Crab!!
They loved it! Together with the man tou (steamed, pillowy, Chinese buns as well as their fried counterpart) which made for a very good implement in mopping up that luscious gravy.
We also had some veggies and fried rice alongside. All of which were nicely executed. We went to Red House at Clarke Quay instead of our usual Jumbo and to be honest, Flo and I both concede that Red House might actually be better than Jumbo in terms of how reasonable they are with their portions, as well as the quality of food!
Bellies full, we took a short walk to CHIJMES just because it’s so pretty and I really wanted to show them this refurbished convent that now houses lots of high end restaurants and bars.
One drink each, more chit chat and laughter, and we reluctantly parted ways.
As Flo highlighted to me last night, I’ve fallen in love with The Hudsons. I concur. Stevie and Allen are such a beautiful couple and they are real in the sense that what you see is what you get. Stevie is so much like she was when were 9, 10 years old. Full of spunk, opinionated, feisty, but with a heart of gold. Allen is her perfect complement and it fills me with such joy that all four of us got on so well together. In a strange way, I just know that we will keep in close touch. We’re already planning to meet up somewhere around the world in 2018 for a holiday together, and who knows? Maybe it’ll become an annual thing!
It’s so strange sometimes, how life works. Even as I sit here typing this out, looking through the photos we took, it all feels so surreal. It’s amazing how we found each other a few years ago on Facebook, and initially, we didn’t really communicate much until Stevie and I both realised we had a mutual love for food – she cooks (and cooks awesomely might I add!) and I bake. And when she contacted me asking whether she and Allen should visit Singapore or Vietnam, it was hands down Singapore from me!!
And so, from half the world away, Stevie and Allen came… and went again. 😦 I miss them already and really wish that the US wasn’t so far away. But I guess that only means that we’ll have to treasure our friendship even more!
From the West, to the East, back West again. Similarly, these Blondies while very popular in the West, have Asian flavours that I decided to use in them to create a fusion blondie. I used Pandan, which is also thought of as the Asian ‘vanilla’ for its fragrant, aromatic small and taste, as well as Poppyseeds for the little bursts of ‘pop pop’-iness in each bite.
Brown Butter Pandan Poppyseed Spelt Flour Blondies (Yields 1 8×8″ Square)
285g Brown Sugar
1 tsp Pandan Extract
1 tsp Pandan Paste
175g Spelt Flour
150g Plain Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
- Preheat oven to 175deg C and line an 8×8″ baking tin.
- Melt butter and let it brown. It will get foamy and you’ll hear it crackle and sizzle but once the sizzle stops, remove the butter from heat and allow to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, sugar pandan paste and pandan extract until ribbon stage – this is when the mixture because light in colour, thick and voluminous.
- Whisk eggs mixture together with the brown butter to blend.
- Fold in dry ingredients in two additions until just incorporated.
- Fold in poppyseed.
- Bake for 18-20min. Allow to cool before slicing.
If you’ve ever had Kaya before – a kind of coconut jam that’s spread on light, crispy toast together with a hearty slab of butter and is especially popular here in Singapore, these blondies are reminiscent of them. I like that these Pandan Poppyseed Blondies taste of familiarity and love, very much like my renewed friendship with Stevie. We have both grown up over the years and while we may not be exactly the same as we were when we were young, the essence of who we are remains.