Singapore awaits

Seventeen days.

Seventeen days until I leave for Singapore – departure: 29th July.

I was recently accepted into the National University of Singapore on a year-long exchange, and I can’t wait to go. It’s an odd place I’m in right now, preparing to depart, getting affairs in order, saying goodbye. There are so many opportunities in Singapore, it seems like this is my shot, my chance to meet people from all over the world in the intellectual capital of South East Asia. For a whole year, I have the opportunity to do something awesome – I can’t wait to jump into the Singapore startup scene and see what happens.

Yet, the more I think about it, the more I realize I still have to do! It’s going to be a crazy few weeks.

For any of my family or friends reading this, I was lucky enough to get on-campus housing and so will stay in the imaginatively named “Residential College 4” for my first semester – second semester as of yet unknown. Past the pictures of the room and the cheesy promotional video, I really have no idea what to expect in terms of roommates (all 5 of them!), culture, or anything else. I’ll find out soon enough, I’m sure.

I’ve done my share of research about Singapore but I’ve heard all sorts of things from various people: a fellow dishwasher who is… shall we say ‘fond’ of sex, drugs, and rock and roll said it was too ‘regimented’, another told me it was just “Bloody hot, mate”. I expect that – like in Kuala Lumpur – I’ll be pleasantly surprised with my own judgments, but as an outsider, Singapore seems like the only real choice for exchange – even if you have to travel a few hours to ‘party hard’. It’s got excellent standards of living, diverse population, very smart people, and fantastic food. Or maybe I’m just overthinking it. I hope I can find some likeminded Singaporeans who want to start a business or get involved in something like that; I’ve been told by previous exchange students that the locals just keep their heads down and study (that said, their grades have a much higher weighting for them!).

I discussed this recently with a friend on whether or not she should stay in a room with locals or other exchange students: think of the people you’re going to be with. If you’re with other exchange students, that means you’ll be with people who want to be there, who have got out of their chair and put their hand up – there’s every chance you’ll make good friends with Markus from Germany, Tony from America, Piotr from Poland, or Sakura from Japan (excuse the stereotyped names). These are going to be people who want to explore the region, try the food, do ‘stupid things’ the locals might not have time for. What’s more, after exchange you’ll have friends all over the world, which is no small benefit. If you stay with locals, on the other hand, only one in ten might be adventurous or bond well with you. It’s a tricky decision, but I think by keeping in mind that you want to specifically meet locals, it will happen regardless of where you stay. The kind of person you become friends with is much more important than where they’re from.

It’s 3:23 am now and I should sleep before my midday dishwashing shift – the last one ever. I can’t wait to get it just over and done with. Hopefully it won’t be so long between posts again.

Seventeen days…

Porcini mushrooms – the King Bolete

A few days ago, I – literally – stumbled across some Porcini: Boletus edulis, cep, the King Bolete. Highly prized across the culinary world ($100/kg is not unreasonable!), the Porcini originates from Italy and the south of France, where it’s foraged for in the mountains. I was, therefore, understandably ecstatic about my finds. Before these, the only mushrooms I’d been game enough to even try cooking were some I thought to be regular field mushrooms. They turned out to be the hospital-disinfectant A. xanthodermus – I’m just glad it hasn’t put me off wild mushrooms for good.

One of the porcini nestled amongst some oak leaves

One of the porcini nestled amongst some oak leaves

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Satay Celup

Satay Celup at Capitol Satay in Melakka is a coveted meal, even by Malaysian standards. Satay Celup (pronounced che-lup) is one of the many hotpot-style, cook-it-yourself experiences very popular in that part of the world. From Korean barbecue to Japanese Sukiyaki (hotpot) to traditional Chinese steamboat, we ate this way more times in a month than I have in probably my whole life in Australia.

I suppose there’s something appealing about seeing the fresh, raw ingredients in front of you and being in complete control of your food. At least, that’s what it seemed like. Personally, I’d rather have the chef cook it the way he wants us to eat it – whether it’s smothered in ghee or glazed in a special sauce or seared for just the right amount of time. Anyway, you might as well just buy the ingredients yourself and do it at home, right?

Seriously - "what the hell is on this thing?"

Bristling with sticks of mystery meat

I think I’m about to eat my words, or at least my thoughts: Satay Celup is the best cook-it-yourself experience I’ve had yet, and it’s utterly impossible to imitate in your own home. Continue reading