Can cook, won't starve!

When we were growing up, my grandmother was hell bent on us kids learning how to cook. It's not just a 'take care of the family thing' no, according to grandma, if you can't cook, you might as well not live.

These bibiks, so bloody dramatic. Haha...

But then again, if she wasn't or my mum didn't bother, I'd be starving here. The funny thing about Dubai is that this place is so new, so modern, so bright and so shiny that they have no street food culture. While they do have all the food courts (and some that serve really good food) and of course, world class restaurants, there is no decent place that serves the food I grew up with. Wait. Let me rephrase...they probably do but they'd also charge an arm and a leg for something really simple to make. So what the hell does a girl do to satisfy some home food cravings?
From top left (clockwise): mee goreng, ayam pongteh (I am part Peranakan after all), the great SG cookout and carrot cake with my first crack at self-made frosting. It wasn't half bad! 
Well, apparently, if you want something. You really, really want something... you make it at yourself. The great thing about Dubai is that they have good raw ingredients. Sure, you have to make sure you don't pick some exhorbitant exported mushrooms but otherwise, the grocery stores are pretty decent. And they have really, really good meat. So making steaks, stews and casseroles are not a problem.

The slight problem comes when you are looking for condiments. There is almost no fermented soya beans (tao cheo), hardly any hey bee (dried prawns) and sambal (ground chili paste) is totally foreign unless you make it yourself. I was over the moon when my fellow Singaporean took me to a Japanese supermarket that had soba sauce, fresh miso and that superb Japanese mayonnaise. Mmmmm...

The great Japanese experiment (from top left, clockwise): miso soup, cold soba noodles and pan fried miso tuna steak. Heaven!
Sure, there are some Singaporean delis or Thai supermarkets out here but you have to hunt them down, which can be a real pain the the ass. So I cheat and either get people to buy some of my condiments OR I make them. Making stuff like sambal or paste for your food is really easy. You just need some time to look for the ingredients and be willing to peel, prep and chop for half a day. Ok, I exaggerate. You need about 2 hours. Heh.

Thus far, I've only made the paste for the chili crab which we made for what we termed, the Great Singapore Cookout. If anything, Dubai can be pretty funny. On the day we deceided to make chili crab, the supermarkets that we went to, all three of them, happened to run out of fresh red chilis *facepalm* so freaking annoying! Lesson learned... you can use fresh chili padi as a substitute but you have to make sure that you remove all the seeds before hand. Oh and have lots of tomato sauce on stand by.
Chili crab...all you need, is the right chilis
Next time, I'm going to be a good bibik and grind up a whole pot of chili paste, or whatever paste and keep it in the fridge, for kicks. Just so that I have the right paste when I need it for my dishes.  Growing up in such a food-crazy household has certainly made its mark on me :) There is always substitution but then again, when you have the right paste or ingredients on-hand, cooking is so much easier.

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Ever prodded a sleeping dragon, only to have it whip up and bite you in the ass? Well, neither have I. But I advocate that you should try everything...once ;P
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