From Singapore with Love

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hazel Seah grew up in Singapore, the bustling commerce center of Asia's southernmost tip with parents whose love and nurturing carried her through young, formative years with their philosophy of "a family that eats together, stays together." In reflection, she says, "Good food was always on the table, food that nourished our souls, lifted our spirits, carried us through exams, in sickness and in health.  We used every excuse to celebrate, to come together and have a meal.  Food was the central vein to our family togetherness."

Hazel didn't realize how much home-cooked food was a meaningful part of her life until years later, after traveling in various places and living in obscure parts of Israel and the UK where fresh markets and wholesome meals were not always accessible.  She began to crave the taste of her country's cuisine, and most of all the food she had enjoyed as a child.  Thankfully, her parents came to her rescue and soon care packages with Asian herbs and spices arrived, along with letters and hand-written recipes of her favorite dishes.  This began her cooking journey, and now she has come home to the city where her childhood memories of food and family go hand in hand.

These days, you can find Hazel in the kitchen of her suburban home or in the beautiful garden where she grows some of her food.  She enjoys moments spent with her parents whenever time permits, and says, "Some of my favorite pastimes include learning how to bake a loaf of artisan bread from my dad, who at 70, shows no sign of slowing down in the kitchen.  His thirst and quest for perfection in all the dishes he creates is a constant inspiration to me.  Mom and I share a different kind of kitchen bond.  We gossip and catch up on all things under the sun while she teaches me how to braise a Teochew style duck, how to nail that Oxtail Stew or how my grandmother's cucumber pickle is the best condiment ever to her traditional pork knuckle braise."  

And she carries on the tradition of her parent's mantra by coming together with those she loves, sitting around a hearty dining table to share food and celebrate life.

"Learning to cook Mama's dishes is nothing short of an intriguing journey and an exercise in patience."


Though an accomplished cook now, Hazel says it wasn't so long ago that she "struggled through burnt spice pastes, overcooked roast and under-cooked pork chops."

In the kitchen with her father, the man who so inspires her with his cooking and enthusiasm for life. His hands, though strong and manly, have a gift for creating beauty in the kitchen, whether kneading bread or creating delicate tofu pouches.

Early morning market shopping with her mother from vendors she has been patronizing since a child.

The making of vanilla and Meyer lemon scones.

Roasted banana, cinnamon and chocolate cake - a combination of lovely flavors to carry Hazel through early mornings (she gets up at 4 AM), along with a cup of strong, black coffee.

The perfect thing for a Friday: pink grapefruit and thyme cake with a sugary glaze paired with a cup of fragrant rose tea.

Tsubushi-an Brioche  Buns stuffed with a bean paste and sprinkled with sesame seeds - a favorite in all local bakeries around Singapore.

There are some days that just require chocolate chip cookies, right?

General Tso's Chicken, Taiwanese style.

"Savory oatmeal cooked in chicken stock and with buttery hickory smoked Gouda folded through, topped with onions, mushrooms and radishes roasted till sweet and caramelized with some lemon thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper."  

"This is one of the many scrumptious home-style Chinese dishes I crave - dishes that bring back comforting memories of after school dinners, the warmth of home, my mother's love. Learning to cook Mamma's dishes is nothing short of an intriguing journey and an exercise in patience. Her recipes, like many other accomplished Asian cooks are just the merest guidelines...seasoned with a big pinch of intuition."

Spicy Chicken Madras, even better the second day.

Pandan leaves, pearl and Chinese barley, apricot kernels, dried honey figs, gingko nuts, dried longans, snow fungus and Asian pear - her mother's potion for a sore throat.  (Recipe below)


Pandan Barley, Snow Fungus & Asian Pear

Recipe for Pandan Barley, SnowFungus & Asian Pear Dessert

2 x Bunches of Pandan, washed & knotted
1/2 cup Pearl Barley, rinsed
1/2 cup China Barley, rinsed
8 Dried Honey Figs
1/4 cup Dried Longans
1/4 cup Apricot Kernels
1/4 cup Gingko Nuts
1 x Palm Sized Snow Fungus 
1 x Asian Pear, skinned and cubed
Rock Sugar to Taste

Split gingko nuts in half to remove the bitter center. Soak the snow fungus in a bowl of water briefly till rehydrated. Trim the hard bits away and give it a good wash to clean. Cut the snow fungus into smaller bite size pieces and set aside.

To a large heavy bottom pot, filled with 4.5 litres of water, add pandan leaves, pearl barley, china barley and dried honey figs. Bring to boil and on medium heat, keep simmering for about 30-45mins or until the barley grains have softened.

Add dried longans, apricot kernels and gingko nuts, continue to boil for a further 15-20mins, add white fungus and asian snow pear, boil for another 15-20mins, add rock sugar to taste. Remove from heat.

This sweet dessert soup can be enjoyed warm or chilled in the fridge for a refreshing treat. 

Note: You can continue to simmer the soup further until the snow fungus is soft and gelatinous but I prefer it crunchy with some bite to it.

Thai Basil Pesto

Thai Basil Pesto

3 cups of Thai Basil Leaves
40 gm Roasted Peanuts
3 Garlic Cloves
2 tsp Red Chili Flakes
2 tsp Coconut Sugar

Juice of a medium Lime
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
20 ml Dark Sesame Oil
20 ml Peanut Oil

Adjust seasoning and heat of the chilies to taste.

Whizz all the above ingredients in a food processor and blend until a smooth paste is achieved. Store in an airtight glass container covered with a little more peanut oil. 

Keep refrigerated until required. Delicious served with bbq meats, pasta, rice noodles, roasted vegetables, salads and soups.

Maple, Cinnamon & Cardamom Granola
Maple Cinnamon & Cardamom Granola

100 gm Rolled Oats
100 gm Barley Oats
80 gm Rye Oats
100 gm Almonds
100 gm Pistachios
100 gm Walnuts
50 gm Pumpkin Seeds
50 gm Sunflower Seeds
50 gm Chia Seeds

1/2 cup Pure Maple Syrup
2 tbsp Neutral Veg Oil
1 tsp Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground Cardamom
1 tsp Sea Salt

100 gm Dried Blueberries
100 gm Dried Cranberries
100 gm Dried Golden Raisins

Into a large mixing bowl, add oats, nuts and seeds and give it a good mix.

Into a small jug, add maple syrup, oil, vanilla, ground spices and salt. Using a spatula, give it a good mix until combined. Pour the sweetened mix into the oats, nuts and seeds and give it a good stir until evenly coated.

Evenly spread the mix onto a lined baking tray and stick it into a cold oven. Crank the heat to 150 degrees C and bake the granola for 30-35 minutes until fragrant and golden, stirring every ten minutes until done.

Let the granola mix cool down completely before adding the dried fruits. Transfer to airtight mason jars for storage.

All photos courtesy of Hazel Seah and used with permission. You can follow Hazel on Instagram:  @beurrenoisette_


  1. Dearest Naomi,

    It's always such a beautiful start to my weekend, catching up on your blog. What a wonderful post, your words and these pictures are sending my taste buds into overdrive - I think I need to go and hit the kitchen! We really MUST find a publisher for your book!

    I'm having an Instagram break this month and I meant to pop over to your feed to leave you a note, but time got away and I know if I go back on, I'll get hooked! But I'll continue to drop by the blog and if you so wish, you can always email me at - have a wonderful weekend!

    With much love,

    Esther xx

    1. Esther, thanks so much for giving me your email. I will definitely stay in touch with you that way. I will miss you while you're taking the break from Instagram but I completely understand. Much love to you.

  2. I absolutely adore Hazel and so glad you chose to write about her. She is an inspiration and so are you. So much love for family, warms my heart.
    Great work my dear.

    1. Thank you, Asha. It's so good to hear from you. I appreciate your comments. Yes, Hazel is wonderful. I haven't known her all that long but I completely love her value for family and her heritage. Much love to you. Would love to feature you sometime. Let me know how you would feel about it.