Saturday, July 11, 2009
Post-Singapore: Coho Fishing Tackle, Fly fishing and Blu Jazz Mee Goreng
Well, tomorrow afternoon we will be in Colombo, Sri Lanka. While in Singapore, I managed to do only a few things that I wanted to do over the single night I used to go ashore. My first evening was spent calling home on my SIM card cell phone: Talked to Margaret and then my mom. There was nothing but good news, so all is good on the home front. The hens are still happily laying eggs (The eggs taste best when you feed the hens Swiss chard!!!), and little Wanda Cat has been throwing down some serious feline-fu, terrorizing the other neighborhood kittens. I wonder if my playing paw-slap with her might have turned into a bad thing. Fern pretty much is still lazing about the house, sleeping on her favorite chair in the living room. Mom is in the middle of cataract eye surgery, which has been going very well.
My second evening was spent changing money at the Harborfront Center Mall and hopping a cab over to the Arab Street neighborhood to visit two of my favorite places in Singapore. Both are on Bali Lane, an alley and a street to the west of Arab Street. The first is Coho Fishing Tackle; Singapore’s only fly fishing shop. The second is Blu Jazz, located next door and my favorite place for Mee Goreng, a spicy noodle and seafood dish.
Let me explain my relationship to Mee Goreng. Back in the 80’s, I shared a house with a friend, Mark Borgers. There were around five of us in the house, and we all shared rotating cooking duties. One day, I made a big skillet of fried rice, which Mark called Nasi Goreng. Since I had never heard of such a thing, he explained that his mother used to make her own version of fried rice; however, he and his parents had spent a number of years living in Indonesia. Put simply, Nasi Goreng is the Malay version of fried rice.
It wasn’t until my first container ship job in 2003 that I finally sailed to Singapore on the APL Thailand. On my first day there, I naively walked from the docks to what was turned out to be across the city. By the time I arrived at Orchard Towers (Infamously known as the “Four Floors of Whores.” If anyone wants me to go “on assignment” then you better let me know soon. I have only two more opportunities to investigate this legend amongst the sailors, before I get off this ship. ), my hips, knees, and feet were in severe pain. It must have been around 5:00 or 6:00 PM when I left the Maritime House (one of several local nation-based seafarer’s support facilities) and around 9:00 PM when I arrived at the far-end of town. By then, all the energy I had was for getting something to eat and to head back to the ship (No, I wasn’t planning on soliciting. I was curious to see which of my shipmates I would see there. Besides, I was there too early to see anything interesting, and the scene was rather dull though noisy: I spend too much time around noisy machines to do noisy on my time off.). I ended up heading down stairs to the food court and discovered a place that served the noodle version of Nasi Goreng. Sadly, the flavors were muddied and the greasy spiciness super-charged the carbonation of the beer I had with the meal. I ended up feeling bloated, like someone shot me with a CO2 dart. As I climbed up the stairs up to the street level, belches were steaming past my teeth and cheeks with every step. Mlehh!
It might have been on a subsequent trip on the Thailand, or a few years later on the APL Korea, that I discovered Coho Fishing Tackle. To make a long story short, it took a little sleuthing with a phone book to find it. I’m always curious to see what kind of fishing tackle the rest of the world uses. Anyway, I ended up making friends with the owner of the shop, Michael Booey. Needless to say, I was very pleased that I found a tackle shop with a strong fly fishing emphasis.
By then, I had been to the shop a number of times, and, this time around, I brought my fly tying gear and made up some flies to give to Michael. So we’re hanging out and talking fish. Michael somehow gets a pitcher of beer brought to the shop from the restaurant next door. We’re drinking beer and talking shop. At some point, I tell him that I have to eat. He then tells me that the owner of the restaurant next door is a friend of his and that he’ll have a waiter come by to take my order. Like, what the fuck? So I tell him that I have a thing for rice and noodle dishes--it’s my Asian side speaking for my stomach. I propose a plate of Mee Goreng. This time around, it’s so unbelievably good! I mean, it’s this plate of dry-fried egg noodles (no soupy gravy), shrimp and squid, all in a bitchin’ spicy tamarind crusty-glaze. I think I might have whimpered when I finished the plate, because it was gone just before I reached total and complete heat and spice-induced euphoria. Bummer! And that is my only complaint about Blu Jazz, the place next door: For my appetite, I could use a 50% larger serving to meet my dining needs. When traveling as a foody, you often times eat for effect.
To say the least, a Singapore visit to Blu Jazz and their Mee Goreng is worth the effort. This time around, I had to have this dish again. On my previous visit, I had their Nasi Goreng, which was also very good; however, I strongly recommend the Mee Goreng. There’s something about the way they stir-fry the egg noodles that comes out with only a touch of sweetness, a slight savory bitterness from the tamarind, and the right amount of heat, to make the flavors all stand out in sharp relief--and it never disappoints. If I recall rightly, Michael Booey once told me the chefs were trained in Paris. Well, after eating at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, I have to say French and French-trained chefs kick-ass when cooking non-French--they really know how to bring together flavors without letting the flavors get lost in muddiness. Personally, I have no idea what a French-trained chef is doing working with a menu that also serves fish and chips. Still, if you want a taste of regional cooking done tight, you need to visit Blu Jazz.
Another thing about Blu Jazz: They also host live music in the evenings, after 9:30, on the second and third floors. Though I failed to drop in for that and cannot attest to the quality of the band(s), I would hope that the music matches the quality of the food.
So I suspect some of you are wondering why I didn’t catch the music. Well, it’s because I am enslaved to this blog and am subject to the bandwidth of the local Internet cafes. I must have spent at three hours editing out the stupid ship email-induced line breaks and uploading the few pictures I last posted. If you read this before I clean up the text, via the Internet nodes at the Flying Angel Club (another church-based seafarer’s support organization) in Colombo, then you might appreciate the work I’m doing to make your blog experience that much more pleasant.
It had to have been around 10:00 before I realized the time and squared things up so I could head back to the ship. By the time I made it through the port’s gate and security, I had missed a bus and was looking at a half-hour wait. Instead of waiting and wasting an extra 45 minutes to an hour, I hoofed it and arrived at the ship a little before 11:30 PM.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Offshore of Sri Lanka
The ship is offshore of Sri Lanka. Lucky me that I saved a minutes top-off card from the last time I was here. That allowed me a short call to Margaret. Nothing like a little phone bliss with the one you love. As soon as I finish lunch, this will get posted via email. Once I get ashore, I’ll head to the Flying Angel seafarer’s club to pick up where I left off in Singapore, with the uploading of pictures. I really hope I won’t find myself spending all my time there with blog duties. Colombo is a colorful place, and it would be nice to see more than just the inside of the club.
Ahh, crap! I just realized that I missed the latest email transmission time. You see, the ship transmits, via satellite link, email messages three times a day, at 0130, 0730, and 1830 hours GMT. Actually, the transmission starts 15 minutes prior to the times listed. These times are more a guideline for when to expect incoming email. If I miss the send time, as you can see, it will be either six, eleven, or seven hours before the next opportunity. Since there is no way I’ll be able to make the 0730 time, I might as well wait until I go ashore to post. All these little stinking details about life at sea…