The Jewish population of Singapore — 2,500 — is at an all-time high. Sure, that’s only a tiny fraction of the Bay Area Jewish population, but I was still surprised by the number, as I hadn’t known a lot about Jewish immigration patterns in the area.
It’s thought that the first Jews were Sephardic, arriving in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1841, a synagogue was built and influenced the naming of “Synagogue Street,” which still exists today, although the synagogue is no longer there. In a funny little twist, the new synagogue was built on Church Street in the late 1800s.
As the Jewish population grew, there was some tension between the Sephardic and Ashkenazi members of the congregation. Each had strong feelings about how services should roll. I like to close my eyes and imagine those board meeting discussions and be glad that I wasn’t the executive director or rabbi in those times. The debates must have been epic.
By 1931 the Jewish population had climbed to about 800, and a mere decade later reached 1,500. Enter World War II and POW camps, and then an exodus to Israel, Australia, the U.K. and the USA. By the 1960s, the population didn’t even break 200. Now Singapore is popping and the Jewish community is, too.
Singapore Noodles with Tofu and Crispy Shallots
12 oz. fresh Chinese egg noodles
3 Tbs. corn oil, divided
8 oz. extra-firm tofu, packed without liquid, cut in squares
½ cup carrot, sliced in thin circles
½ cup red bell pepper, cut in thin, 1-inch strips
2 cups string beans, trimmed, cut in 2-inch pieces
¼ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp cardamom
2 baby bok choy, stems trimmed, cut in quarters
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. teriyaki sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. lime juice
1 cup shredded lettuce
Crispy shallots for garnish
Cook noodles in salted boiling water until very al dente (1 minute less than package directions), drain and run under cold water to stop cooking process. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 Tbs. of the oil and fry tofu 3-5 minutes until light golden brown on all sides. Add carrots, red pepper and string beans. Sauté 3 minutes. Add spices, sauté 1 more minute. Set aside.
Wipe out pan. Add remaining 1 Tbs. oil to pan. Add drained noodles and spread out evenly in plan. Let noodles crisp in oil on one side, about 90 seconds. Add bok choy. Toss and add soy sauce, teriyaki and rice vinegar. Cook 2 minutes. Toss with the vegetables, lime juice and scallions. Serve and garnish with shredded lettuce and crispy fried shallots.
Crispy Fried Shallots: Peel and cut 1/3 cup shallots into thin slices. Heat ½ cup vegetable oil in a pan. Fry shallots over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, and adjust heat to low if browning too quickly. Remove with slotted spoon and drain thoroughly on paper towel.