3 March 2014

Smoke me a Kipper

The kipper does not exist on the Island. I spent several futile and frustrating hours yesterday seeking it out. I trolled the food-stores of Tanglin, the gourmet fisheries of Orchard and several expatriate type supermarkets on the upper east coat of Singapore and all to no avail.

Not a kipper was to be found.

I have not ever partaken of kipper and I am now somewhat obsessed by it.

I get that way sometimes.

It is disturbing.

The subject of kippers came up a couple of days ago in the office whilst I was conversing with the English with whom I work. Whilst several of my British colleagues are dicks and fuckers I am fortunate to sit amongst some very nice ones. English that is. Dare I say it they are good blokes.

We yack a lot.

A couple of days ago we were talking about breakfasts. I don’t know why. A very larrikinish and big bloke who I have written about before mentioned in passing that he liked black pudding with his egg white omelets for breakfast on the odd occasion - and a debate then ensued about the merits of eating blood. Black pudding is a very nasty sausage made of congealed blood and possibly minced up offal – all held together in a pig’s intestine.

It is an abomination.

The very demure Scottish lass who sits next to me defended the black pudding but added that she prefers smoked salmon with her eggs in the morning. Although she is a Scot she is quite the lady.

I quite like smoked salmon myself.

Other English in the immediate work area chipped in and there was soon quite a lively and pleasant discussion about the merits of muesli, whether milk should be heated with cereal, whether bacon should be soggy or crispy - and other such nonsense.

During proceedings I asked the collective English whether they enjoyed Kippers. There was a bit of a reflective pause and there seemed to be some consensus that kippers were in fact a good fare for breakfast. It was suggested to me though that it was sort of an old fashioned food that wasn’t eaten much anymore.

It was nanna stuff.

I have never before eaten a kipper but I am quite adventurous in my eating and I would like to try some. I told the English such. I very much like the word kipper too and I enjoy both saying it and writing it. I am uttering it as I type this and I shall write it again.


I quite like words that rhyme with kipper as well. Nipper, Flipper, Slipper, Dipper. They are all pleasant on the tongue and I am sure if I could be bothered I could write a little rhyming ditty – but I could not.

Be bothered.

I informed the English with whom I work that I also liked Pippa – who is of course the sister of the Kate who married Prince William and who is the mother of the Royal baby George. Pippa was made notorious during the wedding of the parents of the Royal Baby due to her tight fitting frock and her glorious ass.

She stole the show.

The English with whom I work also know that despite me being Australian and by default an anti monarchist – to my own shock and horror I am an enormous fan of the Royal baby. I am besotted. This is because I arrived in London on a work visit on the day that the Royal baby was born. I was emotionally swept up in the media coverage and found myself riveted by subsequent speculation of the naming and other such matters. I even wandered down to Buckingham Palace for all of the Royal announcements and I have collected some Royal baby memorabilia. I love it.

I really do.

A kipper is a smoked fish. It is a smoked herring in fact. The English like to eat it for their breakfast and I was regaled by tales from a number of my colleagues as how best to cook it. There seemed to be general consensus that it is best prepared by boiling the shit out of it until it is soggy and then serving it with toast and egg. The enormous larrikin dude suggested that boiling it in milk was best and as is often the case with this individual I was unsure whether he was taking the piss or not. I was therefore compelled to Google it. In this instance he was correct. Simmering the kipper gently in milk seems popular back in the mother country. 

It is the way to go.

When I enquired what the kipper tasted like I got the smart-arse reply of fish – which I should have really expected - but the classy Scottish lass with whom I work suggested that it had rather a strong flavour. She asked me whether I liked anchovies and I told her that I did. I told her this because I do.

Like anchovies.

One of the more intelligent English suggested that kippers were quite often now sold in ready-to-boil bags and could well be available in supermarkets frequented by expatriates on the island. Hence began my hunt – a frustrating one at that.

There was not a kipper to be found.

I started my search on the Internet – I let my fingers do the walking. There was no direct reference to the Kipper on any web pages I found but a number of the English suggested stores that might stock them. With hindsight this effort was always going to fail. Asking Singaporean sales staff on the telephone whether they stocked kippers elicited long periods of silence in response and in a couple of instances hanging-ups. I realized early on in the piece my search was going to have to be in person.

So off I went.

I spent hours and hours tramping through expatriate and local shops seeking the elusive kipper. Such was my desperation that I even asked a couple of local store managers whether they had any in stock. I received long and blank Singaporean stares in most instances although my heart did flutter a bit at one point when a bespectacled manager of the food section of a shopping mall gave me what I interpreted to be a positive look and I waited patiently for ten minutes in the frozen food section for him to return.

He arrived back just as I was about to give up and semi triumphantly handed me a leg of New Zealand lamb.

“Kipper?” he asked tentatively.

“It’s a fucking leg of lamb” I spat back in contempt.

“It’s not even bloody fish” I added bitterly.

My mood was getting dark at this point.

“Cannot then” he barked back at me and we swapped cold stares at each other for what felt like an eternity

The big larrikin dude with whom I work suggested that he might have seen boil-in-the-bag kippers once at the Swiss Butcher and I stupidly fronted up there and asked the surly French owner how his kipper supply was.

Yes the French run the Swiss butcher in Singapore and I saw definite malice in the man’s eyes as he reached for his meat cleaver in response to my query. I silently chastised myself as I beat a hasty retreat. How could I even entertain the thought that such a shop would stock the kipper? How could I heed the word of a renowned trickster who once removed all the socks and underwear from the luggage of a fellow colleague who had foolishly bought his bag to work before a long weekend away?

I am getting soft.

I gave up my kipper search at that point and as it turns out I found out today that the parents of one of the English with whom I work are coming to the Island next week and I asked him whether they would mind bringing me some kippers

The boil-in-the-bag type.

He rang his mum for me on the spot and asked her and she said that she didn’t mind at all. He told me that she sounded rather pleased to do so in fact.

I will have them in a couple of days.

I will simmer them gently with milk and eat them with a softly poached egg and some toast.

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