Who are we?
Born in 1975 in Ramat Gan, Karni is a guide, food researcher and owner of Wok’n’Stroll food tours in Singapore. She set up her business shortly after arriving in Southeast Asia following her passion and curiosity for the local cuisine. “As a child, I sat on the counter in my Grandmother’s kitchen, I watched her cook and I absorbed everything,” says Karni, who today hosts in various Asian kitchens as well as in her home kitchen.
Born in 1975 in Kiryat Tivon, Uri is an engineer by profession and works in Fintech. Uri shares Karni’s passion for culinary adventures and he is even bolder: for example, a jellyfish salad in sesame oil – a popular wedding dish in Singapore – is one of his favorites (“Between us, it’s better to meet a jellyfish on the plate than at sea,” Karni laughs). Uri was also the first one who tried the grilled snake on a family trip to Cambodia, before Karni and the children joined him.
Born in 2002 in Ramat Gan. Several months ago, Yotam returned to Israel and joined the Tavor preparatory school in the Galilee prior to his enlistment in the IDF. His parents say that to overcome his longing for the smells and tastes of Singapore, on which he was raised and educated, he already plans to hold a ‘Buns’- steamed Asian yeast rolls- cooking workshop for his new friends in the country.
Born in 2005 in Ramat Gan, Libby is a 10th grade student at ‘Overseas Family School’ International School in Singapore. Libby was only 4½ years old when she moved to Singapore with her parents, so it is no wonder that she loves noodles, in all shapes and forms – in soup or with a sauce.
Born in 2011 in Singapore, Shay-li is a 4th grade student at the International School. She is not afraid of hot chilis nor of smelly fish. However, her parents say that every day she eats at least 2 bowls of finely chopped Israeli vegetable salad seasoned with plenty of olive oil, lemon and salt – just as she likes.
Where was the photo taken?
The Tomer family arrived in Singapore in 2010, and has since moved several homes. “Every time we went looking for a new place, the first thing we checked was where the kitchen was situated and how close it was to the dining area,” says Karni.
In one of their previous apartments, the kitchen overlooked the sea. “It was really special to prepare the Shabbat dinner at sunset, even though we didn’t have an air conditioner in the kitchen, and I wouldn’t stop sweating from the heat – but I’m not complaining, yes?”.
During Covid, the family kitchen became a television studio from which Karni and the children broadcasted cooking programs on social media. “After so many years in Singapore, I even make chraimeh in a wok,” says Karni.
Our family kitchen
“Our house always smells of chargrilled eggplant,” laughs Karni. “It was the same in my grandparents’ house. It’s how we miss and remember all those dear to us. Since we moved to Singapore, we try to cook Israeli food at home: on Sundays we make shakshuka for breakfast and every Saturday I bake bourekas. The children know that the only thing I won’t allow is to be absent from Shabbat dinner. ”
However, the preparation of Israeli dishes sometimes calls for raw ingredients that are often quite a challenge to find in the Far East, even in a multicultural place like Singapore. “In the kosher store you can find tahini and pickles from Israel and things like chewing gum, for example, which are prohibited here by law – my mother-in-law sends from Israel by post and we secretly chew at home.”
kiftikas de prasa: leek fritters
These leek fritters, which Karni’s grandmother brought with her to Israel from Thessaloniki, Greece, are prepared at the Tomer household every Passover. ” Before the holiday there was always a box full of leeks waiting by the entrance to Grandmother Rachel’s house in Ramat Gan”, Karni recalls. “It was an entire ceremony: on Passover eve, after she thoroughly cleaned the leeks, Grandma would head to Shalom, the neighbor, so that he would grind them for her in his elaborate meat grinder.” Today, Karni and her mother “fake” it a bit and chop the leeks in a food processor without the help of Shalom the neighbor and his elaborate grinder.
In Singapore, you can find 2 types of leeks – plump and beautiful Japanese leeks, and thin and delicate-tasting Malaysian leeks- Karni recommends the Japanese variety.
Even today, and according to the Tomer family tradition, despite the fact the kiftikas are intended to be eaten only on the festive Seder meal, by that time hardly even a crumb is left.
Ingredients (Serves 6):
5 Leeks, white part only
Water, as needed
6 Tbs matzah flour
Ground black pepper
Oil, for frying
Lemon juice and yogurt, for serving
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Halve the leeks lengthwise, rinse and clean well between the folds.
- Cook in the boiling water for about 30 minutes, until softened.
- Drain the leeks and cool. Chop or grind in a food processor.
- Transfer to a bowl. Add the eggs and matzah flour. Season with salt and black pepper and mix well to a uniform and moist (but not wet) mixture.
- Heat oil in a frying pan.
- Spoon the mixture into the pan to make fritters and fry until golden, on both sides.
- Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and serve with lemon juice and yogurt.
During the rest of the year, substitute the matzah meal with bread crumbs.
(Edited by Ofer Vardi, family photo by Francis Lee)