It was a beautiful rainy morning. I woke up really early with plans to meet a dear friend but it was cancelled at the last minute. Still, early mornings for me were unusual and I thought to make the most of it by heading off to have some traditional Singaporean breakfast. I chanced upon this small and cosy coffee place, brimming with locals – mostly families or the elderly. Sitting on wooden stools, huddled over butter kaya (coconut jam) toasts, golden runny eggs and mugs of steaming coffee. The cling and clang of porcelain cups on small white saucers, the whoosh of tea ‘sock’ dispensers and the laughter between the customers and the shop attendants made me feel at home. Comfortable and settled.
The shop attendants, all Chinese ladies, spoke in dialect, broken English and even Malay with the customers. They belonged to the older generation, wrinkled, a bit hunched but with hard work ethics. Repeatedly wiping any spills on the counter and quickly clearing the tables once a customer leaves. No need for managers to breathe down their necks.
I admire these ladies and even more so appreciate them. Waking up so early each day and providing simple, tasty breakfasts for us – all with such an endearing attitude. They greet their customers like old friends would, breaking into a lopsided smile ever so often, all while squinting their eyes as they punch in orders at the cash machine. Occasionally, they rest, take a seat, kneading their sore knees, only to spring to action when they see a customer approaching.
Many of these ladies must have survived the Japanese war or at least been through the hard years when Singapore first started nation building. Then food was scarce and hard to come by. I remember my grandmother used to tell me that they survived on mainly sweet potatoes. She will tell me stories of the past whenever she cooks her favourite sweet potato soup for me. Lovingly and simply cooked with fragrant pandan leaves, candied ginger and dried longan meat. It was a wonderful afternoon snack, delicious cold or hot. Now, whenever I smell the faint aroma of pandan or the earthy fragrance of sweet potatoes, I am reminded of my childhood, sitting in her breezy kitchen and listening to my grandma as she stirs her big green pot of soup.
My grandma can no longer cook now. She is 94 years old and now has someone to cook for her instead. This sweet potato smoothie is really a tribute to that memory.
The sweet potatoes here work very much like frozen bananas in a lot of my smoothie recipes, with the aim of thickening the smoothie. Compared to bananas, they are less sweet but much more fragrant. I steam my sweet potatoes in batches, cut them into small cubes and then freeze them in ice-cube trays. If you have an oven, you can choose to roast your sweet potatoes.
The combination of sweet potatoes, ginger and cinnamon is so calming and good for digestion and adding oatmeal and heart-healthy seeds makes it a truly heart-warming and filling breakfast.
I think my grandma will approve.
Recipe: Grandma’s Sweet Potato Smoothie
For the Smoothie Base:
- 250 grams cooked sweet potato, frozen ( about 1 medium sized sweet potato )
- 1 cup oat milk
- 1/4 teaspoon of grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- Instant Oats
- Goji Berries
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Blend smoothie ingredients till well-combined
- Top with desired toppings and sprinkle with more cinnamon.
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