I was very surprised and excited to hear that my book, The Ghost Bride, has been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Debut and Best Fantasy. I happened to be in Singapore for the Singapore Writers Festival, and heard the news just as I was about to head off in search of something to eat.
“What?!” I said. The Carnegie Medal is one of Britain’s oldest and most prestigious children’s book awards, the UK equivalent to the Newbery Medal. The Goodreads Readers’ Choice Awards are an amazing reader endorsement. I took a look at the other titles on these lists. Wonderful books written by talented and famous authors. Wow! I don’t know what happened to the universe, but to be named alongside them is really quite unbelievable to me.
To recover from the shock, I rushed out to eat a plate of nasi lemak, which is rice cooked in coconut milk and accompanied by things like hard boiled eggs, roasted peanuts, and spicy sambal. The classic accompaniment is chicken curry, but it’s terrific with fried chicken. Fried local chicken is a smaller bird than what you see in America, and is far more tasty, with delicate little wings and drumsticks to nibble on. In fact, the local KFC is a good stop if you’re in Malaysia or Singapore and want to do some “scientific comparisons”.
Singapore is not the kind of place you should visit if you are on a diet. There is too much good food – every shopping center is judged by its anchor restaurants and food eateries. While I was there, I had about 4-6 mini-meals a day. Things like curry laksa, prawn mee, sup kambing, all washed down with copious amounts of ice Milo and fresh coconut water. Feelings of guilt were averted by carefully avoiding a weighing scale.
The Best Crab in the World
Singapore is also the place to eat one of the best crustaceans in the world – the mangrove crab. This muddy delicacy is found in the warm waters of SE Asia, but the finest and largest specimens come from Sri Lanka. I went with my sister and her family to eat both steamed and chili crabs at Long Beach Restaurant. She explained that although the rest of the food was “ok”, the real draw was the quality of crabs, thanks to their crab buyer (or whatever arrangement they have with sourcing). And she was right, as the crabs we ate that night were bursting with meat, obviously just taken before their shells molted.
I always like to eat at least one crab plain steamed. This is the best way to judge quality, as the restaurant can’t substitute dead or dying crabs for this dish. We also had chili crab, which is delicious eaten with deep fried man tou (steamed buns) to sop up the sauce. Unfortunately chili crab is not very photogenic, as it resembles an orange goopy mess, but it disappeared so fast that all that was left was the spicy, sweet sauce which we shoveled into takeout boxes for a midnight snack on French baguettes
I’d like to go on and tell you about breakfasts comprised of soft boiled eggs with soy sauce and white pepper, and lots of kaya toast pressed together over thin slabs of butter, but I should also be honest and admit that all this indulging came at a price. Even a few days there caused my clothes to mysteriously shrink and my wallet to empty out. Singapore, alas, is not a cheap city, but well worth visiting if you can control yourself…
In the meantime, I am so thrilled and deeply grateful to be nominated for these book awards. I never imagined that something like this could happen (the Carnegie Medal nomination is for the UK Young Adult version of my book). The Goodreads Choice Awards are chosen by readers, so please stop by and vote – there are so many wonderful books!
Update: Thank you so much everyone for helping put The Ghost Bride in the top 5 spot for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fantasy of 2013!! I was so tickled and absolutely delighted! And all hail winner Neil Gaiman, one of my favourite authors! It was an honour to be on the same list 🙂