a quiet perfect restaurant


The Perennial Plate episode 175 is The Bite House, a private kitchen-restaurant in Cape Breton owned by chef Bryan Picard. What caught my eye was the intro post:

Many restaurant cooks have had the thought: I just want to cook for a dozen people, four nights a week, making the food I love and then take off during the winter. That is the dream.

Because that is a dream. Ever since the first time someone at work took me to a private kitchen, something like 20 years ago, that’s a dream. I’m glad Chef Bryan is able to achieve his dream. His dad makes the bread, his girlfriend and other friends serve. On his days off he forages and enjoys the outdoor life.

Arguably it’s easier at Cape Breton. He can forage in the forest and at the beach. His house is big enough to be converted to hospitality space. Living standards are probably reasonable there. Still, there’s something captivating about the chef, the food, the place. Two minute short video.

Looks like the type of place one has to immerse oneself in, not just a few hours’ visit for dinner. As Chef Bryan describes it:

if you listen…[birdsong]…there’s not much.

future foods from ikea

SPACE 10 is Ikea’s not-so-secret secret food innovation lab, established to research and test modern sustainable food. Recently they posted about the type of food they envision the world will be eating in the future.


First up, a dogless hotdog. The filling is a whole glazed carrot, and it’s served with a beetroot & berry ketchup, mustard & tumeric cream, and herb salad. The bun is made from spirulina, a truly future food, a:

micro-algae that contains more beta carotene than carrots, more chlorophyll than wheatgrass, and 50 times more iron than spinach


Once there are hotdogs, there must be burgers. Theirs is called the bug burger. The burger is made from beetroot, parsnip, potato and mealworm and is served with beetroot & blackcurrent ketchup, relish, and a hydroponic salad mix. Two words stood out for me–mealworm and hydroponic–both in a positive way. I’ve known for a long time that in 100, 200, 500 years we will not be eating chicken or beef as we know it now, and the future of humankind depends on a combination of: a) manufactured aka lab-grown meat; and b) insects. I don’t have a problem with this, and will happily try them. In fact, I’ve been waiting for edible insect to be more readily available. I don’t think I’m at the stage of putting an entire large bug in my mouth, but mealworms or in a minced form, that’s fine.

I also love the hydroponic developments in the past few years. When I’m back in London, I’m going to research grow up urban farm that has a huge hydroponic facility in Beckton, and cleverly also raises tilapia using the plant water.


Moving on from hotdogs and burgers, it’s time for the iconic Ikea meatballs. In recent years, they’ve gone vegetarian and vegan. The lab has come up with their latest version, the neatball. There are two kinds, one made with mealworms and the other with root vegetables. I wish they are available for sale and not just test kitchen products.


They suggest serving neatballs with mash, gravy and lingonberry sauce, of course. But for a balanced diet, replace the potatoes with salad made from microgreens grown hydroponically. Some of the greens they have been growing include red veined sorrel, tarragon, pea sprouts, pink stem radish, borage, red frill mustard and lemon balm. Intriguing.


The microgreens are also used to make ice cream. They use a small amount of sugar and add sweetness via apple juice and apples.

Food of the future isn’t scary at all.

beer, doughnut, book, wine

Lately it feels like food & drink has become like one of those What’s your street name meme where you take the name of the street you grew up in and pair it with the colour of your socks. In the case of food & drink, it’s so random:

  • alcohol with snacks: champagne and hershey kisses, tequila and ramen, vodka and sour patch kids
  • beer with chinese food: IPA and orange chicken, stout and spring rolls (Americans: they’re NOT egg rolls, there is no egg), winter pale ale with kung po chicken
  • wine and pizza: syrah and pepperoni, riesling and hawaiian, pinot noir with cheese
  • beer and dessert: hefeweizen and key lime pie, double IPA and cr&$232;me brûlée, porter and chocolate strawberries
  • alcohol with cake: pedro ximenez with coffee cake, rosé champagne with red velvet cake, gin with ginger layer cake


And now, there’s beer and doughnuts. Chefs and masterchef contestants are increasingly making all sorts of weird and wonderful doughnuts. Although I can’t really see beer and doughnuts, I guess why not. They pair fruity framboise with chocolate glazed, sour beer with jam-filled, guinness with boston cream.

My choice is limited because I only like plain doughnuts and even those are too sweet and too stodgy for me. On the chart, cider goes with old fashioned and stout goes with cinnamon sugar, the two doughnuts that most appeal to me.


But wait, there’s more. Pairing alcohol with favourite book. It’s a superficial pairing, like Middle Earth cask ale and Lord of the Rings, as if an intern did some googling and came up with it. There’s a brewery in the Midlands called Middle Earth. Other pairings suggest a little more knowledge of the books, like mint julep and The Great Gatsby, smoking bishop (Victorian-era mulled wine) with The Christmas Carol, and wine, any wine with 1984.

food: nutritious food, notable food, plating

Three food-related articles I saw recently.

From the BBC, the 100 most nutritious food in the world, based on the impossible ideal of a food that:

contains all the nutrients necessary to meet, but not exceed, our daily nutrient demands

or in other words, the perfect optimum food. There is no such food, but scientists took 1000 raw food and assigned each one a nutritional score. The usual suspects of healthy food that I’m quite pleased to see I eat often. From #100 to #91:

  • sweet potato–a staple at home, I roast, bake, boil, make oven chips, and mash with regular potatoes
  • figs–just bought a whole box of fresh figs from the fruit market
  • ginger–use in vegetables and stews
  • pumpkin–great substitute or compliment with potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes
  • burdock root–I don’t cook with it often enough, but I’ve had it before mainly in japan
  • brussels spouts–roast them till almost charred, fantastic
  • broccoli–mum just bought a bag of broccolini from m&s
  • cauiliflower–another one for roasting or making cauli couscous
  • water chestnuts–easy enough to get, I don’t use it often enough
  • cantaloupe melons–mm is allergic to melons, but canteloupes are the least allergic

The list continues with all the good stuff. Not surprised that there are tons of fruit and veg. Seafood gradually make a appearance, with octopus at #89 and pink salmon at #77. I’m scrolling down the list and there are very few foods I won’t eat, like leeks (#71), grapefruit (#67), coriander (#36). And there are favourites: rocket comes in at #64, kale at #31, clams at #28.

Top 10 in descending order:

  • snapper
  • beet greens–no wonder we save the greens
  • pork fat–this is the only non-seafood meat item on the list, and a total surprise
  • swiss chard
  • pumpkin seeds
  • chia seeds
  • flat fish–this includes sole, flounder and one of my absolute favourite fish, turbot
  • ocean perch
  • cherimoya
  • almonds


I had to google cherimoya. TIL that it’s native to central america. I’ve had it before, we call it ‘westerners’ lychee’ and it’s also known by a more common name, custard apple. The ones I’ve tasted had soft, almost creamy flesh although it looks like some varieties may be juicier and more crunchy. Next time I go to the market, I’ll look out for it.

As for #1, almonds, sigh. I’m not a huge fan of nuts and almonds aren’t on the list of nuts I like. May be I’ll try to find alternatives.

From the guardian, the observer food monthly top 50 food related thing, place or people for 2018. An interesting list, because they split into categories of people, places, food & drink, and food writing.

In the people category, they have really diverse talents, ranging from butcher Charlotte Harbottle, to Burmese supper club chefs the Rangoon Sisters, to chef-humanitarian José Andrés.

In the places category, there’s cheese toast at the Cheesy Tiger in Margate; non-alcoholic restaurant The Brink in Liverpool where all proceeds go to charity and is intended as a safe place for people who suffer from alcohol, drug or other addiction; and, well, the new Noma because why not dream big.

In the food & drink category there’s oxtail canelones from Rambla for the princely sum of £5 (must try! must try!); the best £10 bottle of wine which is a 2015 Chinon from the Co-op (there goes my hidden secret, I was hoping to keep people from knowing all about chinons); and a new appreciation of…butter.

Smaller selection on food writing and the ones that caught my eye are Ruby Tandoh’s new book, and people starting to use Tiny Letters as a alternative to blogging and social media. I have a TL account, but I haven’t figured out how to use it. May be a monthly digest of the most interesting post? Since I only have a handful of readers on this website, I wonder how many will sign up for an emailed newsletter?

Finally something fun, from coolhunting.

Here’s NYC chef Chuck George collaborating with videographyer Jimmy Pham and photographer Henry Hargreaves to take the contents of a packet of MRE and plate up fine dining style. Probably look better than the dishes taste. My emergency MRE may be expiring soon so I may play around with it when i get a new pack.

coastal foraging

This is a great video I discovered via bb. Craig Evans from forages along the beaches in Pembrokeshire and he has a whole youtube channel of him finding the freshest seafood then cooking it there and then.

He looks under large rocks and in pools, moving from spot to spot so as not to take from just one spot. He puts back anything that is too small and only grabs what he needs, which is really ethical and sustainable.


What he got that day: edible crabs, velvet swimming crabs, bearded rocklings, winkles and whelks. Cooked simply in water, may be seawater? The water was then flavoured with seaweed he called dulse plus garlic and powdered lobster shells he probably made himself then used to make couscous. A great idea and so easy for outdoor cooking.

In this day and age, living purely on foraging isn’t possible unless in rural or almost uninhabited areas. It seems to be a nice hobby providing not too many people do it, and they all respect the need not to deplete the ecosystem.

picky eater quiz


Spotted this on social media recently. One point for each food I don’t eat.

Certain 2 points for me: eggplant (aka aubergine) and grapefruit. I dislike the taste, smell and for aubergine the texture too.

Another one point made up of half a point for onion and half a point for coffee. I’ll cook with onion, provided it ends up in a form that is incorporated into the dish. So as mirepoix whenever it’s needed. I’m okay with onion soup too, because it’s cooked down. If it’s raw, or barely cooked that I can see it, I’ll pick it out. And for this purpose, I include spring onion and leek. As for coffee, I rarely drink it and if I do it’s with mm and either iced or it’ll have to be a bean that is quite mild. I don’t hate coffee, I simply have no affinity with it.

So, total 3 points.

Everything else on the list, I’m perfectly fine with. Even controversial food like snail, oyster, liver. There are some foods on there that I absolutely love, like avocado, strawberry, tea. Such a large proportion of the list is fruit and veg, i hope most people don’t pick up points for those.

p.s. I’m giggling at how this was probably typed on Word, with the autocorrect formatting on nutella and the wrong spelling of brussels sprouts.



Ben McPartland, from the local in Paris recently tried to buy cheese for a fondue. Being in France, he went to his local fromagerie (so lucky!) and asked for a combination of Comté, Beaufort and Appenzel. Here’s what happened when he tried to get Beaufort:

Monsieur: “No it’s too good for a fondue. It’s so tasty. It would pain me (faire mal au coeur) to see it melted.”

Me: “Ha ha, OK that sounds amazing. I’ll have 400 grams please.”

Monsieur: “No, no. It would be a waste. This is a 2015 Beaufort. And at €39 a kilo. It’s too expensive for a fondue.”

Me: “Ah that’s OK I don’t mind paying.”

Monsieur: “No, No. I’ll give you some Abondance. It’s a similar cheese and cheaper.”

Me: Errrr. OK, but can I have some Beaufort too.”

Monsieur: “Are you going to put it in the fondue?

Me: “Errrrrr (I can’t lie), oui.”

Monsieur eventually relented but not before making his customer promise that the Beaufort won’t be grated or melted. The fun part is this saga got twitter’s attention and most of the responses were on the side of Monsieur Fromage.

Even France’s Ambassador to Sweden got involved:

The commenters on mefi, where I spotted this initially, had more diverse opinions. The ones supporting the fromager:

I agree with the cheese monger, if you go to speciality shops part of the experience is getting to lean on their expertise.

I’m on team cheesemonger here, in that truly good cheese is a magical thing and doesn’t deserve to be wasted in fondues.

The cheesemonger indicated that he would rather sell that particular cheese to someone with less money but more appreciation.

and the ones who are more on the “the customer is always right” train:

If I know how I like something because I like it that way, then anyone who tells me I am wrong is not, in fact, correct. They are wrong and stupid.

I don’t have a lot of patience for gatekeeping. I do like that he took the time to explain why though. But honestly if I want to scrub my floors with champagne or feed foie gras to a spoiled cat then I’m going to do so, and there will always be someone else willing to take my money.

The customer is always right, even when they are dead wrong. Be sure to smile and nod when you take their money. You are there to relieve them of their excess cash, not to educate them.

And more quotes, one from an American living in France that sums up the cultural difference:

Being a customer in France means you are asking someone to help you, and so you have to deal with them as a person, not a service robot…This cheesemaker is a perfectly normal Frenchman who thinks that being respected in his work is more important to him than making more money or always having to be “nice”.

French food has been seen in recent years as snobbish and over-complicated. But for every unfashionable roast saddle of rabbit wedged between crisp layers of rösti potatoes and a thin disc of Parmesan there is the delightfully simple fougasse that you buy at a street market and tear off a scrumptious piece as you walk around.


One of the differences between food shopping in a place like France and countries like the US, is that there are specialist shops that sell cheese, meat, bread, wine where most people usually buy their food. Supermarkets exist in France, but are for mass produced goods like tissues and bottled water. Provenance and quality matter a lot. Even McPartland, the Beaufort criminal, admits that he respects the fromager and reiterates that the French are generally more knowledgeable and passionate about their craft. I can understand his frustration though, and may be irritated if I were in his shoes, although I’d like to think I have better sense than to put a €39/kg Beaufort into a fondue. I did some reading and Beaufort is probably the most difficult of the Gruyère-style cheeses to produce, and the 24-month and 36-month ages are especially rare. I’d grudgingly do as the fromager says, make a solemn promise and then go home to try that 2015 Beaufort to see what the fuss is all about.

Of course people can do whatever they want with their food and other purchases, but some common sense should prevail, n’est-ce pas? Other examples that cropped up in various discussions of this #fonduegate: well-done steak, cheese with seafood pasta, mixing a 21-year old whisky with coke, using $100 notes to light a cigar, entering a rare antique car into a demolition derby, buying a Stradivarus to smash it to pieces. Yikes. Shiver. I’ll stop here before my head explodes.

food in appalachia


Another great article from longreads.com’s Best of 2017, this one in the food writing category. From The Nation, Can Local Food Help Appalachia Build a Post-Coal Future? by Sarah Jones.

The longreads lists are chosen by writers and editors and this one was chosen by Vice writer Mayukh Sen who says:

[Ms. Jones’] voice is clear, engaging, and tempered with compassion…It’s a marvelous piece and a reminder that some of the most exciting, relevant food writing will live outside food publications unless they step up their game.

The subject of the article itself, Appalachia, isn’t familiar to me. In fact, I had to turn to wikipedia to find out what, or rather, where, it is. I have vague recollections of Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern going there and killing, butchering, then eating an entire pig. The most memorable bit was how they poured boiling water on the skin to get rid of hairs. No holds barred there. There were headcheese and tail and the obligatory offal. The whole idea is they hunt their own food and nothing goes to waste. A certain amount is due to necessity, and the region’s stereotype of being inhabited by white trash.

Ask the average outsider what Appalachians eat, and they may deliver a similar answer: trash. McNuggets, maybe, or lots of bacon and gravy. Heart-attack food. People choose the stories that they want to believe, and the myth of the dumb, fat hillbilly is an old and popular one.

But that’s only half the picture.

The region is huge, with diverse weather and landscapes, so the variety of food produced is also huge. Where the land is flat, more typical mass-produced food is found. In the less arable mountain areas, reliance on beans, grains, foraged greens increase. Pigs are easy to raise so pork is the primary meat. Key factors are adaptability and ingenuity. Of course poverty comes into the equation too, with coal being the major industry. As coal-mining declines, jobs that become available are mostly in the fast food and retail service sector; in some places, fast food is all you can eat. These jobs have long hours and are low paying, the effect is that people have less time to grow or cook their own food. And so they start to rely on fast food.

And the circle continues. Until people decide enough is enough.

There are modern efforts to improve the health of Appalachians, with many fresh initiatives such as the farmacy project that gives participants vouchers to use at farmers’ markets; converting abandoned mines into farms or vineyards; establishing a thriving food scene to attract visitors.

Food is the story of the people who invented it, and for Appalachia, it’s a definitive rebuttal to tired stereotypes.

And that to me is a good thing. I really liked reading the article because of how well it was written. For some reason I decided to read the first part out loud, and it was surprisingly easy. Sometimes when reading out loud, the words trip over each other and they don’t flow. These words did.

home is a cup of tea


I’ve been looking at longreads.com’s best of 2017 selection, and this one is from the 25 most popular exclusives: a beautifully written and illustrated personal essay about tea and the search for home by sketch artist and writer Candace Rose Rardon. Longreads gives us useful information about the article and this one is 2,882 words and they estimate will take 10mins to read.

Take longer. Savour every chapter. Appreciate every drawing. Recall the taste of each tea that she describes.

This is how it starts:


And already I’m sucked into the mood the writer created. And then:


Which triggers so hard. Because as I look around me, is it the home I envisioned? The answer is no. A ‘no’ laced with so much despair. Regret. Disappointment. Anger. Never did I forsee the circumstances I find myself in. Never was I prepared for my current living conditions. Both sis and mm (I met them today for drinks) said I need to do something about not being shut inside my room that is so full of stuff because I had to cram two rooms’ worth of stuff into one that I can’t breathe.

Back to the story, which tells of the writer’s journey through her life and always, there is tea. Her early life is associated with the English Breakfast that of her mother, and then she moved around the world to new adventures. And there’s always tea. Tea in the UK, tea culture in New Zealand that is even stronger, chai in India, a young friend in Canada bonding over tea, herbal teas, camomile. And finding her home in the form of her now husband, because home can be a person. A place. A passage of time.


I used to say home is where my furniture is; now I’m more likely to say home is where my electronics are. But really, it doesn’t matter. I’ve lost my sense of home, because everything seems to be fading. People, places, memories, experiences, are all behind a mist that is harder and harder to retrieve. Oh, I know where some of them are stored–32,000 images on flickr, 4,800 posts here on the website–I’ve meticulously organised them so searching is easy. But if I’ve forgotten there is something to search, then it’ll never be remembered, right?

Anyway, don’t wallow with me. Make a cup of tea and spend 10, 15, 20 minutes reading Ms Rardon’s article instead.


Went to the supermarket to get turkey. Definitely dwindling supplies, most of the ones available are 17-18 pounds. Ovens are small here, so it’s not a surprise that the smaller ones go first. After digging around, I unearthed one that is 14 pounds. Local$360 or £35, not cheap but half the price of the cooked version. Next to it in the freezer cabinet, sausagemeat for stuffing which I passed on. Looked anaemic and expensive too. I did splash out on streaky bacon. None of the fake ham-like bacon normally available. For the purpose of roasting turkey, American bacon will be better than British back bacon but I’m glad I got Waitrose brand.


Talking about bacon, here’s a nice article about full breakfasts in the UK and Ireland, which talks about how different breakfasts reflect their regional origins. All delicious. In England there is fried bread in addition to the full English, nomnomnom. Haggis in Scotland. Potato farls, soda bread, black and/or white pudding in Ireland. In Wales there’ll be the laverbread (not lava bread in the image).

In addition to the laver/lava bread confusion, there’s another HUGE mistake in the image. There’s a bottle of “tomato sauce” in the centre when everyone knows it should be BROWN sauce. Did a non-British person draw this?

#fourfoods of the apocalypse

There was a game a few years ago that asked, what food will you choose to eat after the apocalypse. The rules:

the world has ended…somehow you have a magic refrigerator. This brilliant genius of an appliance holds a constant supply of salt, pepper, oil, flour and sugar — and four other foods.


Assume there are cooking and storage facilities; and no need to worry about pesky things like nutrition and vitamins. The food has to be core ingredients, so no meatlover’s pizza or chicken curry with rice or beef wellington. And these are all the food you will eat for the rest of your existence.

The authors of the article asked their colleagues and on twitter and came up with a good selection, some are quite specific like sharp white cheddar:

  • whole chicken, spinach, bacon, vanilla ice cream
  • dark chocolate, avocados, eggs, tomatoes
  • eggs, apples, butternut squash, hot sauce
  • heirloom tomatoes, sharp white cheddar, pork belly, eggs
  • steak, black beans, avocado, bourbon
  • coconut, papaya, eggs, rum

They even asked professional chefs:

  • Curtis Stone: asparagus, avocado, eggs, goat cheese
  • Jessica Koslow of Sqirl: feta, brown rice, meyer lemons, kale
  • Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Café: tomatoes, garlic, eggs, pecorino cheese
  • Thomas Kelly of Mexicue Kitchen + Bar: chilies, eggs, rice, lemons
  • Zak Walters of Salt’s Cure: whole chicken, avocados, collard greens, Beaujolais wine


Sis says: rice, eggs, tomato, chocolate; my niece says: rice, eggs, cheese, chocolate; can’t quite remember what mm says but it’s something like: fish, eggs, beetroot, and one other, probably chocolate.

I’ve been thinking about this on and off. My choices:

  • eggs — it seems to be very popular with many people, because it’s so versatile and can be used for baking, cooking, frying. I’m going to cheat and say live chicken or duck, so I get meat, bones and eggs. Even at the cost of having to learn how to kill them. I mean, it’s the apocalypse, so I’ll have plenty of time. Personally I’ll go for duck because it’s tastier and I can get lots of duck fat, good with…
  • potatoes including sweet potatoes — this is supposed to be a good choice because if we had to survive on one single food forever, potato is one of the best. The leaves from the sweet potatoes will be my green veg element and takes the place of kale or savoy cabbage, which would have been my first choices for veg. I can use potatoes to make yeast and use it for bread and for fermentation. Imagine potato vodka, beer, and even wine because I’ll have…
  • grapes — not only wine, but I can make vinegar from it, that provides the essential acidic element for cooking. Many people choose lemons, but I think grapes have more potential. In addition to eating whole and making vinegar, they can be dried to get raisins, and frozen grapes are a delicious treat. Even though for some reason grape ice cream isn’t a thing, it is possibe in small batches, provided there is…
  • coconut — to make coconut milk which is supposed to be a great base for non-dairy ice cream. Originally I thought of picking milk for this spot, but most of what milk can do, coconut milk can do. With whole coconuts, there’s delicious coconut water, coconut milk, coconut oil, and the flesh can be used as food or dried for seasoning and crunch. With vinegar made from the grapes, I should be able to make some sort of cheese-like curd or yogurt with the coconut milk

So all in all, I’m fairly happy with my choices. If duck+eggs isn’t allowed, I’ll go for just the duck and sacrifice eggs. If duck+eggs is allowed and I get additional spots, I’ll add prawn, avocado or cheese: proper cheese and not the iffy stuff I’ll get from coconut milk, grape vinegar and whatever else I conjure up.

Some games allow for one luxury item and people may pick steak, chocolate, or some other indulgence. It’s a no-brainer for me: whisky.

food broken down to ingredients

via colossal, Danish photographer Mikkel Jul Hvilshøj arranged raw ingredients that make up a recipe in a photoshoot for a cookware producer. Have to think about some of them, it’s not immediately obvious.


This is breaded fish filet, I’m guessing. The fish is filetted then coated in breadcrumbs and pan-fried.


Carrot, onion, celeriac, oil, bones, tomato. I’m thinking soup or stock. More likely soup, because of the celeriac.


This I have no clue. Milk is the only ingredient I can safely identify, unless it’s cream. What are the dry ingredients? Sugar, salt, flour? And the dark powder is chocolate? The pyramid at the lower right looks like either butter or cheese. The circular blob top right, I give up. Honey? Argh.

there’s a new apple in town


This time of year means honeycrisp apples. Which I can’t get and is a sob-worthy moment. It’s really the only apple I like even though at a pinch I’ll have the readily available fuji. But never, ever red delicious. I’d rather have an orange.

NPR is reporting that in Washington state, apple farmers are ripping out existing fruit trees and replacing them with a new variety because of falling demand of the aforerejected red delicious. The new variety is called cosmic crisp which was developed over 20 years at Washington State University by Dr Bruce Barritt and when he retired, Dr Kate Evans (originally from Kent). 12 million cosmic crisp trees will be planted by 2020, all of them tracing their origins from ONE mother tree still standing in the university’s research orchard.

It will be grown exclusively in Washington state for ten years since farmers there partially funded the breeding program and are investing something like US$50,000 per acre, high stakes for a new product. The first harvest will be in 2019.

Considering the taste and durability of its parents–honeycrisp and enterprise, there is high hopes for cosmic crisp. Honeycrisp is successful because of its taste and crunch but the flavour doesn’t last and the variety is hard to grow. Enterprise’s best characteristic is that it can be stored for a long time and is resilient. In terms of taste, the NYT described cosmic crisp as

dramatically dark, richly flavored and explosively crisp and juicy

We’re in for interesting times with many new varieties of apples in development or hitting the market soon. SweeTango and Juici comes from Minnesota; a more complex and aromatic derivative of golden delicious called Opal from the Czech Republic; and Kanzi, a gala-braeburn cross from Belgium.

Because we get crappy apples, I don’t eat them. But with so many new varieties coming to market around the world, fingers crossed I get to try at least some.

london a-z food guide


BigBusLondon is putting a spin on their hop-off-hop-on London tours: the A-Z food guide. Tourists get a free map and can pick out where to enjoy unusual foods along the various routes. It starts like this:

  • alpaca at Archipelago near Oxford Street
  • bubblewrap waffle at Bubblewrap at Wardour Street
  • cronut at Dominique Ansel near Victoria
  • duck and waffle at, uh, Duck & Waffle at Heron Tower

There’s a medieval banquet near the Tower, roasted bone marrow at St John, and the naga viper chilli wings challenge–naga viper pepper is rated at 1.3 million on the scoville scale (scotch bonnet is 100,000-350,000). For the more difficult letters, they have jellied eel, xiao long bao and zebra, all of which I’ve tried and are good to eat.

Not a bad idea, even though it’s highly likely that the food places are sponsors. No different from all the free city maps we get at tourist information offices and hotels that have recommended restaurants that are thinly disguised ads. Ever notice why hard rock café appears so often on these free maps?

smoked water


I see contestants on masterchef smoking food to add flavour. Smoked parsnip purée, smoked vanilla ice cream, smoked fish. For better or worse, sis gave me a small bottle of liquid smoke that I’ve used in ribs and it smells great.

And now there is smoked water. Originally developed for Heston by a salt company in North Wales, 100ml of Halen Môn smoked water costs £4.10. In contrast, whisky costs less per 100ml.

The process of making this smoked water is similar to making whisky where

filtered tap water is circulated through loops that contain oak chips and oak dust and what comes out is an amber liquid with “the cleanest of aromas of burning wood.”

I guess it has its uses, but seems to me to be an overpriced product looking for a market.

the story of how baileys was invented


TIL Baileys was invented in 1973 by David Gluckman and Hugh Reade Seymour-Davies. Mr Gluckman told the story in the Irish Times recently.

They’d just gotten their business started in London and were asked by the Irish company of their client International Distillers & Vintners (now Diageo) to create a new drinks brand for export.

Hugh: “What would happen if we mixed Irish whiskey and cream?”
David: “Let’s try it.”

We bought a small bottle of Jamesons Irish Whiskey and a tub of single cream and hurried back. It was a lovely May morning. 1973. Underdogs Sunderland had just won the FA Cup. We mixed the two ingredients in our kitchen, tasted the result and it was certainly intriguing, but in reality bloody awful. Undaunted, we threw in some sugar and it got better, but it still missed something.

We went back to the store, searching the shelves for something else, found our salvation in Cadbury’s Powdered Drinking Chocolate and added it to our formula. Hugh and I were taken by surprise. It tasted really good. Not only this, but the cream seemed to have the effect of making the drink taste stronger, like full-strength spirit. It was extraordinary.

The name Baileys, in totally British fashion, was named after a bistro next to a pub near their office. Those days, Soho Square was where the ad agencies were. The husband of their secretary designed a label that included grazing cows and lush green pastures. They had a couple of focus groups taste the product and one thought it tasted like a medicine for diarrhea. They placed two bottles at a pub at Marylebone Road and there it sat for days until a couple of policemen came and drank the whole bottle.

They went to Dublin to pitch their product and were told by the sales director of the company: “It’s not for the Irish market. It’ll never sell here.” Despite this negativity, the product was launched in the UK and Ireland in 1975. But it took a while before it started gaining popularity.

And the rest is history. David Gluckman went on to write a book about his 40-year career creating brands for the drinks industry. Baileys is now the worlds best selling liqueur brand with 82 million bottles sold every year.

the theatre of food

This was the first semi-final of Bake-Off Crème de la Crème (ie the professionals). One of the tasks was to live plate a dessert in front of the judges. Not only must the dessert taste good, they were also marked on the theatrical element. A lot of prep, planning and teamwork went into creating this experience.


The idea of plating a dessert on the table originated at Alinea. Of course. I should have guessed either them or one of Heston’s. It was the last course of of a 20-course menu. With meals starting at US$175 and going up to US$385 for the kitchen table–per person, before wine and must be pre-paid like theatre tickets–diners expect a lot. And with Grant Achatz, I bet they do.

Someone on reddit was posting about showing a pic of this to their SO and complaining about how people are supposed to eat it. SO replied:

You’re supposed to eat this with your eyes.

Food? Art? Foodart? Art food? That’s bordering on very deep.

meat index


Interesting article about meat prices around the world, based on a a study by a UK b2b catering company. The study itself is a huge table that looks a lot like airinc goods & sevices tables.


The Eater graph shows the top and bottom 10 countries in the study in terms of meat prices compared with the average global price. Switzerland is way out front with meat prices almost 1.5 times that of the global average. The US comes in at only 17.94% and the UK actually below average at -3.06%. Meat in Switzerland and Norway is expensive because they are expensive countries. Meat in HK is expensive because everything is imported. Which is why I don’t buy minced beef–there is not that much difference per kg between minced beef and braising beef like cheeks and oxtail. I already know meat in the US and UK are not that expensive, especially if cooking at home.

It’s not very useful to simply compare prices. A more indicative index is affordability. The study also indicated how many minimum wage hours will be needed to buy 1kg of meat. In Switzerland, that comes to 3hrs. The US comes in at 2.67hrs, UK 1.42hrs and HK around 5hrs. The most expensive, in terms of number of hours needed, is India at 27.38hrs.

There are also other areas of consideration like regulations, trade tariffs and cultural differences. All in all, an interesting area.

climate change and the food of the future

It’s very, very hot. Climate change deniers may insist otherwise, but we are slowly and surely destroying our planet. I confess I’m also guilty of not doing as much as I can–I don’t sort my rubbish (we have no recycling collection separate from regular rubbish collection), I’ve been turning the air-con on a lot, I still eat meat.

That said, I take public transportation, I cook my own food from fresh ingredients, I try not to waste food and resources. I walk in the afternoon heat to the market before taking the shuttlebus home. It’s my reducing carbon footprint, getting exercise, and daily pokémongo activity. I’ve also been reading about how climate change affects food production and availability. Already, several food crops have been identified as being at risk:

  • coffee, chocolate, avocado — in 2016, Brazilian coffee farmers lost 90% of their crop due to drought and heat, many farmers in South American are turning to cacao. This drives cacao prices down and affects the livelihood of traditional cacao farmers in west Africa. Another knock-on effect is Californian farmers are now turning to coffee, which replaces their previous avocado crop. It’s simple economics. There’s a trend towards carob production, replacing cacao. The dessert of the future may be carob based
  • wine — as the world becomes warmer, vineyards will move closer to the poles. UK, Canada, China may be the wine producing countries of the future
  • honey and maple syrup — both very fickle products and at risk with changing climates
  • seafood — overfishing and pollution are two important factors in seafood production; as sea levels rise the type and location of seafood will change
  • sea vegetables — seaweed, kelp and sea vegetables may be the food of the future, they are hardly in difficult water conditions, absorbing nitrogen from waste
  • red meat — will become increasing rare and expensive, alternate protein meat sources will need to be found

Artist Allie West initiated a project to bring to life a possible dinner party of the future:

visualizes the possible future effects of climate change on our food system

All images below © Allie West, Heami Lee, C.C. Buckley, and Rebecca Bartoshesky.


The starter will be from the sea. Mussels and seaweed are both easy to grow and can survive in different conditions.


There will be no meat for main, because of rarity and price. Instead, it will be foraged vegetables such as burdock and mushrooms.


As mentioned above, carob will replace chocolate.

I don’t mind all these food. I love shellfish and can’t get enough of sea vegetables like samphire. I’ve had carob before, and although I’m not so keen, I’m okay with it taking a larger part of our diet in place of chocolate. But it’s not about me changing my palette to carob, or eating more oysters and mussels. Those are #firstworldproblems compared with actual suffering in regions that have been ravished by drought, or the refugees fleeing to Europe because They.Have.No.Food.

President Obama, writing about food and climate change says he will devote time to create a global network of activists to tackle climate change. But he also says he wants everyone to be involved–young people, families, people in developed nations and in developing nations. Make what we do on a daily basis matter:

It’s millions of decisions that are being made individually that end up having as much impact as anything

comfort food


We had a few errands to run–clinic, post office. While we were out we went to cracker barrel for late lunch / early dinner. It was around 3.30pm and the place was pretty busy.

Cracker Barrel serves comfort food. Big cooked breakfasts, american styled biscuits and gravy and grits. I used to have either the breakfast or angst over what to eat. Nowadays I have the fish. Their grilled rainbow trout is pretty tasty and comes with 3 sides. I got hash brown, broccoli and the new brussels sprouts & kale salad. Unlimited iced tea.

I even bonded with the server. I had pokemongo open and we chatted a bit. He saw a snorlax the other day but his phone died when he was trying to catch it. The pokemongo experience for me so far has been disappointing. More than disappointing. Common catches, no stops nearby and login issues. I’ve given up on daily stop bonus.

Talking about comfort food, there seems to be some hullabaloo about mince toast. To recap, eater visited a british restaurant and declared the mince on toast is a

quintessential British comfort classic

I can imagine what mince on toast will taste like but I’ve never eaten it nor have I ever come across it.

Eater later backtracked, calling it a quintessential British dish but it’s still wrong. There’s nothing quintessential about it. Again, not dissing it, because I can imagine it can taste good. It’s just wrong for people to randomly assign things to us in this day and age of #alternativefacts.

handmade coconut oil

So much time and effort went into stripping, grating, setting, straining, cooking one hundred coconuts to make coconut oil, all by hand at the village food factory in India. The reward, chicken drumstick grilled over open fire and basted with the coconut oil, looks absolutely scrumptious.

The hilarious thing is, the title of the video is instant coconut oil and there is nothing instant about it. I saw this via boingboing and the comment is:

Arumugam and a friend make quick work of 100 raw coconuts

Quick work. Am I missing something? Must be irony week and nobody told me.

gelato university


I saw an article about a gelato university in Italy, of course.

A little googling reveals that it’s a combined museum and school in Bologna, offering different courses in 4 languages:

to assist all those entrepreneurs throughout the world who want to open gelato shops, as well as those who are already working in the sector but seek to strive towards gelato excellence

Courses range from casual one day tasting at €100 to a fully immersive 4 week course that combines their basic, intermediate, advanced and internship courses for €4000. Students learn techniques, recipes, recipe design, flavour balance and the business aspects of running a gelato shop.

Sounds fun. €4000 is a lot, and here are also accommodation, airfares and daily expenses to consider too. In comparison, the 9-month pastry course at le cordon bleu in Paris is €22800. Guess it’s a matter of supply vs demand. There are people who want to open gelato shops and they may see the course as investment.

And talking about gelato and ice cream, here’s a sort of related but not really sandwich alignment chart that was on twitter:

I’ve had ice cream in a sandwich made with bread. I’ve had sandwiches made with waffles. So ice cream between waffles is definitely a sandwich. Anything between or wrapped in an edible container is a sandwich.

burgers off- and on-menu


Interesting long read about the rise of restaurant quality off-menu burgers in the US. How a gastropub that usually served small plates was saved from the brink of failure by objectively the best burger in New York that the chef initially put on the lunch menu and was hesitant about putting on the dinner menu.

There seems to be two totally unrelated factors going on here. First, many of these good and “famous” burgers are not common and garden fare. Daniel Boulud’s db burger, made with sirloin and has fillings like black truffle and foid gras, debuted in 2001 at $27. It’s now $35. There is an emphasis on quality ingredients and care in cooking, partly to justify the high price and partly because we’re talking restaurant chefs, not Mcdonalds.

Second, the off-menu aspect. For example, In-and-Out’s secret menu isn’t a huge secret. There’s probably some psychological high reached when people perceive they are getting a better deal than other customers. Or it’s an opportunity for oneupmanship, to show off, or in general be cooler, hipper, than one actually is.

There is cultural currency in speaking the language and knowing how to get the good stuff.

That said, it’s interesting to read about the burger eclipse effect. Like

if you build it, they will come

the rule is, if there is a burger on the menu, customers will order it. It’s predictable, it’s familiar, it’s satisfying. But it also means customers are not ordering food that the chef may consider more special, more worthy, more interesting.

One chef who has a great burger on the menu is April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig, who another chef described as the queen of burgers. It’s been almost a year, I can still taste it.

duck risotto


When we took my great aunt to lunch a few weeks ago for peking duck we came away with leftover duck meat and the carcass. They’ve been sitting in the freezer so i should use them.

I made stock with the carcass. Half the stock I used in congee, which seems to be traditional at least in my family; the other half I made risotto whch is less traditional–I think I’m the only one who makes risotto. Honestly, it’s not difficult.

Heat the stock and keep at a low simmer. Sauté garlic in olive oil, add risotto rice to toast for a little bit. Add the stock one ladle at a time, stirring until it has been absorbed. Total time was around 40mins until the rice was cooked. I added sun-dried tomatoes (soaked and diced) and fresh tomato because that’s what I had in the fridge; plus the duck meat. It’s good use of leftovers.

One thing I’ve notice about my cooking the past year, I’ve barely done any baking or made food I used to eat when I was living by myself. Whereas in the past I’d stick a tray of chicken thighs in the oven, cook a whole savoy cabbage and eat that 3 days in a row, that’s hardly what I can serve to mum. She’ll say she’s fine but I bet opening a whole packet of ham and calling it a meal is not something she would be happy doing. I’ve had to plan what I cook for lunch and dinner almost every day and try not to repeat two meals running. Mostly it’s pedestrian food. Fry or grill some protein (salmon, pork chop), add simple vegetables (greens from the market) and some form of carb (mash, rice). Try to make soup (pork+carrot+sweetcorn) every week. Everything is seasoned with s&p and italian seasoning. Perfectly edible but no spark.


I can’t remember when was the last time I flipped through a recipe book for inspiration. I don’t know where the creativity has gone. What happened to a whole weekend of cooking, or beetroot & sweet potato stack, or summer lasagne, or vegetarian savoury bread pudding, or roast belly pork, or delicious chocolate quinoa cake. Sigh.

What has worked is forward planning and cooking for multiple meals. Adam Liaw, masterchef australia s2 winner, wrote that the fundamental issue with modern day recipes assume it’s for one discrete meal:

Making a simple dish that’s over and done with in under an hour is all well and good, but it is also a very inefficient way to cook.

He gave examples: Japanese cooking relies on pickles and condiments made in advance; French cooking is full of sauces and stocks that cannot be made in the alloted 15-, 30- or 60-minute timeframe of a typical recipe.

Motherjones takes it further and tells us we’re using recipes wrong and the one-meal recipe is not a good use of time or money. We should be taking the long view:

Say on Sunday, you cooked a pot of beans, roasted a whole chicken (tip: butterfly it), and whipped up a simple vinaigrette as a salad dressing and marinade. Monday’s dinner could be a quick chicken-bean soup; Tuesday could be taco night; Wednesday, these elements could be incorporated along with some quick-sautéd vegetables into a pasta.

I’m fully on board with this. Planning and leftovers are such an important part of my daily cooking. Here’s to the duck that was first served as fancy Peking duck, its carcass made into stock and two different dishes came out of it for multiple meals.

Next up, 101 Cookbooks’ one tomato sauce, three lunches. All vegetarian too and I’m loving those tiffin boxes.

masterchef australia final sportsmanship

Masterchef Australia final tonight. Caught up with the semi-final beforehand so 4.5hrs of non-stop Masterchef Australia, wonderful.

Since the final has aired, it’s not a spoiler anymore. This is probably the best moment of all, and shows the type of people and show.

Their very last cook of the entire season. One minute to go. One contestant had a problem and needed help. The other contestant stopped what she was doing and went to help her fellow finalist.

If that isn’t the very definition of sportsmanship.

masterchef australia

The weather will turn bad next week, so we went to the market and got plenty of veg. We have meat in the freezer and lots of fruit so we’re sorted for at least a week.

The new tv channels are activated, so I was going through them, looking at what’s available. Wow, Masterchef Australia. One of the best Masterchefs in the world, with as much emphasis on learning as competition. Weekend catch up of 5 episodes. It’s now at ep 25, with around 10-12 contestants, so around a third of the way through. Between this and MKR, our evenings will be busy in a good way.

around the world in 80 dishes

Around The World in 80 Dishes – Teaser from Dave Wallace on Vimeo.

One of our favourite recent programs is Around the World in 80 Dishes with Manu Feildel from MKR. Based loosely on Around the World in 80 Days, Manu makes his way around the world in 30 days armed with AUD20,000. Along the way, he can work and trade for food, lodging and travel but can’t accept money or free travel.

He started in London and already he’s endeared himself to me by going to Foxlow for chicken and waffles. Foxlow is a sibling restaurant of my beloved Hawskmoor.

Some of his trades are a bit farfetched. Can’t believe he got luxurious hotel in exchange for cooking at At.mosphere inside the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Selling vegetarian burgers on a train from Mumbai to Kolkata couldn’t have been difficult: a white dude with a camera crew? He sold out in 15 mins.

This is a more relaxed and playful side of Manu we’re seeing, and it is always enjoyable to see a chef host a food & travel program who clearly loves what he is doing.

We love watching MKR and food programs as a family. Every time I see this new show, or the latest season of MKR, I can’t help but think how Papa would like it. He would have loved this new program. Sniff.

p.s. not a lot of online information, turns out that it isn’t due to start in Australia till after the Olympics. Wow, we get a headstart for a change.

500 calories: fries or wine


I’m at the point in the training program when I’m starting to get more hungry more often. We ran out of eggs and a few grocery items so I went for a quick 5k (quick is relative, at 7.23min/km it’s not speedy by any means) then dropped by the supermarket. For only running 5k I shouldn’t feel so hungry afterwards, but I was. I had to limit myself to just a few of the blueberry pikelets I made yesterday. 5k is only around 300 calories which is a croissant or 6 pieces of chicken mcnuggets (not including sauce).

Came across this graphic on twitter. I think it originated from food and wine magazine. The article from 2011, which is probably still relevant, compares fast food items against wine in terms of calories. So a krispy kreme glazed doughnut is aound 1 2/3 glasses of wine and mcdonalds large fries at 500 calories is equivalent to 4 1/3 glasses of cabernet sauvignon.

I always track on the basis that a glass of red wine like cab is 125 calories making it 4 glasses instead. Nevertheless, I know which 500 calories I’d rather enjoy.

present from uk: bbc goodfood magazine


Hurray for thoughtful friends who remember what you like, mm’s friend CC is visiting from the UK and she brought me a copy of the Christmas issue of BBC goodfood magazine. The one that sells out quickly and has a 2015 recipe calendar. I’ve used this calendar for many years, but the past couple of years haven’t been able to get a copy of the magazine. I didn’t want to bother people to find and send a magazine. The shipment will probably cost more than the magazine itself. Sigh

I intend to read the magazine very, very slowly. I’m even looking at the ads and the inserts that came with it. Miss London so much. Love, love this magazine. Recipes, events and gadgets. Already seeing recipes I’d like to make. Persian lamb tagine looks scrumtious, but I can’t get neck fillet. Lime semifreddo cheesecake, wow. There’s an article about unusual foodstuffs that are produced in the UK like caviar from the west country, saffron from Norfolk and even escargots from Aylesbury.

In the age where I look up recipes online rather than in cookbooks, and sales of paper newspapers and magazines have fallen, I’m very tempted to subscribe to this magazine. £25 for 12 issues is good value, if I were still in the UK. International subscription is £61, and I can’t justify that. Sniff. 

if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it

A potential diner rang a restaurant to order take-out, but the restaurant said they didn’t offer take-out, so the diner posted a poor review on yelp. The restaurant replied with a rather epic take-down. Read the eater article, it’s worth it.

Some restaurants offer take-out food, some don’t. Personally I won’t expect an upscale restaurant to, and if they don’t specify (or specifically say they don’t) I won’t expect them to change their policies for me. This is what the yelper did. Expected to be accommodated against the rules, and repeatedly tried to intimidate by saying that her husband was a lawyer. I suspect that if she had asked nicely, or asked about which menu item could possibly be boxed up, the restaurant would have considered her request.

I’m glad the restaurant wrote their reply, even though it was a little snarky. Far too often we see 1-star amazon reviews because the packaging was torn, or people with entitled attitudes thinking the world evolve around them. I remember asking a guy who brought his dog into my garage when I had a garage sale, and was met with snark. Every dog owner before him tied their dog outside before coming in, isn’t that common courtesy?

I don’t think I’ve ever left a review for anything. If I liked a restaurant I wouldn’t necessarily gush about it on yelp. What if their standards change or next time I go, I don’t enjoy it as much? I have been known to recommend Hawksmoor enthusiastically, by bringing friends there so they can experience it themselves. And if I didn’t like a restaurant, I just won’t go again. I tend to believe that if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it.


why japanese food is better

hok041melon hok007sappshop

Only ten days till our trip to Hokkaido. Yay! This time we are not being overly ambitious and just staying in and around the Sapporo area. Every time we go to Hokkaido, we land at Sapporo then travel immediately to elsewhere on the island and miss that area completely. We’ll still have our onsen experience, with 2 nights at Jozankei, which is 75mins away by bus; and Otaru / Nikka whisky distillery, only 30mins by train.

The biggest draw for going to Japan is the food. Not just the fresh seafood — king crabs, snow crabs, scallops, sashimi — but also the fruits. Sweet melons are a speciality of Hokkaido, and the beautiful displays at the shops!

I’ve been reading a lot at medium recently, and was interested to see this post about why japanese food is better. Sound arguments:

  • there is no need for special “organic” labels because most food is organic, seasonal and often sourced locally
  • simplicity — most dishes are cooked and presented simply and separately, no overcrowding a plate with 20 ingredients; there may be many, many small dishes, but they are intended to be enjoyed on their own
  • presentation is everything — each dish is treated as an artform, down to the pattern on the bowl to the placement of garnishes
  • and most of all, they respect food and treat food as part of life

Yep, agree with all these points. Japanese food is fresh, tastes clean and looks enticing. Definitely prepared with respect and pride. Yes, it’s still regarded with suspicion by some (“raw fish, ewwww!”) but as more people try it, I challenge anyone NOT to fall in love with it. There’s more than raw fish, sushi can be prepared with cooked ingredients, and what about yakitori, tempura, teppanyaki, ramen and don’t forget the yummy sesame dressing they use in salads. Plus, I’m trying to introduce US friends to delicious tasting, oddly named Japanese chocolates and sweets.

marshmallow recipes


I came across instagrams printed on marshmallows, with a simple process:

  • login to instagram
  • pick 9 images
  • pay £12
  • “scrumptious, squishy, shareable” marshmallows appear in mailbox

Available in UK only, and £12 for 9 marshmallows is a bit steep. Good for a laugh or a personalised gift.

Found a recipe for fluffy vanilla marshmallows. The ingredient list isn’t too taxing, although I’m not sure if I can find sugar cane syrup. The process seems really fiddly and involves a stand mixer which, well, I don’t have. It’s easy enough to buy I suppose, and I think I have a cooking thermometer somewhere.

A little more digging gave me another recipe that uses egg whites — and easier for me to read because it uses metric measurements and not cups. It also uses 9 sheets of gelatine, and that’s the fiddly part for me. I’m never comfortable with gelatine, for some reason.

If I’m feeling adventurous one of these days, I’ll give making marshmallows a go.

original iron chef

There was a mini Iron Chef marathon this afternoon. Four episodes from the original Fuji TV series in Japan, dubbed in English. These were the eps I videotaped when I was in NYC, during the early the Food Network days in 1999/2000. The tapes are probably still around somewhere although none of us have VCRs anymore.

A little dated, especially the presentation. And with the proliferation of food and drink programs in the last 10-15 years, we are all so much better informed and come with higher expectations. Still, we were riveted to the TV for 4 hours. OMG, everyone was so young!! I saw Morimoto on a Bourdain program recently and he’s grown in girth and stature. We saw the battle of Girls’ Festival, pacific saury, pumpkin and another ingredient I can’t remember. Morimoto once, Sakai twice and Kobe once. Would have loved to see Chen too. What nostalgia.

globalisation of food

Yesterday’s post about regional / country cuisine led me to think about the globalisation of food, food culture, palates and all that. Seems like academics like to use food as an example when they study globalisation. Every nation has food, and the concept is easy to understand. One of the most common food item used in these studies is, rather surprisingly, sushi.

global food


Came across a study [warning: pdf] where the author tells of his experience in 1966 when, as part of survival training in the USAF in Japan, he had to eat a piece of raw tuna. Raw fish. That was the bizarre food of the 1960s. A Wharton book review tells of the Molly Ringwald character in The Breakfast Club bringing sushi to detention and the other kids, who had brought sandwiches, mocking her. No one would mock any one eating sushi anymore. The weirdness, the elitism, even the healthy aspect, not so much.

Just look at this pretty lunchbox from Itsu in London. It’s a chain fast food place, and there are the pieces of raw tuna that would horrify a 1960s American soldier or a 1980s teenager. But equally, an OL in Japan would not recognise this as a bento box. What are those vegetables? Where are carefully cut side items, the delicately arranged pickles, the rice? Is this Japanese food? British food? Global food?

The blame, for want of a better word, lies in increasing affluence and the importance Gen Xers place on leisure and betterment of themselves. Air travel, the internet, the sheer number of food and travel programs on TV—these are all Good Things. Educational and introducing us to cultures, including food, that appear nearer and nearer. As my friend Trish commented in yesterday’s post, she would cook Moroccan lamb, Italian lasagna and Indian curry, Spanish rice—and it would be just another day.



The production and distribution of food has undergone so much industralisation that it’s now a global commodity. Grains and livestock and even milk are ferociously traded in the markets; the top 2 agriculture products at the CME are corn options and corn futures. There was this Discovery Channel program I remember watching, where a fishing boat caught a bluefin tuna off the coast of Newfoundland and they were rushing to get it to port, weighed, graded and transported to Tokyo’s Tsukiji market where it’d fetch lots of money before parts of it being shipped to restaurants in New York. Travel distance thousands of miles, ending up somewhere just hundreds of miles from where it was caught. This is by no means unusual.

Sometimes, the word globalisation is spit out, as if it were a dirty word. Looking at the produce at the supermarket, many of them are now available year round as they are grown in controlled environments that are not open to effects of weather. Tomatoes, strawberries, coffee. It’s amazing, a few hundreds of years ago, there were no tomatoes or strawberries or coffee in western Europe. Spices too. We have all benefited from globalisation, the world just needs to tackle some of the unsavoury practices and effects before it’s too late.

seasonal and local


The backlash against globalisation is best seen in the rise of the slow food movement. The movement is associated with foodies rising up in arms against the slow march of Big Fast Food like Mcdonald’s or KFC. Cookery programs talk about seasonal and local. Everyone wants to eat organic.

How truly are the seasonal and local foodstuff, seasonal and local? Why really does it matter where the food comes from? Shouldn’t we be more concerned that the food we buy and consume are safe, have good flavour and produced in a way that our conscience can tolerate (and everyone’s tolerance level differs, hence carnivores and vegans.) Why shouldn’t I support all community farmers and not just the ones within a 50 mile radius from where I live?

Given a choice, wild salmon caught sustainably in the Pacific Northwest or fish caught by Indonesian fishermen in overfished, polluted waters? I know which one I’d rather have in my sushi.

global local food

The guardian asked

if you could only ever eat one cuisine again, which would you choose?

and then goes on to describe how “ethnic” food becomes diluted when they travel out of their country because it is necessary to adapt the taste sensitivities that are different depends on who we are. What I don’t get out of the article is, do we like or dislike a certain food because it’s part of our DNA, or is it learned. Nature or nurture?

stg336mariscos nz0525salmon

Back to the original question. So many choices. Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysian, Middle Eastern, Mexican. I remember those mariscos I enjoyed when I visited Chile; there’s a whole South American cuisine I haven’t had the opportunity to explore. Or how about salmon we caught ourselves at Lake Wanaka in New Zealand, it’s where the food comes from rather than the actual cuisine.

hok035seafood hok697pub

My first reaction was Japanese. After all, if I could only eat sushi, sashimi, tempura, yakitori, shabu shabu, green tea ice cream, mochi and drink sake, plum wine and Japanese beer, I’m alright with that. I’ve eaten at Nobu (overpriced) but I’ve also had really great sushi at this cheap ¥100 hole-in-the-wall conveyor belt place in Tokyo. There’s enough variety and freshness in Japanese food to never be tired of it.

roastgressduck03 bbmmldn025crumble

The comments in the article were interesting. Some were like, what’s wrong with British food? Well, nothing. Steak at Hawksmoor, roast lamb and two veg at the pub, Gressingham duck, game, fish & chips, savoy cabbage, celeriac, parsnips, yes even mushy peas, treacle tart, cream teas, cheese, and puddings, puddings, puddings. Then there’s real ale, cider, English sparkling wine and whisky.

So what is the choice now?

comfort food


On Food & Drink Michel Roux Jr asked his guests (Monica Galetti!) if he gave them £5 what comfort food would they buy. Kate Goodman said salt & vinegar crisps and Monica Galetti (Monica Galetti!) said chocolate.

Without thinking, what came to my mind was ham. My ham obsession started when Mum fed me it after I came home from swimming lessons and I could never resist great quailty ham on the bone. SIgh. Sigh. Sigh.

All I can afford now is sliced ham in packets. Not very high quality, but I can still eat scads of it.

table manners

I was watching a travel program where an American couple got to visit some of those “1,000 places before you die” bucket list places. This program was in France and they played the roulette in Monte Carlo, painted in Provence and in Paris they got to eat at Taillevent. Wow.

What made me cringe a little were the way they ate: the young woman grabbed her wine glass with her hand all over the bulb instead of the stem, and they both ate by scooping the food up in their forks held in their right hand. Left hand under the table, no sign of a knife. Very politely, of course, but still didn’t look right to me. It’s probably me, because I hold the knife and fork in their original hands during the entire course. It seems that either style is correct, although I think that if I were to have the opportunity to eat at Taillevent I’d go for the European style. Who am I to say, I don’t have the world’s best table manners.

200 calories

200calavo 200calsnickers

200calcelery 200calbaileys

Now that I’m sick and not running, I have to be careful of what I eat. Well, when I have the appetite, I haven’t felt like eating much anyway. My maintenance calorie target isn’t very generous; if I go out for a meal that usually is it.

It’s interesting to see what 200 calories look like. One avocado, half a bar of snickers, a huge plate (almost 1.5kg) of celery, or a tiny glass of baileys. Some quite deceptive.

kids and food (on 3 continents)

I was watching 2 different Jamie Oliver programs. The first was his food revolution program where he was in an American elementary school and kids couldn’t even recognise a fresh potato, or tomato, or eggplant, or any fresh vegetable. They could all recognise french fries and fried chicken though. The second was an old Naked Chef program where he visited his old school in Essex. He brought out some buffalo mozzarella and asked the class if they recognised it, and most of the class said yes.

The point? It is a sad state of affairs in the US, where kids have never seen nor come into contact with fresh food. Is it typical? I’m no expert, but anecdotally, I can say that America is where I have found the greasiest, most processed, hugest portions of food as well as the least adventurous eaters. I must say, I’m not immune to a big steak or good pizza myself, but there has to be a balance between fast food and fresh, home-cooked food. And NO EXCUSE for parents for bringing up kids who can’t even recognise a potato.

It’s slightly better in the UK, though it seems that the trend is alarming skewing towards obesity caused by fast and processed food. At least people in the UK are more accepting of non-British food. Chicken tikka masala is the national dish, after all (and I say this with sarcasm because it’s certainly not a true Indian dish.) McDonald’s in France feels less like fast food than in America, it’s still McDonald’s.

Which brings me to another part of the world, where palates are developed early in life and food is for enjoyment, not just sustenance. On buzzfeed recently there was an article about a Japanese toddler called Rino who loves trying new food. The youtube channel is called Rino which eats world various dishes and ignoring the slight Engrishness of the descriptions, every single video on there is worth watching. Repeatedly. The construct is simple,

a few shots of food prep — pad thai in one video, a Spanish tortilla in another — then many many shots of Rino shoveling the food in her mouth, usually with total delight

There is no need to understand Japanese, the delight is easy to see. Watch this one where she tries pho. At 2:10 when she picks up a tail-on shrimp and takes out the tail. Then at 3:40 when she claims her meal as her own. And good manners too, at 5:58 when she says thank you. She’s 3 years old and other videos in the channel show her trying bibimbap, tiramisu and tortilla. Very cute.

the other sweet tooth


All the palaver about Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, I almost forgot about the other book published this year also called Sweet Tooth. Not a spy thriller, but a sort of personal-discovery-essay-history of sweets, aka candy, by Kate Hopkins, more well known as the Accidental Hedonist.

The kindle page has no kindle version available. I can get it directly on my kindle though. Strange. I haven’t gone through with the purchase, I wonder if it will work.

sunshine on a plate


Watched riveted as Masterchef champion was announced after weeks of gruelling competition. Remember this name: Shelina Permalloo. She was born in Southampton and lives in Tooting. Her family is from Mauritius and her food was described by Gregg Wallace as

sunshine on a plate


a restaurant waiting to happen

She was consistent, joyful, and calm. She never made bad mistakes and she was always on time in tasks. And her food. Wow. In the beginning, like all amateurs, it was great tasting but did not have professional presentation. By the end, oh wow again. This was her octopus salad starter from the final — beautiful and apparently full of flavours. If she opened a restaurant I’d be there in a flash.

must try food


So, how many of the top 40 must try food have I tried?

  1. french toast — yes, yes. I scrape the butter off though
  2. scrambled egg sandwich — yes
  3. stinky tofu — yes
  4. cheeseburgers — normal cheeseburgers, of course
  5. sweet tofu soup — yes
  6. pineapple bun — yes
  7. chicken feet — yes
  8. wife cake — yes, but I don’t like them
  9. ginger milk curd — yes
  10. five layer roast pork — yes, not too keen on the fat though
  11. indonesian satay — yes
  12. steamed meat mountain — yes
  13. preserved sausage — yes, but not for a long time, too fatty
  14. trendy hot pot — hot pot yes, what’s trendy?
  15. beef brisket — yes, not a favourite
  16. egg tart — yes
  17. yung kee roast goose — oh my, yes
  18. kowloon city thai — yes, a whole street of thai restaurants, what’s not to like
  19. roast pigeon — yes, many times
  20. snake soup — yes, I miss it
  21. lotus seed paste — yes, not on its own, in a dessert or bun
  22. typhoon shelter crab — yes, a little too spicy for me
  23. egg noodle — yes, not sure why it is on the list
  24. milk tea — yes, under duress. tea made from canned milk is disgusting
  25. joy hing char siu — yes, I used to get scads of it and freeze them
  26. cha siu bau — yes
  27. claypot rice — yes, yum
  28. north point egg cakes — yes, but the np ones are overhyped
  29. thai shrimp sashimi — yes, RM took me to a place last year
  30. mulberry mistletoe tea — not sure what this is
  31. block 13 cow offal — yes, I’ve had offal but not sure what is block 13, name of place?
  32. congee — yes, who hasn’t?
  33. bowl pudding — yes, childhood memories
  34. tonkatsu — in general yes, even in Japan, but not the specific place mentioned
  35. b boy grass jelly — yes, mm and i were going to go, but didn’t have time
  36. mango pudding with mango sauce and mango — yes, oh yes, mango yes
  37. sweet and sour pork — yes, far too many times
  38. louis steak — yes, must go back soon
  39. fishball — yes, love the stuff
  40. swiss chicken wings — yes, I think

whole foods london


There are 5 Whole Foods in London, the largest, at high st ken is only a bus ride away. I’m so glad I made the trip. Had lunch at their restaurant — a kind of high end food court with salads, sandwiches, hot food, Mexican food, vegetarian, pizza, Japanese. Tried the shabu shabu of lamb with udon and veg. Nice, but pricey. A very decent iphone pic here.

The store itself is split on 2 floors and by London standards very large. Actually, it’s comparable in size to the Ashland store. I couldn’t help myself and came home with a veritable treasure trove of food I love and have missed: t-bone steak, osso bucco (in brown packaging underneath steak), tahini, clay pot yogurt, my beloved goose island beer, passion fruit, legbars (blue) eggs, abate pears, heirloom tomatoes, coulommiers cheese, st nectaire cheese — altogether £53, not cheap. I remember Car saying Whole Foods = whole paycheck.

And then I had to go to Tesco afterwards to get regular stuff like ham, fruit, vegetables and salmon, which set me back another £20. I was on whatsapp with mm throughout and I told her I bought more than enough food for 2 people for a week. Hee.

mondrian cake


This beautiful mondrian cake is enough to make me want to go to SF MOMA already. Made by pastry chef Caitlin Williams Freeman who is part artist, part chef:

she bakes a big oblong white cake and smaller yellow, red and blue cakes, and cuts them into long thin shapes. She coats each of the pieces in ganache – a thick, rich covering of cream and dark chocolate – reassembles it all in a long loaf pan, lets it chill overnight, then ganaches the whole thing

Not hard technically, just takes time. And oodles of creativity and inspiration.

real street food festival


This was the highlight of the real street food festival at the south bank this bank holiday weekend. A whole roast hog. Several, in fact. Served in a white roll with apple sauce, rocket and crackling. So good, I had two of them. Two sandwiches, not even I can eat 2 whole pigs.

Aside from roast pigs, there was a seafood van, pulled pork, churros, burgers, indian lassi, curry, crepes, cakes, beer, cocktails and many more. It was a gloriously sunny day, perfect for a day out with good food. I texted my friend S and his girlfriend, and we met up for a good chat and a couple of drinks.

More pics, the whole set at flickr.

never made it to alinea


Noted via kottke that Grant Achatz’s memoir is coming out in March. Chef Achatz’s restaurant, Alinea, is ranked best restaurant in the US by Gourmet magazine and is bikeable from home. Home being Chicago, still.

Much to my regret I never managed to make it to Alinea, or any of the top Chicago restaurants with the exception of frontera grill. Will I ever? I can only hope.

photographing restaurant meals

citic003chickenfeet nz1074franz

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started, but I have been taking pictures of food for a long time. Both what I make, and when I eat out. To the point that none of my friends and family bat an eyelid when I take my camera out before a meal. They either continue eating, or even help me find the best angle. Why do I do it? I dunno exactly, if pressed I’d say one of the reasons is to have a visual record of what I experience in life. How else would I remember chicken feet, or brie and cranberry sauce pizza?

I read on timeout chicago about Grant Achatz’s take on people photographing their meals at alinea. Now alinea is a progressive, awesome, difficult-to-get-reservation restaurant that serves delicate, delicious tasting menus with as many as 30 courses. Chef Achatz is not against his customers taking pictures, but questions

why people so passionate about food would sacrifice the integrity of the courses, instead prioritizing the documentation

Some of the examples he quoted did seem pretty extreme. Setting up a tripod and spending 3 mins moving plates around and finding the right light; videoing the kitchen staff; using voice recorders to describe the food. I agree it’s taking things a bit too far.

One of the reasons I got the s90 is because of its ability to perform under low light conditions. I always keep the flash off because flash can be very distracting and I don’t want other customers to be bothered by it. I’m usually pretty quick about it. I’m not using it for commercial purposes, and I hope that too many foodies taking pictures won’t alienate restaurants owners and managers and they start banning it.

food tolerance scale


Spotted via accidental hedonist, a chart that rates our food threshold. The idea is that people generally have limits to what they are willing to eat. The higher the tolerance for “strange” food, the higher their score.

I score 18, because I have no problem with shark’s fin soup — I’ve had more shark’s fin soup than, say, clam chowder. But insects are at 15 and I’m not sure I can stand to consume insects. And therein lies the issue to this linear, and over-simple scale. It’s a good visual indicator, but one man’s meat is another’s poison. It seems also that this scale is more an indicator of the person’s tolerance towards the ethics of the food items rather than taste. The better question is, where is your tolerance to trying these food. I’m willing to bet that many people will automatically go “ewww” to bird’s nest soup before they even try it. In which case I’ll be a 20 because, yes, I am willing to try bear’s heart and monkey’s brain (although, I’m not sure how easy it is to get monkey’s brain nowadays, it seems to be something that westerners obsess about more than necessary). Then again, I’m stuck on insects at 15.

Food tolerance depends on many factors, like ethnicity, upbringing, world experience. When I mentioned panna cotta to a colleague yesterday, and this colleague is a well travelled foodie, they had no idea what it was. I also met someone recently who appears to be a “regular” Mid-Westerner but thinks that the only Japanese food worth eating is sashimi and that most of the Japanese food in the US is too Americanized that its distinctive feature, delicacy, has been lost. Sometimes, people surprise me.

photographing food


I love photographing food. All my friends, family and even colleagues know this. That I’m prone to taking out my camera and photographing what I’m eating, and even what they ordered. They indulge me, and treat it like an endearing idiosyncrasy rather than an annoyance.

So I was interested to read the comments on the Lifehacker article Photograph your food without being a jerk, that some people think it’s a fetish and don’t like it when other people photograph their food. The original discussion, on chow.com talked a little about the etiquette:

don’t take multiple shots from multiple angles, kneel on the banquette, or rearrange the table

Fine enough. I don’t understand the vitriol that non-food photographers have throw at food photographers. Especially at the higher end restaurants. One of the reasons I photograph my food is to remember the dish, so all the more reason that if i were to dine at a special restaurant, I’d want to remember it. I do agree, flash can be distracting, and no climbing all over the furniture.

Anyway, this is my entry for this week’s friday food fiesta, theme is pretty plating.