milk tray


Trying to clear some space in the fridge, so I opened this big box of Milk Tray that’s been there for a while.

I’m not a big chocolate eater so one or two pieces was enough. Most were way too sweet for my taste. The only one I like is apple crunch.

There’s a lot of disappointed and frankly angry people in the UK because Cadbury’s gone downhill since being taken over by Kraft. It’s broken promise after promise both to staff and consumers; now come in smaller sizes, higher price and changed taste; and closed several factories.

And of course the creme egg scandal that substituted Dairy Milk with disgusting American

standard cocoa mix chocolate

They lost £6m, but of course didn’t admit it was the change of recipe. Honestly, Americans should stay away from trying to make good quality chocolate.

There are 2 layers in the box, so it’ll take me a while to finish it. In the meantime, I’m looking on youtube for old “And all because the lady loves Milk Tray” ads.

yorkshire pudding pizza


To coincide with yorkshire pudding day, Morrisons has launched a yorkshire pudding pizza. The base is a 6.5-inch yorkie, and it’s filled with tomato sauce, mozzarela plus one of two fillings: pepperoni or meat feast which is meatballs, pepperoni, spicy beef and jalapeño. Seems to be quite small, and will be sold at 491 morrisons for £3.

This is also not new, a diner in yorkshire did it first.

The trend of food mashups continue but this one should work. A base that is crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, filled with traditional pizza ingredients. It’s not unlike Chicago deep dish pizza really, if you think about it.

bird’s nest soup


A lifetime ago when I was doing the 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge, one of the tasks was make a list and photoset of 101 bucket list food items I’ve already tried. Food and drink like absinthe, century egg, deep dish pizza, insect. I had 101 items which I’ve tried but there were a handful of pics pending because I ate them so long ago, before the age of taking pics of food. Imagine having food in front of us and not taking out a camera or phone, quelle horreur!

One was bird’s nest soup.

And finally I’m able to add to the photoset; we tried it at the streetfood market at Bangkok Chinatown.

Bird’s nest soup is made from the solidified saliva nests of swiftlets, and expensive due to the rarity and difficulty in harvesting the nests. With all these weird foods, it’s supposed to be good for health. Usually eaten as a soup flavoured with a little rock sugar, the nests pretty much have no flavour. Texture like soft gelatin, or as the marketing folks say, caviar-like. The overwhelming taste is the sugar syrup. The last time I had it was probably 10+ years ago and I think the frequency of once every 10 or so years is enough for me.

#firstworldproblem: sausage rolls vs bake-off #gbbo

A truly British #firstworldproblem cropped up today. I had a craving for sausage rolls for a couple of days, and forgot to get them yesterday when I went to the market. It’s dead easy to get, if I’m not picky. The chain bakery has branches everywhere, including at most stations.

The problem is, Bake-off season 8 is on just when I wanted to go get the sausage rolls. They’re showing 2 eps back-to-back; today is eps 3 and 4.

Well, okay, moot point. I’m recording the entire season so I can watch it anytime. So I went to the station, got my sausage rolls, stopped off at the small supermarket to get staples like spaghetti and ketchup, and was back home in time to watch the second ep of the day. I can go back and watch the other ep later.


I was all prepared to dislike this season because of the follow the dough thing but I’ve enjoyed watching it so far. Same format, same tent, same music. Prue is a good Mary substitute, and I can get my Mary fix on her own program anyway. Sandi sounds almost like Mel and Sue, and although not as cheeky, she is warm and funny, as we know she is. Noel started off unsteady but ignoring the comparisons with Mel & Sue, he’s quirky and likeable. He seems genuinely pleased to be there and mingling with all the bakers. And it’s the bakers that are, as always, the stars of the show. This group is the same, with casting as diverse as a mainstream program can get. My favourites so far are Liam with his flavours and Yan with her scientific, and sometimes not so scientific (making caramel by sight without a thermometer?), approach. And how about Flo’s watermelon cake? Wow.

I know the elimination order, which is the one disadvantage of watching such a popular program after the fact. But it doesn’t matter. I’m just grateful I can watch it and let’s forget the irony of season 8 on a BBC channel.

iphone ice cream


Sis gave me a bunch of haagen-dazs vouchers that had been sitting in my backpack for months. They expire on 31 oct so I’ve been a little stressed out trying to figure out how to use them up. I gave them to mum last sunday but she came home empty-handed claiming the shop only served scoops. She also thought we can use them at the supermarket. Um, mum, you can’t use vouchers for shop A in shop B even though shop B sells A brands. That’s r/talesfromretail territory. Plus I know H-D shops have tubs, just need to ask.

Today mum’s out to lunch with her friends so I walked to the H-D shop in the nearby shopping centre. Lo and behold, they do have tubs, only they’re not obviously displayed. They have a special offer of two family-sized tubs for local$238. So I used up 4 of the $50 vouchers. They can put 2 flavours in each tub so I came home with 4 flavours: chocolate, macadamia brittle, blueberry, yuzu. The tubs are pretty large and the server really packed the ice cream in tight. I was showing mm the size and used my spare iphone as unit of measurement.

I had a total of $350 in vouchers so I need to use up the remaining $150. The plan is to meet up with mm at the weekend and go to the H-D shop near her. Neither of us have enough space in our freezers but we can just get scoops.

camping food test

When I created my emergency go bag, I bought a pack of MRE to put in the bag. It’s vacuum sealed and can be stored for years. The mains is chicken pesto pasta, and there are other pouches in the pack with crackers and stuff. I hadn’t given much thought about the flavour, I think I was more focused on a value-for-money single pack that could keep for a while.

Looking at the Wirecutter post about best camping food, I’m thinking when the MRE expires I should consider supplementing with other food. The camping food in the test are one-pouch meals that are prepared by adding boiling water. First they did a taste test of specialised camping food vs standbys from the supermarket like spaghetti and mac & cheese in their office. Interesting discovery:

a surprising number of our backpacking standbys are, in fact, revolting when served indoors on real dishes

Then they asked their testers to take the camping food with them on one- or two-week hiking trips in locations as varied as Corsica, the Colorado 14k peaks, and the 1,000 mile Centennial Trail in Idaho. The food they tested weren’t boring chicken pasta. They had curries, chili, noodles, fajita as well as the usual pasta and meat flavours.


Their best in terms of taste was a Thai curry. It’s likely that after a long and exhaustive day hiking, the testers’ palate appreciate the intensity of flavour of the curry. Seems like there’s a lot of vegetables and the addition of powdered coconut milk (in a separate packet) is a winner. The disadvantages are price, small portion size and it took a long time to rehydrate.

home alone dinner


Mum went out with her friends so I was home alone in the evening. I finished off the giant red velvet cheesecake factory cheesecake she bought the other day and was too full for dinner. I had cucumber with miso and an orange, that was it. Felt healthy, and my stomach wasn’t as bloated.

If I’m at home by myself I usually just eat leftovers or a whole packet of ham. There are days when I wish I could go back to those days and not have to cook 2 meals a day.

chocolate truffle ice cream

Met mm and lily for lunch to share japan travel experience. At first we talked about going together but extensive communication with lily showed that we have different travel styles so best if we stuck to sharing experiences.

We went to toast box and had laksa. It’s a casual semi-fast food place so we could sit there as long as we liked; and we ended up having more drinks. Singapore place, so teh-o for me. It was a hot day but dry so we walked around for a bit after lunch.

Lily went home for dinner and we continued to look for a replacement fridge. My credit card points run out tomorrow so we were especially in a hurry. The problem was the available space, width and height were okay but not deep enough for most of the models we thought we okay. The smart shop assistant suggested we call up the bank to check if I can extend the points and, yay, success! Three months’ extension which solves the urgency issue.

We had wine and pizza at hmv café to celebrate and then went to find this ice cream stall. I had 2 vouchers for a free ice cream cone that expire tomorrow and no extension this time. This was from a chocolate place called dalloyau that we’d never heard of. Their shops are in the high-end shopping centres and they seem to peddle expensive chocolate, cake and coffee. The vouchers are for specifically, chocolate truffle ice cream.


As soon as the assistant handed me the cone I knew it wasn’t quite the chocolate truffle we were thinking of. Instead of truffle made from hot cream/milk and chocolate, this is truffle the mushroom-fungus that grows in the ground and gets shaved over food like pasta and omelettes. The smell is distinctive. The problem for me, it overwhelmed the rich chocolate taste of the ice cream and left an unpleasant aftertaste.

Adding truffle to a dish instantly signals it’s something luxurious and exclusive. And like the gold leaf ice cream we didn’t try in Kanazawa, truffle in ice cream screams of pretentiousness, pointlessness and frankly, lack of palette. At least gold doesn’t taste of anything. I have come across truffle in dessert before and mushroom dessert is unusual, but can be tasty. Obviously no one in dalloyau watched the episode on MKR where truffled truffles with truffle ice cream got creamed by the judges.

The conclusion is, this shop added a luxurious ingredient for marketing purposes and we are clearly not shallow enough to be in their target market.

lunch platter


Lunch today consisted of food Lily brought plus other ingredients from all over the world. Smoked eel, reypenaer cheese and foccacia from the Netherlands. Brunost brown cheese from Norway I’ve had in the fridge for a while. Coppa from Italy. Grilled asparagus from…the supermarket (I think they’re from the US). Leftover hollandaise from the other day. Apple & plum chutney from Bosham church fair–that’s West Sussex, UK.

I only have a small wooden chopping board so I couldn’t serve it Jamie-styled. I used my large chopping board instead, the effect isn’t as pretty but it got the job done.

Nice lunch. I’m reminded how I love cheese. The smoked eel was as spectacular as expected. We finished one packet, there is only one left. 🙁

masterchef desserts

Getting quite tired with the bingewatching. Last night the last episode didn’t finish till 2.30am and since it was a Heston episode we stayed up to watch it. Then today sitting in front of the tv from 11am. The grand final was 10pm-midnight, so an ‘early’ night. All finished now. Very pleased we managed to catch it, it was a fantastic season.

mystique pear

The memorable dishes were the ones at the pressure (elimination) test. They get a famous chef to bring one of their fancy creations, or get a Nobu to make them make a plate of sushi. The standouts were Christy Tania’s Mystique and the pear, walnut crumb, nest dessert by Dave Verheul which the contestants had to decipher from just a critic’s review.


The deceptively simple looking ice cream cone from gelato messina caught our eye. Not because of how complex it was to construct, but because it’s now on our list of places to try in Sydney. Good thing they have several branches around the CBD. I also learned that what we call choc ice they call choc top. Anyway, they have a lot of choices, may be we’ll need to go twice. And again in Melbourne.

sake kitkat


Still bingewatching Masterchef Australia. But now I have snacks. Got these last week and only just got round to opening the packet.

Yep, it’s sake flavoured kitkat. It came out last february in Japan. 0.8% alcohol, so it’s really just for the taste.

Honestly, they taste pretty good. Can definitely smell the sake aroma as soon as the packaging is opened, although the taste isn’t as pronounced. I think they use white chocolate so it’s less overpowering, and so it looks nice. May be I’ll think about taking a supply to the conference this year to give out. They’re more expensive than regular sweets and chocolate, so it’ll have to be only for selected few.

italian lunch and snacks


A couple of eating out places. First was an Italian casual bar restaurant in the food hall. This was in the location of the tapas bar and the restaurant seems so new that I can’t find it listed in the directory. We shared a cold meat starter and I had pesto gnocchi. Nicely cooked gnocchi, and we all agreed the portions could be bigger. Shared a pannacotta and lemon tart for dessert. Sis and I also had a glass each of their house red.


I went back to my flat to check mail and open windows for ventilation. No potential tenants yet, sigh. Was meeting mm and our friend B for drinks, I was early so I stopped by the new Calbee plus store. Aside from rows upon rows of Japanese snacks in brightly coloured packaging, they serve chips for eating in-store. Chips with soft ice cream too. More hype than substance, I won’t try it again. If I’m hungry in that area, there’s a starbucks opposite where I can get muffins.

I did get some snacks, they had a few good special offers.

too hot to go out | market and snacks

It’s so hot that it’s not worth doing anything. Sis asked if I wanted to go to happy hour and I declined. Imagine, I said no to alcohol. I didn’t want to get out of my shorts and put on outside clothes. As it is, I’m changing my t-shirt twice a day and showering twice a day already.

Okay, I did get out of my shorts at the end. But nothing exciting; mum and I went to the market. Had tea at a ramen place first. It’s a chain and specialises in Sapporo ramen, which means we expect a rich miso soup. Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of flavour in the soup and the ramen was so-so.


We bought pork to make soup. 4 mini watermelons and some apples. Also, snacks. The chocolate orange pockys that I saw at a shop yesterday that I resisted buying because they were double the price of normal pocky were available at 759 supermarket at a lower price. Plus 20% off. Unfortunately, not worth the hankering. The chocolate-orange part was a sickly artificial orange colour and tasted artificial too. Disappointing.


Also bought some popping candy. One each of apple and watermelon flavour. Haven’t tried them yet.

keep calm and eat more ice cream


We’re all in need of some good cheer. From thekitchn: tell us your favorite ice cream and we’ll tell you your age.

My top 5 ice cream flavours:

  1. sesame
  2. green tea
  3. tofu
  4. vanilla
  5. mango

I’m not taking the results of the article too seriously. For a start, they don’t have 4 of my 5 favourites. As for vanilla:

Vanilla Ice Cream: You’re 21 Years Old

You’re an adult. Full stop. You’re finally comfortable admitting to yourself that a good scoop of vanilla really isn’t boring. In fact, it’s downright delicious when done right. When you’re feeling really fancy, you might even add on some sundae-esque toppings, because why not? You’re an adult!

Arrr, I’m 12 not 21. The closest to 12 years old is strawberry and I hardly ever order strawberry if there are other choices.

Strawberry Ice Cream: You’re 13 Years Old

Life can be hard and complicated when you’re 13, but when it comes to ice cream, you don’t even need to think twice. This pink ice cream filled with strawberries is so sophisticated and adult.

The ones I don’t like on the list: pralines and cream (70 years old) because it’s way too sweet and coffee (52 years old) because I don’t drink coffee. Bubblegum ice cream (4 years old) is a bit iffy but I’ll try a bite.


The other day I spotted a poster at a convenience store of a green kitkat ice cream cone. We’ve been missing mint choc chip (29 years old) cones they seem to have completely disappeared. On further examination and after I bought the cone I realised it’s green tea not mint ice cream. It was still very nice and the kitkat finger in the middle is like having a 99. Oh, TIL 99s have been called 99s since the 1930s. But on the question of why are 99s called 99s, no one seems to know the exact answer. More outrageous answers include:

  1. the roman numerals 99 is IC for ice cream
  2. the flake is 99mm long
  3. they were 99p
  4. someone claimed his grandfather invented it and named it after the address of the family’s shop at 99 Portobello High St, Edinburgh
  5. something about the number Italian (or Swiss?) guards guarding the king = 99 and Italians are most associated with ice cream (“just one cornetto…”)

Who cares? Summer is here. Keep calm and eat more ice cream.

mini watermelon


The beginning of summer means more fruit. Different types of mangoes are appearing, and in a month or so the giant ones will be available.

Saw mini watermelons in the market. I asked the guy at the stall to pick for me and he showed me a trick: there should be a small stem at the bottom and the fruit when tapped sounds solid. The first one I opened was good. Sweet and juicy and very thin skin. They are very small, around a teaspoon-length across. I ate half using a spoon to scoop out the flesh.

croissants straight or curved

Tesco, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that customers prefer straight croissants rather than the traditional crescent shaped ones, so they will going forward only sell straight croissants. This is because of something called the

spreadability factor

which determines how easily it is to spread butter, jam, marmalade or other filling. Apparently straight croissants people can spread using one single motion vs curved croissants which take more.

Sounds completely ridiculous. Why do people want to spread butter or jam on croissants? And even if they do, what’s the big deal about 2 more knife strokes? Anyway, the way to eat croissants is to tear it apart, enjoying the fluffy interior full of holes and soft, buttery bread. They already taste good, there is no need to add filling.

Oh, and apparently Tesco customers find straight croissants more sophisticated. I question who are these Tesco customers. Not this one. I personally think the move is because straight croissants are easier to machine make and package. Some clever PR person came up with the spreadability and sophisticated talking points.


Even the Japanese get croissants right. I saw a packet of croissant-like snacks at the Japanese food store. The croissants inside are tiny and bite-sized. Even opening the packet, I get the smell of croissants–okay, that’s a stretch, it’s more like margarine, crusty bread and sugar. The snacks are butter sugar flavoured, so they are very sweet. Super crispy, light, and crumble easily, just like a real croissant.

I found a review of a version found presumably in the US. The reviewer found that it is a

very “junky” snack which has both qualities of being appealing (crispy, sweet, buttery), but also tastes “cheap” (tasting like cheap bread and margarine/oil)

Found a different flavour on amazon. Wow, $80 for 12. That’s like 3 times the price.

Oh, and like croissants and other French pastries, these snacky things should be eaten either in moderation or after running. One packet is 370 calories.

fun chocolate creations


It’s Ash Wednesday so Easter is just around the corner. Not doing anything in particular for Lent.

Easter means easter eggs, which reminds me of this gallery of unusual chocolate creations.


In keeping with the Easter theme, here’s a chocolate statue of Mary at an Amsterdam parade.


We had fun with a chocolate shoe a few years ago, most chocolate shoes seem to be women’s pumps, I guess a) chocolate appeal to women and b) the shape looks good. But these formal chocolate shoes look really great, they were part of a Salon du chocolate in Paris in 2011.

comfort food

Some comfort food I go for when I’m sick.

ldn061bagelsoup ire029shepherdspie

Soup. Most people will say chicken soup or chicken noodle soup. My preference is vegetable soup; sometimes chicken soup is even too salty or oily when I’m feeling poorly. On the left: vegetable soup with added kale. And what better to go with soup than something stodgy. On the right: shepherd’s pie with bean soup in Dublin. The ultimate comfort food combo.

udon201411 kor759porridge

Sometimes it’s less easy to make soup or shepherd’s pie. Comfort food when I’m sick and need to eat out: noodles and congee. The thick softness of udon noodles is so easy to digest, and usually tasty too. If I completely have no appetite and am feeling extremely sorry for myself, then the only solution is congee. Takes zero effort to eat.

ginseng fruit

ginsengfruit ginsengfruit02

I saw these fruits at the market, labelled ginseng fruit 人参果. They are the size of tomatoes with a yellow skin with dark stripes. Why they are associated with ginseng I have no idea. I asked the stallholder how they taste and was given the answer of “melon.”

I tried looking online, but very few hits. Most links in searching for either ‘ginseng fruit’ or ‘人参果’ gave, weirdly, images and articles about fruit that look like/carved to look like mini buddhas. Like I said, weird. The best, and only, article refers to it as sapodilla. The wikipedia article on sapodilla suggests that the fruit is actually pepino, a southern hemisphere fruit. The confusion is probably due to sapodilla being translated as ginseng fruit when it should be heart-shaped fruit 人心果.

I expected it to be like plums, but the stallholder was right, it does taste of melon. Jucier and less sweet, kind of bland really. I wonder if it’s tolerable for people who are allergic to melon, like mm. The skin is too tough to be eaten, so it’s easier to either peel it off or scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

It’s quite cheap actually. I bought 6 for local $13, or just about £1.

chocolate ice cream day


In terms of bizarre holidays, it’s chocolate ice cream day. There doesn’t seem to be a reliable source of origin for the day, it was probably invented by an ice cream manufacturer to market their product.

Chocolate isn’t my first choice ice cream flavour. Not even second, third or tenth. That said, I came across chocolate hazelnut flavour the other day and stocked it in parents’ freezer. Had a couple of scoops with a pear. Pear and chocolate go very well together and the nuts gave it another texture.

zero coke


A lot of people when they take part in monthly challenges or personal bucket lists include tasks like giving up smoking or giving up soft drinks. I didn’t, and I don’t do the lent giving up thing either.

I used to drink 2 cans of coke (diet or zero) a day, then I cut back to one. I fooled myself that because it’s zero calories, it’s better than regular coke. At the back of my mind, I know that diet drinks aren’t that much better than non-diet drinks, there’s a correlation between diet soda and belly fat, and soft drinks in general lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Time to give up.

We were in Italy 2 weeks, during which I had may be 3 coke zeroes total, because a) it was more expensive than wine so I got wine instead; b) served in small portions (200ml isn’t unusual) and c) mm was nagging at me. Now that I’m home, I’m back to my old bad habit of one a day. That said, I skipped it yesterday.

Most people are addicted to coke because of the caffeine hit and the fizz, and I don’t think I’m any different. I’m going to tackle it by getting my caffeine from tea and fizz from sparkling water. Or plain water. Not going to cut the coke entirely, will do it slowly. Every other day, then twice a week and so forth. Let’s see how it goes.

unknown veg


I popped over to the market after running today to get mirepoix ingredients for making stock. I usually go to a particular small stall. The stallholder auntie ended up making me buy a bag of these unknown vegetables, and then she threw in a couple of bags of edamame beans, peas and another unknown veg.

The edamame beans are at 5 o’clock in the pic, they are beans that are a little older so she’s already stripped them out of their pods. They are good in a stir-fry with other vegs or in a soup. The other freebie is the root at 12 o’clock. I don’t know the name. These are good in stews.

The big bag of unknown veg she sold to me (cheaply) are the other 3 items on the plate. She kept telling me the name and I simply couldn’t understand the words. My dad cooked them, and he said, “ah, these are [same name] veg” and again I can’t understand the words. They have already been peeled and to me, look like water chestnuts. In their raw form, they taste like raw potatoes. Cooked, they taste somewhere between potatoes, yam and water chestnut. Apparently they are good for stews or to make puddings similar to turnip cakes.

I tried googling, and found one or two references to waterlily chestnuts. Not entirely sure.

p.s. still no clue about the name but my dad tells me that apart from the edamame, all the other veg are the same thing—one is in its natural form the other is peeled. Heh.

p.p.s. found it: arrowhead 慈菇

popping candy for mum


We keep seeing chefs use popping candy to make desserts, from Heston to home cooks on MKR. Mum said to me to get her some next time in Chicago. I was like, we’ve had popping candy (we know them as pop rocks) since we were kids, you mean you never tried them? She said nope, she doesn’t remember trying them.

I figured, I don’t need to wait till I go to Chicago or London to get them, surely they are common enough. I turned to my trusted source of information for sweets and all sorts, my niece. I lined her and she replied when she woke up—she’s seen them at 7-eleven. Lo and behold, I found exactly the same ones she showed me at 7-eleven. Easy enough.

I wonder what mum will think of the candy?

i’m not allergic to peanuts but…


I figured out that I probably came down with stomach upset after eating peanuts. It’s strange, because I’m not allergic to them. I can eat peanut butter by the spoonful. I snack on peanut butter and apples during marathon training—fast energy, easy to digest, great flavour combination.

These were really nice peanuts in the shell too. A little salty, crunchy with a good mouth feel. I ate some a week ago and had stomach upset too, but I didn’t think much of it then. Two weeks in a row, and both after eating peanuts? A bit of a coincidence.

My niece apparently developed peanut allergy last year. Sis, being the helicoptor / snowplough parent that she is, immediately bought a ton of stuff including an epi-pen (I guess that’s prescribed by the doctor), a practice epi-pen, badges and circulated literature on allergies. She even gave me her nutmeg because she didn’t want to chance my niece’s nut allergy. I know allergies can be extreme, but I can’t help feeling that parents overblow things like this.

I was watching a travel & food program and remember seeing the presenter trying street noodles in Vietnam. He expressed concern after seeing the street vendor liberally sprinkle the noodles with peanuts. His guide, a Westerner who has lived in SE Asia for a long time, replied tellingly,

there are no food allergies in the third world

I don’t think the guide was trying to say anything bad about the developing world. He was probably just saying that when you don’t know where and when your next meal may come from, you simply don’t reject food, any food.

Severe food allergy on a massive scale seem to be a first world problem. Studies suggested that food allergies have risen 50% in children since 1997; with occurrence of peanut allergy tripling between 1997 and 2008. That’s staggering. Some of the increase may stem from better awareness, but a lot has to do with external factors.

Why are we allergic to naturally occurring material like nuts, seafood and pollen? There are several theories that on initial examination seem to be contradictory but on reflection may be cumulative:

  1. clean air, better sewage treatment and fewer bacteria means our immune system has nothing to attack, so it mistakes harmless allergens (food proteins, cat hair, pollen etc) for something invasive that has to be attacked — this is the popular hygiene theory and partially explains why allergies are mainly first world problems
  2. too much exposure to antibiotics means our bodies’ natural immune system have either been destroyed or have become overly dependent on medication, therefore unable to handle the stimulation when exposed to allergens
  3. we spend too much time indoors and vitamin D deficiency correlates to increases in allergies

This doesn’t explain why I all of a sudden reacted to a handful of peanuts. I don’t think I’m allergic per se, may be a mild intolerance to this particular batch, or the stomach upset is due to something else. I should eat them in moderation and check for stomach symptoms afterwards.

In the meantime, as spring approaches, I’m mentally preparing myself for another miserable year of allergies. I know I’m badly allergic to dust and pollution. There were days last year when I needed 3 antihistammines a day, when the normal dosage is one a day. I need to move to a country where the air is better.

#47 101 foods tried

Task #47 of 101.1001 is to make a list and photoset of 101 food & drink items that are on popular bucket lists. These lists are subjective: exotic to one person may be normal for another. I’ve tried a number of items from the ominvore’s 100 and various food challenge lists, i’m at 92/100 on the foodie list. This list combines typical bucket list foods with food from a specific place.

Pics are clickable thumbnails, there’s also the full size set

    hksaikung022abalone praha096absinthe hknamahbakedalaska gre498baklava

  1. abalone — they can be expensive even in canned form, very nice steamed on the shell
  2. absinthe — tried in France, don’t like the aniseed taste, can’t say I’ll drink it again
  3. baked alaska — flambéd at the table
  4. baklava — comes in different sizes and varieties, first experience was from my local shops in London, have also tried ones in Greece and the middle east
  5. banh mi — before it became hipster food, we took the overnight ferry (no channel tunnel yet) and drove to the 13th arrondissement in Paris just to get them
    hok422kumagera osa096belly dal146dfwbeerita bittergourdomelette

  7. beef: kobe beef — in Osaka, was very tender and tasty
  8. beef: wagyu beef: again in Osaka, grilled at our table
  9. beer above 15% — 16% beer at the Zeughauskeller that may have also been the one that was flambéd
  10. beerita — tried at DFW, a corona inverted into a frozen margarita, now that’s a cocktail I can sink into
  11. bird’s nest soup — the bird’s nest doesn’t taste of anything, it’s the sweet soup that gives the dish flavour
  12. bitter gourd — didn’t like the taste when I was younger, but I quite like it now and it gives an extra flavour when mixed with apples and carrots in a fresh juice
    islay713bfastday2 stj015marrow strawberrypbsandwich sisuk039publunch

  14. blood — back pudding is something you can get at Tesco so it’s not really a bucket list item for me, but I guess it’s unusual for people outside of UK and Ireland; other blood products include pig’s and chicken blood tofu in congee, blood sausage in korea
  15. bone marrow — nose-to-tail at fergus henderson’s st john restaurant and at hawksmoor with steak, utterly delicious
  16. bread from poilane — best.bread.ever, yes I’m aware I put strawberry on the best sourdough bread ever
  17. british dishes with unusual names but common ingredients — see these on bucket lists all the time: bangers & mash, bubble & squeak, neeps & tatties, ploughman’s, toad in a hole, welsh rarebit
    etonmess01 shun043qqtea uni115butterbeer chikiki003cassoulet

  19. british puddings — apple crumble, arctic roll, bread & butter pudding, eton mess, jam roly-poly, spotted dick, sticky toffee pudding, suet pudding, summer pudding, trifle—yummy yummy yummy
  20. bubble tea — hot or cold, in sweet tea or milk tea or fruit tea, or even not tea like juice or milkshake, these bubbles are pretty versatile
  21. butterbeer — at hogwarts
  22. cassoulet — at a french restaurant in chicago, very classic
    vegcaviar centuryegg lou02sausage citic003chickenfeet

  24. caviar — it’s nice, though not something I’d order because of its price, I’ve tried vegetarian caviar and I quite like it
  25. century egg — black, quite soft, nice in congee or with pickled ginger as an appetiser
  26. chicago deep dish pizza — I prefer Lou Malnati, though Gino’s East is okay
  27. chicken feet — shrug, it’s dim sum food, can be eaten steamed with black beans or pickled until they turn white
    goodchickenrice01 sg061seafood brus395hotchoc pt245chowder

  29. chicken rice — tender chicken poached then blanched in ice water, the chicken juices and fat used to cook the rice, the trio of sauces — i used to buy them at the hawker centre, transfer to tupperware and take them home with me on the plane
  30. chilli crab at singapore’s east coast — holy cow those are good, expect to get sauce over all 10 fingers and have no shame at licking it all off
  31. chocolate in belgium — best hot chocolate at wittamer, and all the other stores too
  32. clam chowder at cape cod — they do taste different in new england, and they taste great
    cwall166creamtea mb051thali green curry vegetable durian

  34. cream tea in devon and cornwall — scones with clotted cream and jam, can’t get more English than this
  35. curry in india — colleague took us to an all-vegetarian restaurant where we got a thali each, with rice and dishes being served to us constantly
  36. curry in thailand — green curry, red curry, yellow curry, at small places as well as higher end restaurants
  37. durian — probably my #1 most hated food. my grandparents, sis and mm all love durian so I tried one bite and I spit it out
    gold331escargot dragonfruit02 kangaroosteak02 stk398meatball

  39. escargot — used to buy them in large bags at the hypermarket in Calais or Boulogne, love it with lots of garlic and butter
  40. exotic fruit — dragon fruit, jackfruit, kalamansi, kumquat, mangosteen, quince, rambutan, star fruit, sugar apple
  41. exotic meat — camel burger—quite tough, crocodile, goat, horsemeat, kangaroo steak from the tail—like good quality beef, llama—like coarse mince beef, ostrich—which we’re eating a lot of nowadays, pigeon, rabbit, venison—normal venison is widely available, but I’ve also tried other deer like hartbeest, elan & springbok, zebra—at Carnivore restaurant in Nairobi
  42. faggots — meatballs, basically
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  44. fish taco — first experience was in san francisco when I visited my friend tues at a hole-in-the-wall place, it was great
  45. fish and chips — is a very popular bucket list entry, and you have to have it wrapped in newspaper, smothered with salt and vinegar with mushy peas
  46. flowers — courgette (zucchini) flowers cooked by Carleen’s Grandma that were sublime
  47. foie gras — I have a couple of blocks in my cupboard, it’s now a sunday brunch item
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  49. fried green tomato — made it myself
  50. frog’s legs — like tender chicken, can be stir-fried, steamed on rice or in hot pot
  51. fugu — aka puffer fish or blowfish, the slightly poisonous fish that requires chefs to be specially trained and certified, shared a set at a fugu restaurant of sashimi and shabu shabu fugu, quite expensive and nice texture, no sign of the tingling some people report
  52. gelato in italy — is definitely the real deal
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  54. geoduck — as sashimi or quickly cooked in a hotpot
  55. gold — edible gold found sprinkled on top of some desserts, don’t see the point
  56. hairy crab — small freshwater crabs that have little meat but lots of brown roe in their shell, can’t have too much because of the cholesterol
  57. hawaiian rolls — king’s, which I could get at my local supermarket in chicago, it’s your typical american non-bread bread
    stk017bfastherring nyc112papaya hok492tomita silkwormbeondegi

  59. herring — one of our favourite snacks in amsterdam was pickled herring, also had it at breakfast in stockholm
  60. hot dog at Papaya King NYC — there’s a branch at 86th and 3rd; I used to live at 96th and 3rd so I used to walk down at weekends just to get the hot dog and papaya smoothie combo
  61. ice cream made from vegetables — tried potato and pumpkin ice cream at hokkaido
  62. insect — a 101.1001 challenge on its own — silkworm pupae from a street vendor in seoul
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  64. japanese chocolate — for instance, kitkats that come in all sorts of flavours
  65. jellied eel — tasted fine if a bit slimy, I didn’t like the bones
  66. kimchi — it’s now an intangible heritage as determined by unesco
  67. kopi luak (civet cat coffee) — tried a couple of sips from mm’s cup, not enough of a coffee drinker to tell either way
  68. lassi — both sweet mango and savoury, no wonder it’s a perfect accompaniment to curry
    pt248lobsterbefore vegemite01 frontera003trio 18before

  70. maine lobster — new year’s eve 1999, I met with some friends of a friend and they had a whole bucket of main lobsters, totally scrumptious
  71. marmite / vegemite — either one, I like them both and yes, it’s an acquired taste
  72. mexican at frontera grill — just walked in by myself, even got into a twitter exchange with rick bayless (or his social media people)
  73. noodles — laksa (both singapore style and penang style), pho, wonton noodles—japanese ramen is its own category
    ducktongue szhyatt017okra nz1548waitomo kent022oysters

  75. offal — pretty much tried them all: chicken gizzards, chitterlings, pig’s ears, tongue, kidney, heart, tripe, calf’s liver, brain
  76. okra — they are great grilled, not slimy at all, this is one of the food on this list that I have regularly, now that okra is easy to find at the market
  77. ostrich egg — one ostrich egg = 24 hen eggs, bought a quarter portion and made omelette
  78. oyster — I think people who don’t like the sliminess or texture haven’t tried delicate, sweet oysters
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  80. paczki — my colleague treated me
  81. paella — we went skiing in andorra and were so tempted to buy our own paella pan
  82. panna cotta — i make it occasionally
  83. peking duck — it is more a special occasion food
    ctaste018goat ldnstrfood013hogroast purplesprouts02 kan012kyotoramen

  85. plantain — at taste of chicago, interesting texture and taste, don’t know if I’ll know how to cook with it
  86. pork crackling — way too yummy and way too unhealthy, when I tried making pork belly myself, had to slice the skin off and fry separately to get crackling
  87. purple vegetables — purple cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli, purple peppers, purple sweet potato, love love love purple vegetables
  88. ramen in japan — authentic ramen from a hole-in-the-wall where you buy the appropriate ticket and pass to the server or chef, the sort of place david chang will approve
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  90. red velvet cake — red velvet cheesecake is our favourite at cheesecake factory, also got sis a giant red velvet cupcake for her birthday one year
  91. roast suckling pig — the crispy skin and the tender meat, a dangerous combination, especially when we barbequed it ourselves
  92. quail’s eggs — so fiddly to shell, delicate taste but too high in cholesterol
  93. sea urchin — uni sashimi, sushi or handroll, yummy
    gcls13291inout sprdeer002shark snakesoup kan015calpis

  95. secret menu — at in-n-out: double double, mustard grilled with well done fries and peppers on the side
  96. shark’s fin soup — it’s become highly controversial and people are substituting for other soup, which is a good thing, the flavour comes from the chicken and herbs rather than the shark’s fin anyway
  97. sichan spicy hot pot 麻辣火鍋 — can I say, hot hot hot
  98. snake — good stuff, especially in a soup on a cold winter’s day, and yes it tastes like chicken (may be it’s because the soup base is chicken soup and there is a lot of shredded chicken in the bowl)
  99. soft drinks that are slightly unusual — gunner (ginger beer+ginger ale), arnold palmer (iced tea+lemonade), irn bru, watermelon soda, pocari sweat, bikkle, yakult, coffee pepsi, calpis, soft drink served in a plastic bag in singapore
    hk420nhacrabroll tx123babe spacefood01 paris101beeftartine

  101. soft shell crab — I like it as a handroll
  102. southern fried chicken — the greasy, crunchy, big-plated kind you find in Texas
  103. space food — they all have the same consistency and look like a freeze dried block, but it definitely taste like what it says on the package, I’d like to sprinkle space mint choc chip ice cream on real mint choc chip ice cream
  104. steak tartare — there’s a place in Paris near pompidou called Dame Tartine that serves the best steak and fish tartare, so good we went there twice
    goodstickyrice01 tw234stinkytofu praha031ham kor653snack

  106. sticky rice — white and black sticky rice with mango = one of the best south-east asian sweets
  107. stinky tofu — it just smells funny, in terms of taste it’s deep fried tofu, crunchy on the outside and soft inside
  108. street food — in nyc, in portland, in most asian cities, eastern europe, in london there is a street food festival on the south bank every weekend during the summer; street food is big nowadays
    tok026chirashi hk273sashimi ledbury011asparagus ledbury030souffle

  110. sushi at Tsukiji market tokyo, fish market osaka, fish market sapporo — having sushi at the top fish markets in the world is special
  111. sushi from live fish ikizukuri — and lobster too; still moving when we ate the flesh, then the carcass was used to make soup
  112. tagine — with cous cous or bulgar wheat, was almost tempted to buy a tagine myself
  113. tasting menu at a michelin star restaurant — both lunch and dinner, the first time at the ledbury was for mum’s birthday and they gave us a brilliant soufflé to celebrate
    tehtarik syd104harrys ldngoodman018mac xmas11007plate

  115. teh tarik — india and singapore, there’s something about the pulling that gives the tea its signature lightness
  116. tiger at harry’s café de wheels sydney — beef pie, mash, peas and gravy, can’t find a better combination anywhere in the world
  117. truffle — one time when we were still poor students, we went to Carlucci’s and splurged out on white truffle omelette, lately there’s a lot of truffle macaroni cheese in restaurants
  118. turducken — instead of chicken in duck in turkey, I had guinea fowl, duck & pheasant
    twinkies wasabipeas ork00highlandpark sd128winery

  120. twinkies — THE American snack food, I thought it tasted sweet and like processed sponge, unlikely to try again unless starving
  121. wasabi peas — i can eat the whole packet
  122. watermelon vodka — took a week to make, very interesting taste, easy to get drunk on it, also was in charge of making caipirinha at the same party, parts of which I have no memory of
  123. whisky more than 30 years old — highland park 30 and 40, plus held a 50yr HP bottle
  124. wine made from peach, pear, rhubarb, blackcurrant, preserved plums, rice, soaked with snake, vampire wine, wine in a bottle shaped like a lighthouse, writers tears irish whiskey, and soju, the world’s best selling liquor — if it has alcohol, I’ll try it



post-christmas puds


We purposely didn’t buy christmas puddings before christmas, hoping that they’d be on sale afterwards. Mum went to the shops at the weekend to look for them, but was disappointed that they were not there anymore. The supermarket even told her that they took them off the shelves after Christmas.

I think it depends on the area. Parents don’t live in an expat area so the demand for themed food like christmas pud probably does wane after the holiday. Plus, the shops in the area main cater for f@#king mainland locusts who probably can’t recognise christmas pud even if someone explained to them in tiny words.

I went back to my area to look at the supermarkets and shops there. Lo and behold, puds and mince pies were 35-50% off. Got her a couple waitrose ones and a couple of m&s ones. She’s the only one who likes them, and she has supplies to last a year. What a relief. To my chagrin, panettones weren’t on sale yet, may be a couple more days.

boxing day turkey with family


Since we went out on Christmas Day, the traditional turkey and presents was on Boxing Day. Parents opted for a pre-cooked turkey, around 10 pounds. I thought it was more like a large chicken. They’ve always gotten the pre-cooked, and it’s butterball from Marketplace, which is pretty good quality. If it were up to me, I’d roast the turkey myself, but I do appreciate the convenience.

The turkey was good, even the white meat was tender and not dry. The biggest issue was that it didn’t come with giblets or gravy. And since it only got an hour’s reheating in a low oven, there was no possibility of making gravy from it. I learned this lesson from last year. This year, I was prepared. I made chicken stock (roasted bones, mirepoix) a couple of days ago and continued working on the gravy all morning. I cooked the vegetables in the stock so they exchanged flavour with each other and it also meant the veg was healthy, not cooked in oil but tastier than steamed. I added about half a glass of red wine and reduced the stock to 50%. I then made a roux to thicken it to the desired consistency. It seemed a lot of trouble for gravy, but from watching so many cookery competition programs, I know that sauce/gravy is as important as the main ingredients on the plate.


Side dishes were carrots and green beans cooked in the aforementioned gravy. The potato element was bubble & squeak, which is kinda traditional Boxing Day fare made from leftover potatoes, cabbage and sprouts. True to the spirit, I actually made mashed potatoes and cooked a head of cabbage yesterday to use today as “leftovers” hahaha.

All in all, we were very pleased with the meal. Didin’t really have any dessert, just some small mince pies Sis brought over. Exchanged presents and facetimed G and R, who apparently are hoping that it’d snow in the UK. Let’s see if they get their wish, snow is predicted in parts of the UK but may be not as far south as West Sussex.

#82 two family activities

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Tasks #81-83 of 101.1001 are to participate in 3 new family activities or go to 3 new places. This is 2 of 3 and task #82.

I went to 2 family events today, first with my own family then with mm’s family.

In the morning, I braved the long bus journey (that didn’t make sense geographically speaking) to go to my niece’s school’s christmas bazaar. The bazaar was split into 2 buildings and 2 main areas. One had stalls selling all sorts of stuff: christmas decorations, chocolate, gluhwein, stollen, jams, cards, clothing and bric-a-brac. The other area had food & wine stalls selling sparkling wine, wine, beer, bratwurst, raclette, asian food, cakes and waffles.

We wandered around the selling area and mum bought biscuits and chocolate while I bought a couple of stollen. In the food area we had bratwurst and waffles. I tried a couple of their beers.

Very tired. I conked out on sis’ sofabed for 45mins in the afternoon.

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The evening activity was mm’s niece’s birthday. Her parents organised a bbq at a large outdoor bbq establishment. The staff set up our pit and we had a set of the usual: pork chop, chicken wing, scallop, prawn, fish balls, sweet potato and the like. The main attraction was a whole suckling pig which we grilled ourselves on a rotisserie set up over the pit. The suckling pig had already been partially cooked so it was just a matter of browning the meat and crisping up the skin.

When the skin was crisp enough, the staff came and chopped it all up for us. Yes, definitealy crispy skin and juicy meat.

Ice cream birthday cake to follow. I had 2 portions. All in all, a family day and very tired.

30in30 #22 bizarre holiday: chocolate milkshake day

Task #22 of 30in30 is to celebrate a bizarre holiday. Since I have homemade vanilla ice cream, it’s perfect to celebrate chocolate milkshake day.
All I did was blitz together 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate milk. It seemed the easiest, without having to buy chocolate syrup or cocoa powder, which are the usual ingredients used. It wasn’t chocolate-y enough so I melted some 70% chocolate into the mixture. Why 70% chocolate? I only have baking chocolate in my fridge.


Very rich, a little to sweet for my taste, which I know because the ice cream was too sweet. Chocolate isn’t my first choice for ice cream or milkshake, so if it weren’t for the national chocolate milkshake day, I would probably just had the vanilla ice cream on its own or with some fruit. I can’t imagine how many calories, I made myself go running for 5 miles in torrential rain for this.

handmade vanilla ice cream


When I was in Chicago during the summer, I walked past a Williams-Sonoma, couldn’t help but go inside and ended up buying a couple of zoku ice cream makers. I don’t have space for an ice cream maker, so this small bowl seemed to be a great idea — no churning, and it claims to make ice cream in 10mins.

I’ve watched enough cookery competition programs to know that the best ice cream is made from a custard base. The recipe I used is from david liebovitz, one of the few american cookery writers who give metric measurements. I used half his recipe.

125ml milk — I used hi-calcium 2% milk, because that’s what I have in my fridge
75g sugar — I think this is too much, next time I’ll start with 50g
3 egg yolks — I splurged and bought best quality organic “intense flavour” eggs from japan
250ml whipping cream
1 vanilla pod — if I halved the recipe I should have used half a pod, but I used a whole one anyway, I scraped the seeds out and the pod is now soaking in bourbon to make vanilla extract

Gently heat milk, sugar and vanilla seeds until sugar has melted. Slowly add to egg yolks, whisk and return to pan. Heat very slowly, stirring constantly to make the custard, it will be ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool.

In a separate bowl, cool the cream in an ice bath. Add the custard, stir and whisk until thickened and cold. The mixture can be kept in the fridge until ready to make the ice cream.

The instructions for the zoku is to chill the inner bowl in the freezer for 12hrs. The bowl is made of an inner metallic bowl and an outer ceramic bowl with coolant inside. At room temperature I can shake the bowl and feel the fluid sloshing inside. When frozen the coolant feels solid.

To make the ice cream, add a portion of the custard mixture to the frozen bowl, no more than half full. Then stir, fold and scrape for about 10mins until the mixture turns from a thick liquid to frozen ice cream. It really works!

Because all the ingredients are fresh and of good quality, and because I used real cream and a whole vanilla pod, the ice cream tasted unbelievable. Smooth and rich and creamy and simply irrestible.

30in30 #12: 3 fruits


Task #12 of 30 in 30 is to eat 3 different fruits in a day.

I had 13 giant peaches in the case from tokyo; one was extremely squashed and three were quite squashed. The figs I bought were also a little squashed. I had diced giant mangos in the freezer so it was an easy job to assemble a fruit salad. Even the extremely squashed peach had good bits, and 2/3 of a squashed peach tasted just as delicious as a whole peach.

I went to sis to give her the ikura, a few peaches and the pokemon soft toy to my niece. She had watermelon so total I had 4 fruits today.

two meals, two days


Two meals in two days. First was pork roasted on the bone, rice and broccoli that Carleen’s aunt made as dinner yesterday. Simple, delicious and nutritious home cooking. The meat on the bones in particular was done to perfection, just a smidgen of pink.

The second was chinese takeaway we got today. Unlike in the UK, this was actually a busy, large restaurant that had on its menu chinese, thai and japanese food. We got egg rolls (american for spring rolls), crab rangoon (because I refuse to acknowledge it as food), wonton noodle, fried rice, beef & broccoli, roast pork and pad thai noodles. There was a lot of food, so no worries about going hungry. In terms of authenticity, it’s authentic american food. In terms of taste, it was better than fast food but I think my tastebuds have changed. It helped my hunger but I’m not in any hurry to go for seconds until I’m hungry again.

norwegian brown cheese


We were having a sort of cruise loot dinner. Smoked salmon from Alaska and the brunost, or brown cheese, we got from Bergen. Brunost is made by boiling milk, cream, and whey slowly for several hours until the mixture solidifies. The heat gives it the distinctive brown colour and flavour. I agree with descriptions that say it’s like savoury fudge, or even a very savoury dulce de leche. The guardian said,

this is our version of Marmite: you either love brown cheese or you hate it

I can see why it’s an acquired taste. The colour is unexpected, and the deep brown of this block we got could be off-putting to some. Then there is the rich texture that sticks to the top of your mouth. And then the sweet and savoury tastes seem to flip and interchange. Apparently the Norwegians use it in stews, sauces, even with chocoate in cake, in addition to eating it on bread.

I’ve yet to meet a cheese I dislike; or an unusual food I hesitate to try. It’s definitly like marmite, and since I love marmite, I couldn’t get enough of the brunost.

jetlag appetite

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Jetlag does weird things to my appetite. Most articles say loss of appetite is fairly common after a long flight. It’s true for me to a certain extent. We arrived at 7pm last night and by the time we got our luggage and sorted ourselves out it was around 8pm. My dad met us outside and my parents went to eat before they made their way home. I didn’t feel like eating at all, the day I arrive I usually don’t want to eat. What I wanted more was a shower and to brush my teeth.

I woke up at 4.30am, no surprise. I was hungry all day, at odd times. And I was craving things I usually don’t crave. I spent most of the morning snacking, mostly chocolate and biscuits. I’m not one of those people who go gaga over chocolate.

Met mm after work. Only had one glass of wine, and ordered spaghetti for dinner. And I hardly ever order pasta in restaurants. Didn’t feel like dessert either.

It’ll take a few days to get back to normal. I have fish, vegetarian ham and cabbage in the fridge, fairly easy to cook food.

scotch eggs and ale


Had a few errands to run in the afternoon, was done by around 5pm. All walking today (okay a fair bit on the escalator). Went to a British pub and had a couple of their house draft seafarers ale. Scotch eggs for dinner, I’m on the fence about whether these were made by the kitchen, they look a bit too amateurish to be shop bought. Besides, not easy to find stuff like scotch eggs at the supermarkets. Stayed for a while, reading, while more people came in and the volume increased.

coconut sugar onion candy pizza

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One of mm’s aunts does sells snacks wholesale so we’ve been able to order the best fresh snacks from her, mainly biscuits. She gave me some of these old-styled candy snacks that we used to see sold on the street. The sellers were very distinctive, with their metal case with a glass front.

The idea is to sprinkle dessicated coconut and sugar ona honeycomb sugar slab then wrap it up in a thin pancake. The pancake is slightly salty and the honeycomb very light and brittle. It’s one of those snacks that needs to be eaten quickly in a few mouthfuls otherwise most of the filling ends up on the floor.

I never knew what these are called; mm said they are 糖蔥餅 which literally translates to sugar spring onion cake. It’s also difficult to google either a translation or even a description of the snack. The best I’ve come across is coconut sugar wrap although someone actually called them spring field pizza, which totally doesn’t make sense.

In any event, mm’s aunt gave me the individual components, and I did a fun video of how to make one. Good thing instagram pauses and picks up immediately, it was a challenge to hold the iphone and fold the thing with one hand.

new fruit: kumquat


It’s getting near CNY, so foodstuff that are traditionally around at this time of year and are supposed to bring good luck are beginning to show up. Fruits like mandarins, pomelo melons and these kumquats. The “kum” part sounds like gold and “quat” sounds like luck, so no wonder people are all over them.

I’ve had dried kumquats from dried fruit and health food stores and even though they are supposed to be good for dry throats, I didn’t like the aftertaste so I tend to get other dried fruits instead. Thought I’d try the fresh ones. They are eaten whole whole, including the skin although there may be small pips inside. The skin was nice, citrusy without being too bitter; the flesh inside was a mixture of sweet and tart and quite pleasant. It’s the aftertaste again that I didn’t like. Don’t think I’ll try more. My parents like them, I’ll stick to the apples and strawberries that are also in the fridge.

#22, #23: a-z food series on instagram

Tasks #22 and #23 of 101 tasks in 1001 days challenge.

The challenges were to complete a photochallenge using a photo app and to complete an alphabet food challenge, ie 26 pics of food from a-z. Two challenges for the price of one, I did an alphabet food & drink challenge using instagram. The list of foods:

  1. apple — a frozen apple dessert
  2. beer —- at humperdink’s dallas
  3. cheesecake — homemade for dad’s birthday this year
  4. doughnut — cruise breakfast
  5. egg — baked in potato, delicious
  6. fish & chips — in fake newspaper print paper
  7. grapes — frozen, which gave it a different texture
  8. hummous — from the food court in dubai
  9. ice cream — nice
  10. jelly — with raspberries
  11. kale — with tahini sauce, i miss kale
  12. lemon — with mini grater
  13. mango — cut up nicely
  14. noodles — fried noodles with eel
  15. okra — grilled at high temperature at home
  16. passionfruit — recently discovered a great market stall
  17. quiche — at a party
  18. raspberry — on the vine at parkside pyo farm
  19. steak — this was in dublin
  20. toast — over open fire
  21. uni — sea urchin sushi
  22. veal chop — from whole foods high street kensington
  23. waffle — and chicken at ihop
  24. xialongbao — taiwanese small steamed dumplings
  25. yogurt cheese — made by straining plain yogurt overnight
  26. zinfandel — could have used zucchini, but they are courgettes to me

mandarin strip


Here’s a fun distraction from the 101 in 1001 stuff. This is a fairly recent lifehacker post that references an older article elsewhere. It shows us how to unroll a mandarin orange into a pretty strip using 4 simple steps:

  1. cut off the top
  2. cut off the bottom
  3. make a vertical slit on one side
  4. carefully roll it out

I tried with a mandarin, and it worked until it broke in half. My fault for not unrolling on a flat surface and not gently enough. Eight points for following instruction, 9 for easy handling and, hmm, 5 for presentation. Of course it’s a lot easier with a mandarin than an orange because the peel of a mandarin comes off readily. Had to clean off the white pithy bits, all in all a very successful quick experiment. Next time, try with an actual orange.

[ETA: now it’s on huffpo]

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.

brick toast and fruit tea

twbricktoast01 twfruittea01

Shopping day for bbmm. We had chirashi set for lunch then braved the crowds at the department store for almost the entire afternoon. They were having their semi-annual sale week. Our takings included: laundry mesh bags, a microplane, long sleeved t-shirts, a L’Occitane face cream gift set, kettle chips, ostrich steaks, umeshu and a case of cabernet sauvignon icewine. Also looked at, but didn’t buy at the end, tagines and a pressure cooker. The tagine was small and cheap, but I’m wary of buying single use equipment. The pressure cooker was nice, but too expensive even after discount.

We took a break in the afternoon for tea. After exploring the nearby streets, we came across a Taiwanese style tea and snacks place. We shared one of their monster brick toasts — three thick slices of toast with butter topped with cream, strawberry ice cream, marshmallows, strawberries and blueberries. The inside of the toast was cut up in bite-size chunks and the idea is to eat the cubes together with the cream, ice cream and toppings. Messy but oh so good.

They also served interesting teas and coffees. It being a Taiwanese place there was obviously bubble tea. We opted for their iced tea which was lipton tea topped with either juice or soda plus fruit. There was additionally a small preserved plum in the glass, which gave it a sweet-sour tangy flavour that was refreshing. This is the only time that I think lipton will work, it’s too awful and tasteless to drink on its own, adding it to what is essentially a mocktail is a good move.



TAR this week featured paczki, or polish doughnuts. They look like doughnuts but are actually much richer and denser. The first, and only, time I had it was when my Chicago colleague treated us to some she brought in on Fat Tuesday “to make everyone Polish for a day.” She made sure I had one because she knew I’d never tried it before, she was so sweet. Seems like there’s lots of tradition around the Christian world of indulging before Ash Wednesday, in Poland they have Fat Tuesday and in the UK we have Shrove Tuesday which means pancakes, yay!

I’m a bit overwhelmed at the recipe for paczki. Quite a lot of flour and using mostly egg yolks mean a rich cakey dough. It’s not something I’ll ever make, because it’s deep fried. My colleague’s paczki came with a thick sweet, almost clotted, cream and preserved strawberries. I enjoyed it, I was still living in PT then and I made pancakes for dinner that night. Ah, memories of Chicago. Sigh.

giant mango

mango03 mango02

Looks like giant mangos are in season, mum bought a few which we ate over the weekend. One is enough for 4-6 people. I cut one up and filled an entire takeaway container. We bought a few more, wonder if they can be frozen. The flesh is brilliant orange, sweet, soft, not fibrous and the pit is quite small. Cheap too. I can just eat it on its own for a meal.



Went especially with sis and gis to this bar at happy hour, braving the friday night crowd, so we could have their 500g burrata. Gis loves the burrata at pizza express and this one was much larger, although IMO less tasty. What is burrata? Read about it at the kitchn. It’s not mozzarella, although it’s similar in taste and texture. To my not so great palatte, there’s a small difference but that’s it. Expensive too.

game burgers

Here’s another post that belongs in London 2012. The Exotic Meat Company at Borough market is my go-to place if I’m there at mealtimes. They have a grill that sells ostrich or kangaroo rolls for around £5-6. The stall sells mainly ostrich from Gamston Wood Farm but also stocks exotic burgers like springbok, kudu, bison, zebra, impala and crocodile. Aside from the exotic nature of these meats, they tend to be leaner and healthier than beef. Mum and I bought a bunch of these burgers to try out over the course of a couple of weeks. Here in reverse order of our preference:

5: camel
The toughest of the lot. Fatty and tendon-y. It’s a delicacy in the middle east, but since most of the meat comes from the hump, it stands to reason that it is really fatty.

The flavour is okay, a bit like veal. But the reason it comes 5th is down to the fattiness, it was like eating a mouthful of fat.

4: zebra
I’ve had zebra before, in Kenya and found it tough then. Still finding it tough this time. Quite chewy, but not as fatty as the camel. Again, it’s a meat that is supposed to be leaner and healthier than beef. Some describe it as tasting a little like rabbit while some describe it as tasting like horse or beef. Gotta laugh, rabbit and horse taste nothing like each other. I thought the camel tasted more like horse than rabbit, it’s not as delicate or tender, which is what I’d expect from rabbit.

3: llama
Llama, not surprisingly, is traditionally eaten in Bolivia and other South American countries. It’s supposed to taste like less greasy beef and lamb. I liked the taste, which was like lower quality, coarser beef. It was nice and meaty, although on the dry side.

2: elk
Considering elks are a member of the deer family, elk meat will be like venison. A large animal found in North America and some parts of Asia. Some people lump elk with deer and all them all venison anyway. I thought it was less red meat-like than venison, tasted more like beef and a little like veal.

1: springbok
Springboks are antelopes, so technically it’s another venison. Commonly found and served in South Africa. It’s a smaller animal than the elk, and this is reflected in the meat. Very tender, very subtle, lean and not gamey. Definitely our favourite in terms of taste, texture, colour and flavour.

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.