eating

teawoodlunch2018

Too much eating out recently. On the one hand I’m relieved I don’t need to cook, on the other hand I’m not 100% enjoying eating out. Thankfully it’s mostly quick meals, with the exception of mm and I going for hotpot at the place at the wet market. Zero stars for location, ambience and decoration. The previous time we went, the seafood was really good but this time was a disappointment. We probably won’t be going back till winter.

Aside from discovering a new korean place, the taiwanese noodle place has good lunch sets. Mum had the signature beef noodles and I had the set with braised meat and a small bowl of beef noodles. Came with a drink too. I can add a small amount and upgrade to bubble tea, and I tried the mint bubble tea that gis likes so much.

When I do cook, I’m trying to finish up the food we brought over so we’re having lots of pasta with canned soup and noodles. For a change, we only have four pieces of salmon in the freezer. I can walk to the nearby market, it’s around 15-20mins walk back and all uphill so I can’t buy too much. The first stall I went to was a mistake, the vegetables were good but too expensive. I think I’ve found a more value for money stall. Keeping to frozen meat right now, will go back to fresh when we move back and I can go back to the regular butchers and fishmongers.

AI ice cream flavours

aiicecream

Spotted via fastcompany, a group of school children from Texas used a neural network to generate ice cream flavour names.

The programmer of the neural network is Janelle Shane and she has a text-generating AI called textgenrnn which takes inputted datapoints and generate related text based on those. Shane had previously used 200 ice cream flavours and the results were less than satisfactory, including silence cherry, strawberry cream disease, sock caramel.

The schoolkids used a total of 1600 flavours, and together with the AI’s learning ability, generated more appetising flavours such as honey vanilla happy, team cherry, oh and cinnamon. That said, other flavour names generated include washing chocolate, mango cat, gravey cashew. There was also one flavour known simply as bug.

Still, pretty impressive.

mukbang oogui eating

Yuka Kinoshita is an oogui (“big eater”) and competitve eater who uploads videos of her eating an enormous amount of food. Here’s one of her eating beef-don at yoshinoya with 2 pro wrestlers. The two wresters finished 8 bowls together, and Yuka was still going strong at 10. TEN. I think if I’m very hungry I can just about manage two.

Here she finished five 1kg tomahawk steak.

This type of mukbang is both riveting and scary. She isn’t overly dramatic in her eating, just chomping away at giant portions like she would a normal-sized porton. There is a certain skillset to competitive eating, like how Takeru Kobayashi trains and inhales hotdogs.

[Edit: didn’t even notice, this was post #5000 on the website.]

the same sandwich every day

rchicken009carve

I’m trying to cook and eat up as much food as we can before moving. We had rack of lamb when sis came over on saturday so for meals today were lamb. I try not to do that, serve the same meal twice in a row. There’s a guardian article about eating the same sandwich for lunch every day. I’m quite horrified by that. A 2017 survey found that 77% of people surveyed had the same lunch every day for 9 months. A 2013 survey found 50% had the same lunch every day for 6 years. Cheese sandwiches and ham sandwiches were the most popular lunch items.

6 years of cheese sandwiches or ham sandwiches.

Some theories on why. Budget, laziness, not wanting to change. I guess there’s apathy too. No one is happy at work, and I can understand not wanting to have to expend energy thinking about what to eat for lunch. I used to bring a lot of chicken and savoy cabbage lunches to work too.

But 6 years of cheese sandwiches or ham sandwiches?

Interestingly, mefi commenters point out that many people have the same breakfast every day, and no one bats an eyelid. Good point.

I sometimes find it tough to have to think of what to cook twice a day. Which is why I have leftovers, but usually never two meals running. I rotate too, only I have a large enough pool to rotate through so it doesn’t get too boring.

On the sandwich front, tomorrow’s lunch will be roast chicken and roasted peppers wrap. Leftovers from roast dinner and easy to assemble and eat whilst the movers are here.

korean lunch set

koreanlunch201804

Mum and I went to loom at bathroom and kitchen tiles. First we had lunch at a new Korean place. Good lunch set, value for money. She ordered the bbq set and I had an oxtail noodle soup set. I ended up eating almost half her grilled meat anyway.

Saw a few tiles we like, there’s one especially that caught our eye. Pretty plain, off-white, very clean-looking.

tiny sushi

tinysushi

There’s a restaurant in the touristy area of Asakusa in Tokyo called Sushiya no Nohachi すし屋の野八 that looks really great. It has a gimmick, they serve tiny sushi.

The tiny sushi is made from one grain of rice by the owner’s son and chef in response to a customer’s challenge in 2002, the plate has two types of tuna plus surf clam, sea bream, uni, octopus, egg. It takes around 7.5mins to make, longer than normal-sized sushi, obviously because of how fiddly it is. It comes free (presumably on demand) with a regular-sized sushi course ranging from ¥7500 to ¥12600 (USD70-120).

sushiyaebi

The real treat at the restaurant is the edomaezushi 江戸前寿司, which traditionally comes from an earlier era before refridgeration. This means the perishable ingredients has to be marinated, boiled, or preserved between sheets of kelp. There’s a technique called sakurajime, or tightening the fish’s texture by using cherry blossom leaves. The restaurant’s fish primarily comes from Tsukiji, local farms, and its uni comes from Hokkaido. The omakase 12-course look fantastic. There’s the usual, extremely fresh, suspects. The prawn, a must-have of Edo-style, is ginormous.

Honestly, everything looks so wonderful. The gimmick is tiny sushi but the real star is the fresh, seasonal sushi made with plenty of skill and passion.

bbmm relaxing afternoon tea

chickenwingstea

We had dinner plans with friends and decided to meet up in the afternoon to go walking around. The builders have started drilling the external walls and this week they’re replacing the sewage system so we can’t use the loo–all the more reason to find an excuse to go out. Didn’t really go that far, explored some small shops in a converted warehouse. Amazing variety of shops, from clothing to food to toiletries to electrical appliances. There was a shop selling one specialist food product and opposite it was another shop selling treadmills and yoga stuff. Pretty cool.

We were feeling snackish but didn’t want to spoil our appetite so we found a small Japanese-styled café. Its at the top floor of another warehouse building, together with cargo lift and back stairs that go up to the top floor. Quite charming and relaxing inside. We could relax at the deep sofas there and they had Japanese magazines for browsing too. Food was average, we both had chorizo-stuffed chicken wings and lemon tea. They make the tea using oolong tea, which is more unusual. Couldn’t taste any difference to regular lemon tea though.

teatins

They had a charming selection of teas in colourful tins for sale too. I like the one on top left, with a London-themed tin and the tea is lemon pie tea. That could be interesting.

Dinner was good. Our ex-colleagues/friends are doing well. We got talking about opening our own consultancy again.

catching up on tv watching

Catching up with some tv watching and saw ep 1 of Nadiya’s British Food Adventures. She’s really charming in a down to earth way and I love how she visits a farm or a fishing boat or someone’s back garden and she’ll be cooking for the people featured. She has 4 recipes in that one episode and I’m tempted to try them all:

  • cheesy scones: really lovely, simple to make
  • indian five spice stir-fry veg: with fresh asparagus, carrot, pepper, courgette; another simple looking dish
  • smoked haddock rarebit: I’m not a great fan of smoked fish but this version has a rich white sauce and is full of cheese–who doesn’t like cheese on toast
  • eton mess cheesecake: great use of freeze-dried strawberries and perfectly showcases her cake decorating talents

coldsmoker

What also caught my eye was one of the people she visited, an ex-firefighter who now smokes fish. The haddock filets they used look lovely and he make a cold smoker from a large cardboard box, some tape, a couple of thick dowel rods and the rack the fish will rest on. The smoke comes from gently smoking wood chips inside what is known as a maze smoker so there’s not a real flame. Takes around 4hrs at room temperature.

I saw a ‘professional’ version for sale. £28 vs a couple of quid for the cardboard box, pffft. There’s obviously a youtube video about making your own cardboard box smoker.

The oher program I’ve been watching is Rick Stein’s Long Weekends. I’ve seen the eps on Bordeaux and Lisbon and I want to go to both places. The food, wine, and locations look stunning.

Interestingly, two of the restaurants featured in Bordeaux are from an old Guardian article. Either the places really are that good, or there’s some ‘referencing’ going on there. He did go to a vineyard where they served the most amazing looking côte de boeuf grilled over wine-soaked oak branches and with bone marrow jelly seared onto the crust. Served very blue, which can only mean the quality of the beef was top notch.

a quiet perfect restaurant

bitehouse

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.

space10bhotdog

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

space10burger

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.

space10neatball

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.

space10salad

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.

space10icecream

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

donutbeer

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.

1984wine

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.

bbmm homecooking take 2

After the success of home cooking and HP day, we couldn’t wait to do it again.

There was so much tempting and fresh food at the market, we were spoilt for choice. With great reluctance we limited ourselves to fresh clams, blue swimmer crab, and some very interesting small shell abalone that neither of us had seen before. On the way back to mm’s place, there was a pop-up stall selling still moving squid and clams. We got only the squid.

seafood06clams seafood11abalone

Food this fresh doesn’t need much work. Steamed with a little garlic, and for the abalone some dried orange peel. One dish at a time so piping hot when we started eating. Very sweet and delicious. My favourite was crab and mm’s favourite clams. The abalone were okay, not a lot of flavour although tender.

The squid we’ll reserve for lunch tomorrow. At the market we also got some ripe tomatoes so it’s simply a matter of making a calamari and tomato sauce then throwing in some pasta.

Home-cooking wins again.

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

cherimoya

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.

milk tray

milktray

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.

snake soup

snakesoup2018

Took my niece out for snake soup, because she wanted to try it and she asked me to take her. Sis won’t because she’s much more of an ethical/healthy type of eater, well actually she’s more squeamish. Rob won’t because he’s vegetarian lol. There are a few choices of restaurants but I picked one that is near my niece, has a good reputation and is a sit-down restaurant. Some other places I go to are holes-in-wall at markets and I wanted my niece to have a better experience first.

Snake soup is on many, many people’s bucket list. To be honest, it’s not so special although it’s not something I have all the time. I guess it’s like people don’t go out for clam chowder all the time. So, everything you want to know about snake soup:

  • it’s a soup made with snake meat, bones, chicken, mushroom, ginger, herbs and simmered for hours–since snake meat doesn’t have too much flavour it’s like a very rich chicken soup
  • the snake meat is shredded to thin slivers and looks quite similar to chicken, it can be distinguished in the soup because it’s slightly more brown and is a little bit tougher
  • snake soup has been around since the 3rd century and was a luxury dish enjoyed by the wealthy
  • it’s becoming more rare nowadays because special training is required to handle the snakes, most businesses are family-run

The place we went to has been around for almost 130 years and is currently run by the fourth generation family. It’s been in its current location since 1989. So, very traditional although it’s probably the one to take tourists and people who are trying snake for the first time.

And still a luxury. The soup is made from hours and hours of cooking and has additional ingredients to make it richer and sweeter. Equivalent to over £10 per bowl. I also had a bowl of rice with sausage and gis had rice with salted eggs.

The most pressing question, did she like it? Yes she did. She said it was unexpectedly good. She loves rich, almost gloopy soups and this one was exactly to her taste. The snake meat itself was pretty innocuous. May be next time I’ll take her to the really local one at the market.

cny dinner

2018cny04

Family dinner tonight at the posh club where sis and Rob are members. A bit of fun beforehand, sis booked the bowling alley and the three of us (me, niece and rob) tried to bowl. My scores were abysmal, the highest round was 95, ugh.

The dinner was buffet at the garden lounge at the top floor of the club building. Unlike hotel buffets, it was very civilised and the atmosphere very pleasant. There were only around 20 tables, so that was an advantage already. Soup and a half lobster salad were served at the table. My niece doesn’t like lobsters so mum had a whole one!

Both sis and I opted to add-on free flow drinks, which included champagne, red and white wine, and sake. We mostly stuck to champagne, I tried the sake with dinner and it was really good. Not dry, and went well with food.

Food was the usual buffet fare. Cold seafood of oyster, crab leg, prawn, clams were alright. Sashimi was fresh and enjoyable. I had two huge plates of rocket and beetroot salad and a little bit of cold poached trout. Skipped most of the hot food although the others said it was good–steamed fish, beef checks, iberico pork chops, curry. There was a noodle station which had very little business. Outside on the patio was a bbq station with skewers, roast rib-eye and other bbq meat. The skewers was disappointing, either overcooked (chewy and dry) or undercooked (the scallops were almost raw and not charred outside).

Had a sorbet and some macarons for dessert. There was a cheesecake with chestnut topping, I only ate the topping. Half my plate was full of delicious blackberries.

yorkshire pudding pizza

yorkiepizza

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.

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.

coastalforage

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

pickyeater

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.

bird’s nest soup

bkk647birdsnest

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.

bangkok eating out

colonnade01

More Bangkok prep. We booked sunday lunch buffet at the colonnade restaurant at the sukhothai hotel. It’s supposed to have one of the best buffets in the city. Just look at the pics from gourmetbangkok. There’s all manners of seafood, roasts, sushi & sashimi, Thai food, cheese and dessert.

colonnade02

Apparently they have weekly specials and some diners have enjoyed kangaroo buritto and foie gras. Price is ฿3000 (around US$95), which is on the pricey side for a buffet but we thought we’d splurge out. They have an option of adding ฿1900 for unlimited champagne, which translates to $60. So we’d each have to drink at least one bottle equivalent, and we’d still be out of pocket. It’s a no brainer to decide against it. We can spend the ฿1900 on massages, or go to one of Bangkok’s many rooftop bars. Our hotel is supposed to have one, but not sure if it’s open because the hotel is still in the soft opening stage.

Other than the buffet, we haven’t booked anywhere else. The plan is eat wherever and whenever. Hopefully there will be lots of local and street food. Even food courts are supposed to have good food, so we’re not worried, and we don’t need to spend our effort finding fine dining or Michelin starred restaurants.

Talking about Michelin stars, the first Michelin guide to Bangkok was published in December. 3 two-star restaurants, one of those is Gaggan, which serves modern Indian food. The other 2 are French or European cuisine. Of the one-stars, there’s L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and a number of French or European restaurants. Pretty disappointed in the Michelin inspectors actually. I mean, I like L’Atelier and all, but I’m not going to go all the way to Bangkok to eat there. There are 6 one-stars serving Thai food, including David Thompson’s Nahm.

jayfai

The one surprise (in that there was only one) is the star for Jay Fai, a streetfood vendor famous for crab omelette and crab curry. The place isn’t exactly street food, in that the restaurant is located in a shop house and not a cart on the pavement. It’s run by 72 year old Supinya Junsuta, who is better known as the eponymous Jay Fai. She cooks her dishes wearing full make up, a beanie and ski goggles to protect against the fiery heat of her woks. Before it received its Michelin star, it was already famous as a go-to eatery. After Michelin, queues of 2-3 hours formed around the block. Now Jay Fai wants to give up her Michelin star because of the attention.

Many people come just to see and take pictures and not necessarily to eat

And she’s had to buy more, and higher quality, ingredients to keep up with the demand, not necessarily increasing her revenue. The constant interruption from journalists and people wanting selfies is taking a toll on her too. Even though it may be fun to visit, and I bet the food is good, we decided to skip it because of the long wait. There’ll be other good food, equally tasty too.

#fonduegate

2014xmas11fondue

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.

paris041cheese

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

appalachiancookbook

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.

new year’s day turkey

One of the most boring new year’s day I can remember. Didn’t even feel like a ‘special’ day. After lunch the buyers of the furniture finally came to pick them up, after over a year. Turned out, the lady was busy at work and she’s also heavily pregnant! So they’ve had other things on their minds. The movers they used were very efficient, wrapping the dining table, chairs and sofa set in plastic wrap quickly. The flat now looks less like a dump site with only sofa set and a wonderful empty space in the dining room.

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Because of family visiting, there wasn’t time to properly plan the cooking of the turkey until now. It had been defrosting in the fridge for 4 days and even so only just defrosted. It just fit my baking dish, any bigger and I would have had to cut it in half. I cut up one whole lemon and one whole clementine and stuffed them inside. Seasoned with a mix of olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, mixed herbs, garlic. Wrapped the top with streaky bacon and had it sit on a couple of slices of lemon plus enough mirepoix to cover the entire pan. Two halved whole garlic heads joined the baking dish. There’s this pop-up timer on the breast, apparently it will pop out when the turkey cooked. I didn’t think I’d need it, but I arranged the bacon slices around it anyway.

The label said for 14 pounds it’ll take between 3 3/4 and 4 1/2 hours. I put it on 180ºC and kept an eye on it every half an hour or so and it was done at 3 1/4 hour. Only when I took it out of the oven did the thermometer pop out, so I don’t think it’s reliable.

I had been making the gravy from the giblets and my freezer chicken stock for an hour. Deglazed the pan and added to the stock, by then the mirepoix had more or less melted. Strained off the liquid and ended up with about 2l of gravy.

Took me a good half an hour to process the cooked turkey, ie separate meat from bones. I ended up with 5 small ziploc bags of meat, 2 large bags of bones and a small container of bits. One bag is enough for 2 meals for us. Not bad.

Not perfect, and not quite as tender as the cooked one we used to buy at the supermarket but personally I think tastes so much better.

sushi train, escape room

Met sis, gis, my cousin and his kids for lunch at a sushi restaurant sis suggested. It used to be a conveyor belt restaurant, but now it’s a sushi train. We order via a tablet, the food is prepared in the kitchen and sent to us on a miniature train. We take the plate and push a button to send the empty train back. It’s very, very cool. Much better than conveyor belt because the food is fresher and we can actually pick what we want instead of sitting around hoping for something good to arrive. The kids loved it.

2017xmas042lost 2017xmas043lost

After lunch, sis had booked us all to go to an escape room game at a place called Lost. The coolness of the day continued. We played a game called Alcatraz, where we were split into 3 teams and locked in 3 cells: Red, Green & Blue. We had to work together, solve puzzles and escape from the cells. The puzzles, in retrospect, were pretty straightforward, but in the moment when everything was unknown and we were all trying to scream at each other, it felt more stressed. Plus there’s always the time limit–45mins. We all managed to escape our cells but ran out of time to solve the last puzzle to escape from the room itself. A huge amount of fun and something I’d do again in a heartbeat. The kids say it’s one of the best they’ve played.

Everyone had separate plans so I ended up sitting in a Mcdonalds for 2hrs drinking one small coke zero and reading on my ipad. This branch is pretty good, not very crowded. I was waiting for mm to finish to meet her to help her with shopping. Her family is having a gathering this weekend and doing a New Year’s version of Christmas Secret Santa. The budget is local$200, but the difficulty is the gift has to be suitable for her parents (in their 70s) as well as her nieces and nephew (teen and pre-teen). I gave her a magnetic noughts-and-crosses game I’d originally bought for my nieces and she got a box of nice biscuits and a bottle of sparkling grape juice. Under budget too.

We weren’t that hungry so dinner was just noodles. Went to HMV to have a beer and chat for a bit until time to go home.

turkey->bacon->breakfast

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.

britishbfast

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?

roast beef

roastbeef

Was at the supermarket to check out turkey for Christmas. Normally we get ready cooked but it’s too expensive and the size is no better than a large chicken. So I’m going to cook it myself this year. Not a huge selection: 10-12, 12-14 and 14-16 pounds. We have to clear space in the freezer before getting one. And I have to find a good stuffing recipe.

What I saw was a beef joint for roasting in the fresh meat section. Sell-by date today so discounted to 1/3rd its sticker price. I can’t remember the last time I made roast beef, may be 20 years ago in London. It’s only a small joint, just under 1kg, and off the bone. I had to double check the roasting time and after researching, decided to follow a mix of Leiths’ and Jamie’s methods.

The timing is from Prue: 20mins at 220ºC then 30mins at 170ºC for this 1kg joint. The vegetable trivet idea is from Jamie: place the seasoned joint on a bed of mirepoix to catch the drippings. I had space in the roasting tray so I cubed some potatoes to make roast spuds. During resting, I made the gravy directly in the pan from the mirepoix, drippings, added chicken stock and a glass of red wine. I didn’t strain off the veg, kept it in the gravy.

There’s a bit of chewy sinew that made carving slightly difficult but I was well pleased that I got it rare-medium rare. Good beef taste; it’ll last us 3 meals.

india club on the strand

indiaclub

This was one of Marina O’Loughlin’s last reviews for the guardian and found its way to londonist too. I’m talking about The India Club restaurant at the Hotel Strand Continental.

The Hotel Strand Continental, despite its location on the Strand, is nothing to write home about. It’s looks rundown from the outside, and the entrance is next to what used to be a newsagent/Indian shop and is now apparently Gregg’s. I must have walked past it a couple of thousand times because of its proximity to King’s. But I never ever gave it a second thought. I asked mm and other KCL friends and no one remembers it.

Oh what a missed opportunity. The restaurant has been there since 1946, when it was founded by Krishna Menon, the first Indian ambassador to the UK. Its poximity to India House, both King’s and LSE, Fleet Street, and so many chambers means it’s a favourite for academics, judges, lawyers, journalists and embassy staff. The prices seem to be from 1946 too. The menu is a plastic sheet and full of familiar south Indian fare: masala puri chaat, lamb bhuna, butter chicken, masala dosa. Nothing to write home about, not instagram worthy, and they may or may not make their own naan. But BYOB and £15 per head average. Ms O’Loughlin said she’d go back again and again, not because of the food, but:

out of deep affection. I love it in the same way I’m drawn to the novels of Anita Brookner or EM Forster; to small films set in run-down Roman apartment blocks and gloomy Indian call centres; to side streets in unknown cities where old milliners and haberdashers miraculously survive, their windows shielded by sepia-coloured film.

It’s no Dishoom, but seems more the vibe and atmosphere that Dishoom wants to emulate and “modernise.” And the fact that it’s not modern seems to be the charm. £15 in central London? Right next to our beloved college? Definitely a must-visit when we finally make it back to London. I hope that it’ll still be there because it’s in danger of being swallowed by greedy property developers. There’s a petition and a project to get English Heritage listed status for the building. Good luck to them.

#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.

PICK FOUR 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

fourfoodsapocalypse

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.

#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.

flowatermeloncake

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.

pan-fried quail

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I see a lot of masterchef contestants make quail, because it’s quick to cook yet needs confidence because it’s not as commonly available or as easy to cook as chicken or duck. Plus, it’s chef-y.

I bought frozen quail from the japanese supermarket. Quite expensive, but definitely less expensive than eating out, as usual. I remember mm used to use it to make soup back when we were living in london.

The first batch a few weeks ago I roasted in the oven with a knob of butter inside. Took around 15mins, and it was really delicious. This time, I wanted to treat it in a more classic way. What’s more classic than to follow Jacques Pépin’s method for deboning? He made it look so easy. I was able to do it more or less the same way he did, although the end result didn’t look as neat. I used the bones to make sauce, supplementing it with a few more duck bones. Such a huge advantage to have bones in the freezer. Browned the bones for a good 20mins, then deglazed the pan with chicken stock. Ordinarily they teach us to deglaze with wine, but unless there’s a bottle already open, or I was about to start drinking a bottle, it’s not practical.

Pan fried the quail for around 10mins, until just cooked. I think I may have overcooked the breast, because it didn’t have the pinkness of medium rare meat and were a tad mushy. Overall, I found quail to be more forgiving than I expected because everything tasted great. When I was browning the duck and quail bones, there was a bit of fat rendered off so I used it to sauté leftover baked potato that I cubed.

I spent more time deboning and making the sauce than the actual cooking of the quail. Flavour-wise I prefer the last batch because: a) roasted on the bone and b) butter, butter, butter. Next time I’ll spatchcock then roast in butter, I think this will give the best tasting and best looking results.

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.

foodingredients01

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

foodingredients02

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

foodingredients03

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.

creamy scallop spinach pasta

scallopspinachpasta

Mum was out all day, she went out to lunch after mass, came back with shopping and met with her friends for dinner. I spent the day reading, didn’t even go out when mm texted and wondered if we should go out to enjoy the sunny weather. It was almost 3pm and we decided we should both just chill at home and get rested.

Leftovers for lunch but actually made dinner. For some odd reason I had a small carton of cream in the fridge. I made mushroom cream sauce the other day and there’s still around 2/3 carton that needs to be used. Made a rich sauce with lots of garlic, a little butter and about 150ml cream. Should be able to keep in a tight container for a few days. I spooned a little over the scallop and spinach pasta I was making for dinner which made the dish much more decadent. This is the type of dish that takes absolutely no time to make.

meatball pasta attempt

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Today’s attempt at cooking was meatball pasta. Around 60:40 pork and beef mince, and I used the guardian’s method of substituting eggs with breadcrumbs soaked in milk as the binding agent. Supposed to keep meatballs lighter. Problem was, they were so light that some fell apart when I was browning them.

The sauce was canned tomato, tomato paste, fresh cherry tomato and sun-dried tomato. Enough tomato or what. Added chicken stock and lots and lots of herbs–basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme. I think it was too tomato-y, it tasted primarily of tomato paste and I had to add sugar. Simmered for around 1hr.

I let the meatballs and bits of mince that were broken meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 20mins. Ended up with a pasta dish that was part ragu and part meatballs. I guess it’s all the same.

iphone ice cream

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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.

there’s a new apple in town

honeycrispapple2015

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

londonfoodtour

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?

someone invented a tea-making machine

teforia

First there was the Keurig, which spawned countless imitators. The $400 Juicero thankfully shut down. And now another victim of its own frivolity is also shutting down–the Teforia tea infuser. According to the manufacturer it is a “groundbreaking”

machine-learning tea infusion device

and its features include:

  • proprietary tea pods called Sips that cost betwen $1-6, around 2 servings per pod
  • each pod has a RFID chip that enables the device to read the type of tea and therefore length, temperature, amount of water etc needed for brewing
  • connects via bluetooth to an app which gives information such as the last time the user brewed a type of tea and most importantly, allows the user to buy more tea pods
  • connects via wifi so it can be updated with new brewing recipes
  • $1000 for the classic model — now apparently discounted to a bargain at $200

It was doomed from the start. An actual British writer at gizmodo reviewed the infuser and the article is a must-read because the device sounded comically useless. It failed the taste test of earl grey vs tazo brand; not that tazo is any good, mind. And as for english breakfast, otherwise known as “tea” in the UK, I’ll let the reviewer describe it:

The best cup of tea on Earth is the one Mum makes when I arrive in our kitchen from the long flight home, or, if that’s not in reach, one that reminds me of that. The Daybreak reminded me more of the utterly depressing tea I’d buy at the cafe in Heathrow bus station

It’s yet again another Silicon Valley invented solution for a non-existent problem. A tea-making machine that costs the same as an iphone X? Each serving costing a few dollars? Plus tea that tastes like, well, an American made it? Are they having a laugh.

Americans need to stop trying to make tea, they don’t even know how to use use the term cuppa correctly. It’s not a “cuppa of tea” mate.

Automated tea-making machines are not new. There have been teasmades since the 1930s. Swan still makes clock radio teasmads which can be bought at Argos for less than £60. Okay, no fancy app or RFID pods and you have to supply your own teabag. But with a big box of PG or Yorkshire tea costing a few quid (or dollars), if someone really wants a machine to make their tea for them, get a teasmade instead of these not!smart smart devices.

ribs, tomato, pepper, potato

ribstomato

One baking tin dinner tonight, an old favourite and a new preparation.

Went to the market and got boneless ribs. Marinaded with olive oil, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, paprika, garlic, liquid smoke, s&p for 1hr then slow roasted at 160ºC covered with foil for 1.5hrs.

Peppers stuffed with tomato is an old recipe from Delia’s Summer Collection. Halve and roast peppers around the one-hour to go mark, then add tomatoes when peppers are soft. I didn’t have anchovies so I used sun-dried tomatoes instead to compliment the fresh tomatoes and add saltiness. Soaked in hot water to soften then chopped and added with fresh tomatoes.

The potatoes were hasselback potatoes which were made by cutting the potato into thin slices, but not all the way through to the bottom. Seasoned with butter, rosemary and s&p. Added to the baking tin at around the one-hour to go mark.

Everything was ready at around the same time. I don’t think the picture did it justice, tasted much better than it looked.

family visiting | chow mein sandwich

chowmeinsandwich

Met my aunt and cousin for lunch. They’re the Rhode Island relatives; I hadn’t seen my aunt in absolutely ages and I don’t remember her daughter at all. I think when I last saw them last my cousin was still a kid. She’s now all grown up and very tall.

Went to the peking duck and shark’s fin place, which we all agreed is a family favourite. Everyone has memories of going there with my grandparents as hosts. Whenever someone comes for a visit from the US and Canada, that’s where we all go.

My aunt and uncle have a restaurant (or restaurants, I’m not sure) in RI, their parents had a fabulous fried chicken place that I have vague and fond memories of. My cousin showed us a video of their signature dish, the chow mein sandwich. I asked her to send me the video but she hadn’t gotten round to it yet, so here’s a stock pic. My aunt says the dish was responsible for paying for their house and college education for my cousins. It’s been around for decades, so can be considered a precurser of the ramen burger that was the craze a while ago. But where the ramen burger is all hipster pretentiousness, the chow mein sandwich is more down-to-earth. The ramen burger has noodles as the bun, whereas the chow mein sandwich is

crunchy noodles soaked in a super salty, meaty, brown gravy until they’re no longer all that crunchy, then combined with ground pork, onion, celery, and a gelatinous brown gravy that tastes better than it sounds, and slapped sloppily between either half of a cheap hamburger bun

A little investigation, together with a very interesting article at the New England Historical Society reveals that the chow mein sandwich originated at the town of Fall River, Massachusetts which is less than 30mins’ drive from where my RI relatives live, in the Providence area. The sandwich is also unique to that part of southeastern MA and RI.

What’s intriguing is that the chow mein sandwich is attributed to Frederick Wong who started the Oriental Chow Mein Company in 1938. Their Hoo-Mee chow mein mix is what goes into the dish. Frederick’s son Albert and daughter-in-law Barbara took over the family business and the chow mein sandwich mantle. I wonder if they are related to my uncle, who is also a Wong.

There’s so much of my family’s history in that part of the world–my grandmother was born in Newport in 1916 so there’s history going back 100 years–I really want to know more about them. Need to plan and scheme.

smoked water

smokedwater

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.

learn one recipe

On an episode of Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight Club they asked their guest of the week, Selma Hayek, what dish she’d like to learn from any professional chef. She mentioned a Lebanese chef and a Lebanese dish, I didn’t catch the name. But it got me thinking, if I can learn one dish from a professional chef and then forever be able to make it perfectly, what will it be?

For this purpose I will exclude the fiendish 90-step nightmare that are Masterchef pressure test challenges. Most of them are simply impractical to make at home. What if I did learn how to make Christy Tania’s Mystique? I won’t have the opportunity to make it.

There are well-known difficult dishes to master and these are contenders: baked alaska, soufflé, beef wellington. I saw paella and consommé on the list and upon reflection, they are difficult to do well. Classic French cooking is challenging with the emphasis on technique and sauces. Baking too–croissant, sacher torte, gâteau st honoré. Asian dishes such as curries, tamagoyaki, xiao long bao are also not easy to master. I don’t know much about Latin American dishes either. There’s an old mefi thread that has a lot of interesting suggestions in addition to traditional difficult dishes: follow the recipes in cookbooks such as Alinea, El Bulli, Fat Duck; trying to accurately replicate a twinkie or big mac, make your own cheese.

croquembouche03

The most difficult recipes I’ve tried to make are all baking and desserts: croquembouche, chocolate fondant and handmade salted caramel truffles turned out really well; tart tartin and chocolate soufflé less so. The apple tart had a soggy bottom and the soufflé was more like chocolate cake. I don’t know why I’ve always classified desserts as tricky. Rack of lamb is difficult for some people, but I make as often as I make roast chicken.

In my mind, the dishes to be learned can be grouped into categories:

  • time consuming — cassoulet, boeuf bourguignon, haggis, head cheese
  • showstopping — baked alaska, beef wellington
  • deceptively simple — sole veronique, perfect roast chicken, scrambled eggs (remember how Gordon Ramsay said it’s how they test new chefs)
  • baking & desserts — bread, croissant, pastry, meringue, macaron, tempering chocolate
  • needs years of practice — sushi, soba noodles, mole
  • sauces — béarnaise, hollandaise, mayonnaise

It’s difficult to pick just one recipe. I’m going to cheat and pick one savoury and one sweet. For savoury the contenders are beef wellington and cassoulet. My choice of cassoulet is based on what I would like to eat again and again and again. I have better access to duck leg than filet of beef and, well, I’d pick duck over beef most days.

gateausthonore

For the sweet recipe, I’ll go with one of the Cordon Bleu’s three most difficult recipes to make: gâteau st honoré because of the sheer number of pastry techniques needed in one single dish:

puff pastry, pâte à choux (dough for cream puffs), caramelized sugar and Creme Chiboust, a filling made from pastry cream and Italian meringue.

flavours

aquavit

Sis gave me a pack of small bottles of aquavit from the Swedish shop a while ago. Since I’m trying to reduce my total amount of stuff, I opened it to give it a try. The labels are all in Swedish and I’m too lazy to google translate them. I can figure out some info from the pictures, there are bottles flavoured with rosemary, orange and some classic-looking labels. Aquavit is a spirit distilled from grain or potato and flavoured with caraway, dill, anise, fennel–caraway being the primary spice used. In Sweden, it’s a holiday or celebration drink drunk as a shot and accompanied with singing, before, during and after each round of shots with increasing enthusiasm. I can definitely taste the caraway and there’s a strong aftertaste of anise too. My first few sips had too much anise, but after a few more, it became sweeter and I was able to tolerate it better. I did not burst into song.

Tried with orange and passionfruit juice (which was what we had in the fridge) and it was quite nice.

Another spirit I’m trying to finish is a small bottle of ouzo I got in Greece. It’s been said that if:

you’re a fan of absinthe, aquavit, or liquorice in general, you’ll dig ouzo

because they all have the base note of anise together with fennel, coriander and cloves. Again, I had it with juice and it was pretty good.

This is very, very odd. I absolutely do not like anise-flavours and I will spit out liquorice. I can’t stand coriander either, it smells like detergent and I can’t stand to have even a small morsel in my food. But I love, love, love fennel and I was fine with both aquavit and ouzo. Okay, I wasn’t very keen on tasting them neat, and perhaps the sweetness of the juice masked the anise notes. I’ve also had absinthe before, once in France and once in the Czech Republic (oh, sorry Czechia) and I didn’t like it. There’s some whacky flavour palate thing going on.

Liquorice, like durian, is a very black-and-white flavour in that people either love it or hate it. There seems to be some scientific theories behind it, that there is a difference between how we handle the aroma vs the taste of flavours. Or precisely, specific chemicals in the food. Anise type food contains glycyrrhiza glabra, and aversion to its taste seems to determine whether someone likes or hates these foodstuffs. The compound that gives this class of food its distinctive smell is anethole, and reactions to smells can be changed over time. Still doesn’t really explain my experience.

One thing is clear, I’ll finish the aquavit and ouzo (with lots of juice), continue to cook fennel, and stay far away from liquorice.

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.

achatztabledessert

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.

solskinsoen

via Outside magazine, Solskinsoen is a film about running a brewery on an island in Denmark.

Penyllan brewery is located on Bornholm, which is mainly a holiday destination that fills up with holiday crowds in the summer and is very quiet in winter.

penyllan

What a beautiful place and committed brewers. They’ve only just started, their website is a landing page only. Their fb page says they will launch their first beers on 4 October.

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.

campingfoodthaicurry

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.

ramen

ramenyokohama

Had a meeting in the morning, don’t want to jinx it by giving too much away.

I finished around noon, so I was on the lookout for a quick lunch. Wandered around and the candidates were the usual diners, one that has pasta and a glass of wine, or this ramen shot that usually has a big crowd outside waiting. When I went to the ramen shop, it was just 12.05pm and there were counter seats. So ramen it was. The name of the shop is Yokohama ramen, but I don’t think there is anything special about Yokohama.

Watched the chefs make the ramen and they were authentic enough. The ramen were from Japan and the broth made from pork bones. I had one with the charsiu in cubes as opposed to the usual sliced. Overall, enjoyed the meal. When I left, there were already more than 10 people queuing outside.

meat index

ire055butchercote

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.

meatprices

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.

slow cooked duck legs

duckleg01

Recipe from Mark Bittman at the NYT. He was writing this week on grubstreet about grilling duck legs too, although the only grill I have is the one at the top of my oven and isn’t the bbq grill he was talking about.

Anyway, the method we see people on cookery programs most of the time is confit duck legs. I don’t really want to waste a bottle of oil so this slow cooked method is better.

In a cold pan over medium heat start browning the duck legs, skin side down. In the meantime, prep carrots, celery and potatoes. The recipe has onions but I ran out so I used extra celery and 4 cloves of garlic. Added potatoes for a true one pot meal. I chopped the veg into larger chunks than the recipe to give more bite.

Once the duck skin has crisped up, turn over and brown the meat for a couple of minutes. Transfer to baking dish.

Pour out almost all the duck fat (I have an old peanut butter jar I use to keep my duck and bacon fat). Sauté the veg for about 10mins, transfer to baking dish with duck. Season with s&p, rosemary, thyme.

Heat chicken stock in pan to deglaze and bring to the boil. Pour into baking dish until most of duck legs are covered, making sure the skin isn’t covered. I didn’t have enough stock, it was perfectly fine to top up with boiling water.

Cook at 200ºC for 30mins, then turn oven down to 180ºC and continue cooking for around 1hr until duck is tender and most of the liquid has reduced.

duckleg02

Very, very good. There was just about enough sauce to cover the baking dish, and it had a nice intense flavour. The recipe says use homemade chicken stock and I agree, it makes all the difference. The duck was fork-tender and had lots of flavour.

We are lucky that we can get duck breast and leg fairly inexpensively, perhaps because the locals don’t know how to cook them. It’s frozen and definitely not gressingham duck we get in the UK, but with the right cooking method, is one of our staples. Easy to make too. Total cooking time around 2hrs, but mostly unattended.

pub party

ashleyrdpub01

Sis, Rob and I went to the first anniversary party of one of R’s friend Andy’s pub. R is an investor there also, like a few others that Andy has opened. It’s a nice little pub in a central area but on a street that is less crowded. I’m glad to have found it, sometimes I have a little time to spare and nowhere to go to, like a pub. Of course I can find a fast food place and sit for a bit, but honestly who wants to sit at Mcdonalds, having to share a filthy plastic table with others.

ashleyrdpub02

The party was between 4-9pm, so they could still take in customers. They had beer, rosé and red wine, all served in a plastic beer cup. Snacks too like chicken wings, salad, pasta. R’s friend Patrick showed up and he somehow snagged a bottle of prosecco for our table. Yay for young Patrick. We left at around 8pm, I got home with enough time to shower and watch MKR.