Thursday, December 28, 2006

Final cooking in 2006

I spent a good part of the last few days of 2006 in the kitchen cooking for family, friends and for myself. I had another embarrassing failure of an over-salted salmon fishcake that some first-time guests were too polite to not finish, while I could only swallow one bite of my own, and thankfully the rest were better. I’m also as happy as a clam at the fact that most of my dishes that I cooked on the eve of 2007 turned out pretty damn good after spending a good part of the year perfecting a handful of dishes with numerous disasters edible along the way. Alongside these, I’ve also had beginners luck with these two dishes over the past week.

Spaghetti ai ricci di mare (Uni pasta)
Serves 4

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1 tray of sea urchin roe
2 tablespoons + 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped
2 - 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
salt to taste
400 g dried spaghetti

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta according to the timing indicated on the package until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, gently mix sea urchin roe, 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, parsley and salt to taste together in a large glass bowl.
3. Heat 3 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes and a pinch of salt until the garlic turns a darker yellow but not brown, about 5 minutes.
4. When pasta is ready, drain but save about 1 Tbsp of pasta water. Add pasta and reserved pasta water to the urchin roe mixture then pour over garlic and chilli oil. Toss well and serve.

Crab Wontons in Lemongrass Broth
Serves 8 – 10 as an appetiser

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Lemongrass broth:
2 litres chicken stock
3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and chopped
Peels from a lemon
3 stalks of spring onion, cut into 5 cm lengths
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

To make stock:
1. Bring chicken stock to the simmer.
2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered for 20-25 minutes, then strain. Check seasoning and set aside.

Crab wontons:
350 g crab meat
2 tsp olive oil
11/2 tablespoon finely chopped coriander
2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
½ teaspoon soy sauce
¼ teaspoon five-spice pepper
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
35 wanton skins + extras

To make wantons:
1. Combine all ingredients except wanton skins.
2. Place ½ a teaspoon of crab mixture in the middle of the wanton skin then dab the edges with water. Fold the wanton skin to make a triangle, then take the base edges and turn them about 45 degrees till they meet. Repeat till all the crab filling is used.

To assemble:
1. Reheat soup.
2. Bring another pot of water to the boil, then drop a few wantons in at a time. Remove as the float to the surface and transfer to serving bowls.
3. Ladle hot soup over wantons and garnish with sliced spring onions and serve immediately.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I've learnt to to make a kick-ass roasted rump

If I were I cow, I want to be a wagyu cow. Life will be short-lived, but at least I would have had endless sake facials, massages, ate richly and well and drank copious amount of beer.

But lucky for me, I’m at the other end of the food chain. Over the past month, I’ve been trying to master the craft of making tasty cow’s buttocks, which is more politely known in society as roasted wagyu rump. I have tried a few permutations… one being seasoning with either thyme, olive oil, pepper and salt or rosemary, olive oil, pepper and salt. Between the two, I have found that because of the full tasting nature of wagyu, it needs a slightly more powerful herb and the so the rosemary stood up to it better.

The second thing I’ve tried to do it to roast it at a higher temperature in the oven and for 15 minutes and then lowering the temperature for the remaining cooking them, but I have found that it was easier and better to start the browning process in the roasting pan over the gas stove and to finish off the roasting in the oven.

The third thing that I have observed and would seem rather obvious is that it is very important for the piece of meat to come to room temperature before roasting, taking it out 15 minutes and 30-45 minutes before cooking makes a huge difference. If it is not at room temperature, the cooking WILL be uneven and the insides will be raw not rare, but raw and it still might be a tad cold.

Other observations I have made, making a roast starts with good meat. With a good marbling score between 8-10 wagyu meat, it will be very forgiving. If you over-roast it, it will be a damn shame but it will still taste wickedly good, but if you work with a calculator and a kitchen timer with a loud alarm and get it done medium-rare it will be a sure winner, and every meat-lover will want to be your friend.

Resting the meat is also a very important step that must not be skipped. I usually rest the meat rest the meat in the oven with its door open for 15 minutes before slicing. This is important because it is the process that allows the juices to return to the centre and makes it juicy and succulent.

When slicing, make sure you have a cloth at hand and that you are wearing an apron and not wearing white to make sure that any bloody meat juices spills do not make you look like a murderer.

Here is what I think should be done when roasting wagyu rump

For a 1.8kg rump
3-4 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
1-2 Tbsp olive oil

1. Season rump with salt and pepper then rub it with oil and rosemary. Do this at least 3 hours before hand or the night before and let it marinate in the refrigerator.
2. Remove rump from the refrigerator at least half an hour before cooking and ensure that it comes to room temperature.
3. Preheat oven to 180°C.
3. Heat roasting tin until hot and make sure you get a good sizzling sound when the meat hits the pan. Fry the meat on each side for about 3 minutes or until brown, then remove rump from pan.
4. Place a rack in the roasting tin and place rump, fat side up, onto the rack and transfer to the preheated oven and roast for 55 minutes. Switch off the oven and let meat cool with the oven door open.
5. Slice and serve with a green salad and mashed potatoes.

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Eating Christmas Leftovers: Peanut Butter & Turkey

After three days of festive eating and just over-eating, I’m left with a lot of turkey + stuffing, half a ham and about half a kilo of roast. So, seeing how I was totally abandoned by everyone in my family for dinner, I had a choice or either braving the rain to find some food or staying home and to cook. I decided on the latter seeing how it made no sense going out for dinner because it would do the dead birds injustice after roasting them in the hot oven for several hours and we really should try not to waste good food.

I was craving for some crunchy peanut butter, and was tempted to just slap some on one slice of bread and nutella on another and press them together for dinner, but again I felt really guilty about all the leftovers in the fridge that might be tossed out in a few days if I don’t help with the eating. Hmmm…. peanut butter or peanut butter or peanut butter, I simply could not shake the thought of peanut butter off my mind, and then I got made perfect sense, I would make a ‘trashy’ peanut butter & turkey sandwich. To me it seemed relatively logical…err…after all, they serve a lot of Chinese chicken stir-fries with nuts right?

My house-help watched me with an aghast expression plastered on her face, as I proceeded to spread a thick layer of peanut butter on toast, laid shredded turkey meat, topped that with baby spinach, twisted the pepper mill and finished with another slice of toast. So to defend my sandwich concoction I made her a sample, a piece of turkey and spread some peanut butter that was received with a very surprised “it is good!” And I felt a sense of validation. Peanut butter & turkey sandwich, when I first said it out loud it sounded really odd, and perhaps it is just another one of those days where I have cooked/made nonsense food in my kitchen but the long and short of it is that I confess: I really liked it.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Flog Exchange: Pairings!

* In case you haven't seen this on hinata's blog

Sorry for the delay as some peopl needed a bit more time to get back to us... but here we go, the moment you've all been waiting for!

Below are the pairings for the Christmas Flog Exchange. You'll each be getting an e-mail from hinata and I providing you with the contact e-mail and address of the person who's wish you'll be fulfilling - do get in touch directly to arrange how to exchange gifts! Sorry if some of us couldn't get first choice wishes, it was difficult to match everyone up exactly :) For detailed wish descriptions, please refer to previous post.

1. Brenda's wish for Mexican/Jewish delights will be fulfilled by Hinata!

2. Cheryl's wish for dark chocolate will be fulfilled by Nadnut!

3. Nadnut's wish for personalized cupcakes will be fulfilled by Mia!

4. Umami's wish for a surprise will be fulfilled by Jasmine!

5. Viviene's wish for Christmas goodies will be fulfilled by Umami!

6. Samuel's wish for chocolates will be fulfilled by Viviene!

7. Jasmine's wish for strawberry shortcake will be fulfilled by SuperFineFeline!

8. Callen's wish for German chocolate cake will be fulfilled by Vivien Teng!

9. SuperFineFeline's wish for chocolate cake baked by Cheryl will be fulfilled by Cheryl!

10. LeRoy's wish for macarons will be fulfilled by joone!

11. Mia's wish for risotto with truffles / Isetan vouchers for o-toro will be fulfilled by Callen!

12. Ivan's wish for a t-shirt will be fulfilled by Samuel!

13. Joone's wish for a serving plate will be fulfilled by Ivan!

14. Hinata's wish for Japanese confectionery will be fulfilled by LeRoy!

15. Viviene Teng's wish for chawanmushi cups will be fulfilled by Brenda!

Do post up on your gift and giver, or even your meeting session! It would be fun to see what ideas everyone came up with and how they turned out :)

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The REALLY fun side of food

Before the year comes to an end, I think I should finish blogging about NYC, my biggest eating trip this year, to close the year before I embark on another hopefully amazingly yummlicious year.

50 Clinton St., New York,
between Stanton and Rivington Str
Tel: +1 (212) 4772900

The New York Times put their finger on it when they selected WD-50 as the “Best Weird Food that Actually Tastes Good”. The man behind all this creative weirdness, which is currently conveniently lumped together with the category of molecular gastronomy along side names such as Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal is Wylie Dufresne, who like them incorporates a large element of science into their cooking. And his restaurant WD-50 is as straightforwardly named is where you come to meet Wylie Dufresne at 50 Clinton Street.

The weirdness actually isn’t that weird. I think the weirdness is actually fun! How many restaurants would serve you elements such as deep-fried mayonnaise, chocolate soil, a foie gras terrine that oozes beetroot or even get you to make your own noodles from a squirt bottle? The restaurant experience in fact is highly-entertaining and flavoursome, the only drawback from this place is that if you are a large eater, you might have to stop at a hotdog stand on the way back.

On to dinner itself… we nibbled on the paper-thin sesame flatbread before deciding to go with the tasting menu of 11 courses. The first course, which was smoked tuna, dried apricot, pumpernickel-licorice, had very gentle flavours, but I think the textures of the various ingredients were slightly more interesting.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting The carrot-coconut sunny-side up is one dish that I will probably remember for a long time. It looked like and egg and clearly behaved like an egg, oozing a rich and thick orange-coloured liquid when the ‘yolk’ broke, but tasted nothing like an egg. Instead, as its name suggest the flavours were pure and concentrated carrot and coconut, really fun! To continue the oozing (sorry that I keep saying oozing) liquid theme, next was foie gras, candied olives, green peas, beet juice, which was a round of foie gras terrine with a centre of beet juice and green pea powder. As we gently sliced our knives through the terrine, the beet juice poetically spilled out, and this dish was a wonderful combination of the rich foie gras, the sweet beet and the crunchy peas.

Next up was the shrimp cannelloni, chorizo, thai basil, which was for lack of a better word, shrimpy. The cannelloni skin amazingly (I was impressed) tasted like shrimp and this flavour was echoed by rolling another piece of shrimp in it. As if that weren’t enough to highlight that we were eating shrimp, the Thai basil leaves and stronger flavoured and spicy chorizo that was served with it lifted the shrimp flavour. It was good.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Moving on to the dish that got tongues waging, the next course was of beef tongue, fried mayo, tomato molasses was wonderful. Deep-fried mayo cubes are often associated with WD-50 and well, they are indulgently comforting and delicious. Along with tongue, bread crumbs and tomato molasses, it was very cute and delicious.

As for the cocoa-dashi, lemon yoghurt noodles, other than the theatrics of squeezing your own noodles from a bottle and it forming noodles the instant it hits the soup, this dish seemed really random and the flavours were really strange. This was my least favourite of all the dishes.

Moving on to main course, we had langoustine, celery root, banana-mustard, followed by duck breat, parsnip ricotta, spaghetti squash, black vinegar, which were well treated and well cooked, that being said, if you ate any of the elements on the plates alone, they tasted a little bland, but if you mixed it all up, it generally worked together.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI’m not too bid a fan of dessert, so this was quite an exception that I liked every single dessert that was served. So I think the (then) pastry chef, Sam Mason, deserves a mention. Before we hit the dessert courses per se, we had an interlude which was a tangerine sorbet, basil, olive oil. My initial reaction was, ‘eh, olive oil in ice cream?’ but it really works well. The fruitiness in the olive oil came out along with the refreshing nature of tangerine and basil. Very good! A good sign of things to come. The first of the two desserts was a manchego cheesecake, foamed pineapple, quince and the second was butternut sorbet, pumpkin seed cake, chocolate soil, mole. We all agreed that they were both delicious, but I liked the first dessert for its creamy block of manchego cheese that was coated with biscuit crumble and the feeling of the pineapple foam dissolving in my mouth. My favourite ingredient on the other plate was a no-brainer, chocolate soil! Despite the fact that is has a rather unsavoury name, conjuring images of worms and decomposition, the name made me laugh and the taste made me smile, think sweet chocolate sandy biscuits. The last ebilble delight that made its way to our table was the wild rice crispy treat was ok but nothing really to write home about.

My take on this whole molecular gastronomy thing, in reference to this new-style of cooking, is that it is about having fun. Cooking is all about science and the art of manipulation and so this fad about foams, soils, powders and all that is fun. Eating other than sustenance is also about entertainment, and this form of cuisine does that. In addition, it isn’t as if these ‘madhat’ chefs and cooks are simply throwing utterly random ingredients together, they put together flavours that do work together and do combine together to create something good and sometimes something spectacular. So, why not?

* To see the whole set here.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yo-yo-yoshida & NinjaHelloKitty!

Sushi Yoshida
10 Devonshire Road
Tel: 67355014

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If I knew the man and was his friend I think I would be inclined to say something really annoying like, “yo-yo-yoshida!” every time I meet Yoshida-san. Maybe it is a good think I don’t know him personally. I have, however, gotten to know his restaurant a little better over the course of this year.

My latest outing to Yoshida was with the one and only NinjaHelloKitty (ninjahk), to celebrate his birthday and of course to eat some damn good sushi. Our original plan was to scale the steps and to lunch at Flutes at the Fort, but my stomach was crying out for some Japanese food and I decided that ninjahk’s aging knees would be happier with Yoshida, since every time I mention Flutes at the Fort, he would tell me about the potentially treacherous steps, especially after one of those slow-food lunches. So yo-yo-yoshida (sorry, I couldn’t resist) was the obvious choice.

We walked past the outdoor prep station, over the tiny tiny tiny wooden bridge, said hello to the plastic lobster that was half-hiding underneath it, passed under the noren and took our seats at the sushi bar.

We pored over the a la carte and the set lunch menus while watching the chefs work in a very economic manner in their tight kitchen and our geeky food bloggerish conversation drifted from wondering what the chef was up to, what we wanted to eat, to debating about macro abilities of our digital cameras. Lunch choices for me was a toss-up between the chirashi and the sushi set and since I had the former the last time stole away to this oasis for lunch, I decided for us that we would have the sushi sets. After all, it is hard not to order sushi or their recommended seasonal sashimi platter in Sushi Yoshida. Ninjahk on the other hand, had more indulgent treats on his mind and determined that we should have a serving of swordfish sashimi, which they unfortunately did not serve and so dictated to the wait staff that we would have an order of chu-toro sashimi and kaisenmushi, well I guess if you don’t enjoy and eat deliciously on your birthday, when will you?

The set lunch started with an appetiser as what the restaurant terms as the tamago course, which is a cold semi-cooked or a very soft soft boiled egg that swims in a dark pond of yuzu-infused sauce that aromatic and refreshing at the same time is a very whetting and scrumptious treat.

While waiting and closely watching the sushi chefs slice and dice and lightly sear some fish or melt some mayonnaise on their sushi pieces with a blow torch, we enjoyed two more interlude courses, the very fresh and melt-in-your-mouth chu-toro that was served with a ginger-infused soy and a normal tamari and the very gentle custard chawamushi that was topped with a very generous piece of uni and popping ikura. All very good, and then they laid our sushi plates before us, ah…this is what we came for, the sushi.

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I think I can safely say that it is hard to have bad sushi at Sushi Yoshida. After all, they get air-flown fresh fish up to four times a week and he has trained under our own sushi yoda, Nogawa-san of Nogawa and Akane. That afternoon’s sushi was no different and it was thrilling to eat piece after piece of different tasting and textured slices of raw fish along with vinegared rice. The highlight of the selection was something that neither ninjahk nor I had tasted before – raw white bait – that was slippery and popped in my mouth. It was an excellent and a very filling lunch, I insisted that the ninjahk take a picture of the plastic lobster, after which I slowly and sadly dragged my feet back to work, still thinking sushi and hoping against hope that all that rice would not make me feel sleepy at the desk.

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* This image is provided by NinjaHelloKitty

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Tonkichi – The Art of Tonkatsu

I was first introduced to Tonkichi tonkatsu by a friend who eats very limited food items. Just to give you an idea, he only eats pizza with cheese and ham and if you ever order a Hawaiian with him, you could be sure he is going to pick all the triangles of pineapple off. So when we do eat together, I usually just relent and let him pick the restaurant because I feel really bad if I choose some place, which I would like to eat at but he might not having anything on the menu that he would eat, or we would be at risk of pissing the chef off because he would only want his ham with cheese and nothing else despite all the beautiful well thought out meal items on the menu.

When we first dined together at a sushi restaurant (that thankfully served other Japanese dishes), I was horrified to find out the only form of sushi he ate was kappa maki, which is the Japanese cucumber sushi. It was only on that day that I learnt the name of that sushi. In fact if not for him I would have never bothered or would have found out. I also learnt on that night that I could never ever suggest us eating at a sushi bar. Other eating behaviours I observed, when we did eat at Japanese restaurants that not only consisted of a sushi bar, was that he would to order the same thing all the time, which was tonkatsu curry don with a request for the tonkatsu sauce, which will be drizzled on his tonkatsu and the curry on his rice and he will also very carefully avoid all the vegetables, especially the shreds of raw cabbage as if he were allergic to it. So when we once went out and he suggested tonkichi, a place that served “super tonkatsu” I knew he had to be on to something. For someone who eats so much tonkatsu, he must have been able to detect something different about the humble piece of breaded pork that was being served in this restaurant. Well, he was absolutely right, and needless to say, he still ordered tonkatsu curry don, drizzled the tangy tonkatsu sauce on his breaded pork loin (his choice because it has a trim of fat that keeps it tender and tasty) and avoided his cabbage. I on the other hand had the tonkatsu of pork loin along with two deep-fried oysters and happily ate my cabbage.

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I personally believe that there is tonkatsu and there is Tonkichi tonkatsu and once you have been tonkichi-ed, it is hard to go back. Here at tonkichi, they have mastered the art and have brought tonkatsu to another level. Tonkatsu is a common dish that is eaten in prepared in most Japanese homes and restaurants, but here at Tonkichi, they have made an art form out of this simple deep-frying craft.

I imagine mastering the craft of cooking the perfect tonkatsu in Japan might be likened to being a sushi chef, where you spend most of your formative years observing before even touching a knife. If you were training to be a tonkatsu specialist, you would spend many years observing how to render the lard in a proper manner and exact temperature, the type of bread crumbs used, and the precise moment that the cutlet should hit the hot fat. The end product, however, is a succulent piece of pork cutlet with a crisp feather-light breadcrumb coat that is fluffy but crunchy that puffs back when you bite into it.

I like restaurants like Tonkichi. The menu is focused and they are clearly really good at what they do instead of being a jack of all trades. So, if you don’t want to eat anything deep-fried or pork for that matter, do not come here, but if you like both and especially deep-fried breaded pork, you are in a good place.

Tonkichi - Isetan Scotts
Shaw House
350 Orchard Road
Level 4, Isetan Scotts
Tel: 68354648

Tonkichi - Takashimaya
Tower A, #04-24
Tel: 67357522

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Flog Exchange Part 2: Fulfil a Wish!

Thanks everyone who's participating in the Christmas Flog Exchange!

This is the fun part now, seeing everyone's wishes and choosing a wish to fulfil. We've got 14 wishes, listed below. Please reply to the same email by next Thursday, December 21, stating your 1st choice, 2nd choice and 3rd choice of wishes to fulfil (need 3 choices in case everyone wants to fulfil the same wish lah). Hinata and I will post up the pairings next Friday, and then off to gift-swopping land we go!

Don't forget to reply soon - if you're not fulfilling someone's wish then obviously it's not fair that you get your wish fulfilled, and you don't want to get scratched off our Santa's helper list :)

Wishers and wishes:

1. Brenda of Monstrous Appetites would like some Mexican/Jewish delights, e.g. chili, falafels and tortillas.

2. Cheryl of She Bakes and She Cooks would like your favourite dark chocolate.

3. Nadnut of would like 6 pretty decorated cupcakes spelling out her nick (i.e. one with the letter N, one with the letter A, etc.)

4. Umami of Umami would like to be surprised :)

5. Viviene of Sweets For My Sweet Tooth would like any Christmas-related food items that can be conveniently posted to her in KL.

6. Samuel of Yummy Dummy would like "nice, yummilicious chocolates" (preferably dark), or anything chocolatey.

7. Jasmine of Love At First Bite would like to eat the best strawberry shortcake ever.

8. Callen of Whiskey Lullaby would like the German chocolate cake (dark chocolate) featured at baking sheet

9. Superfinefeline of Superfinefeline would like (1) a chocolate cake baked by Cheryl :) or (2) organic tea or walnuts from Bunalun

10. LeRoy of The Hungry Cow would like macarons and their recipe.

11. Mia the Skinny Epicurean would like a creamy dish of risotte with white alba truffle shavings.

12. Ivan of Recent Runes, in a non-food related request, would like the T-shirt featured on in black, size XL.


13. Joone of Nibble & Scribble would like a serving bowl/plate, or something Japanese for her kitchen.

14. And hinata would like Japanese confectionery (like those pretty mochi cakes), preferably winter themed.

So what are you waiting for? Harness your inner Santa/Santarina and let us know which wishes you'd like to fulfil!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Menu for Hope III

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Help to feed the hungry and give others hope for a better tomorrow. Menu for Hope III kicked off yesterday and this year Pim of Chez Pim is raising money for the United Nation’s World Food Programme, which has been feeding the hungry since 1962. The concept is simple, every small part counts, but everyone has to pitch in: Pim asked food bloggers to help out by pledging a prize for a raffle lottery, and we need you to buy raffle tickets!

Every $10 (USD) donation buys you a raffle ticket for a specific prize, so you will have to specify which prize you desire, and if you really really really want that specific prize, buy more tickets! Money raise through the ticket sales will do to the United Nation’s World Food Programme.

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Menu Degustation - Tasting Menus of New Asia Cuisine by Anderson Ho (Prize code: AP41)

I’ve pledged the book Menu Degustation – Tasting Menus of New Asia Cuisine by Anderson Ho. I chose this book for two reasons. The first is that Anderson Ho is a local chef. Trained in French cuisine with an acute sense of taste and intuition about Asian ingredients, he combines elements of the east and west on a plate, echoing the theme of partnership, which is what I feel this fundraising project is about. The third reason is that I had one of my best meals in Singapore a few months back at his half a year old restaurant in Singapore after being off the culinary radar for a number of years. My first two experiences there were good but nothing too extraordinary, but the third was when Anderson found his true form where he served us a five course dinner that left us silenced and savouring every last morsel on the plate. Plus, the book is cleverly organised to pre-planned tasting menus that you can cook a delicious dinner for your guests or the recipes can also be used individually.

So, here's what you should do...

1. Go to the donation page at

2. Make a donation, each US$10 will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize or prizes you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. Do tell us how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code -for example, a donation of US$50 can be 2 tickets for AP01 and 3 for AP02.

3. For US donors, if your company has agreed to match your charity donation, please remember to check the box and fill in the information so we may claim the corporate match.

4. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

5. Check back on Chez Pim on January 15 when we announce the results of the raffle. (The drawing will be done electronically. Our friend the code wizard Derrick at Obsession with Food is responsible for the wicked application that will do the job.)

Click these other links for more prizes and details:

The main page at Chez Pim.

The Asia-Pacific round-up at Grab Your Fork and also the wonderful contributions of my fellow Singaporean Chubby Hubby who is offering irresistible prizes.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Flog Exchange - Gimme Something Nice!

Attention all food bloggers! Since 'tis the season and all that, hinata and I are organizing a Christmas Flog Exchange!

All you have to do to take part is send an e-mail to us at with your name, blog, snail mail address and wish by this Thursday, December 14. We will publish the completed wish list the next day (Friday, December 15), after which you have one week to sign up to fulfil someone else's wish. Needless to say, you only get to make a wish if you're gonna fulfil someone else's in return :)

To keep things fun and friendly, you can wish for anything food-related that's under S$20. It can be something specific (e.g. a box of organic
cherries) or something that requires a bit of creativity on your wish fulfiller's part (e.g. "the best cupcakes you've ever eaten").

Of course, feel free to spread the word on your own blogs and get more people involved! Depending on the response, we can either organize a gift exchange get-together or a simpler blogging-by-mail exchange (hence the request for your snail mail address).

So get wishing!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Teochew Muay

Decision making about where to dine for our next meal can be a contentious issue in my family, and on days where everyone has a different craving that needs to be satisfied, it can get pretty heated. My benevolent father would usually put forth his Teochew food request, which is sometimes rudely turned down, ignored or on better days politely declined. But we all learn to give and take, and so sometimes we will suggest something that will cause his face to light up. This is one of those places.

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Located on the corner of Beo Cresent, I am not too sure about the name of this Teochew Muay stall other than the fact that it is commonly referred to and known by most as the Havelock Teochew Muay. Although this place is comparatively pricey, there are some reasons, which perhaps allow them to get away with it. Firstly, it is open till late and so if you need some late night hot comfort rice slush with salty vegetables and braised meats, it will be open, and secondly, they have the bragging rights of having Hong Kong celebrities such as Andy Lau visit and they have taken photos as evidence that hang on their wall. The differentiating factor of this place is the variety of dishes that they offer. I think if we were to line them up in a row, they might line the wall of the shop lengthwise and a little more. The variety of vegetable dishes is almost bewildering, and along with that you can get braised duck, steamed fish and crabs. From the selection, we each have our own favourites—cockles, hei bi hiam (spicy dried shrimp), giam chai (salted vegetables), peanuts and ikan billis…—that we order and strategically place in front of our individual bowls of porridge for easy reach and then centre the other communal dishes.

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Maybe when I’m old, I’ll turn into some Teochew Auntie and my teeth start to fail, I will constantly hanker for some of this porridge and the sound of “Havelock Teochew Muay” will cause my face to light up. It currently does not have that effect on me, but on days when I crave the simplicity and warmth of the watery rice and the different savoury tones of the dishes, this is one of those places that hits the spot.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pu Dong Kitchen

Pu Dong Kitchen
271 Bukit Timah Road
Balmoral Plaza, #B1-02
Tel 6732-8966

I have driven past this building so many times and have never really thought about it as a dining destination. On ground level, that is what is visible as you drive by are: Waffletown, Big Bird Chicken Rice and Spizza, what is invisible and in the basement is this little Shanghainese restaurant called Pu Dong, where the food is piping hot, tasty and of course, oily.

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We were seated next to a family of mainland Chinese whose shoulders we kept peeping over, hoping to catch a glimpse of what they were eating and perhaps what we should order, but it appears that this place is a favourite with locals and those who come for a taste of home. From our neighbouring table, we gathered that the braised pig leg in brown sauce looked like a sure winner and with the reassurance of the waitress we ordered that along with several others.

We started with a cold appetizer of chicken “pu dong” style with special sauce, which was a concoction of vinegar, soy sauce, chopped ginger and sliced spring onions. The cold pieces of chicken had to be dipped in to the sauce, and the first hit of favour was salty and then a little sweet, a good way to whet your appetite, but the breast meat of the chicken was a little dry and powdery.

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Next up we had a duo of dumplings, xiao long pao and the pan-fried meat buns. With the first, I had success in keeping the sweet broth in the delicate skin, which performing the delicate operation of dipping my dumpling into the vinegar and topping it with ginger, but with the latter, my first bite into it witnessed my pan-fried meat bun squirting its tasting juices unto the table, nonetheless, it was still all good and delicious.

The zha jiang mian here is slightly different from the version that I usually have at crystal jade, instead of mince meat, luncheon meat is used, it is slightly spicier and I really liked the texture of the noodles.

Then came the pièce de résistance, braised pig leg in brown sauce, where the meat was tender and gently pulled away with little resistance. And our last dish was braised eggplant with shredded pork in chilli sauce, which looked to be first fried in the wok for a slightly charred flavour and then braised. Both were delicious and fabulous with white rice.

It’s good, a great discovery hidden in the basement, maybe that’s good too, less obvious to the public that drives by, less hassle in trying to get a table.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Well-Loved by New Yorkers

It has been way too long and now that I’m finding more time to scribble down my thoughts, I’m trying to relive some of my New York eating moments. When in New York, do what the New Yorkers do--eat at their most popular places! Two of them were part of Danny Meyer’s food empire in the city: Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern and the other two were no frills good old street food hot dogs and the American pizza.

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Gramercy Tavern, has two dining options, the main dining hall, where reservations are required and the Tavern Bar area, where it is slightly less formal they take no reservations and where bar counter is a great option for solo diners. I liked the buzz in the air as we entered the room, there was almost a scent of happiness in the room, maybe just being in a warm room rather than in the cold streets and the comfort of good food and company. We dined in the Tavern Bar area, where the service was friendly and really helpful. All the dishes that we tried: grilled octopus salad, chicken liver crostini, stuffed quail, leg of lamb sandwich, stuffed quail, mahi-mahi (a today's special) were good, but what was really exceptionally excellent was the fresh bacon, grilled for its natural sugars to caramelise and for the fat to burn to its sweet state, it was delicious and a tasty reason for anyone to go there.

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The Union Square Café, where Danny Meyer first begin his restaurant empire, is still doing what the same things that have brought them success, good American food with an Italian twist and warm hospitality that gives this restaurant a soul, and I can understand why people like it. The service is wonderful, very discrete and sensitive to your needs and the food was good. We were seated at right at the tip of the second level, which allowed us to peek over the people at the bar. My most memorable plate was their homemade spaghetti with lobster, basil and orange oil; the orange oil helped to push the pull together the flavours and to push it to another level, so simply but very good and I’ve tried to recreate this plate at home on numerous occasion. Other dishes that we tried were: yellowtail tuna tartare with horseradish mustard and avocado, fettucine with duck and wild mushroom ragu and parmesan, foie gras with dry red cherry duck jus on a roasted panotta, glazed Belgian endives and prunes, braised shortribs with horseradish mash potatoes and warm apple crumble cake with caramel ice cream.

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Economic eating in NYC does not come any better than their institutional hotdog stands. At Gray’s Papayas, where they had recession offer of 2 hot dogs and a papaya drink would only set you back less than $3. Just squirt on some ketchup and mustard and finish with a long cold sip of the vitamin packed digestive papaya drink and your stomach will be happy. We made a pit stop at Papaya King, which offers pretty much the same thing, but between the two, I think my vote is with Gray’s Papayas.

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Last but not least, another common NYC food that we tried was the New York-styled pizza slice that is something between a thin and a thick crust, where it is thickish and slightly fluffier on the outer crust, which is still crisp rather than soft and thin and crisp like a thin biscuit in the centre. To sample this, we headed over the Brooklyn bridge to look for Grimaldi’s, where one antipasto platter and a large pizza topped with stuffed us the greedy family of four. We wandered around the neighbourhood for a while trying to find this pizza place, and the irony of it is that we spotted a couple with a guidebook whom we guessed were looking around for Grimaldi’s as well, then tailed them and found our way there.

Gramercy Tavern
42 East 20th St, between Broadway and Park Ave
Tel: +1 (212) 477-0777

Union Square Café
21 East 16th St, between 5th Ave and Union Square West,
Tel: +1 (212) 243-4020

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria
19 Old Fulton St, under the Brooklyn Bridge
Tel: +1 (718) 858-4300

Gray’s Papayas
2090 Broadway Ste 1 New York

Papaya King
179 East 86th StreetCorner of Third Avenue, between 3rd and Lexington
Southwest Corner of 7th Avenue and 14th Street

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Flourless Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I sometimes think I have the attention span of a 5 year old, which explains why I will probably never be a patissier, a baker maybe, but never a pastry artist. There are a few foolproof baking recipes that I have found and mastered, which have a natural buffer for failure, so even if the cookies turn out as ugly cookies, I get forgiven because they shine in the flavour department. I recently found another recipe that can be put together in less than 10 minutes excluding baking time, other than measuring, it is an under-three-steps cookie: measure ingredients, stir them together, shape them and pop them into the oven. And, to me, there is nothing better than the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, two of the many of my favourite foods. Hersey’s got it spot on when they created those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and it’s a damn shame they don’t sell those here! As an alternative to Reese’s but a rather far substitute, this recipe makes a good double dozen of slightly sticky soft gooey delicious peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies.

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Flourless Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 24

250 g chunky peanut butter
200 g golden brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
160 g miniature semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips in medium bowl. Mix well then add in chocolate chips.
3. Using moistened hands, form generous 1 tablespoon dough for each cookie into ball. Arrange on 2 ungreased baking sheets, spacing 5 cm apart.
4. Bake cookies until puffed, golden on bottom and still soft to touch in centre, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to racks; cool completely.

Recipe taken from: Bon Appétit, September 1999

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