Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saving spotted bananas - the ultimate transformation

I’m a little late getting to the frozen banana party. But better late than never.

I’ve long been a fan of freezing fruits to beat the heat. In my freezer are always tubs of cubes of overripe mangoes but not frozen bananas. Usually I keep them in the fridge where they turn a scary black and then they would eventually find themselves into a banana bread or cake. But today I have found an even better use of those spotted bananas – the one ingredient healthy banana ice cream recipe.

It really doesn’t come any simpler than this. No ice cream maker needed. No milk needed. No cream needed. No eggs needed. No sugar needed. No measuring required. Just bananas. Sounds bananas? Not so, just follow these steps and I’m pretty sure you’ll be making this again and again.

I had three spotted bananas lying around, so my recipe calls for three.

Super ripe bananas

1. Peel and slice bananas and place them on a plate lined with baking paper (baking paper is optional but this makes it easier to remove from the plate).

2. Freeze bananas until frozen (about 2 hours).

3. Transfer the frozen banana slices to the food processor and process. Stop and scrape down the sides occasionally. The banana mixture will first turn to a crumble, keep processing until it forms a smooth creamy texture.

4. Scoop and serve.

Go bananas!


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Choi’s - Good Old Skool

We came to seek some solace from the cold weather in some good old claypot rice but we were 5 minutes too late - we had just missed the last empty table and formed the first in the line that came after us. It was torture! We stood outside feeling a little cold and took in the sights and smells of the claypot rice that were being cooked to order.

The wait, thankfully, wasn’t that long and when we sat down – the food came fast and hot and it was really good.

Sweet and sour pork that is fried deliciously crunchy and glazed with a vibrant sweet and sour that well balanced in both sweet and sour rather than the ketchup dominated sauces that we generally get – it felt like I was re-discovering sweet and sour pork for the first time all over again.

The fried squid with white pepper also fried to perfection, light crisp and squid tender.

Their claypot rice sums up the cooking here for me. Each claypot looks deceptively simple but it takes experience and skill to cook everything to order precision that extracts taste from the ingredients and creates the right texture for the rice and a crusty bottom.

Good Cantonese comfort food.

Choi’s KitchenShop
A1, G/F, 9-11 Shepherd Street
Tai Hang, Hong Kong
Tel: +852-34850501

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mandarin Grill - Food Fun Seriously

I can't remember when was the last time when I laughed when a plate was laid before me.

Amidst the wood-dark dining room, starched white table cloths and suits clinking champagne, I laughed at the plate that was placed before me. In front of me was a duck foot. Not like the feet that you find in a Cantonese soup but a foot, a man-made foie gras duck foot. A duck foot made from a duck liver that isn't really a foot but duck. Tongue in cheek, funny. Heehee. Oops, pardon me, suits, I didn’t mean to laugh out loud.

Humour aside, the dish was fantastic. Firstly the foot got my attention, then the waiter started laying these rosy pieces of duck that I imagine was cooked sous vide and then finished off in the pan, cooked right. Nothing crazy in terms of flavor combination but just done really well but it hit the savoury comfort note for me.

But before that ducky dish arrived, there were other telltale signs that this was going to be good. As we were seated and deciding on tasting tours or a la carte, a champagne trolley rolled by and it was closely followed by their much spoken about EVOO trolley. The EVOO trolley I loved. It reminded me of the time we were in Robuchon in Macau when they rolled out the butter trolley that was thoroughly excessive. To me, the trolley speaks volumes in terms of what the restaurant also communicates to me the freedom to find something that suit my palate and a gastronomic education in EVOO with a parallel tasting, and not to mention generous since they do offer oils worth their weight in gold.

The amuse bouche also gave a little insight as to what to expect. Among the cheese puffs, the salmon mousse tart and the basil and parmesan biscuit was placed a small olive tree with spherification of olive jus, very el bulli – pointing in homage to his stagiaire that he did in El Bulli? What was unusual about the olive amuse was the fact that the wait staff point out that the plant is purely for decoration and inedible somehow leaves me to believe that the diners expect something different – ie. An edible tree; sorry folks, not everything on the table is edible and there is no edible paper here.

flower pot

I’ve dined here twice and I adore Chef Uwe’s sense of humour. He likes puns and mimicking nature that I find amusing and also highly skillful. A fake edible strawberry (previous meal), a flower pot made from a myriad of cooked and raw vegetables and a pretty insane rocket, coconut, pumpernickel soil, chocolate black truffles and in this meal - foie gras came in many forms: firstly as a faux mushroom, a foot and then in the most classically luxurious form, in a dish aptly named “millionaire” – a large organic egg cooked table side, then layered with foie gras and topped off with truffle jus and shavings of black truffle. Now, really who doesn’t want to be a millionaire so freaking bad?


Desserts are a pretty sight as well. Their soufflés, rise to the occasion and live up to the excitement that soufflés give us – that those airy delicate towers make it from kitchen to the table whilst we all hold our breath in anticipation and in fear that it might deflate. Their version Oreo was chocolately delicious but probed the waiter refused to divulge the secrets of the espuma and their version of bread and butter was presented as literally bread and butter.

The plates of Chef Uwe Opocensky at the Mandarin Grill are clever and they make me laugh. It is fun dining in a serious room and some seriously good food.

Menu II:

Forest walk - foie gras, truffle, mushroom, leaves

Onion - french, organic, consomme, egg, cheese, gold, tea bag

Mallard Duck - welsh, rhug estate, organic, foie gras, feet, pearl barley, jus a la presse
Lobster - brittany, rose, caviar, beetroot, fennel, lobster oil
Walnut - hazelnut, raspberry, armagnac, snow

photos of the entire meal in Feb2012
photos of entire meal Sep2011

Mandarin Grill & Bar
5 Connaught Road, Central Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2522 0111

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