Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bottom of the Barrel

Wandering around my 'hood the other day, I stumbled (ok, I "deliberately" my way there), into the Jewish quarter, as evidenced but lovely bakeries full of breadstuffs with unpronounceable (to me) names. Chilled by the cold and encouraged by the walk, I wanted to go in and have a bite of everything when I spied the much blogged about L'As de Fallafel!

Well, what can I say about L'As de Fallafel which hasn't been said before here and here?

It's good, 'nuff said.

Moving now to my lunch today....

Bread soup.

Have you ever heard of such a thing? I had heard talk of it but had not much desire to try it. Until today. Let me explain.

Having gone overboard with the bounty of bakeries everywhere, we had been buying bread at every opportunity. A lot of bread. Unfortunately baguettes don't keep very well. And what to do with old stale bread? Well we could make croutons or stuff chicken but since I'm not fond of croutons and with no chicken in the fridge, I thought I'd cut them up and freeze them until needed.

And much, much, much earlier than I would have imagined, I needed them.

I've been stuck at home (damn the inefficiency of this delicious country!) for 2 days now waiting for a locksmith. And, thus we don't have any food. Still trying to resist the lure of the instant noodles, I thought I'd see what I can do with the stale bread and vegetable stock I had made over the weekend when this popped up. Pappa Al Pomodoro sounded just perfect on this chilly day. If only I had garlic, onions, etc, etc.

So, what's a girl to do? Improvise of course! (And people always wonder how come my food looks nothing like the recipes!)

So, 1 can of tomatoes, a squirt of tomato paste, black peppercorns, smoked paprika and a bit later I had this.

Ok, so it's not the best, tasting more like adult baby food than some exotic Italian soup but it did use up some of the bread and stock. With some black pepper and a splash of olive oil, it was palatable, although not likely to be repeated.

Apologies if this entry isn't up to scratch but it's been a bit difficult recently. For those who are interested in hearing the dark side of my rose-tinted world, I have been "helped" into annoyance. Soothing sounds and words from the landlord has inspired me to compile a list to help those of you who may be landlords.

Not to sound ungracious but please, if send some to clean the flat and fix the issues, please make sure that person does NOT:
  • break the lock and neglect to telephone the tenant and instead jam the door in order to provide some obstacles to would be thieves
  • break the lamp and hide it in the cupboard hoping we won't notice
  • stain the carpet
  • throw out half of the tenant's stuff because they think its trash
  • reshuffle all the dishes and plates to their liking, causing the tenant to search all over again for hidden dishes
  • eat the tenant's biscuits then hide them at the back of the cupboard in hopes that the tenant will not notice. I will notice. I don't mind, eat my biscuits but don't hide the packet or how will I know to replace them?

And whatever you do, please please please send the locksmith when you say you will so the tenant is not sitting there all day waiting for the bloody lock to be fixed in order to leave the house!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mais, c'est le Weekend

The excuse of the French use to indulge. I heard on multiple occasions, whether it was my friend to convince his girlfriend to go out for a drink or the market stand which convinced the lady to buy more of her tempting pastries.

So on Saturday, I did what countless people of my race did during the weekend, I went to Chinatown. Well, Belleville really but still, Chinese enough. Before you sit back, cross your arms and shake your head in disbelief thinking that I have turned into my Dad's side of the family who insist on Chinese food all the time, let me first ask that all of you who do not own soy sauce or a bag of rice in your cupboard to throw the first dumpling.

Fine. Now that we have set that straight, let's continue.

We needed to pick up some staples and take stock to see what the most romantic city in the world had to offer in terms of Asian delicacies. I found a few places serving up "siu mei" roasted meats and such as well as Chinese buns and a number of cake shops. After filling up on staples such as rice, rice noodles, a few guilty packages of instant noodles, an assortment of sauces and foodstuffs, we went to Tin tin, nope, not the current exposition at the Centre Pompidou but a restaurant for Vietnamese food in Paris. It was quite busy when we arrived and we were seated sharing a table with others. The food was unremarkable and of a lesser quality than Vietnamese restaurants in both Hong Kong and Montreal but it was nice to have hot soupy noodles in the cold.

Saturday afternoon was spent accompanying friends to the huge mall Les Quatre Temps at La Defense before killing time in a cafe until late in the evening. Unfortunately it took over 2 hours to get into the flat due to the tempermental lock. It is the one thing which has really marred my time here thus far.
Sunday morning was spent at the Bastille Market where after running around like excitedly and poking my nose where it was quickly shoved back by an irate elbow, we finally settled down and bought some fruits and vegetables.

Those of you who are perceptive will remark that tucked away there is a little basket of goodies, namely the David Lebovitz' Hot Chocolate with Salted-Butter Caramel. I couldn't resist a packet of fleur de sel salted butter caramels, which I had to take away from the boy, who kept dipping into his pockets surreptitiously and replying to all my questions with gestures and sticky one word answers.

After picking up a copy of The Observer, which, to me and the boy's great dismay, was missing its food and music special, we returned home for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.
That evening, we had a great treat in store. Having just arrived in Paris, we only have the impressive number of 2 friends in the city. One being a dear friend of 15 years and the other his lovely Algerian girlfriend. We were lucky enough to be invited over for a typical dinner consisting of couscous with large broad beans served with curdled milk, a simple but tasty dish served at room temperature. The curdled milk tasted like yogurt and gave a creamy texture and tangy taste to the couscous. I ate a large plateful.
Unfortunately, unknown to us was that this was to be followed by a sort of spicy stew/soup made with a type of vegetable resembling a large dried celery called "caldan", which I had never tried before. It was deceptively spicy and the meat was melt in the mouth tender. In fact, we only needed spoons to finish up the plate.
After coffee and chocolate, we rose (with difficulty) to waddle back the 20 minutes to our flat, struggle with the door for another 20 minutes before collapsing on the couch clutching mugs of steaming hot peppermint tea.
Masi, c'est le Weekend indeed.

Tin Tin Restaurant
17 Rue Louis Bonnet,
75011 Paris
Tel : 01 43 55 50 13
Métro : Belleville

Les Quatre Temps - La Defense
15, Parvis de la Defense
92092 Paris
Tel: 01 47 73 54 44
Métro: La Defense

Bastille Market
Every Thursdays from 7h30 à 14h30 & Sundays from 7h00 à 15h00
On Boulevard Richard-Lenoir from Place de la Bastille
Métro: Bastille

Friday, January 26, 2007

If you insist...

I have discovered one of the benefits of jet lag.... you can fit in more meals!

Upon waking at 5am and finding myself in a ravenous state due to last night's dinner of yogurt and miso soup (people, soup is NOT a complete meal, it's a drink!), I had a peach yogurt. Still being hungry when the boy woke up at 7, I decided to break into one of my pot noodles (hey, it's a fancy Japanese one, you snob!) for a warm meal to start the day.

Then, looking online, I found that there was a market nearby:

Enfants rouges Market
39 rue de Bretagne
Tuesday to Saturday, 8.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. (until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday) Sunday, 8.30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Metro : Filles-du-Calvaire

so I decided to wander over there at 10am. Unfortunately something must have been wrong with the above because it clearly wasn't there. I saw a few metal frames on the sidewalk but they showed no signs of opening. Could it be the weather? It is -4 Celsius today...

Ah well. All was not lost. I found the much lauded Chez Omar restaurant and, much to my delight, a large fromagerie selling all types of cheese, Poilane bread and eggs, three things on my list. I bought a Comte, a St Marcellin and a very holey (check out the huge holes!) of Emmenthal, four slices of Poilane traditional bread and a half dozen eggs.

Walking along home, quite pleased with the cheesy purchases although disappointment of the lack of market...I suddenly came upon a stand of oysters! Approximately a dozen varieties (no names unfortunately) ranging in prices from 5.40 euros to 17 euros, slightly higher if you wish the man to open them for you. Which of course I did upon ordering a mixed dozen of 2 of the smaller varieties from the sea. I paused for just one second when he asked me if it was for lunch but quickly said yes to avoid admitting that I would be inhaling the bivalves upon returning home.

The oysters, accented with a squeeze of lemon, were translucent, fresh, salty and mild. I made quick work of them before having a half slice of Poilane (I had to taste, didn't I?) with a wedge of Comte. Unfortunately, the Comte is quite addictive, especially when surfing the food sites.

And no, I didn't save any for the boy....they wouldn't keep!!

J Duannaul
Maitre Fromager - Affineur
39 rue de Bretagne
Tel: 01 42 78 52 61

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Table

Getting in last night was a bit tiring what with delays getting into Frankfurt and the almost three hour layover.
Finally got into Charles De Gaulle at just past 11pm and went straight to the flat and falling fast asleep. Got up this morning to walk the boy the the train station ... well, lest you think that I really am such a lovely person, it was actually was a sad excuse to go get a pain au chocolate!
Unfortunately, my first bite of Parisian pastry was not as good as I had hoped, sure, the pain was flaky and it had the lovely crunchy flakes on top and the two columns of chocolate running through but the dough itself felt heavy and thick.
Have no fear, I have 3 bakeries within a 3 minute walk, I shall sacrifice my waistline to bring you the very best in fooding!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Wah Good Beef!

Last night being one of the final dinners with my parents and the boy, we went to one of the boy's favorite meals, the all-you-can-eat crab hotpot at En.

Luckily for us, if you have 4 or more diners, you are able to have the crab AND Wagyu beef hotpot, which of course, being a greedy family, we did.

And OH MY. Was the beef good. The very marbly, thinly sliced meat, warmed and quickly cooked in the mild broth hardly needed chewing.

The crab was less good than usual but the beef...the usually less carnivorous Mom barely stopped to chat, too busy she was trying to fight my Dad for the beef.

*Last post from Hong Kong!!!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sugar High Friday #27 - Rocky Road

When I saw that David was hosting the Sugar High Friday this month, I knew I had to participate.

Not having done one of these before and quite obviously not a very good cook, I was sucked in by the theme "Chocolate by Brand". Because I am due to move, I have been trying to clear the cupboards of as much food as possible and whilst rummaging, I stumbled upon 5 bars of Cailler 74% Cacao Extreme left over from a chocolate fountain party (yes, I have a chocolate fountain!).

The recipe had to be an easy one that I couldn't mess up, that's when I thought of rocky road. I adore rocky road and often buy it from the See's Candy shop, each time kicking myself for spending so much on something so simple.

With the fragrant warmth of the roasted almonds, the slight tanginess from the dried blueberries, additional sweetness of the mini marshmallows, these dark chocolate treats were addictive and popular with my family (who begged me to stop attempting to bake cakes and only make these from now on).

Rocky Road

- 500g Chocolate (or 5 bars of Cailler in my case)
- 150g Mini Marshmallows
- 150g Almonds (or other nuts)
- 200g Dried Blueberries (or Cranberries, Raspberries or even, ick, raisins)

1 - Roast the almonds either in the oven, watching carefully and turning frequently until browned and fragrant. Cool.

2 - Toss together the marshmallows, dried blueberries and almonds and set aside.

3 - Melt approximately 350g of the chocolate on top of a double boiler (or in my case, a stainless steel bowl set on top of gently simmering water) until fully melted, then remove from heat and stir in remaining chocolate until all melted. This will have the effect of slightly tempering the chocolate and also cooling it enough to not melt the marshmallows.

4 - Pour chocolate over the marshmallow, blueberry and almond and mix with spatula until well coated and either spoon into candy holders or into a wax paper lined baking pan.

5 - Put chocolates into the fridge to cool for an hour, then remove to room temperature.

Keeps well in a tin for up to 2 weeks.

Honestly, these are so easy and versatile but yet so delicious, I'd encourage you to make them anytime you have extra chocolate lying around (as if that ever happens).

Now what to do with the other half dozen bars of assorted brands of chocolate?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dai Pai Dong

Big License Stand is the formal translation but it is usually used to refer to stands which traditionally did not own a license but would open up to serve food after most of the shops had closed. Nowadays though, they are often licensed restaurants that spill out onto the streets which serve basic, affordable food, making it popular for late night meals with late eaters and party goers.

I adore Dai Pai Dongs despite my squeamishness of dark alleys and places close to wet markets (rat phobia). I adore them because of my memories of going there with my father. As a little girl, I did not see my father frequently as he worked long hours often entertaining in the evenings. However once in a little while I would still be up when he came home from work. On those evenings, absolutely ravenous, he'd be looking for a little company while he ate. My mom not being keen to eat so late and with us not having much time to spend with my dad, I was sometimes allowed to go to Dai Pai Dongs with him for a snack. Being allowed to stay up late, walk outside in my pyjamas to go sit outside and eat late at night, was to me, at the time, some of the most exciting and fun times.

My Dad took us to one tonight, across from the Bowrinton Road Market near Times Square and it was much like I remembered, dirty, rundown and delicious.

We started with a dish of bamboo clams fried in black bean sauce. Slightly spicy, with strong preserved black bean sauce, it was perfectly cooked with the sweet bamboo clams.

The second dish to come was the steamed pork with shrimp paste, very salty with a pungent kick from the lavender shrimp paste.

The fish was tender, flaky and almost boneless, cooked with Chinese celery, slivered radish and straw mushrooms.

We had this with fish congee and the fried soy sauce noodles with bean sprouts and chives, sprinkled with sesame seeds. The noodles were delicious, slightly charred and cooked to perfection with plenty of "wok hei", literally breath of the wok, which provides that smoky, slightly charred delicious taste.

For those of you wondering, no, my clothing of choice was not pyjamas this particular evening.

Monday, January 15, 2007

From Dim Sum to Patisseries

A close friend gave me a book in 2001 inscribed with what she marked as a random quote by E.B. White:

"We should all do what in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting laundry."

The book was "Paris to the Moon".

As long as I can remember, I have wanted to live in Paris. My friends knew it, my family knew it and the boy knows it.

By some hook or by crook the boy landed himself a project in Paris. And being the loyal, self-sacrificing (ahem) girl I am, I have quit my job and will be moving there for 6 months.

So I have been in the midst of quitting, packing and generally running around alternately elated and scared trying to sort out my life. Which has left a huge gap in fooding so for that I apologize but do not fear, the rest of the year promises to look vastly different to last year, with lots of French foods coming your way.

Make way and quake in fear as Sui Mai takes on France!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Arm's length

There's just something about having huge foods that make me happy.

Before you sit back in your computer chair, all arms crossed and judgemental, think about the last time you bought a foot long hot dog. Come on. Admit it. It was the FOOT long that sold you more than the hot dog itself, didn't it?

Of course.

Well one of the dishes we ordered last night at Khana Khazaa had the seemingly innocent (to my ignorant fool brain anyways) name of "Paper Dosa Masala".

"Mmm", thought I, "Thin crepe/bread wrapped with curried potatoes....MMMMMM"

So of course I ordered it.

When it came, it was big.

Really big.

As in longer than my arm big.

The Dosa was at least the width of the table and longer than my arm.

I was happy.

Arm's length happy.

Khana Khazana Vegetarian Indian Restaurant
1/floor 20 Dannies House
20, Luard Road
Tel: 852 25205308

The restaurant serves up delicious vegetarian Indian food but oddly also serves up Mexican and Italian food as well...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Last meal I ate in 2006?

Chilli Crabs from Under Bridge Spicy Crab.

Yum, yum, together with roasted pigeon, black bean clams, 'dou mui' greens, salt 'n pepa squid and baby oyster congee.

The first thing I ate in 2007?

To my shame, half a Krispy Kreme glazed donut left over from 2006...

Sorry for the lack of pics, the connection has slowed considerably since the Taiwan earthquake.

Under Bridge Spicy Crab
Shop 6-9, G/F, 429 Lockhart Road
Tel: 2893 1289