Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!

Stress is building up as in-laws arrive today. On the menu for Christmas is a three bird roast: pheasant, chicken and duck.

With friends such as brussel sprouts (courtesy of Orangette's recipe), roasted veg, stuffing with chestnuts, cranberry sauce with port, and the boy's special mashed potatoes.

No baking. Bought all the puddings I need.

Wish me luck.

And lots of it....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I am cursed!!

Woke up at 6am this morning and couldn't sleep despite the tiredness.

Get intense craving for chocolate cake.

Find next best thing, brownie mix. Betty Crocker.

Can't possibly screw that up.

Mix water, egg, oil and packet, put in oven, wait 25 mins.

Take pan out, manage to slip, try to rescue with BARE HAND, glass pan cracks, end up with glass all over the floor.

Boy wakes up 30 mins later to find me in foetal position on sofa, sucking burnt finger, vacuum cleaner taken out, pan of glass brownies all over floor of kitchen.

Cue 1 hour later. Picking out bits of un-glassified brownie to nibble on while boy heroically deals with the mess.

Sadly this is a true story.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Marmite products

Its no secret that Umami and I love Marmite.

We love it on toast and we love it in congee.

But what about crisps (chips to us North Americans) and cheese?

Apparently the English are just as passionate about this yeasty, salty spread because they use it to flavor not only rice crackers and breadsticks but also these new finds:

Walkers' Marmite crisps and cheddar.

Of course I couldn't resist buying them.

And how were they? The crisps were very nice although more subtle than I would have liked.

The cheese was very salty and flavorful, a nice savory snack for the middle of the afternoon when the craving for something intensely salty hits.

For me, of course, it is always followed by something intensely chocolatey!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Da Cheweeeeee..... oh.

I am the most unaccomplished baker I know.

However, I have spirit. Or at least greed.

I came across Alton Brown's simply named, The Chewy.

This of course, refers to the chocolate chip cookie.

I looooove chocolate chip cookies and preferably, ones that are chewy and not just crunchy all the way through. I sometimes even under cook my cookies, pancakes, etc. just slightly to get that chewy texture. Doesn't always work and as I'm the only person I know who does not like raw cookie dough (yeah, yeah, so sue me), it doesn't always succeed.

In any case, getting into the holiday spirit and all that kind of nonsense, I decided to go for it. Also, it would mask the stench of microwave popcorn before my in-laws arrived.

So I followed the recipe (Susan, are you proud of me) and made the cookies.

Here's how it looked like right before I chilled the dough:

And here's what it looked like cooked as per instructions (175 for 14 mins, checking and turning sheet after 5 mins) and after only 11 minutes:

And here's what happened after I lowered the temp to 150 and cooked for only 12 minutes.

Yup, the instructions didn't work for me.

But even though the second and subsequent batches looked better, it still wasn't chewy. It was still a bit dry and tough. Did I overwork the dough? Should I not have used the hand mixer to mix the dough? Or was it my big chocolate chunks?

In any case, I would not repeat again, just wasn't that good. Now somebody please send me a fail proof cookie recipe!!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Michelin Results - Hong Kong

Thanks to my ... ahem... sources, I have the results from the first Michelin Guide in Hong Kong:

Three Stars ***

- Lung King Heen

Two Stars **

- Amber

- Bo Innovation

- Caprice

- L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

- Summer Palace

- Tang Palace

One Star *

- Fook Lam Moon

- Forum

- Hutong

- Lei Garden (IFC and Tsim Sha Tsui)

- Ming Court

- Petrus

- Regal Palace

- Pierre

- Shanghai Garden

- Golden Leaf

- The Square

- Tim's Kitchen

- Yung Kee

I've tried to link most of the ones who have their own website.

Well.... What do you all think? A lot of hotel restaurants, non?


Here's a link to an article, and discussions on Chowhound.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Crabby Patties

So, long time no good food.

Sadly, its been a bit of a drought for me too. I've not been inspired much and not had much of an appetite for anything interesting. It's one of the annoying things of being out of work. You feel like you should save money and subsequently eat at home much more often. And as I've said before, I am NOT a cook. I'm an eater.

I have, however, last week, made a huge pot of Ginger Vinegar Pig's Trotters to bring to two friends who have recently given birth to adorable baby girls and even given a taster to a friend who has never had them but come to love them, much to my surprise and delight!

Last week, I was in Weymouth. Yes, I didn't know where that was either but it's where the boy is working at the moment during the week and I thought I'd tag along. It's interesting. But this review is timely, seeing as Weymouth has just completed the sailing venue for the 2012 Olympics on time and on budget!

While the boy spends his time working, I've spent my time exploring the town. Which took about 1 hour. Hmmm, it wasn't going to work out. I've looked in a lot of closed little shop and cafe windows and thought about how fun it could be in season. Teeming with senior citizens, it has been an experience to say the least. I even went to Poole to find some excitement only to find it mostly shut as well.

In an effort to keep my interest, the boy discovered that the Crab House Cafe was within distance and we went to have a look on the Monday we arrived only to find that it was only open Wednesday through to Sunday. We returned on Wednesday with low expectations.

However, inside was a cosy little restaurant with about a dozen tables and we were one of three occupied tables that night. Although I was a bit concerned of the lack of custom, my fears were assauged as soon as I glanced at the bright-eyed, impossibly fresh seafood, caught earlier that day which was laid out by the open plan kitchen.

When we looked at the menu, printed daily mind you, the boy bemoaned the fact that it was only open during the days he wasn't in the city. I must admit his love of fish is directly proportional to my opposition to cooking it and having the smell linger in the flat. The deprived boy began immediately with 1/2 a dozen oysters, which he slurped down without a word to his colleague and myself, as well as a cod and skate (....) which was prepared much like coronation chicken (curry, mayo and raisins) and was a bit too strong for my taste, overwhelming the delicate flavor of the fish.

His colleague and myself both had the Thai fish cakes, which were perfectly crispy on the outside while being moist on the inside. I would say they are more like French quenelles or croquettes. But then again, I have an aversion to putting the "Thai" label on anything prepared with lemongrass. It also came with sweet Thai chili sauce which went well but a squeeze of lemon would have been just as nice.

For a main, the boy smartly chose the fish pan, which came with 5 varieties of fish (clockwise from top): John Dory (St. Pierre in French), skate, grey mullet, cod and one other fish whose name escapes me. It was a fairly large portion but the boy managed to finish it.

His colleague had the grey mullet, which looked good, with nice crispy skin on the top.

I opted for the "crab to crack". Although I was given the choice of the spicy Chinese crab or the plain, I opted for the plain. I was dubious about the spices that were going to be used and I did want to taste the crab unmasked by sauces. I was given a "kit" which included a bib (this was definitely useful), a small hammer, crab crackers, a crab pick and a little wooden cutting board. Then the gigantic crab came out. This was completely unlike the much smaller crabs I was used to back home. This was a big'un, cooked, cooked and then cut up for me to dissect.

I looked at the roe..... gosh, it was drippy, rich and unctuous. It was also a male and came with just a touch of the gooey bits that I so love in hairy crabs. It was meaty and sweet but not as sweet as the smaller crabs but oh, so satisfying. The roe was delicious. It was a little hard to get into the meat and the use of the hammer was definitely needed. by the end I really needed a full bath to rid myself of crab shell still clinging to my hair.

I ate and ate and ate.... in fact, this is the ONLY time I was too full to eat the lower legs. Usually I hate to waste crab and eat everything but this time, I was full of crab and the boy and his colleague had been waiting at least 40 minutes for me to finish so I gave up the lower legs and called it quits.

Sadly the pictures didn't turn out so well as I only had my camera phone. I would show you the roe but it looks like a blurry over-exposed mess!

Definitely worth going to (if you're in the area... maybe to attend or see the Olympic sailing competition in 2012) and the warm welcome was a real bonus.

Crab House Cafe
The Fleet Oyster Farm
Ferrymans Way
Portland Rd, Wyke Regis
Tel: 01305 788867

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Turkish De-yuck - Part 2

Well, I had to. After all, I did promise.

So of course, I choose a day when the boy was around the house (in case I needed to be resuscitated), and conquered my fears.

Inspired by the Sound of Music Singalong I went to on Friday (which was a LOT of fun), I began by first singing my off-key rendition of "I have Confidence" in order to summon up some courage to tackle the metallic purple horror sitting right next to my computer.

First I unwrapped it.

As you can see, it looked innocuous enough... and was covered in and smelt like chocolate. Not something I normally object to.

I cut it in half.

Ok, the dark red Turkish Delight lurked inside, insidiously daring me.

Not being that brave (nor that stupid), I cut it into tiny pieces and chose a corner piece (i.e. higher chocolate to gelatinous perfume ratio).

And for those of you who doubt that I actually ate it, I present to you exhibit D, which shows the slight gap between my two front teeth.

See? I did eat it.

And it was yuck.

I mean, it wasn't as strongly perfumed as the fancy stuff (and for that I am grateful) but it was still very much like eating some jelly-fied perfume. Ick.

I passed on the rest of the plate to the boy and decided to go in search of some Tolberone to ease my pain. To be fair, he didn't think it was very good either.

So all this to say that Turkish Delight is disgusting, no matter what my friends with taste say.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fry's Turkish Delight - Part 1

As punishment for my lack of posts and general laziness, I have promised you a review of my food nemesis, Turkish Delight... let's just call this one the starter because...

I'm still not sure I can go through with this.

Umami, whom I hold in very high food regard, has rarely ever steered me wrong when it came to food. The canned Heinz Mulligatawny soup turned out to be very perfect for those cold winter days where you want something tasty and quick but yet not too filling. Herbal tonics for general health and her favorite restaurants. Let me just stop here and say, the woman knows her stuff. Her penchant for cherry flavored things made me pause in the past, but that's not a question of taste, its more a question of preference. Besides, I cannot say I haven't changed regarding the question of cherry.

But this.... a perfumed jelly? She recommended THIS? I'm not sure I can take it.

Besides, it's wrapped in a garish purple foil wrapper with faux Middle-Eastern font exclaiming TURKISH Delight.

Other descriptions include "As Good as Ever" and "Full of EASTERN PROMISE", which, truth be told, is hardly a description. I mean, as good as ever? If it was bad, they haven't improved is what it says to me.

And full of EASTERN PROMISE (their capitalisation, not mine)? What kind of Eastern promise is it making me? To gag?

It is mocking me.

The only thing I can say for it is that it is covered with chocolate. Now if only I can bring myself to open the packet.

I will, I will.... just let me get used to the idea first. *shiver*

In the meantime, here's their cheesy commercial, courtesy of YouTube.

*Did you see the inside? It's a bright pinky red jelly....ewwwwwww.*

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Some husbands....

bring back flowers for their wives.....

but mine brings back McDonald's fries.

*dopey sigh*

Mine is better than yours.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Uh oh...

Yeah, I know.

I've been very lax about updating the blog. I will do but at the moment, I'm going through a bit of a down period with food. I feel a bit like that guy on the Fast Show, Jesse's Diets, who spends a week eating "mostly" one thing.

This last week, I have mostly been eating convenience food.


Although I did have a lovely afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason's with the in-laws!

A proper update coming soon (end of this week) ... one in which I TRY to conquer my fear by approaching the Umami recommended and my nemesis, TURKISH DELIGHT!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

4pm: The Vessel

Now I've talked about the tea and talked about a biscuit so I suppose I should say something about the mug.

This is a major concern for the boy. He has rejected all but 2 of the dozens of mugs which came with our apartment, deeming them "unsuitable for tea".

At first I scoffed...

I mean seriously, are you that hung up on mugs for tea?

Then, as I began to drink my mug of tea, I realized just how right he was.

Our landlord has left us dozens of mugs but many of them just on the small side. As the boy rightly pointed out, they are just too unsatisfying. They contain just bitsy amounts of tea, not enough for 3 or 4 biscuits and to warm your belly and quench your thirst. It's also too easy to let it get too strong or too weak.

Luckily, a good friend in Hong Kong solved the problem for us with his and hers mugs. Customized no less. They were a wedding present and based on a themed surprise birthday party (Spongebob Squarepants if you must know) the boy threw for me where he dressed up in the said absorbent, lemon-colored cartoon character (complete with 3 pairs of vibrant yellow tights to cover the..uh... hairs) to present a self-made Spongebob Squarepants birthday cake in front of dozens of friends he had never met.

You can see why I married the boy despite his occasional quirks about his tea.

Anyhow, these two mugs are just the perfect size for a cup of tea and biscuits.

It also saves us from bickering over the mugs despite how awfully smug and silly we look toasting ourselves with mugs with our cartoon selves on the front.

Friday, October 17, 2008

'Nana Cake

I love, love, love Banana bread. So when I heard rave reviews about a certain banana cake which had a unique 'cooling' process, I had to try. It also doesn't hurt that the recipe itself had more than 330 reviewers rating it 5 stars!

Impatiently I waited for my bananas to go black, strictly checking and warning the boy NOT to eat them. Luckily, like me, he likes his bananas on the firm, green side.

Finally it was time. I mixed up all the ingredients and found I was 1/2 cup short of flour.


After Susan's comments last time I baked, I thought that for ONCE, I would follow the recipe exactly. The ONLY change I made was using salted butter (that was all I had) and omitting the salt, figuring it would even itself out.

As I had already done the grocery run once that day, I asked the boy to pick up some more flour on the way home from work.

The process involves baking the cake for an hour (took 1.5 hours for me, even though my thermometer showed that I had the right temperature) and then straight into the freezer for 45 minutes.

Those 45 minutes were agony as the smell of the cake had already permeated and the boy kept asking me "Is it done yet? Should I put the kettle on now? How much longer?". Finally I pulled out the cake and cut out a big piece each for me and the boy. I omitted the frosting as, quite frankly, our butts didn't need it.

It was good! A bit too sweet for my liking but nice and moist with a gorgeous crackly crusty top. I didn't know how to wrap the cake as I wanted to preserve the crackly top so I left it overnight in the cooled oven but sadly when I went for my breakfast piece (hey, cake is a perfectly decent balanced breakfast), the topping had become sticky and moist. Not bad but not the lovely crumb of last night.

Anyhow, I wouldn't mind making it again with more banana, less sugar and less butter although not sure how I could decrease without affecting the texture... any suggestions?

Monday, October 13, 2008

4pm: Tunnock's Dark Chocolate Caramel Wafers

I thought I'd start off round 2 of 4pm with a recently discovered and fast becoming favorite biscuit.

Although, to be fair, you can hardly call it a biscuit and it's more in the realm of chocolate bar.

It is Tunnock's Dark Chocolate Caramel Wafers.

Tunnocks has had a long history of providing many a packed lunch with that sweet treat at the end or as an afternoon snack. Two of its most famous products are the Tea Cake, a biscuit base with a marshmallow dome, all enveloped with chocolate, and the Caramel Wafer, containing 5 layers of wafer with 4 layers of caramel.

Tunnock's is still family owned and operated out of Scotland, and the scrolling trivia on their site tells me that the Caramel Wafer is regularly featured as one of the top 10 selling chocolate biscuits in Scotland. After eating my way through two packs, I know why.


What I have to go through in the name of research....

I bought the multi-pack, which , I think is the way to go, lasting a good week with one extra in case your *cough* significant other decides to steal one *choke*.

First of all though, you must make the tea and your cheerily wrapped Caramel Wafer (keeping it away from the tea otherwise you risk chocolate meltage), and find a good space to sit.

Then, have a slurp of your tea and begin to unwrap. STOP. Do NOT rip the top bit open and eat like a chocolate bar, you heathen. Unwrap it fully.

Then, using the wrapper as your 'plate', pick it up with your thumb and forefinger and bite.

The warmth of your mouth from the tea should nicely melt the chocolate, which combined with the slightly chewy wafer and caramel leave you nice and happy.

Then, a further sip or two of tea then another bite.

Proceed until finished.

Assuming, like me, you are a hot blooded individual, you should be left with traces of chocolate to be licked away regretfully after the Caramel Wafer has finished.

Usually this is the time to sigh, look sadly down at your chocolate streaked empty wrapper and begin to fold. I fold mine according to the fold already in place, turning it over to admire once again the wrapping before folding it into an every smaller thin strip and wrap around my finger like a ring.

I leave this bit to your own imagination as to how you'd like to fold your empty wrapper.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Lunch is not a fun affair.

I'm usually by myself, at home and try to either finish off any leftovers of the previous evening (of which there are never many), or make something simple. Sadly, I often turn to instant meals bulked up by something at home.

Today's lunch was Nong Shim's Chapagetti, an instant noodle of which my Dad and I are inordinately fond. Introduced to me by my Korean flatmate in university, I introduced it to my father and we have been buying it by dozen ever since.

Based on Cha Chang or Zha Jiang Mein, a savory spicy sauce which can reddish with lots of ground meat in the Cantonese style and dark black (using black soybeans) in the Korean style and usually served with thick chewy noodles. My favorite is the Korean version, one in which my Taiwanese aunts make particularly well along with their own handmade noodles and accompanying pickles....thinking about it makes my mouth water. But as a hopeless cook I make do with this version of Cha Chang Myun by Nong Shim.

I just want to take a second here and acknowledge that Nong Shim is one of my favorite makers of instant noodles. Their noodles, which are very much deep fried, are thick, chewy if cooked right and have a great bite to them.

It comes with a little packet of dehydrated soy/meat and veg, a packet of powder for the sauce and a small packet of vegetable oil. I, heathen that I am, usually toss away the oil, and after boiling the noodles to a consistency I like, dump out the water, put in two tablespoons of fresh water, a splash of white vinegar (I like my noodles with a bit of tang) and the sauce powder, putting it back on the hob at the lowest heat possible. I then attempt to stir, mix and coax it all together, turning it into a lovely curly black mess.

Today's meal was made complete with a surprisingly double yolked hard boiled egg and 3 sticks of surirmi (faux crabmeat, seafood extenders, whatever you want to call it), and a dollop of spicy Sriracha sauce on the side.

A quick, tasty, if not exactly healthy, lunch for one.

Monday, October 06, 2008

4pm: Tea

I've decided that since I'm in England, I might as well adapt some of the weird quirks about the English, but mostly about the boy, that I enjoy.

One of these is the 4pm Cup o' Tea.

Now that the boy has beaten the sugar out of my cup of tea, I like it strong, with a dash a milk so its a nice caramel color. I'm picky about it because I'm not fond of too much milk and weak tea is a waste of my time.

But since the sugar has been taken away with me, I've taken to biscuits (cookies in my book) with an alarming alacrity. I figured that it balances it out nicely, no?

The everyday 4pm cup of tea is not meant to be a nice dainty affair with real china and platters of scones and sandwiches, as much as I'd like it to be, but a reinforcing cup of warmth with a biscuit (or two, or three or four....) to sustain you until dinner. I find it a perfect way to begin thinking about what I'm going to prepare for dinner and not making me so hungry that I want to bite a chunk out of the raw meat I'm preparing.

My tea of choice had been the long held favorite, PG Tips. However, as I find myself just that bit chilly all the time, and craving that hit of hot liquid, I find myself wanting to cut down on the caffeine... just a little. So when the boy brought home the wonderfully retro box of Tick Tock Tea with no caffeine, I was excited... at first. However, upon seeing it rooibos and smelling just that little bit funky, I became apprehensive.

After my sip, I wasn't exactly sold, but I wasn't put off either. Much, much weaker than normal tea, it nevertheless had a comforting aroma and flavor to it. I have surprisingly taken to it quite well and have now cut down to 1 cup of normal tea and three of the Tick Tock Tea.

I have to admit, the cheery box does help.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Feet o' Pigs

My Mom mentioned a dish the other day and immediately a craving hit like a punch in the belly.

It was a dish I often requested at dim sum restaurants and one for which I will unashamedly hang around women who have just given birth.

This dish, pig's trotters in ginger and sweet vinegar, is traditionally given to a woman after labor as a way to help ward off 'wind', keep the body warm, help in the replenishment of blood lost and serves as a tonic to help women recuperate.

I eat it because it's tasty.

I have never tried cooking it myself but if my Mom (who, shockingly is an even worse cook than myself) can make it, so can I.

So off I went to try to buy the vinegar. It must be Pat Chun Sweet Vinegar, at least that's what everyone tells me! I was lucky enough to find it at See Woo in Leicester Square. Then I bought some old ginger. I wasn't sure how much so I bought 3 hefty pieces approximately the size of my hand. I like things on the spicy side but this should be adjusted to how much spice you can take.

Then it was off to the local butchers where I put in an order for 3 fresh pig's trotters for the following week. A half dozen eggs and I was set to begin.

I first began by peeling all the ginger and cutting it into thickish slices and putting them into a pot with the whole bottle of vinegar and heat until just barely simmering. Once the ginger slices had softened and taken on a bit of color, I turned off the heat and let it sit overnight.

In the meantime, I hard boiled the half dozen eggs and peeled them and put them into the cooled vinegar to marinate overnight.

When I got the pig's trotter's the next day, I asked that the nails be chucked away and each trotter to be cut in 6 pieces. Happily the butcher cut them with the cleaver so none of that powdery bone dust you get from machines. Then I came home, rinsed them very well, pulling off any tough bits of skin and put them into a pot of cold water to cover and heat to boiling. You will see a lot of grey scum rise to the top. After it had boiled about 5-10 mins, I removed, rinsed and started again with cold water and heat to boiling. This time there was little scum but if there is, you may need to do it a third time.

I rinsed off the pig's trotters as well as I could and took out the eggs from the vinegar marinade (which were a lovely brown color by this time) and replaced them with the pig's trotters. I then topped up with about a cup of water to almost cover the pig's trotters and lets simmer on the lowest possible heat for 3-4 hours or until the pig's trotters look very soft and ready to eat.

At this point, I let the whole pot cool, replaced the eggs and leave overnight in the fridge. This way, I could easily scoop out the hard white lard the next morning before returning to the boil. Then it was ready to eat.

Don't be put off by the length of time it appears to take. I'm sure you could make this in a single day but I like having the flavors develop and really marinate into the egg and the pig's trotters. I like the sauce to be almost sticky and deeply flavorful.

This keeps incredibly well and you can add to it with more sweet vinegar, ginger or pig's trotters and reuse the sauce as the base for the next batch.

I like to serve it with white rice, lightly sauteed spinach and beansprouts with the egg cut in half, attractively showing three colors of the yolk, the white and the marinated brown, and a few pieces of pig's trotters. You won't need much of the sauce as the egg and pig's trotters should be plenty flavorful.

It is an easy and cheap dish to make (under 6 pounds!) and would be greatly appreciated by any new mother.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I'm no baker...

...but I do love my chocolate baked goods!

I decided to make cookies.

I had two conditions. It must be easy and it must be chocolate-y.

So I found this recipe for Chocolate Crinkles and decided to give it a go.

And it was me, I made a few changes. I decreased the sugar by 1/4 cup and upped the cocoa by 2 tablespoons. Oh and no powdered sugar. Instead I put a few flakes of salt on top.

First dozen I made were too dry. It was my fault, I baked for 14 minutes instead of the 10 to 12 as they looked undercooked.

The second dozen I made I baked for only 10 minutes and they were undercooked. They spread a bit and was too moist inside. The third dozen was at 12 minutes on the nose.... still too dry.

Hmmm, next half dozen (all the dough I have left) will be at 11 minutes and hopefully I'll have that nice balance of crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Taste-wise, they were better than expected. Nice hit of salt, not too sweet and a bit brownie like, especially the undercooked ones.

Not the best cookies in the world but they'll do for now. Oh and it was definitely easy and very chocolate-y.

Finally, a baking project that didn't go terribly wrong.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Follow up - 100 Chinese Foods...

As a follow up to the Omnivore's 100, we now have Appetite for China's 100 Chinese Foods to Try Before you Die!

I scored 97%, and a hard craving for food back in Hong Kong. Bittersweet.

1. Almond milk
2. Ants Climbing a Tree (poetic, not literal, name)
3. Asian pear

4. Baby bok choy

5. Baijiu

6. Beef brisket

7. Beggar's Chicken

8. Bingtang hulu
9. Bitter melon

10. Bubble tea

11. Buddha's Delight

12. Cantonese roast duck
13. Century egg, or thousand-year egg

14. Cha siu (Cantonese roast pork)

15. Char kway teow

16. Chicken feet

17. Chinese sausage

18. Chow mein

19. Chrysanthemum tea

20. Claypot rice

21. Congee

22. Conpoy (dried scallops)

23. Crab rangoon
24. Dan Dan noodles

25. Dragonfruit

26. Dragon's Beard candy
27. Dried cuttlefish

28. Drunken chicken

29. Dry-fried green beans

30. Egg drop soup

31. Egg rolls

32. Egg tart, Cantonese or Macanese
33. Fresh bamboo shoots
34. Fortune cookies

35. Fried milk

36. Fried rice

37. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)

38. General Tso's Chicken

39. Gobi Manchurian
40. Goji berries (Chinese wolfberries)
41. Grass jelly

42. Hainan chicken rice

43. Hand-pulled noodles

44. Har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings in translucent wrappers)

45. Haw flakes

46. Hibiscus tea

47. Hong Kong-style Milk Tea

48. Hot and sour soup

49. Hot Coca-Cola with Ginger

50. Hot Pot

51. Iron Goddess tea (Tieguanyin)

52. Jellyfish
53. Kosher Chinese food
54. Kung Pao Chicken

55. Lamb skewers (yangrou chua'r)

56. Lion's Head meatballs

57. Lomo Saltado
58. Longan fruit

59. Lychee

60. Macaroni in soup with Spam

61. Malatang

62. Mantou, especially if fried and dipped in sweetened condensed milk

63. Mapo Tofu

64. Mock meat

65. Mooncake (bonus points for the snow-skin variety)

66. Nor mai gai (chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaf)

67. Pan-fried jiaozi

68. Peking duck

69. Pineapple bun
70. Prawn crackers

71. Pu'er tea

72. Rambutan

73. Red bean in dessert form

74. Red bayberry
75. Red cooked pork
76. Roast pigeon
77. Rose tea
78. Roujiamo

79. Scallion pancake

80. Shaved ice dessert
81. Sesame chicken

82. Sichuan pepper in any dish
83. Sichuan preserved vegetable (zhacai)
84. Silken tofu

85. Soy milk, freshly made

86. Steamed egg custard

87. Stinky tofu

88. Sugar cane juice

89. Sweet and sour pork, chicken, or shrimp
90. Taro

91. Tea eggs

92. Tea-smoked duck

93. Turnip cake (law bok gau)

94. Twice-cooked pork

95. Water chestnut cake (mati gau)

96. Wonton noodle soup

97. Wood ear

98. Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)

99. Yuanyang (half coffee, half tea, Hong Kong style)

100. Yunnan goat cheese

There's also a 100 Japanese Foods to try.... or has the 100 Food List's five minutes already expired?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

St. John Bread and Wine

In the words of Fergie's annoying and shrill song, "London, London, Lon- DON!"

Yes I'm back and I've been slow. I have no excuse.... Well... I kind of do. I've been eating crap food mostly. For some reason I've been craving spaghetti bolognese like nobody's business and I can't seem to cook a decent potful of the stuff! Instead I've been eating the frozen stuff from Sainsbury's with ketchup and Tabasco. Yes, I'm disgusted with myself.

But I am here back to tell you about a restaurant I went to with Susan, who was so impressed, we went back a mere 3 days later, joined by the gracious Fushia Dunlop. The restaurant being St. John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields.

The first time Susan and I went, we got there early at noon and was the earliest lunchtime table. It was a nice, casual setting, with a counter separating the kitchen from the main dining room. Lots of white and dark woods, it was very clean and modern looking, with a small selection of breads and pastries available for take out.

The menu was printed and handed to us with the day's specials on the board. We were instantly drawn to the Pig's Tail, Chicory and Mustard, which we decided we most definitely had to have. Then we ordered a selection of dishes including Peas and Ticklemore, the simply named dished of Tomatoes, Deviled Rabbit's Kidneys, and Old Spot and Lentils.

Susan started with a single razor clam, which looked like it had been drizzled with a vinaigrette and thinly sliced red onion. I'm not sure how it tasted but I'm sure she can enlighten us in the comments... Please?

The Peas and Ticklemore (type of cheese) arrived next, a really fresh, sweet, delicious tasting peas with tangles of pea leaves and the slightly tangy, thin slices of cheese. It was dressed simply in some olive oil and was wonderful. We ordered this again on our second visit, which came with gorgeous edible purple flowers from another species of pea plant.

The Tomatoes, we had to try since we wanted to understand how a dish of tomatoes could cost . The came all different colors and types, some small and some a bit larger, cut in half and dressed. Accompanied by a small salad with these lovely pickled walnuts. The tomatoes were good but not anything special tasting, despite their probable unique heritage.

But the Pig's Tail. It was great! All crispy on the outside and soft, fatty and cartilage-y. Yum, yum! It was very rich and with all our other dishes, we couldn't finish it and by the end of the meal, the crispy bits had softened somewhat, making it less delicious. Although we did hope to see it on our second visit, it wasn't available.

Old Spot and Lentils, which we had high hopes for, was slices of pork belly on a bed of lentils. It was ok but nothing spectacular. The pork, although a fatty cut, was slightly dry and salty. We ate little of it due to the temptation of all the other dishes.

The Deviled Rabbit's Kidneys was delicious. Tender little nuggets with just enough chew with a lovely sauce over a toasted piece of bread. I do love kidneys and luckily, so does Susan!

The second visit lasted from breakfast to lunch and we started with a bacon butty, a wonderfully piggy bacon sandwich, which just made us a bit more hungry for the rest of our meal.

We ordered the Smoked Eel & Horseradish, which was just sooo good, smoky, oily and rich, and came in two small pieces with real horseradish. Upon tasting it, I really wanted to immediately order another one all for myself.

The Snails, Nettles & Brown Butter came in a buttery, chewy tangle with bread underneath to mop up the juices, of which there were a plenty. It was good but I was still fixated on the eel.

The Girolles & Goat's Curd was very 'forest-y' tasting if that makes sense. The tang and creaminess of the goat's curd was a good contrast as it brought out the foresty greeness of the just tender girolles.

Crab Meat on Toast was sooo rich, even with the squirt of lemon. It was a bargain in my opinion, with two generous slices of toast slathered with crab meat (which is a pain to remove). Happily, they didn't include just the white crab meat but bits of roe, which gave it a slight discoloration but made it all the more rich.

The first time we went, we had an Eccles cake to share. This was a huge piece of dense and surprisingly delicious sugared pastry wrapped with dark, dense, sweet currants and perhaps other fruits. It was served with a big piece of Lancashire Cheese. I am not usually a fan of anything with raisins (crunchy eyeballs...ewww) or dried fruit but this was very good, sweet, chewy and was definitely moreish.

The madeleines we ordered, on the other hand, were a big disappointment. Dry and a little too large, they were nothing to write home about. As much as I like dessert, I say, stick to the small plates here and maybe finish with an Eccles cake...only if you have others to share with, it's a rich dessert!

The second time we couldn't manage dessert but I did manage to finish off the yogurt and strawberries which we had ordered with our bacon butty but had completely forgotten about by the time the savories arrived.

All I can say is that writing this post has made me hungry for more food there. Simple yet complex yet delicious and hearty, I can't wait to go back for more.

St. John Bread and Wine Spitalfields
94-96 Commercial Street
E1 6LZ
Reservations: 020 7251 0848

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bad spacing

About the post below... I have no idea how come my spaces don't show up on blogger!!

It looks fine in the preview but is all squashed into 1 neverending paragraph for you to read.

Sorry and if you have any hints as to how I can sort this out, let me know!

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Ominvore's Hundred

Very late to the game but I still want to play!!

The Omnivore's Hundred...

In bold are the ones I've tried... and the 24 I haven't tried. None of them have been crossed out as I'd try anything....once.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu - it was dried...does that count?
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse - it was raw I get double points??
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

So, what about you? Any of you tried all 100?? Any of you tried none at all?? I'm so curious...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

El Bulli - sección tres

All right, still with me?

I hope so!

Only part three of the El Bulli experience left....

We continued with green walnuts and with endive, this was a bit like a creamy stew, with Roquefort, tiny little endives caramelized and slightly drizzled with a bit of passion fruit essence.

I enjoyed this dish although it was a little bit strange, a bit crunchy and a little odd but tasty, with most of the flavors coming together quite nicely and not tasting heavy at all. Oddly the Roquefort didn't taste so good. It was in little pillowy pockets (you can see one on the lower left hand side and another on the upper right) and didn't seem to go together with the rest.

Another gnocchi dish followed, gnocchi of polenta with coffee and safran yuba. It was quite nice although again it was again a film encapsulated burst of liquid cornmeal. You can definitely taste the ground coffee but not so much the saffron. I quite liked this one as it tasted more substantial than some of the other dishes.

Ok, this was the one dish I had differently than everyone else. This was named sea anemone 2008. And sadly, it sent me running to the bathroom. It smelled awful, looked awful and from what I gathered from everyone pushing it around, it didn't taste great. It consisted of oysters and rabbit brains. Sadly, the brain had a visible bloody vein running through it, which the boy had to pick around. I was proud of him for actually trying what he termed as "zombie food".

I was given a dish of ackees, a fruit commonly used in Jamaican cooking. It was served with cooked cucumbers and tasted quite mild, a little bit like corn. The cucumbers are quite good. Reminded me of a cooked pickle I had in a lovely African stew once.

The next dish consisted was abalone, accompanied by shimeiji mushrooms, fat of Iberian pork (the clear big in the middle) and flavored with ginger. It was definitely fresh abalone, not the sugared heart ('tong sum') preserved abalone but still good. It was very Asian flavored with strong soy notes. I enjoyed this but couldn't manage to eat the fat despite my usual liking of fat!

The next course was called castanet, a distinctive part of the pig, which the waitress kindly pointed out was somewhere on the side. It tasted very much like sweetbread. On the side was lemon soup with baby shitake mushrooms with braised cactus on the left hand side. The soup was light and flavorful from the shitake and the castanet was a bit tougher than sweetbreads. The cactus was quite juicy and slightly tart.

The flower canape which followed was the first of the dessert selections. It was very pretty to look at with edible flowers sprinkled over the top and a small mouthful of sorbet at the end all on a thin plank of meringue (can you sense a theme for this year yet?). Again, as it was flowers, it wasn't to my taste but it was inoffensive and light with a refreshing sorbet as the last flavor.

Next came a box with 'trufitas', or liquid truffles. Obviously, this being El Bulli, you don't expect a normal truffle. This was truffle all right but truffle the fungi and not the chocolate. Rolled in cacao powder it was the true essence of truffle which lingers in your mouth.

Carrying on with the cacao theme was the simply named cacao, which was a beautifully molded shell made to look like a cacao pod. Sadly I don't remember much of the taste of what was underneath the sugar shell but in my notes are cinnamon, coffee jelly, macadamia nut. Perhaps the others could help me out?

At this point, as Umami and my birthday was a scant few days apart and this being the eve of mine, Cha Xiu Bao had informed the staff who came out with two huge cards with pop up birthday cakes and stuck a candle for us to blow out. It was amusing but less amusing when the hurriedly, a scant few seconds after we blew out the candle, rushed to close the cards to take them away. They were also not amused when Cha Xiu Bao jokingly asked if they would sing like they did at TGIF.

We were then presented with the first of the ''morphings", which was a chocolate egg filled with a sort of strawberry truffle. It was very good quality chocolate and definitely very satisfying for my sweet tooth. The egg was speckled with gold and very pretty to look at.

The next was a Catalan berry biscuit with mint, very similar to the Parmesan and tomato biscuits we had at the beginning. However, it did taste quite dry and not as concentrated in berry-ness. I somehow managed to forget the photo for this one but you can see the pics on Cha Xiu Bao's Flickr account.

Next we were served a very moist yogurt sponge cake with apricot. The sponge cake looked a sea sponge and was very frilly and hole-y. It was nice and light and although I was suffering a bit from food coma, I couldn't help but pick at it.

Finally we were presented with amber filled liquid balls. I don't remember eating it and the only thing the boy can tell me is that it was very sweet and syrupy and infused with a delicate flavor which he can't remember. We are rubbish at this...

So finally, what say I about the meal? It was interesting. I don't regret going at all. It was different and very special. However, as far as the taste of the meal went, I can't say I loved it. I admit it may have been a combination my own slight nausea, my distaste for a few of the ingredients which were frequently used (umeboshi, shiso and flowers), and my own lack of refined taste buds but it just didn't do it for me. And sadly, I feel a bit let down. I expected the different, unexpected textures and visuals but I also expected it to taste GOOD. And while most of it was ok, nothing I really wanted to repeat except the razor clams.

Moreover I am off molecular gastronomy. If I've tried the best and wasn't impressed, I ain't gonna try the rest. (My grandfather, a published poet, is turning in his grave now...).

So when Susan suggested a trip to a new, cool restaurant with fancy food on a recent trip to London, I suggested more solid, non-fusion food instead.

I'm expecting some controversy and comments of how unqualified I am to make this review and I agree with all of them but again, this was MY experience and I feel that I have to be honest.

Now will someone get me a bowl of noodles please?