Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.

Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

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
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 Yam
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
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

85/100 not bad.. haha!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Poached Salmon with Vegetable Mash

Weekends are for cooking! Bon Appetit!

Ingredients (serves 2)

Poaching Liquid
- 1 teaspoon of oil
- quarter teaspoon of garlic
- a chilli padi, de-seeded
- half a carrot
- a stick of celery
- half a white onion
- 2 inches of leek
- 100ml of water or stock

- 2 100g fillets washed and patted dry
- chopped dill weed


- 1 packet of thai asparagus with stalks trimmed to equal lengths

Vegetable Mash
- cooked vegetables from poaching liquid
- 1 large potato
- 20g of butter
- 20ml of whipping cream
- salt and pepper

Hollandaise Sauce
- 1 egg yolk
- 50g butter, clarified
- juice of slightly less than half a lemon
- salt and pepper


Poaching Liquid
- rough cut all the vegetables to small bite sized pieces
- sweat vegetables in oil, add water/stock and simmer for 10min
- drain and reserve both liquid and cooked vegetables

Vegetable Mash
- boil potato, leaving skin on
- quarter the potato and throw into food processor with cooked vegetables, butter and cream
- pulse to desired consistency and add salt and pepper to taste

- blanch half the packet for 1 min in poaching liquid
- soak in cold water to stop cooking

Hollandaise (i used leftover sauce from poached eggs, you can easily buy it)
- whisk egg over a pot of gently simmering water till it forms ribbons and resists the motion of your hand
- add lemon juice
- drizzle in a bit of clarified butter slowly and incorporate fully before adding more(do this slowly or the sauce will split)
- continue until all the butter is used up and you have a thick sauce
- add salt and pepper to taste

- bring poaching liquid to a vigorous simmer
- place salmon in liquid and baste with spoon for about 6 to 7 min
(5 min for an uncooked center)


how you plate it is up to you really, just don't put the hollandaise on the poached fish because the water on the fish will make it run.

don't forget to sprinkle dill on the salmon for colour.

for dessert i whipped up...

...maple cheesecakes.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Great Egg Poaching Experiment

I came across a new technique for poaching eggs while surfing the net. Being a really big fan of eggs, i couldn't resist the temptation to try it out asap and since i had this blog to update, i figured why just stop at trying out this new technique? So i did a little more research and came up with 4 different methods to try out and document(details further down).

There was no way i was going to eat ALL the eggs from the experiment so i called andrea, my favourite makan kaki, and lured her over with promises of a brunch fit for a FIT=) young lady such as herself. She demanded benedict d'oeufs when she heard that poached eggs were on the menu and i was stuck with the tiresome chore of scratching up some hollandaise sauce.

I did a quick search online and found a recipe for a 'no fuss blender hollandaise' but a previous encounter with hollandaise has left me convinced that this is a temperamental mother sauce and i decided to make it the old fashioned way instead.

The menu for the day was simple. Brunch was kicked off with a sweet&spicy bell pepper soup(which i stupidly forgot to take a photo of). This was followed by a sourdough based eggs benedict/florentine combo. Actually, it's more like a crostone, which is a mega crostini.

I used my 3 week old starter for the bread. I made the starter by following some instructions i found online. I had crossed my fingers and hoped that there were some yeast spores in the organic flour, threw in some original flavour yakult for culture(literally, to get the bacteria which produces the lactic acid which makes sourdough sour) and fed the lot with a slurry of flour and water every week. Thankfully, the mass had started growing and bubbling.

I skipped class so i could be home to make my sourdough on Friday morning, timing it so that all would be ready to go by 8am today.

Everything was perfect except that i had a late night and didn't get up till 10am. Oops...

Once i finally got the sourdough was in the oven:

I wilted my spinach,

caramalised my bacon,

and whipped my hollandaise,

leaving the illegal egg hunting to the last part.

Method 1: Vortex
Stir the boiling water in a pot to create a whirling vortex and then pour out an egg into the vortex
Anybody who has ever tried to poach an egg would tell you, just by reading it, that this is a really stupid idea.

Just to prove that it is a stupid idea, i did it.

Conclusion: Sham, don't waste your time

Dude with a bad hair day

Method 2: Jump Start

Boil in shell for 30 sec before proceeding on with normal method
The idea here is to get the egg white on the outside cooked so you get a nicely shaped poached egg. Seriously? Anyone who has had oeufs mollets before knows that the white ALWAYS sticks to the shell and you need to scrape it out with your spoon then mixing the whole lot with tons of white pepper, light soy sauce and sesame oil before soaking your kaya toast in it and slurping it down with loud rude noises of indulgent satisfaction. MMmmmMmmm... Sorry... I digress...

Conclusion: Sham

Come on, did you expect anything different? I even left in for 45 seconds, 50% longer than what was recommended. I finished off this egg the classic way.

Method 3: Classic

Add salt and a little vinegar to the water. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Crack an egg into an oiled ladle and gently lower into the water. Carefully tip out of ladle when white solidifies.

This works, it really does.

Conclusion: Old is gold

For those of you who are wondering, vinegar is necessary for good looking poached eggs. Only absolutely fresh eggs will give you perfect, round poached eggs. They're impossible to get unless you own some laying hens(if that's the case, please let me know if i can have some).

Egg albumen is 15% protein by mass, dissolved in water. Many of these proteins are polar in solution and interact readily with water which is a polar solvent. By acidifying the water with the ethanoic acid found in vinegar, you create a less attractive environment for the egg white to disperse into the water. This results in a 'tighter' poached egg.

Method 4: Contemporary(this is the method that sparked off this article)

Place cling film on the inside of a cup. Oil the inside and crack an egg into it. Tie up into a parcel and then poach.

Conclusion: Sometimes new techniques can be better than tried and true ones.

I've never made poached eggs as perfectly shaped as this. Incredibly beautiful and with very little fuss. However, i do have my reservations with regard to this method. Cling film is most commonly made from stiff Polyvinyl Chloride(PVC), softened with pthalate plasticizers. This shit transfers to all foods it comes in contact with but this time, you're immersing it in boiling water. Even if you got the film made from the purportedly safer Low Density Polyethylene(LDPE), it's still boiling plastic. Freaky...

The Finished Result

I used the classically prepared poached egg for the sample photo because it had the best shape and sat really nicely on top of the crostone. People who know me personally will recognise this dish as my MSN display picture(flavoured salt was used on that dish instead of hollandaise).

So there you have it, the Great Egg Poaching Experiment was pretty much a success. Just another excuse for me to muck around in the kitchen. Till next time, eat well.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

La Broche: Sergi Arola

La Broche or The Clasp in English

While working at the Brown Sugar Bistro, i had the chance to work with Chef Kelvin Lee, he was the former Executive Chef of the Fullerton Hotel and had just left the post of Chef de Cuisine of the San Marco's Group. He was giving Yuan a hand while in between jobs and when he heard that i was heading off to Europe, he insisted that i visit La Broche. He had worked there under Sergi Arola and described the kitchen to me in full detail.

This 2 star Michelin Chef had spent 2 million Euros on the refrigeration system alone. He has 3 separate walk-in units, 1 for fish, meat and vegetables. The unit for fish had a special mist system that keeps live fish alive for a few days. The restaurant has it's own backup generator to keep these refrigeration working in case of a power failure. Talk about going overboard.

Of the handful of important restaurants in Madrid, no less than 3 are powered by the creative wizardry of Catalan chefs; Ferran Adria at the Terraza del Casino, Santi Santamaria at Santceloni, and Sergi Arola at La Broche. Since La Broche opened in February 2000 in the Hotel Miguel Angel just off the Paseo de la Castellana, Arola's restaurant has become one the hottest places to see and be seen in.

Ferran Adria was Arola's mentor and boss at the famous El Bulli, home of molecular gastronomy, on the Costa Brava. He has passed on his almost alchemical fascination with transforming textures and extracting essences, so there are times when Arola's cooking requires you to be suspended in disbelief. Some of his work almost defies description, think sea and land snails roasted in lard, combined in a kind of crazy warm salad with miniature violet potatoes (the latest fashion from Peru), capers, tiny marinated onions and chanterelle mushrooms, all arranged on a square of fine phyllo pastry. This is a surrealist creation worthy of that other Catalan master, Salvador Dali.

Anyway, i had my reservations there sorted out even before i left. This meant an extra stop in Madrid that i hadn't planned for. I managed to wrangle lodging with my godsister who was visiting family there while on exchange so i took her along for lunch.

This was the first time i went to such an atas atas(societe haute) place without my mum/sister so i did feel a bit out of place. Hell, the wait staff were much better dressed than i was. Thankfully i was with my godsister. We do crazy things together all the time so her presence gave me a boost of courage.

When we were seated, our server rolled up this trolley full of bottles which i thought was whiskey but turned out to be olive oil, at least 15 different types of extra virgin. He asked for our preference and i gave him a really dumbfounded look in return. I thought i had haute cuisine figured out in general, i know that extra virgins do come with varying flavours but come on. To actually ask us to choose which ones we wanted? I recovered after a moment and asked for something light for my godsister and one more earthy for myself so we could share.

After that he came and gave us 3 different types of bread, which i forgot to take photos of. Speaking of photos, we were in a really swanky restaurant but i was a student about to fork out nearly a hundred and fifty Euro a head for lunch. Boy, was i gonna take a photo of everything.

Vanilla, Spanish Cheese & Red Pepper salts along with Butter for the bread

This was the first of the Tapas set that comes with any order and the empty bowl was where the balsamic vinegar(5 choices) was poured. I failed to take a photo of the nifty tableware they used for the other bread and olive oil.

Flat Breadsticks with Pesto, Tomato Concasse & Parmesan Aioli

The 2nd Tapas item to come were these breadsticks. Nothing special about them but the dips were really out of this world. Sergi Arola is known to pay very fine attention to detail and i know it sounds weird but i could have sworn i was eating liquid Parmesan. That was how well blended the dip was.

Jambon with Smoked Catalan Cheese

I feel really silly now that i didn't bother to ask what ham and what cheese was used.

Potato Fritatas with Ajo Aioli

My first thought when i read this on my menu was that it was going to be a stearic and oleic overload but i was happy to be wrong. The pommes de terre were crispy and not at all oily and the mayonnaise was light on the tongue.

Anchovy with Apple and Celeriac Reduction

This dish was exquisite. I don't even like anchovy but this was really something else. The fish melted in my mouth and the reduction was really in harmony with the flavour of the fish. It was also the last dish of the Tapas set.

Tagliolini on a bed of Morel with Parmesan Cream

This is where it really got good. The purpose of the trip was to get a real immersion into the cuisine and little did i expect to find the BEST pasta i have ever eaten in Madrid. I had really good and satisfying pastas in Tuscany later on in the trip which were more value for money but this miserably small portion is unrivaled in terms of taste alone. I don't have the vocabulary to describe the taste sensations they bestowed upon me. Even my godsis who kind of likes everything she eats was left stunned for a moment. The only word i know that suitably describes this is 'orgasmic'. Sometimes i have wet dreams of successfully recreating this dish but each time i wake up, i know it's not a possibility. Still, i'll try it out one day.

Cheese Risotto with Sea Cumcumber

This dish was really good too but really paled in comparison to the tagliolini. A method of cooking sea cucumber that i'd never seen before.

Tataki de Atun Rojo

After the primeras placas were polished off, the main courses were served up. We had the Red Tuna Tataki and the Roast Beef.

Roast Beef with Duck Foie Gras Ice Cream

The beef was simply heaven. Tedious to eat cos i didn't wanna ruin the presentation like the barbarian i am but it was really good all the same. May sound odd to have a duck liver ice cream with it but it made sense to me. Foie Gras should be eaten at room temperature and since the beef was piping hot, it's genius to have the foie gras cold. Foie Gras and beef are a match made in heaven as evidenced by it's popularity in the upscale burger joints that now dot our island.

Sweet Endings: Assorted Handmade Bonbons, Macarons and Truffles

We received a platter of sweets for dessert. A perfect way to end the perfect meal. Those Michelin guides really know how to do their job. I tried making reservations at the Fat Duck too but there were no vacancies for the dates i had. Just as well, i doubt i'd have been able to afford a 120 Pound degustation there.

Happily Sated =)

I went into the kitchens and met the Chef himself but was too shy to ask for a photo with him. Something i'll regret till the day i go back for another lunch there.

Happy Eating!

La Broche

Calle de Miguel Ángel 29-31
28010 Madrid, Spain
+34 913 993 437

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Conventional vs Electric vs Induction

I'm talking about hobs here, conventional or radiant hobs being the oldest technology and induction cooktops being the new kid on the block.

Conventional hobs burn a fuel, usually liquefied petroleum gas which comes in the huge compressed cylinders delivered to your home by the friendly union gas or esso uncles or natural gas if your house is hooked up to the power gas network. I have 2 issues with gas hobs, the 1st being lack of control and the 2nd being the very fact that it isn't very environmentally friendly.

At home, I used to have problems because i could never get my griddle hot enough to sear my meat cuts properly, this is an extremely important step when preparing roasts and tataki dishes. I insisted on getting one of those high pressure zhi char burners when i moved to my new house but ended up burning most things to hell and back with it. At work, i had similar problems. If i wasn't burning the berries i was trying to saute, then i would definitely be toasting my arm while reaching for the pans on the inner burners. That's one reason why chef jackets are supposed to be long sleeved, to protect your forearm from radiant heat and spillage. I'll admit that it's probably my own lack of skill that results in the burning but that still doesn't change the fact that i cannot serve out burnt crap.

burning off the joy juice in a red wine reduction

My only experience with electric coil hobs was in Europe. I think they have the impression that piping or storing gas was a safety hazard and many places are so old that induction cookers weren't invented yet or perhaps too expensive to install. Anyway, the studio apartment i stayed in while in Munich was really tiny and the kitchenette which was by the door had 2 electric hot plates which took forever to heat up. Boiling water soon followed this routine, i'd get up from bed and crank the hot plate to max, fill a pot of water, put it on, have a bottle of weissbier dunkel then proceed to take a dump. After which, my water would just be coming on to a gentle boil. Magnificent... Well, i got used to it after a while and churned out some pretty decent dishes.

mushroom ragout with freshly grated parmagiano

pork schnitzel, potato mousseline and rucola aglio olio

truffled eggs

hokkien mee

I had to sms my best friend all the way back in Singapore to ask him if hokkien mee had bean sprouts because i forgot. Turns out that there are bean sprouts in the dish but i left them out because they cost a whopping 5.50 Euro a kg there which is more than a hundred times the price here at home.

Finally we come to induction hobs. This is without a doubt the kitchen technology of tomorrow. When choosing hobs for the kitchen at the Screening Room, i saw a demonstration of a commercial induction hob bring 3 litres of water to a full boil in less than 5 minutes. I swear, it was love at first sight. The efficiency of induction hobs is also unparalleled, not only does it use electricity that can be generated from renewable sources, it can also be up to 84% efficient as compared to gas burners which are only about 40% efficient.

So what makes this baby tick? Here comes the good part, as an undergraduate reading materials science, i can say the following with great authority ;). The underlying principle of induction cooking is magnetic hysteresis. An induction cooker element is basically a high power, high frequency electromagnet that generates a finely tuned electromagnetic field in the region of space surrounding it(1). When a ferromagnetic cooking vessel is placed in this field, heat energy is induced in the vessel through hysteresis which is a measure of resistance of a material to magnetization(2). It's basically the same concept as an electric heating coil but induction cooking uses magnetic resistance instead of electrical resistance to generate heat. The heat created is transfered to the contents of the vessel(3) and nothing outside the vessel is affect by the field(4).

This results in a few noteworthy points:
- Heat changes are instantaneous making induction settings very precise.

- The heat is generated in the cooking vessel itself and hence the hob only gets as hot as the pot.

- Only ferromagnetic materials can be used on induction cookers i.e. cast iron, some stainless steels and a few magnetic ceramic materials. Pyrex, aluminium and copper cannot be used.

- Nothing outside the vessel is affected by the field. This implies cool stovetops and cooler kitchens. No more sweat dripping into your food!

The loss of an open flame does mean that you lose ability to char foods but this can be done in an oven. As for Asian dishes that need the 'wok hei' like fried rice and hor fun, my personal solution would be to have a seperate standalone zhi char burner specifically for that.

I only know of one restaurant that uses induction hobs and that is in the Western kitchen at the Top Table at the Temasek Culinary Academy. They chose induction for safety reasons.

The Top Table

Temasek Culinary Academy
Block 31, Level 3

Operating Hours
Weekdays (During term time): 11.30am - 2.00pm (last order)
Saturday, Sundays, Public Holidays, Vacation, Test and Exam Period: Closed

Phew.. What a hell load of typing that was.

Till next time!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Who's this guy?/Qui est ce type?

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. It is hard to condense 23 years into a few paragraphs so i'll skip the details. I live in the East and have 3 older sisters. I only just recently got over my 1st girlfriend, much to the chagrin of my 3rd girlfriend(who incidentally happens to be the one i miss the most) and am currently on the lookout for my 4th girlfriend. Interested parties please do apply. I can be reached at:

My first memory associated with cooking was when i was 6 years old. My domestic helper had burned herself with hot cooking oil and i then made a solemn oath on my grandfather's grave that i would never use oil to cook. It's no surprise then that the first item i ever cooked, in that same year, was a fried egg using butter as the lubricant/heat conducting agent.

Thankfully, i outgrew that silly notion and have progressed quite far since then. Learning the tedious methods of Peranakan cooking from my dearly departed grandmother and experimenting like crazy with all sorts of combinations of things. Some very edible, some not so edible.

During secondary school, my ability to cook was apparent during home economics classes and my dishes were among the few that could actually be eaten.

Junior college and the post pubescent re-introduction of girls into my daily life marked a turning point in my cooking 'career'. It's a simple equation really. First, I make the following statements:
1) Many girls now are helpless in the kitchen.
2) Girls think guys who cook are cute.
3) Girls <3 chocolate
4) I can make chocolate amongst many other things

Then using these statements, I form the equation:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = GREAT SUCESS!

My time in army was a crucial turning point in life. There, I met my 2 current partners who share a similar passion for the culinary arts as I do. More on that in later posts.

I spent 4 months after my term in the army working at the Coriander Leaf and a few weeks after that at the Brown Sugar Bistro.

I spent the following 3 months touring Europe, eating and drinking to my hearts content. Fulfilling a great desire to find out what authentic French and Italian cuisine was really all about. Returning home with a very well seasoned liver, I started university with a heavy heart.

Don't be mistaken. I wasn't forced into it. Having satisfied all the entry requirements and arguing my way out of taking the TOEFL, i was accepted into the Culinary Institute of America, the premier institution for culinary arts in the ENTIRE world. Financing a degree there would have been a stretch but the main reason i chose not to go was because of the stalwart feelings i have for the other love in my life. Till this day, it's a tough choice between culinary arts and chemistry for me. Well, i finally concluded that the option for cooking would always be open and embarked on my degree in materials science.

I justify my actions with the fact that in general, people without degrees are taken less seriously here in Singapore and boy do i plan on being taken seriously.

After reading all that crap, perhaps you're wondering what this journal is going to be about. Well, the main focus will be on things that i personally cook. Techniques, cooking tips and interesting facts i come across. I'll also post about really outstanding places or events that i stumble upon. My photos are taken with my Nokia N73 and i must state now that i have not perfected the art of plating.

So, this isn't going to be much of a food guide but a food blog, it definitely will be.

Stay tuned for more.

Au revoir!

P.S. about the French, forgive me, i'm learning the mother tongue of modern cuisine.

Sunday, March 30, 2008