April 12, 2016 § 1 Comment
Work will bring me to Hong Kong in a few weeks and I am reminded of the last dish I had a few years ago in Wan Chai. We walked from Gloucester to Lockhart Road to look for Hong Kong’s famous Under the Bridge Spicy Crab Restaurant. Known for their authentic and mouth-watering typhoon shelter crabs.
Back in the day before modern HK, there lived a community of fishermen living in typhoon shelters. Within this community rose a distinct culinary culture that centered on freshly caught seafood. As Hong Kong’s status as a fishing city decline, this community started moving to land, the younger generation trading up for better jobs.
We found the modest restaurant with staff that hardly speaks English. With an atmosphere like this, it almost always promises an authentic meal. The star of the show is the bits of garlic, chili peppers, and spring onion stir-fried till crisp then tossed with the deep-fried mud crab—insanely addictive. I love this version because I prefer fried or just steamed crabs sans any sauce, which sometimes masks the sweetness of the crab. The dry chill-garlic bits, albeit on the oily side, adds just the right flavour and heat to the crabs. A must-try when in the area.
See you in a few weeks Hong Kong. I hope to devour your impressive crab dish once again. And hopefully, introduce you to the people traveling with me.
Shop 6-9, G/F, 423 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai
February 19, 2016 § Leave a comment
The first month of the year has passed in a blink of an eye. Gong Xi Fat Choi! Well, it is still February, isn’t it? And since the new year had passed (twice in fact), it’s now time to get serious about 2016. Truth be told, I have not been spending time in the kitchen since the Christmas break. I was traveling and as always with long respite, it was difficult to get back into the grind. With deadlines at work calling, I barely had time to myself. And before I knew it, I was on holidays again — this time, to go with hubby’s cousins and close friends to our choiced Philippine destinations. Not complaining.
Had a wonderful time showing them around and getting to know them better. But every single time a trip is over, the list of things to do pile up. Have you ever felt the need to recover from a long trip? Man!
The way I recover is to get back to my everyday ASAP. Well, baking isn’t my everyday but it is a comfort zone so I made Banana bread, an all time favorite. But not just the plain old banana bread but one that’s leveled up.
I love it because it has all my favorite things. You know me well if you know that I love candied ginger. I love it so much, I always have a pack or two in my kitchen just for anything. I’m not as much a fan as hubby is of chocolate bars but give it to me in the form of a cake, ice cream or even cookies… can’t resist that.
So. Imagine me when I came across this recipe from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. Of course I had to try it. The result was a moist bread, more like a dense cake, interjected with bits of biting, sweet ginger candy and semi-sweet chocolate. It’s comfort with a kick. Addictive.
Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger (Molly Wizenberg of Orangette)
6 tablespoon (80grams) unsalted butter
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unsweetened chocolate chips
¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1½ cups mashed bananas (from about 3 large ripe bananas)
¼ cup well-stirred whole milk plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
What You do:
- Set rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a standard-sized (about 9 by 5 inches) loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.
- In a small bowl, microwave the butter until melted. Or, alternatively, put the butter in a heatproof bowl and melt in the preheated oven. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger and whisk well to combine. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla and stir to mix well.. Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir gently with a rubber spatula, scraping down the side as needed, until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy, but there should be no unincorporated flour. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top.
- Bake until the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If the loaf seems to be browning too quickly, tent with aluminum foil.
- Cool that loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then tip it out onto the rack and let cool.
Enjoy!! And I hope you had great Valentine’s Day!
December 23, 2015 § 1 Comment
Not only once did work bring me to Phuket, not exactly a destination on my bucket list. Sorry to say that I don’t particularly find the beach appealing and I’m not one who really care for big resorts. But one thing I love above Thailand is its food. Thai flavors had appeal to me since my university days when I first discovered its cuisine.
In the few times that I have been to this island, I have yet to have a bad meal, a few quite memorable in fact. Here are three that I give my thumbs up.
While in Phuket with my staff a few years ago, I decided to treat them to a tour of the town.
I contacted Chaya of Phuket Heritage Trails and as part of her tour, she brought us to this well-known restaurant perched on the side of Rang Hill with panoramic views of Chalong Bay and even the big Budda.
The Café has three separate terraces, foliage surrounds. I think she brought us not only for the view but for the food as well.
From the extensive menu, Chaya chose for us a superb lunch of Pak Liang with smoke-dried shrimp – a chili paste with dried shrimp, eaten with boiled vegetables,
Pork stir-fry with butternut and minced shrimp, and
Crab meat stir-fried with turmeric and coconut milk.
There are two easily accessed ways to drive to the summit; one by Vachira Hospital on Yaowarat Road, the other around the corner on Mae Luang Road. Tung Ka is right on the top of the hill and has ample car parking space.
Top quality food at reasonable prices, Suay offers a range of creative Thai cuisine in a simple, modest house. Upon the recommendation of Chaya’s, we walked through the gate, through the garden setting to our reserved table.
The place exudes a pleasant ambience that promises a good meal.
We chose to go for a set meal, which includes: Spicy Fried Yellow Fin Tuna tartar Isan Style,
Grilled Sea Scallops with exotic fruit salad,
Green Papaya Salad with Crispy Fried Soft Shelled Crabs,
Fresh Prawn Spring Roll with peanut sauce. These are just the appetizers. Main course had us feasting in Roasted Duck in red curry with lychee and pineapple, Grilled River Prawns with Lemongrass salad,
Shanghai noodles with Squid and pesto sauce, green chili salsa;
Grilled Turmeric Sea Bass in Banana Leaf Wrap. A must be when in Phuket.
50/2 Takuapha Rd, Talad Nuea, Phuket Old Town
Set in a beautiful Sino-Thai mansion that exudes old world charm. Not only does it boast of a well-preserved heritage of its colonial past, but it is also known as THE Thai restaurant in Phuket. Serves authentic local cuisine that do not disappoint.
Dishes such as Crab Meat Curry served with rice vermicelli,
Deep Fried Sea Bass in a Tamarind-Lemongrass Sauce,
Fried Pork with Kefir Leaves.
Locals flock to this restaurant in Dibuk Road, what better way to gauge authenticity then having locals as patrons? Yes?
48 New Dibuk Rd., Phuket Old Town
And with this, I leave you with this thought:
Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Hal Borland.
Merry Christmas and an Adventurous New Year to all!!
October 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
Do you sometimes feel like troubles and obstacles are a constant visitor? Yes, it is pouring now. One snag at a time, I tell myself. “Don’t let them stress you out, it’s not worth it,” I convince myself. I take comfort in His words … Cast all your cares upon Him, He cares for you (1Peter 5:7). God is in control, He truly is. Adversities he allows for a reason, many times it is to prove to me that He is in control and that I must not worry. Easily said than done. And to relieve me from worrying, I bake.
A recipe I grabbed from Gourmet a while back has become a recipe for keeps. This Zucchini Ginger Cupcake is spiced and flavoured with ginger, cinnamon and a touch of orange zest… wouldn’t it call out to you too?
What’s so marvellous about it is it’s easy and quite healthy as it uses olive oil (I also use virgin coconut oil sometimes) instead of butter and honey instead of sugar. Best of all, this moist cupcake is high up there in the flavor department with or without the cream cheese frosting (the only thing not so healthy, actually).
Half of these cupcakes ended up with the security people of the building I live in. The maintenance guys, the receptionist, and the security people—they make me feel safe, and cared for, so I show my appreciation by feeding them sometimes. I wonder if they know that they are eating a vegetable cake?
September 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
If you’ve never heard of “XO Sauce”, no it’s not the expensive brand designated to a grade of Cognac. In the culinary and gourmand world, XO Sauce is known as the emperor of all sauces. Vogue China once described it as the “Caviar of the East”, it’s pricey, but a little goes a long way. I’ve written about it a few years back (here) and continue to be awed by it.
Packed with deep, rich smoky intensity, this gourmet condiment is made from dried scallop, ham, dried shrimp, red chili pepper, onions, and garlic. It gives the added oomph to stir-fried meats, seafood, tofu, and vegetables. Never fails on pasta and noodle dishes too.
XO Sauce’s fabled history started in Hong Kong, its exact circumstance surrounding its birth is unknown. It most likely first graced the table of one of Hong Kong’s pricey dining establishments and ever since then, the fascination with this sauce has continued to heighten. One does not need to dine out to satisfy one’s craving anymore.
Lee Kum Kee has bottled a very impressive version of the XO Sauce. I add it to my vegetable or seafood dishes. It is perfect to add a different flavor to fried rice too.
What I have here are simple ingredients that I found on my crisper, a teaspoon of XO Sauce gave this eggplant a great lift.
September 3, 2015 § Leave a comment
If you’re thinking of visiting any part of Vietnam, the first thing you need to know about is that food is an integral part of their culture and livelihood. Anyone who has traveled to Vietnam will tell you that it is one of the major attractions. You can’t go to Vietnam and not have a taste of their cuisine.
More often than not, the street is its stage – street food stalls can be found anywhere from the main roads to the alleyways. Small plastic stools and a table taking up the sidewalk is a common scene.
So what is Vietnamese food? It has a distinct flavor yet it is almost universally accepted palate-wise. The taste comes from fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, and fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, and lemongrass – think spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet when combined. Influenced much by the Chinese and French, Vietnamese love their noodles and bread. Theirs is a cuisine that is light and refreshing, which is probably why it is easy on the palate. Their taste for fresh ingredients and simple methods has actually placed their cuisine on the map of the foodies.
On my recent visit to Hanoi, I rediscovered favorites and got introduced to new staples. So without further ado, here are a few staples and must-haves when in Vietnam, in my opinion.
Pho – THE staple of Vietnam, available all day and night long.
The national food is a steaming, fragrant broth of rice noodle with chicken or beef topped with bean sprouts, mint, and a few more herbs. Squeeze a wedge of lime into it and the freshness of this simple noodle soup raises the bar for all noodle soups. It’s impossible to walk a block without bumping into a hungry crowd slurping noodles in a makeshift pho stand on a sidewalk.
Banh Mi – The French has stamped its mark on Vietnam through its baguette and has since been given a Vietnamese spin.
This Vietnamese sandwich (more commonly called Banh Mi) is a heavenly concoction of crusty baguette filled with pork, pâté, butter, and an array of local ingredients (cilantro, cucumber, jalapeño and pickled carrots and daikon). Indeed a product of cultural and culinary blend that managed to put Vietnamese cuisine on the map.
Bun Cha – If Pho is Vietnam’s most famous dish Bun Cha (ubiquitous in the North) is what everyone prefers over lunch in Hanoi.
Nem Cua Be – Bun Cha lovers normally order a side dish of this spring roll filled with small amounts of crab meat, minced pork, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, and glass noodles, then deep-fried to juicy/crisp perfection.
Goi Cuon – Fresh spring rolls, light and healthier version of Vietnam’s many spring rolls.
Nem Nuong Xa – Grilled minced meat on lemongrass skewers.
I’ve always loved these and have long been one of the familiar Vietnamese dishes on my side of the world. It’s meat patties wrapped around lemongrass stalks/skewers then grilled. Simple yet so satisfying.
Ngo Chien Bo – It’s sweet corn kernels fried in butter. Introduced to us by the locals we befriended at the beer corner.
Bo Bia Ngot – a dessert so intriguing though it didn’t call out to us at first sight until some kids on a night out convinced us to buy some.
It’s a rolled up crêpe made up of shredded coconut, sesame seeds, and light sugary candy pieces (sometimes just sugar). Made to order at a food stall. Another simple concoction that delivered a sensation of complex textures and flavor.
And because I have caffeine running through my veins, all meals end with coffee,
June 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
This is what you make when you have an overflow of plums. I love stone fruits, and friends and family know that. So when plums (or peaches and cherries) reach our soil, I sometimes end up with too much. When that happens, this cake will most likely end up in my oven.
A light, moist cake with a citrusy bite that’s great with tea, I served this to friends last year and it was a hit. Not a typical cake in my part of the world and because it was a hit, I thought that you’d like to try something different.
The rains have finally arrived. It was an unbearably hot summer this year and I welcome the downpours. I am still waiting for those plums to reach me but wouldn’t it be nice to stay in on a rainy day and while the time away with a Korean drama series that I’ve become addicted to?
Plum Cake (adapted from 33 Degrees)
You will need:
- 2 eggs, plus 1 extra egg yolk
- 140 grams butter softened
- 140 grams golden castor sugar
- 140 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- 200 grams plums, stoned, half roughly chopped into pieces and the other half cut into wedges.
For the topping:
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 200 grams golden castor sugar
What You Do:
- Preheat your oven to 160ºC/fan oven 140ºC. Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin.
- Lightly beat the eggs, extra egg yolk and the vanilla extract.
- Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. You want the butter and sugar to lighten considerably for a good cake.
- Pour in the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Fold in the flour, baking soda, salt, orange zest, 2 tbsp of the juice and lastly the chopped plums.
- Spoon into prepared tin and scatter the plum wedges over the top.
- Bake until cake is golden or until an inserted skewer comes out clean, about 45 – 50 minutes.
- Let it cool for a few moments before turning out onto a wire rack.
- Mix the lemon juice and castor sugar with the remaining orange juice and pour over the cake.