Chocolate and Orange

March 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

Chocolate-and-Orange

A combination that the hubby absolutely adores, and I have, through him, learned to love as well. I’m not exactly a chocolate kind of girl but this union has made me crave it at times.   It’s now my combination of choice when it comes to chocolate. If you’re wary of the fusion, one taste of this will make you a believer.

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The recipe I found was weak in orange flavor, so I added grated orange and orange liqueur, preferably Grand Marnier, on the frosting.

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And because a quarter has almost past that I’ve been silent on the blog front, here’s the recipe without further ado…

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes (tweaked from a Williams-Sonoma Cake Recipe)

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What You’ll Need:

  • 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 -2 oranges (depending on the size; I used 1 large orange)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract / essence
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

For the Frosting

  • 6oz. (170g) bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioner’s (icing) sugar
  •    2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

What You Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl, stir the cocoa powder into the hot water until dissolved; set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl. Grate the zest from the orange into the bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until well combined. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla, then the dissolved cocoa. Whisk in the melted butter, then the dry ingredients.
  4. Using a tablespoon, divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each about half full. Bake until the cupcakes are puffed, and a skewer inserted into the center of one comes out clean 15-20 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the cupcakes from the pan.2013-03-10-11.48.07
  5. To make the frosting, melt the chocolate and let cook to room temperature. Meanwhile, using a stand mixer, beat the butter and confectioner’s sugar with the paddle on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, orange liqueur, and zest until combined. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch (12mm) star tip with the frosting and pipe a spiral on top of each cupcake. Refrigerate the cupcakes for 30 minutes before serving to set the frosting. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Melting Chocolate

To melt chocolates, chop it into small pieces and put it in a stainless-steel bowl. Set the bowl in a saucepan over but not touching, barely simmering water. Heat until the chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Do not allow any water or steam to come in contact with the chocolate, or it will become stiff and grainy. Or, chop the chocolate into large pieces, place in a microwave-safe dish, and microwave on low for 1 minute. Continue to microwave if necessary, checking every 20 seconds, until the chocolate looks softened, then stir until smooth and liquid.

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What to Eat in Kunming: Across the Bridge Noodle Soup

January 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

Yunnan-Eats.jpgCredits: JSprague Digi In Deeper Course Material

This noodle soup dish has a typical Yunnan local flavor that could only be had in some parts of Yunnan and carries with it a love story. A scholar, preparing for the imperial exams retreated to an island in a lake. The wife delivers lunch to him daily, crossing a long wooden bridge. Dismayed that she couldn’t keep it warm, figured out that adding a thin layer of fat on top prevents the heat from escaping. And by doing this, she discovered that she could bring the broth across the bridge and cook the rest of her Noodle Soup there.

And with that, I had our driver bring us to Qiao Xiang Yuan, a restaurant chain famous for its Guo Qiao Mi Xian, which translates to Across the Bridge or Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle.

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Driver Wang ordered for us. Minutes later an attractive mix of ingredients laid before us. There were slices of lightly cooked (some raw) meats, Yunnan ham, strips of bean curd sheets, mushrooms, vegetables, rice noodles (of course) and a piping hot broth with a layer of chicken fat and oil glistening on top, the key to this noodle soup. The meat sliced wafer thin so that it will cook almost immediately when added to the broth. Once the vegetables and noodles are added, stir it a bit, and the Guo Qiao Mi Xian is ready to eat.

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A must try when in Kunming.

To read more about Kunming and Yunnan, read this and this.

Qiao Xiang Yuan: Shulin Jie, Wenhua District, near Jinbi Guang Cheng

Fennel Salad with Green Apple and Parmesan

November 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

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This salad made me a fan of fennel. Crunchy and has a fresh, sweetly musky taste similar to liquorice and anise. Paired with apple, it masks the licorice flavor (perfect for those not keen on its taste) and adds to the freshness of this salad. Packed with many health benefits from relieving anemia to improving eye care, this salad was my intro to this herb.

fried-chickenGood as a side dish — I like it with fried or grilled meats.

In fact, it has opened the door to many more delicious Fennel recipes, which I will share with you eventually.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s book, A Homemade Life.

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What you need:

  • 1 medium fennel bulb, about 10 ounces
  • 1 small Green Apple
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon
  • Sea Salt
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

What you do:

Prepare the fennel:

  1. Cut off and discard the stalks and fronds.
  2. Using a vegetable peel or a small knife, trim away any bruises or brown spots on the bulb’s outermost layer of skin.
  3. Cut it in half from root to stalk, and trim the root end.
  4. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin and working with the one-half of the bulb at a time, slice the fennel very thinly, 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Set aside.

Prepare the Green Apple:

  1. Using an apple core, remove and discard core.
  2. Then cut the apple in half from top to bottom.
  3. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin, slice it very thinly, just like the fennel. Set aside.

Assembling the Salad:

  1. Make a layer of fennel slices. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  2. Then place a layer of apple on top of the fennel. Sprinkle lightly with lemon juice, and season with salt.
  3. Shave thin ribbons of cheese. Drizzle with oil.
  4. Repeat and finish with a good sprinkle of lemon juice, a generous splash of oil and a few shavings of cheese to garnish.
  5. Serve with salt and pepper to taste.

Where to Eat in HK: Under the Bridge Spicy Crab

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.

Under-Bridge-Spicy-Crab

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

Phuket Eats

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.

Tunk-Ka Restaurant

tunka-atmosphere

While in Phuket with my staff a few years ago, I decided to treat them to a tour of the town.

Chaya

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.

Tunka-View

The Café has three separate terraces, foliage surrounds. I think she brought us not only for the view but for the food as well.

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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,

Tunka-Pork-stir-fry

Pork stir-fry with butternut and minced shrimp, and

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Crab meat stir-fried with turmeric and coconut milk.

Getting there:

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.

Suay Restaurant

Suay-facade

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.

Suay

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,

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Grilled Sea Scallops with exotic fruit salad,

Suay-Green-Papaya-Salad-and-soft-shelled-crabs

Green Papaya Salad with Crispy Fried Soft Shelled Crabs,

Suay-Fresh-Prawn-Spring-Roll

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,

Suay-shanghai-noodles

Shanghai noodles with Squid and pesto sauce, green chili salsa;

Suay-Turmeric-Sea-Bass

Grilled Turmeric Sea Bass in Banana Leaf Wrap. A must be when in Phuket.

50/2 Takuapha Rd, Talad Nuea, Phuket Old Town

Raya Restaurant

Raya

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,

Raya-Fish-with-Tamarind-SauceDeep Fried Sea Bass in a Tamarind-Lemongrass Sauce,

Raya-Pork-with-Kefir

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!!

Vietnam Eats

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.

food-cartsMore 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.

small-tables-and-chairs

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.

phoThe 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.

banh-miThis 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.

bun-cha-up-closeIt’s charcoal grilled patties and sliced pork belly served with a basket of herbs, cold vermicelli noodles, a bowl of nuoc cham (fish sauce, sugar, and rice vinegar mixture).bun-cha

Nem Cua BeBun 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.

nem-cua-beDipped in the same Bun Cha sauce, this spring roll has become a favorite. Ah, Nem Cua Be! I’m dreaming of you now.

Goi Cuon – Fresh spring rolls, light and healthier version of Vietnam’s many spring rolls.

Goi-Cuon-Spring-RollIt is definitely a wholesome choice especially if indulging too much on the fried ones. Dip it in peanut sauce and your taste buds will be jumping for joy.

Nem Nuong Xa – Grilled minced meat on lemongrass skewers.

Nem-Nuong-XaI’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.

ngo chiem bo buttery cornThe one served to us had salty dried fish added to it. Crunchy, buttery, sweet and salty goodness… so definitely addictive, this little kernel of heaven.

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.

bo-bia-ngotIt’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,

coffeeVietnamese style of course.

Morocco On My Mind

April 26, 2014 § 2 Comments

morocco-on-my-mindCredits:  Jessica Sprague’s DIDer Lesson 5 supplies:  CarinaGardner, Crystal Wilkerson, ITM, Jessica Sprague, LivE

About a year ago in Fes, we were seating on hand carved settees overloaded with opulently bedecked cushions, in front of us was a heavy table set with ornate silverware and copperware.

lavish-interior

The lavishness of Moroccan taste is more palpable in the walls that are decorated with mosaic tiles and the rich color wool carpet covering the floors.

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Laid out was a melange of hot and cold salad to start our meal, followed by a lamb tagine, a chicken, lemon and olive dish,

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and some roasted mutton (mechoui).  This sumptuous meal was capped with honey drizzled fresh fruits and a cup of very sweet but refreshing mint tea.

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Quite telling that Moroccans take their food seriously, yes?

olives-and-lemons

A stroll through the market stalls reveals glistening stacks of olives of all colors, mounds of preserved lemons,

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vibrant pyramids of spices, sacks of grains, colorful variety of fruits and vegetables. Morocco is as much about food as it is historic and scenic.

An extremely sophisticated cuisine, thanks to a diverse medley of Arab, Berber, Moorish, French, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, African, Iberian and Jewish influences. The interactions and exchanges with these cultures have been filtered and blended over time into flavors that have become distinctly Moroccan.

camel-meat

Common meals include beef, mutton, lamb, chicken, camel, rabbit and seafood. Its cooking made distinct by the subtle blend of spices not to mask but rather to enhance the flavor and aroma of its dishes.

Similar to my part of the world (Philippines), eating in Morocco is a social ritual, food is served in the middle of the table to be shared. Moroccans take great pride in their meal from purchasing the freshest ingredients to preparing these in lengths and showing these off in elaborate dishes. This sense of pride and fundamental way of life have led to eateries big and small that can really impress. From the slow cooked tagines to the kebabs and sandwiches favored in hole in the walls — a trip to Morocco will surely stir up the palate, a flavor adventure hard to forget.

In no particular order, here’s a list of staples and must tries.

Tagine

lamb-tagine

A stew braised and slow cooked in an earthenware dish with a cone shape top also called a tagine. Normally served in the tagine it was cooked in, and is more often a shared dish served in the center of the table.

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Adding dried fruits to meat tagines is very Moroccan – they love the combination of sweet and savory.

Although fish tagines are popular in coastal towns, Moroccans love their meats and lambs are favored in tagines.

Moroccan Mint Tea

mint-tea

Ubiquitous in Morocco is a drink they call Whiskey Morocco – a play in the fact that the consumption of alcohol is considered “Haraam” and is prohibited per Muslim dietary restrictions. Moroccans drink this sweet green tea and mint every day. And making it has become an art, the technique is as important as the quality of the tea itself. Often served in an engraved metal tray with small, ornate glasses boasting intricate designs, the tea is poured evenly into these glasses from a height using a typical Moroccan teapot with long, curved pouring spout.  So soothing, I look forward to it every meal time.  It actually is the perfect cap to a meal.

Preserves

olives

Morocco is known for its olives and preserves. Not only are olives a tasty way to start a meal, these are staple ingredients to flavor tagine dishes.

preserves

In an olive vendor, one will find olives of different shades from red to green to black. The red and green varieties go well in many tagine dishes while the black variety are stuffed with cheese and eaten as a snack or added in salads.

Preserved lemons are another key ingredient in tagines and salads. Preserved in a salt-lemon juice mixture, this brings a unique feature to many Moroccan chicken and pigeon dishes.

Breads or Khubz

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Moroccans eat with their fingers, using a small piece of bread, their thumb and first two fingers pick up food. They also use it to soak up the flavorful sauce of the tagines. And a meal is never complete without bread.

Most Moroccan households do not have an oven, but almost every neighborhood has a community oven where people take their bread dough to bake.

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Often you’ll see children pass by these communal ovens picking up a stack of freshly baked breads to bring home.

Harira

harira

The most important soup in Morocco as it serves as the break of the fast during Ramadan. Drank at dusk, this tomato-based soup with chickpeas, meat, lentils and small noodles is perfect to warm the tummy before a fast.

Pastilla

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A delicacy sometimes called bisteeya. Consistent with their fondness for combining sweet and savory, this pastry is made up of shredded chicken or, the more expensive and tastier, pigeon mixed with eggs and crushed almonds wrapped in phyllo pastry. It is then fried and topped with cinnamon and confectionary sugar. A dish you don’t want to miss.

Meats

meat

I will say it again – Moroccans love their meat. Lamb is favored and enjoyed in many ways – with couscous in tagines, skewered grilled over charcoal, braised, or slow roasted until tender.

lamb-chops

The more affordable beef and chicken are also popular meats that are served in a variety of ways.

kebab

The most common style of barbecuing in this part of the world is Kabab-style. It is found in most kinds of restaurants, be it the usual sit-down kind or the hole-in-the-wall grill shops.

hole-in-the-wall

The latter although unimpressive in appearance are guaranteed to satisfy the palate at very minimal cost.

chicken-rotisserie

Grilled rotisserie chicken, a favorite, and the best one I had was in a roadside eatery.

Barbecueing, Grilling, and Sandwiches

bocadios

Snack restaurants or sandwich shops can be found all over Mocorro, ranging again from hole-in-the-walls to larger, sit-down establishments.

sandwich-shop

One can find all kinds of food, from the usual sandwiches, fries and even pizzas to the more Middle Eastern fare of shawarma and brochettes –

shawarma

the Moroccan version of a sandwich that comes in either a baguette or a khubz, the filling usually involves choosing from a selection of meats, vegetables and sauce on display.

fish-stall

In coastal and port towns such as Essaouira, fresh catches of all sorts — St. Pierre (John Dory), sea bream, sardines, etc. are displayed in abundance in the fish market.

grilled-fish

There you get to pick your fish, find your table, order your beer and enjoy the outdoor while you wait for your fish to grill.

essaouira

A welcome respite after all the meat dishes eaten in lavish indoor restaurants in low light settings.

Sweets

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One of the legacies left by the French is in the form of Moroccan pastries. Various types exist, but many are the rich, dense confection of cinnamon, almonds and the ubiquitous orange water rolled in phyllo dough and soaked in honey.

pastries

Fresh fruits, not pastries, are typically what caps Moroccan meal. Cookies and pastries often go with afternoon tea or coffee.

pastry-stall

While many households keep a supply of homemade sweets, these are easily purchased in pastry shops and carts on the street.

Fresh Orange Juice

orange-juice-stalls

Take advantage and enjoy a glass of freshly squeezed sweet orange juice everyday from one of the stalls ever present in most of Morocco. You will not regret it.

grapefruit

Even the grapefruits are sweetly tart – you know what I mean.   😉

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