Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sent: Moleskine Passion's Recipe Journal

In this entry back in January, I mentioned my involvement with GeoffsTwitchen and the new Moleskine Passion Recipe Journal.  Well, I did the best I could in less than two weeks time before their courier came by the office to pick it back up.  I wish I could have kept it while I was in Singapore over Chinese New Year to continue filling it out!

My cheese section with lists of my favorite cheeses and places to buy my fromage in various cities.. with photos of my own arrangements at home!


I'm not sure exactly how they'll be exhibited, but look out for Geoff Wu's and my journal in the following cities and stores in March 2010:

Taiwan - Eslite
Hong Kong - City'Super, Page One, Dymocks, Kelly & Walsh
Macau - New Yaohan
China - emo+, Gistyle, Homeplus, Kubrick Beijing, Popular Bookmall, Point to life design bookstore, Chapter 7, CNPIEC
Singapore - Page One, Kinokuniya
Malaysia - Cziplee

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Turtle Burgers

Despite turtle soup shops gracing every few corners in Hong Kong, the appeal of eating turtle is just about zero.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I've had pet turtles throughout college.  Who knows.

But then I came across this on

Turtle burgers!

I still kind of wish it wasn't in a turtle shape (yes I am still somewhat turned off, even with the ultra-win combo of bacon, cheese, beef and hotdogs).  The creator calls this the "Bacon Cheese Turtleburger," originally made for his Super Bowl gathering. 

Sharp cheddar cheese, Hebrew National hotdogs, bacon and ground beef patty to be baked.

Okay, now that looks less like a turtle and more like super delicious.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Video Edition: JuicynDelicious

(SCROLL DOWN to see the additional posting added 9 Feb)

As mentioned in this entry, a few weeks ago in Singapore, Juicyndelicious sent me a last minute invite me to join them for some chili crab.  The vanity in me is wholly embarrassed by my disheveled appearance and how I wasn't prepared to talk about crabs.  Ah well.  The video's out and here's the link anyway to take a look at some delicious chili crabs!  Chili crab, black pepper crab, and beehoon crab to be exact!
9 Feb: Scroll down this post for a bit more details (now that I've had time to digest the crab and think about it).

And on Saturday night, I had to stop by Australian Dairy Company one more time before I left Hong Kong for Singapore again.


And then my first meal upon arriving in Singapore today.  I do this a lot when I'm famished or the food's great, but I forgot to take a photo before I started gorging.  I love hokkien mee and wonton mein (dry style)!  Thanks to Colin for bringing us here!

Tuesday 9 February 2010
Last night, Mr. Mah and I went back to Mellben Seafood's other location at Toa Payoh.  I was seriously craving chili crab and cereal prawns.  I didn't mention this in the video: while I thought their beehoon crab and black pepper crab was fantastic, I actually prefer No Signboard's chili crab gravy, cereal prawns and mantaos over Mellben's.  I was still having my chili crab and cereal prawn craving as Mellben's didn't quite hit the spot for me the first time around.  But as Adrian reminded me, maybe they were having an off night.  I decided to visit again last night.

Mellben Seafood Round 2!
Between the two of us, we had a small crab and cereal prawn.

They may have had a No Guarantee sign, but one thing is for sure at Mellben: their crabs are plentiful in meat and sweet in flavor.

Look at the size of those crabs... and this was at the end of the night!  Both visits to Mellben at both locations have proven their crab worthiness.  The crabs were always fresh and never overcooked.  The crab always came out in perfect whole chunks instead of dry flaky bits that stuck to the shell.  I would have taken a picture of all the beautiful pieces of crab meat, but our hands were to the wrists in chili gravy.

The cereal prawn this time around was much better, though the actual flakes still didn't hit the spot for me.  It didn't have that nom-tastic sweet condensed milk aftertaste that No Signboard's has.  The prawns themselves were meaty and tasty though.

The mantaos were a bit stale and not fried enough!  But to be fair, we the last customers to arrive at 9:30pm on a Monday night.

Aaand the chili crab.  As mentioned in the video, the meat was still succulent and plentiful.  And as also mentioned in the video, the sauce was a bit more tangy and the chili flavor is very apparent.  I am still relatively novice to the intricacies of chili crab, but I think what I was looking for has something to do with No Signboard's tomato sauce.  I have to visit No Signboard again to triple check that I do indeed find their chili crab gravy more thick, rich and savory than Mellben's

With that said, it couldn't have been all that bad.  Look at the damage we had done between the two of us.  Shellfish graveyard. 

If you visit Mellben Seafood, definitely order the Black Pepper Crab and Beehoon Crab!  
And while I'm on the topic, some people have asked me if I've been to another well-known chili crab joint, Jumbo SeafoodLong review short: Jumbo sucks.  I don't get the appeal.


Mellben Seafood (Ang Mo Kio) [location of Juicyndelicious video shooting]
Blk 232 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3
Tel: +65 6285-6762

Mellben Seafood (Toa Payoh)
Blk 211 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh
Tel: +65 6353-3120

No Signboard Seafood (Esplanade) [not depicted in this post]
8 Raffles Avenue
#01-14/16 Esplanade Mall
Tel: +65 6336-9959

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kyotofu: Japanese Dessert Bar & Bakery (NYC)

Whispers of one of New York’s “it” dessert joints often spoke of Kyotofu… it is often a popular suggestion amongst my twenty-something Asian friends.  Not to perpetuate stereotypes, but Kyotofu’s cutesy pink and bubbly logo was a partial indication as to why.  There’s a distinctly effeminate feel to the dessert bar upon entering.  All that was missing was a trail of cherry blossom petals and photos of fluffy white bunnies in meadow fields.

Kyotofu is a Japanese dessert bar and bakery in Hell’s Kitchen.  Using tofu as the chef’s base ingredient for everything on the menu, Chef Ritsuko Yamaguchi creates a dessert haven for vegans.    

The presentation was lovely.  Cute, petite, colorful and simple, not unlike the place.  Unable to decide on a dessert, my friend and I ordered the prix fixe kaiseki ($17), the chef’s three course dessert tasting.

It begins with their signature sweet tofu which is basically a tiny sized version of tofu fa I can get for peanuts on the streets of Hong Kong or China town New York.  Chef Yamaguchi does make it a very delectable piece though.  The tofu is silky smooth and the black sugar syrup topped with a  dried apricot is a nice alternative to the traditional sugary ginger syrup.

The rest of the tasting menu was not so impressive.

From left to right:
raspberry lychee anmitsu
matcha green tea tofu cheesecake
warm mochi chocolate cake 

The raspberry lychee anmitsu was my favorite of the three, purely only because of the gelatin.  The housemade mochi was too sticky.  The ice-cream looking bit on each dessert is not in fact ice-cream.  It is a variation of shiro-an (white bean paste), in this case made with flavors such as black sesame or green tea.  Perhaps there wasn't enough sugar for my taste, but it tasted dry and bland.  The green tea cheesecake tasted similarly: dry and bland.  It had the texture of room temperature margarine without the greasy aftertaste.  How creamy stuff manages to taste dry is beyond me. 

The aftermath of our dessert tasting.  The cheesecake was virtually untouched.  The rest was forcibly devoured.

Thankfully, the pumpkin ice-cream to follow was fantastic.  Cold, soft, creamy and heavy on the pumpkin flavor.

 The warm mochi chocolate cake ($10) ordered separately by my friend was also a let down.  In the presentation was kuromitsu creme anglaise, green tea shiro-an and candied violets.  I'll note that my friend personally enjoyed the soft chocolate cake.  It was again too bland and dry for my tastes.

Kyotofu also makes suggested wine and sake pairings with each dish on the menu.  Customers can also find a dinner menu consisting of delicate Japanese fusion cuisine.

Make what you will of Kyotofu, but I find it certainly one of the most overrated dessert bars in New York.

705 Ninth Avenue (btwn 48th & 49th St)
New York, NY 10019
Tel: (212) 974-6012

 [also posted in the Overseas Section of]

Eating funny lookin' stuff

As promised in an earlier entry, I would briefly share a few of the more unusual things I've gobbled up this past January.  
Cod fish sperm sac
At Hana Sakazuki, the chef came out with a small special serving on the house.  My father is a frequent customer, so we are often graced with yummy little snacks and fish.

I looked at the dish, recognizing the cod liver on the side.  I had no idea what the lump of the soft jelly-like white substance was.  My father looks amused and insists I try it, "It's fish brains."  I comment that it is a very large brain for a fish.  He answers with a strangely sly expression, "I guess it's a really big fish."

I've eaten brains before at a Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn.  Pork brains in a taco.  It was pretty tasty, so I give these fish brains a go.


Turns out, it's fish sperm.  Very funny, Dad.  I didn't believe my father at first (he has a tendency to make extremely inappropriate jokes at the dinner table), until the chef came back explaining that it was indeed fish sperm.  Shirako, this dish is something of a Japanese delicacy, but there I was making a face about it like a child.  I asked my father to eat some.  He looked incredulous and disgusted, "No way!"  

As a supposed lover about the culinary world, I actually bring myself to try it once more, now knowing that is in fact sperm and not brains.  I choke it down...there is some argument and many jokes as to why fish sperm should make me gag more than fish brains.   

I still didn't get the appeal.  It doesn't taste much like anything at all.  All I taste is the salty dressing and seaweed underneath.  Pass on cod fish sperm for future ordering.

As a side note, Hana Sakazuki has some of the most amazing sushi and fresh fruit I've had in Hong Kong.  Their toro is ethereal.  It comes at a high price tag though.

Hana Sakazuki
2/F Ming An Plaza Phrase II
8 Sunning Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Raw Pissing Shrimp

The other night, my dad pulled out a jar of pickled drunken prawns-- made by putting live prawns in a jar of Chinese wine, soy sauce, etc to pickle.  I've had the crab version before and loved it.  Nothing like delicious raw crab!  I've also had grilled mantis shrimp before (also known as "pissing shrimp" for their tendency to shoot water when they're picked up).  Not a big deal.

But when he pulled it out of the jar, I imagined how my non-Chinese friends would react to the sight.  Pissing shrimp are not pretty critters.  I enjoyed it all the same, but was left to wonder who on earth thought to be the first to eat these alien looking things.

My dad shared the same thoughts about being amused with people's reaction to eating raw pissing shrimp.  He was happy to help with the imagery.

Duck Beak

It never would have occured to me to order this, let alone eat it.  But thanks to my friends, Colin, Mik and Brian, we ordered an appetizer of duck beaks in Bangkok.   You simply nibble the trimming of meat and tongue around the beak.  Simple as that.  The actual beak is not edible.

The fried duck beak was much tastier than it looked.  The tongue was unpleasantly rubbery to the bite, but what doesn't taste good fried?

Colin quacks.

TBLS Kitchen Studio by Chef-Owner Que Vinh Dang

Chef Que Vinh Dang brings you through his culinary journey at TBLS.  You may recognize his name, as he was the original Executive Chef at Duke's Burger in Soho Hong Kong.  Born in Vietnam and raised in New York, Chef Dang has been gracing Hong Kong with his culinary talent the past few years.   

Recently, I met a true foodie from Spain.  When asked where some of his favorite restaurants were, he responded, "follow the chef.  Always follow the chef."  Great advice.

And so I followed Chef Dang to his sparkling new kitchen in Central.  TBLS (as in tablespoon) is tucked away in an unassuming building on Hollywood Road.  Going up the ancient elevator, I was surprised to step out and see the modern and cozy roof top terrace.  It is a small intimate space with a reservations-only policy so the Chef can personally greet and serve each guest.

TBLS is open for dinner only, though they also host private events (a place I'd personally recommend for any private occasion with their isolated rooftop terrace and beautiful open kitchen).

The menu is a set 6-course menu, changing seasonally or whenever the Chef sees fit.  His menu inspiration?  Comfort food.

Comfort food is first and foremost about hearty deliciousness.  He brings out the full potential of ultimate comfort foods by applying fine dining techniques in original ways.  I was pleasantly surprised by items such as the Peanut Butter & Jelly dessert.  It turned out to be a macaroon filled with jam and peanut butter ice-cream.

Continue on if you would like a glimpse of each course.  If you like surprises, I say stop now and just head on over to TBLS for your own experience.

The amuse-bouche started the meal with a punch.  Rich, flavorful short ribs, balanced by the sharp daikon radish.

A soup and sandwich.  The chicken rillettes sandwich was delicious.  A lot of texture and crunch surrounded by the very buttery moist bun.  All chicken nugget serving places should look into his recipe.  The mushroom soup was a bit lacking for my tastes.  I was hoping for something creamier, more mushroomy, and well... more comforting.

Lasagne is definitely one of my personal comfort foods.  However, until last night, I had yet to taste a "fine dining" quality lasagne that has matched up to the same satisfaction I get from normal ol' homemade lasagne with layers of ground beef, tomato and bechamel sauce.  Que's take is not too far from the original, though he substitutes the normal beef filling with oxtail and iberian chorizo.  Delicious and comforting.

Slow poached salmon, celery, celeriac puree, in black truffle sauce.  The slow poached salmon was beautifully done.  The celery root puree made for an excellent pair, but unfortunately it overwhelmed the black truffles.  I couldn't taste them.  Chef Que did point out later that the black truffles were never meant to be highlighted.

Braised short ribs on creamy polenta, with sous vide endives.  At first bite, the short ribs were ordinary.  But knowing Que, there is a purpose to every last bit on the plate.  The sultana raisins and toasted almonds took the short ribs to a new level with the subtle flavors and texture.

Green apple and Hoegaarden sorbet for our palette cleanser.  This sorbet was one of my favorites at Duke's Burger.  I was very happy to have it again last night.  I don't know where else to get it!


Caught up in conversation with my friend and the allure of the dessert description, I accidentally took a bite before the photo!   French toast topped with pear & apricot compote.  Salted caramel ice cream sandwiched by two chips.  Need I say more?  

Peanut Butter & Jelly.  A clever twist, using macaroons and in-house made peanut butter ice-cream.  

It was nice to see that the menu was distinctly Chef Dang's with his specific techniques and flavors I recognized.  Yet, I was still kept on my toes as there were still small pleasant surprises with certain dishes.  Don't come expecting typical fine dining French or New-American dishes.  You're here for delicious comfort food, served with a white napkin.

Another plus:  You can walk out having eaten all things, buttery, gooey, fatty and delicious and not feel all that guilty about it.

The 6-course dinner is HKD $480 + 10% service charge.

7/F, 31 Hollywood Road
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2544-3433
(dinner only, reservation only)

[ Also posted on ]

Edit:  Also be sure to check out Geoff's Q+A with Chef Que Vinh Dang!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mastering Scrambled Eggs (whether for one or for a crowd)

This past December, a group of 20 of us went on a skiing trip to Killington, Vermont .  We rented out a cozy cabin in the mountains, hot tub and all.   My ultra-organized and efficient friends collected money from the group and bought cartons of eggs, shin ramen, cereal, bread and tons of snack food (first time I saw Dunkaroos since I was 15!) for our two day trip.

During the morning rush before hitting the slopes, try feeding 20 full grown adults at once.  One friend was in charge of frying the bacon, another was in charge of the peanut butter jelly sandwiches, and a last was in front of a pot cracking a dozen eggs at a time.

I peered over at the pot of miserable scrambled eggs, tempted to take over and try to salvage the wilted dry little pieces (with a good portion stuck to the bottom of the pot in a thick layer of burnt brown egg bits).  Alas, I was on a skiing trip, not a culinary tour... and the chefs of the morning probably didn’t need pressure about my pestering egg advice.

For hundred and hundreds of ordinary people like you and me, the challenge to prevent scrambled eggs from sticking to the bottom of the pan is a great one.  Everyone seems to have their own way of making scrambled eggs, but here are some personal tips from my own research and experimentation to help you improve those chunky yellow yummies.

Australian Dairy Company has one of the best egg sandwiches I've ever had.  
See below for more about it.
  • Use a heavy pan with a nonstick coating.  You want an even distribution of heat.
  • Use low heat.  Patience will pay off.
  • Warm the pan before adding a bit of oil, then the butter.  The oil will raise the temperature at which butter burns.  Using clarified butter will help immensely as well.  You don’t want your butter to burn.
  • Yes, there is a remarkable taste and texture difference between grade levels and between the standard eggs and free-range or organic eggs.  I'm not one of those organic health freaks, so I assure you there is an enormous difference when it comes to eggs.
  • Adding a tad of water to beaten eggs will already make your eggs come to life.  As they cook, the water turns to steam, causing them to puff.
  • If the eggs are cooking too fast, take the pan off the heat.  This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often this doesn’t occur to people.
  • Remove the eggs from the heat while still moist.  The hot pan will continue to cook the eggs and this will prevent overcooking.
  • Adding heavy cream or crème fraiche just as the eggs are almost finished cooking will turn your eggs into a delicious rich, creamy masterpiece.  Throw a bit of chopped chives over the top and look like a pro.

Mass production scrambled eggs:
making eggs for a crowd

Same rules as above!
Here’s what my friend should have done when she had that pot and dozens of eggs (not that she cares, I think.  And for the record, I appreciate her effort regardless!):

As stated above, she should have coated the heated pot with oil and then butter on a medium to low fire.  When the eggs were cooking too fast, she should have removed the pot from the heat… and NOT stir.  Let them sit.  When the eggs begin to set, then use a spatula to push the eggs from the bottom to the side.  The uncooked eggs will then flow to the newly empty space at the bottom to cook.  Repeat the process, pushing the cooked eggs to the side.  When the eggs are all almost done (still quite moist), remove the pot from the heat and begin dishing it out onto a plate.  This will prevent overcooking, since the heated pot will continue to cook the eggs even off the burner.  By the time they are out, they will be perfectly cooked.

For those who need a visual, Gordan Ramsey demonstrates how to prepare the "perfect scrambled eggs."  I personally make my scrambled eggs a tiny bit differently, but the fundamentals are still there.

Egg hunting in Hong Kong 

If you're an egg lover and find yourself in Hong Kong, I highly recommend a trip to Australian Dairy Company.  They have the best scrambled eggs and egg custard I've ever had here.  Australian Dairy Company has a big reputation for deplorable service even for a chachangteng, but I've personally had a great experience with the wait staff.  Non-native speakers of Cantonese, never fear!  There is now an English menu available too.  They good-naturedly poked fun at my measly Cantonese, but the service was swift and helpful.  Check out Geoff's review of Australian Dairy Company for more details about their back story.  Special thanks to Vince for recommending this spot to me two years ago.

Served hot or cold, these little bowls of custard deliciousness is made from almond milk and egg whites.

I certainly can't complain about the prices (HKD)

One of the secrets to their eggy goodness.

I was lucky to arrive during a quieter moment.  This chachangteng is usually packed to the brim.  Just take a look at how many wait staff there are!

Australian Dairy Company
47, Parkles Street
Jordan, Kowloon
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2730-1356


Related Posts with Thumbnails