Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Official Scale for Chili Pepper Spiciness

Did you know there was an official scale to measure the spiciness or pungency of a chili pepper?  I was playing a game of QuizUp which asked about this, and I took a lucky guess.  It's called the Scoville Scale. (Thanks for teaching me something new, QuizUp!)

img src: Flower Store

Created by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, the scale is based on the Scoville Organoleptic Test that measures capsinoids (heat components of a pepper) according to 5 trained testers.  Of course, given the subjectiveness of human tastebuds, the scale is not precise each time.

For scale, the Bhut jolokia pepper from Northeast India is over one million Scoville units, and is considered the spiciest chili pepper in the world.  The bell pepper (capsicum) on the other hand is at zero Scoville units, with no pungency at all.

Cool pop trivia info, right?

The Irony of Chocolate

The Ivory Coast cocoa farmers have no idea what their beans are used for.  A few farmers in the video below reveal, "My parents always told me that cocoa beans are used to make wine!"  In fact, chocolate itself is very rare and expensive in the Ivory Coast... many farmers have never seen chocolate in their life.  Here's a heart-warming video of them trying it for the first time.   (Read more on a previous Gastronommy article: How Chocolate is Produced)

If you also want to know exactly how chocolate is made, check out the write-up on Chocolate:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A word on Singapore's burgers [Esquire]

photography: Adam Tun-Aung

Grab the August issue of Esquire magazine for a quick column about burgers.  This article had a word limit, so I'll be sharing a full list of burger joints and a cool run down on the burger history here on next.  I ate a lot of f*cking burgers for 2 months for you guys.

The internet offers all sorts of legends on how the hamburger came to be – from minced horsemeat fillets eaten by Mongol riders in Genghis Khan’s army, to German immigrants bringing the Hamburg beefsteak to the Americas. One thing is undisputed however; the hamburger in its truest definition—ground beef patty in between a bun—is the quintessential American food product.

The humble hamburger has since been reinvented and refined since its designation as the cheap assembly-line all-American symbol. There’s still an appreciation for fast-food slop, but the New York gospel of what makes a perfect burger has spread even to Singapore’s shores.

The Bun: The taste and texture is crucial. Simple soft potato bread is ideal, toasted on the inside to help prevent absorbency—too absorbent and you’ll get a soggy mess. The bun should be even a bit on the blander side, so the beef flavors can stand out. Pillowy softness is also key. If the bun is too chewy or hard (think baguette-like breads) the meat squishes out the back end whenever you bite into it.

The Patty: I don’t care what kind of fancy trimmings you put on a burger, but nothing can hide the importance of the beef. It is said that the magic ratio of beef –to-fat mixture is 70 to 30 percent. Purists, like myself, believe a real burger is beef, and beef only. Add in fillers such as breadcrumbs and eggs, and the patty by definition, becomes a meatloaf. But there are so-called “shapeists” who are content to accept a burger as long as it’s the right shape—hence chicken burgers, lamb burgers, and even tofurkey burgers. Beyond this, there is no right or wrong when it comes to trimmings like cheese, veggies, and sauces. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Here's the list of mentions:

Shake Shack Reincarnated: Omakase Burger
Omakase’s owners have been inspired specifically by Shake Shack NYC and have recreated the burger to the best of their ability. Omakase also serves beef tallow fries (that is, French fries fried in the beef fat rendered from the burgers).

Gentleman’s Burger: B-Bar at Bacchanalia
The details that go into the creation of the Bacchanalia Burger are something to be appreciated. Chef Ivan Brehm uses three different cuts of beef to ensure both good texture and flavor; aged cheddar for acidity against the beef fat; and semi-dried tomatoes for umami; and a bun that is the right balance of softness and structural hold.

Too Cool For School: Potato Head Folk
Craving a McSpicy but need to maintain your trendy cool? The buttermilk fried chicken burger at Potato Head Folk is your savior. Unlike most chicken burgers, Potato Head Folk’s chicken is juicy, tender, and full of flavor. Order a side of Naughty Fries too, and thank me later.

Sacré Bleu!: The Market Grill
Americana purists may abhor the thought of French cheese in the burger (are French fries not enough?!), but the CW Bleu Cheese burger at Market Grill is simply one of the best in town. The patty is thick with juicy meat, smothered in burnt onion marmalade, salty bacon, and the glorious sweet-tangy stink of reblechon bleu cheese. The raisin walnut bun hug the innards just nicely, completing the burger trance that will leave you silent for 5-minutes as you willfully eat uninterrupted.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cooking with Victoria Cheng: DIY L'Arpege Egg [video/recipe]

Filmed in Brand New Media's kitchen studio, I've worked on a short cooking series with Food For Life TV (also on Starhub ch 109, 4ME TV).  Here's the first episode!  This was shot very early in the morning - as in, way too early for a functional Victoria... can you tell by my calm demeanor? Ha.

This short series is for the amateur cook who wants to recreate some of the world's best known dishes in the comfort of their own home.  I've tailored the recipes so that even the most novice cook can give it a try, and still impress special guests.

Here's a link to the full page with recipe. ** Thanks Justin Leow for the egg topper. :) Catch the next episode on Magnolia Bakery's Banana Bread Pudding recipe!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How to Purchase and Prepare Seafood Properly

Written by Jasmine of

Buying fresh seafood is difficult to do. There are many factors that go into choosing the best possible seafood for any meal. Unless you caught the fish or any kind of seafood yourself, you will have a hard time determining how fresh it is.

How to buy seafood?

There are different ways to spot fresh seafood. It is different for fish and shellfish. Here are tips that can help you spot fresh seafood.


For whole fish, check the clearness of its eyes and the shininess of its skin. Clear eyes and metallic skin characterise freshness. If the skin of the fish you see is dull and patchy and its eyes are clouded, it is no longer as fresh as a first catch, but it is still safe to cook and eat. Another characteristic you should consider is the color of the gills. Bright red gills signify that the fish is still fresh, while brick red gills characterize an older fish. Smell the fish to find out if it is still fresh. Fresh fish smell like cucumber or fresh water. A quality fish restaurant in Hong Kong uses fresh seafood to ensure that customers get their money’s worth.

Aside from whole fish, there are a few things you must look into when purchasing fresh shellfish. Ideally, it is better to buy shellfish in fish markets that have a quick turnover to ensure freshness. Dead shellfish cannot be opened once cooked, in such cases these shellfish must be thrown away quickly. Scallops are best bought when they have been vacuum-sealed and frozen. Avoid purchasing scallops that were stored in brine or packed wet. Shrimp is freshest when it is bought frozen and shelled. Shelled shrimp prevents it from rotting quickly. Once the shrimp loses its shell, it tends to rot faster.

These are the characteristics you look for when you purchase seafood. Italian restaurants in Hong Kong make sure that the seafood they serve is always fresh. You can follow their example and cook your own fresh seafood.

How to cook seafood properly?

Now that you know how to purchase fresh seafood, the next step to take is how to prepare seafood properly. Preparing seafood properly ensures that you keep all of its nutrients and avoid any fish borne diseases. Here are some tips that can help you prepare fresh seafood:

1. Thaw frozen seafood gradually by refrigerating it overnight. You can also thaw seafood by placing it in the microwave and putting it on the ‘defrost’ setting.
2. A majority of seafood is cooked in an average temperature of 145⁰F. You can tell if the seafood is done cooking by checking if the fish meat is opaque and is separated easily using a fork. For scallops, the flesh is firm and opaque. For lobsters and shrimps, the flesh turns opaque and pearly. For mussels, oysters, and clams, the shells normally open while they’re being cooked, if they don’t open, throw them away immediately.
3. Never leave seafood outside the refrigerator for more than two hours.
4. Separate hot seafood from cold seafood when serving them for a meal.

These are ways you can follow whenever you need to prepare, cook, and serve seafood. Restaurants in Central make sure their seafood is cooked and served properly for guests. You can follow their example, if you are cooking seafood for any meal of the day.


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