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2006-09-27

>Indian jujube

I was at the ZEV symposium with dad today. A beautiful day in Sacramento. I was happy to see the Farmers market nearby, in Cesar Chavez park. Bought $2 worth of Indian jujubes (Chinese dates? Ziziphus mauritiana) which resemble miniature apples. They taste like them, too. A perfect snack - crunchy and sweet, and not too sweet. No sticky mess.

They dry well when sliced thin, and make excellent Turkish-style fruit tea.

2006-09-25

>mangosteen

Mangosteen, mangosteen.
My mom's favorite fruit. Nowhere to be found in California.

Once I did find it in a market (was it Vancouver?) but the shriveled sad fruit didn't measure up to the juicy ones I took for granted in the tropics. So abundant, I could even make mangosteenade.

Update: I found freeze-dried mangosteen. Sadly, a disappointment.

>masago vs. ikura



Small fish, small roe - masago.
Big fish, big roe - ikura.
The amount of eggs (masago) the tiny fish
capelin (shisamo) can hold is astounding. The fish itself is a taste treat when grilled.Salmon, a relative giant, contributes the proportionately large "bubble wrap" roe - ikura.


2006-09-24

>char siu shrimp


A decent New York Times article (yes! shichimi togarashi) seemed to dump on the "ah-so" sauce.
It so happens that my #1 party hit - the kind which unfailingly elicits recipe requests- is barbecued char siu shrimp. I am always tempted to exaggerate my effort in making the dish.
Okay, skewering the little guys takes some time. But marinating them - a snap. Char siu sauce, meant mainly for pork, comes bottled or in powder form. You can marinate for a couple of hours or overnight. You may or may not skin the shrimp. Skewer, deliver to the grill, and watch them fly off the platter.

2006-09-22

>vegetarian caviar

The tiny seeds of the broom cyprus -Kochia scoparia- appears often in vegetarian kaiseki meals.


Like a good Kyoto kaiseki dinner (my favorite!), food ought to be simply beautiful, and be appreciated in small quantities.
Even a fake fish roe -tonburi- dish with a quail egg sitting in the middle looks pretty in this setting.

Fun to check out restaurant versions. L.A.'s Water Grill and Opus. New York's Sumile.

2006-09-21

>chicory vs. endive

Recently I had a delicious cup of chicory milkshake at Coi in San Francisco. Chicory has confused me forever. Here is the simplest explanation of the source of this confusion.

The bunched white leaf vegetable with yellowish border is called endive (or Belgian endive) in America. It is called chicory in England, where radicchio is chicory as well. The green curly leaf salad, also known as frisee, is called endive in England. In America, it is called, what else, chicory. Chicory "coffee" is made from (American) endive roots. I think I got it now. I won't confuse myself right now with escaroles and curly endives...

2006-09-19

>papaya breakfast


What would be the breakfast you could have every day and not get tired of?

Bacon and eggs? Bagels with cream cheese and lox. Blueberry pancakes. Cafe au lait and croissants. A hot bowl of congee.

My vote is for Turkish breakfast - olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, yogurt, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, bread with butter, jam, marmalade or honey, tea. Indeed, during the two-week stay, I never got tired of the same old breakfast. I wanted to continue, but how?


There is a runner-up. Points for doability. Extra points for having craved it this morning.

Large, juicy papaya breakfast.

The simplest recipe;
-Cut in half.
-Scrape the seeds off.
-Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.
-Get a spoon. Dig in!

2006-09-18

>ankimo and monkfish

Tonight's dinner included ankimo. A splendidly delicate, velvety smooth fishy foie gras, it is the liver of the frightfully ugly monkfish.

Despite my disinclination for lists, I will come up with a top ingredient list sometime (ah, sometime), and you can bet ankimo will be up there, along with otoro, perfectly ripe hachiya, 40% fat-content heavy cream.


2006-09-17

>thousand-year-old eggs vs. Epoisses

The best value in gourmet food comes in the form of alien-looking murky gooey eggs, which may not be for everyone, but if you love creamy, pungent aged cheese...

These eggs' smooth, at times slimy, dark green or dark yellow yolk will titillate and challenge your taste buds the way certain outrageously expensive soft cheeses do, but these little guys will leave your wallet intact. The translucent dark amber wh..., I mean albumen, tastes less funky.

Dirt cheap, these amazing creations are surprisingly common on Chinese restaurant menus and grocery shelves.

Next time you have a party, slip little bits as garnish, or serve as hors d'oeuvres with sparkling wine, and save the raw milk Camembert for yourself.

2006-09-16

>fish + chips = kerupuk, krupuk or keropok

The most fun you can have with the deep fryer starts with small, thin leathery hard chips made of fish or shrimp and starch (normally sago).

You pop them in oil, and watch them blow up to 10 times its original size.
Resembling rice crackers, these airy snacks will satisfy your craving for something... salty and crunchy.

You can easily imagine it competing/mingling with yam, taro, potato or totilla chips.
These snacks are also eaten with rice or noodles.
My experimentation with "krupuk tacos" turned out unbelievably well. I also made a salad substituting croutons with crushed krupuk. It tastes especially good if you make a dressing with lemon or lime juice.

2006-09-15

>bok choy vs. yu choy


One of the most overused vegetables on the menu is bok choy (白菜: "white vegetable"). One of the most overlooked vegetables on the menu is yu choy (油菜: "oil vegetable") or yu choy sum (油菜心 yu choy "heart")

Baby yu choy is delicate, firm, and cooks beautifully in high heat. Its lovely yellow flowers are edible, too. It reminds you of rapini (broccoli rabe). Currently in America's Chinese restaurants, there seems to be one yu choy for every 10 baby bok choy dishes. At Mars restaurant in Austin, you find chicken supreme with hoisin, fois gras butter, basmati rice and yu choy.
Enchoy. (I can't believe I said that.)

2006-09-14

>Yakuruto?


Apparently we will soon be saying goodbye to the ubiquitous airy foam now found in the top restaurants everywhere.

What’s next? Chef Raymond Capaldi of Fenix restaurant in Australia thinks the next hot trick on the menu just might be fermented milk - Yakult style.
This makes a whole lot of sense to Japanese Yakuruto door-to-door delivery ladies, who happily make their daily rounds promoting the benefits of this tiny bottle of “probiotic” pink yogurt drink, delicious and nutritious, and a good aid to digestion to boot. Now it seems to be becoming a minor worldwide phenomenon. Check out this cute UK ad.
Yogurt drinks are nothing new, but I have yet to encounter Yakult drink's presence in a mainstream American supermarket, especially outside of California. We have barely started working on yummy Turkish (ayran) yogurt drinks and Indian lassi drinks.
Curious how chef Capaldi’s pasnips and sheep’s milk yakult will turn out. What form it will take, we can only guess. Chef Adria, any ideas?

2006-09-12

>gel-icious

What do restaurateurs and kids have in common? They love playing with jelly.

A top-rated English restaurant, The Fat Duck, features on its single dinner menu no less than a half dozen jelly accompaniments, not counting the bavarois or custard/pudding type dishes. Passion fruit jelly, jelly of quail, almond fluid gel, tea jelly, chocolate jelly, jelly of mead and Sichuan peppercorn...

I also suggest the fragrant and naturally green -unnatural looking!- pandan jelly. It typically makes a delightful dessert called kueh, kue, or kuih - a tapioca, rice or agar-agar based jelly-like pastry with coconut and palm sugar.
I look forward to a pandan treat by a pioneering chef.

Nothing beats fresh pandan leaves. Dried leaves won't do it. Instead, use bottled pandan essence (or pandanus extract) sold, possibly, next to almond essence.

2006-09-11

>mung bean magic, mignardise style

I vividly remember the first time I laid eyes on these tiny jewels. I was then attending classes at Dover Court Preparatory School in Singapore. (Here is the new location, which I am not familiar with.) A student's mother brought these wondrous Thai treats to school one day. I didn't know what they were, so I made up a name.


Satin bonbons.

I dreamed of creating a gingerbread house studded with satin bonbons. Many years later as I learned the real name, some of its magic rubbed off. They were called... luk chup. Sounded like lousy ketchup. Ah, apparently it means "small magic". It would indeed lend a magical accent to any dessert. It is made with mung beans, coconut milk and sugar.
A beauty with a beastly name...

2006-09-10

>fruit vinegar

Can you bear the thought of doing without the ubiquitous balsamic vinegar? You know, there ARE alternatives to this overused flavor. Glazes and reductions made from fruit vinegars can be amazingly varied. The really tasty ones are not the fruit-infused kinds, but the fermented fruit ones. Some are so mellow, you can literally drink them. There are vinegars made from apple, apricot, blackberry, black currant, blueberry, cherry, fig, plum, quince, raspberry, even tomato. Wine vinegar, of course, is a fruit vinegar.

There are restaurants which like this option. Check out Arrows. Komi in Washington, D.C. Spice Market in New York served pickled foie gras with date chutney and plum vinegar. Ritz Carlton Cancun held a Vinegar Gala featuring elderberry vinegar.

Trader Joe's carries low-priced pomegranate vinegar you can experiment with. Gegenbauer is a Viennese seller of fruit vinegars. Cuisine Perel, a Bay Area gourmet store, is another one.

Fruit vinegars, so strong in number and more popular in Europe and Asia, are not as visible as they ought to be. Balsamic vinegar, I liked you in your starring role, but could you please take a backseat now.

2006-09-09

>torch ginger

The pretty pink bud of torch ginger, bunga kantan in Malay (botanical name Phaeomeria speciosa or Etlingera elatior), is not only improbably beautiful, it is also edible. Not only edible, it is indispensable in one version of Malaysian dish Penang Laksa.

There is no substitute for this bud, and I can’t ever find the authentic Penang (asam) Laksa anywhere in America, even in Vancouver.

Chopped torch ginger can be added to a salad to impart an inimitable flavor. Torch ginger, with a name people could easily remember, will become as much a household name as kaffir lime has.