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2007-04-29

>gefilte fish vs. kamaboko

If you debone a white fish, puree the meat, and cook it into a firm cake, what do you call it?

The Japanese call a version of it kamaboko, and the Jews call a version of it gefilte fish. Then there are numerous types of Chinese white fish balls we won't get into here.


kaba or gama (cattail, bulrush) + hoko (halbert) = kamaboko

Common sightings of kamaboko include bowls of oden, Hawaiian noodle soup called saimin (which is even offered by McDonald's) served with other nerimono (a more general word for "kneaded" paste or jelly)

Sightings of gefilte fish
on a Seder table. I can't tell you if Moses would have dined on gefilte fish among the bulrushes.

2007-04-28

>taimeshi

A popular tai preparation.
(Please let me know if y
ou ever get tired of hearing about *&#* tai. I warned you about the Japanese love for tai.)

tai + meshi (cooked rice, meal, food) = taimeshi

This love is as big as what you might feel for hamburgers. To me, taimeshi is rice with minced tai, cooked, sometimes raw. Not rice topped with whole steamed tai, although that is also called taimeshi. Harder to eat!


***
Understandably, some folks go after the young things - taimeshi prepared with an equivalent of spring chicken - sakuradai.

sakura (cherry blossom) + tai = sakuradai

2007-04-27

>taiyaki the faux tai

Another tai.
Or is it?

Rather than the flesh-and-bone variety, this is
the bean-and-batter variety. Sweet azuki red bean paste filling (anko, koshi-an or tsubu-an) inside soft pancake batter, that is. Shaped into (why in the...?) fish - more specifically, our very own, tai, and cooked rather quickly in some contraption - a cross between a waffle iron and a foosball table.

tai + yaki (toast, roast, broiling, baking) = taiyaki

For Japanese children, taiyaki stands loom large, on the order of magnitude of an ice cream truck.


2007-04-25

>the fat duck per se

...So I couldn't resist doing a Google map mashup of the so-called "World's 100 Best Restaurants". This exercise, while silly, is surprisingly useful, since you do get to read the current cultural current. Depicted here are the "top 50". The rest of the 100 entries can be found here. (You can click on individual restaurants, zoom in and out, and have the choice of map view, satellite view or hybrid.)

The mashup has minimum info so far, but I will add more details (websites and other useful tidbits) whenever I think of something.

1. El Bulli, Spain
2. The Fat Duck, UK
3. Pierre Gagnaire, France
4. The French Laundry, USA
5. Tetsuya's, Australia
6. Bras, France
7. Mugaritz, Spain
8. Le Louis XV, Monaco
9. Per Se, USA

10. Arzak, Spain...

And these are 13 out of the "top 50", all concentrated here.



2007-04-24

>poetry in degustation

What is it about lists? Everybody hates them, but wants to be on them anyway. List it, and they will come...

Three Singaporean restaurants made the "World's 100 Best Restaurants" compiled by Restaurant Magazine. Iggy's, Les Amis, and My Humble House.

My Humble House
has an unforgettable menu, and I foresee many such Chinese menus to come our way. Under cryptic menu headings such as "Memories of that spring", "The wind wafts above the shoulder", "The delicate snow fell at midnight", "Infinite pleasures at My Humble House - weekend getaway", Chinese dishes are named the way they are supposed to be in the first place. Samples:

若疏柳淡烟,鲜虾饺子手拉面
The Inspiration –
Handspun Noodles with Fresh Shrimp Dumplings

晴空一鹤排云上,蟹肉蟹黄扒时蔬
The Beauty of Rapture -
Seasonal Veg
etables with Crabmeat and Crab Roe

浓浓的滋补炖汤
Elixir of Life –

Double Boiled Soup of the Day


春风如酒,夏风如茗,秋风如烟
点心三品
Delightful Dew –

My Humble House Dim Sum Trio

尽入鱼樵闲话,黑椒排骨伴馒头
Deep, Deep, Ocean –
Wok Grilled Pork Ribs in Black Pepper Sauce,
served with Crisp Cigar Bun


梦入芙蓉浦,香烤鳕鱼浓鸡汤
Pillow Talk -

Grilled Fillet of Silver Cod in Savory Chicken Gravy

听凤笙吹下,赛蟹蒸鳕鱼
Paradise Found -
Steamed Marinated Fillet of Silver Cod with Egg White and Black Vinegar Sauce


淡花疏影里,花雕脆皮子鸡

Sensuous Comfort -
Signature Crisp Fried Spring Chicken
marinated in Hua Diao Wine

牧童遥指,杏花雨,腊味荷叶饭

Night is in the Air -
Steamed Rice with Preserved Meat in Lotus Leaf

落花风起,清汤雪梨冰冻

Cool Pleasures -
Chilled Snow Pear Sorbet with “Cheng Tang”

珠泽柔润,香芒布丁伴椰子雪糕
Perfect Ending -
Homemade Mango Pudding with Coconut Sorbet

2007-04-23

>pomegranate vodka, et al.

The vodka craze is far from over.

Okay, I happen to like vodka, and it's my preferred spirit for cocktails, precisely because its taste is neutral. But e
ven if I could tell the difference, I cannot see myself going gaga over super top-shelf picks. The success of premium flavored vodkas still boggles my mind.

It was sort of interesting when I saw vodkas made from grapes and not potatoes or grains such as wheat or rye, not that it would make appreciable taste difference.

But most novelty vodkas are flavor-added vodkas, and we routinely see anything from cherries to cherimoyas, chillis to cumin. Apple, raspberry, guava, kiwi, fig, peach, lemon, lingonberry, currant, lime, melon, mandarin orange, pear, green tea, vanilla... etc. etc.

And pomegranate vodka.

I was hoping this wasn't flavored vodka, but vodka distilled from pomegranate pomace. Which sounds feasible if you consider the popularity of pomegranate wine in the Middle East, Central Asia, Eastern Europe. Not that it'll ever be a rival to the mighty grape, pomegranate is a staple ingredient, and is used for all sorts of intriguing sauces such as the Azerbaijani narsharab (narşərab), Turkish nar eksisi.

I will try a vodka distilled from pomegranates when it becomes available. Not that I could tell the difference!

2007-04-22

>manti, mantu, mantou, mandoo, mandu, manju

Variations of this name appear all over Central Asia and beyond. You can try to guess how our little manti (pronounced mantu) travelled along the Silk Road.

Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Korea, eventually to Japan.

The Chinese character "man" (饅) in mantou was custom-made for this dish, meaning steamed bun or dumpling.

"Tou"(頭), meaning "head", was conveniently added to make it sound similar to the original dish.

By the time it arrived in Japan, it mutated from meat and vegetable dumpling to sweet bean jam dumpling made with rice flour, called manju. 饅頭.

2007-04-19

>akodai the red corkeye?

Sebastes matsubarae, akodai, (yet another tai) also known as menuke ("uncorked eye") or akou, this tasty deep-sea fish is unforgettable once you've laid eyes on him. Those bulging eyeballs! Ahhh...

ako(u) (red fish) + tai = akodai


The top one on the right is an adult, and under it is a young'un, eyes not yet bulging. All that high pressure living, tsk, tsk.

As tasty as kinmedai, this sea bream/snapper/rockfish ought to be more in demand, but it doesn't even have an agreed-upon English name.

The leading contender is red rockfish, but the name is also used for slightly different rockfish varieties. So... red rock snapper? Red bulge eye? Red rock sea bream? Or akodai. Take your pick. My vote is for red corkeye, or simply, corkeye.

>Akoudai, Kanoyama, New York, NY

2007-04-18

>ishidai the false parrot fish

Yet another tai. This one seems to have more English names than the number of zebra stripes he sports. Certainly more names than our International star matodai.

Ishidai
(Oplegnathus fasciatus) appears here and there as striped beak perch, stone snapper, stone flounder, stone sea bream, false parrot fish, parrot bass, striped knifejaw, barred knifejaw, and simply snapper. Apparently he is NOT zebra bass.

Ishi (stone) + tai = ishidai

He makes delectable sashimi and sushi, usually costing about the same as chutoro or uni.

>Ishidai (a la carte), Ushikawa Maru, New York, NY

>Ishidai, "Live striped beak perch", Ikesu Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan

2007-04-15

>strewn with streusel

PER SE CHEF'S TASTING MENU final course

>"TENTATION AU CHOCOLAT, NOISETTE ET LAIT"

Milk Chocolate
"Cremeux" and Hazelnut "Streusel" with Condensed Milk Sorbet, "Pain au Lait" Sauce and Sweetened Salty Hazelnuts

In other words;
>CHOCOLATE TEMPTATION, HAZELNUT AND MILK

Creamy Milk Chocolate and Crumbly Hazelnut Cake with Condensed Milk Sorbet, Milk Bread Sauce and Sweetened Salty Hazelnuts

<-- photo by venguyen

Here's a streusel recipe.

2007-04-14

>jackfruit and passionfruit

PER SE CHEF'S TASTING MENU course #8

>JACKFRUIT SORBET
Persimmon Pudding, Passionfruit "Nuage" an
d Fresh Shaved Coconut

Jackfruit may resemble durian the "king of fruit", but jackfruit is no "king of fruit". It is much cheaper (at least in the tropics), less threatening (smaller thorns), not "stinky", really, more fruity and juicy, not custardy at all.

Jackfruit tastes like musky lychee. Passionfruit's concentrated aroma makes you think of apricots and grapes, only more citrusy.

According to crfg.org, "The jackfruit tree is handsome and stately. In the tropics it grows to an enormous size, like a large eastern oak. In California it is very doubtful that it would ever approach this size. All parts contain a sticky, white latex... When fully ripe, the unopened jackfruit emits a strong disagreeable odor, resembling that of decayed onions, while the pulp of the opened fruit smells of pineapple and banana."

Also according to crfg.org, "The unique flavor (of passionfruit) is appealing, musky, guava-like and sweet/tart to tart. The yellow form has generally larger fruit than the purple, but the pulp of the purple is less acid, richer in aroma and flavor, and has a higher proportion of juice (35-38%)." It lists many hybrids. Purple - Black Knight, Edgehill, Frederick, Kahuna, Paul Ecke, Purple Giant, Red Rover. Yellow - Brazilian Golden, Golden Giant.

It makes a fine "cloud".



2007-04-13

>goat milk cheese a cappella

PER SE CHEF'S TASTING MENU course #7

>ANDANTE DAIRY "ACAPELLA"
Globe Artichokes, Swiss Chard Ribs, Sungold Tomatoes, "Croutons de Pain de Campagne" and Roquette Coulis

"Acapella is goat's milk singing without accompaniment."
-Andante Dairy

So...
Per Se proudly presents one of its star goat milk cheeses, accompaniment by artichokes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, country bread croutons and arugula sauce.

Some choir.


>"nature fed" veal "roti a la broche"

PER SE CHEF'S TASTING MENU course #6

>RIB-EYE OF MARCH
O FARM'S NATURE FED VEAL "ROTI A LA BROCHE"
"Ris de Veau,"
Russet Potato Gratin, Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms, Haricots Verts and "mousseline Bearnaise"

"Roti a la broche" = spit-roasted
"Ris de veau" = veal sweetbread
Hen-of-the-woods = maita
ke mushrooms

I wished I could see the spit. I have no idea if the veal was spit-roasted whole.

(Here, you are given another choice for course #6.

>"DEGUSTATION" (tasting) OF BELLWETHER FARM'S LAMB

English Peas, Braised Oregon Morel Mushrooms,
Sweet Carrots and Lamb Sauce)


>Tokyo turnip

PER SE CHEF'S TASTING MENU course #5

>ALL-DAY BRAISED HOBBS SHORE'S PORK BELLY
Garnet Yam Puree, Melted Savoy Cabbage, Glazed Tokyo Turnip and Pork "Jus"

According to innvista.com, Tokyo turnip "is a fairly new addition to the North American market and proving to be a gem of turnips. Although it can be left in the ground to grow larger, it is usually picked when about an inch in diameter. At this stage when eaten raw, it is quite similar to radishes, giving a bittersweet, juicy, nip. Cooked, it mellows to a buttery flavour."

Together with the lovely pork belly, this was indeed a nice buttery dish.

(pork belly photo by ulterior epicure)











>Noilly Prat vermouth with lobster

PER SE CHEF'S TASTING MENU #4

>BUTTER POACHED NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER
Slow Roasted Red Beets, Kalamansi Orange "Supremes,"

Fennel Bulb Batons and "Sauce Noilly Prat"


Good old Homarus americanus. I have not been to Nova Scotia, but I imagine this American lobster would taste pretty similar to what I enjoyed on the coast of Maine.

Buttery kalamansi orange (also known as calamondin) discs topped the lobster tail, and fat juicy sticks of fennel bulb were on the side.

Noilly Prat is a brand of dry white vermouth from Southern France. Other notable (Italian) vermouth brands are Cinzano and Gancia. The word vermouth comes from German Wermut, meaning wormwood.

Here at Per Se, this vermouth was used with butter to poach the lobster, and the resulting sauce was something I'd love to try to duplicate at home.

2007-04-12

>barramundi

PER SE CHEF'S TASTING MENU course #3

>CRISPY SKIN FILLET OF BARRAMUNDI
Tuscan Chickpeas, Castelvetrano Olives, Green Garlic, Sweet Peppers
and Petite Basil w
ith Pimenton "Jus"

Anglers seem to have a lot of fun catching barramundi (Lates Calcarifer) It's fun to say, too. Barramundi... I bet the scales are so big it's easy to clean.

The crispy fish skin was blistered and browned. This is mildly sweet freshwater fish. It went well with mild chickpeas and peppers.

>Hawaiian heart of peach palm

PER SE CHEF'S TASTING MENU course #2

>SALAD OF HAWAIIAN HEARTS OF PEACH PALM
Washington State Rhubarb, Candied Marcona Almonds, Garden Mache

and Black
Winter Truffle Coulis

Per Se offers you a choice here, and the salad was chosen over duck foie gras.


>TORCHON OF MOULARD DUCK FOIE GRAS
Wh
ite Peach-Licorice Gelee, Heirloom Radishes, Asian Pear, Radish Sprouts and Balsamic Reduction with Toasted Brioche (30.00 supplement).

<--I couldn't find a picture of the salad with marcona almonds and garden mache, but this one by ulterior epicure is pretty close.

Heart of palm is my favorite salad ingredient - yes, the canned ones. The Hawaiian peach palm version was phenomenal. And I was glad to see humble rhubarb sharing the pretty plate with black winter truffle sauce.


>Sterling white sturgeon caviar at Per Se

At Per Se restaurant, I got to sample outrageous amounts of the chef's tasting menu, while I sacrificed very little of my own vegetable tasting menu.

For the sake of this report, of course. (Of
course.)

Course #1

>CAULIFLOWER "PANNA COTTA" with Island Creek Oyster Glaze and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar

This dish was a worthy cousin to The French Laundry's "Oysters and Pearls" "Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with X___ Oysters and Y___ Caviar".

These two restaurants try to use the best possible oysters and caviar depending on the season and availability. It could be Beau Soleil oysters, Malpeque oysters, Bagaduce oysters, Pearl Point oysters, Nova Scotia oysters, Caraquet oysters, or Island Creek oysters.

It could be Iranian osetra caviar, beluga, American osetra caviar, Russian sevruga caviar, or Sterling white sturgeon caviar ("transmontanus")

It's the best dish, both at The French Laundry and at Per Se. Sabayon (or zabaglione) is a traditional mousse made with champagne, served with fish or shellfish.

Champagne and caviar indeed. Cheers.

2007-04-09

>yuzu butter

My sister's dinner tonight was at Le Tire Bouchon in Fairfax, Virginia. It's good to know classic French restaurant food is here to stay, but this is not a restaurant I would have chosen. Actually it's not a restaurant she would have chosen, either. Halibut and rabbit were today's specials, and she said they were all right.
 

The typical fare on their dinner menu is what I call comfort food. I like it fine, but can't get excited about it. I do manage to get an inspiration for my own dinner, though.
>pan seared sea scallops and shrimp with lime butter

Traditional French cooking is famous for flavored butters - not only garlic butter or lemon butter, but also caviar butter, crayfish butter, horseradish butter, soft roe butter, watercress butter... etc.

Here's a recipe for yuzu butter: Blanch yuzu zest, chop finely and add to softened butter. Mix in yuzu juice, salt, and pepper. Use to garnish cold hors d'oeuvres.

>Surf 'n turf of miso marinated Kobe beef and butter poached half lobster tail, melted leeks and shiitakes, yuzu butter, beef jus - $35, Sun Mountain Lodge, Winthrop, WA

>Shellfish combo wok seared lobster & scallop medallion wasabi-yuzu butter, Roy's, Pebble Beach, CA

2007-04-06

>macarons aux noisettes from Per Se

Of course I couldn't eat these cuties on the spot at Per Se. I brought them home.

Macaroons are one of those things I ca
n't get enough of, and these were exquisite even after a week.

Only three...

#1 was lemon, possibly Meyer lemon. Zesty, refreshing.

I couldn't place #2 at first. Quince? Pear? Chocolate? It tasted familiar, yet better. Then it hit me. It mostly tasted like Nutella. Hazelnut (noisette) and chocolate spread. Perhaps with a bit of fruit in it. As you can see
, it dried out a little after a few days, and became crumbly. Perhaps it was meant to be crumbly, I wouldn't know.

According to Larousse Gastronomique (under macarons aux noisettes), "In accordance with a regulation regarding the naming of foodstuffs, these biscuits (cookies) may no longer commercially be called macaroons in France."

???

#3 was remarkably fruity berry - raspberry, perhaps.