Binging on Beignets

One of my favorite desserts here in the U.S. are beignets. They’re light, fluffy, crunchy, and quite possibly the most addictive things you can eat. I think it might have something to do with the fact that it reminds me a little of Chinese Fried Dough (Yau Char Kwai), but in a sweeter, and lighter way. So naturally, when I found out a few of my old MUWCI friends were moving to Boston, I decided to take a stab at making this dessert.

Overall, I was surprised at how simple this recipe was! Although I have to say, the next time I’m making this, I’m going to get a piping bag and fill each little beignet with chocolate. Glad I could cook for these bunch of people!

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Soup for the Soul

I find winter to be a bitter-sweet season for me. On the one hand, you get weather like this, which makes you reconsider life decisions such as moving to New England. img_2015

On the other hand, it’s the most satisfying weather to cook soup in. Growing up in Malaysia, I’ve always thought of soup as an after-meal substitute for water. A savory way to wash the flavors down your throat. Being here in the U.S., however, has shown me that soups can be a lot more than a simple broth with some vegetables. It can be a truly rich and delightful dish to have, especially when it is cold outside.

I’ve been experimenting with a Christmas gift I received a few years ago. It was an immersion blender (I received the gift along with a molecular gastronomy kit… but maybe chemistry isn’t quite for me). Yet – I’ve never quite known where I would use this contraption (apart from making a 1-minute hollandaise sauce). After a series of Tasty videos though, I’ve learnt to harness the power of the portable blender and create some tasty concoctions of my own! Behold the following recipes:

1.) Potato leek soup – Yukon potatoes, leeks, chicken stock, bacon bits, and chives.

2.) French Onion Soup – Onions (lots of it), cognac, beef stock, mozarella, bread and cheese

3.) Mushroom soup – Mushrooms (lots of it), garlic, onion, flour, heavy cream

Reflecting on One’s Roots and Looking Ahead

I’ve been in Malaysia for the last couple of days now, and have been stuffing my face with all the local delicacies I could get my hands on. It truly is incredible how good something can taste when people spend their whole lives perfecting a handful of dishes. For example, there is a fried carrot (or turnip) cake vendor who operates in the morning market in my neighborhood. It’s may not have the fancy plating techniques of high-end cuisine, but the depth of flavors found in the dish is incredible – it’s somehow savory, rich, chewy, fluffy, crunchy, spicy, and sweet all at the same time.

 

Other dishes, like the curry noodles, prawn noodles, wantan noodles, and claypot chicken rice featured below, contain remarkable flavors, and are packed full of history, such as the influence of the spice trade on Malaysian cuisine, and the amalgamation of different cultures in order to create such remarkable dishes.

I am also very thankful that I am able to usher in 2019 with my family, with good food, good wine, and lots of laughter. 2018 has been quite a turbulent and exciting year. I was personally touched by several events, which include the results of both the Malaysian general election (showing that democracy is still very much alive, and that patronage politics can be overcome) and the U.S. midterms (showing that the U.S. still celebrates diversity of all kinds), the drawbacks of the information age (and how valuable privacy is), and the #metoo movement, which highlights a large problem that still persists in our society. I also made the decision to strive for better work life balance, better appreciate my friends and family, and focus on finding a purpose I find meaningful that I can work towards. I have accomplished some goals, achieved some successes, and experienced some failures. Nonetheless, I am content with what I have achieved in 2018 (which include, among other things, starting this blog to better reflect on what matters most to me and to write about food!)

Goodbye 2018 – and welcome 2019! I can’t wait to see what you have in store for me.

BtB (Back to Basics) in AirBnB.

Being an international  / non-resident alien (USCIS definition) / resident alien (IRS definition), I’ve always found Thanksgiving to be a wonderful celebration. I think it has something to do with the fact that it celebrates two of my favorite things in life – family and food. Given that my family is a 24 hour flight away, I usually spend Thanksgiving with friends / eating other people’s turkey. However this year, my family decided to jet all the way from across the world from multiple locations to celebrate Thanksgiving with meand take advantage of being close to 5th Avenue during Black Friday.

Of course, it would have been really convenient if they had chosen to actually be in Boston (which is where I live / keep my cooking supplies) during Thanksgiving itself. However, because 5th Avenue > Newbury Street (sorry Boston folks – you know my heart belongs to the big apple), we decided to improvise and make do with whatever utensils our AirBnb could provide us with. Of course, I considered packing a roasting tray, a couple containers of herbs and spices, (my brother actually brought his chef’s knife from Portland, OR), but eventually decided against it. I decided to use simple cooking techniques and seasoning in order to make the ingredients shine.

Basically, I had limited myself to salt, pepper, olive oil, and some paprika (there has to be heat somewhere). First, came the duck. Salt, pepper, olive oil and paprika, and rub it all around the duck. Below is a video of the duck post-marination, being carefully placed on the tray (I eventually had to swap it out for the glass container after the duck fat dripped out of the tray, started to smoke, and triggered the fire alarm in our AirBnb. This went on to happen another 10 times or so).

Besides the duck, there were of course sides. Some vegetables are easier to make than others. When you are limited to only the four ingredients above, I’d recommend asparagus and butternut squash to provide some added color (I wanted Brussels sprouts, but was veto-ed by my family).

Of course, we also had to prepare the stuffing, which had some bread, sausage, carrot, celery, chicken stock. Thank goodness the oven was big enough to hold 4 different items in it at the same time.

Finally, the dessert from Magnolia Bakery (even though I bought this, I still had to bake this in the oven so I think it counts).0aded86b-0776-4bdd-b08c-69de125b498f

Overall, given the limited amount of ingredients / utensils, I’d say we had a very delicious and bountiful Thanksgiving. Another meal well done!

Battle of the Burgers: Shake Shack vs. the Jucy Lucy

What do you do when you’re stuck indoors all day waiting out a seasonal Nor’easter during Halloween weekend? Some people choose to binge on Netflix and ice-cream. Some people choose to run in the storm and challenge the elements head-on.

I prefer creating my own imaginary food competition.

I present to you – Battle of the Burgers, the Northeast vs. the Midwest edition, the Shake Shack burger vs. the Jucy Lucy!

In all honesty, I probably messed up the shake shack burger when I copied it from this Youtube video here. I mean, I already removed the burger buns by accident (and screwing up the first step that was mentioned within the first 10 seconds of the video). Nevertheless, I was undeterred and decided to valiantly pursue my quest of making this burger war happen.

So first was the meat. So some of you may be thinking – what exactly is a Jucy Lucy? Some have called it America’s finest. Some have called it sacrilegious to cheese. Some have also mentioned that they don’t get the hype because it’s ultimately a burger with cheese. Well – I am determined to at least give this culinary oddity a try. So behold the patty preparation process!

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While the process looks simple (and is in fact, fairly straightforward), a number of things you needed to pay attention to. First, you had to make sure that the edges of the burger were adequately sealed. Otherwise you’ll have yourself a Juiceless Lucy when the cheese leaks out of the patty. That also means that you have to basically double the patty size.

After some quick searing, make shift “shack-sauce” making (I left out the pickle brine in the recipe – I don’t usually eat pickles and was not going to purchase a whole jar for a little bit of brine) and some careful plating….

I have to say, as bizarre as it sounds, having the cheese INSIDE the burger is a lot better than having the cheese outside. I think I’m going to be making a lot more Jucy Lucys from here on out. (Sorry Shake Shack. While your chicken sandwich will always have my heart, my vote goes to Lucy this time around).

All-in-all, a Saturday well spent I believe.

Baking Bananas

One of the first things I have ever learnt how to bake when I was a kid is the ever-glorious banana bread. Soft, moist, tasty, and having a delicate balance between savory and sweet. I still remember saving up RM0.50 in order to purchase one from my school canteen when I was 7 years old. It was quite the incredible snack!

Of course, one of the funniest mistakes I recall making when making banana bread was using bananas that were simply not ripe enough. It’s insufficient to have just yellow bananas – they need to be turning brown / getting soft because that’s when the sugar starts forming. So imagine my facial expression when on banana bread day, I realized that banana looked like this.

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Sure, they were ripe enough to eat. But were they ripe enough to be banana bread? That was the question. So I sat staring at the bananas and I realized that I had an economic dilemma in front of me. Do I wait another day or so for the banana to ripen up further, or do I risk it and chuck it into my batter? Is the disutility suffered from eating a less-delicious banana bread greater or smaller than the disutility suffered from having to wait a day or two to eat a better banana bread?

Of course, after pondering this question for about 30 seconds, I immediately whipped out my phone and googled “ways to quickly ripen bananas.” And that’s when I found the cooking technique that long eluded me – how to play god and speed up the banana aging process.

After 300F and 20 minutes, we had the following images in quick successions: img_5271img_5272img_5296

It turns out – baking it slightly will turn the banana skin black, but the banana fruit ripe.

And there you have it! How to bake a banana in order to bake banana bread.

*PS: The last image was taken less than 24 hours after it was done. I really should remember to take photos immediately when I’m done with my food, or risk the belly wrath of house guests / roommates.

Chilling and Grilling (Indoors)

Step 1: Take a bunch of your colleague’s old stuff because he’s moving out of Boston. Things include: a futon, a coffee table, a portable grill, a portable fan

Step 2: Buy a bunch of meat from the store. Things include: Kobe beef slices, and pre-marinated pork / beef.

Step 3: Create the following setup (make sure to include the fan – otherwise you’ll set off your fire alarm)

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Step 4: Grill and watch Jurassic World at the same time.

Figured I’d share my latest idea of what “chilling and grilling” means  when you don’t have a backyard.