A glimpse into my world of food

Monday, May 31, 2010

Travel Series: Shanghai Treats- 上海

Nanxiang Mantou Dian
Yuyuan Lu 85

This place in Yuyuan (very touristy area) is probably the most popular (can't say it's the best) place to eat xiao long bao in Shanghai. There was a downstairs kitchen where you can get the juicy soup dumplings to go, and they were much cheaper. There was a never ending line of mostly Chinese customers. The upstairs was a sit down restaurant and the line went quite quickly. They offer large soup dumplings that come with straws, crab meat xiao long baos and other dim sum dishes. I had stinky tofu for the first time in Yuyuan- it was deep fried and served with a chili sauce. Really wasn't as stinky as I thought- it was addictive.

Good xiao long bao is very hard to find even in Singapore. Definitely hard to find in New York City- I went to Shanghai Joes but it wasn't good at all. My family's favorite xiao long bao was from this restaurant called Chinatown in the Imperial Hotel along River Valley in Singapore but unfortunately the hotel got shut down and the restaurant never reopened somewhere else. They had the most amazing sichuan pickle and pork noodle soup too...

These xiao long baos were really good but I prefer the plain ones to the ones with crab meat.

Sichuan Cuisine
at Ba Guo Bu yi
1676 Hongqiao Lu

My uncle took me to this Sichuan restaurant because I love spicy food. I didn't know what to expect because the restaurant was huge and looked like the kind of place that caters to many Chinese and Japanese tourists. They also offer a performance of Bian Lian, in which a masked man changes his face in a split second- it really was impressive and I still don't know how they do it.

My uncle ordered everything since the waiters didn't speak any English. The most memorable dish for me was the mapou tofu. It was unlike any other mapou tofu I've ever had in my life- maybe closest to being the most authentic. My tongue was quite numb at the end of the meal but I was fully satisfied.

1) Appetizers: smoked tofu, green vegetables, jellyfish
Chicken stir fried with A LOT of chili
Steamed pork and sliced cucumbers with a dipping sauce. My kind of dish!
4) The most concentrated (濃厚), delicious chicken soup I've ever had in my life!
5) Ma pou tofu

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Japan Restaurant Review: L'Herlequin Bis, エルルカン ビス

Tel: 0465-62-3633

L'Herlequin Bis is an annex restaurant owned by Junichi Ito, who is also the executive chef. It's located in the hills of Yugawara, which is an area known for its hot springs. There's definitely a lot less traffic of customers than at his restaurant in Tokyo but I can see why he chose this spot. He combines Japanese and French technique and uses local ingredients. I've never really liked "fusion" cuisine in the U.S. and most other countries because as cliche as this may sound, many chefs do mistake it for "confusion". I love Japanese influenced French and Italian cuisine in Japan because they actually fuse the two cuisines right. They use local, traditionally Japanese ingredients with fo
reign cooking techniques and preparation. After working in Belgium, France and Italy, Chef Ito went back to Japan and realized that he was so engrossed in learning about European cuisines that he had abandoned his own culture. He decided to work for a restaurant in Tokushima, Japan, where he finally got in touch with Japanese cuisine, which places an emphasis on the true characters and flavors of ingredients.

I went to his restaurant for lunch, which consisted of an amuse bouche, two appetizers, a fish dish, a meat dish, a rice dish, and three desserts. Imagine having this meal in New York City- it would easily go for $80-$100 or even more including tip. This lunch was 5250 yen, which is less than US$50 (plus we don't tip in Japan and still receive better service than in the US).

We sat at the counter where we could watch the cooking and admire the beautiful view of autumn leaves through the huge windows. Chef Ito was modest and polite, and made small conversations with us as he plated his simple, yet perfectly executed dishes. There was no server at this restaurant- only the chef and his two cooks, yet service was smooth and we were never kept waiting for long.

Oyster with turnips, celeriac puree and trout roe
Seasonal local vegetables with squid and trout
Porcini flan with foie gras and port sauce
Sawara fish with brussel sprouts and olives
Shamo (free range chicken) with seasonal vegetables
Pork roulade (stuffed with langoustine) with a mustard vinaigrette
Even though it's a French restaurant, a meal in Japan is never complete without a bowl of rice or noodles- so we had crab rice.
Frozen mikan (like clementine)
Puff pastry with pastry cream and berries- simple but delicious!
Black beans, kanten and vanilla ice cream with a black sesame sauce

Pasta Series: Vongole

I used Manila clams for this vongole but I find that clams in Japan are much more meaty and flavorful. Nevertheless this vongole turned out good. I would never use Quahog clams or any of those other thick shelled clams though.

* Soak clams in salted water for at least half an hour and drain
1. Boil the water for the pasta. Keep adding salt until it tastes salty.
2. Smash and peel a garlic and heat slowly in extra virgin oil with a dry chili.
3. When the garlic has browned slightly, add the clams and white wine. Allow the white wine to evaporate and place a lid to steam the clams.
4. Start cooking the pasta.
5. When the clams have opened up, remove them from the pan. Keep reducing the clam drippings.
6. When the pasta is al dente, add some of the pasta water in the pan with the clam drippings.
7. Drain pasta and toss in clam drippings and add the clams back. Season with salt and black pepper. Finish with roughly chopped parsley.

Labels: ,

Pasta Series: Carbonara

I love pasta. I can eat pasta every day and not get sick of it. Sadly I haven't been to Italy yet but restaurants in Japan serve some bad ass pasta dishes. There's even a chain pasta restaurant that serves good Japaneseified pasta (Goemon) We love noodles and we love them al dente, so it's no surprise that Japanese cooks/chefs can make good pasta. I hate it when I see people picking at their pasta because I chow mine down to prevent it from getting soggy (just like when we Japanese eat ramen).
Carbonara is one of those meals I cook when I don't have anything in the fridge because I'll usually have pancetta, some sort of granular cheese, and of course, pasta!


1. Boil water for the pasta. Add enough salt so that it tastes almost like sea water.
2. Start cooking the pasta and meanwhile...render some pancetta slices in extra virgin olive oil and add a splash of white wine. Let it reduce then take off the heat.
3. Mix an egg with an egg yolk and add the desired amount of grated parmigiano or pecorino and a touch of heavy cream (traditionally there's no cream but I like to add just a bit).
4. When the pasta is done, drain it well and turn the heat back on. Toss the pasta in the pancetta and egg mixture. Toss until heated through. Taste and season with salt and lots of black pepper!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Avocado Recipe Contest Series: Avocado Panna Cotta

The avocado panna cotta is garnished with smoked salmon, poached shrimp, cherry tomatoes, avocado and scallion dressed in a lime soy sauce vinaigrette. I wanted to make the avocado panna cotta with bonito broth because just using heavy cream would overpower the taste of the avocado and make it too rich. I find that the bonito broth is a better choice than chicken stock not only because it is lighter but because I find that avocado pairs well with seafood. I guess the soy sauce vinaigrette comes from my background. I added the lime instead of vinegar to achieve a more refreshing vinaigrette.

12 portions

Portion size: ½ C

Heavy cream 2 C

Salt ½ tsp or to taste

Bonito broth* 4 C

Avocado 3 each

Lime juice 1 each

Gelatin sheet 5 each

Shrimp, peeled and deveined 12 each

Bonito broth* 3 C

Smoked salmon, sliced thin 6 oz

Scallion, sliced thin 4 tbsp

Cherry tomato, quartered 9 each

Avocado, small dice 4 tbsp (or divide one avocado into 12 portions)

Lime juice 1 each

Soy sauce 2 tbsp

Extra virgin oilve oil 6 tbsp

Black pepper to taste

*Make the bonito broth with the instant bonito broth powder (dashi)- follow instructions on the box/jar.

1. Bloom the gelatin sheets in a small bowl of cold water until slippery and soft.

2. Heat the bonito broth and heavy cream on low heat (do not boil) in a medium sauce pot and season with salt. Taste and add more salt if needed.

3. Meanwhile, fabricate the avocados by making a cut lengthwise through the middle, twisting the two halves away from each other, and removing the seed. Scoop the flesh away from the skin and squeeze some lime juice over.

4. Puree the avocado through a tammy sieve.

5. When the gelatin sheets have bloomed, squeeze the excess water and place in a large bowl.

6. When the bonito broth heavy cream mixture is hot, add enough of it to the avocado puree to end up with 6 cups total (there will be come leftover bonito broth and heavy cream). Mix well.

7. Add the mixture (still hot) to the gelatin sheets and mix well.

8. Pour ½ cup of the mixture into 12 ramekins or container of choice.

9. Leave to set a little in room temperature then place in the fridge to set (4-5 hours or overnight).

10. Once the avocado panna cotta has set: Cut the peeled and deveined shrimp in half lengthwise.

11. Heat the bonito broth over low-medium heat in a small sauce pot and poach the shrimp until just cooked. The bonito broth should be steaming but not simmering.

12. Remove and leave to cool in a medium bowl.

13. Add the thinly sliced smoked salmon, thinly sliced scallion, quartered cherry tomatoes and diced avocado to the bowl.

Avocado Recipe Contest Series: Spicy Avocado and Pork Somen Salad

This is a warm salad of somen noodles tossed with spicy minced pork, avocados and scallion vinaigrette. The avocados make the spiciness slightly milder and the vinaigrette with scallion and lime cuts the fat from the pork and avocados. I cooked this dish with leftover ingredients I had in my fridge and it ended up being delicious! It can be served family style in a large bowl or in separate portions. Somen noodles are typically served with a dipping soup or in a hot broth but this warm salad works great because the vinaigrette coats each strand of the noodles.

12 servings


Scallion 12 each

Fresh lime juice 6 tbsp

Soy sauce 6 tbsp

Canola oil 1 C

Fish sauce (nam pla) 3 tsp

Sesame Oil 2 tbsp

Avocado 6 each

Canola oil 1 tbsp

Garlic clove 6 each

Hot bean paste (Tobanjan) 9 tbsp

Pork, minced 2 ½ lbs

Salt 3 tsp

White pepper, ground 1 tsp

Somen noodles 600 grams (apprx 20 oz)


1. Thinly slice the scallion.

2. In a small bowl, combine the fresh lime juice, soy sauce, canola oil, fish sauce and sesame oil. Whisk until emulsified.

3. Add the scallion to the vinaigrette.

4. Cut the avocados into medium sized cubes (1/2 inch) and add to the vinaigrette.

5. Mince the garlic cloves.

6. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or small rondeau and lightly sauté the garlic over low-medium heat until fragrant.

7. Add the hot bean paste and stir.

8. Season the minced pork with salt and white pepper (use hands to combine) in a medium bowl.

9. Turn up the heat to medium and add the minced pork.

10. Cook until thoroughly heated through.

11. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water and cook the somen noodles for 2 minutes (or cook 1 minute less than indicated on instructions).

12. Drain the somen noodles in a colander and rinse quickly under cold water.

13. Drain the excess water and put the noodles in a large bowl.

14. Combine the minced pork and scallion vinaigrette (with avocados) into the noodles.

15. Mix well.