Diary of a Reluctant Foodie

This blog captures Tze's food adventures and her memorable food experiences .Read about her durian feast and her meeting with the 'The Prince of Pasta'.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Dinner at two michellin star Comme Chez Soi on 23rd April 2008


Friday, August 10, 2007

Life is like a Pisang Goreng.When you re hot,you re hot.

There is a saying in Singapore ‘Life is like a Pisang Goreng, when you are hot, you are hot.’
This is also true of Laksa Lemak, Char Kuay Teow, Teo Chew Porrdige…...all favourites of Singapore food. Well at least they are my favourite.Thinking of these mouth watering yummylicious food makes me feel quite home sick.Luckily Penang street food is pretty damn satisfying so it's a great consolation that I'm still surrounded by great food.

If you re lookin for the yummiest Pisang Goreng in Penang,you must try the stall in Tanjung Bungah .It is located opposite Alpha Foot Reflexology .It 's been there for the last 40 years.I just had a bite of the crispy fresh-from-the-deep-frying pan Pisang Goreng.The batter is light and it cracks at the slightest bite to reveal the inside ,a sweet and soft Raja Pisang.Divine!Only RM 0.80 for a satisfying snack.Serve it with ice cream and it makes a heavenly dessert with lots of oomph.

Being a Singaporean, I am surrounded by a food culture that is so deeply entrenched that it’s impossible not to love food. It is the best ice breaker in conversations in my hometown. Anybody who is anybody knows his or her favourite hawker stall. A common conversation amongst Singaporeans is to trade tips for the hottest places to get the yummiest dish or to argue over the correct amount of spices in their curries. Even the expat community succumbs to the food culture and makes it a part of their lifetsyle.

When I reminisce about my childhood hangout in Chomp Chomp (a hawker centre in Serangoon Garden),I can’t help but be seduced by the smell of Hae Mee (prawn noodles) wafting through my nostrils ;the sizzling Char Kuay Kuck ( fried rice flour cakes with finely diced radishes) was divine .The rojak (salad drizzled in prawn paste) was to die for and Hokkien Char (wok seared noodles with beanpsouts), irrisistable. There I often found myself deliberating over whether a plate of fried beehood (rice vermicelli noodles wok-seared with a dash of soya sauce) is ‘shiok’ enough or should I go for a bowl of silky smooth Tou Hua (Soy Bean Curd sweetend with palm sugar). Or better yet, the rich aromatic broth of Singapore Laksa thickened by coconut milk beckoned and all of a sudden, I knew exactly what my palate craved.

These represent a small fraction of the huge food varieties available in Singapore. You may decide to spend a month’s salary on an exquisite meal in a French restaurant or you can enjoy a $ 1 roti prata fare. Both culinary experiences are potentially satisfying in their own way.
But what is Singapore food? Briefly, it has its origin in Malaysia, Indonesia, China, India as well as the West. Many claim that there is no such thing as Singpaore food for that reason. They are only partially right. You'll still find authentic and tasty versions of each of these cuisines in the Garden City.

What interests me is to do a parallel comparison of these hawker fare in different parts of Southeast Asia .I'm about to embark on the journey.My first mission is to do a comparison of Laksa from Singapore,Penang and Johore.Anyone interested?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Charlotte's Swedish Chocolate Treats

If you re in the mood for sweet things....the kind that instantly put you in a good mood;-),try this reicpe shared by my Swedish friend,Charlotte.

Swisdish Chocolate Treats

3 dl oatmeal
100 gr. butter
1 dl. sugar
2 tbsp. cacao
1 tsp. vanilla essence
2 tbsp. cold strong coffee (already made)

Take out butter so it gets nice and soft then
mix everything together.
Let rest for a while in refrigerator.
Then roll the balls and turn them around in shredded coconut.
Put in fridge so they don't get soft.
That is if you have not eaten already!! hehehehehhee!!

Have fun and enjoy!

Makes 25 to 30 balls
preparation time : 5 to 10 minutes

Monday, August 6, 2007

Truffles,Risottos and Porcini mushrooms........favourite ingredients of Chef Franco

Chef Franco Brodini moves around like a whirl wind. That’s the first impression I have of him. Tall, slim and friendly, he speaks passionately of cooking and food.

‘Why else would you spend 16 hours a day working if not for something you are passionate about?’ He asked with an affectionate grin.

He is the newly appointed executive chef at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa. Chef Franco previously worked in Singapore in the same reputable hospitality chain. A graduate from the Culinary School of Brescia in Italy, he started cooking at 13. Then he took on the world of Michelin star at L’Albereta et Restaurant Gualtiero Marchesi at age 22 and cooked at many fine kitchens in England, Egypt, Switzerland, Europe, Dubai and Asia where he worked in various capacities. During this reign with Shangri-La‘s Tanjung Aru Resort, Chef Franco was voted one of the finalists for Hospitality Asia’s Platinum Awards 2003/2004.

So Chef Franco, why do you choose to be a chef?
I love food and people. It is a job that allows me to work with both.

How would you describe your style of cooking?
Traditional with a twist.

What are your favourite ingredients?
Love, Passion and Attitude.
Besides that, I like to work with rice especially the Carnaroli and Aborio varieties; white truffles from my hometown in Brescia; and porcini mushrooms. I used to go mushroom hunting with my dad in Alba. That must have piqued my interest in these ingredients. White truffles and porcini mushrooms are seasonal and I only use them in Autumn. In Italy these ingredients are so revered they are celebrated in their own festivals.

When asked the reason for the exquisite taste of these staples, Chef Franco said’ it is because of the salt from sea mists, the different minerals of the land, the flowers, the climate, the soil, and the absence of artificial fertilizers.’

What is your favourite way of using truffles?
The best way is to add truffles to scrambled eggs. (Ooohs and ahhhs followed like he was savouring the food.)

How would you cook rice since you grew up from the famous rice growing region of Lombardy?
In summer, I cook it with zucchini, pumpkin blossoms, or saffron. In winter I love to add porcini mushrooms to my rice. My favourite recipe for rice is to cook it in champagne and rock melon. (This is amazing! I never knew rice can be cooked in so many ways.)

What is your most memorable experience as a chef?
He beamed me a huge smile before answering. ”I was 22 when I worked in Alberata Marchesi, the 2 star michellin restaurant. For the first 3 months, I did not even see the stove. Then one night, a chef fell ill and I was asked to fill in. That night had to be the luckiest day of my life. I cooked for 45 covers and I had never been busier or happier. The next day, I was called in by the boss and he talked to me behind closed door. He congratulated me for a good job done the night before and asked me to cook a few courses for him. Upon tasting, he told me I could assist the Chef di Partie in the kitchen but I still have to sweep the floor. It was the happiest and most memorable moment in my life and I had never looked back since.

What are the significant occasions Italians celebrate?
‘Weddings are celebrated with gusto and food is a very important part of the celebration. A typical wedding menu consists of

-Ortiche- a mix of butter and permessan and various types of bread roles.

-Antipasto-Antipasto can consist of many things. The most traditional offerings are cured meats, marinated vegetables, olives, peperoni (not to be confused with the meat), which are marinated small peppers, and various cheeses, perhaps provolone, or fresh mozzarella. Other additions may be anchovies, or bruschetta, toasted bread, upon which one may stack the meats or cheeses. The antipasto is usually topped off with some olive oil.
Meats for antipasto may include mortadella, but more traditionally, smoked ham, types of salami, prosciutto and coppa are usually offered.

-Risottos- usually 3 kinds of risotto will be served-pasta, rice and ravioli

-Roasts- lamb, beef tenderloin are popular

-Desserts- Chocolate, tiramisu, panacotta, crème caramel are commonly seen in weddings

Christmas is another elaborate celebration in Italy as it is the home to the Pope. A Christmas dinner from my hometown consists of:

-Cappone with chestnut, a specialty from Northern Italy

-Cotechhino –a cured sausage made from pork, fat and cheek of pig seasoned with red wine, pepper or cayenne. This is served in winter with lentils for good luck.

-Summer fruits preserved with Mustard seeds, vinegar, sugar and kept in jars for maturation are ready to be enjoyed at this time.”

Talking to Chef Franco gave me a new perspective on ingredients for they are so highly revered that they are never served out of season in Italy. As he said there was only one fridge in the whole 2- michellin- starred restaurant that he worked in and that was for storing ice cream.

No wonder Italian cuisine is highly respected the world over.

Buon Appetito!

(This is an excerpt from an upcoming release, Foodfriends' Gourmet Secrets ,in collaboration with myself.Check out the launch in 0ctober 2007!)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Meeting 'The Prince of Pasta'

On arrival at Ferringi Grill ,where the pinnacle of gourmet dining experience collides with connoisseurs of all fine things in life,Mr Vincenzo Spinosi,touted by the press as ‘The prince of pasta’ hastened to welcome me in his signature style – open arms and an affectionate hug.

After the introduction by Chef Franco,the executive chef of Shangrila’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa,I was greeted by a fiery exchange of Italian between the two men .Little did I know that I was about to interview a famous Italian who spoke only the language of Don Corleone. Unprepared for this scenario in which Mr Spinosi spoke rapidly in his native tongue , I felt rather lost .This confusion lasted for at least 10 minutes before the charming English speaking chef Marco peeped out from the kitchen.He has joined Mr Spinosi to lend his creative touch to Spinosini 2000,the Ferrari of Pasta,I was informed.

Due to Vincenzo Spinosi’s tireless effort and colourful personality ,he has stamped his product with his personal charm .He did not seem to be aware of the language barrier as he navigated his explaination to the delight of his audience.From his suitcase,Mr Spinosi whipped out fresh eggs from his farm in Marche, extra virgin olive oil and all the equipment for the instant preparation of Spinosini 2000 which has risen to the status of International haute cuisine owing to the imprenditore’s vision to put his innovation in every kitchen of fine restaurants in London,New York,Hong Kong ,Tokyo,Paris and many other glittering cities.Spinosini pasta can be enjoyed in Petrus in Hong Kong ;San Domenico in New York and many michelin star restaurants in Italy and other cities.Embraced by celebrity chefs like Paolo Antinori and Michelin star chef,Igles Correli,Mr Spinosi is well respected among the culinary circuit worldwide. Although Spinosini 2000 has won him the ‘Five Star Diamond Award’ from the American Academy of Hospitality and Sciences of New York,he remains modest.His spirit of generosities is one personality trait that one can’t help but be touched by.

He explained through his partner in crime ,chef Marco,the representative from Executive Committee of the Italian Federation of chefs, that
‘ my father started making hand made pasta for his friends in the year 1933 and now Spinosini can be found in Harrods but we still retain the traditional way of making pasta .’

Chef Marco, explained that this was the first time in the history of Spinosini 2000 that an attempt was made to create appetizer ,main course and desserts with the versatile pasta.I was puzzled how one achieves that but sensing Chef Marco’s confidence ,I eagerly await the experience.

Before lunch was served at the much anticipated event organised by Foodfriends, an animated kitchen theatre performed by Chef Marco and Mr Spinosi had the crowd in stitches .Holding the audience captive with his signature dish, Mr Spinosi explained that’ Spinosi pasta is like a beautiful woman that needs little makeup’ .At this,he gave his pasta a twirl to show its softness .For him,the pasta is the star and the sauce an accompaniment.’There are 10 fresh farm eggs added to each kilo of flour in pasta Spinosi compared to 4 eggs as required by the law in Italy.These eggs come from Livorno hens raised in my own farm and they are fed with a diet of cereals and cold pressed sunflower oil rich in Omega 3 and vitamin E.’He cooked the pasta in a boiling pot of water for about 2 minutes before removing it to cook in a flat saucepan with low fire.Afterwhich he added a good measure of extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest and a pinch of salt and his masterpiece is almost ready .Sprinkle some freshly grated permesan and viola,the dish is complete with a lemony fragrance that wafted through the room.The ladies took a good whiff and it almost sent them into a dreamlike state.

From the laughter to the enthusiastic applause,the performers delighted the audience with their light hearted demonstration.Chef Marco and Mr Spinosi made a hilarious couple.Where one is fiery and colourful in nature,the other is calm and worldly.The juxtoposition is comical and theatrical.

The 3 course lunch menu prepared by Chef Marco featured the following:

Egglant Cannelloni Filled with Basil,Tomato and Spinosini

Spinosini with Saffron cooked with Sea Harvests

Spinosini Tart with Citrus Cream

While main course was being served,Mr Spinosini plonked himself in the middle of our table and regaled us with his gallery of memorabilia collected over the years ….these showed pictures of Ferragamo enjoying his pasta; there were pictures showing chefs of the Pope and the late Princess Diana visiting his factory ;it even depicted a newspaper cutout featuring Mr Spinosi cooking pasta 10,000 metres above sea level.

A pasta maestro and a stylish Italian chef made a good pair -they offered the guests a feast for all 5 senses and a glimpse into the pasta world.What a delightful morning orchestrated by Foodfriends.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Durian in season

In the tropics, there are rainy and dry seasons . There is also the eagerly anticipated durian season. Among the enthusiasts,durian season is as much anticipated as the Christmas season .

‘Eating a good durian is like tasting a good bottle of claret .’ says an Englishman, Nigel Pendrigh.A durian connoisseur,Nigel has acquired the taste of durain 8 years ago.He described a durian experience as being 3 dimentional –rich in aroma,flavour and nuances.

Not surprisingly it was Nigel and his wife,Fee who brought me to the durian plantation in Balik Pulau in Penang.The plantation boasts of 1000 durian trees which are aged between 60 to 100 years old.We went there in the month of July,right smack at the peak of the durian season.There we tasted a wide varieties of durians ranging from Ooi Kneow,(yellow ginger) to Ang Hae( Red Shrimp);from Peh Bak Eu ( White Pork Lard) to Ling Feng Geow(named after Jackie Chan’s wife).Hor Lor ,D 11 ,D 24 are all being served at this decadent durian feast.These are’ branded’ durians which are prized for their taste ,textures and flavours. Some of these yummy varieties have won much coveted durian competitions .Mrs Lim,wife of the plantation owner,offered us her irrissitable home made durian’ kuih’.We were told that these were made from 30 kg of pure durian pulp and 3 kg of sugar with special mention that no flour was added in her recipe.Oh! that explains the superb aroma oozing from these delightful mouthfuls.

Durian has inspired many to use it in sweet edibles such as Dodol ,ice cream ,pastries and moon cakes amongst others.My favourite durian dessert ,durian pulut( glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk), is a rich deadly combination that had me running many hours on the treadmill.But it’s worth it.

Durian is commonly known to possess a ‘heaty ‘ effect .Many claim that this effect can be countered by drinking water from the durian husk .To rid hands and breath from the odour of durians,pour water into an empty husk; rinse and drink from it.

Love it or hate it,durians will always stick out like no other fruits.