Friday, October 03, 2014
These days I find myself relearning the basics.
Using fewer ingredients, keeping things simple.
As the world goes on to demand much and more, I try not to forget how to choose fresh fish at the market, how to fillet it, make the best of its briny flesh and extract flavor from every last bits of its bones. I fry an egg, make it crispy around the edges and toss my favorite soy sauce with thin noodles. When I come home hungry with nothing else but cold rice, all a Chinese really needs is a wok and some spring onion.
Often we confuse simple as easy, laborious as difficult.
We say simple is boring and complicated is creative. Let's think of something new, do an interpretation of this. The fundamentals are forgotten. How our ancestors farmed, cooked and ate discounted as traditional, not quite enough for our (seemingly) evolved palates.
In almost every culture, our prior generations have created things that worked. Dishes passed on to us that make us feel almost broken should we be deprived of them for just a short time. The French, Italian, Greek, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese, they didn't have much. They didn't need much to create the best things with flavors and textures which has come to haunt us for our lifetime and those of our children if we're smart enough to preserve these gems.
We, what have we created?
Continue reading Simplicity
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Growing up my mother used to tell me stories on how she grew up with raw eggs cracked over hot rice with just a dash of good soy sauce and a meal like that was awesome. Of course, the eggs were collected from grandma's chicken coops, still warm and freshness unparalleled by any eggs you get of third party vendors. The yolks were almost crimson and so aromatic, sometimes just a pinch of salt and white pepper would do the job.
Those were the stories, I never had Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけご飯) and didn't know it's also close to a Japanese institution till I had it at a quaint little casual eatery at Boat Quay. Theirs were simply served with some braised chicken bits, torn nori and sliced scallions. I polished off the entire bowl, feeling surprisingly contented over something so simple. What can I say, I'm Asian - all I need is rice and eggs.
Since then I've stocked my pantry with Japanese rice, furikake, nori sheets and shichimi togarashi. TKG is perfect for quick and clean weeknight meals. I'd grill teriyaki drenched fish or chicken in the oven while steaming the rice. If you're feeling fancy throw in some roasted mushrooms or leeks. Instead of soy, all that caramelized goodness from roasting the protein goes on top of the rice. Unless you're adverse to runny eggs (most eggs we get today are pasteurized, so salmonella poisoning would be unlikely), I strongly recommend that you try this at least once.
Once your rice is cooked and rested (but still piping hot), make a well in the center and crack a room temperature egg over it. Quickly garnish and always, always stir with a chopstick, like so. And no, despite what this article says, you don't need a special TKG soy sauce to go with it, just good soy.
Continue reading Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけご飯)
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
How do I talk about this place?
For a start, I thought I would write about it way much earlier. But as fate would have it, many reasons came to be, putting stop signs to those moments whenever I felt the urge to tell you something about it.
This is not Henry Congressional version 2.0, although I think a little of Henry's spirit perseveres through our menu. There's the understated rosemary chicken sandwich, the ever nostalgic pandan chiffon cake and that satisfying dark cloud cookie.
This is also not just another hole-in-the-wall temporary pop-up. The bottomless amount of work required to run a typical day will only be understood and appreciated by its tireless crew, and perhaps those working in this industry.
But most of all, this is a place where I'm not just another customer. Or a regular customer, or a favorite customer. Helping out and being involved makes me see certain things and people from a different perspective. As we try to get out of the weeds and unexpected complications, we learn more about ourselves and others. Strengths and weaknesses, food preferences, special talents and amazing skills, all these coming together to provide the foundation and maintain those pillars crucial, more than just necessary, to the continuance of this space.
I guess the appropriate time has finally come.
After a year of collecting moments, memories and experiences, those stop signs can now be set aside and here I am, spilling out (perhaps too many of) these photos, hoping they will help complete this story. Going through them brought me back to this day exactly 12 months ago - that rainy evening when I was called in last minute for my first shift. I remembered how excited I was for this place, rushing to the shop after I just pulled out my own chiffon cake from the oven at home.
Since that evening, this space has written its own story and created its own life. Customers and crew members came and went. Those who remain continues to embrace what we stand for. Time and again I remind myself we are not here just to be different. As we ponder over what to add to the menu, how to make our iced chocolate, how to improve our fried chicken and how to keep our produce fresh, we draw support and conviction from those who come to us for exactly these offerings. And we continue to serve those who disagree with us with just as much affection.
There is no one dish I enjoy most making. Even a simple sandwich is made out of important elements, each ingredient worth their respect and right treatment. I believe in this business of feeding people, perfection is not necessarily when everything is done just right, for what is right may be subjective to personal taste, open to interpretation or benchmarked against varying standards. Perfection is when you put your heart and soul into each plate, regardless of who the plate is for. We want to indulge our long term fans, but we also wish for our new friends to keep coming back.
The only regret I have is my inability (at most times) to sit down and chat longer with those of you who have come from far to visit. My only hope is that our love for you comes strong through our humble bar and kitchen, and there will be many years to come for this place to make all of us happy.
Continue reading Necessary Provisions, Happy First!
Life Is Great explores the incredible world of food and cooking. We hope to share with you our most delicious moments and inspirations.
“Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. The you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”
Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
“Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”
- Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけご飯)
- Strawberry Pie
- One Pot Chicken Rice
- Bak Chor Mee (肉脞面 - Minced Pork Noodle)
- Hakka Salted Egg Steamed Pork (咸蛋蒸猪肉)
- Best Egg Salad
- Blood Orange Chiffon Cake
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
- Rose Levy Beranbaum's Basic Brioche
- Meyer Lemon Bars
- (A Better) Chocolate Chiffon Cake
- Hong Kong Part III
- Hong Kong Part II: Zongzi/Bakchang (粽子/肉粽)
- Caffè HABITŪ (the table) at G.O.D. Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Part I
- Australia 2010 Part 1: Melbourne
- Bourke Street Bakery, Sydney
- Il Fornaio, St Kilda
- Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne