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!
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
I'm here to admit that I am a pie crust stealer.
Especially if the crust is awesome. I know you may now think less of me but hey, that's the bit of the pie with all the 'bad' things in it; so how can it not be the star of the show? Rest assured though, I'm no pie crust snob. Having not grown up with pies, there's no inclination in my blood to go around trying out 20 crust recipes before finding the 'perfect' one. There just has to be enough butter and flavor in it. Baking up flaky and rustically golden brown helps too.
For some time now I have been ever so slightly infatuated with Maggie Beer's admirable sour cream pastry since the day I saw her make this pheasant pie on Masterchef Australia. I love that this crust recipe is fuss free - just three ingredients, yet just by looking at how it was so easily handled and cooked so beautifully, I was convinced it will deliver in both taste and texture the day I get off my chair to try it. The ratio of butter:flour is almost 1:1 and she even let out that this is the only pie crust she uses for everything, sweet or savory.
And so it was perfect.
So perfect, it may possibly be my only pie crust, ever. But let's not forget the filling. While I may nick your crust when you're not looking, I place no less importance in heart and center of the pie. For several strawberry lovers at the cafe's kitchen, I looked to Deb and her strawberry rhubarb pie version two did not disappoint. If you can get hold of tapioca flour where you are, do use it in place of other thickening options. It does yield a hearty, smooth filling without affecting the intended flavor of the main ingredients.
As for the filling recipe, may I suggest you to be free-spirited with it?
I made the second (smaller) pie without following exact quantities and it turn out just as it should. Give your fruits of choice a taste. Adjust the sugars according to their tartness and tapioca to the mixture's moisture. I believe the way of going by feel makes the best pie - one that my fellow kitchen mate insisted she must have another slice after a long night of dinner service and another for breakfast next day, without the need for any vanilla ice cream.
Adapted barely from Maggie Beer's Sour Cream Pastry and Deb Perelman's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Improved.
Yield: one 8 or 9-inch pie.
- 200 grams unsalted butter chilled, diced
- 250 grams plain flour
- 125 milliliters sour cream
- 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced/quartered if big, halved if tiny
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)
To make the pastry, dice the butter, then pulse with the flour in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F. On a well-floured counter, roll half of the pastry 3 mm thick, about 11 to 12-inch circle and carefully transfer to an 8 or 9-inch pie plate. (I normally roll the flat pastry over my rolling pin, then unroll it over the pie dish.)
Stir together strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt and tapioca flour in a large bowl. Mound filling inside bottom pie crust and dot with bits of unsalted butter, keeping the center with more filling than the sides. Roll out the other half of the pastry into a 10 to 11-inch circle. From here on, you can cut slits into it, do the lattice work or use pie cutters. Cover the pie with your choice of pastry decoration. Tuck the rim of pastry underneath itself and crimp decoratively.
Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush egg yolk mixture over the pastry. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly. Transfer pie to wire rack to cool. When fully cooled (several hours later), the pie juices will gel and cut nicely.
Do ahead: Pie keeps for up to three days at room temperature, usually mine will be gone on day two.
Continue reading Strawberry Pie
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