All about Food. B:9 Most of the blog will be about my various cooking experiments with some reviews of local restaurants thrown in once in a while. Reviews/food experiences from other place will be included also.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Italian-style Meatball

This dish was made back in October 20, but I've been neglecting this journal because of lots of family activities and then the death of our favorite dog. Now I have a bit of catching up to do.

It seems like spaghetti and meatball is more likely an American invention than an authentic Italian dish, but it's still mighty tasty in my book. This was my second attempt at making meatballs, and I feel that I was more successful with this batch than the first trial. I pretty much used the same recipe as last time to make the meatballs, but I put more care into combining the ingredients and forming the meatballs so that they didn't fall apart this time. The sauce is the usual that I learned from an Italian friend of mine.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Japanese Curry

While Wid's parents are away, I usually can get in a bit of cooking done on my own without worrying about pleasing people or about food being sent away to the other families. Last night I made Japanese-style curry, which is one of my favorite dishes, but because most people here don't like Japanese curry (not hot enough for them), I haven't made this dish since I came to Bali. Instead of following the recipe from my favorite cookbook, I went with the set of instructions my mom gave me years ago when I first started to learn cooking. The funny thing is the "recipes" my mom gave me were more like guideline than actual recipes. Things were a bit crazy at first because I couldn't find the vegetables or the meat in the kitchen, and then I discovered that my vegetable peeler disappeared so I ended up peeling the vegetables with a knife. Another annoying thing I discovered was that one of the carrots became rather wooden (a tough, fiberous ring in the middle was present, which made cutting very difficult). At least later we found out that the carrots were very sweet and tasty.

After chopping all the ingredients, I was ready to cook. Instead of using oil, I used butter for this batch. Garlic, pork (tenderized with soy sauce and corn starch), and onions were cooked first, and then carrots and potatoes were added later. Instead of water only, I used mostly milk with a bit of hot water to cover all the vegetables and meat. Once the carrots and potatoes became soft, I added the curry cubes. Curry cubes are awesome and so convinient, but one of these days I'm planning to make Japanese curry from scratch.

Wid really liked the curry. I think it's one of my best batches so far, thanks to the tips from my mom.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Gelatin versus Agar-Agar (and math rant)

I wanted to try out a Bavarois recipe that I got from one of my mom's cookbooks. The recipe calls for gelatin, but unfortunately, the only gelatin that's for sale in the local stores is cherry-flavored. I decided to use agar-agar to substitute for gelatin. I started doing research on the net, and I found that almost all the sites said to substitute equal amount by weight of gelatin with agar-agar, even though agar-agar sets firmer than gelatin (therefore ruin the ideal texture of the dish).

I became troubled by people keep calling agar-agar "vegetarian gelatin" because gelatin and agar-agar are NOT exact equivlant. Being a biologist, I always knew that agar-agar is derived from seaweed while gelatin is an animal product, and agar-agar is a kind of poly-saccharide while gelatin is proteins, so two chemically distinctive items. Because of the difference in chemical properties, the physical properies of each item are different also. Agar-agar needs to be boiled before it can dissolve in liquid (just like all those agarose gels/petri dishes I poured back in the lab) and it sets at room temperature. Gelatin, on the other hand, cannot be boiled in liquid and it needs a lower temperature to gel.

In my research for answers to my questions, I found an interesting article about different brands of gelatin can produce different levels of firmness. He contacted the company about the differences in the gelatin, and their answer was a formula that converted one "bloom" (gelling factor of the gelatin) factor to another. The author of the article got angry because he didn't understand it. What's so hard to figure this out? Weight (Bloom 2) = weight (Bloom 1) x square root (Bloom1/Bloom2). I'm not sure why he freaked out about this basic math showing the ratio between the two products. It's not like they wanted him to solve a calculus or even an algebra problem. The article was very interesting and it does show the problem of how to standardize recipes when the intrinsic property of an essential ingredient differs from one to another, but the guy really shouldn't have freaked out about simple math.

This reminds me of something else food and math related that I came across a while back. Someone wanted to make a cheesecake in a 25 cm round pan, but the recipe is for a cake in a 20 cm round pan so the person wanted to know what needs to be changed in the recipe to accommodate the new pan size. Someone replied that the person should increase the amount of ingredients by 25-30%. I really have no idea how that person got that answer because the area of a 25 cm round pan is about 1.5 times greater than a 20 cm round pan so you'll need a 50% or so increase of ingredient. Again, simple geometry math needed to figure this out.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends and family in US!

I do miss Thanksgiving with my family and eat my mom's food. This year my dad's side of the family is going to my parents' house for Thanksgiving. Maybe my aunt would bring the awesome (the best) Italian pastries from Lucibello. When I called my parents over the weekend, Mom already started her food preparation.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More Chinese-Japanese Food

Wid's parents and their chums were so intrigued by our comments of Mozaic, that they decided to go try out the restauant. While the parents were away (and us being forced on a diet because Wid's parents wanted to save room for the big dinner at Mozaic), Widhy and I decided to go to Ippin Nyukon for dinner again because we couldn't get our mind off of last week's mapo tofu. Wid was interested in trying the chili and garlic shrimp because he figured that, like mapo tofu, it's a favorite of the Japanese.

This time instead of getting ramen, we got mapo tofu and chili garlic shrimp dinner sets and for appetizer we ordered chilled chicken with sesame sauce. The appetizer was more of a chicken salad with cucumbers, fried noodles/friend shredded wonton noodles, tomatoes, and lettuce. There were two kinds of sauces on this dish, and in some ways it reminded me of the salad I had at this restaurant during my second visit. The portion of the appetizer was extraordinary, and after eating all the food and being too stuffed, we decided that next time we'll get people to come with us so we can share the food.

The mapo tofu was still as good as the last time. Wid really loved the chili shrimp dish though he wished that there were more shrimps. The shrimps were deep fried and then drenched or cooked in the red chili sauce. After he ate all the shrimps, he felt bad that all the sauce was going to waste because it was so good. In the end the hostess gave us two small cups of a strange smelling tea. I couldn't figure out the tea variety, but it was ok.

Next time we'll try more of the Chinese-sounding dishes. :)

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