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.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Lanai Reopening

I want to give an update about the previously mentioned restaurant that was burned down in a fire. After months of struggles (first some sort of legal hassles concerning land rental) and then delays with the construction, Lanai is officially reopened! Our friends and I will return to Lanai this Saturday, if it doesn't suffer another accident. (knock on wood) I hope the food and menu will still be as excellent as before. I really miss the lightly seared, sesame-coated tuna with wasabi mayo and green beans. I'll post a mini review later.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Chocolate-Covered Chocolate Croissant

We're on strike to protest Wid's mom's policy regarding dogs so no cooking for at least a week. Times like this makes me glad that I didn't teach anyone in the house the recipes I brought with me.

Wid and I have been obsessing about chocolate-covered chocolate croissant from BreadTalk. Previous, we were crazy about their custard filled bread with dipped chocolate on each ends (double impact), but we got kind of tired of that after eating way too many of them. At first I ate a whole croissant on my own, but then we decided to share because it's so sweet and filling. It's the perfect midnight snack along with a glass of cold milk. It's a croissant filled with dark chocolate that has a different flavor than the chocolate coating, which is a bit sweeter. What I like about the chocolate used by BreadTalk is that it doesn't have that greasy aftertaste that I experience with chocolates from other bakery. I suspect the other bakery puts margarine in their chocolate mixture. Ick.

As much as I like the price and taste of breads from BreadTalk (a chain from either Singapore or Malaysia?), I feel bad about its impact on the rest of the bakery businesses in Bali. The others cannot compete because of BreadTalk's cost cutting measurements and business structure. At least for some local bakeries, like Bali Bakery, they learned to adopt by focusing more on the cafe aspect of the business. My Japanese-style cheesecake still kicks ass compared to BreadTalk version. Haw.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dinner with Friends

Last Saturday we went to an acquaintance's villa for dinner in Ubud. Since our friends were all bringing something, I decided to make something to bring to the dinner also. In the end I decided on the salty cake (鹹蛋糕) because at least two other people (turned out there was another person) who were Taiwanese, and I figure they might want something familiar yet unusual. I had surprisingly little problem with this cake, and it turned out fluffy and goregous. Too bad I didn't get to eat the cake so I don't know if it was as fluffy as it looked. At least everyone seemed to like it, after recovering from the initial shock that there's meat on the cake. Lexo, our friend from HK, really loved the cake, and he requested Ma La Gao (馬拉糕) next (steamed cake that's commonly found in dimsum).

The villa was goregous and cozy. The host provided so much delicious food. Her dishes seemed like a mix of Asian (Chinese and Indonesian) and western style. Once example was the baked rolls, which had the consistency/density/taste of Chinese buns. My favorite was the dumplings and its spicy, gingery dipping sauce. One couple brought egg rolls which were fanastic because they fried the rolls at the villa. Lexo brought his Cantonese-style chicken soup which was very light and delicious. I managed to figure out the "secret" ingredient by tasting the soup. The interesting thing is that locals aren't very keen on Chinese soup because the soup is not salty and therefore the locals think it's bland. Wid said that many of them judge the saltiness of the dish by how well it salts/flavors the rice.

After the food was the drinking and talking. Carol the host invited a bunch of other expats so it was nice meeting new people. We tried a bunch of wines while others had beer and whiskey. Wine of the Gods brand wines (Pinot noir and a red whose name escaped me at the moment) weren't too bad, but the rose from Hatten was pretty gross.

Next week we're visiting one of Honey's friends' place for early dinner (We met the Australian dude and his local wife at this dinner in Ubud).

I didn't take pics of the dinner, but here's my cake:

Some quick notes about the cake for my own purpose. The pan is around 23.5 cm in diameter. Almost exactly the same preparations were made like the previous cake, except I shortened the cooking time to 16-17 min for the first layer and 10-12 min for the second layer.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What is That?

This morning I noticed these really huge fruits with light green skin. Each fruit was about a palm and a half long. It turned out that these are white mango, a Balinese speicality. I've had white mangoes here before, but I've never seen it whole before. Beside the white flesh, the fruit is slightly alcoholic which gives it a distinct taste. Wid's mom mentioned that there are white mangoes in Java too, but those are usually sour or bitter. Another reason why I'm happy to be in Bali instead of Java. Haha.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Mushroom Velouté with(out) Almonds

Psyched up from the success of the salsa and the chicken, I wanted to try out the mushroom soup recipe from Fast Food My Way. I have never made pureed soup before, but after seeing soups made this way on various shows, I decided to check out this type of soup. The recipe looked very tempting, and I thought it was something Wid's parents might enjoy.

It was amazing how much shallots and mushrooms (button and wood ear) were needed for this soup. The shallots and garlic were browned in butter and then a bit of flour was added to the mixture before stock and mushrooms were added. Once the soup has been cooked for about half an hour, I tasted the soup and found it to be bland. I then realized that our chicken stock is homemade (and also contained no salt). It's amazing how a bit of salt really brings out the flavor of dishes, yet when too much salt is added, the dish becomes inedible. I then used the blender to puree the soup. Heavy cream was added to the soup before the whole mixture was boiled again. To serve the soup, I laddled generous portion onto a bowl. For garnish, I drizzled a bit of the cream and placed a bit of the chopped wood ear mushroom in the center of the bowl. The recipe suggested adding some almonds, but since I'm not sure where to find good almonds here, I had to omit it this time. Fresh French bread and a simple green salad rounded out the rest of the lunch menu.

I really liked the idea of using shallots and wood ears to enhance the flavor of the soup. I was pleasantly surprised about using wood ears (木耳) because it's known more in Chinese cooking than western cooking. It gave a good flavor and crunch to the soup.

Wid's parents thought the soup was excellent and it was even better than the mushroom soup from one of our favorite restaurants (too earthy). I think now Wid's mom is so confident about my ability in soup making even though all I did was follow a recipe, she wants me to tackle New England clam chowder.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cauliflower and Chicken with Red Hot Salsa

Last night I tried out a recipe from the Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way book. This time was the cauliflower and chicken with red hot salsa. I made the salsa from the same book twice already, and it has been a hit with the family. Then, last Thursday Wid's dad and I was watching the show (how I found the cookbook in the first place), and Wid's dad thought the chicken dish looked quite good so I decided to try the recipe. I ended up boiling the cauliflower instead of half steaming/half boiling like the instruction, but it turned out ok to me. The chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper, were cooked in a covered pot with a bit of water and butter. I was so surprised that the chicken was done in about five minutes. Once the chicken and the cauliflower were cooked, the salsa with a bit of olive oil was poured on top for more color and flavor.

Everyone seemed to like the dish, especially Wid's dad who had seconds. Wid didn't like it with the rice, and I have to agree with him there. To us rice need to be paired with something cooked. It reminded Wid's mom of Thai food, while the dish reminded me of Mexican (like a burritto). For today's lunch, our cook reassembled the dish with the leftover chicken by adding more freshly cooked cauliflower. I'm still amazed by how fast the dish was done and how light yet flavorful it was. Fast food indeed.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why I Cook

Just a bit about my cooking/food history. I always enjoyed food. Because I have an awesome mom who cooks very, very well, I didn't learn to cook when I was little. She did get us to help her make dumplings, potstickers, and various other Chinese snacks. I did bake quite a bit after taking home economics back in 8th grade. I love sweets so I baked. Cooking really didn't interest me all that much because my mom fed us so well that we didn't have any wants.

I started cooking out of desperation when I was doing grad school at MIT. The school dining program consisted of fast foods and other nasty stuff (Cornell turned out to be food paradise compared to the slop at MIT). My first cookbook (not including the cookie book that I had since around 8th-9th grade) was acquired around then. It was a book on Japanese cooking, which I still use to this day. My mom also gave me a couple of valuable recipes for various versatile Chinese-style sauces. When I met Wid, my appreciation for food increased because he too was a food lover. It was also great that he could actually cook, and his dishes were different from what I could make. I miss his pot roast, ironically a recipe from his ex-girlfriend. After meeting him as well as a bunch of new people, I realized that people whom I'm friends with are fellow food lover.

At Massachusettes and than Michigan I really didn't cook too much because of first school and then working full time. I did not really cook too much since there were excellent restaurants in both places. I did cook with my friends, which was a lot of fun. One of the fondest experience is making apple pies with my friend Lynn.

It was not until I moved to Bali did I start cooking a lot more. Once again, desperation was the key reason why I started cooking. I'm lucky to be in Bali instead of other parts of Indonesia because this island has a fairly international cuisine available, but some things are still sorely lacking, such as decent Chinese food. I miss my mom's cooking as well as things I've taken for granted back in US (like pancakes and cheese!!). I cook mostly for me and Wid, but I also enjoy introducing new dishes to Wid's parents, who are surprisingly receptive. Now I have several dishes that are constantly craved by Wid's parents, and I think that's the best compliment one can get.

I am still a total newbie when it comes to cooking, but I hope I'll become a better cook in the years to come. I still look up to my mom for her skills and knowledge, and I still ask her for advice and recipes.


Bavarois (trial #2)

Accepting Wid's request for bavarois, I tried making the dessert again on Monday. This time I reduced the amount of sugar by a quarter (60 g to 45 g). I took more care in dissolving the gelatin and in reheating the mixture after the addition of the egg yolk. When I served the dessert to Wid, I added a bit of the leftover ganache from the chocolate cake. No whipped cream this time because I didn't want to open up the 1 L box. He really loved the second batch because of the combination of the good chocolate and the slightly less sweet cream. He also thought the texture was better though I do not know if the lessening of sugar contributed to the change in the texture.

Since Ana and Hadi came to dinner for the Taiwanese deep fried pork chops, I gave them the dessert too. First they shared the one cup of bavarois. Then, Hadi came into the kitchen and asked, "So what other desserts are there?" We gave him the second cup of bavarois and a slice of the chocolate cake. He seemed to like the chocolate a lot even though normally he hates chocolate (it gives him a head ache).

So I guess mission accomplished. Next French dessert on the list is eclair. I need to find more ways of using the ganache before it goes bad.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tonkatsu Sandwich

Yesterday for lunch Widhy and I decided to make tonkatsu sandwich. We tried this dish a few months ago after we saw this really informative Japanese food show Fit for a King. Wid's bro saw the same episode around the same time as us and also had the idea of trying the dish out, but we beat him to it and made the sandwiches right after we saw that particular episode. It was pretty good last night, but based on our experience from the last attempt, we made little changes to make the dish even better. The sandwich basically consisted of a piece or two thin tonkatsu, sauce made by Widhy, shredded cabbage, thinly sliced onions, thickly cut white bread, and lettuce. The secret of the nice presentation (and keeping the sandwich from falling apart) is pressing the sandwich with a cutting board for 30 seconds. Our cook was very impressed by the sandwich for its taste and look. Wid's parents like the sandwich too. Wid's dad even requested a sandwich made for dinner.

Next time we'll try a croquette sandwich. We don't care that Wid's mom complained that it's too much carb. Haha.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Gâteau au Chocolat (Chocolate Cake)

While I read reading my new book Jacques Pépin's The Complete Techniques, I came across a recipe for the basic sponge cake (génoise) that's very versatile. I decided to try out the recipe because I'm a fan of sponge cakes. The recipe called for two 8-inches round pan but we didn't have any in the house so I ended up using two 9-inches pan instead. What I thought was interesting was the first step where you heat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla over boiling water or the burner to make it lukewarm. Then you "over beat" the mixture for about 10 minutes because you need to add the melted butter at the very last stage. Flour was then sifted and folded into the mixture. Because the oven temperature is almost impossible to adjust, I ended up baking the cakes at around 170-175 C. When the cake came out of the oven, it looked gorgeous with this wonderful golden brown color. The smell was lovely also. Wid's mom thought the cake was a bit undercook, but it looked and felt fine to me. It was a bit hard to get the cake out of the pan, but maybe I was a bit too impatient while waiting for the cake to cool a bit.

After thinking for quite a bit about what sort of cake to make (fruit with cream, chocolate, or tiramisu), I decided on the chocolate cake filled with whipped ganache and coated with more ganache. The next day I assembled the cake. I cut each cake into halves. I couldn't cut the cake into thirds because it was too thin. I made two batches of ganache with semisweet chocolate (instead of half bitter/half semisweet because it's impossible to find bitter chocolate here) and heavy cream. First batch was whipped and flavored with a bit of rum, and I used this to frost each layer of the cake and all over the cake once it was assembled. The second batch was allowed to cook to room temperature which was then poured all over the cake to make the shell/coating. I wanted to follow the direction in the book to make the white frosting, which was used as decorations, but because we ran out of eggs I couldn't make the frosting nor could I make another frosting that I used for neapoleon because we can't find corn syrup. In the end, I combined a bit of powdered sugar with a bit of honey, water, and lime juice to make something that's workable. Unfortunately, I found out later that it doesn't cool well, but at least I got to decorate the cake.

It was really fun trying to frost and decorate the cake (a first for me), but the best and messiest part of the experience was dumping a large amount of ganache on the cake and letting it run off to the counter. The cake looked very amateur-ish, but it tasted great. Widhy really liked the taste of the cake. I thought the chocolate and the sponge cake went well together and not overwhelmingly sweet, but I'm not happy with the texture of the cake. My mom's sponge cakes always been softer and finer in texture, but all the cakes I had here are coarse. I'm pretty sure one of the reason is that the local flour is inferior to flour from US. Maybe once I mastered basic cake making techniques, I can switch to imported flour to make a better cake.

It kind of sucks to be handicapped by not so awesome ingriendents and bad equiptments. It's very frustrating. Well, at least the chocolate was awesome and it did produce really awesome results.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006


Wid, his parents, and I returned from our trip to Singapore. I managed to find lots of ingredients for Chinese cooking as well as gelatine for cheap. With the last ingredient in hand, I decided to make Bavarois or Bavarian Cream Monday afternoon. The recipe I used was from my mom's Chinese-translated cookbook on creating desserts without an oven. Since the oven in the house is still broken, this cookbook comes in very handy. I already tried Blun's Mangen, which Wid really liked a few months ago. I read in several places on how to make Bavarois and they all seemed to differ in terms of the order of the steps. For this attempt, the steps were modified based a bit. I first soaked the gelatine powder in water. I warmed the milk and the sugar on the stove until the sugar melted. I then added the gelatine. I then beat two egg yolks in a glass bowl and slowed added the sugar-milk mixture to the eggs. I poured the mixture into a sieve, though I think the sieve was too coarse because everything simply passed through it. Instead of immediately putting the mixture on ice, I returned it to the stove and cooked the cream until it coated my wooden spoon. When I was able to draw a line on the spoon with the coated cream, the cream was the correct consistency. What was interesting is when the cream was almost done, I could hear the change in the sound of the spoon hitting the side of the pot. I let the cream cool in an ice bath as I beat the whipping cream. In my first attempt at beaten the cream, for some mysterious reason, the cream started to curdle like when milk and something acidic were combined together so I had to redo the batch. Once the cream was whipped, I had trouble incorporating the cream and the whipped cream. I think the problem was I added the whipped cream to the cream instead of vice versa. Eventually everything was mixed in nicely and I placed the dishes into the refridgerator.

To serve the Bavarois, I added freshly whipped cream and a piece of Hersey Kiss on each dish of cream. Everyone seemed to like it, but it might be too sweet for Wid's parents' pallet. I thought it was not too sweet, but next time I'll decrease the amount of sugar. I'm also tempted to make a chocolate version later.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Home-cooked Meal with Friends

Wid and I invited our friends Sulis and Lexo over for dinner while Wid's parents were in Bangkok back in early November. Since we know they love Japanese food, I decided to cook Japanese food for them. We had such a bad luck with gathering ingredients that day. Our favorite grocery store totally let us down because they didn't have sushi-grad tuna. We opted for salmon instead. They even ran out of kampyo which is needed for futomaki. In the end we had to adjust our menu to the ingredients that we did have on our hands. We had many of the dishes that we made previously, but this time I tried a new dish--tomago. Unfortunately, we didn't have a nice rectangle pan to make the egg omlet look good. First pan I used was our normal (kind of crappy) pan and the result was disasterous because the egg got stuck on the pan. The cook found the non-stick griddle pan for me and that was a better choice for making this kind of omlet. The size of the pan was still too big so I had quite a bit of trouble rolling and folding the soft eggy sheet into an appropriate shape (rectangular box). It wasn't very pretty but at least it tasted good.

The rest of the meal consisted of oyakodon, nasu miso, sushi (spicy salmon, avacado, cucumber), miso soup, and goma-ae. Widhy had a revelation about how to improve his spicy salmon sushi, so he was very happy about that and the resulting sushi. I didn't have too much trouble getting everything together, and I was done at 7 PM sharp, which was the first for me. Unfortunately, our friends got lost and they didn't arrive until about 7:30. At least the food didn't get cold and everyone seemed to enjoy the food. They gave us a very nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (Fortant 2004, from Southern France). Sulis and Lexo want to invite us over to their place next time and Lexo will cook for us. I look forward to see what they'll make and enjoy our time with them.

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