Monthly Archives: April 2011

A little Italian in Normandie

Paris was blessed recently with glorious weather fit for a Royal wedding – alas, unfortunately for Kate and William, it was 2 weeks short of their wedding with climate change occurring on the wrong side of the Channel.  Perhaps on their special day, the weather cloud will move in their favour towards Britain.  But nous avait profité from this sunshine.  The Italian suggested we do the 2 hour drive to Deauville, a seaside town well known amongst les Parisiens for its beautiful tudor like architecture and its promenades des planches where chic Parisiennes can be seen with their oversized sunglasses and high heels having a walk on the promenade along the beach.  This planked promenade was constructed in 1923 to allow les dames to walk along the beach front without sullying their long dresses and wetting their feet.

Deauville in the evening on a balmy night is really the place to be.  The town centre was buzzing with life – the young and old, couples and families out for dinner, really taking advantage of the glorious weather.   I can see the reason why so many Englishmen buy their holiday homes here, even why chic Parisians who cannot live without their LV and Hermés want to grow roots in this town.  Can you believe it, kawan kawan, Deauville spots a very attractive shopping street with Loius Vuitton and Hermés bags sitting prettily in tudor fronted shops.  I can understand the Hermés brand being there because Deauville is a riding town, with its own race course.  But the LV?  Are the French that patriotic to their own brands and creations?  Well, you can take the Parisian out of Paris but not Paris out of the Parisian, mais bien sûr!

Well, dinner was quite something else.  I guess in the case of the Italian, you can take an Italian out of Italia but never Italia out of him.  So, it was very apt that the choice of restaurant rested on Pizza Santa Lucia.  Additionally, my iphone App – Places – suggested that we should head for Santa Lucia if one wanted some Pizzas and Les Pâtes for dîner.  So religiously, taking the advice of the ever useful and friendly iphone, we parked the car, might I say , rather easily even in a crowded town centre, where if one were in Paris, would take at least a half hour to find a spot.

RN was very excited about the choice of cuisine for dinner.  She wanted to eat lasagne.  She had a food craving in the middle of the afternoon one day, requesting that I cook her lasagne for dinner.  The lasagne she ordered had a very rich meaty ragu which tasted simply splendid.  The portion was just enough for one person unlike the gigantic ones the kids had gotten used to in NYC the week before.  Here is what RN ordered that night:


The plating in Italian restaurants is never as pretty as that in French establishments.  Italian restaurants always try to retain their rusticness and sense of home, very proud to serve up dishes the way Mamma does à casa.  I actually like it this way, as there is no fuss and plenty of thrill, if one is lucky enough to find a good Italian restaurant.  In this case, we did.

I ordered the plat du jour which was sardines fritures.  It was simply delicious in a perfect sort of way.  I like my fried sardines with a squeeze of lemon with every other mouthful smeared in tartar sauce.  I guess sardines are best eaten grilled or fried in a light batter like the ones I ordered:

Sardines Fritures

The Chinese usually prefer their fish steamed with ginger.  But one can hardly steam sardines, can one?  So this is the best way to eat them, bones and all.  There were really hao chi!

The other fried fish dish that is a favourite amongst the Navas is the calamari fritti.  This one RN loves very much.  I thought that the sotong served at this restaurant was simply divine.  I can taste the freshness of the squid even though they were covered in batter.   I like my rings of sotong with a squeeze of lemon but the little fairy princess likes hers just as they are:

Fried Sotong

For some strange reason, the Italian decided against the Pizza much to his regret.  Why?  Je ne sais pas but SS ordered her usual quattro formaggio which she generously shared with the Italian so he did luck out, fortunately for him. She reported it to be delish as did he!  I didn’t get a chance to taste her pizza because I was getting a little too full.  I could smell the oven baked goodness of the pizza dough though and I know that this is the sign of a good pizza.  The taste of oven-bakedness known to the Chinese as wok hai (in Cantonese) is what gives the pizza dough its flavour, enhanced of course with the cheese and tomato sauce. It’s that “little bit of burnt” on the crusts of the pizza that works magic, making one come back again for another bite of the same. Wok hai in fried kway teow is c’est la même chose.  In Cantonese Fried hor fun (kway teow in Singapore Hokkien), the rice sticks which are broad and flat are first fried in the wok before a gravy of meat and vegetables is poured over them.  Here I am not talking about the famous Char Kway Teow that all Singaporeans and Malaysians swear by.  The aforementioned version is served with a thick gravy.  That is a chance for another post, kawan kawan for the Cantonese Fried hor funis really a fav of mine.  Oops, I was waxing lyrical so much that I almost forgot to show you the pizza.  Here it is:

Quattro Formaggio

Observe the rotund pieces of chèvre.  Mmmmmmmm!  See those spots of burnt on the dough?  That, kawan kawan is the magic chargrilled taste that I was talking about earlier.

Pizza Santa Lucia

15 Avenue de la République 14800 Deauville, France

tel: 0899 234 693


Donnez moi le Yakiniku Don

Kawan kawan, I was inspired to prepare yakiniku don for la famiglia after the Pàques vacances simply because I felt like some thing Asian after a week of eating American in NYC.  I lie, of course because we did have Chinese in NYC, not once but 3 times;  we discovered this little Chinese eatery near the hotel where we stayed on 37th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues….but that is another story.

Well, conveniently for me and that yakiniku don, I had a piece of veal steak available in the freezer which I left to defrost a little before slicing the steak into the thin slivers of meat that sits atop a bowl of rice in this Japanese dish.  I learnt that it is better to slice a piece of meat when it is half frozen in order to get the paper thin slivers that some Asian dishes require.

This dish is really easy to prepare.  The only important thing to remember, in my books, is to slice the meat when the steak is half frozen, don’t forget, you heard it from me who heard it from my sister in Singapore who heard it from….  Of course a very sharp meat knife helps in slicing meat that has not been frozen in order to get the very thin slices for this dish but the very best thinly sliced beef comes from a half frozen block.  Did I mention that already?  And if you’ve already got a kitchen stocked in Chinese cooking ingredients, like soya sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger, you’re set to go.

Here is what I prepared to cook the meat.

The marinaded meat and the ingredients

I marinaded the meat with soya sauce, sesame oil, mirin and a light sprinkling of sugar since there is already sugar in the mirin. (you can substitute mirin for sherry or chinese cooking wine.  Then in this case, you can add more sugar to the marinade.)  I then stuck it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to allow the flavours of the marinade to seep into the meat.  I used shallots instead of onions because I like the taste of shallots better and I added slivers of garlic too.  This is optional of course because the original recipe doesn’t require garlic.  I like the taste of garlic as do the girls and the Italian.  Actually, a similar dish to this that has garlic in the meat is bulgoki or bulgogi, the Korean bbq beef dish.  The eggs which I beat before pouring over the cooked meat has been lightly seasoned with a drizzle of sesame oil and soya sauce.  This is how it looks when it has been added to the cooked meat:

Meat with Eggs Added

I am a stickler for 5 fruit and veg a day.  I add vegetables into everything I cook for la Famille because I want the girls to have the habit of eating healthily and to question any dish that does not come accompanied by les légumes.  Hence, the orange looking batons you see in the picture.

Carrots are such versatile vegetables and I assume, like in mine, carrots are a staple in almost all family fridges.  RN likes them crunchy and often munches on carrot sticks whilst “helping” me prepare and cook dinner.  Look, here’s a pic of her showing you the two vegetables that I’ve used for this version, my version, of yakiniku don:

Awwww! And here's what Mummy uesed...

Whenever I prepare carrots for my dishes, I give her bits of carrots to crunch and munch on whilst I slice the rest.  For added crunch, I’ve also added shredded cucumber to this dish that also acts as a garnish.  I shredded the cucumber with this very nifty device that I got at the Kitchen shop near me.  The blade is a ceramic one and very very sharp.  Nasty accidents can happen if one is careless and callous with this device.  The trick to keeping your fingers intact is of course to use the vegetable holder that comes with it or if you are like me, the rebel or rule breaker, who always wants to do things your way, then please just slide the vegetable gently over the blade, not, I repeat, not furiously but gently and chances are that your vegetables will be shredded without your fingers!

Cucumber shredder

The cooking time for this dish was less than 30 minutes.  I started preparing and marinading at 630 pm  (30 minutes to marinade in the fridge and I started the cooking process at 7 10) and by the time I heard the Italian’s key at the front door which is usually around 730, it was time to eat.  I served the meat over rice that I had cooked earlier in the rice cooker.   Doesn’t this look pretty?

The Finished Product

Honoured to present the St Honoré

Kawan kawan, it is my pleasure to present to you the St Honoré – a traditional French pastry created by pastry chef Chiboust in 1846 in honour of the patron saint of bakers.  This cake has come to symbolize the high standards in French pastry making.  

CB, my neighbour and a passionate foodie, invited me to try one at her appartement the other day.  She said that it is her husband’s (GM of Shang Paris) favourite dessert.  The man has very high food standards, so who am I to doubt that this St Honoré that you see in the photo above was anything but?  Kawan kawan, I was in pastry heaven.  The caramlized ball of choux pastry filled with Créme Anglaise was simply sublime.  The base of pate brissé, flakey and crispy had the right combination of sucrée and salée – sweet and salty.  The bavarian cream although not good on the hips was  trés sedap on the lips.

I am not usually fond of cakes and pastries.  I like the look of certain well decorated cakes but I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth to desire sinking my teeth into them.  But in Paris, all that changed.  One can’t live in The City of Light and not get into the habit of indulging one’s taste buds in gateâux and pâtisseries.  After all, the French cakes and pastries are more than well decorated, they are so bagus that you just keep coming back for more…..thank goodness everything that  I need to do is within walking distance.  The only way to keep fit and  pounds off the hips is to walk, walk and walk…..towards the next pâtisserie.

Oreo Cupcakes

Cupcakes have taken Paris by storm, thanks to the sheer numbers of Les Americaines here.  J’adore les cupcakes, so I am very happy that they have arrived in Paris.  In London on the Portobello Road, The Hummingbird Bakery used to be where I would go and indulge in them.   Additionally, this is where Londoners and tourists alike could get American style cupcakes.  But alas, I couldn’t persuade The Italian to bring the Hummingbird here!

Alors, I was thrilled when my kawan and follow member of the AWAP board (she is Chairwoman)  announced her new business in Cupcake baking.   I was first in line to order some oreo cupcakes pictured here:

Oreo Cupcake

The kids wolfed them down and RN, being only 4 and half was amazed that the oreos she used to eat in London and Singapore appeared atop a cupcake and within it.  Magic, my friends, magic!  and kawan kawan, they were truly sedap! So morish that I couldn’t stop at one, although I know I should’ve…the mind was willing but the flesh, erm mouth was weak.  I asked GWF if she could show me how to bake some, as some of you may know, I DO NOT bake…yet.  I am delighted to be able to share with you her website: where you can order her cupcakes and fantasy cakes.

Kawan kawan, The Italian may not have been able to bring me Hummingbird, but Paris has brought me sweetgraces.  Life is good!  🙂

Mee Goreng à la Mother Hubbard

Old Mother Hubbard, went to the cupboard

To find herself something to eat.  But when she got there,

the cupboard was…….bare!!!

Kawan Kawan, I have been so busy this week that I forgot to stock up the fridge. I even forgot to write out a list for manny Ted to get groceries.  So last night’s dinner was conjured up using whatever that I had found in the ice box and a packet of dried noodles that I had purchased in the supermarché eons ago.  My mother always has stuff in the house for any and every occassion and this bad habit is something I picked up from her.  So, thank you Mum!

I have been dreaming of mee goreng lately, kawan kawan.  I remember eating this Indian dish at the hawker centres as a child.  Mee Goreng means fried noodles in Malay but in Singapore, it is usually sold at the Indian eatery or Mamak stall. You can eat it as a main course or shared with family and friends.

I have special memories of eating mee goreng at the Satay Club Hawker Centre by the sea front at the Esplanade.   This hawker centre was in the open air and evenings were the best times to go.  As a child, (many  light years ago, I’m afraid, my friends) hawker centres in Singapore were all al fresco.  The Satay Club was where all the Malay satay ‘chefs’ would congregate to sell satay, of course with the odd Indian frying up mee goreng, bee hoon (Vermicelli) Goreng or Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice) at his stall.  The satay-man, usually wearing a sarong, would barbecue his skewers of chicken, beef or mutton whilst sitting on a low stool which makes him look like he is squatting in front of his bbq.   I have vivid memories of rows and rows of Malay men barbecuing their satay, fan in hand with clusters of children around him waiting for the their satay to be grilled to finally sink their teeth into them. When the meat was well done, Encik Satay-man would yell out for the bus boy, usually a relative working for him, to serve up the skewers to the table that had ordered them accompanied by a bowl of peanut sauce.  In between sticks of satay, I would have mouthfuls of mee goreng.

Sadly, the Satay Club was demolished in 1995 to make way for a new theatre to be built and the extension of a motorway.  But that is another story.

Last night called for some quick thinking.  It was 10 minutes to 7 and The Italian would be home soon, usually by half past 7, just in time for dinner.  And of course, not to mention, I have two starving children to feed as well.  (This blogging business is just so addictive!!!  I had to tear myself from the computer, tear myself from blogging, kawan kawan in order to cook dinner.  Sigh!  A woman’s job is never done!)  And I had to cook the dinner in 30 minutes.

So with whatever greens I could find, a half packet of frankfurters, this was what I made:

Hubbard inspired Mee Goreng

It’s nothing like the real thing, of course but it was as close to it as I could magic up in 30 minutes with the given ingredients.  Next time, I will use kecap (pronounced kay chap) manis instead of ketchup. Kecap manis is really sweetened soya sauce.  In Paris, the Chinese supermarkets like Tang Freres will stock them or you can purchase a bottle at the Pinoy shop/Filipino store.  Instead of sea salt, I used soya sauce which gives it that umami taste so necessary in Asian cuisine.  If you were to use kecap manis, then only a dash of soya sauce will do.  I also drizzled some sesame oil into my noodles.  This is optional, of course.

Here’s a link I found that has a good recipe for mee goreng: style!

Scrumptious Steamed Ginger Cod

Kawan kawan,  the other morning, on my way home from the school drop off, I chanced upon a poissonerie off the Raymond Poincaré.  This little fishmongers was tucked away at the end of a passage way.  I would never have found it if I didn’t venture into this Parisien passage following a signboard that was advertising the services of an art shop for les petites feés.  My little fairy princess will be turning 5 soon and mamma was looking for a party venue.

Monsieur Poissonnier was very friendly in a chubby sort of way and his wife was equally charming in a less chubby sort of way.  My eyes fell upon a box of cod fillets still packed in ice freshly delivered from Rungis Market.  Aaahhh! I thought to myself, what I would do to have a bit of steamed ginger cod!  So, I purchased a generous piece of fillet that I asked Monsieur to couper en deux.  I would steam one half and save the other for another day.

The girls love their steamed cod.  It’s a childhood dish that SS remembers well, cod doused in a soya/sesame oil sauce served over steamed rice or rice congee. RN, still only 4 and half eats her cod first, then the rice drizzled with that yummy sauce.  This is how it looks:

Steamed Ginger Cod

This dish is easy peasy to make.  My mother used to cook it the old fashion way – in a wok.  Yes, you can steam meat, fish and vegetables in a wok, kawan kawan.  But these days, one can use a steamer or the microwave.  I, on the other hand, discourage this type of steaming, preferring instead to use this contraption:

Pasta/Drainer Steamer Pot

Necessity is the mother of invention and this is the mother of all steamers invented by moi!, yes moi! due to the lack of steaming apparatus in my house appartement in Paris.  This contraption, as the name indicates, doubles as a pasta pot and drainer.  When steaming, I place the fish or meat or vegetables in a metal dish which you’ve seen in the picture above that shows the ginger cod with a generous sprinkling of cilantro (coriander).  The Teochew word for it is wang sui.  Casting my mind back to my mother’s favourite phrase, ‘don’t forget the wang sui!’ , I remembered to dress my fish with this herb and also a handful of chopped spring onions.

This metal dish is then placed into the drainer which sits atop the pot filled half way with water that is allowed to boil to create the vapeur needed to cook the fish.  15 minutes later and voilà, you have steamed ginger cod.  Cod is an easy fish to cook and is best eaten fresh, that is, purchased on the same day.  It is an easy fish to wean children on too.  Both my girls were weaned on cod.  I decided to ignore the warnings given by paediatric nutritionists of the possible effects of anaphylactic shock caused by cod in toddlers.  I am not advocating that you take this gung ho approach of mine, of course.  This was a perfectly self induced choice because I was determined that my children would love fish and luckily for my kids who have me as their mother, they do!

Well, steamed ginger cod is not for everybody.  The Italian, for one, abhors steamed ginger cod.  He doesn’t know what he’s missing, of course.  So, remember the other half of the fillet?  Well, I saved it for him.  Remember also that cod is best eaten fresh?  So, I decided to follow my own advice and bake the other half with Ligurian pesto that I should have made, as any bona fide cook ought to do.  But I haven’t yet learnt to make pesto.  I was told that it is easy but the quality of the pesto depends on the basil and that basil from Genoa is the best.  So, Genoa being rather too far away  and not knowing where in Paris to get Genovese Basil, I, out of necessity, popped open a bottle of Sacla Ligurian pesto sauce, spread it generously on the cod, drizzled a generous amount of olive oil and stuck the fish in the oven.  Here’s one I made earlier:

Ligurian Pesto Cod

This took me only 15 minutes.  I served it with fresh egg Fettucini mixed with the olive oil from the cod. Yummms!

It’s All Kosher

Kosher Meat

I’ve always wanted to pop into the resto next door.  So one day, a rather uneventful day by weather standards, I just walked right into Gaspard, a kosher resto right by the immeuble.  Convenient, non? kawan kawan.  I just love it that in Paris, you can have a boucherie right down stairs from you where you can get the choicest cuts of boeuf and agneau, or a boulangerie two buildings away and if you are lucky, a good one at that so that you just can’t say ‘no!’ to a baguette on your way home.  I digress….Gaspard

It was nothing short of strange, I guess, for a bunch of Jewish men in their skull caps to see a Chinese girl waltzing into the restaurant at the height of the lunch hour.  Fortunately, I was wearing a rather pretty top with my jeans, so at least I am assured that their stares weren’t because of me being in my joggers and Uggs (my usual school run attire).  I was politely greeted by the maitre who gestured to the table by the entrance when I asked, ‘Il y a une place for une personne, sil vous plait?’ I don’t know if it was in grammatically correct French, but he understood me at least.

I ordered the pavé aux poivres – the peppered steak – accompanied by les haricots verts and the pureé a la maison.  I wanted some red meat that day, hence,  the steak, and I asked for it to be cooked à point which roughly translates to medium/rare-to-well-done. To the French, and this depends on the chef, à point is simply the word you use when you don’t want your meat too leathery or dripping in red jus.  Now, I’ve had steak cooked à point where the middle is still blue and I’ve had à point where it’s really more done than medium rare.  So, like I said, it all depends on who’s cookin’ the meat.

Gaspard’s steak was a little on the chewy side but their à point was as I like it, not too sanglant, bloody.  However, a lot has to be said for kosher meat.  This being my first morsel of it, I must say, it wasn’t my cup of tea – no offence intended. Perhaps because I am used to tasting the meatiness in the meat which I guess comes from not having to hang the meat to drip dry. Mais, Je ne sais pas.  It’s really ‘boy pai’,  kawan kawan but I wouldn’t dash back to Gaspard again in such a hurry.

I will put this down to another eating experience.

The Last Laksa

The Last Laksa

Kawan kawan, I was sad to learn that my favourite hotel, The Shangri-La in Paris is removing their Laksa from their all day dining menu.  So I went with my neighbour and eating companion to lunch there yesterday to have my last morsel of curry Laksa.  The soup was as I remembered it on the first day I had this Laksa – bisque-y and tasting of the shrimp stock that is used to flavour the soup.  It had a hint of lemon grass, enough to flavour but not overpower.  The soup base is very important in any Laksa, making the Laksa what it is.  The GM of Shang (he kindly came over to say hi) told me that there are different varieties of the Laksa. The southerners in Malaysia cook it differently from Northerners.  Hence, the Singapore Laksa being a tad more coconut base is really not the same from the Penang Assam Laksa, it being on the sourish side, etc etc.  The Shang version is a mélange of the Assam and Singapore versions, in my opinion.  Hence, the lemon grass added a hint of ‘sour’ to it and the little bit of coconut added the ‘lemak’ – the Malay word for creamy coconutty.   The Shagri-La, that little piece of Asia in this chic European city, will be adding other dishes to their all day dining and I can’t wait to try their Ikan Assam Curry.

A last word on Laksa – as a child growing up in Singapore, I remember eating Laksa at the hawker centres garnished with a type of finely chopped herb known as Vietnamese coriander (local Singaporeans simply call it Laksa leaf) and a spoonful of blood cockles – see hum.  The cockles are blood red and still raw when spooned into the Laksa soup slowly cooking in the heat of the soup whilst you ingest your dish.  The see hum adds an altogether new dimension to this Nyonya dish making it all the more sedap.

I’ve been told that the best Laksa in Singapore can be found in the East Coast and is simply known to the locals as Katong Laksa.  Here’s what one blogger had to say about this famous Singaporean dish:

Osso Buco Delicious

Osso Buco Delicious

Cooking anything Italian for The Italian is never easy.  I still remember the first time I cooked spaghetti alla pomodoro con melanzane – spaghetti with tomato sauce cooked with aubergine.  But that is a story for another day!  So when I told him that I’d be cooking Osso Buco, he raised his eyebrows and gave me his ‘vediamo’ – ‘ok-let’s-see’ – look.  Then when I told him that Osso Buco is a French dish, he rolled his eyes and said in Italian, ‘Ciao! Il nome Osso Buco e nome Italiano’ which roughly translates into, ‘Yeah! And baguette is an Italian bread!’

And to make my life more difficult, the Osso Buco is to be served with Risotto Milanese, a saffron risotto that the MIL excels in and that The Italian remembers with relish his childhood summer days eating this dish.

Well, after labouring in the kitchen for over 3 hours, Osso Buco Delicious was served.  The Italian savoured every morsel, even mopping his plate with the last bit of baguette.  ‘Making little shoes’ is what the Italians call the action of mopping one’s dish with a bit of bread.  Fare la scarpetta is a compliment to any Italian cook and to every Italian mamma.

What’s more, the girls loved it too.  RN who is 4 and half yummed her way through dinner, the risotto being her favourite.  Luckily for me, she didn’t mention nonna’s risotto giallo.  SS, who is 13 and a budding foodie, ate every bit of her bone marrow and rice.  I didn’t tell her that osso buco is really the bone marrow but when she asked what the hole in the bone was, The Italian simply said, ‘buco!’  That, kawan, literally is what buco means.

The recipe I used was sent to me by a friend and another cooking partner from London.  Here’s the recipe:

I followed every step religious, this being the first time I am cooking osso buco.  I compared other recipes and one called for the meat to be dredged in flour which I did seasoned generously with salt and pepper.  This helped seal in the flavours of the meat and thicken the sauce.  I browned the meat in an iron cast casserole dish that allowed me to pack the osso buco together so I didn’t need to tie the meat to the bone.  The casserole was then put into the oven for 2 hours.  This dish is really easy to prepare and truly sedap, so have no fear if this is your first experience with osso buco.

For the risotto Milanese, I cooked it to recipe requirements and stood stirring my risotto over a glass of white wine until each grain of rice was cooked.  This took roughly 20 minutes.

I have never made dessert with mascarpone before.  When my kawan, neighbour, cooking and shopping partner said that we ought to try it, I didn’t hesitate to say ‘yes’.  However, the recipe we chose together called for strawberries which I had forgotten to purchase.  In a bind, I googled ‘what to do with mascarpone’ and this beautifully easy recipe came up.  Here is how it looks:

Caramelized Banana Surprise

It is easy peasy to make, something you can throw together in 30 minutes between clearing the table and setting it for dessert.  I grated lemon zest over the caramelized bananas to enhance the mixture of honey and mascarpone.  The jing gang ate it up with relish and satisfaction.  I am definitely making it again.  Next time, I will dress it with mint and more lemon zest.  Here’s the recipe:

4 servings

You will need:

4 firm bananas, peeled and cut into thirds

4 tbsp honey (I used acacia)

4tbsp mascarpone

generous grating of lemon zest

In a non stick pan, heat the honey over a low heat.  Add the banana and cook for around 1 minute.  Add the mascarpone, stir until combined with honey and banana.  This should take about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Grate some lemon zest over the bananas before serving.  This dessert is best served warm.