Monthly Archives: October 2011

Cooking Thai with Jazz

Jazz has to be the most relaxing music to my ears next to Classical.  I often cook with Wynton Marsalis blowing his trumpet in the background or with Mozart’s ephemeral tunes floating into the kitchen, sometimes Maria Callas sings her arias keeping me company.

But kawan kawan, I’ve never cooked Thai with Jazz before, until I met Kochapan, that is.  She is one very jazzy (excuse the pun) Thai cook and teacher.  I had the pleasure of joining some Asian women on a Thai cooking experience in the humble abode of Kochapan M.  Her home is in the 18th arrondissement with easy access to not one but 4 Asian supermarkets.  How lucky is that?  For me to get my Asian supplies, I have to traipse all the to the 13th and back with shopping trolley and bags of Chinese greens by métro!  That is not an easy feat kawan kawan, trust me!  Bottles of soya sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil, not to forget, oyster sauce all weigh quite a bit if you are like me and cannot stop at 4 of each!  I buy in bulk, my friends, economies of scales and all that, plus I don’t have to go back to the 13th again until I run out of supplies, and at the rate that I stock up, it’s about every 6 months or so, it seems, or until I fancy fresher stuff like bak choy, kai lan and garlic shoots.

I digress, back to cooking Thai with Jazz.  Well, I signed up with AWAP for this course, organised by our very own efficient and knowledgable Shella M.  We met at the métro Marx Dormoy by the MacDonalds, all 6 ladies in anticipation of learning how to cook Phad Thai, Saté Kai and Som Tam, all dishes that we order and eat with relish in Thai restos in Paris and abroad.

Kochapan takes us on a tour of her arrondissement, showing us the Asian markets where she buys her supplies for her home and also for her cookery school.  I learnt a few new vegetables that day, discovering the stem of the lotus flower that Thai people add into their curries because its spongy flesh soaks up the sauce and becomes delectable.  But cleaning and washing this plant is difficile, cautioned Kochapan. I like it that in Asia, due to many reasons and one of them being economics, Asian people eat everything.  Who would have thought of eating the stem of the lotus flower? And bamboo shoots?  Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

At her beautiful spa like appartement, Kochapan appears, from behind a typically Thai crafted wooden door that I thought was only decorative, in her uniform.  She is wearing the generic Thai costume of somebody from central Thailand.  Her movements are graceful and elegant.

Our Host and Teacher

She gestures us to the living room where we are offered a Thai coconut, chilled with a decorative flower sitting atop a black olive.  I was in heaven, kawan kawan.  I had no desire to move back to Asia anymore.  I mentally took note that Kochapan’s husband is a French architect and can easily create this Asian haven for me, if I wish it to be, and abracadabra, I’m back in SE Asia.  I have to run that pass the Italian, for sure. We’d save tons of money on our yearly pilgrimage back to the East, if only I had an appartement like Kochapan.  Oh, and did I mention that she has a sauna too?  She’s working on the next part of her business plan where she’ll be offering a spa package including Thai massage, sauna and followed by a lunch of Thai inspired health food. You’ve heard it first from me, kawan kawan!

Welcome Drink

I’m so excited to be making Phad Thai.  This national dish of Thailand is eaten worldwide and has become the symbol of Thai cuisine.  It was first introduced and made popular by Thailand’s Prime Minister, Luang Phibunsongkhram, in his reign during the second World War.  He wanted to reduce rice consumption amongst the people of Thailand and to encourage a healthy but economical way of eating.  Phad Thai is a simple noodle dish made mainly with bean sprouts, tofu and eggs.  As food was rationed during the war, this dish provided ordinary families with a cheap and healthy option.  Through the years, this dish has been de-constructed, re-invented and spiced up with other ingredients like prawns and chicken.

We had the jazzed up version of Phad Thai at Kochapan’s.  Prawns seasoned first in garlic, soya sauce and olive oil were added, after being separately cooked, over the bed of noodles.

We each took turns to chop, mince, pound and cut the ingredients for the Phad Thai, working with Jazz tunes emanating from her CD player. There seems to be a lot of work that goes into this dish.  But the Jazz helped us relax and the chin wagging that went on whilst we all cooked created an ambience of community and sisterhood amongst us 6 Asian ladies.  We shared anecdotes from our own countries, families and cultures – one Asian/Canadian, one Filipina/Canadian, one Filipina, 2 Koreans and a Singaporean with our Thai host.

Phad Thai Sauce:

1 tbsp red onions slices

2 tomatoes

2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts

2 tbsp tamarind juice (this is made with tamarind fruit paste that you can buy in any Asian supermarket.  Soak a handful of this paste in warm water which will become tamarind juice)

1/2 tbsp of sugar

1/2 tbsp of soya sauce

Method: Sauté the red onions and tomatoes, then mix everything in the food processor until smooth.

Thai Salted Radish

Phad Thai ingredients:

3 tbsp red onions chopped

1 piece of hard tofu, cubed

1 tbsp of salted radish, chopped. (Buy the Thai version as it is a little more sweet than salted)

1/2 pack of rice noodles.  (I buy the thicker version, the next size up from vermicelles, which are very thin rice noodles)

1 tbsp of dried shrimps, already soaked in warm water for 10 minutes

10 pieces of fresh king prawns seasoned in garlic and oil, cooked separately

2 tbsp sliced carrots

3 tbsp spring onions and chinese chives, all cut into 1 inch length

2 tbsp of crushed roasted peanuts

2 cups of bean sprouts

1/2 tbsp of garlic minced

1/2 tbsp of soya sauce

1 egg

Phad Thai ingredients

method: In a wok or frying pan on high heat, fry the red onions, followed soon after by the tofu pieces until slightly brown on each side; lastly, add the minced radish and fry some more.

In a pot of boiling water, add the noodles for about 1 minute, quickly removing them with a slotted spoon to be added directly into the mixture of red onion, tofu and salted radish.

Add 2 – 3 tbsp of Phad Thai sauce whilst mixing the noodles, making sure that the they are thoroughly coated in the sauce.

Crack an egg and add into the pan on one side. Then mix it into the noodles and the rest of the ingredients already in the pan.

Add the dried shrimps, spring onions and Chinese chives  and carrots and stir fry for 5 minutes, giving everything a good stir.

Add bean sprouts and crushed peanuts, stir fry for another 2 minutes.

Place Phad Thai in a serving dish and dress with pre-prepared king prawns and its juices to be eaten immediately with a fresh sprinkling of peanut, fresh bean sprouts and a squeeze of  lime or lemon juice.

Phad Thai with King Prawns

This can also be served with fresh cut chillis in nam plaa.

The accompaniment

And whilst you’re at it, you can also carve roses from firm tomatoes and decorate your personal dishes with them.

Rosettes for you?

Now that I can cook Phad Thai, kawan kawan, I don’t have to order it at Thai restaurants anymore.  I can now order other types of Thai noodle dishes instead. My eating weltanshauung will soon be expanded.  That keeps me happy, my friends, what about you?

aRoÏ Personalised Thaï Cooking


What is your vice?

Kawan kawan, the three cooking mamas are back in full force, this time with a new addition, GWF, otherwise known as Zen Mama.  We cooked a very simple dish from Singapore, chosen by yours truly.  This dish is called Gambling Rice and is adapted from a recipe by fellow Singaporean, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan of “Tiger in the Kitchen” fame.  The story goes that Tan’s grandmother who used to run a gambling den in her very own home invented this dish to keep her patrons gambling.

Gambling , a very Chinese past-time, is indeed very rife in post-colonial Singapore and Malaysia.  Gambling dens, although illegal, were found in almost every nook and corner of 1950s Singapore.  These dens were mostly run by matriarchs, eager to make some money on the side while their husbands toiled away as coolies, carrying sacks of rice and other goods on their bare sunburnt backs to and from the platform to the godowns found along the Singapore river.

Today, this river is a site for another sort of trade – restaurants and nightclubs. The godowns which used to store goods have been converted into trendy restaurants and nightclubs and have become a tourist hotspot.

Two years ago while on holiday in Singapore, I had the opportunity to stay in one of the 2 casino hotels that was recently opened in the city-state.  The Marina Bay Sands boasts of a SkyPark, 57 stories high where you can swim in a swimming pool the whole length of the hotel against the skyline of Singapore.  The observation deck boasts of views of the Singapore River, Sentosa Island and some other very famous sights of the city.  The view was indeed spectacular, kawan kawan, and the swim in the pool was fantastic.

With the opening of the Marina Bay Sands and the Resort World Sentosa (both since 2010), we see the official opening of Singapore’s first casinos, recognised and endorsed by the government of Singapore.  The history of legalizing gambling in Singapore has been a fraudulent one.  In 1823, it was briefly legalized in the then British colonised Singapore but this led to gambling addiction and the rate of criminality soared which led to gambling being made illegal once more within the next three years.  It is not without much debate and rancour that arose amongst the citizens of Singapore regarding the building of casinos before these casino hotels were opened.   Many groups in the city-state like the muslims and christians stood up against the legalizing of gambling in this form.  As a result, the government has levied a tax/fee on any Singaporean entering the casinos in an attempt to deter some people from this vice.  If you were a Singaporean citizen the fee to enter any of the two casinos is S$ 100 per entry and you would not be allowed to take out any credit facilities otherwise extended to non-Singpoareans.

Like Tan’s grandmother who understood that gamblers cannot bet on empty stomachs, these casino hotels have 24 hour restaurants or snack bars serving their die-hard patrons who are willing to fork out huge sums of money in the hope of making more.

Everyone has a vice, I suppose.  For some people, it is gambling, others, smoking and still some others, it may be shopping.  Whatever the case, all vices somehow involve an exchange of money, in my opinion.

Tan’s grandmother fed her gamblers rice in order to facilitate and make it easier for her patrons to part with their money so that her own pockets could be lined.  I say, “What a way to make money, Madame!”  This dish is also so easy to prepare.

Follow this link to her recipe:

Whilst preparing the ingredients, I could see the many variations this dish could take.  Instead of pork, chicken can be added.  Why not try duck too?  The dried shrimps could be substituted with fresh prawns.  Cabbage is a great vegetable for this dish so I wouldn’t substitute this at all.  And, if you are like me, without a rice cooker big enough for the proportions required for this recipe, you can use a cast iron pot or a clay pot.

Here’s my own version of this dish: I used already cooked belly pork , siew yok, instead.  I removed the crackling and diced up the meat into 1 cm cubes.  The heibi (har mai in Cantonese) or dried shrimps is a a typical condiment in SE Asian cooking.  It is used to make stock for soups or added into bland vegetables, like cabbage to enhance its flavour.  Instead of these dried shrimps which has a very distinct aroma of its own, one can also use dried scallops.

Dried Shrimps

The dried ingredients like the chinese mushrooms and fungus and dried shrimps had to be soaked in warm water first.  The mushrooms needed to be re-hydrated before being sliced into thin strips and the shrimps had to be softened before being roughly chopped into smaller pieces.

Soaking the dried goods

The bowl at the far end is the siew yok that I had cubed.  I discarded some of the crackling but kept about a handful for flavouring.

These ingredients then had to be fried separately starting with the shallots.  This flavours the oil for the next batch of ingredients like the pork and heibi.  But kawan kawan, I imagined myself the matriarch of an illicit gambling den, having to feed my gamblers asap with whatever I had in my pantry so that they would stay on gambling into the wee hours of the morning.  Did I have time to fry the shallots, remove them with a slotted spoon, put aside but leave as much oil as possible in the frying pan before frying the pork, browning it only to remove the meat to do the next batch of something?  Of course not, kawan kawan! My hungry gamblers had to be fed.  The girls and the Italian had the honour of playing the parts of my hungry gamblers. So a matriarch with hungry gamblers has to do what a matriarch with hungry gamblers has to do – fry all the ingredients at once.

RN came into the kitchen scrounging up her nose for the smell of the dried shrimps.  You’ve been warned kawan kawan, they smell to high heaven if you’re not used to aromas from a SE Asian kitchen.

But when fried altogether, the smell of these tiny prawns disappear and become mixed into the general aromas of cooking.

All the ingredients happily mixing together

The cabbage was added last.  The recipe called for soaking the shredded cabbage leaves in water before frying.  I just washed mine in a colander and allowed to stand before adding the moist leaves into the wok.

Now add the greens

These greens were then stir fried for a couple of minutes until a little wilted. Don’t over-cook the cabbage as the last part of the recipe says that the ingredients will have to be added into the rice cooker/claypot/le creuset cast iron pot with the uncooked rice and then cooked some more until the rice is done.

I used my le creuset cast iron pot because my rice cooker was pathetically too small for the recipe amount.  I would have liked to use a claypot but induction stoves don’t make for good claypot using.  So there, I had my answer and the le creuset which doubled up as automatic rice cooker and claypot.  If you were to use a claypot, a crust of burnt rice will form at the base of your claypot which is very normal. When serving from a claypot, you just have to be careful not to scrap the bottom too much.  WIth the le creuset, I had my crust of burnt rice too. This actually reminded me so much of home because when The Mother cooks her version of this type of rice dish she calls claypot rice, we actually loved scraping the bottom to get pieces of burnt rice out – it’s crunchy texture and slightly bitter aftertaste added another depth to our family dining experience.

My le creuset Rice

This dish is really a very Teochew one.  Tan’s grandmother, like my mine and my mother all come from the same province in China.  The ingredients for this dish are so typical in a Teochew household.  They are also ingredients that have long shelf lives so can be kept in the pantry for a rainy day.  Cabbage keeps for a quite a good time in the fridge.  I have a feeling that this dish was “invented” by Tan’s grandma out of necessity.  I have great admiration for such women.  Tan tells the story of her grandmother in her book ” A Tiger in  the Kitchen”.  You can follow her and read about her adventures in her blog.  Scroll down and find her on my blogroll. She is a fellow migrant soul and a wonderfully kind person.  I know that because she is friends with my baby sister which links Cheryl and I together in an uncanny way. I am truly proud of this fellow Singaporean who followed her heart and wrote a book about growing up in Singapore, sharing stories and anecdotes (some very private ones) of her extended family.

Serve the rice immediately with any type of Asian Chilli sauce.  I served mine with papa’s “secret” chilli sauce.  Just so you know, the kids loved it and the Italian even had a second helping.  Well, that’s always a good sign when an Italian digs into a Teochew risotto!  Marco Polo, grazie!

Gambling Rice - Pua Kiew Bng

When Spaces become Places

Kawan kawan, today begins the first of a series of 6 sessions of a writing course that I enrolled in.  This course is aptly named “The Migrant Soul”.  “What is a migrant soul?” you ask.  Well, it is someone who, like me, has been uprooted from their cultures, countries and homes, and has to find within a different culture and country their own cultures, make a home in yet another country – a home away from home – and to find a place in a space where they are displaced.

Displacement has been a recurring word in my psyche of late.  Being here in the City of Light brought this sense of un-belonging to the forefront yet again.  I thought that I had found a home, a place I could call home at least, in London after having lived there for a good part of 17 years out of the 20 that I’ve passed in England.  Just when I was beginning to feel comfortable, the Italian took on a job that relocated us to Paris.  It was not entirely his fault, of course as I had been making noise his way of my desire to move out of London.  The only problem was – WHERE?

Singapore had stopped being a place I call home for a long time.  In fact, every year that I return during the summer vacation with my entourage of 3 suitcases and 2 infants (ok, one teenager and one child), I feel less and less at home there. This city state where I grew up is fast becoming another faceless city to me.  A geographical location where I stop off en-route to Europe, a continent I must call home.

Home is where the heart is, many would have heard said.  Home is where I feel a sense of belonging, is what I penned today on a sheet of lined paper during a brainstorming moment in the course.  I once read a quote that goes something like this: there are two kinds of people in this world, those who want to go home and those who don’t.

When I was younger and fancying myself a groupie with no fixed abode, I never wanted to go home! Now that I’ve passed that very important milestone in a woman’s live, I’m beginning to wonder where is my home?

Is home a house, a physical space that one can touch, feel, a place made of brick and mortar?  Is home where the heart is?  Really? During my stint working in the travel industry, home was where I could lay my head, and this was usually in a posh hotel somewhere half way across the world from Singapore.  I lived out of a suitcase for a good part of almost 5 years.  Each new destination brought a new adventure and I was very fastidious about making the hotel room a space of my own.  The first thing I’d do was to lay out all my bottles of creams on the vanity area in the bathroom, then I would put my slippers in place and all the towels in a neat pile, redecorating the room a little so that I could claim it as my space.  This became a ritual, a habit of mine as soon as the door to the hotel room shut behind me.  It didn’t matter how jet-lagged I was, I would go through the motions of setting out the creams, piling up the towels and putting on my slippers before jumping into the shower and straight to bed or dinner or whatever it was that I had to do upon landing in a new city…..

This year back in Singapore,  I wanted to evoke a sense of home.  To do this, I needed an accomplice – someone who knew Singapore well.  I had the privilege of dining with an old friend, George G.  I wanted to go down food memory lane, so he obliged and took me to the East Coast, to his favourite joint for kon low mien. This, kawan kawan is a typically Cantonese dish of boiled egg noodles tossed in a mixture of soya sauce, pork fat and chilli.  Atop the mound of noodles would be slivers of char siu roast pork and blanched choy sum (a type of Chinese green).  A bowl of chicken soup with wan tons would be served on the side.

Wan Ton Noodles

I remember eating this dish as a child on wooden stools next to big monsoon drains where the chef is an old man in a torn cotton singlet behind a mobile cart tossing noodles and shouting out orders to his assistant, usually his wife or elder child, for the noodles to be served.  For appetisers, we would be given a dish of pork crackling so crunchy and oozing with such flavour that it was so hard to stop reaching for another morsel with my chopsticks.  One could also munch on sliced pickled green chillies that have been soaked in brine and sugar to whet one’s appetite.   The grand finalé is of course the dish itself…. happy sounds of slurping would be heard and sighs of content uttered from around our table.  Daddy likes his noodles kiew kiew as we say in Hokkien, or al dente, as they say in Italy. Marco Polo must’ve had a part to play there, methinks!

This dish is no longer served as I remember it.  A spate of campaigns to encourage healthy eating habits in Singapore sparked off an abhorrence of pork crackling.  One can ask for onion oil instead of pork fat these days, I was told.

Kawan kawan, what is it that makes your space a place?  For me, it will always be something food related.

How many sides are there to an Apple?

An inspirational man has recently left us, kawan kawan.  I assume everyone knows who he is.  Switching on my Apple computer on that sad day, the image of Steve Jobs in his iconic black polo and metal framed spectacles, with the years 1955- 2011 caught my eye.  He was only 56. But in his short life, he has revolutionised how the world would use the computer, listen to music, talk to friends and family and watch movies.  True to his philosophy, his obituary page on the Apple site only had his picture and the years of his birth and death.  A picture speaks a thousand words, Jobs would have told you.

This adage and concept is what made Apple so user friendly even amongst toddlers.  Ask my 5 year old how to get into any Application on my iphone and she’ll tap the relevant image.

There are very few inspirational people in this world that really make a difference.  I guess it is in the différence that make these people inspirational.

I also really admire Nigel Slater.  Slater influenced how British ate and still eat. He even made food sexy.  Toast, the movie, starring Helena Bonham Carter as Slater’s step-mother and arch rival, depicts his life story. Here, watch the trailer:

Today’s post isn’t about food, kawan kawan.  I will make this an exception. Today’s post is about sharing my sadness that one very important man has passed.  I would like to share with you a speech he made to students at Stanford University.

I am so inspired by this man who lived every day of his life as if it were his last. What a way to live because then every moment is precious, every moment is lived in love and every moment in inspiration.

I would like to make a toast to both Jobs and Slater for being the inspiration in my life…. Salut les fils!

How about Thai tonight, honey?

I wonder what is it about Thai food that gets most people’s gastric juices churning?  Is it the nam plaa (fish sauce), the spicy taste of red chillis or the mixture of sweet, tangy and spice all mingled together?

I had the pleasure of dining with a friend,  passionate foodie and fellow blogger mny at a Thai eatery of her choice.  Kawan kawan, let me tell you this: I was so very excited that the pavlovian tendency to salivate was immediately activated with the memory of eating dishes like Phad Thai and Tom Yam Kung as soon as I alighted at Montparnasse métro on my way to Thai Panthong.

It was a hot and humid day, one of the record hottest days in Paris since the late 1800s, I was told.  The air around the Montparnasse area was stifling.  It almost reminded me of being back in Asia.  I was sweaty, hungry and terribly lost.  For those of you who’ve been to Montparnasse, you’ll know what I mean.  When you exit the grey monstrosity of  le station Montparnasse-Bienvenue, you’re faced with an open space that almost causes one to be a little agoraphobic.  You’re basically in a square with roads going in every direction, left, right and centre. Added to that, there are about one hundred people moving at super sonic speeds on their way to somewhere else, whilst you are looking lost and deserted.  Which way do you turn?  I knew that I had to get onto the Aveneu du Maine in order to find rue de l’Ouest, number 37 (or was it 28?)  but the Ave de Maine is a very long street as most streets in Paris are. Do I take a left or a right to get onto rue de l’Ouest?  My imap for some reason didn’t help that day, so I took a risk and asked a Parisian news vendor for directions.  Well, as you may have guessed, his answer was the proverbial shrug of his Parisian shoulders which left me nonetheless wiser.  I should have bought a magazine, it occurred to me later, maybe then, he’d have pointed me the right way.  Haven’t I learnt that in order to get my back scratched I have to scratch the scratcher’s back in return?

All my hard work at finding the resto paid off when I finally ran into Panthong to find mny seated zen-like waiting for me.  The perfume of Asia arrested my attention and I was immediately at peace.  Familiar aromas of spices, wok-fried ingredients and the fragrance of rice assaulted my nostrils.  What a place! I knew it would be authentic just from all the smells mixed in the hot humid air.

We perused the menu and settled on Som Tam Poo for starters.  I’m a fan of green papaya although not of the mature variety.  This salad is a NE Thai dish made with nam plaa, chillis and lime juice mixed with dried shrimps so small you hardly notice they’re there.  I wanted to try the version with crab as I’ve not had that before.

Som Tam - So yum!

The crab was really a baby one marinated in nam plaa.  It’s so tiny that it was served still in its shell.  Those little beige puffy things were deep fried pork crackling, dehydrated so that they kept their crunchiness.  It was so divine that I had 3 of them. I know it’s not great for cardiac conditions but what the heck! It was too sedap to stop at one…. and besides, pork fat is meant to give one shiny smooth skin as the mainland Chinese girls will tell you.

I wanted some sort of Thai curry for the main course and veered between the Green Thai Duck Curry and the Red King Prawn Curry.  It was a difficult choice but I decided to stay on the seafood theme and ordered the Chou Chi Kung  – a dry red curry with King Prawns.

Chou Chi Kung

The dish tasted every bit as vibrant as it looked.  Creamy coconut sauce over barbecued King prawns garnished with cilantro (coriander) and chives.  It married well with the Khao Niew served in a bamboo basket.

Sticky Glutinous Rice

Mny fancied something spicy.  She settled for phad khii mao.  This simple but flavoursome noodle is wok fried with minced pork (chicken will work too) snow peas, sliced chillis and whole pepper corns.  It’s so easy to magic up even a drunkard can make it, so the story goes.  And so the name of this dish stuck for khii mao means drunk in Thai.

Funny,  I thought, the Italians have spaghetti alio olio– long pasta tossed in olive oil infused with garlic – and the brits have the kebab.  In Britain, drunken nights out are followed by a naan or pitta bread wrapped with slivers of grilled lamb smothered with chilli and garlic sauce eaten en-route home.  One is so drunk and hungry that this rather generous parcel of yumminess is devoured before the key even gets through the key hole or one’s tongue starts to smart from the heat of the chilli sauce.

Drunkard tossed noodles

If the phad is still not fiery enough, you can always accompany it with this:

Nam Plaa with Chilli and lime juice

All good things are sugared coated, a favourite saying I’ve often heard.  So it is only natural that our lunch ended with dessert.  I had bananas in a sesame flavoured coconut milk.  This is really one of my favourite Thai desserts, next to mango with sticky rice.  I had to forego that since I’ve already had quite a bit of glutinous rice.  The coconut cream was both savoury and sweet, akin to the beurre salé, so famous in Paris patisseries.

Creamy Coconut milk with Bananas

My partner in crime ordered the bualoy sarm see – little taro balls in 3 colours immersed in coconut milk.  This was equally delicious.

Bualoy Sarm See

During lunch, the conversation veered from events happening in and around Paris, what our children were up to at school and the recent floods in Thailand that caused many to be homeless and the rice fields to be ruined.

Mny had a brainstorm that night.  She decided to organise a Charity Luncheon at a Thai resto to raise funds for her country folk.  This luncheon will take place on November 14th, just after the Toussaint holidays.

Kawan kawan, if you can, please come and support this good cause.  All the proceeds will go towards helping the needy in Thailand.  We will eat Thai, drink wines that have been specifically selected by a resident wine connoisseur that pair with Thai flavours and be in the company of friends.  Place your reservations in the comments box below.

Thai Panthong Restaurant (closed Sundays)

37 rue de l’Ouest, 75014 

01 43 22 03 25

Charity Luncheon:

Date: Monday, November 14th from 12:30pm
Venue: Im Thai Restaurant
8 Rue de Port Mahon 75002
Metro Opera

Too posh to chew? Have a Quenelle

kawan kawan, for those of you who’ve been following me, you’ve realized that I’ve been out of commission for a bit… it was not because I’ve abandoned you or the blog – I would never do that. 🙂  It was due more to the shortage of time that I’ve not been blogging of late.  But the dust of La Rentrée has just about settled. I’ve ja-ust about got the girls and me back to our daily routine of school runs, homework, violin practice and all the little things that keep me from finding the right moment to blog.  But I am back again, no worries because part of my daily routine is to find the time for myself, non?!?

I’ve been active again at L’atelier des chefs.  It is wonderful to catch up with Debbie K and Mrs M, my usual partners at French cookery school.  On this occasion, Silva D came along too.  She’d been wanting to join L’atelier for quite some time but just haven’t managed to find the right time to do so. What propelled her this time round to find a slot in her busy schedule was  this:  she will be leaving us for Milan, her hometown, shortly and she really wanted to profiter from a L’atelier class. So, voilâ, here we all were to learn how to cook quenelles de cabillaud.  I’ve never cooked this dish before so I was very excited to learn.

Basically quenelles are tear drop shaped pieces of minced meat or fish, in this case, poached in milk or water until done.  Some would call it egg shaped. In any case, it is not so much the shape but the preparation and cooking process that make a quenelle a quenelle.  The binding factor is egg white which is added to the fish and cream to be blended until smooth.  Lyon and Nantua are two places famous for their pike quenelle usually served with a creamy sauce. Pike is a fish with many small bones so the best way to cook this fish without the hassle of removing the bones whilst you are eating it is to churn it in a blender before cooking. Of course, if you were a “real” chef, you would use a tamis, a cylindrical sieve invented in the Middle Ages to strain, grate and mill food.

A tamis sifts and grates ingredients finer than any other utensil, and the texture of the strained material is evenly consistent.  Modern kitchens have blenders or Magimixes which does the same job with a push of the button.

Quenelles are very easy to eat, kawan kawan. It hardly needs chewing since it is so finely blended and poached just right that all you need to do is shuffle spoonfuls into your mouth and swallow. Watch how a toddler with no teeth eats and you’ll see what I mean.  The quenelle is really posh baby food with a lot of flavour.

After chopping, blending and poaching, it was time to serve up.  We were shown how to dress the plate with the quenelle sitting atop a bed of sauce de champignons.  The mushrooms were stir fried in a little olive oil with one minced shallot and a whole clove of garlic still in its peel, then blended with a little cream and some milk used to poach the cod.

Posh baby Food - Quenelles de cabillaud

The experience was…how shall I put it?…. interesting, I suppose.  I haven’t made pureed baby food in a while, considering that RN who is now 5 had stopped eating purées since  she was 7 months old.  The only mush I make in the house in mash and even that, RN doesn’t fancy too much….strange child, I know 🙂

The quenelles tasted delicious for the amount of cream and salt that went into it albeit a little bland. I would have preferred it made with spices like turmeric, chilli and curry powder, mixed with coconut milk instead of thick cream, then steamed wrapped up in a banana leaf or stuffed in aforementioned banana leaf and grilled (see photo below).  This would fire the fish up a bit, multiply its flavour by a 100 percent and transform the quenelle  magically into an otak otak, a fish mousse widely eaten in SE Asia.

Spiced up Quenelles - Otak Otak

Unless you have a baby who eats spices at 6 months, this is highly NOT recommended as baby food, posh as it also is.

I would go for the quenelle in this case.  Seriously, if I knew of this recipe when I was weaning my girls,, served with champignon sauce over a bed of rice porridge.  If I had done that, perhaps SS would just adore mushrooms now and I wouldn’t have to pick out any mushrooms that she can see thrown surreptitiously into her food or avoid the mushroom section altogether, because why bother? no one accept except the Italian and I eat those fun-guys anyway!

Try kawan kawan this recipe for quenelle.  Just follow the link above.  If I were to make it again, I would jazz it up with a little more herbs and spices, although not chillies, since the girls don’t like spicy stuff (I know, I know, and they are half Singaporean and don’t eat spice nor speak Mandarin.  I’ve been through all that with the Mother!)  Let me know how it turns out. Bon apétit!