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Food FAQ

that cheesy, eggy, bacon-laden goodness.

there’s something about carbonara that makes it so good (and bad for health at the same time) that you wouldn’t expect it to be simple to make. but trust me, if frank can make it, it must be something somewhat easy. i mean, i think that’s why italian cooking has hit it off so well with me — the fact that the emphasis is more on selection of quality ingredients and produce and not so much on the chef.

now french food is an entirely different matter

spaghetti carbonara con funghi e salsiccia (for the bachelor)

ingredients: spaghetti (store bought suffices, but if you can, get the freshly made ones — yes it makes a difference) | 1 egg | parmiggiano reggiano (already grated) | garlic (chopped fine, about 3 cloves should suffice) | panchetta | mushooms (sliced) & sausages — both optional to add additional protein to the dish

1. cook spaghetti in boiling salted water (check timing, but taste to ensure it is al dente)

2. in the meantime, fry the panchetta for a few minutes, then throw in the garlic and fry till it is browned slightly

3. combine egg and parmiggiano reggiano, whisk till they mix kinda well.

4. in the meantime, fry the mushrooms and sausages in olive oil.

5. turn OFF the heat on the pan of panchetta/garlic, drain spaghetti before dumping the spaghetti into the pan and quickly adding the egg/cheese combination and toss/mix all ingredients to let the egg coat and cook using the heat of the ingredients (and not the fire, else u get scrambled eggs)

6. top with mushrooms and sausages.

the verdict? (hehe.. the food blogger judges his own food)

mushrooms and sausages don’t add to the flavor, but neither to they really detract from it, so its fine. i think i needed to be slightly more generous with the cheese to get a thicker consistency, and well, i think i want to try it with hand-made spaghetti to see if it makes a difference. but overall, it actually smells and tastes good!

oh.. one annoying thing that occurred to me was that I was struggling with the spaghetti (since it was the pre-processed hard type) – struggling to force the entire straight strand into my pot which was too shallow (as normal pots are..). methinks i need one of those industrial spaghetti pots or just.. buy hand-made ones =)

this dish is worth recreating and perfecting because its the perfect low-investment, high-payouts kinda dish. yum!

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i’m getting quite proud of myself.

to be honest, cooking for myself is turning out to be quite the joy, considering that most meals are actually pretty decent and most of my improvisations have actually worked without the taste becoming too odd, piquant or something of that sort. somehow the ingredients here and this kitchen seem to sing to me. i think i’ll be getting more ambitious soon. =)

anyways, this dish is the typical last-minute i-need-to-clear-all-the-food-stuff-from-my-fridge” dish, which is made kind of a difficult task when my kitchen isn’t exactly well stocked – i lack flour, many sauces, bread crumbs and the likes, so alot of recipes couldn’t work. furthermore, i don’t have an oven where i can just chuck some meats and vegetables in and wait for something magickal to occur (that was my default action plan in my kitchen in US).

so it was time to improvise, and i did a balsami-garlic mushroom chicken from this recipe.

ingredients – chicken: 4 x chicken fillet, marinated briefly (10 minutes) in pepper, soya sauce and olive oil

sauce: 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 a bowl of chicken stock (to be honest, the recipe mentioned 1/2 a cup.. and i honestly don’t know what half a cup is, so what i did was to use the myojo chicken stock thingy and make my own chicken stock, which amounted to roughly 1/2 a bowl), some balsamic vinegar (to be honest, i just squeezed in an amount i felt was ok..) and some lemon juice, followed by a plate of porcini mushrooms

as you can see, ingredient amounts don’t mean anything to me, cos half the time i don’t understand them, and the other half of the time, my ingredients are not exactly the same/i forget etc.. so to be honest, every single dish that turns out right.. is kind of a “praise God” moment. =)

anyways, this dish is really simple and tastes pretty good!

first pan fry the chicken with some olive oil and butter till the both sides get golden-ish (something like teppanyaki eh?), cut through the thickest piece to see if it is fully cooked then take off heat. the good thing about fillets as that somehow the time taken to get it browned is roughly the time the entire piece gets cooked, since it is sliced quite thinly.

next for the sauce, use the pan with the remnant oil and dump in the rest of the ingredients to make the sauce. hmm, my sauce didn’t exactly thicken and i question whether flour is needed to do so (anyone knows?) but nevertheless when the mushrooms looked cooked (the mushrooms went in last), and the sauce was kinda diminishing due to evaporation, i took it off the heat and drenched the chicken fillets with the sauce.

yummy stuff. yay!

first timer.

you know, despite what people might say, i’m kinda.. really proud of myself today, for somehow pulling off and cooking an entire meal for myself. i mean, i guess i cooked whilst in US for my housemates, but there was always this ever present fear that i would completely ruin things, under-cook or burn stuff (which coincidentally i also did this time.. lol) and well, i have had this constant fear of just messing up massively in the kitchen.

honestly i think cooking isn’t easy. lol.. i mean, somehow it’s not easy for me – first there’s the issue of judging when things are really cooked or not, which i think really does come from experience. then there’s the issue of multi-tasking and working with all the frying pans and pots without letting anything burn. so yeah i’m quite the klutz if u can gather. what’s worse, i’m an ambitious klutz — i never follow recipes, preferring to improvise and add stuff i think would enhance the flavor combinations.

so this time round i did a combination of recipes – pan seared salmon paired with a mushroom aglio olio tagliatelle and garnished with some cherry tomatoes.

pan seared salmon – hey, i honestly didn’t know salmon could be so simply cooked and yet so, so delicious! i simply bought a slab of salmon, rubbed in a little salt and pepper, coated it in olive oil, and dumped it in a hot pan for about 3 minutes on one side, then 4 minutes on the other. then i checked the cooked-ness by sticking a fork into it to see if it was flakey. then i transferred it to a dish and wrapped it in kitchen paper to soak up a bit of the oil.

mushroom aglio olio tagliatelle – hmm, this is where a little mishap occurred. i did the tagliatelle first, cooking the noodles for roughly 2 – 3 minutes in boiling salt water before straining it. but at the meantime, i was also trying to (i) fry my salmon, and (ii) fry the garlic bits. and well, with the salmon and noodles being the main ingredients, i forgot about tossing the garlic bits and they got charred. -_-. had to chop up a new batch and re-fry them till they were turning golden brown, then add in the porcini mushrooms, and dunking a little of the oil remaining from the salmon onto the mix to get some form of a “sauce”. mixed it together with the tagliatelle and well.. there goes! =)

to be honest, i don’t think the flavor profile of the aglio olio went too well with the salmon, because the salmon was overpoweringly flavorful (not in a bad way though), whereas the aglio olio was lighter and hence the taste got quite completely overwhelmed. perhaps i added too little garlic.

but it has been fun.. cooking for one is never easy to be honest, because most recipes call for like 2 – 4 servings.. but haha.. i guess I have a bit of the luxury to trial and error.

signing off!

rumblings in the kitchen

so.. i was intending to go to tivoli for a weekend getaway. but i woke up too late, decided there was too much remaining ingredients in the kitchen and decided to make some lunch for myself. and to be honest im pleasantly surprised that making pasta is like pretty much the simplest thing ever… stress free even for a kitchen-klutz like me (close friends would know of my spatula debacle and hmm the chik-kut-teh disaster) – and so far the results have been really good!

pork stuffed tortellini topped with button mushrooms, sausages, half boiled egg, bacon bits and shards of pecorino brunelli

pasta purists must be reeling at the thought of me combining multiple ingredients from various pasta recipes but it tasted really pretty good! and well, yeah.. you really can’t go that wrong with mushrooms and bacon. =)

hmm im gonna try more adventurous stuff soon hopefully. more travel photos coming up soon!

hmm.. doesn’t really look too appetizing. =(

seriously. cooking pre-bought homemade pasta is supposed to be almost as simple as boiling water but yet i was still frazzled to the max trying to figure out when to retrieve the ravioli i dumped in. i think i left it in too long (despite the shopkeeper saying 7 -10min and me leaving it for 7.20min) and hence the ravioli didn’t have that al dente flavor. ah well, we’ll try again another time.

but to be honest, i didn’t need to do much – the ricotta stuffed ravioli is really delicious (bought it from this pasta shop nearby called il sfoglia) and i guess my garnish of pan-fried bacon bits and sprigs of basil managed to lend a counterbalanced flavor as well.

so yeah.. yay! =)

i blame laishan for this.

there i was working diligently in office when my whatsapp buzzed and laishan told me all about her escapades at level 33. -_-. which prompted me to inform her that, based on my last blog post, i had lost alot of appetite and had had two shocking nights of eating dinners consisting of a Burger King Steakhouse burger (7.50Euro) and then a cafeteria pasta (tagliatelle with minimal seafood) with salad (12.50Euro). right here in Roma. lol.. kinda sad, but it saves money because the food here is really quite awfully expensive!

but then shan went on about how i had to conquer the michelin stars across the italian peninsula. which somehow got my taste buds active again. lol. and they reveled at the thought of a good dinner tonight, so I headed off for a more decent meal at a restaurant recommended by my guesthouse’s owner – perilli al flaminio. couldn’t dig up any pre-information on trip-advisor, so I just went on ahead based on the roman opinion. lol.

so i ordered the saltimbocca alla romana, since it has the word roma in it (lame). and to be honest i haven’t exactly tasted a real rendition of this veal dish so since my taste buds were pretty active, why not. it’s not cheap by the way — the dish set me back 16Euros easily and it’s not exactly the biggest of a serving. and yeah.. no carbs (i ate the breadsticks to cover the carbs-count). so saltimbocca essentially is veal lined/topped with proscuitto and sage and with the Roman-style, this is cooked in Marsala (type of fortified wine) and butter, giving it an interesting, wine-ish sauce. which was very nice! at that time i didn’t know about the Marsala, but could detect that the sauce had obvious hints of alcohol/wine since it reminded me a little of the beef bourguinon sauce.

the sauce went well with the meat, enhancing the meaty flavors of the dish. so yeah, it’s pretty unique, nice tasting and worth a shot when you head to Rome. order the saltimbocca alla romana though, as the simple saltimbocca lacks the Marsala/butter combination which makes alot of difference.

of course, i had to end the meal with something sweet.

tiramisu, we meet again. 

to be honest, i’ve been to italy many times and have visited many restaurants, and they ALL seem to claim that their tiramisu is the best dessert to order on the menu that i often wonder what’s with the rest of the other desserts. this rendition was firmer than i expected but tasted pretty darn awesome in a way that seems a little errm guilty-pleasurish but also somewhat impossible to replicate in singaporean restaurants.. i wonder why.. perhaps it’s the inclusion of much more cheese, such that it more and less overwhelms the ladies-fingers taste. yummy.

people, i need food buddies over in rome. so if you’re in paris, croatia, london, scotland, copenhagen.. aiya.. if you’re in europe please re-direct your flight to Rome for a few days and meet me! free lodging lah k? and free tour guide thrown in. (you pay for the tour-guide’s meal preferably =)). cheers!

*  *  *

oh yah. restaurant-wise, this place seems pretty legit, but tad overpriced. (or maybe i’m just still smarting from the currency-conversion) it definitely attracts a rousing clientele of romans, though all a bit oldish. its probably been around for ages and has kept to a certain tradition of cooking with explains its patronage. hehe

the key is in the preparation.

so continuing the farewell treats series, i feature (*drumroll*) my aunt’s awesome cooking right in the heart of tiong bahru! to be very honest, i think the most awesome thing about this meal was the startling awareness of just how much food knowledge was kept within my aunt’s mind — how she finessed her way to get the best duck in tiong bahru market, how to select the best passion fruits, and when to fry which type of vegetables. it was like food fundamentals 101, but this with a more asian/chinese perspective.

to be very honest, i had read up much about western style cooking, trying to understand what flambe meant and what volutes actually were, and had callously ignored the food that had accompanied me as i grew up. i used to assume chinese cooking was all about the zhup (sauce) and about frying everything together but didn’t think much about ingredient pairing, selection and textures. so it was actually a very humbling and great learning experience yesterday as well. let’s see the dishes:-

pan seared beltfish (largehead hairtail) topped with passion fruit

new food combination ftw! i never expected passionfruit to pair well with a seared fish but in this case, it really worked – the sweetness of the passionfruit seeds juxtaposed beautifully with the savoriness of the fish, slightly greasy with its natural oil. methinks passionfruit is also a great pairing with other fishes like cod and the likes.. definitely will try this in my future cooking (haha.. i definitely intend to cook in italy!)

fried vegetables – porcini mushrooms, thai broccoli, black fungus, yellow bell pepper, green peas and carrots, sprinkled with sesame seed

my aunt mentioned she incorporated all these vegetables to create a delightfully colorful dish, but methinks she (unwittingly perhaps) included more wisdom in her selections and the interplay of textures between the porcini mushrooms, black fungus and thai broccoli made for a refreshingly crunchy and textural dish. she mentioned to actually peel the porcini mushroom stalk instead of slicing them with a knife to lend the mushrooms bits additional texture. this dish not only looked beautiful but tasted really good.

oven baked soy-sauce chicken

my aunt said she substituted the oven baking with broiler baking, which gave the chicken pieces a more tender overall feel. the soy sauce was nicely balanced and paired well with the chicken, and so did the sprigs of spring onion. honestly, this is more a masterclass in how to select correct ingredients that naturally imbue the dish with its natural flavor and goodness – a complete departure from my previously held notion that chinese dishes were all about “zhup“.

duck smothered with caramelized onions

the star of the meal! this dish is what you would consider a family secret so i’m not gonna reveal the preparation process (but boy is it tedious) but the flavors of the final product is really something to write home about. the caramelized onions lend that sweetness to the duck, whose meat falls cleanly off the bone and is tender and imbued with all its existing flavors commingled with the sweetness of the onions. if i were to set up a chinese restaurant, this would head up as the signature dish! haha.. (though the kitchen would be a sea of misery what with the peeling of dozens of onions).

you know, i’m really blessed. perhaps i finally figured what was this motivation to seek out good food and understand the nature of food — it was always inherent in my family it seems. =)