Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wild Mushroom Soup

With my new Braun mixer I also cooked mushroom soup for dinner the other night. One serving in restaurants usually sells for about SGD 6 to 8 dollars, while by cooking it at home you not only spend only about SGD 2 for 2 servings, you also get to control the amount of salt and butter in it. This recipe, adapted from BBC Food, tastes as good as those served in good restaurants.

30g shallots, chopped
25 g butter
200g fresh wild mushrooms (I used fresh shitake mushrooms, or you can use a mix of buna or shimeji mushrooms)
430ml water or chicken stock
Salt to taste

-Heat some butter till the foam has just disappeared. Sweat the shallots for about 3 min. Add the mushrooms and continue sweating for 5 min. Add the water / chicken stock. Simmer for about 25 min. Salt to taste. Using a blender, puree till fine. Pass it through a sieve if you prefer a finer texture or serve as if, if you prefer a more rustic flavour. Add a dollop of white truffle oil (optional) when serving. Serves 2.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Healthy Fruit Smoothies (with Tofu!)

I've recently got a new kitchen toy - a handheld Braun mixer/blender/whisk/chopper. With it, tah-dah, I can now make pureed soups, smoothies, and sauces! I immediately set to work and whipped up this super healthy kyoho grape tofu smoothie. It sounds quite horrible and nastily vegetarian, but it's really very nice, with a lovely creamy texture similar to yoghurt. It's unexpectedly extremely refreshing and fruity with a nice accent of soya milk taste, plus you feel so good about the good things that you're doing for your body after you've drunk it :-) (i guess this compensates a little for the excesses like drinking wine, hah!).
-Silken Tofu, 125 g (half of the standard roll sold in supermarkets)
-Honey, 1.5 tablespoon
-Fruits, about 50 g. Berries, Grapes, Strawberries are all good choices.
- Water, about 200 ml (adjust to preference)
Blend all the ingredients together, adjusting quantities to taste. Makes enough for two wonderful glasses.

My Personal Challenge

Last year, if someone had asked me to run 10km, I would have told that person that he/she must be crazy. But it seems that I am the crazy one now, for I took part in the Shape run last Sunday and managed to complete 10 km within my target of 1 hr 30 min.
Apart from the cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits, the bonus was that I felt amazingly good about myself after the race (plus a great complexion, it must be all the toxins flowing out with the sweat), and not too winded or ache-y after the event. I am looking forward to the next runs - Sheares Bridge run in August, GE Women's run, and Standard Chartard run at the end of the year, and hope to have a timing of under 1 hr 20 min by then.
P.S. The loyal supporter a.k.a E was standing by to snap many photos and cheer me at the finish line, but the photo above does not include me. Heheh, sorry if you've been squinting at it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Popeye's Chicken - Not Worth the Calories

My first ever Popeye's Chicken, eaten at Changi Airport Terminal 3 before we flew to Taipei. I had been eyeing this for a very long time, given my predilection for fried chicken, and that my old favourite Mcspicy Chicken had been taken off the menu off McDonald's a few years ago. Popeye's Chicken was certainly crsipy, but tastewise rather bland and not addictive. Nowhere near the super tasty (and salty) KFC with its secret blend of herbs and spices. And what is it about that "biscuit"? It really puzzled me for it looked like a scone but tasted strangely salty and sweet at the same time. So verdict is, there are better ways to satisfy my craving for fried chicken, for Popeye's is not worth the calories.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Giant Taiwan Watermelons

HUUUUUGE Watermelon sold all over the street in Taipei (each weighing 20 to 30kg, just imagine!) These were by far the most popular variety around, with red flesh and very little seeds. They are extremely sweet and not too expensive either, at about 12NT per 100g (or about 5 SGD per kg). Unfortunately we didn't have enough luggage space to lug one back but then we bought one very expensive Japanese musk melon and some Taiwan-grown kyoho grapes to compensate.

A mean bowl of beef noodles

This is lauded as the most expensive bowl of beef noodles in Taipei - the top beef weighs in at 10,000 NT or about SGD450 (no, I did not accidentally add one zero behind). Having more humble tastes, we tried the 300NT version instead and were well rewarded. The beef stock was robust and savoury but yet sweet and clear. The beef chunks were stewed till the connective tissue melted into the mouth at a bite.
Niu Papa 牛爸爸 serves a mean bowl of beef noodles indeed! (N.B. Address to be posted at a later date.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Little Eats = Big Stomach, Taipei

The density of food stalls in Taipei is unbelievable. You will literally see one every 50m or so. It's impossible to go hungy here but easy to put on weight. E remarked in some bemusement that this was the first time where he didn't have full meals but kept on having a series of small snacks. Here's just a sampling of the "little eats" that we had:
Danshui Yuwan Soup and A-Gei: Danshui used to be the main fishing port in the north of Taipei City, near the mouth of the Danshui river that meanders through the city. They are famous for their "iron eggs", fish crackers, fishball soup, and a-gei. Pictured here are the fishball soup which is like foochow fishballs with minced pork encased in the centre, and A-Gei - fried tofu with crystal noodles and sweet sauce. Quite nice, but I wouldn't go back for it. (Will post more about iron eggs and fish crackers in later posts).

"da chang bao xiao chang" or literally small sausage wrapped in big sausage. The small sausage is the sweet Taiwanese sausage grilled till fragrant while the big sausage is a glutinous rice bun. This was yummy.

"A-Chung Noodles", my all-time favourite. This is thin rice noodles cooked in a broth of pig innards with a dollop of super-hot chilli sauce. Sounds unappetising but it is oh-so-good. This hole-in-the-wall outlet has no seats but the legions of fans stand, squat, lean outside the shop and slurp up the hearty bowls of noodles. I bought 2 bottles of their famed chilli sauce back.

Fruity Shaved Ice. A perennial favourite in Taiwan in the hot summer weather. The shaved ice is much finer than those used for the ice kachang in Singapore and is usually flavoured with milk or fruit juice. Super refreshing.

Yam ball. This is the famous must-try in Jiufen, which is a 40 minute train ride away from Taipei City. Jiufen was where the famous Taiwanese movie "City of Sadness" was shot and still retains its historic architecture and teahouses, though sadly the main thoroughfare had degenerated into a kind of tourist circus.

Food in Taiwan is very cheap (compared to Singapore and other cities like Japan and London). Eat all you want at the peril of your belts!

Escapade to Taipei

There has been radio silence on this blog for some time, the reason being that we "escaped" to Taipei last week for a short 5 day get-away. My impressions of Taipei are a happy blur of eating, snacking and browsing at night markets, to the extent that we had 2 dinners on one night. I left with a more favourable impression of food in Taiwan, compared to my first visit to the country 5 years ago, when I felt that the food wasn't tasty with the exception of Ay-Chung noodles. However, Taiwan also has beautiful scenery, being located in earthquake / volcano territory, with wondrous mountains and geothermal lakes. More details in my next few posts.