Pakomen (排骨拉麺): The Comfort Food of Japanese Prime Ministers

Origami, Capitol Hotel Tokyu

This dish of spare rib ramen—that the Japanese call pakomen (and if you read the kanji, it would be called pai gu la mian in Mandarin)—leapt out at me when I first studied the menu at the Capitol Hotel Tokyu’s all-day dining restaurant, Origami, on our most recent trip to Tokyo. It is part of the hotel’s old time favourites menu that consists of beloved dishes that that had been served at the old Capitol Tokyu Hotel for decades. As it turned out, pakomen was one of eight varieties of ramen that had been served at the Capitol Tokyu. It was the most popular, and the one dish that purportedly every Japanese prime minister has enjoyed. Continue Reading →

Family Food: Easy Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

If you’ve been put off by bland tasting quinoa salads (as I have), this recipe for roasted vegetable and quinoa salad may just change your mind. For the longest time, I put the blame on quinoa itself. Despite that fact that quinoa is a complete protein high in fibre, iron and magnesium—an all-round superfood—I’d avoided it like the plague for many years because the first time I’d eaten quinoa, I felt like I was being punished. It tasted like damp cardboard someone had forgotten to season. Continue Reading →

Pantry Basics: Homemade Vanilla Fridge Wipe

Homemade Vanilla Fridge Wipe

Vanilla fridge wipe is a household cleaning product that I first discovered as an undergraduate in Western Australia. It’s a food-safe disinfectant that also smells delicious, which helped to make housework just that tiny bit more tolerable. To my dismay, when I moved back to Singapore, I discovered that it wasn’t sold here. And because it’s highly flammable, I couldn’t purchase it in Australia and take it home with me either! Fortuitously, some years later, I chanced upon a recipe for homemade vanilla fridge wipe in Donna Hay Magazine (in Issue 17, to be precise). Since then, I’ve been happily whipping it up at home.

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Haru Cooking Class: A lesson in Japanese home cooking in Kyoto

Japanese Home Cooking Class

Japanese home cooking may be pretty simple, but if you haven’t had the chance to witness the actual practice of preparing the dishes, there are always nuances that are lost when you just follow a recipe. This is often exacerbated by the inevitable inaccuracies of translation. How you work out what kind of starch is used to dust tofu for frying, gauge whether oil has been heated to the right temperature for deep frying tempura or whether you’ve wrapped your gyoza correctly is made so much clearer when an expert shows you how to do it and talks you through the process as you try your hand at it. It’s doubly useful when the person guiding you speaks the same language that you do. This is why Haru Cooking Class in Kyoto is such a gem of a find. Continue Reading →

Pantry Basics: Roll Cake (ロールケーキ)

Japanese roll cake

When my toddler, T, had his first taste of this roll cake his wee face broke into a wide smile that lit up his eyes and entire face. Like him, I can’t seem to get enough of this light-as-a-feather roll cake. Asian incarnations of the Swiss roll are decidedly lighter than their European forebear. The Japanese, in particular, have catapulted the roll cake (ロールケーキ or ro-ru keiki) into another stratosphere. Their roll cakes tend to be lightly, rather than assertively sweetened. And they have a soft, delicate texture and moist, fine crumb I absolutely love. I was heartbroken when the Arinco stall in the basement of Ion where I had indulged in many a salted caramel roll cake air-flown from Japan closed down. Continue Reading →

Pantry Basics: Toad-in-the-hole Redux

Savoury Pudding with Sausage & Tomato

This is a spectacularly simple dish to prepare. Seriously. I spotted the original recipe,which was inspired by English toad-in-the-hole, in the September issue of Martha Stewart Living and was sold on the one pan meal idea. I imagine it would make for a fabulous breakfast after a big night out, but am way past that point of my life (actually, I might have skipped that stage entirely). It works really well as a simple workday lunch and I can totally see it as part of a weekend brunch spread served with a side salad, peas and onion jam. Continue Reading →

Pantry Basics: Homemade XO Sauce

Homemade XO sauce

I’d never really thought about making XO sauce—a deliciously spicy and umami condiment that first gained popularity in Hong Kong in the Eighties—in the past because the process seemed mysteriously complex. Generally consisting of dried scallops and shrimp paired with chillies, and a blend of shallots and garlic, the recipe for most signature XO sauces served at famous Chinese restaurants are closely guarded. Continue Reading →

Family Food: Steamed Savoury Custard Master Recipe

zheng shui dan

Whether I’m making chawanmushi (茶碗蒸しwhich broadly means ‘steamed in a teacup’ but specifically refers to Japanese steamed savoury custard), zheng shui dan (蒸水蛋 or steamed eggs), egg tofu or a savoury custard of my own invention, my base ratio for the custard ingredients is 1 egg to 100ml liquid. With this master recipe, the custard consistently retains a meltingly delicate quiver that possibly accounts for its comforting, nursery-food like qualities. And it takes just 20 minutes to steam. Continue Reading →

Family Food: Waffles of Insane Greatness

Best waffle recipe

Two years ago, I bought a Belgian waffle iron purely on the strength of Molly’s post recommending two outstanding waffle recipes, Marion Cunningham’s yeast-raised one and the Food Network’s Waffles of Insane Greatness (WIG). Prior to reading Molly’s post, I had never considered making waffles at home. Waffles weren’t even high on my list of favourite breakfast (or dessert) dishes. Today, waffles are permanent fixtures on my breakfast repertoire. Continue Reading →

Pantry Basics: How to make semolina pasta at home

This is one of my favourite recipes for homemade pasta because it results in a perfectly al dente noodle. The key to the success of this recipe from The Harry’s Bar Cookbook is the addition of semolina (which is what you’ll find in most commercially prepared dried pastas). Continue Reading →

Family Food: Dutch baby with sautéed apples from Michael Natkin’s Herbivoracious

I have probably used this Dutch baby recipe every week since I first received a copy of Herbivoracious, fellow blogger Michael Natkin’s vegetarian cookbook, a few months ago. As T’s appreciation for food gradually extends beyond purees and other soft foods, I have amassed a range of breakfast recipes that appeal to both T and CH. Michael’s Dutch baby ticks a number of vital boxes for me. Continue Reading →