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February 2008

24 February 2008

The Pavlova: Queen of Desserts


I revisited an old recipe that I made last year: the Pavlova.

It is my third time making one. The last time I made it, the meringue sank when I opened the oven door. The same thing happened again today. But it wasn't the end of the world and this time my heart didn't drop when I saw the meringue slowly deflating before my eyes.

To remedy matters, I just put a little extra whipped cream where the hole was and piled on loads of strawberries to give the Pav a little extra height. So despite the hole, I still had a very successful dessert.

I cooked the meringue slightly longer this time by about 10 minutes. This gave the base a delicious, almost caramelly chew to it.

There are only four ingredients in the meringue: egg whites, castor sugar, cornstarch and a little bit of white vinegar. When I was beating the egg whites, I was thinking about how amazing the chemistry of food is. The transformation of the egg whites with the addition of sugar into a thick, glossy substance like shaving cream, is quite amazing to watch.


Another thing that crossed my mind was, how in the world did people make the Pavlova or meringues before the time of electric egg beaters?

It must have been a terrible ordeal but at least you'd have strong arms! I thought that if I'd been alive in pre-beater times, I would have invented a bicycle-ilke contraption so my legs would do all the work instead of my poor little arms.


18 February 2008

Kirin Restaurant: a different dim sum experience


Dim Sum is an experience. It’s about as close as we get to hunting in our urbanized environment. There’s nothing like the satisfaction I feel when I finally catch that elusive dumpling that kept whirring by on the trolley, always just out of reach. It is for this reason that I have found that going out for a Dim Sum lunch can often be a stressful affair.

At Kirin Restaurant in Vancouver, the most stress you are likely to encounter is at the moment you try to decide which steaming morsel to eat first.

Continue reading "Kirin Restaurant: a different dim sum experience" »

14 February 2008

Gai Bai Toey: Pandan Chicken


In my last post, I wrote about my third time lucky successful attempt at a Thai-inspired soufflé using coconut milk and pandan leaves.

I happened to have a few leaves left over so I made another Thai favourite: Gai Bai Toey, which are marinated chicken pieces wrapped in the leaves and then deep fried for several minutes. I have to say, it was some of the tastiest chicken I have ever eaten. The trick is to marinate the chicken for at least 3 hours.

The leaves are wrapped around the chicken just before frying where they protect the meat from being overcooked and infuse it with the wonderful pandan aroma. The delicately thin leaves are surprisingly hardy and can withstand being tied in a knot and then deep-fried.

Don't be put off by the fact that they're deep-fried: the pandan leaves seem to save the chicken from being oily. The meat is succulent and tender with just the right amount of crispiness on the outside.

Tying the leaves around the chicken can be a bit tricky but because the leaves are so hardy, if you make a mistake, you can try again and again without fear of tearing them. Just make sure that most of the meat is enclosed in a little parcel.

This recipe is an excellent appetizer to serve at parties to wow your guests but they have to be ok with using their fingers a little! They won't be disappointed. 

Continue reading "Gai Bai Toey: Pandan Chicken" »

06 February 2008

Pandan Soufflé -- a soufflé with a Thai twist


Over the past few weeks I have been attempting to make a soufflé. Let’s just say that each time has been miserable in its own special way.

The first recipe I used omitted the flour resulting in a rocket of egg whites, at first so promising and then so demoralizing, when it grew as tall as a chef’s hat and then proceeded to fall from that great height.

In my second attempt, the soufflé failed to rise at all. In fact, it looked like a shriveled up little toad. I must admit though, it was a delicious little toad. But that’s not the point: because it looked awful and so I cried.

Anyway, I finally plucked up the courage to try my hand again, and, as the saying goes: third time lucky.

I decided to do something a little different – to give my soufflé a twist, a Thai twist. Some of the most common ingredients found in Thai desserts include coconut milk, palm sugar and the deliciously fragrant Pandanus leaves, known in Thai as Bai Toey.

Pandanus leaves are very versatile. They are used to not only flavour desserts but savory dishes as well. They are often folded like origami to make little containers for the desserts. They are used to flavour iced water and for their natural green food coloring. And, because they smell so good, they are even used as air fresheners in taxi cabs!

The combining of coconut milk with pandanus leaves is a perfect alchemy. Their combination adds a fragrant complexity whenever they appear together.


So, there you have it: a soufflé Thai-style. It was delicate, subtle and delicious. The only thing I would change next time would be to add a little more palm sugar. I used three tablespoons, next time I will use four. I also think this recipe would be even better with duck eggs but I can't seem to find them in Vancouver. Duck eggs, which also feature largely in Thai custard desserts, are much richer than chicken eggs.

I was lucky enough to buy a whole bunch of the fresh pandanus leaves from the South China Seas Trading Co however they always carry frozen packets as well.

Now that I know I have an endless supply of the leaves, I have been giddy with all the coconut-pandanus possibilities. Coconut-pandanus pie, coconut-pandanus crème brulee, coconut-pandanus cheese cake, coconut-pandanus gelato – it’s endless. If any of these should emerge from my kitchen, I shall be sure to let you know.

I am submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted this week by Ulrike from the blog Küchenlatein.

Weekend Herb Blogging 

Continue reading "Pandan Soufflé -- a soufflé with a Thai twist" »

03 February 2008

Saturday Afternoon Scones


It is Saturday afternoon, it is 4 degrees, the sun is shining and I can see the snow-capped Coast mountains through my open window. The crisp February air is mingling with the warm scent of baking from the oven.  It's 3 o'clock. Time for some afternoon tea.

I discovered this particular scone recipe on one of the first blogs I ever stumbled upon three years ago - Baking Sheet. Incidentally, Baking Sheet now goes by the name Baking Bites.

I have made these scones ever since and have always been pleased with the delicious results. I think it's the buttermilk that makes them so special. Unlike some scones I have eaten since living in North America, these taste and feel more like Australian scones - they are light, moist and most importantly, they are fluffy.

Scones, which originated in Scotland, are little round cakes that go by the name of 'biscuits' in North America. In England and Australia, they are usually served in tea houses where they are eaten with clotted cream and jam. This is known as a Devonshire Tea or Cream Tea.   

My jam of choice is Bonne Maman. I usually get raspberry but this time in my haste, I grabbed the cherry and didn't realise until I bit into the scone. But this was one of those good mistakes.

Continue reading "Saturday Afternoon Scones" »

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