Monday, December 19, 2011

Fusilli Chorizo and Summer Tomato

So my cooktop broke at the same time I was to start cooking again. Today, a magic gas man work his airy talents and skills. And we are back in business...

I miss having a bit of a free time to do stuff.

I miss having to cook again, with all the available fresh ingredients I love and the kitchen I cherish.

I miss pasta.

Fusilli Chorizo and Summer Tomato
serves 2

4 cups dry Fusilli pasta

6 medium tomatoes, cored and halved
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/2 onion, chopped
1 red chili, chopped

3 Tbs vodka (optional)
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

2 Chorizo sausage, sliced

salt, sugar, pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Italian parsley, chopped
pecorino or parmesan, grated

1. Heat 1 Tbs oil in saucepan and sweat garlic until fragrant but not coloured in low heat. Stir in onion and red chili for 1 minute. Increase heat, stir in tomato and mash with wooden spoon slightly. Add in a pinch of salt, 1 heaping ts sugar, pepper, vodka and Worcestershire. Bring to boil. Close saucepan with lid, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. With a handheld blender or conventional blender, puree the tomatoes until smooth. Simmer.
3. In another saucepan, boil pasta with generous amount of salt.
4. Gently fry off Chorizo with a little oil until crusty on outside in a frying pan. Add in tomato puree in 5 lots, reducing the puree to thick and brown as you add and stir in. Add in pasta.
5. Turn off heat. Stir in cheese, parsley and 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil. Serve!

I miss her.

I really miss her.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November Starter

First, I'd like to welcome myself back.
Second, I'd like to thank you, hungry-hearters, for such comforting support.
Third, I am an official doctor on duty now. (Warning: Stay away from Wellington ;P)

Yeap, Joinin the Movember

Fourth, well I think... I feel... I am... in love with the one I've been praying for every night on my empty bed. But when God gives, that Guy/Lady never make things easy. So here is me, wooing her with the most wonderful of technology:

"You can't always get what you want... but if you try sometime... you might just find... you get what you need."-The Rolling Stones

Here we go... a brand new journey!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chocolate Clay

I am about to share to you one of my precious recipe. Why? Because I can and it rarely is shown in a typical cookbook. I want to push myself by sharing my secrets one by one, so that I won't be lazy to discover more secrets.

When I grew up as a kid, I was fortunate enough to see many beautiful cartoon theme birthday cakes of my friends' birthday. There were all beautiful and amazing looking. I was instinctively jealous deeply to the root of my heart. But there was a consolation, the cake tasted worst than my mum's badminton racket smack to the bum (I was naughty too, you know). The colours did not taste fruity at all! It was just tasteless sugar, a dose so high it'd bless a kid with diabetes for each birthday we attend. The cream wasn't even flavoured with vanilla or any thing that taste like it. Topping the horror, the figurines, which were super awesome looking and some are edible, are made of icing sugar or marzipan!!!! Yuck!!!! So sugary, it stabs the teeth like you've had none.

Sometimes though, some fancy-smancy bragging acquaintance of my parents gave us some really good cakes, the chocolate kind... with 'real chocolate' flowers! Now I always dreamt that one day this world will consist of real chocolate figurines exclusively; no more shitty diabetic-ending. (Sorry, strong opinion here).

As some of you may have shared my hatred of conventional icing sugar toppings in cupcakes, I would also like to draw your attention to flawlessly white iced wedding cake that's just mostly disappointing. Please do try this clay with white chocolate and see the huge difference to your wedding (or even a divorce party). It could be slightly difficult though, but practise yields perfection.

The clay is pretty much like a hard version of play-doh. You need to warm it up with your hand to make it more malleable but not too warm that it'd stick and melt.

Do use cheap chocolate, don't waste on expensive one. The mixture will alter the expensive taste of your chocolate you've paid for. Anyway, the recipe is so damn ridiculously simple. I am embarrassed to keep it a secret. If you want to make a coloured chocolate clay, don't use water based colouring. Use oil based or powder colouring.

Chocolate clay
yields about 350g

300g chocolate
1/3 cup glucose syrup (or light corn syrup)
1-3 drops of colouring (optional)

1. Prepare 30x30cm non-stick baking paper on a bench.
2. Melt chocolate over double broiler but never let the chocolate exceed 37.5celcius. Stir in glucose and colouring with rubber spatula. Stir with folding motion until homogenous. Don't overmix.
3. Pour the chocolate mixture to baking paper. Pat to 20x20cm square shape with spatula. Cool in room temperature for 2-3 hours. The clay is ready to use. Or store in chocolate in baking paper and airtight container for 2 months.

To make a rose, Adri & Surya had kindly shoot simultaneous photos of my hands making a rough concept model of a basic pink rose:

That concludes all the elements of my Panna Cotta with Cocoa Cookies and Pink White Chocolate Rose recipe.

Go ahead, share the love!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lonesome Bittersweetness: For The Love of God

Reading a charming philosophical lit on a cool avo over a glass of warm tea in a chic Seoul metropolitan cafe, it's a sweet introverted treat to my peculiarity, a rarity in the recent years of mine. In the wanders of my imaginary retreat, the theme of love is the most popular hit on my playlist.

Like eating a bag of freshly toasted peanut, knowledge enthuses many to feedback positively by yielding more questions as it is being gained virally. If anything, the awe of philosophy is within the formulation of inspired thoughts.

I was reading 'The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work", the latest publication from my all-time favourite English writter, Alain de Botton. His decorative words are akin to that of a fine aged wine, bursting with depth of characters and sprinkles of after-taste, leaving a beautiful consensual impression with plenty of rooms for added subjective opinion. Each sentence savours like a psalm in the bible.

There was a little sip of Alain's collage about loneliness, a paradigm of a lighthouse beaming its purposeful light in the midst of Western Australian desert, that instantenously set the background theme for my afternoon cup of wandering thoughts.

"Pierre, why are you so sentimental sometimes?", asked a dull or inquiring mind.
"Hmmm, when you have them all: fame, power, fortune, prestige and sex; what's there left to your desire?" - a question for a God, the lonesome supreme whose soul reside as a lighthouse shining in the vast emptiness of a Western Australian desert.

A theory, impossible of prove, came to reach my mind. Perhaps we are free-willed puppets, overlooked by the master, who's awaiting for His/Her love in return.

"Does God need us?"
Could the query cause an everlasting dilemma?
In abandonment, we would lost our soul to its entire meaning. In opposition, reciprocally, does that mean that God, too, is lonely and created us to contest His predicament?
Could that contentious selfish act, from His longing to be loved, made us to be a variation of his image, who has a universal thirst; of love?

A Buddhist monk or a Catholic nun, who's life's devoted to solitude and altruism, is prized heavenly to its level of worth. Pragmatically, two such acts embellish the power of wisdom, the virtue of a God. A self-reflection and an act of giving, during the full span of a lifetime, may be perceived as the confident will-power of resisting the thirst of love, the martyr turning a saint from the absent expression of a hungry heart (pardon the pun ;P), the wisdom of a single lonesome being.

One exception to this altruistic selfish act is that God, in His singular state, would create a different meaning of selfishness. "If you are the one-and-only, can you be referred as selfish?"

"Does God have fear?"
Yes seems to defeat the purpose of God. Yet the denial of the inquisition brings out another mystery of our existence in His light. Why would God tests our faith if He does not fear?

In the end, on the harmony of complex humanity, does that mean that God is playing a crazy little game called love, with us?
So who would you be, and how would you proceed?

Maybe God is never yes, no or maybe; 'cos to its entirety, faith of God is as to be or not to be.

And as for me, the sentimental me, this is just a theory, of what love could be.

"Lord, can You hear me now...?"-Damien Rice

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 3 Taiwan Travel: The Motion Emotion

I guess I was missing for a bit, somewhat...
I've been having tech issues with my Taiwan photos and I've been having a 'life' ;P
No, not all that grand and exciting as you'd imagine.

So on the third day of my Taiwan trip, I was starting to feel a little nudge in my little heart that I missed home. As one mentioned in the past, travel, for most- be it conscious or unconscious, is a journey to appreciate home. I woke up on Monday and I've missed cooking a gamey and juicy NZ scotch-fillet glazed with button mushroom and port wine reduction from Portugal. I then realised that it would be a little while until I could step up to my own kitchen again, I had 3 more months to 'appreciate' home.

If there is a natural sightseeing place I'd recommend near Taipei, I would say it's Wulai. 'Natural' in Asia is not what an imagination would yield. Anything that's natural in Asia will be fully developed to its full commercial purpose, that's just because we're Asian.

The abuse of nature, however, is relative to the culture and the officials on duty. I like how Taiwan still keeps up with the almost-ideal zen of commercial nature.

To get to Wulai, you'd take a subway trip to Xindian and jump in to 849 bus to Wulai. When I say 'jump', I mean that in a literal sort of experience. The crowded bus trip is so fiercely brutal that you'd start to wonder about 3 things: the skills of Michael Schumacher blessed through the bus driver within each narrow and cliff-bearing corner he tackled, the unanticipated pleasing moment that I was kite-surfing in a tight-with-elderlies and gracefully aircon'ed bus, and the safety of my well-being; sanity included. The 40minute pole dancing rodeo was decorated with lusciously deep green scenery as we ascended through the altitude.

Arriving in Wulai, it was, still, hot. Heck, I was glad to get off the bus.

So why Wulai?
Why don't I start with a teaser that the place is pleasantly filled with all things Taiwan-aborigines; food too!

I can safely say that this shop is beautifully located in the vicinity of Wulai village entrance. The lady gave away free, but substantial, sips of jelly in citrus and locally-grown sugar cane breezeful drink.

She gave away sips of heaven everyday...

Lots of curious-inducing things were on display at the village, but it was too early on the day for a pre-climb feast. About 2km, uphill from the village is where you want to be.

The choice is left to you whether you'd use the limbs you have or the miniature train marching on top a relic Japanese colony train track. Walking up, I prefered to have the choice of any season other than summer, since it seemed that there would be more waterfalls to be seen during the rain, and I would stop brewing melanoma daily. Another option I wasn't crazy about, Wulai's a nice place for hot water bath. However, the solitary waterfall was a photogenic gem, you'd be able to catch your bits of nostalgia memorabilia in one shot of thousand words.

A cup of sweat later, it was a time more climbing, fully assisted with machine. The touristly-priced gondola ticket pictured a trip in autumn or spring will/may be the optimal time to catch the blooming cherry blossoms at its vulnerably eye-feasting peak.

It's still a worthy of experience.

When observing anything at a different angle, a mind sometimes twists the heart. I am not talking about the more you see a girl, the more likely somewhat your mind likely to wander to subconsciously liften her attraction; I'm just saying that I've walked pretty far! Look at that village, I was there a few steps ago?!

Off the gondola-up, I was greeted by more waterfalls. Again, the thought of romantic and beauty never left me that summer was not the magnets of those. It was quite obscure on what to do next when you reached the top, but through the maze of a run-down establishment, you'd be greeted by ambiantly matching sets of stairs.

And then...

Man-made beauty can invite a lot of... men,

...who may have a few bucks to spare in a 3/4-star hotel.
But rarely those men who can afford the bucks, can afford the time.

The 'time' that the soul invites everything within the surrounding, the moment a little jewel of ponders struck like a 'ding' sensation accompanied an image of a globe of light turning on, like how I might see why Koi fish is highly prized: how it may live up to hundreds of years, how I used to breed a few dozens of them as a little pet-loving boy, how they moved gracefully like a gentle Chinese woman dressed in a meticulously elaborate robe and dancing for her life to be wedded as one of her king's hundred wives, how... you know touchy-feelly 'bla bla bla' like that.

And the 'time' when I could try out the true capability of my Canon S95 powershot point-and-shoot camera. The more I use this compact camera, the more I fall in love with its limit.

If you're feeling peckish, when your mind play a little game of 'whether I'm hungry or bored', try the 7 km trek around the top of the hotel. It's full of probably-for-youth-camp hurdles.

At one crossing, you can choose how to test your agility in multiples of ways.

I chose the one of top, I got stuck in the middle. I can't remember how I actually made it out.
Like I said, if you have spare cash, there's a nice place nestled on top of the Wulai waterfall that's waiting to embracing you with your conveniently Asian-commercialised adventure.

When journeying to a different country, many people like to experiment with a different personality. Most people would know a typical office-bound Englishman who speaks in thick Oxford accent in urban Sydney metropolitan bars because of the advantageous individuality it entails, and of course, when he'd head home to Manchester, he would swing the absurdly thick ozzie accent to... shine out the 'unique personality'. A whiteman's identity crisis? or pathetic attempts to be loved... a dilemma to have attention...bla bla bla.
Well for the next hour, I was a little kid, walking and balancing my whole body on a narrow road pavement, and sucking on mango cordial popsicle.

The aborigine history seemed to be in my childish notion, based on their native art: the odd colour combination, the primitive symmetry-inspired shapes and the repetition.

Hey! What!?!

Longan tree?!?!!!! I never seen one before.

Of course, the inner naughty-boy-who-loved-to-steal-a-few-rambutan-from-the-neighbour's-tree could not resist such opportunity! Threw out my half eaten popsicle, for a piece of FRESH longan! Best trade ever!

Anyway, back to the Wulai village, back to the time, back to food...

Pork, especially the belly, was a popular sights presented to my Monday visit to Wulai.

So as the anonymous alcoholic brews.

What's that you say!!! Mochi!!! (Yes, I am a cold-blooded mochiholic!)

What I love about the mochi here are
1. They're soft like a pretty girl's lips, or any other anatomical bits that should be appropriately soft.
2. The base looks brown because the sweetener is from a locally-grown sugar cane!
3. They have melon flavours :D :D :d :D
4. 100% recommended!

Lonely Planet is synonymous with giving me a random, undiscoverable, and highly-likely disappointing hints for places to eat and stay. I guess there are great exceptions, like...
Taiya Popo, 14 Wulai Street

You can see from the English version menu (after miming my impression of ' no no wopu ce tau...(I don't understand)), that this place is a Mecca for the hungry heart! It's also a traditional aboriginal foodie spot. Bamboo shoot... hmm... fish... hmmm.... shrimp... hmmm... fish and shrimp...hmmm a combo... bees... hmmm.....

If an old man can take it, I'd be a wuss not to dunk in.

My Charlie Chaplin skills awarded me sips of the three interesting chilled drinks on offer: ginger and dark sugar cane, bitter tea/random leaves brew, and...

... this white sour, sweet and a little cheerfully salty drink. I say it's some sort of fermented dairy product, though, I hardly see cows around Wulai. It's akin to uncarbonated Korean 'Milkis' or Japanese 'Ambasa' or Indonesian 'Calpico', but this is a little more tasty and fresh. (100% recommended)

Stir-fry pork, basil and garlic. Other than a typical tough Asian meat, I truly love this simple bits of comfort. (100% recommended).

Skip the steamed rice, try this sticky rice with mushrooms steamed/charred in a bamboo, cracked open in front of your table. The aroma sent me on an imaginary historical trip of China. (100% recommended).

Deep fried bees tossed in a sesame, leeks, fried basil and probably MSG based seasonings. This is surprisingly an easy-eat. A westerner may describe it as a popcorn experience, but as a chef, it's almost ditto to deep fried seasoned soft-shelled crab, minus the seafood aroma and the dreaded visual effect. It tasted very very Korean... (200% recommended).
I will return to Wulai if I ever slide back in to Taiwan, that's how good was my box of sweet moments.

Last night (Day 2), Megan (from the lovely tea shop) told me that National Palace Museum is a 'must' and 'no 1' place to visit in Taiwan. I am not sure if she was hinting anything, since she was actually working there as well, but I like Megan. ;)

The museum consisted of three massive buildings that displays countless excellent historical craftmanships. The collections are so huge, they can't fit everything on display all at once and thus alternatively re-displaying different collections across the year. Unfortunately, no cameras allowed. They have allocated a person to watch every single room for cheeky buggers like me.

Megan was right. It was a true feat of Taiwan, even for non-museum go-ers.
My favourite part was in the donated area, 3rd floor, turn left as you get in, look at the middle set of display and on the right section, there's a piece of wine serving vase that looks very French and renaissancely sexy (plump and curvy). Ow! and they have good selection of souvenirs... and the stylish, high-tech and wonderfully clean toilets too!
The fact that it was beautiful and I didn't get to 'accidentally' struck a moment with Megan, derived a strong impression that I probably had taken the signs to an over-optimistic-somewhat-narcissistic delusional level. ;P

If you are heading to a popular spot in Taiwan, a good rule of thumb is to follow the lions. They usually guide you to a place worth securing... with a pair of lions.

Touching base to the centre of Taipei, I realised another one of my Westernised evolution. Even though I had been walking all day, I still love the stairs. I just feel that they are good for you and the world. Queuing up for escalators in Taiwan/Korea/Japan/other idiosyncratical place is like wrestling for a government subsidised rice in the mist of 1998 Indonesian economy drastic crisis.

Another thing I like in Underground K mall (located in the Taipei Main Station), is this stationery shop. They have chic collections of inspiration blanks. I bought a few linen book covers, though Jacqueline @ socuteithurts seems to blow away the standard of linen book covers.

My third day of beef noodle soup fell out of my optimistic aspirations. The fiercely macho twang about the restaurant is very inviting, especially with all the ('wrong') recommendation from Taiwanese friends that it's better to stay on fancy looking places. The beef was dry, the noodle was instant, the soup was sad.

Going up above the underworld, you'd be seen a minute being amongst the many students who had finished their school and waiting for elevators to transfer groups of motivation-drained minds to the level of tutor-the-hell-out-of-my-Asian-brain.

That's f%ckin' dedication there!
Still wonder why Asian kids are smarter?
But... I don't know... if the queue is that long, why not take the stairs...?

Having a camera whilst travelling is like an itch for someone to take any frozen bits of visual memories, regardless of its personal significance. Like the building above...

Taking too many random pictures with Canon S95, brings out the worst feature of the camera, the life of battery. Shows up really well on top, the last picture I took before my camera gave away.

That's OK! I still got my cheap as Samsung phone to cover me.

It's OK rite...? It says National Taiwan (presumably) Normal University
(No, it's not blurry. It's you who's tipsy!)

Night 3, Night Market 3, Shida Night Market.

If you are a girl who is hard to pin-down, which literary covers all women with ovary aging between 13 and 30, then Shida is a 'reasonable' place for you to visit. Trust me, your shopping experience here will definitely brings out a lot of interesting 'reason' to whomever is the poor bugger financing you. In other words, this is a nice place for young gals to shop for urban Taiwanese classy dresses at decent prices. (Sorry guys, this is not a place for you to spend for yourself).

If it's any consolation, it may be a great place to pick up 'normal' chicks, since it's located right next to that 'normal' uni. I'm a little unconvinced by the fact that this baby cookies stall is packed with university girls though. Well...what is 'normal' anyway?

As I previously mentioned, there are yummy foods everywhere in any night markets in Taiwan; most of which you'd find repetitively. And so, on top my dead camera, I didn't have much to share about Shida.

Except, my best bite.

This place, right in one of the entrance to the market, may have the best dumpling in all of the night markets of Taipei. My stomach is rumbling in synchrony with every punch of the keyboard letter at this current point of time. If you like to wash it down with something fun, try Green tea Yakult drink, for a truly refreshing and inspiring wave of joy dancing on your tongue. Just go to a bubble tea place over in Shida market. Both are 200% recommended!

I'm in to dry French film noir.
I like how life is not always exciting and full of explosions.
I like how the ending can be disappointing.
Doesn't this whole experience ring a bell that it's what it is: 'life'?
Yet in the cocktail of life, you may stumble upon the perfect moment, like Audrey Tautou smile.
A smile that's made with an anticipated Neverlasting joy, but left an everlasting dent of bliss in the heart.
For that real 'life' smile experience, try Shuanglian station.
It's where the delicious run down solitary restaurants are encircling. It's where the Tea shop (in day 2 post) is. It's manythings (a new word I invented today), like a group of silent elderlies sitting in the closed underground Shuanglian station mall and a bunch of kindergarten graduates screaming as they run for their roles in hide and seek. Sitting in the middle are tasteless pricey art?work of fish.

Does it get drier than that?
Lets take a look down the dry lane...

Nope! It got better!
Many of Taiwanese youngins are born in to a world of hip hop dance. It was 9 p.m. and you see teenagers (boys and gals) turnin up their boom-box and dominating the 10 available gigantic mirrors to practise their art of anatomical synchronisation. There weren't any Timberlake, but the spirits were sacriligious.

Nearby the Shuanglian Station, I hopped in to a random run-down but unusually crowded place and ordered a bowl of noodle (is it Tiger noodle???... 'Meow').

I wasn't sure what it was, but it was the 'no 1' on the menu, spicy fermented beancurd noodle with ground sesame sauce?
Damn it was 100% recommended.

If you have any electronic issues or wants a new electronic, it would be foolish not to get it sorted expertly and cheaply right in the heart of Taipei. I thought a second battery would be a wise investment for my Canon S 95.

There is a collection of camera shops located closed to Taipei main train station, heading towards Ximen outdoor mall area. At 3 US dollars a pop, it was cheaper than a New Zealand orange juice. Just like that my camera was revived to present to you: Ximen!

I wouldn't say that Ximen is a night market. It had 'civilised' stated all over my actively acquiring-image mind.

Girls definitely wear milkshake thick make-up there. And you'd see lensless glasses in outrageously dense proportions. On a random note, I met a girl, who bursted and jumped me, giving me a longlasting intermittent mental re-imagination during and after seeing her, from her universal ways of explaining the art of massive reproduction with her slender fingers. Yeah... I was too poor to pay (for her creativity and AIDS).

Ehem! Some food in Ximen are attractive looking too. But I had tried crab soup in Keelung, I had a limit to my tasting quota so that no (child?) food got left behind.

Ximen's not too far from where I stayed, Taipei Garden Hotel. Across the hotel, you'd find a 24 hour carrefour.

Pretty awesome, except that they've got no nail clippers, sunblock or small scissors.

So I guess, I would just swim and brew myself with the sun rapping the hell out of me, without a condom, leaving me dry and brown. Just like the pungent eggs available on every 7/11 in Taipei (which is quite a lot of eggs).