Cooking: Love, art, technique

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That pot right there. That’s a vessel of love. Packed with plump lup cheong (chinese sausage), black fungus, lily buds, chicken thighs, and wholesome brown basmati rice, that’s an unadulterated Hong Kong style claypot rice for hungry people. I take no credit for this amazing culinary feat. Hats off to my darling chef who whipped this up in less than an hour. All for my family who were coming to visit. We had two things to celebrate – my brother turned 27 this Wednesday and my father had a successful follow-up op (he had a minor accident last year). How else would we celebrate such a joyous occasion than with an enormous helping of comfort food!

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Speaking of comfort, food is a language I am most comfortable with, thanks to early childhood conditioning. My greedy formative years spoiled by Dad’s fantastic cooking have indeed shaped my attitude towards cooking and eating. 

Hervé This, an exemplary figure in the world of molecular gastronomy puts it quite simply, “Cooking is love, art, technique”. The emotional aspect of cooking reigns supreme, above expression or method. The most perfectly cooked egg is just protein and carbs if it were one of the many churned out by your nearby brunch place. No emotion, memory or feeling tagged to it. 

Cooking is more than slicing, dicing, sautéing, frying, steaming, yada yada. A sequence of steps driven by a purpose to feed those you care about. That’s cooking for love right there. Throw in art and technique, and the cycle is complete. That ensures you won’t have a burnt pot of rice 😉 Or maybe a tagine of charcoal black grains!

Main star of the show at our lunch yesterday. In a @lecreuset tagine no less. Guess what's in it? More to be unveiled soon ;) #thechefwholifts #lecreuset #tagine #homemade #homecooking #slowcooked #slowfood #lunch

Daryl used to work in Hong Kong so he was more familiar with the Hong Kong style claypot rice. And that was what he cooked up in a sexy fire engine red Le Creuset tagine. I’m not sure it made the rice any tastier; we just didn’t have a claypot and couldn’t be bothered to buy one. 

Personally, it made for an enticing tableside ‘show’. Call it culinary theatrics or showmanship if you will but it worked! Just look at our unveiling: 

No different than presenting a delicious work of art at a gallery where the guests are all welcomed to partake of that ‘not quite picasso but more so pollack-esque’ piece. 

The technique part was easy when you have a trained chef at the helm. My chef certainly didn’t disappoint. If you’d like to try your hand at this claypot rice, check out the recipe at Daryl’s site.

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We had oyster sauce kailan for our greens. Daryl’s repertoire apparently is not limited to the kitchen. He is an excellent decorator too. Check out the table he laid out. Impressive aye. I have no doubts that our future bistro/restaurant/cafe is going to be spectacularly handsome.

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A beautiful empty table does not compare to a food filled one with bustling chatter. I love it when our family dines together (something that never was a habit because of our schedules). Now, we have new furry additions like darling Savannah, a sprightly cocker spaniel I love so dearly.

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On to what we were here to celebrate! The birthday boy makes a wish (or 27 wishes maybe).

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“Come let’s take a family photo,” my mother gestures. And after struggling with my camera (I forgot how to set the timer) and after many takes later, we had a beautiful family photo.

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Extremely thankful for the generous amounts of food and love I have in my life. 

I do love my family as much as I love food and cooking. I must do this more often. 

Credits: Daryl a.k.a. The Chef who Lifts for cooking this scrumptious meal. 😀

Posted on 1st May 2016 in birthday, chicken, Chinese, Rice  |  Post a comment

That which does not kill us makes us stronger

A good old adage that the majority of us food lovers happily embrace, despite knowing the consequences is also one that puts fear in mindful eaters. I know this because I have gone through bouts of mindful eating.

Thankfully, those days were far and few in between. These days, I am blissful staying ignorant. Even Friedrich Nietzsche himself agrees, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”.

I like Nietzsche, I think he understood us food lovers best. My Dad too, will agree. After all, he never let up trying to convince my siblings and I on how eating the fatty bits of any meat is never a bad thing. “You’re growing, you need energy, eat the skin, it’s good for you,” Dad instinctively chimes whenever he sees me separating the skin (and fats) from any meat that I was eating.

As always, I would expect like-minded food lovers to protest when I say that I hardly ate the fatty glorious tasty skins of chicken, pork and duck. You can start rolling your eyes now, it’s okay, because I feel the same way. You see, I’m a bit contradictory in a way. I will not say no to Eton mess (of which there’s tonnes of cream, which equates to fats anyway- a good 30 to 35% eh?), trifle (again, cream!), tiramisu (mascarpone cheese, hmm, need I say more?), panna cotta (self-explanatory), and the sinful list goes on. Why avoid skins when in fact, I cannot get enough of creamy dreamy fat? It’s a really stupid thing to subscribe to. Yet, I’m guilty of that.

There, I’ve come clean. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of raised eye-brows when friends (oh and colleagues and bosses!) see me push fatty bits of goodness to the side of my plate. Somehow, it makes me feel guilty, especially since I’m supposed to love even the sinful stuff, no matter how unadulterated it is. But believe me when I say that it is also mainly because I hardly find skins appealing, both in taste and texture. That said, isn’t it the norm for a true food lover to never say no to delicious fatty skins? Apparently so, considering the number of times I’ve been chided for my nonchalant attitude towards those fatty bits of skin.

Today, however, I stand converted. All it took was one unforgettable encounter, one that single-handedly changed my perception of chicken skin; underlaying fats and all:

Glistening skin with a smooth gelatinous-like layer of fat sitting lightly on firm, cold white chicken meat. Every piece was a piece of heaven. If you’ve read this blog before, you might notice that I hardly talk about meat this way, let alone chicken skin. Some days I might exaggerate, but today, I am presenting it to you plain and simple. I love sharing good things anyway.

The place selling this unctous chicken is not unknown. Many local food bloggers have blogged about it, including Leslie. Shame on me for not picking up on it and trying it earlier. It was not until a friend of mine shared about how this chicken skin was the stuff of his ultimate food fantasies, that I caught on. He insisted that I had to try it. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like it. Chicken skins are just chicken skins, no? Apparently not. I was wrong to judge them all as equal.

Back to the chicken, skin, fats and all. Located right smack in the middle of Holland Village, at 31 Lorong Liput was this newly renovated air-conditioned eatery called Yi Bao (the former Yee Cheong Yuen). Yi Bao is supposedly a hidden legend, and as Leslie described, very much ‘under-rated’. According to my friend, this eatery has been around for years, and he used to go there all the time when he was still in secondary school. A place with this much history is surely worth a visit. My friend, who grew up eating said chicken said that they are also known for their Ipoh hor fun:

Yi Bao’s Ipoh hor fun comes with a very generous helping of their oyster-sauce-based (a wild guess, do correct me if I’m wrong) dark midnight-brown gravy. Coupled with the cold white chicken with its gelatinous skin, this dinner at Yi Bao is one to remember. It would be the day I fell in love with chicken skin, white chicken skin, something I used to push to a corner of my plate. I am thankful to my friend, my ever zealous foodie partner-in-crime, for bringing me to this place, a place which convinced me more than ever that whatever which does not kill us, only makes us stronger, no matter what the doctors or medical journals say. No one ever died of indulgence. At least no one I know. Ignorance, my friend, is bliss.
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Yi Bao
31 Lorong Liput
Holland Village
Tel: 6468 7737

Posted on 16th Mar 2009 in chicken, fats, skin  |  7 comments



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