Is Bio Besser? pt.2

Being an expat at large one tends to watch an awful lot of CNN or BBC World Service (but CNN is better these days, have you noticed that?)

We just moved to a new Wohnung, and while putting together new Ikea record shelves today we saw a clip on CNN about Paul Mackey, Whole Foods CEO

If you click the link above, you can read a short transcript, but it's better to watch the clip on the site so you can see how shifty Mackey looks when the interviewer asks if it's possible to maintain those original values when you are a big company and shareholders are pushing for profits.

Also amusing are the images of goofy guys spinning pizza dough as he talks about how his business model is built on the imagination of the individual.

Final snipey remark: when she describes Mackey as 'sitting on an organic throne' all I could think was that maybe he'd been eating too much organic Larb.

It's all very well to be so high & mighty about big companies when you are putting together Ikea shelves and about to drill in a Habitat toilet roll holder. These Swedish companies are to the world what Whole Foods may be destined to become once they expand into Europe (they are opening in Kensington, London next... though the one due to open before that I believe is in El Segundo... insert joke about wallet here).

My inner bargain hunter is always at war with my instinct that mass-production should not be trusted (and the hell that is Ikea really underscores that feeling... we got a few nice things that will no doubt fall apart in a year or two and their so-called famous swedish meatballs made me quite sick).
I believe I am the worst kind of hypocrite: I like things to be available and cheap. Therefore I am a cheap hypocrite. And I fell for the old Swedish meatballs trick which also makes me guillable.

And no, I still didn't read Omnivore's Dialemma, but I must!

The Sukiyaki Song

The other day when I was researching hotpot in Thailand I read somewhere that the reason Thai's use the term suki for hotpot is due to a hit song in the 1960s called the Sukiyaki Song that launched a love of hotpot in Thailand. So I did some more research...

"Sukiyaki", known in Japan as "Ue o muite arukō" (上を向いて歩こう "Look up while walking") is a Japanese song that was performed by Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto, and written by Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura. It is best known under its alternative title "Sukiyaki" in English-speaking parts of the world. The song reached the top of the sales charts in the United States in 1963, and was the only Japanese language song to do so.

The term sukiyaki (which is a Japanese steamboat dish) had absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics or the meaning of the song; the word served the purpose only because it was short, catchy, recognizably Japanese, and more familiar to most English speakers (very few of whom could understand the Japanese lyrics anyway). A Newsweek columnist noted that the re-titling was like issuing "Moon River" in Japan under the title "Beef Stew."

Kyu Sakamoto (pronounced "cue") was one of the 520 people who died in the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123 near Gunma on August 12, 1985. He was 43. Before the doomed aircraft hit the ground, he managed to write a farewell note to his wife Yukiko Kashiwagi. Married in 1971, they had two daughters, Hanako and Maiko.

A maintenance manager working for the company... committed suicide to "apologize" for the accident
(from Wikipedia)

I had a search and turns out that you really can't get a more globally loved song than this. Here are some of the best covers I found.

- Pizzicato Five who have actually made the song about sukiyaki, soba and yaki udon

- Spanish version

- Another Spanish version

- Pretty Japanese jazz version

- blues guitar version

- Chinese version

- German version, hilarious

- French

- this one's good too

Feijoas and Jesus

Most kiwi kids of my generation (1970/ 1980s) grew up with a fairly ubiquitous set of childhood memories. These were of course the goldens years prior to the neoliberal reforms of Rogernomics,and the prying open of New Zealand to the whims of global capitalism. They were the good old days of state proectionism and monopolies, of Keynsian welfarism, and where it seems childhood memories too, were standard issue.

One familiar memory to most is feijoa season in April. Pronounced by New Zealanders as "fee-jo-ah" despite it's South American origins, (it is a guava) most of the kids I knew had a feijoa tree or two in their back yard and we would gorge ourselves most of the season on free feijoas. No one bought feijoas. You left all but the perfect ones to rot on the ground (much to the disgruntlement of talk back radio listeners in the South Island, who would moan on about how spoilt North Islanders were especially Aucklanders at any and every opportunity). But in the North Island where warmer weather prevailed free feijoas were like a birth right.


I miss feijoas. When I first left New Zealand and moved to Melbourne, I was disapppointed to discover that instead of free flowing feijoas, they were instead considered an exotic and luxury fruit sold for $2 a piece. Today the humble New Zealand feijoa (New Zealand is the world's largest feijoa exporter) is now fast becoming a novelty item on the menus of celebrity chefs around the world. Thomas Keller has a feijoa sorbet on his menu. Hock is paying USD $2.70 per feijoa to have them on his menu.

Knowing how impressionable New Zealanders can be (I am one afterall), it is perhaps unsurprising then that despite the fact that feijoas still grow in many New Zealand backyards for free, upscale dining establishments in Auckland are adding this once humble fruit to their dessert menus, and charging for it too.

A while ago my friend told me a story of being in an Auckland restaurant where he ordered the feijoa crumble.

"It's fee-yo-aa" said the waiter stressing the spanish pronounciation of the "j", not "fee-jo-aah".

New Zealand ever more self conscious within the bold new globalised world, has not lost it's propensity for cultural cringe and longing for international sophistication.....despite bringing feijoas to the world

Heesus Christ
Rarely a day goes by where I don't find myself asking "Would MC Hammer eat this?". Thanks to the internet, I can ask Hammer, who is currently in the process of becoming a respectable food blogger with his first in a series of posts on the eating habits of the Hammer family.

Just in case you have lived a Hammer-free existence, here is the MC's paean to happy pants:

Carved in Fruit

Yesterday I had to go to the mall to get new lenses for my glasses. I had to wait an hour for the lenses, so I went to the food hall and had lunch. I sat and ate a bowl of noodles at a little bench and watched a stall worker cut a cucumber.

Her cucumber cutting skills were prodigious. She carefully peeled the cucumbers, then chopped them perfectly in half, long ways. Then she proceeded to chop the ends and diascard them and then she got to work on dicing perfect cubes.

This got me to thinking about the guy I saw on the boat we took in Phuket to the Similan Islands who perfectly cut a watermelon on a speed boat in rough conditions. He had a technique of chopping that amounted to a perfect pile of appropriately portioned watermelon pieces with just enough rind for holding the melon piece. He also managed to do it without a chopping board while wielding a big knife.

I also thought about a story my friend told me about when she lived in a village for 2 weeks in Cambodia. One day she was chopping a mango and making mango below...

Controversial Mango Hedgehog
Mango Hedgehog.JPG

The villagers all came and stood around her and watched and laughed at her, teasing her about the way she cut a mango. It seems that in that village there is only one way to cut a mango correctly and everyone knows it. You peel it first and then slice of the fruit flesh into shards. You do not make a hedgehog.

When Hock first arrived in Cambodia he had an extremely difficult time convincing all his new staff not to carve the fruit and vegetables into elaborate shapes such as flowers and birds. It took many months for Hock to drum out their propensity for making carrot birds and tomato flowers.

So I was sitting there watching the girl cut the cucumber and although I don't want to make any gross generalisations, I thought, "man, what's up with Asians and fruit and vegetable chopping?"





Water of life

3 am

In Bed

Eau de vie

Vieille Prune


Tres drunk

Sokapeap la'aw

Fried things, a week in review.

Crab cakes.

Hamburgers (thank you Maytel).

Fried cheese (yummy 2 am snack).

Fried chicken with mayo.

What the fuck!
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While half a world away people are eating hard-won, bluesey noodles, up here in Germany the weather is getting milder and every citizen exercises his or her right to lie about on grass and eat cake.

Our friends Ina & Harry moved house recently, to a nice below-street apartment in a grand iron-gated house in Ehrenfeld (name of this inner city area translates as 'field of honour'). The apartment opens onto a garden with fountain and Hansel & Gretel style pines. Pretty private gardens are rare as hen's teeth here: generally either you live in an apartment, or you live in a village. If you can find an apartment with a garden you are the envy of your friends. There aren't really suburbs in the picket fence, rotating metal washing line, pumpkin patch sense.

The nice thing that means gardens aren't an absolute necessity, is the many sprawling and verdant city parks, which people really do inhabit and use. These parks make Cologne a real joy to live in during summer... there are often small beer gardens in one corner where lights are hung from the trees, but generally it's meandering grass and towering trees and people lying everywhere sunning, canoodling or grilling. It's nice to see public spaces properly inhabited like that and also nice to see such enthusiastic use of barbeques. In case of emergency you can get little aluminium foil takeaway BBQs from service stations which contain a metal grating and charcoal briquettes, and on really nice days you'll be darned if you can find a single sausage left in any of the supermarkts.

Any way you look at it, a garden is a treat. I think Ina & Harry spend most daylight & dusk hours in that garden (I would too!). They are tending seedlings for a giant pumpkin which they say will be made into delicious pumpkin jam.

So we visited them on Labour Day for cake and coffee: Ina had made cheesecake with the first crop of rhubarb of the season. Germans are very good at cake! And this cheesecake is really tops, very moissst, maybe because it uses quark instead of cream cheese. Forget every cheesecake you've eaten until now, this is the cheesecake you should henceforth refer to in your cheesecake dreams & imaginings. Really great also because it's really not too sweet.

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Ina's Rhubarb-Quark Cheesecake

200 g flour
75 g butter
75 g sugar
1 egg yolk
pinch salt
teaspoon baking powder

300 g rhubard or other fruit

500 g quark
150 g fine sugar
pinch salt
1 packet of vanille puddingpulver or two tablespoons of vanilla pudding powder or good quality custard powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar
1 egg yolk
2 eggs
1/2 liter milk
a little squeeze of citrus juice
1/2 cup of olive oil

Baiser meringue crust:
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons fine sugar

Knead the butter and egg into the base ingredients. Grease a springform
cheesecake pan, and spread the cake-base mix over the bottom.

Cut the rhubarb very finely and spread it over the base. (You could use other fruit like pear or cherries, and you could also spread a little ginger conserve or other jam).

Mix the filling ingredients well and pour over the top.

Bake at 200 degrees for 45 minutes. (Not finished yet!)

Prepare the 'baiser' meringue topping by beating the egg whites stiffly and folding the sugar into them. Spread on top of the cake and bake for another 10-15 minutes. This baiser topping is very thin and just gives a great spongey chewy texture to the top of the cheesecake.

Cool the cake and then put it in the fridge for at least two hours before serving at room temperature.

Best served in a magic garden.

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That's the chef on the left drinking 'Ramune' japanese lemonade.

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Noodle Exchange

When I was doing field work in Cambodia last year I travelled around a lot in big white four wheel drive landcruisers with Khmer project staff. We generally listened to Khmer music. The older Khmer guys loved listening to a form of Khmer folk music called "talking the blues". It has a Southeast Asian country style to it. Occasionally, they show the music on Bayon TV. It's usually 3 people, a couple of old timers guys and a woman. One plays the Chapei Dang Veng (long neck guitar). They'll talk/sing and intermittently stop for the audience to holler out "Ja ja" or "Bart bart bart" (female and male forms of yes in the Khmer language) - its a bit like when you listen to a live Curtis Mayfield album and the audience yells out in the background "I hear you brother"

The guy pictured below is considered to be the foremost virtuoso of singing the blues in Cambodia. He is known in expat circles as the Ray Charles of the Khmer blues (I tried to find some online but no luck).

suon penh.jpg

Anyway, on one particular occasion, we were travelling to Prey Veng and listening to some Khmer blues and I asked my Khmer colleague "what is this song about?" (my Khmer isn't that good). Knowing the history of the country, of the killing fields and of the Khmer Rouge, American cold war bombing and repeated invasion and civil war, I expected the response to be about a tale of incredible suffering and hardship. If anyone has cause to sing the blues I thought, it's the Khmers.

"The song is about a man who bought some noodles, from his friend. The noodles are not good. And so he doesn't know what to do. He doesn't know if he should take the noodles back and risk upsetting the friendship or whether he should just keep the noodles. The noodles were expensive and his friend promised him they were great, so now he sings about his worries"


And that's when I realised that the appeal of the blues is not to relive horrific events in one's life or the history of the country, but to talk and settle the ethical and moral problems of everyday life and relationships. How to deal with friendship relations and trade, what to do if your sold a bad bunch of noodles.

Contrary to common perception noodles are not native to Southeast Asia. Instead they were bought to Southeast Asia by successive waves of Chinese immigrants moving, trading and settling in the region. Rice noodle making as pictured below is labour intensive. It takes about 1 hour of pounding this rice and water mixture to get a kilo of noodles that are sold for about 1000 riel or $0.25. At the other end of the pole 2 small children peddle the log to pound the noodles. Generally most Cambodians make noodles only for the new years, which I think is another tradition picked up from the Chinese. Chinese serve noodles in the new year as they signify longevity.

Chief village noodle maker.jpg

I found generally that in-village noodle making occured in denser villagers with more spare labour and more often in villagers closer to townships. More noodle machines were spotted in villages closer to Vietnam also, where the ubiquitous pho noodle reigns supreme. (This was just my noodle observations, they may not be true).

But despite the fact that noodles are not indigenous to Cambodia, this is where I picked up a recipe for one of my most favourite at home noodle dishes. I got the recipe from the owners of my favourite Japanese restaurant in Siem Reap where I often went to dine on their Umeboshi Cold Udon. Luckily I never once was faced with the dialemma of being served bad noodles.

Cold Umeboshi Plum Udon Noodles Recipe for 1 - 2 people


Udon noodles (portion per person)*
Japanese Sesame Dressing
Spring Onion chopped
Daikon raddish (cut into batons)
Cucumber (cut into batons)
Ginger (cut into batons)
Umeboshi Plum

Japanese Sesame Dressing
You can buy this at the store or you can make it yourself. I usually just buy the dressing and then beef it up a bit.

- sesame paste 2 tblspn or so
- sesame oil couple of drops
- minced ginger (1/2 tspn)
- minded garlic (1/2 tspn)
- wasabi paste (little blob)
- mushed up umeboshi
- garlic powder
- sesame seeds whole
- japanese rice vinegar
- little bit of honey or sugar

Boil udon until cooked and plunge into ice cold water. Arrange batons of veges and sprinkle over spring onion. Top with an umeboshi plum and serve with sesame dressing

* You can use cold soba or somen too

BBQ Rib Porn

This one's for you Phil

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Number 1 from an endless series.

A commercial sized smoker, purely devoted to pork ribs - One day I will need to cook pork ribs for 40 to 100 people, and quite thankfully, my partner agrees that owning two barbecues and a dedicated rotisserie is not enough. As a nation, Australians are brilliant at the act of barbecuing and our national holiday is ostensibly devoted to it rather than something more controversial, like invasion by white people. However, Australians tend to be poor at cooking barbecued food. We have the heart for barbecue but not the palate. We rarely even barbecue heart. We’re a nation of grillers rather broilers or smokers. I’m a firm believer that a well-placed smoker can change the world.

Note: Pictured commercial smoker is Ole Hickory Pit's Model SSO-SSI, boasting a cooking surface of 144 square feet and cooking capacity of 216 sets of baby back ribs.

Burning Ring of Fire

This week's food song, is the song I always sing in my head as I regret the previous evenings scorchingly hot Thai meal.

Most painful is the days after having eaten here.

Image0001 copy.JPG

It is my favourite Isaan restaurant in Bangkok. Isaan is the poorest region of Thailand, but it is also in my books, the yummiest. If you like larb, the Thai spicy salad made with ground chicken, beef, duck, or pork - then you like isaan food. Other famous Isaan dishes are: bbq chicken with spicy roasted rice chili, salt baked fish, and som tum (papaya salad), all served of course with sticky rice.


If you are ever in Bangkok, print off this card and show it to a taxi driver. By any luck you will be driven deep into the Thai suburbs. Before you journey too deeply along the congested suburban highways and into the territories of Thailand's burgeoning middle class suburban fantasies and gated communities, you should hit a main road that is dominated with enourmous towering restaurant/beer gardens. Most of the architecture will be a type of faux log cabin, with flashing neon crabs and fish rather than neon cowboys signs. At some point you will get to a roundabout and near to this roundabout is a small restaurant. It's not much to look at but the food is outrageously good. There is absolutely no english and no english speakers work there. But there are photos and so you can point and gesture to your mouth. I usually go with my Dad for fear of getting lost. Once my Thai improves (I start lessons this week) I'll be braving the traffic alone. It's a meal worth crossing town for (so long as you have nothing much to do the next day but stay close to a bathroom and hum quietly in your head "and I went down down down in a burning ring of fire")

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If you have the disease where you like to eat different things all the time, monthly Japanese home-maker's magazine Orange Page is a useful solution since many of the recipes are quite simple preparation-wise and have some very good inventive combos of Japanese and Western style cooking... like endless varieties of wiener-asparagus-egg dishes (at least one per issue).

Nothing funny to say about it really but here's a 'simple soup' I pulled out of last month's Orange Page, you'll love it.

Simple Soups: Broccoli Bacon Soup (serves two)

1/2 broccoli head cut into bite sized florettes
3 strips of bacon with most fat removed & cut into 3cm pieces
1/2 red onion cut into slices
2 cups of water plus a teaspoon of high-quality western style stock powder (I used half a sachet of kombu stock powder and a quarter of an organic vege stock tablet, but guess two cups of good chicken stock or whatever would be even better)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

Saute the onion and bacon in the olive oil, then when cooked but not too browned, add the broccoli and saute for about a minute. Add the stock & water and simmer until the broccoli is as tender as you like it. Reduce the heat and if necessary skim off any fat. Add lots of freshly ground black pepper and if necessary a little sea salt. Serve and grate a scant tablespoon of parmesan over each bowl.
Later if I can be bothered I'll scan a picture from the magazine so you will be convinced of how yum this actually is!
Erik says it's now his 'lieblings suppe'

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Dr Bread with Conan

I miss good bread. Bread makers in Thailand follow the general conception that the whiter, sweeter and spongier the better. I call it Japanese-style bread. Cambodian bread is marginally better, it has a crust at least. Overall I've noticed that in keeping with the southeast asian general perception that anything dark is bad and anything white and fair is good, one almost never sees a well baked loaf of rye bread. My step-mother has taken the asian browned bread phobia to a whole new level. As she believes that anything slightly burnt contains cancer causing carcinogens, after toasting her bread in the morning she then proceeds to pick off any pieces that fall above the hue of honey coloured. It is a painful sight to see

I miss vogels and crusty loaves of ciabatta.

Why we don't drink pigs milk

The food sucked this weekend in Bangkok (well all the places we went to anyway, mostly because everyone was on holiday). The only good thing to come out of our dining experiences was some cute hand drawn images that appeared on one the menus at one of the three restaurants that we wasted our money at. So I am back to stealing food related crap off the internet.

The B stands for Baht not BILLIONS of dollars

I have eaten donkey sausage but not horse sashimi like some. Again, sorry Packet Foodie.

Anyway that brings me to why we don't drink pigs milk (or make cheese from pigs milk etc.)

I am not sure if I mentioned here at GF before that I don't have a TV and that during quieter moments I find myself in obscure parts of the internet usually somehow food related.

Anyway the following is a writing from a website where the author Guy loves to write to companies asking bullshit questions (interestingly mostly written in the early 90's before the web went mainstream).

Guy writes:

Illinois Pork Producers' Association
6411 South 6th Street Rd
Springfield, IL 62707-8630

Each day as I sit in the diner opposite my house, eating my bacon and drinking my milk, I wonder: why don't we drink pig milk?Pork is such a natural and essential part of life. It gives us ham and bacon, spam and red-hots, pork chops and lard. But whereas cows give us so many delicious meat products, they also provide us with dairy. Pigs are mammals too. They lactate, don't they? Why don't we harvest it? Does their milk taste bad? It is toxic? Is it simply unattractive, perhaps an opalescent brown-green that blinds all to its delicious flavor? Is it hard to milk a pig? Do they produce enough milk to make it worthwhile? Is it too viscous or thin to be of any industrial or domestic use? Can you make cheese from pork milk? Or yogurt? Or butter? Can you cook with it? Make pasta sauce, or use the cream in fancy coffee drinks?

As you can see, I have lot of questions about pork dairy potential. It's a topic I don't know much about. But I want to, because I'm sure that there's a good reason for the way things are, and I'm curious about it.

Please write me back and let me know why such a potentially lucrative and delicious resource has not yet been tapped.

Thank you very much.

Guy Petzall.

Guy Petzall
1949 Henderson
Chicago, IL 60657

Dear Guy:
I was excited to hear that each day you sit down to a meal of bacon, because today's pork products are 31% leaner than they were ten years ago. Pork is delicious and very healthy as many physicians recognize it as a very important source of protein. But the opportunity they present to the dairy industry is very limited.

Porcine do lactate and their milk I will assume would taste great, because it is made of 8.5% fat in relation to the fat that makes up 3.5% of the components in cows milk. The other components such as lactose and water are found at nearly the same percentages in pig's milk. However, pigs will on average produce 13 lbs of milk in a day as compared to cows that produce 65 lbs of milk on average per day. Pigs unlike cows cannot become pregnant while lactating and therefore possess a severe economic problem to producers. whfle pigs consume less feed per day, economics does not allow pigs to be a viable source of dairy products.

The biggest challenge facing the porcine dairy industry is collecting the product. Pigs on average have fourteen teats as opposed to cows that have four teats. Pigs also differ from cows in their milk ejection time, a cows milk ejection is stimulated by the hoimone oxytocin and can last ten minutes, where as a pig's milk ejection time only last fifleen seconds as the suckling pigs stimulate the release of oxytoc in. The technology of a 14 cupped mechanized milking machine that can milk a pig in 15 seconds is not available to pork producers.

I hope I have answered your questions and I encourage you to think about developing a pig milking machine as you eat your bacon in the fixture.

Good Luck

Bradley Wolter

Pork Quality Assurance Intern

Take me to Takumi

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Takumi is a new-ish ramen restaurant in Duesseldorf, owned by brickny, the same company running those oases of nice rice, Relax Cafe and Kushi-tei.

No ramen sensei, me.

The best bowl I've ever had is still the one I had with Celia shortly after arriving in Japan for the first time back in '99. We drove through the industrial outskirts of Osaka and popped out in some steamy small ramen joint. I had Sapporo-style miso ramen topped with sweetcorn, butter, beansprouts, and the usual toppings. At the time it seemed insane to put butter on top of a soup containing instant noodles, but it was fucken good.

Spending a good deal more time in Japan and having of course seen the wonderful movie Tampopo (see still above), I still never really cracked the mysterious upper levels of ramen appreciation. I know that people track down hot restaurants on the internet and when one is burning, lines curl around the block like a long ramen noodle.

I read once that ramen is to the Japanese what the hamburger is to the US, and I will concede that it tastes its absolute best when you're drunk almost to the point of catatonia.

As to the finer points of the flavour, when not drunk, most times to me it tastes like a somewhat unremarkable soup containing some rather tasty morsels (dieting tip I learned when living at the temple in Akamon-cho: eat only the noodles and morsels and leave the oily soup in the dish as a slurping aid only)

So we checked out this joint Takumi in D-dorf, and it was pretty damn tasty. About 8 euros for a stomach-filling meal. Atmosphere was good, like a respectable Tokyo chain-restaurant style, scrubbed clean and replicable modern. Steamy. Filled with Japanese families. We were sitting by the service counter and the chahan (chinese-style fried rice) looked superb; I regretted not ordering it. The gyoza were a bit too modernistic (square-shaped parcels). The soup I don't feel qualified to rate in the universe of ramen, but it was good! I ordered my usual tonkotsu ramen.
Tonkotsu is comprised of a rich, milky, pork-bone tonkotsu broth and thin, non-curly and resilient noodles (seemed like long sōmen to me - thin white noodles made from wheat flour). I like that it comes with beni shoga (dark pink pickled ginger), and this one came topped with red chinese 'Kuko' seeds - which come from the 'matrimony vine', also known as 宁夏枸杞, Chinese Wolfberry, Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree, or Tibetan goji berry, and described on one website as 'eating recovering fatigue seeds'.

Another great condiment they offered was a small metal dispenser of a greenish paste made from sansho pepper and yuzu citrus. If you've ever tasted either of those foodstuffs, you'll be able to imagine the awesome, acrid citrus flavour: it was excellent mixed into the soup.

Although I am not a master ramen connoiseur, I can declare that although not sent into rapsodies of delight, while eating it I was completely absorbed and transported away from the material world into the ramen realm, which must always be the aim of a successful dish and a deep flavour no? Even when it comes to hamburgers.
Erik's miso ramen was better - the lightly sauteed veges on top and more abundance of tasty bits.

Next time we go there I plan to order the same as Erik but with the butter corn topping and eat ramen like it's 1999.

40210 Duesseldorf
Ph. 0211 1793308

Erik's miso ramen (how do they cook the eggs so the white is so firm and broth-stained yet the yolks are liquid and glossy?):

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Tsuke-men (dipping noodles)

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Chahan fried rice

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Tonkotsu money shot

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Food Song Of The Week - Rock Lobster

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Lucky pig

In honour of Maytel & Hock's commando year of the pig experiences.

Saw the book in the photo below in the Japanese bookstore in Duesseldorf. Didn't buy it (despite the helpful diagrams of pig anatomy). But what better country than Germany to celebrate the Year of the Pig?

Schwein haben: to be lucky (literally 'to have pig')

According to the radio station Deutsche Welle, the expression "Schwein haben" originated in the middle ages, when the person who came last in shooting competitions, etc. would be given a pig as a consolation prize. Because (unlike the winners of the other prizes) he had done nothing to deserve the pig, he was regarded as lucky to get it.

Ein Glückspilz: literally 'a lucky mushroom' - a person who experiences unexpected good fortune.

Den inneren Schweinehund bekämpfen: literally 'to battle the inner pig-dog' or to fight one's lack of motivation

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This weekend Theravada Buddhist countries are celebrating the New Year. According to this calander the year is now 2551 (I think)...In Thailand and Cambodia this means parties in villages and games. In Bangkok it means throwing water and talcum powder at anyone and everyone, especially if they are farang (foreigner)....different people have different strategies to deal with this. I just saw a couple of white guys walking down the road with super soaker water guns, others just cab everywhere and some people pretend to carry laptops in order to avoid getting splashed. Hock just carries everything in zip lock bags.

I'm not sure how Theravada new years came to be entangled with Chinese astrology exactly, but this year Cambodian astrologers are predicting a mixed bag for the year of the pig.

"The goddess Mohatearak Devi, who sits astride the divine pig which will rule the heavens for the coming year, arrived just after midday, according to astrologers.

In between parties, games and traditional dances, Cambodians made traditional offerings of meats, fruits, incense and other delicacies of the goddess and prayed for good luck and good fortune for the coming year.

But Royal Palace astrologer Im Borin said the new year will bring some hardships, with a poor rice crop, stormy weather and a 'big problem in Phnom Penh' predicted in the coming months.

It will be a good year for women however, according to the venerable soothsayer, with the wives of high officials generally content and the nation's legion of waitresses in line for prosperity and property."

If this is anything to go on then incidents like this should subside over the coming year, some how I don't quite think that it's time to do away with this organisation dedicated to promoting the safety and security of Cambodian Beer Girls

Helpful hints

Just to prove that I am not all about links, I am also all about scanning photos from cookbooks.

I finally have more than one day off in the working week for the first time in a while and if we don't get wasted by little punks, we might actually get out and take photos of some actual real food from our neck of the woods.

Remember the following technique if you are ever caught in the above scenario, remain calm and enjoy the beer.

The Democratisation of Mustard

Heston's got it all wrong. There is no one perfect anything.....From modernism to post-modernism in a pasta sauce....

In case you haven't wandered over to the honour roll side bar and taken a peak at the illustrious list of food blogggers, websites and tings then it may be high time that I draw your attention to the Kitchen Sister's and their program on
NPR - Hidden Kitchens

This story about an ex-black pantha and his prison perfected candies caught my imagination especially...sugar it's the bright light in many a dark day


Here are just a couple of designs from one of my favourite Jeremy Scott collections.
Pizza robe and what i call the spaghetti incident.
I'm gonna post lots of other food brainwashed artistic + fashion highlights from my crew over the next few weeks.

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Relax Cafe, Düsseldorf

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On Erik's birthday we had the use of his dad's 4WD, so we took the chance to drive out to Düsseldorf. As I've mentioned on here before, D-dorf has one of the highest Japanese populations in Europe at somewhere around 11,000. And I must say it is very nice to go to the comfy unpretentious eateries out there especially early on a spring Saturday when the places are just filled with Japanese families, neighbourhood vibe.

And yes, as you'd expect, there are a fair few Japanophilic Germans around and about - from the pro-level, probably spent time in Japan as a kid, totally fluent and apt to act the buffoon to be the centre of attention type, to the role-playing game/goth/harajuku hybrid german teenagers floating around the Purikura photo booth in the Japanese bookstore...
The cool thing about the existence of German-Japano cultural relations (and of course biracial marital relations) is that speaking Japanese is treated totally normally in D-dorf, and doesn't warrant any embarressing half-meant outbursts.

We had a mid-afternoon snack at Relax Café - one of three excellent places on Immermanstrasse, opposite the Hotel Nikko and the Japanese Consulate: all three restaurants owned by the same company.
(Anyone else thinking of Auckland's Japanese restaurant eatery mogul and ex-olympic Judo competitor Rick Littlewood who has three restaurants within 10 metres of each other? Seems to be a good business model because if one is too full, they can send customers to the others)

No, Relax is not a 'proper' Japanese restaurant: but it is pretty authentic to the type of fusion bistro cafe type place u might come across in a quiet Japanese suburb. The music was Beyonce and Erykah Badhu. They had a selection of knick knacks to buy by the door. And the menu is all comfort food like Korean-isch meat dishes, pork curry and ome-raisu. Plus a really great selection of elegant modern-Japanese-homemaker style cakes like Earl Grey Tea chiffon and Chai Mousse.

It was the first time to eat there apart from cake, (still have to try those soya puddings), and it was pretty good. About 8 euros for the Karubi beef which we shared: perfect kimchi and very good with the rocket adding another type of fresh spiciness. The beef was a tiny bit on the chewy side but extremely tasty & juicy.

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The matcha green tea latte was very good, the cream on top authentically unsubstantial and sugar-fake tasting and the two sweet dried chilli on top were a nice touch...

Relax Bar & Café
40210 Düsseldorf
Tel: (0211) 1795653

Eating muff

Speaking of fried is the tip on cooking fried chicken by Paul Prudhomme, a personal food hero of mine introduced to me by my very good friend J.lord (whom is the personal chef for one of Australias wealthiest men, but thats a story for another day, especially when it comes to the eating of fried chicken, oh and spitting in peoples food, yes some chefs will do that if they are pushed too far).

Magic Fried chicken

Chef Paul is what he eats and that is fat. Yes he loves his fat, and he loves a good muff - Muffaletta sandwich that is

If you look closely at the video of Paul making a Muff sandwich, you might notice that he is sitting. That's because he's so fat that he can't stand anymore and has to get around on a motorised chair

Now that's what I call dedication to your work

(The above shot was back in the day when he was still able to walk)

But who could help themselves, his renoun famous cajun cuisine is so famous that people line up every day outside his restuarant in Louisiana just to try it

I once had a conversation with a chef who worked with him. Apparently the man has the most amazing palate, he can actually taste exactly where a cook has deviated from his recipe. For example you might have used corn oil in a gumbo and not grapeseed, things of that nature. Kinda like the difference between Anchor butter and Fernleaf, anyway trust me his gullet is kickass.

Not that he is beyond making the odd mistake from time to time, for example, wiki details his failed attempts to hook the general public on south american mouse meat, yes cute sweet little....mouse meat

But occasionally he gets it very very right. His legacy to the world will most likely be the Turkducken a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey.....

Although Hugh Fearnlywhittingstall (we love him) has gone several better and invented the....turgoduckmaguikenantidgeonck

Paul will always remain as the originator

Paul Prudhome

We salute you
The police in Cambodia have a new weapon in their battle against the outspoken and unruly - fish sauce. Although supression of the media in Cambodia reached all time highs last year with the imprisonment of local radio jounalists criticising the government's border agreements with Vietnam, I'm not sure whether this should be listed along with other grievances such as wrongful imprisonment and attempted asssasinations.

"Phnom Penh - A Cambodian journalist appealed to human rights campaigners for help Wednesday in accusing a senior police officer of assaulting him with a dish of fish sauce in a restaurant. San Bun Thoeun, a reporter with mass-circulation gossip magazine Angkor Thom, claimed deputy chief of Phnom Penh judicial police Moung Kim launched his attack with a dish of the pungent sauce after seeing a recent article concerning his wife, glamorous singing star Meng Keo Pich Chenda.

The journalist called the assault an infringement of his rights and demanded an apology, adding he was taking the matter to prominent local human rights group Licadho and considering court action if he did not receive an apology.

"I am very upset. This is not about money, this is about my honour. There were a lot of people in the restaurant who saw and heard this insult against me," Thoeun said by telephone.

A representative for the Cambodian Club of Journalists said the group was still awaiting a request to intervene in the escalating furore, which has received widespread coverage in local media.

Kim was unavailable for comment.

Last year Paris-based journalism watchdog Reporters Sans Frontiers reported a number of attacks on Cambodian journalists, but this was believed to be the first involving a condiment.

Local newspaper Cambodia Daily quoted Information Minister Khieu Kanharith as saying that if the fish sauce allegation was true and Kim had a legitimate complaint about a story, he should use more conventional avenues to display his displeasure, such as requesting a correction."

The face that launched a fish sauce attack

Hot Pot Love

Few foods inspire absolute devotion in me like hotpot. There's just something about it that appeals to my very core: sitting around a table with a boiling pot in the middle and leisurely dropping in soup ingredients is one of my life's true pleasures. It is interactive, leisurely and social. It doesn't take much to prepare (mainly chopping). It is generally healthy, yet full of flavour. Oh the virtues of hotpot. Below is a review of some of my all time favourite hotpots. All recipes require a hotpot - gas or electric, chopsticks, soup spoons and little bowls at a minimum. Most should be served with rice.

Sukiyaki/ Shabu Shabu
When I was little my Dad occasionally travelled to Japan and when he did he would bring home new and exciting culinary treasures like sukiyaki. Sukiyaki is a strictly beef affair

Sliced beef enough for all diners ( approx 100 gms each. Get your butcher to partially freeze and then slice on a slicing machine, must be paper thin. Alternatively you can buy in the frozen section of most Asian supermarkets have presliced beef) thaw and arrange attactively on a plate (I used to make beef roses until one of my guests pointed out that it looked disturbingly similar to a chacha, so maybe not that attractively)
Vegetables and other accompaniments sliced into bite sized pieces
- leek
- spring onion
- onion
- mushrooms (fresh and dried shitake)
- chinese cabbage
- other green pot herb like spinach or whatever
- tofu pieces (fried and soft if you like)
- carrots (optional)
- shirataki noodles or vermicelli noodles or even udon (don't put in until the end because otherwise they suck up all the broth

Soy Broth
- 1/3 shoyu kikoman or other japanese variety
- 2/3 water
- big gulp mirin or sake
- heap of sugar
(add more water as the broth evaporates and becomes salty)

Put broth in hot pot, serve raw ingredients at table and dip......don't burn your mouth.

The "authentic" way of eating it, which I do cause I'm so down wid it, is to serve with a raw egg. Diners stir the raw egg with their chop sticks in little bowls and then dip pieces of cooked meat into the raw egg and eat. It's yummy trust me, I don't ever eat runny eggs but I eat them like this. The piping hot beef kinda cooks the egg and cools it down. Its all gooood

Shabu Shabu

- the same but use a konbu dashi stock instead of soy broth
- add sesame dipping sauce and ponzu dipping sauce (you can buy at the supermarkt pre-made or you can make yourself)

Ponzu Sauce
- generally speaking is japanese soy sauce and ponzu juice (aka citrus)

Sesame Sauce
- tahini or sesame paste 1/2 cup
- rice vinegar (japanese) 2 tablespoons
- soy sauce (japanese) 2 tblsp
- miso paste 1/2 cup
- sugar 1/2 cup dissolved
- garlic powder 1/2 tsp
- sesame oil 1/2 tsp

Mongolian Hot Pot

One of my most memorable meals is of having Mongolian hotpot in Beijing on my honeymoon. I've never made it before but it is like Shabu Shabu, in fact I suspect that Shabu Shabu is the Japanese version of Mongolian hotpot, except monglian hotpot traditionally uses thinly sliced sheep and the broth is simply water, but similar sesame dressing. The highlight of Mongolian hotpot is the little wheat buns they serve with it. If you go to Beijing you must hunt some down. I can't tell you where we found ours because it was the result of random wandering and a chance encounter with a friendly chinese microsoft worker who directed us to the restaurant.

Mongolian Hotpot.JPG

Mongolian Hotpot.JPG

Korean Seafood Hotpot
I've never had this in a restaurant, I've only made it myself from the recipe in Shunju. It's good, it's spicy and seafoody. Think spicy korean boulliabase (I know a french chef who would balk at this suggestion, but that's the french for you)
Use seafood (crabs, prawns, oysters, pipis and cockles, clams, scallops, crayfish if you're feeling extravagant, firm white fish fillets) and the same veges as for sukiyaki, but make this broth:

- Litre water
- Korean chili bean paste (Kochu Chang) - 2 tablespoons or more to taste
- sesame oil 2 tblspns (virgin if you can get, meaning not roasted first, usually lighter in colour)
- garlic - 1/4 bulb bruised skin on
- dried chili powder preferably korean 1 tsp or so
- shoyu show me soy sauce 1/3 cup

again arrange all raw and cook at the table

Seafood Hotpot

Chongqing Spicy Hotpot
A boiling cauldron of evil pain. Anthony Bourdain compares it to a bad girlfriend which you know isn't good for you but you can't help but coming back for more. I had my first in a strange mainland chinese restaurant in melbourne that was wedged between two car yards in north melbourne. From the murky depths of the chili broth strange ingredients would occasionally emerge, pig's blood tofu, was that an ear???? tripe etc...It is hot, evil and good and I have no idea how to make it.

Thai Suki
If we are to keep with girlfirend (or boyfriend) anaolgies then Thai suki -MK
and Coca are to Chongqing spicy hotpot what your first going steady "relationship" is to a street walker of the night. MK and Coco are both hotpot chain stores in Thailand and sell a kind of safe, processed, family oriented hot pot that Thai's go crazy for. It's not that expensive, it's clean, and you can avoid the hot sauce. The former you would possibly take your mother to the later certainly not unless your mother happens to be Sichuan. I can see this analogy isn't getting me far. Anyway the point it that Thai suki is a basic version of the fairly tasteless japanese nabe with the exception of a few funky thai ingredients and a spicy Thai dipping sauce. It's safe and reliable but ultimately unexciting after the first few times. Here is a recipe, you can make most of the ingredients yourself or you can buy most of them including the the suki sauce premade at most asian stores.

Soup Chnnang Dtay
Is an oddity that I discovered at Soup Dragon in Siem Reap, Cambodia and became a regular haunt during my residence there. Only Hock and I were devotees however, none of our friends would take us up on the invites especially our friend Reneau of Abacus who would always screw up his nose in that unique way that only the french can do and pronounce "Ferk, nooo waayyy". He claimed they collected their cooking water off the roof. Cooking at the table was always a hazardous affair, little gas table top burners were used which contained old and rusting gas cans, which they would refill instead of buying new ones. The fact that our hotpot once caught fire at our table never put us off. I didn't care cause it was yummy.

It wasn't however very Khmer. Soup Dragon is Vietnamese owned.

Recipe - details are sketchy

- similar to Vietnamese beef pho stock (look it up yourself)

Bits and Pieces
- thinly sliced beef and beef balls
- veges entailed basically anything that was regularly available in Cambodia, which during the rainy season isn't very much, namely the ubiqitous oyster mushroom that agrisud taught a whole bunch of farmers in Banteay Meanchey how to grow and is the only locally available mushroom in Siem Reap
- mustard greens
- holy basil and saw tooth corriander
- tofu skin
- fat yellow egg noodles that Hock hates and complained continually that it was like eating fettucini
- egg

Dipping Sauce
was a make at your table with the condiments provided type of affair
- included locally made chili sauce (like siracha )
- tamarind sauce
- pickled bullet chilis
- shredded and dried lemongrass
- pickled garlic

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