When food attacks!

Seeing the history of war presented as stop-motion animated hamburgers does not in any way make it more palatable.

Dealing Drugs to Fish

Drug use is surging among fishermen in the northwest.

From DAS

Fishermen in north-western Banteay Meanchey province on the Thai border, around 450 kilometres from the capital, were luring their prey with fermented fish paste laced with drugs, but their more ethical colleagues were crying foul, the Khmer-language daily Kampuchea Thmey reported.

The bait, which is made in neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, instantly turned popular table species such as elephant fish from fighters into ecstatic love junkies that practically jumped into the boat, the paper said.

Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Orn Sum said by telephone that he doubted the veracity of the reports, but if true, anglers caught dealing drugs to the province’s fish population could face legal consequences.

I like to think that I have some idea about what ecstatic love junkie fish would be like...having watched the Mighty Boosh episode "The Legend of Old Greg"....here's a starter for you.....and if you want to find out more about underwater fish love watch the rest of the episode.

Food and Climate - The Quandaries of Carbon Labelling

BBC Four investigates efforts to introduce carbon labelling for food in the program "Costing the Earth"

An argument for fair trade ready made mircrowave chicken meals from africa?

Turns out the economies of scale via supermarkets might be quite good afterall...at least this might shut the holier than thou "locavores" up....but not necessarily

all and all it looks like the future is set to give us ethical dialemmas up the ying yang

enter the ethical quagmire here

The Ark of Taste

The Ark of Taste aims to rediscover, catalog, describe and publicize forgotten flavors. It is a metaphorical recipient of excellent gastronomic products that are threatened by industrial standardization, hygiene laws, the regulations of large-scale distribution and environmental damage.

Ark products range from the Italian Valchiavenna goat to the American Navajo-Churro sheep, from the last indigenous Irish cattle breed, the Kerry, to a unique variety of Greek fava beans grown only on the island of Santorini. All are endangered products that have real economic viability and commercial potential.

Visit the Ark

Fruit Fallacys

The one thing that is in nobody's interest to say is this: fruit just doesn't provide that much nutrition in the first place. If you believe the nutrition industry, every week produces some new superfood, often a fruit: blueberries, pomegranates, acai berries. The fact is that fruit consists of water, sugars (normally about 10%), some vitamin C, and some potassium (thought to be good for controlling blood pressure). And that's kind of it. Pineapple, for example, has only got about 10mg of vitamin C per 100g (which means a 80g standard portion would only have about 12% of RDA) and is mainly water and sugar. In a typical supermarket fruit medley of 150-200g, at least 15g will be sugar, and the other major constituent water. If it's a citrus medley, there will be about 40mg per 100g of vitamin C, if not, there will be about 10-20mg.

"It's a myth that fruit is packed full of vitamins and minerals," says Tom Sanders, who is director of the Nutritional Sciences Division at King's College London. "The foods packed full of micronutrients are grains, seeds and nuts, the peas and things." Bagged salad? "It's mainly water. Dark green vegetables are a good source of some vitamins, such as vitamin A and folate, but lettuce hasn't got much going for it at all. The really sad thing is that we don't eat enough vegetables, such as cabbage, spinach and broccoli."

In May, the Observer reported that dietitians have become so worried about claims being made for so-called superfoods that they convened a debate on the subject at the Science Museum. It may be claimed that particular exotic berries boost IQ, energy and immunity, but the only science even vaguely backing this up is that they contain folic acid, which does boost brainpower, but is present in many foods. The antioxidants in pomegranate juice, which supposedly fight diseases as different as cancer and arthritis, actually only last in the body for an hour. Wheatgrass, that standby of the trendy juicebar, is said to be rich in detoxifying chlorophyll, but every green vegetable and leaf in the world contains cholorophyll - which is not, in fact, absorbable by our bodies.

"The term 'superfoods' is at best meaningless and at worst harmful," Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George's Hospital in London, told the paper. "There are so many wrong ideas about superfoods that I don't know where best to begin to dismantle the whole concept."

The added irony, in the topsy-turvy world of supermarkets, is that rich desserts often cost very little, while fruit, especially organic, fairtrade, and prepared fruit, is marked up. At the Sainsbury's where I got my lunch, I could have had four 100g creme brulees for 44p, two tiramisu for 98p, and six chocolate mousses for 69p - or a grand total of 11.5p each, making those Pink Lady slices, gram for gram, four times more expensive. We are, more or less willingly, paying through the nose for a particularly 21st-century version of virtue. "You're made to feel worthy, and therefore you're made to pay a premium for it," says Sanders. "Supermarkets have a lot to answer for in the obesity debate."

"The way you've got to look at fruit is that it's better to eat fruit than biscuits, cakes and puddings, because there's very little energy value in it and it's not fattening," he says. "A bit of sugar gives you a lift and takes the pangs of hunger away. But it's not full of all sorts of other nutrients as well. That's a myth"

Link to Guardian Article

Very handsome


One very simple but handsome menu

House of refreshment


Gut Reactions: Gut Gazing from the BBC

A "gut feeling" is becoming recognised as more than a poetic turn of phrase.

Researchers have discovered that the gut, with its millions of nerve cells, acts as the body's second brain.

BBC explains the gut

Three programmes start here
For some reason, I hear this a lot: "I don't know anything about wine." This is a silly thing to say. Frankly, there is nothing to know. People may try to convince you that wine is somehow like skilled labor or a subject in school, two categories full of things to know, but wine is not like that. You can learn about how wine is made, about the regions and the traditions, but none of this is necessary when actually using wine. I don't know anything about how books are printed and bound, but this does not keep me from reading. You see? The doing has nothing necessarily to do with the knowing.

From Matthew Latkiewicz' Stained Teeth.

Absurdly late Christmas photos


On the 25th December (a day after most people celebrate Christ's birthday in Germany), we went out to Erik's dad's place in the village of Urft in the area of Eifel, to have dinner and stay the night. It's my 3rd Christmas together with Erik's family.

Erik's aunt Resi always does all the cooking. I think she enjoys doing it, in a frantic sort of way - or maybe everyone just assumes she enjoys it. Anyway, she's good at it.

For starters we had turkey broth with little noodles in it. I asked Erik how often he would have this broth as a kid - he said a lot: "Whenever there's poultry, there's soup."

Erik's nephew Luis (note the little raindeer candles that gothically burn from the head downwards):



Erik's dad Erich caught in the act of serving turkey-broth with noodles. (The noodles are cooked seperately so you can specify how much noodles or if you want them at all)


Turkey, raised by a neighbour in Resi & Toni's village (Rinnen), cooked to perfection: we suspect, in one of those big black covered roasting pans called a 'saftbrater' (juice-roaster)? There was an unused one in Erik's dad's basement so we took it home.


Definitely the juiciest and most flavoursome turkey I've ever had - i know I'm wont to compare meats to other meats but this was so brown and - um- meaty, it almost could've been suckling pig. Served with a mushroom sauce made from the juices and a bit of cream. And, of course, lots of apple sauce on the side.
The noodles are quite plain tasting, but all Germans love them. They're called Spaetzle - originating from Stuttgart. A wet sheet of dough is draped over a board and then they're chopped very fast into boiling water with a knife.
Resi always makes this very yummy christmas dressing for the salad that is very herby and has pomegranate seeds in it.


Kids (and adults) love apfelschorle - usually you mix up the apple juice and fizzy water yourself, but it turns out, the premade version is pretty cool.


Dessert was a gingerbread mousse, but I wish I'd only eaten a mouthful or two. Very rich and alcohol spiked. The brave of heart also had ice cream. "Love your arteries." Then it was all washed down with a fancy Spanish brandy, rather like Cognac.


Boxing day breakfast the next morning is my favourite part about Christmas. It's the only time in the year when we get all traditional German on our asses (so to speak). Fresh rye rolls (crisp outside, soft inside), sourdough bread again made by Resi, black forest ham, shortbread-macaroon cookies and nuss-ecke ('nut corners' dipped on one side in chocolate) made by Erik's cousin's partner Sylvia; a very nice selection of cheeses, a boiled egg, orange juice and loads of fresh drip coffee brought to the table in a thermos. The little boys Luis and Henri love to have leberwurst (liver pate) on rolls. For me the best thing: salmon with creamy white horseradish on a fresh rye roll. Every morning should begin with a wasabi style kick like that. But salmon is not eaten without guilt. Forgive me, Jesus...


Coke Additction

Your mama always said it was bad for you...

she said it would rot your teeth and maybe even your stomach

Well the Nutrition Research Center agrees with yo mama

Don’t drink cola if you want to be healthy. Consuming soft drinks is bad for so many reasons that science cannot even state all the consequences. But one thing we know for sure is that drinking Coke, as a representative of soft drinks, wreaks havoc on the human organism. What happens? Writer Wade Meredith has shown the quick progression of Coke’s assault.

The main problem is sugar. It’s an evil that the processed food industry and sugar growers don’t want people to know about. Even dietitians, financially supported by sugar growers and sugary product manufacturers, are loathe to tell us the truth.

When somebody drinks a Coke watch what happens…

* In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.
* 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (There’s plenty of that at this particular moment)
* 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.
* 45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
* >60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.
* >60 Minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.
* >60 minutes: As the rave inside of you dies down you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like even having the ability to hydrate your system or build strong bones and teeth.

So there you have it, an avalanche of destruction in a single can. Imagine drinking this day after day, week after week. Stick to water, real juice from fresh squeezed fruit, and tea without sweetener.

Thai Health Food Trends

A lot of people don't realise this but Thailand too is in the clutches of a obesity and diabetes epidemic, well Bangkok is anyway. Which doesn't surprise me in the least given what appears to be a national obsession with the types of sweets and junk food normally reserved in the "West" for pimply teen-aged mall rat white trash, you know the kind of food that Brittney is seen eating at most of her late night gas station runs...except worse. The other day I had to reorder an ice coffee after the woman at the counter added sweetened condensed milk to it, even the untampered ice coffee was sweet enough to give me headache.

Anyway, it seems that it was only a matter of time that Thais turned health conscious so I was rather heartened to find a new vendor on Sukhumvit Soi 11 today in amongst what is normally just a street full of processed sausage stick vendors. I headed down there today to get a chicken noodle fix and right next door was a new vendor with a glass case full of different mushroom varieties. He had a queue. People were lining up for his healthful, meatless mushroom broth or kaeng hed, so I decided to give it a whirl

It was damn good, spicy, bitter, sour and mushroomy



As modern Thai cooking takes yet another turn for the better, bring on the health crisis I say

Mushroom Soup Vendor
Outside of the Ambassador Hotel (usually)
Sukhumvit Soi 11

What's that smell?

A series of articles in the NY Times called 'Empty Seas' is documenting the dirty business of fisheries. It seems The Last Appetite's prophecies are nigh, at least in Europe and West Africa.
Until further notice, I'll restrict my aquatic vertebrate consumption to trout from the river near Erik's dad's house. And farmed prawns. Nobody'd miss a little prawn or two, would they......?

This is a very sad business.

Fish is now the most traded animal commodity on the planet, with about 100 million tons of wild and farmed fish sold each year. Europe has suddenly become the world’s largest market for fish, worth more than 14 billion euros, or about $22 billion a year. Europe’s appetite has grown as its native fish stocks have shrunk so that Europe now needs to import 60 percent of fish sold in the region, according to the European Union.

In Europe, the imbalance between supply and demand has led to a thriving illegal trade. Some 50 percent of the fish sold in the European Union originates in developing nations, and much of it is laundered like contraband, caught and shipped illegally beyond the limits of government quotas or treaties. The smuggling operation is well financed and sophisticated, carried out by large-scale mechanized fishing fleets able to sweep up more fish than ever, chasing threatened stocks from ocean to ocean.

The Canaries, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Morocco, have become the favored landing point of illegal fish as well as people.

Once cleared there, the catch has entered the European Union and can be sold anywhere within it without further inspection. By the time West African fish get to Europe, the legal fish are offered for sale alongside the ill gotten.

The European Commission estimates that more than 1.1 billion euros in illegal seafood, or $1.6 billion worth, enters Europe each year. The World Wide Fund for Nature contends that up to half the fish sold in Europe are illegally caught or imported. While some of the so-called “pirate fishing” is carried out by non-Western vessels far afield, European ships are also guilty, some of them operating close to home. An estimated 40 percent of cod caught in the Baltic Sea are illegal, said Mireille Thom, a spokeswoman for Joe Borg, the European Union’s commissioner of fisheries and maritime affairs.

Part 2 in the NY Times series 'Empty Seas'

You Tube du jour

Baan Phuu

...translates literally to "house of crab" in Thai, and although I'd like to make some jokes here to amuse Phil about "riding the tide of shit" or pooh as it were, it wouldn't be fitting for what is an excellent eating experience.

Baan Phuu (House of Crab) is located in Trat province on that mainland eastern seaboard of Thailand on Cape Ko Phuu (cape of Crab), all along this cape is aquaculture farms and crab processing factories. It is in short a good place to go and eat crab.


I had been here around 6 years ago on a family holiday and had ever since tortured Hock with stories of giant fresh crab, the crispiest freshest soft shell crab: "think Kentucky Fried Crab but with Asian seasoning, crunchy deep fried and fresh with cripsy shells you just bite straight through" I would tell him and watch his face contort with a mixture of both excitement and resignation to the idea that it may be some while until we had the time to take a leisurely 5 hour drive from Bangkok to Trat to eat crab.


Being somewhat nostalgic and over enthusiatic I booked two nights at Baan Phu Resort, thinking that it would be the perfect quiet holiday retreat to eat crab, lounge by the pool and relax in their rustic accommodations. Unfortunately 6 years had not done this very quiet and unpopular resort much good, We checked in to a horrible old stale room, with musty bed spread, moldy bathroom and mosquito friendly floorboards set amongst a mangrove forest.


The pool didn't look very inviting, the tv channels didn't work and the hotel was very run down, slightly depressing and altogether stingy with its service and amenities. We upgraded to their brand new garden wing at an extra cost of 35 dollars a night and consoled ourselves in the restaurant...Suan Phuu


The restaurant makes up for everything that the hotel lacks, good service, friendly staff, stunning views, and reasonable prices for what it is. I think in fact that the resort and restaurant are run seperately because the hideous breakfast at the resort did not seem to emerge from the Suan Phuu kitchen. Suan Phuu is set right out over the mangrove forest and offers spectacular views of the bay, of local birds and wildlife and of course great food.



It seems to be popular more amongst the locals who converge on the restaurant in large families early in the evening to celebrate special events. Unlike many of the tourists who we sadly observed ordering one dish per person and not sharing, the tables full of large Thai families sat down to steaming soups, plates of crab and traditional curries.

The first night we sat down to

crispy soft shell crab deep fried with shallots and garlic

One of the best wing bean salads I have ever eaten

crab egg and pineapple curry

Whole fish in ginger soup with parsley leaves and Chinese plums (umeboshi). Not enough ginger too much parsley leaves but still yummy.

The next day I did a border run to Cambodia - another funny story in itself - and we drove along the Trat coast and found untold empty beaches and cute little Thai beachside huts that were largely devoid of lounging Thais which they were built to serve


In the evening we headed back to Baan Phuu to survey the sunset and sample the crab (not as meaty or as large as last remembered)


shrimp meang and more crispy soft shell crab

an unmemorable deep fried fish and a very Khmer soup of fermented fish paste and vegetables that was not at all to my liking but Hock seemed to enjoy it

The price each night came to around 700 baht for two of us
You can bring your own wine

Banpu Resort
199 Moo 1, Tumbol Nongkansong, Moung

Oranges: Revenge of the Eggplant

Evil Eggplant

River Cafe


In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a cookbook slut. And the River Cafe cookbooks are amongst my favourites. They're written nicely, the recipes are very cleverly selected - curated, if you will - from Italy's wealth of offerings, and they do not rely on cream and butter but more often artfully employ red chillies, lemon, anchovies, herbs or judicious applications of heat. However, though I'm usually turned off by cream, I must say their fennel-parmesan gratin is fine, and their calorifically splendid Penne con Sugo di Salsiccie alla Cloe is a staple of ours by now. (It must be the latent German in me that enjoys those dishes).
Other staples include cucumber, fresh chilli, mint, lemon and mascarpone; a way of serving potatoes half-mashed with tonnes of parsely, and grassy-tasting olive oil; various pasta or polenta techniques; and zucchini trifolati with tomato, which is insanely good.

Sage is one of my favourite herbs, and it's Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers who've shown me the best ways to deploy it in the kitchen.

Dishes I still need to try from their cookbooks include a soup of broccoli with red wine, roast duck with purple figs, Vignole (fresh peas, broad beans, mint, prosciutto etc), Ossobuco in Bianco (veal shin with anchovies, white wine, lemon, parsley etc), and Maiale al Latte (pork cooked with milk, sage and lemon).

So anyways, to visit their restaurant, which has sat at its far flung outpost in the West of London beside a gray-ish section of the River Thames since 1987, has long been a goal of mine. (Although it has nothing to do with my desire to go there, the place has held a Michelin star since 1998).

I was happy to achieve this goal shortly before Christmas with some friends who had booked a lunch there unbeknownst to me.

Atmosphere: very pleasant. I think I had expected the place to be a bit more cosy (with a name like River Cafe), but the most rustic thing there was the customers (see photo at top). The restaurant itself had a vibe somewhere between school teacher's canteen, (with the floor to ceiling windows casting gray London light on one side), and a vaguely chic early '90s bar (with the long stainless steel counter, and a glimpse of the wood-burning oven at the far end).


Service: excellent. A large team of wait staff performed their duties swiftly and skillfully. Some were attractive beanpoles of Russian or East African descent, all seemed contented: a well-looked after and efficient team. The Maitre-D was very friendly and made a big fuss over our not-so-impressive camera; the female Sommelier was down to earth but very knowledgeable, it was easy to imagine her as a peer or friend e.g. part of the old Verona crew in Auckland. They all sat down to a staff meal shortly after ours was served, which seemed familial. I've always found it absurd when restaurants banned one from eating in front of the customers. Like, god forbid the customers should think that the staff need to breathe or drink water, either.


Food: the highlight for all of us I think was the two pasta dishes: tortellini of roast pork belly with sage leaves and butter, just a handful of soft expertly made pasta....mmm....and farfalle with cavalo nero and new season's olive oil from Fèlsina.
Herbacious, savoury, just delicious. Happily I found the recipe for the farfalle in The River Cafe Cookbook so I'll share it at the bottom of this post later tonight.


My main was probably the most disappointing, but only because (for the second time) I forgot that I don't like monkfish. If a rubber eraser mated with a squid, this would be the dense and chewy offspring. However the Fritto Misto - with artichoke and sage and lots of lemon squeezed on top - were yummy.


The lamb with rosemary branch and puy lentils, and the snapper/sea bream with roast pumpkin, borlotti beans and pesto, were very fine.



The cost was not insane for the size of the portions (note: when I say 'not insane', I mean 'not insane if you are thinking in terms of euros or British pounds') and considering that it included a very nice bottle of white, Soave la Rocca, & a glass each of prosecco with clementine orange juice and Campari as a pre-Christmas tipple. Beautiful! I recommend this drink very highly, in fact I might have one right now.


Thames Wharf Studio/Rainville Rd
W6 9HA
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7386 4200
(easiest to get a cab from District Line or Hammersmith tube stations)

Menu For Hope Raffle Results


1 bottle of 18-year-old Chivas Regal Scotch Whisky Gold Signature (valued at US$95)
Elizabeth Wells

12 bottles of 42 Below Vodka (valued at 12,000 baht)
Kevin Lee

6 bottles of 42 Below Seven Tiki Rum (valued at 6000 baht)
Meeeeee!!!!!! Rum anyone?

Dinner for two at Bed Supperclub in Bangkok, Thailand (valued at 3500 baht)
Stella Jiang

One night accommodation at hip hotel Dream Bangkok, Thailand (valued at US$280+)
Robyn C Eckhardt

An eating tour of Bangkok with Austin Bush, Thai food expert and Lonely Planet writer plus a copy of the latest edition of Lonely Planet Bangkok Guide (valued at US$200)
Brant Bady

One night accommodation in a Deluxe Room at Hotel De La Paix, Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia (valued at US$235)
Robyn C Eckhardt

One night accommodation at Be Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia (valued at US$150)
Yvonne Cao

Market Tour and Cooking Class with Joannes Riviere, Khmer food expert and author of La Cuisine du Cambodge avec les apprentis de Sala Bai (valued at US$200)
Hsien Y Tan

Wild Jungle Honey Collecting Tour with Angkor Conservation Centre for Biodiversity Sustainable Bee Program (valued at US$200)
Elizabeth Cheslock

To claim your prize, please leave a comment on this blog with a contact email and I will email you with so that we can arrange prize redemption

Long Live Expensive Dumplings


This is an account of a meal at Hakkasan, that I've been meaning to post for a while, eaten during our London stop-over back in November (ammended version).
Hakkasan is another of Alan Yau's restaurants, featuring chef Tong Chee Hwee of the Summer Pavilion at the Singapore Ritz. Quite amazing how many reviews mention Yau, the owner, but do not mention Hwee at all. This, in a city where celebrity chefs hold the middle class enthralled, where St. John's is usually booked out and it seems that the newspapers are filled every single day with columns, recipes or christmas tips from Fergus Henderson, David Thompson, Rose Gray, Ruth Rogers et al. Oh, and Gordon Ramsay is some kind of national hero.

This below-street-level restaurant on a quiet back alley has a Michelin star. When Hakkasan was first awarded a star in 2003 it was the only Chinese restaurant in the UK to possess one, and the fifth Chinese restaurant to be granted a star in the award's 103-year history. We here at Gut Feelings are inclined to view things like Michelin stars with suspicion, though: and places like Nobu in London holding onto them when reliable commentators naysay their food, doesn't do much to instill faith.

However, having missed out on Susur Lee's food in Toronto due to such kneejerk (misinformed) aversion to hype, I really wanted to have some top-class dim sum before going back to Germany. Of course we could have gone with some blogger's favourite dive in Chinatown but just did not want to risk greasy, bloated Har Gau.

All in all, we really enjoyed Hakkasan.

We went at a time of day when it was only filled with a smattering of people - we had a screened corner all to ourselves.
The blue lighting effects and maze of high black carved screens (by French designer Christian Liagre) brought to mind a deluxe gay German bordello, Louis Vuitton store, or a movie set, or all three at the same time...quite an entertaining atmosphere in which to eat dumplings.
However I'm not sure I would want to be there when filled with noisy rich people.



We didn't have a booking but it was no problem.
I found it a little odd that they have brusque English women wearing smart black clothes (by Hussein Chayalan?) as maitre-D's at reception, but servers are all fresh-off-the-boat Chinese – and dressed in cheong sams. Apparently the cheongsams were designed by William Chang (designer of Maggie Cheung's cheongsams in the film In the Mood for Love) – this felt a bit forced, and when worn by a waitress, almost colonial, or something. But certainly in keeping with the upperclass theme park vibe.
The server wasn't exactly friendly, but being mollycoddled at yum cha would be odd, in any circumstances! She literally chucked the napkins in the directions of our laps.


We went there planning to spend the bare minimum, on just the dim sum platter and vegetarian dim sum platter (you can read their description and price on the menu below), but ended up also buying the smoked Jasmine Tea chicken (about another 10 quid if I remember correctly), a pot of Chinese green tea and a large bottle of Voss mineral water, and some rice.
The dim sum were juicy and gleaming, just what I wanted. Nothing too crazy or modernistic but certainly excellent quality...filled with crunchy bits of water chestnut, fresh herbs, topped with red & black fish roe and goji berries and a dab of some sort of crayfish reduction...


The jasmine tea chicken was DIVINE - I was surprised to read reviews online claiming it was dry - I adored this dish...moist, dripping with brown juices, teak colour, and rendered to a tasty state where you could swear you were eating duck...

One curious item on the menu (see above) is Braised Emperor's Seafood, which has to be ordered ahead, and costs 120 pounds. That's pretty steep, man... even without considering the inclusion of rubbery paua/abalone.


The rice was spectacularly bad, totally mushy and overcooked - what's up with that, Yau?

Having read mixed reviews of the main dishes there, I don't think I would risk going there to spend up large, but would definitely go back again for that chicken and a snack of dim sum, in the glow of somehow soothingly garish, tastefully lit, London glitz.

8 Hanway Place, W1T 1HD
Tel 020 7927 7000
Tottenham Court Road Tube Station 155 metres

Food blogging is dead.

I’ve just been a bit slow in pulling on the latex gloves and getting out the hacksaw for an impromptu autopsy of the still warm but tasty corpse. Over the last few weeks, I noticed a few posts rueing the good old days of writing about food on the Internet, back in the golden year: 2005. Graham Halliday, writing on Word Of Mouth quotes a friend, scent of green bananas:

the best food blog ever is already dead... everything about it was personal and informative without giving away too much personal information, nothing about it was soulless... i never felt like it was a commercial site, nor that [he] was ever shilling for anyone nor anything. i didn't feel like he was using it as a personal resume, or as a platform to something else. it was just a really great journal about food

The blog in question, Fatman Seoul ended in ’05. Back then Conde Nast hadn’t wizened up to the online game. From Accidental Hedonist:

When it comes to food blogging, I miss 2005.

There. I've said it. I feel a whole lot better.

This has been on my mind for quite some time, partially exasperated by the fact that Epicurious, was voted 2nd best food blog this year in the Weblog awards. We've come a long way from all of the press the food blogs received in 2004/2005. In two years time we've gone from individuals and private citizens getting acknowledged and read for their writing and their passion for food to that bastion of individuality Condé Nast getting kudos.

This isn't to knock the fine folks over at Epicurious, but I've always felt that food blogging was the anti-Condé Nast - the place where you went to when you wanted to get an individual's opinion on food, not an institution's.

Coincidentally, 2005 was the first year that I started writing about food for my own website. Eating Asia, Real Thai and Chubby Hubby all started in 2005. Gut Feelings, as far as I know, was yet to be dreamt up.

So what killed food blogging in 2005?

If I had a healthier ego, I’d say that it was me, personally poisoning it with impure prahok. Otherwise;

Corporatisation of food blogging.

Around 2005, people started to get paid for writing food blogs. Not paid well, but paid nonetheless, often as another part of their existing role in a media organisation. (It is worth mentioning that apart from a small handful of online editors, nobody is making a living from writing solely about food online yet. I briefly made a living from it, but only because I was living in the world’s 13th poorest nation). Since ’05 Conde Nast’s aforementioned vehicle began, as did Word of Mouth, the Guardian’s attempt to shoehorn newspaper content into the online boot. Part of the problem with both blogs seems to be a lack of clear identity: are they a separate entity of the publishers or do they exist to shill for the offline publication?

Professionals moved online, food porn goes hardcore

More food writing and photography professionals – people who otherwise make a living from food media - joined the online fray in 2005; often freelancers independent of the publications for which they work. This had two distinct effects. Firstly, it raised the bar. At a guess, the slickness of photography, design, or the quality of the writing acts as a deterrent for new food bloggers, many of whom have something worthwhile to contribute. It scared the old guard who had previously drawn audiences without having magazine-quality pics or prose.

Secondly, it started a range of blogs with specialist topics dear to the heart of their creators, the antithesis of the “journal about food” for which scentofgreenbananas pines. Sometimes the new blogs seemed to be borne from the frustration of producing dull content for mass market publications; an outlet for the non-commercial and not readily marketable food ideas. Sometimes they were just borne from the love of a single topic. Bacon, for example. This atomisation of food sites makes it ever more difficult to find a niche.

The tide of shit

Like the rest of the Internet, most food blogs are not worth reading. For every thirty new food sites I come across, one will end up in my RSS reader. This lukewarm tide was not perceptible when I began in 2005 or at least, the ratio of good to bad was more favorable.

The problem with so much bad content is that the corporate and professional blogs seem to shine in comparison. Well written but poorly designed (or poorly photographed) blogs have little chance to stand out any more.

So, any chance of resurrecting the corpse in 2008?

Health Snippets from Today's NY Times

- While dark chocolate can indeed improve coronary circulation and decrease the risk of heart-damaging clots, most dark chocolate on the market is all but stripped of the bitter-tasting flavanols that convey this health benefit. The color, in other words, tells you nothing.

- To get babies to eat fruits and vegetables, a study published in the December issue of Pediatrics found that what breast-feeding mothers regularly eat influences their babies’ initial acceptance of foods like peaches and green beans.

- Omega-3 fatty acids in fish and fish oil, which counter inflammation, appear to protect the brain as well as the heart and joints. A recent analysis of 17 studies in the journal Pain found that daily supplements of these fatty acids significantly reduced inflammatory joint pain.

- But now there may be a new kid on the block: vitamin B12. A 10-year study with 1,648 participants in Oxford, England, found an increased risk of cognitive decline (incl. Alzheimers) in older adults who had low blood levels of vitamin B12. This vitamin is found only in foods from animals. Strict vegetarians, who have long been cautioned to take B12 as a supplement to prevent a deficiency, can add brain protection to the list of potential benefits. The rest of us should feel comfortable about eating red meat and poultry as long as it is lean and consumed in reasonable amounts. A serving of cooked meat, fish or poultry is only three to four ounces.

- Based on 7,000 studies of 17 kinds of cancer, a study by the American Institute for Cancer Research in concert with the World Cancer Research Fund (published late last year) concluded that being overweight now ranks second only to smoking as a preventable cause of cancer. “Convincing evidence” of an increased risk resulting from body fatness was found for cancers of the kidney, endometrium, breast, colon and rectum, pancreas and esophagus. Other major findings of increased risk included red and processed meats for colon and rectal cancer, and alcoholic drinks for cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, breast, and colon and rectum. “Convincing evidence” for cancer protection was found for physical activity against colon and rectal cancers, and for breastfeeding against breast cancer. “Probable” protection against various cancers was also found for dietary fiber; nonstarchy vegetables; fruits; foods rich in folates, beta-carotene, vitamin C and selenium; milk, and calcium supplements.

- If you don't know where your pancreas and endometrium are, try winkingskull.com

Getting Fresh With Myself

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Does the above picture turn you on?

Healthy food seems to have a bad rap amongst serious eaters. The best restaurants are geared towards decadance and escapism; the most popular cookbooks tend to revolve around 'comfort food' presented with 'honest' English wit and oodles of butter and pastry. We like to eat fatty food in front of a fire, like, yeah, but what's so clever or new about that?

If it isn't trying to imitate full-fat/refined-carb dishes (I did recently try to make a wholegrain Roman-style carbonara - it wasn't good), food that is created with thoughts of health and environmental impact in mind can also be beautiful to look at and delicious.

Although my tastes were developed through working in cafes and restaurants as a teenager (delicious versions of classic kiwi tucker at Eva Dixon's Cafe, Italian food at Mondo Cucina, and then several different Japanese restaurants), my first ever cookbook was from the Moosewood restaurant series, so I guess I was indoctrinated early. Some of their dishes remain among my favourites, like black eyed peas sauted with garlic and balsamic and spinach. There is something very rewarding about triumphing over the nastier excesses of industrial food production, about choosing to vary your diet with meals based around non-meat protein sources, about working with unrefined grains: it makes you feel closer to the earth and less wasteful since you are eating more of the plant. And healthy food is, like, healthier for you ay.

Really good healthy cuisine (not sure what else to call it) - which shouldn't always be but tends to be vegan or vegetarian - makes simple flavourings like lemon and ginger do olympic feats of taste. It makes vegetables seem like precious and delightful creations (no small feat in itself) and it often involves a bit more preparation and marination. I guess that sense of care and connection to the kitchen and to the produce is what the slow-food movement is trying to trademark.

It's easy to write it off as a need to feel virtuous through food choices, but I actually think, in the same way that following a traditional Japanese recipe can bring a tactile and aesthetic enjoyment - and a sort of spiritual connection to the tradition of that meal - so too can the deployment of healthy recipes in a tradition going back to those early Californian hippies. Is it really a bad thing to get more of a buzz from making zucchini-date-honey muffins than from baking a sticky steamed pudding with flour rubbed in suet, where the buzz is derived from its being 'so English' and the taste so rich and decadent?

I would rather be pseudo-virtuous than an outright glutton.

And in the end, I'm left wondering, why do I feel like I have to justify myself for wanting to eat delicious food that's actually good for me? Why is being healthy so uncool?

I was very happy the other day when a box of books arrived which we posted back from Toronto. It contained two different editions of the signature cookbook of a Toronto chain of salad/juice/ rice-bowl restaurants named Fresh by Juice for Life.

The three branches of this restaurant are quite a phenomenon. The newer edition of the cookbook bears a recommendation on the cover from Jeffrey Steingarten-approved Toronto chef Susur Lee (something twee along the lines of "Feeds the mind body and soul. It's the future."). And, rather like the celebrity-named sandwiches at your local deli, Susur created a signature juice there. Something to do with beets and raspberries.

Like so many good spots in Toronto, it is done out in an easy-to-wash, pleasant but generic cafe style with plastic washable cups that doesn't exactly scream serious restaurant, and being voted Best Vegetarian Restaurant in Toronto numerous times wouldn't necessarily seem like a huge recommendation either. But along with the plastic cups they have smart wait staff and table service, and it's quite fascinating to see all three branches of a place that goes beyond basic fare like juices and vege burgers, to spicy Sri Lankan noodles and Peruvian-maca/sprouted-flax/hemp-seed shakes, so packed every single day, not just with yoga mums but suits and the occasional group of indie rock teens.

I guess the key factors in the success of Fresh are: the food really gets your taste buds tingling, it's stomach filling, and it's pretty affordable. And presented nicely, too.

The way the cookbook is written doesn't do much to mitigate the cliched image of vegetarians as narcissistic health-freaks: why does every such cookbook have a thousand photos of the chef in question grinning in an unnerving manner as if to say "read my healthiness in the glow of my teeth....aren't I puuuuuuurrty"? (I'm reminded of a raw food cookbook I once saw which had photos of this long-haired blonde guy jumping around in the surf)

And neurotic sounding paragraphs like this are rather amusing/unnerving, too:

"Whereas in the first book I managed to maintain healthy eating habits through the entire writing process, this time I munched on potato chips, sweets and chocolate soy ice cream and drank gallons of ginger ale and hot chocolate...I did however manage to resist the temptation to fuel my writing with caffeine for fear of causing irreparable harm to my marriage!"
Like, wow!

However I must say that every single recipe in the two Fresh cookbooks have been a complete success so far, from a mango-tofu-peanut salad to a spicy citrus-infused Cuban chickpea soup. Our recent purchase of a nice Kitchen Aid blender allows us to replicate some of Fresh's great smoothies, like a coconut-chai thing and a warm date & oat infusion which really does have the promised calming effect.

And somewhat endearingly, there is a dish called Wrapper's Delight,
"named after Jennifer's favourite song from the 1970s", and a drink named after Iron Maiden.

The best thing about books like these is how dramatically you increase your salad repertoire, but the recipes for sweet potato pie, dosas and strawberry-lavendar muffins don't go astray either.

Here's an excellent light, creamy, garlicky dressing that's best served with salad leaves, roasted vegetables and a scoop of hummus.

from ReFresh by Ruth Tal & Jennifer Hudson

2/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup grapefruit juice
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup filtered water

Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until thick, frothy and smooth.
(This dressing should be good for 4 - 6 salads, and keeps well in the fridge for 4 or 5 days)

I really wish there was a branch of Fresh in Cologne. Right next door to the gourmet burger joint and yakitori bar which don't exist either. Once again, thank god for recipe books.

PS: the spinach in the picture below looks wilted because it was briefly blanched in hot water. Yessir.

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Molecular Wisdom Goes Green

Some basic stuff here that all kids know, but I guess we're all guilty of boiling with the lid off the pot sometimes...

The most interesting point to me is about the extreme energy inefficiency of gas burners. I suppose the main argument for them was always the level of control, but in the end taking a pot off the heat can be as fast a movement as switching off a flame...

But soaking pasta? I can just see the expression on Marco Passarani's face now - and Erik's too for that matter. Still, I'll try it, since these days I make myself a separate pot of wholegrain pasta anyway! Some might say I've already thrown the real pasta experience out the window, so what's the diff huh? May as well presoak and throw out the baby with the bathwater (wholegrain takes longer to cook, so it makes even more sense). I'll let you know how it goes.

You will notice if you pay more attention to your kitchen’s thermal landscape, even in terms of what you can feel, how much heat escapes without ever getting into the food.

Among the major culprits here are inefficient appliances. According to the United States Department of Energy, a gas burner delivers only 35 to 40 percent of its heat energy to the pan; a standard electrical element conveys about 70 percent. Anyone thinking about kitchen renovation should know that induction cooktops, which generate heat directly within the pan itself, are around 90 percent efficient. They can out-cook big-B.T.U. gas burners, work faster, don’t heat up the whole kitchen, and are becoming more common in restaurant kitchens.

Maximizing the transfer of heat from burner to pot produces better food. In deep frying, the faster the burner can bring the oil temperature back up after the food is added, the quicker the food cooks and the less oil it absorbs. In boiling green vegetables, a fast recovery time means better retention of vibrant color and vitamins.

No matter how efficient an appliance is, the cook can help simply by covering pots and pans with their lids. Some of the heat that enters through the bottom of the pot exits through the top, but a lid prevents much of it from escaping into the air. This is especially true when you’re bringing a pot of water to the boil. With the lid on, it will start bubbling in as little as half the time. Turning water into steam takes a lot of energy, and every molecule that flies away from the water surface takes all that energy with it into the air. Prevent its escape, and the energy stays with the pot to heat the rest of the water.

Once a liquid starts to boil and is turning to steam throughout the pot — the bubbles of a boil are bubbles of water vapor — nearly all the energy from the burner is going into steam production. The temperature of the water itself remains steady at the boiling point, no matter how high the flame is underneath it. So turn the burner down. A gentle boil is just as hot as a furious one.

In fact it’s easy to save loads of time and energy and potential discomfort with grains, dry beans and lentils, and even pasta. But it requires a little thinking ahead. It turns out that the most time-consuming part of the process is not the movement of boiling heat to the center of each small bean or noodle, which takes only a few minutes, but the movement of moisture, which can take hours. Grains and dry legumes therefore cook much faster if they have been soaked. However heretical it may sound to soak dried pasta, doing so can cut its cooking time by two-thirds — and eliminates the problem of dry noodles getting stuck to each other as they slide into the pot.

The trickiest foods to heat just right are meats and fish. The problem is that we want to heat the center of the piece to 130 or 140 degrees, but we often want a browned, tasty crust on the surface, and that requires 400 degrees.

It takes time for heat to move inward from the surface to the center, so the default method is to fry or grill or broil and hope that the browning time equals the heat-through time. Even if that math works out, the area between the center and surface will then range in temperature between 130 and 400 degrees. The meat will be overcooked everywhere but right at the center.

The solution is to cook with more than one level of heat. Start with very cold meat and very high heat to get the surface browned as quickly as possible with minimal cooking inside; then switch to very low heat to cook the interior gently and evenly, leaving it moist and tender.

On the grill, this means having high- and low-heat zones and moving the food from one to the other. On the stove top or in the oven, start at 450 or 500 degrees, and then turn the heat down to around 250, ideally taking the food out until the pan or oven temperature has fallen significantly.

Another solution is to cook the food perfectly with low heat, let it cool some, and then flavor its surface with a brief blast of intense heat from a hot pan or even a gas torch. More and more restaurants are adopting this method, especially those that practice sous-vide cooking, in which food is sealed in a plastic bag, placed in a precisely controlled water bath and heated through at exactly the temperature that gives the desired doneness.

All these are two-step processes, but the same principle works for three steps or more. Rotisserie cooking alternates high and low heat many times: as the meat turns on the spit, each area of the surface is briefly exposed to high browning heat, then given time for that dose of energy to dissipate, part of it into the meat but part back out into the cool air. So the meat interior cooks through at a more moderate temperature. Similarly, steaks and chops cook more evenly on high grill heat — and faster as well — if you become a human rotisserie and turn them not once or twice but as often as you can stand to, even dozens of times, every 15 or 30 seconds.

Heat knocks molecules at the surface of food into the air where we can sniff them, so it increases the aroma. Inside the food, agitated molecules make sauces more fluid and hot meat more tender. And the sensation of a food’s warmth is satisfying in itself. The moment hot food is put on a plate, its heat energy begins to flow out into the cooler surroundings. Aromas fade, sauces thicken, fats congeal.

So when you transfer heat’s handiwork from the kitchen to the table, take along some extra. Warm the plates to prolong the pleasure. And encourage everyone to sit down and eat it while it’s hot.

from article: 'The Invisible Ingredient in Every Kitchen', NY Times, Jan 2nd, 2008

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