Category Archives: Foreign Foods

WASHOKU Explorer’s Tonkotsu Ramen Set

1Yes, it’s been forever – and what better way to come up with a new post than from the comfort of my own home? Thanks to WASHOKU Explorer, who recently contacted me asking if I wanted to try their DIY tonkotsu ramen set, I was able to do just that.2^ Delivered right to my door, all the way from Japan!3I’m a big ramen freak, although I usually make a journey out to Ichiran in Causeway Bay whenever I have a craving. Making ramen at home is usually a sad affair (think Seven-Eleven), but WASHOKU’s set comes with all the fanfare to make your ramen bowl pretty legit:4Making it was a piece of cake – the only real preparation I needed to do was soaking the dried mushroom. 5After that, just simple boil + add ingredient procedure!6AND here’s the final result…8Overall, making and arranging the ramen was pretty fun. Apart from tasting yummy, I was also glad that the ramen wasn’t too salty and didn’t leave me with a thirsty feeling afterwards.79

^Hope you like my Star Wars chop sticks, haha!

Never thought I would have such a fancy ramen at home, so a big thank you to WASHOKU Explorer (www.washokuexplorer.com). Check out their site if you want to order a box.

If everything goes smoothly, I’ve got an interesting interview lined up for my next post…

So, stay tuned!

Bakker x

Sig bbites

The Naked Finn

1For today’s post, I’m going to take you a three and a half hour flight away from Hong Kong… to Singapore!

There are times when one stumbles across a wonderful restaurant unexpectedly. That was the case when I was visiting art galleries at Singapore’s Gillman Barracks recently.

I was supposed to meet my brother for lunch, since he lives nearby, so I asked one of the gallery managers to recommend a restaurant in the Barracks. That restaurant was The Naked Finn.

2We shared everything – since we’re both foodies and always like to try more things. It was halfway through our DELICIOUS Lobster Roll that I borrowed his phone to take last-minute snaps for a blog post.

Please forgive the lack of photos for this dish; you’ll just have to trust me that:
(1) The brioche bread = PERFECT, fluffy and sweet
(2) Succulent lobster cooked with rich creamy butter
(3) Homemade mayonnaise slather in the roll…..soooo divine

I’ve always maintained that mayonnaise goes great with seafood (check out my post on mayonnaise here: For the Love of Mayo!), so just a perfect combination…

3Next, we dove into a kind of ramen-inspired noodle. I say ramen-inspired because it comes with a slice of pork. You can also choose between vermicelli (aka bee hoon) or Japanese sōmen noodles. We went with the latter. Those scrumptious looking prawns are giant prawns.

On a blurb on the menu, Naked Finn will tell you that their prawn-based soup stock is cooked for hours, and made without MSG or added sugar. Instead, they offer seasoning on the side (top right pic) – although the broth was so potent and fragrant that it wasn’t really necessary. In fact, we only used the dips out of curiosity. A perfect bowl of noodles.

4To finish: a dessert so heavenly we spent the whole time talking about how good it was in between bites. It’s called the Naked Chendol, and is an updated take on a classic Singaporean dessert: chendol. The original, which has its origins in Indonesia, normally uses coconut milk + green rice jelly + red beans + gula melaka (palm sugar syrup) over shaved ice.

Naked Finn’s version was sublime – a simplified and refined interpretation. Instead of using ice, they served their own incredibly smooth and fragrant homemade coconut sorbet. The gula melaka was clearly handcrafted as well, since the texture and flavour was much richer than we were used to. Each bite was pure ecstasy.

This restaurant alone is worth making a visit to Gillman Barracks, but don’t stop there! Make a day out of it, since it’s great fun to check out all the latest art exhibitions on display to build up an appetite.

ENJOY, see you in the next post, and Happy Holidays in the meantime.

Bakker x

Sig bbites

BBITES Mini-Post #11 x Rijsttafel

1Greetings from the Netherlands!

For today’s mini-post, I want to share a special Dutch tradition with you. A Dutch-Indonesian tradition, to be more precise: rijsttafel.

Rijsttafel is pronounced, “rice tafel” and means “rice table” in English. It’s a type of dinner presentation that developed in Indonesia during the time of the Dutch colony. A rijsttafel meal consists of lots of small dishes served in a buffet style, which you choose from to go with a plate of rice.

2

After World War II, when Indonesia proclaimed its independence, many Dutch, Indonesian and mixed Dutch-Indonesian families “returned” to Holland and brought the style with them.

As a result, many Dutch people from my father’s generation onwards developed a taste for this incredibly tasty, spicy and delicious type of cuisine. There are many restaurants in Holland serving rijsttafel, and to celebrate mine and my father’s visit, our friends got takeaway from one of the Hague’s very best – and oldest – rijsttafel restaurants: Toko Toet.

3

Hope you enjoyed the pics, thanks for reading!

Bakker x

Sig bbites

That Dutch Place: The Orange Tree

1Last month I went on a homecoming to Holland. It’s been many years since I was last in my birthplace and it was a blast!

Back in Hong Kong, it inspired me to finally visit The Orange Tree restaurant in mid-levels, and you’ll the review a bit further down.UntitledAmsterdam and the Hague are lined with beautiful classical buildings. Most are hundreds of years old, yet they are still lived and worked in, and have been for generations. It’s incredibly beautiful, and history is pouring out from every corner!
Untitled 2Here are some of the Dutch foods I had on my hit list for the week…

Stroopwafel: This was a fresh stroopwafel I ate at the market in Hilversum. This delicious Dutch snack is filled with a distinctive tasting caramel, and you can get them fresh (like mine in the photo) or prepackaged at a store. Recipes for the sauce vary from bakery to bakery, but cinnamon and brown sugar are commonly used.

Bitterballen: The quintessential Dutch bar snack. These are deep-fried croquettes with shredded beef and butter/flour filling. Added to that are spices and vegetables – depending on the recipe. Always served with mustard.

Herring: Raw herring with chopped onion. Warning: lots of very thin, short bones. Without less bones, I would have enjoyed it more; the flavour was quite good!

Fries: In my opinion, “Belgian” Fries (thin, long and crispy) are the only way to eat fries. Served in Amsterdam to us with delicious Dutch mayonnaise (sweeter, eggier and richer than US or UK mayonnaises). Mayo is always served with fries in Holland. To say, “patatjes met” (potatoes with) means you want it with mayonnaise. Except you don’t have to finish the sentence because it’s expected.

Poffertjes: Tiny, cute pancakes are basically what these little sweet pieces of heaven are. The place I went to below has been in business since 1837, and they had a beautiful antique oven to prepare with, too. These were incredibly soft, spongy and melty at the same time. Topped with obscene amounts of melting butter and mountains of powdered sugar – I ate the whole plate like there was no tomorrow.3

*THE ORANGE TREE REVIEW*

4Orange Tree has been around forever, it seems, I’ve walked past it many times but never felt motivated to try. After all, Dutch food isn’t what jumps to mind when you think of dinner out – right?5To begin, we ordered the two most Dutch starters we could find. The menu is mostly Continental with a sprinkling of Dutchness around…

The first starter, garnaaltjes, is cocktail sauce baby shrimp. There wasn’t enough crisp and life in the shrimp, perhaps they were frozen before (?!), and it really let this dish down.

The second, bitterballenwere quite nice and enjoyable. However, having tasted phenomenal bitterballen in Holland less than three weeks ago, my standards have been raised and Orange Tree’s weren’t as good. The best ones I tried, had a sumptuous creamy filling speckled with small tears of salty beef.

The main courses, though were great – a perfect lamb shank, and an original beef tartare…7The lamb shank was excellent! Nothing innovative here, it’s all about tradition. Classic reduced wine and thyme sauce with a traditional Dutch hutspot (mashed potato+carrot+onion). Each bite of the ultra-tender, flavourful lamb was a treat!8After asking what exactly “Orange Tree Style” meant on the menu for its beef tartare, I was intrigued. Instead of the regular fries combo, this tartare was served with salad, pickles, diced onion to add to taste – as well as crispy toasties.

For flavouring, the tartare had tabasco, capers, salt/pepper, and sambal. Sambal is a spicy sauce commonly used in South East Asia, including Indonesia. Holland formerly colonised Indonesia, and the country’s delicious spices and foods eventually made their way back to the Netherlands. The resulting flavour was exciting: spicy,and with a hint of dried seafood (thanks to the sambal). This played into the capers quite nicely.9Then, couldn’t resist the poffertjes for dessert, served here with a raspberry sorbet and chocolate mousse. These were a bit “healthier” than the ones I ate in Holland (think less butter / less sugar) – but there’s always butter you add on the side, am I right???!! 😀10And now for some gratuitous close-ups.11Just above the entrance to the kitchen are some Dutch products for sale…

The overall atmosphere at The Orange Tree is like a neighbourhood restaurant in Europe: cosy and conservative. On our visit, it was fully-booked – and I’m sure the other main dishes on the menu (beef, chicken, duck, pork) are worth trying too. 6

12

THE END!

Bakker x
Sig bbites

Français Facts !

Page_4Bonjour et bienvenue! 

In honour of Bastille day (the 14th of July), today’s post is all about fun French food facts!

French terms are thrown around the dining scene all the time, but nobody ever explains what they mean – or where they come from!

Having lived in France before, I’ll take you through some popular French foods: how to pronounce the words properly, as well as some fun facts that could surprise you!

So, on y va (let’s go!)1

1. amuse-bouche
Pronunciation: amooz-boosh
Français fact: Ever been to a fancy French restaurant, and they bring out cute little snacks before your meal? They’re complimentary (or so I’d like to think) and are meant to tease your appetite. The words amuse-bouche literally mean amuse-mouth: a way to entice the palette before the main show!

2

2. baguette
Pronunciation: bag-eht
Français fact: Baguettes are pillars of French family life. This loaf of bread has a characteristic long, thin shape and is eaten at almost every meal. The word baguette can also refer to an orchestra conductor’s baton – but more importantly to Hong Kongers – chop sticks are called baguettes (plural) in French.

3

3. café au lait
Pronunciation: cafay-olay
Français fact: Coffee with milk is called a latté in Italian, and a café au lait in French. Lait means milk, by the way 😉

4

4. compote
Pronunciation: kohm-poht (silent ‘e’)
Français fact: If you see a dish on the menu “served with fig compote”, for example, what does that mean? It’s kind of like jam – but not really! Compote is made by slow-cooking fruit with sugar syrup. Spices are often added while the mixture slowly reduces to a sticky, sweet concoction. It’s a popular companion to foie gras and the origin of the word is from compost (like at the farm)… yummy(?!)

5

5. crème brûlée
Pronunciation: crem-broolay
Français fact: The best crème brûlées are served thin. What do I mean? The bowl it’s served in shouldn’t be deeper than a few centimetres. A bigger surface area, and a shallower depth = a better balance of crispy burnt sugar, and delicious vanilla-flavoured custard. As for the words? They mean burnt cream.

6

6. croissant
Pronunciation: kruh-sawn
Français fact: Ever noticed this famous French pastry looks like a crescent moon? It’s not by accident: the word croissant has multiple meanings, the most obvious being “crescent” – and trust me when I say, a good one is hard to find! The best have a buttery richness; aren’t chewy; are wonderfully flaky on the outside; and moist on the inside.

7

7. escargot
Pronunciation: s-car-go
Français fact: Yes, the French eat snails – but only specific varieties are fit for consumption. The most popular way it’s served, is with pesto and garlic. They are a bit rubbery and take a while to break down while chewing, so if you’re faint of heart, beware!

8

8. foie gras
Pronunciation: fwua grah
Français fact: It sounds fancy, but it means fatty liver. Not as nice in English, I know. While the way foie gras is made has been an animal rights issue for decades (duck and geese are force-fed to make it), it remains a staple on fine dining menus all over the world. My illustration above shows two of the most common ways it’s eaten: cold as a pâté (similar to a block of butter), or hot (fried) in its original form.

9

9. mille-feuille
Pronunciation: meal-fuy
Français fact: A “thousand layers” is that crispy, flaky dessert where many, many layers of thin puff pastry sheets alternate between layers of cream. It’s often topped with sugar icing and is totally irresistible.

11

10. petits fours
Pronunciation: puh-tee-foor
Français fact: Petits fours are very similar to amuses-bouches, except that they come at the end of the meal. Petit four means little oven. Is that cute, or what?

10

11. salade niçoise
Pronunciation: salahd knee swaz
Français fact: Nice (pronounce “niece”) is a wonderful coastal town in south-eastern France, and its culinary style is typically Mediterranean. Salade niçoise has a lot of goodies: tuna, egg, green beans, olives, anchovies, onion, potatoes and tomatoes. A native of Nice is referred to as a niçois (male) or niçoise (female), in the same way someone from the US is called an American. It’s sad that most outside of France don’t know where this salad calls home, so next time you dig in: remember Nice and thank those French foodies for this classic tuna salad.

12

12. le sniff

Last, but not least, what’s up with that weird custom that goes on in French restaurants? You know, when the waiter pours a little bit of wine into a glass (but only one person on your table – usually the one paying, lol) and waits for you to smell it. The purpose is to make sure you’re satisfied with the quality before serving the whole table. It’s only really acceptable to reject the wine if it’s “corked” (bouchonné), which means the cork has contaminated the wine. This is something you can smell and taste immediately, hence the tradition. How do you know if it’s corked? It smells like cork, and will mess up the wine’s aroma, and flavour.

***

Thank you for reading, if you’d like to see more educational posts like this one, please let me know in the comments 🙂 – and one more thing to say before signing out: VIVE LA FRANCE!

Bakker x

Sig bbites

Nagasaki’s Fascinating Food History

1It’s nearly the end of the year and boy have things been hectic! I’m so sorry for my lack of posts lately – but I’m recently back from abroad (you guessed it – Japan) and have a really interesting post for you today!2I’ve covered Japan on BBITES in the past (for my Crave Magazine Nakasendo feature), but this time I want to share a slice of the fascinating multicultural cuisine of Nagasaki with you, that I discovered while on my family vacation there this month.

Nagasaki has a really unique culture due to its history as a trading port and as Japan’s window to the outside world from the 16th Century onwards.
4 copy 2
Nations that made their way into Japan through Nagasaki were:

Portugal in the 16th Century. The Portuguese brought Christian missionaries with them and gained quite a foothold in Southern Japan. They were expelled from Japan by the Shogun, who disliked their growing power, in the mid-17th Century.

China in the 16th Century. The first Chinese ships arrived around the same time as the first Portuguese.

Holland in the 17th Century. The first Dutch ship, led by an English captain, arrived in 1600. After the Portuguese were expelled, only Dutch and Chinese ships were allowed to trade in Japan for almost two centuries.3With that (very condensed) bit of history out of the way, here comes the food photos!

One of our memorable meals was at a historic restaurant called Ichiriki (which means “one force”). Our dinner was called a ‘tafel’ meal – which means ‘table’ in Dutch – and indeed we ate sitting at a table and not on our knees, as is regular Japanese custom.

What followed was a culinary personification of the various fusions that have made their way into Nagasaki culture and food…4Meatballs are very Dutch. This amazing pie was served in a blue-and-white delft casserole.4bIn the photo above, the green candies reflect Nagasaki’s preference for sweetness (sugar was introduced to Japan through Nagasaki, and sweet treats there tend to be much more sugary than other parts of Japan).

An unagi-filled pastry is another fusion that I particularly enjoyed… note the sliced gherkins.5Chinese influences also found their way onto our plates, and nearby to Ichiriki (which is located on Temple Street), you can visit beautiful red temples built in the Chinese style, dating back hundreds of years.6The way in which these foods were presented is not typically Japanese, but more Chinese. Usually, Japanese meals are served on trays and each guest has their individual food laid out in front of them, instead of having to reach out and take from a communal plate.7During our stay in Nagasaki, we also paid a visit to the legendary Fukusaya Castella shop, which has been open since 1624, and is reputed to be the city’s best.

Castella evolved from Portuguese cakes brought to Japan in the 1500s, and is made with egg yolk. The natural rich yellow colour of Fukusaya‘s cakes is said to be thanks to their high-quality free range eggs.

The bat logo used on its store front and packaging is borrowed from a nearby Chinese temple; bats are an auspicious symbol in Chinese culture.

Another fascinating fact is that the quintissential Japanese food tempura was derived from a fried food batter introduced by the Portuguese!! Incredible…
8Thanks for reading, and enjoy your parties tonight for New Year’s!!!! If you still have some time to kill before heading out, here’s a link to my BBITES hangover cures that I posted this time last year: CLICK HERE.

May they come in handy, and see you next year!

Bakker x

Sig bbites

BBITES in Kota Kinabalu

1HI EVERYONE! I’m finally back with my Malaysia holiday update. If you’re new to the site, yes this is a Hong Kong food blog (most of the time) – but I also love to blog about my travels and exotic overseas food every now and then, as well! 🙂

So, without further ado… let’s get ready to makan! (that means eat in Malaysian.)2Kota Kinabalu, affectionately referred to as “KK” is the capital city of Sabah, a geographically diverse area of Eastern Borneo. And when I say geographically diverse, I’m not kidding: in the space of one day, you can go from the beach all the way to freezing cold at over 4000m altitude!3After arriving at the ghostly quiet KK Intl. Airport, we picked up some much-needed tourist info and set out to buy supplies for our upcoming climb up Mount Kinabalu.4After this strenuous exercise, my companions and I left the supermarket/shopping mall in dire need of some exciting local sights and flavours…5Located on the main coastal strip, KK’s fish market is bustling with locals, tourists, vendors and flanked all the while by restaurants that serve up the fresh catch in a variety of styles, very much like Sai Kung in Hong Kong.6To accompany our megalodon – I mean snapper – we naturally ordered classic Malaysian sides: nasi goreng (fried rice) and kang kung belacan (water spinach). 7PRO TIP: eat everything with generous amouts of Malaysian chili sauce: sambal.8In Malaysia, it is custom to eat with your right hand (left hand is rude) so each table has some form of wash basin so that patrons can clean up before digging in.

And now, presenting the massive snapper that had so much meat we couldn’t even finish the leftovers for breakfast…AAKKGrilled with a spicy marinade, this snapper (and all the fresh seafood caught off of Borneo) was full of flavour with an almost chicken-like robust texture.1011The following day we woke early to begin the climb to Mount Kinabalu peak – the non-culinary highlight of our trip to Malaysia.12While the markets, hotels and city centre of KK are on the coast, it takes a few hours drive to reach the start of Mount Kinabalu’s trail head.1314

This was by far the longest and most challenging hike I’ve ever done, but porters and local guides (who must accompany climbers by law) can sprint up and down like it’s a piece of cake – sometimes carrying over 40kg!!!!!!!15As you go and up down the mountain, porters pass you all the time – since the inn sitting on the mountainside before the final summit has no access roads, and everything must be carried up manually. Truly impressive.16Although Laban Rata has no running hot water or heating system, I was the happiest camper imaginable to snuggle into my creaking bunk bed to restore my energy before the 3AM final ascent!17Breakfast ^ before climbing to the summit in time for sunrise 🙂 1819What an amazing feeling being at the top (apart from freezing my butt off!). The climb down after the sun meant that we could now see the gorgeous yet desolate rock formations at the summit – which earlier were covered in darkness.20After returning to Laban Rata to celebrate with some bubbly apple juice (bringing up real champagne didn’t strike me as a good idea), we began the long journey back to KK and our final market/food experience.21For our last night in KK, we browsed the central market (separate from fish market) and decided on more grilled seafood after trying snacks like satay ayam and kerupuk.22Among the highlights were mud crab and squid. Warning: delicious photos ahead.2323bFatty, tender yet crisp with a melty explosion of flavour, the grilled squid rocked my world with a lightly sweet tomato/chili sauce.

After dinner, a “quick” stop to the local bar, and the rest is history!24Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next post, which will be a 100% certified Hong Kong food story 🙂

BAKKERS BITES BBITES OFFICIAL LIPS

Bakker x