Category Archives: Thoughts for Food

Food philosophy is serious business here at Bakker’s Bites. The only thing more fun than eating food is… talking about it.

Farewell BBITES – My Last Post

adiosamigos

Part 1 – Memory Lane

Dear BBITES Readers,

After nearly five-and-a-half years of Bakker’s Bites, the time has come for me to bid farewell to the world of food blogging.

In 2011, I was still an undergraduate student here in Hong Kong, dreaming of being published as a “food critic”. The first step I took towards achieving that goal was starting a food blog – and thus, BBITES was born on February 5th, 2011. My first taste of being published came in March, 2012, when Foodie Magazine featured a column that I wrote. I was so excited I wrote a post about it: Foodie Magazine – March Guest Column!

Page_1 copyMarch, 2013, was the next important date in my food writing journey: my first restaurant review was published in Time Out Hong Kong – and my first feature story in Crave Magazine.

Page_1Over the years, I’ve done reviews, travel stories and interviews on BBITES – and looking back, the posts I’m most proud of are my posts about the f&b industry in Hong Kong:

Page_3I also had fun sharing food facts and “philosophy” with you over the years:

Page_2And last, but not least, a trip down memory lane for BBITES’ annual bday posts (oops, I didn’t do a post for birthday #5):

That brings me to the end of Part 1 – Memory Lane. Last week, I had the good fortune of being invited to a presentation and round-table discussion on the future of food, and that’s what I’ll turn to now for my final BBITES post in Part 2.

Part 2 – TRENDxCHANGE: Food Future

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Last week, on Thursday, 21st July, I attended a presentation and round-table discussion led by French trend forecaster, Cecile Poignant. The title attached to this informative and interesting evening was “Food Future”, making it the perfect way to end Bakker’s Bites.

As it lasted two hours, I will limit myself to summarising the insights presented in Cecile’s keynote that struck me the most. After that, I will do the same with the answers given by four guests during a panel discussion.

PRESENTATION

Page_2 copy 2Cecile organised her presentation about food trends into four “stories”: Roots; Farming; Erotic; and Hybrid.

Roots

  • In response to our constant use of flat-screen devices, there is a return to texture and sense of touch.
  • Return to rustic aesthetics, and imperfection – with sophistication
  • Idea of taking time to create do things (e.g. Slow Food Movement in Europe)

“If you want to have the nutrients from an apple in the 1950s, you have to eat a hundred apples of today. So, because we made the selection to have the best apple for transportation, not for taste; because we made the best apples for conservation and not for nutrition, a lot of the things we eat today are not very rich in [nutrients]” – Cecile Poignant

  • Seasonal products and ways to conserve them for the rest of the year
  • Minimalism – people will eat less, but more well-chosen

“One of trends we hear a lot about is that people want to get rid of meat. I’m not so sure about that. What I know is that people are going to be more conscious: people are going to eat less meat, but well-chosen – they will know where it comes from.” – Cecile Poignant

  • Distancing from industrialisation – where everything is the same

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  • SILO Restaurant (Brighton, U.K.) is the first zero-waste restaurant
    • nothing thrown away
    • locally grown ingredients
    • furnishing/design elements all recycled
  • Awareness about food waste; a third of all processed food is thrown away

Farming

Page_2“I speak about farming, and I show you a photo of a city. This is not a mistake – it’s on purpose” – Cecile Poignant

  • 15 years from now: more than 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities
  • Growing food in cities means less conservation and more sustainability
  • Many chefs starting edible gardens on rooftops in urban areas
  • 1 in 4 people eat food produced in cities
  • Growing interest in green products, e.g. green tomatoes
  • Translates into dishes: softer textures, more green
  • Seaweed will become more important

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  • “Growing Underground” in London
    • business selling herbs grown in underground tunnel used as a bomb shelter in WWII.
    • constant temperature and LED lights enable growth
  • More people will raise their own chickens

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  • Hydroponic systems, like this one (above) by French designer
    • protoype / art project
    • grow things at home
    • uses symbiosis between plants and fish

Erotic

  • Health is important, but so is the “forbidden”
  • Relationship between food and eroticism
  • Huge comeback of mushrooms

Page_3“Mushrooms will do a lot for the future of mankind. Not only for food: you can make packaging [with them]. It’s under the radar, but a lot of people are looking at developing mushrooms than can eat the plastic we are throwing away” – Cecile Poignant

  • Fascination with black products (e.g. squid ink pasta) – which rarely occur in nature
    • also with burnt-out things, charcoal
  • Synesthesia: senses working together
  • Changing attitudes towards sugar

Page_4 copy 2“It might possible that in the next five to ten years, sugar is going to be seen as the tobacco of the twenty-first century.” – Cecile Poignant

Hybrid

  • “Food disruption” – reinvention of food

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  • 3D Printing; is in its infancy

“[3D printing] will change everything we know, every product we will touch. It’s going to change retail, the way we buy and share. It’s going to be huge. It’s going to change our lives in the same way that the internet has” – Cecile Poignant

  • July 25th, 2016: first completely 3D restaurant to open in London: food, cutlery, plates will all be 3D-printed

“[3D printing] is not very fancy, precise or refined yet – but we have to keep an eye on it. The future is always there. We are living in the future, we don’t have to wait for it” – Cecile Poignant

  • Nano-technology

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  • Idea of “post-food”; growing meat in a petri dish


Last Word

Page_5“From the beginning of humanity, we have always been trying to do things with our food: trying to find new species, create new varieties. This is not new. We love to invent things – we love tools and we love invention. The future can be very bright… it’s our responsibility to bring as much variety and possibility as possible.” – Cecile Poignant

ROUND-TABLE DISCUSSION

UntitledThe second half of the evening was taken up by a round-table discussion with four guests:

The topics I found most intriguing were: food waste, millenials’ habits, mainstream adoption and China.

Food Waste

Cecile Poignant (CP): Do you think people are ready to find value in waste food, and invest money to produce goods with waste?

Dr. Carol Lin (DR): I think the current trend is to utilise waste… we have so much food waste in Hong Kong – 3,600 tonnes per day – so that’s a lot. We could utilise it more to produce high-value [PLA fibre] textiles. Especially expired food from supermarkets and left-over food from restaurants.

CP: Larry, how do you react to the idea of zero-waste restaurants? Do you think it’s a good idea as an entrepreneur?

LT: In terms of food wastage, restaurants actually don’t waste a lot… because the food cost is managed very tightly… For us it was never a problem, we were quite creative in trying to use kitchen leftovers: we adopt homeless dogs, so we use it to feed the dogs. We are just starting now to try and be more sustainable; the leaders in Hong Kong, I think, are Mana and Grassroots Pantry. We’ve formed a group called “Hong Kong Zero-Waste Restaurant Alliance”. If you want more restaurants to embrace that movement, they need to see the benefit of it…as a revenue-generating initiative.

DR: The trend for utilising food waste to produce high-value PLA products has been a popular research topic in Europe for over ten years. In Hong Kong, we don’t have a lot of crops – but we do have a lot of food waste. So, I do think this idea could be implemented [well] in Hong Kong.

CP: What is the next step?

DR: I feel that apart from making textiles, this process could be used to make other products like plates, or chairs. We need input from various sectors: industry, entrepreneurs, business and policy makers to try to collaborate. Most importantly, we need the scientists and engineers to try and make this possible.

Millenials

CP: We know that millenials are very interested in food. Veronica, do you notice anything specific about this generation in their relationship with food? Are they more interested in where the food comes from and how it was done?

Veronica Yu (VY): I think locally, and for younger people in cities, food is more of a social activity. It’s about the look or textures that look good on Instagram, or are facebook-worthy. People who are looking more for organic food are people that are starting a family, or where there’s illness in the family and they want to rethink their diet.

Mainstream Adoption

Audience Question: I have a feeling the [consumers] that are represented in the points [that have been made so far] come from a very specific group of people at a high-income level. I wonder, what’s your stance on trends and changes in the mainstream area, such as dining chains?          

CP: The big companies are moving a lot. They’re not doing business as usual [anymore]. For instance, if you go into a Starbucks here, it’s absolutely not the same as in Paris, London or New York. Larry, what do you think?

LT: We want to raise awareness with our restaurants. We don’t want to serve the 1% of people who are already healthy. We want to convert more people who don’t [eat healthy]… we want to get them to change. We will always try to find ways to do it – we’ve spoken with different groups and chains and [have learned that] if the margin is there, they’re willing to do it.

China

Audience Question: I think the next decade will belong to China in exporting new ideas and traditions. In your view… how will China affect how the rest of the world will eat?

LT: I honestly don’t see China leading food innovation in the near future. A lot of [what China is doing] is more on the cosmetic / gimmicky side. For us, presenting a good meal comes from the source… I don’t see a lot of independent farmers being successful [in China] because there’s a lot of pollution, and farming practice is all over the place. Also, we’ve found that not all mainland visitors to [our Chinese restaurant, Sohofama], understand contemporary organic Chinese – they would prefer to try Western food.

UntitledCP: Yes, it maybe needs more time. There’s a problem of sourcing, and of maturity [of the market]. I think that the negative connotation of ‘Made in China’ will disappear – with time. We must remember that we are talking about long-term trends…

***

There you have it, friends and readers, the future of food – and the end of my journey with Bakker’s Bites.

Thank you for biting along with me all of these years. If you’re wondering what creative project I’m diving into next, check out this link: surprise!

For the last time,

Bakker x

Sig bbites

In the Shop @ N*ICE POPS

Page_1 copy 2Summer is in full swing, and you’ll be glad you’re reading this because there’s a new kid (one year old!) on the block serving ice cold gourmet popsicles called N*ICE POPS.

I first came across their products at a Foodie pop-up event that I blogged about back in April, and knew I wanted to find out more. They launched in Summer 2014 and their world is only getting cooler (pun intended!).  Page_1 copyYesterday I visited their kitchen-slash-office space in Ap Lei Chau to interview founder Eddie Chan, so please dig in to the scoop below…

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 12.42.00 pmBakker’s Bites (BBITES) : What goes into your pops?

Eddie Chan (EC) : When we first started, we were naïve thinking that we could get all local, all organic fruits in Hong Kong. It didn’t turn out to be the case.

We do try working with some local farms; one of the first flavours we did was an organic beetroot and shiso, both of which we can get locally.Page_5When we see things that are nice and available, we’ll try to get it but for the most part it’s a trip to the fruit market or the wet market. We also have a few international suppliers across South-East Asia, and we’re using some peaches right now from the States.

The whole local thing was nice, but it’s really hard to get anything consistently in Hong Kong – it’s not happening right now.Untitled 3BBITES : I’ve covered Sohofama on my blog before, which also tries to source local-organic whenever possible, but they told me it remains a challenge. Would you say it’s getting easier over time to source locally?

EC : For produce, like most vegetables, it’s actually not too terrible. But we’re more fruit-based, and that’s different.

BBITES : Really? So sourcing fruits is more difficult than vegetables?

EC : Yeah, we can get some local bananas for example, and we’ve done dragon fruit before, although we eventually found the red Malaysian ones to be nicer. There’s some stuff, but sometimes they’re not the best.

BBITES : What do you do when you’ve found something that’s local and organic, but the quality isn’t living up to what you imagined? Would you then source from elsewhere?

EC : Yeah, for sure. We do actually have organic strawberries here in Hong Kong, but last season we kind of skipped over our suppliers to get them from the States because they had a bad harvest and they were tiny and bitter – just not useable. It happens.Page_5 copyBBITES : Ok, so when you’ve found the right produce you bring them to this kitchen. Then, is it a matter of just blending them together for the popsicles, or do you precook some things for the recipes?

EC : We do both. We precook more with our winter flavours or cooler weather flavours. For instance, we caramelised the banana before we put it in the pop for this one really popular one that we had.

We did an applesauce for an apple crumble pop before, too. For things like that we’ll do a little bit of cooking, but for warm weather it’s mostly straightforward.Page_2BBITES : How do you choose which recipes are for cooler weather versus hot weather, does that have anything to do with the Chinese philosophy of “heaty” versus “cooling” foods?

EC : Not really, although we should look into that. It’s more seasonal stuff, like apple sauce with cinnamon, or banana cream pies…art 3BBITES : Tell me more about the artwork in your kitchen. It’s awesome!

EC : Thanks! Well, from the beginning it’s been the branding. We always thought – well it was just me back then – that it would be nice to associate the brand with more of a handmade look and feel versus a corporate, clean-cut look.

Everything we do here, we do by hand and we wanted to have that association with street art, illustration and graffiti. Being a fan of street art myself, I thought it would be a really good opportunity to bridge that gap where it’s food but we can tie it in with that bit of culture.UntitledThe designer that helped me with the initial branding, Tim Wong, who designed our logo, he introduced me to some local artists from the Hong Kong street art scene, and we just went off from there.

Within the studio there’s four different artists’ work, and we actually have an artist – Bao, who’s a finalist in this year’s Secret Walls competition – helping us paint a freezer today in our friend’s studio downstairs, so we can go check that out later if you want.Page_3BBITES : Yeah, I’d love to see that. Do you have artists create images for specific pops, or is it just the workspace or freezer units? How does the artwork come into being?

EC : What we want to do is give the artists free reign, within a certain boundary. We’ve had certain artist friends do something that’s a little more adult than we’d like – we love it, it’s great, but our target audience isn’t just the cool kids and the adults. We have children and families and things like that. artWith the ice pop girl, there’s just a hint of that – a little edgy and borderline, but it doesn’t step over that boundary. I mean we’re selling ice pops at the end of the day.art 2BBITES : Your customer base is across the board then?

EC : In some ways, but we do target adults more than kids – we’re trying to get involved in a lot of parties this summer, for example – although there are more kid-friendly flavours in our menu now.

Some of our competitors are coming out the woodworks now, and they’re targeting the cutesy kids and stuff and that’s fine, it’s a big market, but for us that’s never where we want to go with our image and not with our products.

What we’re offering is a little more sophisticated in terms of taste and palate, with things like our boozy pops where we’re doing our own signature cocktails and not just copying existing recipes.

pops

BBITES : My flatmate wanted me to ask this question: how many alcoholic pops would it take to get drunk?

EC : I always tell people this when they ask: you’ll probably get brain freeze, or not feel your jaw or tongue before you get wasted on our boozy pops.

There’s about 3.5% alcohol, like a light beer, so unless you’re a complete lightweight you’ll be fine. We want people to be able to taste it, and not be wondering, “where’s the alcohol in this?”Page_3 copyBBITES : How often do you switch up the recipes, is it quarterly?

EC: Generally quarterly, yes. Sometimes it’s performance-based too. Things like our mango pop with watermelon, lime juice and a sprinkle of paprika, that one sells really well so we kept it on our menu.

But, in general every season you can expect a full menu change and even within a season we introduce new ones – so every other month. Now that we have more retail partners, we’re going to do more exclusives, too.Untitled 3BBITES : Favourite pop at the moment?

EC : Surprisingly, a very light one. It’s our green apple-cucumber-iced tea.

BBITES : Favourite pop of all time?

EC : Ooh… of all time? That’s a tough one. It’s a toss up between two pops we don’t do anymore but might bring back: an Old Fashioned pop with fresh-squeezed orange juice, bitters and bourbon; and one with oven-charred pineapples, a dark rum and vegan caramel.

BBITES : That sounds soooooo good!!!!!!!!!!

EC : Yeah, that was a favourite and was running for a long time, but as good as it is – and we do have requests for it – we want to keep things fresh and new. Untitled 2BBITES : Final question: how do you get inspired for new recipes?

EC : The inspiration comes from just loving to eat and drink. Maybe sometimes a trip to the market, you’ll see a fruit and think, “hey, never thought of using that before!” Most of all, though? Being a glutton…

BBITES : Perfect end to the interview, thank you so much!Page_2 copy 2Check out N*ICE POPS’ website or facebook for information on where to find them…

Thanks for reading!

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!

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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.

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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 😉

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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(?!)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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

Secrets of Food Photography

1Hi readers!

I recently had to the opportunity to work with Tasting Kitchen Magazine, and conduct four chef interviews across Hong Kong’s fine dining scene for this Perfect Pairings feature.

In the article, the chefs talked through their culinary interpretations to the brief: pairing a classic seafood seafood dish from their restaurant with this year’s Sauvignon Blanc from Cloudy Bay (a New Zealand producer).

2As always, each project I take on brings its own eye-opening revelations, and this one was no different. This time, I had the pleasure of observing and learning from a successful photographer, whose portfolio includes fashion, architecture – and food – who was on the job with me.3

After four days of hanging out, I convinced him to give me an interview where he (who prefers to go incognito, like a spy!) shared some of the secrets of food photography he has gathered over a long career as a professional photographer.4What are some of the challenges in shooting food versus people, or buildings?
Food has this whole element of making it look appetising. There’s a science to that, really. There are a lot of things that you have to take into consideration because food has many textures; it could be saucy, it could be dry, reflective, or have oil on it.

So, lighting is very crucial. Plus food – especially hot food – if it sits for a while it starts to wilt. There’s techniques of not cooking food to the fullest to make sure the colors are still there, or to not cook it at all, even. Also, treating food with chemicals so that you have a longer period to photograph the food.

Without treating it or planning ahead, you have about a five minute window to shoot it. In photography that’s really short.

11111111 2What are the wackiest techniques you’ve seen applied to food?I’ve seen everything, from hair spray to glue; anything that kind of sets it in place for a little bit longer. That stuff is not out of the ordinary, actually, it’s just a trade secret in food photography.

Which is the most difficult cuisine to shoot?
Chinese food. A lot of it is wok-fried and saucy. And flat. It doesn’t have height. Photography-wise, when a plate comes out saucy and flat, you can’t light it to look dimensional. Western pastas are pretty bad too.

Easy stuff to photograph would be… sushi. Sushi looks like art, it’s colourful and its got a shape to it, so you can light it.

Being in Hong Kong, however, there are a lot of chefs who take care to present Chinese food in an artistic manner. Those are usually OK to shoot.

11111111 3But, if you are stuck with a flat dish, what can you do to counter that?
You use distractions to distract from the main visual. If the plate is somewhat non-photographable, then you start to throw in elements for lighting, angles, backdrops and texture to present it as a dining experience. Like a wine, or utensils. If it’s really bad then you can use shadows and textures behind to make it visually decent and just layer.

Tell us an anecdote from your days as a food photographer…
My first and probably last experience of a working for a major franchise campaign… It was for a burger franchise and it was so monotonous. Basically we had to cook three to four hundred burger patties in a span of four days trying to get the right ‘look’ which is this consistency where it’s not too grey or dull. It has to be juicy enough and cooked to their presentation standard.

They shipped us a truckload of patties, literally, and the assistant in the back was cooking patties non-stop. In the end we had to bring in an actual employee to cook it and moved the shoot to a franchise location instead of a studio.

The second problem was finding really green lettuce and fresh tomatoes. The lettuce had to have the right waviness to hold up the bun a little bit – and the tomatoes had to be an exact width… it was crazy.

11111111With these kinds of shoots, you’ll always see the water droplets on the lettuce right? Those are actually tiny drops of glue.

Wow…
Yeah, it was an educational shoot. I probably learned everything from that one shoot. I got that job earlier on in my career when I thought, ‘Oh yeah, food photography can’t be that difficult”.

———-

And how wrong that proved to be! 🙂

Thanks for reading, and keep coming back for more bites…

Bakker x

Sig bbites

Typhoon Usagi

typhoonusagiDear Hong Kong readers: please STAY SAFE and indoors when Usagi hits… ❤

Also, watch this classic HK clip from In the Mood for Love  (my favourite movie) where the two main characters get stuck in the rain when going to buy noodles 🙂 .

Or, better yet – if you haven’t seen the film – watch it from start to end; it’s perfect for a rainy/stormy day!

NOTE: *DON’T GO OUT TO BUY NOODLES DURING USAGI, THOUGH* hehe!!

Bakker x

 

Tea Traditions @ TWG

1Following my post on TWG’s Singapore Surprise cake last year, TWG got in touch with  me to  learn more about their brand and products at their IFC store.

Of course, I was eager to find out what TWG is really all about, and got something of an education in tea in the process…2To complement TWG’s staggering tea list (there really is a dizzying number of choices), the Tea Book (above) is packed full of tea-related literature and information to help guide you.6Thankfully, I also had one of their representatives on hand to talk me through some of the traditions and techniques behind the making and consumption of tea.4

Although this may not come as a surprise to some, I was humbled to learn that almost all tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis.

Before, I guess I just took different tea varieties for granted, never realising that each is a result of specific treatment of the plant. These include oxidation, frying the leaves, fermenting them and more…TWGMy tasting included the following:

1837Black Tea
* Black tea is made using the plant’s leaves. They are sunned, and rolled to allow air to react and ferment the leaves. The colour then changes from green -> red -> black.
* Black tea has the highest caffeine content of all teas.

Silver MoonGreen Tea blend 
* Green tea leaves are panfried or steamed – but not fermented!
* Green tea is high in antioxidants and has lower caffeine content.

White SpringWhite Tea blend 
* White tea is the least processed of all teas. Often it is only sun-dried, with no other treatments applied.
* White tea is taken from the closed buds of the plant and had distinctive tiny fibres
* White tea has the highest level of antioxidants, and lowest level of caffeine.

Red ChaiRed Tea with spices
* Red Chai tea is made from a blend of black tea and spices6b3Drawing from Singapore’s colonial-era tea trade, TWG (a Singaporean brand) incorporates traditional design elements with lots of colour – especially in its beautifully designed packaging.

Tea first originated in Asia but spread around the world over the centuries due to trade. Merchandise for sale reflects tea’s international influence with tea accessories from many different cultures…9

What goes hand-in-hand with tea? The answer to that question is often: food. High Tea is the tradition of eating small snacks ( sweet and savoury) alongside cups of tea. TWG also offers tea pairings with their food, similar to how wine is paired with dishes at other restaurants.

I personally prefer savoury snacks, and got to try a delicious toast set that included smoked salmon, foie gras and roasted vegetables… Yummy.

7On the other hand, TWG’s macarons are made using its own signature tea blends. I thought this was a pretty cool in-house tidbit – and the Earl Grey chocolate macaron was fantastic. 8I’ve been slowly transitioning into drinking less coffee and more tea after the encouragement of my brother (who only drinks green tea), as well as learning about the different types of tea that are out there.

For example: black and red teas are good for morning consumption due to their higher caffeine level, while green and white teas can be drunk later in the day without risk of keeping you up at night.

From product to packaging and presentation, TWG is a tea-lover’s paradise that feels like a candy store. And, when you consider the sheer variety of  tea mixes, incorporating tea leaves with all kinds of flowers and spices, it makes sense why: tea here is taken seriously, and that’s the real tradition which sets it apart.10Bakker x

All About XO

1About one month ago, I tried XO Sauce for the first time (check it out on Instagram: here). For me, this is kind of like the mayonnaise of Cantonese cooking, in that it kind of goes well with everything. Delicious!

After I wiped out my first bottle of XO Sauce within a week (which was a goodie bag gift from a media lunch), I couldn’t help but noticing a new store on Queens Road West that my bus passes on the way home.
2So yesterday, I finally got round to paying the shop, named Mrs. So’s XO Sauce, a visit and restocked on my favourite new garnish.3 The interior is cute and has some kitchen facilities which allows the shop to run cooking classes during the week. All the XO products are sold in bright orange boxes, which I of course like being half Dutch :P.
4Recently, when I chatted to a friend about XO sauce, she told me that although the sauce has likely been around for a loooong time in different shapes and forms, it was only in recent decades that it was commodified, and renamed “XO” sauce to evoke the prestige of fine cognacs. And the rest, as they say, is history…5At the XO Sauce shop, they stock some interesting, novelty flavours – like Vegetarian, Porcini Mushroom, Black Olive & Tangerine – and of course the classic XO in regular, medium and high spiciness.

All were a delight to try – and I ended up buying the medium classic XO sauce. My next favourite, though, was a tie between the vegetarian and mushroom sauces.6With the free cooking classes and complementary recipe cards, it’s obvious that XO Sauce, the store, is trying to build a culture around this popular Cantonese creation. Although there’s a lot of recipes to be made with XO, I think the best combo will always be with Cantonese-style fried rice. 🙂
7Isn’t that just beautiful? I love looking at all the ingredients floating in the oil – and boy are they generous! Sometimes restaurants will rip you off a little bit with stingy XO sauce, which is why I’m really glad to have my own!

Before signing out, in case you don’t know what’s actually in XO sauce, here’s what you’ll normally find:
– Dried seafood (scallop, shrimp, fish)
– Dried meat (ham)
– Spices (red chili)
– Vegetables (garlic, onion)
– Oil (canola oil, chili oil)
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Bakker x