Tag Archives: hong kong

BBITES Mini-Post #8 x Cheese Ramen Review

1I’ve heard about cheese ramen before. Today I encountered it for the first time in my neighbourhood convenience store. HAD TO TRY.

Why?

#1 – I LOVE cheese. So much.

#2 – I often put cheese on my instant noodles / ramen anyway, so I wondered how a cheese-flavoured version would compare to my D.I.Y. cheesy noodles

3The packaging looked promising… (they always do).5Four minutes boiling time…
6Really recommend the above tip!
7So far, this is very standard for instant noodles: soup powder, dried vegetables. The soup powder tasted a bit peppery, not cheesy at all.
8This was the crucial step: the cheese powder. I expected it to melt on top of the ramen and stay there. Instead most of it dissolved completely, making the soup taste milky and buttery. There was a tiny bit of “melted” cheese left on the top after stirring.
9Not as pretty as the packaging image, but never judge a book by its cover. Now, it’s time for the verdict… *drum roll*
10APPEARANCE: Not very appealing. The soup had a white, milky appearance.
TEXTURE: Enjoyed the ramen noodles texture. Satisfying, and had a nice ‘bounce’ to them.
TASTE: The overall the cheesiness I was hoping for was missing. Renaming this ‘milky butter ramen’ would make more sense. There was also a hint of pepper and generic noodle stock taste.

CONCLUSION: OK, this is fine for a ‘comfort’ snack, but I don’t really think it lives up to its cheese promise. In the end of the day, I still prefer adding real cheese to my noodles because the effect is more powerful. If this instant noodles wants to be more epic, it needs to really BLAST a cheese flavour onto your palette…

Thanks for reading!

x Bakker

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SOHOFAMA – The Bakker’s Bites Preview

1If you haven’t heard of PMQ yet, you’ve been living under a rock! Located on Aberdeen Street (a.k.a. the steep hill between Hollywood Road and Soho), the former Police Married Quarters has been transformed into a creative hub for Hong Kong entrepreneurs. And this includes an exciting new restaurant concept from local lifestyle brand G.O.D. and LocofamaSOHOFAMA. Bakker’s Bites was there last week for a preview, and interview with founder Larry Tang –  so get ready for a sneak preview of Hong Kong’s most exciting new Chinese restaurant, which will be officially opening its doors soon…2SOHOFAMA is next door (and connected inside) to the G.O.D. store in PMQ. Warmly-lit and decorated with Hong Kong design accents, as well as fresh modern touches, there’s nowhere you can turn in SOHOFAMA without seeing green: there are plants everywhere.Page_04The greenery is an important part of the restaurant’s concept: farming. But more on that later… Page_02 copy 2After sitting down in the cha chaan teng-style booth seats, it’s time to get tasting. Like LOCOFAMA in Sai Ying Pun, SOHOFAMA serves organic food – but here it’s Chinese cuisine. With no MSG, chicken powder or other nasties, it was particularly nice knowing I wasn’t going to be thirsty to the point of no return after eating…Page_06 copyAmong the starters were several “drunken” appetisers. There’s 24-hour drunken chicken as well, but we stuck to egg and prawn. You can tell the prawns are local-caught, because they were damn fresh – and the heady Chinese wine marinade made both of these dishes a real treat. Page_06The plateware is so cute, too! Next on the seafood appetiser front was one of my favourite local dishes: fried egg-yolk prawns. Page_07 copyCreamy with that signature crisp sand texture on the outside, and tender on the inside, SOHOFAMA’s take on this classic was spot-on.Page_10 copyNext, some classy xiao long baos. These were more refined than what I’m used to: with a thin yet flexible skin (i.e. doesn’t break when you lift it up, even if you don’t eat it straight away), the soup filling and meat aren’t overly oily or heavy.Page_08 copyThis is something a lot of the dishes at SOHOFAMA have in common: achieving the same recipes but in a leaner, cleaner way – and with premium ingredients.Page_10Such was the case with the D.I.Y. duck buns, as well. The skin was crispy and meat succulent, but it wasn’t dripping in oil as you’d expect from a Peking Duck, for example.Page_08The last main dish of my evening was a fantastic mud crab, served with sticky fried-rice. As good as it looks! Get ready to get your hands dirty, though – you won’t be able to leave anything behind…Page_09 copyWhat’s a sneak peek without a peek into the kitchen? Well, take a step inside with me 🙂 !Page_13 copySOHOFAMA’s kitchen has all the standard equipment you’d find in a commercial Chinese kitchen: super hot fires for wok-frying, dim sum baskets, all manner of sauces, giant chopping knives of different sizes and more…Page_12 copyPage_13We even managed a snap of SOHOFAMA’s three musketeers: Larry Tang (founder), Head Chef Shing, and mixologist Kit.Page_12And now, time for my interview with Larry Tang, founder of Locofama Group… Page_15 copy Bakker’s Bites (BBITES): Tell us about how you approached the concept and design, especially considering PMQ is a heritage building?

Larry Tang (LT): Well, PMQ in Chinese is Yuen Chong Fong (元創方)

Yuen Chong (元創) means ‘original creation’, and Fong (方) means ‘place’. So for everything we do, we want it to be original: from the interior; to the food and drinks…

PMQ is the first space where we have Hong Kong entrepreneurs doing something; it’s the first of its kind. We want to create something that hasn’t been done anywhere, including Hong Kong.

That’s where our farming concept comes into the picture. A lot of people talk about “farm to table,” but we will have our own farm at the restaurant. So it will be more like, “table to farm,” instead.

It being a heritage site, we have a lot of design restrictions.

BBITES: Can you give us an example?

LT: Everything that you do to the exterior has to be pre-approved. And there a lot of walls inside that we can’t break down, or even drill holes. We just have to work around it.

BBITES: How involved was G.O.D. (Goods of Desire) in the development phase?

LT: It was a pretty close collaboration [with G.O.D.], they were involved in every stage of the project from the beginning. From the interior and overall concept; the food concept. We also went back and forth with the name.

BBITES: Could you give us an insider scoop on one of the name choices before you decided on ‘SOHOFAMA’?

LT: We were playing around with G.O.D.’s slogan in English, “Delay No More.” At the end we are using the Chinese version of that for Sohofama’s Chinese name, which you can see on our logo.

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BBITES: What do the Chinese characters mean?

LT: The first character means ‘ingredient’, and the second means ‘preparation’. The third and the fourth mean ‘farming’. But pronounced in Cantonese, it’s a play on words… a bit cheeky, actually.

BBITES: Did your Chef and Mixologist work together in creating the dishes and original cocktails?

LT: They both followed the philosophy of the overall concept with the restaurant, but they worked quite independently.

BBITES: How would you sum up that philosophy?

LT: First of all, everything we do needs to be delicious and healthy. It needs to be food and drinks that are suitable for Hong Kong people, as well as expats and tourists.Page_15 copy 3BBITES: Please tell us more about the two murals in SOHOFAMA?

LT: The first one in the small dining room is basically a timeline of the PMQ site. It used to be the Central College here in the late 1800s, but it was destroyed by the Japanese in WWII. They quickly rebuilt a police married quarter. It’s thanks to the heritage status that this building wasn’t turned into a typical commercial space, but something more for the community, by the community.

For the second mural, we wanted to do something that was related to the police history of PMQ. My dad was a policeman, so we found a photo of him and we put a warning sign next to it with a message saying, “no pesticides, no junk food”.

The artist behind both murals is a graffiti artist. She’s someone who’s from Hong Kong – born and raised – but she lives in Germany at the moment. We flew her back to HK just for this project.

BBITES: What was the biggest challenge on the SOHOFAMA journey?

LT: Definitely to successfully create healthy Chinese cuisine – without MSG, or chicken powder. I don’t think it’s ever been done. In the beginning none of our chefs thought it was possible; coming from a commercial kitchen background in Chinese cooking, the idea of not using MSG and chicken powder was like not letting the chefs use their left and right hands.

It’s hard to deliver on what you claim, but we’re very proud with what we’ve achieved.

BBITES: You also sourced local and imported ingredients to deliver on your promise of healthy, organic food. Did that change any elements of the food you serve?

LT: It was very challenging to find all the ingredients that we needed: grass-fed beef, organic pork, organic vegetables, and even sauces. For the sauces you use in Chinese cooking, we managed to find a local supplier for that. I don’t think any commercial kitchen used that supplier before.

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Once you have the freshest premium ingredients, you don’t need to use the MSG and other bad stuff anymore.

In the past, when Hong Kongers fell on hard times, chefs didn’t have access to good, fresh ingredients so they had to deep-fry and come up with all kinds of sauces to mask the bad ingredients.

At SOHOFAMA, we could use the best organic pork to do a Sweet & Sour Pork, but we want to show people how pork really tastes instead of deep-frying and pouring sauce all over it. With the organic pork, we decided to strip it down, with a ‘less is more’ approach.

BBITES: What plans do you have for the outdoor farm concept?

LT: We have very ambitious plans for the outdoor farm. There’s already a lot of planters and [soil] bedding in our outdoor space. We have a landscape plan, but we need to get the approval before we can convert it into a farm.Page_15 copy 2We already have an in-house farmer working for us who’s ready to do it, but before we get approval we came up with the solution to build “trolley farms”. We can push them around if they need more sunlight, or when it’s raining we can move them as well.Page_02At the bar we have two hydroponic systems which are growing herbs for our bartenders, who use them for our cocktails. Hydroponic means you don’t use soil but just water – infused with minerals and nutrients – to grow vegetables and herbs.

BBITES: It seems like you’re keen on showing your guests the possibilities of healthy living and sustainability…

LT: Yeah, definitely. That’s why farming was such a big component to our concept. We want to educate, as well. We’ll have a lot of workshops, and teach people how to make their own farms at home if they like.

It’ll be impossible for us to supply all the vegetables we need for the restaurant with our outdoor farm – the main reason it’s there is to teach people when they visit us. I will also learn more, too.

BBITES: Last and not least, are there any more surprises on the menu I haven’t seen yet?

LT: We’ll be introducing some very special soups. Our chef worked with a Chinese doctor to come up with the herbal soup recipes. We’ll have things like The Hangover Cure, The Detoxifier, so stay tuned!

-END OF INTERVIEW-Page_11 copy

On my way out, I couldn’t help noticing the wacky chandelier of water guns. Definitely appropriate for a zombie apocalypse – wouldn’t expect anything less from quirky G.O.D. design…

I look forward to going back for an interview with Kit, to learn more about the original cocktails at SOHOFAMA. He’s waiting on the final glassware, so I resisted posting on the cocktails I already tried out of respect 🙂 After all, details are everything!

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re as excited as I am for this awesome new organic oasis…

Bakker x

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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

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THE END!

Bakker x
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Fun Food Apps for iPhone

1Hi guys! Tonight’s post was actually supposed to be a new review. However, my camera has some issues transferring the photos, so in the meantime please enjoy some of my picks for fun food apps for the iPhone.

2These three picks are apps I’ve had on my iPhone for several years now, and never cease to be a source of occasional, mind-numbing fun 😉

4Scoops is extremely simple. And that’s why it’s fun. After choosing a theme (my favourite is the hamburger theme), the objective is to build as large a stack of ingredients as possible without losing a life.

The ingredients fall down in a random order from any corner of the top of the screen, and all you have to do is tilt your burger/screen to “catch” them. The higher your burger gets, the more wobbly – and the more points you get, the faster the ingredients fly down at you.

If you get really good, you’ll eventually stack up all the way into the space, filled with stars and planets… 😀

5Oven Break is a bit more complicated, but only by a little. Your character is a gingerbread man who is running across the screen to escape from the kitchen. Using the “jump” and “slide” buttons, you have to navigate the oncoming stream of goodies (which get you points) and deadly obstacles (which make you lose a life).

6Then, there’s King’s Cup – the classic deck of cards drinking game, made digitally convenient. I’ve played this with friends on a night out before, and it’s always been a success. If you’re unfamiliar with the rules of this game click: here.

There’s built-in instructions in case you’re feeling rusty, and like all of the apps I’ve showed you so far, it’s a free app!

3Last but certainly not least, is any Hong Kong foodie’s essential app: the OpenRice app. OpenRice is an online dining guide edited by everyday people, for the people. It’s awesome, and having an on-the-go version that’s easier than loading onto your smartphone browser is priceless.

Yup, you guessed it, this one’s free too… It’s especially useful when you’re not sure what to eat in the area, as it syncs with your phone’s GPS to recommend local eateries.

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Please stay tuned for the upcoming resto review, and hope you enjoyed this edition of “BYTES“. To read more BYTES posts, here are some links to previous blogs of mine:

Secrets of Food Photography
&
Why Order @ Felix?”

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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

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Out and About: Nespresso Launch

1Earlier today on my foodie social calendar: Nespresso launching their Inissia coffee machine, and a new capsule 🙂 It’s in stores June 2…

FU LU SHOU

1Living in Hong Kong is never short of surprises. Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to a media preview for FU LU SHOU, a new bar-slash-resto perched on a hidden Hollywood Road balcony.2After locating 31 Hollywood Road (opposite the Soho escalator), and one old-school lift, we arrived to Fu Lu Shou – which despite being in soft-opening phase – got more than respectably busy during the evening.3Apart from its local-inspired drinks (like the rum-based Typhoon No.8 cocktail) and fairly traditional Cantonese fare, Fu Lu Shou‘s main pulls are its cosy balcony and fantastic street-art mural.4Canto touches are everywhere, and we dig it! So, get ready as we dig into my favourites of the evening…5JOH SUN: What better name for this spicy punch of a cocktail, than Joh Sun, which means ‘good morning’. With tropical notes of ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime, lemon and chilli, this vodka-based concoction is the stuff of dreams.6Next was a series of entrees, all of which charmed us bloggers and writers. In particular, the giant siu mai – which is exactly what it sounds like. The texture and flavours were more intense and delicate than a regular sized dumpling, and we were glad – because this nuclear-looking monstrosity had the potential of falling flat. It didn’t 🙂

Next, we lept into their honey-covered deep fried shrimp. Great combination: simple, sweet and succulent. And a nice change from the stereotypical sweet-and-sour sauce combo.7We’ll skip over the main dishes that were sampled, because in our opinion they still need some fine-tuning with intensity of flavouring (fair enough, for a soft-opening phase!), but we will share the awesome deep fried tofu with you.

Every tofu-lover’s fantasy, this perfect bar snack combines the soft and bland, with crispy bursts of garlic, chili and herbs. Encased in a deep fried shell? Bring it on!!!!!!

Bakker x

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