A food blog from everywhere!

Macau: Gosto at the Galaxy Hotel

All the major hotels in Macau shamelessly exhibit quite a lot of grandiose and bombast, and the one that we stayed at, the Galaxy hotel, fits that description snugly. I can’t say that I really liked the over-the-top showyness…it made everything seem soul-less and man-made. That’s my opinion anyways.

For our evening meal in Macau we decided on Portuguese/Macanese food at Gosto. We arrived at around 7:30pm but the place was still pretty empty. The setting was cozy but a bit dim.

Appetizer sampler plate w/ fried nuggets of stuff!

For our appetizer we ordered the combo plate, which basically consisted of three types of fried foodstuffs. Even though I tend to avoid fried foods, I must say that the fillings in these were pretty decent. The plate included mashed potato-fish cake, some fried sausage, and…argh, something else that I can’t quite remember! Oh wells, that’s what I get for procrastinating on blog entries…

Stewed pork feet with kidney beans and cabbage

Ok, hopefully my memory serves me better with the entrees. We shared two entrees, my dad and I: the stewed pork feet with beans and chicken with puri-puri sauce. I didn’t really like the stewed pork feet much cause the meat didn’t quite attain that fall-off-the-bone and melt-in-your-mouth consistency. Maybe another 15 minutes in the heat would have been nice. The tomato-ey broth was decent: slightly spicy without overwhelming the pork flavour.

Whole (caged-in factory-tortured) chicken with puri-puri sauce

The chicken with puri-puri sauce, like the previous entree, could have been improved upon. I have to say, though, that even though I still have no idea what “puri-puri” is, the thin sauce was pretty amazing. Tangy and salty and spicy, it accompanied everything on the plate really well! Sadly, the chicken hailed from the factory-raised variety, with the signature floury texture and tasteless white meat. That really dragged down what otherwise would have been a great dish. Disappointing!

Yeah, actually, I’m curious, do most people out there mind eating factory-raised chicken as I do?

August 19, 2011 Posted by | Macau, Portuguese, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Macau: Noodle and Congee Corner at the Grand Lisboa

While on a few-day trip to Zhu Hai, we took a day trip to Macau, and that was when I encountered the BEST NOODLES THAT I’VE EVER TASTED.

Now, true, I’m not a noodle aficionado by any means; in fact, I tend to steer away from all things pasta. I guess my aversion resulted from too many tasteless, under/over-cooked noodle specimens in the past. But at the Noodle and Congee Corner restaurant overlooking the gambling floor of the Grand Lisboa hotel in Macau, the crowning versions of the stuff may just have changed my mind.

The restaurant, like just about everything touristy in Macau, was extremely spacious. My dad and I were seated at a 6-person table! Facing the dining room stood the glassed kitchen through which diners could scrutinize the chefs at work, shaving and kneading and stretching noodles into huge vaults of boiling broth. Very entertaining to watch!

Knife-shaved noodles with grounded meat sauce, pre-mixing

And post-mixing; the grounded pork sort of congregated all on one side

Here’s our first order, knife-shaved noodles with grounded meat sauce. This type of noodles’ name comes from the way that they’re made: chefs hold a huge rectangular wad of dough  and use a knife to shave individual strings of dough into boiling water in quick succession. Because the noodles go in one string at a time, each bowl contains all spectra of cookedness, making it a rather texturally inconsistent dish. I didn’t find this to be a bad thing, cause it made the experience all the more interesting. The noodles were mostly thicker than average and quite chewy with a few overcooked strands. The sauce wasn’t thick enough to thoroughly enrobe the noodles, but that also meant that it carried a nice balance of savoury porkiness and wasn’t too strong.

Dan dan noodles

Our next noodle order: dan dan noodles with peanut sauce. The noodles here were hand-pulled, resulting in basically a never-ending strand!

Dad trying to find an end to the endless mass of noodles

Haha. We had a fun time trying to split this between the two of us. The very impressive feat was that all the noodles had practically the same diameter; it’s amazing seeing that such uniformity can be achieved in something handcrafted. Unlike the previous dish, because the chef flung the hand-pulled noodles into the boiling broth all at once, they all have the same consistency: slightly chewy and spring. The broth wasn’t too spicy and I think it could have been thicker and more peanuty, but those are just my preferences. Overall, a very impressive bowl of noodles!

Marinated cucumbers

Fried egg wrapped pork pancake thing

In addition to the noodles we also ordered sides of marinated cucumbers (which were nice a refreshing, and sweet!) and a deep-fried egg wrap with pork filling (not very interesting). We didn’t try the other half of this restaurant’s namesake, their congee, but the noodles definitely stole the show!



August 14, 2011 Posted by | Chinese, Macau, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Lyon: Cooking at L’Atelier des Chefs

Perhaps one little-known tidbit about me is that nobody ever taught me to cook. I’ve never been much impressed b my parents’ cooking, so I took over the kitchen myself by the end of my middle school years. My cooking skills are a product of cooking shows, cookbooks, food blogs, and just self-experimentation. I remember the first dish that I’d ever made  from scratch was a cheese soup from allrecipes.com. Not a great resource for serious cooks, I now realize, but back then I was pretty proud of that processed-cheese soup.

Well, during my one-week stay in Lyon I came upon L’Atelier des Chefs, a cooking school offering 30 min – 1.5 hr long classes for non-professionals. Since I was there and wasn’t in a hurry to do anything and the price wasn’t too steep, I decided to give the tart-making class a go.

Reserving a spot was really easy. All I had to do was go on their website, find the course I want, and make my reservation. No need to pay until I got there the next day.

The school is pretty conveniently located in Presqu’ile, about a five minute trek from the Musee des Beaux-Arts. There was a little cooking gadgets store up front and the kitchens and stuff  were at the back. Getting there, I was definitely pretty nervous at first cause it was my first time in a non-touristy environment where I’ll HAVE to rely on my French abilities! No falling back on English if I don’t understand something.

Because I signed up for a class on a weekday morning, there were only 2 other people with me: a 50ish lady and a 12ish boy. A kid, me, and a graying lady; basically we hit all the age groups. The chef ushered us into the kitchen, a big professional kitchen, and handed us aprons and placed us at our stations. He’d already laid out all the ingredients and utensils beforehand, so basically he instructed and demonstrated and we did the tasks needed. It was pretty fun, although a bit quiet once the chef stopped talking cause, well, we three highly diverse people weren’t the most talkative bunch. But I was pretty content just being able to understand everything, and sort of surprised too!

The whole course took about an hour, and afterward they packed up the food for us to take home. It was a pretty enjoyable way to spend the morning, and I created some nice tarts for lunch, but I have to say though, I think I could have learned the same stuff from a cooking show or a book. Sure, it wouldn’t be the same as having someone guide you, but it sure would be a lot cheaper!

Ah, and yes, below is the recipe of one of the tarts that we made, translated by yours truly from http://www.atelierdeschefs.fr/fr/recette/4122-tarte-sablee-au-parmesan-compotee-d-aubergines-basilic-et-anchois.php:

Tart with parmesan crusts, basil eggplant compote and anchovies

For the biscuits:
– wheat flour 150g
– soften butter 150g
– shredded Parmesan 150g
– egg 1
– pinch of salt

For the filling:
– 3 pieces eggplant
– 1/2 bunch (10 sprigs?) fresh coriander
– oil packed anchovies 24 pieces
– white onions 2 medium
– cumin 5g
– basil 1/2 bunch (10 sprigs?)
– 3 tsp olive oil
– 5 tsp water
– grilled pepper antipasto 24 pieces

For the garnishing:
– roquette leaves 300g
– lime 1
– olive oil to taste
– sea salt flakes to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C.
  2. Mix together flour, parmesan, a pinch of salt and butter in a medium-sized bowl until well-incorporated. Then add egg and roll into dough-like ball. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and then slap between two pieces of parchment paper. Stick into the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Once done, cut out eight disks of tart crust using any hollow round-rimmed object (e.g. cookie cutter, a glass). Set aside to let cool.
  3. Dice eggplant and onions. Chop up fresh herbs and set aside.
  4. In a very hot pan, heat 3 tsp olive oil. Add onions, eggplant, a pinch of salt and saute for a min, then add 5 tsp water and cover. Once there’s no more water, let the eggplants sweat out their juices. Once the veggies stick a bit to the pan, stir them a bit and then add coriander, basil, and any spices you feel like adding (e.g. cumin maybe? Or curry? Not really necessary but if you want an extra kick, there you go)
  5. Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing 10 tsp olive oil, the juice of one lime, and a pinch of salt.
  6. Now, here’s the method to assembling those tart towers: parmesan disk + eggplant mixture + antipasto peppers and anchovies, and repeat! Sprinkle the top with leftover herbs and drizzle everything with olive oil. Serve with a simple roquette salad. Nom nom nom.

My tarte sablee! It held together better when cold

July 24, 2011 Posted by | Lyon, Recipes, Travels | 1 Comment

Lyon: Savoury macarons from Les Halles

I’d say just about a year ago saw the heyday of the French macaron. Miniature, delicate, flexible in terms of flavours, and difficult to perfect; what’s not to like about it? However, I think that after a year of seeing these almond cookies everywhere, I’ve gotten a bit tired of them. But a few weeks ago, while in Lyon I was ambling through Les Halles, an indoor upscale food market in the city centre, when I came across a patisserie store featuring savoury macarons. I was pretty intrigued and had to try some for myself.

I remember Seve had four savoury flavours: foie gras, gorgonzola, porcini, and something else that I forget. Well, I tried the first three. The nice saleslady gave me gorgonzola as a sample, a WHOLE macaron. Wow! Never had that happen before. I was pretty surprised at the generous offer but then, upon chewing my first bite…well…not to say that it was terrible but it wasn’t exactly something that I’d fork out three euros for. I understand that as a blue cheese, gorgonzola is supposed to be strong, but it’s also known for being quite salty. And Seve geared towards bending savoury flavours and making them sweet. So that first macaron tasted like cheesecake made with strong blue cheese. I’m sure there are people who would like that but it didn’t really go down that well for me. The texture, at least, was airy and light; had it been dense, my goodness, I wonder how sky-high strong the flavour would be!

Macaron aux cepes/Porcini macaron

Despite that initial drawback I still bought two other flavours, and those worked better (in differing degrees). The porcini, hmmm…tasted like mushroom with sugar added. Sweet and earthy. The filling was pretty dense, and the macaron cookies, like those of all three savoury macs, were the normal sweet kind. I didn’t really know what to make of it.

Foie gras macaron with a copyright on it. Fancy

The last one, the foie gras macaron, worked the best out of the three. I guess maybe it’s because I’m more familiar with the idea of eating sweet jams with goose liver pate, cause that’s exactly what the macaron tasted like. Well, no jam was present but the sweetness of the filling and the cookies reminded me of it. It’d have been nice if the liver flavour had been stronger, cause it was only barely detectable beneath all that sugariness.

So, that was my experience was savoury macarons. Somewhat disappointing cause I was actually expecting something salty. Maybe I need to try making my own.

July 22, 2011 Posted by | Bakery, Lyon, Travels | 1 Comment

Lyon: Fraises des bois

After reading David Lebovitz’s (who has a wonderful blog, btw, and pretty foodproof recipes!) post on fraises des bois a few weeks ago while still in Lyon, I decided that I had to get some for myself when I saw them at the St. Antoine market. I have had these little miniature strawberries before; while staying in the Annecy area, we sometimes came across them while hiking in the mountains. But they were rare on the often-trekked hiking trails, so one had to wander off the beaten path to find them (and in fact, once I got lost in the woods chasing after these elusive red fruits!).

Box of wild strawberries

But a whole box of fraises des bois may have been…too much of a good thing? When bumping across them in the wilderness, a surge of excitement and self-satisfaction accompanies their consumption, but when they’re already all boxed up, that aspect is lost. Fraises aux bois are more tart than typical strawberries and sometimes even bitter, and the roughness of the surface seeds adds an extra dimension to them. Truth be told I think I prefer steroided strawberries, which are sweeter and has more traditional strawberry flavour. Or maybe I just don’t have selective enough a palate to enjoy them.

July 14, 2011 Posted by | Lyon, Travels, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Paris: 2000 feuilles from Pierre Herme

Yesterday I took a day trip to Paris and, of course, as with any trip to Paris, a visit to Pierre Herme was required.

I picked up their 2000 Feuilles to try. Basically it was a millefeuille (but mille/1000 times two) with almond cream and choc-hazelnut fillings.

2000 feuilles from Pierre Herme

I have to say, though, that as much as I tried to like it, I did not. Perhaps it was because it had already sat in its packaging at room temperature for 4 hours before I finally got to eat it, but the textures and flavours just didn’t play well together. Of course, having been out so long, the cake no longer held its shape, with the praline cream and chocolate-hazelnut filling erupting out the sides. I found the fillings, because they were at room temperature, to be overpowering. The tones of almond and chocolate were no longer gentle and caressing but loud and abrasive. Even large pieces of pastry failed to mellow small dollops of filling. Plus, even a very sharp knife failed to truncate a cross-section in the millefeuille, making it difficult to appreciate the intended textural combinations and rendering the process of devouring the cake a very messy operation.

I suppose one praise-worthy aspect of the cake was the pastry, which remained crispy and mostly unsoggy despite its four-hour journey in an air-less cardboard box. Next time, though, I’ll be sure to finish millefeuilles as soon as I purchase them.

Hopefully the macarons that I got will fare better!

July 7, 2011 Posted by | Bakery, Paris, Travels | 1 Comment

Lyon: Café Comptoir Abel

25, rue Guynemer, Lyon
Tél.: 04 78 37 46 18

I’ve only been in Lyon for just over a day, but already the city’s food scene lives up to its hype and renown. Tonight I had dinner at Café Comptoir Abel, a small restaurant serving traditional Lyonnaise fare, otherwise known as a “bouchon.” It was recommended to me by several sources so I went in with high hopes, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Even before arriving I’d already settled on trying their highly praised quenelles. Quenelle is a Lyonnaise specialty consisting of cone-shaped poached fish dumplings served w/ a sauce. I ordered mine with a side of ratatouille to get some vegetables in.

When the dishes came, I was taken-aback by their sizes! Chez Abel serves up hearty portions: the quenelle was as long as a medium banana and twice as wide, and the ratatouille came in a medium-sized casserole. After a small gulp & a few photos, I dug in.

Quenelle w/ mushroom cream sauce

At the very first bite of the quenelle, I realized that I wouldn’t have been too surprised should I end up finishing the dish. The chef somehow managed to adroitly manipulate the simple flavours of the ingredients into a beautiful combination. I could taste the savoury fish base in the quenelles along w/ a nice, creamy eggyness. The mushroom cream sauce blanketing the quenelle wasn’t crucial to the flavours but did add a further richness and cut back the saltiness in the quenelle. The melted cheese, on the other hand, I could not taste at all and was probably unnecessary.

While its flavours were amazing, but I think one drawback of quenelles is their lack of textural contrast. Not that its soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture (semblant of soft scrambled eggs with more substance) isn’t wonderful, but it gets dull after a while. The mushrooms in the sauce helped a little at the beginning but I quickly polished those off. Despite this little complaint, though, I still managed to finish about 2/3s of the dish.

Lackluster ratatouille, but no matter!

The ratatouille, on the other hand, stood little chance next to the star dish. It seemed like they dumped all the vegetables together at the same time in making it, because the zucchinis were all gloopy due to overcooking. The better ratatouilles I’ve tried also boost a nice olive-oil burst which Chez Abel’s version lacked. Oh well, no matter, cause the amazing quenelle was enough to salvage any meal.

July 3, 2011 Posted by | French, Lyon, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Cheese Factory Visit in Thônes

A few weeks ago, my community health class took a field trip to a fromagerie in Thônes, a city near Annecy in the Savoie region. The full name of the establishment is Cooperative du Reblochon de Thônes, or the Reblochon Cooperative of Thônes, and it’s usually referred to as Le Farto. It’s called a cooperative because it’s where several nearby farmers sell their milk and cheeses for cheese-making and aging. Apparently it’s one of the largest cooperatives in the region and stores & restaurants all around source their cheeses from here.

Upon arriving, the first thing we noticed was the milk vending machine outside! How often does one come across 24-hr fresh milk?

Milk vending machine!

After lots of ohhing and ahhing, we made our way into the building. Actually, the Cooperative looks a lot like any cheese shop upfront. They have lots of (of course) cheeses lined up, in addition to other dairy-related items and non-dairy related foodstuffs such as saucissons, jams and preserves, and candies.

Confections and sweets

Hanging saucissons! They have interesting names according to their shapes (e.g. ibex horns & bottoms)


Because we had signed up for a tour, we were lead to an adjacent section of the shop where glass windows allowed us to peer into the cheese-making activity that take place downstairs at the Coop everyday.

Centrifuge of cheese curds!

Cheese-making instruments

Separated curds

The lady/tour guide gave us a speel about the cheese-making process (in French) and how the Coop works. After a film showing the farms where the milk is produced, we were led downstairs to see the caves for cheese aging.

One of the aging rooms

The smell down there was from quite a different world, to say the least, and as you can see from the photos it was quite damp. Not the most pleasant place to hang around, but interesting for sure. The cheeses are arranged according to their type and age.

Stacks of cheesy goodness. I think these are tomme but I'm not sure

Cheese wheels on crates

The Coop makes and ages reblochon and tomme de Savoie and stores/ages several other types of cheese, including comte, emmantel, and other types of tomme for sale. After our basement visit we headed back upstairs and they handed out reblochon and tomme de Savoie samples. The tomme had a salty, nutty favour and the reblochon was soft and mild. I can’t say that I was crazy about either of the cheeses just as a matter of personal taste, but I can definitely understand where their virtues stand.

Tomme de Savoie cubes


One interesting thing to note about reblochon is the derivation of its name. Apparently, in times long pass, farmers had to pay their lords taxes in the form of milk. Wanting to keep some milk for themselves, these Savoyard farmers would purposely only partially milk their cows and pay that milk as tax. Afterwards, they would remilk, reblocher, their cattle and the cheese from that milk is thus called reblochon. Curious!

Afterwards some of us did some food purchasing and then we headed out to again marvel at the milk vending machine. Lots of students actually got some fresh milk and I had a taste of it as well. It wasn’t anything exceedingly special, just whole milk, creamy and cool. I can’t really taste the rawness, whatever that tastes like. Someday I’ll have to consume raw and pasteurized milk side by side to figure out first hand what all the fuss is about.

Another thing that I wonder about is cheese rinds. Do people eat them? I usually do for soft cheeses but is it ever unrecommended? Especially for those moldy rinded cheeses?

Confections and sweets

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Lake Annecy, Travels, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Still Alive, and Back in France!

So…after a long hiatus from the blogging world, I’ve decided it’s high time to get back on the game. After all, I do enjoy writing about my food encounters and I am back in one of the foodie paradises of the world: France! This time I’m in the Savoie region, near the city Annecy, doing an academic summer program while having the privilege of staying with a wonderful host family.

Firstly, the scenery here is worth a mention, because it’s absolutely STUNNING.

View out towards Lac d’Annecy from Talloires

The locals are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. The feel here definitely differs  from Paris; people are more ready to smile and life goes on at a slower pace. I’ve been here for five weeks now, and although I sometimes do miss the city-life I really can’t complain, having such beautiful views right out the door.

Anyways, on to the food: Coming into this region I fully had in mind to sample the local cuisine, and two of the beacons of the Haute-Savoie culinary scene are tartiflette and raclette. Both are substantial dishes consisting of potatoes, cheese, and some form of meat, often eaten in the winter as they are very heavy. One night my host brothers took me to a small restaurant in the mountains nearby to sample the two local specialties.

View from the mountains near the restaurant

I forget (or rather didn’t fully pay attention to) the name of the restaurant, which was small and quaint but bright and cozy. Because my host family was familiar with the owner, we chatted for a long time at the bar over some olives and drinks before sitting down and ordering. It was nice listening to the French and peeping up here and there.


An aside about the French language: I do hope that my French has improved at least a little during my time here, but I really cannot tell. I’ve been studying French for so long in school that my skills really do not match up with the years of French classes. I often ascribe it to the ineffectively of elementary/middle school French, but even discounting that I’ve taken at least 5 years worth of high school level + French courses and still I have trouble fully embracing the language. I feel that I have the most difficulty with comprehension. When others speak to me I can usually fully understand and can respond readily, but listening to others speak is a completely different story. I find it so difficult to follow conversations where I’m not involved for the sounds jumble together and I lose the ability to decipher anything. It is so difficult to join in the conversations at dinner as my host family speaks with a very rapid tongue! The same goes with films; I usually cannot figure out the plot without untranslated subtitles. I guess it’s all just a matter of exposure and practice, but it’s hard to practice when nothing comes through in the first place.

Anyways, I’ll return to the food: so around 9pm we started eating. Below is the tartiflette, which my host brothers both ordered.


It came in a medium sized ceramic dish with potatoes coddled in a thick sauce of reblochon cheese (a famous washed-rind cheese from the area) and cream and speckled with lardons, or cubed bacon. You can see a whole reblochon half on the top! I had a taste and thought it was rich but mild, for reblochon isn’t a very strong cheese. The lardons added a little bit of chewiness and texture but not much. This is definitely a comfort food and not exactly something to dine finely on.

I chose a raclette from the menu, and was very surprised when they presented me with two large plates, one w/ three boiled potatoes and a salad and the other w/ sliced cured meats and rectangles of raclette cheese. Plus a small bowl of cornichons, it was definitely a lot of food!

Salad and boiled potatoes

Mixed cured meats, cornichons, and raclette cheese (natural and smoked)

Raclette is actually a type of cheese from this region. It’s name comes from the way that it’s usually eaten: the insides of a half-wheel is slightly melted under lamp-like apparatus and a wooden utensil is used to scrape, or racler, the melted cheese onto potatoes and other accompaniments. I feel it’s a wonderfully creative and fun way to eat!

Apparatus for raclette melting

The apparatus that we used, however, was differently from the bulkier traditional method. It was basically a small stove and pan on which we melted the pieces of raclette, one at a time. Once melted, we poured the cheese onto the potatoes and ate them with the sliced meats and cornichons. I have to say, potatoes + cheese + cornichons or salami work magic together. Rich and salty and sharp from the cornichons…it was a great combination. Adding some pieces of salad to it was good too as that added some freshness and crunch. I preferred the natural raclette to the smoked variety just because the creaminess came out more in the former.

After the meal, we were all pretty stuffed. Apparently, though, diners usually consume a strong alcohol to help digest, so my host brothers ordered genepi and chartreuse, two types of local liquers, to sum up the meal. I had a little sip of the chartreuse and my goodness it was VERY strong. Stingy strong. I didn’t try anymore after that and my poor younger host brother had to finish my glass too. Lol.

It was a very fun meal, and we finally headed down the mountain and got back home at 11pm. Quite the Savoyard experience!

June 26, 2011 Posted by | French, Lake Annecy, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment

Paris Big Names

Big name products that we had during our visit to Paris!

Berthillon Ice Cream:

I loved their vanilla flavour, but I was disappointed by the three others that we tried (figs, caramel au fleur de sel, and something else that I forget). Although the flavours were intense, they were all so cloggingly sweet. And the hefty prices (9.90 euros for three tiny scoops from the cafe where we went to) didn’t help either.

Brie de Meaux from Laurent Dubois Fromagerie:

Maybe it’s just me, but do all Brie de Meaux taste stinky?

Patrick Roger‘s Caramels au Fleur de Sel:
Even though Patrick Roger is most famous for his chocolates, these salted butter caramels that I found in his shop were absolutely amazing as well. They were soft and sticky, but not exactly chewy, and you can taste all the ingredients so clearly. The butter, the sugar, the salty hints; they’re all there.

Look at that window display!


The poilane loaf that I tried had a nice sourdough taste, but I found the texture of the interior too crumbly and dry. And the outside crust was too hard. Maybe I just went on the wrong day. However, their punitions (little butter cookies) are to die for indeed, and the brioche was awesomely buttery; would be great for making French toasts.

Jean-Paul Hevin‘s Turin:

This elipse-shaped cake consisted of a sugar crust at the bottom filled with meringue and some blueberry jam-like thing and topped with a thin layer of chocolate. I didn’t find it mesmerizing but it was definitely good; not too sweet and the meringue was light and soft.
A separate post featuring macarons coming up!

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Bakery, Desserts, French, Paris, Restaurants, Travels | Leave a comment