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Monday, August 24, 2015

Bites NLD: (just a little..) Street Food Culture!

Looking for street bites while in the Amsterdam?  This post might just be for you because street food in the Amsterdam can be a handful if you do not know where to go.  For every food someone has told you about, there would be 10s of reinterpretations of it scattered within close proximity of each other.  Confusing? I did all the touristy homework for you. So sit back, relax and prepare to feast.

Its fresh, its touristy and its also more expensive than other markets in town.  It is the Albert Cuyp Market.  The location of the market is convenient, and for this reason alone it should be everybody's first destination.  After all, who's got time for that hipster market 1 hour away?  From Amsterdam Station, board tram no.4 towards Station Rai.  Take the stop at Stadhouderskade and Albert Cuyp Market is just a short walk.  Not many stalls at 10am but that would have to do for my tight schedule.

At one of the many Halal Chicken Stands, you can get freshly cooked chicken off the rotisserie.
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I had three drumsticks for 2.50 and boy were they good.  Piping hot with a sweet sticky marinade that is also a little spicy.  Closer to the bone, the flesh can get a little blend so feel free to mix up your favourite concoction from all the sauces they have.
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Further down the road, some research led me to believe that I have found the best Stroopwafel in town.  Commonly known as "that guy at the Stroopwafel stand",  little did I know how amazing a freshly made Stroopwafel could taste.
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Fresh off the press, he spreads a thin layer of syrup before putting on another layer of freshly cooked wafel.  Before he handed it over to me, he advices me that the Stroopwafel (€1.50) is to be eaten laying flat so the syrup does not spill.  First bite in and it was amazing.  A warm oozy centre paired with a crisp wafel is something rave worthy for newcomers like me.  A hint of cinnamon spice felt existent albeit very mild.  No way in the world can you say you have eaten a Stroopwafel if you have not had it fresh.  The difference is simply too big!  
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After enjoying a drink from one of the many shops for just €1.00, I visited the Rijksmuseum which was 8 minutes walk from the market.  After that, it was snack time .  Recommended by Johanness Van Damme who was one of the most influential food critics in Netherlands until his passing in 2013, I ended up at Café Luxembourg. What for you might ask when I was supposed to be eating street food?  Simply for its famous Kroket or Croquette.  You can find Krokets anywhere but Johanness states that Café Luxembourg is the place to be.
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.. and he is absolutely right.  Anywhere on the streets two Krokets would be €4.00, so was there any value in paying €10.00 for two veal Krokets? I  have been feeding on Kroket, Bitterballens and Frikandels at the lunch bar and none of them have came close to achieving what Cafe Luxembourg does. The perfectly crumbed Krokets were outstanding and to that tasty-gooey centre was oh so very good.  To enjoy the Kroket with the rye, start by spreading butter and mustard on the bread.  Cut the Kroket into half along its long side.  Place it on the bread and there you go, the BroodjeKroket or Croquette Sandwich.  Enjoy it with the little gherkins and pickled onions. Simple but every bit enjoyable.  (P/S: eating technique was by a Dutch guy seated next to me lol).

My final street food for the day was none other than the infamous Frites at Vlaams Friteshuis Velminckx.  
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The kiosk looked plain,  a sign of humble beginnings.  In fact, one might get a little confused to see so many people holding little paper cones filled with frites with no fast-food joints around.  But it is in this little shop where its Frites were officially graded in 1984 and held a 9 out of 10 which still holds true for today. 
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Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx does what every other Friteshuis do but with a lot more love.  Its assortment of sauces are nothing short of authentic and it was seriously good.  Double fried to perfection, and topped with the famous oorlog sauce (a mix of frittesaus and sate sauce, topped with onions), it was amazing how everything came together.   You get a crisp Frites with that creamy slightly tart flavour from the Frittesaus which contrasted with the sweet and nutty Sate Saus.  The toppings of mildly pungent onions gave the Frites a nice onion fragrant to sum up the whole experience.  This was easily one best Frites I have ever eaten.  

With so much more to try like the deep fried cod pieces (Kibbeling), Apple Pies and Mini Pancakes (Poffertjes) I am definitely heading back to Amsterdam. So keep a lookout on this space because it is surely to grow in the next few weeks :)!

WenY

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bites NLD: Chinese-French @ HanTing Cuisine, Prinsestraat

The fastest way to the heart of a country is by eating food said many.  I have recently moved to the Hague as part of my training.  As a keen foodie, I walked the predictable path of attempting to understand a culture by eating my way through town.  Last week I took the time to visit HanTing, a 1 Michelin star Chinese - French restaurant.  Located in the city, it was in a convenient spot to begin.  

The concept was really unusual because while Japanese-French establishments are as cliche as humans’ breathing in Australia,  the Chinese - French connection was new to me! But lets leave the food to do the talking.

Tray of “snacks”.  
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A superb mix of colours, textures and flavours.  The complex offering started with a squid ink bun filled with some mild horseradish which gave the sweet-ish almost brioche like bun a subtly pungent bite.  Next was the beetroot meringue.  It packed a crunch with an unmistakable earthiness from the beetroot.  This was followed by was a savoury macaroon, a crisp and crudités with a saffron aioli dip.


Amuse Bouche
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Tomato Jelly, Mousse, celery and smoked eel.  It was acidic, creamy and salty.  All of which was serenaded by a whiff of smokiness.  Small and potent, but more importantly it was interesting.


Steamed bread with fried shallots.
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The dish of HERRING was the First course presented to me.  This fish is a typical Dutch stereotype so when it was served it felt like a surprise but not really.  Served raw, I was really quite concerned by the thick layer of “blood" running underneath the skin.  But Chef Han’s idea of serving the fish with a host of fruity and refreshing elements was absolutely genius.  Among the accompaniments identified are compressed watermelon, Yuzu dressing, Guacamole and tomato jelly.  This oily fish was buttery and left only the slightest hint of the sea in my mouth.  But scoop a little of each element to eat with the fish and it did not at all feel like a fish!  It was light, subtle, and fruity.
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HERRING


For diners that find the HERRING fishy, HanTing serves a complimentary course which felt like a re-interpretation of the Japanese “ONIGIRI”.  Its sweet-vinegary flavours readies the palate for the next course.
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The Second course featured TUNA in several ways.  Seared-all round and a sushi.  Served with red pepper puree, soya, cucumber and a wasabi jelly, this was an intricate dish. Not to mention melt-in-your mouth squid and aubergine in the middle.  But was all this effort in vain? Not all but some.  The sushi probably was the least impressive dish.  The sticky shards of rice and pressed tuna tasted stale.  With the seared tuna, I found the pairing with the lukewarm wasabi jelly log too mundane.  I did not get that kick which I got from the HERRING dish.  With the warm temperature in the dining hall, having served the dish with a wasabi sorbet would have totally win it.  Oh, do not forget to omit the sushi too!
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TUNA


My Third course was a dish of SEA BASS and razor clam.  Another dish from the sea, but this time cooked.  A good way to imagine this dish is to think of a perfectly cooked fish.  And then think of the last time you had a perfectly cooked fish and cry.  Ok just joking lol.  Think of the fish and at the same time imagine a soy based sauce that feels buttery, filled with shrooms and a touch of sweet rice wine.  Everything was bang on perfect.  The HERRING course I had at HanTing is probably not to everyone taste, but this was definitely a crowd pleaser.
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SEA BASS


The Fourth and last savoury course was a meal of VEAL.  Served pink in the middle the VEAL was tender, juicy and flavoursome.  The seared loin was well-seasoned and one flavour that was more prominent than others was five spice.  A spice frequently used by Chinese to season meat.  On the side you had turnips, yam and also a very special solidified lard with shallots.  By itself, the veal was delicious.  But melt the flavoured lard onto the meat and you get the hint of ginger and spring onions which perfumed the veal so very nicely it was awesome.
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VEAL

Last but not least was a sweet ending.  Sorbet frozen using liquid Nitrogen, white chocolate ganache shaped and twisted, and to cut through the sweetness of the lot, some sliced candied Mandarins. 
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WHITE CHOCOLATE & BERRIES

The meal at HanTing was nothing short of being impressive.  The kitchen’s thought on the plate was clearly “more is more” and not "less is more".  While this worked brilliantly for most courses, the TUNA took a few steps back with that thought.   I wanted a little more surprise that suited the warm summer season.  But with 4 out of the 5 courses winning my approval, it is a clear sign that HanTing’s 1 Michelin star is well-deserved.  If you had to ask me what my favourite courses were, I would no doubt vouch for the Herring which freaked me out initially.  Its buttery sweet flesh was second to none.   The Sea Bass is the second best followed suit by the Veal and Dessert of White Chocolate & Berries.  

WenY

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bites: Re-evaluating my favourite degustation @ Petite Mort, Shenton Park.

When I last visited Petite Mort, I loved it. The food was good and course after course I was consistently vowed by their presentation and composition.  Last week, I returned with my tongue a little keener, fussier, and meaner after my escapades in Singapore and Cambodia.  Was I still impressed by Petite Mort’s offering?

To understand where Petite Mort has evolved over the last couple of months, I decided to re-visit their degustation menu.

To start, was Petite Mort’s ever so buttery Brioche and another Sun dried tomato pastry.
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Onion Thyme Veloute, Ham Hock w/ Manjimup Truffles
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I pondered on whether the truffles were worth adding to this course.  But when the waitress said that these were the best in W.A., I decided to go with it.  It came out so fragrant that I was impressed by the smell itself.  But when the smooth Veloute was poured in, it felt as though the impact of the truffles were no longer as apparent.  Was it the right combination?

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Cured Salmon, Cuttlefish & Ponzu, Wasabi Sorbet, Yuzu Jelly.
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This was a reminiscence of my last visit.  But this time around, the cured salmon provided a more buttery finish to the course.

Pork Belly, Pig Head, Slaw, Apple
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A pork belly slow-cooked for 37 hours before being seared, a cheek meat shaped as a cube and minute fried to crisp and condiments as you know it.   Topped with a crisp crackling, this dish is everything you thought you knew, but you did not know.   There are hidden inspirations from a British classic as well as a German one in this course.  The slaw was a sauerkraut to pair with the very tender, fatty and crisp cheek.  A good re-interpretation of the Pork Knuckle and Sauerkraut.  Meanwhile, the apple jelly paired perfectly with the meaty pork belly to reveal a meal of Pork Chops and Apples.

Chicken, Rocket, Porcini, Cassoulet
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Sous vide chicken roulade with a sensational plating.

My main consisted of a beef flank, crisp shallots and the tastiest potato gratin.  Sensational.  So good that I forgot the picture! Lol.

Death By Chocolate 
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My choice of dessert was similar to the one I had before.  The satisfaction was no less than when I first had it.  Petite Mort’s Death by Chocolate is every bit as delicious as it needed to be.  With all the textures, it was something that triumph Jaan’s Chocolate dessert with no questions asked.  It was that good.

Soufflè, Yuzu, Custard, Yoghurt
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XL’s choice of dessert.  A show of amazing alchemy and precision cooking.  I still re-call the moment the waitress poured that vial of yuzu custard and the whole Soufflé rose.  Sensational.

The degustation ended on a sweet note with the Petite Fours
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The meal at Petite Mort was exactly as I remembered it to be with each course satisfying all my senses.  To be impressed twice shows that  Petite Mort made several strong refinements which were especially impactful.  The buttery salmon was one of them.  But it was the intricate thought of the Pork which impressed me the most.  After my dinner at Petite Mort, I was happy yet I could not help but wonder whether Petite Mort has played it a little too safe.  Was Petite Mort on the same level to complete with International Chefs from Jaan, Le Atelier de Joel Robuchon or Sepia?

First Visit to Petite Mort

WenY
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