I am a scientist who loves to cook because there are many similarities between working in a lab and cooking in a kitchen. I love to share my cooking experience with you and to inspire others to cook.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

french toast

I had some stale french bread that have hardened. Unless I have the jaw of The Hulk, I will not attempt biting on to it. In a spur of the moment, I have decided to make french toast. In the past, I have only knew of using eggs, but after a quick glance of the internet, I realized there can be other ingredients. I also have some leftover orange juice from a party and alas, within 5 minutes, I put together the "batter" needed for the french toast.

2 eggs, beaten
splash of orange juice
splash of milk
large pinch of sugar
small pinch of salt

1. Mix the wet ingredients, sugar and salt together.
2. Heat some oil in a pan.
3. Dip the bread in the "batter" and transfer them to the pan.
4. Cook until the surface turns slight brown.

                      French Toast and Vietnamese Coffee on a lazy weekend morning. Bliss

I never knew orange juice can be used to make french toast but it makes total sense. Now I know, I can use other juices, such as pear, peach, pineapple, whichever I find myself having.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sweet potato

How often do you look at a potato at the grocery store and think to yourself - "this is an interesting potato?". In the world of potato, there is sweet potatoes that intrigues me with its flavor as much as its color. The most common kind of sweet potato that people are familiar with is the "orange-flesh" sweet potato. Now, what if I tell you, this exist:

This is a purple sweet potato. You can't tell from the color of the skin, which is almost white color.

Side by side picture of a purple sweet potato and an orange sweet potato. The raw scent of these two kinds of potatoes are completely different. Each has different and unique notes.

This is how I used to eat sweet potato when I was growing up. Cooked in water with small amount of sugar added. It is not a side dish, but a dessert!

The natural purple color from cooking purple sweet potato is mesmerizing. It is like looking into crystal clear ocean and seeing all the life beneath it.

I copied this image from another blog and here is the reference http://mainmainmasakmasak.wordpress.com/2007/12/30/japanese-sweet-potato-balls/

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Farfelle ai Porcini e Capocollo

I have only made two kinds of pasta in the past - pasta with tomato sauce and sweet sausage, or baked pasta. The third kind of pasta that I made recently was the simplest of all.

I was struck by the earthly flavor of wild mushroom at a dinner last November and I wanted to cook with this kind of mushroom since then. Instead of wild mushroom, I got some dried porcini mushroom which has that intense woody flavor.

For good measure, I happened to have some capocollo cured meat in my refrigerator.

Ingredients (1 serving)
Farfelle pasta (bowtie pasta) or ANY kind of pasta.
Dried porcini mushroom, 4-5 pieces. Soaked in water 30 minutes before using. Save the juice.
1-2 slices of Capocollo
Green peas
Quarter of an onion

1. Boil a pot of water and cook the pasta.
2. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the onion for 1 minute.
3. Add the mushroom, capocollo and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the green peas and cook until the juice dries up. 
5. When the pasta is done, combine the pasta and the mushroom and toss everything to mix well.
6. Almost forgot salt and pepper for seasoning.

This pasta is very light and not heavy like the tomato or cream based pasta. I like to think that this pasta comes very close to how pasta should be made. The intriguing flavor of a cured meat combined with the earthy scent of the mushroom is balanced by the freshness of the green peas. The pasta, is like a blank canvas and the rest are colors.

I have since made variations of this pasta with andouille sausage (just because I happened to have some), and left over grilled chicken The option is limitless as to what you can put into this dish.

2 minutes after serving this dish to myself

Monday, July 9, 2012

Roasted Pork Belly


Sometimes there is no words to describe how delicious roasted pork belly taste. The 4 key things that I look for in a perfect roasted pork belly are these:

1) crispy pork skin
2) not too much fat layer under the skin
3) tender and juicy meat
4) just the right amount of salt

Call me picky (aren't we all picky when comes to certain things?), I yet to find a place that sells roasted pork belly that meets every single requirement that I look for.

As for the solution? Make it my own!

I found a recipe on this website http://www.noobcook.com/crispy-roast-pork-belly/  , which I based my "experiment" on. 

1 slab of pork belly (approximately 1.5lb)
2 tsp of salt
1/2 tbsp 5-spice powder
1/4 tbsp white pepper powder

Instructions  (the words in red are copied verbatim from the website above, please refer to the site for complete original instructions)

1. Holding a small knife in a stabbing action, make short diagonal slits with the tip of the knife on the surface of the skin (but not cutting into the meat) at random. 

2. Combine 1 tsp salt, 5-spice powder and white pepper in a small bowl. Rub the marinade all over the meat portion only. If any marinade gets on the skin, rub it off with a paper towel.

3. Rub the remaining 1 tsp salt on the skin. Place pork belly on a plate, uncovered, skin side up and let it marinade for a few hours or preferably overnight in the refrigerator. The purpose is to dry the skin thoroughly.  I did it overnight. 

4. Place the pork belly skin side up on a baking tray. There are many ways to roast a piece of meat. The key is to reduce the amount of oil splashes in the oven. Please find other resources on the internet on how to deal with this.

5. Set the oven to 400F and let it come to temperature.

6. Roast the pork belly for 1 hour or until you can stick a bamboo skewer through the meat. 

I am not shy to say that this roasted pork belly hit every single thing that I look for in the "perfect" roasted pork belly. The skin of this roasted pork belly isn't as crunchy as I am accustomed to but it is a minor flaw that I will accept without burning the meat in the process.

I lied when I said I used pork belly, be honest, I actually did not use the traditional pork belly cut. Instead I used something leaner as you can see from the photo. I don't remember the name of the cut but I will update it when I find it.

In my opinion, this is a very simple dish to make and it sure tasted better than any store-bought roasted pork belly within my vicinity.


My roasted pork belly has a big gaping hole staring at me. Now it makes sense why the author of the website that I used has this line:

By this time, the skin will be softened and you can see some blistering on the skin. Using a bamboo skewer, poke as many holes as you can on the portion of the skin which is still soft.