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.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Baked Salmon

I bought 2 pounds of salmon fillet recently and decided to cook this piece of salmon 5 ways! The only feasible way of doing this is by baking it. I have never baked fish before and so it was a good opportunity to learn a new skill. After a quick look into my pantry, I came up with these 5 combinations:

1. Dried fennel seed and lemon
2. Crushed raw almond and dried red chilies
3. Cumin and Coriander powder
4. Fresh garlic and ginger
5. Dried Rosemary and thyme


1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
2. Place a sheet of aluminum foil at the bottom of a baking pan.
3. Arrange the fish on the baking pan and use a brush to apply a thin layer of oil over the fish.
4. Season the fish with crushed salt and fresh ground pepper.
5. Place the ingredients accordingly on the fish.
6. Bake the fish for 10-15 minutes.

I forgot to place the aluminum foil at the bottom of the baking pan. This caused my fish to stick to the bottom of the pan and when I lifted the fish up, they broke into pieces, which you might be able to detect in the photos bellow.

The crushed almond and red chili was my least favoriate. The almond, though provided texture, did nothing in terms of flavor. The chili, however, did provide a nice kick. I will use more chilis in the future and combine it with something else, say Garlic and Ginger, which was the dominant smell in my kitchen when I baked these salmon.

The fennel seed and lemon was "okay". Again, the taste of the fennel seed did not transpire. Either I used low quality fennel seed or I didn't use enough fennel seed. However, can't go wrong with lemon flavor on a piece of fish. My favorite is the cumin and coriander Salmon just because I like dishes with heavy flavor. I have lost count of the number of times where I pan-seared fish with cumin and coriander.

The winner

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pan Fried Flat Rice Noodle (Char Kueh Teow)

This is my absolute favorite dish in the world. If I am stranded on an island and a genie can only  bring me the same food every day, this is the dish I will get.

I have scouted every restaurant in the city that serve char kueh teow but none were able to satisfy me the way this noodle satisfies me back home.

Feeling frustrated and a little home sick, I have decided to make char kueh teow and I am not ashamed to point it out right now that the char kueh teow that I made is the best I have tasted in NYC.

One of the main challenges of making char kueh teow is getting all the ingredients and prepping them.  The second main challenge is the cooking method. Wok on high heat. There is no alternative. None.

I adapted my recipe from http://rasamalaysia.com/char-kuey-teow/2/ and I have to give most the credit to this site. There are some detail instructions and tips on this site that I strongly suggest that you follow. I will highlight places where I digressed and modified.

Here we go...

Ingredients (2 servings)
1lb. of fresh flat rice noodle
8 shelled shrimp
1.5 chinese sausages, slice diagonally
Big bunch of fresh bean sprout, wash thoroughly
4 stalks of scallion, green part only, cut into 2 inches length
3 gloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 whole eggs

5 tablespoon soy sauce
1.5 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper powder

Instructions (the sequence of adding each ingredient is essential, it is best to cook char kueh teow one serving at a time)

1. Prepare the mise en place http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mise_en_place. Make sure you have all the main ingredients ready before you start cooking.

2. Mix the sauce together and set aside.
3. Heat 2-3 tablespoon of oil in a wok, set the fire to high.
4. Add half the garlic and stir it for 10 seconds.
5. Add the half the chinese sausage and the shrimp. Cook with the garlic for 30 seconds. Followed by half the chinese bean sprout then half the noodle.

6. Add 2.5 tablespoon of the sauce into the work and stir to mix well.

7. Push the noodle to the side of the wok and crack an egg directly in the middle of the wok.
8. Move the noodle over the egg and wait for 15 seconds.

9. Add half the green scallion and stir the noodle to mix everything well.
10. Serve immediately.

11. Repeat step 3-9 for the second serving.

I absolutely absolutely ABSOLUTELY love what I made. Again, I give much credit to rasamalaysia.com for providing the detail instructions.  From the very first bite to the very last bite, everything spells "home" and "yummy". I had a big satisfaction smile on my face as I enjoyed it. Elation!

I was fortunate to share this dish with a couple of friends and they loved it. I did not add the chili paste, it is optional.  I also did not add the cockle clams because I don't like it. Good luck finding it in north America.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Creme Brule

This is one of those desserts that has been sitting in my head for years and never gotten around making it until now. Everyone knows this dessert and it requires no introduction. I had my first Creme Brule at Le Cirque and the experience etched deep into my memory.

A friend gave me a blow torch (thanks SC) recently and the final piece of the puzzle has arrived. It is time to make creme brule.

I used Le Cirque's recipe as a reference and the original recipe can be found here http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/le-cirques-creme-brulee. As usual, I made some slight adjustments.

(The original recipe is for 8 servings but I decided to reduce it to 2 servings since I am making it for the first time, but as you will see, even when I reduced the servings to 2, I still ended up with 4 creme brules)

Ingredients: (4 servings)
1 cup of heavy cream
splash of vanilla extract
small pinch of salt
2 whole eggs (I will explain this later)
5 tablespoon of regular sugar
Brown sugar for glazing

1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
2. Warm the cream and salt to gentle simmer.
3. Mix the eggs and the sugar completely.
4. Pour the warm cream into the egg/sugar mixture slowly.
5. Add the vanilla extract.
6. Strain the mixture.
7. Arrange the ramekins in a water bath.
8. Transfer the egg mixture into the ramekins
9. Cover the arrangement loosely with a foil
10. Bake for 1 hour.
11. Once the creme brule cools down, cover the top of the creme brule with a thin layer of brown sugar and flambĂ© the sugar.

This is the very first flambe that I tried and as you can see, the result is not good. It took me about 4 tries to finally discovery the secret for a perfect caramelized sugar crust. Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of that.

As noted above, the original recipe called for EGG YOLKS ONLY but I accidentally use whole eggs instead. Guess what, there was no detectable difference between using whole eggs and egg yolks only. Yes, I made both kinds!!

Most recipes call for eating creme brule when it is at room temperature but for me, it is best when it is WARM. FRESH OUT OF OVEN WARM!