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.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Restaurant review: "My Burger Lab"

When you ask a local foodie where to get the best burger in the Klang Valley, all fingers point to -- "My Burger Lab".  

                                                                                       (image source: unknown)

Now, I was "baptized" at Shake Shack and I have had burger at Burger Joint, Corner Bistro, JG Melon, 5 guys, 5 napkins, all so-called burger meccas in NYC (I had In and Out burger, which is a West Coast burger chain; "Dear Minetta Tavern, you and I shall formally meet one day"). Needless to say, my bar is set pretty high and I was intrigued by "My Burger Lab".

                           THE original Shake Shack burger stand in Madison Square Park


                                                                        Shake Shack Burger

Before I give you my verdict, here are some random observations:

1. The average waiting time (from getting in line until taking the first bite), based on my own experience, is 45 minutes. 
2. The yuppiest of the yuppies in the Klang Valley can be found here, which ties in curiously to number 3.
3. The average age of the customers is 22 (totally non-scientific estimation).
4. Lots of camera phone photo-ops. (4square, Facebook, Instagram, "dear dairy").
5. People travel far away to eat here. People at the table next to us traveled 45 minutes .  
6. This place serves about 10-15 different kinds of burgers.


                                               Minetta Tavern's legendary $25 burger that I yet to try
Whenever I visit a burger place, I always order the most basic burger on the menu. All I want are the buns, beef patty, lettuce, tomato, cheese and whatever secret sauce they put. As a side, the fries. 

I was asked the most important question at the end of my meal -- "is it better than Shake Shack?". I said "no" but I said "It is almost as good as Shake Shack". That is as high a compliment as I can give to a burger place and it is based mainly on "burger vs. burger" comparison. 

This is the My Burger Lab burger but it was not my order. The brown fried thing is fried portabella mushroom. The yellowy piece of thing bellow the beef patty is a piece of hardened parmesan cheese. Not sure how they made it but I get the same product when I microwave cheese and let it cool down. It is created by melting and hardening the cheese.

Now the good stuff about My Burger Lab's burger:

1. They replicated Shake Shack's "burger crust" to perfection. I observed the kitchen and noticed the same "smashed action". You need to have a Shake Shack burger to understand what I mean. 

2. The meat is cooked decently and it has the compulsory juicy shine.  

2. The secret sauce is quite good but nothing that special. "I heard mayo and thousand island"?

3. Bottomless soda.

4. Generous bun and patty size. About 20% larger than Shake Shack. 

5. They pay attention to details by placing staffs at the head of the line to explain their menu and to provide guidance, tables were cleaned and setup promptly, they provide free water to customers waiting in line.

6. Lots of seating space. 

My "bare bone" burger or as my friend said "anemic" burger.

And I took some points off for these reasons:

1. Fries: It was overly salted. I will let them slide this time since it could just be an anomaly but  I saw the "fries taster" gave a nodding acceptance to his colleague. They also seasoned the fries with rosemary. I can do without this.

2. It is lacking some of the "beef" flavor that shines in a Shake Shack burger. 

3. Price. It is reasonable if you earn USD, Sterling pound, or Euro. It is expensive by local standard but I had paid more money for worse food. I will unlikely visit My Burger Lab as frequently as I had visited Shake Shack.  

4. The wait.

Why is the bun black?  Black bamboo charcoal powder was added to the dough during the bun making process.

Is this a gimmick (look, we are different!!) or does it has any added value? I can't detect any distinct flavor. Between the meat flavor, secret sauce, onion, mushrooms, fried eggs, or ketchup, I highly doubt anyone can detect any special flavor in the bun. Take away the color, it is just a........bun.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lettuce "Chips"

                                                             This is not a lettuce, but a kale                

I know the title of this post has caused some head-scratching. As far as I am aware this idea is as original as it can be (albeit borrowed and implemented differently). Most of the original ideas usually failed in its first attempt and this is no difference.

My lettuce "chips" experiment failed but I made some interesting discoveries, which I will tell you later but first:

What is this lettuce chips that I tried to make?

It is an alternative to kale chips that I try to invent.

Many of you might not know what kale chips are. Kale chips are made of kale that's baked in the oven until it becomes crunchy like chips.

I won't be surprise if many of you have not heard of kale, which is a kind of vegetable. I had kale long time ago and it gives off an interesting, and almost-bitter taste. Kale also turns gooey when it is cooked.

                                                                    Recognize this vegetable?

However, someone had a eureka moment when he/she decided to put kale in the oven, which turned kale into something magical and thus an entire industry of kale chips was born.  It is called chips because baked kale is crunchy like potato chips. Beats me.

Kale is so-called the most nutritious vegetable and since someone found a way to make it taste good, kale chip has become a billion dollar industry and has been for the last 3-4 years. It is normally found in organic/healthy-centric grocery stores.

                                                           Example of commercial kale chips

I had home-made kale chips twice in my life and I was blown away by the texture, the taste and the deliciousness. I have to make this my own.


I can't seem to find any place that sells kale since moving to this part of the world. No one has heard of it. Maybe I didn't look hard enough, even if I did, it is probably too expensive.

That's when the idea of making "kale-substitution" chips idea germinated.

I locked on two features that I think are important to the "chip-ness" of kale: it has to be a sturdy vegetable (think lettuce, not spinach), and there needs to be many curls (think cabbage). I have a theory that the folds on kale increase its surface exposure to heat.

                                                                 Lettuce of unknown kind

So I went to the market looking for vegetable that has these two features and this particular kind of lettuce caught my eyes (I don't know the name of this lettuce). This could work!!

I followed the standard instructions of making kale chips, which is wash, dry, season, and bake.
(this blog has detail instructions: click on link kale chips)

                                                     The lettuce chips look promising

What did I learn?

Baked lettuce (this particular kind of lettuce) is crunchy as you can see from the angularity of the crumbs, but sadly, it tasted bitter. As it turns out, it is also bitter when eaten raw. I don't know if this is a unique feature of this kind of lettuce or an anomaly.

                                               Baked lettuce is crunchy but not very yummy

As a conclusion, I showed that other vegetables, selected carefully, can be crunchy what it is baked. It is not a kale-specific phenomenon. I just need to find the right kind of vegetable.

If you haven't had kale chips before and it is readily accessible, I encourage you to try it out. Even better if you make it at home.