Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of those seminal foods that I distinctly remember from my childhood. Silky slices of tender chicken, fragrant rice, clear gingery soup and the accompanying dipping sauces -- this dish stands out as an early taste memory so pleasurable that it can make my mouth water even today.
It was a treat to go to the restaurant in Tradewinds - one of the Manila hotels in the upscale business district of Makati. Unfortunately, hardly a trace of this hotel, its restaurant or its menu can be found on the Internet today - but it existed, a while ago - back in the early 80s. I found one blog post that confirms it here - its author reminisces about the dish and her commenters also confirm the name and existence of the hotel and restaurant.
So why was Tradewinds so special? One went to Tradewinds just for the Hainanese Chicken Rice.
As I'd mentioned before, I often tend to focus on the savoury, giving short shrift to sweet things. In my family my mom and I were the cooks, my little sister (with the sweet tooth, naturally), the baker. But DD has that sweet tooth, and less of an inclination to bake, and is more like to coerce me into emerging into the dark streets in our pyjamas, in search of dessert. We luckily live by a great Gelato shoppe a scant 1/2 block away and a cafe that offers crispy waffle bits and Bi-Rite ice cream catty-corner to the Gelato shoppe.
But with this recipe there's really no excuse to not make dessert at home.
This is a crazy luxurious dish, containing some of my most favourite seafood in the world, and cream and butter. I've had uni sauce for pasta before, mostly in fancy restaurants and the like, but not to this degree at home. Well, ok, we did attempt an uni cream sauce once, with actual fresh uni, but this dish, this dish nails it just so. Just the right amounts of cream and uni and other goodness (mentaiko was definitely the key) to turn something fantastic into something orgasmic.
Whenever I open a cookbook for the first time, I’ll usually skim the recipes with photos first. Are they appealing? Do they make me want to read the recipe? Do they make my mouth water and immediately start plotting out how I might make the dish, and soon?
Restaurant menus can be different. They often don’t have illustrations or photos accompanying the text, and the way a dish is described or written may have to work twice as hard to entice and lure and seduce.
NYC in late 2009 was a great trip. I'm jonesing to go again, perhaps sometime next year when I hope to also make it to another favourite eating-town, Chicago. As I've mentioned before, our trip to New York had turned into a bacchanalia of eating and drinking - would that our bellies were bigger, or that I had a higher tolerance for alcohol. 5 days and 4 nights just wasn't enough to make a dent. Momofuku Ssam Bar was indeed a highlight, and one of the dishes that struck me the most for its beauty and delicacy was the cured Hamachi crudo dish.
DD and I visited New York in December of 2009. He was there for work, I was there to tag along, partially working remotely as well. We also turned the trip into a bar-hopping and salacious dining extravaganza. During our 5 days there, we managed to sample 3 of David Chang’s eateries: Momofuku Ssam Bar, Noodle Bar, and Milk Bar, though I have to admit that the visit to Milk Bar was just a cursory walk-through - we had been lunching at the Ssam Bar next door, and could not pass up a visit to peek at sweets. I don’t much recall what we had at Milk Bar if anything as I was too full from our decadent lunch.
As I've mentioned before - I love one-pot dishes: entrees that incorporate proteins, starches and vegetables all in one. I'd never made Albóndigas soup in the past, probably because I thought that having to make all the meatballs would be time-consuming. And while it did take a bit of time, the end result was pretty rewarding - you can even enlist loved ones in forming the little round spheres.
I’ve probably mentioned this before - baking/ baked goods and desserts of all kinds get short shrift at our house. If given a choice between making something savory or something sweet, I almost always will choose the savory appetizer, entree, vegetable side dish, etc.
But of late I’ve been trying my hand at after-dinner treats more - DD’s sweet tooth demands it. So - to avoid the late night forays to Holy Gelato in our pyjamas, I’ve been making panna cotta. I didn’t realize how easy it could be until I tried making my first batch, using David Lebovitz’s recipe for a vanilla version here.