I probably like my dog too much – he is now beside me providing inspiration as I write. His inspiration is mostly a bunch of snores – but I know that if I lock him and my wife in the cellar overnight, only he will be happy to see me again when I open the door.
Anyway, here are some observations from May 2018.
In France, foodies are up in arms about the imminent “murder” of a famous cheese from Normandy. Traditionally, real Camembert cheese carries the label “Camembert de Normandie” which has the protected AOP (l’Appellation d’Origine Protégée) status, as opposed to “Fabriqué en Normandie” which means that cheese made elsewhere is just “finished” in Normandy and then labelled as “Camembert”. The production of real Camembert is only 5,500 tonnes a year compared to 60,000 tonnes of the other cheese.
But from 2021, cheese from outside Normandy can be labelled as “Camembert de Normandie” using the prized AOP designation, provided it meets some new production criteria – and the original real cheese will be confusingly relabelled as “Véritable Camembert de Normandie” (or REAL Camembert from Normandy). Why is it a big deal? Just try the two cheeses side by side and you will see. This move was likely instigated by cynical industrial producers wishing to hijack a famous global appellation to sell more inferior cheeses to the rest of the world.
As to the interesting question why real Camembert differs in taste to its facsimiles, the answers are unclear. One hypothesis is unspecified differences in the nutrition of cows in the region of real Camembert production, for example, types of grass eaten or the underlying mineral nature of the land itself. More relevant is probably the use of unpasteurised milk for producing real Camembert, and maturation via the introduction of a particular assortment of bacteria which includes Penicillium camemberti, Geotrichum candidum, Debaryomyces hansenii, and Kluyveromyces lactis. How bacteria confer flavours into milk solids during cheese production is briefly covered in the two-part series, “A quorum of flavour” although Camembert is somewhat unusual in that the bacterium Kluyveromyces lactis only survives the first 11 days of maturation before it is destroyed by Debaryomyces hansenii. Cheeses initiated outside Camembert normally use pasteurised milk – and transportation to Normandy (to qualify for using the name “Camembert”) may also interfere with the affinage (maturation) of the cheese.
One simple fail-safe dish to make is cream and fresh cooked flat pasta with shavings of truffles on top. If you feel adventurous, then add a dusting of grated parmesan and ground pepper. But this dish failed spectacularly at home the last two times – and annoyed, I investigated the problem.
I found that, despite the “Fabriqué en France” (Made in France) label on the jar, the truffles inside were denoted as Tuber indicum – the same truffles traditionally used by Chinese farmers to feed pigs (as the fungi tastes like sawdust and is generally unfit for human consumption). Further research revealed that for a jar of truffles to qualify for a “Made in France” label, the sole requirement is simply to package any truffles in a factory located on French soil. Personally, I am outraged as people are being deliberately (yet legally) misled by deceitful labelling into overpaying for a fake premium product. The real French (and Italian) black truffles are Tuber melanosporum and the genuine white truffles are Tuber magnatum – and both varieties are sensually, profoundly and uniquely aromatic. Proper black truffles can sell for over €800 a kilo, the white truffles are even more expensive – and in case you are curious, rubbish tasteless Chinese truffles usually fetch less than €40-50 a kilo.
So the sad lesson is, with both cheeses and truffles, one cannot assume the labelled origin is any indication of true quality – and I am certain this applies to many other foods as well. We are probably aware of “Italian” olive oil which actually originates from other countries, but I had not expected that a premium iconic European delicacy could be debased so blatantly in its home country by imported Chinese pig food. Even in the EU (and other countries), one cannot rely on governments to uphold quality of food above the interests of industrial food producers.
Fat Mediterranean kids
The home of the Mediterranean diet is now awash with fat children, according to the WHO’s Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative, which claimed that over 40% of children aged nine are now overweight or obese in Greece, Spain, Italy and Cyprus – exceeding even the 31% rate in the US. This jarring spike in childhood obesity has little to do with the Mediterranean diet as children in these countries are ignoring the diet and instead are eating more junk food and sugar, combined with less exercise. The statistic is actually a sobering reminder how quickly public health can deteriorate with unbalanced modern eating habits, and it is just ironic that it is happening in the region credited with one of the world’s healthiest diets.
Curiously, France still has relatively low child obesity rates (less than 9%), which may be attributable to the general French preference for good local produce over foreign fast food.
Cockroach milk as a superfood
This is a revival of an old story, based on a 2016 paper on insect proteins titled “Structure of a heterogeneous, glycosylated, lipid-bound, in vivo-grown protein crystal at atomic resolution from the viviparous cockroach Diploptera punctate”. The “milk” referred to is a soup of curious crystals secreted by pregnant females to nourish embryos in the uterus of an unusual cockroach species (Diploptera punctuate) which gives birth to live young.
Research revealed these crystals contain fats, sugars and proteins, are densely calorific (four to five times the calories of cow milk) and the crystal nutrients are released based on the rate of digestion. This may be useful for endurance sportspersons or people requiring constant nutrition– though I still think it preferable to eat snacks periodically than suck on cockroach milk crystals. The superfood angle is posited on developing genetically-modified yeast to duplicate these crystals in commercial quantities – if successful it may become a rich source of nutrition if other types of food become unavailable in the future. However, there is no detailed research to confirm impact of these proteins after human ingestion, so calling cockroach milk a superfood now is fanciful unfounded hype.
The WHO has announced a major initiative to eliminate trans-fats from human diets globally by 2023. It is about time, as trans-fats may be the cause of up to 10 million deaths around the world annually. Most developed countries have already instigated bans or restrictions on the use of trans-fats in food production by now, so the WHO drive is mainly targeted at poorer countries. Eliminating trans-fats globally by 2023 is a very tall order, especially as trans-fats are regularly used to preserve and extend the life of common cooking oils in many tropical countries. If you want to know why trans-fats are so problematic, please read the two-part series “A fat lot of good”.
A recent presentation at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna stated that obesity is now linked to 12 forms of cancers, up five from the seven associated cancers 10 years ago listed by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). They are cancers of the liver, ovary, prostate, stomach, mouth and throat, bowel, breast, gall bladder, kidney, oesophagus, pancreas and womb.
Also sobering is the WCRF estimation that obesity will overtake smoking as the biggest cause of cancer in several developed countries within two decades. Excessive consumption of processed meats, junk foods, red meat, sugar, combined with sedentary lifestyles and/or alcohol is likely to lead to obesity and an enhanced risk of cancer. The confirmed link between junk food and cancer is noted in this article on processed food.
As to why obesity is linked to cancers, only a few items are summarised here due to subject complexity. For example, excess adipose (fat) tissue perturbs the balance and expression of sex hormones, and also insulin and IGF1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1) – these imbalances are likely to provoke cell damage/mutation. Additionally, obesity causes production of fat-derived cell-signalling proteins/hormones known as adipokines, particularly Interleukin 6 (IL-6) and Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF), both associated with chronic inflammation, subsequent immune system abnormalities and tissue damage. Obesity also messes with leptin, a hormone linked in several puzzling ways to cancers in various organs. And so on.
Then there is the confirmed link between obesity and diabetes, a disease also known to aggravate the onset of cancers. As such, the only tangible social benefit of an obese population is to enhance the wealth of the food industry, probably followed by medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies. This sounds harsh, but facts sometimes are.
The rest of the month’s observations follow in the next part.
KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 ― Julio Jeremy Joachim couldn’t believe his ears when his name was called during the finale of Guinness Perfect Pour 2018 at The Square, Publika Thursday night.
The bartender was named one of the four winners of the annual competition, representing east Malaysia.
“I was speechless. It was such a spectacular moment for me, what an awesome night!” said the 30-year-old who works at The Beer Factory in Kota Kinabalu.
The other three champion pourers were Henry Lai, representing central region; Alwin Goh, representing southern region; and Kenny Loo, representing the northern region.
In a quest for master pourers by Guinness Malaysia, over 600 bartenders from across the country had recently undergone a month-long training with professional trainers Jonathan Chong and Thomas Ling of Heineken Malaysia Star Academy.
After the training came the Perfect Pour contest, in which after a strict selection, a total of eight bartenders — two from each region — were shortlisted as finalists.
Experts were hired to disguise as “mystery customers” and sent to the finalists’ outlets to evaluate their performance based on four criteria — mastery of technique, consistency, quality of serve and service etiquettes.
This year, Guinness fans also got to take part in the evaluation by rating them on a special coaster.
So what does it take to pour the perfect pint of the iconic stout, beloved for its velvety texture and creamy taste?
Turns out there’s an extremely precise and elaborate way of doing so, which isn’t something one could just learn overnight; it is an art form that requires proper training and plenty of practice to master.
The perfect pour requires a unique method called the two-part pour. The first part begins by holding a clean Guinness glass — the harp logo on the glass isn’t just for branding but also to provide measurements — at a 45-degree angle under the tap.
With a steady flow, pull the tap towards you and start to fill the glass while slowly tilting it upright until it’s three-quarters full, which is just right above the harp. Allow it to settle for about a minute.
Once the “surge” has settled, whereby the foam is forming properly and it’s creamy and dark, the second part of the pour follows. The remainder is filled, this time with the tap pushed forward, until a frothy head forms a slight dome over the rim of the glass.
Chong, who has been a trainer with the Star Academy for two years, said the training is important to ensure every pint served to consumers is of good quality.
“The challenge used to be that there was a lack of understanding for the need of quality; but ever since we started the training programme two years ago, the awareness has been raised and many beer outlets have started to reach out to us, wanting to be trained,” said Chong.
Besides the two-pour method, the hands-on training also includes presentation technique and product understanding.
Loo, the youngest of the four at 26, said the most challenging part of the training was to be consistent in every pour.
“It is important to be consistent because quality needs to be maintained in every pint we serve to customers. We trained every single day to achieve consistency and I think I speak for every participant that this was definitely the hardest part of the training,” said Loo, a bartender at 12 Senses in Penang.
Goh, 28, said the training and the competition have been the experience of a lifetime for him.
“I had so much fun learning the science behind a perfect pour. It takes great skills, patience and confidence to be able to pour one in front of a customer,” said the Melaka native who bartends at Monte Cafe.
Sharing Goh’s sentiment, Lai adds that another valuable lesson from the training was product knowledge.
“You have to know your product like the back of your hand in order to best serve your customers. Always go back to basics,” he said.
As winners, Joachim, Loo, Goh, and Lai was each rewarded with an all-expenses-paid trip to the home of Guinness in Dublin, Ireland.
Chong said the trip would be a great exposure and an eye-opening experience for the bartenders.
“The beer culture there is entirely different from here. Beer and stouts are everyday beverages for the Irish people, something they take during lunch or even breakfast. Whereas for Malaysians, we normally only drink during special occasions, it’s a celebratory treat for us.
“So the beer or stout served in Dublin are at another level of quality, the consistency is there because it is constant. You will find that the Guinness there tastes better, too,” said Chong.
Loo for one is eager to explore the beer culture in Dublin.
“I want to learn as much as I can there and hopefully with the knowledge and experience I can serve my customers better,” he said.
Joachim on the other hand, can’t wait to get competitive all over again.
“Let’s see which country has the better pourers — Malaysians or the Irish,” he grinned.
The sky is still dark. It’s 5am and most people are only just waking up to start their day, but a certain shop is already preparing for its customers.
Five freshly prepared ducks and multiple chickens are brought out to the front of the shop to a hawker stall-like stand complete with an extended table already full of various ingredients. As the owner of the shop skilfully cuts various pieces of meat into serving sizes, his wife is chopping up vegetables and boiling the vat of water that will be used to cook noodles. Their son assists in the arrangement of the tables and chairs in preparation for the 6am breakfast crowd.
Restoran Chong Loy is the shop in question. As the food is being prepared, the strong smell of Chinese five spice that is used to marinate the poultry drifts out of the shop as though signalling that it is open for business.
As the clock strikes six, the first customer appears – an elderly man on his morning walk. He’s a regular patron of the shop and is greeted with warm smiles from both the Lee family and the female servers. His drink, a hot cup of coffee, is poured and delivered to him as he sits down to enjoy his morning paper among the familiar sights and sounds.
The simple setup at the shop.
Restoran Chong Loy was opened way back in 1980 by Lee Khuan Chong, the father of Lee Hon Kiong, the current owner of the shop. At the time, the Sunway area that it is located in was not even properly developed and barely 300 people lived there.
“When my father started, he had no idea how to do this, and depended just on advice from friends and his own determination,” recalled Hon Kiong. Through the elder Lee’s grit and perseverance, the shop endured and gained a name for itself via word of mouth, becoming known as one of the best if not the best place for chicken rice and duck rice in the area.
Hon Kiong initially worked in construction before deciding to help with the family business. Learning the various skills and honing them through repetition, he soon mastered the business, taking it over and making it into the shop we all know today.
Hon Kiong is now grooming his own son, Bou Kit, to take over from him as the third generation to run the shop.
The restaurant is famous for its chicken rice, but it offers other roasted meats as well.
The shop has remained virtually unchanged in the past 38 years – the light green tiled floors and the decorative holes in the walls that used to serve as ventilation still exist today.
“The shop has never moved. This is where it was opened,” said Bou Kit, chuckling when asked about the history of the old chicken rice place.
To the back of the shop is an old but well-maintained altar dedicated to the worship of Guan Yu (Chinese God of War). On it are plates of food, a small urn in which to burn joss sticks, a figurine of Guan Yu, as well as several old tags with inscriptions on them.
The counter at which Hon Kiong’s wife, Thong Tiong Choo, sits when she collects payment from customers is also decorated with various gold frog statuettes and waving cat toys, inviting you to come in and enjoy their food.
Throughout the day, they receive an interesting demographic of customers. The shop is a meeting place for many elderly people, and their rough but lively laughter gives the shop a friendly atmosphere. These old uncles will sometimes chat with complete strangers, bringing a smile to even the shyest of patrons.
A serving of roasted chicken.
Many parents bring their children to the shop after school for lunch. It seems that even the children are regular customers as they will banter with the serving staff and shop owners, and tell them about their day.
The shop may be famous for its food, but it should be noted that it is also one of the most affordable places to eat. A full meal with drinks costs an average of RM10.
Known around PJ as one of the best places for chicken rice, Restoran Chong Loy also boasts an impressive lineup of food options that are just as good as its speciality. Their duck meat, for example, is a hot item, and all five ducks that are prepared sell out every day.
Besides rice, the restaurant boasts several types of noodle dishes. And let’s not forget the char siu (roasted pork), and siu yuk (roasted three-layer pork) – patrons have described both these dishes as mouth-watering.
Every rice meal comes with a complimentary bowl of soup. Customers can also ask for wonton (dumplings) either in soup or deep-fried.
Noodles with roast pork and fried wonton.
The next generation
Bou Kit is only 22 years old but has been working at the shop since he was a boy. That has given him the sort of experience he needs to properly inherit his family’s legacy. He is now already in charge of the day-to-day business and even determines when the shop opens.
Bou Kit has plans to expand the shop, maybe even open a second branch in the near future, but first he must properly work to inherit the shop.
Despite Bou Kit’s young age, Restoran Chong Loy seems to be in good hands and will likely see a long, bright and delicious future ahead.
Restoran Chong Loy
Jalan PJS 10/9 PJS 10 46150 Petaling Jaya Selangor
The writers are journalism students at Taylor’s University.
“Aku nak masak apa la untuk open house ni. Nanti sama pula menu dengan rumah lain, nak yang rare sikit…”
Dah 5 buah rumah terbuka kita pergi sempena menyambut Syawal, semua masak menu yang sama. Tuan rumah pun dah tak ada idea juadah unik apa yang boleh dimasak untuk dihidangkan kepada para tetamu. Jika anda mahukan juadah rumah terbuka and alain dari yang lain, jom kita cuba 7 jenis idea menu menarik ini.
1. Pulut kuning
Mana ada orang buat pulut kuning masa open house? Boleh sebenarnya kalau anda mahukan kelainan daripada asyik masak menu yang sama sahaja. Apabila anda menyediakan juadah rare seperti pulut kuning dimakan bersama ikan masin goreng, rasanya orang yang datang ke rumah anda pun akan melompat kegembiraan tengok juadah tersebut.
2. Sup tulang
Sup tulang mungkin mudah untuk didapati semasa bulan Ramadan sebagai juadah berbuka puasa. Namun, jarang untuk kita mendapati juadah sup tulang ketika open house kan? Untuk anda yang mempunyai bajet yang lebih besar sempena jamuan hari raya, boleh cuba hidangkan sup tulang ini bersama bihun atau nasi putih. Mesti sedap!
3. Roti canai
“Roti canai boleh dapat dekat restoran mamak saja”… Apa salahnya kalau kita sediakan menu roti canai sempena open house Hari Raya. Juadah yang sukar didapati ketika musim perayaan ini pastinya dapat membangkitkan selera tetamu yang hadir di rumah anda. Maklumlah, dah puas makan ketupat nak juga merasa makan makanan lain kan?
4. Nasi minyak
Nasi minyak juga merupakan juadah yang jarang didapati ketika musim perayaan. Orang cakap nasi minyak hanya sesuai untuk dihidangkan ketika kenduri-kendara sahaja. Namun, juadah nasi minyak yang boleh digandingkan dengan ayam masak merah dan acar buah ini pastinya akan menambat selera para tetamu yang hadir.
5. Nasi kerabu
Jika anda inginkan menu open house yang luar biasa, anda boleh hidangkan nasi kerabu buat tetamu yang hadir. Memang agak rumit untuk sediakan nasi kerabu tetapi menu ini pasti akan menggembirakan hati para tetamu. Tambah pula bagi tetamu yang jarang makan nasi kerabu, masa inilah untuk anda tunjukkan ‘skill’ memasak.
6. Char koey teow
Mungkin juadah ini sudah menjadi kebiasaan bagi anda yang berada di utara tanah air tetapi bagi anda yang berada di sebelah selatan pastinya akan menanggap juadah ini agak ‘rare’. Tidak terlalu berat dan terlalu kenyang, char koey teow boleh dijadikan menu untuk open house anda.
7. Laksa siam
Asyik masak laksa biasa sahaja apa kata untuk open house kali ini, anda masak pula laksa siam. Berbeza dari segi tekstur dan rasanya, laksa siam ini lebih lemak dan pekat berbanding laksa biasa. Pastinya tetamu yang hadir ke rumah akan menyukai juadah unik yang anda sediakan ini.
Massimo Bottura wins top spot at World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 in Bilbao.
June 22, 2018Food, Food News
The awards have been handed out, and the last of the champagne bottled popped and emptied. At the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards on June 20, Italy’s Massimo Bottura reclaimed the title of best dining destination on the planet for a second time for his Modena restaurant Osteria Francescana.
Though not without its controversies – critics have called the awards methodology opaque while partnerships and sponsorships have also been called into question – the World’s 50 Best Restaurants remain one of the most influential gastronomy events of the year.
Here’s how the event went down in photos from the attendees, some of the top chefs in the world.
Winners of last night’s event celebrate their awards
Chef Massimo Bottura and his wife Lara Gilmore
Roca brothers Josep, Jordi and Joan of El Celler de Can Roca
France’s Cedric Grolet celebrates his win of best pastry chef
Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, gets cheeky
Clare Smyth (right) was named this year’s best female chef. She poses with Spain’s Elena Arzak, also a former winner.
Chef Daniel Humm’s New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park fell from first to fourth place this year. In his Insta post with business partner Will Guidara (left), he muses whether or not the closure last year could have affected their standing but says “we’ll be back”.