Monday, 25 May 2015

[Fiction Recreation] Roast Pork - Just Kidding! ~ Shokugeki no Soma

If there was a handbook that you must follow preceding every exam or assignment, I would have a handbook sized hole though my wall. I'm the kind of person that is unproductively productive. Cleaning my room? Watch me put that off for a year until I'm practically wading knee deep in clothes only to do it the night before an assignment is due. And I don't mean simply put things away. I will mop the floor, reorganise my entire wardrobe .. then whittle the hours away on tumblr. I low key panic for better or for worse. It's a habit that I'm determined to exterminate. So why is this context necessary? It isn't. But it does give a more clearer insight into my psyche, namely the fact that I just binge watched and read Shokugeki no Soma in just 2 days. Yep, I'm now twiddling my thumbs, hanging on to every weekly update .. just when I thought I was released from the sweet mercy of tv shows, curses. 

The great thing about this anime is that it's stupendously animated and despite the intense ecchi and serious literal definition of foodporn (what more can you expect from a shounen genre eh?) the food that they showcase are innovatively unique yet simplistic in their conception and process... for the most part anyway. I adore Soma, the main protagonist as he places extreme insistence that premium ingredients that would make Sydney's property prices look like a joke don't automatically result in flawless dishes. It helps, sure, but he himself, uses supermarket ingredients that a food snob would turn their noses at, and it's perfect budget cooking! It doesn't hurt that he is more kinder and less arrogant, and politer than your typical protagonist, really, it makes him all the more endearing. And I'm totally in love with Nakiri Erina but that's neither here or there haha. 

Right! This Roast Pork - Just Kidding! (or Nanchatte Roast Pork) consists of very basic ingredients and utilises the umami that is released from the bacon. Paired with mushrooms and potatoes which act as flavour sponges (very attractive description I know), you'll be amazed at the metamorphosis that it undergoes. Textually, the juxtaposition of the creamy potatoes and crispy bacon will leave you in awe at how such simple ingredients lent itself in such a mindbogglingly complex manner.Not only that, it will be perfect for those sticking closely to a budget as it uses mainly staples. Let's begin!  

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Steam potatoes until soft. Approximately 30-40 minutes. 

Meanwhile, caramelise onions, mushrooms and garlic. 

Cool potatoes slightly before mashing with a bit of butter, the onion mixture and rosemary (which I forgot). Season to taste. 

Shape mixture into a loaf shape. 

Wrap in bacon! (Whilst the anime demonstrated that it was wrapped in twine, I found that nearly impossible since the mashed potatoes don't hold their shape that firmly)

Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy (as you can see here, I didn't account for how much the bacon would shrink! So be generous!)

Prepare a sauce by deglazing pan that sauteed mushrooms with butter, red wine, sake and mirin. Reduce until alcohol evaporates (should be less than a few minutes!) and serve with 'roast'. Enjoy! 

Roast Pork - Just Kidding! (Nanchatte Roast Pork)

5 small potatoes
Handful of mushrooms
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
Sprigs of rosemary 
2 Tblsp butter 
1 Tblsp mirin 
1 Tblesp sake 

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
  2. Peel and cut potatoes into equal sizes. Steam until soft, let cool slightly before mashing. 
  3. Finely chop and dice mushrooms, garlic and onions. Saute in 1 tblsp butter until caramelised.
  4. Mix potato, mushroom mixture and sprigs of rosemary together. 
  5. Shape ingredients into log. 
  6. Wrap in bacon and bake for 30 minutes or until bacon is crispy. 
  7. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, prepare sauce. Deglaze saute pan with butter, red wine, mirin and sake. Season to taste. Serve with 'roast pork' 
  8. Garnish with another sprig of rosemary and enjoy! 



Saturday, 23 May 2015

What to do in Seoul When It's Cold Beyond Belief

Basically.. when you force yourself outside to utilise your precious days rather than snuggling safely under you covers nursing a hot beverage in your hands. This time, I wised up and shamelessly asked the people I stayed with whether they had a particular coat that would be cold resistant seeing as my clothes from Sydney were worthless. They handed me a coat that bore the weight of clouds and lo and behold, much to my disbelief, it kept me unbelievably warm despite the fact that what I wore beneath was at most 2 layers. Hah. It was miraculous!

Breakfast is the secret weapon to conquering any day. A simple bibimbap with a light soup of beansprouts.. I was almost convinced that it wouldn't be another -10degree day.. 

Remember my earlier complaints about it being inexcusably cold without snow? Well it snowed! In Hongdae! An ordinary area! The excitement I felt was inexplicable! Back in Sydney, the only opportunity for snow involves long travel thus becoming a vacation in itself. And who wants to waste a vacation to visit such a mundane place? Look at that beautiful snow! I was teased a bit in Shinjuku.. although it could be argued that it was mere sprinkling of rain .. It's so unfortunate that as it's falling it's so ethereal and magical .. but the aftermath can be rather hideous haha. 

Fortunately, I took refuge in an all you can eat bbq restaurant right before it began to snow, so I was able to enjoy it smugly from the warmth as the people outside cried and ducked for cover. 

First thing to do! Stop for bbq! For 11000won, it was all you can eat, sure there aren't any of the premium items here. but it's the only way that I as a solo traveller could experience bbq at least once as most places require an order of at least 2 servings .. and who can eat that much meat in one serving ... This way, I get to preserve the act of cooking it myself too! 

In addition to meat, there were the typical sides like mandu, fried chicken, japchae, dukbokki etc. but there was a rule that frowned upon gluttony, so don't test your hunger haha. 

Everything gloriously cooked! It was only after I started cooking that I realised, aghast that the smoke would taint the coat I was wearing. This was another situation that gave birth to a 'I did not think this through' thought process. 

Second thing to do! Walk around to rid the smell of smoke and.. get hair dyed at Edae no less. 

Third thing, return home in shame and finally encompass the activity that sane people partake on a frigid day - have pound cake with plum jam and tea. 

Fourth thing, indulge in tres leche. HAHAHA. Bloody banana milk that I grew ridiculously addicted to. 

Is it possible to die from pesto overdose? What a thing to have engraved on the tombstone. Pesto risotto accompanied with a spicy soup! I must attest that once I've been back, I haven't really stimulated by spice tastebuds so any immunity I built in Korea has evaporated at this point. 

Fifth thing, explore Myeongdong. 

Sixth thing, venture into A-LAND, Pancoat and the MCM store. Cry accordingly. 

A-LAND is an unexpected heaven with Myeongdong notable for its products by young designers and the reverse inferno of Dante, every floor presents itself as a new shopping haven from vintage to strikingly minimalist.. and there's a flea market level.. as I said.. it's heaven. 

A denim shirt for every day of the year. 

Delightful brooches and kitschy accessories! A yellow M&M pin honestly! 

Edgier accessories. 

Simple yet timestoppingly elegant. 

Simple silhouettes, a dark colour palette all lends itself to intimidating sophistication.

A mickey mouse printed denim shirt!

Coats that behave regally, as nice as the people I stayed with were for lending me a coat, I had my eyes alert for one to call my own. And can I just say? If I was in Sydney buying such a coat, the price would easily be tripled... for something that would only guarantee half its warmth but fulfil aesthetics requirement. 

Coats in colour that defy the restrictions of winter! GIVE ME THEM ALL. If I could pack every shop in Japan and Korea in a suitcase, I'd do it.

Why come to Myeongdong? Cosmetics. Shopping. To this day, I'm not quite sure how much I spent... nor do I particularly want to.. but be prepared for a slew of review posts.

Bibimbap at a popular restaurant! .. And I'm sure I have no authority to say this, but it truly is superior to at least any here in Sydney. 

Next activity to do in cold weather? Wear a hanbok. 

Who is this person?

They gave me an accessory they had made themselves.. why are they so artistically inclined? In fact all their friends are! It's incredible! And you have I, Exhibit A who can't draw a straight line nor the 'right kind of circle' to save her life haha. Despite this being the best shot of my hair, you can't see the colour that I dyed it to.. granted it's a very dark shade of brown but still very unfamiliar to me. 

The earlier one I tried was definitely more regal ahaha. 

Another kind of dukbokki soup I believe in contrast to its spicier sister, this is more mellow and pleasantly chewy.. until your jaw dislocates. 

A cream cake to celebrate my last day! Until now, I had given up incorporating grapes into dessert, but look at this! Bisected and garnished as though it was a gemstone. Beautiful, from now on, if a thought like 'it can't be done' pops up, it's hurled straight out the window and the other thoughts are going to be pressed to produce something revolutionary. 



Friday, 15 May 2015

Dessert Heaven on the Day that Hell Froze Over

I know, everyday on vacation is numbered and thus, precious. And although I may visit areas where tourists congregate, I'm reluctant to use weekends to navigate against a flood of people. Despite the illuminating cafe culture here, as I've made clear, I'm travelling alone, I had no desire to visit places that would highlight my loneliness. And cafes are usually where you overstay your welcome by hiring its seats for a few hours over the mere price of a cup of coffee or shared (or cabinet, I won't judge!) cake but usually with at least one other where you can prattle the mindless hours away. I'd fared reasonably well travelling alone, in fact, I prefer it. But cafes had me indulge in moments of selfishness, where I wished I had a friend purely just to keep me company .. that and a companion that I could banter away at in English or fail horrendously at comprehending the language. That said, I shared an interesting conversation over breakfast.

Kimchi fried rice topped with egg and a simple, comforting soup. I love breakfasts like this, nothing too fancy, something that doesn't break the routine of the people you're staying with, something that gives.. the illusion of home. That you're one of them.

So despite the fact that it was a Sunday, I nonchalantly planned a vague itinerary for the day, expecting nothing unusual.. the perfect description of an event that precedes a tragedy. So the bomb that was dropped was all the more devastating. The people I stayed with, informed me that it was going to be -10degrees . Celsius for clarity. I'm not ashamed to admit I gaped like a fish in utter disbelief. 10 degrees below the zero... wah? I live in Sydney where 10 above the zero is considered freezing.. so what..? I was fully convinced that the weather app on my phone was broken. So I gulped, scrapped away any activity that involved a lot of walking between destinations and wholeheartedly decided on spending my days in cafes, buying lattes to idly sip away as I pretend that it couldn't be that cold. They reassured me that such places would be open, when do people in Asian countries take breaks? And braved the cold with false high spirits, a heat pack and a pathetic unadapted for cold weather Sydney coat. 

I had a few places in mind. First on the list was Sinsa, well known to be the place where ladies can gather in between shopping to recuperate with doses of sugar. I was looking for Desertree, a dessert cafe, only to be informed that it wasn't open! And even ten minutes in such dastardly cold does things to you, my hands had turned red from the cold and looked capable of snapping at an unexpected time. I would've enjoyed the sights of Sinsa more had I not thought I was going to have frostbite. 

Jiyugaoka has cakes that are baked on site but its qurirky exterior is definitely a showstopper.  

Bloom and goute cafe, very aptly known for its flowers and desserts. However, the price of the brunch menu which averaged around 15,000won a dish, made the tear tracks on my face freeze into ice so I continued to brave the cold.

bloom and goute
545-24 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 
(35-1 Apgujeong-ro 10-gil)

Finally succumbing to the bone numbing cold, I acquiesced and stumbled into Deux Amis Patisserie. Sighing in delight at the heaters, I abled over to the cake display.

Another selfish reason why I wanted a friend. Divide and conquer. I had the hardest time deciding on which to devour. 

In the end, the Strawberry Tiramisu Tart and the Caramel Cake won out. 

Only abetted by its tiny macaron companion. Despite intimidatingly bearing the title of caramel, it isn't all too rich, and I preferred it over the Strawberry Tiramisu Tart. 

Bearing the title of tiramisu, I expected the taste of coffee as an unusual complement to the strawberry. I was solely disappointed. It tastes good, of course, but nothing revolutionary. 

Surrounded by friendships relishing in each other's company away from the cold .. (honestly, why are there people out??), a lump formed in my throat and I knew I had to move on.
Deux Amis Patisserie
535-9 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu

... to Itaewon. It's no surprise that this place that boasts the most diverse of eating options also tempts with must visit cafes. But the one that easily, hands down, resulted in this day being a 'failed cafe hopping trip', a title that I bestow most gleefully is that it blows its competition directly out of the water. I intended on hitting at least 5 cafes proclaimed to be the best by the internet, only to concede that Passion 5 soundly trumps all, and I am not leaving this place thank you very much. You only have one cafe, and two hours, ignore everywhere else and goddamit, get your ass to Passion 5. 

Looks like your typical corporate building.

Oh hey little birdy, I see you. 

I feel obliged to warn you before you dive right in and sue me for malicious cause of cardiac arrest. Not only is Passion 5 seriously chic, under one roof, it provides 5 different categories of gastronomy. Gelato, bakery take out, patisserie, cafe and chocolatier.. oh and a restaurant on the upper level.Yes, it is every bit as magical as it sounds. This, was the heaven, my reward, for daring to leave the apartment on the day that Hell froze over. 

Our first passion, or sin, is the cafe. A bit pricey as you can tell, oh but we are quite literally at the tip of the iceberg. 

So you pick up a tray .. and try not to drop it. 

Strawberry cream boats. 

A CHEESE SECTION. CHEESE. CHEESE, A tad pricey but it exists!

Beautiful, beautiful apple tarts. 

Macarons and prettily packaged biscuits!

Pecans, almond pralines.. ??? I'm sorry, I'd like to trade in all my organs in return for simply a large stomach thank you. 

Delicious, delicious foccacias. 

This is simply put.. carb heaven.. forget your healthy lifestyles! Fling aside your morals and plunge headfirst into the floury goodness. 

 Torture of the highest degree, uhhh, I'd only like all of them please! A Blueberry Macaron stack, Strawberry Mille Fleuilles, Snow White's Apple cake, cheesecake.. I may have frothed at the mouth, you can't prove it!

And even more mesmerising cake display. It's official, when I die, I want this as my casket. And for such beautiful cakes, they aren't too expensive!

Just look at that painstaking detail! I definitely chose the best out of the litter. Another thing that warmed my heart was that everything seemed to be made on site as well! Excellent! It has a tiny chocolate tube to mimic a stem.. what is life anymore?

I certainly did not expect the interior of the cake of the cake to be anything elaborate, but I was pleasantly surprised. A cream sponge with an apple pie like filling.. bury me with this.  

Very pretty, but next to Snow White's poisonous apple, it pales in comparison. But still delicious!

Using kakao talk (Am I Korean yet? Ahaha), my friend informed me that he was planning to join me... a full hour later. Err. So in order to stay, I nursed a hot chocolate (because I can't stand coffee) for a better part of 40 minutes.

Another pleasant surprise, made with melted dark chocolate, the perfect sweetness. 

So after the friend arrived, it was time for unrestrained eating. Hey, I offered to halve, slightly begrudgingly, I'm not ashamed to admit. But he denied it and probably gazed in awe at my gluttony. 

Squid ink foccacia with tomatoes and feta! Uh huh, yeah, I'm a sucker. I knew that squid ink has a notoriously mild flavour but I had to! It was alright, a nice savoury change however. The strawberry cream boat was pretty good, strawberries in Korea and Japan are magical! But the real showstopper was the berry custard tart in its rightful place, in front and on top! Oh my god. This is what I'm definitely recreating. 

My own glut can astound me sometimes. So after asking if I should have gelato and insistently prompted, yes I had the gelato. Yes, when it was -10 degrees outside I realise that. But don't forget,  on the coldest night I had a 32cm soft serve ice cream cone. 

Sure salted caramel sounded fantastic.. If I wanted to accelerate the effect of Snow White's apple. So I opted for a rarely seen flavour, green grape. Refreshing and it came with a tuille! How fancy! Probably swayed by my shameless stomach, my friend cave and snatched up coconut. And now with nightfall baring its fangs and the cold becoming more and more undesirable, we headed back.

This place is a bit pricey, but if a place like this had opened in Sydney, it would easily be double this price. 

Passion 5
272, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (literally a 3 min walk from Hangangjin station)

Putting Seoul's home delivery to the test. A dinner of fried chicken. Dry but joyfully crispy. And I settled down, swathed in blankets, cradling a stomach that had suspiciously tripled in size.