When a food critic turns the poison pen on herself

Galette des Rois February 26, 2009

galette-loLike, what happened? How did I manage to make a pastry that grew tumours?

This is supposed to be a Galette des Rois, an almond-cream-filled pastry the French traditionally eat around Christmas. Taken from Young Mo Kim’s A Collection Of Fine Baking, this recipe had me making the puff pastry by hand to achieve a monumental 144 layers. But after the absolute torment I went through, I couldn’t care less how many layers it had. I just wanted to run away and never see it again.

I’ll spare you the details (like how the dough was so rubbery, trying to roll it out was harder than getting my husband Z to change the bedsheets).

galette-cu-lo1Because the highlight of this experience was how, after popping it in the oven for 5 minutes, the butter in the dough melted and gathered into a pool on the baking tray – thereafter  frying the pastry.

Then, after another 10 minutes, the almond filling followed suit, growing, bubbling, mutating into three menacing globs – like unwanted, out-of-control appendages. In fact, if aliens were taking over Earth, I’ll call Will Smith and tell him that ground-zero is the oven in my kitchen.

Even more infuriating, the damn thing refused to be cooked. After baking for one whole hour, only the outer layers were turned a crisp golden yellow. The inside remained disgustingly gummy. Then again, it didn’t matter either way because the texture was so hard I could barely cut through it.

It may not look it in the photo (left, because my Z is a wizard with his lenses), but this thing nearly took out a tooth.

I felt like whipping out my mobile and putting it next to the baking tray. I want this E.T. to phone and go home.


25 Random Things About Food February 19, 2009

Filed under: All-occasion cakes,Inane stuff — crummb @ 4:16 pm
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strawberry-dome-loFor four long years, I asked this question every week for a Sunday food column I used to write: What would your last meal be? Invariably, the personalities I interviewed would give some blah answer, like Teochew porridge or their mother’s steamed egg or some such boring throwaway.

If I were asked this question, oh-ho-ho, I would say: A ginormous strawberry shortcake that I could jump into and eat from the inside out. When I’m done, I’d throw myself into a bath-tub filled with Thai chilli-and-lemon dried cuttlefish, Kettle’s honey and dijon potato chips, honey cashew nuts and sticky barbecue fish sticks. Then, I would lock myself up in a Nonya buffet.

I could go on and on. Which is why I’ve always secretly wished that someone, anyone, would ask me this question for a change, so I could unleash my long pent-up list.

Well, since we’re in the season for lists (you know,  the pandemic spread of self-love in Facebook known as “25”) , I thought I’d just help myself and publish it for all to peruse.

Here is my “25 Random Things About Food”.

1. The best strawberry shortcake in the world can be found in Tampopo Deli in Liang Court.

2. The best French fries in the world can be found in your neighbourhood McDonald’s.

3. Nothing, nothing, is worse than undercooked red beans in ice kacang.

4. I can eat raw oysters, raw fish, raw prawns and raw beef, but never raw beansprouts.

strawberry-inside-lo5. If my house were on fire, the first thing I’ll grab (other than husband Z and baby E) is my Ruffles cakestand, which Z ordered from the States as my Christmas present last year. (See photos – ain’t it pwetty?)

6. If I were the Prime Minister of Singapore, I would decree that the annoyingly floppy thick noodles in laksa be replaced by beehoon. No more stains!

7. In an ideal world, all grapes and watermelons are seedless.

8. Cornflakes are best eaten at night.

9. If I were stranded on an island, I could live on canned sweet corn alone – yummy, fibrous, and no need to cook. 

10. I bear no shame for cooking with Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce. It really does make everything taste better.

11. Yes, there is something even better than Maggi chilli sauce. Its name is Lingham’s.

12. If I could choose which country I could be born in to enjoy the national cuisine, it would be Thailand, Indonesia or Japan (in this order).

13. If I can have only one accompaniment to rice, it would be sambal fishcake.

14. The Japanese do everything better – the best ribeye steak (Angus Steakhouse), the best curry rice (Tampopo), the best pasta (mentaiko spaghetti), and the ultimate best salad dressing (sesame flavour by We Love Salad! brand).

15. But if there’s one thing the Koreans do better than the Japanese, it is instant noodles (spicy mushroom flavour).

16. I have a secret weapon when it comes to stir-frying kangkong. It is called Cantonese XO sauce.

17. Three things I must always have in my fridge: Eggs, cold water, Nestle’s mango lassi drink.

18. Things I eat because of the dipping sauce: chicken rice, oh luak (oyster omelette), yong tau foo.

19. When I was on a 7-day detox fast a few years ago, the first thing I hallucinated about was nasi padang.

20. To me, the holy trinity of fruits is Mountain King durians, ‘harumanis’ mangoes from Indonesia, and ‘lor mai chee’ lychees from China.

21. Of the tiresome appetiser platter that’s served at ALL Chinese wedding banquets, I actually quite like the prawns in mayo sauce.

22. If the secret to good skin is not water, but Ribena, I could run for Miss Universe.

23. I’ve taken the dump in the toilet of Phoon Huat (bakery supplies store) in Holland Village four times – more than in any retail shop on earth – because I’m always very excited when I’m there.

24. Bovril in rice porridge is totally underrated.

25. I always wanted to marry someone who can cook. Z can’t cook. But he can dance. So that makes up for it.

PS: Okay, now it’s your turn. I’ve always wondered who you people jacking up my hit counter are. So drop a comment about your last meal (or anything at all). Just don’t say it’s Teochew porridge.


Green Tea Chiffon Cake February 17, 2009

Filed under: All-occasion cakes,Disaster cakes — crummb @ 2:26 pm
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Go ahead, laugh at my chiffon cake. Say that it looks like an Egyptian pyramid that’s been chopped off and pried open for easier access to King Tut. Because once you’ve had a taste of this cake – complete with that  glob of unmixed egg white on the inside *see it?* – you’re not gonna be laughing, but crying from sheer joy and admiration. It tasted that good.

Okay, so it’s a little on the wet side. After all, it was underbaked by about 15 minutes. But when I inserted a skewer into the centre, it came out clean what. And when I touched the surface, it bounced back… (okay, maybe not bounce back hard enough.)

But still I’d say this fine specimen of structural collapse is a triumph for my first attempt at chiffon cakes. The texture was springy and soft, it wasn’t too sweet, and it had just the right whiff of smoky green tea.

This recipe is taken from Korean pastry chef Young Mo Kim’s cookbook A Collection Of Fine Baking. Its delicate, beautiful taste just adds to my case that I should just forget about angmoh recipe books – what with their diabetes-inducing sweetness and overall unreliability – and just go with Asian cookbooks for the rest of my life.

To be doubly sure, I actually made this cake a second time to see how much better it’d be if it were given its full baking time. Result? Just perfect.

But I didn’t take a picture of it though. It looked like any other perfectly made chiffon cake. This undercooked specimen, in all its downtrodden glory, looks a lot more interesting. No?

P/S: Message me if you want the recipe. I’m too lazy to type it out now. Zzzzzz.


The Ultimate Butter Cake February 4, 2009


Some people eat lots of bread. Some people load up on rice. Yet others just stuff themselves full and hope something sticks. What am I talking about? I’m talking about what food to eat prior to a night of drinking so you won’t get so drunk that you wake up the next morning with your kidneys missing.

But I’ve discovered something that’s 100% resistant to the effects of alcohol and it tastes way better than rice or bread – Amy Scherber’s Simply Delicious Yellow Cake. It is buttery, eggy, moist and fluffy, easily the best butter cake I’ve ever made.

Apart from some leftover rice and steamed egg, this cake was the only thing I ate last Saturday before I went out on the town with 5 of my girlfriends.

Ostensibly, it was to celebrate 3 of our birthdays. It was also for us to catch up, now that new jobs/marriage/children have set us on different paths over the past few years.

But seriously, we just wanted to get sloshed.

We wanted to dump our husbands/boyfriends for just one night, and relive the same stupid antics we were up to years ago – you know, the kind of foggy revelry that makes dancing the conga thoroughly fashionable.

And boy did we max out our night. We started off at Overeasy, walked over to One On The Bund, popped by Bellini Grande and revisited our old haunt, Zouk. It was non-stop partying action from 9pm to 3am.

I was expected to be the first to succumb. After all, even in my partying prime 5 years ago, I was a self-proclaimed “cheap date”. I was proud of it too, because I was cost-efficient – just buy me two lychee martinis and I’ll be thinking I’m Beyonce.

And now that two years of abstinence has reduced my alcohol tolerance to almost zero, I was positively a “free date”. I could probably attempt her Single Ladies dance routine on the strength of one whiff of champagne.

So this is what I drank that night:

3 Sex On The Beach shots, 1 sundried tomato and raspberry margerita, 1 Bellini, 2 apple vodka shots, part of a Flaming Lamborghini, 2 Cowboy S*** D*** shots, and 1 Tequila shot.

How drunk was I? Let’s put it this way. I was even more sober than Obama’s bodyguards on Inauguration Day when he and Michelle were walking unshielded down the parade path.

My girlfriends? Oh, they drifted onto a higher realm. They were bear-hugging each other, happily doing the bitch-slap atop the podium in Velvet, and making up a new hybrid dance move that’s part-Vogue and part-Walk Like An Egyptian.

And what was I doing? I was doing what losers always do at parties: I was guarding the bags.

All because I ate a big slice of that cake.

Click here for recipe