Posts Tagged ‘ginger’
I’ve never owned a car. I’ve always lived in cities with an integrated public transport system where it’s cheap and convenient to navigate work and play on buses, ferries and trains. By American standard, Seattle has an adequate (and expanding) network of buses and light rail. The one exception that has foiled me time and again is getting to the University District from Downtown. There is no direct bus route! Thankfully generous friends have driven me there for meals at Shun (sadly closed), and iced chocolates at Fran’s. We deviated from routine a couple of weeks ago for lunch at U:Don.
A ‘fresh Japanese noodle station’, there was a sign at the entrance outlining the order process.
There were eight styles of udon on the menu in three sizes.
An extensive list of tempura and sides were neatly written on a chalkboard.
Black and white prints, red accent walls and birch furniture, the dining room was minimally modern. We watched the chef dunk and scoop udon and customise the bowl, and like a cafeteria, slid the tray along to select tempura and sides which were priced per item.
I gripped my tray tightly and perched precariously on the square stool. In a steaming dashi broth, my udon was garnished with grated daikon and ginger, green onions and shredded nori, and topped with an ontama (coddled egg). The broth was light and clear, and the house made noodles firm.
Kakiage, a vegetable tempura fritter, had starchy strips of root vegetables and cauliflower florets. I love eggplant but the fanned wedge was a little raw.
It was a speedy experience at U:Don!
Listed alphabetically by state, Joe’s Shanghai (鹿鳴春) was in the New York section of CNN’s ‘50 best Chinese restaurants in the United States‘. In the same block as Momofuku Má Pêche and Momofuku Milk Bar in Midtown, Joe’s Shanghai is a double storey ‘centre of exotic specialties’.
I signalled a table for one and was ushered upstairs. Bronze deer and potted bamboos decorated the bay window. A tiered sparkling gold and crystal chandelier was suspended above the vestibule.
A curious specials menu included New Zealand mussels, T-bone steak and rack of lamb.
A mound of cold egg noodles was drizzled with sesame dressing, topped with julienned cucumber and served in a scallop shell shaped dish. I slurped the cold sesame noodles (芝麻冷麵), a simple but appetizing celebration of Chinese carbs.
The traditional trio of ginger slivers, soy sauce and vinegar were stirred in a bowl for dipping.
Joe’s Shanghai is famous for their soup dumplings. Six crab and pork xiao long bao (蟹粉小籠包) were on a bed of shredded Napa cabbage (黃芽白) in a steaming bamboo basket. The delicate morsels were juicy and meaty, although the skin was a little doughy.
Noodles and dumplings were requisite sustenance for shopping in Manhattan!
The only Malaysian eatery I know of in Seattle is Malay Satay Hut. It’s been on the list for a while but I’m yet to make the drive to Redmond (and Portland too!) or walk to Chinatown for their traditional Malaysian fare. I was delighted that Banana Leaf was the penultimate restaurant on the Dim-sum-couver (點心哥華) schedule.
Emerald wall, tangerine window frames and daffodil sign, the colourful street frontage was a contrast to the wooden interior.
The specials chalkboard piqued our interest as we waited for a table.
I always imagine a chef wielding a machete in the kitchen to slice a lid on the fresh coconut when I order one!
We sipped cocktails and coconut juice as we perused the extensive menu of curries, rice, noodles, stir-fries, seafood, salads and soups. We selected three classic dishes to share.
Roti canai, warm flaky flatbread, was served with a side of light dhal.
Glistening pieces of Hainanese chicken (海南雞飯) was surrounded by a moat of sliced cucumber and garnished with sprigs of coriander. Toasted peanuts, grated ginger, chilli garlic sauce and soy sauce were condiments. The tender meat was fragrant, the essence of the stock the chicken was poached in. The delicious comfort food was dipped in the sauces and paired with Hainanese rice.
A popular fast food at hawker stalls, char kway teow could be considered the national dish of Malaysia. Flat rice noodles were tossed with sweet soy sauce, chilli, egg, bean sprouts, prawns, fish cakes and squid. We happily nibbled on the starchy stir-fry.
I must get to Malay Satay Hut this year!
‘Have you done the Theo Chocolate Factory Tour?’ This is a frequently asked question in the ten months I’ve been living in Seattle. Now I can answer yes! I was in the Fremont neighbourhood for the Momofuku Milk Bar event with Christina Tosi at Book Larder so I scheduled in the Theo Chocolate Factory Tour.
Located at a quiet corner in a heritage brick building, the factory is fronted by a retail store.
Perfumed with chocolate, the bright and spacious room tempted chocolate lovers at every table and on every shelf. Pretty displays of chocolate bars were interspersed with plates and bowls of tasting shards. The seasonal bars were at the entrance with festive flavours of gingerbread spice, nutcracker toffee and peppermint stick.
Coral coloured ribbons and pastel yellow paper cranes draped branches where boxes of salted caramels were stacked.
Whimsical drawings are printed on the covers of the fantasy bars.
An assortment of exotic flavours included chai tea, bread and chocolate, fig, fennel and almond, and coconut curry. The coconut curry had strong spices with a sweet coconut finish.
Tins of sipping chocolate should be a pantry staple and box sets such as the colourful Theo Classic Library make for a generous gift.
Ivory pedestals in the glass counter accentuated the rich colours and patterns of ganache.
Each ganache is identified by its unique decoration.
I stretched the net over my hair as we were seated in the presentation room. The guide for our small group was enthusiastic and friendly. She had a series of laminated photos of cacao trees, pods and beans as she spoke about the cultivation and harvest of cacao. Cacao pods grow on both the trunks and branches of the trees. Fresh cacao beans are pale and encased in pulpy flesh.
Seventy per cent of the world’s cacao is farmed in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. She described the equator as the ‘chocolate belt’. It is a labour intensive crop and yield to chocolate ratio is low.
Our guide explained the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolate melter. Theo Chocolate is one of seventeen chocolate makers in the United States where cacao beans are purchased and made into chocolate. Named after the botanical name of the cacao, theobroma, Theo Chocolate is both organic and fair trade certified.
A flowchart of the ‘method of true chocolate making’ detailed the machine and purpose of each step of the process. Many of the machines are vintage and imported from Europe. The factory has the capacity to produce 26,000 bars of chocolate in 24 hours.
‘The destoner cleans the exterior of the beans.’
‘The roaster removes humidity and develops flavour. The winnower separates the husks from the nibs.’
Chocolate is piped from machine to machine, transporting it from paste to mixer and refiner, and tempering to cooling.
After the chocolate is tempered, ‘inclusions are added’ and poured by hand into the depositer where moulds set the chocolate into bars.
The busy kitchen was piping ganache and caramels as we nibbled on sample sized Chinese five spice, fig fennel and rum raisin ganache. These contrasted sharply with the ninety one per cent cacao we tasted which was intensely bitter.
I left on a sugar high, thanks Theo Chocolate for a sweet experience!
There is a homeliness to buffet style dining, an openness and a warm welcome to eating together. The toppings bar at Portage Bay Café has a similar feel. A popular spot for weekend brunch, it was nearly as busy for weekday breakfast. Vintage rowing boats are suspended upside down from the ceiling in the large dining room and the staff wears black t-shirts emblazoned with their philosophy, ‘eat like you give a damn’.
Omelettes, scrambles, Benedicts, hashes, combos, French toasts, pancakes and grains – it is a comprehensive menu! Service was brisk but friendly and we quickly ordered. Portage Bay Café is a lively place – the wait staff pace back and forth, weaving between the tables and benches of a diverse crowd.
The toppings bar is a hive of activity on weekends with parents navigating children between the fruits and nuts. I was alone on this weekday, leisurely selecting berries. The centrepiece among the red, yellow and purple hues was an overflowing mount of whipped cream – I wonder how many spoons have been lost in those fluffy clouds.
Ginger is an essential aromatic in my parents’ cooking. I grew up with it julienned on whole steam fish, grated in dipping sauces and sliced in soups, and yet I’ve developed an aversion to it as an adult.
I ordered the oven baked French toast with trepidation. The house made bread is soaked overnight in ginger and blackberry custard, then baked, sliced and griddled. Three thick soldier slices were drizzled with crème anglaise and I added raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries from the toppings bar.
I would have enjoyed the French toast without the ginger. Browned on the outside and moist and spongy on the inside, it paired well with crème anglaise instead of maple syrup. Unfortunately I found the ginger too overpowering and had to swap with Mr S.
Mr S had the chorizo scramble and it was a large serving of house made chorizo, organic bell peppers and tomatoes scrambled and topped with queso fresco, sour cream, salsa and green onions. On the side was a warmed flour tortilla and roasted red potatoes. It was a fun meal to eat by hand, using the tortilla to scoop up the sausage and eggs but the cheese and salsa required fork assistance.
Absent of the hovering weekend crowds, Portage Bay Café is relaxed and comfortable during the week for a before work breakfast, mid morning snack and coffee or business meeting.