28 January 2007

Dinner for seven

I still amaze my mum with what else I can lug home from the Takashimaya (I should really get a Taka Loyalty Card soon) Department Store, and declare absolutely necessary for the dining table/kitchen. My most recent purchase, among many others, is a blow torch. I can FINALLY make Creme Brulees, and erm... well, I'm sure there are many more uses for it. Look here for one excellent example that I'm definitely going to try one day. Moka will just have to share some of his food with the rest of us.

But the reason I took so long to get a blow torch of my own, other than the fact that these things cost quite a bit, is that I could not think of another use for it besides Creme Brulee. But when I spotted a recipe in 'Asian Tapas: Small Bites, Big Flavours' for some Spicy Tuna Tataki Rolls, that clinched it and off to Takashimaya I went.

These rolls are so simple to make, as long as you can get someone to help you cut a 1x3x5 inch slab of tuna and slice into 1/8 inch thick pieces. Thank heavens for the kind staff at the Takashimaya Cold Storage sashimi section, or I would really have to put my slicers and skills to the test in an already stressful situation. The rest just takes some blending, spreading, rolling and for the most fun part, torching. Unfortunately I didn't manage to do the torching myself, and left it to a cousin to do while I busied myself with some other stuff. This was for a dinner for five of my relatives and my parents, which my brother and I initiated, and for which we 'recruited' our two hunky cousins who both have some interest in cooking as well.

Apart from the dessert, everything was taken from that cookbook. I took a leap of faith (after my previous bad experience) and bought the cookbook with the intention of cooking the entire dinner from it because of its Asian inspired theme. My aunts and grandma are relatively conservative Chinese with a rather reserved palate, and I realised that I had almost no 'new age' Asian cookbook that would be able to help me create the meal that I envisioned. Thankfully, my faith was not misplaced as the recipes did work.

We had prepared a few nibblers for them before the actual meal started. Arranged on a few long ceramic chopstick holders were Quails Eggs dipped in Nori Flakes, Purple Seaweed or Sancho pepper, and Garlic Macadamias and Cashews. Then to start the meal on a sweet note, we did Honey Glazed Baby Squid on Deep-fried Mantous, Honey Glazed Stuffed Chicken Wings and Honey Glazed Pumpkin Wedges. These were served with a Fresh Pomelo Salad that had bits of dried shrimp, fish sauce and lime juice as a refreshing contrast to the sweet bites.

If you think tiny baby squid are small, wait till you deep fry them and see them almost shrink into nothingness. I'll definitely try these with baby octopus instead in future. Those chubby tentacles might hold better to deep frying. One thing I appreciate about the cookbook is the step-by-step photos given for some of the more challenging recipes, like the Stuffed Chicken (Mid)Wings. Deboning those little things takes quite a fair bit of work and was really challenging for people who have never done it before. Thankfully my brother and cousin were on hand to do all the work for me. All the deboning, stuffing, wrapping, blanching and stir-frying resulted in deliciously shiny, plump morsels of heaven. If I could only purchase deboned chicken wings somewhere, I would make this all the time.

Next up, we served two rolls. A Beef Salad Roll with black sesame sauce, and the Spicy Tuna Tataki Rolls that I wrote about above. Julienned carrots and zucchinis, beansprouts and alfafa sprouts were wrapped up in slices of blanched sukiyaki beef and served with a side of tangy and nutty black sesame sauce spiked with rice wine. While I was afraid that one or two of my relatives might be put off by the raw tuna only very briefly torched on the outside, they all cleaned their plates. I would only tone down the heat in the coriander spice paste that was used in the tuna rolls in future.

The last savoury dish of Umami, Umami, Umami, brought to the table Baked Miso Threadfin, flanked by Seared Scallop and X.O. Sauce, as well as Steamed Scallop with Black Bean and Garlic Dressing. Being the easiest course to prepare, it was also the best crowd pleaser. Good quality, fresh, fat scallops did all the work for us.

Finally, I served a scoop of Mango Gelato with Coconut Macaroons to end off the meal. The Ultimate Frozen Dessert Book that I borrowed from a friend has been supplying me with many reliable ice-cream recipes (this Mango Gelato being one of them), that I keep referring to it despite the lack of food porn. Food porn is usually what keeps me looking through a cookbook, making me think 'Wao, if I could just follow this recipe, I can create something so beautiful!'. Of course, cookbook writers, food stylists and food photographers know that and exploit this nugget of knowledge to no end while people like me get constantly sucked into illusions of hope. Anyway, I do intend to get the Ultimate Frozen Dessert Book for myself soon.

After the whole dinner, my cousins and brother were utterly spent. They spent the whole afternoon and evening, right through the dinner, frying, mixing, chopping, blending, peeling, simmering, slicing, torching and serving. But they were all extremely good sports and complaining only a little. Fortunately I had prepared more food than was necessary, in order to feed the three hungry chefs in the kitchen to keep them alive till the next course they had to serve. That saved me the trouble of making a quick pasta dish just for them.

Perhaps the most eventful part of the whole experience was when I left them to their own devices after I told them to deep fry the baby squid. Check out the manly oven gloves as well.


PJ said...

I got your card and gift!!

I am very touched.

I rove it very very much.

Will wear it to work tommorow and show my wild side. ;D

Yes will definitely meet up with you and fel when i go back hopefully in september.


ivan said...

I recognise that big spoon!

Anonymous said...

pj> good! I was wondering when it would arrive =) Take a photo of yourself wearing it! It would make my day. Please come down earlier if you can! Maybe fel and I can meet you up there? :)

Ivan> Haha, yes and so cheap! i trust that your friend loves the japanese bowl set? =)

freda said...

you guys seem to have had lots of fun!!! i wish i were there!!!! wah...... miss you guys tons!!!!

vanessafrida said...

i see a staub cocotte (sp)....nice! :)

Anonymous said...

duckie>Yes I'm sorry I didn't call you along to join us, but just thought it would be odd since it was just for Uncle Norman, Uncle Wee, Aunty Janet, Aunty Irene and Grandma. And you are not as into the cooking as you are into the eating right? =) One day we'll have one just for the cousins at my place! And if you want to swim this week, holler! I'm free this week!

VF> Yes! In a gorgeous deep red that matches my home! My family adores using it, together with the Staub Grillpan as well. I read about how your other half loves steaks, surely you have invested in a grillpan as well? :)

freda said...

haha.. it's alright.. it does seem a little odd... yeah.. I'll be looking forward to that very much.. :) hugs!!!

S said...

So, when are you going to come adopt your ramekins and the creme brulee recipe book I've set aside for you?

Anonymous said...

You're overwhelmingly thoughtful! Emailed you! :)