Travel PhooD: Thomas Haas

    City: Vancouver, Canada
    Location: 998 Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver; 2539 West Broadway Avenue, Vancouver
    Eaten: Small hot chocolate and double-baked almond croissant
    Damage: $11.08CAD

    There used to be a bakery called sen5es that made gorgeous cakes in the Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Vancouver.  Their head pastry chef, Thomas Haas, also did dessert consulting for the restaurant attached to the hotel, Diva at the Met (so, unsurprisingly, their desserts are also delicious!).  The Met started renovations a few years back and, as such, I didn’t ever get a chance to try any of their cakes.  However, I soon discovered (thanks to the internet) that Chef Haas also owned a bakery and chocolate shop out in North Vancouver – why not go straight to the source?

    The trek out to North Vancouver was a rather long one, a good two hours one-way, so I always set aside an entire half day to go (it’s not somewhere you go on a whim unless you have a lot of free time).  I’d have to walk about 30 minutes from the nearest bus stop to the pastry shop, which was located at the end of a quiet industrial street – not exactly the place you’d expect to find a world-class chocolatier and pâtissier.

    Thomas Haas is a fourth-generation pastry chef, whose great-grandfather opened the Café Konditorei Haas in Aichhalden bei Schramberg in the Schwarzwald (eng.: Black Forest) in Germany in 1918.  He is one of the top pastry chefs in Canada and has won a number of awards, and every time I go back to his shop, I’m so excited to try his chocolates.  So when I heard from my former professor at UBC that a second location in Kerrisdale had been opened, I absolutely had to go visit.

    Though I really love Haas chocolates (my favourite is the vanilla with smoked Hawaiian sea salt chocolate caramel, but do try them all), the star of his pastry case has to be the double-baked almond croissant.  Out of all the croissants I’ve eaten anywhere in the world (and I’ve eaten a lot more than I care to remember), this has to be the best one.  Yes, the BEST one.  Better than Paul, better than Ladurée – I’ve never had a croissant like it before.  The outside is incredibly golden and flaky, smothered in thinly-sliced toasted almonds and a light dusting of powdered sugar; inside is a soft, sweet almond filling.  You can tell they don’t skimp on the butter with every delicious, crispy bite.

    The hot chocolate was rich and silky dark chocolate with a thick layer of foam and a cocoa powder heard dusted on top.  An excellent accompaniment to any of the desserts, but together with the croissant, it was a little too much for one person.  I still felt really full four hours later.  A better idea would be to go with friend, get two hot chocolates, and split a croissant.  You’ll also feel slightly less guilty if you decide to try a second dessert. =)

    The Kerrisdale location is a little more spacious and has more seating, but I still think the chocolate selection is better at the original North Vancouver location.  If you’re lucky, you might even seen Chef Haas himself!

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    Travel PhooD: Breakfast at Medina’s

    City: Vancouver, Canada
    Location: 556 Beatty Street, Crosstown
    Eaten: Soft-boiled egg, bacon, and Belgian waffle with white chocolate pistachio rosewater sauce
    Damage: $12CAD + tax

    David N. (who treated me to breakfast – thanks, honey!) and I like to joke that Medina represents everything that is simultaneously great and absolutely wrong about Vancouver.  Located in Crosstown, a bit of a developing (read: gentrifying) neighbourhood sandwiched between the affluent Downtown core and homeless/prostitution/drug-riddled Downtown Eastside, and next door to our old first-year dinner hangout, Chambar, Medina looks like a typical Vancouver café from the first step inside.  The glass windows run from about three feet off the ground up to the vaulted ceiling, and single light bulbs hang from the ceiling.  The bar sits on the right side, the espresso machine waiting, with a few stools lined up at the counter.  Along the opposite wall (brick, of course) runs a padded bench behind lacquered wood tables.  The restaurant itself is narrow, but long – typical, because Vancouver retail lots seem to be becoming increasingly disproportionately rectangular (window space must be a premium!).

    Bacon and eggs, Medina-style

    The food at Medina’s is quite good – in addition to the typical eggs-bacon-fruit fare (which, as I will explain later, is not all so typical after all), there are brunch specials like Les Boulettes (2 poached eggs, spicy Moroccan meatballs, cilantro, hummus cucumber tomato salad and a piece of grilled focaccia) and the Fricasse (2 fried eggs on braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, carmelized onions, arugula and smoked applewood cheddar with grilled focaccia, both descriptions from Medina’s website!), which I can both heartily recommend, as we tried them the last time I was in Vancouver.  Their waffles are slightly crispy with a soft inside, with additional sauces on the side (ranging from classic mixed berry compote and fig orange marmalade to the more adventurous milk chocolate lavender and white chocolate pistachio rosewater).

    Ever wonder what $1.25/slice bacon looks like? You're looking at it.

    I said I’d say something about the bacon, so here it is.  If there’s one dish that really just embodies why exactly I would call Medina’s just plain wrong sometimes, it’s this one.  First of all, four strips of bacon shouldn’t cost $5CAD.  Ever.  Granted, it was really good bacon, but that’s not the point.  Secondly, this ain’t no Average Joe rasher, no sir – this is thick-cut, farmers-style bacon.  And lastly, it’s served on a square white plate with – get this – a drizzle of balsamic on the side.  Too much, perhaps?

    Overall, Medina’s is a good place to sit down once in a while and have a chat with some friends over breakfast or brunch.  The food is good, but it definitely won’t be cheap (if you are looking for cheap breakfast food, Denny’s is both cheap and filling – Grand Slam, anyone?).  The service is attentive, but the place really isn’t all that big, anyway.  I’d come here again, but only once every few weeks as a nice treat!

    Travel PhooD: beard papa’s

    City: All over!

    Damage:  $9CAD/half-dozen, $1.75 each

    With a name like beard papa’s, one wouldn’t really guess that this was a cream puff chain.  However, this popular cream puff shop has expanded far beyond its Japanese roots, to Vancouver, New York, Sydney, and even London (on Oxford Street).

    Is it called Beard Papa's because his head looks like the cream puffs (or the other way around)?

    There’s more than cream puffs for sale – they also offer cheesecake sticks and chocolate fondant – but the real stars are definitely those giant cream puffs.  About the size of a small fist, these treats have a flaky outer shell with a freshly-piped creamy filling more akin to custard than whipped cream (though it’s a mix of both) – guaranteed to change your view on cream puffs.  In addition to the classic vanilla flavour, they also offer several specialty flavours in rotation: caramel, strawberry, chocolate, and my personal favourite, green tea.

    Mmmm, green tea
    A more conventional flavour, caramel

    Travel PhooD: Japadog

    City: Vancouver, Canada

    Location: Burrard and Smithe; Burrard and Pender; 530 Robson St. (coming soon)

    Damage: $6.25CAD for one Okonomi hot dog

    The Japadog stand is somewhat of a Vancouver institution.  What started out as a creative twist to regular street vendor hot dogs has become so popular in recent years, they’ve actually been able to set up a second location, and are opening a store on Robson street by the Central Library (who’d ever heard of a chain hotdog stand?!).  And it just keeps getting more popular – what recession?

    I think I picked the wrong day to come (I'm halfway through the queue)...

    Japadogs are essentially normal hot dogs – the kind you would buy from any stand on Robson St./Burrard St./etc. – with Japanese toppings.  In 2005, Noriki Tamura, the owner of Japadog, wanted to open a street food stand.  However, due to archaic Vancouver by-laws, only pre-cooked, ready-to-eat foods are allowed to be sold, which basically means no crêpes, no curry fish balls…heck, I’m not even too sure fries are ok.  Probably not.

    So basically…you can sell hot dogs.  But there are so many hot dog stands in Vancouver already (since no one can sell anything else!); how do you attract customers to yours?  The answer – make unique toppings that would appeal to locals and tourists alike.  Throw in a few colourful signs and cute Japanese service (read: lots of quick bowing and ‘お好みです!プリズインジョイー!/Okonomi desu!  Pureesu enjoy!’ – they’re so polite! ♥♥♥) and voilà! – Japadog was born.

    I’ve visited quite Japadog a number of times, mostly when I feel adventurous or particularly Vancouver-y.  Japadog is rather popular, so most days, the queue is about 15 minutes long.  On a sunny day, be prepared to wait almost an hour!  If the queue is especially long and you’re starving, drink something while waiting in line – it can be slow torture, because the closer you get, the more the tantalising the smell gets, gently teasing your olfactory senses until you get to the front of the line…

    …only to order and go and stand in the pick-up line (cruel, eh?).  But from here, you can see how they make the toppings!  First-timers normally get the Terimayo – a beef sausage dressed in Japanese mayonnaise and teriyaki sauce with shredded nori (dried seaweed).  However, since I’m not the biggest fan of teriyaki sauce, I prefer the Okonomi – pork sausage with fried cabbage, okonomiyaki sauce (just a bit) and Japanese mayo, topped with bonito flakes.  There’s also the Oroshi – a generous scoop of grated radish on top of a pork sausage with green onions and soy sauce – and the Ume – raw red onions on a pork sausage with ume (plum) sauce.  There’s even an Edamame version – Edamame beans packed inside a sliced pork sausage – but I have yet to try it.

    Here’s another thing I discovered here – wasabi (deu.: Meerrettich) mayonnaise is fantastic.  Its pleasant light green colour, coupled with its subtle kick of hotness, almost ensures that I will never again be satisfied with regular Japanese mayo.

    I have to admit, Japadog is not exactly the cheapest hot dog you’ll ever have, or perhaps even the tastiest.  It is, however, an interesting experience definitely worth checking out!

    Travel PhooD: Granville Island – Lunch with a View

    City: Vancouver, Canada

    Damage: $7.06 for a slice of tortière and a 355mL bottle of Raspberry Guava Koala

    One of the most quintessential Vancouver hotspots is Granville Island, nestled under the Granville St. Bridge and jutting out into False Creek.

    The highlight of the Island is the Public Market, home to numerous fresh produce stands, organic and whole foods stores, bakeries and sweets, seafood, cheese and charcuteries.  It’s most busy in the summer, when throngs of tourists and locals alike pack the narrow corridors inside and spill into the outdoor patio.

    Outdoor dock

    When the weather is fair, the dock outdoors makes a great place to grab a bite to eat, though most things bought in the Market itself are admittedly overpriced.  It’s a better idea to bring lunch with you (there’s a Save-On-Foods about a 20-minute walk from the Island which most people pass by on the way in anyway), but if you find yourself starving, or just curious as to what the stalls have to offer, my best suggestion is to pick up something from a place that doesn’t look like a food-service stall.  Of course, you can always skip lunch and head straight for something sweet…

    …but if you have a craving for something a little more ‘normal’ (a relative term, I assure you), you can buy a few buns and some cold cuts from one of the meat places and make yourself a sandwich, or grab one of the premade items at a bakery.  On this particular day, I bought a slice of tourtière and a bottle of raspberry/guava Koala from Laurelle’s Fine Foods, a bakery that sells ready-to-eat pies and salads.

    For those of you that don’t know (which will be most of you), tourtière is a French-Canadian meat pie traditionally served during the winter holiday season.  Warm and savoury, the ground meat, usually pork, is spiced with nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and sage; the smell is reminiscent of rustic Christmases gone by.

    If you’re still hungry after lunch, you can also grab a small snack at any of the stalls.  My brother’s favourite place is Lee’s Donuts, where you can buy freshly baked cake donuts by the dozen.  I, however, think the best deal in the Market are the sticks of pepperoni at one of the meat places – the price of $1/stick hasn’t changed in almost ten years.  And for dessert, maybe a cake from Stuart’s – Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, anyone?

    American Comfort Food: Chicken Pot Pie

    I would be the first to say that Germany is a really awesome country.  However, there are just some days where I just really miss home, you know?  Solution?  Comfort food, piping hot from my brand new mini oven.

    I have really good memories of chicken pot pie, most of them with my awesome brother.  When Mum and Dad would go overseas to Asia for a week or two, Mum would always make sure to stock up the fridge before she left (this was when we were about 15, 16 or so).  We had this one spurt of time where Al and I were absolutely crazy for chicken pot pie – we were eating two or three a day – so we always had frozen ones in our freezer.  It was just so nice to open up the freezer, pop a pie onto a plate, microwave for 3.5 minutes, and open the door to smell the warm, aromatic smell of steaming chicken and vegetables in cream sauce.

    And that was really, to me, the other great selling point of chicken pot pie.  It was just so easy and fast.  Usually, pies can be quite time consuming because it takes a while to make the crust if you’re going to make it from scratch.  Here, I’ve substituted blätterteig, since I made it on a Tuesday night between loads of laundry and piles of homework.  I’ve also used frozen veggies – really, I think they have an undeserving bad rap sometimes – because I just don’t have the time or patience tonight to peel and chop up fresh ones.

    Materials and Methods (serves 2)

    • 1 roll blätterteig (puff pastry)
    • 1 box buttergemüse (frozen veggies with butter) – peas, carrots, corn, cauliflower
    • 1 chicken breast
    • 0.5 cups milk
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 0.25 cup flour
    • 0.5 teaspoon salt
    1. Cut chicken breast into 1.5cm cubes.  Smaller cubes means that the chicken cooks more evenly, and soaks up more sauce.
    2. Fry chicken bits in pan with a bit of oil.
    3. Add frozen veggies and stir until thoroughly heated.
    4. Add butter and let it melt.  Add flour and mix so that there are no lumps.  Then thin out the roux with milk.
    5. Season mixture with salt and thyme.
    6. Line baking dish/ramekin with the dough and trim excess (or you can fill the pie, then fold over the excess).
    7. Fill dish with chicken and veggie mixture and cover with more pastry dough.
    8. Make some slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape.
    9. Bake in oven at 200C for 40 min.  This may vary for your oven, since I have a mini oven!  A good way to know when your stuff is done is when the pie starts to turn brown at the edges – the filling should already be properly cooked, so all you’re doing is heating up the pastry dough.
    10. Remove and serve piping hot!

    Discussion

    The thyme (which I think goes very nicely with chicken) is optional and substitutable, of course; you can also use chilli powder, normal salt and pepper, rosemary or some other savoury herb or herb mixture, or even curry powder, for a bit of a kick.  You can, of course, also substitute chicken for beef, pork, or turkey, though with beef, you might want to use gravy instead of a white roux.  For veggies, of course, you can use all sorts – onions, leeks, roasted garlic, potatoes, etc.  It’s easy to make this recipe your own, and really rather difficult to screw up (especially if you buy the dough premade…but making it is also simple enough, just time-consuming) – comfort food in a flash!

    Comfort PhooD 🙂

    Valentine’s Day Special: Handmade Chocolate Truffles

    There are some people who are eagerly anticipating it, and some who are painfully aware of it – Sunday is Valentine’s Day.  Aside from the ubiquitous red hearts, another enduring symbol of this day is chocolate.  It’s very easy to go and buy some chocolate, of course, but I always think that handmade things convey a better feeling of sincerity.

    Chocolate truffles are really nothing more than firm chocolate ganache.  They are very easily flavoured by the home cook – you can add espresso powder, nuts, fruit liquers, and even more exotic things – for example, tea flavours like Earl Grey, chai, and matcha.  They do require a bit of time, mainly for the chopping and firming processes, though the former can be greatly expidated if you buy smaller bits of chocolate (ie. small chips or chips) instead of couverture (block) chocolate.  The downside is that chocolate chips are usually not as of as high a quality as couverture.  The best type of chocolate to use is 70% chocolate (bittersweet), but in principle, it should work with milk and white chocolate too.  I used 0.79€ zartbitter chocolate I found at Rewe, so it doesn’t have to be expensive.

    Materials and Methods

    • 200g chocolate
    • 100g 30% cream
    • cocoa powder to dust
    • other flavourings: chopped nuts (almonds, pistaschios, hazelnuts, etc.), 1tsp espresso powder, tea**, fruit oils, liquer **note: if you use tea, you will have to warm the cream separately from the chocolate (infuse the cream with the tea, remove the tea by straining or throwing away the tea bag, then combine it with the chocolate and let it sit for about five minutes)
    1. Chop chocolate and place in a glass cup or bowl.

      Messy, very messy
    2. Add cream to the chocolate and place the cup in a small pot of water (water level should be up to the level of chocolate in the cup).
    3. Turn on the heat to the lowest setting and wait for the chocolate to warm and melt.  This is basically a guerrilla kitchen-style double boiler =)
    4. Stir until there are no lumps left.  At this point, you can add flavouring if you’d like.
    5. Remove cup/bowl from water and place in the refrigerator.  Let it firm up to the consistency of semi-soft ice cream.
    6. Scoop the chocolate with a tea spoon (or a melon baller, if you have one) and form into a roughly spherical shape using another spoon.
    7. Roll the chocolate ball in cocoa powder or nuts to coat and set aside on a plate or tray (you can line it with wax paper if you want).
    8. Enjoy!

    Troubleshooting

    It took a while for me to establish a proper ratio of chocolate to cream, but I found that a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream works pretty well.  If you want softer truffles, you can use more cream, and vice versa.  Another trick for firming up chocolates is that you can leave them in the freezer for a bit, then transfer them back to the fridge.  Even after it reaches the ambient temperature of the fridge, the chocolate will still be firmer than if you’d just left it in the fridge overnight.  You can store the finished truffles for about a month (perhaps in the fridge, depending on what the temperature of the room is), though they don’t tend to last so long…

    Christmas Markets – Germany and Beyond

    Falling snowflakes always make me smile, but now, at the top of February, even I’ll admit that the snow on the roads is starting to get a bit annoying.  Somehow, snow before Christmas always seems like a pleasant surprise, and snow after the New Year just seems to be a hindrance.  Yes, I wish it was still December, too.

    Last December, Joanne and I went on a bit of a mini-tour of Europe, stopping by several Christmas markets on the way (9 in total).  Christmas markets (deu: Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindlmarkt) are very traditional for Germany and usually coincide with the beginning of Advent.  Dating back to the Middle Ages, there’s one in almost every German town (or so I’ve been told).  Some were small and quaint and some were massive, taking hours to navigate.  Some cities – Prague, Berlin, Vienna – had several.  So which one was the best?  Find out below…

    Saarbrücken

    Saarbrücker Weihnachtsmarkt with friends

    My Christmas market experience started this year, as it did the year before, in my current place of residence, Saarbrücken.  One of the most unique aspects of the market here is that, twice an evening at 17:00 and 19:00, Santa Claus flies across the market in a sleigh running along a wire.  Now, I can imagine this would cause a whole slew of legal problems in North America – what happens if the sleigh falls, or something drops on someone from that height, who do we sue – but the Europeans, I find, have a much more lax sense of safety and a greater sense of adventure.  He is accompanied by David’s favourite Christmas song (Wi-Wa-Weihnachtsman, komm mit deinem Schlitten an…).  There are typical Saarlandisch specialties, a mix of French and German cuisine, including Joanne’s favourite Christmas market snack that year – Schwenker.  And of course, there’s always the wonderfulness of standing around drinking Glühwein with a large group of friends =)

    Strasbourg

    Christkindlmarkt at Place de la Cathédrale

    The self-titled ‘Capitale de Noël’, in the Alsace region just across the border from where I am, has a number of Christmas markets.  The nicest ones are at Place de la Cathédrale and the one at place Broglie (Christkindelsmärik).  The one in front of the cathedral is especially breathtaking at night – the glow from the stalls, the smell of tarte flambée (deu: Flammkuchen), ‘Glüe Wein’, four-cheese baguettes, spiced apple cider, and freshly made crêpes.

    Rothenburg ob der Tauber

    Quaint Rothenburg ob der Tauber

    My friend Florian once said to me, “Rothenburg ob der Tauber?  Yes, I know where that is.  But why would you want to go there?!  There’s nothing!”  Well, Flo, perhaps you don’t understand their magic appeal on tourists like me 😉  Rothenburg fulfils every image I ever had of a quaint medieval Christmas – it’s that good.  The market itself is a bit small, since there’s only so much space, but the setting makes it feel very traditional.  Be sure to also stop by Käthe Wohlfahrt (Herrngasse 1) for Christmas, any time of the year.  And stay away from Schneeballen – you’ve been warned.

    Nürnburg

    Am Nürnburger Hauptmarkt

    The most dominant feature of the Nürnburger Christkindlmarkt is the shear abundance of Lebkuchen, the most famous of which comes from Lebkuchen Schmidt (Plobenhofstrasse 6, am Hauptmarkt).  Lebkuchen is a soft, gingerbready cross between cake and a cookie, with honey, nuts, and spices, but without those horrible green and red “fruit” pieces as in fruitcake.  Nürnburger Lebkuchen is a Protected Designation of Origin, and is one of the first things that I buy during the Christmas season (I could polish off a 10-pack in two days).

    München

    Münchener Christkindlmarkt at Marienplatz

    The heart of Bavaria features a sprawling Christkindlmarkt that runs down Neuhauserstrasse and Kaufingerstrasse to Marienplatz, the heart of the city.  There, the market lies in front of the Rathaus, lively and filled with Glühwein and grill stands.  I found that the Münchener market also had an unusual number of roasted nut stands…not that I’m complaining.  There were toasted almonds of all sorts – normal sugar, Nutella, dark chocolate, cinnamon, even a special Christmas blend – and it served as my late-night snack on the overnight train to Rome.

    Wien

    Freshly baked doughnuts at the Wiener Rathausplatz Weihnachtsmarkt

    I experienced my first Germanic Christmas market here in 2007 with Candy, and I will never forget the taste of fresh Apfelkrapfen from the Weihnachtsmarkt in front of the Rathaus.  I had the unfortunate experience of eating an ice cream cone filled with meringue dipped in chocolate (I can’t remember what it was called, but I didn’t know what it was at the time)…I wouldn’t recommend these.  I WOULD recommend, however, you pick up a Käsekrainer at one of the many stands – it’s a delicious cheese sausage in a warm bun jacket filled with ketchup and mustard.

    Salzburg

    Crisp apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce

    The Christmas market in Salzburg has possibly the most fantastic natural setting of any of the Christmas markets I’ve ever been to.  The smell of freshly baked Bretzeln and intricately painted egg ornaments (you break, you buy) are set against the stunning backdrop of the Austrian Alps.   Drop by a café anytime for some crisp apple strudel – even better with warm vanilla sauce – “these are a few of my favourite things…”

    Prague

    Freshly fried langosh with garlic and cheese

    I absolutely LOVE Prague – it’s one of my favourite cities in Europe – largely due to the hearty Czech cuisine.  Trdelnik, Morovian smoked ham on the spit, Goulash with soft bread dumplings to soak up the sauce – all good stuff.  The Prague Christmas market sells my number one favourite snack of all the snacks in any Christmas market I’ve ever been to – langosh.  This is a Hungarian snack, fried dough topped with garlic oil, cheese, and ketchup.  Sure, you may not think that sounds delicious now, but when it’s freshly deep-fried and served straight away, you might not be so sure anymore…

    Berlin

    They should put a Christmas market here, too - how wicked would that be?

    The Berliners sure do love their currywurst, so of course they sell it at the Christmas markets, too.  In fact, they even have a machine that chops up the wurst into even pieces in about 2 seconds.  They also have an outdoor skating rink at the one by Alexanderplatz.  The Christmas market at the Gendarmenmarkt is really pretty, with a huge Christmas tree and all the tents topped with stars, but it’s 1€ admission.

    • Best Atmosphere: Wien
    • Best Food Overall: Strasbourg
    • Best Food: Langosh from Prague
    • Best Kinderpunsch: Rothenburg ob der Tauber
    My merry collection of Christmas market mugs

    More to come in PhooD Adventures!

    Memories of Vancouver – Salmon Dinner for One

    This morning, I found a nice email in my inbox from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, announcing that tickets were still available for Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand, being played in celebration of the Olympics being held there in about 15 days.  This, combined with my not-calling my parents for the last week because of exams, made me super, duper homesick.  And I have an exam on Monday, too, so what do I do?

    Right.  Procrastinate and cook.

    Those that are familiar with the Vancouver restaurant scene know that one of the defining features of West Coast cuisine is the abundance of seafood.  So what better way is there to give myself a taste of home than to make a salmon filet and put it on a minimalist plate (chichi presentation is another defining feature of Vancouver, for sure).

    I passed by the fish shop in the Diskontopassage today to buy some fresh salmon, but since they were closed by the time I got there, I had to settle for frozen from Rewe.  Fresh fish cooks easier, I think, but that’s kind of rare here in Germany, since we’re not near the ocean like Vancouver is.  Oh well.

    Salmon Filet with Peanut Garlic Mashed Potatoes

    Materials and Methods

    • 1 salmon filet (fresh or frozen)
    • kartoffel puree (mashed potatoes), prepared from scratch or instant
    • garlic, minced (to taste)
    • peanuts, toasted
    • broccoli x 2 florets
    • 5 basil leaves
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • salt
    1. Make the mashed potatoes, either from scratch or according to the directions on the package.  If you’re in Germany, the addition of some milk and a smudge of Kräuterbutter (about half a single serving, or the whole thing if you’re feeling indulgent) make the potatoes melt-in-your-mouth good.  If you’re not, I’m sorry.
    2. Add the minced garlic, peanuts, and some salt to taste.  Set aside.
    3. Blanch broccoli in hot water for about a minute, no longer (want to keep the broccoli as green as possible)!
    4. Grill the salmon in a well-oiled, hot pan.  Sear for about a minute, then cover with a lid to allow the rest of it to cook through (about 3 minutes, but this depends on the thickness of your filet).
    5. Turn over the filet to check the brown-ness of the skin.  It should be golden brown, but not burnt…
    6. Mash the basil leaves with a pinch of salt and the olive oil.  I did it guerilla-style in side a cup with a spoon (I don’t have space for a mortar and pestle!).
    7. Plate and serve =)

    Results and Discussion

    Definitely reminded me of Vancouver, and was also an excuse to try out my awesome new macro tent (an idea I got here from Flo – Flo, BEST.IDEA.EVER.  I do need a stronger light source, though – I don’t have off-camera flash…or an SLR, for that matter).  The potatoes were super garlicy, just the way I like them, and ensure that I will not be going anywhere tomorrow; the peanuts added a nice crunch, too.  The basil oil was surprisingly nice with the salmon – the Mensa usually serves fish with some kind of cream sauce, but I think West Coast cuisine tends to be a bit lighter and healthier.

    So that was my little mental trip back home.  I’ll be going home for real in about a month, but for now, this will have to suffice…

    And back to studying…

    German Obento (ドイツなお弁当)

    So my first final exam (in German) is tomorrow – Biopharmazie.  It’s going to be two hours long, starting at 12.  However, we also have class from 10:30-11:45, so grabbing lunch at the Mensa is going to be out of the question.  In fact, there probably isn’t even enough time to get something from the Edeka and eat it.  So what’s a girl to do?

    Pack a bento, of course!

    So instead of utilising my final precious hours before the exam by studying, I decided to spend about an hour preparing a bento.  I’ve been thinking about preparing one for a while now, but have never had a reason to bring lunch – until now.

    With a bento (actually “bentou”), the most time consuming thing is actually planning what you’re going to put into it, and arranging it.  Since I really am supposed to be studying, I thought I’d keep it simple (no cute faces or anything on my onigiri…).  I went to Rewe and found quite possibly the most perfect thing to put in my lunch – mini Schnitzel and Cordon Bleu.  I know – what am I doing adding German food to my bento?! – but I AM in Germany, and it’s also MY bento.

    I also made tamagoyaki, which is rolled fried egg.  It was easier to make than I thought, though I haven’t cut into it yet, so we’ll see tomorrow morning if it’s any good.

    In my bento, I put:

    • mini Schnitzel x 2
    • mini Cordon Bleu x 2
    • 1/3 carrot
    • 4 small leaves of lettuce
    • small amount of rice (palm-sized) molded into a triangle shape (google “onigiri”)
    • Krokketen x 3
    • sausage ends x 4 (with a cross cut halfway into the open end)
    • tamagoyaki slices

    Tamagoyaki

    • 5g dashi broth powder
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 4 eggs
    1. Dissolve dashi broth powder and sugar in 50mL water.
    2. Add 4 eggs and beat until yolks are thoroughly mixed (but not frothy).
    3. In a hot non-stick pan (or a pan well-greased with oil), add just enough egg mixture to cover the pan.  Let it cook, then push the cooked egg to one end of the pan.
    4. Add more egg, even less than last time, and tilt the pan to evenly distribute the egg.  Cook, then roll the cooked egg mass (on the side) onto the new layer of egg and to the other side of the pan.  Repeat until all the egg is cooked.
    5. Transfer onto a plate and let it cool.  If you have a sushi mat, press the roll into a rectangular shape.
    6. Cool in the fridge, then slice!

    Here’s the excellent page that I learned the method from: tamagoyaki.  You don’t need a square pan to make tamagoyaki, though non-stick really makes things easier (and healthier).

    After making the tamago, I fried the rest of the bento contents…

    …and laid everything out for assembly.

    I cut the Schnitzels and Cordon Bleu in half, because they didn’t fit into the box very well whole.  I added one lettuce leaf (actually ripped in half) between each piece, mainly for colour.

    That’s my first assembled bento!  It’s not very elaborate or cute, but it’s definitely very filling.

    Reflections

    The schnitzel and cordon bleu are best fresh, as the coating is the most crisp then, so I’ll probably repeat it tomorrow morning, just before I have to bring it to school.  You might also notice I forgot to add the tamagoyaki – I’m thinking of making just cordon bleu (it stays more moist than the schnitzel), moving the krokketen into the bottom half, then putting the tamago slices into the top half.  If I remember, I’ll add some broccoli to the top half, as well, for more colour and some nutrition.  It didn’t take as long as I thought it would, but I can also imagine that it could take a long time, especially if you want to add faces or other cute things to it.

    All together, though, it was a pretty good meal (I had it for dinner).  It’s too much for one person to eat by themselves, so I’ll be sure to share with my classmates tomorrow (we can pass it around under the table in class)!

    Now, getting back to studying…