Archive for the 'Taste' Category

BE A FOOD TEXTURIST

“HIT + RUN” studio event featuring “EAT + RUN – A Food Texturist Night” is my first event. Thank you Vjeko, my teacher for “hitting” me with this event as soon as I came back from Holland so I can reflect and share and also test out what I have learned in Holland. Also, thank you for to those who were there at the event and those who were in spirit with your support!

SHARING
Questions that I came up with food and texture:

Can a meal plan/diet plan be planned with textures of the different food in mind?
Can a meal be planned with 10 different textures in mind?
Do animals like/eat their food because of the texture?

While preparing for this event, I found some cool things about food, texture and culture – for example the different words each culture use to describe food. Like the 20 different ways of saying “crispy” food in Japanese to “kusu” in describing the desirable quality of Korean noodles to using 3 different terms to describe bitterness in Malaysian.

The Latin root word for texture means to “to weave” which is also the same root word for textile. If people would who spend hours shopping for the right jacket by touching the fabric/textile of numerous jacket, trying it on in front of the mirror and then ask people for advice, how much time do people spend on thinking about the texture of their food?

TASTING
Picking 6 food items for people to sample was the last part of the event. Asian food played a big role, my Asian palette played a even bigger role. Going through aisles of Chinese food at a Taiwanese market and picking up potential food items into my basket and then putting them back – walking up and down the aisle like a mad woman examining any items that pop out at me, reading the labels, finding a connection with my event.

Food and texture was the theme, so my favourite texture of rubbery, chewy and sticky food came to mind. Inspirations came from the various items flowing in Asian beverages like coconut jelly to jackfruit to palm seeds to jelly made from Taiwanese jelly figs to water chestnuts to aloe vera.

sketches and drawings done by people after reflecting the different textures of food

EXPERIENCE
Discussing the various textures in a group of about 10 people was an amazing experience. Using my personal experience in food and texture as inspiration and encouraging everyone to smell, touch with their lips and fingers, listen to their chewing sound, play around with their tongues.

some of the tasting items: coconut jelly, aloe vera, palm seed and jackfruit and water chestnut

This is what people had to say about the textures of these food items…

1) Coconut Jelly
“reminds me damper or tampon, something spongy with liquid” (wow!), “old tires”, “plastic”, “it’s name should be bobo”, “chewy undercook pasta”, “a personality that refresh and redefine itself each time”

2) Water Chestnut
“like someone eating an apple”, “clean and crisp”, “crunchy”, “someone walking on dry snow”

3) Aloe vera
“Flesh of uncooked chicken”, “lychee fruit?”, “jelly fish”, “slippery”, “organic fibres”

4) Canned Jackfruit Preserved in Syrup
“old and stringy like overripen fruits/vegetables”, “disappointed that it wasn’t mango because the colour was deceiving”, “taste did not match the smell”, “reminds me of childhood memory and the dessert that my mom made when the weather is sticky and hot in Hong Kong”

5) Palm Seeds Preserved in Syrup
“beach grass”, “tropical sunset”, “onion looking in appearance”, “sugar cane”, “soft bone”, “vertical fibre”, “throwing rocks into the sea”

6) Jelly made from Taiwanese jelly figs
“agar agar”, “cooled chicken stock”, “fatty portion of meat”, “growing bacteria”, “reminds me of drinking sea water and not knowing what it is”, “alien”, “confusing”, “melting jelly bean”, “gelatinous”, “overwhelming taste like my first experience with jasmine tea”

Do you have a favourite texture that you crave sometimes? Is there a particular food item that you like its taste but hates its texture?

Getting closer to my food

I remembered being asked once what will grow in my future garden and the plants I could say were orchid fruits to salad greens to herbs. At that moment, I realized that I probably won’t be able to grow anything I can’t eat.

So, on my little unexpected holiday, I decided to become a “WWOOFer” with my friend Zebby in an organic vegetable farm in Cuckfield, England for a week to get closer to what I eat.

Eating every meal at the farm was a like a big family gathering. Talking to Toos about farming was very intriguing for me as she said that she doesn’t make the plants grow but she provides the best conditions for them to grow. She also said that being a farmer requires a lot of energy (and I would say a nurturing personality). I can see that she takes care of her farm like she would take care of her children and it is the same as she cares for everyone that works for the farm. I wish I can eat the vegetables that she nurtures at the farm everyday.

Highlights of my trip:

I love the smell of my hands after picking cherry tomatoes – those yellow powder on the tomatoes really makes the tomatoes tastier!

The smell of pumpkin leaves reminds of stomach acid (that was the nicest way I could describe it)

I learned that supermarkets wash their potatoes in water so they look clean and more people will buy them but at the same time it shortens their shelf life significantly- which creates a market for them to sell more potatoes.

I found out that organic new potatoes can be unbelievably fluffy!

I had my first barley flour biscuit and fell in love with it and I might have had 7 in a row, it was barley freshly harvested from the farm.

I also found out that picking potatoes can be a back-breaking job, actually for me it was more like knee-breaking because I am not flexible enough to stand and pick the potatoes so I kneel on the ground

The most amazing thing I learned is that you don’t have to water the vegetables even when you have a vegetable farm because if the soil is good, it will be self-sustainable – crazy!

My Daily Lunch

Having worked at a catering company before, I like the idea of staff lunch as it really saves a lot of money and time for me! At Proef, staff lunches means an hour of preparation and a little of time to clean up afterward. The staple of our lunches are crusty gourmet bread from De Bakkerswinkel (an awesome Dutch bakery that sells loaf breads that are crusty super crusty on the outside and soft and a little chewy in the inside) and cheeses like Gouda and we cook a lot of vegetables as well, as meat in Holland is really expensive! I am trying to find creative ways to make the most out of vegetables even though I am used to cooking more meat at home. I am slowly converting from a rice/noodle girl to a bread/cheese girl (special thanks to Lactaid pills on the cheese part)!

A couple of weeks ago, I made an amazing pasta with a vegetable sauce with grated Gouda and very tasty considering there was no meat at all!!

Here’s how I made this vegetable spaghetti (I know… not a very creative name, how about “kitchen-sink spaghetti”?):

serves 2 hungry people or 3 not so hungry people

INGREDIENTS:

- half a bag of spaghetti pasta – about 250g
- 5 small tomatoes – cut into small wedges
- 2 small purple onions – thinly sliced
- 10 mushrooms (grated) – grating them gives the sauce more body (also, good for hiding mushrooms in the sauce if you are cooking for someone who doesn’t like the texture of mushrooms – it worked with my brother!)
- grated garlic (half of a big one)
- grated Gouda cheese (as much as you like)
- salt and pepper
- chili powder (to taste, depending on your tolerance level)

THE SPAGHETTI:

Cook spaghetti until al dente (taste it and you will know when it’s done).

THE SAUCE:

I tried to intensify every vegetable flavour in this dish so I started off with caramelizing the onions in low heat (with olive oil) and a little bit of sugar and stirring them constantly until they turn soft and shrink and gets sticky and turns brown (for about 10-15 minutes)

Then, I added the grated mushrooms and garlic into the pan with the caramelized onions and cooked for about 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms are soft. The tomatoes joins everything in the pan but before adding them I used my hands to squeeze the tomatoes into even smaller chucks (it’s like what you get when you buy crushed tomatoes in a can) so they cook faster and it’s easier for them to be incorporated with the rest of the vegetables. Add some chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Next, I added a little bit of water for them to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Everything in the pan will have turned into a thick sauce with vegetables hidden in it, so just add the spaghetti and the grated Gouda cheese in after the heat has been turned off. Stir until everything has been mixed together. Serve and enjoy!!

At Proef I am slowly learning that both beauty and pleasure can be found in the simplest things in life like this pasta dish.

“To Taste” my internship

This is definitely one of the happiest days of my life! I was speechless when I saw the e-mail invitation. I can’t believe I am going to Holland for an internship at Proef! Yes…Proef in Dutch means “to taste” or “taste it”. Proef is a design studio and a catering company that focus on designing on how people eat. The studio looks at food not just from its taste but from the perspective of nature, culture, society, technique, psychology, science and action. Marije Vogelzang is the eating designer behind this awesome studio. I have been mesmerized by her work ever since I laid eyes on the projects featured on the Proef’s website.

I have been following Marije Vogelzang on Twitter and in December she tweeted about internship positions at studio. I was really excited at the time and submitted my portfolio site, my resume, as well as a letter on why I am passionate about food. Food is my obsession in life as most of my friends and family would agree, but to write about it in a formal letter on why I am passionate about food was a challenging task.

I re-read the letter I wrote to Proef after I saw their e-mail invitation for the internship and the letter felt like a big summary of my life. Yes…food is my life and it has made me do crazy things and applying for this internship was one of them. Here’s the letter if you are curious on what I wrote!