We’ve got ourselves a Mexican fiesta!

Happy last weekend of July and start to the 2020 Olympics! I watched the opening ceremony on Friday night. The Japanese do not disappoint! My peeps; my motherland. So proud! Go Teams USA and Japan! Wishing all the athletes the best of luck!

On Saturday night I witnessed the men’s street skateboarding athletes from the US, Japan, Peru, Brazil, and France showcasing good sportsmanship to one another. Hugging, encouraging, and supporting each other. It brought a warmness to my heart. The world coming together.

I recalled my very first trip to Japan in 2015. Tokyo was already underway in preparing for the Olympics. A lot of construction building those extraordinary infrastructures. Amazing! They were already selling Olympics merch, too. I bought some hand towels as souvenirs. I remember thinking about wanting to be in Tokyo when the Olympics occurred. Who knew that we’d experience a global pandemic in 2020. So glad I didn’t buy tickets. I hope all who did were able to get a refund. Sending good energy that cases don’t soar out-of-control during these next couple weeks in Tokyo and amongst the athletes and all who are involved in making the Olympics happen. I’m looking forward to watching my favorite sports: gymnastics, swimming, and diving.

We’re highlighting on two dishes I made: rice pilaf and Mexican pinto beans, aka frijoles de olla. I was extremely nervous to make the rice pilaf on the stove. Every time I used to make pilaf on the stove, my rice would turn out mushy. Thank goodness for rice cookers! It’s a staple in almost every home in Hawai’i and especially amongst Asians. I learned over the years that a rice cooker can be very handy in cooking all sorts of foods, besides rice. There’s a Buzz Feed article I came across years ago. I’m glad the link is still active: https://www.buzzfeed.com/melissaharrison/rice-cooker-recipes

As suspected, my first attempt at making the rice pilaf turned out mushy. Ugh! While my taste testers enjoyed the texture, I certainly didn’t. I had another go at making it. This was unacceptable to submit to my instructor. The second time, I didn’t follow the recipe to “the T.” I added in less liquid than the recipe called for and hoped it would be enough to create a “just right” texture and consistency. Phew! Thank God it worked! My second attempt turned out perfect! And boy, was it delicious! Or should I say, addicting! It was buttery, light, fluffy, and somewhat chewy (in a good way). The dish included butter, chicken broth, and onions (brunoise style cut 1/8″ x 1/8″ x 1/8″). I didn’t know rice pilaf required baking for 18-20 minutes after boiling on the stove top. Whaaaat? Yep! It helps the rice absorb the liquid and creates that fluffy texture. Ooh whee!

Onto the frijoles de olla. That was pretty simple and self-explanatory. I soaked the pinto beans overnight. Any dried beans needs to be soaked overnight before cooking. Also, they’re to be seasoned last, after the beans are fully cooked. If they’re seasoned before they’re tender, the beans won’t cook properly. I learned something new! The Mexican pinto beans included the following ingredients: sliced onions, and chopped garlic and jalapeños. All ingredients are thrown into a pot, covered in water. They’re to be brought to a boil and then to a simmer until the beans become tender. Once the beans are tender, lard, or white fat from pig, is added. Lard can be substituted for butter, which is what I used. Bam!

Have a marvelous new week ahead!

Stay safe,

FS x

Hot Potato!

Hello! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. I spent it in one of my favorite places- the kitchen. Yesss!

This week in school was all about potatoes. Here are some interesting takeaways I learned from my reading.

  • Did you know potatoes are both a vegetable and starch (Gisslen, 2018)?
  • To prevent oxidation, the potatoes from turning brown or gray, soak them in cold water immediately after cutting them (Gisslen, 2018).
  • Did you know there are many different colors of potatoes? Blue, purple, pink, red, brown, and yellow (Gisslen, 2018)?
  • If there are any green areas on the potatoes, it should be cut off. It contains a substance called solanine, which has a bitter taste and is considered poisonous (Gisslen, 2018).

I learned four different knife cuts: bâtonette, brunoise, julienne, and small dice. The bâtonette is a 1/4” x 1/4” x 2” cut. I had to first cut the potato into a rectangular block. Then use a fancy culinary metric ruler to cut the block into 1/4” slices. Then cut again into 1/4” sticks. Next, I took the bâtonette sticks and cut them into 1/4” cubes, aka the small dice cut. I cut another potato into a rectangular block to prepare for my next cut, julienne. The measurements of that cut are 1/8” x 1/8” x 2”. After cutting the block into 1/8″ slices, the final cut I performed was the brunoise cut, which is cutting the julienne sticks into 1/8” cubes.

It was an exciting experience to learn and master these new knife cuts. The culinary ruler was a huge help in measuring the potatoes precisely. That tool will come in handy going forward.

The featured dish is a pommes purée, which is similar to mashed potatoes. It’s a bit more fluid and translucent. It’s not fluffy as mashed potatoes, but still has that whipped, smooth, and creamy consistency. The purée had minimal ingredients and steps, but was a difficult dish to make. The first attempt at making the dish resembled a mashed potato texture. That wasn’t what I wanted. Fortunately, I had extra potatoes to try again.

I analyzed what I could do differently as I remade the dish. I cooked the potatoes a little longer. They needed to be tender, but not to the point of disintegrating. After the potatoes are strained from the boiled/simmered water, they are to dry for a bit before they are put into a food mill or mesh strainer. I let the potatoes dry for about five minutes, compared to 10-15 minutes in my prior attempt. The initial endeavor led to difficulty mashing the potatoes through the mesh strainer (I don’t have a food mill [yet]). They were probably too dry and had hardened. During the second try, the potatoes weren’t entirely dry yet, and therefore, it was a bit easier to mash through the strainer. Yay! I know that using a food mill, which was optional, would have made the mashing process a lot easier. Unsalted room temperature butter and warm heavy cream were added to the mashed potatoes. I mixed it as lightly and quickly as possible to avoid over-mixing that would create a “gummy” texture. The dish is seasoned with salt and pepper.

Phew! I’m glad the dish was better the second time around. You might have wondered what I did what all that extra potatoes? I made mashed potatoes and used it to make shepherd’s pie. Yum! It was a busy and tiring weekend in the kitchen, but worth every second. I enjoy cooking very much and am so glad to have this opportunity to learn more about culinary arts in an educational setting.

Happy new week,

FS x

References

Gisslen, W. (2018). Professional cooking, 9th ed. Wiley.

Carrot Craze

It’s finally happening. Culinary school. This week, I began my first course of my culinary program. I was excited, yet nervous. Watching the live and prerecorded videos and reading the material helped prepare me for the new cutting technique I learned, as well as the lab assignment I had to cook.

I learned about the oblique/roll cut this week. To accomplish this technique, one cuts the carrot in a 45-degree angle and then rolls the carrot 180-degrees and repeats the process again. The purpose of this cut is add dimension and to evenly cook the carrots since they will be cut at relatively the same size.

The featured dishes I made for this week’s assignment were carrots vichy and carrots purée. I started with the carrots vichy first. The dish entailed: carrots, sugar, unsalted butter, salt, and water. It was a very simple dish to make. The carrots are barely covered in water and are brought to a boil. Once they’ve reached boiling point, they are to be brought down to a simmer until the liquid nearly evaporates. The carrots should then become tender and soft. The liquid will form into a glaze. The dish can be garnished with fresh parsley. Black pepper is a must. And then the best part- tasting. It was delightful!

Moving onto the purée. It required the same steps as the vichy; same ingredients as well, minus the sugar. After the carrots are tenderized, they are to be strained. Save the boiled carrot water. The cooked carrots are put into a food mill, mesh strainer, food processor, or blender to purée. I used a food processor. To create a smooth purée texture, pour some of the boiling carrot water to the mix. The purée tasted excellent. It was smooth, creamy, and velvety. Yum!

I’m excited to share this journey with y’all. Stay tuned for next week’s dish.

Be safe,

FS x

A Grand Turkish Meal

Happy Fourth of July! Wishing you all a safe celebration.

I have a few days until I begin culinary school. I’m super excited to start this new journey. From next week, I’ll be highlighting my weekly posts on dishes I’ll be making in my classes. If time permits, I’ll post additional blogs about new restaurants I’ve dined at or exciting dishes I’ve made.

This week, I’d like to share about Turkish cuisine- one of my top five faves. I’m so happy to say that Istanbul Hawai’i has finally opened their restaurant! I remember ordering a lamb-beef doner from their food trucks at Night Market years ago. I would always get excited whenever I saw their food truck. This is a long time coming and I’m so ecstatic to have finally dined at their restaurant.

My friend and I were so excited. The restaurant was packed! We had a late reservation. There were reservations all through the evening. It was busy the entire time we were there. Even near closing, the place was filled. I was so happy to see how busy it was. It shows that the food is spectacular and that business is a success.

The menu was pretty overwhelming. A lot of dishes were very foreign to both my friend and I. I’ve been to Turkey twice; had authentic Turkish food there. I’ve also had Turkish food in Japan as well. My experiences eating Turkish food in its native country to Japan, and at home, have all been very different.

We used our helpful friend, Yelp, for suggestions on what to order. We honestly didn’t have a clue on where to start. We also took my friend’s friend’s suggestions and ordered what she thought was really delicious. Great recommendations! We shared the meze platter, which seemed like a popular dish. The meze platter (top right image) contained the following: fresh pita bread to accompany the three hearty dips: hummus, muhammara, and babaganush. I liked all three dips equally. They were fantastic! I’ve only had hummus before. The muhammara was made with roasted red peppers (not spicy). I’ve heard of babaganush before, but never had it. I didn’t know it was made with eggplant. It was delicious! The other dishes on the platter were: su borek, spanakopita, and peynir and karpuz. The su borek and spanakopita were pies, very similar to each other, but tasted completely different. The peynir and karpuz dish was very interesting. It was watermelon with feta cheese and Turkish olives, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Not my favorite on the platter because I’m not a huge fan of watermelon, but it was very fascinating to try. The balsamic vinegar made it easier to eat. We ordered the iskender doner dish (bottom right corner image), which was lamb/beef combo with rice pilaf, and a refreshing toss salad, with my fave, tzatziki sauce- whoo hoo! We had to order more pita bread at this point to eat with the tzatziki sauce. So, so good! We chowed down our delicious dishes with some very refreshing drinks: a caffeine-free organic hibiscus lychee iced tea (bottom left image) and a saffron lilikoi sorbet with prosecco. My friend ordered the latter and welcomed me to try it. I am getting that drink next time! Last, but not least, dessert. We saw a lot of images on Yelp of the hatay kunefe dish (top left image). From the looks of it, you wouldn’t think it’s a dessert. It looks like crispy noodles. It’s actually shredded phillo, which is a like a flaky pastry. Underneath the phillo, is glorious cheese, mixed with a honey syrup. Oh, goodness gracious! The shredded phillo is topped with crumbled Turkish pistachio and kaytay, which is a kind of thick whipped cream. Hatay kunefe is a small dish, but don’t let that fool you. It is super filling and rich!

What a meal! Everything was beyond fabulous! I can’t wait to dine there again to try more dishes. I love lamb! Istanbul Hawai’i is the perfect place to go, as there are a lot of lamb dishes on the menu, for both lunch and dinner.

To the land of the free… Happy Independence Day!

Stay safe!

FS x

Poi Cocktail Delight

Happy Last Sunday of June! Leon Day was on 06/25; “Noel” spelt backwards. Leon Day marks the halfway mark until Christmas Day. I can’t believe it’s almost that time of the year again.

I’ve got some exciting news to share! After much thought and research, I enrolled in culinary school at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts! According to multiple websites, this school is rated within the top 5-10 best culinary schools in the nation. Whoo hoo! This idea of culinary school came to mind last fall. It caught me by surprise, as the thought never crossed my mind before. But with time and prayer, I felt a calling to pursue this. I love how life is a never-ending odyssey of learning. It never gets boring and you’re never too old to learn new things.

For as long as I can remember, cooking and eating various ethnic foods has brought a lot of joy and excitement. Hence, why I started food blogging almost six years ago. I wanted a platform to share my dishes and the different ethnic foods I’ve tried with others, as well as generate inspiration not only with food, but with everyday life situations. Going forward, I’m very ecstatic to feature dishes I’ll be making in culinary school, and to share this wonderful journey I’m about to embark on. I want to shout out a thank you to all who visit, read, like, and support my blog and social media platforms. I am FOREVER APPRECIATIVE!

This week’s highlight is my practice assignment I need to submit for my orientation course. I wanted to showcase a creative dish from Hawai’i. I’ve decided to present a poi cocktail. As I mentioned in previous blog posts, poi is pounded taro or kalo, in Hawaiian. A poi cocktail is poi with vanilla ice cream. My favorite poi from Hoʻokuaʻāina is back! They had a taro shortage, thus they put a hold on selling poi and raw kalo. So happy they’re back. It felt like forever ago since I ate their poi. I missed it deeply. I’m excited to be creating a dessert dish with my favorite poi.

Until next time!

FS x

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Papa’s Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and father-figures! Hope you had a chillaxing day, doing absolutely NOTHING! We appreciate all that y’all do for us. Thank you, thank you!

My family and I are celebrating with my dad. My sister and I cooked steaks, seasoned with garlic pepper, and rack of lamb, marinated with teriyaki sauce. We’re using the Instant Pot air fryer combo we got my dad for Father’s Day last year. It has all kinds of cool features: air fry, bake, broil, and roast. We’re using ALL the features. So exciting!

I made a Greek yogurt sauce to complement the meats. Yum! That’s my favorite part about eating red meat, which I’m so excited to eat because I don’t have very often anymore. Red meat is a delightful treat. I was introduced to this delicious pairing when I went to Turkey in the summer of 2010 for a world conference.

The yogurt sauce is similar to the Greek tzatziki sauce. It’s very simple to make. I add my own simple touches to it to make it my own. I used plain Greek yogurt and seasoned it with garlic pepper, minced dried garlic, and dried dill. Voilà! All done! The sauce is so good, I can eat it by itself. Uh huh! You heard right!

Now, gotta have them veggies! We made green beans and brussel sprouts, cooked with garlic balsamic olive oil, onions,and garlic. Scrumptious! Now, that’s how you get people to eat their vegetables, haha!

We also had Portuguese sausage, the best sausage there is, in my opinion (I’m not a huge sausage fan) and shrimp tempura. The tempura was already pre-made, thanks to Costco. My dad cooked oysters in a buttery garlic sauce. Oh my! I was in heaven! I love oysters. We don’t eat it all the time. Whenever we do, I savor every bite! It’s a wonderful treat!

For dessert, my dad requested a haupia pie, which my sister bought. Haupia is a Hawaiian coconut dessert.

Time to grind all the delicious foods! Ciao!

Have a great week. Happy belated Juneteenth, now a federal holiday (yay!), and Happy Summer!

FS x

Afternoon Tea: I Feel Pretty!

I love afternoon tea. Everything about it is so elegant, dainty, and cute. Makes me feel like a princess. One of my travel goals is to have afternoon tea in England. That would be an experience of a lifetime. I can’t wait!

My favorite places to have afternoon tea on O’ahu are:

Each place has a unique feel, with a special experience. What they all have in common is that the dishes are scrumptious. And, the variety of teas are amazingly refreshing and soothing. Tea at 1024 is adorable. From what I remember, they have beautiful tea cups and saucers customers can choose from before being seated. They have a chest of accessories where customers can dress up: fairy wings, feather boas, tiaras, hats, and wands. It’s a fun place for any kind of event or even for just a casual hangout. And this place is not just enjoyed by females. I’ve brought some boyfriends there before and they’ve enjoyed themselves. Of course, they didn’t go crazy with the accessories, haha.

The Veranda is at the beautiful Kahala Hotel & Resort, fronting the exquisite outdoor area where you can see the dolphins, fishes, and turtles, with mini waterfalls. It’s a stunning place to take photos. It’s also next to the gorgeous beach. The Kahala is one of my favorite resorts. It’s tucked away in the quiet neighborhood of Kahala. The Veranda is an open-air restaurant. It’s an outstanding veranda; very sophisticated. While their food and tea are yummy, their afternoon tea price is the most expensive of the three.

Vintage Cave Café, an Italian-Japanese fusion restaurant, is at Ala Moana Center, the largest outdoor mall in Hawai’i. Vintage Cave Café is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a restaurant that’s a part of the Vintage Cave Club (VCC). The VCC is private society club for members only. Good news, you don’t need to be a member to dine at Vintage Cave Café. Phew! I was so relieved. The membership fees for the VCC is mind-boggling! Vintage Cafe Café has an affordable afternoon tea menu (featured image), which is less than $20! The atmosphere of the restaurant reminds me of being in Italy. I can’t wait until they reopen again. I’ve been longing for afternoon tea again.

Have a great week!

FS x

An Adventure in Fargo

Happy June and soon-to-be summer! The days are getting longer, which is the best part about summer. Though, I wish the sun would go down later in Hawai’i. It goes down a little past 7pm here, which I was used to until I started traveling. I remember being so amazed when the sun went down past 8pm whenever my family and I would travel to Las Vegas in the summer. When I traveled overseas, it was so cool to see the sun go down close to 10pm. It boggled my mind!

In the fall of 2019, I visited my dear friend in the Midwest. We went to a lovely district in Fargo (North Dakota) of restaurants and bars, and came across a Liberian restaurant, called A&E. We both had not eaten Liberian food before and decided to try it. We were both excited and had no idea what to expect.

The owner of the restaurant was a gem. She was friendly and kind to suggest dishes for us to try. We ordered: cassava leaf with rice, roasted meat, and plantains. It was a nice, quiet, and quaint place. Perfect for catching up.

The cassava leaf, which is not pictured, reminded me of both canned spinach and lu’au leaves, Hawaiian leaves, that is used to wrap the chicken, pork, or fish in lau lau. The cassava leaves had a similar texture and taste to the lu’au leaves- my favorite part of the lau lau . I also tried plantain for the first time (featured image). It was very yummy and sweet. It reminded me of banana lumpia, which is a Filipino dessert. The roasted meat was very tasty. I can’t wait to go back to try more food the next time I’m in town again.

I remember our evening together so vividly. It was a chilly fall night, one of my fave seasons. (The other being summer). Snow flurries fell from the clear evening sky. The stars were shining so brightly. Two great friends- a night on the town. It was beautiful.

I found this link: https://www.tasteatlas.com/most-popular-food-in-liberia. It has some interesting dishes I would like to try making. One of them is the Liberian peanut soup. It has peanut butter- my fave! I’m always game to make anything with PB!

It’s always an exciting adventure to explore different ethnic foods during my travels. That is the best part! I love being spontaneous, trying amazing and exotic foods, and then sharing about them with everyone. It’s a treat; a joy! And then, doing some research to find some dishes to make at home. It’s fun to experiment cooking various cuisines. It makes cooking very interesting and entertaining for me.

Have a great week!

FS x

Week Five of AAPI Heritage Month: Nepalese Food

We’re closing in on Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It’s been a wonderful month highlighting the culture I’m so proud to be apart of. I’ve learned about so many different resources, books, and movies that highlight the AAPI people. RepresentASIAN!!! I’m so happy that President Biden signed a bill to combat hate crimes against the AAPI population (the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act).

I’d like to also mention again that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the pandemic, especially this year, taking care of my mental health has become so important. Moreover, realizing that the little things we often take for granted are what we should be treasuring every single day. Things such as: socialization, companionship, and hugs. Those are part of the human make-up, we so desperately need.

Mental health should be openly spoken about and not looked upon as a negative stigma. Often times, people feel judged and criticized once they talk about mental health. That’s not right. My dream is that mental health would be openly discussed amongst people, freely and in a healthy, positive way. There are various support groups through mental health organizations, where people can meet and safe safe to discuss their experiences, but we need that same love and support from society.

This week’s AAPI cuisine feature is Nepalese food. I had two close friends (siblings) in graduate school who were from Nepal. While they resided here on O’ahu, they frequently invited me over to their home and made home-cooked Nepalese vegetarian food. They were so proud of their culture and country. And they were great cooks! They even taught my family and our friends how to eat with our hands. I guess they don’t really use utensils in Nepal. It was a bit strange, as I’m not used to eating with my hands, but it was an interesting experience. Likewise, my friends learned about the local culture here and were exposed to a variety of different ethnic foods. They often liked eating at Himalayan Kitchen in Kaimukī. I love that place. They became friendly with the staff. I’d always have a grand time hanging out with them. They brought so much joy and a sense of calmness whenever in our presence.

If you haven’t had Nepalese food, it’s very similar to Indian food. They are neighboring countries after all. That got me thinking, what’s the difference between the two cuisines? They seem so similar- and they are. I found this article that explains the difference: https://kitchenappliancehq.com/what-is-the-difference-between-indian-and-nepalese-food/. One thing Jeff Campbell states is that Nepalese food does not contain cream like Indian food does. That’s very true! A lot of Indian dishes have creamy textures. Next time I’m dining out at a combined Nepalese/Indian restaurant, I’ll be able to tell the difference.

Have a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer!

Cheers!

FS x

Week Four of AAPI Heritage Month: Filipino Grindz

Summer is right around the corner. Get ready for sunnier, longer, and hotter days. The best part about summer is the long days. I love when the sun goes down late in the evening. One summer, I’d love to visit Alaska, where the sun goes down right before midnight in some areas. That is mind-boggling! Imagine all the activities I could do late in the night.

This weekend, my dear friend and I had an impromptu dinner. We dined at Shay’s Filipino Cafe in Waipio. There’s also a new location in Honolulu- Kakaʻako. She introduced me to Filipino food many years ago and I loved it! My favorite dishes are: the pancit noodles, squid guisadong, and the sari sari soup. Pancit is a rice noodle stir fry dish, made with vegetables and meat. Super simple to make at home. Squid guisadong is sautéed squid with tomatoes, spinach, and onions. It’s so tasty! I have to order this dish at every Filipino restaurant. Sari sari soup includes squash, meat, seafood, and vegetables. It’s very hearty.

This week’s featured image includes two of my favorite dishes: pancit and squid guisadong. My girlfriend ordered pork guisantes, which was very yummy. It’s a dish made with pork, peas, and bell peppers, cooked in a tomato sauce.

We have a huge Filipino community in Hawai’i, with a lot of Filipino restaurants to choose from. My top two fave places are Thelma’s and Shay’s.

Can’t wait to explore the Filipino menu and try more yummy dishes.

Enjoy the last full week of May.

FS x