Thursday, August 19, 2010


I could live on a diet of frozen treats. Preferably this meal plan would consist of Ben & Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Chunk, Phileo taro flavored frozen yogurt topped with red bean followed by cake batter flavored frozen yogurt topped with graham cracker crumbs, Ryan’s Homemade Ice Cream praline and cream ice cream, and Il Laboratorio pistachio gelato. In college, I gained the Freshman 15 by eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every other day. I don’t regret a single pound of it-- most of the time.

I grew up eating Breyer’s Vanilla Ice Cream and what I loved about Breyer’s is that their ice cream had actual vanilla beans in it. I thought I was so much cooler for having ice cream with black little specks in it than my other friends who, I was sure, had pedestrian vanilla ice cream in their freezers. Now that summer is winding down, I don’t see that as a reason to start segueing into fall foods. Let’s celebrate the end of summer with more ice cream!

I hadn't had vanilla ice cream in awhile so I decided to try David Lebovitz's recipe since his recipes are so popular with the food blogging crowd. This one called for a vanilla bean, which was perfect given that I wanted black specks in my ice cream. There are few things better than fresh churned homemade ice cream. The texture is creamier than the store bought version, and it's richer. The addition of vanilla bean adds a robust flavor and I will add another one the next time I make this to give it an even more pronounced vanilla flavor.

This was my first time making a custard base ice cream and here are some things that I learned:
  • Temper the eggs slowly. In my excitement to have homemade ice cream as soon as possible, I poured too much of the hot cream into the eggs. I highly recommend starting off with a tablespoon or two in order to avoid scrambled eggs.

  • Alcohol is essential to achieve a soft consistency so I added a tablespoon of vodka. Without the alcohol, the ice cream will be rock hard.

  • If you don't have an ice cream maker (or if you break it like I did), you can simply pour the chilled custard into a shallow baking pan (I used an 8x8 and put mine in the freezer overnight) and stir every half hour. The key here is to break apart the frozen pieces which will give you a smoother consistency. Otherwise, your ice cream will be icy so be sure to mix thoroughly. For this recipe, it took about an hour for the ice cream to freeze.
Now that I've finally tried David's recipe, I'm certain that I will give the rest in his book, The Perfect Scoop, a try. Here’s to the “Quarter Life 15” I’m sure to gain; I’m going to revel in every pound.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Yields one quart

1 c. whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 c. sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 c. heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.

2. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.

6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I'm a restaurant groupie. If I hear that the owner of a favorite eatery is opening a new restaurant, I stalk that spot like a fat kid stalks the cake at a birthday party. I will read up on any leaked details, follow the planning process and mark my calendar so I can go during the first week it goes public. Eddie Huang's latest endeavor, Xiao Ye, opened while I was away in China. Luckily, my friend Diana suggested we go there for dinner the week after I returned to the States. I was thrilled at the prospect of trying Xiao Ye’s take on late night food found at Taiwanese markets.

I always read reviews on Yelp prior to going to a restaurant. I like to know what people did and didn't like and I like to get an idea of what to expect in terms of food, service and atmosphere. Unfortunately, the reviews weren't too stellar. At all. I must admit, after reading them, I was a bit apprehensive about going to Xiao Ye. A few discontent eaters would be understandable, but if the overall consensus is more “ehhh” than “yay!” ? I looked at Eddie's blog and read this, "I won't put out food that isn't 100 and when we do open, I guarantee it'll be perfect." Then reviewers be damned because as a frequent diner at Baohaus, I know that Eddie can produce delicious food.

Diana and I went on a Thursday night and the restaurant was packed. The place is tiny and hip hop is the music of choice. Personal photos adorn one side of the wall and I laughed when I saw a few FOB-y childhood photos because I could totally relate. There's nothing quite like growing up being first generation and having Asian parents. I'm sure Eddie could relate to my childhood: my parents left the plastic on lampshades, we had a vinyl tablecloth on the kitchen table, the stove was covered with tinfoil, and our Tupperware consisted of old margerine tubs and jam jars. I grew up eating chicken feet and fighting with my brother over who got to eat the fish's eyeball. There wasn't any fish on the menu so I wouldn't have to fight with Diana over the eyeball but... she probably would be more than happy to let me have it.

Forget Yelp. Let’s review my choices here:

First, the Brick Sit on Wall Tofu: The deep-fried tofu's crunchy exterior, its silky innards and the combination of sweet chili sauce and peanut powder made me wish that Diana and I weren't sharing everything. Note to self: order this as my appetizer next time (emphasis on my).

Next? Help U Poo Poo Greens: Snow pea leaves with garlic. At first I thought, $9 for veggies? These better be dericious (chinglish speak, according to Eddie, for delicious), I better get more than just a few leaves and it best help me poo. I won't comment on the last criterion but the first two were definitely met.

Then, Big Trouble in Hainan Chicken: When Diana suggested ordering this dish, I wasn't too enthused. I've had horribly dry chicken at restaurants way too many times to order it anymore. Furthermore, I thought back to my experience in China three years ago. My aunt has a maid whose daily market run involved buying groceries and a chicken that I would, imaginatively, name Chicken Little. I'd say hi to the it as I passed by during the day and, come dinner time, what do I see? Chicken Little dead and completely naked on the kitchen counter! I gagged when I saw her gorgeous feathers in the trashcan and could not eat chicken that night or for the rest of my month that I was there. I made a mental note to never name and acknowledge any living creature that I would possibly eat.

The method used to cook Chicken Little is essentially the same used to cook Hainan Chicken. I'm not one to pass up trying any kind of food so I put that horrible memory behind me and tried a small bite. I then proceeded to eat most of it even though Diana and I were supposed to be sharing it. The chicken was incredibly moist without a dry piece in sight and the dipping sauces were so good that I wanted to drink the house made red chili sauce. And the rice! Oh, the rice! I normally don't care for rice. I never order it. I never make it at home or eat it when I'm at Chinese restaurants. I know; I'm Asian so I'm supposed to eat rice like it's crack. It just does nothing for me. That all changed when I had the chicken rice that is served with the Hainan Chicken. The large bowl of rice is so ridiculously flavorful that I want to eat it at every meal from now on like what a good Chinese person should do.

Diana, ready to dive into the shaved ice.

For dessert? Taiwanse Shaved Ice. We were pleasantly surprised when we were presented with dessert on the house. It must have been obvious that I was a restaurant groupie and the obvious way to my heart is via food, specifically dessert. The mountain of fluffy shaved ice served as the perfect complement to the strawberries, tapioca balls, and mango flan. The condensed milk that is drizzled on the top of this concoction adds the necessary element that really makes this dish a dessert. The shaved ice isn't your typical tiny two scoops of ice cream; it's huge. Given the humidity that evening, it was a refreshing and light way to end the meal.

Due to the Yelp reviews I left my high expectations at the door and hoped to leave Xiao Ye satisfied and content. Instead, I left in bliss from experiencing food that exceeded my expectations and I left dreaming about my next visit, knowing that I'd have to come back to eat Chicken Little's brother sooner rather than later.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I love olive oil so much that I often use bread as a vessel (read: excuse) to eat it in large amounts. But olive oil in sweets? I tried the famous olive oil ice cream at Babbo and wasn't a fan; the flavor was just too overwhelming. I felt as though I was straight up eating olive oil. It wasn't until I tried the olive oil cake at Abraço Coffee Shop that I discovered the true decadence of olive oil in a dessert. Its cake is brilliant; it has a subtle hint of nuttiness, a bit of sweetness and it's moist. If you've ever had the pleasure of trying Abraço's olive oil cake, you'll find that this recipe isn't as dense as the one served at the coffee shop. Theirs is more like a pound cake while this one is a a lot lighter with a looser crumb.

I recently made the olive oil cake for my relatives and Asians tend to find traditional American desserts too sweet for their palate but this cake was perfect for my family. I'll always be a carboholic but I just might start using cake as my olive oil vessel instead of bread.

Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from September 2009 Bon Appétit, from Abraço Coffee Shop

8 to 10 servings

1 1/2 c. organic unbleached white flour
1 c. organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 large organic eggs
3/4 cup organic whole milk
1/2 cup mild-flavored organic olive oil
2 teaspoon finely grated orange peel

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Oil and flour a 9×5×3-inch metal loaf pan.
2. Combine eggs, milk, olive oil, and orange peel in medium bowl and whisk to blend. Gradually whisk egg mixture into dry ingredients. Transfer to prepared pan.
3. Bake Cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 60-65 minutes.
4. Cool in pan on rack 20 minutes. Invert pan to remove cake. Cool completely, top side up.