Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.
Showing posts with label Cooking School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cooking School. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Passions, Dreams and Italian Cooking

Maybe someday I would write my own cookbook. Maybe it wasn’t as impossible as it used to seem since so many bloggers had proven otherwise. Sometimes I just want to sit down and write and write and write some more. Now sitting on my bed typing just by staring at the bright screen against the endless darkness of my room, I feel so euphoric. At times when I was bit with writing bug, I found my hands itching but the time ticking away regardless of whether I had the chance to hit the keyboard or not. So usually my blog is deprived, so were my readers (let me assume here alright) and my writing alter ego too while the other parts of my life thrives. I guess sometimes we do have to balance here and there but nothing beats coming down to just do what you like. After all did we not have a word for that? Oh ya, passion. I hope I will never forget mine and someday, just someday I will have a cookbook published in my name, various articles of my food writing in notable places while I am running a full fledged food business. Oh no, did I just spilled out all my hopes and dreams here? Ah, this abyss-like room is starting to get into my head.

Anyway speaking of writing, recently I have just went to a cooking demo by Chef Federico Michieletto, a corporate chef for the infamous Tai Thong group in Malaysia that had just recently launched a cookbook named Pasta My Italy. This Italian Pastas and Desserts cooking demo was actually organized by my high school, Convent Taiping’s alumni. At first I was a tad bit lazy to go all the way to KL of a place I do not know of early in the morning but luckily a close friend of mine is to take pictures of the event, therefore I chug alongside happily. Armed with the map in my PDA (which shocked my friend who said she is still all pen-and-paper girl); we got to the place with another friend in time for the demo.

It started with the Chef introducing himself where he also brought along a sidekick, named Ming (who reminds me of one celebrity chef) and I found the Chef really funny and charming while his sidekick was quiet. We started off with desserts as both of them requires some chilling time to be done, so we hoped to have it set by the time we finish our session. It was more than I can hope for to kick start with my favourite parts, especially the Chef from Italy himself is to show us the classic Tiramisu! Something I had always wanted to make but never quite did, which now I should kick myself for as it is really so easy! All you need is a good recipe, strong arms for whipping and you are all done, oh and don’t forget the fridge. Then he also shows us the basic version of panna cotta served only with fresh fruits (Chef said that this is how they like it in Italy), a taste of it was certainly a surprise to me as it was really creamy, smooth and soft, do not judge a book by its cover!

To sum up the lessons for desserts:

1. A chef always taste what he cooks, or you would never know whether it is good or not
2. Hand whipping of cream produce superior results than machine, besides the point where you can easily over-whipped with a machine where when it does, the cream will split and all is lost. As the chef continued to explained, cream is made up of fat and water, and when it split, technically you have just remove the water and accidentally made butter! Nothing too bad but that is not what you want for Tiramisu eh?
3. Just dip the sponge fingers quickly in the espresso each time, where if you snap it in half you can see that the inside are still dry and hard, this is what you want as later on it will soak on all the liquid goodness from the cheese and cream and becomes soft and yummy like how a Tiramisu should be.

Then into the huge refrigerators these babies went and we continued to pastas! The Chef and his helper Ming did an amazing feat of cooking two pasta dishes nearly at one go each time. He gave a lot of tips in various areas of basic Italian pasta cooking, which makes me go ohhhh and ahhhh. Here are the summaries of what I can remember and which had me really going with the expressions mentioned.

1. The way that usual experts (note: chef) usually takes pasta out of their packet is by – Chef proceeded to hitting the packet of pasta real hard at one end onto the table and voila, the other end popped out pastas in perfect form.
2. Hold the pasta together and lower it into the middle of the pot and then let go to flow all around like flowers – the right way to boil pasta

3. In order to achieve the perfect ‘al dente’, Chef does it by ‘look’, while us the lesser humans can use the trick of throwing it onto a wall and if it sticks, it is done! Honest! The real al-dente version that the Italians like (Chef claimed) is slightly more on the harder side (with the core still not fully cooked), which he did for his first two dishes for us to try, where many claimed not to their palate but for me it was quite toothy and full of texture in fact.
4. Classic carbonara does not have cream in it (in fact loads of egg yolks) and therefore should be yellowish in oppose to white sauce ones which we found in most carbonara dishes out in the restaurants in Malaysia
5. Carbonara loves black pepper a lot
6. One trick from Chef is that they usually reuse the water used to boil the pasta during the cooking of the sauce – later on deduce by me to have the bit of pasta flavor in as well as clever reuse of the salty water plus bringing some of the ‘flour’ from the pasta into the sauce to make more smooth
7. Oh and by the way, Chef said to boil pasta with added salt, usually in ratio of 5 parts water with 1 part salt (very much more than I have ever used!)
8. For the Aglio Olio, it is usually just plain garlic and olive oil but Chef found that Malaysians love more flavors, thus he usually adds in some chopped chilies, dried chili flakes, chopped parsleys and torned basil leaves
9. Oh ya, basil leaves are usually add in at the end, torned and never cut/slice to retain its natural flavor (mm, I love basil! Think Thai)
10. Arrabiata means angry therefore he named the dish Penne Arrabiata as “Angry Penne”, which I found amusing

10. Normally pastas with chilies in it do not need additional black pepper, either too much spiciness ofrclash in terms of 'spiciness' differences
11. One more special trick from Chef is that the pit inside the garlic is the main reason of the smell that lingers in your mouth, so remove it if you want to have loads of garlic but still kiss after dinner
12. We should also try to remove the seeds from the chilies and the chilies flakes as it is hard to digest

Alright that’s about it that I can remember for now, the bed starts to feel more inviting than my writing bug. There you have it, the real Italian cooking pastas and desserts.

Update: Recipes can be found at our Convent Taiping Alumni blog.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bangkok: Cooking School

I finally succumbed to it. I went for a cooking course in Bangkok. The idea had flit through my mind on and off, whenever I read through a blog, browsed through a food site or flipped through a magazine. I would be not fair to myself and my blog readers if I do not go and learn the secrets of Thai Cooking right?

I researched the net for the cooking school that would suit me, finally settling for Silom Cooking School because it has the most reasonable price with good review as well. Extra bonus is that it includes local market shopping beforehand.

My cooking instructor, N, a really sweet guy, guided me to his place and paid for the fare as well as he could not pick me from my busy hotel at Sukhumvit road.Once there, I joined up with a family from Hong Kong, a lady with her husband, daughter of six and mother (or in-law, I’m not sure). They are really a nice bunch and it was great fun learning cooking with them.

The first session was we head straight to a small local market near N’s place. First thing we bought is freshly grated coconut for our curries. Then N proceeds to explain the various kinds of curry paste used in Thai cooking. He says that there are 3 common curry pastes: green, red and yellow. All are nearly the same except that green paste is made from fresh green chillies while the red paste is from dried red chillies and the yellow paste added with turmeric for color. It does sound simple the way he said it.


Then we head out to the vegetable stall, where it seems like N’s usual place to go for the students as the lady at the stall knows what to get for him straight away. She was also oblivious to N poking at her vegetables while explaining to us about it. N explained various Thai herbs to various gingers as well as various eggplants.


Each of us had a little basket to do our market shopping. Here is my bountiful basket herbs and spices:


After that we lug our basket of treasures back to his place. I was impressed by the beautiful cooking place setup.


Everything was nicely plan, with one room for wet preparation, such as pressing coconut juice included with a place to wash the vegetables.


Another room was for the dry preparations such as cutting, pounding and so on. At the dry preparation, we are all rationed from the tray with what is needed to cook our one-portion dish. Then N showed us what to do with it.

Then we head out with our tray and do some cooking. Here is my final own cooked version of Tom Kha Gai (coconut milk chicken). It is my first time eating this dish so I can’t judge with the authentic ones out there, but this soup is definitely a filling one. I could not finish the coconut milk.


Next I dished up another one-person portion of Gai Pad Med Mamuang (Fried Cashew Nut with Chicken).


Then N explained on various Thai rice and how each is cooked and consumed. Then he proceeds to show how they traditionally steam the sticky rice.


Next N showed us how to make Yam Wun Sen (Spicy Mungbean Noodle Salad). It is served nicely presented with the now-cooked sticky rice.


Next we shared make Thod Mun Pla (Fried Fish Cakes). The process was a bit messy but the finish product, once again nicely presented by N, was definitely a delicious sight and delicious to eat as well. We also get to make the Thai Sweet Chilly Sauce to accompanied it ourselves.


Next we prepare the red curry paste and then dished up Kang Phet Gai (Red Curry Chicken).


Finally, courtesy from N as I requested, he taught me how to make Som Tam. How can I missed this beloved dish right? I get to pok-pok the salad together. Turn out it is really simple, now I am going to go against what I preach, and make one for myself at home soon.


So that’s the end of my experience in Silom Cooking School. I had tremendous fun and would like to thank N for the wonderful dishes and expanded waistline. N also gave us his own compiled recipes before we leave, how thoughtful. So what is the secret of Thai cooking? The secret lies in fresh local ingredients. That’s all really. Everything else is really simple and easy, especially if you know Asian way of cooking. Now when am I going to make these dishes at home as I promised to J?

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