Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jayeon Bread Part II

Hey, remember the raisin starter I made in my Jayeon bread post? I baked two more items from the book.

This is Hottoek, a Korean pancake. The recipe uses glutinous rice flour. I followed the recipe except for the pine nuts and cinnamon and managed to achieve this. The taste was awesome. The dough was extremely hard to handle. Very, very sticky. Unfortunately, I got sick the next day because I can't eat glutinous rice. It jams up my digestive system. If I were to make it again, I would skip the glutinous rice flour.

I used some of the starter to make pancakes. I wasn't really expecting much because it's pancakes. I added blueberries which kept popping out of the batter. How do you get the blueberries to stay in the batter while it's cooking? The taste was better than expected!

Do you know Peaceful Cuisine from youtube? He is Ryoya, a hipster vegan from Japan. He has a video for raisin starter bread, very similar to Jayeon bread recipe. I used my raisin starter to make his whole wheat bread. Videos here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

My results weren't very good. I thought my dough was a bit dry but somehow I failed to address it and popped it in the oven. No surprise the bread looked dry. Taste wise, my Jayeon bread was better.

Remember my Alex Goh's bread I made from Magic Bread? I used my Jayeon starter to bake the sweet buns and to my surprise, the buns turned out a lot smaller. I think the reason is I did not let my dough bulk ferment in the fridge. Anyway, the buns taste very similar to the sweet buns made without the starter. I'm chasing the taste now and if it makes no difference I would not bother going to the trouble of using the Jayeon starter.

After feeding the Jayeon starter a few more times, I realised that the resulting bread tastes sour. It seems the older the starter, the more sour it gets. I decided I didn't like the taste of the sourness so I abandoned my Jayeon bread starter. Maybe later I may go back and explore it some more. Meanwhile my eyes have caught another shiny object. Can you guess what it is?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Eat Drink Sleep


If you've read my Star Wars Run post, you might have noticed I've gained weight. In fact, nowadays I dare not weigh myself anymore. But, just in case you think I've been irresponsible and stuffing my face with snacks and whatnot, let me explain. This weight gain is legit. See? I even put it in italics so you know for sure it's legit.

Before I dive into my excuses, I am happy to tell you I was able to exchange my wrong medal for the correct one. So I'm able to get on with my life now.

And I've got my official results from the Star Wars run. I think I did pretty good! Seriously though, I wish I can run faster. Losing some weight will help. Well, currently the situation is more of a stop gaining more weight.

Speaking of which...

Sometime in July 2015, two years ago, I started having headaches at the back of my head, on the right hand side. At that time, the headaches came with my digestive problems which my doctors said could be just one of the many symptoms of gastritis. So when I complained of headaches, the doctors  told me to take panadol (paracetamol). Then in August last year, the thing happened with my gallbladder. So it ended up being removed which turned out to be a good thing because most of my digestive issues disappeared. I thought my headaches would disappear as well. But they returned. At first, slowly, then surely.

This year it got real bad. Sometimes I had them daily. Sometimes the whole day. Sometimes a few hours. It didn't matter. It was hell to me. Some days the headaches disappeared. Like during my Hong Kong trip? Zero headaches. A week after I came back, the headaches returned with a vengeance and would not stop. Every day and every day, they came. Sometimes they spread and that meant I would spend the whole day in bed. Panadols didn't work. The pain just got worse and worse and always the headache started at the same spot - at the back of my head. And all I could do was wait it out. Wait for it to go away.

One day in April I found myself googling for painless way to die. That was when I realised this was serious. I was in too much pain. I couldn't handle it anymore. I made an appointment with the polyclinic to get a referral to a specialist. Surely some doc out there can cure me?

Some days, the Universe is good to me. At the polyclinic, I barely sat down when my number was called. What? No waiting time? My doctor was a sympathetic woman. She listened to my story and finally said I had better see a neurologist. Usually I wait months before I get an appointment to see a specialist. Again, the Universe had my back. I got to see a doctor the following week. What?

The verdict? The doctor said he suspects my headache is due to a deterioration in certain segments of my neck and spine. I had a MRI 10 years ago which he could view. Anyway, the doctor suggests I try a medicine which he said is effective for his patients with similar problems. There are patients with similar problems? Music to my ears. If the medicine does not work, I'll have to go for a MRI. (which I am so hoping to avoid - isn't it like lying in a coffin?)

So I tried the new meds. Thankfully, it's quite inexpensive. The first week I took half dose. It didn't work. The headaches came fast and furious. The first day after my full dose, still the headaches came. After that, suddenly, magically, the headaches stopped. I couldn't believe it myself. I shake my heads vigorously just to be sure the headaches aren't lurking around. Nope. The headaches stayed away. The pain in the neck and shoulders which come with the headaches stayed though. Actually it's almost as if the headaches continue to come but I can't feel them anymore. Occasionally I feel shadows of the headache but they never push through.

To fix my neck issues, I went to a physiotherapy. Unfortunately, the therapist made things worse. So I won't be seeing him again.

I've been taking the meds for a few weeks already and I found myself with all these pain free hours while I'm awake. I was worried one day the meds might stop working so I've been making full use of my pain free hours. I started looking at my bag pattern making. The last time I made a serious attempt to revive my bag pattern making was before I went to the hospital for my gallbladder. I entered the hospital a bag pattern maker and emerged a baker. Yes, that's what happened to me. Maybe I was a bit insane in August last year because when I looked at the stuff I was working on, they were like gibberish. So I scrapped everything and started from scratch. I have to say this. Writing instructions is so much work. The details! If the meds carry on working, who knows? I might even publish a new bag pattern this year.

The one bad thing about the meds? It makes me sleepy. I have to sleep like 12 hours at least for the sleepiness to wear off. If I sleep less than 12 hours, I'm like a zombie all day. Did I say there's one bad thing? There are actually two. One of the side effects of this pill is sudden unexpected weight gain. Not exactly something I'm happy about. It's not that taking the pill itself results in the weight gain. It's that my appetite increases and a lot of food starts to taste good to me. I have all these desires to eat whatever I wanted. It's quite scary because I really don't want to get fat. Anyway, I did indeed gain weight because many times I gave in to my appetite.

Yesterday I went back to see the doctor again and he says I need to try acupuncture since physiotherapy didn't work out. I can't wait to feel needles all over my neck. <shiver> The doctor says I cannot sleep 12 hours a day. He has come up with a solution. I have to take the medication earlier. As simple as that. The doctor also warned me that the possibility of me becoming very, very fat is very, very real. It's one of the side effects of the medication. I am very, very scared. He gave me a strategy to counter my insatiable hunger. Drink water. Thanks doc!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Star Wars Run 2017

I'm not a fan of Star Wars. <faint> I've always resisted Star Wars. The only Star Wars movie I saw was The Force Awakens. I didn't think it was a good movie. Kinda boring. But that's me.

Hubs on the other hand is a Star Wars fan. I was unaware of that when I married him... Anyhoos, as if to make up for my lack of interest, I gave him a daughter who is a legit Star Wars fan. Ha ha.

This year I became quite lazy and barely exercised. I think it was due to lack of signing up for runs. They motivate me to drag my ass to the canal to run my 5km. So when hubs asked me to sign up for the Star Wars run, I said okay. You get to choose between light and dark side. <Apparently, this is a big deal - light side, dark side> I took the light side because of course hubs wanted to be the dark side. I got a green stuffed toy....

 My green toy is called Yoda.
Hubs' black toy is called Darth Vader.

Yoda and Darth Vader are big deal in Star Wars. I think my green toy is cuter.

One thing hubs neglected to tell me or maybe I forgot was the Star Wars run is a night run.
What's nice about a night run is you don't have to wake up early. What's bad about a night run is it took place at 7pm so I didn't get to eat my dinner. I was HUNGRY.

Our starting point was at an open space next to Marina Bay Sands. The light side and dark side were separated. Some die-hards came in costumes or held light saber. I don't know how they manage to run in cloaks, knee high boots and one woman in sandals. Very dedicated.

The best part of the run was just before flag off, there were fireworks. It really got my adrenaline pumping because I ran unnecessarily fast. So after what felt like 5km, I discovered I had only covered 2km.

The guests at the flag off were Kylo Ren and Chewbaca. One of the reasons I resisted Star Wars movies in the past was credited to Chewbaca. I simply couldn't understand how a monkey like creature was an alien. My mind just refused to accept it. I know. It's a very strange reason.

The Star Wars Run t-shirt I wore was made of a terrible material. I sweated horribly and I am someone who doesn't sweat much. After a few km, I had to tie up my hair in pigtails because I felt myself burning up.

Thanks to my hunger, I ran all the way and did not walk at all. I thought I was giving it my all when into the 6th km, a runner growled at me: "Slow runners, please keep to the left." So humiliating.

Hubs who finished way ahead of me only managed a blurry back shot of me. I'm the one on the right.

I had expected my timing to be a lot worse because I hadn't been training and I have gained weight. I am very pleased with the result. It's more or less the same timing as my first 10km last year.

After the run, I was very disappointed there wasn't any sports drink. Just water and coconut drink. I can't take any coconut products. It's poison to my body. But there was vitagen and yogurt. I was starving.

After the run, hubs insisted on going to the Gardens by the Bay to see the Star Wars exhibits. Except so were thousands of people. We squeezed here and there and managed to see this machine thing. I don't understand it but it made hubs happy. What made me laugh my head off was a female passer by accidentally brushed her arm against hubs' wet and slippery body and she felt so grossed out. She had no idea what she touched so that made it super worse for her.

Finally we headed for the MRT but thanks to hubs we went the super long way and ended up having to take an extremely long escalator. I have a height phobia and nothing scares me more than an extremely long escalator. Of course hubs took a video of my suffering.

When I was on the train home, I looked at my medal and realised the idiots at the Star Wars Run counters at the finish line had given me the wrong medal. I know I went to the right queue because a guy in front of me was told he was in the wrong queue - 4.5km which was next to mine. I looked up to check my queue was the 10km queue. THREE people checked my bib before giving me the medal. I was so tired I simply chucked the medal in my pouch. I wished I had checked. The wrong medal ruined it for me.

Friday, April 14, 2017

No Knead, No Commercial Yeast Bread with Raisin Liquid Starter

You probably don't know this but since last year I've been trying to bake a sourdough bread. I say trying because I kept failing. And failing. The problem is the sourdough starter.

This is just one of many starter failures. I tried Peter Reinhart's formula. I discovered pineapple juice is not something you want to add to your starter. A swarm of flies will enter your home. I cursed Peter Reinhart upside down. I tried another Peter Reinhart's formula, this time without pineapple juice. I don't know what happened. Scary stuff grew on the starter. I followed The Perfect Loaf's formula. The starter did not smell good. Also stuff grew on the starter. I tried Dean Brettschneider's Bread formula. I forgot what went wrong. There were many other tries, following this youtuber or that book author. Nothing worked.

Finally I followed Richard Miscovich's formula and managed to produce a starter which didn't look like something died. I made a levain out of it. Unfortunately, the loaf of bread I baked came out of the oven so heavy that I knew right away it was wrong. The inside of the bread looked weird, totally inedible. I don't know what I did wrong. Was it Singapore weather? Finally I decided to give sourdough starter a break and look for alternatives.

I found this book Jayeon Bread at the bookstore and it looked interesting enough to me to buy it. The starters in the book are made from fruits. I chose raisins because the success rate is higher. I followed everything the book said. Boiled the jar and utensils. Used organic products. My first try. I had huge amount of mould growing on the raisins. I wanted to cry. I had to discard the raisins. My second try, I had better luck but after 7 days I still couldn't hear any sounds coming from the raisins. Plus some mould kept coming back. I did some major googling and found some answers. The book said to stir the raisins once a day. Actually you have to give the contents a good shake. A stir is not going to deter the mould in Singapore climate. I did that and boom! Success. No mould.

See my raisins have started to float.

On the 7th day, I felt the liquid was ready to be used because if you put your ear next to the jar, you can hear lots of sizzling sounds. I've never heard anything more beautiful. The smell of the liquid starter is a bit like wine. Very pleasant. The ones that failed previously had a bad smell.

Getting the liquid starter to work is only the first part of the journey. Next, I had to use the liquid to mix with bread flour (1:1) to produce a refreshed starter. This is similar to a sourdough starter. I had to discard/feed the refreshed starter at least one day before I can use it to bake. On the third day, I carefully measured out 110g of refreshed starter to make White Pan Bread. I felt it was safest to bake something easy.

This is my refreshed starter. Just look at all the bubbles.

This is my final dough after everything is mixed together by hand. It looks like there's a lot of dirt in it. It's just the lighting. The "dirt" is actually tiny bubbles. I was a bit concerned it's quite floppy. I left it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I looked at the dough and it had risen quite a bit. Wow, the magic of time. I shaped it as well as I could into an oval shape to fit in a loaf pan. The dough was really hard to manage as it had the tendency to flop and spread out. I let it rise a bit more at room temperature. I think it took about 2 hours before I became impatient and put it in the oven.

Success! The bread is not gummy in any way. The texture is not bad. The most important thing - it's edible! I'll be honest. This is not the tastiest bread I've ever eaten. It's just plain white bread. But I almost cried when I realised I had succeeded because I've had so many failures. Finally my dream of baking bread without any commercial yeast has come true. I feel like I created life! And the most amazing thing about this bread? I didn't even do any kneading.

The Jayeon Bread book has a formula for sourdough. I think I will try that next. You never know, 20th time (I've lost count) lucky?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Café de Coral or was it Café from hell?

Another Hong Kong food post. Don't worry. It's the last one. I'm a bit sick of it myself.

Okay, this happened on the day we went to Disneyland. We left Disneyland in the late afternoon to go to Tung Chung which was just two MTR stations away. Hubs wanted to look for sneakers at the factory outlets. Our intention was to go back to Disneyland at night to catch the fireworks.

We decided to get our dinner as well. The shopping mall we were at (I think it was Citygate) was huge but none of the expensive restaurants called out to me. Finally, in desperation, we ate at McDonalds. The fries tasted different by the way, less crispy.

After our meal, I was attracted to a walkway which led to another mall. Hubs saw a sign for "Café de Coral" and he said some blogger had recommended it and it was too bad we had already eaten because it was a place he wanted to try. I thought about it and I didn't want hubs to regret not eating at Café de Coral. I mean, we were there so I decided that we should go have a light meal at the cafe since we were never going to be in the area again.

Upon entry, we saw the menu on one wall and I decided to try C1 while hubs opted for L4. The menu had English translations so I was very happy about that. We had to order at the cashier and pay immediately. After payment, the cashier gave me a piece of paper with our order and waved us off.

I walked further in and figured that I had to go to the kitchen counter to hand over my order chit to the kitchen crew. Hubs went to get us a table. It was free-seating. A male kitchen crew took my order chit away and started putting stuff on a tray. The default drink for my order was a milky concoction which I didn't want. The other options were iced lemon tea or just tea. I tried to explain to the male kitchen crew that I wanted iced lemon tea and discovered he couldn't understand any English or Mandarin. After a lot of pointless exchange going nowhere, another male kitchen crew popped his head from behind and asked if I wanted "black tea". He spoke Mandarin! Black tea was close enough so I accepted it.

My order of French toast came and the kitchen crew waved me away.  I told him I had another order but he kept waving me away. I pointed to the container of fulfilled order chit and asked for mine back but of course he didn't understand a word. I decided to look for hubs. I was kinda close to tears already. I told hubs that I was not given his order and the order chit was taken away from me. We went back to the counter and I kept pointing to the order chit bin until eventually, the kitchen crew found my order chit and he gave me hub's order which consisted of a glutinous rice soup, a chicken wing and a samosa. Except I was given two items instead of three. The samosa was missing. The male kitchen crew kept pointing to some Chinese words on the order chit and asked me what it was. It was very puzzling. He kept asking me what the words were. I had no idea how to read the words. We were going nowhere. Finally, the head waitress was summoned. She scolded the kitchen crew for not being able to read the words. Actually, neither could she. She made a phone call and the person over the phone told her what it was - curry something. The samosa! After telling the kitchen crew what the missing order was, the head waitress left. Hubs went back to the table and I stood waiting.

Eventually an older female kitchen crew started talking to me in Cantonese. I couldn't understand what she was saying. Although I understand a teeny tiny itsy bit of Cantonese, the locals speak rapidly in bursts. Couldn't catch a word. I looked around for the Mandarin speaking guy but he had disappeared. Her voice grew louder and louder and I wasn't sure if she was scolding me. Probably. Eventually, another female kitchen crew was summoned from the kitchen. She was literally pushed towards me. I heard her protesting in Cantonese that she couldn't speak English. Anyway, she used some hand gestures to indicate that I should go, sit down and eat. The missing samosa would be brought to me. I don't know how I understood her but I did. So I went to sit down.

I don't know how I could still smile because the inability to understand the crew or get myself understood really wore me down.

Eventually hub's samosa arrived. He must be the first person to ever order it. I think hubs enjoyed his food.

My tea and french toast were quite horrible. The french toast strangely had peanut butter on it. Who puts peanut butter in french toast? Later I realised that the menu did state that the french toast came with peanut butter. I was too blind to see it.

The restaurant is really spacious and comfortable. If only the food tasted better and I didn't have to go through hell to get it.

The funny thing is the next two days, nearly everywhere we went in Hong Kong, there was a Café de Coral.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tim Ho Wan

There are so many Tim Ho Wan outlets in Singapore that it's a bit ridiculous to go to a Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong. Right? But someone, I forgot who, once told me the Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong makes better food than the branches in Singapore. And the selection is far wider. Ridiculous, right? I felt outraged enough to seek out a Tim Ho Wan outlet in Hong Kong.

We were on our last day and time was not on our side. In the end, we went to the outlet at Central because it was convenient. Except it was so hard to find.

We kept going back to this map but it was no help. Eventually we asked a guide working at the mall and she gave us directions. We still missed the correct escalator but hubs saw another escalator further away and once we figured that out, we managed to find Tim Ho Wan.

There were 2 queues outside the restaurant. One was to pay and the other one was for entry. We had gone through so much trouble to find the restaurant so we queued up.

While in the queue, we were handed an order chit. Since we were familiar with Tim Ho Wan food, we knew what to order. There were menus with photos available as well. The food selection looks more or less the same as what we get in Singapore.

The restaurant was incredibly cramped. We didn't get our own individual table and was stuck in a community row. On my right were four large Filipinos. On my left was a large Chinese man with two women. They spoke Cantonese.

After we got in, the queue outside grew even longer!

We ordered two cups of Chinese tea (HK$3 total) and were given two empty tea cups. When I asked for the tea, the waitress said to take from the teapot on the table. When hubs tried to take the teapot closest to us which was from the table of the Cantonese customers, one of the women held on to the teapot, scolded him and wouldn't let hubs have it. So hubs had to take the teapot from the Filipinos who didn't mind. It was very weird. In Singapore's Tim Ho Wan, none of this shit will happen. The waitress pours tea into our tea cup and if you need a refill, you'll just have to ask for it. Sometimes, a waitress goes around refilling your tea anyway.

Steamed rice rolls stuffed with barbecued pork or as we call it in Singapore, Chee Cheong Fun. In Singapore, a different diluted soy sauce is provided. Here in Hong Kong, you're expected to use the regular more concentrated soy sauce placed at each table. I half expected a fight with the Cantonese women over the sauce but they didn't raise any objections. Seriously folks, eating Chee Cheong Fun with regular soy sauce just ain't right.

Deep-fried beancurd sheet roll filled with shrimps. I notice the beancurd is very crispy despite the light colour. This was delicious!

Steamed dumplings chiu chow style. I didn't know hubs didn't like this and ordered it. When I don't like any food, I announce it to the world but hubs keeps it to himself.

 Steamed rice with beef and pan fried egg. Hubs was quite shocked by the tiny size of his order.

 Pan fried turnip cake. Unfortunately, Tim Ho Wan's turnip cake is NOTHING compared to Dimdimsum.

Sweet potato soup. I love sweet potato soup but I didn't understand why I ordered it. Maybe I wanted something comforting? Honestly, all sweet potato soup tastes the same.

We noticed the 4 Filipinos couldn't eat any of the chicken feet. They ordered 4 plates! Perhaps they were misled by the name on the menu - "Phoenix Talons with Abalone Sauce". Guys, you do know phoenix aren't real. In case you're wondering, I'm in the "never ever gonna eat chicken feet" camp. My mother used to tell me eating chicken feet is good for the skin or was it a cure for arthritis? Anyway, I decided not to believe her.

Oh, something wonderful happened while we were eating. The Cantonese women and guy companion had finished their meal but continued to sit at the table chatting. One of the women had left and they were waiting for her to return. A waitress came and ordered them to leave. The woman tried to explain that they were waiting for someone but the waitress would have none of it. She said there were so many customers waiting and they could wait outside the restaurant. Ha ha. It made hubs' day.

Three new customers came to take their places - two Cantonese speaking men and a Caucasian lady. The guy who sat next to me wore a mask and only took it off to eat. I kept wondering if he was afraid to catch something or pass something? It really bothered me. The waitress brought a new pot of tea and placed it beside me and guess what? The guy sitting next to me immediately grabbed it and placed it far away from me. You've got to be kidding me. I don't think the Cantonese speaking customers understand how the tea system in Tim Ho Wan works!

Another interesting thing happened. A single lady sat beside hubs after the Filipinos had left. She ate a few items and she had brought her Starbucks coffee in. (so daring) When she left, the waitress made her take the Starbucks coffee container. And then the staff realized she didn't pay and someone had to go chase her. There was Cantonese shouting and I expect a lot of embarrassment for someone.

Not a bad price for a very full meal. We definitely over ate. Other than the sauce for Chee Cheong Fun, I think the food in Hong Kong and Singapore are exactly the same. What we do have in Singapore that's different are the monthly specials.

IFC Mall MTR Shop 12A, Central

Read about my trip to Hong kong here:
4Days 3Nights in Hong Kong
Tea at Australia Dairy Co
Breakfast at Capital Cafe
I heart Dimdimsum
Tsui Wah Everywhere
Goose or duck?
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