Sous vide attempts

I first came across the word when a friend related to me a perfect meal of grilled beef that he had been served at another friend’s place. That friend had taken out a packet of vacuum sealed meat from the fridge, heated it up, seared it and served it perfectly. Piqued with curiousity, I decided to read up more on this method of cooking. Even though all I had on hand then was my airfryer, I decided to try and replicate some of the steps to do a ‘sous vide’ in my airfyer, using baking paper instead of vacuum sealed plastic bags. Without a thermometer on hand, I had to estimate the water temperature and then estimate how much I had to set my airfryer temperature to, in order to keep the water at a certain temperature. It was rather fun to try this and the result is below.   

I am putting the method here in [ ] for those who are interested. The photo shows the result after a second attempt. 

[First, I prepared the steak and marinated it. Then I boiled water until it was steaming, i.e. steam was coming out of the surface of the water but no bubbles had formed in the water yet. Hence, it is not boiling yet. According to what I read, this was probably between 75-85C. This was something I could visually estimate so I used this as a gauge. Singapore is at sea level so the altitude does not affect boiling temperature.
Then I put the water into my baking pan and put my 200g steak onto baking paper and lowered it into the water. Add in a little water first. The meat will not sink to the bottom as it is supported by the water.

Then I put another piece of baking paper on top of the meat and poured the hot water onto it. The weight of the water in the second piece of paper should allow you to shape the paper on top of and around the meat and you should be able to get most of the air out. I am trying to simulate the vacuum effect here though this is not airtight. I am trying to ensure the water in the second piece of paper is in contact with as much of the meat as possible WITHOUT being in direct contact with the meat. If there is not enough water at the bottom, you can add more hot water but make sure it does not overflow. Secure the papers to the side with stainless steel paper clips. Trim off the extra paper by following the shape of the pan.

Then I turned on the airfryer to 130C, for one hour. (Based on what I found out, this temperature would keep the water in the 70-80C range. Without a thermometer, this was just my estimate.) After one hour, remove the meat.

Turn up the oven to 200C. Baste the meat with whatever seasoning or sauce you want, then sear the meat on both sides! Voila! Airfried ‘sous vide’!]

Steps on how I tried ‘sous vide’ in an airfryer

To find out about sous vide, please click the link

Pleased with my first attempt, I decided to buy the necessary equipment in order to do it better. I purchased a gadget that could measure and control temperature off Amazon for under USD$30. There is a temperature probe attached that would cause the electricity supply to cut off once the desired temperature is reached. I plugged in my rice cooker into the socket and placed the probe into the water.

My rice cooker socket is plugged into the controller. The temperature has been set and it controls the switch on the rice cooker.

  

Temperature probe in the water of the rice cooker

 
 

Temperature measure and controller relay unit

 
 

The first attempt did not turn out well as the cut of meat was too thin and it was not exactly a good cut either.

 
 

I then tried it with a cut of lamb that was almost 2 inches thick and I cooked it at 54.5C for 21 hours. The result was much better. The meat was really tender and almost fell off the fork.

 
 

This was another attempt where I cooked another piece of meat for about 2 hours at 54.5C. It was too rare for my liking.

 
 

I finally tried cooking it at 58C for 1 hour. Bingo! I think I found the temperature that I am happy with. This is not too rare.

 

What I learned from trying to cook sous vide with beef and lamb.

  • Use good cuts of meat if you are going to cook the meats for 40 minutes to an hour. They should be one inch thick. I tried rib eye. Meats that are less than one inch thick do not seem to sous vide well. 
  • For thicker cuts of meat, they can be cooked for longer than 2.5 hours to days even, especially for tougher cheaper cuts.
  • 54.5C is the minimum sous vide temperature as that is the temperature that will pasteurise the meat when cooked for an hour. I have been rather nervous about cooking at this temperature as I worry that it will not kill the bacteria. I am a lot happier cooking at 58C plus I do not like my meat to be too rare.
  • Sous vide plastic bags seem rather difficult and expensive to get in Singapore. I use sealable Glad bags that are suitable for freezing and food marinade as they are made in the US and I like the quality a little more than the other brands around. I will still get proper sous vide plastic though as once I tried to sous vide potatoes at 90C and the bags got rather hot and I was concerned they could not take the temperature.
  • To vacuum seal the meat without proper equipment, I placed the meat in a sealable bag and then I lowered the bag into the water up to the seal. The water will push out all the air from the bag. Seal the bag on one end first and as the water pushes the rest of the air out, seal the other end. Be careful not to let any water into the bag as you are sealing it.
  • There is a whole range of sous vide equipment available. I picked a temperature and thermostat controller that I could use with an existing rice cooker or slow cooker. How serious you want to be with sous vide cooking is entirely up to you. I did not want an expensive white elephant in case I lost interest so I decided on something small and inexpensive first. However, it is important to get a reliable one so check out the reviews on the item. Some pieces of equipment come with a built-in circulator as well as temperature control. The built-in circulator is important as it keeps the temperature constant through circulating the water, ensuring that the meat cooks evenly. This also allows more pieces of meat to be cooked at one time. If I am to get a better piece of equipment, I would probably get one with a circulator.
  • There is also a lot of information available on the internet so do read up on the different temperatures to use especially for the different types of meat or dishes that you want to prepare. There are also youtube videos available. So have fun and feel like a king as you tuck into juicy and tender cuts of meat that used to be enjoyed only by those who could afford it.

Disclaimer: The information here is from my limited experience of sous vide attempts. I hope that what I have learned would help to shorten somebody else’s learning curve.

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Give it a shot!

I have been quite amazed seeing the different ways iced coffee is being served nowadays. Here are two samples. The third one is my own attempt at replicating one of them. 

Iced coffee served with a syringe of milk

 

I was quite intrigued by the idea and the coffee was intoxicatingly good. The milk was insufficient for me and I asked them for a second syringe which they happily obliged. My friends and I ate there as well and here are some food pics.  

Their signature stabbed burger with charcoal buns!

Fish and chips

 

I was more intrigued by their coffee. Check out this cafe at 7 Kick Start, 71 Bras Basah Road.

Then there is another cafe that served their shots in the form of ice cubes! Another novel idea. 

  
 
Since it was already late at night, I settled for one ice cube instead of two. Being hot and humid here, it didn’t take long for the ice cubes to melt.

This is at Whisk & Paddle, 10 Tebing Lane, #01-01, Singapore 828836. Phone: +65 6242 4617.

Feeling rather inspired, I decided to try my own ice cube coffee with azuki beans. I’ve put all the photos together for easy reference, just for an idea!  

First, make some percolated or dripped coffee. Then, freeze them into ice cubes. When ready, put some cubes into a cup. Add milk and red beans. Top up with ice. 

Give this a shot for a different way to enjoy your iced coffee!

‘The day I made a chef …’

[This post is guest written by my travel blogger friend who blogs here. The following is her experience at the same omakase that we shared. I am posting it here as-is so readers can read about the same experience but from two different points of view. Her signature style is no capital letters at the beginning of  sentences. Enjoy!]

The Day I made a Chef Cry (well, almost)

that was not my intention, i promise. my friend (owner of this food blog) and I wanted to try out the omakase dinner at this japanese restaurant. she had been there for a meal and liked the food. we arrived at the restaurant from different places but were the same, late. anyway, my friend said they called when i asked her to let them know we would be late. when we finally stepped inside the restaurant, we were ushered to a private room (meant for six people)! ooh, i liked the service already… we ordered their hot yuzu drink and the wait staff told us she would inform the chef to start preparing our starter. in an omakase meal, you get served what is available for the day. after a short wait, the starter came. it did not disappoint. for starters (pardon the pun), it was visually stunning and it tasted as good as it looked. 

Minced pork and chicken on mini baguette slices

  after a promising start, we were then treated to chawanmushi with sea-urchin, oyster tempura and springrolls… that was when it started – i ate the springrolls and steamed egg but left the sea-urchin and oyster untouched. the wait staff was surprised. i told them it was my fault that I did not alert them that I didn’t like sea-urchins and oysters. 

the next course was delicious – it was a croquette of crab meat in an amazing sauce, with a side of salad (I couldn’t tell what it was. perhaps it was hollandaise, but I could only guess). it was absolutely superb. 
 

Real crab meat inside

 


sashimi next. Nothing to write home about but it was fresh and it was asthetically pleasing. chomped them down with fervour. Loved the wasabi – wondered if they made their own? 

 
the pièce de résistance finally arrived! slices of wagyu beef, sandwiched between two slices of foie gras, flanked by this delicate piece of daikon which was filled with rice (i earlier thought it was sauteed onions. seriously. how embarrassing.) and cherry tomato halves. unfortunately, i had to give the foie gras a miss. not eating foie gras is a choice and a dietary consideration. that got sent back as well. again, the wait staff gave me a look, as if to ask, why?? we were really full by then, but as i told my friend, i always have room for dessert. and rightly so. 

 
it was matcha madness – matcha crème brulee, matcha ice-cream and slice crepe on a matcha cake base. green tea heaven, luckily we didn’t order green tea earlier as we loved the hot yuzu drink, which was served in a glass teapot and refilled once with hot water. 

of course, the spanish (or in this case, japanese) inquisition was inevitable. the young japanese chef wondered why i did not eat the stuff that i had left behind. were they unpalatable? we asked if we could meet him so we could thank him for the meal and also explain why i had passed on the sea-urchin and the rest. he was apologetic, i was even more apologetic and had to reassure him that i enjoyed his wonderful culinary creations. he understood and soon left as it was the end of his day. i get that chefs are kinda egoistic when it comes to their creations and want people to appreciate them. but I did not send the food back uneaten intentionally. woah. next time, i have an omakase meal, i will have to tell the chef the long list of food I do not eat… yes, there will be a next time. we have decided we will eat here again. i hope the chef reads this.

Issho Izakaya, 1 Stadium Place, #01-13/K5, Kallang Wave@Sports Hub. Tel: 6702 4708.

Omakase a la française

It was only recently that I was at Issho Izakaya for dinner and their food was good enough that I asked if they did omakase for dinner and the chef said ‘Yes’. Then, a friend asked me if I knew of a place that served good Japanese food and I told her about this place and how I wanted to try the omakase. So we came here. It was a quiet Thursday evening and they gave us our own tatami room. Now that, I call service! We ordered the genmaicha at first thinking that it was not very strong until I realised that that tea had kept me awake the whole night the last time I had it. So we switched to yuzu tea instead. Whew! If this was lunch, I would have ordered the genmaicha as the tea was really fragrant the last time I had it. After calming ourselves down with yuzu tea as we had rushed to the place, we were then ready for dinner.

Before the omakase, we were asked if there was any food that we do not eat. Both of us do not really fancy eels and so I thought it was the end of the ‘forbidden food’ list. Unknown to me though, there were more things that my friend does not eat and I have asked her to post her experience after this post.

Yuzu tea

Sukini which consisted of chicken and pork on baguette, lotus root and renkon chips. I thought the renkon chips tasted like berlinjau and perhaps it is the same item but known by its Japanese name. Who knows? The lotus root was crunchy as were the chips. The meat on baguette was nicely seasoned and the baguette too was crunchy.

Next, we were served uni tofu chawan mushi, oyster tempura and pork springroll. I have not had sea urchin in a while and was rather pleased to be served it.

What a unique chawan mushi!

This was a rather standard sashimi platter. Small but adequate. We were given raw tuna, salmon and scallop.

This was another unique dish – kani croquette with tartar sauce. The crab was a real leg of crab meat which had been deshelled. The croquette was pretty well sealed with a lovely rich creamy sauce inside the crusty exterior.

I never thought we would be given wagyu but here it was. Wagyu with foie gras. What we thought was grilled onion on the side turned out to be rice encircled by daikon which was absolutely delicious and balanced out the meal perfectly. The rice also provided the necessary carbohydrate to our meal, for me anyway.

The dessert was a piece of art in itself. It seems that is the way with Japanese omakase. It always seems to end on a high. We were served creme brulee, crepe with a matcha cake base and matcha ice-cream. The matcha ice-cream was delicious. I did not appreciate the crepe as much. The rock melon had not ripened sufficiently but perhaps that was the intention or dessert may have turned out a little too sweet had the rockmelon ripened further. It was refreshing nevertheless and I liked the sourness of the strawberry at the side as well. The creme brulee had a little surprise inside – matcha mochi! A lovely end to the evening indeed.

What I like about Japanese omakase is that one never knows what one will get. This is now the fourth omakase I’ve tried. All four omakase have been different. There are those who stay more true to authentic Japanese food and others who venture out and combine it with other types of food. Tonight’s omakase clearly had French influence in it which I did not mind at all as I hardly eat French food. Foie gras, which I have not had before, was a completely new experience for me. The other thing I liked was the presentation. It was like being served art! The whole meal was at an affordable price of $80++ per person, not including the yuzu tea. I would definitely come back here and hope that I am given my own tatami room again. Just be sure that there are no major events going on at the arenas or stadiums at the location or you would not enjoy your meal in a relaxed, unhurried manner like we did that day.

Gochisosamadeshita!

Issho Izakaya, 1 Stadium Place, #01-13/K5, Kallang Wave@Sports Hub. Tel: 6702 4708.

Issho ni taberu

Issho in Japanese means ‘together’. I named the post ‘issho ni taberu’ which means ‘let’s eat together’.

We came here for dinner after an event at the Sports Hub. It was crowded but we were fortunate to get two seats at the sushi counter.

It was supposed to be a quick dinner before going home. We ended up ordering a little more than planned.

The genmaicha was really fragrant as it had roast grains in the tea.


Prawn tempura with rice.


One of their signature dishes – buta or pork shabu salad with goma or sesame seed dressing.


Ise Kushi set of ten grilled sticks as we were feeling rather peckish still.


Another signature dessert dish – Blacmange, black sesame panna cota with black sesame ice-cream. This was truly a piece of art.

All in all, we ordered three of their signature dishes. The food was fresh and of good quality, enough for me to enquire if they also serve omakase, to which they said, ‘Yes’. That will be for another time, hopefully when the place is not so crowded.

Issho Izakaya, 1 Stadium Place, #01-13/K5, Kallang Wave@Sports Hub. Tel: 6702 4708.

Dessert shop that opens till late!

We were looking for a dessert place that opened till late on the eve of a public holiday and we found this place that opened until 11p.m. They even serve local coffee!

Mango Sago with chempedak! I think the mango sago with pomelo was better. I wish they had added more chempedak so that the taste was stronger.

Chocolate snowed ice with chocolate ice-cream

Waffle with fruit and chocolate ice-cream

There were many happy children that night! I’ll try the crispy durian pancake the next time!

Something Sweet Dessert House, 8 Jalan Legundi, Singapore. Tel: 6481 1978.

Omakase @ Kampachi Plaza 33

I have been thinking about trying the omakase at Kampachi for a while since my brother last brought me here for a meal some time ago. Today, I decided to go with my mother. Mum, being an elderly, thrifty Chinese lady, could not understand why I would spend so much on a meal that was half raw and served in such small portions. But I convinced her that it was the experience that people come for, as well as the freshness of the food. This was, after all, a Japanese fine dining experience, over a 7-course meal. Naturally the Chinese 8-course and serving portions came to mind, which was not the case here. Midway through the course, Mum asked if I was full. Well, not Chinese full but sufficiently full, I assured her. She had ordered a bento as well which she was having problems finishing. So she asked me to help her with it. Of course with omakase, the dishes are served in a certain way so as to enhance the palate and appetite progessively. If I had helped Mum with her bento, it would have ruined my palete but she was insistent; very insistent. I managed to convince her that I would help her at the end of the meal.

A sake ball hangs at the door.The ball is made of cedar twigs and is traditionally hung at the entrance of sake breweries to show the arrival of new good quality sake. By displaying it at its restaurant, Kampachi is pointing to its sake selection which is one of the largest in Malaysia, some of which are exclusive to Kampachi.

Kirara roasted rice tea. I love this tea because it is not caffeinated and it has a lovely roast flavour.

The detail that has gone into the furnishing of the restaurant.

Look at the cute rabbit at the top of the teapot! Isn’t this a lovely teapot set with a matching cup. It’s a restaurant, I know, but it’s still lovely.

The appetiser consisted of brinjal, mushroom, spinach and roe salad and hamachi. I have not eaten crunchy brinjal before and I actually do not like brinjal because those that I have eaten are usually mushy. But these were slightly crunchy, complemented nicely by the sea salt. The little salad was also nicely balanced between the vegetables and roe . And the lightly fried hamachi was good too

The appetiser consisted of brinjal, mushroom, spinach and roe salad and hamachi. I have not eaten crunchy brinjal before and I actually do not like brinjal because those that I have eaten are usually mushy. But these were slightly crunchy, complemented nicely by the sea salt. The little salad was also nicely balanced between the vegetables and roe . And hamachi was good too.

The next course was snapper soup. This was light and delicious.

A choice of three sauces.

Good serving portions of tuna, amberjack and flounder sashimi. The flowers too are edible. The flowers are hanaho and shokuyo hana respectively. Both are imported from Japan and are edible. The shokuyo hana was actually a little sweet.

For the sashimi, I was given a choice of three soy sauce choices – normal soy, low salt soy and tosa sauce. The tosa sauce was Kampachi’s own soy sauce and it had bonito in it. Next was the tasting. Which one did I like best, I was asked. Well, I liked the low salt shoyu the best. The contrast between the taste of the fish and the soy sauce was the best. As for the tosa sauce, it was already flavoured with bonito and hence the contrast in the taste did not seem as great. The tuna, yellow tail and flounder were a good size and they tasted very fresh.  I was served another fish dish which actually looked and tasted like cod but I did not take a picture of it. I was busy talking to the waitress who was explaining to me about the side fish. That is the name of the fish, makokare, or side fish. It was lightly fried and it tasted really good as well. Again, light and delicately balanced.

Grilled beef served with the famous Kampachi truffle shoyu sauce.

Next was the beef. This was not part of the menu but I asked if they had beef in the omakase. This was probably where the communication was not clear though it was not really the fault of the staff. I was under the impression that they could let me have beef in my omakase without realising that they had actually replaced one of the items in my omakase. I do not know what was replaced nor did I ask. I only realised this after the meal was over.I had been hankering for Japanese beef since I came back from Japan. The beef there was cheap and good. The beef here was not bad but it was not like the one I had just had in Japan for a fraction of the cost. It was definitely not wagyu nor did it melt in my mouth but neither was the one I had in Japan. I ordered it done medium and it was prepared correctly. Don’t get me wrong, the beef was good but just not the melt-in-mouth good that I was half expecting in a Japanese omakase.

Chirashi don in inari. I thought this was a novel idea. The vinegar in the inari, or beancurd, added a slight sour taste to the chirashi don that we normally know.

This was when my mum asked me if I was full. Well, I was not Chinese full but sufficiently full. The next dish was unexpected and so was the appearance of the chef. Chef Ishigami was as nervous with his English as I was with my limited Japanese. He explained how to eat the dessert, bowed and left. I thought this was a nice finish to my omakase meal.

Again, perfectly balanced in terms of taste. The Japanese dorayaki pancake with sweet red bean filling was just crunchy on the outside and spongey on the inside. The mint, pineapple, strawberry and rock melon balanced each other out nicely, along with the cold vanilla ice-cream and hot pancake. Chef Ishigami said to eat everything together and he was right. How zen is that?!

Two unhurried hours later, we were done. It had been a pleasant lunch.The taste of the food was clean, distinct and fresh.

Unhurried was really appreciated as all the omakase that I have had in Singapore had been rushed. This one was so much more pleasant. It was also the start of Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims, and the restaurant was not busy. Each staff who served us was very polite and made sure that we were served well. Whatever question I had was answered in detail, something which would not have happened in Singapore at all. I also appreciated that I was not overly full and that this restaurant was in PJ and not KL because I would not have made that journey downtown for omakase in KL as much as I liked it.

Gochisousamadeshita.

For other Japanese fine dining posts, please check out here, here and here.

Kampachi, P1-02, 1st floor Plaza 33, Jalan Kemajuan, Seksyen 13, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Tel: +60 3 7931 6938.

This was a last minute reservation for one omakase and they were able to accommodate us. Best to reserve if you are planning to have omakase there.

Tabemono 8: Grilled gyuniku @ Shinjuku

So far, we have had fish, chicken, seafood and pork for meat but not beef. And I really wanted to try some beef. Not the super expensive Wagyu or Kobe beef but some beef. So we wandered into a shop which we thought would serve beef. Up until this point, we had based our decisions almost entirely on pictures that were displayed in menus and if the restaurant mentioned that English menus were available in the shop. This particular shop mentioned that English menus were available so in we went.

The waitress handed us the English menu which we read very quickly. We decided on the cheapest portion of beef that we could see on the menu. We were not that hungry and as part of the meal, we had to pay for a drink and a side dish.

The waitress came back with a charcoal grill. The menu had instructions in it on how to douse a fire on the grill and such. Since we had not tried this before, this was starting to look exciting.

But first, we toasted to the last night of our trip with our compulsory drinks. See the old-fashioned charcoal grill behind the drinks. I had not seen one of those in a very long time.

Then our beef arrived, along with the ice cubes for putting out fires and the side dishes.

I proceeded to grill the slices. It soon became very smokey but the place had a rather efficient smoke-sucking system, provided the nozzle was in the right place. It was adjusted to the right position so it turned out to be fine. And no, none of the beef caught fire so we did not need to use the ice cubes.

The beef was really good. There was sufficient fat in the meat so despite being grilled, the meat was still juicy. I am not even sure I will be able to find something similar in SIngapore. The whole meal was about $15 per person, even with compulsory drinks and side salad. If we had not been in such a hurry, we could have ordered a second helping of beef. But we had to be somewhere else by a certain time. Also, the restaurant had been booked out and the place was a smoking restaurant. We managed to get a place only because we were early. We requested to sit near the door so that there would be better ventilation but it turned out that the tables near the exit were already booked and the waitress kindly alerted us to the possibility that the people who had booked the tables were likely to be smokers. So we ate quickly for that reason as well. In fact, we were done in half an hour.  

If I come back to Shinjuku, I’ll probably come back here again. Ja matta rainen!

This is the end of this series.

Tabemono 7: Coffee and Pancakes @ Odakyu, Shinjuku

After a couple of days of not having afternoon tea, I had to have it. We were in Japan after all and if there was one thing I must have on this trip, it was nice afternoon tea so we came here.

Initially I thought the place was rather expensive. We could have a proper dinner for the price of our afternoon tea. That was until we saw the food.

Talk about perfect pancakes! They sure looked perfect.

The organic wheat pancakes were served with a choice of three condiments – maple syrup, strawberry and blueberry jam.

This coffee was a little expensive but it was really good. A plain Americano that was intoxicatingly delicious. I found out later that the coffee beans are organic.

The cafe was on the second floor of Odakyu. At the street level, someone was wearing a yukata and a face mask to promote an event.

Cafe Nature, Odakyu Departmental Store, Shinjuku Main Store, Shinjuku Train Station, Higashi exit.

Tabemono 6: Thai food @ Shinjuku

We had not intended to eat Thai food but we came across two restaurants who seemed to be doing very good business during lunch hour and we decided to try one of them. The first thing I noticed was the size of the noodles in the Pad Thai. They were finer than the usual thin noodles. In fact the size was closer to fat bee hoon size than the thin rice noodles we usually have in Singapore.

Basil Chicken rice


Pad Thai with the much thinner rice noodles.


Both orders came with a small side dish.

The meal was surprisingly good and the food actually tasted better than the Thai food we normally get in Singapore. And no, I did not take a picture of the restaurant front. This was in the side lanes of Shinjuku.