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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‘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.

Red, White and Blue series: French Quarter Beignets

A friend made this and I thought fried dough were an Asian thing. Boy, was I wrong! I found out it was French as well. My guess is there is probably a fried dough recipe in about every culture. The French Quarter Beignets (isn’t that a nice name?) recipe here is from Paula Deen. The photos show how my friend made the beignets.

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Preparing the dough

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Breaking the dough into smaller pieces and rolling them out

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Testing the temperature of the oil with a small piece of dough

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Cutting the dough to size

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The smaller pieces were for testing the oil temperature.

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Frying the dough. They rose nicely.

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Draining the extra oil off onto paper towels

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Putting the beignets into a paper bag with sugar and shaking the bag to evenly coat the beignets. Close the bag before giving it a good shake while the beignets are still warm hot so that the sugar will stick nicely to the beignets.

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We tore a piece of beignet which was coated with cinnamon sugar to show that the inside was hollow.

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Powdered sugar coated beignets

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Cinnamon sugar coated beignets

I asked for smaller pieces of beignets to be made and we tried some. The smaller pieces tasted more chewy as there was slightly more dough in them and I did not feel like I had had too much carbohydrate after eating them.

That girl is an awesome baker and cook as well!

Good chicken

My friends and I chanced upon this French restaurant while looking for something to eat. I do not normally have French food. In fact, I do not even remember the last time I ate French food apart from French pastries in different bakeries. Firstly, French food tends to be more expensive and secondly, I’ve not really learnt to appreciate it since I rarely eat it. But since I started this blog, I decided to venture out a little and try food that I normally do not try.

There was a short queue in front of this restaurant and the person in front of me was a Frenchman. Hmm… if the French come here, this place must be pretty good. After all, if a restaurant is not even patronized by its own people, what does that tell us about the restaurant, assuming it’s opened by the French? Well, it’s not opened by the French nor is the chef French, but he has trained in France. This restaurant is under the same group as Thai Express. It is as French as Thai Express is Thai.

I ordered one of their signature dishes (half chicken in cranberry and double mustard sauce) and it was good. The chicken was not overly large. It seemed to have been carefully selected so that the meat was not tough at all. The sauce was rich and the cranberry sauce was quite well-balanced with the double mustard against the grilled chicken. The meat was tender and succulent as well. The meal was hearty — a bit too much for me but certainly not too much if one is hungry. And if one is very hungry, one could order a whole chicken!

The other chicken dish had sauce that was more like a clear (Chinese or Asian) soup base which I actually preferred as it was not as rich. The portion of chicken, even though a half chicken, was smaller.

Another friend ordered an oxtail and panna cotta. We actually had a good chuckle when the panna cotta came as it tasted like beancurd longan at western dessert prices! Beancurd longan is of course, a lot cheaper. Tastewise, we could not quite work out which part was Italian and which part was just local beancurd with longan. The jar made the whole thing look a little interesting though. If we come back here again, we’d probably try another dessert.

Oh yes, I actually asked them if they served coffee and if their coffee was good. The guy who was taking our orders while we were still queuing answered a confident, ‘Yes’. And he was right. The coffee passed the test.

This place serves good chicken and we’ll probably come back here for good grilled poulet. One of the aims of Poulet is to serve affordable classical French food to the masses and they may well have succeeded. My gut feel (literally) though is that this is still a local version of French food and may not be as authentic as how the French would like to have their food.

Poulet, Great World City, Level 2 #02-K2/K3. Tel: +65 6733 495.

Their coffee was good.

Half chicken in clear soup stock base. I preferred the sauce here as it was not as rich as the other chicken dish.

Oxtail de Bourguignon. This was a traditional oxtail dish. The meat was very tasty as it had been stewed for a while. I would have preferred meat that is not as overly cooked but that is not what this dish is about.

Poulet de Cranberry — Half chicken in cranberry and double mustard sauce. One of their signature dishes. This was really delicious and the chicken was very nicely done. The sauce was nice too but just a little too rich for me.

Panna cotta with longan which could easily have been mistaken for soyabean curd with longan. We googled a panna cotta recipe after tasting this to see how different it should be from what we were eating. Honestly, we just couldn’t tell the difference between this and a local dessert at all.

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