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!

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.

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 1: Saizeriya @ Toyama City

For the next few days, I’ll be blogging about different places I ate at, while in Japan. This is the first over several days. Tabemono in Japanese means food or literally (eat + things).

Toyama City is actually well-known for its fresh seafood. But my friend was not keen on raw food so we settled for a place that had enough variety and was affordable.

Saizeriya is a famous chain of Japanised Italian food at very affordable prices. Since I liked the chain in Singapore and knowing that it had originated in Japan, we decided to go there for dinner.

The corn soup was delicious. I could have had another serving.

I ordered this without the bacon bits as I did not want it too salty. It wasn’t salty but it was a little too oily.

These were understandably not spicy enough for Singaporeans but good.

The pizza was a thin crust and just nice to share between two people. No complaints here either.

I love eating their focaccia in Singapore and I love them in Japan as well.

All in all, a very satisfying meal for our first night in Japan. I love that one can eat well and affordably in Japan and regardless of where you go, there is a certain standard of food quality because the food is first catered to a predominantly Japanese clientele. There are places that cater to other races like the Chinese or Koreans, for example, but those places tend to be individual shops rather than restaurant chains.

Saizeriya, 38-11, Kamiiino, Toyama-shi, Toyama, 930-0827/

Shiok a do do?

Shiok is a colloquial term for something that tastes so good it has a kick in it. It is usually used with food though at times, it can also be used in relation to a good game or an enjoyable event. Shokudo, on the other hand, means dining or cafeteria or eating place. The title is a play on words.

The outlet at Heartland Mall has been opened for about three weeks at the time of posting. We came here for lunch.

Sliced Teriyaki Beef Omu Rice from the Taste of Hanami menu

 

Wrong order

The reheated version. Huh?

  

The correct order


I had their lunch special which I was quite happy with. There was a mix up in their orders which I did not notice at first. We were served tako balls which we clearly did not order and we told them so. Then I was mistakenly served cappucino which I did not realise was a mistake until I noticed that the coffee was rather cold. I thought it was a little odd that the milk in the coffee was barely warm. I mentioned this to a staff who proceeded to warm up the remainder and served it back to me again! By now I was quite shocked. For a cup of coffee that cost $5.80, I thought the least they could do was to replace it. So I asked them for a new cup, explaining to them that milk that goes into cafe latte has to be a certain temperature but not boiling hot. It turned out the tip was not necessary and the result was my corrected original order. It was then that I realised that I had been given the wrong order before. But they made good and that was important. 

My friend had the Mt Fuji Curry Omu Rice and it was not a good choice. The patty was of poor quality and too salty. The curry was also too oily. She didn’t finish her meal. 

The Sliced Teriyaki Beef Omu Rice was clearly the better value and tasting of the two. Oishikatta deshita! I’ll be back for that.

Being as new as it was, the cafe was still trying to cope with its running during the busy times. There was a nice, smiley uncle who enthusiastically refilled the tea and he made everyone feel welcomed – never underestimate the power of a genuine smile.

Shokudo, #02-00, Heartland Mall, 205 Hougang Street 21, Singapore 530205.

When many is good

If anyone wants to go to a place where there is a wide range of food, this is the place. I went for dinner with Caucasian friends who were just passing through Singapore. I needed the restaurant to have the following options available as I was not sure what they would enjoy.

– Asian food in case the wife wanted it

– salads in case the daughter wanted it

 – a steak in case the husband wanted it

We eventually settled for a pizza which had pharma ham and cheese on one side and just cheese on the other. We decided not to eat Asian food and settled for a fruit salad instead. So everyone was happy in the end. I think this was the founder’s philosophy as well — have a wide enough variety of food so that there is sufficient choices for different customers’ tastebuds. At a time when many restaurants have cut back on their menu, choosing instead to focus on their bestsellers, I was glad that this was not Lenas’ philosophy. The restaurant was an excellent idea for a night like tonight where different people wanted different food and there were enough choices for all of us to agree on one. Whew! Thank you, Lenas! And the food was reasonably priced. These two factors and alcoholic drinks have enabled them to survive in the highly competitive F & B industry.

Fruit Salad

 

Thin crust pizza with pharma ham and four cheese

 
Lenas,  Hougang Mall, 90 Hougang Ave 10 #02- 20/22. Tel: 63861929.


Timms’ turn… again

I actually went to another place for brunch first but they did not seem interested in my business. That was not the first time that their service left much to be desired. They weren’t even aware that customers were looking at them, waiting to be served. And that was the manager playing with his phone. So I went and got the menu myself. Then a staff came and told me that they had already run out of special coffees. And it was not even lunch yet.

I left and decided to go elsewhere. That was when I saw Robert, again.

The difference in the service could not be greater. Immediate attention, orders placed exactly as requested, quick service. The only drawback – no credit card discount. This is my fourth time patronising them and I have only been able to get a discount once. Oh well.

I ordered a chicken salad, with dressing on the side. Perfect. I like my salads, undressed, leaving me the option of how much dressing to add. Besides, I don’t really like mayo. I didn’t mind the  other salty dressing. What I really liked were the greens and the few small pieces of mango. The chicken could have been more thinly sliced though. But this has more to do with presentation than taste.


Next was the flat white coffee – with more milk. Again, perfect. I was about to add sugar until I tasted the coffee. The extra bit of milk almost made it sweet. So I put back the sugar. Yumz.


Good on ya, mate!

For earlier visits to Timms, read here and here.

The House of Robert Timms, 501 Orchard Road, #01-02/03 Singapore 238880. Tel: 6735 9201.

Kitchen terms?

Perhaps this place was a kitchen wannabe that became a cafe instead? At first sight, it actually sounded painful, like someone being whacked. But fortunately, the experience was not. 

The old place, Pit Stop, was one of the few restaurants to have a parking bay for bicycles. This restaurant is smaller and has used the space for seating. Also at one glance, one could see who needed attention – gone were the walls and blind spots where customers had trouble getting the attention of the wait staff. Alcoholic drinks are also served now, making it more of a hangout place after a meal perhaps, and helping them meet the rent.

I’d say the draw of the place is the location first, food second. I come here so I can pretend that I’m not really that close to civilisation for about 2 hours anyway.

This is along the Punggol Park Connector so one can enjoy a ride and fresh air before having something to eat, which was what we did. Or alternatively, one could chill over an evening meal, some drinks and enjoy the lovely view and cool evening breeze. I’m putting this on my keeper’s list.

  

Why did the lizard cross the footpath?

   

Seats have filled up the old parking space. The high tables are a great idea!

  

Part of the decor.

  

French toast that mistakenly turned out as waffles with sunny side up eggs and bacon. I didn’t mind the mistake as the wait that Saturday was a little long as the place was rather busy.

  

Eggs Benedict

  

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

G’day again

This was another place that I had not visited in a while and they too serve water in glasses. The menu had changed since. Gone are some of the salads which I had tried before. Today, I decided to try their pasta which turned out to be a little too rich. It was also too pricey. My friend had a hearty meal of their All Day Breakfast meals which she was completely satisfied with. They still had a 10% discount for POSB and DBS cards which made the meal less expensive.

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The menu had been simplified which seems to be a recent trend across restaurants in Singapore nowadays. Inevitably, some things which I liked before are no longer on the menu. Oh well, at least they retained their food quality. Some restaurants are worse in that they increase their price and compromise on quality. For my earlier post on the place, go here.

It’s a competitive environment out there but Robert Timms has kept up their food quality and service. Their range of cakes has also increased, making this more of an afternoon tea place as well.

Now if only I can get them to optimise their website for iphone search…

House of Robert Timms. 3 Temasek Boulevard, #01-361/362 Suntec City Mall, Singapore 038983.