Monday, March 3, 2014

Travel: Coffee Plantations and More

Because of the media hype about Burma this winter -and the huge influx of tourists- I decided to take a detour and spend three weeks in Colombia.
Spending some time at my father's teak plantations in Taungoo, Myanmar; during school breaks as a child, I've always fascinated by the plantation lifestyle and enjoy the subtropical climate.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/saffron59/11875226975/sizes/l/in/set-72157639653214155/
More of Tropical Shots at our flickr page 
Four winding hours from Medellin, through carpets of guavas, avocados and bananas, lies Quindio, the highlight of my trip. We rented a house by the emerald green mountain of   Los Nevados, within an avocado plantation, only a stone's throw from the quaint colonial town of Salento.
 
Green Coffee at Sacha Mama organic coffee plantation
An early morning hike in the breathtaking Valel de Cocora brought palm trees ten stories high; the wax palm, indigenous to the high-altitude Andes. We continued to enjoy the region's flora and fauna as we hiked through the Acaime until dusk, humming birds buzzing around us, stopping for a spectacular views of the valley. I could have easily stayed another week.

Fruit Vendor in Botero Square in Medellin, Colombia
I know some of you have been to Colombia pre and post Escobar era, I love to hear about your trip.

Sites and trips in Quindio:
Eje Cafetero
Finca Sacha Mama
Kasaguada Natural Reserve
Los Nevados National Park
Recuca Coffee Plantation

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Celebration: Seven-Course Dinner at MOCA NY


Here are some of the behind the scene pictures for the $888 plate dinner for Museum of Chinese in America in New  York this past Monday.

Irene K. Wong with Pichet Ong
Hey one of guests of honor is Ang Lee!
Chefs talk before event starts


MENU

Seared Chicken with Sesame and Jumbo Prawns in a taro basket
(with caramelized walnuts and snow peas)  
  
Grilled Aged Rib Eye Steak - charred - topped with parsley garlic  pesto  

Shanghai Baby Bok Choy with  Xiao Sing Rice Wine and  How See -Dried Oyster
(large Chinese mushroom)

Maine Lobster Laced with Ginger and Scallions 
(bedded with Fun See -glass noodle)

Steamed Stripe bass with sesame oil and Enoki Mushroom  
(  wilted spring onion)

E-Fu Noodles with Black Mushroom burnt yellow chive  
(Longevity egg noodle with Choy Sum vegetable)

Double Happiness Fried Rice with baby corn and English peas
(with Shallot Crisp)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Celebration: Chinese New Year 2014

Fish ready for steamed with herbs and vegetables
As the Lunar New Year approaching, my family and friends are already anxious in planning for the feast.  Since I was a little girl, that means choosing and getting new outfits to wear and place sweet offerings to the "kitchen god" so that sweet reports get to heaven what my family has done throughout the year.

Since Chinese Americans came from different regions of China and other parts of Asia too such as Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, the traditional feast during Chinese New Year in America for most of us is unique and varied to each group.

Symbolic dishes such as longevity noodles and fresh whole fish represent long life and prosperity. Dumplings are served representing abundance of "golden nuggets".  For this year, the festivities will start on January 31st.   My circle of friends will mark the celebrating for 15 days,  feasting with Asian Tapas style - inspired with ingredients such as Kalamansi, Xaoshing wine , Gojuchang  are just some of many treats which will be made to welcome the "year of the horse".
 
Gift with Double Happiness envelopes with lucky money

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Heritage: Memory of My Grand Father's Duck Noodle

--An email from a good friend--

Irene,

What's so special about your dish, Street Market Noodles with Duck, is how it triggers so many memories-my own fondness for the dish, nostalgia for your restaurant, The Road to Mandalay. Our friendship which goes back to the days of the restaurant, and most touchingly, your memories of food and family in Myanmar. It's a trip down sense memory lane.

Larry
My grandfather's famous noodle with roast duck, fried garlic, dash of salt
Recently a dear friend from the days of my first restaurant in New York, The Road to Mandalay, finally tied the knot after being together for 25 years. They asked me to make food for their wedding reception. Among the 7 dishes they requested was my grandfather's Street Market Noodles with Duck, a dish my grandfather cooked at the night market in Yangon, Myanmar.

It was sold as supper after 9pm. People would stroll into the market and either sit on wooden stools to eat it or have him tie the noodles up into a bundle like a tamale with  banana leaf as a take-out snack. I was only a few years old when I first tasted the dish. A garlicky noodle dish as simple as could be, it is seared with duck fat, garlic oil, fresh egg noodles, sliced duck, minced spring onion and crispy fried garlic.

Growing up I remember how my family and friends would rave about these noodles. It was always a special treat on the day when the aroma of garlic would permeate the house, and you could hear noodles sauteing on the wok. When I opened my restaurant, Road to Mandalay, I introduced the dish to New York. I got the same reaction from my customers, people like the rocker, Lenny Kravits and the Persian filmmaker and artist, Shirin Neshat, as I did from my family in Myanmar.

When I closed Road to Mandalay I took a sabbatical in Asia, and then came back and launched Saffron59. As part of my comprehensive menu I offered an array of noodle dishes but never Street Market Noodles with Duck--until a few days ago. After receiving rave reviews from the wedding party guests, I realized it was time to consider adding my grandfather's celebrated noodle dish to the menu.

Ingredients for my grandfather's famous duck noodle by Saffron 59
 Ingredients for my grandfather's famous duck noodle, a photo by Saffron 59 on Flickr.

Duck Noodle

Ingredients:
5lb Duck Breast scored strips (or from your local butcher)
4 bulbs of garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and black pepper
6 tbsp soy sauce
3lb fresh egg noodles
8 bunches of spring onions, minced
1 1/2 cups of oil
Method:
Fry the garlic in 1 1/2 cups of oil til the garlic get medium brown and separate on paper towel, save the oil
Sear the duck, skin down til medium rare and sliced into strips, reserved the oil.
Fill up wok with water and bring to a boil.
Add the noodles and cook for 5 minutes til the pasta surfaced.
Drain well and toss with a dizzle of garlic oil
Heat the wok and add garlic oil, duck fat, add the spring onions and toss in the noodle and duck meat
Toss some soy sauce, salt and black pepper to taste.
Stir fry for a minute or two til all the ingredients are incorporated and add the fried garlic chips
Garnish with some more fried garlic and spring onions.
Yield: 30 guests

*we recommend to wok seared the noodle in batches


  Have a happy holiday to you and to your loved ones!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ingredients for Food and Health: Therapeutic Turmeric

Since the beginning of Fall, I have been cooking lots of warm food using herbs from what's left of my garden and spices that work well with the changing weather. Signature autumn dishes that win high praise from our clients include Melange of Curried Root Vegetables, Chili Chicken, and Roasted Cauliflower Florets. A key ingredient in these signature dishes is turmeric, which in medieval times came to be knows as Indian Saffron, since it was widely used as a substitute for that far more expensive spice.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/saffron59/10059538664/
Scallop w/ Quinoa and Turmeric Infused Oil
 What got me thinking about turmeric is a video I recently saw about how certain foods have important therapeutic functions, and of course one of those is turmeric. In addition to the above dishes, turmeric marries well with omelets, seafood and roasted vegetables.

With the onset of cold weather, it's important to boost the body's defenses, and one of the best ways to do that is through diet. According to traditional Chinese and Indian medicine, turmeric is a strong anti-inflammatory. And in Vietnam, where I spent four years, new mothers are massaged with fresh turmeric paste to lessen the pain and often eat dishes containing turmeric to replenish nutrient loss.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Behind The Scenes: 3 Days, 13 Guests, 13 Dishes in 3 hours


One might think that a small party would be less work than a large one, but the required amount of preparation is similar, whether there are 13 guests or 130. A recent event was a party for an executive of a world-famous high-fashion brand, 13 guests only, and many tasting dishes were selected. So, needless to say, we planned and executed this complex meal to suit clients with exceptional taste.
Packing the right ware at our studio

Menu planning and selection is a priority, as well as choosing exotic drinks to match. This is done in collaboration with the clients by email and phone and involves a lot of work to get things just right. Choose the right color napkins for the silverware. Create bite-size Asian snacks. Figure out the main courses, which in this case included Charred Argentinian Steak Chimicurri (with Korean Red Paste) and Pan-Seared Fatty Black Cod glazed with miso tamari, always a huge hit.
When the menu is finalized, one of our crew pays a visit to the site; evaluating the kitchen and facilities is necessary so that we can prepare a schematic to help us execute the dinner in a timely fashion. Then we begin our foraging phase, heading to the greenmarket and our rooftop garden for hand-picked fresh sprigs of holy basil and ripened Roma tomatoes for roasting. Lines of communication are opened with our purveyors, using our 10-year strong relationships to garner the freshest seafood, be it Louisiana shrimp or Maine lobsters.

After three days of non-stop work, the party went off without a hitch.