Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Heritage: Memory of My Grand Father's Duck Noodle

--An email from a good friend--


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.

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

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
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.

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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Food Talk: My Dining Experience;Rijsttafel

Our Signature Freshly Baked Mini Caneles
This year, I am featuring Rijsttafel for the holiday season for my friends and family gatherings and I hope for you too. It is the Dutch interpretation of exotic Indonesian cuisine eaten in a communal dinning.  Laced with unique, distinctive flavors including Asian herbs and spices, with beautiful presentation.

I spent a significant portion of a four year sabbatical in Asia searching Indonesia for old textiles with my Dutch godmother. Many times over the course of that search I sat down to delicious Rijsttafel meals in Java and one of the most memorable experiences was having multiple dishes in Bali and cooking with ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal, candle nuts, and palm sugar.

When I returned from my sabbatical I was asked to cater a big 50th birthday bash in Holland, where I discovered that Rijsttafel is found everywhere, from the smallest hamlet to the largest city. Since my Indonesian Rijsttafel experiences were fresh in my mind, I was able to create a wonderful, authentic feast for the celebration.
Various Dishes from our Rijsttafel "Rice Table" Holiday Party
From our kitchen to your table:
Heirloom Squash/Pumpkin Ravioli with Coconut Kashmiri red curry dip
Lump Crabmeat Slaw with Mint Chutney and Mustard Seeds
Mekong Style Meatballs with coriander roots and minced spring onion
Indonesian origin Beef Rendang with spicy slow cooked beef stew
Roast Lemongrass Chicken with Caramelized Onion
Vegetable Ratatouille as featured on The Occasional Vegetarian
Our Signature Panthay Noodle with Vegetables  and red onion relish

Friday, October 18, 2013

Holiday: Diwali - A Festival of Lights

Preparation first day of Diwali/Photo by Irene K. Wong
Happy (almost) Diwali! Our Saffron 59 kitchen is busy with our own Diwali-fest with Indian inspired bites like Chicken Pakora with Bengali Style Chatni (Tender fritters served with coriander and green chili dip). So, meet our guest writer of the week; the fabulous Jay Dehejia!
The five-day festival of lights will be celebrated in early November this year. This celebration takes different forms in different parts of India.  In my community of Gujaratis, we would spend evenings getting dressed up in colorful clothes and organize folk dances.  This year, we will celebrate Diwali with friends and family on November 3rd.  This autumn festival brings back such wonderful childhood memories for me.

Diwali, for me started with ‘Dhanteras’, the 13th day of the waning moon. The day is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi to provide for the well being and prosperity for the family. That is the day we would light hundreds of oil lamps all around the house and the garden.

                                                                 Photo by Geof Wilson

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Family: East Meets West: BBQ Short Ribs to Mohinga (Burmese Fish Soup)

From time to time, I invite others to write guest posts on my blog.  Here's one from my brother, Ron, about our annual Pre-Labor Day BBQ celebration.

Marinated Charred Short Ribs

Thanks to Po's afternoon milk tea, I find myself still awake at 3am, so I decided to write about our fantastic backyard family and friends summer gathering that was inspired by Burmese food vendors serving traditional dishes at a Nibban Zay fundraising event held at a Burmese Temple in Manalapan, N.J. Back in early August, friends of mine, Mark Pochaw and Jenny Chin, forwarded a menu of Burmese foods that were going to be offered at the temple. It sounded delicious, so we decided to attend. After having eaten traditional Burmese foods, I decided to serve traditional Mohinga (Burmese Lemongrass Fish Soup), fried fritters, Lat Thoke vegetarian noodles paired with BBQ ribs, flank steak and curry yogurt chicken at our family event.
Mark's cousin Vera, one of the temple vendors, was kind enough to prepare the Mohinga fish soup, which we decided to pair with Pae Kyaw fritters from another vendor. Aunty Vera and Mark threw themselves into gathering and preparing the Mohinga ingredients, an endeavor that took on a life of its own. They used as many of the traditional Mohinga ingredients as possible including lemongrass, catfish, and rare young banana stem bark which is not available in New York. It was flown from Florida to Albany on Wednesday, transported to Queens, cooked all day Saturday, and on Sunday found itself in the stomachs of friends and family in Short Hills, NJ, people with backgrounds from the US, Brazil, China, Great Britain, Saint-Tropez, France, Thailand and Vietnam, among others.

Banana Bark for Cooking Mohinga (Burmese Lemongrass Fish Soup)

We truly enjoyed Vera's Mohinga, which was amazingly, soulfully delicious and brought back memories of sitting on wooden stools eating the fish soup on street corners in Yangon, Burma. With a full stomach and a touch of insomnia, I'd like to thank my friends and family for coming to this memorable summer backyard gathering. Also again, thanks to Mark, Aunty Vera, Jenny Chin, my sister-in-law Yin Yin,  Pae Kyaw Fritter vendor Daw Si Si Cho and U Michael.



What food adventures have you had lately? Send us your pics or recipes!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Food Talk: Holy Basil!

I often get my brain picked on for my expertise with exotic drinks from various Asian regions;  whether with modern-global touches or with traditional roots.  This time, I asked two renowned bars and their mixologists for their favorite herbal concoctions.

One of my favorite spots when I am in Bangkok is the Q Bar.  This recipe is courtesy of "Travelin Matt".

Thai Basil by Travelin Matt
4 lime wedges
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 oz vodka
Fresh watermelon
Fresh Basil (4-5 Leaves)
Ice Cubes
Sprite to top off

1 Muddle Brown Sugar and lime first
2 Muddle watermelon
3 Add basil leaves (no muddle)
4 Add vodka
5 Add ice cubes
6 Top off with sprite or 7-up
7 stir strongly (Mojito Style)
8 Garnish with basil leaf and watermelon wedge

Private VIP Lounge of Q Bar

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Food Talk: Away from the Big Apple; From Farm to Table

When my friend Alan Adelson invited me to his house in the Catskills for dinner to talk about his new documentary film project, we didn't hesitate.    
  Gallery and Art Studio of Turquoise barn

Thursday night after work on MTA train to Poughkeepsie takes me and my partner to the heart of the Hudson Valley, where we picked up a rental car. 
For the next three days, we had enjoyed very much being vegan with the abundance of fresh farm grown vegetables to varieties of melons in the rolling hills by the Hudson Valley. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Entertainment: Summer Outdoor Fun

Summertime begins in the month of March for me every year, as I've been planning outdoor celebrations from weddings to a child's first birthday. Why not celebrate your special occasions with gatherings at a farm or on your own roof top. The beautiful weather will make it easier and merrier to create a simple, yet smart party planning.

Coming up with a fun ideal menu, like BBQ Striped Bass with Refreshing Tomato Vinaigrette or aromatic grilled Balinese Chicken Satay. And you can always make outdoor meals ahead of time so you can enjoy the wonderful company and setting.  Make simple rustic arrangements where your guests can participate with the setting by helping themselves to some Hibiscus Lemonade.  That's a party that can't be beat! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Travel: Top 5 Favorite Hotels From My Traveling Years

Quecha Boy
Haggling at a market in Baños, Ecuador

Luna Runtun (Ecuador) 

Located at the entrance to the Amazon. The rooms are on a bluff seemingly floating in the cloud banks. Waking up to the sounds of Toucans and parrots in misty rainforest surroundings. After a 10-hour bus ride from Quito, this is a real treat.

Gorgeous view from the top

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Recipe: Pickle Time!

From beets to okras, summer is the time to pickle your vegetables. Simply slice the vegetables paper thin, in shoe string sizes or in wedges which works well with cucumbers. Just add kosher salt, spices to any of these abundant vegetables – caraway to beets; and to carrots, chili; and cumin to cauliflower marries well. Within a few hours, the pickling process benefited from time in the brine - especially vegetables such as radishes, cucumbers and daikons. 

These pickled vegetables are a great treat on a hot summer after noon or served as hors d’oeuvres. They are delicious on a porchetta sandwich or with a sardine salad; it's a quick and easy way to make vegetables part of your lunch.  Not to mentioned bringing summer to your table on a cold winter day.
Calvin's Mustard Green Pickle
On a Burmese Lacquer Tray

One of my all time favorite is the easy green mango chutney recipe that my friend the late Copeland Marks wrote from his book on the Himalayan Rim.  One of my childhood pickled recipes hail from Shan State in Myanmar is the Mustard Green Pickle that my cousin Calvin recently posted it on Facebook.  It is common in that part of the country to use pickle mustard greens to enhance hot noodle soup with pork broth and stir fry dishes. 

First, wash the mustard greens, approximately 2 lbs (the one with yellow flowers). Drain then chop to about 2-inch pieces. Then add half a cup of coarse sea salt. Mix well and let it sit for an hour. Then squeeze all the liquid out. Then mix half a cup of vinegar, mustard seeds, sesame seeds, fennel seeds and chili peppers. Stored in a glass jar or airtight container, it's good for a few months.

My good friend Eugenia Bone has a great recipe below from her new book, The Kitchen Ecosystem (Clarkson Potter 2014) coming soon!
Pickled Radishes - Makes 1 half-pint
6 radishes, sliced very thin (1 heaping cup)
1 large shallot cut into eighths
½ cup vinegar
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
 Place the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot and heat over a medium low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the radishes and shallots. Heat until the vinegar just begins to boil, and then remove from heat to cool. Pack the radishes into the jar and refrigerate. Allow the radishes to cure one week before serving. They hold for a few months in the fridge.

What's your favorite pickling recipe? Send us some of your favorites!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Travel: My Top 5 Restaurants From Around the World

I have been traveling since I was 21 and I have always enjoyed eating the local cuisine wherever I visited.  I've had a lot of delightful and memorable meals; I only wish they were not always a continent away!

Chilean King Crab Ceviche Salad with Andes Corn
Chilean King Crab Ceviche Salad with Andes Corn

Here are my five favorite restaurants from the 50+ countries I have traveled to:

Aldea (Puerto Natales, Chile) After traveling for 3 weeks and eating various fish stews (Chile’s National Dish); this unique restaurant blends the delicious flavors of the Mediterranean spices with great Chilean wine to pairs with.  You won’t easily find a place like this anywhere in the world.

Puerto Natales, Irene Khin at Torres del Paine
Irene at Aldea Restuarant in Chile

Monday, April 29, 2013

King of Flowers

What I love about the month of May, besides it being the month of my birthday; are all the blooming plants and flowers.There are lots of exciting cheerful blossoms starting to show, as April showers bring May flowers!  My favorite May flowers are Peonies.  As spring approaches, I love watching the shoots sprout in my garden and always it amazes me when their delicate petals are in full bloom.

Orchids and Peonies
Orchid and Peony Bouquet by Saffron59

Just a hop on the subway or a train ride can put you in the feeling of a country side as the Brooklyn Botanical Garden or another outing favorite of mine that we do annually is to go to the Chanticleer Garden in Pa.  Our weekend trips to the Berkshires is botanical garden with full of different shapes and shades of peonies - from striking velvety burgundy to soft petal pink blossoms that just lift everyone’s spirits.  I love to create bridal bouquets with peonies, since this exquisite flower is a

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Holiday: Water Festival, Biggest Water Fight of the Year!

Did you know that every year around April, there’s a different New Year’s celebration known as The Water Festival?  Southeast Asian countries such as Burma, Cambodia, Laos, India, Thailand as well as Yunnan, China celebrate this multi-day holiday.  In Burma, (where I’m from) the New Year’s celebration is called Thingyan; for Thailand, Songkran; for Cambodia, Chaul Chnam Thmey.  Depending on which country they’re from the festival dates vary, but they all have one thing in common-The Water Festival.

water festival with Saveur Magazine in April
  Irene Being Doused with Water in Her Home Town

Everyone take part in the festivities with traditional water-throwing activities; going to pagodas or temples for worship and blessings; and sharing communal meals. Water is a symbol of not only cleanliness but also auspiciousness.  A belief that the celebration of the

Friday, March 8, 2013

Travel: Patagonia - A Gastronomical Trip Via Ruta Pan-Am Hwy

View of Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales, Chile
View of Torres Del Paine, pic by Irene K. Wong

After touring through the rolling vineyards of wine valleys and endless picturesque lakes in Chile; my next adventure starts on a flight to “the end of the world”, Last Hope Sound, where Magellanic penguin colonies thrive and then on to Puerto Natales; the home of breath taking, stunning national park. It is an experience like no other, that will get under your skin and never leave you.

Salto Grande, The Big Leap Waterfall
Salto Grande, pic by Irene K. Wong

With the help of Fransisco we had an excellent itinerary full of adventures with mountain treks, horseback riding across the Ultima Esperanza Province and lunch in between breaks that include

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Travel: Chile: From Deserts to the Roaring Seas

Mont Gras Winery
Mont Gras Winery
After learning that they were planning on building 5 dams in the southern part of Chile;  this winter, we traveled to the country that has the driest desert in the world as well as dramatic fjords and serene channels.  Chile, is a country with an endless bounty of colorful citrus fruits and fresh vegetables. We went through enchanted forest like those of Bavaria to crystal clear blue lakes.

We landed in the capital Santiago, and our friend Jose picked us up to his beach condo in Viña del Mar (vineyard by the sea). There, we spent most of our time in one of the most fun city in Chile, unique in all of Latin America, Valparaíso.

From the flat city center riding up an incline elevator takes you to a to a very different city above.  Filled with tiny stores, talented artisans and quaint cafes.  We could not take enough pictures of this city. No wonder it is named the Top 10 cities for artistic inspiration.