Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No to Bottle Water and Sodas!

One of my favorite ways to quench my thirst this summer is creating refreshing cold iced tea or flavored water.
In my own home, I picked Lemon Verbena sprigs from my window sill, add zests of one lemon and lemon slices into a pitcher of water. It keeps up to 5 days in fridge. Coming in from the scorching heat with a pitcher of cold refreshing infused water waiting, it is big relief. Also it is great to make few batches to greet unexpected guests or entertain large summer parties.
Lemon Verbena with lemon and zests  
by Irene Khin Wong
At recent bat mitzvah, the host was very grateful that we prepared pitchers of the cucumber basil water ready before the ceremony. Their guests were able to help themselves throughout the afternoon, and easy on the environment with plastic bottles.

Passionfruit Spritzer by Saffron59
Here is the recipe for the refreshing Cucumber Basil drink:

10 shots spring water
1 shot fresh lime juice
6 small sprigs of basil (plus 2 for garnish)
6 slices of fresh cucumber (plus 4 for garnish
2 slices of fresh lime (plus 2 for garnish)

1. Add the  basil, cucumber, and lime slices to the shaker.
2. Muddle the ingredients in the bottom of the shaker until thoroughly crushed.
3. Add the spring water, lime juice, and ice to above the level of the liquid and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
4. Strain the mixture into tall glasses containing large cubes of ice and garnish with remaining basil, cucumber, or lime slices. You can substitute with Prosecco or Chardonnay wine in lieu of water.

I like to hear from you what your favorite summer drinks you have been making.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer Bouillabaise

This is the season for serving fish and shellfish for your summer gathering.
Get your cookware ready and put together fresh ingredients along with these nutritious and light gems from the sea from your local fish mongers.

This delicious dish can be cooked ahead so that you can enjoy your day.  Your guests won't have to wait too long for this flavorful dish, and they can sip the summer cocktails such as Riesling Sangria with lychee to start.

 Green Curry Bouillabaise using local and fresh seafood
Bouillabaise with Green Curry Paste
(yield 6 servings)


1 1/2 lb fish (skate wings filet) or white fish such as bass, cod
1 lb shrimp #18-21 count
12 pieces little neck clams, optional
2 lb mussels, cleaned 
2 lb sea scallops
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1/4 cup oil
3 tablespoons green curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 lb shallot,  minced
2 cans coconut milk
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons  paprika
3 cups vegetable stock  
3 pieces of kaffir lime leaves, slivered, optional


Brown the shallot and add garlic and ginger with 1/8 cup oil.  
Stir in green curry paste and coconut milk and bring to simmer .  
Add 2 cups vegetable stock and let it simmer for additional 10mins and add fish sauce, salt and pepper to taste and put aside.

Marinate the fish,shrimp and scallops with garlic,ginger, salt and pepper.
In a large frying pan, heat the rest of the oil, sear the fish and shrimp separately by adding turmeric, paprika and kaffir lime leaves. Set aside.

In a separate pot, bring 1 cup of vegetable stock to a boil and add in mussels and rest of shell fish and stir for a few minutes in high heat till the shells opens, discard the unopened ones, add the green curry broth in. 

In a deep pasta bowl arrange nicely with the mussels and fish at bottom of the bowl and put the shrimp and scallops on the top along with a ladle full of hot broth.

Serve hot along with steamed Jasmine rice.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Behind the Scene: Wedding Planning 101

Planning your wedding should be fun and intimate with your loved ones and should not be breaking your bank.  Here are some of the suggestions from 12 years of wedding planning I have been producing.

Approximately fifty percent of total budget should go to reception and the rest for flowers, photo/video, and entertainment/music. Compile all your notes, images and ideas from magazines cut outs that you want to discuss with your vendors. You should be able to be hands to hands with the vendors from the day you book with them till the day of your wedding.  During this process, your caterer and planner should be your most-trusted experts (friends), they will assist you in making thorough lists of crucial priorities. 
Drop dead red, Peacock blue, Imperial gold are colors of this year!
Simple and elegant table top accent with red
Your wedding d├ęcor can be gorgeous and festive without putting a dent in your pocket. By choosing the right color scheme, as cotton linen comes in different colors; so why not make it festive and save money instead of large floral arrangements?

When considering style of service whether buffet or plated, both will cost equally since you will still need some number of staff to man the buffet station and guests come back for more tastings. Why not consider a few tastings stations using smaller plates?

Weather is very unpredictable, you should listen to Mother Nature especially if you plan to do out door wedding. However, if you are considering less costly, planning a winter white wedding can save you 20 percent. When planning to set up, it will put you at ease to make sure there is ample time to get to the venue. For larger wedding, we recommend setting up the day before.

There seems to be little time and so much to do, so delegating your close friends or family members is best option. They should attend every meetings so they are familiar with the wedding. Remember, let everyone work for you! It’s your wedding day. Wedding cake may tumble, your maid of honor missed her flight, you are simply going to have a good time.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Food Talk: The Other Incredible Nut, Coconut

After visiting many Asian and Latin countries over the past years, I see how essential coconuts are in tropical culture. With many purposes, this marvelous fruit has many various stages of growth.
Coconut Flowers found by the rain forest in Colombia
Milk of the coconut is the key in making delicious curries and enhancing many dishes and soups. The creamy texture brings its thickness and richness in flavors. There's coconut meat and its milk in Beef Rendang, has been one of my signature dishes that I cooked often, one of main ingredients of the 26 for this rich flavorful dish..
Classic Cambodian Fish Dish with Coconut Cream, served in Coconut Shell
Growing up in Burma (Myanmar), natural coconut oil in shampoo give nice sheen on long  beautiful hair for Burmese ladies and also as home made natural sunscreen - saving our skin from sun burn. In the spring time, farmers use the processed coconut husk and the fiber as part of the soil mixture for sowing seeds. The dried coconut husk is used to stuff mattresses at an orphanage that I have been supporting for over ten years now to supplement their income. In homes, many also use it as fuel.

The bed frame I recently purchased is made with coconut trunks which is sustainable alternative to wood.

On one of my visits to Vietnam on a scorching hot afternoon in Ho Chi Minh City, the coconut vendor on the street was a life saver. The cold coconut water was a quick thirst quencher, a refreshing  and nutritional energy boost. I also noticed coconut is a popularity key ingredient in everything from energy bars to Greek yogurt that I consumed on my recent trekking trip in Colombia.  Coconut has so many benefits, it is rich in protein, contains enormous fiber and is high in Vitamin E that I am sure there will be more products with coconut appearing soon in the market.

View the delicious Amok Fish recipe here:


Monday, April 28, 2014

Food & Travel: 2014 Darjeeling First Flush Is In!

I am an aficionado with great tea, when I found out my good friend Sebastian  who is  a tea connoisseur  just returned with the first flush of Darjeeling, I just have to walk over for a tasting; luckily his tasting room is not too far from my studio. I have been on several trips with Mr. Beckwith and tasted some remarkable tea. 

Here is his recent newsletter he published.

Picking tea leaves at the estate
It's one of the season's most anticipated harvests: Darjeeling First Flush has arrived! This mountainous region in West Bengal, India, has been producing this heralded spring delight since the mid-1800s. One of the lightest-bodied styles of black tea, first flushes are the initial picking of the year, and are sought out for their refreshing balance of floral and vegetal flavors.

Tea pickers leaving after a day's work

Our 2014 Darjeeling First Flush, Goomtee Estate has beautiful notes of balsam and marigold; try steeping in a vessel like our side-handled glass pot to watch the liquor deepen to a rich golden infusion. Enjoy this limited lot while it lasts!

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.
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


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)