Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mamak Mee (aka Mee Goreng)

Mamak Mee, noodles, Malaysian, spicy, dinner, cilantro, limeWhen I was a kid back home, there was a stall under a huge tree down the road from our house run by a Mamak gentleman. The word "Mamak" as it is used in Malaysia refers to the Indian-Muslim community.  Thanks to the Indian-Muslims, we have such famous Malaysian dishes as roti canai, roti telur, murtabak, rojak, teh tarik and mamak mee (aka mee goreng) - a glorious plate of spicy, savory noodles with fish cakes, fish balls, tofu puffs, boiled potatoes and a dense fried cruller in a delicious egg-y sauce. Yummy, yummy mamak mee - how fondly I remember thee! The stall near our house made the most delicious, addictive version ever. I'm quite sure they had other things on their "menu" as well, but all we ever went there for was the mamak mee. It was close enough to our house that mum could send either of my brothers on their bicycle or me walking with a friend down to the stall to pick up dinner. We'd walk down to the large tree, put in our order and sit at one of the rickety old wooden tables to wait - inevitably there was a crowd of folks waiting for their orders. Everyone would stand around watching the chef take the orders and fry up each serving of the noodles one at a time. It was almost like watching a magician at work. There was the huge gas stove, old-fashioned but blazing with BTUs. There was the glass case filled with all the cut up ingredients. There was the mound of fresh yellow noodles and the numerous bowls of sauces and chilli pastes. He took everyone's order and remembered each one in sequence. "Satu mamak mee, tak mau taugeh. Satu mau semua. Satu tambah pedas. Satu tambah pedas, tak mau cucur udang" which translates to "One mamak mee, without bean sprouts. One with everything. One extra spicy. One extra spicy without the fried cruller". And this was just one person's order! How he kept it all straight without writing it all down is a mystery to me. It was showtime at the Mamak stall! I always made sure I had the best view and watched with eyes big as pies.
Unfortunately "progress" and municipal improvements have done away with the beautiful big tree that provided the shade and the space for the stall. The spot is now a huge four-lane road. Traffic zips by at breakneck speeds but when I drive by I go real slow and remember the exact spot where many a serving of mamak mee was ordered to go and enjoyed by so many. I wonder where Mr Mamak is today? If he's set up somewhere else and you know where, please do tell. Until then, I'm left with the memory of the perfect plate of mamak mee.
Back here in Brooklyn, I've been cooking up my version of the dish. A few months ago, I posted a picture of a wokful of noodles on my Facebook page and a few friends have been asking for the recipe. Here's the AMK version of mamak mee. Very tasty and quite easy once you get the hang of it. I've left out the boiled potatoes and the fried cruller because seriously, how much deep-fried carb-y friedness does one noodle dish need? :o)

Mamak Mee (serves 4)
Mamak Mee, ingredients, soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, Sriracha, sliced chicken breast, fish tofu, fish balls, yellow noodles, Lo Mein, bean sprouts3 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon corn oil
5 cloves of garlic - peeled and minced
1 red onion - finely sliced
1 chicken breast - sliced
8 - 10 fish balls - halved
4 fish cakes/fish tofu - sliced
8 tofu puffs - sliced
1lb Lo Mein noodles
Large handful of Chinese greens*
1 tomato - cubed
3 eggs
Large handful of beansprouts

3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
3 tbsp Sriracha*
2 tbsp ketchup
1/4 cup water
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste

Sliced scallions, cilantro and lime wedges to garnish. 

Garlic, onions, wok1.  Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok. Add garlic and onions and fry til very lightly browned.

sliced chicken breast, fish tofu, tofu puffs, fish balls, wok, frying
2. Add the chicken and stir fry until no longer pink. Then add fish balls, fish cakes/fish tofu and tofu puffs. Stir to combine then move on to adding the sauces.

Sliced chicken breast, fish tofu, tofu puffs, fish balls, Sriracha, ketchup, soy sauce, wok, frying3. Add the soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, Sriracha, and ketchup. Stir to combine. Add a dash of salt and pepper. You can add more later if you need more.

Sliced chicken breast, fish tofu, tofu puffs, fish balls, Sriracha, ketchup, soy sauce, wok, frying

4. Add the 1/4 cup of water and stir to combine. At this point I added more Sriracha as it didn't look red hot enough for my taste. Add the noodles and greens and stir to mix evenly. Cook until the greens begin to wilt - about 1 minute.

Mamak Mee, noodles, fried, spicy, Malaysian, eggs, wok5. Move the noodles over to one side of the wok. Add tomatoes over the noodles. Add a tablespoon of oil to the empty side of the wok and crack the eggs onto the oil. Leaving the noodles to one side, scramble the eggs until almost completely done.

Mamak Mee, noodles, fried, spicy, Malaysian, eggs, wok
 6. Then stir to mix it all up. Check for seasonings - you might want to add more salt (says the saltaholic)

Mamak Mee, noodles, fried, spicy, Malaysian, eggs, wok
 7. Add a large handful of sprouts and stir to mix them in. And there you have it - mamak mee! Garnish with the sliced scallions, cilantro and a wedge of lime. Now all that's left to do is to eat it. Squeeze the lime over everything and you're in heaven!
If you're like me and nothing's ever hot enough, have a little dish of sliced bird eye chillies in soy sauce on the side. Ooooh, my mouth is on fire. Exactly as it should be!
Mamak Mee, noodles, fried, spicy, Malaysian, eggs, Bird Eye chillies, soy sauce 

Greens, vegetable* The mamaks usually use Sawi or Kai Choy (mustard greens) for this dish. I believe that one can use most any Chinese greens for this dish. If the stems are particularly tough, separate the stems from the leaves while prepping. Add the stems when you add the chicken, so they have more time to cook and become tender.  Then add the leaves when you add the noodles. For this recipe, I grabbed a bag of greens at the Chinese supermarket without actually looking at them. When I opened the bag to cook last night, I found greens that I had never laid eyes on before. I tasted them raw and they were slightly peppery with a great flavor. They worked more than well for this dish - the stems were not too tough so I was able to cook them together with the leaves. Here's a picture of them - if anyone knows what these are, please enlighten me! :o)

** Sriracha is not usually used in mamak mee. A chilli paste of ground dried red peppers is cooked and used to add heat to this dish. In Malaysia, we get little bags of chilli paste called "chili boh" at the market. In most households you will find some in the refrigerator as there are many uses for it and a home cook always finds themselves in need of it. I decided to eliminate the step of blending the red chillies and cooking them to make this recipe a lot easier. One could also use the easily found Sambal Oelek as a substitute. If you do blend your own chillies or use Sambal Oelek, make sure to cook it long enough until the raw chilli smell is gone.  

All ingredients for this dish can be found at most Asian supermarkets.  Here in NYC, I shop at New York Mart, 128 Mott St (between Hester St & Grand St) New York, NY 10013

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Auria's Malaysian Kitchen: Over 2,000 Served!

 It all began a little over three weeks ago when a friend of mine sent me this link on Facebook and asked "u gonna be there??" It was for an event called the Malaysian Winter Market at Bryant Park on Feb 20th and 21st. I took a quick look at the dates and decided it was much too close to the event to even consider it. If you've ever had any dealings with Malaysian officialdom at any level, you know that nothing happens in three weeks. Absolutely nothing.
I promptly forgot all about it until my husband spotted it on my FB feed. "So you're doing this Winter Market thing, right?" My dearest Wife Pusher was on to it and there was nothing I could do about it but lie. "Oh yeah, I emailed them already", while still knowing in my heart that I was going to do no such thing. The next day he asked me again "So what do you need to do for this Winter Market thing?" What's a lying girl to do, but keep on lying - "I'm not sure, I've sent an email. Let's see if I hear back". By now I felt bad enough about lying to the man I love, the one I've chosen to spend my life with, the father of our offspring that I decide it can't hurt to send a little email. Right?
I do some creative Googling and come up with the email address for the Malaysian Trade Commissioner himself. I send a little email. I get a response "Dear Auria, Thank you for your e-mail. Unfortunately due to the constraints in the exhibition space, all booths have been taken. Warm regards..." Ah, as I expected. Back to business as usual - now what was I doing before this little bump in the road?
Two hours later I get an email from the company that is organizing the entire event. I froze in my seat. "Hi Auria, Thanks so much for being in touch with MATRADE regarding interest in participating in the Malaysian Winter Market event. We have a last-minute opening for the market and would love for you to be a featured vendor."
Horror of horrors - is it time for me to get out there and play with the big boys?! Say it isn't so! Who's going to be at this event again? Nyonya - my favorite Malaysian spot in all of NYC. Laut - best Malaysian restaurant outside of Chinatown and Flushing. Bentara - named Best Malaysian Restaurant outside of Malaysia. THE BIG BOYS! And little ol' me?!!!
The email explained that as long as I could get all my paperwork in to them by noon the next day, I could participate. I can't explain it, something took ahold of my timid little newbie chef soul and made me do it. I was a woman possessed. I put Neena to bed that night, printed out the copious amounts of paperwork, then meticulously went through each and every page. I was at the Department of Health at 8:45 the next morning and by 10:30am I was at the offices of RF|Binder who were organizing the entire event with the  completed paperwork and DOH permit in hand. I left their office at around 11am - it was a freezing Winter's day, but my heart was on fire, and my mind was about to explode! WHAT HAVE I DONE?!!!!!

Me & my 40qt pot!
With less than two weeks to go, I set to work planning - figuring out portions, scaling up my recipes. I was making four dishes - Beef Rendang Sliders, Chili Crab Sliders, Sweet & Spicy Ikan Bilis, & CocoDew, a coconut milk, honeydew and pearl tapioca beverage. I've made all these things for various Farmers' Markets and fancy night markets before, but never in these quantities. I started sharing the event on FB and on Twitter. If I was going to be cooking tons of food, I wanted to make sure that people knew where I would be and come eat it.
Friends started calling and emailing with offers of help - cooking help, schlepping help, serving help. I picked a couple of friends to help - people whom I knew I could count on to be there, to be extra eyes and hands, to stay out of the way yet be a part of the process. I shopped and shopped. I cooked and cooked and cooked.
Tuesday night before the event, my dear friend Amy Goff who had been cooking with me since Monday decided that we needed a drink and some play time with Neena before we went to bed. My poor neglected little girl - mommy had been in Auria's Malaysian Kitchen mode for days. We built the "Empire State Smiley-Face Building" with her. Many rounds of "Sequin Patterns" a made up game of ours and three rum and cokes later, I went to bed. I can't really explain it, but I had been operating on auto-pilot since early Monday morning. The best way to explain it is that parts of my brain were shut down and other parts were working overtime. The bad parts were silenced. The good parts were enhanced. I felt some sort of magic surrounding the entire process.
February 20th. I'm up at 5am. I'm down in the kitchen making the CocoDew. 7am - Patrick Meyer shows up - the brawn (and the brains, we later realize :o) of the operation. We're on our way to Bryant Park before 8am.
The lunch session was supposed to begin at 11:30, but by 11am there were eager folks milling about our table, waiting impatiently for us to get going. We were working on setting up our stations and figuring out the flow for the sliders etc. First we decided that I would be in the back putting the sandwiches together. The Trade Commissioner came by for a quick chat. He said "You're one very lucky woman - do you know how lucky you are?" A couple of media people came by as well and Amy, in all her wisdom said "You need to be in the front, talking to people. Because this is your thing and you need to be the one talking to everyone!" 
At 11:30, we put our gloves on and our heads down and went to work. We didn't get a second to look up until 2:30 when the lunch session was done. There was a line extending to my right that I could not see the end of, and that I never did see the end of. The RF|Binder people came up now and then to let me know that I had a line extending all the way to the front doors of the tents. Someone from NBC came over to talk to me, but there wasn't a moment to spare. Apparently the crowd was hungry and the crowd had to be fed. Various friends came by - some waited in the line and told me how long they had waited. Others just came up to me and said "This line in crazy, I'm not waiting in line - I'll just come to your house for dinner!" :o)
After the lunch session was over, Amy, Patrick and I went to a nearby cafe and collapsed into chairs with coffee. I was a little overwhelmed by what had just happened. Folks had told us that they had been in line for 40 minutes. Friends were talking pictures of the line to show me what was going on. We all decided that the same thing couldn't possibly happen during the dinner session. How wrong we were. It was even crazier at dinner time. We began at 5:30 and by 7:15 were completely sold out of everything. Each time, the Chili Crab was the first to go, followed by the Sweet & Spicy Ikan Bilis, followed by the CocoDew and finally the Beef Rendang.
The same thing happened the following day but with a much longer line at both the lunch and dinner sessions. I'm not gloating or boasting, but merely stating a fact when I say that there weren't any lines for the other vendors at this event. Ok, ok, I'm gloating. I wouldn't be human if I wasn't. The organizers told me that Nyonya had a line about 10 deep for a little while at lunch the day before - as they should, considering that's where I go when I crave the flavors of home. The crew at the table to my left were standing there with arms crossed pretty much the entire time. The crew on my right were upset that my line was "preventing people from getting to their table". When we arrived at 9am on the second day of the event, the organizers had set up stanchions and rope to guide our line so that it wouldn't block access to the other tables. At lunch on that 2nd day, folks were coming up and buying six of each kind of slider. In hindsight, I'm wondering if we should have put a limit on how many sliders each person could buy. You know, just to spread the love around. Yes, no, maybe?
My friend Frank Simms said "I TOLD you you invited too many people!!!! I stopped by TWICE and it was like backstage at a Madonna concert. I stood in line for 30 minutes and moved 3 feet! No other food stalls had anywhere near as many people queuing up. Congratulations!! Now you can begin opening chains all over the country and buy an island! I'd wait in line for this cooking ANYTIME!!!
A fellow Kitchensurfing chef, Henrietta Bagazonzya said "I longed to be inside the heated tents, but the long line that started at the entrance of the park was to my surprise specifically for one Malaysian vendor - Auria's Malaysian Kitchen. I thought, 'this can't line?' An hour later, I was finally at the front of the line and it was worth the wait folks! Beef rendang on a slider that melted in my mouth like butter ya'll!" 
Turns out that it wasn't such a big deal playing with the big boys at this event after all. It's not how much you've done, or what you've done or how much of a name you've made for yourself. If you throw enough heart and passion into something, then get yourself out of the way - magic happens!

 In these two pictures, taken from the outside of the tents, you can see the crew at the first table on the right watching the action at our table. Then AMK next to them with the line extending to the left all the way out the front doors of the tents.

My Sweet & Spicy Ikan Bilis.
Lunch-time Line
Dinner-time Line
Chili Crab Sliders - next time I'll make twice as many!

Auria's Malaysian Kitchen would like to thank Mr Muhd Shahrulmiza Zakaria, Trade Commissioner/Consul (Trade), MATRADE & RF|Binder for organizing such a great event and doing an amazing job of spreading the word and getting the public to attend. The response was overwhelmingly positive and it was a wonderful experience from that very first email to the absolute end. A very warm thank you also, to the 2000 or so people who came to the event and chose to stand in line, in some cases for up to an hour just to experience my cooking. Your commitment to these sliders and nutty fish is beyond anything I ever expected and I am forever grateful.
I would also like to thank Amy Goff, the best sous chef a girl could ever have and an up-and-coming Chef-to-watch in her own right. A big thank you to Patrick Meyer - the brains of the entire operation and the man in charge of all the schlepping and crowd communication (ie. announcing to the crowd that we were out of crab etc.) You had such a nice way of handling the crowd, I would have been lost without you. Thank you also to Elaine Goff - the hottest bun-slinger known to man. I love you to the ends of the earth, Blondie. The three of you together gave me so much confidence - I knew that no matter what happened either of those days, I was in good company and we would work it out together. I love you guys.
A big shout out and a BIG thank you to Judith Singer-Stevens of Third-Hand Brooklyn Services who schlepped me all around town on my shopping expeditions and drove us into and out of Manhattan on both days. You are a G*dsend in every way.
A very tender and heartfelt thank you to my husband and daughter - the lights of my life. I do it all for you. You are the inspiration and the motivation. Every Single. Day.
And of course, the biggest thank you to my Mum, the source of it all, without whom none of this would be possible.
Ok,  SO WHAT'S NEXT? :o)

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mum's You-Can't-Eat-Just-One Fish Croquettes

With all that's been going on here at AMK, it's just been too easy to neglect my dear blog. I'm sorry blog and my lovely readers for being incommunicado for this long. Making curry tins for gift shops and fancy food stores, cooking for private dinner parties and teaching Malaysian cooking both here and in students' homes has been fun, but honestly nothing is as rewarding as writing a few paragraphs about a favorite dish and sharing the recipe! So here I am with a little recipe about my mum's famous fish croquettes. I dare you to make this recipe and then eat just ONE!
Last night during my usual six o'clock "What's For Dinner" scramble, I realized I hadn't defrosted anything and there were a grand total of zero options for a protein. No meat, no fish... wait! There's this can of Wild Alaska Salmon sitting in my cabinet. I know that my husband detests canned salmon so I had to come up with a way to cook it that would ensure it would go down without a fuss. I searched my memory for all the ways I could possibly use this and up popped a picture of my mum's tasty little fish croquettes, or fish cutlets as we call them in Malaysia. Now, it would be a cold day in hell before Mum will use canned fish for her croquettes. Mum's version begins with a trip to the Pasar Besar Seremban, where she finds the freshest mackerel, has it cleaned and brings it home where she works her magic on it. She's an absolute pro at food shopping at the market - I wish I could take you all on a trip to the wet market to watch her in action. She has all her regular peeps - the fish man, the pork man, the beef guy, the chicken lady, the egg lady, the ground spices lady, the whole spices guy, and of course her favorite - the onion/garlic/ginger man. She's bought from them all regularly for years and has a sweet bullying way of getting the absolute best and freshest of everything. She shows up with her sweet smile, then a quick scowl and they wouldn't dare but give her only the very best! But I digress.
Before I share this recipe, which is Mum's basic technique adjusted according to what I had on hand in my kitchen last night, here are some pics of Mum's fish croquette process that I was pleased to be a part of last Christmas when we were back home. We were making these for a holiday dinner party and had to make a gazillion of them. Mum always says that these are a lot of work. I, however was happy to have this project that kept us busy in the kitchen for hours. It's such a pleasure to watch her do her thing, boss me around, and get into a classic mother-daughter gossip/bicker/giggle session with her. Even when we bicker, her kitchen is full of love and you know that's the special ingredient that makes these so, so, so good. Yes, this warrants three so's.

As you can see, Mum's croquettes start with fresh fish, boiled then very carefully flaked to remove the skin and bones. Mashed potatoes are added, along with onions, red chillies, curry leaves and various spices. In Malaysia, if you made fish croquettes without red chillies and served them to your guests, I bet they'd throw them at you and go out for dinner.
My version begins with a can of salmon, no potatoes and no red chillies. Any white, flaky, meaty fish will do.  As will fresh salmon. Some folks even use canned tuna or sardines. If you're starting with fresh fish, boil it in salted water until cooked, let cool, carefully remove the skin and bones, then flake with a fork. If you're using canned, remember that there are bones in canned salmon. Don't go too crazy trying to remove every. single. pinbone. or you'll be eating your croquettes next July. Just take out the big, round center bones and you're good to go.

Fish Croquettes (serves 4)

1 can salmon (about 15oz) - center bones removed
2 eggs
2 Jersey shallots - chopped
3 curry leaves - finely chopped
2 tbsp breadcrumbs (Mum uses Panko, I used Matzo meal)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin - toasted
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste (only if you're using fresh fish)
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
1.  Mix all ingredients.

 2. Wet your hands and roll the mixture into little balls about the size of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins. Don't ask me how I know what size those are. I just know, ok? You can leave them as balls, or you can do as Mum does and flatten them like this --->
Once all the mixture is used up, I like to pop these in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes - it helps them stick together when cooking.
 3. Heat about 1/2" of oil in a frying pan. When the oil is ready, gently place the croquettes one by one into the hot oil.
 4. Cook for two minutes, then gently flip them over to cook the other side.
5. Using a spatula, carefully remove them from the pan and place on paper towels to drain the excess oil. 

 And here they are looking all "come hither". I hope you'll give these a try and let me know how they turned out and how many you inhaled. Happy Cooking!

By: Auria Abraham
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Flowering Chives with Eggs

Chinese Flowering Chives - oh how I love them. Beautiful to behold and simply delightful to cook and serve, the strong flavor makes for a mouthwatering addition to stir-fries, soups and seafood dishes. Tender, oval buds sit atop stiff, square-ish green stems that are about 8 - 10 inches long. The buds  have a strong garlic flavor, while the stems are succulent, sweet and crisp.
These show up in our family dinners about once a week. Everytime I'm shopping in Chinatown, I inevitably come home with bunch of them. I sauté them with garlic, then scramble some eggs atop everything and this makes for a very quick, delicious and nutritious one-dish meal.  Here's how:

Flowering Chives with Eggs (serves 4)

2 tablespoons corn oil
5 cloves of garlic - peeled and sliced
1 bunch flowering chives
Salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
4 eggs - lightly beaten and seasoned with salt
Toasted sesame oil

1.To prep the flowering chives,  cut off and discard the bottom half inch. Then cut one 1.5 inch segment and set aside. Continue to cut 1.5 inch segments until you reach the top making sure not to mix these with the first 1.5 inch piece that you cut. Stick with me here, people.  You'll see why I'm being such a stickler about the first segment and the blahblahblah. I promise you this is not just about me being a control freak - there is a valid reason for it.
2. Heat oil over medium high heat in a wok or frying pan. Add the garlic and salt to taste, about a 1/4 teaspoon.
3. Once the garlic is very lightly browned and aromatic, add the first 1.5 inch segment that you cut from the bottom of the stems. These may be slightly fibrous and will definitely require more cooking time that the rest of the stalk, which is why we cook these first.  Add two tablespoons of water to generate some steam and to soften these tough pieces. Cook for about three minutes. (You may choose to skip this step entirely - throw out the bottom, woody segment and use only the tender parts of the stems. I cannot stand any sort of waste in the kitchen and so opt to use every part of the stem)
4. Once the water is almost all gone, add the rest of the cut up flowering chives. Stir to combine and cook until the bright green turns an even brighter green. Sounds impossible I know, but it will happen in about one minute. 
5. Add the eggs and leave them to set a little - about two minutes. Using a spatula, break the set eggs into pieces that can be flipped. I usually break the contents of my frying pan into about five or six large pieces so it's easy to flip them individually. It's best to try and keep the eggs in large pieces rather than to stir and scramble which, in my opinion, leaves a rather unpleasant looking mess.
6. Once flipped, cook for another minute or just until the eggs are completely set. Add white pepper to taste and transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle lightly with toasted sesame oil. Serve immediately with hot rice.
7. Enjoy and plan to make this again next week. And the next :o)

Flowering Chives can be purchased at any Chinese or Asian supermarket. 

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MOFA: Museum of Food Arts - NYC's unique tribute to peculiar food.

Museum of Food Arts logo
As a genuine born and bred Malaysian, I've always believed that when it comes to weird food, we've got the market cornered. A walk around my hometown's wet market would prove that in a matter of minutes - pig knuckles, ears and snouts, yardlong beans, stinky shrimp pastes, dried fish large and small, durians, rambutans and mangosteens, century eggs and black salted duck eggs, beef tripe and tendons, and all manner of packaged strangeness. I'm rather proud of said strangeness and love taking visitors from across the seas to the Pasar Besar Seremban (which translates to "Seremban Big Market")
Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting NY's latest destination museum - the MoFA. The Museum of Food Arts blew away all my closely held ideas of us Malaysians being the authority on bizarre foods.  Apparently, crazy food items are found pretty much everywhere in the world, and they are by turns delightful, downright funny or completely gross. Sometimes all at the same time!
The MoFA was started by my dear friend Gary Schreiner sometime in the mid-90s. A collector at heart, Mr Schreiner's home boasts a variety of collections - from his youth, there are the expected stamp and coin collections. In 2004, he began collecting beautiful Bakelite radios, which proved to be quite a costly pastime. The Food Museum collection came about when he discovered his fondness of peculiar food items that he found on his travels across the globe and brought home with him. These first few items were placed prominently in his kitchen and Gary delighted in showing them to his friends, talking about the origins of the pieces and enjoyed watching his guests marvel at them.
One Whole Chicken in a can, 3lb 2 oz
AMK: When did you acquire the first Food Museum piece,  and what was it?
GS: I can't remember the first one. I'm sorry. The first really big item was the One Whole Chicken in a can. I was visiting Mike Braun in Portland Oregon, and I told him I had to stop at a supermarket, that I'm starting a food museum and he said "Alright,  I don't know what you're looking for". So we kept walking up and down aisles and he kept pulling things out and I said "nah, nah..." and then all of a sudden, he pulled out One Whole Chicken in a can.  I looked at it and I said "that's it!" and he said "Oh, I see where you're going with this." That must have been in '96. But that can't have been the beginning, I must have had some items before then because I said to Mike "I'm starting a food museum". Unfortunately anything pre-One Whole Chicken in a can, I don't recall. That was one of my most prized acquisitions, and probably solidified the idea for me. 
AMK: So you had the idea for the Food Museum....
GS: In my youth.
AMK: In your youth.  When you were a teenager?
GS: In the 90s, yes.
AMK: That's what I want to go back to - when did you know that you were going to have a food museum, and how did that come about?
GS: I've always liked kinda campy, offbeat things. I don't know what hit me first. Some of the oldest pieces are the Cock Soup, the Chicken in a Can.
AMK: I'd love to know at what point you knew you were going to have a Food Museum?
GS: Oh, once you have three or four of something, then it becomes a collection. I've been sucked into some other collections like, for a while I had some really pretty old radios, Bakelite radios. I still have them, but at some point I just pulled the plug on collecting those. At some point, you have to say "enough", because then it becomes an obsession, your collecting.
AMK: What one item in the Food Museum required the most effort on your part to acquire?
A can of Popeye spinachGS: Well, it's always stumbling upon things. It's not like a struggle. It's not like I'm trying to buy a Picasso and I have to go to Sotheby's and ... you know. It's basically traveling the world, and every country I go to, just going into supermarkets. Also people that know I have a Food Museum showing up from their travels and bringing me unusual things. And then being the curator, I have to decide whether it's worthy of the Food Museum, whether it meets the qualifications and high standards that I have. And I can be a tough curator. People bring me things that they think would be perfect and sometimes I have to make the difficult decision of putting them aside. At this point, people just bring or send me things. For example, the Popeye Spinach is from Joan Osborne - we were working on a project and she showed up one day with the can of Popeye Spinach.
AMK: Did she know you had a Food Museum?
GS: Oh yeah, she was very excited to be able to contribute to it.
AMK: Let's discuss the, sort of, sexual undertones that are apparent with some of the items in the collection.
Three soda bottles with labels that read Lift Boing! Squirt
GS: I don't see any. What are you seeing?  (chuckles)
AMK: I'm talking about the Soda Bottle Triptych that tells a narrative "Lift, Boing!, Squirt", and the box of dates that say "Eat Me."
GS: Oh, these are all coincidental.
AMK: Nothing to do whatsoever....
GS: There's nothing sexual.
AMK: There's no connection to your personality,  your ... particular way of seeing things?
GS: Well, food is sensual, no? Food is very sensual but there's no, if there's anything it's just accidental. The Frank in the Pouch, and the Spotted Dick, the Lift Boing! Squirt and the Eat Me, and all that stuff - they're just foods that are funny. But, you know, I let the museum-goer come to their own conclusions.
AMK: Let's talk about where you see the Food Museum going from here.
A box of dates labeled Eat MeGS: Well we'd like to get a space at some point. And then, it'd be nice to get a freezer so we can get some perishable foods as well. And I'm talking to Target right now about doing a Free Friday night, like they have at the MoMA. And I'd like a roof garden like they have at the Met, where we can serve cocktails and have food and ice sculptures, maybe overlooking Central Park. And maybe we could have guest chefs - people who do weird food. The one thing to remember is the museum's main rule: We DON'T eat the museum.
If anyone has an interesting food item that's non-perishable and fits the gestalt of the collection that they would like to donate to the MoFA, please send it to PO Box 299,  New York, NY 10025
A can of Ma Ling brand bran dough
My favorite Food Museum item ever.  Read the brand name and product name together.  Side-splitting!
a can of squid in its own ink
A can of lunch tongue
A Heinz brand can of Spotted Dick
A jar of Climax brand spice rub
A can of Baxter's Cock-a-leekie soupFrank brand hot dog in a pouch
Cock Soup soup mixSweet chilli-flavoured nutsMr Porky brand pork rinds
Crunky barnd chocolate snack bar
Corny brand peanut snack bar
Bible Bar snack bar and The Last Supper Bar snack bar
Big Shock Energy Bar
A bag of Fartless Popping Corn
A jar of Shippam's Bloater
A box of Little Debbie brand Nutty Bars

This was worth a really close look!

Sun Dired & Road Tenderized -Only the best for the museum!
When plain old salt just won't do!

In Gary's downtime from his role as the Curator/Museum Director of the MoFA, he is an Emmy Award-winning composer for TV & Film.  He has single-handedly scored over a thousand TV commercials and contributed music to countless TV shows and movies. Earlier this year, he performed at Sting's benefit concert for the Rainforest Fund as a featured guest artist, playing chromatic harmonica with Rosanne Cash on a couple of songs and then sharing the stage with Elton John on a duet of “Moon River". His favorite part of the experience was when Sting & Meryl Streep summoned him into the green room to play piano for them to rehearse a number. This summer, Gary and his writing partner Curt Sobel licensed music for the movie "Parker" starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez, with a release date in January 2013.
As if all this wasn't enough, Gary has authored a number of popular instructional books such as "Slow Way to Get Rich Quick", "Fast Track to Speaking Slowly" and "101 Ways To Be Indifferent". He is also an avid inventor and is currently working on a one-way Ziploc bag for people on diets.

MoFA logo by John Bellacosa Pin It