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. 

Pin It

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

Friday, September 28, 2012

This Vending Life

A chef mentor friend suggested that I need to get myself "out there". "Auria,  you need some exposure. People need to taste your food and know who you are". Wait a minute, isn't that why I've been doing these cooking classes and writing this blog? Ok,  I know that all of two people read my blog (one of whom is my husband) and at most there are 8 - 10 people at a class. So I have to admit my work thus far hasn't really "built an audience" for Auria's Malaysian Kitchen. I also admit that stepping out to sell food to the masses feels a little like jumping off a cliff. There's so much unknown out there. Courage, where are you? I won't go into all the other reasons why I took so long to get here. Suffice it to say that it all boiled down to fear and angst, which have been loyal, lifelong companions. Fast forward. 
I looked around at opportunities to present myself to the public. Someone mentioned the Brooklyn Flea.  Neena and I went on a fact-finding mission on a lovely, sunny Saturday. I had a much-too-delicious Porchetta sandwich. Pork,  how I love thee! Neena had a fancy icy treat from La Newyorkina and followed that up with some ice-cream. It was much too nice out to argue about the quality of her lunch, so I focused on watching the vendors - taking note of how they were set up,  what sort of gear they had, coolers, tables, chalkboards to advertise their wares, foil, cardboard trays, plastic cups, napkin dispensers, andawholelotofotherstuff. Neena decided to share her ice-cream with a daring pigeon and I continued to take mental notes while conquering the devil on my shoulder who was pressing me to head back to the Porchetta table. I came away with a sense that this food-vending thing was definitely do-able and remembered one Sunday morning some twenty-five years ago when I awoke at 5am to help my mother cook a giant pot of chicken curry for a church breakfast sale. We prepped and cooked together, then headed to church to set up at the tables outside the church. I helped sell a myriad of food items - told folks what was available, packaged up the orders, took the money and made change. Surely that was practice for what was to come, all these many years later.  Something about the gorgeous sunny day, being outdoors and the memory of that church breakfast sale filled me with determination that I would have a table at the Flea in a couple of months. And yes - Malaysians eat curry for breakfast!!  :o)
I never did get that table at the Flea. Perhaps,  I'm too much of a nobody yet to stand in the hallowed halls of food vending alongside Asia Dog, Red Hook Lobster Pound and Solber Pupusas. I wrote to inquire about a booth and I never heard back. Not even a one-line email. Not even "meh,  who are you?" Alright Flea - I will see you NEXT summer.  Perhaps.
A little crestfallen,  I accepted that I had to learn to walk before I fly.  
Two weeks later, I see an email on our neighborhood newsgroup requesting vendors to sign up for a new sidewalk market in our neighborhood, the beautiful Ditmas Park. Without a second's thought,  I shoot off an email explaining who I am and what I cook and what I will sell. Isn't this how the best things come to light - without too much hemming and hawing and thinking and pondering AKA "thinking oneself to a standstill". I sent that email off and the next day there was an email from The Brooklyn ARTery in my Inbox. "Dear Auria,  We would love to have you at ...................."  Aaarrrrrrrggggghhhhhhh, happy dance around the room and my next thought was "OMG,  what have I got myself into?"
The next step was getting all my permits and licenses in order.  Don't get me started. However I will say two things - every trip to the Department of Health feels like a trip to the principal's office and the security guard is a clone of Louis Gossett Jr. Just take LGJ out of his army uniform in Top Gun and put him in a security guard's uniform. He's lovely and seems to have a nice word or a joke to share with each person on line. He's like the principal's nice secretary who feels sorry for you that you have to be there and tries to make it better. I wish you all could see him. I know we'll be on a first-name basis in a couple more visits. Yes,  the permit-getting never ceases. I will probably have to go back there every two weeks or so. Fast forward!
The big day finally arrives. It's 6am and I went to bed a mere two hours ago. Why? Because beef rendang usually takes about five to six hours to cook, but a HUMONGOUS pot of rendang takes oh..... about TWELVE!  I'm so excited I don't even care. 
We arrive at our spot, meet the lovely organizers and open up my brand new tent. Set up my brand new table and spread my brand new yellow checked tablecloth on it. Rolled out my brand new banner. See where I'm going with this? Yes, we're NEW at this!

For a bunch of newbies, we couldn't have done any better. My crew went above and beyond all expectations.  Matt, Tim and Sara had very different and complimentary skills - everything from smiling and drawing the crowd in, to talking to everyone who went by, to explaining what beef rendang and that weird green drink were, to managing every aspect of the table. They were my courage, my fortitude and my heart. Above all,  the four of us had a great day together. A ton of people asked us where our restaurant was.  The answer varied from "We don't have one yet" to "We're working on it" to "You're IN our restaurant". Did they think we were pros who had restaurant experience? Was our utter newness not apparent? Well I guess I just blew those illusions with this blog post, huh? At the end of a very successful day, there was a point at which I could have kept going for a whole 'nother day. I was energized, animated, motivated, invigorated. I went home and fell into bed at 7pm.  I slept for twelve hours.
Yesterday, a mere eleven days after our first outing at The Brooklyn Flea, we worked a fancy Manhattan night market called Hester Nights.  Folks were coming up to our table and saying that they were told to come try our beef rendang sliders. What a gorgeous night it was and boy, did we have a good time. Wait a minute - where's all that fear and angst now? It's given way to an eagerness to get out there, keep putting it out there and an upbeat expectation of what's to come. 
See you at The Brooklyn ARTery this Sunday,  Sept 30th from 11am - 3pm.

PS My next offering at The Brooklyn ARTery in two weeks will be Chili Crab Sliders.  My next post will be a recipe for Chinese flowering chives.  Have you had those?  OMG,  I can't wait for you to try them.  

Hard at work.  Comparing playlists.  :o)
These Honeydew/Coconut Milk/Pearl Tapioca drinks were a hit!
Setting up at Hester Nights

Come eat!

Pin It