Sunday, May 15, 2016

If the Stranger can cook: One-pot Braised Chicken Stew (Inspired by Gennaro Contaldo)

Recently, I have been using cooking videos on YouTube to entertain Noah, hoping to inspire him to try new food, as he has become frustratingly picky during mealtimes in the last year or so. Fortunately, like father like son, he's just as fascinated with them as me, especially those flamboyant 'performances' from a certain hungry Italian named Gennaro Contaldo, who not only appears to be absolutely passionate about his cooking, but also makes it look extremely achievable.

I did my take on Gennaro's Italian Braised Chicken Stew, following his steps as much as I could with the ingredients, and it worked a treat (Noah ate A LOT). So here's exactly what I did:


GENNARO'S BRAISED CHICKEN STEW (MADE IN A NORMAL PERSON'S HOUSE)

Ingredients (serves 3-4):



  • 8 kampung chicken drumsticks, or a mix of drumsticks and thigh
  • 2-3 rashers of bacon or 40-50g of pancetta, sliced into small strips
  • handful of rosemary and thyme
  • 1 medium-sized onion, diced
  • half a carrot, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 500g of tomato, diced (I used a mix of cherry and vine)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 2-3 tablespoonfuls of tomato puree
  • 200ml of stock
All the diced vegetables, this is what your family is going to eat.

Cooking Procedure:

Season chicken generously with salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Sear the chicken and bacon/pancetta till there is a nice golden colour

Lay the rosemary and thyme on top and deglaze the pan with the glass of white wine

After the alcohol has evaporated, add in the rest of the vegetables

Dissolve tomato puree (amount can be adjusted based on your own preference) in the stock and stir it into the pot

After simmering for 45 minutes under low hear and a final swig of olive oil (taste and add salt/pepper if necessary), serve with some warm toasted bread

Some X-factors that might make a difference to your dish:

  1. Use kampung/free-range chicken. It's more tasty, more healthy and less oily. If you are afraid that the meat is too tough, use only drumsticks and thigh.
  2. The bacon/pancetta is optional, but having the odd bite of savoury smoked meat during your dinner is really pleasant.
  3. Make sure you brown the meat on a hot searing pan, do not skip this step!
  4. You can be creative with the vegetables, things like parsley, celery and even beans and peas will work.


Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Paris Mikki: Authentic French Pastry in the heart of Bangkok

For a long while, traveling into the heart of Bangkok on a Saturday morning with 2 little kids for a piece of cake sounded like a ridiculous proposition. Not anymore.

Just last Saturday, my wife and I woke up earlier than normal, prepared our kids, and left home for Asoke just for a piece of this:

The Philip 70, perfect for chocolate and hazelnut lovers
And this:

Lou Lou: A contemporary strawberry cheesecake
And of course, these:

The best croissants in town, according to BK's blind taste test, and also, my tongue. =P

Before Paris Mikki (not to be confused with a chain selling spectacles in Singapore/Malaysia), there was Let Them Eat Cake (which has closed permanently), which proved unique in Bangkok in their rendition of French-style cakes. However, there was always something missing at the latter, be it a lack of service, the cakes frequently appearing in front of me not cold enough, or some items feeling a little too complicated for my liking. Paris Mikki, on the other hand, feels old-school, down-to-earth and consistent, traits that I appreciate.

A brief chat with Carol, the owner of Paris Mikki, confirmed my many initial feelings about the patisserie. Carol is an alumni of the reputed Le Cordon Bleu Paris, both in bakery and cuisine. She trained and worked with the masters, so well that she managed to work in the best kitchens in Paris and stayed there for a decade, until it's finally time to come home. By completely immersing herself long-term into the charming Parisian culture, she has managed to bring a piece of it back to Bangkok, almost completely unaltered.

The dazzling array of pastry on display, I wish I could try them all

Throughout our discussion, Carol's friendliness and eagerness to share could not overshadow her aura of self-confidence. Unwilling to compromise on the consistency of her products, Carol does a huge bulk of the baking and does not believe in expanding her business on impulse before the kitchen is completely ready. She is convinced that her creations can hold their own even in Paris (backed by her French mentors who visited Paris Mikki and gave the thumbs up) and is already working towards opening a shop there in the future.

The elegant little shop is just a short walk into Sukhumvit Soi 19, the alley between Terminal 21 and Westin Grande

Paris Mikki's cakes are pricey no doubt, but they are certainly of the size and quality to convince me that they are worth every penny (especially after I paid SGD9.50++ for each piece of forgettable cake at Lady M in Singapore). Furthermore, unless you make your way to certain 5-star hotels, there is virtually no chance of you getting similar offerings anywhere else in Bangkok.

So, all this points to one conclusion:

Wah Lau Eh! Carol posing with my Stamp of Approval

Even though you might not see my sticker pasted on the shopfront anytime soon, please believe me that Paris Mikki has already won my ultimate stamp of approval.

Noah concurs!

PS. For the hopeless romantic who is interested to know why the bakery is named Paris Mikki, the next time you go to Paris, take a leisurely stroll along Ponts des Arts and you might find the answer, or maybe not.

PSS. Paris Mikki is also part of my 5 recommended eats within walking distance from Asoke BTS station.



stranger in bangkok

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Dreaming of my Grandparents

I walked out of the room.

There, in the living room of my maternal grandparents' house, was my brother, some maternal aunties and uncles, and little Miss Ellie sitting on her green glider.

Standing behind the sofa was an old couple. They looked familiar, probably in their 70s. The lady had curly hair and the man had a box of something in his hand. They smiled lovingly at me. Was it really them?

"Can't you recognise me? I am grandma!" she said, with her usual boisterous tone in our native Foochow language.

One of my aunts smiled, as if she knew about the surprise.

Grandpa didn't say a word. He put his hand forward, gesturing me to take a snack from the box. It was my favourite 礼饼 (a foochow pastry eaten during happy occasions with filling made of dates). I took a wedge and sat down beside my brother.

Subsequently, after some random chatter (which I don't remember) with the folks in the room, I was shocked to realise that my aunts and uncles did not know of their presence. I then looked at my brother, who was also munching on the same pastry. He nodded, indicating he saw them too, and the pastry in our mouths were more real than ever (I can still taste the sweetness in my mouth while typing this).

I shut my eyes to suck it all in, and when I opened them, I was back in my own living room in Bangkok (I sleep in the living room sometimes when I have to get up early in the morning). This was when I couldn't control it anymore. I sobbed like a baby.

I took at look at my phone, it was 5.41am, exactly 4 minutes before my alarm is supposed to go off, waking me up to cook chicken soup for my family. They even woke me up at the right time, so that I can switch off my alarm to allow my family to continue sleeping in peace.

Why did they appear? On this day, at this time, right before I was supposed to cook my favourite Foochow style kampung chicken soup, the soup that they cooked for my mum, the soup my mum cooked for me, and now I am cooking for my family.


The same pot of soup linking generations together

One thing I know for sure, is that the soup tonight will taste doubly sweet.



Monday, April 4, 2016

Answer Cheeze Food Truck: Cheese sandwiches that taste as good as they look

If you read my previous post on ArtBox@The Em District (direct link here), you will realise I found Answer Cheeze via an accidental decision while feeling bored at the popular pop-up market.

How Answer Cheeze looks at the current version of ArtBox
I will be lying if I told you cheese is one of my favourite foods, but even though a cheese sandwich does not sound like anything that inspires imagination, I was surprised it could taste this good. After my wife gave a similar thumbs up, I decided to dedicate a blogpost specially to them.

The blogger trying to catch their attention with a myriad of moves

One cannot talk about Answer Cheeze without mentioning the 2 exceptionally good-looking young men behind it. Oat and Ton, after graduating from Dusit Thani College together, spent many years refining their craft in the kitchens of 5-star hotels before recently deciding to come out on their own. With the bustling food truck scene in Bangkok overly-crowded with one too many burger trucks (so many that they are differentiating themselves with one suggestive name after another), Oat and Ton capitalised on the vacuum in the sandwich market with their own take on the perfect gourmet cheese sandwich.

Sandwich-making process at a glance

As the name suggests, their answer to your hunger revolves solely around cheese. Each sandwich consists of up to 5 kinds of imported cheese (Parmesan, Cheddar, Mozzarella, Brie and Emmental), all intricately-cooked to contribute both crispy and oozy textures in every bite we take. For a neutral like me, it delivers exactly what it promises, which is fantastic, but for the cheese lover, it could be a trip to cheese paradise. There are only 3 sandwich choices at the moment, so it's basically like a simple multiple choice question while deciding. My personal favourite is the BBQ as I love bacon.

Cheese Heaven or what

From my brief meeting with Oat and Ton, I can almost feel a silent determination from them to make this venture much bigger than what it is now, so the old man here is going to do whatever small part I can to give them the postive energy they need to perservere.

In any case, from now till 19 June, you can find Answer Cheeze parked at ArtBox@The Em District every Friday-Sunday from 4pm until all their 200 sandwiches run out (often before 10pm). After that, you will have to either follow their Instagram stream @answercheezebkk or their Facebook page to be updated on their next location.

Beauties and the beast

So ladies and gentlemen, here's the Stranger in Bangkok promising you that the sandwiches taste as good as they look, so if you do happen to find this bright yellow truck parking round the corner, do show your support.

I am pretty confident these gentlemen won't disappoint.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Monster Father

I did it.

I exploded.

It was a major explosion. I don't remember shouting so loud for a long, long time. Maybe it's the hardest I ever bellowed.

To a point, my heart told me to stop. Not the emotional kind of telling me to stop, but the physical kind, warning me that if I didn't stop, it will.

It was my son. Over much about nothing. It was during a time when he was sleepy and cranky, a wrong time to test his boundaries.

He asked for an orange and demanded me to feed him while his hands hung loose beside him. I was waiting for him to say the right things and make it more acceptable for me to feed him on request, but after a long while of asking in different ways, by me and then my wife, the requests became demands, then screaming for me to stop and whacking me in angst.

I will spare you more heart-wrenching details.

Then, the explosion, and Noah was stunned into silence.

The effort required for him to blurt out the words, "I am sorry, I will stop!" It nearly took a cardiac arrest.

Noah, if you get to read this, Daddy is sorry.

Daddy became a monster, and I hope I never need to become one again.

Nonetheless, I want you to remember that night.

Because, I am your friend, the person who spends almost every minute of your off-school hours with you. I am your guardian, your chef, your shower buddy, your biggest fan, your teacher, your playmate, your bolster at night.

I am the only man who loved you before you were born till forevermore.

Picture credit: One Eye Click

But first and foremost, and I want you never to forget.

I am your father.




Monday, March 14, 2016

What to eat near Bangkok BTS Stations: Asoke (E4)

My second post of this series brings me the ever accessible Asoke station, which is also the interchange to Sukhumvit MRT station. When I just arrived in 2009, this area only had Times Square and Robinson. If I had to summarize Asoke back then with 3 words, I would say it felt over-the-hill.

The opening of Terminal 21 in 2011 completely rejuvenated Asoke, injecting it with new energy, and it has thrived ever since. In fact, Asoke has become my go-to location when I do staycations with my family in town. What I like about Asoke over other lifestyle spots (eg. Thong Lor) is how compact it is. Nice eateries, massages, hotels and watering holes cluster within walking distances from each other, mainly along the little streets connecting Soi 19,21 and 23 together, unlike at the long wide street of Thong Lor where you might struggle to get from one popular spot to another without a car.

With the help of my Asoke local, here's my first instalment of the hidden eateries within walking distance from the BTS station:

1. Ping's Sharks' Fin: Fish maw soup I would drink everyday

Picture with lady boss Mrs Ho, look out for my sticker if you do visit!

This is the flagship store of the Ping's Restaurant Group, owners of Ping's Thai Teochew Seafood Restaurant at Pathumwan Princess Hotel, which I reviewed with a "Wah Lau Eh!" last year. You can enjoy the same menu (and cheaper drinks) plus some authentic Singapore curry puffs at this outlet in a more old-school ambience.

2. Uma Uma!: Focus your calories on Ramen

Like any typical Sarawakian, I love noodles. From the over-hyped Ippudo (I certainly wouldn't queue for it), to the delicious but wildly inconsistent Yamagoya and Chabuton (it has way too many branches), ramen is something I consistently go for when I need a quick meal.

Uma Uma Ramen, right beside Lawson 108 Convenient Store
Uma Uma's ramen blew me away. There was nothing to complain about their rich broth and perfectly al-dente noodles. Is the option for a small bowl really necessary?

Work of art
They are supposed to be big on gyoza too
The gyoza though, was forgettable, even if they are also one of Uma Uma's signature dishes. So if you specially made your way here in the midst of a day-long food trail in Bangkok, focus your precious calories on their noodles please!


3. Paris Mikki: Exquisite French cakes and pastry

For some reason, the excellent Let Them Eat Cake closed permanently last October. I am relieved to rediscover top-class French-style cakes and pastry at a little bakery called Paris Mikki near Asoke BTS station.

Just a very small space

Similar offerings as Let Them Eat Cake, but less colourful more down-to-earth

I will personally recommend the Mille-Feuille and croissants, though I think most of their desserts should taste pretty good. If you feel like pampering yourself with delicate desserts sprinkled with a bit of class, you can't go wrong with Paris Mikki.

Mille-Feuille, simplicity at its best


4. Bharani: 66-yr-old boat noodle with live jazz

Some of my friends swear by having boat noodles when they come to Thailand, but I wonder if ther know that the soup of boat noodles gets its unmistakeable deep hue and cloudy viscosity from a mixture of cow/pig's blood and salt? Because of this, I am not too big on boat noodles except for a select few, and this is one of them.

You have found the right place if you see half a boat sticking out of a restaurant

Looking at the chalkboard of specialties inside Bharani, I was surprised to find international favourites like Paella, but if you are visiting Thailand for the first time, my recommendation would be to go for their Sansab boat noodles, which they have been selling since 1949.

Clean-tasting broth, not a description you will normally associate with boat noodles
You get to enjoy this taste of tradition in comfort
Come at the right time (7pm on Saturday), you could be slurping down your noodles in the accompaniment of live jazz!


5. Khua Kling Pak Sod: Southern classics done the right way

Khua Kling Pak Sod offers ample parking space 
Of the various regional cuisines Thailand has to offer, I find dishes from the South most fascinating. Khua Kling Pak Sod is therefore a fitting finale to my list of recommendations.

Colourful decoration
Toughtful touch: Deliberate introduction of natural light into the dining area 
Some essential Southern Thai classics include the Thai stink beans (aka petai/sataw) with shrimp paste, crab-meat chilli paste with beehoon, yellow fish curry with coconut shoots etc., all of which can be found here.

Fried beehoon with crabmeat, more like fried crabmeat with beehoon

Stir-fried pork with shrimp paste

Despite the obvious glut of Thai eateries in Bangkok, I would say it is quite a rarity to find a good restaurant completely focused on Southern Thai dishes. Khua Kling Pak Sod is certainly worth a try if you are adventurous, or just simply curious to find out what Thai food has to offer outside Tom Yum Soup and Pad Thai.

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So there you go, the first instalment of my BTS Asoke series, enough to keep your tummies satisfied for a good 2 days. Do you have any other recommendations? I will definitely check them out!




Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What to eat near Bangkok BTS Stations: Udomsuk (E12)

6 years into my stint in Bangkok, I finally try to make myself more useful, especially for comrades who frequently crack their brains thinking of dinner options on their way home from work. As I do not commute via BTS most of the time, I have garnered the help from some 'local' friends to slowly but surely compile useful lists of my personal favourite eateries within reasonable walking distance from BTS stations.

Take note though, that these choices are based on my own preferences after visiting all of them myself, and the walking distances are also deemed reasonable based on my own level of acceptance (usually not more than 15 minutes' walk from BTS station at my average pace).

So, where better to start than my homeground, Udomsuk BTS station?

1. Devilish Eats: Addictive low and slow BBQ

Because "Wah Lau Eh!"

With co-owner Patrick after pasting my Stamp of Approval

2. Rabbito' Cafe': Eat with bunny company

Also along Sukhumvit 101/1 inside Di Wavery Place (a neighbourhood community mall), just 2 shops away from Devilish Eats lies one of the only rabbit-themed cafes in Bangkok.

It's always full during the weekends so be prepared to wait

Rabbits roam free at Rabbito'
If you are into rabbits, or pretty Thai ladies who come for rabbits, this is the place for you, because down here it's possible to hold a bunny on your lap while digging into your nuggets and fries.

Relaxing ambience
Food's pretty acceptable too
My only issue with Rabbito' is the mental block of eating in a space with unavoidable random mini balls of bunny poop scattered over the floor, but if the Thai ladies don't mind, who am I to make a fuss?


3. Chicken Rice: Thai chicken rice also nice

There are many great choices of street food right at the junction of Udomsuk Road, especially in the evenings. One of my favourites is the popular chicken rice stall.

40THB for standard, 50THB for special

The usual complaint with Thai chicken rice is the overcooked chicken, but the meat here is tender and succulent. In my humble opinion, I don't feel that a good plate of Thai chicken rice is inferior to those found in Singapore in any way. I have also grown to enjoy the unique chilli sauce in Thailand.

I mixed steamed chicken with fried chicken, generous serving as you can see

4. Stir-fried Yakisoba: Pops of wok-hei goodness

Right beside the chicken rice stall is a place that sells stir-fried Yakisoba (similar to the yellow noodle in Singapore), something rather uncommon along the streets of Bangkok.

This stall sells both stir-fried Yakisoba, and the more commonly-found Suki, both dry and soup

The surprisingly-delicious Yakisoba

The plate of stir-fried Yakisoba was slightly greasy, filled with generous amounts of cabbage and pork. What struck me was the immense wok-hei infused into the noodles, which made every bite really enjoyable. Serving is small though, a standard portion is definitely not enough if you are hungry.


5. Play Plern: Cosy ukulele cafe

On the opposite side of Udomsuk Road, less than 100m into Sukhumvit Soi 66/1, there's a perfect place to chillax.

Play Plern
Play Plern is a ukulele-themed cafe opened by a YouTube celebrity Apple Show. She made a name for herself singing and posting (extremely endearing) ukulele lessons online and this cafe serves also as a training centre for people who would like to take ukulele lessons from her.

Fun decoration and nice drinks
Glad to take a picture with Apple Show and my Udomsuk exploration team-member Wendy

Don't be surprised if you turn up one day to find yourself walking into an impromptu crooning session by Apple Show herself.

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There are certainly many more eateries worth recommending around Udomsuk BTS station, and I am already working on a couple of other stations, so please watch this space!
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