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Posts Tagged ‘fries’

Filet Américain… that’s the Belgian variation and translation (Flemish, Brussels’ natives and Walloons use the same french lingo in this case) to refer to what Frenchies and you  might actually be calling ‘steak tartare’. But it’s different!

Belgian ‘delicatessen/butcher shops’ and ‘traiteur shops’ sell premium ground meat as ” filet américain nature”, meaning no additions (???- Hmm) as well as “filet américain préparé”, meaning with added different herbs and other seasonings. In the end every one has his/her own recipe. However what makes it different from steak tartare is that the meat is minced with a mechanical grinder. Personally (according to my added 5 local ¢) it does not enhance the meat’s flavour, if I’m allowed to write so!  On the contrary.

Not so for the real and only freshly made steak tartare!

steak tartare my way

steak tartare my way

What transforms  filet américain into a real steak tartare is both the seasoning, and more importantly: the freshly knife-chopped meat just before mixing all ingredients before serving. Indeed, the finished product you buy from the chops usually (read: always) has some preserving“E+ a nbr” chemicals added to keep the meat nicely red for a few days. Home made steak tartare, freshly chopped from premium steak needs to be served asap after finishing the dish. Quality will remain for only a few hours when kept in the fridge!

steak tartare

steak tartare

filet mignon or filet pur
egg yolk
mustard, Dijon mustard recommended
onions or spring onions, finely chopped
capers, drained
tabasco sauce
Worcestershire sauce
a minimal amount of freshly hand-made mayonnaise;
parsley finely chopped
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper

I serve this dish with toasted bread slices, tomato & garlic lettuce salad and a Belgian beer: triple Westmalle trappist.

a picture says it better than words

a picture says it better than words

Toasts can be replaced with Belgian french fries or pan baked potatoes.

baked potatoes

baked potatoes


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H.G.Festival - Penang, Malaysia (BBC picture)

H.G.Festival - Penang, Malaysia (BBC picture)

Peng Chau is one of Hong Kong’s smaller outlying islands. Situated west  of Lamma island and east of Lantau island, its todays population is about 6,500 (2011).

Peng Chau viewed from a hill on Lantau

Peng Chau viewed from a hill on Lantau

With an area surface of about 1 km², it is, as said, one of the smaller islands but it comes with a full range of services for the locals: a covered wet market with lots of fresh seafood on offer, a full time police station, super market, bank and ATM service, lots of small chops and even a full branch of the Hong Kong Library.

Besides fresh seafood places (not many) there are also a few bars and restaurants, some ran by… frenchies (???). How about that? We visited this french bar/eating place. The name is referring to a popular song of Georges Brassens. He was a Frenchie born in Sète – southern France and had a great reputation as a post WW2 poet and guitar playing singer and composer. 

Brassens was a bit of an intellectual anarchist, what was considered “bon ton” in those days after the war. Brassens himself said (tongue in cheek): “I’m an anarchist, so much so that I always cross at the zebra crossing to avoid arguing with the police.” – “Les Copains D’ Abord”  has also a decent offer of French wines and Belgian beers.

"Obbao" french restaurant with some Brittany specialties

"Obbao" french restaurant with some Brittany specialties

“Obbao” although using a funny spelling translates as “Full tummy” or so I’ve been told. They have a nice offer of juices, brittany crepes, burgers, home made pizzas and a yummy preparation of steak tartare. (Although I personally prefer my tartare cut a tad more finely.) They have also some wines on offer but probably not as specialised as their neighbours (les copains d’abord). Please,correct me if  I’m wrong.

They also offer a few different beers. Unfortunately  that includes some “yellow dishwasher-fluid stuff” called Heineken.  Alas, C’est la vie! Nobody’s perfect. – Note to Alex & Chris: if you guys read this: don’t shoot me on our next visit please. Wink  🙂

Obbao's new summer menu

Obbao's new summer menu

The overall food quality is, to be honest,  better than in some other parts and more trendy places on HK island!

French bar

French wine & cheese bar with some great Belgian beers also on offer

We haven’t tried “Les Copains d’ Abord” yet but we are going to on the first saturday or sunday of next month. Good fine french wines with great cheeses, cold cuts (sausages, hams, country pate) and quiches really are very tempting, both for my wife and myself.  

However, regarding chinese fresh seafood restaurants, to be completely honest, the variety on offer on Peng Chau is no competition for places on Cheung Chau, Lamma Island or Sai Kung and Lei Yue Mun. (Just google for more info on any of these).

Still, during the week-end breaks the island is popular and visited by numbers of locals, expats and a few tourists alike. Good destination for a day-trip or even for a  half day-trip. Its small island lifestyle is very refreshing. While walking around one forgets that one is only half an hour away from the busy Central district or Kowloon.

And just to be complete, Peng Chau has very small but inviting streets for wandering around with no cars allowed other than official transport like police or ambulance. We locals (sic) walk or use bicycles.

You can reach Peng Chau by different ferries, sailing from Central (HK Island), Mui Wo (Lantau Island), Cheung Chau etc. From Discovery Bay (just across on Lantau) it’s only a few cable-lengths away. It takes the small local and slow Kai-to ferry less than 15 minutes of sailing time to get you to Peng Chau.

 The Hungry Ghost Festival

According to a website about “Chinese culture” :

(Quote): You have probably heard of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Have you also heard about the less well-known Hungry Ghost Festival?

Just as the Americans have Halloween, the Chinese have their version of a ghost festival too. In 2007, the festival of hungry ghost started on the 13th of August to 10th September of the Western Calendar.

(note: this 2011 was during a different period obviously, because the dates of the festival are calculated according to the lunar calender)

Celebrated mostly in South China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and especially in Singapore and Malaysia, the Hungry Ghost festival is a mixed Taoist/ folklore occasion that is taken very seriously by the Chinese. This festival falls on the 7th month of the Lunar Year and it is believed by the Chinese that during this month, the gates of hell are opened to let out the hungry ghosts who then wander to seek food on Earth. (unquote).

More here: http://www.chinese-culture.net/html/hungry_ghost_festival.html

Video beneath was filmed by Jay-P. and his better half on August 20th 2011 during the local Hungry Ghost Festival on Peng Chau. Lots of dragons, lots of drums, lots of incense and other offerings. In short: lots of noise, local folklore and liters of sweat under that bloody hot sun.

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Back from having been  away for some time lah!

Flag of the State of Penang, Malaysia.

 Since our latest visit we have counted the months, weeks and days before finally touching down again in Penang some 10 days ago. And boy …  were we in need! Desperate for Food with Capital F. So, as from the moment of arrival till the eve before flying out one week later, I gained about 5-6 kg. Na und? So what?  Anyway, that still is only about 70+ kg for a guy over 6 feet. No danger for turning into a sumo or average USA-er there yet [grin].

Of course we went to many of our favourite places in George Town during the week. I’m personally getting good at comparing quality at different stalls for their recipes of CKT, Penang Hokkien Mee, Loh Bak, fried rice, satay and more. In fact, I/we even start being  picky! On average we visited and sampled food from up to 5/6 different shops every day and almost always it was well worth it. Regarding Hokkien Mee, Kedai kopi Classic and Swee Kong remain among “da best” but we tried many more and all were ok,  from average good to real good, to very good.  Yet… we also started noticing [already during our last trip] that we better avoid the newer, so-called modern Hawker centres, equipped with LCD screens and loud music. As it seems the food quality at those places is going down hill while prices are climbing and the offered decoration is of a definite and certain lack of taste for those older than 13. (My opinion only). Now sadly that is nothing new for me but I was hoping Penang would have been able to avoid that kind of “modernisation”. I explain:

On our last visit to Belgium I invited my wife to one of the local stalls selling Belgian fries. Once upon a time in Old Belgium they all were selling their stuff with an ok to very good/excellent quality. Those hawkers prepared the potatoes at home (peeling, cutting) as well as they did prepare themselves the extras like curry chicken [local Belgian style], beef carbonades and more. Nowadays however the youngsters that take over the business, buy the food from industrial manufacturers. Gosh, even the fries now, they buy them pre-cut, if not [the horrour] frozen.Go figure. In fact it’s simple, they don’t find pleasure in preparing. They are becoming a lazy bunch. The only thing they want is selling and getting your/my money. Well, we just vote with our feet and our wallet as we do no longer buy from that lazy bunch. To find a decent “fritkot” (translation: fry-stall) one, sadly, has to look around for quite a while. I hate to say it but having been there and seen that, I’m afraid that Penang’s GOOD hawkers also are a disappearing breed. Let’s hope I’m wrong but…

I’ll be posting about our latest experiences in the coming days, as for the moment I’m in “kicking-off mode”, being back home in HK. Not because of jet lag but more because of Makanan lag, sort of.

In the mean time: here is a nice read from another blogger from Penang… (living in the UK… the poor thing) for those who are new to culinary Penang Hawker Food.

http://breadetbutter.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/what-is-malaysian-food/

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Steak frites is another signature dish from traditional local cuisine in Belgium. Sure you’ll find great beef meat in other regions ( think US beef, Argentina beef, Japanese beef, Scottish beef etc… All are succulent yet different in their own ways.) The differences make it typical ambassadors of  their own native regions.

About the local popular Belgian beef breed/race:  “BBB” or Bleu-Blanc-Belge (Belgian Blue-White also known as Belgian Blue). Look what Wikipedia writes:

“Belgian Blue cattle are a beef breed from Belgium, known in French as Race de la Moyenne et Haute Belgique. Alternative names include Belgian Blue-White, Belgian White and Blue Pied, Belgian White Blue, Blue and Blue Belgian. The sculpted, heavily muscled appearance is known as “double muscling”, and is a trait shared by the Piedmontese breed. They are named for their typically blue-grey mottled hair colour, although it can vary from white to black.

The Belgian Blue has a natural mutation of the gene that codes for myostatin, a protein that counteracts muscle growth. The truncated myostatin is unable to function in this capacity, resulting in accelerated lean muscle growth. The defect in the breed’s myostatin gene is maintained through linebreeding. This mutation also interferes with fat deposition, resulting in very lean meat. Cows bred to double-muscled bulls are often unable to give birth naturally, requiring a caesarean section.

250px-Sectio_caesarea

The breed originated in central and upper Belgium in the nineteenth century, from crossing local cattle with Shorthorn cattle from the United Kingdom and probably with Charolais cattle. At first there were milking strains and beef strains of the breed. The modern beef breed was developed in the 1950s by Professor Hanset, working at an Artificial insemination centre in Liege province.”

280px-BlancBleuBelgeHow about this ox? Growing lots of yummy steaks! As said above their meat is very lean, so it does need some special attention while cooking . More about that later.

Second part about the fries… easy? Not really. Even in my native country it’s sad to see how those stalls selling fries are no longer an evidence regarding the quality. People want to sell but don’t want to work. Buying themselves pre-cut fries: what a joke!  The freshness of the product and the know-how of the cook must go hand in hand. Just compare it to making Char Koay Teow. It seems simple but finally it’s not!

IMG_1130

As for the fries, the potatoes that give the best results are the [big] Bintjes variety. Peel and cut into fries of 1 square cm large and about 8 to 10 cm long. Wash in water and make sure you get them dry with a kitchen towel. If no Bintjes are available, you will have to check different varieties before choosing. If the fries start to get dark brown spots while deep frying, the potato is useless. It’s a proof that they carry too much sugar. It helps a bit to blanch them for a minute in boiling water before deep frying but the end result will never be real good.

Deep frying in fat or oil? – Best result for taste is using 2/3 of vegetable white fat and 1/3 of horse fat. As nowadays the food police is always religiously concerned about eating as healthy as possible, their followers will be against using this kind of fat. The industry came up with special refined liquid oils as a ” less unhealthy” cooking method. The result is that taste-wise the fries are only a shadow of what they used to be in Grand-mom’s time… but, if it makes “them” feel better, so-be-it !!! However, I stick to the original whenever I can.  

IMG_1124

Regarding the frying pan, I suggest a high quality, electrical frying pan with a big oil capacity up to 5 liters and a very sensitive thermostat. When starting the frying use small batches of potatoes for avoiding the frying temperature dropping too fast. Fry the first time at temperature between 140 and 160 degrees C. The exact temperature depends on the oil and the quality of the potatoes. Don’t  fry till golden yet.

IMG_1132

After this first deep-frying keep the frites apart for at least half an hour on kitchen tissue that will absorb some of the oil/fat.

IMG_1133

For the final frying session heat up till 180 degrees C, fry the batch in a few minutes till crispy and golden. Take them out of the oil, shake to get rid of the remaining oil and serve with a pinch of salt.

IMG_1146

 

About the pics posted here: as I’m not living in Belgium I have no access to the white fat, Bintjes or BBB beef. So, I used vegetable sunflower seed oil.

Sunflower seed oil.

Sunflower seed oil.

 

Red potatoes (U.S.) who are the only ones I found to be relatively low on sugar.

IMG_1127

 

Australian tenderloin fillet steak.  BTW, if the steaks are very lean, ask the butcher some extra fat and pan fry it together with your steaks. It will enhance the taste. I always use extra fat when cooking BBB back in Belgium.

IMG_1139

IMG_1141

 

This recipe was served with home-made black pepper cream sauce.

IMG_1147

 

Other traditional accompanying servings are “Beurre Maître d’Hôtel”, “Sauce Béarnaise”, the steak’s own “butter gravy”, “Sauce Provençale”… All all great if home-made. Please never use industrial sauces, gravies or mayonnaise. It’s an insult to your and my epicurean taste buds.

Bon Appétit

IMG_1148

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mosselen

What makes a country, the size of Maryland, famous?

The bickering between Flemings and Walloons?  Its 6 (yes six) governments?  Being the Capital of Europe? Its chocolate and beer?              For me, it’s their fast food stalls serving fritten (fries) with different sauces and/or beef stew, chicken stew, satay skewers…

However the national dish in Flanders is not one to be found in that “fritkot” (fries-barrack) but in restaurants or at home: Mussels & fries.

The mussels come from Holland’s Yerseke and the Easter-Scheldt. There is a rumour that the Dutchies sell up to 70% of their annual mussel harvest to Belgium.

The cooking is very simple. No need for specials> Just wash the mussels 2 or 3 times in fresh water, then transfer them to a big pot. 

Chop lots of onions, lots of celeri and parsley; add white pepper. Put the pot on a high fire and pour some dry white wine in the casserole. Once the mussels open they’re ready to be eaten. Serve in deep soup plates and don’t forget to drink the bouillon as well.

As for the fries: deep fry them the Belgian way: first 3 or 4 minutes at 150 Celsius. Afterwards let them rest for 1/2 hour and finish frying them at 180 degrees Celsius till crisp.

Hint for the fries: use potatoes that are very low on sugar. “Bintjes” are the best but unfortunately not on offer all over the world. BTW, if no good potatoes available just serve the mussels with buttered bread. In fact, I personally prefer it that way.

Bon appetit!

mussels

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