Cambodia’s national culinary dish

Cambodia’s Khmer cuisine has some delicious food to offer (sorry, fried tarantulas, you guys are NOT included on that list) and my favorite was unsurprisingly their most popular, the one you can find on pretty much every menu at every restaurant in every city in the country: amok.

My favorite fish amok

My favorite fish amok at Rumduol Angkor Restaurant, after a day of temple touring.

Pretty much the national dish of Cambodia, amok is a curry made with coconut milk, peppers, carrots, ginger, basil (probably a bunch of other magical spices, too) and most commonly, either fish or chicken. It’s served with white rice and usually either comes in a banana leaf container or as I had it one time in Siem Reap, inside a coconut.

fasdasdas
Admittedly, not the most aesthetically pleasing, but let me tell you it was goooooood! Especially scraping out the coconut meat

Amok is thick and chunky, with a great balance of sweetness from the coconut milk and hot, spicy exotic flavors from the peppers and spices. This, to me, is absolute comfort food. Even times when it was hot and muggy and I had sweat rolling down my face (so basically, every single day of my month-long stay in Cambodia), I loved ordering fish amok (which I preferred over chicken) and now that I’m back in the frozen tundra that is New York, I reeeeally wish I had a piping hot plate of it. I kind of, sort of, learned how to make it (stay tuned for that story…) and this frigid weather might just be all the motivation I need to relive this delicious bit of Cambodian comfort at home.

Smitten with Smitten’s pumpkin

October always finds me in the midst of a serious pumpkin binge. I’m one of those people, the pumpkin obsessed. This year, of course, has been no different, and while I’ve already eaten plenty of tasty pumpkin treats, my favorite, by far, is unfortunately almost 3,000 miles away.

It was during my days in San Francisco that I ate the most delicious ice cream to maybe have ever landed in my mouth, the maple brown sugar squash ice cream at Smitten Ice Cream in Hayes Valley.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin ice cream I could eat all day every day

All of Smitten’s ice creams are made to order on the spot using liquid nitrogen to freeze the ingredients at crazy low temperatures super fast. In this case, the ingredients were pumpkin, milk, molasses, cinnamon, cardamom, brown sugar, nutmeg and ginger. If you want the whole scientific breakdown, better read this than try and get a proper explanation from me. What I can tell you, however, is that this ice cream is phenomenal. Thick and deliciously creamy, with all the spicy warmth of pumpkin pie spices, this was the ice cream version of the best imaginable pumpkin pie.

It’s a seasonal ice cream but all kidding aside, I could eat this year round, every day actually.

Smitten Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

My London trip in a nutshell

But really, how cute are these?

But really, how cute are these?

::sigh::

Guys, I love London. I really, really do. I had such an amazing few days there last week. Went to awesome museums, ate great food, caught up with old friends, made fun new friends, and had an all around smashing time. London, thank you, you’re awesome.

There’s lots to gush about— in the way of food naturally, for the purpose of this blog— and I’ll get to that as the week goes on, but for now this picture of funny little gingerbread men sums up my whole stay in London: tasty, fun and hot ginger men. These are from The Free From Bakehouse stand at the Southbank Centre Square food market.  Cookies, pies, cakes and all sorts of baked goods, many carrying either gluten free, wheat free, dairy free or sugar free labels, all while still being delicious?? YES, please.

Lots more to come soon, but for now, enjoy some hot ginger boys. God knows I do.

Sweet and dandy and damn good

The Sweet & Dandy

I’m not all late-night cookie runs, pizza binge fests and mountains of pork belly. Sometimes, believer it or not, the things I obsess over are actually… healthy! Gasp! Yes, I know! Insanity.

My latest food crush, for example, is neither chocolatey nor from any part of a pig, it’s totally vegan and made fresh the day I buy it, and get this, it’s ridiculously delicious. I’m craving some just thinking about it. I’m talking about the beautifully colored, bursting-with-flavor, oh-so-freakin’-good “Sweet and Dandy” at Melvin’s Juice Box.

You can get lots of healthy, fresh, fruit and veggie juices at this colorful little Greenwich Village juice bar attached to Miss Lily’s, but ever since I tried the Sweet and Dandy, I just can’t bring myself to buying anything else. A rich, deep fuchsia color, it’s a perfect blend of beets, carrots, apples, pineapple and ginger. They all come together to make a vibrant, sweet drink with a subtle ginger spiciness that’s so good I swear I could down a gallon of it in one sitting.

At about $8 a juice, it is a bit on the expensive side but when I think about how good it tastes and how healthy and natural it is, and how I won’t have to spend 3 hours burning it off at the gym like I would if it were a chocolate shake, I don’t mind spending the money. (Milkshakes, I still got love for you, though.)

A bread pudding victory

I see foods in blogs, magazines, books and TV shows all the time that I want to eat, but rarely do I feel like actually making them. I usually just rather go the restaurant or store where they’re sold and cut straight to the chase. But every once in a while when the spirit moves me, I think, “You know what, I can make that.”

Earlier this week, while reading old entries of a blog I’m newly obsessed with (Cupcakes and Cashmere) I came across a recipe which the blogger had actually found in another blog I really like (Smitten Kitchen) where that blogger had adapted it from Gourmet magazine (ahh, the power of the interwebs): pumpkin freakin’ bread pudding. Mind. Blown.

So I immediately ran out and bought all the ingredients. I followed Smitten Kitchen’s variation of the recipe which you can find here, but instead of bourbon, which I didn’t have any of, I used a little bit of brandy. (Not pictured though.)

The ingredients

I put the butter and the bread aside and threw everything else (in their appropriate quantities, duh) into a bowl. But because I’m ever the rookie in the kitchen, I used a bowl that wasn’t big enough for me to whisk it all together without making a huge goopy mess, and ended up having to pour it into a big pot. Unnecessary steps are always part of the experience for me.

Mixing everything up

After melting the butter and coating the bread in it (a very hands-on step, by the way), I filled a square baking pan with the now slightly soggy, buttery bread. I will fully admit several pieces of bread never made it into the final version because I ate them along the way.

Warm, buttery bread cubes are hard to resist.

Next, I took the pumpkin-milk-eggs-spices mixture, which had been whisked together into a velvety, gold, sweet smelling cream, and I poured it over the bread cubes, using a spoon to make sure it seeped into all the corners and edges.

Nothing like a little creamy pumpkin bath.

The good thing about having a small apartment is that when you make something like this, the whole place smells like it. So while I waited for the bread pudding to set, I enjoyed the warm, spicy sweet smell that quickly filled the air. Once out of the oven, it didn’t immediately look very different than when it went in, but after poking it a bit I could tell the bread had soaked up the pumpkin mix and all of it congealed together to make bread pudding. (At which point, I may or may not have done a little celebratory dance.)

I wish the technology existed for you to be able to smell this.

While a scoop of vanilla or butter pecan ice cream would have been great, I took Smitten Kitchen’s recommendation and topped my chunk of pumpkin bread pudding with a generous dollop of vanilla greek yogurt. With its subtle sweetness and sour tang, the cool yogurt was a nice contrast to the warm, soft creaminess of the bread pudding. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m going to: this was a damn good bread pudding! Maybe there’s hope for me yet!

And voila! Pumpkin bread pudding!

I’m waiting on you, Spring

I don’t know what the groundhog saw when he made his big appearance a couple of months ago but it must have been dark, scary and apocalyptic because there has been no sign of spring in New York. Well, no, there have been signs, I guess, but they were just a tease, just a fleeting peek into what feels like what will never come. Every one day of sunny weather is followed by a week of either icy rain and grey skies, or if you’re really unlucky, actual snow.

I would make this my favorite spring drink if spring would ever get here...

So what I want to know is, just what the hell did you see, groundhog? Maybe if you’d seen a frosty and delicious drink like the one I had recently at Vandaag in the East Village instead of your shadow or more winter or the grim reaper or whatever it is you saw, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

Because how, after having such a bright, cheery drink as the Radler I enjoyed with a group of girlfriends recently, could you want it to be anything other than that never-long-enough season where it’s no longer cold, but not infernally hot yet either, that wonderful happy time in New York called spring?

The Radler, with its warm sunny color, and bright, zesty sweet notes of ginger, pineapple and lime, mixed with the slight bite of alcohol from the Belgian wheat beer and the pineapple infused aquavit, was like spring itself had been liquefied and poured into my glass.

Spring, I’m not sure where you are, but until you’re ready to come hang out, I’ll be at the bar, with a Radler if I’m in the East Village.

 

Happy human birthday!

Birthdays always call for cakes!

Even though I’m neither Chinese nor due for a birthday for another seven or so months, I celebrated both the Chinese New Year and my birthday yesterday. Well, not technically just my birthday. I celebrated your birthday too. Mine and yours and the rest of humanity’s because yesterday was the Human Birthday, or the seventh day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (Chinese New Year having been last week), when according to Chinese customs, it’s everyone’s birthday!

In case you’re wondering how or why I know all of this, it’s because one of my coworkers is Chinese. When on the Chinese New Year he told us about our upcoming collective birthday, we decided  the only logical thing to do was have an office birthday party, complete with a birthday cake, which one of our other coworkers was so awesome as to get from Momofuku Milk Bar. (My company takes birthdays pretty seriously, but birthday cakes even more so.) Continue reading