Whisks I use

In the course of my cooking adventures, I’ve ended with a selection of different whisks, and I’ve been trying to understand the differences in how they each work.

First of all, I have a standard metal balloon whisk purchased from Daiso, which has served me very well. I use this for beating egg whites by hand. The balloon shape is good for frothing up the whites.

In addition, I also have a few other less common types of whisks.

From top to bottom:
a) small flat whisk with spiral coil around a single wire
b) small elongated balloon whisk
c) full-sized silicone flat whisk

Whisk (a) comes highly recommended by Delia Smith as good for all sorts of things; it’s referred to as the ‘Wonder Whisk’. Recently, I noticed them being sold in Daiso, so no need to source for some expensive UK brand :D. I usually use it for beating a single egg, or mixing a powdered beverage as the flat shape reaches into the corners of a mug/jug better than a balloon-shaped whisk. The extra coil of wire seems to produce a lot more froth.

Whisk (b) is excellent for beverages as the elongated shape can agitate the liquid throughout the depth of a mug. Easily obtained in Daiso, although I’ve seen them in Phoon Huat for even less than Daiso’s S$2 price (but with less prongs). They are handy stirrers when serving beverages as well, you can give each person one in place of providing a teaspoon.

Whisk (c) is useful for sauces and batters. The flat shape enables the whisk to reach into the corners of pots and mixing bowls, while the silicone coating makes it non-scratch for your pot surfaces as well as heat-resistant. The flat shape does not produce enough froth for beating egg whites. Mine is Cuisipro brand and although I purchased it overseas some years ago, I haven’t seen the exact same item in Singapore so far.

If you’re into different types of specialised whisks, including silicone ones, by Cuisipro, try visiting the Cuisipro agent in Singapore, Razorsharp (which I wrote about earlier).

Where to buy takoyaki pans in Singapore?

This question has come up a couple of times in the list of search engine terms that have led to my blog. I haven’t answered the question directly in any of my postings so far (except in the now-defunct ‘Q&A’ page), so I’ll put it up here now.

Firstly, try the Japanese department stores – Takashimaya has the best range of Japanese cookware, also try Isetan.

Daiso definitely stocks them too, and at only S$2 (no guarantees on quality though!).

Another possible place to look for them is in specialist professional cookware shops like Sia Huat in Temple Street.

Blender bottle

img-79362.jpg img-79392.jpg

I came across this in a cookware shop in Britain, Lakeland, which always has interesting and high-quality equipment and gadgets. It’s a plastic bottle with a pouring spout that has a coiled metal ball inside that helps to shake up the contents. Just snap shut the leak-proof spout and you can store the contents in the fridge for later, and when you’re ready to use, a quick shake will quickly blend it all together. Amazingly, nothing gets stuck in the corners, it all mixes up beautifully.

For me, so far I’ve found it great for:
* powdered beverages, especially those cereal grain drinks where the cereal bit tends to settle at the bottom.
* waffle, pancake and poh piah skin batter — stores well in fridge so you can have pancakes & skins ready in seconds!
The official Blender Bottle website also suggests:
* sports drinks
* French toast batter
* eggs
* gravies
* pudding
* marinades
* and ‘On the Go!’ [will the Blender Bottle appear in my bento bag some day ?]

If you’re looking for them in Singapore, I happened to chance upon them in GNC, in the bodybuilding supplements section as they’re used for making protein shakes. The ones in GNC are 28 oz (830ml) capacity, bigger than the one in my photo, which is 20 oz (590ml), and sold for about S$20.

The official Blender Bottle website has full specs and details of the type of plastic & stainless steel used as well as photos and testimonials.

Making coconut milk II

When I first started finding out about different types of coconut graters, it was with the intention of finding the best way of preparing coconut shreds to make coconut milk.

As you can read here, the method used in my family is to use a traditional aluminium grater. As you’ll notice, it’s a pretty scary looking piece of equipment and could be very dangerous if your hands slip or when the piece of coconut gets very small! So I decided to try out the safer suction-style grater used in South Asia, which grates the coconut flesh from inside the shell.

However, the problem with both kinds of graters, especially the suction one, is that they don’t produce shreds of coconut that are fine enough. When making coconut milk, the finer the shreds, the greater the volume of milk you’ll be able to extract.

By this time I’d also developed a fascination with different types of graters: in the material and shape of the cutting surface as well as the shape of the grated items. So I splashed out on one of those Microplane box graters, which grates two sizes and comes with a knuckle protecting slider attachment which actually works! (I’ve bought graters in the past which had rather useless finger protector gadgets). The selling point of Microplane tools is that they are very sharp and started out as woodworking tools.

microplane-grater1.jpg

With the sharp blades and the knuckle protector, we can grate coconut more quickly than with our traditional spiked aluminium grater and it’s nicer using this high-quality tool than the S$6 suction crank grater which also rusts easily.

But take a look at the shape of the shreds produced by the Microplane grater:

grated-carrot1.jpg

Notice how they are broad and flat. This carrot was grated with the large holes but the shape is the same for the small holes as well. Here is a close-up of the fine grater surface:

microplane-closeup-450b1.jpg

So great new grater but back to square one with the original problem of trying to produce super-fine coconut shreds.

The solution to this, no matter which grater we use, is to go through an extra step of using a food processor to chop the coconut even more finely. This is what the final product looks like:

coconut-grated1.jpg

This coconut will now produce a good yield of coconut milk, following the extraction method I explained here.

Traditional coconut graters

Some time back I wrote about different types of graters, especially those used for grating coconut. [Also read here how we make coconut milk at home.]

One thing that fascinated me was the various styles of traditional coconut graters used in different cultures, and on a recent trip to the National Museum of Singapore, I was pleasantly surprised to find a display of traditional coconut graters.

Museum Graters_6048_450.jpg

You can see here a couple of stool-type graters in the foreground and at the back, handheld versions, one of which looks rather phallic! Partially obscured on the right-hand side towards the back is a suction-style grater similar to the one I described in my previous posting.

This display is found inside the Food gallery, which is one of the four “Living Galleries” and is free entry from 6-8pm daily :).

NM Food Gallery A-1.jpg
NM Food Gallery B-1.jpg

Consumer watch updates

A bumper posting for those of you in Singapore :).

Ceramic vegetable peelers & other kitchen tools

Razor Sharp, which I mentioned in my posting on ceramic vegetable peelers, is selling a handful (only a handful, literally) of Kyocera and Cuisipro items at great discounts.

Fortunately, this includes a ceramic vegetable peeler at less than half price for just S$12 (although not the one I featured in my post but the U-shaped handle version). Ceramic julienne slicer also available for S$19 (down from S$53). [If you're looking for other Kyocera products, you're actually better off at one of the big department store sales because although Razor Sharp is the agent, all items are sold at list price -no GST though.]

I also picked up a Cuisipro silicone spoon, with detachable metal handle for half price at S$12. Earlier, I posted about my favourite silicone kitchen tool, the brush. I’ve been wanting a mixing spoon that isn’t too floppy, so that it can deal with heavy batters and doughs, and silicone being heat-resistant, this can also be used for cooking on the stove. Plus it’s non-abrasive and can be used with non-stick cookware, and scrapes really clean. The removable head is an added plus which allows for thorough cleaning.

All-new Brown Rice Paradise!

Some weeks ago, I discovered that Brown Rice Paradise at Tanglin Mall has changed hands, moved to a ground floor location and gotten a spiffy new supermarket-look. The prices were already rather stiff before, I hope this new jazzed-up shop doesn’t jack them up even more! The shop is currently closed and will open again on 5th April.

They have a brand new website which is offering some promotions right now.

- REFER A FRIEND by forwarding their details below to us, or better still, swing by our store with your friend(s), and each receive a free BRP-gift!
- spend >$50 in one receipt and enjoy 10% off subsequent purchases…
- Re-opening discount!!! leave us your contact details, and enjoy a further 10% off on all your purchases, when you visit the re-opened store!!! Sign up now…

Organic chocolates

You probably already know Green & Blacks organic chocolates. These are widely available in supermarket organic sections, health food stores etc. Priced at just under S$7, they are a typical price for organic chocolates, with some brands costing even more.

That is, if you haven’t already discovered Carrefour organic chocolate (milk –S$2.65, 74% dark — S$3.95 and cooking S$3.25) , as well as Marks & Spencer organic Swiss chocolate at S$4+, which I think tastes nicer than the Carrefour ones.

Vital wheat gluten

Thanks to the tip from Canton Pixie, I finally found vital wheat gluten for baking bread at Phoon Huat. I missed it before because it’s kept inside the refrigerator, not next to the flours. Incidentally, vital wheat gluten should be stored it in the fridge, where it can be kept for six months (1 year if frozen).

Vital Wheat Gluten Phoon Huat
Please click on image for larger version.

In contrast, vital wheat gluten from Bob’s Red Mill, which is imported from USA and sold in upmarket shops like Vivocity’s Naturally Marketplace, is stacked on the shelf of flours and grains next to all the other Bob’s Red Mill items.

There is also a massive price difference: about S$4.70 for 400g in Phoon Huat, and about S$26 for about 600g+ of the Bob’s Red Mill version in Naturally Marketplace!

Kitchen tool of the year: ceramic vegetable peeler

I’m sticking my neck out here but I’m going to venture that this will be the highlight of my kitchen tool discoveries for 2008.

Kyocera ceramic peeler

Ceramic knives were something totally new to me and did not attract my attention despite walking past the shelf full of them at Tangs many times. It took a trip out to the obscure Tan Boon Liat Building in Outram, where Nature’s Glory is located, where I happened to step into a shop on the ground floor selling kitchen equipment. I later discovered that the very knowledgeable and friendly man in the shop who introduced me to Kyocera ceramic cutlery tools, is food blogger, Chubby Hubby’s ‘knife sensei’, David, at Razor Sharp – a knife sharpening service and shop that is also the agent for various lines of premium kitchen equipment, including Kyocera.

Finally, motivated by our dreadful old vegetable peeler that’s worn-out, rusty with blades that are twisted out of shape and almost impossible to use. I decided to invest in a Kyocera vegetable peeler with blades made of ceramic which won’t rust or get bent. Fruits like apples and pears also won’t brown so easily because they haven’t been peeled with a metal blade that promotes oxidation.

I used it to peel daikon today for a steamed Chinese radish cake 蘿蔔糕 and it was a jaw-dropping experience! Razor-sharp and utterly smooth, it also sliced terrifically fine so just the peel comes off with no wastage.

Of course it’s an expensive tool, but just the thing if you need an antidote to one-too-many Daiso $2 disasters :D. Tangs offers 25% off selected Kyocera products, including the vegetable peeler (full price, S$35), or next time you pop down to Nature’s Glory, you could go straight to the agent, Razor Sharp (unfortunately, all items are typically full list price except for occasional sale – right now, it’s the veg peeler with U-shaped handle on sale at a fabulous S$12! also the ceramic julienne slicer for S$19, usual price S$52) .

As for ceramic knives, although they can be great to use, they are more brittle than steel knives, hence the mixed reviews here and here, and if you go for the hard (haha!) details of knife construction, do check out this review.

If you’re still keen to try out a ceramic knife as well as the peeler, rush down to the current Isetan sale where a medium-sized kitchen knife is paired with the vegetable peeler for S$69, a fraction of the regular price (plus 20% discount for Isetan members, I think).

Fresh wasabi & Isetan shopping delights of the day

Given the paucity of bento gear outside of Daiso, I was impressed to see on sale in Isetan’s household section bread-slice-shaped sandwich cutters similar to the one used by Lunch in a Box. They’re hanging on a shelf with other fun-shaped cutters underneath a TV playing a promotional video of some Japanese kitchen gadget.

Isetan supermarket always has some kind of Japanese food promotion going on, and up till tomorrow, it’s a ‘Japanese Sweets Fair’ with various kinds of wagashi, such as steamed manju (饅頭) buns and demonstrations of dorayaki pancake making, and ‘teyaki tsugarugi senbei honpo’ (crackers with nuts).

Isetan sweets fair Click on picture for larger image of Isetan flyer.

It was also fun looking at the pre-packaged daifuku, warabi mochi and sakura mochi made from doumyoji as inspiration for future cooking projects ^_^.

However, what excited me the most was seeing fresh wasabi root on sale again! It’s not often they appear on the supermarket shelves in Singapore, which isn’t really surprising considering how difficult it is to grow wasabi, and even in Japan, only five percent of sushi shops use fresh wasabi root, with chefs paying up to ¥1,000 or more for a fresh wasabi root (read all about wasabi here)!

Wasabi rhizome

The last time I managed to buy fresh wasabi was when Isetan was having a Shizuoka promotion – Shizuoka being the home of wasabi-growing. The descriptions of wasabi growing in cold, clear mountain streams surrounded in gentle mist (see this photo) only help to enhance my infatuation with this rhizome.

The main reason, however, is the surprising delicate, yet complex, taste of fresh wasabi. A very pale green when grated, its hotness is tempered by a sharp bitter edge and a wonderful sweetness! Aside from using it as a sushi dip with soya sauce, I love wasabi with all kinds of meats, and in sandwiches it tastes so much nicer than powdered mustard which only made my food take on the aroma of rotten eggs :P. I’ve also eaten it smeared thinly over okonomiyaki. Here are my bento which have used wasabi in some way. Check out also this Shizuoka blog for suggestions on alternative ways to enjoy wasabi.

It should be no surprise that fresh grated wasabi tastes quite different from processed wasabi in tubes because the latter is actually made from a mixture with horseradish (a plant only introduced to Japan from Europe in the 19th century), colourings and flavourings etc. as this comprehensive list of ingredients shows. A much better alternative is the powdered wasabi from health food shops, such as Mitoku brand wasabi powder. While this powdered version may not be made from pure wasabi either (horseradish and mustard are commonly mixed in), at least it isn’t full of artificial additives and the unnatural lurid green colour of commercial supermarket powdered wasabi.

4/2/08 update : I experimented with eating wasabi in an alternative manner: by making very fine slices then frying them crisp and eating as topping on noodles. Well, I won’t be doing this again! They were rather bitter, no hint of characteristic wasabi hotness, and were more hard than crisp.

Muffin shapes and sizes

Muffin sizes

When I made those green tea, red bean and pine nuts muffins, I decided to try out different shapes and sizes, using the various types of silicone baking cups I’ve collected.

The square and diamond shapes remind me very much of the style of cake presentation from the Hong Kong-produced cookbook of tea cakes (i.e. sweet snacks to go with morning/afternoon tea), 輕食小茶餅. The book uses fairly standard western cake recipes but all are baked into individual servings, rather than large loafs or rounds and sliced. A variety of decorative moulds of different shapes are used and they struck me as very attractive. The book also showed me how to I can use my doughnut baking tray for other recipes :).

Silicone baking cups variety

Diamond and square-shaped silicone baking cups sold in packs of one dozen (only one shape in each pack) from City Super, Hong Kong. Note the line three-quarters of the way up the inside which tells you where to fill the batter up to – how clever!

I was also trying out mini baking cups for the first time. This is a perfect size to pop into a bento as a sweet dessert, and also excellent for sharing with friends. Because of my food sensitivities and hypoglycemia, I always carry my own box of snacks to parties, gatherings and meetings, and I try to bring some extra to share around so that it doesn’t seem so rude :), however, there’s also a high chance that my healthy snacks won’t go down well with others :P – so these tiny servings are a good solution.

Silicone baking cups round

Silicone baking cups: mini size from Daiso (S$2 for pack of 4) and standard size from Ecko brand, available at Singapore department stores, e.g. Tangs (S$11.60 for set of 12) and OG ($11.90 for set of 12). Daiso also has the standard size (S$2 for 2) but it’s almost always sold out!

10cm pan: fried eggs & blini

10cm pan

I’ve been eyeing these cute little Tefal pans for a long time, but thought it was gratuitous to buy yet another piece of kitchen equipment, and it’s not as if we don’t already have an ample supply of skillets at home. But I finally caved in and now I think these 10cm pans are actually pretty useful.

They are just the right size for a single fried egg, which is my breakfast on most days. However, I’m still undecided as to whether I prefer the texture of fried eggs cooked in this size of pan. It had not occurred to me before what a difference this would make.

Being concentrated in an enclosed space, the egg white is as thick as the yolk and therefore both white and yolk take about the same length of time to cook. Whereas in a larger pan, the egg white spreads out thinly and cooks quickly, with a light, tender consistency quite different from the heavy white mass produced in the 10cm pan. In large pans however, the yolk takes longer than the white to cook, so either you have a runny yolk, or you need to use a lid to get the yolk more solid.

The label on this pan says ‘blini pan’, which reminds us that it’s also perfect for small pancakes, such as Russian-style blini – quite different from English pancakes and French crepes that you might make in the Tefal 25cm crepe pan (which I have also been eyeing for years :D).

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