Reverse imported food

Two interesting news articles in the last two days.

The first is about a well-known British-Indian chef, Manju Malhi, who intends to introduce to India, Indian’ dishes which are popular in Britain but unknown in India:

Malhi is shooting a television cooking show in New Delhi promoting British cuisine with an Indian twist, a combination she has dubbed Brit-Indi, and which has made her famous back in Britain.

Read more here.

The second piece of news is that sources of tuna are running low, causing a national sushi crisis in Japan. The solution for some is this:

Yamagata, 59, has been experimenting with more creative tuna alternatives at Miyakozushi, a restaurant catering to the business lunch crowd that has been in his family for four generations. He said his most successful substitutes were ideas he “reverse imported” from the United States, like smoked duck with mayonnaise and crushed daikon with sea urchin. He said he now made annual visits to sushi restaurants in New York and Washington for inspiration.

“We can learn from American sushi chefs,” Yamagata said. “Sushi has to evolve to keep up with the times.”

Food purists all over the world must be having heart attacks! But personally I do like chicken tikka and California rolls :).


Failsafe Baked Donuts/Doughnuts


My first batch of baked doughnuts

Last week a neighbour brought some home-made fried doughnuts round to our place. They seemed so delicious but I was afraid they would upset my elimination diet. Since then I have been craving doughnuts, especially since people have been discussing doughnuts on the Failsafe discussion group. [Failsafe = free of additives, low in salicylates, amines and flavour enhancers.] So I decided to plunge into the world of doughnut making myself. [Update 11/12/07: read my notes on fried dough foods in different cultures here.]

Firstly, I decided to make baked doughnuts instead. I had been reading about doughnut baking tins on the Failsafe discussion group and learnt about baked doughnuts for the first time. Certainly healthier than fried ones. I went out and got myself a doughnut baking tray (Takashimaya, S$19.90; in comparison, an electric waffle maker at S$49 isn’t a lot more!).

Next, I trawled the internet and read more than twenty baked doughnut recipes. Realised that there are two basic types:
a) ones that use buttermilk or milk+apple cider vinegar (to simulate buttermilk)
b) ones with no fermented milk

Under (b), there are two further sub-categories:
i) ones made like muffins: dry ingredients dump into wet ingredients, mix
ii) ones made like cake: cream fat & sugar, beat in egg, mix in dry ingredients.
[Want to know more about the ‘muffin method’ vs. the creaming method? Then read this post.]

Since (a) recipes are out of the question for me – I try to avoid fermented stuff and vinegar if possible (anti-candida), and also buttermilk is ridiculously expensive so it’s better not to depend on it if there are other alternatives.

Out of (b) recipes, this being my first attempt at making doughnuts I didn’t want a less-than-satisfactory result to put me off trying again, so I chose the more labour-intensive method, which I also thought would result in a lighter, fluffier doughnut.

I used a recipe from – there are so many baked donut recipes there, I compared various that fitted (b)(i), all the ingredients quantities were the same, so any of them would do. E.g.


1/3 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 c. flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. milk

Cream butter and sugar; add beaten egg and mix well. Mix in dry ingredients and milk alternately. Fill greased muffin tins 1/2 full. Bake 350 degrees, 20-30 minutes.

My modifications:
1) Used all wholemeal flour.
2) Reduced sugar to 1/4 cup
3) Omitted nutmeg (and cinammon, which many recipes call for) in order to be failsafe.
4) Used plastic bag with hole cut in corner to pipe the dough into the tin. It’s hard to spoon the slightly stiff dough into a the doughnut shape in the baking tray! It’s nicer having these doughnut shaped moulds rather than using a muffin tray as described in the recipe.
5) Baked at 180 degrees Celsius, 12 mins. Read this in other recipes, which say don’t overbake.
6) Instead of making a sticky icing for them, I dusted icing sugar over the top when they were done.

The result:
Wonderful! They were crisp on the outside, soft (albeit a bit crumbly) on the inside. Texture is fine with wholemeal flour, but a slight raw taste. Next time I will lightly toast the wholemeal flour first.

Next up, I want to eat waffles!

15/3/08 update: check out my grandmother’s doughnut method, using fried choux pastry.

Tea, caffeine & one’s constitution pt. 2

I have just started attending a short course in Chinese tea appreciation. Among the many things the teacher talked about, two areas related directly to my earlier postings on this blog about caffeine and one’s body constitution.

On caffeine
Chinese green teas (classified as unfermented) have the highest level of caffeine. Therefore they are best drunk in the morning.

Pu-Er tea, which undergoes the longest fermentation (it is often left to age for years and decades), has the lowest caffeine and can be drunk in the evenings. The older the Pu Er, the lower the caffeine.

One’s constitution
The tea appreciation instructor, when she sells tea, will always ask who the tea is for, and about the age, health and lifestyle of the person drinking the tea. This information will enable her to recommend a suitable tea.

For example, if you tend to cough and often feel cold (does that indicate a yin constitution?), you should not drink too much green tea. Pu Er tea is more suitable.

She also corroborated my own stand on this – you know best your own constitution so you need to make sure that you choose suitable teas. This of course begs the question, how do we know what our own constitution is? I suppose the answer is to learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine. Muscle testing, as used in applied kinesiology, is also a good skill to help us test our own condition.

Antidote to food additive reaction

This is news to me!

From Sue Dengate:

For an occasional antidote to a reaction, try a pinch of soda bicarb in half a glass of water, or half to one Caltrate plain white 600 mg calcium supplement tablet.

Wow, maybe I could have suffered a lot less over the years if I’d known about this.

Normally, I try to reiki the reaction away, and for MSG attacks I had to resort to countering poison with another poison — Coca Cola (yucks: I have to say I’ve lost the ability to enjoy the artificial sugary taste).

Last week I learnt from my kinesiologist that a good thing to do is use EFT on the reactions.  Somehow I don’t connect as well with EFT or find it as enjoyable as using reiki, but I do think it works and I’ve read some good books on it:
Roger Callahan & Richard Trubo, Tapping the Healer Within : Using Thought-Field Therapy to Instantly Conquer Your Fears, Anxieties, and Emotional Distress
Phillip Mountrose & Jane Mountrose, Getting Thru to Your Emotions with EFT: Tap into Your Hidden Potential with the Emotional Freedom Techniques
David Feinstein, Donna Eden & Gary Craig, The Promise of Energy Psychology

Diets: Failsafe vs. anti-candida

I have been reading through the recipes in Sue Dengate’s book, Fed Up, trying to get ideas for what to cook & eat. The presence of white sugar and golden syrup all over made me alarmed as I have been trained on the anti-candida diet of no yeast & no sugar. However, this Sue Dengate factsheet on candida makes me wonder if I have should been doing it differently and paying more attention to salicylates all along. She says,

It is counterproductive to try to combine failsafe eating with a candida diet which excludes yeast and sugar. People who are failsafe ‘but not 100%’ and swear they react to sugar have almost certainly failed to reduce their salicylate level enough.

Sugar and yeast free diets exclude so many processed foods and natural foods high in salicylates or amines that most people improve when following them. Unfortunately, though, they are very hard to follow and many people come to us after months or years of a candida diet having failed to achieve the improvements they wanted, still not knowing which food chemicals affect them, and completely fed up with the idea of doing any diet. In our experience, it is easier and more effective to go failsafe.

‘Failsafe’ refers to Dengate’s approach to food, which is ‘Free of Additives, Low in Salicylates, Amines and Flavour Enhancers’. Anyway, salicylates are now my no. 1 priority, and my tolerance for yeast & sugar are much better now (though not unlimited), so I’m going to ditch the anti-candida diet for these few weeks and see how I go.

*Sigh* the biggest problem is the nerves of steel to stay ‘100% failsafe’, especially when surrounded by a family who are resolutely anti-failsafe in their own eating :].

P.S. I’m already a failed food-combiner and failed microbiotic-er, because I found them too hard. But I did learn a lot from reading up on each of those methods :).

Food sensitivities

I haven’t been in the mood to update my blog much recently because I have been feeling rather unwell. A visit to the kinesiologist diagnosed yet another food substance I’ve become sensitive to: salicylates. I’ve been on anti-candidasis and additive-avoidance diets for the last five years but salicylates are new to me! It is a naturally-occurring substance in many fruits & vegetables (especially dried herbs and dried fruit) so even eating ‘healthy’ fresh fruit and veg can be a minefield :(. The peppermint cough mixture I was taking was lethal, and I’ve put aside my organic botanical toiletries for now too, just to be on the safe side.

In fact, I’ve found that ‘safe’ fruits and vegetables have also been causing minor reactions in me, which I believe is due to cross-contamination with foods that the rest of my family is eating. It only takes the same knife or chopping board to be used to cause cross-contamination.

Read more about salicylate sensitivity here.

Also, highly recommended is the Food Intolerance Network, run by Sue Dengate. She has published several books on the subject.

A book worth well-worth reading is
John Emsley & Peter Fell, Was It Something You Ate?: Food Intolerance: What Causes It and How to Avoid It (Oxford University Press, 2002)

Initially I felt rather depressed and defeated by yet another food intolerance to deal with, but on the bright side, according to the kinesologist’s tests, my body will recover if I avoid salicylates completely for three weeks. Food sensitivities surface when the body is under stress, and the degree of the reaction depends on the total stressload at any one time; this can be physiological stress from food additives, environmental pollution, chemical exposure (e.g. in household cleaning products), as well as mental and emotional stress.

I’ve been through the experience of a super-restricted anti-candida diet before, but recently have gotten used to sneaking in small amounts of disallowed foods when my body was able to tolerate it. Now, I’ll have to muster up those herculean levels of self-discipline again. Here’s my trick: if I think I want to eat a ‘bad’ food, I just mentally shut off the possibility of being able to eat it at all, think of it as rat poison (which it almost is, for me) and then there’s no longer an option and I can walk away from it.

Very sadly, tea is extremely high in salicylates. On the last two occasions when I had a cup of black tea, stomach pains and diahorrea quickly followed. Tea (including herbal) is definitely the thing I miss most on the no-salicylates regime! Ah… and I won’t have much time to finish my wonderful shincha before the expiry date of 19 July!

I wish there was more general awareness of multiple chemical sensitivities and food intolerances. Intolerances are different from allergies; as Sue Dengate says on the Food Intolerance Network,

Food allergy is an immunological reaction to food proteins.
Food intolerance is a pharmacological reaction (like the side effects of a drug) to the chemicals in foods.

Moreover, allergic reactions take place to the slightest amount of the allergen, but intolerances are dose-related and as mentioned above, also dependent on the total amount of stress the body is under at any one time.

I’ve had people in the past tell me I’m a hypochondriac or making a mountain out of a molehill. If only they saw the palm-sized hives and lips swollen to Donald-Duck proportions that refuse to recede for 24hrs, they wouldn’t be so incredulous. But of course, I don’t display my most-grotesque self in public and remain in hiding at home during such times.

Yoroshiku onegai shimasu, Yoshoku desu!

Continuing my theme of cross-cultural culinary interpretations is yoshoku (also here) — Japanese interpretations of western dishes such as korokke (croquettes), tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlets), hamubagu (hamburger), omuraisu (omelette rice) and kare raisu (curry rice — hmm, this sounds like a double-reinterpretation to me, curry brought to the west by British colonialism then adapted for Japanese tastes). You can also get a yoshoku recipe book produced for the English-language market.

There are a number of yoshoku restaurants in Singapore, and the latest and hottest location seems to be the new Central shopping mall above Clarke Quay MRT, which has Pasta de Waraku and Ma Maison (a yoshoku chain from Japan with Singapore branches at Bugis and Central, with an official website that’s only in Japanese, it seems very ‘authentic!). Read a Straits Times review article here. There’s also Yoshoku Kitchen, featured in this review article and reviewed here.