May 2009 Archives
Fri 05.22.09 - Joe Hernandez purchased the above mango at a farm stand on Oahu's North Shore two days ago. A kindly USDA Agricultural inspector at the Honolulu Airport let me sit outside the security check point and eat my mango rather than throwing it away. He also told me that its varietal name was the 'haiti mango' and that in his opinion the best mango in Hawaii.
Even though the mango was only half ripe, it was already full of mango flavor, quite sweet, and marvelously tangy with very few fibres. While it was half ripe, this Hawaiian mango definitely beats last week's fully ripe Mexican mango.
Mon 05.18.09 - Yesterday morning, I conducted the great Mango Off to determine which was better the standard Mexican mango purchased at any SoCal grocery store or the fabled Alphonse Indian mangos that get shipped to LAX just after being picked and then distributed to Indian grocery stores that then sell out very quickly even though their prices are relatively high. A few days ago, I blogged "Travelling Mangoes: One from India, Two From Mexico" about purchasing two Mexican mangoes and one Indian mango at India Sweets and Spices in Tustin for the purpose of conducting a taste test.
As you can see from the photos above, I sliced the mangoes up, then put them in separate dishes and had my father come in without telling him which they were and do a taste test. After we both had thoroughly tasted the different mangoes, my dad said the following, "I am definitely a Mexican man, in more ways then one." He preferred the sweetness, even though the Mexican mango was fiber-full.
I am on the fence, as the two mangoes were quite different in terms of taste, levels of sweetness, and texture. The Mexican mango is a big sweet bomb, with a good mango flavor but little to no tangy taste, the downside was the fibers that get stuck in between one's teeth. The Indian mango was smaller, no fibers, the flesh was creamier, but it is in taste that the Indian mango distinguishes itself. To me the taste started as slightly soapy, then it was mildly sweet, and then a good tangy finish. The Indian mango tasted very much like the mangoes I had when I visited India.
Given that I was on my way to the airport and it was still quite early in the morning, I knocked on my neighbor's door and handed them the other halves of the mangoes and said I would get back to them later on their reviews. Off I went to the airport.
I called Earl, my neighbor, this morning to get his opinion on the mangoes, and he said,"I prefer the Indian mango, it had better texture, no fibers, more distinctly mango flavor. The one downside the Indian mango is its size, as it was small. Mexican was sweet, which it may have been better if fresher. But neither compare to the mangoes I have had in Hawaii or the Philippines, as they are quite large and flavor wise better."
So, of three Californians who have each done quite a bit of traveling and eating, the rating is:
1 person preferred the Mexican mango
1 person thought both were quite different and would buy either again
1 person preferred the Indian mango
Thus, ends the Happy Tastebud May 2009 Great Mango-Off.
Photo taken by Ms. Jen with a Nokia N95.
Thurs. 05.14.09 - File under: The Opposite of Local-vore but Darned Tasty Anyways.
Today I was at India Sweet and Spices after dropping Scruffy off at the dog groomers and I spied a pile of big, plump, yellow and red mangoes from Mexico. As I brought the two chosen mangoes up to the counter, the owner of the shop asked me, "Would you like one of the Indian mangoes that have just arrived?"
Behind him was three cardboard cartons with specially packed Indian mangoes, I said, "Yes, I will take one."
"Have you tried an Indian mango before?"
"Yes, last year when I was in India."
Frankly, I don't remember them as being much different than Mexican mangoes, other than a bit smaller and thinner, but two summers ago, the LA Times Food Section reported on the specialness of the Indian mango arrivals to LA. How much is it homeland nostalgia and how much there is really a difference in taste, I will report back to you tomorrow or the next day when the Indian mango is ready to eat.
On Mother's Day, while at my Grandma Grace's place, my aunt Anne and I got in a discussion about recent cookbooks and what my favorite are. While not super recent, one of my favorite cookbooks of the last 10-15 years is Patricia Well's Bistro Cooking. I went through a period where I cooked a bunch of the recipes faithfully from the book, but now, 10 years later I mostly cook from memory of how the recipe should go.
This morning, I received an email from my aunt asking what herbs I used, so I pulled out Bistro Cooking and looked up the recipe, and much to my surprise, I have almost completely swapped out the herbs Patricia Wells calls for and have substituted ones that are easy to find here in SoCal, as well as omitted the egg and added lemon slices. Thus, the version of the recipe that I have been making for the last decade is following the spirit and technique of Ms. Wells, but not the same ingredients.
Here is my re-made interpretation of Patricia Well's Herbed Chicken (Poulet Roti Aux Herbes Pile ou Face):
Ms. Jen's Whole Herbed Roasted Chicken
One whole chicken (I like Rosie's or Mary's Air Chilled from Whole Foods, or the Kosher brand from Trader Joe's)
A handful of fresh mint
A handful of fresh basil
A handful of fresh tarragon
A handful of fresh parsley (if you want) or sorrel if you can find it (I grow it)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
sea salt & pepper
1 whole lemon sliced
1) Chop all the herbs until minced. Put in bowl or heap on cutting board. Chop garlic, add to herbs. Add about 1tsp of salt & pepper to bowl/pile.
2) Take chicken out of wrapping and pull out the bag of innards, put aside, saute up later for the dog or cat. Dog/Cat will love you.
Pat chicken dry inside and out, put on a good roasting pan.
3) Carefully, with clean hands, work your fingers under the skin of the back & breast & thighs/drumsticks without breaking any skin, start stuffing (evenly) the garlic-herb mixture under the skin. Reserve at least a 1/4th of the mixture and rub it in the bird's cavity.
4) Stuff the main and neck cavities with the lemon slices.
5) Rub down the skin with some olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
6) Place the chicken breast side down on the roasting pan.
7) Roast at 400F for 15 mins, then turn down to 350F. Will take 1-1.5 hours depending on size of chicken, until the thigh meat registers on the meat thermometer at 170-180F or the juices run clear.
In the last 45 mins, I like to add root veggies (potatoes, carrots, etc) to the bottom of the pan so that they will roast in the chicken juices & fat.
During the last 20 minutes, flip the chicken over so that the breast skin turns brown.
8) Let rest about 10 minutes after exiting the oven before carving up. Serve with roast root veggies and a salad(s).
i was recently in England working on a TV show about real estate, and was pleasantly surprised at the quality ethnic food choices available in almost any neighbourhood in London. while the "best" ethnic eateries are still to be found on the East End (according to several locals), it's not as hard as it was even just 5 years ago to find something other than fish 'n chips or roast beef with Yorkshire pudding (although those dishes are still, and will always be ubiquitous). while in London, i enjoyed Japanese noodles, a Turkish lamb kofte, and an amazing pear-and-chevre fusion salad concoction.
however, the hands-down best meal i had was a home-cooked Thai feast ambitiously prepared by a couple in Manchester, England. my small crew of three had just met them that morning when we showed up at their house for our shoot, and part of the plan was to show them cooking in their kitchen. they mentioned casually they would make enough to feed us if we wanted to stay. now, we thought this meant they were going to just have a big pot of Tom Kah Kai soup, but we were mistaken. that was just the first course.
next was a mixed greens prawn (shrimp) salad with lemongrass and coriander. the shrimp were sauteed in garlic, black pepper, and a touch of soysauce. after that was a vodka lime risotto. then stirfried greenbeans, baby bokchoy, and spinach. and finally, a pesto stuffed green curry chicken with a mango reduction sauce. it was absolutely incredible -- the flavours were fresh and bold, and the combinations were exciting. Mark had just started taking "Thai Cookery Class" seriously and it was obvious how passionate he was about making it his own. he gladly put up with my photo-taking and grilling him about the dishes. i think he was happy someone cared enough to ask! his wife, Julie, pulled out a lovely Sicilian Pinot Grigio and then a really fascinating Chilean Chardonnay/Viognier/Riesling blend. both were great accompaniments to the meal.
Mark made the interesting observation that both Mexican and Thai "cookery" heavily feature cilantro (also called coriander), lime, chile, and rice in many dishes, but the results are hugely different. it was fun to think of how true that is -- and how lucky we are to live in a time where we can sample both at will!
thank you, Mark & Julie, for opening up your home to strangers and feeding us like royalty!