Lemongrass Frozen Yogurt: The Joys of Cooking Redux



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Years ago, I heard a sports writer complain about how he used to love sports — until he started writing about it.

Once it became a job, he all but stopped watching games on weekends. The thing that he adored had morphed into stress-inducer.

I remember feeling aghast — you get paid to write about something you love. Isn’t that more than many people dream of?

Recently, however, I’ve started to understand. After spending weeks with my nose buried deep in my book manuscript — which is all about a journey home to my native Singapore told through food and cooking — my time in the kitchen has become, simply, work. Meals have been thrown together out of sheer necessity; easy old faithfuls rather than new creative dishes have been making far too many appearances on the dinner table.

The stress of writing and editing my hundreds of pages on food, sadly, had transformed my love for cooking into a source of anxiety.

But I only realized I’d forgotten how to enjoy the act of making food when my Let’s Lunch friends nudged me back into the kitchen — not to put a meal on the table but to whip up something silly and anything but practical: A decadent chilled dessert.

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At wd-50: The French, They Came


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Walking into wd-50 early Monday evening, you couldn’t help but notice the distinct stillness.

It felt almost like entering a temple — the air was plump with reverence, laced with frissons of anticipation.

The dinner about to happen wasn’t just any dinner, after all — Michel Bras, one of France’s most highly regarded chefs, was manning the kitchen for just one night. And New Yorkers had been working themselves up into a lather over trying to get in.

Having had the good fortune of seeing the announcement of this dinner the moment Eater.com posted it (and also being in possession of fast fingers and a cellphone nearby), there we were, quietly filing into the dining room — hungry.

The meal that lay before us was a nine-course vegetarian tasting menu. Bras, a three-star Michelin chef, has made his name on dishes with inventive treatments and combinations of ingredients — powdered fruit, crushed seeds, sprinklings of whole flowers for added flavor — that are carefully orchestrated to taste anything but pedestrian. (It’s also worth noting that Bras, who also has a restaurant in Hokkaido, is also known for dishes that are presented with a tinge of Japanese artistry.)

Now, in his little restaurant overlooking Laguiole, a picturesque town in
the mountains of Aubrac in southern France, fresh fruit and
vegetables that grow wild in the region are the stars of the dishes. In New York, Bras applied the same strategy to his menu — from the moment he arrived three days before, he’d been scouring the city’s greenmarkets to come up with this meal after seeing what produce he could find, according to our waiter. In fact, Luc Dubanchet, one of the organizers of the meal along with three others featuring other French chefs at David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants this month, told the New York Times that Bras said he is “incapable of doing it any other way.”

And so it was that we arrived with open minds and eager stomachs.

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The Real Thing


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I’ve been thinking recently about the notion of “authentic” food.

There’s an interesting story in Singapore’s Straits Times today about foreign eateries trying to bring authentic takes on their native cuisines to Singapore. French boulangerie Le Grenier à Pain, for example, apparently stuck to its crusty baguettes even though Singaporeans typically favor softer versions that local bakeries serve up. Ditto for Quiznos and its authenticity. (Yes, this article actually cites the American food-court sandwich chain in its roundup.)

Nonetheless, there are some Singaporeans who disagree with this business strategy — one is quoted as saying that restaurants should take local preferences into account since “the customer picks what he likes most, whether or not it’s true to the original taste.”

The story made me think of the tale a friend recently told me of taking his Beijing girlfriend to Italy. There, she sniffed at the way Italians do Italian pasta dishes, finding them lacking when compared with the versions she’s had in China.

Sure, cuisines get altered all the time when they migrate from country to country — ingredients are added, steps are subtracted. But what happens when the tweaked, polyglot product ends up being what people believe to be authentic?

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