By Rachel Tan
Singapore’s Nassim Hill Bistro may be the peddler of a new brunch sensation: the Almond Brioche French Toast. The genius of its construction lies not in its ingredients, but in their proportion.
One can hardly get a glimpse of the bread at first glance. The almond brioche is less dense than the usual American thick-cut loaf. Its soft, porous, buttery quality is overwhelmed by the weight of the thick egg batter that covers it. However, the bread still retains enough shape and doughy texture thanks to the harder crust. It provides ample contrast to the smoothness of the egg.
The brioche’s sweetness from crystallized sugar and butter combined with a whisper of nutty flavor peeks through yolk-laden notes of the outer layer. Texturally, both components are similar yet different enough to give a comfort food feel. The airiness of the bread manages to serve as counterweight to the richness of the yolks.
Pouring maple syrup over the egg and bread seems one step too far. But syrup adds to the enjoyment of the dish. This is most likely due to the amount of eggs present. They add a more savory element to the dish. It becomes an omelet dessert instead of a sweet bread. Best of all, this dish can be created at home.
Brioche French toasts have a global presence. I have savored manifestations of brioche in sweet and savory forms on breakfast menus- though not like this. I hope to see this in American diners very soon.
If you know of one in Chicago, please let me know!
SINGAPORE – There’s always room for a plump dumpling, no matter where you’re eating.
Something as elemental as a small crepe-like disk of rice flour and water creates the perfect canvas for meat, vegetables or sweet fillings. In Singapore, some of the most popular types include traditional soup dumplings, called xiao long bao, or versions made with pork, shrimp or minced vegetables. Due to the fact they’re bite-sized and typically contain comfort-worthy umami flavors, dumplings are a popular and affordable lunchtime meal. Read More
By Rachel Tan
SINGAPORE – This Asian city is a burgeoning hub of casual cafés that seek to out-brew and out-bake each other. Never have we been so aware of our palates. With all of them catering to the same clientele of 20-somethings, ex-pats, and creative movers and shakers – making a name for yourself is a crap shoot. Three-star Michelin chef Bruno Ménard marries fame and a dream of fortune with the newest addition to our culinary skyline, &Made.
By Rachel Tan
You can often get a sense of a restaurant based on the quality of its bread basket. It’s both a visual attraction as well as a sensory opening salvo. If that bread basket just features one thing, it better be fantastic.
At Allium, inside The Four Seasons Hotel downtown, they begin their weekend brunch ($58 per person) with one of the best examples of an all-star starch, which also happens to be sweet.
Labeled the “Cast Iron Pecan Pull Apart,” the very name lends itself to a sticky, soft and moist carb. Expect doughy quarters of bread covered in whole pecans with a caramel glaze stuffed into an adorable cast iron skillet that helps give the exterior a lovely charred, crusty quality. Best of all, it’s not overly sugary. Consume all you want at the intersection of cinnamon roll and sticky bun. Read More
Despite being a lifelong city dweller, I have always loved experiencing the countryside. For me, there is something romantic about living in a house surrounded by family members and farm animals, tending to one’s own crops with an idyllic landscape permanently etched in the background. To date, staying at my great-aunt’s coconut farm 10 years ago still ranks as one of my most memorable summer vacations, and a place I ask to visit every time I return home.
As soon as I saw the annual “Day in the Country” food tour hosted by Chicago Gourmets, I jumped on the opportunity to learn about the agricultural industry in one of the U.S.’s major food production regions. Read More
By Ivan Yeh
As a college student in Chicago whose parents live in Taiwan, family reunions are few and far between. Logistically speaking, it would involve one party flying 8,000 miles across an ocean and nine time zones to even begin to make things work.
But families find a way to do it. Whenever my parents are able to make a trip halfway around the world to visit the U.S., they enthusiastically sample traditional American dishes as well as the local cuisines of the cities they’re touring. Despite their willingness to embark on culinary adventures, there inevitably comes a time when they begin to miss the taste of Asian food. Since my parents see it as a waste to fly across the Pacific Ocean just to eat Chinese food, we usually compromise and take the middle road: pan-Asian fusion cuisine.
Ever since I was a kid, my folks and I would visit the U.S. almost every year. And because of that, we have tried many fusion restaurants, most memorably the California Pizza Kitchen.
As a Los Angeles-based chain that prides itself on innovation, it comes with no surprise that CPK’s menu features several Asian-inspired creations to go alongside its signature pizza offerings. But despite its huge selection of fusion entrees, our eyes would always gravitate toward just one dish: the Kung Pao spaghetti.
Living in Asia, we have seen our fair share of Kung Pao dishes. Chicken, shrimp, sea bass, frog, calamari, cuttlefish, you name it. But never spaghetti. To be perfectly honest, we were doubtful the first time we saw the name of the dish. But curiosity got the better of us, and we ordered one plate of Kung Pao spaghetti with a pizza, just to be safe, and boy, were we glad we tried it.
The pasta was so delicious that it was completely devoured before we even thought about picking up a slice of the always-tasty BBQ chicken pizza. The thick Kung Pao sauce provided the dish with a unique texture. Almost honey-like in terms of consistency, the spicy and garlicky sauce gave the spaghetti a bold flavor accentuated by long cuts of green onions and some whole dried red chilies. And to top it all off, the traditional addition of toasted peanuts gave the dish just the right amount of crunch.
The Kung Pao spaghetti works perfectly both as a light lunch or a filling dinner with the addition of chicken or shrimp.
When my parents next visit me in the U.S., we will definitely be visiting CPK, wherever we may be. And we will be getting three orders of the Kung Pao spaghetti. Heck, maybe CPK is the real reason they’re visiting?
California Pizza Kitchen
52 E. Ohio St.