Tempoyak Pie and the Impotance of Failure: Part 1

I have completed and internship at a restaurant know for dabbling in the culinarily odd. I saw that my learning flourishes in unfamiliar territory.

Time to fail in fresh ways.

Let Me at 'Em

Let Me at ‘Em

Have you heard of durian, the fruit with a taste that the centuries have loathed with sound logic


or loved with nose pinned passion.


It is the smell. It is pungent and reminiscent of a young foot baller’s neglected clothes hamper.

Naturally, I had to ferment this funkiness into a vegan cheese cake.


Tempoyak = salt fermented durian, usually served with curry over rice in Malaysian cooking (not in cake).

Pure tempoyak, fermented one month with sea salt, topped my cheese cake. The flavor was intriguing and new. Less pungent and offensive in odor, but still sparky with hints of tang.  It hovered in a the confusing limbo between sweet and savory.


Layer two suffered the most experimentation. A pickled cashew cheese infused with fermented durian, clove, agar agar seaweed, and a little coconut sugar.

Agar agar field

Agar Agar Field

After a gentle simmer the agar activated creating gelatin style bind agent that imparts no flavor.

Pickle water soaked cashews, fermented fruit, and a seaweed binder. Invovative? maybe. Dessert… that is a stretch


The pale yellow top was a bit of a bore. A quick cinnamon stencil of the Coracao Chocolate double heart logo dressed it up.


O Yeah. I should mention at this point this cakes was to be served to the bay areas premier raw confectioners at a dinner party. A cake comprised of a fruit that, in its unfermented state, is banned from most Asian hotels, restaurants, and taxies.


I should also mention that I was also hopping they would consider me for an opening as an assistant chocolateer.

At this point, some how, I was still feeling confident.

Flash forward 3 hours, after a sumptuous dinner of all things pastured and local, and it was time for dessert.

“Ooooo’s” and “Aaaaa’s” filled the kitchen, but love soon ceased at first bite.

Reactions ranged from laughter to outright offence. My bosses partner was afraid she might be having an allergic reaction. Needlessly said, I was embarrassed. This was clearly a plant based face plant.


Out right failure. I need some inspiration really quick.

  • “A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions, as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche
  • “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child
So my cake was gross, Wild and Crazy Kids would have shunned it.
But upon reflection, this fail cake was stuffed with tiny successes:
  • The cinnamon stencil was a nice and easy touch to use in the future
  • The agar agar held. The cake sat confidently at room temperature.
  • Tempoyak would be a great ferment for its Malaysian intention… savory dishes
  • No one was hospitalized
  • Cashews soaked and dehydrated in pickle juice are a nice snack by themselves

Failure is a matter of perspective. I will take these successes into my next ferment free cashew cream endeavour. Recipe to come next week.
durian_saveHe could be trying to save that durian or trying to rid himself of it. Either way he would be right.

Whats Brown and Sweet and Cheaper than Water?

I was inspired by this brief post by Marion Nestle  on her blog, Food Politics. It concerns one of the only countries with an obesity higher rate than the United States. In Mexico, soda is cheaper than bottled water.


I am not sure about the water quality in Mexico, but in most developing countries bottled water is one of few convenient, clean, and reliable source. I spent a year travelling and working in South East Asia, the tap was well…. questionable.

I have compiled a list of countries where Coca-Cola is specifically cheaper than bottled water

Rural China


Burma (Coke’s most recent National consumer)A Coca Cola advertisement in a tea shop in Yangon, Myanmar.Saudi Arabia

coke_arbiaThailand coke_thailand


Vietnamcoke_veitnamTanzania  coke_tanzania

Many more I am sure but these were the ones I could confirm. I was inclined to throw Cambodia up but could not be sure.

coke_cambodiaI do know this from first hand experience. Fresh coconuts are cheaper than bottled water… be still my heart.

coke_planeCoca-Cola, dropping hydration bombs where ever the thirsty struggle. Wait, isn’t caffeine a diuretic, O that can not be good

Julia’s Nom Nom Meatballs, Porcupine Style… Wha?!

As I continue to explore my grandparent’s recipe repertoire Gratefulness is growing.

They really did nourished me.

Dinner was never out of a package, bread a minimal garnish, and veggies always prominent on the plate. Still, the classics that have stuck in my mind stick to the bones. Animal protein was my grandmother’s favourite evening indulgence.

Grandpa’s was bourbon and soda, but he never went past two.


Grandma called it the, “One, two poof.”

Like a meatball itself, this recipe is  a mash up. Julia Child’s classic cocktail meatball provides a template, Nom Nom Paleo’s add a fish sauce twist, and in the tradition of my Grandmother’s glorious Porcupine Balls a little bit of cooked rice rolls this ball home.

But first:

Two Tip interlude: I have been balling a lot of meat lately, playing with ratios and fillers, this batch marries two of the things that really turned my meatballs into a moist flavor bomb.

  1. Starchy addition = I understand the low carb benefits very well. Still, a purely meat ball is a dense affair, all that mighty umami needs to soak into something otherwise it leaks out all over the baking sheet. That is why breadcrumbs and oats are the classic add in. I  about 3/4 cup starch mash (roasted taters, sweet taters, cooked rice) per pound of protein seems to be the magic number. Other wise you are just rolling up tiny burgers, in which case just make a slider.
  2. Food processor = A food processor emulsifies the fat and breaks down the connective tissue in the meat. This creates a springy well-formed ball with a rich and moist interior.  Also, you don’t have to mince the herb and onion additions, just toss them in the processor after a quick rough chop. Hand mixing is fine if a food processor is not available, but really mince the heck out of any additions.

meatball sign

OK, that’s settled, here we go.


  • 1 cup cooked rice (cook it in stock for bonus points)
  • 1 lb ground beef (grass fed, Great! grass finished, Awesome!)
  • 4 oz ground pork (no pork? just add more beef, if it is lean add an egg)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaf or 2 tbsp dry
  • 1 tb Tamari sauce or fish sauce
  • 8 grinds black pepper
  • 3 finger pinch cayenne
  • 3 finger pinch ground ginger


  • Optional: Shallot, red onion, sweet onion, garlic roughly chopped


  • Toss everything except the rice into your food processor (or a big bowl for a hand mix). Pulse the processor in 5 second intervals until everything is well integrated. The reason for pulsing vs. just letting the processor run is to avoid heating the mix to a point where the fats melt.

Not fun for the rolling phase.

It also lends you the baller more control, after 4-5 pulse rounds you start to cross into pate’ territory.

Also, not fun for the rolling phase.

The mix should still be a little chunky and pinkish in color, as the white fat and the red meat integrate.


  • Toss in the rice and pulse 2-3 more times until it is well integrated.
  • Roll gobs into balls 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter and arrange in one layer on a lightly oiled baking dish or cast iron. I made a tiny one for taste testing.


  • Bake in a preheated 450º F oven for 7 to 8 minutes (for larger balls you will need longer cook time). Turn balls once or twice otherwise the bottoms will burn. Like I did below.
  • meatballsPull them out let them cool and enjoy with any number of tasty sides and/or sauces.

I opted for mashed sweet potato and a quick avocado coleslaw. Tasty all around.


I hope that there are some good take away from this recipe, I really did do a good deal of ball research no kidding. Play with add in, different herbs, spices, and veggies. and give some info on you results.

Anyone tried adding mashed plantains…. I hope so.


Hey Sean, Lets make Grandpa’s Chicken


I love the lovely pang of flavorsalgia.


Flavorstalgia = sentimentality for foods of the past, typically a taste with happy personal associations

Well, I created some flavorstalgia with my sister the other night. It came in the form of our late and great Grandpa’s BBQ teriyaki chicken.


Sister soldier recently moved up to the bay area. It has been fun to have a friend to whom a mission to San Francisco in search of the perfect taco sounds like an adequate way to waste a Thursday.

street_foodCurrent winner = Tacolicious, by the way

tacoWhile her transition from ‘living at home’ to ‘on your own’ has been impressively mature and painless, her kitchen cabinets make me cringe.

It is not her fault that Trader Joes dips plastic tubs of everything in chocolate…. or that it makes cookies into butter for that matter.


When she suggested we make dinner, I was all like, “Yeah!”

When she suggested Grandpa’s teriayaki chicken, I was all like, “Yeah?”

What was in that marrinate? Grandma did not know, neither did the madre.

Certainly brown sugar and ample soy, the low sodium kind probably. Well I made my own with ingredients I feel do a pastured chicken more justice.

sauceNo thanks Joe. I’ll google an at home blend.

Teriyaki Marinate/Sauce Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Maple syrup or Honey
  • ½ cup Tamari (soy if the gluten don’t bother ya or get fancy with coco aminos)*
  • ¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 clove Garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp Ground Ginger powder
  • ¼ tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper

*I was really temped to throw in some fish sauce, but the sis hates the stuff, still Red Boat the Recipe, I beg you

Chicken Teriyaki_004

The consensus among myself, my sister, and her partner was this. Awesome sauce, totally boss.The sis decreed, “Grandpa’s chicken for sure.”

The sauce is so simple and so flexible, the recipe is vegan (just grill some tempeh…. or oOoo eggplant) and refined sugar free, and with the sub of tamari or coco aminos, can be gluten and soy free. Teriyaki for the nutritional masses.

It helped that it was served with of my sister’s other foodie favs.


Roasted tiny taters.


and simple steamed veggies.

Much was eaten and leftovers were fridged for my sister later snacking needs.

We have decided to make it a weekly thing, I think we are gonna tackle Grandma’s porcupine balls next.

HPIM1691.JPG“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.”

– O Julia


Eggsplorations: The Hard and The Boiled

As a child no food seemed less satisfying than a runny boiled egg.

TIme heals all wounds.

young_seanHard boiled eggs are an elegant combination of, convenience, nutrition, and with a little research delectability.

Like many, I have been boiling  irresponsibly; tossing eggs into a pots willy nilly and returning 15 minutes later to disgruntling peel rubbery whites enrobing chalky yolks.

Salted Egg Yolk Custard Bao 2

High time I settled on a boiling time…. and method for that matter.

Today, a simple eggsperiment, along with tips that actually do grease the shelling wheels.



  • Get out your eggs and a Sharpie Marker, label each according to the time frame you would like to test, they will cook more consistently if they are at room temp before their dunk so do this first.
  • Set water to boiling
  • Add a couple of shakes (1/2 teaspoon) of baking soda regardless of number of eggs*

*this really does help with ease of being later on. With Organic or pastured eggs all that freshness lowers the pH level of the white, causing it to adhere to the shell membrane. Baking soda raises that pH allowing for easier peeling with less length boiling times. Salt is also used but in  it did not seem to help me as much.


  • When the water is about to reach boiling (the French Chef calls this a smiling pot) drop in your eggies
  • Get exact,  SET A TIMER! Let the alerts correspond to you labelled egg times.
  • As each egg reaches its desired pull period use a spoon to fish it out, set it in a bowl of cold water, set that bowl in the freezer. Repeat For each egg.
  • 20 minutes or so later get em out peel em up and choose the yolk for you.


I like a little run so I dialled in 7 minutes as my prime time. 6 minutes had the same runniness but was a pain to peel. 8 minutes was good to, but any longer and the runny runs away.

Thus, 9 minutes is a good start point for those chasing a firm yolk.

Sprinkle them with salt and each them straight up. Or side by side with some apple-kraut slaw (to each his own.


“I think one of the terrible things today is that people have this deathly fear eggs.”

– Julia Childs


Coke Again: Moderating Moderation


A state appeals court ruled that the New York City Board of Health exceeded its legal authority when it voted last year to limit the portion size of sugary drinks.

The state Supreme Court sided with sugar water giants. It said that while the board has the power to ban “inherently harmful” foodstuffs from being served to the public, sweetened beverages don’t fall into that category.


According to there interpretation, soda consumption is not necessarily harmful when consumed in moderation, the court wrote, and therefore “cannot be classified as a health hazard per se.”




Is more than 20 oz exceeding moderation.

Is more than 20 oz inherently harmful.

Is a tax that creates an incentive for moderation undemocratic.

O nevermind, its about freedom right. I’ll stop reading pubmed and start reading Coke delivery trucks.



Blogging About Coke = 4 Calories

This morning I read this, which led me to this. An ad recently deemed to misleading to be aired in the United Kingdom.

I can not let this one slide by without comment.

5 min yelling = 13 calories → 56 min yelling = 1 Coke

Unless I am yelling at the Coca-Cola Company executive board I do not think I could keep that one up.

Humans are complex structures. Energy in, energy out is a dangerous simplification.

This ad frames Coke to ways

Coke Becomes either:

  1. A tool for energy. A gross misrepresentation considering liquids calories do not register as food. You can’t make a meal out of a big gulp.
  2. A vice to immediately labor to expel… so why drink it.

Health Halos, I will make the point many have made before.

tobacco-1939Health Halo’s they have been used before.