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Archive for the ‘Food styling & presentation’ Category

Had the itch to shoot something yesterday evening, so went to the supermarket to get the ingredients while waiting to watch the movie “Up in the air”. So I made this for lunch today, but wasn’t really happy with the lighting, as it was done in a rush and I was too hungry!

Lighting: 2 tungsten lights with softboxes and multiple reflectors.

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Since I had a little time yesterday evening and today, I decided to carve some more. Looks like practice and patience does pay off! In conjunction with the Oscar’s today, I decided to present the carvings to resemble the forest on Pandora in Avatar, only that I can’t find any blue vegetables!

Enjoy the view! (Note: Click on the photos to see notes on my flickr album for the types of vegetables used)

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Boy, another difficult encounter.

Food presentation for Chinese dishes typically involves intricate garnishing and complicated arrangement. The visuals of the dish is just as important as the taste, the food should always taste as good as they look, and vice versa.

I have a potential food styling project for Chinese dishes coming up next week, for Leo Burnett Malaysia, for a cooking oil brand. Realizing that it’s high time for me to come up with more ideas for food garnishing, I started searching and viewing for fruits and vegetable carving videos on youtube. My jaw dropped when I saw how the carving was done so effortlessly with such stunning craftsmanship and amazing results. I knew it was not going to be easy for me, as I’ve never really carved a fruit or vegetable, only done simple garnishing.

I suddenly remembered yesterday that on my trip to Koh Samui during Christmas holidays in 2008, I bought a set of fruits and vegetable carving set at a roadside stall, but never used it until now.

So I went out yesterday evening and bought a small packet of radishes hoping to use my set of tools from Koh Samui to carve them into flowers. Failed, terribly. Blame it on the radishes, as they were too small and were very hard to control. Next, I tried carving a rose out of a turnip, using just a paring knife. The results? Bearable, but hardly presentable. So this morning, I went out to get some biggest carrots I could find in the market, and bought a new Zwilling tourne knife (commonly known as peeling knife, a tourne knife has a pointed tip that curves downward sometimes upward and side to side, something like this). However, I ended up only using my existing paring knife and the results turned out much better, but there’s still a big room for improvement.

I think the biggest difficultly lies in how to hold and use the carving knife properly and skillfully. Also, I kept worrying that I would cut my fingers as the knife was pretty sharp. Carving fruits and vegetables is a very intricate and difficult skill to master, but once you master it, it’s a whole new world out there! I am thinking maybe I should always keep a container with some carrots and my paring knife so that I can practise whenever I have time to kill! Just hoping that nobody would think I’m a psycho!

Note on photography and lighting: As I finished carving the carrot roses pretty late in the evening, there was barely any sunlight and I was lazy to set up my proper studio lights, so I only used a Lowel Ego table light, the main purpose was just to document the results hehe…

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I bought the moulds for making these lovely crispy appetizers for a food styling gig, but ended up not using it. Since it was Chinese New Year, I thought I might as well use the moulds to make the pai tees. I looked up for a few recipes on the internet to make the pai tee cases, and thought to myself “how hard can it be?” Boy, I was terribly wrong.

The first attempt was a complete failure, well almost. Basically you could use anything for the filling, and I made something similar to spring rolls/popiah, consisted of sengkuang (also known as jicama or yam bean) and carrot strips, and shredded french beans. That part was a piece of cake. But the killer was getting the cases right. I have phobia with deep frying. Firstly, I am really bad at getting it right. Whenever my food styling gig calls for deep fried foods, I always ask my assistant to do it. Secondly, deep fried foods are unhealthy…I can’t deny they are yummy and addictive, but they are definitely fattening and unhealthy. Thirdly, I despise the oil that splashes out onto the stove, which normally have me spending hours cleaning the entire stove, table top, and the tiles. And the list goes on…

Anyway, my first attempt on the fourth day of Chinese New Year was made using this recipe. I had a tough time dislodging the cases from the mould, and in the end, I finished eating the filling by wrapping it with lettuce leaves, and dumped the deformed cases into the trash bin. Only one word to describe the experience: disastrous. And I spent 2 hours cleaning up the kitchen! (oil splashes all over the stove, wall and table top)

The next morning, with the determination of not giving in, I made the second batch with the same recipe. This time, I managed to get about 30 + pieces of edible (but not well-formed) cases. The texture was a little too doughy, even though this time I managed to dislodge the cases easier from the mould. For photography purpose, I used some freshly cut sengkuang and carrot strips, and blanched French beans. The taste turned out not bad though, the sweetness of the sengkuang combined with the crispy texture of the pai tee case seemed fine, though no seasoning was used.

My perfectionism did not compromise with the results of the second attempt, so after a few days, I decided to make another batch. I would have made the them earlier, but my dad was admitted to the hospital on emergency due to brain haemorrhage (bleeding) and everything had to be put on hold. Thank goodness he’s discharged now after the surgery but he is still under close observation in case of a relapse.

So when dad got home and I had a little free time, I made them for the third time. I finally found a recipe for the batter that has been tried and tested. This time, it worked really well! The cases turned out to be a lot lighter, crispier and easier to dislodge from the mould. I made about 70 cases this time! Since there were so many, I have to find a way to finish them…and they ended up at my client’s office :). The recipe was adapted from here, with detailed step-by-step instructions (I reduced the quantity of the ingredients used by half). There is one problem though: the cases seem to turn stale and not so crispy within a very short time after I took them off the oil. Looks like there’s still room for improvement!

Cases from the third batch. First two photos show cases from the second batch. First batch was a complete failure.

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It has been a long long time since I last updated cookingheals. It has been a crazy time since I got back from Manila for the food photography workshop, and I ended the year of 2009 with dengue fever, bladder infection, and followed by a bad flu after I recovered from the dengue fever. It was a depressing period but I made it somehow, and hope that the new 2010 will bring brighter hopes, positive energies and fruitful harvests.

I’ve completed the Western cuisine course with Taylor’s College. Overall, it has been quite a worthwhile course to attend. I’m not going to attach the procedure and photos of every dish, but just a few photographs of my favourites. Most of the photos didn’t turn out well due to the poor light situation. You’ll have to find out more about the dishes yourself if you do get to attend haha…


Glazed spring chicken


Grilled beef tenderloin with Bearnaise sauce


Seared red snapper with lemon butter sauce, puree of pumpkin and pineapple kebab


Braised chicken leg in white wine sauce (one of my top favourite dishes from the entire course)

And finally, chicken lasagna. I’ve made it quite a number of times after the course and it came out absolutely delicious! Here’s a version that I made at home, with a slight tweak – chicken and mushroom lasagna:

Apart from the cuisine course, I’ve also been busy with a couple of food photography and food styling projects with food manufacturers…which explains why I have not been able to have time creating dishes or photographs for fun, the two projects really drained me out!

Lastly, as I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day’s evening, I hope that everyone gets to spend this special day with their special person or people. I’m still alone this year, but hopefully that special someone will appear soon haha…Today is also the first day of Chinese New Year, so I take this opportunity to wish all of you great health, lots of prosperity and fun in the new lunar year! May you all roar with success and joy!

Here’s a little card for both Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day, the chocolates and truffles have been crafted by yours truly :), made with Swiss bitter sweet and milk chocolate bars!

And a little cup of tea to relax…have a great time everyone!

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Lamb Kofta with Pita Bread-IMG_7036-5800 copy
This a tweaked version of the original lamb kofta I made at my cooking class last week. The lighting was bad in the kitchen, so I figured out it would be good to take another shot with improved styling and different presentation. It is a very beautiful dish to present, easy to prepare, and most of all, delicious! It is a very good finger food as well, and great for picnics too!

I couldn’t find minced lamb in Village Grocer in Bangsar Village and when I went to another butcher, they were closing and couldn’t mince the lamb for me. So I bought 2 lamb burger patties instead. I made the lamb burger patties into oval shape on skewers and grilled them in the oven, then served the yogurt and mint dressing separately. The rest of the procedure was essentially the same. For the recipe and original version of the lamb kofta I learned in class, go here.

Lamb Kofta with Pita Bread-IMG_7050-5700 copy2

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