Monthly Archives: July 2008

Eating Silkworms

My friend, Cathy, the adventurous eater behind the Gastronomy Blog and the Vietnam entries on Serious Eats is leaving HCMC for points north (China for the Olympics) and west (Los Angeles). So for her final week of eating, she put together a food tour listing possible meals, so that we, her friends, could join in some of the chosen gastronomic delights. When I looked at the excel spreadsheet, my eyes alighted on the Wednesday entry: silkworms.

So, on a fine HCMC morning, I  arrived a few minutes early to a cơm trưa restaurant. With my rudimentary Vietnamese, I was able to convey that I was meeting friends. And sure enough, within minutes, Cathy and Vernon arrived via motorbike.

A northern Vietnamese dish it is interesting to note that the proprietess of the cơm trưa said that silkworms die after they finish making silk, so what we eat is their dead carcasses. Waste not, want not.

Cathy wisely ordered (only) one serving of fried con nhộng (silkworms) and rice for us to share.

Hmm, to describe the taste? It tastes a little like the dried shrimp used in Vietnamese cooking. Not, offensive, but not pleasurable. The hard part was the after texture that is, ah …unexpected. Like eating the texture of dried glue.

Cathy made me laugh at a comment she said in VN that was something akin to: “I can eat it, but I don’t really want to do it again…”


So, after consuming approximately 4 pieces, I can proudly say I’ve eaten silkworms.

new york times chocolate chip cookie recipe >> all others

new york times chocolate chip cookies

OMG. The New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe makes the best.chocolate.chip.cookies.ever. (Though I still have a soft spot for Philippe Patiserrie’s chocolate chip cookies).

The recipe’s been taking the blogosphere by storm, and of course I had to try it out. Oh boy. Yumyum.

I followed the recipe exactly (used the cake flour and the bread flour combo), and used up the appropriate amount of Valrhona dark chocolate. I had a fun time hacking the big chunk of chocolate into little chunks.

Update: in subsequent batches, I’ve just gone with all purpose flour instead of the cake flour + bread flour combo, with no bad effects. I think the most crucial elements are: the chilling overnight (36 hours is better than 24 hours and so and so forth), the fleur de sel sprinkling, and making the cookie larger rather than smaller.

I refrigerated the dough for 36 hours (an exercise in self control), and made a combination of smaller and larger cookies. Alas, the bigger cookies were “tastier.” Farewell to portion control!

Try it. It’s my new go-to recipe. It sure beats the pants off my previous favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. (Though I do wonder if I just chilled my previous favorite recipe overnight before baking what the results might be…)

recipe follows after the jump…

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Just eating and eating my way through the world

green tea farm

I know the last time I posted (well other than my recent post on tiffin tins–a very belated post on something I’d discovered months and months ago) I proposed a new project–that I’d discuss my Korean cooking adventures following the recipes in Hepinstall’s cookbook of Korean recipes.

But then–bleah. Nothing. You got nothing. You got a month-long silence from me. You see, right after that post, I decided I’d be blogging a lot less and writing fiction a whole lot more. So, I definitely blogged a lot less.

However quiet I was here on Muffin Top, I still had my share of culinary adventures…and what better than a pictorial?

In May, Connie and I had brunch at the Berkeley Thai Temple, where we had among other things, kanom krog:

kanom krog

The crowds were dense, the line was long (have I mentioned before how much I hate long lines?) but the experience was worth it. And they’ve got the process down to expedite that line, starting with tokens (you pay with tokens, and it bypasses the whole “making change” experience in the line)


And then family matters took me to Vegas, where I had Red Mango yogurt for the first time ever…

Red Mango

I haven’t had Pinkberry yet–just my own homemade frozen yogurt (courtesy of David Lebovitz whose Perfect Scoop is second to NONE)…but the Red Mango was pretty dang good!

Then I was off to China and London…

Where I had an anniversary dinner at Jade on 36, site of fusion Asian, molecular gastronomy-themed food in Shanghai. THAT is NOT a fried egg…

"Breakfast" at our marriage anniversary dinner

There was Communist Coca-Cola:

Chinese Coca Cola

And a feast at Lou Wai Lou restaurant in picturesque Hangzhou:

the feast at Lou Wai Lou in Hangzhou

Right outside of Lou Wai Lou were these boats–you can take a ride on them and have tea and snacks.


Then off to the Longjing Tea Village, where I procured some very elite longjing green tea…

green tea leaves

In Beijing, I found my sustenance at the various street markets. Our first night there, we ran into the concept of “food-on-sticks.” I kid you not–I’m talking meats-on-sticks, candied-fruits-on-sticks, and…insects on sticks:

seahorse and scorpions on sticks

If you could put it on a stick, it was on a stick:

various meats on sticks

The hubby dared to eat scorpions on sticks. I couldn’t do it, but it made me admire him even more. Me? I had some candied strawberries on sticks at the Dong Hua Men Market. They were oh so delicious–I had some every single night in Beijing.

Christine eats her candied strawberries on a stick

More meats on sticks at the night market!
meats on sticks

Hello? Here are some more foods-on-sticks (why doesn’t KFC have this)?

foods on sticks at Yoshinoya

I took a video of the market, too.

I was sooo hungry in Beijing…I went to the hotel desk and asked them where I could find a good bowl of “jia jiang myun,” my beloved Korean-Chinese hybrid food. It had to be good here, no? The lady smiled and scribbled “Lao Beijing Zha Jiang Bian” on a card and drew a map. “Best in Beijing,” she said. I ran out the door and handed it to the taxi driver.

Jia Jiang Myun in Beijing

The Jia Jiang Myun was not the same as in Korea, but I ate it all up anyway.

What better way to end the trip than to fly to London for an overnight stay and eat Indian food (no pictures there–we nearly slept through our entire meal we were so jetlagged)…and buy a pile of British candy?

pile o' british candy!

We came home to the Bay Area in full Spring. I’m talking about gorgeous fruit, like pluots.


And rhubarb…and strawberry. I made a crisp:

Strawberry Rhubarb crisp with cardamom and nutmeg

Recently, we went down to Los Angeles, and I went to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market where I found the most delicious strawberries ever:

Gaviota strawberries from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market

They’re Gaviota strawberries. And though I’ve never been attracted to Los Angeles, I’d move down there just to have access to Gaviota strawberries, they are THAT good.

But then again, the Bay Area has these wonderful mango nectarines…

delicious, fragrant mango-nectarines!

Yes, I’m allergic to stone fruit, but I took a Benadryl and allowed myself a bite of these nectarines. Ohhhh heaven.

tiffin tins

tiffin tins

A few months ago, I watched a Gordon Ramsay episode (I forget which show–it was either his “Kitchen Nightmares” or the UK original–I watch ALL of his shows they are TERRIFIC) during which he initiated a tiffin delivery service at lunchtime. There he was, showing the staff (and by proxy, we the viewers) an entire box of these really awesome stackable, portable tins. Lunch would be delivered in those shiny tins.

My reaction: Cuuuute. I had to have them. IMMEDIATELY!!!!

I grew up in the tradition of “bento boxes.” My mother didn’t call lunch “brown bag lunches,” she called them “bentos.” When we went on a picnic she said, “I’ll prepare a bento box.” And when I was on a school field trip, “bento” it was, again. In 1970s America, that meant I got a lot of weird stares and finger pointing. All because I didn’t bring lunch in a lunch box with Daffy Duck on it or in a small paper brown bag. Or the requisite bologna sandwich with potato chips.

I didn’t understand how awesome my bento box was at the time–which for me was stackable plastic boxes filled with leftovers from dinner (in hindsight, waaay better than an Oscar Mayer bologna sandwich). But eventually, my mother gave in and started packing lunch for me in a plastic Bugs Bunny lunch box.

Of course, the transition was not seamless–at first, she packed my lunches in a REGULAR sized paper bag (the kind that could hold at least four cantaloupes) to my great dismay. Where did white people buy these tiny brown lunch bags?! We eventually found them, but not before procuring a very cute plastic lunch box at the local Zody’s.

I admit, the sandwiches paled in comparison to the tasty Korean food she used to pack for me, but escaping the teasing of classmates was worth the trade off

Now I’m going back to my roots. I’ve fallen in love with bento boxes..and tiffin tins.

I found my tiffin tins at AngelinHome. I bought the mini tiffin tins–and they are a bit small, so unless you’re a super light eater, get the regular sized ones.

I find them entrancing. The biggest drawback is the obvious: tiffins are made of metal. And metal cannot be microwaved. So they are a bit of a bummer when you drag them to work and realize you have to take them OUT of the tin to heat up. So I’ve been packing fruit salads and such in them. Delish.