I Went Crazy Over Pearl Milk Tea

“Where there’s tea there’s hope.” -Arthur Wing Pinero

q+bM7QitQieSjPyWt13YoA
Starbuck’s Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit and Honey.

I cannot remember when I learned to love drinking tea. Maybe it was during the time I developed a love for watching period drama movies and TV shows by BBC because I saw a lot of the characters having afternoon tea. Maybe it was the time I discovered how much I loved the taste of Dilmah Peppermint and English Toffee tea that I was able to try in a dessert shop that my favorite uncle always treated us to. I honestly cannot remember the exact time I learned to love tea, but I do remember being introduced to pearl milk tea or bubble tea back when I was in college.

I remember having a Zentea branch in front of my school, but I am not sure if they sold pearl milk tea. What I vividly recall is that bright red shop called SimpleLine, that sold pearl milk tea in a large size at a prize that a student can afford. My classmates and I loved celebrating small victories in school by treating ourselves to a large cup of pearl milk tea. Eventually, more milk tea shops opened near the school that I had about five to ten options should I crave for it.

Unfortunately, news about death from drinking milk tea laced with oxalic acid from a specific milk tea shop (not SimpleLine) somehow affected the industry for some time. I think people became wary of drinking milk tea despite the cause of the deaths appearing to be a foul play. Anyway, the story had a tragic ending and I don’t think the suspect has been identified to this day.

To my surprise, almost ten years later, the milk tea industry suddenly boomed to unexpected heights, with more and more milk tea shops popping up at every corner. Major milk tea brands from Taiwan also started entering the Philippine market. People were willing to wait and stand in long queues just to get their hands on this heaven of a drink that Taiwan came up with. Those who could not wait themselves relied on the convenience of food delivery services like GrabFood, LalaFood, Food Panda, and many more. The craze over drinking milk tea isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

fullsizeoutput_c17

My colleagues and I were not immune to the lure of pearl milk tea. We have tried several brands over the first half of the year and I’d like to share some of those I’ve tried recently.

Snow Panda

 

This place is more known for its Korean food and the bingsu dessert. They also sell milk tea and I was able to try their Cream Cheese Tiger Milk Tea.

I loved the black tapioca pearls! I think they were at the perfect chewiness based on my preference. However, I could not taste much of the cream cheese and the sugar syrup just made the drink very sweet. Plus, I disliked the SpongeBob design on the plastic lid. It was too unsophisticated for my liking.

I’ll probably try their Korean snacks and desserts next time. After all, most of their high rating and reviews on Zomato were because of their Korean food.

Bobaism

fullsizeoutput_c46This shop, I think I just came across in LalaFood. I have no clue at all where this shop is in Greenbelt because I am sure I have not seen it the last time I was there. However, I was so attracted to the name and to the design on the cups.

The drinks are really pricey though, but seeing leche flan as a topper/sinker/floater (however you’d like to call those things) that I can add to my drink, I decided to push through with the purchase. I ordered their frosted milk with honey and added tapioca pearls and leche flan to the drink.

I was not expecting the drink to come in such a big size! It was so refreshing and I love their leche flan so much!!! However, at more than Php 200 when ordering via LalaFood, it’s so expensive if I am only after the leche flan for the most part.

What I did learn, eventually, was that their cups and lids are made of a material sourced from starchy plants. I am not a chemist so I will not pretend to understand how it is a better alternative to the usual plastic material used in cups, but it’s probably part of the reason their drinks are a little bit more pricey, aside from their claim to use the freshest ingredients (I think every shop claims this anyway).

This brand got in trouble with the Buddhists in Thailand because of an event with a Buddha mascot and the logo on their cups, I think. The outrage came with the circulation of photos in social media. I believe it has been sorted out already, but I strongly feel they should do something with the logo.

CoCo Fresh Milk Tea

I love anything panda-related. So when my officemates were ordering Panda Milk Tea from CoCo Fresh, I made sure to join in.

IMG_3412

Placed in a laminated paper cup, this drink isn’t very Instragrammable. However, it becomes a tad bit more environmentally friendly than most brands.

The drink was refreshing and not as sweet compared to most milk tea brands. I also liked the combination of big black tapioca pearls and the small clear ones. It does live up to the “fresh” in its brand name.

However, I wasn’t completely mindblown by the drink. I’ll probably try it again when there’s a chance to, but it’s not the first on my list when I crave for milk tea.

TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie / The Dessert Kitchen

TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie and The Dessert Kitchen were brought to the Philippines by the same group that brought Lugang Cafe to the country. TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie serves Hong Kong style food with The Dessert Kitchen serves Asian desserts. Recently, they also started selling pearl milk tea.

rWj3p6f0RIKCnGwRN6yJDwI happened to pass by a branch of The Dessert Kitchen in SM Mall of Asia and I could not resist the pull of that huge pearl milk tea advertising tarp. I just knew I had to try it no matter what.

They have a variety of tea served in various styles as well. I cannot remember exactly what style of bubble tea I ordered, but it was Iron Goddess with Cheese Milk Cap or something of that sort. I am not sure what’s causing the gray part on top of the drink because I was sure I did not order the one that had charcoal sea salt or whatever. After shaking, the drink pretty much turned into a pastel gray color.

The tapioca pearls were nicely done and at the perfect chewiness that I liked. The drink itself though was very puzzling. I cannot put a finger on what’s making this drink so different from the other I’ve tried. Was it the iron goddess tea? I do not know for sure, but I know I would love to try more pearl milk tea drinks from TuanTuan Chinese Brasserie or The Dessert Kitchen.

It turns out that iron goddess tea (or tieguanyin) is a type of oolong tea. You can read more about it in Wikipedia. The legends of where this tea came from are interesting.

Roycetea

IMG_0936Affiliated with the Royaltea Malaysia brand, this shop was the first to introduce cheese tea to the Philippines and uses tea from the Sun Moon Lake tea plantation in Taiwan. Knowing my love for milk tea with cream cheese or cheese brûlée, my officemate, Sarrah, encouraged me to try this. We specifically scheduled buying from the shop as soon as we got our salary.

Roycetea is also pricier than most brands, but not as expensive as Bobaism. However, the serving size is large and the cup they use is sturdy and I think it can be reused.

I ordered the Oolong Royce Cheese Milk Tea. It came with super delicious cheese foam that was topped with coconut flakes. I really loved this drink!

Chachago

Another brand from Taiwan, I discovered Chachago in GrabFood. I knew I had to try it!

I was able to try their Roasted Brown Sugar Tea with Salted Cheese Cream. This came only in medium size and had no tapioca pearls. It was truly refreshing and light, with the cheese cream so delightfully yummy!

Another flavor I have tried was the Brown Sugar Pearl with Milk Tea. This also only came in medium size. Like the previous drink, this was also really refreshing and the sweetness was just right to suit my preference.

 

I don’t remember putting the sugar level when I ordered, but I was glad they just put 75%. I will find time to try their other drinks as well.

Tiger Sugar

I was able to try this because I was treated by a colleague for helping out during our teambuilding activity. I was so excited because, at that time, the only branch they had was a city away from work.

I am not sure if this started the brown sugar milk tea trend, but I remember it being famous for the tiger stripes of brown sugar that one must be quick to take a picture of if they don’t want theirs to end up looking like mine.

This brand turns out to have originated in Taichung, Taiwan, around November of 2017. For a relatively new company, it’s making a name for itself really fast! Its branch in Bonifacio Global City was always busy and always had a long queue of customers waiting for their turn. Recently, they opened a branch in Glorietta 4, making it more accessible to customers in Makati and those ordering via GrabFood.

I like it, but I find it a little too sweet. I cannot remember if the sugar level could be adjusted though.

Dakasi

They used to be available in GrabFood, but I think it’s only available over LalaFood these days. Their shops are always filled with customers because they have a lot of options. By “a lot,” I do mean “A LOT!” Seriously, I always had trouble deciding what to order in their GrabFood app menu, so I always ended up ordering any milk tea with Oreos and requesting additional Oreos. One simply cannot have too many Oreos.

Whenever I crave for drinks with Oreos, Dakasi is my go-to place. Their Creme Okinawa with Oreos is my favorite!

When I used to work in BGC back in 2014, there was a Dakasi branch in the terminal of BGC buses. I used to ignore it, not knowing it’s a well-established brand that started in Taiwan way back the 90s.

Sharetea

GaLHCGHrRtirjvCldp+guwMy first time to try Sharetea was in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. I ordered the most basic kind that they had and I liked it so much, drinking it while I ate fishballs from the adjacent food stall.

Imagine my surprise when I saw Sharetea was already in the Philippines and accessible thru GrabFood! I simply had to place an order right away.

I placed an order for Rock Salt and Cheese Cream with Oolong Tea and Oreo. Because I saw that they also had snacks, I bought egg waffle and potato tots as well.

Needless to say that even if I was home alone at that time, I was so happy with my snack that afternoon. The milk tea paired incredibly well with the potato tots dusted with mildly spicy barbecue flavoring. I was also taken back to my time in Hong Kong when I shared a drink from Sharetea with my sister.

Macau Imperial Tea

IMG_1285Another brand present in many countries, Macau Imperial Tea is my go-to place for cheesecake pearl milk tea. There’s no other place I’ve tried that served milk tea with the amount of sweet cream cheese goodness that I liked, which is A LOT of it! Seriously, I love cream cheese that much!

I bet their other variants are also just as good because there is always a long queue of people waiting for their turn to order. That’s why I always make sure to give the GrabFood driver a tip when I order from Macau Imperial Tea because I know how long it took them to line up and deliver the drink to me.

Aside from their cheesecake pearl milk tea, another thing that I love about Macau Imperial Tea is that some of their drinks come in glass bottles like the For Me (strawberry milk) and For You (iced coffee) drinks that come with bear ears hard plastic cover. It was sad that a quarter of my coffee spilled the first time I ordered For You, but I have since reused the bottle for other cold drinks. In the picture below, that’s my For You bottle containing peppermint mocha drink.

 

They also have soda drinks that come in glass bottles, but the bottles aren’t as cute as the For Me and For You ones.

Alishan @ The Alley

IMG_3490I was initially under the impression that this is the same as “The Alley” in Hong Kong, the one that had a deer for a logo. Apparently, a lot of other people thought the same thing.

Alishan @ The Alley can be found beside Dean & Deluca branches. So far, I’ve seen one in Makati and one in BGC. My golly, the queue at the Makati branch is always long! That is a testament on how good their milk tea drinks are.

iTCLiPfmR0elPzvulone2gMy favorites so far are the Brown Sugar Milk with Cheese Brûlée, Sea Salt Caramel Milk Tea Latte with Pearl, and the Alishan High Mountain Tea Latte with Pearl.

For the brown sugar series, I love the bits of brown sugar that have not fully melted and incorporated with the drink because it adds an extra layer of texture to the drink. I also like requesting for cheese brûlée to add to my other drinks.

IMG_0909My friends and colleagues would normally request their drinks to be made less sweet, and I will admit to their drinks being sweet. However, it’s not the sickly sweet kind for me.  I also find the taste to have more depth than the brown sugar milk tea of Tiger Sugar.

For now, Alishan @ The Alley is not available on food delivery services, so one must endure the waiting time to order. On the positive side though, they already started accepting GCash payments. Additionally, last Friday, they started a stamp card promo wherein you get a stamp for every Php 200 purchase. Since their drinks are around Php 160 max, you’ll have to get someone to buy with you to get a stamp. Complete the stamps to get one free drink!

Update (07-Jul-19): Alishan @ The Alley is now on LalaFood! Plus, they already started accepting GCash payments. Lastly, they already started a loyalty program for customers. Purchases over Php 200 is equivalent to one stamp. Get ten stamps to get a free drink!

My dilemma

I’ve started feeling guilty about how much single-use plastic is used up by milk tea shops. While some already have reusable cups and bottles, most do not. Also, one can only request to use their own cups and tumblers when they are the ones lining up. If you happen to order via food delivery services, you’d get the plastic cups and straws.

I came across a post about FLOAT, a non-straw, glass cup that will make drinking pearl milk tea/bubble tea more environmentally friendly. It’s already under production and will hit the markets in winter of 2019 in Taiwan. I am not sure how soon it will be available worldwide, but since I am going to Taiwan in next year’s spring, I will try to get my hands on one of these.

Realizing how much pearl milk tea I’ve drunk in the last few months, I’ve decided to limit my purchases when I can be the one to line up and buy (or when I can ask my friends to buy for me when they do and just hand them my tumbler), and when I can use my reusable cup or tumbler. That will not only help me take care of the environment but also help me take care of my blood sugar levels as well. This love for milk tea is in no way near healthy!

Also, ever since I tried the Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit and Honey from Starbucks, I kind of feel like trying out fruit teas instead of pearl milk tea. I’ve already bought a reusable cup from Starbucks to use when buying their black tea or their hibiscus tea. I heard Alishan @ The Alley has delicious and refreshing fruit teas as well. I feel they won’t have as much sugar as the pearl milk tea drinks and I hope I am right.

Advertisements

Just Tried: Fat Fook Kitchen

“I know what I bring to the table so trust me when I say I’m not afraid to eat alone.” -Anonymous

Last Friday, my workmate and friend, Karen, went all the way to the newly opened Ayala North Exchange to visit the Watsons branch there. While we were there, I suddenly had a craving for milk tea. Seeing how the line at Macau Imperial was so long, we turned to Fat Fook Kitchen instead.

img_0455Serving Taiwanese food, there was bound to be milk tea in their menu. Only, I was not prepared for how big their milk tea serving was.

They serve their milk tea in what looks like a disposable soup container instead of a tall disposable cup like we’re normally used to. I do not know if it’s optical illusion, but I do believe the serving size is so much more than from your average milk tea store.

Karen, on the other hand, ordered gindara tofu from their take-out counter. We had to wait for a few minutes for them to fry the gindara tofu.  You know what? The wait was so worth it because that gindara tofu was really good stuff! It’s nothing like any street food I have tried in my life! It was flavorful without being too much and all over the place! The texture was soft, yet firm enough to enjoy biting into it. It was not like tofu made from soy. It was then that I sort of had an idea why people lined up to eat at Fat Fook Kitchen’s Glorietta branch. I guess they serve really good food, that’s why they are always packed.

IMG_0564Last Sunday, I had to go to Glorietta to have my eyeglasses fixed. Again. Last time, I accidentally sat on my glasses. This time, I accidentally kneeled on them. I should really stop putting my glasses on the bed when I take them off for any reason. I would feel so bad if the people working at OWNDAYS remembered me for my broken glasses instead of my purchases.

Anyway, I decided to try and eat at the Fat Fook Kitchen branch there. As usual, the place was packed. Luckily, I was first in the waiting list and a family soon left, allowing me to have a seat right away.

I ordered five pieces of pork xiao long bao and a pork chop set meal. I also ordered gindara tofu to take home. My order took around 15 to 20 minutes to arrive and while I was waiting, I realized how badly the a/c worked at cooling the place. The temperature was not high enough to cause one to sweat, but not cool enough for my liking. That’s why I was so glad I did not have to wait too long for my order.

A male server came with my food and he asked, “Ma’am, are you alone again?” I was surprised at the question. Did he think I ordered too much for one person? Did he feel bad for me because I was alone? It was my first time to eat in that place, what was up with “again?” Was he a server in the past in a different restaurant where I went to eat alone as well? So, I just replied, “Yeah.”

I enjoy eating out alone as much as I enjoy eating out with friends and family. When I eat alone, I find that I get to enjoy the food and revel in the different flavors of the dishes I ordered so much more because I get to focus on eating. You see, if I were with someone, I would probably pay more attention to the person and the conversation rather than the food.

Going back to my order, the food looked and smelled wonderfully yummy! The serving was bigger than I expected and the set meal came with more food items than I thought would be included. For one, I had some lightly flavored soup to warm my tummy, half a boiled egg, and some veggies too. The pork chop slice was larger than I was expecting and it smelled so inviting! I also loved the meaty bits on top of the rice! Those tiny pieces were packed with flavor!

IMG_0569

I liked the soup despite being lightly flavored. The joy that I discovered though was it came with a crab roe bun. Gindara tofu, you have some competition! I will make sure to visit a Fat Fook Kitchen branch soon to order crab roe buns to take out.

The xiao long bao looked incredibly cute that I did not want to eat them at all. Having paid for them though, I had to try one. That was when I realized a problem. They only had a silver, regular spoon while I needed a duck spoon. You know, those spoons commonly found in Chinese restaurants that look like a mini ladle. So, I placed a piece on the silver spoon and when I poked a hole into it, the soup practically dripped from my spoon and went to my rice.

I did have some soup left on my spoon and when I tried it, I was thinking if it was the same as the soup served with my pork chop set because they tasted the same to me. The filling, though, was what I liked because it was meaty! While I admit that the xiao long bao was a little doughy than I was used to, they did not skimp on the filling at all. It was as if there was only space for meat and for soup; space for air or emptiness.

I ended up eating only two pieces of the xiao long bao. I had the restaurant pack the remaining pieces, along with a quarter of my pork chop that I already knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat when I saw how big the serving was. I was so full!

Our house companion loved the gindara tofu I brought home for her to snack on. In fact, she liked the first piece she ate that she decided she was going to eat it and the three pieces of xiao long bao with rice for dinner. I guess I am not the only one who loves Fat Fook Kitchen now. I bet she will also enjoy the crab roe buns and the milk tea as much as I did.

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Fat Fook Kitchen experience. Also, always remember that eating alone is not always lonely.

Just Tried: John and Yoko Cosmopolitan Japanese, Greenbelt 5

I can always count on gyoza to make my day.

My sister is home over the weekend! The two hours I spent waiting for her at the airport was worth it because I missed her so much! The last time I saw her was back in March, when I went to Hong Kong with my friend, Jana. That is why I was so excited to be seeing my sister again.

She arrived a couple of minutes past midnight last Saturday. After getting some sleep, she wanted to have her nails done at Nail Tropics. She estimated that I would have to wait an hour and a half for her to be done. Having very short nails (damn nailbiting habit!), I felt it too expensive to have my nails done there so I just opted to have my eyebrows threaded at Browhaus.

Unfortunately, my eyebrow threading lasted only 15 minutes and I had nowhere to go in Greenbelt while waiting for her. I opted to have coffee or any cold drink somewhere while waiting. My feet led me to John and Yoko, remembering the big poster they had of their milk tea selection (which had like three options only). Learning that it served Japanese food, I decided to order gyoza with my brown sugar milk tea because I was a little bit hungry from not eating enough at breakfast.

I just loved the interior of the restaurant! It was cute and cozy, appealing to my girly side that loved pink and mint green color combo. The place wasn’t packed unlike the restaurants on the same floor, making it an ideal place for me to wait because I dislike very noisy restaurants. Not that I don’t want people talking inside the restaurant, I just get headaches when exposed to too many sounds all at once.

img_0306.jpg
My milk tea order came first. I did notice that there were huge chunks of ice in my drink to chill it. I was kind of disappointed because I felt like the presence of ice was going to water down my drink when melted. When I took a sip though, the caramel-like taste of the brown sugar tasted so yummy, though a tad bit too sweet for my liking. I then appreciated the ice knowing it will water down my drink a bit if I leave it alone for a couple of minutes, just enough to lessen the sweetness of the milk tea. Still, that drink was yummy and the boba pearls were cooked just right! John and Yoko’s milk tea is now part of my favorite milk teas list.

It took a while to have my gyoza served. It makes me wonder if they did not have pre-made pot stickers just waiting to be steamed because I doubt gyozas took that long to cook. Anyway, I was excited about it when it was finally served to me.

IMG_0315

I am normally not used to being served gyoza with the fried bottom facing up. There was some good browning, with a spot or too a little darker than the rest. Oh well, the gyoza was still gyoza no matter which side was facing up.

I was not prepared at all to love their gyoza so much! I mean, I am no connoisseur and is yet to learn how to describe food other than delicious, yummy, and tasty. I also have not been to a lot of Japanese restaurants to be able to say I have sampled so many gyozas to know what’s good and what’s not. Still, I loved how John and Yoko’s gyoza tasted! The filling was cooked well and the wrapper was not too thick or too chewy. While I did poke some holes due to my struggling with the chopsticks (lack of sleep makes my hands shaky), the wrapper did not tear that easily once you bite into the gyoza. You see, I already experienced having gyoza wrappers fall apart after a small bite, leaving the remainder of the filling between my chopsticks.

img_0316.jpg

After almost more than two hours, my sister was finally done with her mani-pedi session. I told her to just meet me in John and Yoko. I ordered her another gyoza set and brown sugar milk tea. We also ordered Samurai All-Meat Pizza. My sister ate five pieces of gyoza, one after the other. I knew she was hungry by that time, but hearing no complaints from her meant the gyoza really was good.

The pizza took the longest to be served. I was surprised how small the size was (the picture made me think of larger serving size), yet equally amazed at the amount of meat on that pizza with a super thin crust. They did not skimp on the meat at all! Just take a look at those big pieces of bacon! Doesn’t the pizza look so yummy!

IMG_0321

There were no uncooked chunks of meat and they were not overly salty. I do not know what cheese they used, but it wasn’t the stretchy, stringy kind. However, it was so creamy and it complimented the Pomodoro sauce and the meat toppings really well. The crust was crispy, but not too hard. The only downside though was that the inner slices were a little tricky to eat because of the weight of the cheese and the meat toppings. The outer slices still had some crust to hold on to while eating, but the middle part was not.

We were stuffed at the end of the meal! I really enjoyed what we ate and I am excited to try their other dishes. Overall, I was more than pleased with John and Yoko’s food and service quality. I will surely be back.

Just Baked: Double Chocolate Cookies

“There is nothing better than a friend unless it is a friend with chocolate.” ― Linda Grayson

You know what’s better than a chocolate chip cookie? A chocolatey chocolate chip cookie!!!

I still had leftover chocolate chip morsels that I badly wanted to put to use already. I also had a little bit of dutch-processed cocoa powder left. Initially, wanting to bake brownies, I decided I wanted cookies instead. Searching for recipes that involved the two ingredients led me to the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies by Kathy.

What I loved about her recipe was that it asks for a cup of butter. That being said, I did not have to bother cutting my bar of butter up anymore because I hate having to do that. I also liked the fact that it’s almost like making a brownie cookie.

Anyway, her recipe was very easy to follow. Except for adding another teaspoon of vanilla, I did not do any more tweakings to the recipe. Oops, I did use macadamia nuts instead of walnuts.

Guys, the house smelled of brownie heaven! The smell of chocolate was simply divine! It was a miracle I was able to wait for the first batch to cool before trying one cookie out. And, just as expected, the cookie tasted like a brownie that’s a little fudgy in the middle. It was so delicious and not overly sweet!

People at work loved the cookies too. I brought them to work together with the coconut oatmeal cookies and these brownie-like cookies disappeared faster than I expected.

Please do try her recipe out. To make it more aesthetically pleasing, don’t put all the chocolate chips in the dough. Save some to put on top after scooping them onto the baking sheets. That way, you get these little melted chocolate chips on top after the cookies bake. They firm up again once cooled.

 

Just Baked: Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

For I am coconut, and the heart of me is sweeter than you know.” — Nikki Grimes

Technically, I baked these cookies weeks ago. I thought all the while that I’ve written about it already. After getting back from Hong Kong though, I have been busy with work that I forgot I only started writing this post.

This is almost an extension too of my Hong Kong adventures post. You see, the inspiration to make coconut cookies were because of the coconut-flavored egg rolls that I got from Kee Wah Bakery at the Hong Kong International Airport. I was only planning to buy penguin cookies, but a lady asked me to try free samples of the egg roll. She did not have to convince me much because I loved it right then and there.

When I got home, I knew I had to have something with a coconut taste. Therefore, I took it upon myself to find a coconut recipe that I can work with. The problem though, was that I only had desiccated coconuts in my pantry and all the recipes I was finding said to use shredded coconuts. To hell with shredded coconuts, I was going to use my desiccated coconut pack instead.

The recipe I decided to follow was from Food Network for coconut oatmeal cookies. It had five stars with 29 reviews and I think all of them only had praises for this recipe.

I did not do much tweaking except for adding 1 tsp of coconut extract and 1/2 tsp of salt. I thought to myself that cookies without salt will not have that added depth in flavor. Salt actually adds a little bit more oomph in baking. So, in salt went into my dough. I also added half a cup more of desiccated coconuts because they are not as bulky as shredded coconuts. I wanted my batch to yield a lot of cookies.

Guys, the whole house smelled so lovely and coconutty! It smelled like a vacation on a tropical beach, with coconut water for refreshment. It was simply amazing!

fullsizeoutput_6f8

Here’s the deal. Because I did not use shredded coconut, the cookies were a tad bit drier than I would have liked. Still, they were chewy because of the oatmeal. Boy, they were yummy though. They were so yummy that I was actually debating whether to still bring some to work and share them with my colleagues or to just keep them all to myself. Of course, sharing is caring. So, I brought them to work.

The thing with coconuts is that not everyone is a fan of them. Even I took some time to warm up to this drupe. So, while some loved them, there were some who weren’t as fond of them. Despite that, I was still told that the cookies were good.

fullsizeoutput_6fa

Perhaps I will try to find shredded coconut next time. Alternatively, perhaps I can just rehydrate desiccated coconut? I still think shredded coconut is different from grated coconut. Grated coconut is not difficult for me to get, but shredded coconuts? I have a higher chance of finding flaked coconut than finding the shredded version.

fullsizeoutput_6f5

That’s it for now, guys! Hope you try the recipe out too.

2019 Trip to Hong Kong: Where to Eat

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” ― Mark Twain

Hong Kong can be very expensive. You must save up if you want to enjoy the best accommodation and shopping experience. What is equally undeniable though, is that Hong Kong is also an amazing place to let your tastebuds feast and have fun.

Here are some of the places I enjoyed eating in throughout my travels to Hong Kong since 2016.

Tai Hing

Founded in 1989 by Mr. Chan Wing On and Mr. Yuen Chi Ming, Tai Hing has grown to have several branches across Hong Kong. There’s even a Tai Hing at the Arrival Area of Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1. It prides itself with its QSC management policy, which I think stands for quality, service, and cleanliness. For more information on Tai Hing and to where their branches are, visit their website here.

This is the restaurant that’s closest to my heart. It was in 2016 when I first tried eating in Tai Hing in its Grand Tower II branch. That was the year my sister was moving to Hong Kong to start her new job as a regional IT auditor. Without a lot of funds at that time, we made sure not to spend too much on eating out. Tai Hing’s food selections are already reasonably priced compared to other restaurants, in my opinion.

54372199_838299013175940_4109426813346775040_o.jpg

What I love best here is that one does not have to wait too long for food to be served. Despite the speed by which you get your meal, the quality is great and the food is awesome! I also love how smart it maximizes its space. They have tables with drawers that contain the utensils and sugar packets! Check out my IG post below and don’t forget to swipe left.

What I loved:

1. Roast pork rice and barbecue pork rice.

You definitely have to try their roast pork. It has the crispiest skin and the juiciest meat that will make you want for more! The meat was so good that I don’t remember dipping into any condiment to enhance the flavor. Just Google “Tai Hing roast pork” and you will know why this dish is a must-try in Hong Kong.

The veggie was okay. I mean, it’s a straightforward piece of what I assume is a bok choy. The nice thing about it though was that it was not overly cooked. There was still a crunch to it that was nice.

2.  Milk Tea

img_1459

Don’t forget to add sugar if you’re not fond of strong tea taste because their milk tea definitely has tea! It’s so unlike the usual milk tea drinks these days that have more sugar and milk than tea. Tai Hing’s milk tea is the real deal!

I liked it hot, surprisingly, but try to have its chilled version. I heard they dip the glass in a bucket of ice rather than putting ice in the drink. That way, the milk tea does not get diluted by melted ice. I was not able to experience ordering the chilled version, but you may try in order to confirm their manner of serving it.

3. Lemon iced tea

Theirs is not the commercial powdered iced tea that’s flavored with lemon. Their lemon iced tea is so refreshing without being too sweet. It goes really well with their rice pork and rice dishes.

4. Luncheon meat and scrambled eggs instant noodle

img_2230

It looks like a simple dish. It is! Yet, it tastes highly of home comfort food. The broth was tasty, yet light at the same time. The noodles weren’t mushy and the luncheon meat remained firm.

What I did not like as much:

1. Mandarin orange with honey (drink)

It tasted like paracetamol in syrup form. Think Biogesic or Tempra. It did not live up to my expectation of refreshing orange drink sweetened with honey. I do not know why it was that way or whether it was an isolated case.

2. Preserved cabbage and shredded pork rice vermicelli (noodle soup)

I could not understand the taste of the preserved cabbage. Best not to order this dish if you do not like preserved cabbages.

I am so glad I was able to bring Jana to the same Grand Tower II branch I’ve been to in 2016. However, their breakfast selections are not too varied and are a little bit pricey in my opinion. I hope to be able to bring her there again when it’s past breakfast time.

20190316_101724

Tsui Wah (Hong Kong International Airport)

It started as an Ice cafe in Mong Kok in 1967. It eventually grew to one of the popular chains of restaurants in Hong Kong. It has branches across Hong Kong, a branch in Singapore, and several branches in China. For more information and for the list of their branches, please visit their website.

The first Tsui Wah (and technically the only) branch I have tried was the one in Hong Kong International Airport’s Departure Area. I was trying to prolong my last few moments with my sister at that before going back to Manila. It was my first time at that restaurant as well, and I was not sure what to expect. All I knew was that their place looked fancy and expensive.

It turns out that more or less, their prices are pretty much okay for an airport restaurant. With the rather large servings, I think we got our money’s worth that afternoon.

What I loved:

img_9110Their food selection is varied, I must say. While I normally do not order curry dishes out of the fear of their spices being too much, my sister convinced me to try their Malaysian curry dishes. Oh dear, I did not regret it at all! The curry sauce? It was so flavorful and yummy, with the spices just enough to give heat, but not too much that I would feel my mouth burning. I was so full at the end of our meal!

I was excited to let Jana try their food, so we tried to visit their Portland Street branch in Mong Kok. Just like Tai Hing, they served breakfast until 11:00 am. Even then, as I was looking at the menu, there wasn’t anything that reminded me of the menu from their HKIA branch. It was like looking at a totally different restaurant’s menu because there was nothing familiar to me. I didn’t see any Malaysian curry dish too. I guess the food they serve vary among branches.

The Dining Room (Hysan Place)

img_1430

After, visiting Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, we traveled all the way to Causeway Bay to meet up with my sister, Kristine. She told me she’d treat me and Jana to our first dinner in Hong Kong this year.  I was excited to see her as I have not seen her since December.

At the 12th floor of the very beautiful Hysan Place, you can find The Dining Room. This restaurant is a member of the Tansh Global Food Group, along with Shanghai Min and Maison de L’Hui. The Dining Room serves Shanghai-style food and has a strong presence in China. For more details on the Tansh Global Food Group, please click here.

img_1433
The restaurant has this vintage clock that the restaurant staff looks at to check if your 90 minutes is up.

There was not a lot of people when we got there, but I noticed a sign that said customers can only stay 90 minutes max. I guess this place gets packed and they have to impose the time limit so that other people can get in. Smart!

The staff was made up of attentive and courteous people during our visit. See that blue bag on the chair? They placed a cover on top of it to prevent it from being ruined by accidental food and drink spills. They provided the cover without being asked (and frankly, I didn’t know they had such thing).

We were given the menu and a slip of paper where we had to check the items that we were ordering. For the most part, Kristine chose for us since she has eaten here in the past. She was telling us how this restaurant served Shanghai-style dishes, which I am not sure I have tried in the past.

What I loved:

1. Braised pork belly with eggs

img_1438

Argh! My mouth is already watering at the sight of this dish! This was my favorite out of all that we tried.

The braised pork was so tender and oh so juicy! The pork was coated with this sticky, flavorful sauce that was neither too salty nor too sweet. It was just right. There’s a good amount of fat in these pieces of meat that I loved so much. I don’t eat a lot of pork (especially pork belly), but when I do, I love eating the fatty part, making sure to eat them at the end of the meal. Save the best for last!

The serving size seems small, but it was actually enough for the three of us to have tried it. It paired really well with the rice that I’ll be talking about later.

2. Steamed pork & soup dumplings (xiao long bao)

img_1441I have found a rival for Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao! The buns were neither too thin or too thick. They were sturdy enough to hold the soup inside and not tear easily when you try to lift them with chopsticks. Thankfully, they also did not stick to the paper lining the bamboo steamer basket.

Whatever soup they put inside, I was such a huge fan! If only I could order a bowl of just the soup, I would be very delighted! You see, despite being a clear type of soup, it was not the runny kind that suddenly floods your mouth as soon as you bite into the bun. It flowed gently, coating my tongue and bathing my taste buds with a light, yet flavorful soup. The soup nicely complemented the pork inside, which was cooked just right. The pork was not tough, not mushy, and neither overcooked nor undercooked.

Believe me when I say that one basket with five xiao long bao pieces is not enough for me. I will gladly just eat this dish and be content. That’s how good they were!

3. Fried rice with salted pork and vegetables

img_1436
Fried rice and spicy beef brisket pot

Fear not that “salted” part of this dish’s name. The pork was only lightly salted, enough for the rice to make you want to serve yourself some more. The long, thin grains were coated with deliciousness that enhanced the other flavors of the other dishes we tried. That’s because the rice was far from being bland, yet did not compete with the tastes of the other dishes.

That small bowl was enough for the three of us to share. So, if you ordered plenty of meats and dim sum, you do not have to order plenty of rice.

What I loved just a little bit less:

1. The eggs that came with the braised pork belly.

I think they were cooked a little too long. At least that is what I think seeing that gray part between the egg yolk and the egg white. I still liked it, although I wished that the yolks were a little on the softer side. I like my yolks just set and creamy.

2. The spicy beef brisket pot

My sister assured me that it was not as spicy as I was fearing it to be despite its bright red color. I should have known not to trust my sister’s taste buds that have a fondness for spicy foods. Even she admitted later on that the dish was spicier than when she first tried it.

The heat from the spices aside, the beef strips were not too chewy that your jaw will hurt from chewing too much. I truly hate it when the beef is too tough, yet I also do not like beef that’s too rare. I am not sure whether it was due to its being cut into strips, but I liked the texture of the meat.

img_1442The noodles were a little tricky though. I was having a hard time getting them with my chopsticks. I think I need a lot more practice with the ones that tend to slip my chopstick’s grip.

By the way, let me just say that I was so fond of those gold teapots. I mean, I wanted one for myself. The last time I saw golden teapots were in TWG and each pot was priced at Php 25,000 at that time.

Texas Burger (Langham Place)

Move over, stairway to heaven! This is an escalator to heaven!

img_2339When I went to Hong Kong last March, it was my first time to step inside Langham Place. It was so beautiful inside, yet also a little confusing. Despite not being a very wide place, I felt like I was still getting lost inside. I guess I should visit more often to memorize where the stairs and ramps (very useful for those with suitcases) and elevators are.

The highlight, though, was the escalators that transport people from the 8th to the 12th floor without stops in between! Yup, you read that right. You skip three floors to get to either the 8th or the 12th floor, depending on your direction.

Very close to the escalator on the 12th floor was Texas Burger. Having had Asian Food for the last couple of days, it was nice to finally have some American food. Besides, don’t you think those seats look nice? Well, we weren’t able to stay in one of those. Bummer.

Forgot to bring your wipes? No problem! Inside their utensils basket, they provide a pack or two of wipes so you can dig in and eat without worrying about the germs from your hands. I think there’s only one piece per pack though. I need to check the one I brought home as a souvenir.

img_2344Food is a little on the pricier side here. I guess it can be expected seeing how lush Langham Place is. Rent would surely be expensive and therefore, their prices would have to be enough not to drive them out of business. Still, there were affordable items on the menu like the ones we got.1.

They had a lot of items on their menu, but we weren’t looking to eat so much for dinner after our Ocean Park trip anyway. So, we decided to go for the lighter items on the menu, despite how yummy their burgers looked.

What we got:

1. Pulled Pork Soft Taco

1794753999508679674_img_2500

Taco Bell lover Jana did not surprise me when she ordered soft taco for HKD48. She chose the pulled pork variant that had some creamy sauce, tomatoes, and guacamole. Even I, who dislikes guacamole, liked the filling of her soft taco when she placed a teaspoonful on my plate.

Also, look at how cute it looked! I love the wooden taco holder that they used to serve it to the customer. So adorable!

2. Garlic and Parmesan Fries

2807924461460609761_img_2497At HKD 58, I was only expecting fried with garlic and parmesan flavored powder. Boy, I was so wrong. The fries came with real garlic and parmesan cheese!

Although not as photogenic as the soft taco of Jana, I can say that it’s still a good deal. The potatoes weren’t sliced too thinly, yet they did not have a weird texture in the middle. They were cooked perfectly! So, if you love garlic and parmesan together, go for this!

Note: I did not like the dip that came with it though. I would have liked plain ketchup instead.

3. Buffalo Wings Lollipop

-4844908024803562769_img_2504Five chicken lollipops for HKD 68? Yes, please!

The outer layer of the chicken was crispy and the meat was juicy! The chicken pieces were well seasoned were not too salty that you’d be reaching out for your drink a lot to cleanse your palate. And how do I know a chicken is good? If I don’t use the dipping to enhance the flavor. These pieces were so good on their own!

We were already full from the tacos and the fries so we had some leftover chicken that we had to take out and bring to the hotel.

Made in HK (Langham Place)

Before leaving for Manila, we had lunch with Kristine at Made in HK in Langham Place. This restaurant opens at exactly 12nn, so do not be too early like we were. Haha.

Made in HK is a brand under the Cafe Deco Group. Its dishes are mainly Western with a touch of Hong Kong’s style. Aside from Langham Place, it has another branch in Millenium City in Kwun Tong.

img_2826

The restaurant staff was really nice, despite our inability to communicate well with one of them because neither Jana and I knew how to speak Cantonese. I guess, next time, I will rent one of those translator devices at the airport.

What we ordered:

We all ordered from their set lunch menu because it came with the starters (soup or salad), main course, sides (rice, pasta, or fries), drinks (coffee/tea with upgrade options) and desserts already. There’s no option for the dessert because what they serve varies daily.

Jana and I got slow-cooked pork ribs. She got the black pepper sauce while I got the red wine sauce. Kristine got a pork chop dish with black pepper sauce too. For drinks, we ordered iced lemon tea. Our meals were indulgent!

img_2836

My mushroom soup was on the runny side, unlike the thick and creamy version that I prefer. Seeing how big my meal was though, I was glad we soup was not thick and heavy. I needed all the room for that luscious and sinfully good pork ribs!

The red wine sauce paired really well with the ribs. I was worried it was going to taste weird, but I wanted to be adventurous on my last lunch in Hong Kong that day. Their tastes married well and neither overpowered the other. I also loved that the ribs were not tough to separate from the bones. The slow cooking worked its wonders well because I had juicy meat that I did not have to wrestle with before I could eat.

As for the dessert? Oh, wow! It was a refreshing contrast to the heavy lunch that we had! It was light and creamy, with matcha cutting through and really shining. And when we bit into the blueberry? Woah! There was a burst of tart freshness that I absolutely loved.

img_2843.jpg

Pacific Coffee

From its inception in 1992, Pacific Coffee has been providing great coffee experience to its customers. Forget Starbucks during your stay in Hong Kong and head over to Pacific Coffee to try their Espresso Chillino.

I personally loved their Rocky Road Rumba Chillino while Jana enjoyed her Iced Cafe Mocha. We could really taste the coffee in our drinks, unlike other coffee brands that serve drinks that tasted more of milk and sugar than the coffee.

img_1409

The company is also trying to be more eco-friendly by not offering plastic straws right away. You have to make a special request to get them. I hope they are also moving towards more eco-friendly cups for their drinks.

Whew! What a long post! I hope you try out the places I have listed for you. Make the best out of your HK experience!

For more posts about my adventures in Hong Kong, please click here.

Just Baked: Chocolate Swirl Buns

“When you select the right kind of chocolate it is like giving your insides a hug. Everyone needs a chocolate hug.” — Jean Kelsey 

After two weeks of feeling ill during the second half of February, I felt the need to make some bread. I wanted the therapy I get from working with dough and needed the comfort of a house that smelled heavenly from bread in the oven.

I wanted something easy like a cinnamon roll, but I did not want cinnamon this time. I was torn between wanting a sweet bread or savory bread. To be honest, I was leaning towards making a cheesy garlic bread. However, having no food processor in my kitchen and having an aversion to handling real garlic (I hate the smell it leaves on the hands), I decided to use my last Beryl’s Dark Compound Chocolate bar.

For the recipe, I was initially looking at recipes for babka. However, it involved too many steps and too much time to get the dough ready. I wanted something quick and easy for an impatient amateur like me. My search led me to Donal Skehan’s recipe.

52932105_828408607498314_5062651940920360960_nThe dough was easy to make and to handle. For the first time, I did not use my hand mixer and its dough hook attachments! Instead, I used my hands to knead for about ten minutes or more. It felt like a workout but it was so satisfying to knead the dough. It was like working with slime or clay.

The more tiring part of this bread making activity is chopping the dark compound chocolate bar. I need to invest in bigger and sharper knives. Anyway, I made sure to leave some big chunks of chocolate because I was worried they’d melt too quickly and burn of I chopped too finely.

IMG_0932Donal’s recipe was a pretty simple recipe that is easy to follow and difficult to mess up. Honestly, the only things that worried me in this recipe were the use of dark chocolate and my lack of ground cardamom.

You see, I like my chocolate more milky than dark. I like white chocolate best of all. Dark chocolate never appealed to me despite being closer to what real chocolate is.

I also do not like cardamom. However, Donal emphasized the difference it will make in the dough. Thankfully, I did not have ground cardamom on hand so I had valid excuse to skip it. I would like to try adding some in the future though. That is, if I can find ground cardamom in my country because even the ones not in powder form is already tough to find (hooray to another excuse for me to skip it!).

I badly need practice on twisting dough. No matter how hard I tried, I could not replicate Donal’s technique of twisting the dough. I did my best though. Holy cow, that rhymed!

img_0933.jpg

The breads puffed up more in the oven. The house smelled so good while the butter, sugar and chocolate flavors were marrying.

fullsizeoutput_62a

Despite not looking perfect, I was so proud of myself! The buns were great when eaten a few minutes after being taken out of the oven. Surprisingly, the chocolate was not bitter. I was so afraid to try it and not like it because of the dark chocolate. I was wrong. I loved it so much!

I hope you give Donal’s recipe a try. Until then, I hope you stick around and support me as I try more recipes in the future.

 

 

 

Just Baked: Triple Chip Cookies

I may have hoarded a lot of baking ingredients in the last couple of months that I find myself wondering how I could use up all of them. Among the things I bought so much of are morsels in white chocolate, butterscotch and semi-sweet chocolate variants.

I was in the same situation last Christmas when I was thinking of what to gift to my colleagues. I was too lazy to look for three different recipes that will use up those morsels. I found my perfect solution when I found the Triple Chip Cookies recipe from Shugary Sweets. You may go to her website for the complete recipe. However, stay tuned here for the little tweaks that I made to her original recipe.

fullsizeoutput_5f8

The one thing I love about this recipe is that it calls for melted butter. That being said, I need not worry about getting my butter from the freezer (that’s how I like to keep my butter) very early for it to come to room temperature by the time I am ready to bake. It cuts my waiting time by 90% and that is a plus for me.

While hers called for only a cup and a quarter of melted butter, I opted to use a cup and a third. I figured that with four and a quarter cups of flour, a little extra butter will help keep the cookies from being crumbly. I also decided to brown the butter a bit for that extra nutty flavor that ups the cookie game by another level.

I also added a quarter teaspoon more salt making my salt a total of three quarters of a teaspoon. I always like a hint of saltiness in my cookies to cut through the sweetness of the sugars and the chocolate chips. I only had table salt available but I am sure using sea salt would have been even better.

I followed the rest of the ingredients as written in the Shugary Sweets site. My only problem was that my white chocolate and my butterscotch morsels were too tiny compared to my semi-sweet chocolate chips. Hence, a cup and a quarter of these morsels seemed too plenty because they took up very little space. Oh well, maybe I can try to find morsels sized evenly next time.

My common problem with any cookies that have chips or morsels in them is that the dough covers them a lot while baking and there’s not much trace of them on the top. That is why, unlike my attempt like Christmas season, I made it a point this time to save some chips/morsels to decorate the tops of my cookies. After scooping them on the tray lined with parchment paper, I stuck a few more chips on the cookie dough so they will show up after the cookies bake.

68429072_Unknown

Using a small scoop (4mm), I ended up with six dozens and three pieces of cookies! The did not spread so much and because of the baking powder, they rose up a little bit. I think the size of the morsels affected the yield of the cookies.

Anyway, I liked these cookies a lot. The nutty taste of the browned butter made the cookies even more yummy! Admittedly, they were a tiny bit too sweet for me though so, I think I’ll adjust the amount of chips/morsels next time. I might go for more semi-sweet chocolate chips and lessen the amount of the white chocolate and butterscotch versions.

I was able to fit a dozen cookies in a 5″ x 6¾” x 2″ box. It’s perfect for gifting for special occasions! All it needs is a ribbon (or two) and a tag!

68429152_Unknown

 

Just Tried: Ooma (Bold New Japanese)

Youthfulness is about how you live not when you were born.” ― Karl Lagerfeld

The celebration did not stop on my birthday! After my two-day leave from work, I went back on the exact day we were going to get our pay. We also scheduled on that day our monthly team dinner/bonding.

This month, we went to Ooma, a restaurant that offers bold takes on your favorite Japanese dishes. I was excited to try out their food because I have a fondness for Japanese food even though I am not yet bold enough to try those that involved raw fish. What made me even more excited was the colorful menu of the restaurant with pictures that tempts you to try everything listed in it. Just look at its menu from its Facebook page. It’s lit!!!

menu ooma
A page from their menu in their Facebook page.

For starters, we got the Crowd Favorites plate that has a mix of their aburi options. I regret that I only tried the Steak Aburi Maki because I was trying to keep my carb intake low. I made a good choice because that Steak Aburi Maki was so delicious! The meat was flavorful and tender. The truffle oil probably masked the taste of the onions and leeks because I normally dislike food with strong onion flavor. That is why, despite my attempts at staying away from carbs, I ate four pieces of it. Technically, that’s one piece each from the three Crowd Favorites and one Aburi Mixer plates that we ordered!

We also ordered their Hanger Steak that features sous-vide hanging tender accompanied by sautéed mushrooms and crispy baby potato chips. You should have seen those little chips because they were so adorable! The steak, mushrooms and chips laid on a bed of smooth and creamy sweet potato mash that melts in your mouth! The dish had a combination of white truffle oil, herb oil, and Ponzu butter. The Ponzu butter must be the reason for the slight tang that cuts through the sweetness of the mash, giving you an assortment of flavors all in one dish.

IMG_0655

We Filipinos love our rice so we ordered a few bowls of their House Chanan. This is Japanese fried rice with egg and mixed vegetables. I didn’t try it anymore because I was telling myself that I already ate enough rice from the aburi maki pieces I ate. However, considering that we ordered five bowls and only one and a half bowl was left untouched at the end of our meal (we went crazy on the carbs that night), it must have been pretty good!

tempura
Ooma’s Ebi Tempura. Photo obtained from their Facebook page.

It’s sad to eat rice and just steak so we also ordered two plates of their Ebi Tempura (7 pieces each). Normally, ebi tempura would be big because of the batter coating that expanded during frying. That was not the case with Ooma’s. Of course theirs had crispy breading too, but they used large pieces of shrimp that were cooked just right; not tough and gummy. The light sauce that came with it was good enough to add flavor to the shrimp but you simply must try that Aligue Mayo (crab fat mayo) dressing that came with it! It also had Wasabi Aioli dressing that I did not try because I am not fond of wasabi for some reason.

Craving for something warm, I also ordered their Miso Soup. I was not disappointed at all because it was perfectly warm and so comforting that I could not stop going at it! The soup was flavorful but light on the tongue at the same time. The tofu was not hard nor mushy. It was at the perfect texture that I loved so much. It was hard to explain the flavors of this soup but if it there was a serving size that’s good for sharing, I bet I will go fo seconds or thirds.IMG_0659

One way to know that a place is often frequented by diners is when they do not accept table bookings/reservations. With Ooma, the waiting lines can be long at times so it’s best to go early. We were lucky because it did not take long for us to be seated when we went there. A few minutes after we got seated though, a queue was already forming outside for dinner time.

The service in Ooma is excellent as well. We didn’t have to wait long for our food to be served. Despite the speed and the number of orders from an always-packed-restaurant, I can see that they don’t compromise the quality of the dishes and they take time making sure the food’s presentation is on point as well. The servers were quick on their feet to attend to our additional orders and requests.

Just when I thought that dinner was going to be over soon and billing out was the next thing to do, one of their staff suddenly cried out something to the likes of “You know what’s today?” I was surprised because it sounded like something was happening behind me. I thought they were about to break into a cheer or something as part of their usual routine. I was surprised when it was followed by, “It’s Mia’s birthday!” and their staff and my teammates started singing happy birthday to me (they call me Mia at work). On top of that, the restaurant allowed my team to sneak in a cake from Purple Oven for me. They also allowed us to eat the cake in their place, giving us fresh new plates and utensils.

You see, whenever I eat out and I hear people from other table request restaurant staff to sing happy birthday to one of their companions in the table, I normally cringe. For me, I would find it extremely awkward for friends or family to request strangers to sing for me the birthday song. No judgment. I just know I would feel awkward if it were me.

This time, I realized that when it’s a surprise, it can be quite touching. With Ooma, to join in on my team’s surprise for me made me feel like I was not only a paying customer, but someone worth the effort of planning a surprise for. One of my teammates, MC, picked up the cake on the way to the restaurant (he didn’t go with us because he was still in a call when we left) and gave it to the staff. However, none of them knew how the staff was going to pull off giving me the cake before we left. Technically, all of us were surprised as well!

To Roxan (our team leader), Karen, Cess, Mitzi, Ced, Gid, and MC, thank you so much for being awesome teammates! Cess, I hope you were with us to celebrate but I’ll be seeing you next week so I look forward to our own girly bonding. Thanks also to Stephen (newest member of the team) and Deanne (one our department’s team leaders) for joining us! It was indeed a happy birthday week.

IMG_0662

 

Just Baked: Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

“Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.” ― Lemony Snicket, When Did You See Her Last?

I am forever in love with the smell of cinnamon and sugar whether they be on my pretzels or on my snickerdoodles. Still, nothing beats warm, fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls that fill the house with a heavenly scent.

With humidity at only 58%, I decided it was time to once again attempt making cinnamon rolls. I had all the ingredients at home to make this treat and it was my chance to use my pastry mat from Hong Kong.

img_9432

My first attempt a few months ago was a disaster because no matter how long I kneaded the dough and how much additional flour I put in, the dough was too bloody sticky and soft that I was not able to do anything about it except to just make a cinnamon loaf bread. Hey, it was still so yummy despite being in a different form! Too bad I forgot the recipe I used at that time.

For my second attempt, I followed the recipe of Anna Olson from her Oh Yum YouTube channel. Her recipe looked easy to make for an amateur like me. My only problem was I only had a hand mixer. I figured that if I was able to make Hokkaido milk bread using it, I should be able to make cinnamon rolls with it too.

Oh dear. The dough was still just as sticky as the last time I made it. I think I consumed 60 minutes kneading the dough, alternating between my hand mixer and my own hands.  I also added what seemed like 1/4 cup of flour because everything was freaking sticky! I do not know if it was my flour or if I was simply unlucky because I could not achieve the smooth, baby’s bum texture of dough like I see bakers on YouTube get.

68165312_unknownWhen I finally decided to give up with kneading because my arms were needing some rest already, I placed my dough in a lightly oiled bowl and covered it to let it rise. I left it alone for 90 minutes while I prepared the cinnamon sugar filling and the goo.

The goo! Oooh, it smelled wonderfully of butter, sugar and maple syrup! I added walnuts and raisins in the pan with my gooey syrup mixture because I am fond of cinnamon rolls with fruits and nuts. They give the buns some texture that I absolutely love. That being said, I do not get why A LOT of people hate raisins.

68165328_unknown
I enjoyed beating this bad boy.

My favorite part about making bread is that I get to punch the dough as part of the degassing step. Boy, it’s therapeutic when I get to punch it and shout “Bam!” With this dough, I especially wanted to beat the gas out of it because it gave me a hell of a hard time kneading it. Thankfully, it was no longer too tacky after proofing.

Rolling out the dough into a rectangle shape so I can spread the filling was not as difficult as I was prepared for. The best part? I was able to roll the whole thing into a log! I was getting more and more excited because at this stage, I was far better from how it was during my first attempt. This looked promising!

Using a cooking twine, I sliced twelve pieces that were of uneven sizes. Yeah, I still have to improve a lot on that part. At least the twine made sure I didn’t squish my buns unlike if I used a knife. I have to thank Mom for the twine because there was no way I was using mint-flavored floss on my hard work.

68165424_unknown

I let the buns proof for another hour before finally baking them for 45 minutes at 350ºF. Oh my gosh! They look adorable sitting on that puddle of goo!

Oh my gosh! Achievement unlocked! I did it! I made my very own cinnamon rolls and I did not use store-bought dough.

68165568_unknown

Okay, happiness aside, I admit finding the amount of goo too much for the buns. I would probably use just half the recipe next time because I am not fond of overly sticky and soggy cinnamon rolls. After flipping the buns out, I poured around 3/4 cups of excess goo in a jar to keep and use for something else. I think it would be nice to pour on pancakes.

I also find that the buns browned a little darker than what I was aiming for. I was afraid the bottom half weren’t baked yet despite the tops already browning so, I held on to the last 5 minutes of the baking time. Perhaps lower temperature and longer baking time on my next attempt?

68165728_unknown

I am so proud of myself today despite the uneven sizes of the buns and the excess goo. It’s okay to have a lot of room for improvement because it only means more adventures in my kitchen. On my next attempts, I want a tighter roll, more filling, less goo and finally, even slices.

For now, I shall be enjoying this gooey, sticky fruit of my hard work.

img_0315