Tag Archives: travel

Cheesesteak, an excuse to make cheesewhiz

13 Oct

CheesesteakIf ever there was a dish that sums up American food excess, it’s the cheesesteak.

There couldn’t be a more aptly named plate. There is steak and there is cheese. There is also a slab of bread which effectively makes it a cheesesteak sandwich, and that is how you will often find it listed on diner menus.

Officially the cheesesteak must be made in the vicinity of Philadelphia, its spiritual home, but that’s like saying that a pasty can only be made in Cornwall. My first encounter with this monstrous pile of protein, fat and fibre came in New Jersey – not a million miles from Philly, but kind of like enjoying a Cornish pasty in Wiltshire. This didn’t make it any less decadently delicious. The beef was so tender it melted. The onions and cheese became as one. Unlike most meals on that trip I finished it easily despite being oversized.

So back in England and with a pack of frying steak in the fridge I decided to recreate my cheesesteak experience.

First thing was a bit of research. My reference for all things US and greasy is Man Versus Food and in a recent episode Adam Richmond takes on the mightiest of cheesesteaks.

 

This lead me to a related question (which if you watch the video you will have as well). What in the name of all things that are holy is ‘cheesewhiz’?

If processed cheese is one short of the devil, then this yellow liquid is Beelzebub himself.

I had to have some.

In the USA cheesewhiz comes in a jar. In the rest of the civilised world this stuff would probably be considered a class A drug and so if you want it you are going to need to make it yourself.

I won’t dignify cheesewhiz with a proper recipe, but it contained mustard, evaporated milk, a dash of tabasco and…cheese. This is supposed to be processed, but as I didn’t have any in the house, I had to ‘resort’ to real cheddar. Microwave this concoction for a couple of minutes and you have the amber, dairy-based nectar.

Assembling the cheesesteak itself was then a simple task. I sliced the frying steak as thinly as I could and flash-fried it with some sliced onion. I packed as much of this as I could into approximately half a baguette and topped with cheesewhiz.

You can see the results above. I think you will agree this is a fine looking steak sandwich in its own right. Add the sweet and sour cheesewhiz and you have a thing of beauty.

I didn’t tell Mrs G what went into the cheesewhiz and she thought it was pretty good. After she finished I told her the ingredients and she gagged, but don’t let that put you off as you have probably just pushed through the gagging stage yourself when you realised I was mixing evaporated milk with cheddar.

This was far from an authentic cheesesteak. A resident of Philadelphia would probably be upset I’m even making the connection, but for me it was a delicious reminder of happy times in American airports, and those are pretty thin on the ground.

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Singapore – culinary crossroads

22 Jan
Chinese sausage hanging in market

Chinese sausage anyone?

I’m privileged that my job allows me to travel pretty widely and that travel often involves dining at places that would normally be out of my reach.

Which isn’t actually saying very much as ‘out of my reach’ pretty much encompasses everything more expensive than Pizza Express (yes, yes, I’m aware that even Pizza Express would be too expensive for many, but this IS a food blog).

I’ve recently spent a week in Singapore, with a quick side dash to the Philippines. I have a colleague who hails from Singapore and he describes himself as a foodie. He eats out almost every day, and complains bitterly about almost every aspect of cuisine in the UK. I was slightly sceptical about this viewpoint. How could a small island in South East Asia, with a rich British colonial past, possibly give the UK lessons in good food with the notable exception of Chinese?

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

In six days away it was hard to find a meal that didn’t rank right at the top for that type of cuisine. Let me take you on a whistle-stop tour.

Sunday – Vietnamese (excellent). My experience of Vietnamese cooking is limited to a single visit to a restaurant in New York, but this confirmed that it’s great. Spicy, but not exceptionally so. Deep-fried scallop pancakes were the highlight.

Monday – Tapas. Yes, you read that right – I had a Spanish meal and it was superb. It made La Tasca look frankly rubbish.

Tuesday – Japanese. A slight let down by the standards of what had preceded it, but there was a masterful avocado milkshake. This was quite possibly the best soft drink I have ever consumed. The avocado was there – tasty, but not overpowering. The ice cream was not too sweet. Simply delicious.

Remnants of raw fish salad

Remnants of raw fish salad

Tuesday (again) – Chinese. The best Chinese meal I have ever eaten – bar none. We opened with the famous Chinese New Year dish of raw fish salad (Yusheng). Part of a majesty of this dish is the performance of preparation. The entire table stands and mixes the ingredients with chopsticks, throwing shredded fish and vegetables into te the air while shouting out desires for the next 12 months. No sooner was the salad dispatched than the duck pancakes arrived. Unlike the version you seem to find in the UK, these consisted of just the skin. The meat of the duck came along later in a separate dish. The plum sauce that accompanied them was not really necessary. They were delicious without. Next to emerge from the kitchen was black pepper crab. I’m not a crab man – I don’t even like looking at them. I went out of my way to avoid having to crack a claw, but spurred on by my hosts I relented and it was so worth it. Perhaps I over compensated on my ‘ mmm lovely’ comments, because black pepper crab was followed swiftly by the famous Singapore chilli crab. The star of this dish was not the crab, but the sauce that came with it (more accurately that it was bathing in) and the small round cakes, almost dumplings, whose sole purposes was to aid the hoovering up of said sauce. The meal was rounded off by the best lemon chicken I have ever eaten. It was alarmingly yellow, but by this point I didn’t care. I was in food heaven and I could have happily stayed there.

Wednesday – Indian. We do great Indian food in the UK, so this had a hard job matching the excellence of earlier meals. It had a very good go, but didn’t quite excite as much. Perhaps we are just too familiar with Indian to really appreciate it. There was a highlight though – two actually. 1) deep fried bittergourd. What is a bittergourd when it’s at home anyway? 2) a deep fried naan, that swelled up like a football and tasted like a giant savoury doughnut. Divine.

Thursday – Pan Asian Buffet. Food, food and more food. Then some more. All great, especially so when you consider it came out of a buffet environment.

Friday – Italian. OK, so by this time I had moved onto Manila where the continental European influence is greater, but I didn’t expect to enjoy amazing tapas, followed by fantastic blue cheese gnocchi.

I returned home several pounds heavier and totally inspired by asian cuisine. I will be inflicting it regularly upon my loved ones from now on, but I know that eating out in the UK probably won’t match up to the heights of my Singapore experience. Home-cooking would seem to be the way to go.