Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sous Vide of Sorrow

August in Singapore doesn’t mean as much as in the west. Equatorial living means that it’s hot and muggy, with humidity in the 80+ percentile, just like every other month in the tropics. What August does bring is two critical events in the Paleoporean household; the anniversary of our wedding, and Mrs. Paleoporean’s birthday.
Being that I tend to fall flat in terms of gift giving – I can never think of anything good enough, Mrs. P has simple but very specific tastes, and since we spend so much time together outside of work, sneaking off to get something incognito is a huge undertaking, I was determined this birthday to really knock her on her ass with the unadulterated power of a truly amazing gift.
Enter the Sous Vide Supreme Demi. If you aren’t aware of sous vide cooking, it is a method of preparing food where you vacuum seal said food, usually meat, in specially made plastic bags, then submerging them in a moderately hot, temperature controlled water bath for up to 48 hours. Long story slightly less long, you don’t break down the proteins, and the food comes out perfectly, evenly, majestically delicious. Complex flavours explode in your mouth like gastronomical fireworks.
Mrs. P has been drooling over the luxurious look of food porn worthy steak, chops, chicken and other sous vide-able animal parts for many, many months. We’ve visited local suppliers to gaze at the machine, ogled lustfully at the various sous vide paraphernalia with all the longing of hormone stricken teenagers and discussed the options a multitude of times. Unfortunatly, as with all things in Singapore, that shit is freaking expensive. In Canada, a basic model Sous Vide Supreme Demi will run you around $400.00CND. In Singapore, they cost in excess of $1000.00SGD.
Thinking I’d be a smarty-pants, I carefully sourced a Canadian supplier that would ship to Singapore, enlisted my always helpful mother to use her credit card as they wouldn’t accept my local Citibank card, and used the fastest, and therefore most expensive shipping option. I was so excited I almost pee’d my pants! Ok, not really, but I was looking forward to actually, finally surprising my wife with something she actually wants.
Finally, the day arrived. UPS delivered it to our place, and I opened it up in front of Mrs. P, a bit early for her birthday, but what the hell. She laughed, she cried, she jumped up and down. At last, I’d done something right! She was all smiles that entire evening, and I have never felt more accomplished in my gift giving endeavours.
The following evening, we decided to try that bad boy out. I carefully read through the instructions, found a socket adaptor, plugged it in, turned it on and…snap; a puff of smoke and the smell of melting wires, and the most expensive appliance I have ever purchased, the most expensive thing I’ve ever purchased outside of vehicles, was fucking dead.
I had read, somewhere, a long time ago before I actually arrived in Singapore, that they use a different, most importantly higher, voltage here, and that using western appliances requires a separate transformer to protect against the stronger signal, but it’s been several years, and I had totally forgotten about it. Fuck did I ever just fuck up.
The last few days have been beset with an almost constant stomach ache, deep feelings of regret, and calls back and forth to essentially useless local repair shops who have never heard of the sous vide and have no idea how to fix it. The manufacturers of Sous Vide Supreme have offered no help, and told me to just purchase another one, no surprise there I guess. The two local suppliers, who price gouge with abandon on such items, refuse to touch it, since I didn’t buy it in their store – fuck you very much Totts and Sia Huat for being completely useless.
Now I’m stuck hoping and praying that the original supplier, the very gracious Golda’s Kitchen Supplies in Canada will allow me to return the item for repair, charging whatever fee they feel like charging me.
Sometimes life fucks you, and sometimes you fuck yourself. Right now, I’m getting a bit of both, and I assure you it is not a comfortable sensation.
Mr. Paleoporean

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Licence to Ill

I haven’t been to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu this week at all, and only managed to drag my ass through two pretty hellish gym workouts. I missed a day of work, but was hardly working during the rest of the week. The reason for my atypical truancy, you might ask? Food poisoning I would reply, if you asked. Alternatively; it could have been irritable bowel syndrome on an epic scale, or stomach flu maybe? Who the hell knows? Doctors certainly don’t.

I have always had what people describe as a "weak stomach". Triggered by spicy food, oily food, fatty food, not-fatty food, high-carb or low-carb, dairy, but not all dairy; sometimes, or not. Basically any food outside of whatever has become my standard diet at the time transforms my intestines into an acidic washing machine, turning countless dinners out with friends into an embarrassingly hurried drive home. I explain politely that I’m just not feeling well, or tired, and make a mad dash to my toilet, where I will be spending the next several hours, or days, depending on the intensity of the coming storm.

Since committing to eating paleo about 6 months ago, I have felt a genuine reduction in the number of ‘episodes’ I’ve experienced, which is saying a lot for an ang moh in Singapore. I try to eat like the locals as much as one can while standing Gandalf-like against the Balrog of rice, beans, dairy and sugar infesting so much of the regional cuisine, and with Mrs. Paleoporean as my guide and food guru, happily dig into sting ray and pig’s liver, but drawing the line at shark’s fin since I’m not an evil bastard that hates the earth and all its creatures.

Besides cutting too many nights short, the ball and chain of my digestive tract has made me terrified to travel. Who doesn’t love to jet off to some exotic locale, full of sand, surf and a lax attitude towards public health? Well, call me Mr. Spontaneous, as long as I can spend countless hours of research time ensuring there are western style restaurants, with western standards of cleanliness, toilet facilities that aren’t based around a fly infested hole in the ground, and well stocked pharmacies. I can pack my own food, right?

I’d like to end this post with some tips to help prevent food poisoning, but I think it’s all pretty obvious, and most would be related to buying fresh and cooking your own food, which wouldn’t have helped me in this case anyway.

Clearly the specter of my weak stomach is alive and kicking, and this week, that motherfucker kicked me right in the gut.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Paleo on Vacation

Diets are often and very easily distracted during vacations. Many times, experiencing a new culture is not only about visiting places of interests or watching cultural performances, it is also about trying its local food and delicacies. If travel is not for leisure and for the purpose of visiting loved ones, family meals often consist of comfort foods that are carbs and sugar laden. This August, Pau and I will be visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia to celebrate my birthday and our 1st wedding anniversary. I've been thinking about how we're going to keep to our regular eating routine as much as possible. Here are a few tips I thought of:

1. Read up on potentially paleo-friendly restaurants in the city from

Besides hotel rankings and reviews, there is also a section for restaurants. Closer to date, Pau and I will read up on restaurants we can dine at in Siem Reap and take down notes. With the help of photos and reviews from travelers, we can get a glimpse of what the type of food served, its cleanliness, service and affordability. Food blogs are also another good source of information but tripadvisor is still my go-to website.

2. Find a hotel that serves breakfast international-buffet style or american breakfast. 

With the international buffet selection, there are pros and cons. The good part is, there are often a good selection of paleo-friendly food, all the eggs and bacon you can eat. The bad part is that you can get tempted by non-paleo selection, such as the assorted breads and jams and cereals. So stay focus and think about how you will be better off without a bloated or upset stomach while enjoying the sights. Our hotel in Siem Reap serves the American-styled breakfast, which is likely to include baked beans, toasts, bacon, sausages and eggs. My plan is to skip the beans and toasts and keep the rest. Even if the sausages are not entirely paleo, and the bacon is probably pan-fried in canola oil, a little of non-paleo ingredients is not going to kill. It's worst to be ultra-picky and end up being hungry the entire trip and more likelihood of eating something junky. 

3. Pack your own snacks.

I'm sure we're going to get itchy-mouth/hungry while touring the Angkor Wat, so I intend to make Pau roast us some almonds before the trip and pack them in ziplocks for us to snack on. I may throw in some dried cranberries for variety and to satiate my sweet tooth, but not too much! I'm sure we can get almonds from the supermarkets in Siem Reap, I just thought it'll be nice that we're in control of the type of oil used for roasting. Oh, don't forget to stay hydrated!

4. Get exercise

I'm not too sure if our hotel has a gym but it does have a pool. So I intend to bring my bikini and swim a few laps. If not, I do foresee us doing abit of walking, so I will definitely pack in a pair of comfortable walking shoes/runners. 

5. Bring a paleo-read to keep motivated.

Everyday, I surf a bunch of paleo websites to stay informed, motivated and for new recipes. In case the hotel has no wifi, bring a book, or download the ebook version onto the ipad/Kindle. Also, in case someone questions you about the diet, the book will come handy.

Last but not least, don't be too hard on yourself if you eat something non-paleo. Let's face it, vacations are not part of our daily routine, it is difficult to stay on course and we are not perfect. If you have to eat something non-paleo, don't feel bad and let it slide. If eating that apple pie Grand-aunt Mary specially baked for your visit is going please her, eat a small piece, enough not to be rude and make you guilty. Like what Pau always reminds me: 100% paleo 80% of the time, is good enough. For me, it is currently 100% paleo 60% of the time. Baby steps, people! 

Have a wonderful vacation :) 
 Pau, please don't kill me for using this photo. I love you!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sun-dried tomato beef patties

Beef patty is one of the most consumed form of protein in the paleoporean household simply because it is so convenient to prepare! It's just throwing a bunch of herbs and seasoning into the meat, mush, and cook. However, we often face the problem of super dry patties after cooked and part of the reason was that we used "weight watchers" minced beef, (which could be purchased from Huber's if anyone is interested) and it contain less fat and hence less juicy. Previously, we incorporated minced pork into the beef patties, hoping to add some juice, but was of little help. Yesterday, I saw on a recipe for sun-dried tomato meatballs, and decided to give it a shot. FYI, this will not be a very comprehensive recipe as I originally had no intentions of posting it, because it turned out pretty juicy and delicious, I decided to share our version (which is not far from the original). 

1. ~600g of minced beef
2. 4 cloves of garlie, minced
3. 10 big basil leaves, chopped finely
4. 1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped finely (bought ours from Cold Storage. The ingredients list on the bottle should only be sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil).
5. 2 gigantic portobello mushrooms (the ones we bought were as big as my boobs)  
6. Molten sea salt
7. black pepper
8. Red Boat fish sauce


To the minced beef in a huge mixing bowl, was added minced garlic, chopped basil leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, stem of 1 portobello mushroon, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon of oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 10 shakes of black pepper and 5 splashes of Red Boat fish sauce. The mixture was then mixed thoroughly with hands, ensuring all the ingredients were evenly mixed. After 10 minutes of kneading motion, it should result in a meat dough. 
The baking tray was greased with desired fat, in this case, we used olive oil since we'd be oven roasting at 190 degree celsius. The portobello mushrooms were placed on the tray, with the undersides facing upwards and sprinkled with some garlic powder and few specks of sea salt. Taking a handful of meat dough, spread it across the mushroom such that it formed a 1cm thick patty, and baked in the oven at 190degC for 20 minutes. After which, serve while warm and with desired sides. As you can see, we had ours with rock melon, wrapped with prosciutto De Australia and fresh butterhead lettuce. 
The remaining meat dough was further shaped into 5 smaller patties and pan-fried using coconut oil. I packed a couple to bring to work in case I get hungry around early evening. The color may not look appetitising, but it sure was juicy! 
I couldn't resist taking a bite from my tea-break snack!