Field Trip: Cafe and Meal Muji (Taipei) 無印良品餐廳 ( 阪急店)

Information: Cafe & Meal Muji is located in the B2 Level of Hankyu Department Store, Taipei. | PH:02-2345-8551 |Hours of Operation: M-Thu: 11:00-21:30,Last order 21:00, Fri-Sun & National Holidays: 11:00-22:00,Last order 21:30 | More photos can be found here.

Cafe & Meal Muji opened in Taipei sometime in early 2015.  I kind of imagined to be an idyllic place~ where we could eat slowly and really enjoy the food.  That, was only a figment of my imagination. In reality, is that Cafe & Muji is a crowded, hectic little piece of square footage in the basement of one of Taipei’s busiest malls. Ever since it’s opening, there is always lots of people waiting in line. I happened to pass by one rainy afternoon, and decided to try my luck.  The front of the cafe now has a kiosk, where you can enter in your mobile phone number, and they send you a text message when there is a table available.  You can also specify if you are willing to share a table with other people, which may speed up your wait.  Then you can wander off and browse in the store and wait to be notified via text message.

Once your spot is available, you have to wait for the staff to lead you to a table, then you have to wait in line again, to select your food.  The basic formula is you can choose set menus consisting of three items (one hot food item, and two salad items, or two hot items and one salad)  for $220 NTD, or four items for $270 NTD (two hot, two cold items)  There is invariably a hold up because there is always someone ahead of you that cannot make up their mind, and/or changes their mind about 5-6 times.

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Luckily, they have a semi-open kitchen where you can watch the food being created.  Dozens of staff are bustling about, churning out the food that is served in the cafe. They seem to use the same kitchen tools that are sold in the store (some appear a bit larger, and are probably designed for restaurant use)  Continue reading

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Late Night Cooking Series Part 5: Lemon Frozen Yogurt~深夜食堂第五話:檸檬優格

The weather is definitely warming up here in Taiwan. Believe it or not, but I  finally figured out that while eating ice cream makes you feel chilled and refreshed, the making of the ice cream is actually a pretty hot process. So this summer season, my new order of operations is to make the ice cream mixture at night when the weather is cooler, and then let the mixture chill in the fridge overnight before putting it through the ice cream maker the next morning.

I love lemon flavored desserts, and so this time, I decided to experiment with Jeni’s frozen yogurt recipe. Before you get started, please remember that this particular recipe involves a bit of prep work. You need to drain the yogurt of excess water, so you won’t end up with too much liquid in your ice cream. The yogurt needs about 6-8 hours to drain thoroughly.  Don’t be tempted to skip this step, because too much liquid means an ice cream full of icy shards. I’ve noticed that Taiwanese yogurt is actually much “runnier” in comparisons to the yogurts I ate abroad, so this step is absolutely necessary! For this recipe, I used unsweetened yogurt from Matthew’s Choice, available at Matsusei, or City Super. After draining, this yogurt is wonderfully thick and creamy, almost like Greek yogurt in texture.

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The next step is to peel the lemons for zest.  Jeni recommends that you peel the lemon zest into long strips, so they are easy to remove from the ice cream mixture before freezing. I found that my Oxo vegetable peeler worked beautifully for this purpose. Next, make the lemon syrup which consists of lemon juice and sugar (please see below for the exact measurements). Then as with all of Jeni’s recipes, you have to prepare the cream cheese mixture and cornstarch slurry.  (In one bowl, combine the cream cheese with salt, in a separate bowl, combine the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of milk)

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Field Trip: Finding kitchen treasures at Woolloomooloo’s WXY Yakka~ 讓我找到回憶跟創意的小店

Many of you know that Woolloomooloo is a hip urban gastropub in Taipei that serves Australian-style lattes and a wonderful variety of Western style entrees and appetisers.

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But, to me, the best part about Woolloomooloo is the desserts.  My most heartfelt love goes to their strawberry tart.  It is perfection on a plate. The organic strawberries are ripe, sweet and juicy, and the creamy smooth tart base has just the right hint of tanginess.

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學生時代的時候, 我在澳洲住了將近四年。 那時候, 最enjoy的是澳洲的咖啡。 那裡的咖啡就是小小的一杯, 但非常濃郁。 喝完了那一杯真的會讓你精神百倍。 回想一下, 我那幾年加起來大概喝了上百杯的小小杯咖啡吧! 後來時透過好朋友 Janet 才知道 Wolloomoolo 也能喝到澳洲 style 的咖啡。

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Tea with me:“忙”果茶

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Over the Chinese New Year holiday, I finally had a good chunk of time to  sit back from the usual flurry and confusion of my everyday (work) life and do things I normally never have the time to do.  Such as wandering into the city for no purpose other than having afternoon tea at Smith and Hsu.  A spot of daydreaming, a pot of tea and a scone later,  I felt so refreshed and inspired that I wanted to recreate that feeling at home.

通常人家問我 “最近過的怎麼樣?” 我大部分都是回答 ”很忙” (然後心裡的話是 “拜託不要問我在忙什麼 因為一想 就覺得焦慮”) 放年假的時候 終於有比較長一段時間 坐下來 好好享受一杯自己泡的水果茶  也順道想一些有的沒的事情。那下午突然想起一位老師曾經跟我講了一句話 : “我都不會讓我自己太忙” 那時後我聽了 其實不太了解他的意思。 不是忙一點比較好嗎? 不是忙才對社會有貢獻嗎? 可是仔細思考了一段時間 發覺其實我很多的忙是自找的。 有時候真的是 “盲”  跟 “茫” 不是真正的 “忙”  常常感覺被工作壓力 跟生活一些瑣碎的事緊緊的纏繞的 喘不過氣。

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Salty Caramel Ice Cream (手工海鹽焦糖冰淇淋)

This is one of those recipes that lets you feel like an extremely fashionable Kitchen Wizard.  Magical miracles happen to sugar, milk and cream, and of course we all know that salty caramel is totally the rage these days. (Thanks for the tip, Peter!)  I may not be the most fashionable when it comes to clothes/shoes/handbags, but maybe with ice cream, I’ll have a shot at being very trendy, indeed.

When I was deep into my ice cream research phase, I found that several people mentioned Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.  I did some online searching and found that she had written a recipe book.  When I emailed this discovery to my best friend in the U.S., she mentioned that she had actually eaten the ice cream at Jeni’s original Ohio location, and said it was, “the best ice cream ever!” That’s really all the encouragement I needed to go out and buy the book.  I found my copy at Page One, the bookstore in the Taipei 101 building.  In a fit of efficiency, I also found all the ingredients I needed for the Salty Caramel Ice Cream downstairs at Jason’s grocery store.  Before I delve into the process of making Salty Caramel Ice Cream, I just want to mention that Jeni’s book is really a feast for the eyes.  The book is beautifully laid out, with gorgeous photographs and clear instructions.

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Original image source: http://www.amazon.com

Jeni’s ice cream recipe is different than any of the previous types that I’ve made.  In contrast to other recipes, such as David Lebovitz’s, Jeni’s recipes do not contain eggs, and include cream cheese, corn starch and corn syrup.  These three ingredients all contribute to the ice cream’s texture.  The cream cheese is added for scoop-ability.  The cornstarch is added to absorb ice crystals that might ruin the texture of your ice cream.  Corn syrup keeps sugar crystals from forming, and also helps to keep the ice cream smooth. The first few times I’ve made Jeni’s recipes, I included the corn syrup.  One time I accidentally left it out, and it didn’t make a noticeable difference in the taste or texture of the ice cream, so I’ve left it out since then.

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Jeni’s Ice Cream  在美國是小有名氣的手工冰淇淋品牌。她前幾年寫了一本很迷人的食譜。 有機會可以買來看看,因為這本書真的是一本非常 tempting (誘人) 的書!  Jeni 也是強調用新鮮,天然的在地食材。 她的冰淇淋 食譜跟之前介紹的有一些不一樣~她的食譜是沒有加蛋黃~ 除了基本的牛奶跟鮮奶油, 還有加cream cheese (奶油乳酪) 果糖及 太白粉。這三樣成份大致上是讓冰淇淋的口感變的比較滑順, 而且比較不會有脆脆的冰粒來攪局。 (其實加入這些材料是有一些化學倫理的 我找時間研究再跟大家分享。現在有點後悔以前在學校上化學課都在 daydreaming!) 關於糖的部份, 因為這個食譜很重要的點是在焦糖, 所以我沒有減糖。 可是有一次試了不放果糖, 效果沒有什麼大不了的差別, 所以我後來就沒有加了。

「備註: 以下的照片是讓大家瞭解以下比較精彩的過程~ 還是要麻煩大家看 post 最後附上 Jeni’s 的食譜。 我翻譯能力真的有限, 所以可能會不小心漏掉一些細節。」 

The brand of cream cheese that is easily available in Taiwan is Kraft’s Philadelphia.  I find it easiest to divide up the entire package of cream cheese into the right portions (1.5 ounces)  in one go.  That way I don’t have to get out the scale every single time.

我在台灣最方便買的到的cream cheese 都是美國進口的~ 大賣場就買的到了。為了省事, 我會一次把整包的 cream cheese 量好, 分裝。 這樣每次要做冰淇淋的時候, 就可以直接使用了。

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Measuring out portions of cream cheese for future use

I wrap the weighed portions individually and store them inside a plastic container, for later use.  Note that this recipe involves some prep work.  One of the first steps is to combine the sea salt with the cream cheese.

這個食譜是需要一些準備工作的。  除了前晚要把冰淇淋機的冰銅冰著, 還要順道冰一些冰塊。 開始煮焦糖之前,先把 cream cheese  跟海鹽攪拌好。

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Cream cheese softened and combined with sea salt

Another step is to make the cornstarch slurry, with a few teaspoons of the milk and the cornstarch.  Set both of these bowls aside for the time being.  另外要準備勾芡

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Cornstarch slurry

The most exciting of this recipe is preparing the caramelized sugar.  This recipe uses the “dry burn” technique.  Which means a lot can happen in a short amount of time!  (Also, this is the occasion to bring out one of your older pots, because sometimes the sugar burns and sticks, and you may risk ruining one of your more beloved pots.  (I apologize in advance for all the photos showing this much abused pot that I found way in the back of one of the cupboards~ I knew I kept it for a reason!)

製作焦糖可能是最精彩的步驟。 我的建議是拿出你家最舊的鍋子。 如果運氣不好, 糖過渡的焦的話, 其實是非常難清理的!

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The sugar beginning to melt

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Caramelized sugar

In all honesty, it took me several attempts to get the sugar caramelized correctly.  A few times, I was too chicken to let the sugar “burn” enough, and the “caramel” kind of tasted like… melted sugar. A few other times, I went overboard, and the carmel tasted scorched and bitter.  其實焦糖是非常難拿捏。 不夠焦, 味道就想糖水。 太過焦 味道就苦苦的 所以要耐心的慢慢試!

After you have the caramel at the right consistency, you add in the cream and milk. Be careful because the cream and milk will froth up.

加牛奶跟焦糖的時候, 千萬要小心! 因為會很訓數的從鍋子冒出來。 如果鍋子不夠大, 你就要花很多時間來刷爐台。另外要注意的事, 是一定要把這個 mixture  煮滿 4  分鐘。在炎熱的夏天中, 這簡直是折磨人!可是不把水份徹底蒸發掉的話, 你的冰淇淋就會有冰碎片

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Adding cream and milk to the caramel

It’s absolutely critical to let the mixture simmer over medium heat for 4 minutes.  I didn’t the first time I made this ice cream, and the ice cream’s final texture turned out to be a little icy.  (This step is used to remove the water from your mixture)  After this step, you add in the cornstarch slurry and let the mixture simmer for another minute or so, until the mixture is thickened. (The cornstarch is added to absorb any additional water, which may also affect the texture of your ice cream)

The final step of this stage is to combine the mixture with the cream cheese.  From experience, I find it easier to whisk the hot caramel mixture into the cream cheese a little bit at a time.  This helps you avoid little bumps of cream cheese in your final mixture.

最後是把mixture 跟 cream cheese 融合在一起。 我建議慢慢的把熱的mixture 一點,一點的加到cream cheese 裡,攪拌,再加一點。

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Blending in caramel and cream mixture with cream cheese

Sometimes, despite best efforts, there still will be some stray bumps of cream cheese left in the ice cream mixture, but I just use a strainer to filter them out.

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Instead of pouring the mixture into a large ziplock bag as Jeni suggests, I just left it in the original mixing bowl, and submerged it into a larger mixing bowl filled with ice, for about 40 minutes.

要先讓 mixture 冷卻大約半小時到40 分鐘才能放入冰淇淋機。 到了這個時候, 我都已經汗流浹背 也想跟 mixture 跳下去一起去冰。

The point of  using the ziplock bag is to make it easier for you to pour the mixture into the ingredient spout of the ice cream maker, but I found that I was able to pour the mixture in directly from the mixing bowl, without any major spillage.

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I’ve gradually found  that a rubber spatula is a bit too flimsy to efficiently scoop the ice cream out of the canister.  The only other available tool that I had  which wouldn’t scratch the surface was a rice paddle.   (I’m happy to share that it works really well for this purpose!)  對! 沒看錯! 就是用盛飯匙把冰淇淋挖出來的 ~我意外發覺是一個超級適合的工具

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我周邊有幾位不愛吃甜點的人 (對! 我也覺得很難想像,可是有些是我很愛的家人跟朋友 所以我也捨不得跟他們絕交)  但他們吃了一口海鹽焦糖冰淇淋的剎那,連他們都忍不住說  “哇!這才是冰淇淋嗎!好吃, 好吃!“   哈。 原來這個冰淇淋真的有魔法嗎?!

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The process of making this ice cream is a little nerve-wracking,  but the results are SO worth it.  The caramel flavor is rich, and the sea salt adds a nice contrast to the smoky sweetness.  The texture is creamy and scoop-able, similar to store-bought ice cream.  (The scoop-able texture was the same even after a few days in the freezer).   Salty caramel is one of those ice cream flavors I make whenever I have the time, so I can keep an “emergency” batch in the freezer, next to its less trendy, yet classic peers, like vanilla and chocolate, and the up-and-coming Roasted Cherry.  I find that the salty caramel flavor goes well with so many different types of desserts, like apple pie or brownies.  Of course, it’s also fabulous on its own.  Enjoy!

SALTY CARAMEL ICE CREAM

From:  Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home | Artisan, 2011                                                                                                                                                 

INGREDIENTS

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

PREPARATION

Danger! This is the dry-burn technique. I don’t add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. Here is an overview of what you are going to do:

Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color — like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color (see note above). Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add a bit of the cream and corn syrup mixture to the caramel: It will fizzle, pop, and spurt. Stir until well combined, then add a little more and stir. Keep adding the cream a little at a time until all of it is incorporated.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Pour into frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.

Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid.

Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

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