Archive for Essential Ingredient

To Market, To Market

Posted in Markets with tags , , on April 28, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

Essential Ingredients
Spaghetti Vongole with Scallops

[A backdated post]

There’s something about stepping into Prahran Market that makes one go wild with excitement. I’m not sure if it’s got to do with the air in the market, or the excellent quality of the products, but I always step out of the MARKET with a huge hole in my pocket. It’s a culinary snob’s haven in there!

Being at Prahran Market makes you want to settle for nothing less than the best, the freshest, and the most top quality products. In any case, if I wanted a bargain, I wouldn’t be at Prahran; I’d be in Victoria Market or even Footscray. And after all, if you are going to cook up a pack of $7.50 bronze-cut spaghetti (which I’ve read all about and have been bubbling with curiosity ever since) with fresh vongole and wild mushrooms that cost you $2something each, what is an extra $5.75 for a bottle of porcini mushrooms (in fact, that’s really cheap!) and hey, while you’re at it, you might as well get some of that white truffle oil you’ve been longing for for the longest time? It’d go ohsowell with that $7.50 bronze-cut pasta and those wild mushrooms that cost you $2something each.

And while we were hanging around Essential Ingredient (for the truffle oil and porcini mushrooms and bronze-cut spaghetti), my eye spies some ramekins hidden in an obscure corner that I’ve also been contemplating for a long time. At $2 for a ramekin (the ones I’ve seen cost somewhere between $3-6), I grabbed all 5 of them that were left in the basket plus 2 smaller ones for good measure – they were the only ones of their kind that were left. The ceramic is thick and heavy, which means that it retains heat well and would be perfect for my souffles, which, surprise surprise, I’ve been itching to make for a very very long time as well.

Feeling all guilt-ridden, we decided to do a quick round at the vegetable section and boot ourselves out of the market before we spiral out of control as we’re already headed for our own destructions, but lo and behold, what should appear before us but a chocolate specialty shop – Monsieur Truffe. I go on to pick my fruit and veges while the Jman makes a beeline for the said chocolate specialty shop. By the time I’m done with my fruit and veges, I look across the hall and see the Jman chatting away with the shop owner/chocolate connoisseur. So I made my way across and joined them in their little tete-a-tete about chocolate (it almost sounds romantic eh?). I am pleasantly surprised. This guy certainly knows what he’s talking about. He’s French, for one, and “French” and “chocolate” go like wine and cheese. He talks about cocoa beans the way coffee snobs talk about their coffee; he talks about the different blends of chocolate that he uses, how one is fruitier than the other which makes that the perfect kind of chocolate for things like mousses and ganaches, because “the chocolate speaks for itself”, he quips in his classic French accent (or “ekk-sont” – truth be told I was imagining Gustav at the back of my head. Heh!). “A good quality chocolate has character; you may not like it, but at least it’s got a personality of its own.” Ahh, these pearls of wisdom.

What’s more, this guy makes his own chocolate blends. He buys them from the well-known suppliers and melts them down into his own little blocks. Even MORE respectable, he makes his own chocolate truffles. No more of that commercialised Koko Black nonsense (even though it’s still really good chocolate) – this guy who knows the world about chocolates makes them himself. Res-pekt. I am a pauper by now but I still go ahead and buy myself a box of 6 truffles that leaves me $7 poorer. Later on the Jman tells me that truffles are one of the easiest things to make (I have to admit I was part shattered), but I tell myself that I did the noble thing of supporting a little start-up specialty business like his, and I really want this guy to succeed.

So even though I went to the market with the SOLE intention (excuse the pun) of buying fresh sashimi fish for the sushi pigout with my brother and the Jman tonight, I walked out of the market with that and a taro (that’s another story altogether), fresh fruit, vegetables for the week, 3 of those $2somethingeach wild mushrooms, $7.50 bronze-cut pasta, a bottle of cheap Semillon for the pasta, scallops, 2 bottles of porcini mushrooms (they were, after all a very VERY good buy), brined green peppercorns, white truffle oil, and a box of chocolate truffles. Not to mention I leave the place a hundred bucks poorer. Oh, and two bunches of champagne and lavender-pink roses which were too cheap and pretty to resist.

Like they say, life is like a box of chocolates. I just hope mine’s like a box of Valrhona Guanudja truffles.

The pasta, by the way, was excellent. I can see why these pasta snobs swear by bronze-cut pasta. When done al dente, it is worlds apart from the $2 San Remo ones or even the $3 Barilla ones – even where Barilla is the snob of all supermarket pastas). Why, it’s probably from a different planet, galaxy, universe altogether! Mindblowing it was!!! The bite was perfect, what the Chinese folk would call “Q Q” as unglamorous as it may sound. We had vongole and scallops in the white wine sauce, together with a hint of saffron and a tiny pinch of chillipadi just to spice things up. We finished it off with a few drops of truffle oil and ooohlala!

I’m back home now, very satisfied albeit very guilty. I’m now researching on souffles. Because it’s BANZAI! night tonight, and because I have ramekins on my kitchen benchtop eager to be baked in the oven, I have decided to make a matcha souffle tonight, topped with adzuki paste. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some important business to take care of – making my adzuki paste.