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May 31, 2009

Wild Yeast Starter

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Wild Yeast (Sourdough) Bread

When I baked the Greek Celebration bread a little over 2 weeks ago, I had to use a poolish because my 7-month old wild yeast starter died on me. The last time I used it was 2 months ago for rye sandwich loaves, but the jar got pushed at the very back of the fridge and I forgot to feed it. When I saw the very dark "hooch" and the bubbleless firm starter I knew it's a goner. I tried to revive it, took out half and added bread flour and warm water, left it overnight on the kitchen counter but nothing happened so I threw it away.

Please note that I am not jumping to letter S but since we will be using a starter for future BBA challenges, I made 2 new batches using both PR's BBA recipe and this method. PR's fell asleep on the 6th day after showing great potential. It wouldn't grow or bubble or anything, I just left it alone and kept it on the counter for 2 weeks before finally throwing it away. The one from The Fresh Loaf site is another story. It behaved as described and on the 6th day I divided it, added bread flour to one half and whole wheat to the other, they started growing steadily with every feeding and by the end of the second week have gotten stronger and developed a very fragrant sweet aroma. I immediately baked half a recipe of Basic Sourdough Bread from The BBA to check the flavor and acidity. Both starters are doing well and now resting in the fridge.
A bit of fun with wild yeast starter: I read in one of the BBA discussion threads that the son of a member baker calls us BBA challengers The Bread Freaks and The BBA The Bread Freaks' Bible. I totally agree, we are some sort of freaks! A few (or maybe a lot) of the bakers give their starters a name (and perhaps a personality); Nicole of Pinch My Salt calls hers Lyle after Lyle Lovett. My husband thinks it's weird, I think it's cute and fun. I want to be a certifiable Bread Freak and decided to name my two starters Brad and Angelina, Brad being the fair one.

Wild Yeast (Sourdough)
meet Brangelina

For the [taste test] sourdough bread loaves, I used equal amount of both starters and equal amount of bread and whole wheat flours. I was very confident that Brangelina will perform well and produce a flavorful bread. They did not disappoint. The twins loaves are perfect: tangy but not too sour, very tasty, and chewy yet soft. I am recommending this wild yeast starter recipe to anyone who doesn't have a starter yet because it uses a very small amount of flour so you won't feel wasteful if it is not successful the first time. I will give PR's recipe another try but will reduce the initial amount by half as I don't want to waste too much flour.

The BBA Basic Sourdough Bread Loaves:

 Wild Yeast Dough
top: the dough doubled in volume after one hour
bottom: the dough more than tripled in volume after 3 hours



Wild Yeast Bread
the finished loaves

May 30, 2009

Lambanog

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Lambanog
sweetish 90 proof liquor made from coconut toddy

Lambanog is a Filipino sweetish liquor made from the sap of the stem of immature coconut blossom. The sap collected is fermented for a a few hours into a toddy called tuba, then distilled into lambanog. It is rather potent at 90 proof but it's not noticeable at first sip because of its sweetness.

I remember this drink as a child visiting my grandparents, aunts, and cousins in Sariaya, Quezon. Their lambanog, in a large 2-gallon jug, was deep amber in color because of the raisins that they add to the liquor. The raisins which were not meant to be eaten render not just its color but also its flavor and sweetness to the lambanog. As an adult I never tried lambanog until now, maybe because I do not particularly enjoy drinking alcohol (red and white wine are the exception) and only have mixed drinks occasionally.

Lambanog with Raisins
raisins soaking and getting plump in a tiny bottle of lambanog

Watch this video of the Three Sheets guy visiting Quezon province where lambanog is mostly produced, and trying the 160 proof lambanog which according to the distiller is not for sale to the Philippine markets or elsewhere, gee I wonder why. I enjoyed watching this video, specially the rituals when having drinking sessions. Take note: there are several middle-aged women in the drinking group, which reminds me of the after-dinner drinking events at my grandparents' house where everybody drinks except children and my mother.



I made a simple mixed drink with equal amounts of lambanog, calamansi juice, and club soda, and simple syrup to taste. Not bad at all, it's very refreshing and tastes better than vodka.

Sunny
Sun Shine: a blend of lambanog, calamansi juice, club soda, and simple syrup

May 27, 2009

Chocolate Candies, Filipino Style

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Langka  and Fondant Chocolate Candy
fondant with chopped candied langka (jackfruit)

Mango Thins
mango paste

Yema Chocolate Candy
yema (egg yolk candy)

Pinipig Crunch
pinipig (pounded young glutinous rice) crunch bars
enrobed in bittersweet chocolate

A Filipino blog talking about a store (in the Philippines) selling chocolate candies with Filipino flavors and fillings piqued my interest and I immediately borrowed the idea. I was not expecting that dark chocolate and sweet jackfruit will go nicely together but surprisingly they do. It's the same with yema and my favorite, mango paste, which I made by boiling mango puree until very thick, the same process in making fruit leather. They are all delicious as chocolate candy fillings with their familiar Filipino flavors. I have a small bag of puffed pinipig which I will be using later for Guinomis and made bittersweet chocolate Pinipig Crunch, an homage to a childhood favorite, Nestle Crunch. Yummy yum yum!

May 25, 2009

The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge: Bagels

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Bagels
toppings: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, salt

It's the third week of The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge and bagels are in the spotlight. I made bagels twice before, the first one about 5 years ago was a total disaster, and recently as a recipe tester for Peter Reinhart's which went great.

Although they are not as shiny as store-bought, I am very happy with the BBA bagels because they came out chewy, dense, and heavy just the way I like them. Delicious!

I made half a recipe, added 1 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to the bread flour, and I also used barley malt syrup both in the dough and poaching water. I should have increased the amount of baking soda for shinier bagels. The dough yield was seven 4-ounce pieces which are too big IMHO. I might reduce each ball of dough to 3.5 ounces next time. For the topping I used black and white sesame seeds, black and white poppy seeds, and salt. It is worth making these bagels, they taste superior to store-bought.

Bagels
this gram/ounce weighing scale with tare is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets

Bagels
shaping the bagel

Bagels
ready for an overnight stay in the refrigerator

Bagels
the seven bagels +

Bagels
toasted and slathered with honey-nut cream cheese

Rating:
flavor 5
texture 5
visual appeal 4
ease of preparation 3.5 (shaping is not so easy)
performance 5
worth 5
Total: 27.5
Average: 4.58

The BBA Challenge is hosted by Nicole of Pinch My Salt

May 23, 2009

LaPiS: Fluffy Egg-White Omelet

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Fluffy Egg White Omelet
egg-white omelet filled with artichokes, mushrooms, and kesong puti

When I hear or see the word fluffy either candy floss comes to mind

Cotton Candy
the candyman spinning candy floss at a birthday party

or a furry cat like this one


Since Lasang Pinoy Sundays is all about food photography and not fur balls, I prepared something super fluffy but easy to make, an egg white omelet filled with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and kesong puti. The omelet is very light and the absence of yolks did not matter because it is delicious and healthy too.

LaPis, a weekly gallery of food photography is hosted by SpiCes and guest posting this week is Gizelle of Kitchenmaus. Check out her puto recipe and click on the yellow button for more yummy fluffy stuff, Pinoy style.

May 22, 2009

BBA Challenge: Artos

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Greek Christmas Bread

Artos, or Greek celebration bread, is the second in the BBA Challenge series. It takes 1 or 2 days to make depending on the starter; wild yeast starter takes one day and poolish 2 days. I used poolish for this bread. The dough looked a bit large and so I halved it leaving one half plain and the other half I made into Christopsomos adding golden raisins, a combination of dried cranberries, Rainier cherries, and calimyrna figs, and almonds (I couldn't find my large bag of walnuts). I didn't bother to make the decorative strips on top of the bread, perhaps come Christmastime I will. As usual I mixed and kneaded the dough in the Kitchen Aid mixer which always does a better job of mixing in the fruits and nuts. It's a very easy dough to handle and of course shape. I don't know about those thingies on top, they might be difficult to do.

Both grew nice and tall in the oven, the plain one slightly taller (but a tad lopsided) and with the glaze and sesame seeds it looks like a giant burger roll. Both have tight soft crumb although the plain one has small holes in them which I don't mind really. The flavor of the slightly more moist Christopsomos reminds me of German stollen, a favorite in my house during the Christmas season for the last 20 years or so. I will make Christopsomos again with wild yeast starter and will definitely add it to our Christmas goodies later this year.

You can view the recipe here.

Greek Christmas Bread
christopsomos

Artos
teensy bit lopsided plain Greek celebration bread (or maybe giant burger roll)

Artos
soft crumb, very good toasted

My Rating:
flavor 5
texture 5
visual appeal 4
ease of preparation 5
performance 5
worth 5
Total: 29
Average: 4.83

May 21, 2009

Chicken Arroz Caldo

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Arroz Caldo
rice porridge with chicken, AKA chicken arroz caldo

Arroz Caldo, translation is rice broth, is the Filipino version of Chinese congee. Arroz caldo is not soupy and the consistency is more like porridge. Er, it IS rice porridge flavored with chicken, garlic, ginger, and Spanish saffron and simmered in broth. It's one of the dishes that best represents the mixture of Filipino heritage combining Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino flavors.

When I make this dish I add the coloring agent called kasubha which is dried safflower. It is sometimes called fake saffron because it resembles saffron although it doesn't taste at all like saffron. In fact, it doesn't taste of anything, but it is great in adding color to food without imparting a distinct or strong flavor.

Kasubha and Saffron
kasubha (dried safflower) and Spanish saffron

Chicken Arroz Caldo
1½ pounds chicken pieces
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
5 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tablespoon sliced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fish extract
1 cup glutinous or medium grain rice
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, or more as needed
a big pinch of Spanish saffron
1 teaspoon kasubha, or more for a deeper yellow color
salt and ground white pepper to taste
chopped scallions for garnish
calamansi or lemon juice
  • In a large pot, heat oil and saute chicken pieces until light brown. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and stir fry until onion is soft and translucent. Add fish extract and rice and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  • Add the broth, saffron, and kasubha. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, check if there is enough liquid and add accordingly. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Serve with chopped scallions (I have not used scallions recently because they all come from Mexico and I'm avoiding uncooked or difficult to clean stuff from that country; I topped the porridge with fried shallots and garlic) and calamansi or lemon juice.

May 17, 2009

LaPiS: Slice It Up!

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Chicken Relleno

A favorite holiday or fiesta food in the Philippines is Chicken Relleno (stuffed whole boneless chicken). It is good either warm or at room temperature.

More photos of our Christmas 2008 lunch, all sliced up.

Christmas Lunch
challah with dried cranberries, fruit cake



Lasang Pinoy Sundays, a weekly gallery of food photography is hosted by SpiCes.
baked ham, queso de bola (aged Edam cheese)

May 13, 2009

The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge: Anadama Bread

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Anadama
crunchy and chewy, excellent with just butter or Meyer lemon curd


I joined a baking group, The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge created by Pinch My Salt. The group will attempt to bake all the recipes in Peter Reinhart's cookbook, from the first one to the last, arranged alphabetically. I have been a fan of Peter Reinhart after reading and baking several recipes from THE BREAD BAKER'S APPRENTICE and learned a ton from it. I recommend this book to anyone who is just starting to bake breads or has been baking and wants to learn some more. The recipes are easy to follow and there are a lot of pictures to guide the home baker. I love all the breads I made from this book and as a result I volunteered as a recipe tester for his new book Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday to be published in the fall of 2009. I had a lot of fun baking and eating all the different breads I baked (and still baking) as a recipe tester specially the croissants and I'm eagerly anticipating the issue of his book. While waiting for it to come out, the BBA Challenge will keep me occupied and happily baking for the next 40+ weeks. Thanks to Pinch My Salt for this brilliant idea.

The challenge starts off this week with Anadama Bread which is in almost all of my baking books but somehow I have never tried making it, I'm not sure why. It's a shame because this bread turns out flavorful, chewy, and has a crunchy bite that I like. The bread is good by itself, toasted or untoasted, or with butter. I do believe soaking the cornmeal makes a big difference in its taste and texture. I'm surprised that I like this bread because I am not a big fan of molasses. The taste of the molasses, I used a light colored one, is subtle and does not overpower the overall flavor of this pleasantly sweetish bread. And the aroma in my kitchen while the bread was baking was just wonderful.

I followed the recipe as written although I halved it because I thought no one in my house will like it. The dough performed exactly as the book says. When I saw that the bread was rising taller than expected I got worried it will have large air pockets but thankfully the bread came out fine. My only regret is I did not bake the full recipe. I wouldn't mind baking Anadama bread again.

Anadama Bread
the bread had an oven spring of almost 1½ inches

Anadama Bread
I love its rich golden brown crust, very crisp and crunchy when toasted

Now, let's have some fun and rate the recipe/bread from 1 to 5, 5 being the highest:

flavor 4
texture 5
visual appeal 5
ease of preparation 5
performance 5
worth 4
Total: 28
Average: 4.66

May 11, 2009

KULINARYA Pan de Sal

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Kulinarya Pandesal

As requested by a reader here is the Pan de Sal recipe adapted from KULINARYA. The original recipe has very short rising periods both before shaping (30 minutes) and after (20 minutes) probably because it is warm and humid in the Philippines where the recipe was developed and tested. Please note that not all kitchens have the same temperatures and conditions. The recipe here is just a guide and you may need to adjust the rising periods and amount of flour. It took longer for my rolls to rise because my kitchen is always cool. For the first rising I let the dough sit in the oven with the light bulb on for about 30 minutes then turned it off until the dough has risen sufficiently, about 1 and a quarter hours total rising time. The second rising took about 50 minutes.

The sweetish rolls have soft tight crumbs and slightly crispy crust when reheated in the oven. I doubled the amount of salt which I think IMO is too little for the number of cups of bread flour. If you are using all-purpose flour, you might need 8 US cups, again adjust as needed.

Pan de Sal
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons lukewarm water
6 tablespoons sugar
1 kilo bread flour (about 7 1/3 US cups)
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups warm water
6 tablespoons soft butter, Crisco, or extra light olive oil
1 cup very fine breadcrumbs
  • Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar to the yeast mixture. Set aside.
  • Measure 1 cup of the flour, set aside to be used later for dusting.
  • In a large bowl (or standing mixer bowl), combine the remaining flour, salt, sugar, butter, and water. Add the yeast mixture and mix well. Knead the mixture into a smooth, elastic dough. Dust with the reserved flour as needed.
  • Transfer into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a plastic film, and let rise until doubled.
  • Remove dough from bowl and knead to remove bubbles. Shape into a 2-inch thick baton and roll on breadcrumbs.
  • Using a dough cutter, cut the log into 1-inch thick slices, about 30 grams each. Place the dough, cut side up, 2 inches apart on baking pans lined with parchment. Sprinkle tops with breadcrumbs. Cover with plastic film and let rise for 40 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until light brown.

Pandesal and Coconut Jam
Pandesal
pan de sal filled with coconut jam, yummy

Here is my previous Pan de Sal post with recipes for both soft and crusty variations.

May 10, 2009

LaPiS: Over The Top

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Diced Chicken with Sweet Peppers
diced chicken with peppers and salted black beans

Corned Beef and Rolled Egg
breakfast or brunch: corned beef rice topped with rolled omelet



Lasang Pinoy Sundays, a weekly gallery of food photography Pinoy style, is hosted by SpiCes.
Over The Top is this week's LaPiS theme.

May 6, 2009

Black And White Macarons

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Black And White Macarons
vanilla bean macarons with chocolate ganache filling

I received Michel Richard's HAPPY IN THE KITCHEN cookbook, an early Mother's day gift from my son. All the recipes look fantastic specially the desserts and pastries and the cooking methods seem uncomplicated for the home cook.

Naturally, I went straight to the desserts section of the book and decided the first recipe I'll try is the Black And White Macaroons. Michel Richard calls these cookies macaroons which shouldn't be confused with coconut macaroons. I have made macarons just once last year and although they were delicious, the cookies were not as chewy as they should be and they didn't have "feet" and therefore not photogenic.

The recipe in this cookbook is very simple and pretty much straightforward. It took just a little over an hour to put together and I'm happy that my macarons have feet, not to mention deliciously crunchy and chewy. I can honestly say after preparing one recipe from this book I am on my way to being 'appy in the kitchen.

Black And White Macaroons
Macaroons
½ cup slivered almonds
1 cup confectioner's sugar
½ vanilla bean
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon sugar

Ganache
¼ cup heavy cream
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces, very soft
  • Place the almonds in the food processor and pulse, then process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides and redistribute the nuts to grind them evenly. Add the confectioner's sugar and process until well combined. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds from the pod into the processor (reserve the bean for another use), and pulse to combine. Transfer into a medium bowl.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, add half of the sugar. Increase speed to high and sprinkle in the remaining sugar. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Place the whites on top of the almond mixture and fold to combine.
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch tip; or cut an opening directly in the end of a disposable pastry bag. Pipe 28 cookies into each sheet (4 cookies across and 7 down): Holding the tip of the pastry bag perpendicular and ¼ inch above the baking sheet with one hand, apply even pressure to the end of the pastry bag with the other hand while slowly pulling the bag up from the baking sheet, to pipe a 1-inch round macaroon. Once the macaroon is formed, move the bag in a circular motion as you pull it away to release the bag from the macaroon. Continue piping the macaroons, leaving 1 inch between them.
  • Let the macaroons sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to air-dry and form a light crust. Position the oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.
  • Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway through baking. They should be firm on the outside but the centers should remain soft.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the ganache. Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Place the cream and chocolate in a small glass bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, then stir the chocolate. Continue to melt and stir at 30-second intervals until the chocolate is completely melted when stirred, 2 to 3 minutes total. Stir the butter until thoroughly combined.
  • Place the bowl over the ice water and stir until the ganache is thickened to a spreading consistency. Remove from the ice water and let stand at room temperature until ready to use.
  • Remove the macaroons from the oven and place the pans on a cooling rack to firm up enough to move them, then using an offset spatula, transfer the macaroons to a rack to cool completely.
  • Place the ganache in a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch tip, or cut an opening directly in the end of a disposable pastry bag. Turn over half of the cookies, and pipe about ¾ teaspoon of ganache onto the bottom of each one. Top each with another cookie and press very lightly to sandwich.
  • They can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

May 5, 2009

Trent And Mariqueen

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Mariqueen and Trent

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is engaged to be married to Mariqueen Maandig or Q, one of the vocalists of an indie alt rock band West Indian Girl. I am not a big fan of NIN although I have two of his CDs in my iPod. The girl is of Filipino descent and I have never heard of her and her band, I'll probably download a song or two from their website.


May 3, 2009

Black Rice And Spicy Prawns

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Forbidden Rice And Spicy Prawns
black rice and prawns with spicy hot-bean sauce

The Chinese black short-grain non-glutinous rice also called forbidden rice is becoming more popular and now available in most supermarkets in my area, along with the red variety from Bhutan. A 15-oz package of the LOTUS brand black rice is $2.75 at my grocery, online it's $4.50. The uncooked rice is very fragrant, and when cooked is nutty and chewy. I boiled the rice according to the package directions with 1 teaspoon of salt and half a tablespoon of butter. It took a little over 30 minutes to cook and I don't recommend making it into paella because it cooks longer than ordinary rice and because everything, meats and vegetables, will turn purple. It's better to cook this rice separately and mix with the other cooked ingredients just before serving.

I paired the simply boiled black rice with Chinese-style spicy prawns. It's yummy, but then again I love Chinese cuisine for its simplicity, ease of preparation, and great flavor and the prepared dish always looks beautiful.

Spicy Stir-fried Prawns
1½ pounds large prawns, peeled with tails on
3 tablespoons light olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
1 teaspoon hot bean paste
1 tablespoon fermented rice wine or plain rice wine
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small wok and stir-fry prawns for 2 minutes. Transfer prawns into a plate and set aside.
  • Add 1 tablespoon oil in the same wok and stir fry the garlic, ginger, and scallions until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the bean paste, rice wine, and ketchup and stir fry for half a minute.
  • Mix the salt, sugar, water, and cornstarch and add to the wok along with the prawns. When the mixture begins to boil, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and toss lightly to mix all the ingredients and to coat the prawns with the sauce. Transfer into a serving platter and serve while hot.
I will prepare the rest of the uncooked black rice into Spanish Rice and Beans (Moros y Cristianos) with left-over cooked flageolets but in reverse, black rice instead of white and white beans instead of red or black beans.

LaPiS: Shades of Spring And Summer

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Colors Of Spring
buco pandan ice cream and ice pop



The lawn and everything else are growing and turning bright green at last after months of boring and colorless winter months. My pimiento, lara (Philippine sweet pepper), and Meyer lemon plants are now fruiting and the markets have abundant supply of USA-grown vegetables such as asparagus. I can't wait for the burst of yellows and reds at the farmers market as well as my own potted vegetable garden. And I'll be making lots of buco-pandan ice cream and ice pops to cool us off during the steamy summer season.

Sweet Pepper
this Spanish pimiento will turn bright red and very sweet when ripe

Lasang Pinoy, Sundays (Shades of Spring And Summer) is hosted by SpiCes.

May 2, 2009

Movies That Make Me Really Really Hungry

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Ramen a la Tampopo
ramen soup à la Tampopo

Although I never eat while watching movies on DVD, reading fiction (and cookbooks), or listening to music, food and these 3 favorite activities of mine are somehow linked. I sometimes get inspiration from movies, music, and book for cooking the specialty of the day.

I made a list of my most favorite food-themed movies that never get old. Watching them over and over always makes me hungry as well as entertained.

These are my top 3 foodie movies:
1. Tampopo (Japan)
2. The Chinese Feast (Hong Kong)
3. Babette's Feast (Denmark)

I also love these:
Mostly Martha (Germany)
Big Night (USA)
Like Water For Chocolate (Mexico)

And these 2 are the most disturbing (anti) food flicks which I enjoyed regardless:
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, And Her Lover (England)
La Grande Bouffe (France)

What are your favorite foodie movies?

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