Featured Interview with Sake Sommelier Takayoshi Aoki

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Featured Interview with Sake Sommelier Takayoshi Aoki

Q: Have you ever experienced Japanese sake and food pairing? Which pairing of sake and food do you like?

A: Similar to wine, sake can be paired with food according to certain rules. If you would like to know more, I recommend you to join me at ToTT’s Sake Paring Dinner on Friday, 29 April at Sumiya Suntec City. This Japanese restaurant is managed by International Sake Sommelier Naoki Tsuzuki, who is also the master chef of the award-winning fine dining restaurant, Kuriya Dining.

At this sake-pairing dinner, each of Master Chef Tsuzuki’s creative dishes will be paired with his choice of sake. All sake brands used for this event have distinctive characteristics, two of which are rare premium sake that are available exclusively at Sumiya.

Sake pairing works just like wine does. The key to pairing sake and food is simple – typically, lighter dishes are paired with light and smooth sake and rich foods with rich-flavoured and full-bodied sake. For example, a light dish such as whitefish sashimi goes well with mild-flavoured Ginjo-shu and Dai Ginjo-shu while grilled fatty winter fish is best paired with aromatic and full-bodied Junmai-shu.

Contrary to popular belief, sake can also be enjoyed with a wine glass. When poured into the glass, sake comes into contact with oxygen and this oxidization will improve the distinctive aroma of sake. By using a wine glass, the sake’s rising aroma will allow you to fully enjoy  its elegant fragrance.  If you cannot finish drinking an entire bottle, do be adventurous and enjoy the remainder with a wine glass on the next day. You might make a new discovery of the sake!

Please take this opportunity to experience the wonderful world of Master Chef Tsuzuki’s fine Japanese cuisine and its premium and seasonal sake.

Prior to this event on the same day, I will conduct a sake cocktail-making demonstration at ToTT @ Suntec. There, I will introduce two kinds of sake cocktails which can be made easily with your leftover sake. I will also introduce useful utensils to make sake cocktails.

Master Chef Tsuzuki and I look forward to welcoming you at the Sumiya Sake-Pairing Dinner. Thank you.

Takayoshi Aoki
International Wine & Sake Sommelier

Sake is classified according to the proportion of the rice grain that remains after polishing. If the rice polishing ratio is 60% or lower (meaning that 40% or more of the grain is removed), the sake produced with it is referred to as Ginjo-shu or Junmai Ginjo-shu. When the rice polishing ratio is 50% or lower (meaning that 50% or more of the grain is removed), the sake is referred to as Daiginjo-shu or Junmai Daiginjo-shu.

The term Junmai-shu refers to sake made with nothing other than rice, water, and kōji (mould culture for converting rice starch to sugar). When Junmai-shu is made with rice of a lower rice polishing ratio, it is referred to as Junmai Ginjo-shu or Junmai Daiginjo-shu.
(Source: http://j-tradition.com/en/sake/shurui/ginjou.html)

9 Tips to Hosting a Perfect Dinner Party

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9 Tips to Hosting a Perfect Dinner Party

Hosting a large party is always fun, but there’s something special about a more intimate, grown-up gathering. Inviting friends over for a dinner gathering or hosting that annual dinner party with your colleagues?  This is the perfect guide for you. We’ve prepared a list of pointers to keep in mind when throwing your next dinner party!

1. Invitation list

When hosting an intimate dinner party, it’s essential to have an accurate guest count. We recommend sending out invitations at least two weeks in advance and requesting guests to RSVP no later than a week before the event. Grocery shopping becomes much easier when you have ample time to prep, plan your menu and portions!

2. Setting the right mood

A beautifully-set table is the canvas for a sumptuous meal. Fresh flowers make for a lovely centrepiece but for a more durable feature that also doubles as a conversation starter, try arranging an assortment of the Luminara Flameless Pillar Candles. The attractive realistic flameless candle will brighten your dining table instantly without the worry or risks associated with real candles.

Dine without the worry of food and wine stains on your table cloth when you use Garnier Thiebaut’s 100% two-ply twisted cotton as the linen for all your dishes. Made in France, the fine damask fabric is made with a special Green Sweet stain-resistant technology to protect the cotton from stains and make your life happier! The classy and bespoke designs available also add an instant touch of elegance to your dining table.

3. Dining utensils

As a general rule of thumb, no matter the formality of the event, set the silverware on the table in the order that it will be used, from the outside in. Dessert utensils should always be placed horizontally above the plate, or brought in later together with the dessert.

For cutlery that is functional enough for everyday use and also elegant enough for an intimate dinner gathering, the Safico Harlan series will do a perfect job. The simplest table setting will be transformed by the sleek elegance of the Harlan series from Safico to impress even the more particular connoisseurs! The high gloss polished finish features a simple and sleek design that will also mix well with your existing flatware pieces. A full range of coordinating Harlan pieces is also available if you are inclined!

4. Shop smart

Always be ready to improvise your menu. Whenever you are doing your grocery shopping, be on the look-out for products that are on markdown or promotion – you never know what you might find!

5. Hors D’oeuvres (Party appetizers)

When your guests start streaming in, don’t stress yourself if not all your dishes are complete. Having Hors D’oeuvres set out when guests arrive will give you some time to wrap up your cooking while they mingle and snack. An easy but delectable one would be to set a cheese platter with crackers and wine for guests to dive in before the actual dinner; even better if you have a visually appealing cheeseboard that could double as a beautiful centrepiece! If possible, place the platters at different spots around your living room/lounge area to prevent guests from crowding in one corner of the room.

6. Dinner

Before planning your dinner menu, ensure that you have checked with all your guests if they have any dietary restrictions or food allergies to prevent anyone from going hungry at dinnertime! To be on the safer side, it would also be best to prepare dishes that you’ve made before; i.e. tried and tested to minimize any hiccups on the actual day of cooking! Need some inspiration? Browse our recipe page for tons of ideas. Here are some of our favourites appetizers and main course:

Appetizers: Scallops in Buerr Blanc Sauce, Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Lemongrass and Coconut , Albondigas (Mealballs)
Main courses: Stuffed SousVide Boneless Chicken Leg, Crusted Herb Rack of Lamb

7. Sweet endings

End the night on a delightful, sweet note with the perfect dessert. If you would like to keep it simple, having beautifully decorated cupcakes or a sinful chocolate cake presented on a lovely cake stand would do the trick. Check out our dessert recipes for classics such as Chocolate Mocha Bundt Cake or a fancy individual Crunchy Hazelnut Chocolate Tartlets!

8. Drinks

Keep things simple and classy by going for wine and one signature cocktail. The Magisso Champagne Cooler will ensure that your drinks will be kept cool and chilled through-out your dinner. You can even write or design a personal message on the side of the ceramics with a chalk! The award-winning range of Magisso products can be found here.

9. Relax and have fun!

Last but not least, remember to relax and enjoy yourself with your guests! Enjoy their company, the atmosphere and the spread that you’ve put all the effort into preparing. It’s time to kick back and fun!

So, what’s on the menu of your next dinner party?

Be the Hari Raya Hostess (or Host!) with the Mostest

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Be the Hari Raya Hostess (or Host!) with the Mostest

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri! In this week’s guide, we share 7 useful hosting tips for this festive season.

1. Prepare ingredients in advance

Everyone knows food prep is one of the most tedious things to deal with, no matter how skilled you are as a home chef. Do your shopping and preparation 2 days in advance and make it a family affair! Be the boss of your kitchen and delegate tasks to spouses and siblings while children do simpler things like peel vegetables.

2. Accommodate dietary restrictions

When planning your menu, remember to include at least one child-friendly and vegetarian dish for your guests. Also, not everyone has a belly of fire like you do, so make sure you have a non-spicy dish in your arsenal. ToTT loves this recipe for pizza – just replace pepperoni with a halal option like chopped beef dendeng and you’re good to go. We also recommend getting your pizza done with Theo & Co.’s Pizza Perfector. You can thank us later.

3. Serve dishes in cookware

Instead of dishing out culinary creations on serving plates, why not serve them straight from the pan? You won’t just be saving time doing the dishes – pans keep food warm for longer and you’ll just have to place it back on the stove whenever you wish to reheat!

4. Beat the Heat with Detox Water

Chock full of vitamins, detox water makes a refreshing and colourful beverage that is sure to be a hit with your guests. Simply toss some slices of citrus fruit and cucumbers into filtered water and leave overnight.

5. Try a Chalkboard Menu

Chalkboard menus are an easy and inexpensive way of jazzing up potluck style feasts. Also, they save you from having to explain dishes over and over again to curious guests.

6. Label Cups

Here at ToTT, we’re all about doing our part for the environment. If you have to use disposable cups, use those made out of bioplastics and provide guests with a marker to label their cups. That way, you save the earth and your cups.

7. Kiddy Corner

Create a child-friendly corner of your house with toys and electronic gaming devices to keep the young ones busy.

8. Seal the meal

Got any leftovers or half-finished snacks from the day? Keep food fresh by sealing it in air-tight containers like the Large Pop-Top Storage Jar by Jamie Oliver, or Lexliving’s Silicone Flip Tight Lid Storage Box.

7 Foods You’re Reheating Wrongly

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7 Foods You’re Reheating Wrongly

Contrary to popular belief, reheating food isn’t idiot proof. Remember the times you popped leftovers in the microwave, only to realise your reheated meal was a pale shadow of yesterday’s dinner? Today, ToTT reveals the top 7 foods you’ve been reheating wrongly, and how you ought to be doing it.

1. Bread, Buns and Pastries

Microwaving baked goods removes their moisture, leaving your buns doughy and pastries stiff as steak. Instead, microwave bread and buns together with a cup of water for 30 seconds on medium heat, then pop them in the toaster for a few more minutes. Pastries can go directly in the toaster, but keep the heat in check!

2. Eggs

Reheating eggs is always a messy affair, and the results hardly ever taste good. Cook your eggs fresh only when you crave them, and your tastebuds will thank you for it.

3. Pasta

Firstly, store leftover pasta and sauce separately in the fridge so that the pasta doesn’t go soggy. When you wish to eat it, toss the pasta and sauce together in a pan and heat it with a little olive oil. That way, the flavour and texture of the original sauce is retained.

4. Rice

Rice can be reheated over the stove or in the microwave oven, and the method involved is fairly similar for both methods. Add a splash of water onto the rice before reheating, and give it a good fluff after 3-5 minutes.

5. Soup

Like rice, soup can be reheated conveniently in the microwave or on the stove. Just make sure to cover the bowl or pot with a lid so that the soup doesn’t dry up!

6. Meat, Poultry and Fish

Avoid heating any of these in the microwave oven. For meats, sauté on medium-high heat for 2 minutes with a drizzle of oil. Poultry and fish are better off shredded or flaked and eaten cold with salads.

7. Vegetables

If you’ve ever tried reheating vegetables in the microwave, you’ll know that leaves shrivel up and turn yellow while brightly coloured veggies lose their colour. Instead, sauté lightly on the stovetop, removing immediately when just heated.

Summer Picnic Must Haves

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Summer Picnic Must Haves

Salad, Sand and Sea

Whether you’re hitting the park or the beach, keep things super fresh with this handy salad container set. Westmark’s Salad Butler has a practical carrying handle, along with 4 clip locks and integrated transport container for the safe and clean carrying of your greens topped with your favourite dressing. With Salad Butler, take your salad from kitchen to coast with no fuss at all.

1. Kueh Dadar

A Sink your teeth in a local Peranakan delicacy made from pandan flavoured crepes with shredded Gula Melaka coconut filling.This sweet coconut stuffed pancake roll is usually served as a snack at tea time that goes wonderfully well with coffee or tea!

Recommended equipment: Nordic Ware Traditional French Steel Crepe Pan

Pack It and Bag It

Pack light with Lexngo’s Silicone Collapsible Lunch Box. Made of food-safe silicone, this lunch box is perfect for transporting healthy meals or for food storage. It has two compartments which allow for separate food management of fruits, salads, and your main course. The unique 3-in-1 spork utensil conveniently stores inside the airtight cover. For space-saving storage simply collapse the flexible silicone container to 1/2 the size.

Super Sandwiches 

Ditch your usual plastic sandwich bags for a greener and healthier option. These Paper Snack and Sandwich Bags by If You Care are made in Sweden from the unbleached pulp of Scandinavian spruce trees – a natural, renewable resource. If You Care Snack and Sandwich Bags are also greaseproof, and provide a natural barrier which prevents grease or fat from penetrating.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Finally, wash down your scrumptious picnic spread with ice-cold lemonade in these Toot Sweet Blue Party Cups by Meri Meri. Each packet contains a dozen 266ml hot or cold cups. The blue striped pattern is perfect for parties and picnics, so grab a stack for your picnic basket today! Also available in pink.

6 Ways to Green Up Your Kitchen

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6 Ways to Green Up Your Kitchen

World Environment Day (June 5) is upon us! In this week’s guide, ToTT shows you 6 simple and practical ways to love the earth right from your kitchen.

1. The Incredible Bulk

Sometimes, more is more. Cooking and baking in bulk requires less appliance energy than if you were to cook each meal separately, so plan your meals in advance and whip them up at one go. Freeze them when you’re done and reheat for fuss-free lunches and dinners throughout the week. Easy peasy! ToTT loves these healthy, simple and delicious weekly guides by The Domestic Geek.

Also, keeping your freezer full reduces the amount of cold air space in your fridge that needs to be exchanged with warm air from your kitchen. That way, you save electricity and your fridge gets to chill, literally!

2. Say NO to Paper Towels

Did you know that 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water are consumed just to make one ton of paper towels? The next time you reach for a piece to clean up a small spill, think of the hefty price the environment had to pay for it. ToTT recommends using microfibre or cloth towels from sustainable sources because they minimise waste and reduce carbon footprint. Simply toss into the washing machine with your laundry at the end of the day after using, and voila, fresh clean towels the next morning!

3. Invest in Quality Kitchenware

Scrimping on kitchenware might make sense if you’re a new homeowner on a tight budget, but investing in quality items is more cost effective in the long run. Instead of replacing worn out pots and pans every few years or less, buy cast iron or copper cookware that can withstand the test of time. If handled properly, these can last for generations so you’ll ultimately be getting more bang for your buck! Not to mention, you’ll score lots of environmental karma points by minimising waste from disposing old products and packaging.

4. The Pressure is ON!

Slash your utility bills by cooking with a pressure cooker. Gas stoves guzzle energy, so use more energy efficient methods like pressure cooking to reduce the energy consumption of your stove significantly. A pressure cooker gets you the results of regular stovetop cooking in half the time, leaving you with more time for everything else. What’s there not to love about flavourful soups and tender meats in just an hour?

5. Make Your Own Compost Bin

Turn kitchen scraps into garden gold by making your own compost with leftovers and fallen leaves. Purchase a compost bin or make one yourself, and return Mother Earth what she gave you. Even if you don’t compost, check out how you can use kitchen scraps like eggshells, fruit peels and coffee grounds here.

6. Ditch the Disposables

You know the drill, cut down on plastic bags by using foldable shopping bags and opt for reusable cutlery and tableware whenever you can, even for baking. Once you’ve done that, replace the rest of your disposables with those made out of earth-friendly materials like bio-plastics and recycled, unbleached paper

7 Unexpected Foods You Can Cook with a Waffle Maker

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7 Unexpected Foods You Can Cook with a Waffle Maker

7 Unexpected Foods You Can Cook with a Waffle Maker

Celebrate International Waffle Day (25th Mar) with a twist! With a bit of imagination, a waffle maker can be much more! Here are 7 wacky ideas that you normally would not use a waffle maker for:

1. Maple-glazed Bacon
Slather some maple glaze over the bacon, stick it in the waffle iron to cook, and you’re in business!

2. Scrambled Eggs
What goes better with bacon and waffles? Just whisk an egg or two in a bowl and pour it onto the waffle iron. Season generously and cover and cook for 1 to 3 minutes. Serve it with the maple glazed bacon and fluffy waffles – breakfast is served!

3. Cinnamon Rolls
Sticky, fluffy and undeniably addictive. Need we say more? Just grab a box of packaged cinnamon rolls and slap them on the waffle iron for 2.5 to 3 minutes. Be careful though, they become a bit too hard and crunchy if you cook it for too long.

4. Brownie Sundae
A classic favourite with a twist! Substitute the standard waffle batter for a brownie batter, cook it like how you would a regular and serve with generous scoops of your favourite ice cream! Pure bliss.

5. Hash Browns
Another delicious breakfast favourite. Slap the hash browns on the waffle iron and it will crisp up beautifully on both sides, while ensuring your potato stays fluffy and warm on the inside. Remember to squeeze the moisture out of the potatoes or else the hash browns will not crisp up properly and you’ll end up with sad, soggy hash browns!

6. Margherita Pizza
Cooking a pizza in a waffle iron gives it an extra crispy ridged crust and tiny wells for the pizza sauce and melting cheese. Absolutely heavenly. Roll out your pizza dough, brush both sides with olive oil and slap it on the waffle iron. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Spread the tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, place the pizza back on the waffle iron and hold the top of the iron just over the pizza until the cheese melts. Garnish with basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Dig in!

7. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are the ultimate comfort food. Start by buttering 2 slices of bread on one side. Place one slice of bread butter-side down onto the waffle iron, place cheese on and then cover with the other slice of bread, butter-side up. Close the lid firmly and cook until golden.

Grate Tips: Guide to Serving Cheese!

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Grate Tips: Guide to Serving Cheese!

Say ‘Cheese’!

The Americans serve cheese as a starter, the French before dessert and the English as the grand finale of a meal. Such indulgence is usually enjoyed during fine dining or parties where you want a centrepiece for your guests to enjoy. If you have not had cheese for your gatherings, you don’t know what you are missing!

1) Serving size
A general rule is to serve 100 to 120 grams per person. As a light appetizer, an exquisite cheese is sufficient. For a main party dish, the recommended minimum would be three types or a maximum of six. Try not to overwhelm your guests’ taste buds as cheeses have complex flavours. Always serve the cheese at room temperature when it is at its natural texture. Keep it unrefrigerated for at least an hour before serving.

2) What kind of cheese should be presented on my cheese platter?
For a basic variety, we usually go for a soft cheese, a firm cheese and a blue vein cheese so guests can enjoy the different textures. The visual presentation will also be more distinct with the different colours and shape of the cheeses.
Here is a list of cheese selection by their textures.

Types of cheese Common ones found
Soft Cottage or farmer’s cheese, young goat’s cheese, Brie, Camembert
Semi-soft Bel Paese, Stilton, Pecorino Toscano or Havarti
Semi-firm Asiago, Roquefort, Fontina, Edam, Gouda or Mahon
Hard Cheddar, Colby, Blue Cheshire or Tête de Moine
Extra hard Parmigiano Reggiano and Mimoulette

Choose a theme for your cheese platter, such as French, Swiss or American and select your cheeses and decorate accordingly.

3) Which wine pairings are appropriate?
One or two different wines are recommended. Fresh cheeses pair well with Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir, blue cheeses with Sauternes and Port, and aged cheeses with Zinfandel or Burgundy. When in doubt, choosing a wine from the same location as your cheese will not go wrong.

4) Decorations
It is scientifically proven that humans enjoy their food better when they look delicious! Turn your cheese board into edible art by garnishing it with sides such as figs, grapes, apples, tomatoes, celery and dried berries to add colour and flavour. Accompaniments like bread and crackers can also be part of the decorations. Make sure your bread and crackers are not too salty or strong which can compromise the taste of the cheese.

5) Specialized tools?
Get the full cheese experience with specialised serving tools!
A cheese board should be the first item you look at. Choose from a wide array of materials; with those made of wood being the most common. Alternatives include marble slabs, ceramic and glass cake platters, shallow bowls or plates.
Cheese knives are a must. A long knife with the forked tip is good for cutting softer cheese and doubles as a spreader.  At times, you’ll see it with holes down the blade which helps keep the cheese from sticking to the blade. It can be used to chip away at harder cheeses and spear individual portions of cheese. The spade-shaped knife has a sharp edge for cutting hard cheese into slices. The pointed fork is good for chipping away at harder, aged cheeses like Cheddar and blue cheeses like Stilton, and transferring cheese from the board to individual plates. The flat knife that looks like a shovel is good for cutting cheese into cubes or slices, or as a spatula to transfer the cheese to a plate. The small rounded knife is a spreader for soft cheeses. Always use a different knife for each type of cheese so that the flavours do not mix.

Essential Grilling Tools for the Perfect Cook-Out

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Essential Grilling Tools for the Perfect Cook-Out

A barbecue party is a convenient and fun way of hosting a gathering. To ensure things go smoothly, it’s always good to be prepared! Specialised grilling tools that can withstand constant close contact to high heat should definitely be on your checklist. Ideally, these tools have long handles so you can avoid a situation of overheated food or risked getting burnt.

Here is a rundown of must-haves for your ultimate barbeque cook-out:

1) Tongs
A good pair of tongs ensures you have good grip on your food.  It should also be easy to squeeze and bounce back quickly. Have at least two tongs — one for moving charcoal or adjusting the hot grill grates and another for handling food items. Tongs with scalloped edges and non-slip rubber handles are ideal.

2) Spatula
A good spatula for grilling should have a deep offset handle that allows you to slip food under easily and keeps delicate food like fish from being damaged in the process. Silicone and metal spatulas are recommended for this purpose as they are heat-resistant and sturdy enough to lift heavier food items. Get one with a large blade so that fish fillets can fit comfortably and be flipped over easily.

3) Skewer
Skewers comes in either metal or bamboo versions. If you opt for metal skewers, choose a flat blade design as it will not spin when you flip the skewer. Make sure your skewers come with heat-resistant handles if you do not intend to get mittens or hot pads for picking the skewers up.  For the best convenience, buy disposable bamboo skewers with various lengths packed in 50s or 100s.

4) Brushes
Brushes are handy for oiling the grill surface or flavouring grilled meats. It is good to use a specific one for a single purpose.  Using the same brush will dilute the intended flavour of the marinades. A typical brush is made from boar or plastic bristles which can potentially trap bacteria as they cannot be cleaned in the dishwasher and manual washing might not be thorough enough. Newer and more modern brushes today are made from dishwasher-safe silicone and are more importantly, heat-resistant.

5) Mittens/Gloves
For better heat protection, wear a glove or mitten. Not all kitchen gloves are suitable for a hot grill. Mittens made of cloth or suede has to be thick and heat-resistant certified. Fire-retardant fabrics make better choices since there would be actual contact with fire. Silicone gloves are ideal as they are dishwasher safe and will not catch fire.

6) Instant-read thermometer
The difference between a perfectly cooked piece of meat and a stomach-ache can be a mere few degrees. Cook beef and lamb to at least 62 °C; pork at least 72 °C and poultry at least 75 °C. With an instant-read thermometer, every piece of meat leaving your grill can be of perfect doneness. Insert your thermometer into the thickest part of the meat for accuracy. Check your meat near the end of the recommended cooking time to avoid overcooking. Always remove your meat from the grill before it reaches the desired doneness as the meat will continue to cook after it is removed from the flame.

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