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59 4th Ave
New York, NY, 10003

212-253-1343

Saffron 59 Catering is New York City's premier caterer and event planner specializing in Southeast Asian cuisine. For over 11 years, Saffron 59 has successfully orchestrated memorable affairs with attention to every detail.

Blog

Food Talk: Importance of Cooking with Herbs

Peter Cuce

It was 15 years ago this month that I have returned from my three years sabbatical living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I vouched that my next project with food will be prepared with lots of fresh fragrant aromatic herbs.

                                                                           Sumac

                                                                           Sumac

I wanted to share the knowledge of applying herbs with my audience and the importance of cooking with fresh delicate herbs. From allspice to sumac from perilla to parsley, it is an incredible enhancement to a dish without adding a lot of ingredients. One of my most popular flavorful Asian dishes, voted by CNN, is the Beef Rendang. Beef Rendang is a flavorful complex dish that originated from the Southern part of the Malay Peninsula. It includes many great herbs from curry leaves to kaffir lime leaves that are pounded with other essential herbs and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, star anise and a few more others that make this dish a favorite to many.

                                                    Allspice: zataar, mace, nigella and fennel

                                                    Allspice: zataar, mace, nigella and fennel

Why I name my catering company Saffron59, that a pinch of saffron sprigs deliver such an incredible subtle of taste from a simple risotto to seared diver scallops. The styles and stigmas that are derived from the flowers of crocus are used for seasoning and coloring make saffron the world's most exquisite and valuable spices.

                                                Lime leaves, turmeric, fenugreek and galangal

                                                Lime leaves, turmeric, fenugreek and galangal

Recently, I was fortunate to attend Stephen Orr's lecture and book signing of his new book, The New American Herbal at Brooklyn Botanical Garden. That afternoon in the garden reminded me that spring is here and soon there will be abundance of herbs in our garden and at market. It is a thorough, informative and non intimidating book that it is an ideal reading for both a gardener and a cook. 

Recipe: Beef Rendang

10 pounds boneless beef chuck (cut into cubes)

1/2 cup cooking oil

4 cinnamon sticks (about 2-inch long)

10 cloves

10 star anise

10 cardamom pods (bruised)

1 pound lemongrass (cut into 4-inch length and pounded)

4 cups thick unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup tamarind pulp (soak in warm water to steep then strain for the juice and discard pulp)

15 kaffir lime leaves (very finely sliced)

1 cup dessicated toasted coconut

1/2 cup sugar/palm sugar to taste

Salt to taste

Spice Paste

15 shallots

4 inch galangal

1/2 cup of minced lemongrass (white part only)

15 cloves garlic

4 inch ginger

15-20 dried chillies or 8 fresh Bird's Eye Chili

Instructions

Chop the spice paste ingredients and then blend it in a food processor until it turns to paste.

Heat the oil in a bottom-heavy pot, add the beef and then pounded lemongrass and stir, browning the meat.

Add the spice paste, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and cardamom and stir fry them until aromatic.

Be careful not to let them burn.

Add the coconut milk, tamarind juice, water, and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently.

Add the kaffir lime leaves, toasted coconut and sugar/palm sugar.

Turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is really tender and the cooking liquid has thickened and greatly reduced to gravy. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking or burning.

Add salt to taste. If necessary, add more sugar to taste. 

Serve with steamed rice or let cool and freeze for later.

Cocktail Recipe: Bringing the Tropics to you!

Irene Wong

Passion Fruit Fizz Tacquilla

Passion Fruit Fizz Tacquilla

With a few more weeks before we see the sign of spring-- you can bring the sunny mood of the tropics to you.  One of my all time favs this time of the year is a simple toss salad at a recent Oscar dinner party. Russian Kale Salad with Blood Orange. Make use of the abundance of citrus in the market now. Oranges, kumquats, limes, tangerines, or tangelo all add a kick to your dinner, along with an energetic boost of Vitamin C. 

Candied kumquat for the warm chocolate molten cake

Candied kumquat for the warm chocolate molten cake

Our signature dish takes on a twist with a regular kale salad: discard the vein of the kale and roll just the leafs of kale like a cigar and sliver them thin. Add in shaved fennel bulb and radicchio with olive oil, lemon juice and succulent wedges of blood orange. Topped with fresh cracked black pepper with toasted pistachio, there is a rustic texture that balances the light bitterness of the kale, and finishes off with sweet and tangy notes of the citrus and a hint of salt. It's a simple, delicious recipe with the burst of flavors for for your guests. 

From Tangerine to Tangelo

From Tangerine to Tangelo

Many other simple ways of incorporating citrus for your next meal, a squeeze of whole lemon juice onto thinly slices fresh fluke as ceviche or scoop out half of pink grapefruit on a piece of skirt steak  asada on a crispy tortilla. Guaranteed these dishes will get the winter blues out of anybody's. 

With the popularity of fun and delicious mix drinks. Here is the recipe of passion fruit drink we are experimenting at our studio.

Perk yourself up while you're winding down for the evening with a fun, aromatic tequila-mixed recipe from our mixologist, Calum, at Saffron59: 

Passion Fruit Cooler

7 1/2 oz. 100% Blue Agave Tequila (such as Sauza Honitos)

6 oz. Passion Fruit Puree

18 oz. Ginger Beer

4 1/2 oz. Cointreau

3 oz. Lime juice

Lime slice for garnish

Mix it all up and pour into glasses filled with ice. Enjoy!

Dip a frozen rock glasses rim on a plate of coconut shreds. Mix it in a pitcher and add a ginger beer upon making it and pour into a rock glasses filled with a nice chunk of square ice. Enjoy!

Tradition & Celebration: Chinese/Lunar New Year 2015

Irene Wong

Lion Dance symbolizes durability and wealth. (photo by IQ Remix)

Lion Dance symbolizes durability and wealth. (photo by IQ Remix)

The year of the Sheep begins night of the February 18th 2015; first day of Spring. As a little girl growing up with my paternal grandmother, the household is bustling a few weeks ahead shopping for new and bright outfits to wear for the New Year. My outfit will consists of red color for luck and good wealth. My parents will gather many treats, snacks and decorations for the Kitchen God from sweet red dates to cherry blossoms so that good reports will be sent to heaven the night before.

The streets are filled with the sound of firecrackers and greetings with lanterns lit in Chinatown part of Myanmar. Night markets are bustling making the best sales of the year before their only break of the year..

Then the New Year starts with the blessings and respecting of the elders of the family. Feast and festivities with giving out red envelopes (hon bao) will continue on with friends and close family members with abundance of my favorite dishes till the lantern festival, which takes place on the 15th day of Spring.

People born in the year of the Sheep are generally believed to be calm, gentle, mild-mannered, shy, stable. Most compatible with the Pig and the Dragon, but least compatible with the Rooster and the Tiger. Famous people born in a year of the Sheep include Michael Angelo, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Julia Roberts. 

As annual tradition, our kitchen is preparing symbolic dishes to carry on the authenticity along with contemporary twist for the festivity. Chinese New Year dinner celebrations are incomplete without symbolic dishes from whole Steamed Fish to E-Fu Mein-Longevity Noodle.

Like the nature of the Sheep, I am continuously adapting and flourished in any environment. New ideas and creativity are being explored everyday with my kitchen team for the inspiring celebrations into your dining room.

On behalf of my team at Saffron59 and I wish you the best of New Year.

The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year season, new cycle is well under way.

The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year season, new cycle is well under way.

Chinese Banquet Dinner I am featuring:

Eight Treasures Soup with Crabmeat, Scallop and Shrimp

Stuffed Pork Loin with Mustard Greens with Smothered Hoisin and Xiao Xing Wine

Roast Quails with bean thread and chestnut (served with pickles and a light vinegar sauce with bibb lettuce) 

Seafood Melody with Szechuan Red Peppers and Roasted Garlic (in bird nest basket bedded with Diver Scallops, Large Shrimp, Squid and Choy Sum)

Wok seared Maine Lobster with Black Bean and Roasted Garlic Sauce with Fat Choy

Steamed Whole Striped Bass with Julienned Crispy Ginger

Fresh Longevity Noodles with Shiitake and slivers of Pork (traditional in a celebration as symbol for long life)

Double Happiness Fried Rice with Sweet English Peas and Chive Buds

Dessert: Red Bean Soup with Tapioca Pears with Coconut Milk

 

Travel: The Making of Great Cuban Cigars

Irene Wong

Inspecting, sorting tobacco leaves in a well ventilated barn.

Inspecting, sorting tobacco leaves in a well ventilated barn.

During my two weeks in Cuba, I visited a few tobacco growers. Cigar is such an inextricable part of Cuban culture. After Columbus's voyage, tobacco had a major impact in Europe and brought the habit to major port cities; regard in Europe as having therapeutic qualities. After the revolution, the US embargo had a serious effect on the international sale of cigars (puros) but since the 1990s the fashion for cigar smoking has given a boost to sales.

Selecting 2 - 6 deveined filler leaves.

Selecting 2 - 6 deveined filler leaves.

At Finca Montesino, a third generation tobacco producer, I got the low down of this laborious time consuming process of making great cigars.  Ninety percent of the crop is sold to the government. The family can sell cigars from the 10% they are allowed to keep.  The Finca, farmhouse is located deep in the valley bottom filled with cultivated lands-mainly tobacco.  Picturesque Viñales Valley is truly a Paradise, quite spectacular and probably one of the most beautiful farm-valley landscapes I have seen. It is also one of Cuba's greatest natural attractions, declared a National Natural Monument for its remarkable landscapes surface where mogotes stand.  A magnificent Limestone formation with enormous caves with bats circling. 

Nicotiana, with a delicate fragrant floral scent, it is planted in their winter months December thru February with an average of 75 degrees.  This first part of the process, called curing- takes between 25 and 45 days and it varies based upon climatic conditions as well as the construction of a barn to store harvested tobacco. The curing process is manipulated based upon the type of tobacco, and the desired color of the leaf.

Anubis demonstrating the technique of rolling a great cigar.

Anubis demonstrating the technique of rolling a great cigar.

When rolling cigars, the tripa, which is only a few middle leaves are essential and selected in order to obtain particular flavor and has the most nicotine. The capa is the wrapper leaf on the outside of the cigar that gives the cigar its smooth, velvety look as well as its color. The capote, the binder leaf layer holds the inner part together and keeps it compact.

Appearance is critical to the individual cigar. The torcedor checks its diameter with a special gauge stamped with the various standard sizes established for every kind of cigar. Fatter cigar tends to have a fuller flavor, that most connoisseurs prefer. The best hand-rolled Cuban cigars benefit from aging, like fine wine. The third plantation we visited, their tobacco leaves are sprinkle with concoction of pineapple juice, lemon, honey water, cinnamon, and cognac for stronger flavor.

Cigars ready for shipment.

Cigars ready for shipment.

It is said that in the 18th century.  Catherine the Great of Russia, a heavy smoker, had her cigars wrapped with small bands of cloth so they would not leave stains on her fingers.  Her eccentricity soon became fashionable and a trend till today.

Check out these links for more info:

Cuba Vinales Guide

Pinal del Rio

Fabulous Story of Cuban Cigars

Cuban Old Clothes Made New

Cafe Laurent

Calle M, No 257 Penthouse; 53-7-832-6890

Dinner for two is around 54 CUC

Serves Cuban-Continental food on a tranquil terrace.

Dona Eutimia 

Callejon del Chorro, No 60-C, Plaza de la Catedral; 53-7-861-1332

Dinner for two is around 42 CUC

It's the place to go for down-home Cuban food in Old Havana.

Travel: My Journey to República de Cuba

Irene Wong

From our window, a glimpse of the Valley de Viñales

From our window, a glimpse of the Valley de Viñales

To those who have been following my blog since 2008, every year towards the end of our hectic season here at Saffron59, I usually choose to take a trip to a developing country just to remind ourselves during the bustling holiday season how fortunate we are living in the United States of America. 

This year we choose to go to República de Cuba for two weeks,  a country that our nation has embargoed and restricted from traveling since 1962. I also have the fascination of the magnificent preserved architecture, the system of organoponicos, organic urban farms that provide nutritious vegetable to the communities. It is a sustainable development using environmentally sound techniques to become self-sufficient in food after the Soviet Union collapse in 1991 without subsidized from the Soviet. The island is beautiful and with a fertile land that it is known to grow the best tobacco leaves in the world.

Nine minutes walk to center of the town in Vinerales

Nine minutes walk to center of the town in Vinerales

We met so many people and had many interesting conversations from tobacco farmers to doctors during the last two weeks that we spent in different parts of Cuba. Stayed in four of Casa Particulars and one hotel resort runned by the government in Trinidad. Several years ago, the government has eased up and many casa particulars and paladars (private restaurants) have opened up. Most of our hosts do go out of their way to suit our comfort level that we are used to in a developed country. Plenty of hot running water, electricity and the country is clean with great easy driving highways.  

We traveled with local buses, hired private cars and many taxi in the provinces.  Cars from Soviet era Lada to vintage convertibles Chevy from the 50's. Managed to get out and push a few times to get the cars started; fellows drivers always stop to check if we need help. There are a few good condition Cadillacs I heard.   

Everyone looked well fed, healthy as the government provides free healthcare and education -the country is known for their strength in medical schools and research. Overall we received very many positive attitudes and excitement for the normalization between the US and Cuba about to approach in the next several months to come.

Organoponicos were created in vacant lots, old parking lots and abandoned buildings.

Organoponicos were created in vacant lots, old parking lots and abandoned buildings.

Hello Irene!!!

I'm Giovanni, the guy you met in Trinidad, Cuba, at the restaurant "La Ceiba", under the branches of 400 yr old tree!!! Remember me? I hope you had a good flight to return to New York. It was so great honor to met you!

I want to tell you why we live over here in Trinidad, I mean, my kids, my wife and I. Me and my wife were born in Camaguey, a province at the middle east of Cuba, by the way, the largest one. Our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, were born in Trinidad. Both families were farmers, however, because they dont supported this regimen when some people risen against it in 60', after Castro took the power, they took away all their properties and put on jail; in a prison at Pinar del Rio, the western province in Cuba, to my grandfathers, and the rest of the family were put on a house in prison in Havana. They spent there 3 years, no trials, they were not criminals! 

So, then, they were moved to Tabor, a concentration camp in Camaguey province (by the way, were dozens of its), and there me and my wife and ours brothers and sisters were born. However, in the 2000 we got married and decided to move to Trinidad because we dont want that ours kids grew up in the same environment than us. So, over here were born ours sons, John and Jonathan. This is a part of my life history, a sad one, by the way. 

However, we are not focus on the past time, but in the future, so, we hope to get better some day! Well amigos, I'll be waiting so exciting your email back!!!

Best regards, 

Giovanni.

Classic cars parked by La Floridita hotel

Classic cars parked by La Floridita hotel

Fundraising Event: Season to give

Irene Wong

Another successful year for Friends Without a Border. Over 200 guests attended the 15th Annual FWAB photo auction to raise funds for the children hospital in Laos which will be opened this February 2015.

Founder of FWAB.org, Kenro Izu with volunteer Magarit Erb, photograph by Irving Penn in background.

Founder of FWAB.org, Kenro Izu with volunteer Magarit Erb, photograph by Irving Penn in background.

Many great eye opening photographs on site available for purchase and donated by supporters and 'friends" of the organization, ranging from Monica Denevan to Irving Penn Foundation. Photo aficionado like me and collectors were able to take home these incredible photographs at a fraction of the market price.

Dionne Anderson and Irene Khin Wong

Dionne Anderson and Irene Khin Wong

Rice Noodle Salad with Green Papaya, Radish and Holy Basil.

Rice Noodle Salad with Green Papaya, Radish and Holy Basil.

Guests tasted signature Crabmeat Slaw with toasted mustard seeds.

Guests tasted signature Crabmeat Slaw with toasted mustard seeds.

Staff from Ibid Auction.

Staff from Ibid Auction.

 Live Auction 2014.

 Live Auction 2014.

Bravo to the ongoing tireless team at Friends Without a Border. I am glad to be part of this incredible organization the past 10 years. I hope some of you can participate with me next year. For now I wish each and everyone of you a happy healthy new year.

Holiday: Sip and Cheer, Holiday Fiesta is here!

Irene Wong

I am having fun this holiday season with jolly spirit with a few fun delicious cocktails.

Our guests are still raving! 

It's been a hit when our mixologist spiced up the party with some of these fun exotic drinks at recent parties. Each guests get made to order drinks from our Mixologist Davide. With DJ George behind the music spinning Bolywood to Indie 80's music, jamming with guests at a venue in the Lower East Side. The evening is of course celebrated with our festive hors d'oeuvres and signature Asian-inspired cuisines

What's your favorite concoction you have been making? We love to expend our repertoire. 

Here are two recipes from us for your holiday parties. 

Sriracha Bloody Mary

Ingredients:

2 oz vodka

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Freshly grated horseradish

Kosher or Himalayan sea-salt

1 teaspoon Sriracha

Lime

Rub the glass rim with lime squeezed and dip onto Himalayan sea-salt on small plates to coat the rim. Combine the ingredients and mix with ice and shake in a cocktail shaker. Garnish with a celery stick.

Cranberry-Pomegranate Smash

Ingredients:

1/2 oz cranberry juice

1/2 oz pomegranate juice

fresh pomegranate seeds

3 oz tequila

1/2 ounce triple sec or cointreau

fresh squeezed lime juice

1 lime

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and strain thoroughly, and garnish with a piece on thin lime and top it with pomegranate seeds.

If you are expecting a large crowd, prepare ahead with a pitcher and just add ice in a shaker and serve immediately...

Holiday: Before Your Thanksgiving

Irene Wong

Nothing should go to waste as you are preparing for your Thanksgiving meal.

Many of us save leftover turkey meat for sandwiches or great tasting salads. I even use the carcass of the turkey and create a hearty congee by saving all the vegetable scraps during the preparation for my family's Thanksgiving dinner — from the outer leaves of the savoy cabbage to the stalks of Romanesco cauliflower.

The following day or two after Thanksgiving, I gather all the vegetable trimmings, throw them in a stock pot, fill up with water including the turkey carcass and make a nice rich stock. Turkey bones are where all the flavors are being trapped. Strain the stock and add two handfuls or rice and cook at low heat for half an hour or so unit the rice thickens the soup. If you have a piece of ginger, smash that in. You can add a few sprigs of bay leaves, sliced kale and diced some carrots for color.

Ladle the soup into a bowl and serve it right away with some fresh cracked black pepper and top it off with slivers of scallion. You will have created a nice delicious hearty bowl of rice soup for your family's lunch.

For Your Holiday Soirée

Peter Cuce

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
– Virginia Woolf

Dessert Station with Canelle and Almond Financiers

Are you planning an Asian-inspired holiday party or function for your company? A soirée at home? Is it a cocktail party with Asian tapas or hors d’oeuvres? A sit-down dinner? Let Saffron 59 cater your event as only we know how.

Our menus are inspired by far flung cuisines, from Hanoi to Mumbai, from Singapore to Brooklyn Heights. Whether you desire gluten free, vegan or a meat lover's delight, we have you covered using local, seasonal ingredients. 

Saffron 59 will create a dazzling celebration with our renowned passion for delicious flavors and flair. Our trademark selections of exciting global-themed cocktails and special alluring tastes will make your party the talk of anyone’s.

Please contact us with any questions or ask us for a quote.

Chicken Wontons with Asian Celery Leaves

Chicken Wontons with Asian Celery Leaves

Grilled Skirt Steak with Garlic Parsley Pesto

Cocktail Party Setting

Based on last year’s demand, here are some of the most requested dishes along with some of our all time favorites:

  • Wontons with Chinese Celery and Black Mushrooms
  • Taro Cakes with Leeks, Green Onion and River Shrimp
  • Heirloom Pumpkin Ravioli with Pan-Fried Crepes (with Coconut Kashmiri Red Curry Dipping Sauce)
  • Charred Skirt Steak Marinated with Garlic Parsley
  • Roast Kerala Lamb with Green Chile, Curry Leaves and Ginger
  • Pan-Seared Wild Salmon with Tamarind Pulp and Mustard Seeds
  • Forbidden Rice with Asparagus, Peas, Wild Mushrooms and Scallions

 

 

Irene’s succulent scallops, just in time for fall!

Irene Wong

I am often asked by our patrons how we get our delicious scallops so nice and brown. We buy our sustainable plump scallops fresh from Maine fishermen or Long Island fishermen in the summer and serve them within 24 hours. That means no time for freezing or packing in water.

Simply seared on each side for a minute or so

Simply seared on each side for a minute or so

With a few sprigs of fresh thyme, crushed garlic, peppercorn and a sprinkle of sea salt, these scallops are just simply delicious! Marinate and let sit. Brush the sea scallops with olive oil over a hot grill or pan sear them. I slap them in a hot sizzling pan for a minute or so on each side.

Ingredients to marinate the scallops

Ingredients to marinate the scallops

With the extension of warm weather, we fired up the charcoal grill which brings the taste up another notch. Grilling scallops will seal in the ocean saltiness and create a burst of flavor.

Marinated Scallops

Marinated Scallops

Travel: My Staycation

Sandy Campbell

We’ve done a lot of traveling to really interesting places all over the world, but this summer we visited the U.S.A. Calling it our staycation, we climbed into the car and headed south, toward Asheville, North Carolina. With only the barest of itineraries — an overnight at a Virginia plantation and a few wet cold nights in a log cabin by the Blue Ridge Mountains — we took a leisurely drive down the Skyline Drive.

We pledged — to ourselves — that we wouldn’t be connected, no internet. Well, only when we got lost. We went dark. Our aim was to get up in the morning and do whatever popped into our heads. We took strenuous hikes, foraged for mushrooms and visited local farms, for produce and fruits.

With the ringer on our iPhone off, we put out an “out of the office” message in our emails and stopped reading the newspaper for a while, and the world didn’t stop. We knew our friends and family would still be there when we got back. And so it was.

Please share with me your staycation ideas.

No to Bottled Water and Sodas!

Irene Khin Wong

Lemon Verbena with lemon and zests by Irene Khin Wong

Lemon Verbena with lemon and zests by Irene Khin Wong

One of my favorite ways to quench my thirst this summer is creating refreshing cold iced tea or flavored water. In my own home, I picked Lemon Verbena sprigs from my window sill, add zests of one lemon and lemon slices into a pitcher of water. It keeps up to 5 days in fridge. Coming in from the scorching heat with a pitcher of cold refreshing infused water waiting, it is big relief. Also it is great to make few batches to greet unexpected guests or entertain large summer parties.

At recent bat mitzvah, the host was very grateful that we prepared pitchers of the cucumber basil water ready before the ceremony. Their guests were able to help themselves throughout the afternoon, and easy on the environment with plastic bottles.

Passionfruit Spritzer by Saffron 59

Passionfruit Spritzer by Saffron 59

Here is the recipe for the refreshing

Cucumber Basil Drink

Ingredients:

  • 10 shots spring water
  • 1 shot fresh lime juice
  • 6 small sprigs of basil (plus 2 for garnish)
  • 6 slices of fresh cucumber (plus 4 for garnish
  • 2 slices of fresh lime (plus 2 for garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Add the  basil, cucumber, and lime slices to the shaker.
  2. Muddle the ingredients in the bottom of the shaker until thoroughly crushed.
  3. Add the spring water, lime juice, and ice to above the level of the liquid and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
  4. Strain the mixture into tall glasses containing large cubes of ice and garnish with remaining basil, cucumber, or lime slices. You can substitute with Prosecco or Chardonnay wine in lieu of water.

I like to hear from you what your favorite summer drinks you have been making.

Summer Bouillabaisse

Irene Khin Wong

This is the season for serving fish and shellfish for your summer gathering.

Get your cookware ready and put together fresh ingredients along with these nutritious and light gems from the sea from your local fish mongers.

This delicious dish can be cooked ahead so that you can enjoy your day.  Your guests won't have to wait too long for this flavorful dish, and they can sip the summer cocktails such as Riesling Sangria with lychee to start.

Green Curry Bouillabaise using local and fresh seafood

Green Curry Bouillabaise using local and fresh seafood

Bouillabaise with Green Curry Paste
(yield 6 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 lb fish (skate wings filet) or white fish such as bass, cod
  • 1 lb shrimp #18-21 count
  • 12 pieces little neck clams, optional
  • 2 lb mussels, cleaned
  • 2 lb sea scallops
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons green curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 lb shallot,  minced
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons  paprika
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 pieces of kaffir lime leaves, slivered, optional

Instructions:

  1. Brown the shallot and add garlic and ginger with 1/8 cup oil. Stir in green curry paste and coconut milk and bring to simmer. Add 2 cups vegetable stock and let it simmer for additional 10 mins and add fish sauce, salt and pepper to taste and put aside.
  2. Marinate the fish, shrimp and scallops with garlic, ginger, salt and pepper.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat the rest of the oil, sear the fish and shrimp separately by adding turmeric, paprika and kaffir lime leaves. Set aside.
  4. In a separate pot, bring 1 cup of vegetable stock to a boil and add in mussels and rest of shell fish and stir for a few minutes in high heat till the shells opens, discard the unopened ones, add the green curry broth in.In a deep pasta bowl arrange nicely with the mussels and fish at bottom of the bowl and put the shrimp and scallops on the top along with a ladle full of hot broth.

Serve hot along with steamed Jasmine rice.

Behind the Scene: Wedding Planning 101

Irene Khin Wong

Planning your wedding should be fun and intimate with your loved ones and should not be breaking your bank.  Here are some of the suggestions from 12 years of wedding planning I have been producing.

Bang for Your Buck

Approximately fifty percent of total budget should go to the reception and the rest for flowers, photo/video, and entertainment/music. Compile all your notes, images and ideas from magazine cut outs that you want to discuss with your vendors. You should be able to be hands to hands with the vendors from the day you book with them till the day of your wedding.

During this process, your caterer and planner should be your most-trusted experts (friends), they will assist you in making thorough lists of crucial priorities.

Color Scheme

Your wedding décor can be gorgeous and festive without putting a dent in your pocket. By choosing the right color scheme, as cotton linen comes in different colors; so why not make it festive and save money instead of large floral arrangements?

Tasting

When considering style of service whether buffet or plated, both will cost equally since you will still need some number of staff to man the buffet station and guests come back for more tastings. Why not consider a few tastings stations using smaller plates?

Mother Nature

Weather is very unpredictable, you should listen to Mother Nature especially if you plan to do outdoor wedding. However, if you are considering less costly, planning a winter white wedding can save you 20 percent. When planning to set up, it will put you at ease to make sure there is ample time to get to the venue. For larger wedding, we recommend setting up the day before.

It's Your Day

There seems to be little time and so much to do, so delegating your close friends or family members is best option. They should attend every meetings so they are familiar with the wedding. Remember, let everyone work for you! It’s your wedding day. Wedding cake may tumble, your maid of honor missed her flight, you are simply going to have a good time.

Food Talk: The Other Incredible Nut, Coconut

Irene Khin Wong

After visiting many Asian and Latin countries over the past years, I see how essential coconuts are in tropical culture. With many purposes, this marvelous fruit has many various stages of growth.

Milk of the coconut is the key in making delicious curries and enhancing many dishes and soups. The creamy texture brings its thickness and richness in flavors. There's coconut meat and its milk in Beef Rendang, which has been one of my signature dishes that I cook often, one of main ingredients of the 26 for this rich flavorful dish.

Growing up in Burma (Myanmar), natural coconut oil in shampoo gives a nice sheen on the long  beautiful hair of Burmese ladies and also as a home made natural sunscreen - saving our skin from sunburn. In the spring time, farmers use the processed coconut husk and the fiber as part of the soil mixture for sowing seeds. The dried coconut husk is used to stuff mattresses at an orphanage that I have been supporting for over ten years now to supplement their income. In homes, many also use it as fuel.

The bed frame I recently purchased is made with coconut trunks which is sustainable alternative to wood.

On one of my visits to Vietnam on a scorching hot afternoon in Ho Chi Minh City, the coconut vendor on the street was a life saver. The cold coconut water was a quick thirst quencher, a refreshing  and nutritional energy boost. I also noticed coconut is a popular key ingredient in everything from energy bars to the Greek yogurt that I consumed on my recent trekking trip in Colombia.  

Coconut has so many benefits — it is rich in protein, contains enormous fiber and is high in Vitamin E — that I am sure there will be more products with coconut appearing soon in the market.

Click here to view the delicious Amok Fish recipe.

Food & Travel: 2014 Darjeeling First Flush Is In!

Irene Khin Wong

I am an aficionado of great tea. When I found out my good friend Sebastian, who is a tea connoisseur, just returned with the first flush of Darjeeling, I just had to walk over for a tasting; luckily his tasting room is not too far from my studio. I have been on several trips with Mr. Beckwith and tasted some remarkable tea. Here is the recent newsletter he published.

Picking tea leaves at the estate

Picking tea leaves at the estate

It’s one of the season’s most anticipated harvests: Darjeeling First Flush has arrived! This mountainous region in West Bengal, India, has been producing this heralded spring delight since the mid-1800s. One of the lightest-bodied styles of black tea, first flushes are the initial picking of the year, and are sought out for their refreshing balance of floral and vegetal flavors.

Tea pickers leaving after a day’s work

Tea pickers leaving after a day’s work

Our 2014 Darjeeling First Flush, Goomtee Estate has beautiful notes of balsam and marigold; try steeping in a vessel like our side-handled glass pot to watch the liquor deepen to a rich golden infusion. Enjoy this limited lot while it lasts!

Travel: Coffee Plantations and More

Irene Khin Wong

Because of the media hype about Burma this winter -and the huge influx of tourists- I decided to take a detour and spend three weeks in Colombia. Spending some time at my father's teak plantations in Taungoo, Myanmar; during school breaks as a child, I've always fascinated by the plantation lifestyle and enjoy the subtropical climate.

More of Tropical Shots at our flickr page

More of Tropical Shots at our flickr page

Four winding hours from Medellin, through carpets of guavas, avocados and bananas, lies Quindio, the highlight of my trip. We rented a house by the emerald green mountain of Los Nevados, within an avocado plantation, only a stone's throw from the quaint colonial town of Salento.

An early morning hike in the breathtaking Valel de Cocora brought palm trees ten stories high; the wax palm, indigenous to the high-altitude Andes. We continued to enjoy the region's flora and fauna as we hiked through the Acaime until dusk, humming birds buzzing around us, stopping for a spectacular views of the valley. I could have easily stayed another week.

I know some of you have been to Colombia pre and post Escobar era, I love to hear about your trip.

Sites and trips in Quindio:
Eje Cafetero
Finca Sacha Mama
Kasaguada Natural Reserve
Los Nevados National Park
Recuca Coffee Plantation

Celebration: Seven-Course Dinner at MOCA NY

Irene Khin Wong

Here are some of the behind the scene pictures for the $888 plate dinner for Museum of Chinese in America in New  York this past Monday.

Irene K. Wong with Pichet Ong

Irene K. Wong with Pichet Ong

Hey one of guests of honor is Ang Lee!

Hey one of guests of honor is Ang Lee!

MENU

  • Seared Chicken with Sesame and Jumbo Prawns in a taro basket (with caramelized walnuts and snow peas)  
  • Grilled Aged Rib Eye Steak — charred — topped with parsley garlic  pesto  
  • Shanghai Baby Bok Choy with  Xiao Sing Rice Wine and  How See — Dried Oyster (large Chinese mushroom)
  • Maine Lobster Laced with Ginger and Scallions (bedded with Fun See -glass noodle)
  • Steamed Stripe bass with sesame oil and Enoki Mushroom (wilted spring onion)
  • E-Fu Noodles with Black Mushroom burnt yellow chive (Longevity egg noodle with Choy Sum vegetable)
  • Double Happiness Fried Rice with baby corn and English peas (with Shallot Crisp)

Celebration: Chinese New Year 2014

Irene Khin Wong

As the Lunar New Year approaching, my family and friends are already anxious in planning for the feast.  Since I was a little girl, that means choosing and getting new outfits to wear and place sweet offerings to the "kitchen god" so that sweet reports get to heaven what my family has done throughout the year.

Since Chinese Americans came from different regions of China and other parts of Asia too such as Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, the traditional feast during Chinese New Year in America for most of us is unique and varied to each group.

Symbolic dishes such as longevity noodles and fresh whole fish represent long life and prosperity. Dumplings are served representing abundance of "golden nuggets".  For this year, the festivities will start on January 31st.  My circle of friends will mark the celebrating for 15 days, feasting with Asian Tapas style — inspired with ingredients such as Kalamansi, Xaoshing wine, Gojuchang  are just some of many treats which will be made to welcome the “year of the horse.”

Gift with Double Happiness envelopes with lucky money

Gift with Double Happiness envelopes with lucky money

Heritage: Memory of My Grand Father's Duck Noodle

Irene Khin Wong

An email from a good friend:

Irene,

What's so special about your dish, Street Market Noodles with Duck, is how it triggers so many memories-my own fondness for the dish, nostalgia for your restaurant, The Road to Mandalay. Our friendship which goes back to the days of the restaurant, and most touchingly, your memories of food and family in Myanmar. It's a trip down sense memory lane.

Larry

Recently a dear friend from the days of my first restaurant in New York, The Road to Mandalay, finally tied the knot after being together for 25 years. They asked me to make food for their wedding reception. Among the 7 dishes they requested was my grandfather's Street Market Noodles with Duck, a dish my grandfather cooked at the night market in Yangon, Myanmar.

It was sold as supper after 9pm. People would stroll into the market and either sit on wooden stools to eat it or have him tie the noodles up into a bundle like a tamale with  banana leaf as a take-out snack. I was only a few years old when I first tasted the dish. A garlicky noodle dish as simple as could be, it is seared with duck fat, garlic oil, fresh egg noodles, sliced duck, minced spring onion and crispy fried garlic.

Growing up I remember how my family and friends would rave about these noodles. It was always a special treat on the day when the aroma of garlic would permeate the house, and you could hear noodles sauteing on the wok. When I opened my restaurant, Road to Mandalay, I introduced the dish to New York. I got the same reaction from my customers, people like the rocker, Lenny Kravits and the Persian filmmaker and artist, Shirin Neshat, as I did from my family in Myanmar.

When I closed Road to Mandalay I took a sabbatical in Asia, and then came back and launched Saffron 59. As part of my comprehensive menu I offered an array of noodle dishes but never Street Market Noodles with Duck — until a few days ago. After receiving rave reviews from the wedding party guests, I realized it was time to consider adding my grandfather's celebrated noodle dish to the menu.

Ingredients for my grandfather's famous duck noodle, a photo by Saffron 59 on Flickr.

Duck Noodle

Ingredients:

  • 5 lb Duck Breast scored strips (or from your local butcher)
  • 4 bulbs of garlic, peeled and minced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 3 lb fresh egg noodles
  • 8 bunches of spring onions, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups of oil

Method:

  1. Fry the garlic in 1 1/2 cups of oil til the garlic get medium brown and separate on paper towel, save the oil.
  2. Sear the duck, skin down til medium rare and sliced into strips, reserved the oil.
  3. Fill up wok with water and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the noodles and cook for 5 minutes til the pasta surfaced.
  5. Drain well and toss with a drizzle of garlic oil.
  6. Heat the wok and add garlic oil, duck fat, add the spring onions and toss in the noodle and duck meat.
  7. Toss some soy sauce, salt and black pepper to taste.
  8. Stir fry for a minute or two til all the ingredients are incorporated and add the fried garlic chips.
  9. Garnish with some more fried garlic and spring onions.

Yield: 30 guests
*we recommend to wok seared the noodle in batches

Have a happy holiday to you and to your loved ones!