Wednesday, March 31

All Things Sweet and Sakura

My husband and I are in Japan to celebrate my birthday. What better way to celebrate than a foodie trip to Tokyo! It's only day two, and I've already discovered a number of great food experiences.

We're very fortunate that our trip coincides with the cherry blossom season, known as hanami. Whilst I was expecting to see all of Tokyo awash with the pink and white water colours of the sakura, I wasn't prepared to also find them in my tea cup and on my plate. The first experience was at a bakery in Ginza, where we were handed samples of sakura tea in small paper cups whilst we browsed the fragrant breads and cookies. The next was at lunch at a well-known soba (thin buckwheat noodle) restaurant, where we found sakura-flavoured soba as a seasonal special. I'd describe the taste as subtle bitter candy (without the sweetness). It was interesting, but I preferred the normal zaru soba, which was perfectly al dente and delicious dipped cold into a soba sauce.

Today was also a day for sweets! It started off with matcha (green tea powder) cookies that we bought in the bakery. These were crunchy and yet so creamy somehow! I imagine it's the result of just the right amount of butter and the fact that green tea powder is so fine. Later, at lunch, we had matcha ice cream with shirata masendai (a ball of rice pastry) and red bean. At dinner, although we didn't have dessert, the sweetness managed to sneak in early, in the form of sukiyaki (thinly sliced beef and vegetables cooked in sweet soy sauce on a hot plate) and shabu shabu (beef and vegetables again, but boiled in a hot clear broth, and dipped in a sweet sesame sauce). Where do I even start?! The sesame dipping sauce contained two kinds of sesame (I imagine black and white), peanuts, sake, ponzu soy sauce and milk. I was previously familiar with beef paired with peanuts, as in beef satay with peanut sauce, a Singaporean/Malaysian staple. But what surprised me was how much sesame complemented beef. Maybe Cinnamon (when she next makes her famous satay sauce for me) might add a little sesame paste in the mix? :)


Truffle (happily munching on matcha cookies)

Friday, March 26

Roti Canai

During our recent trip to DC, we went to Ten Temph for dinner - quite a formal, chi-chi restaurant serving Asian fusion. There were no other children except for ours, and the men wore suits, and the women too much make-up and many heads turned with a raised eyebrow or two to look at my little ones. In any case, the food was terrific and was enjoyed by this family of four. Apart from the half-hourly dropping of chopsticks, my troupe was well behaved and enjoyed the Asian fare that was ordered for the table to share.

My favorite dish was the Roti Canai served as an appetizer. Roti Canai is a South-East Asian dish made by Indian immigrants that goes by its alternative name of Murtabak in Singapore. Roti Canai is its Malaysian name. It is essentially layered bread, rolled multiple times, separated by copious amounts of oil, stuffed with curried lamb or chicken, served with saucy curry on the side. As a stroke of genius, this restaurant had substituted the traditional dough with simple filo pastry, and simply stuffed it with chicken curry. It was crispier than the original dish, and the butter of the french pastry added an unusual twist, and yet was a good complement to the curry on the inside.

Why a picture of the Kashi pack, you ask? Well, whilst at work last week, as I was chewing on the so-called protein bar (more like cardboard bar) to tide me over to lunch, I wished that I had a plate of Roti Canai instead.


Tuesday, March 23

Bento Box

When I think Bento Box, I think back to my Tokyo days. There was a good bento take-out on the way from the subway station back to my apartment near Koishikawa Park. That was a typical dinner for me. Boxed food with a compartment for meat, one for rice, one for a veg and a small one for pickle. 9 PM on a typical evening would usually find me looking up the board, reading the hiragana and katakana slowly, trying to figure out the special of the day. When my mother visited, she was shocked that I had bento dinners five days a week. Not so shocking for a single gal working long hours at an investment bank, right?

Anyway, last week in DC (warning to readers, please expect at least three more posts on my trip to DC), we discovered Teaism, a bento-box restaurant in Penn Quarter. We had just finished the Museum of Modern Art, and my husband was reading a list of restaurants from his iPhone. There was no doubt in my mind where I wanted to go for lunch.

My heart sank when I saw the line spilling out the door. It was 12:30 in the afternoon and I thought that there was no way we were going to get a table for the four of us. Thankfully, the line moved quickly, and many were actually ordering takeout. Thank goodness Americans eat lunch at their desks! We found a nice table in the basement next to the koi pond. If this had been Paris, no chance.

Everyone was happy with their bento. Mine had seared tuna with a liquid, yet still potent, wasabi sauce and a to-die-for sweet potato smothered in a sesame sauce. I will never forget this sweet potato, or maybe it was the sauce that dressed it that made it so irresistible. The sauce was creamy, smooth and yet nutty and the sweet potato was warm and delectable. I was glad I was my mother's daughter who also knew how to enjoy the simple things in life.

Ja ne!

Monday, March 22

A Taste of British Food

What my dear sister means when she says "Coleslaw and Yorkshire Pudding was one of the blog names we considered" is that it was one of the names she considered. I wasn't having anything to do with Yorkshire Pudding! However, I must admit that her description of the eggy, stretchy sails (almost panettone-like) made me start thinking about some of the simple pleasures of British cuisine.

Nowadays, in Britain (as in many other countries) the food being cooked daily in the kitchens from London to Edinburgh and Belfast to Cardiff is Italian pasta, Indian chicken curry, Spanish tortilla omelette and Chinese stir fry. But there is a tradition of British cooking that involves more than just fish and chips. I thought I would introduce some of my favourite dishes to our friends across the Pond.

1. Welsh Rarebit - I always have to start off explaining that this does not contain small, furry animals. This is a slice of toasted bread, topped with a smooth mixture of cheese, Worcestershire sauce and mustard (the exact ingredients can vary), all of which is then grilled. The magic is in the contrasts: the smooth, bechamel of the topping vs. the firm, crunchiness of the base; the mustard sharpness of the cheese vs. the rounded wholesomeness of the bread.

2. Steak and Ale Pie - I love English pies! And, for me, nothing beats this one. Come to think of it, it's almost a one-stop roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Tender cubes of beef with caramelised onions and mushrooms, in a hearty stew, topped with perfect pastry that you can dip into the gravy.

3. Sausages and Mash - British sausages are famous for their low meat content and high everything else content, but it's hard to beat the taste. Try them with buttered mash and a satisfying onion gravy.

4. Treacle Sponge with Custard - Why miss out the amazing desserts? Soft sponge soaked in dark syrupy treacle, and served swimming in hot custard. This is the height of comfort food.

5. Eton Mess - This dessert does look like it sounds (if you saw an Eton private school boy, you'd know what I mean). It's a mashed up mix of meringue, strawberries and cream. (And a dash or two of Campari doesn't hurt for the adults.)

It's not easy to come across good versions of tasty British dishes. But there are a few enterprises that are working to keep the cuisine alive. One of them in London is Canteen, which operates ... wait for it ... a chain of restaurants! (Hey, I'm all for people with good food concepts multiplying them! And they don't all have to be Wendy's, right?)

I'll leave you with a bit of trivia on the name 'Elephant and Castle'. This is an area of London, South of the Thames. There is sometimes confusion about what it could have to do with pachyderms and fortified structures. However, folk legend has it that the name is a corruption of the original name, which was 'Infanta de Castilla', the princess of the Spanish region of Castilla y Leon sent across the seas to marry King Edward the First.



Sunday, March 21

Coleslaw and Yorkshire Pudding...

... was one of the blog names we considered before stumbling upon Cinnamon and Truffle. Hence, on my recent trip to DC for Spring break, where I routinely forgot to photograph the great food that I had the pleasure of consuming, I decided to try out the Steak and Yorkshire Pudding at the Elephant and Castle. Before I get into the finer details of the Yorkshire Pudding, I would like to take 10 seconds to point out what a wonderful city DC is. Wide avenues, beautiful trees, open green spaces and beautiful architecture. My favorite thing about DC is the Smithsonian Institute that encompasses the numerous museums, free to one and all. What a wonderful use of tax-payers' money. No, honestly. I'd rather spend my 40% on art than on guns. I could very easily live there and will endeavor to draw Yorkshire Pudding...I mean move there with her husband.

So, Yorkshire Pudding, the dish, was delicious and the West Coast IPA that I ordered, Dogfish Head I believe, paired rather well with it. The steak was a little overcooked for my liking, but what I enjoyed were the sails of eggy, light and stretchy Yorkshire Pudding that went with it. There was a nice brown, onion based gravy that topped it all and brought it all together.

If you are interested in visiting the Elephant and Castle in DC, it is on Pennsylvania Avenue and gets very crowded during lunch. If you have little ones like I do, they have a good children's menu with real fish and chips (called Dora's fish and chips) and kid-sized shepherd's pie called Diego's meat and potatoes (or something like that).

Err, just googled Elephant and Castle - sorry to disappoint our readers, but it is a, gasp, chain! I have a theoretical aversion to chain restaurants, but must admit, I did enjoy our lunch at E&C.

Until next time,


Thursday, March 11


Hello and welcome!

We are Cinnamon and Truffle, two sisters separated by the Atlantic Ocean but united by our love of food. Cinnamon lives in Charlotte, North Carolina and Truffle lives in London, England. Together, we hope to share with you our experience of food. We will be blogging about anything related to our food experiences - recipes, ingredients, what worked, what didn't, why not, food provenance, growing your own herbs, health tips ... anything that grabs our interest about the wonderful world of food! So join us on our journey of exploration and celebration of the art of food. We hope you'll enjoy it and that you'll share your ideas and discoveries with us too.

Gastronomically yours,

Cinnamon & Truffle


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