|Food for thought: To save or not to save?||Posted by: Chi Anh | May 11, 2013|
For the past year, all the talk has been revolving around the fact that the Vietnam economy condition is so bad, that no matter what you do, your money is probably better sitting in the bank. Face it, how many businesses nowadays make more than 9% profit/year? I would be crying happy tears if my business even broke even. Instead, if you put money in the bank, you will get guaranteed 9%/annum in interest. Good deal, yes?
Instead I put all my life savings and pension into my business, work 10 times harder than before, completely sacrificed my social life, and still feel like the richest girl alive. And this, is what I call my “return on investment”. I invested not in my business, but in people. Every person in Kitchen Art, came in at the start as lost as me, and together, we have grown so strong together and became something bigger than ourselves. I invested in friendship, in trust, in building a space where we can proudly say we only do what we want to do, and make things we want to see happen, happen. I am not a social activist, but in the little space that I can control, I want every single employee of mine to feel loved, valued, and appreciated for being who they are. Every member in my team has his/her own quirky ways, talents, imperfections, and strengths. But together, we build something beautiful and real. Yes, we have the pressure to make ends meet, to keep the company afloat, but we put a bigger pressure on ourselves to become better at what we love doing, and doing things rightfully and passionately, so that people can look at us and say, “thank you for being here, you made our lives better”.
So to all the realists out there who say, your money is better sitting in the bank, I say, take out your savings, spend it on building something entirely and wholly yours, be it your own business, your own little garden, or a photography studio. Create, Share, Give, and you shall receive. If you are out of options to spend your money on, spend it on people, on charity, on shopping (please, help the economy by spending!). Because all that, will bring you greater interest and returns than any bank could. It brings you joy and fulfillment. It makes people around you happy (because you are happy), and ultimately, it helps build a healthier economy. With all that money in the bank, what do we really get out of it? Think about it. It is only benefiting banks and investors who absolutely have no interest in your growth and personal happiness. Is it worth that 9% (and declining) interest? Are you really getting security that you think you are getting?
This is the first entry on this blog that is not food related, but it is food for thought – no pun intended. After a year and a half on my journey and struggle towards my dream that is still in the making, I experienced and learnt so much, that I just can’t bear to keep them to myself any longer. I want to start recording it and remember all the ups and downs I went through to get there. From now on, I will start sharing all the struggles, pain, joy and all that jazz of being an entrepreneur in a country as unpredictable as Vietnam. But don’t worry, I will still talk about Food because it is still pretty much the center of my attention and passion. After all, it’s how this all started.
Oh, and did I mention, my “Sweet Kitchens” book with Anh Nguyen is finally coming out in June? It is going to print, after almost a year since the first day me and Anh talked about the idea of the book. But that’s not all, the book is going to launch and sell at our cafe, The KAfe – Kitchen Art’s first Cafe, to open in Hanoi this July. I have been dreaming about opening my own cafe since as long as I could remember. I would never dare to think it would happen this soon. But more about that next time. For now, let’s focus on the fact that I have achieved all this by NOT leaving my money in the bank .
I hope my bank won’t call me tomorrow to complain about this.
PS: to welcome summer, here is a picture of me and the fresh vanilla ice-cream we made for our upcoming e-magazine Ice-cream special. It is going to be a hot summer indeed.
|Posted in Food for thought ||
|2012 in Review||Posted by: Chi Anh | December 31, 2012|
It is New Year’s Eve, and I’m lying in bed trying to stay warm in my blanket. This is not exactly what I had in mind or planned for my new year’s eve this year. At this very moment I am supposed to be counting down with my friends at the Opera House, but I decided to stay home to accompany my Mom and my Dad who’s not feeling well. We watched “New Year’s Eve” on HBO together. Dad liked it, lol. The only part I could take away from that movie was the phrase: “Stop worrying about all the ‘what ifs’ and start thinking about ‘what will be’… But before we get to “what will be”, let’s think about “what was”. So here’s a little recap of my 2012 (with the help of curation by Anh Nguyen):
1. Kitchen Art Opening
You probably saw it all over my entries earlier this year, but yes – it is my top highlight of the year and I’m still enjoying the feeling of stepping into my store and studio every morning and greeting my lovely staff. I can’t imagine my day to start any differently now. I’m living the dream and loving it to bits! Can’t begin to describe how much I love my team too, who have become a loving family of mine who share my dreams and beliefs.
2. “Meeting” my soulmate, Anh Nguyen
Despite having tweeted each other and reading each other’s blogs for a year before that, me and Anh only started having deep meaningful conversations about our dreams and passion from April this year, and by June, she has become the Creative Director of Kitchen Art, contributing to many wonderful recipes we produce for our website. Then another amazing thing happened to us…
3. The “Sweet Kitchens” Cookbook
While me and Anh collaborated on Kitchen Art, we stumbled upon a book deal with Page One Publishing (Singapore) that would fill our lives with cakes and sweat for the months to come. We produced in total 50 over cakes, collaborated with our wonderful Photographer Kiyoshi Jiro, and now we are in the final stages of writing before submitting for print. The book should start shipping from March 2013, if all goes well! We are so so excited and also relieved that we are not too far behind schedule. I know I promised to share the process of writing the book, but truth is, baking and shooting 4 cakes a week really took a toll on my already crazy schedule, and I had to fall back on Instagram to document the process. I hope some of you caught a glimpse of the cakes in production on my feed! (In case you didn’t here it is: http://instagram.com/doortomykitchen)
4. US Trip and meeting my nephew
During fall this year, I made my way to the States for the first time, and stayed with my sister’s family for 3 weeks. I finally met my dear nephew, Daniel, and experienced the magical feeling of having a child being bonded to you. Mother instinct awakes? Perhaps I also made my first trip to New York City and embraced the amazing Big Apple. I loved every minute of it. The great food, fresh produce, Dean & Deluca, Wholefoods, the liberal people, museums… And not to mention hot dogs!
5. Appearance on National TV and Masterchef Vietnam
This year marked my appearances on TV as a guest judge. First I appeared on VTV3 Morning Show as a guest judge for their viewers cooking contest, and in December I was invited to be the guest judge for Masterchef Vietnam Hanoi Audition. On the Masterchef set, I got to meet Luke Nguyen in person – that alone deserves to be a highlight of its own!
6. I loved, hoped, and learned
My story is not always a happy ending, and over the course of one year, I have had my heart broken, mended, and broken again… but I am still a strong believer in love and firmly believe (hope) that one day I’ll find someone who will love me for who I am, and take me as I am. I will never settle for less. That I promise myself.
I’m sure my recap can be longer, but it is only 15 minutes until midnight and I would like to move to my 2013 Hopes & Resolutions…
1. Not lose my drive for my business, passion and dreams – and never forget my purpose
2. Finally meet Anh in person
3. To eat, cook, dance, love and live with my loved ones everyday
That’s it. I am not a person to set many new year resolutions because I never look back at them after New Year’s day. But I’m pretty sure the above 3 things will be on my mind every day of the year
Happy New Year everyone.
|Posted in Random thoughts ||
|Announcement: I am writing a Cookbook!!!||Posted by: Chi Anh | July 23, 2012|
Dear Readers. I’d like to start this entry with a slightly more serious tone as I am about to announce the most serious and awesome news I’ve had since Kitchen Art. It is a dream come true, AGAIN! Even now I am still pinching myself, but it is happening!!
I am publishing a COOKBOOK!!!! With a real publisher! Distributing worldwide!!!
Ok that didn’t sound formal or serious at all. But I just can’t contain my excitement! I started my obsession with cooking and baking through amazing cookbooks like the ones by Julia Child, Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver… Never would I have thought that there would come a day when I can publish my own! (Actually I did imagine it before, but then again I also fantasize myself winning on American Idol or Masterchef).
To tease you guys a little bit, we are “leaking” a few pictures of the first few cakes in this entry that are going to be in the book. Are you liking it so far??
So this book that I am going to write, it is a special one. Because I am co-writing it with a very special person. Yes, those close to me would have guessed it as I’ve only been talking about one person for the past couple of months. It is none other than Anh Nguyen from A Food Lover’s Journey, a very seasoned and popular Food blogger from Melbourne, whom I have been reading since my blog was still an embryo!
I love Anh. She’s like the one person that gets me, being a fellow Vietnamese/Hanoi-an, growing up in a Vietnamese family yet spending most grown-up years in a Western culture. We are like mixed bags with crazy eclectic taste in food (and everything else). It is hard to pigeonhole us as any cultural category, but together, we feel like we really belong. Naturally, we share the same love for classic western pastries, but always feel connected to our Asian childhood desserts, fruits and spices. This led us to the idea of working on a book about Cakes with Asian touches and inspirations. We have since experimented with many combinations of Asian flavors in Cakes and have achieved amazing results that we can’t wait to share with you!
Our Publisher is Page One, a big Bookstore chain and Publisher founded in Singapore, with bookstores all over South East Asia and China, and a worldwide book distribution network. Being a Publisher very much focused on Art & Design since day one, they truly understand me and Anh’s mission of expressing the “art” and “beauty” of our sweet creations, and work closely with us throughout the process of the production. Our editors, Inez and Min Kok have been very supportive and guiding thus far, missing their dinners due to late evening Skype conference calls with me and Anh (blame it on Anh’s time zone, lol).
The book, available in both English & Vietnamese titles, is expected to be completed by end of this year and available in book stores worldwide by early next year. It might sound like a long time, but it is still a very rushed production time for us, considering the amount of recipes we need to test, fine tune, photograph, and write (in both languages)! Not to mention that I still run my business, Kitchen Art, and Anh still has a full time job in Finance, and we both are not even in the same country or time zone!
Despite the crazy workload and schedule, we enjoy the process immensely and will start documenting it regularly on our blogs. So stay tuned to catch “behind-the-scenes” of our book in production, or hear us lamenting about having to eat too many cakes in one day during recipe testing (it is NOT fun if it’s a failed cake, lol).
Now that I have finally made the news public, it feels even more real now… And scary too! Your moral support will truly encourage and inspire us on this challenging and exciting journey! So show some love for us alright? We need it!
Credits: Photography featured in this post are by Anh Nguyen, it may or may not appear in our upcoming Book.
|Posted in Cookbook | Tags: A Food Lover's Journey, Anh Nguyen, Asian Cakes, Cakes, Cookbook, Page One|
|June Food Recap: Grilled Summer Dinners, Fresh Vegetables, Summer Fruit Desserts and Birthdays||Posted by: Chi Anh | June 27, 2012|
First of all, sorry about the blog being down a lot lately. There is some problem with my server in Singapore and decides to go on vacation at random times for a couple of days at a time. I have since started searching for a new home for my blog and Anh Nguyen & her hubby have kindly adopted my blog into their new home. Such love. I’m sure my blog and Anh’s blog are already playing together in the yard now or fighting over cupcakes on the counter.
June is always my favorite month of the year. It is the middle of Summer, the month of my birthday, and the season of the tastiest fruits and vegetables! I have been so busy everyday working and picking up as much good fresh vegetables and fruits on the way as I can, to bring that Summer home onto the table. Summer in Hanoi is not exactly as comforting as Summer in Europe or anywhere on the other side of the globe, but it is pretty decent if you bathe as often as you can and stay inside airconditioning most of the time. I have yet to explore swimming in Hanoi, but maybe after I regain my bikini body.
Speaking of bikini body, I have officially started my new exercise regime (again), inspired by the one and only Anh Nguyen, who has been following her 12 Week Body Transformation program religiously. For the past week I’ve been waking up early everyday to do 10-minute intensive workout routines before going to work, and I already feel such a great difference both mentally and physically! My mood is much better, I am much more focused and efficient at work, I feel healthier (together with my effort in creating a healthier menu at home with Mom), and my appetite has also increased tremendously. I know you would wonder how a glutton like me could still grow appetite, but having a big appetite for healthy food is a true blessing!
You will see my healthy transformation in daily meals in my recap below (which include dishes I made at home or my test kitchen at Kitchen Art), with basic how-to for each dish that are so simple, you mostly don’t even need the recipe! Now let’s do the recap (all pictures were strictly taken by my trusty iPhone 4 only):
Yesterday the Chinese celebrated Dragon Boat Festival (DuanWu Festival) and we Vietnamese celebrated Tết Đoan Ngọ (basically means “Beginning of noon”, and is celebrated at noon on the 5th day in the 5th month of the Lunar Calendar). While the Chinese celebrate this day to commemorate the poet Qu Yuan, who committed suicide in the river (hence the delicious zongzi rice cakes and dragon boat racing tradition on this day), the ancient Vietnamese farmers also decide it’s the day they want to kill harmful insects in their crops, and usually dine on a lot of sour or acidic fruits and fermented rice to “kill” the “worms” in their tummies. This is probably the cutest (and grossest) custom in Vietnam I can think of. But I always happily “kill worms” in my belly with lots of seasonal lychee, longan, peaches, plums, and of course, the one and only Rượu Nếp (Sticky Rice Wine).
This dish is made by fermenting whole grain glutinous rice with yeast to produce a sweet, slightly alcoholic “rice wine” or “rice pudding”. It’s sweet, tangy, boozy taste and the chewy rice grains make this treat a great accompaniment with yogurt. It either comes in white or purple, depending on the variety of rice used. I prefer the white ones for its lighter taste, but I’m sure the purple ones are healthier as color always means more vitamins!
This month, I made it a point to eat healthier and we decided to have a vegetarian meal at least once a week. I’ve been exploring the vegetable shops near my Kitchen Art store more and realized they have quite a nice array of fresh western vegetables and herbs! It’s the expat district so it does make things easier for me to buy western produce. Mom can now relax a bit more on grocering at the local wet market, as I bring home more vegetables and fresh meats from the butcher near my shop every week. Some of you might wonder why I need to buy western produce when Vietnam is the land of greens. Reason being, the local greens are good and rich in fibre, but it’s always better to eat more variety of vegetables that are different in colors and textures to get the most nutrition! Plus, there are more exciting vegetarian meals to be made with western vegetables like Pasta Salad or Ratatouille (I’m sure nobody wants to eat Vietnamese Morning Glory and Tofu all the time, not even my parents). So while we eat healthier, it’s also important to keep exploring different ingredients for more flavors and excitement. You will know what I mean with “excitement” when you see this:
Pasta salad with Tuna, Zucchini, Snap peas and Cherry Tomatoes: simply toss everything with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and an extra kick from Balsamic vinegar, then season to your taste.
Stir fried Vegetable madness: Celeries, Red Peppers and Mushrooms, following the same stir fry methods on all my other stir fry dishes on this blog.
Or even this:
Fettucine with Baby Spinach, Grilled Eggplants and Ricotta cheese, which I made at Kitchen Art Studio. Find the recipe here.
Before you all get sick of my vegetarian meals, here is some treat for you carnivores (which seem to be most young Vietnamese nowadays, who always frown at the Vegetarian dishes I make, sobs). I’ve been grilling a lot recently (both meat and vegetables) as it’s just really satisfying to have a meal ready to serve within minutes and always tastes super refreshing with my favorite lemon/lime garlic dressing on top. Be it salmon, chicken breasts or tomatoes, zucchini or green beans, everything tastes great grilled! I may sound like I have a grill in my backyard, but I actually only have a grill pan and grill everything on my gas stove in the kitchen while sweating like a pig in the smoke. Yeah, not the best Summer cooking experience, but oh so worth it.
Grilled Chicken Breast with Tomatoes and French beans: marinate all ingredients with salt, pepper, olive oil and then let the magic happen on the grill. See the full recipe here.
Grilled Salmon with Potatoes and Yogurt dressing: marinate Salmon with salt & pepper and lemon/lime juice, grill it 3 min on both sides until opaque. Mix yogurt with garlic, lemon/lime juice, salt & pepper and fresh dill, spoon on top of Salmon and pan-fried potato wedges and you’re good to go!
In case you still find grilling a bit intimidating, here is a video of how I grilled chicken with vegetables on my Kitchen Art Cooking Show on YouTube (btw, subscribe please!!). Warning, the video is in Vietnamese and we haven’t had time to subtitle them. Sorry!
Ok let’s move onto dessert, shall we? I have been exploring with Summer fruits and it can’t get anymore exciting! It’s now lychee and dragon fruit season, so I made a beautiful Fruit Salad with Lychee, Red Dragonfruit (very rich in antioxidants and also shockingly and radiantly purple!), Pears and Banana. Just cut up all the fruits of your choice and toss them with a tablespoon of Honey and a generous squeeze of lemon juice! I added a teaspoon of Brandy for an extra boozy kick too. It would taste even more fresh with sparkling wine or champagne! (See Summer Fruit Salad with Sparkling Wine Syrup)
June is also the month of parties in Kitchen Art thanks to the birthdays (birthday of mine, our web admin/production editor, and our photographer) and farewell of our colleague who has moved to Singapore (sob). So the kitchen studio has been busy whipping up cakes for the parties (we usually don’t buy desserts or drinks from outside when we can make everything ourselves!). Here is what I made for the farewell party:
Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake, find the recipe here.
And what I baked for June & Kien’s birthday parties:
Peach Upside Down Cake, find the recipe here – just replace the fruit topping with any fruit you like!
Now to my favorite part, my birthday cake!!! Baked lovingly by my amazing girls at Kitchen Art. Thank you babes!
4-Tier Victoria Sponge cake with Kiwi, Mango and Cream filling, using the same Victoria Sponge recipe as the Strawberry Sponge above, baked in 4 different pans then piled together!
(Nom nom nom. Birthday cakes never go out of style!)
And finally here is me, the happy birthday girl, with my Kitchen Art darlings, who have been through quite a bit of food & kitchen adventure together with me in the past 4 months. Mwah!
(Picture taken by our dear Photographer, Kiyoshi Jiro Kien)
Whew! What a recap! And that was just was just the highlight. I eat and cook good stuff everyday so it’s kind of hard to share everything without boring you guys, so if you want more, do follow me on @doortomykitchen on Twitter or Instagram for more instant updates and food porn!
Have a great Summer everyone!
|Posted in Food Story | Tags: food recap, Grilled Chicken, salmon, sangria cocktail, summer deserts, Summer fruits, summer vegetables|
|Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake||Posted by: Chi Anh | June 24, 2012|
Throwing a high tea party is fun. The cakes are just a bonus. The main fun lies in choosing the prettiest cake to bake to be the star of the party. Throwing a farewell high tea is not as fun though, but still a reason for me to find a gorgeous cake to bake to wish my girl (Giang) a smooth journey into her new chapter in another land. Before I get carried away being all mushy and sappy about farewells, let’s talk about the cake.
Isn’t it a beauty?
It was a classic British Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake. It is one of the best cakes I’ve made so far, and even though it contains cream (which I normally hate), the tangy lemon juice and fresh strawberries that cut through the cream filling are just the perfect accompaniment to the moist and airy sponge cake. It’s not exactly difficult to make, but for it to rise up beautifully and maintain its moist and lightness, you do need to master the techniques of creaming butter & sugar and folding flour gently to keep the air in! I also think that mixing a tablespoon of lightly beaten egg into the batter at a time seems to yield better results than beating whole eggs in one by one. The eggs distribute much better and hence help create more volume for the cake. I used the same trick with the Fairy Cakes and they turned out incredibly soft, moist and airy as well.
And of course, the strawberries are the true stars of this cake. Just look at them! I truly believe strawberries are a waste to be eaten alone, because they make such heavenly addition to desserts! Why doesn’t anyone say “strawberry on top” instead of “cherry on top”? Strawberry season is almost over in Vietnam, so I guess this cake was also a grand way of saying farewell to strawberries of this year. Sob. Please come back sooner next year!
Meanwhile, let’s enjoy them strawberries in a cake while they last…
Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake
(adapted from Jamie Oliver Magazine, Issue June 2012)
Before you bake:
*Prepare the filling:
Gently warm the jam in a saucepan over low heat, until it is saucy consistency. Remove from heat and stir in the strawberries, leave to cool completely. Just before assembling the cake, whip cream with sugar, vanilla seeds and juice of a lemon until soft peaks form.
1. Cream butter and sugar together in a big mixing bowl with a stand-mixer with paddle attachment (or handmixer). This step will make or break the cake so do it with much attention and “respect” for this magical union between butter and sugar: First beat the butter cubes at low speed until they look smooth and ‘plasticky’, then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time at medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently to mix well. Beat until the butter mixture is pale and fluffy (don’t beat too long or the butter will melt and the tiny air bubbles formed with the sugar grains will collapse). Mix in the vanilla extract.
2. Still at medium speed, mix in the eggs one tablespoon at a time, making sure it’s incorporated before adding the next spoon. Once finished, give the whole batter a quick whirl for a few seconds to make sure all is nicely incorporated (we want that egg to cover every single tiny butter-sugar bubble for more volume!).
3. Fold in the sifted flour gently only until just incorporated, to keep all that air in. Stir in a splash of milk to loosen the batter until it has a flowy consistency when dropped from a spoon. Divide evenly between 2 springform pans, and bake in the preheated oven for 22-25 minutes or golden brown on top (make sure the oven temperature is at 180C when you put the cakes in, and stays at 180C throughout, as this cake is sensitive to temperature variations!). Test the cake doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center, if it comes out clean it is ready.
4. Once the cakes are completely cooled, spread the strawberry jam mixture onto the “uglier” cake, spoon whipped cream on top, then cover with the remaining cake on top. Dust over with some icing sugar.
|Posted in Cakes, Dessert | Tags: High Tea Dessert, Sponge Cake, Strawberry, Strawberry Cream Filling, Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake, Victoria Cake|
|Potato Leek Soup, and what’s to come…||Posted by: Chi Anh | May 30, 2012|
I have an announcement to make. From now on, I will be blogging more frequently, but mostly with casual iPhone/instagram shots so that I can focus more energy on cooking, eating, and writing about food. Well, that’s just an excuse for my real reason, which is that I have moved most of my photography props and gears to my Kitchen Art Studio and shooting food twice a week at my studio kitchen is already draining most of my energy to repeat the same thing again on my weekend (or only day off). I know, it’s sad, and I am moving away from the Food Blogger’s trend of styling pretty food shots with professional gears to become more and more like magazines. But we’ve got to compromise a little here. It’s either I never blog because of the amount of work involved and end up just cooking offline, or I continue with sloppy pictures that are just illustrative enough to show you what I ate/made (but I’ve gotta admit, that little iPhone takes pretty decent pictures).
Sauteed Chicken and Cherry Tomatoes with wine sauce
Fairy Cupcakes with Lemon Icing
I have also been eating out more often and even get to do restaurant review gigs now and then, so I guess this blog will no longer be limited to stuff made in my kitchen, but also the wonderful things I have been enjoying around Hanoi, be it streetfood or restaurants that I love.
So don’t worry, this blog will continue to evolve with me. Speaking of which, I am evolving into an even scarier level of food fanaticism, now that I am starting on a few “secret projects” with an awesome food blogger from Down Under - Anh from A Food Lover’s Journey (besides my other favorite food blogger from Down Under, Phuoc’N Delicious). Having been a little low-key in the blogging scene to start up Kitchen Art, I am now back full-force to work with great writers and bloggers to get inspired and hopefully inspire more people to live and breathe healthy, happy food! More details will be revealed when we are ready, but be rest assured that this blog will record much of the exciting journey towards that goal!
Now that we have established the fact that I am back with blogging, I can start ranting on my daily grind again. The weather SUCKS. What is up with the random late afternoon showers just when people are rushing off from work? With my shop just facing the biggest lake in Hanoi, every time it rains and storms, it feels like my whole shop is going to be torn away. I have that same fear every single time.
But thanks to the rain, I was inspired to cook something warm and soupy again last Saturday night, and traded my tickets to go see MTV Exit concert to cook a warm meal for my parents instead. My teenage self, who would have traded anything to go to a rock concert would think that I am crazy and so uncool today. But I think my warm Potato Leek Soup totally rocked my night. My parents were a bit grumpy because I cooked too late, but then who would be angry at this…
I love grocering in the area of my shop in Xuan Dieu. You can find so many fresh ingredients that local markets never sell, like fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano…), fresh greens (arugula, spinach, romaine lettuce…), organic free-range eggs, and many more canned and dry ingredients that allow me to continue to cook whatever I crave for, even if it’s a Potato Leek Soup in the middle of summer.
This Potato Leek Soup is smooth and savory. Its warm yellow tone makes you wonder how those root vegetables are able to produce such pure beauty in a bowl. The thyme and bay leaves add a very woody aroma to this soup, not as exciting as it would be in a Potato Roast, but calming and relaxing like an aroma-therapy. This is the answer to a crazy week, and the best break I could have given to myself (while making and eating the soup).
|Posted in Quick & Easy, Soup | Tags: Instagram, leek, Potato, potato leek soup, Soup|
|Living The Dream||Posted by: Chi Anh | April 2, 2012|
This is the story about how my life has transformed from a 9-5 corporate life to a 24/7 business owner who is having THE most amazing time of her life. Or you can also call this the sequel to my previous entry called “Door To My Dreams“.
It is beginning April, about 2 months since the last time I blogged. And boy, it felt like 2 years. My venture, Kitchen Art Store & Studio has been officially open for more than a month, and performing unexpectedly well. I don’t want to sound over optimistic, as it is just the beginning, but if THIS is only the beginning, then bring it on!!
I don’t want to bore you with the trivial details, but my life for the past two months has pretty much been me shuffling between my home and my shop, living the life of a true blue business owner and a poor entrepreneur (say bye-bye to new phones or shoes). But what can I say, you don’t know what life is truly about until you really live and breathe your passion everyday. And with passion, I mean polishing the gorgeous Kitchen Aid on my shelf to make sure it is shiny, sharing baking tips with customers, arranging whisks and spatulas in order, looking at people gasping over my pots & pans, and having an amazing Kitchen studio with breathtaking West Lake view all to myself every week to conjure up whatever recipe I want to share on Kitchen Art website. I can’t describe the joy I feel whenever I hear a customer tell me how much they adore the Store or that it is the best Kitchenware store they have been to in Hanoi. I have made countless of friends who are customers, my staff, my shop assistants, and their friends or friends of their friends. This is a stark contrast against my life just a year ago, when I could count the number of Friends I had in Hanoi on one hand, and wondered where all the like-minded people had gone to. So moral of the story is: if you need a life, start a business of your dreams! You might lose all your money, but at least you gained priceless experience and friends, and most of all, you are finally able to say “I’m CEO, b*tch!” (even if it is just saying it in your head). Not such a bad risk to take, no? However, you have to be willing to put your social life and even family life aside during the intensive months of starting up. I am glad that period is finally over. After 1000 over times of barcoding, stocktaking and countless of worries, pain and tears, we finally have a store that is up and running!
That’s enough story telling for today. Now I shall shamelessly show off the images of one of the happiest days of my life, the opening of Kitchen Art Store & Studio. Warning: my excessive and ubiquitous happy smiles might make you jealous.
While being away from my own kitchen most of the time, I have been pretty busy in the Kitchen Art Studio making all kinds of pretty tasty things to share on our website to inspire more people to explore their kitchen and love for food. Now I even have my own food photographer, so I just need to cook, style and have someone else fuss over lighting, exposure and focusing, while I start to gobble my creations down my stomach behind the kitchen. Good life, eh? And the best part is, I still get to write my recipes in English, and my staff writer would translate it into Vietnamese. So that makes Kitchen Art Website the first bilingual food & cooking portal in Vietnam that I know of! Such an upgrade from this little blog over here, which is a one-woman-show from cooking, photoshoot, editing, touch up to publishing. So yeah, this is sort of another mini-dream-come-true to me: having a wonderful tiny production team for my very own Food-site. Here are just some of the creations at our Kitchen Studio (and head on down to our website to check out the recipes):
Meanwhile, I’ve also managed to squeeze in some restaurant reviews with East & West Travel magazine for the Jan-Feb and Mar-Apr issues. I am finally living up to my self-proclaimed “Food Writer” title, and living the dream of being paid for wining and dining.
Ok I think I should stop “showing off” now before you all get tired of my little achievements. But hey, this is just me saying: Do what you love, every minute. Because it’s god damn worth it.
If I knew I would become all this 10 years ago, when I was about to enter University, I would straight away drop out of my Computing degree to pursue a Culinary school (I still wish I did). But that’s life, isn’t it? As Steve Jobs said it, “All the dots will connect in the end”.
That’s it for my update so far. Thanks for sticking around (if you still are). I’ll be back soon with home-style Vietnamese Dry Beef Vermicelli recipe which I planned to blog about originally today (but look at what happened – digression at its best).
So stay tuned and do drop by the Store to say hi to me anytime
|Posted in Random thoughts | Tags: Hanoi, Hanoi Kitchenware Store, Kitchen Art|
|Roast Chicken Thighs on Bed of Potatoes & Carrots||Posted by: Chi Anh | January 2, 2012|
Happy 2012! And it’s been exactly one year since I re-launched this blog on my own server and domain (this time last year, I declared it was an important step and a new beginning towards my blogging identity – and it really did make a big difference). One year has passed since, and though I did not manage to post as often as what I set out to do in my 2011 New Year Resolution, I did achieve much more than I even dared to dream of within just a year. No New Year Resolution could have planned or predicted Kitchen Art Store & Studio. Oh, and have you seen my first ever cooking show? Now that has always been THE dream for me, and I finally did it. Though I look awkward and sound almost retarded through most of the video, it is still a huge achievement for me. You can watch it here, though it’s in Vietnamese (english subs to follow). I promise, from now, I will focus on sounding, err, less retarded.
Today it’s already 2 Jan 2012 and I have not even thought about any New Year Resolutions. Besides the fact that I suffered from a nasty Bronchitis from Christmas until New Years, I also decided that setting goals is just going to stress me out, when I am facing the big challenge of opening the Store this month (in 2 weeks, in fact), and launching the Kitchen Art website before that (which requires a hell lot of copywriting, in both English and Vietnamese), and not to mention the yearly stress of Lunar New Year preparations (which comes early this year, in late January – and I refuse to find out which date it is as that would just stress me out even more). So there, my 2012 resolution, for now, is just to get through January in one piece!
Now back to the festive stuff. Today is the last day of long weekend new year holiday (most of which I spent in bed YouTubing and nursing myself back to health), so I’m trying to salvage the last night before the start of a crazy working week by posting my Christmas Eve Roast chicken. It was a massive success. According to my Dad, who’s had all of my past roast chicken dishes, this one is by far the best – hands down. Though he did say the same about my previous Roast Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes. But apparently, I outdid myself yet again. Hah!
This year I think I’ve found the perfect Roast Chicken dish that I will keep making in a long time, not just for Christmas. The chicken is perfectly roasted till crisp and golden brown on the outside, while still juicy and tender on the inside, resting on a bed of potatoes (garnished with carrots and leeks), which soaks up all the chicken fat goodness and is caramelized to perfection. Not to mention the thyme herb aroma that really marries with good, old chicken flavor to create a very rustic comfort dish. By the time the chicken was done, it smelled so good, and my parents were so hungry, that they didn’t let me waste any more time for styling the shoot, so the best shot I got is this:
Roast Chicken Thighs on Bed of Potatoes & Carrots
(recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)
1. Preheat oven to 230°C or 450°F. Brush a large rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Dap the chicken until dry, then place chicken on baking sheet. Turn to coat with oil. Mix salt, thyme, pepper in small bowl. Sprinkle half of salt mixture over chicken (turn to distribute evenly, then leave skin side up). Roast chicken for about 30 minutes until the skin starts to brown. Remove chicken onto a plate, leaving its juice and fats in the baking sheet.
2. Transfer potato, carrots and garlic to the same baking sheet and turn to coat with chicken drippings, while sprinkling remaining salt-thyme mixture over. Roast until vegetables soften, about 30 minutes. Place thighs back on vegetables and pour accumulated juices from chicken over the vegetables. Return sheet to oven then roast for 15 minutes longer, until chicken is cooked and vegetables is brown.
|Posted in Chicken, Dinner Party | Tags: Carrot, Chicken, Christmas, Potato, Roast Chicken|
|Christmas baking: Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies||Posted by: Chi Anh | January 2, 2012|
(For some reason this entry posted on 18 December has mysteriously disappeared off my blog, so I’m reposting it again. In case anyone wonders why I’m posting about Christmas Baking way after Christmas…)
December is my favorite month of the year (next to my birthday month, June, of course). It gives me an excuse to bake, decorate, to listen to Christmas songs (and torturing everyone around me with screaming “All I Want For Christmas” on the top of my lungs in the shower).
This year December is especially festive and special. There is the crazy excitement of launching Kitchen Art, my lovely staffs who already feel like family, and this year we are celebrating Christmas with a new member in the family: my nephew Daniel. Even though I only see him through pictures and webcam, I already feel like I know him. I guess it’s the “Auntie-Instinct”.
To add on to the crazy baking galore this month, I decided to have a Christmas cookie photoshoot at Kitchen Art Studio this week, as part of the content for our upcoming Kitchen Art website. I made Sugar Cookies with festive royal icing decorations. It was actually my first time working with royal icing, and I was quite nervous beforehand. After all, I wouldn’t wanna screw up in front of my professional photographers (though this is much less pressure than cooking in front of cameras for our cooking show). But the cookie photoshoot turned out really fun and our cookies came out quite decent. Royal icing is not so scary, after all. I feel like I’ve conquered another mountain. That’s what I love about baking. There’s always something new to learn, but it’s never too difficult to master if you put your heart and mind to it (with the exception of Macarons… urgh). I can’t wait to showcase the photos soon. But here’s a little sneak peek:
My assistants had a lot of fun decorating the cookies with me too. Photographers snapping away while we piped icing and sang along to Christmas Radio. You know, just another day in the office. Ah… I love my job.
With Christmas spirit at all time high and quite a bit of cookie dough left from the photoshoot, I decided to make best use of it today at home. Forget about the hassle of rolling dough and cutting cookie shapes (not that it’s not fun, too), I went for thumbprint cookies. It’s one of our favorite Christmas cookies, and all I gotta do is just to pinch bits of the dough and form them into equal sized balls, before pressing “thumbprints” into them. But instead of filling the cookies with jam, I indulged in filling them with melted bittersweet chocolate (Valrhona 60% dark chocolate). Mom is going to love it. She’s a chocoholic. After the chocolate is set, it forms a nice hard, bittersweet center, while the surrounding cookie base is airy-soft and buttery. The slight saltiness in the cookie goes perfectly with dark chocolate too (just like Sea Salt Chocolate!). The cookie dough recipe is really fool-proof and delicious, adapted from Joy Of Baking. I’ve been following this recipe for the past 2 years. It makes perfect buttery, soft, airy cookies that aren’t too sweet. I don’t even know why I bought the expensive Cookie Recipe iPad app by Martha Steward because I end up never using them. I still trust Joy Of Baking most. She’s never failed me.
Aren’t these real beauties?
Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
(Cookie dough recipe adapted from Joy Of baking)
(makes 40-50 cookies, depending on cookie size, enough to give out to all your friends)
1. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda in a bowl.
2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
3. Add flour mixture and beat until dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Don’t overmix or the cookies will turn out hard. Refrigerate the dough for one hour until firm. Meanwhile preheat oven to 177deg C (350 deg F) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Pinch equal portions of the dough to roll into little balls and line them up in the baking sheets. Use the end of a wooden spoon or your thumb to press into the dough balls, creating an indentation in the middle. Refrigerate the unbaked cookies for about 15 minutes to chill the dough before baking, to prevent the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking (if you skip this step, you will have to press the cookies again later as they will rise and lose the “thumbprints”).
5. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, until edges are starting to brown. Remove from oven and let cookies cool. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over a pot of simmering water.
6. Use a teaspoon to fill the melted chocolate into the cookie center, finish with a slight swirl on top with the tip of the spoon to create a nice circle. Refrigerate the cookies until the chocolate is set before serving.
Merry Christmas everyone! See you back in 2012!
|Posted in Chocolate, Cookies, Dessert | Tags: chocolate, Christmas, Christmas Cookies, Cookies, Thumbprint Cookies|
|Door To My Dreams||Posted by: Chi Anh | December 6, 2011|
I can’t believe I would be writing this one day. Sometimes I still find myself pinching myself, but this is my life now. I am living my dream, literally.
I remember when I first started this blog, I was seeking an outlet, an escape from my everyday life. Never would I have thought that I would be finding my true passion and open the door to my destiny. From just cooking off random recipes I found online, to cooking from my growing collection of cookbooks, to my obsession with cooking shows and food blogging, I just grew so quickly into a person who is always thinking, talking, breathing FOOD. It consumed me. For the first time in my life, I had a dream, clearer than any dream I had had before (i.e. Talk Show Host, Radio DJ, MTV VJ, Pop star etc ). I knew the one thing that would make me truly happy everyday, is to pretty much do what I do on this blog, which is to cook & write/talk about it, full time. It still sounds absurd as I say it today. My parents quickly dismissed that idea as it equals to bringing only food but not real “food” to the table (note the pun, lol). However, I never gave up on that thought and this blog helped me nurture that dream into something bigger. Much bigger than I wished for.
After moving back to Vietnam, I thought my dream would fizzle into my daily struggle to fit in and get by in this mystical and chaotic city of Hanoi. But on the contrary, it thrived. Back here in Hanoi, I found myself more inspired than ever to write about food, experience new tastes, and most of all, get to know like-minded people who are amazingly supportive of my passion. People on Twitter/FB, people at work, editors, producers, and lately, Giang, who became together with me, the co-founder of Kitchen Art – my dream come true. After only about 3 months of intense brainstorming, planning and late night chats, this was born:
I know Vietnamese can cook well, but I want them to discover new ways of cooking, experience different flavors and most of all, be happier in their own kitchen. This desire stuck with me throughout the existence of this blog and it is also the reason why we started up Kitchen Art. From now, this will be the a little haven for all foodies, cooks and bakers to grow their love and passion for cooking and baking, buy restaurant-grade tools to cook like a chef, take part in our regular events and workshops at the studio, or simply read and relax at our cookbook cafe corner. I will also star in my own cooking show at our studio to broadcast to our YouTube channel to teach people at home how to cook & bake international dishes, in friendly Vietnamese. Of course we also hope to have many chefs and food bloggers coming on board to spice up the classes and shows. Does all this sound too good to be true? It still does to me now, but everyday, we are turning it into reality, step by step. I’m loving every minute of it.
It’s been about 4 months of crazy preparations & planning, but we are getting closer and closer to opening in January 2012 (before Tet/Lunar New Year). It was originally planned to be in December, but of course, things don’t always go according to plan, renovation never finishes on time, and goods never ship as early as we hoped. Nevertheless, we are getting there!
I know I am still far from calling myself successful, but just the process of pursuing my dream everyday, feels pretty darn good. And now I know what Jessie J said in one of her concert is true: “Believe in yourself and know that you can achieve whatever that you put your mind to” (fun fact, Jessie J’s “Who You Are” was on constant replay on my iPod during the challenging days of starting up).
Lastly, to wrap this blog entry with another dose of sugar-rush, I have just discovered that Door To My Kitchen was chosen as one of the best blogs of Hanoi in 2011, by The Word magazine (Vietnam’s leading travel, culture & food magazine). Can life get any better??
It can. Just stay close to your dreams.
Thank you Mom, Dad, Sis & My Bro-in-Law, Roger.
Thank you friends and everyone else who believed in me.
|Posted in Random thoughts | Tags: Dreams, Hanoi, Kitchen Art, The Word|