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Sunday, October 11, 2009
Eat Kentang! All of you fellow bloggers from the West, you probably are scoffing at my audacity of putting up a post on mashed potatoes...does she not have anything better to share? It's almost akin to writing a post on cooking white rice. Simple as it may seem, not everyone here in Asia can make a good mashed potato. Potato is not our staple food and you may find it amusing that for most of us in Singapore who are 35 years old and above, our first exposure to mashed potato was actually through Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and our first sight of French Fries was at Mac Donald's , when they opened shop here some 30 years ago.
Potatoes are available in Asia, but we tend to cook it differently. My favourite are the softened potatoes in the spicy curry chicken broth. In fact, I remember whenever my mother cooked curry chicken, the potatoes in the one pot dish would be the first to be wiped out - leaving behind chunks of chicken meat in dried up curry gravy... The types of potatoes we have here in Asia also tend to be very limited. Most of what we get are smaller potatoes of the waxy variety. The floury Russet, Yukon or Maris Piper are not readily available and tend to be more expensive.
When we were younger we also tended to associate potato dishes with the Westerners. Western food like pork chops and steaks were commonly served with fried potato wedges and used to be favoured by 'English speaking' families. Hence, for classmates who came from 'English Speaking' families, we commonly refer to them as kids who fed on Kentang (the malay word for potato). Looking back, those memories are so incronguent with our lifestyle today but they've taken on a retro charm of its own and I am glad to be part of the generation that had been charmed by them.
Well, having said that, I must admit the mashed potato at KFC was one of my favourite side dish back then. However, as one gains experience and a more refined palate, one gains the ability to discern the good from the bad... Hence, when I saw that guest chef ,Tim Ross-Watson's Old School Sunday Roast class at Shermay's Cooking School included a 'Michelin-Star' Mash Potatoes, I signed up in a heart beat.
The recipe is easy to follow and the end result is a smooth and creamy yet fluffy mashed potatoes that had me stealing mouthfuls of it as I whisked. I am not going to publish the recipe as the Chef is still running classes at the school. However, I can share what I have picked up as pertinent points to a good mashed potato :
1. Choose the right potato. Floury species are best suited for mashing.
2. The technique used to mash the potato makes a difference to the final texture. I have added a new toy to my ever expanding collection of kitchen gadgets : the Mouli grater.
3. Using a smoked salt to season the potato gives it a subtle enhanced taste. ( I got the Fleur de Sel with Smoked Jalapena at a fine food store in New York last year. Possibly expired but hey, salt is salt.)
4. Last but not least - lots and lots of good butter!
Other than that, the process is simple and any cookbook will be able to provide good instructions on how to prepare the mashed potato.
For now, this recipe is for keeps - everyone whom I had fed it to, had been impressed and loved it!