my favourite french toast inspired by bb’s diner in toronto – and i try my hand at describing food more …er, descriptively? properly?
This french toast is based on the version at BB’s diner – a Toronto filipino brunch spot in a two-floor house, charmingly retrofitted with what could be pastel-coloured 80s McDonald’s booth seating, houseplants, vibrantly flowered tablecloths and mismatched vintage china. The food trumps even the charming interior design. Their tapsilog is a trifecta of runny-yolked eggs, addictively pungent garlic fried rice and crisp fried milkfish dipped in tart vinegar. Another one: an omelette of fluffed egg melded with melting, charred eggplant, showered in golden rosti. Out of all of this though, the french toast is my favourite.
It looks unassuming – square white bread, sliced at a regular thickness, the custardy interior cooked until a bit firm. But pale gold banana dulce de leche lies below a whispery canopy of powdered sugar, slivered almonds and shredded coconut. The toast itself rests in a pool of what I assume is warmed evaporated milk, tasting opaque and cooked. It is every sort of delicious and comforting; think the mellow flavours, and the tres leches-crossed-with-porridge vibe from the bath of warm evaporated milk.
This post took me a while to write (in the interim I posted a gleefully technical breakdown of my process behind a revamped sticky toffee pudding – that pudding is so lovely by the way.)
My mother has always been worried about a resurgence of anti-Chinese racism. Reading negative news articles about China (which in western media, is most news about China) she would turn to me and sigh. “I wonder how this will affect Chinese Canadians here.”
To be honest, I never really took her concern that seriously. That racism, including anti-Chinese racism, is alive and thriving in Canada, I didn’t doubt. But I couldn’t understand why my mum was worried that anti-Chinese racism would increase – particularly compared to the virulent racism faced by black and Muslim and indigenous folk in Canada. Though comparisons are not relevant to this particular discussion (also, model minority myth much?)- as while racism impacts different groups in different ways, it still functions to oppress all racialized groups.
However, perhaps were I old enough to remember SARS, I would think differently. These past weeks have been eye-opening for me to see just how quickly and effortlessly the more vitriolic aspects of anti-Chinese racism slither back out.
This focaccia is terribly, thoroughly, utterly devoid of whole wheat flour. It’s thus also chewy and springy and light, when sliced reveals an cobwebbed cavernous crumb, and tastes of delightfully unadulterated carbs.
I love the flavours of whole grain but there is a part of me – probably the part that remembers growing up on plain white rice and craving plain white bread (though only being given whole wheat bread) – that wants nothing more than plain white flour and salt and fat. And besides… there are some textures that I find hard to achieve once I start bringing in whole grains.
The dough, from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible, is a wonderful carb base for anything you so desire (even just salt and fat! maybe a fragrant olive oil fat). This time I topped the focaccia with sliced onions, brussels sprouts and gruyere. The flavours are more so in line with a flammekuchen/tarte flambée gratinée, but of course the dough gives it a distinctly focaccia-like bounce and spring.
jook, or rice porridge, is a definite winter comfort food for me. this is one of my favourite ways to make it, with a strong duck broth and simple garnishes
My mum would always make jook (congee or rice porridge) for me when I was sick. The degree of flavour would depend on the degree of sickness – a stomach flu would call for nothing more than rice cooked in water with a slice of ginger. For a cold, it would be chicken broth.
Though, my favourite sort of jook is free of association with sickness. After buying a BBQ duck, my mum would dismantle it and the the bones, stripped of the meat, would be simmered for a couple hours for a strong broth which made a jook heavy with meatiness and spices and a just a tad bit sweet.
Growing up, the only the bread on the counter was 100% whole wheat. Whole wheat bread can be delicious and nutty, but this whole wheat bread was as delicious and nutty as mildewed sawdust. When chewed it collapsed into a gummy mass that clung to one’s teeth. I much preferred eating it frozen, where the slices of bread were actually quite crisp and refreshing.
So there was this 100% whole wheat glue, a hideously poor excuse for a bread, palatable only when slathered with butter and sugar and cinnamon, and far more useful for stopping up the corners of drafty windows. And then there was steamed bread.
I recently spent some time in Saskatoon. It was a bit like revisiting an old album (or for a less poetic example, rewatching the first season of Digimon on Youtube) where you discover that you remember so much. There is so much familiar, and maybe it’s a particular exchange (and if we’re talking English-dubbed Digimon, almost certainly some terrible puns) or a particular street or shop, but some of it is in fact crystalline in its clarity. And some of it was not even the recall of memories that had been slightly out of reach–I realised a number of childhood memories that I had falsely attributed to Victoria were in fact Saskatoon. Despite the drastically different location–one on an island, and one in the prairies–there is something similar about the feeling between the two cities, perhaps to do with the size and the people and this trajectory of gentle growth. It’s perhaps a strange comparison to make, but there is also the architecture of a smaller downtown packed with beautiful older buildings.
We all sometimes end up playing detective. Not just in school and work, but it’s for the little things, like, as I recently commiserated with an aunt, the source of strangely consistent patterns of holes or stains on shirts.
This time, it was when I was going to make a cake and I reached for the pickle jar containing what I thought was the spelt flour. Then, for some strange reason (I must have been possessed), I decided to read the label. (Read the label? Me?)
It was the whole wheat bread flour. Pushed to the very back was where I found the jar of spelt flour.
“Ah,” I said.
Maybe that explains some things about these stumpy little biscuits–the use of bread flour instead of spelt flour (what I thought I was using). It’s not just my awe-inspiring bread-creation powder resurfacing.
Maybe one day I will make a nice scone or biscuit. One day. And then there will actually be a nice scone or biscuit post on the blog.