Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Now Watching: Junior Master Chef Australia - Road to the Top 12

About a month ago, my friends Lyn and Cho were raving about this great cooking competition/show wherein the cooks were 12 and below (hence the Junior in the title). After a few conversations of just listening in, I thought why not check it out. After watching the first episode, I was hooked.

The show started with 5500 applicants that they narrowed down to 50 and divided into 5 groups of 10. They asked each group to cook a dish within 45 minutes depending on their theme (international food, dessert, seafood, young cooks (8-10yrs) and meat). From the 10 dishes of each heat, they pick the top 4 dishes which will make up the Top 20. 

These kids are beyond amazing. They astound me with their skills, creating dishes that I've only ever seen in fancy restaurants. Some standout dishes for me (in the Top 50) were Isabella (12) with her Ricotta Gnocchi, Sam's (11) Quatre-Quarts, Alex's (11) Le Gout de la Mer (Taste of the Sea), Siena (9) and her Lemon and Lime Curd Tart and Anthony (10) with his Garlic Prawns. I can imagine actually ordering these food!

The Top 20 then had to be winnowed down to the Top 12 contestants who will be able to actually enter and cook in the Master Chef kitchen. In the first challenge, an invention test with 2 core ingredients - chicken and vegetables - the best 6 dishes (created within 1 hour and 15 minutes) were chosen to be in the Top 12. The remaining 14 contestants then battled it out with a pressure test, duplicating a dish brought in by a guest chef, and the best 6 dishes rounded up the remaining 6 spots of the Top 12.

I really wanted to be able to taste the twin's dishes, Isabella and her Nonna's cotolette and Sofia's canneloni. They seem to be sooooo good! I wasn't surprised that they both were in the Top 6 from the first challenge.

The second challenge, the pressure test, was brought in by guest chef Callum Hann (who I believe, participated in the Masterchef competition in 2010). The 14 remaining young cooks needed to duplicate his Chocolate Croissant Pudding with Berries, Cream and Chocolate Sauce within the 1 hour time limit.

I really wanted to taste Pierre's and Lucy's (both 11) chocolate croissant pudding. Pierre's was declared to be tasting almost like Callum's while Lucy was dubbed the "Princess of Pudding" from hers. (So these must be some kick-ass puddings. :P)

The Top 12 was ultimately composed of Alex (11), Jack (12), the twins Sofia and Isabella (12), Siena (9), Sam (11), Emily (12), Cassidy (12), Pierre (12), Lucy (11), Anthony (10) and Nick (10). Coming up to the Top 12, my favorites would have to be the twins and Pierre. The twins are just awe-inspiring. They seem to be very skilled and very good at what they're doing. Pierre is just adorable - very serious in the kitchen.

This show is really addicting. And I love the dishes these kids come up. Makes me be inspired to cook and to ultimately encourage (my future) kids to cook if they so want.

Junior MasterChef Australia can be seen on StarWorld in the Philippines.
Sundays 19:15-21:05, Mondays 18:25-19:15 and 22:50-23:40, Tuesdays 11:55-12:45 and 18:25-19:15, Wednesdays 11:55-12:45 and Saturdays 12:50-13:45.

*all pictures taken as screen captures from the episodes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Food Trip: Icheon Korean Restaurant

My friends and I were coming down from Antipolo church one Friday evening when we started to have dinner pangs (at 6pm) so we decided to stop and eat at Icheon, a Korean restaurant along Sumulong Hi-way. My friend, Cho, had eaten there before and we wanted to see if it lived up to its hype.

The outside of Icheon is nothing spectacular. Its covered parking area actually looks like a car wash lot (perhaps it used to be in its previous incarnation) but since it was beginning to rain by the time we got there, the covered parking was a huuge plus for us. 

this is where you can eat kneeling/sitting on the floor
Once we got inside, we were greeted by several enthusiastic servers with rounds of "Anyong-haseyo" meaning hello in Korean. We had the option of being seated in regular wooden chairs and tables or in the no-footwear room, where we can eat while kneeling/sitting on the floor. (I believe you also cook your own meat if you sit here - note the grill on the pic on the right).

"banchan" or korean side dishes
It wouldn't be an authentic korean dining experience without the spread of side dishes or "banchan" which we eagerly accepted. By this time, we were already ravenous to the point that we might have ordered a wee bit more than we can consume. :P (We had to take some of the seafood pancake home because we were about ready to burst when the dust finally settled.)

We ordered the Sam Gyup Sal (rashers of bacon) and Gal Bi Sal (rib finger) (both are meat that are cooked while you watch), the Haemul Pajeon (korean pancake mixed with seafood) and the Haemul Jap Chae (korean style seafoods pancit) and O-jing-ou-bokum (spicy sauteed slices of squid and assorted vegetables). Cho also ordered a Bi bim bap (rice with beef and mixed vegetables, fried egg and korean spicy sauce).

cooking the Sam Gyup Sal
seafood jap chae
seafood pancake
spicy squid - YUM!
The Sam Gyup Sal and Gal Bi Sal were served with lettuce leaves and seasonings (I believe the recommended way of eating it is to wrap the cooked meat with the lettuce and season as you'd like it with the seasonings available). The seafood japchae was a nice mixture of savory and slightly sweet. I really enjoyed it. The seafood pancake was chock full of ingredients - they didn't skimp on this dish at all. The pancake was a bit thick and when dipped in its accompanying sauce - oh so good! The real winner of the night for me was the spicy squid - it was very, very delicious! Perfect with plain rice, I ate everything that was covered in its sauce, the seafood, the vegetables, the plate (hehe, just kidding.) I liked it so much that it kind of overshadowed the other dishes for me.

Would I go back to eat here? A very loud and resounding YES! And next time, I'll be sure to bring Ian with me. :) I believe the price is consistent with other Korean restaurants in the market but for the authentic taste and the very friendly and accommodating service, i think it's worth coming back here for more.

Icheon Korean Restaurant
Along Sumulong Highway, Antipolo
(If you're coming from Marcos Hiway, turn right at Masinag Market intersection. It'll be on this stretch of road to your left.)