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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Little tricks for familiar dishes a big revelation

 •  Bento!

By Wanda Adams


Find food editor Wanda Adams' "My Island Plate" blog online every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at www.honoluluadvertiser.com/islandlife. She twitters about cooking, dining and other matters @wandaaadams on www.twitter.com.

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Beginning this week, visitors to Wanda Adams' My Island Plate blog (http://www.myislandplate.honadvblogs.com) will get a sneak peek at her Food for Thought column a day early, on Tuesday; the column will continue to appear in print on Wednesdays in the Taste section.

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Sometimes, in cooking as in life, it's the little things that make the big difference. As when you get a tip that makes a task much less arduous or that makes the end result much more successful.

Last week, I spent several hours with a group of ladies learning some basic Chinese dishes and sharing ideas. Most of the dishes were quite familiar to me, but the little tricks I learned made the day incredibly valuable. (Plus the opportunity to listen in on some great talk-story about the old days.) More on this in a future edition.

Almond cookies: I've heard from quite a few readers about the almond cookie recipes published last week, especially Brenda Leong's, which I named Best Ever. Got an e-mail from one reader who said that, when she makes the red-dye thumbprint in the middle of the cookie, she covers her thumb with plastic wrap to avoid staining it. This same reader adds a half cup of slivered or chopped almonds to her recipe, which she said is almost identical to Brenda Leong's. Both these ideas sound good.

However, for that good-luck red dot, I prefer using a Q-tip instead of the usual chopstick end; with the Q-tip method, the food coloring doesn't bleed, just makes a perfect little circle.

Cornflake crust quiche: Got a call from a reader who is in search of a quiche made with a cornflake crust. His memory is that the recipe originally came from a local flight attendant, and that you just pour the flakes into the pie pan and add the egg mixture. He's lost his copy. I tried the Internet briefly without success. I'm going to check my flight attendant cookbooks (I've got several at home). But if you know which recipe I'm talking about, please send it along.

Tamarind mui: Self-described faithful reader Abbie Chong of Kailua wrote in answer to a request for tamarind mui. As a child growing up on Nu'uanu Avenue, she and her cousins used to roam the area picking up tamarind seed pods off the ground, filling a large brown bag.

They would select only the ones that were flat and yellow brown to dark brown (no green ones). They would peel them, checking carefully for worms (aaaaagh!), dig out the seeds and then place the meat in a bowl. They would sprinkle in sugar to taste, add just a little shoyu and mix. Taste, add sugar and/or shoyu. Taste again until you get the flavor you want. "We never added ginger," she said. The seeds went into bean bags for playing games. The tamarind was a snack along the lines of Chinese "seed."