Why not go out on a limb – isn’t that where the fruit is? Frank Sully
There are a multitude of mysteries in quirky Japan. Most meals consist of obscure delicacies, totally new flavours and unknown fish, fowl and plant ingredients. And for desert? Believe it or not, in startling contrast: why, creme brulee, of course.
I first came across the creme brulee conundrum in Japan when lunching at the Brasserie Paul Bocuse, in the National Art Centre. The Special Creme Brulee was desert in a sublime 3 course lunch menu (a steal at about $25). It seemed at home in a French Brasserie – albeit in Tokyo. Then I discovered it on many Japanese restaurant menus – most often served wide shallow dishes and always delicious. And how about this for whacky Tokyo creme brulee? Red Pimento creme brulee at Bistrot Artemis.
Creme brulees originated in France and first featured in Massialot’s 1691 cookbook. In England, a version of crème brûlée (known locally as ‘Trinity Cream’ or ‘Cambridge burnt cream’) was introduced at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1879 with the college arms “impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron”.
Even though I’m au fait with the French-Japanese fusion food bond, I remain puzzled that it features so frequently in Japan although there are many varieties of it’s close relative, crème caramel puddings, in all the convenience stores.
Creme brulee is one of my favourite restaurant deserts in Sydney. As with souffles, I expected they were difficult to make and, as with souffles, it turns out I was wrong. First, the equipment. I bought a blow torch at the terrific Frazer and Hughes Cook Shop in Darlinghurst. Then I found the perfect beginner’s step-by-step creme brulee recipe in Marie Claire Cooking and was inspired to make 2 versions: plain vanilla bean and lemon with bay leaf (simply because I had those ingredients handy). There’s another good recipe on Taste.com
A definite addition to my culinary repetoire. The flat dish Lemon and Bayleaf creme brulee was pronounced the winner, MasterChef style, over the slighly over-cooked Vanilla bean ramekin versions.
Thanks to Geoff who, with instructions from his chef son, presided over the brulee-ing. And thanks to my other dinner guests for their enthusiastic taste tester responses.
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