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DINNER AND A MOVIE: in the mood for love and bento salad

In the Mood for Love was originally dreamed up as a tale titled A Story of Food. The story was about a man and a woman who would share intimate secrets with one another over bowls of soup. It is the second of an informal trilogy which began with Days of Being Wild and was completed with 2046, which are all elegant and wild in their own distinctive ways.

Tony Leung plays the man and Maggie Cheung plays the woman. Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan respectively. They are neighbors in an apartment building in 1960s Hong Kong. When her husband is away on business she eats at a local noodle stand. When his wife is away visiting her sick mother he eats at a local noodle stand. Implicit in this act of eating alone is not just of desperate sense of longing and sadness but of their mutual pride for tradition and order. They recognize one another’s presence in a series of soft glances, but the social order would forbid them to ever sit down with one another to share a simple meal.

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It turns out that his wife is cheating with her husband. Neither of them is privy to that information until a seemingly innocent conversation over a cup of coffee. She realizes it because of his tie. His wife bought him one abroad; her husband bought an identical one for himself abroad also. It is over this cup of coffee – a Western invasion over Hong Kong’s tea culture – that she realizes that the spouses have broken their vow of honor. And he and she soon do too, this time over steaks in an American diner, in which they pretend to be the other person’s spouse and recreate the night of that first love affair.

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Tradition eventually triumphs and the two continue to torture themselves and their romantic repression towards one another over bowls of noodles.

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This is one of my favorite films by Wong Kar Wai. Here more than in any other film does he showcase his ability to film with such wild abandon while also having complete control over his vision. The wild part is his storytelling. The film was shot over a period of 15 months with the story taking shape organically, the plot not being completely defined until he finished editing the night before its premiere at Cannes. But the film itself, the costume design, the camerawork, the music, the ambience, is so uniquely constrained, so tightly composed and developed, that you can’t imagine any other director being capable of telling the same story with such vitality and eloquence. I mean seriously, just look at this goddamned shot. That dress. That hair. That fucking wallpaper.

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That films fight to contain tradition and social order over outside influence, and Wai’s own brand of wild control are the two elements that inspired this Bento Salad. First let me note, I know that the bento box is a Japanese tradition, not a Chinese one. But a theme that runs across much of Asian cuisine is the compartmentalization of food; the way that food (whether it be in a bowl of ramen, a bento box or even in dim sum steam basket) is separated in its presentation. And it seemed natural to construct this salad – filled with panko fried goat cheese, avocado and poached egg yolk – in the same manner to highlight the beauty of each ingredient.

To make this salad you will need the following:

  • 50 grams of goat cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1/4 cup of panko crumbs
  • mandarin orange
  • red grapes, sliced in half
  • avocado, sliced
  • arugula
  • fresh ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • soy sauce

Calculate approximately 20-25 grams of goat cheese per fried slice. You only need one or two per salad serving. Toss sliced goat cheese in flour, then coat with 1 whisked egg and finally in panko. Reserve on dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prep the orange slices and red grapes, you can slice up the avocado as well and give them a squirt of lemon to stop them from browning. Take the remain egg and separate the yolk from the egg whites. Set aside in a bowl.

You will want to poach the egg white (45 seconds) and fry the goat cheese (4 minutes) at the same time so that both can be served warm on top of the salad. So bring water to boil and heat up oil in a frying pan at the same time. Begin to fry the goat cheese flipping once, and when one minute is left, gently drop the egg yolk into a boiling pot of water. Set poached egg yolk and fried goat cheese on paper towels to absorb excess water and oil. Now in a small bowl add a handful of arugula and then construct the rest of the salad. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, extra virgin olive oil and a splash of soy sauce.

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This salad is a beautiful mess of flavors, textures and temperatures. First of all, that. goat. cheese. The panko developed that beautiful brown color, and served hot the inside was warm and gooey without being a melty flood of hot cheese. The saltiness of the queso really evened out the bitterness of the arugula, with other small notes of juicy citrus, sweet grapes and that buttery avocado. And let’s get real, anytime is a good time for poached eggs – all you need to sophisticate the crap out of a dish. I loved the organization of it’s form contrasted with the unpredictability of flavor with each bite.

 

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