Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Asian Food Invasion & Zombie Plate Scum

Generally speaking, I'm not a huge fan of Asian food. Sure, Indian and Thai food are pretty awesome, but unlike pasta (which literally runs through my veins), they're something that I can live without. I'm even more lukewarm to Chinese food and am actively and openly hostile to Japanese food. As far as Korean food goes, I've only had kimchi, but if that's any indication of Korean food in general, I'll pass.

Orange Chicken

Jhan's the opposite. She loves all kinds of Asian food. She would eat it every day if she could (having spent years living in Japan and Korea that's not surprising).

As a result, we don't eat as much Asian food at home as Jhan would like. However, since starting this blog I've noticed that Asian food has been beginning to show up in our menu more often that I thought. It's like a slow motion invasion, taking over one meal at a time.

Well, it's not that bad (we've had as many pizza meals in this blog as Asian meals), and I for one, will actually welcome our Asian dinner overlords. One of the best things about this blog is that we are trying new things.

The Food (Jhan)

All right, I admit it, I cheated a little with this dish. Now that I'm back to my two plus jobs, traveling all over two counties, I don't always feel like cooking anything fancy or even cooking anything at all. For this dinner I used frozen chicken with orange sauce from Costco. (I actually prefer the taste of Trader Joe's version of this entree but Costco's product is the better value.)

To make a great dinner I added garlic rice and a vegetable stir fry. Not only do the veggies add vitamins and fiber but they add eye appeal with all of their colors and of course lots of flavor. These veggies were very quickly sauteed in a little olive oil - not quite raw but very lightly cooked - with a little salt, pepper and crushed red peppers added. The orange glaze goes well with the vegetables so no additional sauce is needed for them. I just love the colors and textures in this dish - the soft, sticky and garlicky rice, with the crunchy vegetables, and crispy chicken covered with the tangy orange sauce, yum! The entire meal took about 25 minutes from start to the table.

Orange Chicken

The Plating

While I might not be a big fan of Asian food, I am a big fan of the look of Asian food. Asian food certainly is some of the most beautiful and photogenic food in the world, particularly when plated on Asian-style plates.

We scored the double black plate at the Salvation Army for a buck. It was filthy and disgusting, crusted with something that appeared to have died repeatedly on the plate. I was not at all sure that whatever it was would come off, and Jhan was pretty sure that it wouldn't, and might, in fact, come alive and devour us. But for a buck, I was willing to take my chances with zombie plate scum. As you can see, after a brief battle, the plate cleaned up nicely.

Orange Chicken

The Photography

As with the marinated tofu shoot, I wanted a darker, moodier lighting. Dark plates and tablecloth absorbed a lot of light. I was able to shoot at a variety of angles with the lighting set up, and they all came out pretty well. I particularly like the reflections off the black plate in the first photo. Black worked out as a great counterpoint to the colors of the chicken and the vegetables. In many cases, I think black plates are a better choice than white plates for food photography.

Orange Chicken

The Lighting

Orange Chicken Lighting
I really cheated on the lighting for this shoot, essentially duplicating the lighting I used on the marinated tofu shoot. OK, so call me lazy, but you have to admit - this lighting set up pretty much rocks for this type of dish.

OK, pretty typical story: key light behind the food, shot through the big reflector; one fill on the left, bounced off the wall (Vivitar 285, 1/16th power); another fill on the right, right at table height, shot through brolly. The low angle of this light allows it to provide some fill on the food (which sticks up), but leaves shadows under the plates (which adds texture to the image).

Lessons Learned
  1. I'm getting good enough that I can duplicate a lighting set up I used weeks ago.
  2. I love plating and shooting Asian food, so I better get used to eating it.
  3. Black plates make the colors of food really pop.


  1. omg that are sooo great shots, i love your foodpictures!

    WANNA HAVE more of these, please!

    greets from germany

  2. I love asian foods. It's healthy and good for you.

    La Jolla, CA