Saturday, May 3, 2014

The French movie Les Saveurs du Palais and a simple, no-fail spaghetti carbonara in Tokyo tonight. And a choux farci au saumon tomorrow night.

This afternoon in Tokyo, living a Travelife, I watched a French movie called Les Saveurs du Palais.

I don't have much time to watch movies in general, but I try to do so in Tokyo because the selection from around the world is really so varied and curated so well that we have access to truly excellent films from so many countries.

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Les Saveurs du Palais stars French actress Catherine Frot. It's about a woman chef who once cooked for a French president at Élysée Palace. 

It's supposed to be based on a true story of a lady chef who once cooked for the late French President Francois Mitterand.

The movie was shown here only in French, with Japanese subtitles. Fortunately, even with no English translations, between the conversation in French and then Japanese kanji to accompany it, I was able to follow the movie quite closely.


After the movie, we all got incredibly hungry, watching this movie about the joys of cooking and the love of good food.

It really inspired me to cook more, especially in Tokyo, where the produce is so good and you can easily get the best ingredients from around the world. You name it, they're selling it here.


Already, I had made up my mind to invite some people for dinner tomorrow night, and to make a choux farci au saumon, which is basically cabbage stuffed with salmon and spices.

This is incredibly delicious, and I was reminded of how good it is as it was featured in the movie Les Saveurs du Palais.


But the immediate problem was tonight, as we all got very hungry after watching Les Saveurs du Palais. And we didn't really want to eat in a restaurant, lingering over a dinner that would take all night. We wanted real and real good food in a hurry, after watching the movie.

Fortunately I'd done shopping for dinner this morning, so I was pretty well prepared for making a nice dinner in a jiffy at home for a group of friends.

I'd actually found some very good ingredients in my neighborhood supermarket, to make a most wonderful carbonara in a matter of minutes.

And I had a very nice bottle of Brunello di Montalcino in my wine cellar as well. 

Brunello di Montalcino is not a particularly pricey wine, but it was simply perfect for the salad and pasta for tonight.


As for my spaghetti carbonara -- what can I say? I did a great carbonara in eight minutes and it drew raves around the table. No kidding.

One person even said he felt he was eating like the French president in the movie. Another person said: "I don't need to eat pasta at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo, if I can eat pasta like this at your house."

Perhaps they were just being kind, but these were certainly welcome compliments after eight minutes of hard work.

Yes, it's that simple. I created my own version after spending one summer in Tuscany, living a Travelife....


So here is my version of spaghetti carbonara, deliberately simple and fuss -free, but truly so delicious. There are no measurements, unfortunately, as I never cook with recipes. Everything is based on inspiration and feeling -- and very good quality ingredients.

What you'll need for spaghetti carbonara:

- Fresh spaghetti pasta. Dried artisanal pasta will do as well, but not as nicely.
- The best organic eggs you can find
- Aged parmesan cheese from Italy, by the block. Grate this just before using.
- Pecorino romano cheese from Italy, by the block. Grate this just before using.
- Pancetta, cut in thick small strips. Fake bacon won't do at all.
- The best extra virgin olive oil you can find
- Sea salt. I like the French guerande salt, but any kind of sea salt will do.
- Cracked black pepper
- Crushed garlic

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Instructions for spaghetti carbonara:

1. Open a bottle of wine and pour yourself a glass to drink while cooking -- the French way.

2. Boil a big pot of water with salt and olive oil.

3. Beat the eggs in a bowl, with lots of freshly grated parmesan and pecorino romano cheeses.

4. Fry the pancetta in a little olive oil. Then add the garlic. Yes, the garlic after the bacon. If the Travel Companion reads this, I'm sure he'll have something to say about this as he always criticizes how I sometimes don't put the garlic in ahead of everything else. For someone who doesn't cook, he has very strong opinions on this matter.

5. Boil the fresh pasta very briefly so that it is just under al dente.

6. Turn off the heat of the saucepan containing the bacon and garlic. Throw the drained pasta in here.

7. Add the eggs and cheese mixture and combine as well as possible. Make sure the stove is turned off as you shouldn't cook the eggs over fire -- you'll end up with scrambled eggs.

8. Serve hot, preferably still in the pan, with a dash of cracked pepper. 

9. Drizzle olive oil over it if you prefer a more wet sauce.

10. Drink more wine and enjoy the food.

And this is one of my recipes for success, in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


  1. This sounds great. I can't wait to try this for my boyfriend.

  2. He is lucky to have you, such a good cook and a beautiful girl