Presentation Matters

Both of the following two dishes contain the same ingredients, with the exception of cilantro in the second photo. However, the first photo looks more appetizing.

Why is that?

I thought I share a few tips on how to best present the food that you spent hours preparing.

Tip 1: Use an attractive dish to display your food. Jaden of Steamy Kitchen is great at “dressing” her dishes. Tonight, I scoured around my kitchen looking for a platter or dish to display dinner. Finally, I used earthenware’s lid. Yes you read right, I turned the lid upside down and used it as a bowl to hold the food.

Tip 2: Always try to use a garnish to tie back to your dish. This is a tip that I learned from an article written by L from Still Life With. Since the dish I made tonight was slow cooked with shallots, I garnished with a few slices of fried shallots.

Tip 3: Put condiments in a smaller container and display that with the dish. Sliced colorful chilies in a small clear bowl stand beautifully on a pair of chopsticks, a trick I learned from Rasa Malaysia’s article on Penang Char Hor Fun.

Tip 4: Use a clear platter or dish to display your food art. In the following photo, the platter had Asian prints all around and it became a competition with the food itself for attention.


The recipe is as follows:
Taiwanese Ground Pork with garlic and shallots

1 lb ground pork
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 tablespoons minced garlic
1 (3 ounce) package fried shallots (can be found at any Oriental grocery store)
2 cups water
1/3-1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon msg (optional)
steam rice

Brown pork in skillet until cooked; drain off oil and set aside.
Add vegetable oil in a pot over medium-high heat.
Saute garlic for 1 minute.
Add pork and shallots, stir a few times.
Add water and the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil.
(Lee Ping’s note: I added a couple of chopped shitake mushrooms.)
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring a couple of times.
Uncover and cook for 15 more minutes.



Filed under Hip Tips, hipfood, Malaysian Food, Taiwanese Food

21 responses to “Presentation Matters

  1. Those are great tips! The photos do look different but having said that..hehe.. I’d still eat both dishes!

  2. I agree with wokandspoon. Food is food…..I’ll eat them however they are served. 🙂

  3. Beautiful! I love how you added height to the dish with the chopsticks and condiment.

    I will add that for photos, I almost always use white platters against a white background – because I love my the food being the movie star of the show.

  4. wmw

    Good tip! Not only is it attractive for your diners but it makes a lovelier picture too. Ok, another tip….try shooting your food at a lower angle to give it more dimension. Shooting food at a higher level usually gives it a flatter look. Check out my latest post with the chicken rice ball photo….

  5. Oooh, aesthetics, but greedy me prefers volume, HA HA

  6. wmw

    Hi, got your comment about pics of wantan mee….

    There are two other posts of mine with wantan mee…in my opinion, better pics than the one in Malacca.

    Take a look….

  7. So smart to turn the earthenware’s lid upside down 😀

    I think both dishes look appetizing – just that the 1st one is more attentive to details – like how a upscale restaurant would present it or what a blogger might do for posting ;p…but the 2nd pix has a more “homey” feel…

  8. Interesting tips. I would never think of using the lid upside down as a plate for presentation. 🙂

  9. hmmm. the second one reminds me of home actually. I am always lazy to style my food, and as a result, end up not taking some of the food we ate, because they don’t appear appetizing. Taking nicer food photos is a conscious effort. You have done great!

  10. These are great tips! I believe in placing the food nicely, but for my family, they don’t even care for the look. They go for the taste. So now, I don’t bother.

  11. V

    Thanks for the tips. I usually just have enough time to snap the pictures before the kids’ little fingers get into the food. 🙂

  12. Kenny Mah

    Wow! You’ve truly done great with the photos… the difference is remarkable and I can tell you put in quite a bit of effort into sourcing the right cutlery/dishes to go with the first version.

    It’s always a nice surprise to see what new ideas you come up with for you blog each time I drop by. 🙂

  13. Dear WokandSpoon,
    We ate both dishes. My husband even asked for seconds….

    Dear Judy,
    I agree. If it is good food, I will eat it no matter how it is served. If it is bad food, I don’t think I will eat it, unless if I am super hungry. 

    Dear Steamy Kitchen,
    “…adding height to the dish” was what I was trying to express in my article. I even asked my husband, should I use the 4th dimension. He said, of course not, 4th dimension represents time. So, another thing that I learned from reading your blog is it is a plus if a food blogger can develop her writing skills.
    You have the ability to seduce your readers to read your articles from beginning to the end, even if your reader is not into the food that you are writing about.
    Thanks for the additional tip, use white platters against white background to make the food as the movie star of the show. Speaking of white platters, I found the square white platters at Target. Thanks again.

    Dear WMW,
    Thanks for the tip. Shooting at a lower angle and up close really make a difference. I feel as though the food is in front of me. Finally, I got a chance to read and comment on your recent article with the chicken rice ball photo. I think it is HIP to hand-roll the Hainan Chicken rice into balls. I forgot to mention in my comment on your blog that I like the shredded chicken. It is convenient to eat without the bones!

    You must like buffets? I like buffets as well, when I am super hungry. As I grow older, I learn to appreciate finer things like Japanese food which comes in smaller portion and presented in a delicate, well thought out manner.

    Dear WMW,
    I sent you an email this afternoon regarding the wantan mee. Hock Lim Coffee shop in PJ inspired me to make egg tarts today. It was a great success. Since, I took a photo of the egg tarts right out of the oven; it did not sink in the middle. Beautiful and I received high marks from my husband. So, I have another article in the works.

    Dear Tigerfish,
    Thanks for the compliment. I thought it was pretty smart as well to turn the lid upside down and use it to hold the food. I saved money from buying new dishes. On second thought, the second picture also looks quite appetizing. You are right; it does have the homey look.

    Dear CrazyMommy,
    I am glad to know that you find my tip interesting. Hopefully, it was helpful as well.

    Dear Mandy,
    I thought your low fat chocolate marble cake was very well presented. I liked the contrast between the brightly colored fruits and marble cake.

    Dear EE,
    Taking care of 4 kids, home-school and doing chores, I don’t think you have time to dress your food.

    Dear V,
    So, if I see a photo of food half eaten, I know it must be good because your kids could not wait.

    Not sure if you read my previous article, “Blogging is like riding a bicycle”. Your name was mentioned. I have been following your advices.

  14. Dear MrsHBT, nice contrast you’ve shown. Thanks for the pointers. May I add another tip? If the noodles are white, I’d use a bowl with a coloured inside; if the contents are ‘smooth’, I might try to find an obviously texturised bowl. This, I believe, will bring out the look of the wholesome food.

  15. Dear Argus,
    What a great tip! My rice noodles were white and the bowl/lid I used was beige. So, the eyes had to work harder to identify the noodles. So, I should have used a colored bowl.

    Using textured bowl to contrast “smooth” content is also another good tip. Both of these tips will definitely bring out the look of the wholesome food.

  16. Kenny Mah

    I did read it, and was touched. Amazing how time flies… You’re an inspiration to me, you know that? 🙂

  17. Kenny,
    So, I got a good grade. I have come a long way, haven’t I? I have been publishing articles one after the other with not many people ever leaving me comments. But you and Alice kept leaving me encouraging comments and that was what kept me going.

    So now, I am “paying it forward”. Whenever I see a blogger that don’t have much comments in their beautifully written article, I would leave encouraging sweet words at their blog. Perhaps one day, they too, will “pay it forward” and leave comments at some other lonely bloggers.

    It is great reward to know that someone spends their time reading my article. My heart still races when my inbox is churning to receive new mails because new mail mean another new comment. Bad comments, good comments, they are all precious comments and I treasure them all.

    I started blogging in November 06 on blogspot and then migrated to wordpress in March 07. I can honestly say that I have lived everyday of my life to the fullest.

    Thanks for saying that I am an inspiration to you. I pray that I will continue to be an inspiration to others as well. So, that will be my direction, an inspiration.

  18. Thanks for linking to me and that my presentation inspired you, hehe.

    Recently, I am getting more and more into plating and presentation and summer is just so handy. I make sure of the flower petals and plants and they are sooooo beautiful. I haven’t posted them yet, but please stay tuned.

    If you look at my site, I serve my food on white serving ware all the time…just occasionally throw in the black. Other thing I do is I bought paper cardboards as use them as a background, it works really well. 🙂

  19. Dear Rasa Malaysia,
    You are quite welcome. I liked your presentation on Penang Char Hor Fun. Simple, yet elegant.
    Look forward to seeing more summer dishes from you. It will be a challenge to use plants or flowers and tie it back to the dish.
    Thanks for the tip on using cardboard as backdrop. I can buy different colors of cardboard for $1 a piece at the dollar shop.

  20. Your articles are great, and your dishes are fantastic! Such great tips for each recipe. Now photo tips too . . .

    Keep up the good work! and thank you!

  21. Dear Kimi,
    Welcome to my blog. I just read your resume. It is amazing that you speak so many languages, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Hebrew, Chinese, French and Italian. I look forward to learning from you as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s