Friday, June 29, 2007

Rocket-Parma Ham Pizza


This is my favorite pizza, for its simplicity and taste. If you don't try it, you loose out because I'm so reluctant to give the recipe away that I might delete this post after a week!!

Have made pizzas a long time and never quite got the crust right. Then Wey had his 12th birthday at this popular pizzaria and I picked up a few tips from watching the cook because the party was a 'make-your-own-pizza' theme and everybody got to make their own pizzas. Two things I learnt: 1) the dough is made the night before 2) the oven is hot as hell, something home ovens can never achieve, which is why our crust can never crisp perfectly.

One of my problems in making pizza is I haven't mastered the art of rolling and pushing the dough against the edge of the counter so I use a rolling pin but the dough would always spring back. To overcome that, I used plain flour which has little gluten so it's less elastic but that doesn't give a strong crisp crust. The trick as I've discovered at Little Italy is to use bread flour but make the dough the night before and let it rest in the fridge. I now can roll my dough into little discs and twirl them into the air using my knuckles...sometimes they still land on my head.

The next thing I've learnt is, put your pizza pan directly on the floor of the hot oven which has been heated to the highest level it can go (usually 240 C). There's no point getting a pizza stone if you use a home oven because it'll take hours to heat through and it'll still not get hotter than the heat limit of your oven. Now to the task.

Update 23/4/08: NO! Do not put your pizza pans on the floor of your home oven as I had advised because that caused my oven to wear out a hole. The instructions in my new oven manual clearly states that to bake anything on the floor of the oven would spoil the oven because doing that would affect the heat distribution.

Pizza Dough
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 t dry yeast
2 t sugar
2/3 t salt
2 T olive oil
3/4 cup cold water (in the tropics; use warm water in frigid places)

1. If you know your yeast is good, just put everything together in your KitchenAid or Kenwood mixer bowl with the dough hook and knead at medium for 8 min, till dough is soft and smooth and springs back when you poke it. You may have to add a little bit more water or more flour. Cover dough with a cloth and let it rise for 1 hour (longer if you live in Antartica or Canada).

2. Take dough out and divide into 4. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a ball, using a little bit of flour if necessary, and put them on a floured tray. Cover with clingfilm only if the film (has plasticizers, a chemical that is harmful and bleeds into food!) doesn't touch the dough (remember it'll still rise in the fridge). Otherwise, do as I do and dust the tops of the dough balls with flour and cover with a cloth. Leave in fridge 24 hours before using. Remember to take out 1/2 hour to 1 hour (longer in frozen countries) before using.

The Tomato Base

Ha, you'll really thank me for this. I used to make my own, which means cooking it. Now I just put tomato puree into a bottle together with chopped garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and dried basil and shake it.

Baking the Pizza

1. Heat oven to as hot as it can go, say 250 C, using only the bottom element. Roll the dough out as thin as you can without tearing it and press it out to the edge, or use your knuckles under the dough to stretch it into a round big enough to fit the pizza pan and put it onto a lightly greased 31 cm (12") pizza pan. Spread about 2 large T of tomato base all over the crust (leave clear a 2 cm rim), then scatter grated mozzarella (you'll notice I used very little mozz; too many fat-conscious people at home) and bake on the lowest rack for 8 to 10 min, checking the bottom of the crust by using a cake server, say, in the 6th minute. When the bottom is brown and burnt in random spots, take it out. Overcooking will cause the mozz to harden.

2. Scatter rocket, shredded parma ham (not too much; very salty) and shaved parmigiano reggianno (that's high-grade parmesan) all over. Mmmm... Don't forget the wine!


Grow your own rocket! This type of rocket is not as fancy as the baby wild rocket, but according to a pizza chef from Milan, this is the stronger-scented and preferred kind of rocket. I usually get my rocket and basil seeds at Signature.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Come Eat With Us: San Sui Baru Restaurant

This is one restaurant almost everybody in KK knows. Located at Wisma Mellinia near the Lintas Highway to the KKIA, this restaurant used to be the only place for a decent bowl of tomyam noodles. In fact, when they were in their former place, there were queues all the time. Now the crowd seems to have dropped and I think I know why.

Unless it was a culinary aberration, the tomyam soup now is very different. Whereas it used to be spicy with chilies, lemon grass and lengkuas, now all I could taste was chili, milk and vinegar. On top of that the prawns tasted bad last week. The fish head sour veg meefun was also inedible because the fish was so fishy. Aiya.

If you do venture there, do try their crunchy chicken feet salad which everybody else was having. Another favorite is the razor clams in black soy beans. I've had their dry-fried noodles before and it was good, though now I'm not sure. Good luck! (5.5/10 rating just in case it was an aberration).


Tomyum noodles

Fish head noodles

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


It's 'musim mangga' (mango season)!

I love mangoes but not the 1 kg perfect-looking ones you get in Victoria Market (Melbourne, Australia) or Granville Island Public Market (Vancouver, Canada). Yes, our local mangoes are THE BEST. Tropical fruits are best grown in the tropics lah!

Whenever anyone moves into a new house here, he'd be asked, "Have you planted any mango trees?" If you look around, there's a mango tree in every back(and front)yard here. There are so many varieties, each with its special fragrance, sweetness and texture. Let me tell you about some of the mangoes we get around here:

1. The Apple Mango

Apple mango

This thin-skinned mango is Hub's favorite. The good ones are very sweet and juicy, so juicy that if you don't eat them quick enough the juice runs down your arms. And they are smooth (absolutely no fibers) and fragrant. These are the prettiest mangoes, round and with a blush of pink and sometimes look like peaches more than apples. A very classy, delicate mango that stands out because of its shape, flavor and its juicyness.

2. The Alfonso Mango

Alfonso mangoes

This mango is not available here, but my friend Yolanda who flies for Cathay Pacific just gave me two precious Alfonso mangoes from India last weekend so I'm including them here. Slightly bigger than the size of my fist, the first flavor that I tasted was that of santan (coconut milk), then apple mango flavor. Excellent in terms of flavor and creaminess (in general, I've noticed that the darker the color of the flesh, the creamier the mango ). Maybe the creamiest mango I've ever tasted. However, it's slightly sour and I like my mangoes sweet.

3. The Filipino Mango


Available year round, this mango is a beautiful light yellow all over when ripe but unfortunately doesn't taste as good as it looks. It is smooth-textured, not very creamy but more sour than sweet because it is picked when still unripe in The Philippines. Sometimes you can get some sweet ones but they'll leave you dissatisfied because the flavor is so-so.


From left to right: the Luzon (small ones), the Harum Manis, the Coconut and the Elephant/Siam mangoes.

4. The Coconut Mango

Sweet but with quite a bit of fiber, and a flavor like the harum manis. Talking of fiber, never buy that strong-smelling mango called 'mani' unless you want a mouthful of fibers.

5. The Siam or Elephant Tusks Mango

These mangoes with seeds as flat as a biscuit are from Thailand. They are probably the smoothest-textured mangoes around but are bland in flavor so they are usually eaten unripe with dried plum powder. This mango has pale yellow flesh.

6. The Harum Manis Mango

I've noticed that mangoes that stay green when ripe are the better tasting mango. This thick-skinned harum manis (fragrant sweet) is thick-fleshed and is, as its name declares, sweet. It is strongly flavored, but in a slightly acrid way.

No mango can beat the King of them all, the....

7. The Luzon Mango.


Green even when ripe and looks like a smaller version of the harum manis but is not thick-skinned. The unbeatable quality it has is the flavor--oh, I can't smell one without closing my eyes. It is strange how each kind of mango has its peculiar fragrance. Oranges smell the same, strawberries too and I can't think of any other fruit that differs in its smell among their varieties (except the durian but the difference in flavor is detected only when you eat it). The sweetness, smoothness and the perfume of Luzon mangoes can beat any fruit on earth! In terms of color, it's medium orange which, as my theory goes, means it's medium in creaminess. The only thing though is this fruit is getting smaller and smaller (due to over-production, kinda like babies born in large families, or quads or quints??) and a dozen of these fruits is not enough to satisfy me!

Mangoes will still sweeten after they're plucked screaming from the tree but not much. The best tasting mangoes are those that are allowed to fall off the tree. We had a huge mango tree when I was growing up and when the mangoes start falling, we'd sharpen our ears for that sound when it hits the ground and whoever finds it gets it. However, mangoes fresh off the tree are best left for a day to 'deepen' the ripening and flavor, and also to get rid of the alkaline (I think) sap that can be strong enough to burn your skin (this my daughter found out when young; she had a burn mark on her face for years from stealing unripe mangoes in Grandpa's house).

When I eat a good mango, I understand Adam's temptation. I'm sure that forbidden fruit must've been the mango! How can it be a bland fruit like the apple?!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ginger Milk Custard

update 22/11/09: I just found out, through a HK chef based in Vancouver, that 1) ginger milk custard is not the same as double-skin milk 2) ginger milk custard IS made WITHOUT eggs. Apparently the ginger juice can coagulate the milk, ever slightly so and the custard is very soft, almost hardly held together but yet not totally liquid. So it looks like the recipe in the magazine was correct, just that my skills aren't there to make the milk a custard.


One of the best things I ate in Guangzhou was a custard-like dessert called 'double-skin milk' (translated from Chinese). Ooohh! It was absolutely yummy, very soft (softer than creme brulee or tofu fa) and milky. I've never come across this dessert in Malaysia, but I'm told its big in Hong Kong and China, and it originated from Panyi, where I stayed when I was in Guangzhou last December.

So yesterday I was estatic to find the recipe in a Singaporean magazine called Food & Travel, June 2007 issue. However, I tried the recipe out 3X before giving it out here. Why 3X? The first time the custard didn't set, so I tried again and it still didn't set! I then added a yolk in the next try (original recipe called for egg whites only) and reduced the amount of milk by 1/2 cup. How disappointing that they actually published a recipe that doesn't work. Luckily only four inexpensive ingredients are needed. I also reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe by half and increased the time for steaming. This recipe is not double layered: the milk custard I had in Panyi had a middle layer of red beans (azuki beans). I tried steaming half a cup, then added the cooked beans and then added another layer of milk but the beans floated to the top. Maybe I should have chilled the steamed half cup so its firmer, then add the beans and milk and steam again. But really, you can forget about the beans; the custard tastes good without it.

Try it cold, after a Chinese meal. Be surprised by how soft it is, and how its not very hard on the heart or wallet.

Ginger Milk Custard

2 T ginger (old ginger) juice*
2 egg whites
1 egg yolk
2 cups fresh milk
3 T sugar

1. Whisk the egg whites, yolk and ginger juice.

2. In a small pot, heat milk and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and remove from heat when milk begins to simmer, just about to boil.

3. Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking quickly.

4. Strain into 6 or 7 ramekins or heat-proof cups.

5. Steam 4 to 5 min at high heat. Do not oversteam it, or the oil from the milk will form a layer on top. The custard will be runny when hot and more curdled when cold. Leave to cool, then chill in fridge.

* Note: Freezing the ginger will make it easier to grate and extract the juice.
The steaming time of 6 to 7 minutes is for cup size of 3"/7.5 cm across. Adjust the time according to your cup size.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fellow Blogger

Thanks to Shan, who stumbled upon my blog and did a post on it today! Yes, KK bloggers are far and few and its great to know other KK bloggers, especially good ones!

Incidentally: What's Your Race?

I know I should keep my blog to food, but those who know me will know I'm quite outspoken. Afterall, what launched my blogging was one lousy meal at Delifrance.

Anyway, I was at Royal China. Again. When we were paying the bill, they told us about their membership. You pay RM12 (US$3.40) and get a membership card which entitles you to 10% discount, immediately. You'll also get an RM25 voucher. When I filled the form, I was not only asked to reveal my age (horrors!), but also my salary, and--my race. Malay, Chinese, Indian or Others?? I hear you also have to state your race in the government high school exams, our SPM. What the--??

PS: Raina, the food was good this time:)

Come Eat With Us: Char Chan Teng HK Restaurant

I had to charm Hubby into this restaurant because he didn't want to eat food that's "not western not eastern", which is what these new-style chinese restaurants serve. However, we were surprised because the food was actually good, albeit the prices a little high, especially the fancy colorful drinks which were merely color, flavor and soda water.

Char Chan Teng, located at Warisan Square.

Em..doesn't 'char' mean lousy and 'chan teng' restaurant??

Noodles with Sichuan preserved veg and deep-fried pork ribs

Very simple, light but tasty. RM7.90 (US$2.30) . Its easy to cook at home too; will give recipe soon!

Fried noodles with beef

Yummy. RM8.90 (US$2.50--I give prices in USD because somebody on Food Forum asked me to do so).

Now that was last week. Yesterday, I went back with a bigger group and was duly disappointed. Maybe the cook was different.

Seafood cheese riceRM12.90 (US$3.70)

Megan said "Tastes good".


I'm not sure what it says on the menu but Sheila said "Doesn't taste good!" and I can see so.RM22.90 (US$6.50), comes with a drink.

Curry udonRM12.90

Ming said "It's okay lah!"

Soupy flat noodles with beefRM8.90

I say "Okay but the dry noodles with beef last week was much better!"

So again, as with many restaurants here, the food's not consistent. Let's be nice and give it 7/10.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cheat's Ice Cream

Thanks to Yi's friend Michael, I've learnt the secret of making green tea ice cream, and I'm going to share that secret today.

Just get the best quality vanilla ice cream (try Tong Hing's; they carry some Aussie brands)and add macha (green tea) powder to half-softened ice cream, mix well with a whisk and quickly return it to the freezer.

My favorite ice cream flavor is rum n raisins (yup, me a wino). Wash the raisins well (you don't want grit which surprisingly is present in most brands), drain well, then add rum or brandy or orange cointreau or whatever your alcoholic bent is, and let soak in fridge for at least a week because that'll plump them up real good. Mix into vanilla ice cream. The best thing about 'making' your own ice cream is you can go crazy with the ingredients.




We are so lucky to get regular supply of fish from this guy who goes out to sea every 2 to 3 weeks. His fish are so fresh the eyes are clear like glass, the gills bloody red and the body still covered with that slimy whatever, which indicate that it has not been soaked in water and ice. Check out what we got on Tuesday:

Yi with two king mackerels weighing 3.6 kg each.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

She's Back!

Yes jehjeh is home again! When we picked her up at the airport, Wey asked Yi "Why are you dressed as a Swede??" I couldn't hold it anymore and laughed like a mad mom. "What do you mean? Everybody's dressing like this in Melbourne!" Haha like a Swedish milkmaid complete with leggings and a gathered pinafore?





Yummy but frankly I think Dunkin' Donuts are just as good.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Baked Pork Ribs


The next time I make this, I'm going to allow at least 3 to 4 ribs a person...this is so succulent, juicy and surprisingly meaty. I think it'll be even better if you grill it after baking. It doesn't matter if you use baby back ribs or spare ribs, just tell your butcher you want them ribs to be tender and cut quite generously to get more meat. As for the sauce, you can come up with your own version as long as its thick (add tomato ketchup or boil to reduce the sauce) so it'll be sticky and yummy when cooked. And please--forget the knives or forks.

Baked Pork Ribs

2kg pork ribs
1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce
1/2 cup Tomato sauce
2 T Hoisin sauce
2 T honey
2 T cider vinegar
white pepper

1. Cut the ribs into desired serving size. 3 ribs (6 if baby ribs) is good for an average person, more for an above-average eater.

2. Mix the sauces together, taste and adjust to liking.

3. Marinade ribs with the sauce overnight or for at least 6 hours.

4. Set oven at 180 C and bake the ribs for 1 hour. Increase heat to 220 C, pour the marinade sauce over and bake another 30 to 40 min, turning once to baste.

Note: The ribs in the pic didn't have much sauce clinging on because I ran out of honey and used sugar instead, and I made my own teriyaki sauce (Kikkoman soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar) but did not thicken it by boiling.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Yukgaejang (Korean Spicy Beef Soup)


Recently we've been getting afternoon showers, something I love because it cools and refreshes the air. I just love the smell of impending rain, dimming of the sky and a gentle breeze. Ha, I know many of you, especially those in England, would disagree. But if you live in year-long scorching weather, you'd welcome a cool rainy day like me. And these are the days when I think soup, hearty soul-and-body-warming soup.

I love the yukgaejang in Arirang, Api-Api. Tonight I cooked yukgaejang for dinner but if you look at the pic above it doesn't look anything like the red, hot and spicy soup. That's because I added very little chili flakes as Wey hates spicy food. This is also the quick version because I used tender beef rather than a stewing beef.


300g sirloin, in thin strips
150gbeef tripe, in thin strips
100g Korean clear potato starch noodles, soaked & blanched
100g big bean sprouts
50g dried fern brake, soaked
1 red & 1 green chili, in thin strips
1 large onion, in thin slices
spring onions, in 1 inch lengths
beef broth or 2 T Korean beef stock granules
1/2 T sesame oil
1 heaped T crushed & chopped garlic
3 T red pepper flakes (or reduce to taste)
salt & pepper
2 eggs, beaten (optional)

1. If tripe is very tough boil it with a few slices of ginger till soft. If not so tough, add 1 t bicarb. of soda to the tripe, mix well & leave 20 min. Wash several times and blanch in boiling water.

2. Marinade the beef with 1/2 t salt, the sesame oil, chili flakes and garlic.

3. Boil 3 litres of water/broth. Add the tripe, beef stock, let it boil then add the onions and the fern brake and the big bean sprouts. Let it boil 15 min.

4. Now add the beef and the cut chili, let it boil, then add the noodles, let it boil, test the noodles to see if its soft enough, then add the spring onions and season with salt and pepper.

5. Make sure the soup is boiling when you stir (in circles to make strands) the beaten egg in so the egg will solidify or the soup will become cloudy. The egg will help reduce the heat of the chili. At least that's what my Korean neighbor told me.


Serve yukgaejang with hot rice and seasoned Korean nori (cut into 5cm by 3cm rectangles and with a pair of chopsticks, pick up the nori , put it on the rice and deftly wrap a small clump of rice with it) and its a simple, satisfying meal.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Come Eat With Us: Kwong Tung Chai

There's a Kwong Tung Chai (KTC) in every part of town, and the food is pretty consistent. Yesterday we went to the branch at Iramanis near Kolombong. I was very surprised with the sour soup (a brew of roasted duck necks and legs, local sour salted kale and chilies) which was not as greasy as I remember. It was sour, chili hot and very tasty. The roasted duck was good but the noodles were somewhat disappointing. I could smell a faint ammonia stink in it.

Roasted meat

You pick the roasted meat topping you want on your noodles.

Sour soup

A small serving is only RM2.00!

Roasted duck and pork with noodles

Only RM4.50 (US$1.30)...

KTC is only open for lunch. I would give a better rating if not for the noodles and the slightly uncomfortable feeling of eating a greasy meal. Maybe it's me. I'd give it 7/10.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Skinny Lasagne?

Whenever I make lasagne, I feel guilty as I turn the bechamel sauce (white sauce) into a sinful mornay sauce of melted mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan. So the other day I came up with a less sinful version by using only one layer of white sauce on top and substituting the sauce with eggplant/brinjals/aubergine (you can also add tomato slices). But beware, a sin is still a sin, big or small...


Skinny Lasagne

Bolognaise sauce
250g ready lasagne sheets
3 large eggplants
white sauce
grated mixture of cheddar and mozzarella

1. Cut the eggplant into large 3/4 cm slices and fry in a little oil till half done.

2. Grease a glass dish. Arrange a sheet of lasagne sheet in it (I prefer to boil mine but its more work. If you use the instant sheets, make sure you dash some low-fat milk over the veg layers). Cover the pasta sheet with a thin layer of bolognaise sauce. Place another layer of lasagne sheet over that, then arrange the fried eggplant over it, sprinkle with the cheese mixture and douse a tablespoon or two of skim milk over.

3. Continue till you run out of lasagne sheets. You end with a layer of lasagne sheets, then cover that with the white sauce and sprinkle grated parmesan all over.

4. Bake in oven at 200 c for 30 to 40 min. Instant lasagne sheets tend to expand, so tuck in the sides and corners when it comes out of the oven so the upper layer won't dry and curl up.

The bolognaise sauce below is 'healthier' and less 'grainy' by replacing half of the beef with pork/chicken and adding lots of veg. You can use skimmed or lowfat milk or omit milk altogether.

Bolognaise Sauce

1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, cut into small cubes
2 stalks celery, cut into small cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced
250g canned or fresh diced plum tomatoes
2 T tomato paste (optional)
250g lean pork, minced
250g lean ground beef
1 cup milk
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 t dry nutmeg
1/2 t dried basil or oregano (optional)
1 cups water + 1/2 beef stock cube or 1 cup chicken or beef stock
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

1. Fry the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a little oil for 3 to 4 min.

2. Add the meat and stir to mix well. Add the tomatoes, then the remaining ingredients except the wine and simmer 20 min. Add the wine and simmer 10 to 15 min.

White Cheese Sauce

2 T ordinary flour
2 cups milk
1 T butter or olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
salt & pepper
1. Heat a small pot, melt the butter or add the oil. Throw in the flour, stir well under low heat till it clumps, stir another 1/2 min. Remove from heat and add 2 T milk, then 2 more, stirring well with a small whisk.

2. Put pot back to stove and stir in all the milk under low heat. Whisk well till sauce thickens. Add the cheese and season to taste.

Overall taste? Well, of course it'll taste better if you make it the traditional way with alternating layers of white cheese sauce. Frankly I don't know if this version is any less fattening because I still added the cheese with the eggplant...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Easy Roasted Chicken


I cook western meals whenever I'm lazy (which is often). Western dinners are so simple compared to Chinese/Asian. The former centers on one main dish, which is usually baked which means you can chuck it in the oven and watch your favorite Korean soap while it cooks. Another plus is you can vary: fish one day, beef one day, pork another day...With Chinese or Asian food, there's a lot of preparation (cutting, marinading, pounding) and the food has to be served real hot so that by the time you sit down with your guests, your face is all shiny from the oil and sweat. Then you also complain about what to cook because a simple meal would consist of at least 3 dishes and a soup, and fish and pork and chicken are featured at one meal.

Gee. All that just because I want to tell you to try roasting chicken next time you don't know what to cook! Ok, I just use coarse salt (so you can taste bits of it) and freshly ground black pepper, and if I want it herby, I use either thyme or tarragon. Rosemary's good too but I associate it too much with lamb. I don't use butter or olive oil either. Important thing is to make sure its well cooked, to the point the legs are loose when you shake it. That'll take at least 1 hour 15 min for a 2kg bird. Truss it if you want to. I don't bother with trussing.

2 kg whole bird
1 t coarse salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t dried thyme or tarragon
1 lemon, halved (optional)

1. Rub the chicken in and out with the salt, herb and pepper. Leave 30 to 45 min in the fridge. Set oven at 200 C.

2. Put the lemon halves into the cavity if using. You can arrange some potatoes around if like.

3. Place chicken in a roasting pan, add enough water to cover the pan by 1/2 cm (to keep juices from drying out) and bake without basting for 1 hour and 10 to 15 min.

4. Take pan out, spoon juices over chicken. Place chicken on a serving plate, or chop to serving pieces.

5. Pour juices into a small pot, skim off oil, then add some cornstarch water to thicken under medium heat. Add 1/2 T sherry for extra flavor, and season with salt and pepper. Or you can just use the juice straight from the oven (skim off oil) for a simpler gravy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lotus Root Patties


My friend Tina, who's married to a Japanese, made these patties as a starter when she invited us over for lunch one day. Tina must've used a teaspoon to drop the batter from. I used a tablespoon and it just doesn't taste as good or refined when the patties are big! So if you try this recipe, do it Tina's way -dainty- and serve them on fresh shiso leaves if you can get them.

Lotus Root Patties

400g lotus root, pared and grated finely*
8 fairly large prawns, minced or 3/4 cup of minced pork
3 to 4 T Japanese mayo
3/4 t salt
several dashes of white pepper
1 egg
3 T ordinary flour

1. Mix everything together well. The batter will be quite wet. Leave in fridge 1/2 hour to set.
2. Shallow-fry the patties by dropping the batter by the spoonful, then lightly pressing on it to flatten a little. Turn over after a minute and fry the other side.

* The finer you grate the lotus, the more water will come out from it. You can grate the lotus coarser if you want to taste the texture of the lotus.

Note: recipe updated on 17/2/08 to reduce the amount of flour. The patties taste better if the batter is wet.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Zaru Soba (Buckwheat Noodles)

Zaru soba is just so easy to make. You can get the noodles cooked and chilled and make the sauce ahead and just assemble everything when ready to eat. I usually serve it with prawns and veg tempura. Otherwise it's just too plain.


Zaru Soba

300g dried buckwheat noodles(3 to 4 persons)
2 cups very hot water
1 heaped T dashi granules
5 T Kikkoman soy sauce
3 T mirin
1 T fine sugar

1. Boil the noodles 2 to 3 min. Add 1 cup room temp water to stop the boiling. Let the water boil again, then test for doneness by nipping a noodle with your fingernails. If there's a little white dough in the middle, switch the heat off and cover pot for a couple of minutes. Drain and rinse under running water. Drain and let cool. Chill till ready to eat.
2. Put the dashi into the hot water, stir well, then add everything else and stir till sugar is dissolved. Cool and then chill.
3. Prepare:
wasabi paste
grated ginger
finely sliced spring onions
toasted nori strips
4. In Japan, soba is served in bamboo baskets or on bamboo mats. The soy-dashi dip is served in small bowls or cups. The condiments are mixed into the dip and then the noodles are picked up by chopsticks and dipped into the dip. Hubby finds this troublesome and always eat it chinese way: pour the dip into the soba (in a bowl)...


I love tempura, especially those in Japan because the batter is incredibly light, crisp and airy. I sometimes manage to get it right, but sometimes, even using the same recipe, it can turn out like pisang goreng . Three important points to remember are 1) do not fry more than 3 pieces at a time to maintain the heat of the oil 2) have enough oil and the oil must be very hot 3)The flour is not to be mixed well. In fact I suspect the way they get all those strands of crispy batter is probably dip it in flour again after dipping in batter. Will test my theory next time.



medium-sized prawns, shelled except for tails & dirt veins removed*
brinjals/eggplant, in thin slices
pumpkin, in thin slices

1) When oil is being heated, prepare batter: put 1 cup ice-cold water and 1/2 handful of ice in a bowl, then add 3/4 cup tempura flour and stir quickly till batter forms but some lumps are still present. If the batter gets too thin as the ice melts, add more flour. Make batter in small batches so the batter is always of right consistency.
2) Dredge each piece of veg/prawns in tempura flour, then into the batter and then drop into the hot oil. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.

* Tempura prawns are usually rod-straight. This is achieved by cutting the underside or inner curve of the prawn and straightening it. Vero, my helper, cut the upperside (see the picture) and I had to cut the underside and pull the prawns as straight as they would go...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Hainan Chicken Rice


The Chicken

2 kg whole corn-fed chicken*
coriander leaves for garnishing

*mature corn-fed chicken will be tastier but tougher. Chicken rice shops use young farmed chicken which are very tender (and cheaper) but flavorless so msg is added to the sauce to cover the bland taste.

Updated on 25/6/08:
1. Put enough water in a pot to almost cover chicken (too much water and your soup will be tasteless).
2. Put chicken into the boiling water, cover, turn heat to high and when it starts to boil, lower heat so water is gently bubbling. Simmer 10 min. Turn off heat and leave chicken in pot for 30 min, covered. Test the thigh with a skewer. If the water that runs out is red, heat the water to nearly boiling, then switch off and let chicken sit in it for another 5-10 min. If not, go to step 3.
3. Remove chicken and immerse chicken in a basin of ice-cold water for 15 min, to 'tighten' the skin and make it slightly 'el dente' and also to stop the chicken from cooking. Soaking the chicken in cold water also makes the chicken moist. Pour away water. Leave chicken to cool completely, rub some sesame oil over if like, before cutting into small pieces with bones on.
Garnish with chopped coriander.

The Rice

1 bulb garlic, chopped finely (optional but tasty)
5 cups rice
1 chicken stock cube, crumbled
1 tsp salt
a knot of pandan leaves
3 to 4 slices ginger, smashed
kunyit (tumeric)* juice or powder for color

Heat 2 T oil and lightly brown the garlic. Remove the garlic but leave the oil. Fry the rice under medium heat for 1 min, then put rice into a rice cooker and add the stock from boiling the chicken till level 5 (or less, according to the type of rice). If you don't like your rice oily, do not fry the rice. Stir in all the remaining ingredients except the fried garlic. The garlic should be sprinkled on top of the cooked rice or stirred well into it just before serving.

*Orange-colored ginger which is used as a natural yellow food dye.

The Soup

1/2 head of Sichuan preserved veg, sliced & soaked in water for 10 min
3 to 4 tomatoes, in wedges
finely cut spring onions for garnishing

Put the Sichuan veg and tomatoes into the stock in which the chicken was boiled and let the soup simmer 15 min. Do not add salt.

The Chili Sauce

5 red chilies
2 cloves garlic
3 cm piece of ginger
1/2 T vinegar
1/2 t fine sugar
2 T stock/soup

1. Pound the first 3 ingredients in a stone mortar till fine.
2. Heat 1/2 T oil and fry the pounded ingredients for 5 seconds, turn off fire and add the remaining ingredients.

Ginger Dip

4 cm piece of ginger, pounded finely
2 cm piece 'sand' ginger, pounded finely
spring onions, cut finely
1 T each light & dark soy sauce (if like)
1/2 T oyster sauce
2 T oil
sesame oil (optional)

Put spring onions in a sauce bowl. Heat 2-3 T oil until smoking, add the gingers, fry 2 seconds, then turn off heat and add oil and ginger quickly onto the spring onions . Add the soy sauces and oyster sauce if used. Alternatively, put the gingers and spring onions into a small dip dish and pour hot oil over, then add the soy sauces. The more common dip is ginger, spring onions, hot oil and salt but my parents included soy sauces in this and I prefer it that way.

Note: Serve with sliced cuke, or blanched veg, or a simple beansprouts dish: boil the beansprouts briefly, drain well, splash a little fish sauce over and top with fried garlic bits.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Eating Well

Two months ago I read an article in Google on cancer and concern regarding the ability of Asian governments, especially China, in dealing with the rising costs of medication and care for cancer patients. I printed the article but somehow can't find it. I tried to check Google's archives but got lost in all those articles. What struck me in that article was the rate of cancers in different parts of the world: around 50% in Asia, over 150% in North America and over 200% in Europe! I can't remember the exact figures, or what the % means. But based on that information, it seems that the more idustrialized and advanced the country, the higher the cancer rate. I guess it must be the higher stress and pollution, and all those processed food you get in the more advanced places.

I've also noticed that whenever scientists research on food and its effects, eg salt intake of certain populations, they would study some exotic groups in exotic locations, such as the Yanomamo Indians of South America or the Inuits in Alaska or the Ainus of Japan, and the results would always be in favor of these minority groups. That plus the higher cancer rates in western countries have made me rethink my menu. With more affluence, our diet has changed from the simple, natural food we had as kids to something we think more suitable to our modern, westernised lifesyle, status and image: charred steaks, fat-laden pizzas, heavy cream cakes and pastas, greasy sausages and chips... Well, I have repented. I am going back to a more chinese diet, with less meat and more varieties of fresh, organically-grown veg and fruits, no unnecessary sugar (including juices), no butter unless the bread's worth eating, and most of all I'm staying away from processed, plastic-wrapped foods full of additives and preservatives. I'm glad I can still grab a bunch of sayur manis or taiwan bok from my veg garden to throw into my noodles, buy my fish from people who go out to the sea themselves, get that home-reared chicken from Auntie so and so, eat water buffalo meat instead of frozen beef. But I just don't know what to do about that essential meat for us Chinese: pork. Is it time to go hunting for wild boar?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Come Eat With Us: Fresh Pork Noodles

The best sangyuk meen (fresh pork noodles) in town has got to be Kedai Kopi Kah Hing's in Taman Mesra, Penampang (right turn before the corner to KK High School). I've tried other places (eg those in Lintas) and found their soup to be either too sugar-sweet, or thin, and the meat sliced too small. You can tell that the soup at Kah Hing has been boiled for hours and is full of porky goodness because its always tasty and cloudy. I'm not sure if the soup is as good for breakfast because I only go there for lunch.


Fresh pork rice vermicelli

You can go the whole nine yards and have all the pig's innards (liver, kidneys, intestines...) or go safe with the pork-octopus balls, pork-egg roll slices or just pork slices. One thing though, they are cutting the meat and stuff thinner than before...not a good sign. Go any thinner and there won't be any bite and they'll be like other sangyuk meen shops. Except for the soup.

Century egg and pork wonton

I think because I'm comparing this to the super tasty century egg-pork wontons in Sandakan I found this a little too 'flat' in terms of filling and too much wonton wrapper/skin. Kah Hing also serves stuffed tofu.

Another thing: this place was littered with used serviettes in and out of the shop. A real putoff for me. Nothwithstanding that, I'd still give their sangyuk meen an 8.5/10. Try it. Even their hot-sour chili is good.

Kaamatan (Rice Harvest) Festival

Its been years since I checked out the Kaamatan celebrations. The daunting thing here is the heat. If you want to participate in any outdoor activities, be ready to melt.

Well, we passed by the celebration venue yesterday and it was cloudy so I asked Hubby to drop me there. There was no chance he could get to park; the place was very packed. I only had the little cam with me, and just when the I saw the ultimate photo opportunity, a group of boys playing contemporary songs on the gongs, it ran out of battery. But anyway, here's some pics:


New Imagekaamatan girls 2

kadazan/Dusun/Rungus Girls

I'm not sure which tribe they are from, but the Kadazan/Dusun girls are known for their fair skin and beauty. The highlight of the festival is the crowning of the Unduk Ngadau or the harvest queen. Unfortunately that was done the day before.

One of the tribal huts.

Each hut is manned by a different tribe, exhibiting their own crafts or customs.

Gong Players

Tapai drinking

After an hour, I concluded that the Kaamatan Festival centers on tapai! As I went from house to house, almost all the males are half-stoned, including the teens.

Tapai is a home-made brew made from rice. It is stored in jars. In this hut, the guys were lining up to sip tapai from the communal jar (using same bamboo straw...) for RM2.00 per sip. Each sip is what you can take in one breath. I saw a guy who could reduce the tapai level in the jar by about 3 cm in one breath! Everybody was telling him to stop. I think he cheated.

Bamboo trampoline

I went under the house to shoot pics of these people as they jumped on the bamboo trampoline. I guess the reason why everybody at the celebration was grinning was they couldn't help it, after some tapai and brain-shaking jumps.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Shanghai Vegetable Rice (Cai Fun)


This is similar to the Cantonese chicken and mushroom claypot rice in that everything is cooked together. Since it has protein, carbs and fibre/vitamins, all you need is to add a good soup and its a complete meal. Simple yet very good. I always swear I'd stop at one bowl and end up eating two. This recipe, from my Shanghainese mom-in-law (MIL), has been adapted for cooking in the electric rice cooker. You can opt to omit the sausage or meat because true Shanghai veg rice is just that--rice and veg. To go with it, you need to serve other dishes but at home we often add sausages and meat and that, with a good soup, makes a simple meal.

Shanghai Vegetable Rice

4 cups long-grain uncooked rice (serves 4-6)
4-6 chinese sausages, cut into 1 cm chunks
1 kg 'pak choi' cut into 2 cm lengths
1/2 bulb garlic, chopped fine
1 chicken stock cube or home-made stock
1 1/2 t. salt

1. Fry the sausages till lightly browned. Remove. You can use the oil that has seeped out from the sausages (saturated animal oil but fragrant!) or use veg oil, then fry the garlic 30 seconds, add the veg and 1/2 t. (teaspoon) salt and fry till veg is reduced to half, or wilted. Remove.
2. Wash the rice, add stock/water upto level 2 1/2, top it with any water that has seeped out from the veg. (Remember that the veg will give out more water as it cooks and you don't want a soft mess, but you also don't want rice that's too hard or uncooked in the middle). Add the sausages, remaining 1 t. salt and crumble the stock cube (if using) over the rice. Stir and set it to cook.
3. Let rice cook till it is almost done boiling. Add the veg; do not stir. Quickly close the lid and let the cooking continue.
4. When the rice is done, press the cook button again to let it cook a while longer.
5. Before serving, stir the rice well to mix everything together.

Note: If concerned about the lard in the sausages, reduce the sausages to half and make up with lean diced pork marinated with salt and white pepper. My MIL now omits the sausages altogether and uses pork or chicken, for health reasons. By the way, Shanghainese food is known to be the oiliest (not getting back at my MIL; its a fact) among all Chinese food so don't scrimp on the oil when cooking this. In fact, the traditional way to cook this dish is to fry the uncooked rice in oil before boiling it but really its extra work plus extra oil. In my pic the rice is too soft; blame it on my helper, Vero!
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