Monday, January 30, 2012

Red And Her 15 Minutes Of Fame


And so the best part of CNY is over as everybody goes back to their routine today. My daughter left for Shanghai this morning and my youngest left at noon for NS camp. I'm not feeling so bad, even though the vacumn is there in my heart, because Middle Child is here for another two weeks.

This CNY seemed more subdued to me than previous years, probably because of the burglaries in my neighborhood and the awful incident where a guy died while checking on the fireworks he had lit and another case where a young man crashed his car into a signpost on the road outside our taman. We just feel so bad for their families each time we hear fireworks. The fact that such commercial public-type of fireworks are so easily available despite the ban just shows how out of control everything is. I strongly feel that we should report neighbors who set off those big fireworks. It's both dangerous and annoying to the public, especially in housing areas and at wee hours.


We had our reunion dinner in a hotel for the first time and not at MIL's because we had relatives from Shanghai and MIL couldn't cope, so I didn't bother to take photos of the food. No unicorn or lion dance troupes came to the house until the 3rd day and I was so happy when they came that I let them into my garden where they rolled and pranced around like little lions. It was a big difference to previous years where I had to sometimes pretend that no one was home because too many troupes came visiting. I think that the tradition of lion and unicorn dance troupes coming to the house is dying out as it is more lucrative and less tiring to perform at special events than to go house to house. Likewise, when I was a kid, bai nien was families taking turns to visit each other, with the younger families visiting the older ones first but now bai nien means big dinners where so many people are gathered that nobody really gets to catch up with the hosts.

I must clarify that I DO love CNY music, but only the traditional ones from the 60s, not the West Malaysian ching chang chong stuff that we get now. There's nothing I love better than cranking up the radio (yes, radio) to CNY music the first thing in the morning of the first day of CNY.It's a tradition that my dad practised, and it meant that we had to be up early, dressed in new clothes to wish our parents "Gong xi fa cai" (happy properous new year) before the visitors arrive. I have always wanted my kids to wake up early on CNY, come to Hub and I as we are seated happily, and bow with clasped hands the traditional way and wish us "Gong xi fa cai" as we smilingly hand them their ang paos (lucky money). But that never happens, especially as they got older, as my kids don't come down until past 10 am despite all my hollering. Usually by the time they get to the table, I'm so busy and upset that I don't give them their lucky money until days later.

Oh, we have been getting exciting news recently. My daughter Hong Yi had posted a video of herself using a basketball to paint the basketball giant (oops) Yao Ming about 3 weeks ago and Gizmodo, a bigtime American website that features new ideas in technology and science, had posted Yi's video on its website on 25th Jan. Gizmodo, btw, had its 15 minutes (and more) of infamity in 2010 as it came into possession of the iPhone 4 prototype that was left unattended at a bar in California. The video quickly became viral, spreading to other online sites such as ABC, CBC, NBC, Hufftington Post and Yahoo! ESPN and NBA also posted the vid and the Good Morning America people wrote to her too for permission to air the vid on the show. People from as far as Sweden and Serbia wrote in to say they saw the video on their TV. The vid continued to spread to England, where my niece had the funny experience of friends showing her the vid on mobile phone and looking at her in disbelief when she said that the girl in the vid was her cousin. Yesterday, the Taiwanese newspapers picked up the news, followed by the West Malaysian Chinese papers who gave her front page coverage. Today, the Phoenix Channel in Hong Kong posted the vid and we've been told that the news have finally arrived in Shanghai too. You can go to all the links by typing "Girl painting Yao Ming with basketball" on Google.

See Hwa Daily News: "Sabah Girl Hong Yi Famous Around The World", Sin Chew Daily: "Malaysian Girl Dares To Dream", China Press: "Beauty Uses Basketball To Draw Yao Ming" and The Star: "The Basketball Is In Her Court".

Yi--who goes by her arty nickname Red because in China 'Hong' is red--has always loved to draw, especially cartoons, and even when she was studying architecture, her secret ambition was to work for Pixar. Now's she's happily working in the Shanghai branch of Australia's largest archi firm and she draws when she has the inspiration and time. We are proud of her but the deluge of phone interviews and attention is worrying too. That's it, I should stop the shameless pitching. Back to regular food blogging tomorrow.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Chinese Restaurant, Hyatt Kinabalu

Note: I've been MIA because of CNY (figure the acronyms out yourself--am too tired to type!). We have relatives from Shanghai, my bro and family from Singapore stayed with us about 4 days, ate endless CNY dinners and had lots of visitors/visited friends, my kids each had turns hosting parties in the house (kids do learn from their parents don't they) and I am so tired that I wish I'm alone in some remote mountain. I left my camera in a friend's house and when I get it back, I will upload some CNY photos. I hope you had a great CNY too.

A week before CNY, Julia, the Communications Manager at Hyatt Regency Kinabalu invited me and a handful of other bloggers and media people to dinner at The Chinese Restaurant in the hotel. Chef Tay of the restaurant had created a special menu of 12 auspicious dishes to celebrate the start of the Year of the Dragon. The promotion started on 16th January and will run for the duration of the CNY celebrations.

We started with lou sang/yee sang, a salad of veggies, fruits, flour crisps and raw fish. The dish is Malaysian-Singaporean and is eaten on the first day of CNY for an auspicious start (you can't write a CNY post without that word).

Salmon yee sang, RM88/USD29 (medium).  The restaurant also has a choice of abalone yee sang (RM188/UDS62) and tuna yee sang (RM68/USD22). The number 8 in Cantonese sounds like 'prosper' and prices of the CNY menu are priced around that lucky number.

Diners toss the yee sang while shouting auspicious phrases, usually calling for prosperity and a healthy long life.

I've found yee sang in hotels and restaurants overly sweet. The artificially-colored flour strips give crunch and color but I much prefer home made yee sang using veggies and fruits which may not look as fine but is far more tastier.

Steamed chicken with dried oysters, RM58/USD19 (large). This looked really good doesn't it. I didn't taste any dried oyster but I though it was a good way to feature fatt choy (a rare black algae, eaten during CNY because its name sounds like "to grow rich/prosper"). Unfortunately, the chicken was rather bland. I think that this is would be a great dish for CNY reunion dinners but the chicken has to be home-reared or at last free-range. 

My hub and I both enjoyed this light and tasty dish of sea asparagus and pacific clams with Thai asparagus, RM88/USD29 (medium).

I'm not particularly fond of soft-shelled crabs because they are usually nothing but deep-fried crab shell membrane, which is just deep-fried greasy batter. This plate of soft shelled crabs however was the best I've eaten--and I had just had deep-fried soft shelled crabs two weeks before at Gaya Sports--because the batter was super light and crispy while the crabs were very meaty, tasty (I think it was chicken stock powder) and all the pieces I ate had roe in them. Superb, the best dish of the dinner. I would go back just for this but Chef Tay said that not every batch of crabs come this good. This is not on the special CNY menu and availability is dependent on the supply of crabs.

King Prawns XO Fortune sauce, RM88/USD29 (medium). The prawns were fresh and meaty, and the sauce was good if only it wasn't so salty.

Crispy fried salmon with honey sauce, RM20/USD6.60 per 100 gm. This was quite good but the sauce and deep frying overpowered the flavor of the salmon so I think it's a waste of a flavorful and expensive (at RM200/kg, 8 times higher than choice local fish) fish. I'd cook this dish with any white fish.

Fried rice with bbq chicken and chicken floss, RM48/USD16 (large). I didn't like the bbq chicken.

I liked this, steamed slices of sticky glutinous 'cake' coated with peanuts and sesame seeds, RM18/USD5.90. Hub found it too sticky but hey it is sticky cake.

Lotus paste pancake done very well, not too oily and not too sweet.

There were some hits and some misses but considering the attention to each dish compared to the mass-produced dishes at the bigger restaurants, especially the seafood restaurants, I'd say The Chinese Restaurant has some great dishes --provided you don't mind paying the higher prices and the standard hotel ++ charges. Besides the CNY a la carte menu, there are two set dinner menus priced at RM88.88 per person and RM118.88 per person (minimum 5 persons).

The Chinese Restaurant
Hyatt Regency Kinabalu
Jalan Datuk Salleh Sulong, 88991,
Kota KinabaluSabahMalaysia 

Tel: +60 88 22 1234    Fax: +60 88 22 5972 

Mondays to Fridays
Lunch: 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner: 6:30pm – 10:00pm

Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays
Brunch: 9:00am – 2:30pm
Dinner: 6:30pm – 10:00pm

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bijan, Kuala Lumpur

Bijan is a highly awarded fine-dining restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. I've seen the name so many times but never read the reviews and I've always had the impression that it was a French restaurant. I walked into the dimly-lit Bali-style restaurant with its al fresco dining area, bamboo blinds and palm trees and expected a fancy French menu but while the prices were French enough (i.e. affordable only on special occasions), the cuisine was Malay with a hint of Indonesian. There are no fine-dining Malay restaurants in KK, a fact that I've always complained about. We don't even have a decent Malay dining restaurant to bring our visitors, other than standard hotel restaurants that have a few Malay dishes on the menu as an afterthought. I smell financial opportunities in that vacumn but I think unless we get some entreprenuer from KL, local Malay restaurant cuisine will continue to be limited to soto daging and nasi lemak.

Bijan (not the French name but sesame seeds in Malay--but of course!), I'm told, has slipped a little in its standards recently although it is still rated among the top Malay fine-dining restaurants in KL. Despite that, I loved the food at Bijan, and my top pick is Opor Rusuk, succulent and aromatic beef ribs stewed with spices and coconut milk. Another unforgettable item is Bijan's Chocolate Durian Cake, which was a slice of heaven, trite as it sounds.

Kerabu Mangga, a tangy-spicy salad of unripe mangoes that went well with the rich dishes.

Opor Rusuk, stewed beef ribs in spices, toasted coconut, gula melaka and coconut milk. So, so good--the best dish. Superbly-flavored ribs slow-cooked until it was super tender yet still stuck to the bones. 

Terung Goreng Bercili, fried brinjals with a chili sauce.

Another delicious meat dish: Rusuk Panggang, bbqed beef ribs with dark soy sauce, belacan (shrimp paste) and spices.

Masak Lemak Udang Dengan Nenas, prawns and pineapple in a spicy coconut sauce. I have no recollection of this dish!

Or this chicken dish, partly because it was so dark in the restaurant (next time I come to Bijan, it'll be  before sundown because I want to be able to SEE the food and place) and everything was just so yum.

Dang, I don't know this one either but like all spicy dishes, this was heaven when eaten with white rice.

Pucuk Paku Goreng Tahi Minyak--what is 'tahi minyak'?--, stir-fried wild ferns and prawns with chili and caramelized coconut. Are you drooling yet?

After all that, I thought I should skip dessert but was told that it would be a big mistake.

I took a small bite of Sharmaine's Beach Holiday Cake, a soft pandan sponge covered with buttercream, mango compote and toasted coconut. It was yum but didn't blow me off my feet.

Classic cendol, pandan-flavored mung bean strips with gula melaka (palm sugar, the best-tasting sugar in the world, I must repeat) and coconut milk. Forget about fussy multi layered Opera cake and other fancy stuff. Cendol with good coconut milk and gula melaka is simple but ohhh-sooo-goood.

Finally, the crowning glory of Bijan's dessert menu, the Chocolate Durian Cake. What can I say? This blew me off my feet.

Many thanks to the Royal Selangor folks for the superb meal which was made doubly enjoyable by their company!

No 3 Jalan Ceylon
50200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel + 60320313575
Fax + 60320313576
Open Mondays to Sundays 4:30pm to 11 pm.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Old China Cafe, KL



The ambience in Old China Cafe is cosy and takes you away from the bustle of the city but the place is filled with so many authenically old things that I wonder if the gramophone comes on by itself when no one is around!

Old China Cafe in Kuala Lumpur is probably frequented more by tourists than the locals but I highly recommend it for those who want a feel of the Peranakan baba-nyonyain the early 1900sand a taste of  delicious Peranakan cuisine. Peranankan baba nyonya were Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore who married local Malay ladies and integrated their customs, culture and cuisine. The Peranankans had the freedom of combining non-halal (non-'kosher' food for Muslims) ingredients with the local Malay spices into exciting dishes that exude the best of both cuisines, with flavors that are more Malay and cooking style more Chinese, in my opinion. Peranakan cuisine is dying, probably because Peranakan marriages are dwindling due to the present religious ban against a non-Muslim marrying a Muslim. That makes me realize that 'multiracial' and 'interacial' are very different things. Peranakan is interacial, and in the old days interracial marriages were welcome because no politics were involved.

Royal Selangor's meals for us were centered on Malaysian cuisine and no other cuisine in Malaysia embodies the harmonious times between two of the largest races in the country than Peranakan cuisine.

For starters, we had a version of the Cantonese bao sang, a mixture of sauteed veggies wrapped in lettuce and seasoned with a delicious chili-prawn paste sauce.

Pie tees, the size of a golf ball, are yummy 'tarts' made with lots of skill and care.The shells were super crispy-crunchy and the filling just right so that each mouthful was a delight.

The duck soup with salted veg was light but not outstanding.

A yummy pork dish. Authentic Peranankan cuisine includes pork.

Chicken dish (I didn't order or take notes!)--delicious.

Another yummy chicken dish.

 I appreciated with wonder the amount of work and passion that went into cooking these dishes because Peranakan food is something I never cooked or will ever cook, I think, because there are lots of spices to roast and pound, and elaborate preparation and long stewing are key steps in Peranakan cooking.

This plate of fried calamari rings must've been ordered by my son Wey. He orders fried calamari rings and pasta carbonara too, whenever those dishes are on the menu. He judges a restaurant by how good they make his favorite food. I'm not sure how he rated these calamari rings; he's away doing National Service.

I love salted krill omelette but wished this was stronger in flavor. I think that for this dish, a mixture of aged and freshly made salted krill would give both taste and texture.

A veggie dish.

Blue rice is made from the bunga telang, a flower of the pea family. The natural blue dye doesn't add flavor to the rice but makes it pretty and unusual.



The sago gula melaka was disappointing because the flavor of the coconut milk was rather bland.

I had a taste of each dessert and felt that they could've been better if the santan (coconut milk) flavor was fresher and stronger. Old China needs to pay more attention to its desserts. I think that Asian sweet soup desserts are super yummy and so totally under-rated.

Old China Cafe
No.11, Jalan Balai Polis
Tel: 603-2072 5915
Opens 11 am to 11 pm daily

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Getting Ready For CNY

la rou
La rou and la chang (Chinese winter sausages and bacon) being dried in the winter sun, somewhere in Guilin, China.

One week before Chinese New Year and there's so much busyness you can feel it all around. I don't even bother to go to the city because of the traffic. I hate having to queue on the road, queue at the check-out counters, queue to get out of parking lots. Another thing I absolutely hate this time of the year is the crazy, noisy CNY music. Absolutely hate it, nearly as much as I hate the wooden clucking of Dutch folk music.

I was just at Thai Seng Supermarket last week and people were buying canned food, cooking oil, Chinese winter sausages and all those CNY stuff and I was thinking "Am I the only one who hasn't started doing anything about CNY?" So I grabbed some cassava flour, some sugar, some veggies from Hong Kong (they have sweet pea sprouts for the first time, so there's no need to them get from Hong Kong) and I got home and made prawn crackers. We haven't had the sun for weeks and the last two days when I needed it, the sun came out. Somebody does like me. The prawn crackers turned out perfect, smooth, full of flavor and they puffed about four times their size. Again, I urge you to make your own prawn crackers because there's no way commercial prawn crackers are made with prawns.

Addictive home-made prawn crackers. This year, I made my prawn crackers with yellow prawns and sand prawns. The cheaper paper-skinned white prawns are all farmed. In fact, all prawns served in restaurants are farmed and the redder they are, the more likely they are to have been fed a diet that includes dye.

The fried prawn crackers expanded more than four times the original size. Specks of minced prawns are visible, unlike commercial prawn crackers which are clear and translucent before frying.

DSC_8285_1208x800I made chi ku chips too. This year, I didn't peel the chi gu to keep the fiber and also to reduce wastage. I over-fried them but no matter, they are still delicious. 

With the huge CNY meals looming ahead, I've cut back on my intake of carbs so that I won't spill out of my new dress. CNY is that time of the year when we are likely to meet friends we haven't seen since the previous CNY so there's tremendous pressure to look better or at least unaged. With all the busyness, or the busyness in being busy, I'm taking it easy and a meal can be just fried veggies with winter sausages or la rou (Chinese bacon). On our visits to China in the wintry months, la rou and la chang are always on the menu. In the villages and smaller towns, every family makes their own la rou and la chang. I am so blessed every year because my friends from China would get their moms to make extra la rou and la chang for me, and since one friend is from Sichuan and the other from Jiangxi, I get different varieties of la rou and la chang. Home-made la rou la chang are SO different, SO SO much more delicious and fresher than those in the stores.

If you are wondering what to cook during this busy period, just slice some Chinese sausages or la rou or both (I used home-made Sichuan sausages and store-bought Cantonese la rou) and toss with with a bit of veg oil in a smoking hot wok or frying pan, add parboiled veg, sprinkle some salt and rice wine over and that's a light dish that goes well with rice. 

Kailan stems are all stems and no leaves, available this time of the year. Very crunchy and sweet.

And now excuse me while I run off to make pineapple tarts and almond crisps.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Biang Biang Noodles

                          Biang biang noodles, also known as 'belt noodles' because they are as broad as belts.

What noodles I hear you say? I've never heard of biang biang noodles either. I asked two friends from China if they've heard of biang biang mian and both said they've never heard of it too.

Biang biang noodles are the specialty noodles of Shaanxi, a province in the middle of China which has Inner Mongolia as its northern neighbor. Shaanxi is one of the cradles of Chinese civilisation and Xi'an, the capital, was one of the 4 ancient capitals of China. 13 dynasties established their capital cities in Shaanxi. If that still doesn't orientate you, how about the Silk Road? Surely you've heard of the terra cotta warriors?

There are two stories to the origin of biang biang noodles, noodles that are so wide that they are also called 'belt noodles'. One is that the name came from the sound of the noodles being flapped and stretched. The other story is that the word was invented specially by an Emperor or a premier for the noodles. I certainly didn't hear a "biang biang" sound when I whacked the noodles on the counter. Since the word 'biang' doesn't exist in the Chinese language (I asked Hub and he has never seen or heard of this word) and is only used to mean the noodles, I think the second story probably holds more water. The word biang is made up of 57 strokes, the most of any Chinese character although Chinese language experts don't even accept biang as a Chinese character. If you think 57 strokes is not a big deal, try writing it. 100 times, like how your Chinese teacher used to punish you.

I made biang biang noodles 4 times this week and frankly, I'm sick of them. The first time was a big success. The family loved the noodles. Hub said it tasted of China and Ming wanted the recipe but I didn't like how the noodles had splits and frayed edges. I had used plain flour and thought that a stronger flour would improve the strength and texture. The next day, I made the dough using a 50-50 mix of plain flour and hi-protein bread flour and the noodles were hard to stretch even though I had let the dough rest for 40 minutes. Worse, the noodles were difficult to eat because they were so broad and chewy.

The third time I made the noodles, I left out the egg. I wanted to see how the texture turned out but without the egg, the dough didn't smell as good so I threw it out instead of cooking it. The fourth time, I went back to plain flour and egg but used less water. I think it was the right texture. I said I think because I've never eaten biang biang noodles before so I can't compare. If, like me, you love noodles and you aren't fixated on the same old wonton noodles or chow mian, do make biang biang noodles for a change. The noodles are slippery-smooth and unusually broad, broader than papardelle, so that eating them requires you to open your mouth very wide and chew like a caveman but the complex mix of spices (chili flakes, 5-spice powder, cumin powder, Sichuan peppercorns), herbs (coriander, garlic leeks, spring onions) and seasoning (soy sauce, peanut oil, sesame oil, black vinegar) makes the noodles totally delicious despite being a simple bowl of poor man's noodles. I can't imagine the emperor eating biang biang noodles though, not because they are humble noodles but because I can't imagine the emperor opening his mouth really wide and gobbling like the commoners.

The recipe below is adapted from a wonderful blog,, which unfortunately is strickened with malware recently.

Biang Biang Mian

Toppings for the noodles (1 serving):
2 to 3 Taiwan bak choy, blanched briefly in boiling water
1 T thinly sliced spring onions
1 T thinly sliced garlic leeks
a few sprigs of cilantro (coriander leaves)
2 t freshly toasted dried chili flakes
1/2 t freshly toasted ground Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 t 5-spice powder
1/8 t ground cumin

The sauce (for 1 serving):
1 T light soy sauce
1 t dark soy sauce (optional; for darker color only)
3/4 to 1 T  black vinegar (to taste)
1 t chicken powder

To scald the seasoning:
2 T peanut oil (smoking hot)

Making of the noodles (for 2 to 3 servings):
2 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup extra plain flour
1 egg, beaten lightly
1/2 t salt
150 ml room temp water
sesame oil to coat

1. Mix 2 1/4 cups plain flour, 1 egg, 1/2 t salt and 150 ml water into a dough and knead well until smooth. You may need to add another 1/4 cup flour as you knead to make a firm dough. Cover and let dough rest 15 minutes.

2. Cut into 6 portions and coat lightly with sesame oil. There's no need to flour the working surface if the dough is just right. This dough was my first try and I floured the working surface, just in case.

3. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a long 'tongue' of about 1 foot/25 cm.

4. Hold both ends of the 'tongue' and flip up and down, pulling and stretching your arms wider as you go. On the downstroke, slap the dough against the working surface to thin it. If you are good, you can get an evenly stretched piece of 'belt' about 1.5 "/4 cm wide. The noodles taste better thin but it's up to you.


Do not cheat early on by rolling the noodles out using a rolling pin, because you'd get noodles so broad that they look like those funny-looking bands some men have to wear on their wedding day. Cummerbunds I think they are called. To avoid making cummerbunds, you can use the rolling pin to make the noodles evenly thick after they have been stretched.

5. Assemble the toppings, sauce and seasoning.

6. Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes and scoop out with a slotted ladle into a big bowl.

7. Quickly top the noodles with the blanched veg, the toppings, seasoning and sauce. Heat the peanut oil up.


8. Pour boiling hot peanut oil over the toppings, scalding the onions and seasoning to release the flavors. Mix and gobble up.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Onsen Tamago: Slow-cooked Eggs

The Japanese knew about sous vide long before the Brits or the French and onsen tamago is one example of slow cooking food in an enclosed container. Modern chefs who are into molecular gastronomy like to think that they can apply their high school chemistry and physics, and the sous vide cooking of meat in plastic bags at very low temperatures for 2 days or more to get a tender texture and 'original' flavor is gaining popularity in restaurants although I'd stay ten miles away. I just won't touch plastic-cooked food whether or not they are guaranteed to not leak into my food. That's the reason I only have one non-stick pan.

Onsen tamago are eggs cooked in hot springs, such as those on the foothills of Mr. Fuji. Japanese restaurants serve onsen tamago too but instead of hot spring water, trays of eggs are kept for a long time in warm water. That is all I could extort from a waitress at Nishiki Restaurant, the only place in KK where onsen tamago is served. Interestingly, I've eaten Mt Fuji eggs twice, and both times they were hard, maybe because the spring waters were too hot. They weren't any more delicious than regular boiled eggs and they stank of sulphur.

If you love half-boiled eggs but the thought of eating raw yolks makes you queasy, onsen eggs are the answer to your agony. Onsen eggs are in fact half-boiled eggs in reverse, eggs with cooked yolks and runny whites. I find it rather strange and sometimes wonder if the eggs are delicious just because they are reversed. But then I take a spoonful of the egg, a bit of cold, smooth, silky white and a bit of the firm yellow and I know that it's not the novelty of the unusual egg but the damn deliciousness of it. Of course the light dashi soy sauce adds to the taste but if you've eaten a good organic half-boiled egg, imagine it twice as delicious and you'll sort of know what I mean. The reason for the reversed state of boiled onsen eggs is egg whites are made of mostly protein (albumin) and coagulate at a higher temperature than yolks. That's why when you boil an egg, the whites set before the yolk. Of course the fact that the yolk is in the center means that it doesn't get as much heat. However, when you cook (not boil, technically) an egg at a temperature to just set the yolks, you'll get a firm yolk and a runny white.

The Nishiki waitress said that the onsen eggs were cooked for 45 minutes but couldn't--wouldn't--tell me the temperature of the water so I did a bit of googling (Google is the best thing ever!) and found that the recommended temperature is about 65 to 70 C. How long the eggs are to be cooked depends on the size of the eggs. I can measure the weight of my eggs but I can't measure the temperature because I don't have an cooking thermometer. The best method would then be to cook the eggs in the oven. Oven tempratures however are not accurate, with some ovens ranging + or - 15 degrees off the set temperature. For an near-scientific onsen tamago recipe, go here. It's a very interesting article and the site is just amazing; I love it. Based on the results posted in the article, the best onsen eggs were boiled at 64.4 to 66.7 C for 75 minutes.

I know cooking onsen eggs is rocket science but since eggs are cheap, I thought I'd test a batch of 5 and adjust the time and temperature from there. Instead of 70 C, I set my oven at 85 C for 30 minutes because I have a cool oven, unfortunately. The pot felt so cool after 30 minutes so I increased the temperature to 95 C. I cracked one egg after 1 hour and got this:


It's a raw egg! I wasn't surprised because I started with room temperature water, since I don't have a cooking thermometer. I put the pot back into the oven. I have to go out for lunch now. I'll be back maybe two hours later. Will my eggs be reversed?
I didn't wait two hours because tiny bubbles began to form on the sides of my pot when I checked on the eggs an hour later (delayed my lunch appointment). I had set the oven temperature at 95 C, assuming that my oven is 15 degrees lower. After an hour, the egg turned out this way:



The white is still not fully set but the yolk is quite firm and cooked. If I had checked on the eggs at 45 minutes, I probably would've got the perfect onsen egg. I'm happy though because I've wondered about reversed boiled eggs for years. I think that if I have a cooking thermometer, I can make perfect onsen eggs in 45 minutes.

Onsen Eggs
large organic free range eggs (60 to 65 gm each), room temperature
dashi granules
light soy sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 70 C. Great if you have a reliable cooking thermometer.
2. Fill a small heavy-based pot with a tight-fitting lid with enough water to cover the eggs and heat it up to about 65 to 70 C. Put the eggs into the pot and cover with the lid.
3. Place the covered pot into the oven, middle position, and leave in the oven for 1 hour.
4. Meantime, mix a little bit of dashi granules with hot water and stir until granules are dissolved. Add some light soy sauce and dilute the sauce with water to taste. Chill in the fridge.
5. When eggs are done, put them in cold water to cool and then crack into a bowl and ladle some sauce over.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Old Chinese Coffee Shop: Sin Seng Nam

I'm going to have to speed up posting on the backlog of posts on my trip to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore last month. Gosh, was it just a month ago?

The folks at Royal Selangor did an excellent job of making sure that we enjoyed our trip. We were taken on a walking tour around KL, on a tour of RS' factory and showrooms, and meals were carefully planned at restaurants that reflect the different cultures and cuisines of Malaysia.

Restoran Sin Seng Nam is one of the remaining old Chinese (Hainanese?) coffee shops in KL. Yut Kee is the more famous old-style Chinese coffee shop in KL but it closes Mondays. 

We were directed upstairs because the ground floor was full. I love old, high-ceiling restaurants such as this. There's so much character and history in every corner, tile, table, window and even the ceiling fan. Reminds me of Journal Canteen in Melbourne.

The standard brekkie in such types of restaurants consists of charcoal fire-toasted bread, sandwiched with kaya (a custard-jam made of coconut milk and eggs) and butter. Thick, strong local coffee in old mugs are another must, as are coddled eggs.

Coddled egg--not half as good as Yut Kee's.

Fried noodles may seem too heavy for breakfast, but in Malaysia, it is eaten anytime of the day.

Cheong fun is flat rice noodles with a sweet sauce but here it's topped with stuffed okra, beancurd skin and fried fishballs. A bit too much variety for me, as I prefer plain cheong fun.

Plain cheong fun--yummeh!

It was a good breakfast. I'd go to Sin Seng Nam for the rustic interior and the architecture around the area but for the food, I'd stick with Yut Kee. Maybe I'm just biased because I love the coddled eggs at Yut Kee.

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