Friday, September 28, 2007

Superb Home Made Soup Noodles

What to do with the leftover boiled chicken from the Mid-Autumn Festival reunion dinner? We're sick of rice and heavy meat dishes after that dinner. There's also leftover 'superior' soup of kampung chicken (free-range native chicken) and jinghua ham which has been simmered for 3 hours by my MIL. Ah ha, noodles never fail to please--especially soup noodles.This is what I did with the leftovers:


A few months ago I asked this guy, whose family runs a noodle shop in Taman Cantik, what flour he uses to make his noodles because they were so slippery smooth and el dente. He readily told me "I use Blue Horse flour. It's good for noodles and guotie (potstickers)." You can find Blue Horse flour in most sundry shops but make sure it's Blue not Green Horse flour.


These were the best noodles I've ever made, thanks to that guy (don't know his name). All I did was mix 1 egg only (didn't want strong eggy smell) and some room temperature water into 500g Blue Horse flour (easier to make the dough more wet and sticky and add more flour as you knead than the other way around) and kneaded it in my Kenwood Major till it was smooth and let it rest 15 minutes. Then I rolled it out into a thin sheet, folded it over and over (with a good dusting of flour) and cut the dough into 1/2 cm strips (udon size), pulled each one a little longer and dusted with plenty of flour. Let noodles rest 10 minutes. Then I dunked them, one handful at a time, into boiling water making sure I stir to separate the strands from each other and the base of the pot. When the water boiled, I added a cup of room-temperature water and when it had boiled a minute or so the second time, I scooped the noodles out, drained and put them into a serving bowl. Then I arranged the chicken and some blanched choysum over the noodles and poured in the hot superior soup, and that made a mighty excellent dinner especially with my favorite bird's eye chilies, Maggi sauce and lime dip.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nasi Lemak ('Oily Rice')

P1150333Nasi lemak, with all the trimmings including the best home-made acar and simple fried chicken wings served on a piece of banana leaf--no washing of dishes later!

Nasi lemak is Malaysia's national dish, I think. If it isn't, I'm declaring it so alongwith satay. This recipe is in response to a request from an Angie. So Angie, make sure you cook nasi lemak soon.

Nasi lemak is a breakfast dish although for me it's more for lunch or dinner because it is quite a meal. It is simple, inexpensive and VERY delicious. I usually buy rather than make it because it is easily available and cheap, at RM1.50 (US$0.44) per small packet. But most commercial nasi lemak scrimp on the ingredients (come on, a sixth of an egg??) and the rice is usually cold and lumpy. And then I found out something that totally put me off shop-bought nasi lemak. Shall I spoil it for you too?

If you, like me, only buy nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaves because it tastes so much better, then know this: snakes love banana trees! I was going to plant some pisang raja (king bananas, my favorite) but many friends warned me, because they know my greatest fear is snakes, that little green snakes live among the banana leaves! I had forgotten that when I was researching for this post last week, and was happily shoving a mouthful of nasi into my mouth when I noticed the powdery leaf (a sign that it hadn't been washed) I was eating from. I threw my lunch away.

Anyway, I made nasi lemak two days ago but it got too late for taking good pictures so I heated the leftover for lunch yesterday, made Hub (back for lunch, a luxury many of you big city folks can't have) go to a neighbor's house and cut me a banana leaf. I washed it and even thought of boiling it. We then sat down in front of the TV to eat lunch, and you know what was on? African mambas! Hub flipped to another channel at my screams, and I screamed even louder. This other channel was showing rattlesnakes! Unbelievable. Another flip brought us the Discovery channel, showing some cute penguin babies. I was totally shaken but forced myself to eat anyhow. Moral: don't eat in front of the TV.

To me, nasi lemak is only worth eating if the rice has a strong coconut milk fragrance and the sambal is good.

The sambal ingredients. I substituted kaffir lime leaves with zest from the fruit because I had the fruit but not the leaves.

Nasi Lemak

The Rice (7 to 8 servings)
5 cups uncooked rice, washed
1 large coconut, shaved finely
4 pandan leaves, roughed up and tied into two bundles

1. Add 1 cup water to the shaved coconut, 'massage' the coconut shavings well to release the milk. Squeeze coconut milk (called santan) over a sieve. Add another cup of water to the squeezed coconut shavings, do the same as before to get more milk .

2. Put rice into rice cooker, add all the coconut milk and top up with more water to your usual level of water for cooking 5 cups of rice (usually that would be at level 4 1/2). Push the pandan leaves into the rice. Some people add a bit of salt but I think it's unnecessary. Cook rice as usual.

The Sambal
10 red shallots, peeled & sliced
1 large bulb garlic, peeled
1 large bombay or brown onion, diced
20 dried chilies, soaked or use 'chili boh'*
1 large ripe tomato
1 large knob of lengkuas, in slices
5 buah keras (candlenuts)
3 T sugar (or more to taste)
salt to taste
2 T blacan (shrimp paste), toasted till slightly burnt
3 T tamarind paste + 1 cup water, mixed well
1 pc kaffir lime leaf, torn coarsely
3 T tomato sauce or paste
msg (optional)

This sambal recipe is from Selmi, maid of my friend B and one ingredient she listed was daun salam, some kind of leaf, which is something I've never seen before and couldn't find in the neighborhood market. I have included the blacan, tomato sauce and tamarind. I was unable to find daun salam so I omitted it. You can prepare the sambal and peanuts days ahead and keep them in bottles in the fridge.

1. Pound or whiz the shallots, onion, garlic, chilies, lengkuas (can be left whole), candlenuts and blacan together till fine.

2. Put 1/2 cup (or more but I don't for health reasons) oil into a wok and fry the pounded ingredients under low heat till oil seep out from the ingredients. That'll take 7 minutes at least. Add the tomatoes, tamarind juice (to your taste), tomato sauce and season with sugar and salt. You can add msg if like. Add more water if too thick. Let it cook without cover for another 10 to 15 minutes. Add lime leaf and let mixture bubble to a thick consistency.

* Chili boh is convenient and will give a nice red color to the sambal but I am wary of the words 'mengangdungi awet yang dibenar' which basically means there's additives so take your own risk.

The Ikan Bilis/Dried Anchovies
Get the medium-sized ikan bilis. Wash several times. Try one. If it's still salty, rinse or soak them a little while. You want to get rid of the 'dead salty' taste but yet keep the umami. Let ikan bilis dry on a piece of kitchen paper.
Heat 2 cups of oil in a wok till smoking, add the ikan bilis and fry over medium heat till very crispy and golden but not burnt. You can add the ikan bilis to the sambal or serve it separately.

The Peanuts
Get the uncooked unskinned peanuts. Pick them over. Wash, drain and let them dry. Add a little bit of oil to wok, add the peanuts and fry over low heat, stirring all the time, for about 5 to 8 minutes. Let them cool and sprinkle some salt over.

Other Accompaniments
Hard-boiled eggs
Cucumber slices
Fried chicken wings or meat curry

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Thanks for Dropping By!

The minute Hub got into the car to send the boys to school this morning, I got on the computer. The need for sneakiness is because I'm trying to show them I'm not obsessed with blogging. We just got the computer back from sickbay yesterday and it's been hard working on Hub's laptop the last few days because his programs are different from what I'm used to. It's strange, but I could upload pictures faster on flickr using Hub's laptop but could not publish more than 3 pictures for each post on Blogger.

What happened when I was asleep last night? Over 110 hits mostly from the USA in the early hours?! So I checked the referrals on my site meter and found that (food website of the group that publishes Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines) has mentioned A Daily Obsession in their 25/9/07 post ! Wow, I'm very encouraged! Thank you!

Last week, Bento shared with me her Creative Blogger Award (I think it's a great tongue-in-cheek idea for us new unrecognized food bloggers!). Thank you Bento. I am new to blogging but I think I am to pass this award on to other worthy food bloggers? So here's my pick, all from Sabah:

1. A Feast, Everyday @
2. Chickyegg @
3. Shan @ sometime food blogger)

To all who click onto this website, thank you for noticing, commenting, encouraging, advising and for your friendship! Here's some cupcakes for u all:


Bak Tong Go (White Sugar Kueh)

Last weekend, I tried out two honeycomb cake recipes, and failed both times to get any comb. The first recipe was given by my friend Elaine and although it lacked the comb, it tasted perfect, all caramelly and springy. The second recipe resulted in an unbelievably disgusting cake, and the recipe was from a YouTube video on 'How to make a Malaysian Honeycomb Cake' or some title like that. All the other honeycomb cake recipes on Google are similar to the ones I've tried (and failed at) through the years.

I'm a tenacious person when it comes to cooking. I remember a chinese kueh with lots of comb, and sure enough I found this recipe at I reduced sugar by 1/2 cup and the salt by 1/4 tsp.

280g rice flour
200g sugar
600ml water
3 pandan leaves, knotted
1 tsp instant dried yeast
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp cooking oil

1. Mix the rice flour with 300 ml of the water.

2. Boil the sugar with the remaining water, salt and pandan leaves until the sugar is dissolved. Mix syrup into the into rice flour mixture, stirring well. Strain the mixture and leave it to cool.

3. Dissolve 1 tsp yeast in 2 tbsp lukewarm water and add to cooled rice mixture, and mix well. Cover the batter and leave in an oven or warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

4. Prepare a pan of water for steaming. Grease a 30 cm round pan and place it on a wire rack in the water for steaming.

5. Add the oil to the leavened batter, stir it well, pour into the heated pan and steam for 20 minutes.


Lots of comb and the taste is good, just like store-bought except it is not as fine. This is not a kueh I like but I made it to see if I get any combs. Try it if this is one of your favorite kuehs. It's real easy and cheap to make.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Mid-Autumn Festival


So who says the Chinese are not a romantic people? They actually have a day set aside just to appreciate the moon when it's at its brightest, biggest and roundest. Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival (let's just call it MAF). MAF is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th Chinese calender month every year. In ancient and present-day China, tonight is a magical, romantic night for gazing at the moon (and each other).

MAF not only marked the season in ancient China, but also celebrated the harvest for that year. The moon, being at its brightest on MAF, is the object of attention on that night. When I was young I was told stories of a beautiful lady, a wood-cutter and a rabbit who all lived on the moon. And then the Americans landed on the moon in 1969 and overnight all the Chinese who believed in that story grew up. Later, I was told nobody has ever seen the other side of the moon, so maybe that's why nobody saw those three characters. The moon held a lot of mystique in those days and I remember pointing a shaking finger at the moon one night when I was about 7 or 8. Then I waited in secret fear and defiance for my ears to rot because that was what I was told would happen if anyone pointed at the moon. Yes, you can laugh but those were days before Hubble and computers. And so my ears didn't rot and I got bolder and maybe that's why I never believe in superstitions, and why it's impossible to sell me life insurance or health products.

My favorite mooncake story is the story of how China overthrew the Mongolians who had ruled it for over 100 years by putting messages into mooncakes, which the Mongolians avoid, telling all Han Chinese to rise up against the Mongolians on MAF. It's a true story.

A westernized mooncake of sucre pastry with 100% salted duck's egg yolk filling. Nice but I prefer the traditional mooncakes.

My mom used to lay out mooncakes, pomeloes, peanuts, sweets and agar jelly she'd made herself on a long table in the communal yard we shared with other families. That was in Tanjung Aru, us in our wooden houses right next to the marbled palace of the Chief Minister (how's that for disparity and living in harmony). All the neighbours' kids would come, each with a colorful home-made lantern (in the shape of a star, or dog, or rabbit or flower) to my mom's 'appreciate the moon' party. They used to call Mom "The Hong Kong Woman," in respect and wonder at her origin and 'city' ways. I was so proud of my Mom and happy to be the host family for all the other families.

When my kids were younger, I did celebrate MAF yearly (upto 4 years ago when Yi left for Australia) with a walk around our neighborhood, me and my kids and their cousins all carrying lousy store-bought lanterns (I made sure the lights weren't battery operated), and people would stare from their houses when their dogs barked at us. Then we'd go home and eat mooncake and sip tea on the patio with Mom, and my siblings if they visit, just in case we get a glimpse of the moon. So what's my point. I guess I'm lamenting the loss of the old ways and I'm hoping my kids will remember MAF, and how they celebrated it as a family because what most families do now on MAF is eat a big reunion dinner, watch TV and never once look at the moon. Me, I still sip tea and eat mooncakes and gaze at the moon and occasionally into my Hub's eyes.

White lotus paste and salted egg yolk filling. That's ChangEr and the rabbit flying to the moon.

My favorite mooncake filling is the lotus seed paste with twin yolks. I used to cut mooncakes horizontally, which incensed my mom, so I can get at the whole salted egg yolk. These days there are mooncakes with 3 yolks so no matter how you cut it, you'd get lots of yolk.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Eat With Us: Umai


At last, a restaurant that I can accord a 4/5! Ladies and gentlemen, check out Umai, the latest Japanese restaurant in KK.

The restaurant boasts of a menu of over 200 items, the most extensive menu of all the Jap restaurants in town. The best thing of all is prices are reasonable, and even slightly lower (eg temaki rolls are only RM5 a piece) than most places (except for the sashimi, I think). It's obvious the new kid in town wants to stand out, in quality, variety and even in the presentation of the food. For instance, my spider (soft shell crab) sushi roll came with slices of white dragon fruit which looked like the black sesame seeds on the rice of the inside-out roll, and a generous garnish of ebiko.
Spider roll, RM11 (US$3.20)

This was superb, in taste and presentation. Definately thumbs-up item. Dragon fruit is hidden, far end.

Sashimi set lunch, RM27 (US$8)

All the Jap restaurants in KK fail, as far as I'm concerned, when it somes to sashimi. The worst one is Nagisa, Hyatt Hotel which serves soggy, no, watery tasteless sashimi that can only be swallowed with lots of wasabi and soy sauce. My sometime hairdresser, Bobby, agrees with me on this and the guy is super sensitive and knowledgeable about food. Umai's sashimi isn't watery but didn't quite make my cut.

(Talking of worsts, you'll never find me at Wagamama. I wouldn't pay for Malaysianised/local ingredients in Jap cuisine served on plastic and cheap ceramics. Somebody should tell Wagamama in London where the chain started from because I highly suspect our local Waga is not a franchise of the original restaurant.)

Teppanyaki king prawn set lunch, RM25 (US$7.30)

This was good, but a little too salty for me.

Natto starter, RM7 (US$2)

This is the first time I tried this soybean thingy and I won't be having it again. It's slimy, sticky (look at those strings) and tasteless, just like the ika it came with.

That was what Ming and I had for our lunch at Umai. Plus a plain starter of agedashi tofu (a little under-fried) and a salmon temaki. Because we raved so much about Umai, Hub took me there for lunch the next day. We both decided to have the grilled salmon don set. And this is where I'll let you in on my discovery: all the dons are priced between RM10 and 15 only and they are a steal because you'll have to pay twice that for other types of set lunches (see above) which only have an extra plate of tempura.

Grilled salmon don set, RM12 (US$3.50)

This was great! Unlike Hyatt, where the salmon is always overcooked and dry, Umai's grilled salmon was seared outside but tender inside, with a yummy teriyaki coating.

Kenny, the manager/proprieter of Umai, came over to chat when he saw us taking photos. A friendly chap, Kenny was very open to suggestions and comments. Ming's first comment was
"Just make sure you don't drop in your standards like most new restaurants in KK--good food when they just opened, but downhill thereafter!" With a serious face, Kenny assured us that they aim to be the best Jap restaurant in KK. I hope he keeps that promise.

Umai is located on 1st Floor, Tai Thong Building where Royal Palace is. That's first turning on the left after the Lido trafic lights on the way to KKIA. They are not officialy opened yet, but hours are 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm daily.

(Mike C: did you guys have Japanese food too last week?)

Update: I brought 5 friends to Umai on 2/10/07 and was utterly disappointed.

1. The spider roll (RM11, not RM12 as I had stated before) had a small pinch of pickled ginger, no dragon fruit, two tiny pieces of lettuce. It looked totally different from the first one I had just 10 days ago. The other makis we tried tasted okay but were rolled so loosely, the filling didn't hold together.
2. Hub's tempura was soft and cold. When we complained, they took it away and came back with the same plate of tempura, now re-fried into hard shrunken pieces.
3. The chawan mushi was like water and only half full! We returned it and the replacement was only slightly firmer and the flavor was just not good.
4. The teriyaki salmon was bland, and looked and tasted like it was panfried under low heat because there was no caramelly teriyaki sauce taste and no crispy burnt edges like before.
5. Our food came slowly, at long intervals and from the maki till the set dinners it was a bad 40-minute wait.

Kenny, the proprietor, explained that the head chef was on leave and he apologized profusely but the harm was done. My friends walked out very disappointed, and so did I. It's KK restaurant syndrome (good at first, crummy after a while), but this restaurant was struck super quickly.

Friday, September 21, 2007

How To Season A Wok

My old wok has sprung a hole, after 10 years of servitude. I hunted for a new cast iron wok everywhere but could not find a thin one (like my old wok), which would be easy to handle and heat up quickly.

I was at this shop in Karamunsing (ground floor) when this lady who owns one of those Beaufort-style restaurants (the one near Tshung Tsin School) walked in. She was very helpful and told me the carbon steel ones are light and good, provided you season them well. If you don't, the wok will rust easily and the food you cook it in will smell of the industrial oil (or whatever it is) they have coated the wok with. She said never season it like what they tell you in the magazines; your food would smell of the industrial oil. Woks, according to this lady from Hong Kong, should be seasoned The Cantonese Way:


Love my new wok: big with deep sloping sides and only costs RM27 (US$8).

1. Use paper towels to wipe away the protective oil.

2. Wash and scrub the wok with steel wool, inside and out. Wipe it dry.

3. Put it on the stove, heat it till it begins to smoke and pour in, say, 1 cup of veg oil.

4. Add white tofu (I used 8 pieces since my wok is big) and garlic chives and fry for about 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Throw away the tofu and chives, wash the wok without soap and wipe it dry. Smear some oil all over. It's seasoned and ready to be used.

Verdict: I still detected industrial oil in the first dish I cooked with the new wok although nobody else in the family did. Typical. Of them. After 2 more times, the wok worked fine. It is good to deep-fry the first couple of times so the oil will really seal the surface of the wok. The more you use the wok, the deeper the color will go, until it develops a shiny black patina and a permanent non-stick surface develops. I have yet to buy a bunch of bamboo skewers to wash the wok with. Apparently you should use the bamboo/lidi brush (they do that in the restaurants) and never use washing detergent which will cut too deeply into the surface of the wok and take away all the oil, making the wok vulnerable to rust. Unless it is super dirty, just wash with water and a brush.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How To Eat A Tarap

Twice to thrice a year we get a fruit season of the most beautiful and flavorful tropical fruits, most of which are home grown or grown on small orchards, ensuring freshness and intensity of flavors and taste. Apples, peaches, grapes, oranges et al. are so insipid in taste and looks compared to the durians, jackfruits, mangosteens, langsats, longans, cempedaks...look at what we are eating now (late July to September):

L to R: mangosteens, langsats and rambutans

Wild durians, tarap and cempedak (the last two are from the same family as the jackfruit)

I recently gave a tarap to a friend who has never eaten it before and was amused when she showed me photos of the tarap cut into 4 neat quarters. That's like killing a fly with a spade. Wey is going to demonstrate to you how to eat a tarap but before that let me tell you what I know about the tarap:

1. The tarap is a jungle fruit native to Borneo but is now cultivated in The Philippines and Indonesia.

2. You can tell if the tarap is good by looking at the spikes: if well-spaced and big, then the pulpy seeds inside will be thick and meaty. It's like eating pork fat: the texture is soft, smooth and rich. And sweet.The tarap is considered cool (yin) versus durian which is heaty (yan) which means you should eat taraps (and manggis/mangosteen, another cool fruit) after eating durians to balance the heatiness.

3. The tarap is related to the nangka (jackfruit) and the cempadak.

4.There is a local saying that a tarap, if it falls on your head, can kill you but not a durian. That is most incredible because taraps have soft spikes all over while durians ( from the Malay word 'duri' meaning thorns) have sharp, hard thorns. Despite that superstition, I'd sooner be hit with a tarap than a durian.

So how do you eat a tarap?


1, 2. Just pull it apart (the shell feels like Velcro. Sort of). Look at that white 'flesh' enclosing the seeds!

3. Grab with your fingers, like a true Bornean wildman. Tastes better when there's someone eating with you. Pop into mouth, work it around and spit out the seeds.

4. What's left is a club-like stem, good for plonking people on the head with.

Don't throw those seeds away. There are on average 40 seeds in one good tarap. The inferior tarap will give upto 80 small seeds. I can eat half a tarap but that means I can't eat dinner because it is very filling. Wash (I only handle those seeds I eat) and boil the seeds for 15 minutes, drain and toast them either in a wok or toaster oven and sprinkle salt over. It beats peanuts, macademia and some of those fancy nuts anytime.


One thing about the tarap: it smells good when you eat it but the smell, although not as 'offensive' as the durian, can last for days (esp. in the car) and sometimes I swear there's uncollected garbage around but it's only the stale smell of tarap shells after it's eaten!'s good to have standby posts for days like this when my computer is not working. You'll notice I have posted my first diptych photos--and they are not published fully. Any change will have to wait till I get my comp. fixed. Aiya.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007



The first time we came across and fought over this Spanish treat was in Disneyland, Anahiem. Then we found it in Pier 39, SF and everywhere in California. And much later in Tokyo Disneyland too. And once somewhere in Singapore. Those churros in Disneyland were about 0.5m long each. I couldn't find a recipe for churros anywhere (didn't think to Google it then). Then about 5 years ago I found this recipe (I've made some slight adjustments) in a book called Mediterranean by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow:


200 g or 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour* (reduced from 1 3/4 cups)
1 1/4 cup water
pinch of salt (reduced from 1/4 t)
1 T sugar (reduced from 2 T; most times I omit it)
2 T veg oil (reduced from 1/4 cup; other recipes use butter)
1 egg, beaten (can add a few drops of vanilla)--some recipes omit the egg

1/4 cup fine brown or white sugar
1 t cinnamon powder

*bread flour will give a tougher dough that won't break so easily when being piped.

1. Mix together the 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon powder well, leave aside.

2. Put oil and water into a small pot. Sift flour, salt and sugar together. When water boils, switch off heat and put in all the flour and stir well with a wooden spoon. This part needs a lot of muscles as the dough is quite stiff.

3. After 2 min, add the egg into the dough and stir well till all the egg is absorbed.

4. Heat up about 6 cups of veg oil in a small pot. Find the largest star nozzle (best if about 1/2 "/1.25 cm in diameter) you have and, using a cloth piping bag or plastic piping tube (a plastic bag will burst), push the dough out into small coils or 's' shapes directly into the hot oil (caution: sometimes little pockets of dough will burst out. One of my friends, a Spaniard, burnt herself very badly cooking churros so do be careful.) or, to be safer, pipe onto a plate (using kitchen scissors to cut into 12 cm lengths) and then carefully drop into the oil.

5. Turn churros over to get even browning. When it is medium brown, scoop it out onto paper towels to drain. Then quickly toss into the cinnamon-sugar mixture and serve hot.

Apparently churros are eaten with a hot cup of chocolate or dipped in choc sauce. I did that this afternoon, when it began to rain, and it was bliss. But I wonder how do they make the chorros in Disneyland so long?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mitarashi Dango


More than 10 years ago, a Japanese neighbour taught me how to make dango with red beans topping. It wasn't until I ate the BBQed sweet soy sauce dango outside the Hase Temple in Kamakura, Japan that I got hooked on these delicious snacks skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled.

Dango (pronounced "dung-go") are little balls of glutinous rice, much like mochi and Chinese tangyuen. Dango is easy to make but the sweet soy sauce topping is a different matter. I have tried various recipes from Google, but none turned out right until the other night, my friend Tina (who's married to a Japanese and has come back last week to live in KK because, according to her husband, "Tokyo is nice but KK is the best!") pointed out that the sauce should be thickened not by starch, but by sugar. But...but...but all the recipes said to used starch...

Anyway, I've tested Tina's suggestion and she is right because without the starch the sauce tastes great and looks shinier and clearer. Tina also thinks that only Japanese glutinous rice flour makes good dango, so don't expect this to taste exactly like those in Japan. In Japan, dango are usually sold outside temples and are always sold grilled. If you want a simple snack, do make some mitarashi dango.

Mitarashi Dango

2 cups glutinous rice flour
3/4 to 1 cup boiling water
1 T fine sugar (optional)

1. Put flour and sugar into a bowl, pour the hot water in and stir with a pair of chopsticks till water is all absorbed. Knead with your iron hands. Add 1 0r 2 tablespoons of flour if the dough is too soft, or some water (doesn't have to be boiling) if too crumbly. It should be soft yet firm enough to hold its shape, like playdough.

2. Roll into 1 " balls and drop into a pot of boiling water.(Do not make balls too big or you'll gag because it is made of sticky rice after all.) After 2 to 3 minutes, scoop balls out when they float to the surface. Let them cool.

3. Skewer balls 3 to a stick (or leave unskewered and serve with toothpicks) and drizzle the sweet soy sauce over.

Sweet Soy Sauce

2 T Kikkoman sauce
2 T mirin
3 T fine sugar
2 to 3 t dashi granules
1/2 cup water

Boil above ingredients (you can add more sugar or soy sauce, to your preference) over medium fire till almost thick (sauce will thicken further on cooling). Cool. I prefer to make this ahead and chill it because it'll become thick and sticky.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sharon's Mom's Taro Kuih


Have you noticed that all kuehs (a Malay word that probably came from the Hokkien word kuay for chinese steamed cakes and desserts) have become so commercialised that they taste just what they are made of: flour, sugar and boxed santan? There's hardly any jencaixheliao , real ingredients, in them. I don't eat kuehs unless they're home-made.

Taro kueh has that old Hakka (or is it Hokkien?) nostalgia to it. It reminds me of younger days before people had cheesecakes or pizzas or burgers. My mom used to make taro kuehs that tasted better than any you could buy. But that was before she became hypertensive. After that, her healthy taro kueh with low salt, seasoning and oil was so bland we totally boycotted her kueh and she never made it again. When Sharon, Wey's BM tuition teacher a couple of houses away, gave us some of her mom's taro kueh I was immediately reminded of how taro kueh should taste--savory sweet with a mixture of flavors from the yam, fried dried prawns and fried onions.
Typically, kuehs are made by 'feel' and experience so the quantity of some of the ingredients were not available. I have tested the recipe and this is the best I can go. You can make your own adjustments to the taste and texture of the kueh by adjusting the seasoning and amount of water and flour. Traditionally this kueh should be a nice shade of purple, if you can get hold of a really purple taro. Most commercial yam kuehs are artificially colored, so beware. Sharon's mom has generously agreed to share her delicious kueh recipe with us:

Yam Kueh

2.3 litres water
500g (after peeling) taro, diced into 3/4 cm cubes
3/4 cup (or more, up to you) dried prawns, washed & chopped coarsely
500g rice flour
3 t salt (more or less)
1/4 t pepper (more or less)
1/8 to 1/4 t 5 spice powder (to your liking)
2 t chicken stock granules & 1/8 t msg


shallots, sliced finely n fried in oil till crisp
finely cut spring onions
finely chopped red chilies

1. Put 6 to 7 T veg oil into hot wok and add the dried prawns and fry till golden brown and crisp at low heat. If dried prawns aren't fried long enough, the kueh will lack flavor--I learnt this in my first try.

2. Add the taro and fry till light brown. Season fried ingredients with salt, pepper, msg, 5 spice powder and add the water (which seems a lot but will dry up) and rice flour, mixing well. Taste the batter and adjust seasoning to your liking. Continue frying at low heat ( mixture burns easily), stirring well for about 12 to 15 minutes until mixture is thick, stiff and 'springy'.

3. Grease a 12"/30 cm round tin and scoop the fried mixture in, pressing lightly to level and fill out the tin.

4. Steam at high heat for 50 min. Let kueh cool completely and slice it into small servings. Scatter the garnishing over the top. Any leftover can be kept in the fridge and later reheated by pan-frying with a little oil till light-golden.

5. Serve with a sweet chili sauce like Lingham's, and a mug of kopi-O.

Update 27/4/08: I've realised that 'taro' is the correct word for what we call 'yam' here, because 'yam' anywhere else refers to sweet potato.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Don't Eat With Us: Emperor's Delight N Home Delicious

We finally made it to Emperor's Delight for lunch. This is another new (opened less than 6 months ago)restaurant serving la mien (hand-pulled noodles)and other Shanghainese/Beijing food. A China-looking man (we can tell, can't we, local Chinese and China Chinese) was pulling noodles behind a glass panel. I had to sit on my hands when I gave my orders; I get very excited about new eating places.

La mien with jacai and pork, RM8 (US$2.40)

I seem to always order this at new la mien restaurants. It's kind of like what ha gow does for me at new dim sum places, an acid test. The soup was good, but the noodles surprised me. They were not only too soft, they were not pulled very well, with different thickness along each strand. Time they got a noodle-making machine, a stainless steel one.

Lanzhou la mien with braised pork, RM8

La mien originated fron Lanzhou. I wouldn't recommend this item; nothing special.

Xiaoloongbao, RM5 (US$1.50)

Inexpensive, but the worst I've eaten so far. It's not that there wasn't much soup inside, or even that it is smaller than in other places. It's just that they have the dough wrong because it kind of sticks to my upper teeth and the texture is just not right. Plus the meat was a mush.

Scallion pancake, RM5

This is so simple it reminds me of my MIL's. Not bad. In fact, I liked it best of all.

Overall, the place merits a 3/5. Edible but won't make me long to eat there.

Dinner was at Home Delicious Restaurant in the Iramanis shoplots. Another disappointment.

Stewed porkleg, a house specialty, RM21(US$6) for small portion

This is their house specialty?!

Fish slices with black beans, RM12 (US$3.50)

Where oh where are you black beans?

Sichuan-style brinjals, RM8 (US$2.40)

Okay but a little too sweet.

Fried kangkong in fermented beancurd, RM8 (US$2.40)

It wasn't until I typed the caption above that I realised that the flavor was supposed to be fu yee, fermented beancurd. Must've been very unfermented beancurd because I didn't taste it. But of all the dishes, this was the best.

Home Delicious is run by a couple (wife's Taiwanese) and their son only so expect slow but friendly service. The place is clean and cosy and they do have their faithful customers who want 'home-cooked' food. Another 3/5.

Chinese Steamboat

(This post was updated with pictures on 8/11/07)

Steamboat is an informal way of eating, with everybody cooking their own or one person cooking for everyone.

As requested by Marie and Angel, here's my steamboat recipe. I got my mom's birthday wrong so won't be doing steamboat this weekend, but I thought I should still give you the recipe. Will update post when I do steamboat.

Steamboat is a boat anywhere else but in South East Asia, where it refers to that Cantonese way of cooking at the table in which raw meat and veg are dipped into a pot of boiling stock and each person will then help himself to the cooked food. In China, 'firepot' is a term that includes steamboat as we know it, and all other ways of cooking at the table, including frying and stewing.

If and only if, I have to eat steamboat in restaurants, I always look out for fresh unprocessed meat. If a place serves mostly processed stuff like fishballs in different shapes, or weiners or surimi (imitation crabsticks), I get out quickly. No point in stuffing my body with all that rubbish. My father was a true Cantonese, always preferring steamboat on special occasions. His steamboat dinners are legendary--my hub still remembers that the first time he ate at my parents', the steamboat consisted of 30 to 40 kinds of ingredients. For steamboat, Dad would take the trouble to prepare fresh beef tripe (sweet, crunchy-chewy!) and pig stomach (also crunchy, but in a different way) which I've never eaten prepared that way anywhere else. He had strict rules to not mix all the different meat and veg together, but to cook each separately so that you can savour the flavor, sweetness and texture of each ingredient. Another thing he did differently was to marinade all the meat in soy sauce, pepper and cornflour.

The rainy weather recently is perfect for a steamboat dinner. Although there's quite a bit of preparation, it is a fun way to eat with friends and family, and it's inexpensive too. One way my friends and I used to tackle the problem of having to prepare so much was to get each person to do certain things. R, who doesn't shop, would bring the fruits, V would do the seafood, W would do her dip, CL would make fishballs and PL would do the beef. Y, if she comes, would get the drinks because she can't cook, or so she claims.

Here's a list of ingredients you can serve in your steamboat party. Just choose a balanced list in terms of flavors and texture and remember my cardinal rule: quality, quality, quality!


Put the bones from the chicken, the fish and whatever chicken feet and necks you have into a big pot. Fill with water, add 2 chinese carrots/radishes (lobak) which have been cut into small chunks and simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours. Strain away all the bones, keeping the radishes in the stock. You can add some salt and pepper. I don't because the dips are good enough.

1. beef fillet, or sirloin, sliced thinly & marinaded with light n dark soy sauce, cornflour & pepper.
2. corn-fed chicken, deboned, sliced, marinaded above (I now prefer on the bone; not so boring)
3. lamb, sliced thinly
4. fish (7-star garoupa is good), sliced thickly. Marinade is optional.
5. prawns, shelled but tails on, marinaded with salt n pepper
6. fresh squid, scored n sliced, marinaded as for prawns
7. dried squid, soaked in water + baking soda for two days, scored n sliced
8. salted jellyfish, washed well n soaked with frequent changes of water
9. pig kidneys, prepared by butcher, sliced & marinaded as for beef
10. pig liver (ask butcher for 'powder liver'), sliced
11.fresh scallops
12.fresh oysters
14.fishballs (NEVER buy; make your own)
16.fishmaw, soaked & blanched
17. stuffed tofuballs (half the balls so they'll cook faster)
18.yuefoo (recipe given in November 9th post)
19.wontons (parboiled)
20.quail eggs (boiled, shelled)
Note: Cut all meat (except fish & chicken) thinly but in large pieces. If cut too small, it'll tear and break up easily. For beef, no need to marinade if using imported beef. I prefer sirloin because even though it is not as tender as fillet, it is more flavorful and does not break up easily. Get fish that doesn't break up easily, and leave skin on.

1. Chinese cabbage
2. tung ho ('chrysanthemum leaves')
3. lettuce
4. kangkong
5. spinach
6. chinese celery
7. choysum (mustard greens)
1. tofu, in cubes
2. fresh shiitake or enoki mushrooms
3. foojook (beancurd sheets)
4. mifun, ho fun etc, soaked and blanched

I don't use yellow noodles because of the coloring and the weird taste they give to the soup.
1. Wendy Dip (named after Wendy, of course)
-fry minced garlic and small red onions in oil till soft. Put into bowl and add (here I've changed her recipe) Maggi soy sauce and dark soy sauce.
2. Chili Padi Dip
-mix together chopped chili padi, Maggi soy sauce and calamansi (kit jai) juice.
3. Oyster Sauce
-Get the Lee Kum Kee Brand, with a lady rowing a boat.

1. Cook each item separately, starting with the best meat or ingredients. After a few meat items, start on the veg and mushrooms because the umami from the meat would have made the soup very tasty by then.
2. Do not add noodles until everybody is done. This is because noodles fill you up (and you don't want to be full of carbo) and dilute the soup. The soup's the best at the end so leave some room for it!
3. Either use a big scoop and scoop out all the cooked food onto one or two serving plates so all can help themselves from there, or give each person his own scoop
4. Cook and eat slowly. My father always reminded us that steamboat is to be enjoyed, and in Pingnam, Guangxi where he was from, people eat steamboat from evening to dawn in the winter to keep warm.
5. Wear loose clothing. You'll know why.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Drunken Chicken


I don't know why, but drunken chicken always reminds me of the imperial banquets of 100 dishes served in the palaces of ancient China. I can imagine the emperor stroking his beard and feasting on boneless, smooth and tender pieces of chicken soaked in the best shaohsing wine while graceful concubines play the er hu...

If you were to ask a Shanghainese to name 10 top Shanghainese dishes, zuiji (drunken chicken) along with xijeto (lions' head, which is large pork meatballs) and sweenyue (fried fish soaked in a sweet sauce) will definitely make the list. Of the three, drunken chicken is the easiest to prepare. You just need very good chicken, shaohsing wine and the patience to wait one day for the chicken to soak in the wine.

The drunken chicken I ate in Shanghai was superb, bursting with the wonderful bouquet of shaohsing wine. Anyone can make good drunken chicken there because a ready-mix which contains concentrated shaohsing wine is easily available. There are many brands of shaohsing wine here but the best is the Pagoda brand, which is still a weak version of what you get in Shanghai.


Drunken Chicken

1x2kg whole corn-fed chicken, or 4 large chicken legs, skin on
2 1/2 t salt
1/4 t white pepper
1 t Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
1 1/2 cups shaohsing wine
6 thin slices fresh ginger
2 stalks spring onions, tied in 2 bundles
about 1 cup good chicken stock (see Step 2)

1. If using whole chicken, cut it into two halves. Rub chicken with 1 t salt, ginger and the green onions (and Sichuan peppercorns if using) and leave it to marinade in the fridge for 1 hour.

2. Steam chicken (with the ginger, spring onions and peppercorns on top and bottom of chicken) at high heat till cooked (about 25 to 30 minutes, test thickest part of thigh with a skewer. If liquid that runs out is reddish, steam another 5 min). Retain the liquid that comes out from the chicken during steaming.

3.Cut the chicken at the joints to get large pieces so that they are easier to fit into a bowl, and slso easier for the wine to soak in. Mix 1 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t white pepper in a small dish and rub this all over the chicken when it's still hot. Skim the oil from the reserved stock and add to the wine in a glass bowl big enough to hold the chicken pieces. Soak the chicken in the wine-stock (chicken will not be fully covered by wine), cover with cling film (make sure film doesn't touch the chicken) and leave in the fridge overnight, or at least 12 hours (24 hours is best). Turn the chicken once so every part gets to soak in wine. The wine-stock will turn into jelly.

4. Chop chicken into small neat pieces (you can remove the bones if like), arrange nicely on a plate, cover and return to the fridge while you let the wine-stock, which is now a jelly, sit in room temperature to melt. Pour this stock over the chicken just before serving. Garnish with coriander leaves. Drunken chicken is always eaten cold. Sit down and feast on a dish fit for an emperor. Or empress. And get someone to play the er hu.

Note: recipe edited on 9/2/08. I've found that other than steaming the chicken, you can also boil it like you do for Hainan Chicken Rice. Just proceed from Step 3 and use canned stock but heat it up first.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fried Wontons 101


This is for those who absolutely can't cook, so bear with me. I'm thinking guys or girls away from home who are having friends over for some wine and video and don't want pizza.

All you have to do is mince some meat up (pork is good, or a mixture of minced pork and prawns but not beef because it gives a coarser texture), season it, wrap it in wonton wrappers and deep fry the wontons till crisp. I like to serve fried wontons when Hub has friends over for drinks but these days if I so much as serve them fried ikan bilis, they think I'm trying to kill them ("Wah, deep-fried food, so much oil!"). So you've been warned. It IS deep-fried, but it's so tasty!

Fried Wontons

300 to 400g pork, minced (or a mixture of minced pork and uncooked prawns)
1/2 brown onion, minced*
3/4 to 1 t salt
1/4 t white pepper
1 t cornflour
dash of light soy sauce
1/4 t fine sugar, or chicken stock granules
dash of sesame oil (optional)
100 wonton wrappers (may have leftover)

*or finely chopped waterchestnuts, or spring onions or omit veg altogether

1. Mix everything together (except the wrappers!). You can wrap the wontons any way but the simplest, and the easiest way for the meat to cook through is to put a small teaspoon (too much and the meat won't cook) of the filling in the middle of the wrapper, wet the two lower edges with water and fold over, flattening the filling by pressing (so that it'll cook through) to make a triangle. Or you can put the two lower points of the triangle together with a dab of water, and press hard so it won't open during cooking. Leave wontons for a while to dry out so oil will not sputter when frying.

2. Heat enough oil to deep fry. Make sure the heat is not too high (or wontons will burn before it's cooked) or too low (oil will seep in and wontons will be heavy and oily). Fry in small batches till lightly golden. Drain on paper towels.

3. Serve immediately with Worcestershire sauce or tomato ketchup or sweet chili sauce.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Eat With Us: Taiwan Restaurant

The Taiwan Restaurant has been around for some time but we never made an effort to drive out there until yesterday, with the picture of Shan giving me her thumbs up as she talked about the stewed porkleg in my mind, when we finally took the half hour drive along the Putatan Road, all the way past Langkah Syabas, past The Pritchard Home, past some government agriculture centre and then on the right saw this signboard:

Entrance to the Taiwan Restaurant


The restaurant is a local longhouse situated on a beautiful piece of padi land with the sea on the right. The place is big but only about five tables were occupied and three of them were by tourists, very probably Australians, who seemed more at home than us.

Ten minutes after seating ourselves, a young Timorese girl came and rattled out the limited menu. She couldn't answer our questions but repeated the menu like a recording. Hub went to the door of the kitchen and the chef/proprietor asked him to stay out of the kitchen. Hub said he just wanted to know if...the lady shouted again for him to leave and Hub walked away, telling her she's rude. The boys and I looked at each other and wondered if we should leave or risk eating the lady's spit in our lunch. But I had taken a peep at the kitchen, and the cooks, 6 or 7 of them who looked like they were family, didn't seem like bad people...

It was another half hour before the food arrived. It was noon and the place was very warm, and Hub was in a negative mood. The restaurant did not serve any drinks except "herbal drinks from the herbs we grow." Not being experts in herbal drinks, we settled for cold water.

Homemade noodles in beef soup RM7 (US$2).

All grouchiness disappeared as we tucked this in. The noodles were very el dente and the soup full of beefy goodness (I suspect my favorite Bovril as an ingredient).

Stewed pork leg RM45 (US$13)

Just the glorious sight of this huge pork leg was enough to perk up our spirits. We all gave it our thumbs up too. It was tender (no need for that menacing knife), not too fatty and the addition of pineapple gave it that tangyness. The portion was too big for the four of us, and we had to doggy-bag the half that remained.

I'm not sure if I'll go back. The service was almost non-existent: they took so long taking our orders, serving the food and giving back our change (because they took so long and we started walking about, I totally forgot about the change and one of the staff had to run after our car to give us the change). Then again the food's good and it was very nice to drive out there on the coastal road and stop along the way to eat durians at the many roadside stalls.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Steamed Chicken With Chinese Ham N Mushrooms


This is a home dish. In restaurants, they would make it fancier by steaming the chicken whole, then debone it, chop into small neat pieces and arrange alternating slices of chicken and cooked (western) ham, then pour a ginger-soy sauce gravy over. The two dishes are totally different in taste because of the different types of ham used and the method of cooking. I'm taking the easy way out.

Steamed Chicken With Chinese Ham N Mushrooms

1 corn-fed chicken, chopped into small pieces
10 dried chinese (shiitake) black mushrooms, soaked and halved
70 g Chinese jinhua ham, in thin slices
1 T fine ginger strips
1/2 t salt & 1/4 t white pepper
1 1/2 T cornflour
1 T shaoxin wine
1 1/4 T light soy sauce
1/4 t sugar
1/2 T sesame oil
2 T water

1. Mix everything together in a heat-proof plate/pan, tidy up the mushrooms and chicken, cover and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour (time it so the dish is served hot).

2. Steam at high heat for 25 to 30 min. Serve hot with plain rice.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Salmon-Bacon Quiche


It doesn't pour here when it rains, it...lashes. Just when I had the craving for Dotts' egg tarts yesterday at 4pm, the lashes of rain came whipping everywhere. I still got out of the car, grabbed 6 tarts, came home, showered and sat down to a cuppa and last night's salmon quiche. And the egg tarts. Dotts' egg tarts are SO GOOD, perfectly sweet (which means hardly sweet), the egg custard not too soft or firm and the pastry wonderfully 'short'. I usually peel half the pastry away, because I know all commercial pastry is made with that weird laboratory-produced wax called pastry margarine which never melts at room temp, making your every pastry attempt a success (but clogs your arteries). But yesterday I ate it all, sat back contently and rainy days.

Quiches are not so in now, probably due to that '80s book 'Real Men Don't Eat Quiche'? (Don't tell Wey that, he likes quiches). I read somewhere that these so called real men stay away from anything they can't pronounce. I suppose that would be dishes like coq au vin ("I'd like a chicken chop.") Fillet mignon ("Sirloin, medium rare, thank you.") And yes, quiche ("Er, I'll have the pie.")

Linguistics struggles aside, quiches are easy to cook for a hungry family. You can use so many other ingredients such as ham, spinach, peppers, anything you like really. I've made mine extra rich, with cream (use only milk if like but won't be as nice) and loads of meat and veg. Chickyegg, you'd like this eggy dish.


This recipe makes two substantial quiches:

The Pastry

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 pinches of salt
180g cold butter, cut into small cubes (add 50g more if you dare-will give crumbier pastry)
2 eggs, beaten
2 - 3 T water (or lemon juice)

1. Get two flan pans (or a glass dish like I did) of 9"/23 cm diameter and grease them lightly. Oven at 200 C.

2. Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl, add butter and mix well using your fingertips until mixture is like fine breadcrumbs. Add the beaten eggs and water/lemon juice, and extra water if necessary but not too much or pastry will be tough when baked. Knead lightly to mix well.

3. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface. You may not be able to get a nice whole piece but never mind, the pastry can be patched up using several pieces of dough. Flip the pastry over the rolling pin so that it's easier tranfer to the pan. Press pastry firmly onto pan bottom and sides. Trim the top to get a neat edge.

4. Pop the pan into the oven for 10-15 min. to dry pastry out a bit. Remove from oven.

The Filling

1 14oz can salmon*, flaked & liquid retained
80 -100g streaky bacon, in thin strips
1 brown onion, finely sliced
50g fresh mushrooms (button or shiitake), finely sliced
2 cups heavy cream (or 1 cup)
1 cup milk (or 2 cups)
6 eggs
1/2 to 3/4 t salt (I go with 1/2; low-salt diet ...)
1/4 t pepper
1 t paprika
2 T freshly grated parmesan
2 T fresh parsley, chopped finely

* or use tuna or omit fish and increase amount of bacon and veg

1.Put bacon into frying pan w/o oil, fry over low heat till tranparent, then add the onions and mushrooms and fry two min. Let it cool. Mix in the flaked salmon.

2. Crack eggs into a bowl, whisk well,then add the cream, milk, salt, pepper, paprika, parsley, parmesan and the reserved salmon liquid. Give it all a good whip to blend well.

3. Scatter the fried ingredients evenly over pastry, and use a ladle to spoon the egg-cream mixture over the fried ingredients carefully so they don't get pushed to the sides. Use a fork to lightly stir and even out the salmon mixture.

4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 40 min or till the middle filling has set.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Fried Choy Sum, Beaufort-style


Beaufort and Man Tai Restaurants are both popular for their 'interior' Hakka-style of cooking. Interior refers to those towns like Beaufort and Tenom where many Hakka families first settled into when they came to Sabah from China. I've tried adding cornstarch solution towards the end of frying the greens but the veg tasted bland and watery, without that 'wokfire'. That was then. Now I can fry up a mean dish of choysum just like Beaufort because someone has told me the secret: add cornstarch in the beginning. This way the cornflour will not taste 'raw' and it will still thicken and coat the veg when water is added or comes out from the veg as it cooks. The restaurants also use lard, msg and fry in small batches to keep the 'wokfire'.

Fried Choysum

1 small bunch choysum, washed and cut into 5-6 cm lengths
3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 heaped t cornflour
1/2 t salt
dash of msg
1 T water
veg oil or better still, lard

1. Put 3 to 4 T oil in a hot wok, throw in salt, garlic and cornflour (no water added) and quickly add all the choysum, msg, then add 1 T water. If it looks too dry, add another 1 T water but not too much because water will come out from the veg as it cooks. The water will thicken so you just have to practice till you perfect this method by adjusting the amount of water and controlling the heat. When veg is just wilted from frying, dish up. Do not overcook.

Add the cornflour to the hot oil. It will sizzle and bubble.


2. If using pork, cut it into thin slices and marinade with salt, white pepper and a little bit of cornstarch and water. Heat oil in wok and fry till cooked. Add to choysum when the veg is just about totally wilted from frying, stir well to mix and dish up. Another way is to add cornflour to hot oil and add the pork, as for the veg above. Fry till until cooked (may have to add some water), add the veg, then mix both together and dish up.

note: you can use other greens such as Taiwan bok or bok choy. If you want more sauce, use 2 t of cornflour and add more water.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

German Pancakes


Thanks to Denise, I have discovered German/Dutch pancakes! I woke up early and made two for my boys this morning and they love it!

German pancakes are really Yorkshire Pudding but sweet instead of savory. I was a little apprehensive because the few times I made Yorkshire Pudding I've not been successful--they always end up heavy with a custardy texture. So I consulted a great book, Top Secret Restaurant Recipes, which basically lists the same recipe you can get everywhere but instead of using milk only, heavy cream is also used which, the book insists, will give a fluffier texture. I don't have a cast-iron skillet but I figured that if a high temperature is the key to success for these pancakes, then aluminium foil pans would conduct the heat better, and they did.


3 eggs, beaten well............ 1 T fine sugar (original recipe calls for 2 T)
1/3 cup milk ...................... pinch of salt (o.r. :1/4 t salt)
1/3 cup heavy cream*....... 1/4 t pure vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour.. 1 T melted butter (for coating skillet/pan)

1. Heat oven to 230 C. Coat bottom of 9 or 10" oven-safe skillet with melted butter, or put 1/2 T butter each in two 6 or 7" foil pans and melt the butter over low heat. Make sure bottoms of pans are coated with butter.

2. Beat remaining ingredients together real well, let batter rest 10 min. Pour into skillet/pans. If you are using a heavy skillet, it's better to heat it up in the oven before pouring the batter in since the pancakes need very high temp. But a hot skillet is dangerous, so make sure your wear your kitchen mitts.

3. Put into oven for 15 min (less if using smaller pans) till all puffed and golden brown. The pancake will unfortunately shrink very quickly when it is taken out of the oven so you have to work fast (good idea to have your family/guests sit down first).

4. Quickly sieve icing sugar over the pancake for effect, and serve with lemon wedges and maple syrup. VERY yummy, but don't count the calories!

Note: If you use a pan that's too big, the batter will be thin and the pancake will puff up, even in the middle but when it is taken out of the oven, it will shrink to a very thin layer so do use the recommended size pan.

*Update 27/7/08: Thanks to Ro, a reader who successfully made these pancakes using all milk, no cream!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Durian Meringue Buttercream Cake


The yummiest durian cake is the durian mousse cake: light sponge layers alternating with durian mousse, covered all over by whipped cream. Durian and whipped cream truly are made for each other. But since I'm put off by whipped cream, because it is made of hydrogenated veg/palm oils and is thus a trans fat (artery blocker), I decided to make a durian cake using butter, which has saturated fat but as the dieticians will tell you, is still the lesser of the two evils. I think. I didn't want too much butter either, so instead of pure buttercream, I decided to use a meringue buttercream with reduced sugar and butter but more egg whites, and mix in a sinful amount of mashed durian at the end. Mashed and sieved durian is also added to the cake batter, just to intensify the flavor.


Durian Meringue Buttercream

3 egg whites
150g fine sugar (or less, bc durian is sweet)
300g butter
300g (or more) durian flesh (sieve or blend if you like it fine, or just mash it like I did)

1. Put egg whites and sugar into a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir well. The sugar will melt and the mixture will become frothy and white. Remove and, using a machine, whisk till it's thick and glossy.

2. Add the butter by the spoonful beating till well-combined with the egg whites.

3. Lastly add mashed durian flesh and mix well.

To assemble the cake:

1. For the sponge cake, go to my basic sponge but add 6 oz (180g) durian puree. You can either force the durian flesh through a metal sieve or whizz it in a blender. You can use melted butter in place of oil if you are under 20.

2. When cake is cool, cut into thin 1 cm layers. This is easier done if you cut the cake into smaller pieces first, then layer each piece. Trimming off the crust (I forgot to) will make a prettier, all-white cake.

3. Sandwich the sponge layers with the durian buttercream and cover the whole cake with the durian buttercream. Chill, but take out about 15 min. before serving.

The verdict, ladies and gentlemen? Ming couldn't tell the difference;he had slice after slice of the cake. I still prefer the freshcream version but I must say this is a pretty good alternative because the buttercream is so light and the durian so intense I couldn't stop at one slice myself.
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