Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Day Of 2008

And so today is the last day of the year. I was at the beach yesterday, and it was a cool breezy afternoon. As I nostalgically thought about the past year, I felt a little bit sad. It always makes me sad this time of the year. I feel that time is rushing by, and I have accomplished so little. Another year, another 365 days gone.

But I'm not going to beat myself about lost opportunities. I have much to be thankful for. My loved ones are around, my friends are great and life's good. I have no needs, mainly wants, and even that list is shortening with age. Just yesterday I caught the end of a TV program on longevity and it summarized the secrets to a long life:

1. Eat a plant-based diet.

2. Have low-impact exercise.

3. Surround yourself with friends and family.

The first two nourishes our physical body, the third our emotions/soul. I definitely need to improve on 1 & 2, and I think I'm very blessed with 3.

Talking of point no. 3, I get constant emails from many readers, the latest from somebody in France and another from Singapore. It truly makes me happy to know that my posts have been a blessing to your culinary skills, especially when your family enjoys your cooking and I'm known to the whole family. Hang in there with me this coming year, and enjoy our cooking experiences together. I welcome all your feed back, and thank all of you for visiting this blog (and risking your jobs).

Here's a photo a reader, Kamala, sent me from Kashmir many months ago. Kashmir is breathtaking. I'd love to go there one day.


My wish for the new year is "less fighting, more loving". My heart goes out to the civilians of Palestine.

And yes, more cooking. Especially plant-based meals. How come I don't hear any "ayes"? Anyways, I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and wealthy (a Chinese thing, money) 2009!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

christmas card_final
Illustration by Hong Yi of our family this Christmas but she has grossly underestimated Wey's weight & size. And her own age.

Tonight's bird was 6.4 kg. I forgot to take it from my friend's shop last night so I had to thaw it in water this morning and dinner was late at 8.30 pm.

Christmas Eve dinner. The cranberry sauce with orange zest and walnuts was very refreshing and yummy. Thanks for recipe David, and thanks to J for the asparagus (blanched and drizzled with lemon juice and butter) hand-carried from Oz. On the side was chestnuts stuffing, a lettuce-pear-walnuts salad and caramelized pumpkin and sweet potato, spiked with some cinnamon, sugar and butter.

Christmas is about love, God's love for us and our love for Him and all men! "For God so loved the world He gave his only begotton son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Merry Christmas Everyone! Have a nice holiday and play nice!

p.s. for those who want to go to church on Christmas Day, come to the Grand Ballroom at Magellan Sutera Hotel at 10 am. The Christmas celebration will be grand, with dance and carols and even a full lunch buffet, all free! Every cool person in town will be there (me too), so see you all!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Turkey With Chestnuts Stuffing


I promised you my turkey recipe before Christmas, so do go and get that big bird before you have to settle for a ham. Not that a ham is a poorer choice because here they are selling for more than RM400 for a turkey-sized ham.

I've done my turkey this way for as long as I've roasted turkeys, which is over 20 years. And I do roast more than one bird a year, one for friends and one for family. I've only tried a commercial (mushroom) stuffing once and it was so bad that I've stuck to my chestnut stuffing since.

This stuffing recipe was--surprise--originally printed in The New Straits Times and was from The Equatorial Hotel in KL. Is the hotel still in existence? The original recipe had chipolata sausages and fresh ground pork but one year my friend Jo of Drool Team whom I had shared the recipe with, told me that she omitted the meat and the stuffing turned out even better. So I tried it the next year and sure enough, it was better. Not just better, but best, so I've done a vegan chestnut stuffing since. It really is better because it goes well with the turkey without messing up the taste of the poultry.

The stuffing is essential to a moist turkey plus it is super tasty after baking inside the bird for hours. And my son Wey swears that the best thing about roasted turkey is The Gravy. Yes, what is turkey without gravy. He loves the gravy so much that he eats the leftover (I make sure to make plenty) the next day with rice. And he goes around going "Mmm mmm!"

I like to roast my turkey with a loose piece of foil over for most of the cooking time and then one hour before it's done, remove the foil to brown the bird. I also add water to the pan about an hour into the roasting so that the juice doesn't dry up and burnt. The reason I do not add the water from the start is because I usually have extra stuffing around the baking pan and adding water early would erode the stuffing into a wet mess. I learn from my mistakes sometimes.

To transfer the huge bird onto a platter, do not lift it by the legs because 1) it's too hot 2) It might tear off (learnt from experience again). I use two big frying ladles to lift the bird. A willing man can do this job provided he's not clumsy.

One more advice. Get birds bigger than 5.5 kg. I find that the bigger the birds, the moister they are. It is quite hard to get a bird bigger than 6 kg here (this year's bird was 6.3 kg) because, according to the bird sellers, most families are small and their ovens are, likewise, small. Makes sense.

Turkey With Chestnuts Stuffing
5.5 to 6 kg oven-ready turkey
1 T melted butter*

*I just use the wrapping paper from stick butter, put it into the hot oven for a sec and rub it all over the bird. Saves having to melt butter.

Chestnuts Stuffing
500 g chestnuts, unshelled
300g potatoes
70g day old bread
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 sticks celery, diced finely
1 large egg
about 2 cups fresh milk
70 g grated cheddar or parmesan cheese
3-4 T Bristol sherry or red wine
1 heaped t ground marjoram
1 t salt, 1/3 t pepper

note: alternatively, for a meat stuffing, reduce the chestnuts & potato and make up the weight with chipolata sausages (remove the casing) & fresh ground pork.

For the gravy: bay leaf, black peppercorns, sherry, cornflour and chicken stock cube.

1. Boil the chestnuts for 30 minutes and then shell it. Blend 1/2 the chestnuts with 1 cup of milk until it is like thick puree. Cut the remaining chestnuts into 2 or 3. Toast the bread and cut into 1 cm cubes. Peel and boil the potatoes and mash them with 3/4 to 1 cup of milk and the cheese. Season lightly with salt & pepper.

2. Put about 1 T veg oil in a large pot and fry the onions and garlic over medium heat until they are soft and transparent. Add the wine (I prefer the sherry), stir 10 seconds and switch off the flame. Add everything into the pot and stir well to mix. Taste and season. Do not add too much salt as the turkey is already injected with a broth solution.

3. Switch oven to 190 C. Rinse the turkey and trim off butt and excess fat. Keep the flap of skin over the neck so that the stuffing is covered. Keep the skin over the cavity too if you don't mind the fat. If you remove it like I do, your turkey stuffing may make the bird look like it has real bad haemorroids (that's how someone described my turkey the other day). Btw, do not remove the ovenable clamp that holds the legs together. Put turkey into your baking tray/pan (shouldn't have high sides or turkey won't brown so well) and dab dry with paper towels. Stuff the front neck end with the stuffing and then stuff the cavity until full. If there is excess stuffing, put it around the turkey in round pats or balls.

4. Brush melted butter all over the turkey so that the foil won't stick to the skin or do as I do, use the paper from the stick butter. Tent the turkey loosely with aluminium foil with the loose side towards the front of the oven so that it will be easier for you to peep or add water later.

5. Put roasting pan with turkey onto lower rack of oven. After one hour of roasting, add enough water to the baking pan so that water level is about 1.5 cm high. This will keep the juice from drying out. While turkey is roasting, put the neck and giblets & liver into a small pot and add 2 liters water, 1 large bay leaf and 1 heaped teaspoon of black peppercorns and boil for 2 hours to get stock. If water level has gone down, add water.

6. Once an hour or so, check on the water level in the baking pan. After 2 1/2 hours (for 5.5 kg bird) or 3 hours (for 6 kg bird), remove the foil completely and increase the heat to 200 C. If the turkey is browning too fast, you can put a small piece of foil over those areas or turn the heat back down to 190 C. Baste it every 15 min or so. I like to brush on some dark soy sauce (mix with some juice from the pan) to help the browning. You can use browning sauce if you prefer.

7. Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven, then lift bird onto a large platter and let it sit for 20-30 minutes before carving. For neater slices, carve out the whole breasts and then slice them rather than slice pieces off the bird. Meantime, do the gravy.

The Gravy
1. Pour the juices from the roasting pan into a pot. Skim away the oil. Add the stock from the turkey neck to boil.

2. Break in 1 chicken stock cube if like. Mix 1/4 cup cornstarch or plain flour with some water and thicken the gravy with this, stirring well. You may have to add more flour/cornstarch. Season with salt, pepper and 5-6 T sherry.

3. Strain the gravy through a fine sieve.

Note: I don't have to tell you to use leftover turkey for sandwiches. But do you know, I used to throw my turkey bones away until a dear friend, VMS, told me that the bones make the best soup with carrots, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, a bay leaf, barley if you like...we love the smell of turkey soup permeating through the house. It's a tradition for us to have turkey soup for lunch the next day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Before Christmas

We had about 40+ people over for dinner last night, mostly church members and their friends. It was a pot luck, and there was so much food. I only did the turkey with chestnut stuffing and a light fruitcake with plenty of rum (rum just goes so well with butter cakes). I have been roasting turkeys for well over 20 years now (first one was to impress my then boyfriend and in-laws to be) , about 2 birds for each Christmas, so turkeys are truly the easiest things to cook for me. It's just an over-sized chicken. Stuff it, push it into the oven and forget about it until 4 hours later.

I didn't have as much success with my petit fours. The light fruit cake turned out delicious and I topped it with a thin layer of marzipan. My intention was to make pretty festive petit fours with Christmas trees and stars for the grown ups and pipe the kids' names on their fours. But it turned out that glace icing is not easy to make. I didn't use the usual water and icing sugar recipe. I consulted books and websites on the pouring fondant or glace icing for petit fours. And I was SOOO upset when the glace icing turned transparent, and worse, hardened before I could even use it. I warmed it, but it turned grainy. Does anyone have any advice on this?

In the end I just served the cake with the marzipan layer on. I was disappointed that many of my guests just peeled off the marzipan, thinking it was just sweet icing. It was lovely marzipan from England, and it cost me a bomb because it came in a 2.5 kg slab.

Am kinda stressed. There are many things I need to do before next week's many holidays (we get 25 & 26th Dec off only but many businesses are winding down as people get into the festive mood) so I will post my turkey recipe this weekend. Btw, if you haven't yet got your turkey, I'm not sure if you should get it from Hong Seng because mine was from there and last night's turkey had a strong refrigerated smell that most people didn't notice! They probably thought turkeys should smell like that. I've never had such a bird in all these years. If my MIL hadn't already got another Norbest turkey for me, from Merdeka Supermarket, I'd go for the Butterballs in Tong Hing. I've never cooked a Butterball turkey and I remember the ads in Canada & US where they zoom into the turkey as the knife cuts in, and the juice drips out and the meat falls off to reveal moist tender flesh...ah, next year I'll get a Butterball.

These cymbidium orchids are from Taiwan. They don't grow well here because it's too hot. I love orchids, they are so extraordinary in their design. Their irregular symmetry is so artistic.

I love red roses at Christmas. So romantic and autumy.

Year after year, I use the same door wreath a friend bought from Germany.

This year the chairs get the poinsettias.


I completely forgot that I'd given our old tree to Vero two years ago. Yi came up with this gorgeous creation one hour before the party. It really is the best tree we've ever had! She was going to complete it today but the painter came this morning to repaint the TV room and took everything down--she doesn't know it yet, she's out.




I imagined that this was a female turkey so I dressed it with whatever fruits I had.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BBQ House

Just a quick post before I turn in. I must, I have to turn my sleeping hours around. Blogging has robbed me of my beauty sleep and the results are beginning to show...

I LOVE this time of the year. Christmas songs (nice but a little too nostalgic) are played everywhere except on the radio. Shame. That's how religion-tolerant we are. We won't get any Christmas songs aired until this weekend and even then it's rare and few. There's busyness everywhere. People are shopping, especially for the upcoming feasts because 3 days before Christmas is the MOST important Chinese festival, Dong Zhi, or Chinese Winter Festival. After Christmas there's the New Year celebrations. That's not the end because after that comes every Chinese' favorite, the Chinese New Year Festival. Work slows down, everyone is in a festive and hoilday mood. Did you know that Malaysia has one of the highest number of public holidays? 14 in all, just like Thailand, and one day more than the kiasu neighbor. 10 in Oz, 12 in The Philippines, 13 in the States (btw, it was good the fella got a shoe to his head. Almost.) But still no way comparable with Communist China which has 24 public holidays. But then I hear that's all you get, there's no annual leave. Vietnam is a work horse. They only have 5 public holidays. Brunei has only 7 but then the rest of the year they don't really work too, do they? Well, at least our founding fathers got one thing right.

But most of all, this time of the year, families are reunited as people come back from overseas. I know a couple of families whose members are spread over the world--USA, NZ, Oz--and they are all making their way back for the holiday season. Just today I met up with 2 friends who are back from Brisbane and Perth. Then this evening two families from Perth. Nearly all the students studying in Oz are back for the hols. The town is buzzing with the sudden explosion of young people with their fancy clothes, extended eyelashes and new hairdos (apparently beauty salons make the best $ now as people come back for 'overhauls') and accents (mostly Oz). Sabah is probably the state with the highest number of emigrants. People who left but whose hearts are still here.

I am in the midst of preparing for Christmas too, and my house is in shambles. I still haven't got out the Christmas decorations because my TV room is going through a renovation. But I am having a big party in my house tomorrow night, a pre-Christmas dinner and I'll be roasting my second turkey this year. The first was roasted in February because we were away in Melbourne last Christmas and a friend had given me a turkey, safely deposited in the supermarket. Be sure to check for my turkey post sometime this week because I really hope some of you will roast a turkey for the first time using my favorite recipe.

This afternoon I met up with old colleagues in BBQ House, Times Square. I have decided that Times Square is the best new building in KK. Except as someone pointed out, there's a lack of trees. They planted some silly palm trees that don't give any shade and within the compound there's not a single tree. Shame. I also wish they'd cover the middle of the square.

BBQ House (someone please tell them to come up with a more interesting name) is a new Korean restaurant. Very homey. As a friend pointed out, Koreans are very ethnocentric about their food. They don't seem adventurous about other cuisine. That's why except for two tables, every other table was taken up by Koreans.

I think I'll come back to BBQ House, especially for the little side dishes of kim chi, tofu, anchovies and the usual stuff. They were well-seasoned and very fresh and tasty. However, the menu is very limited. I was surprised especially to see that there weren't any soups because Korean cuisine is big on soups. Portion as usual in any Korean restaurants is pitiful. Samgubsal, Wey's favorite and a dish I had to cook for him once a week three years ago, resulting in him almost becoming obese, was RM23 before tax and there were less than ten tiny slices of very fatty pork. Wey wasn't impressed with their samgubsal; he said the Korean restaurant (our fav) in Api Api is better.

The 'free' side dishes (refillable) that come with your main order.

Meal set of hot pork slices plus a soup, side dishes and plain rice was RM18 ++.

Samgubsal, which is grilled belly pork slices, at RM23 was expensive because this is all you get. No sang choy or lettuce.


We had two orders of samgubsal and one order of chili pork slices plus 3 bowls of plain rice (very expensive at RM4 per bowl) for RM83.60. Don't expect a fancy Korean restaurant with delicious kalbi and grilled wagyu. Come here for a simple lunch.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lattice-Top Apple Pie


I am a food snob. And a food snob like me gets to be taken down a peg or two once in a while.

Apple pies were never my kind of desserts. So were bread puddings. Nah, no humble pies or puddings for me. I'm more a mille feuillie, tiramisu and clafoutis kind of gal (when you feel like not quite a grown woman yet definitely not a girl). In fact, the more unpronouncible the dessert, the better. Yet I've found that kids and grown men can never resist apple pies. In fact, they get excited over apple pies. "Apple pies for dessert ah? WOW!" "Any ice cream to go with it??" And I think, is it the ice cream or the pie you guys are gaga about.

But last month I ate a very good apple pie. It was my friend Linda's apple pie that changed my mind about apple pies. Her first apple pie was not exactly a wonder, because she had made the crust too thick. But Linda's second apple pie--oh, it was superb. It was so good that it was all I can remember of her dinner that evening, and it left me wanting to make a pie as good as that.

I do have a very amazing apple struesel that I'll share with you one day, but now let's focus on the all-American dessert, the humble yet wholesome apple pie.

It wasn't the apple filling that caught my tongue and stomach. It was the crust. It was very short, very buttery and very delicious. However, when I was making the strips for the lattice top with Linda, the pie pastry was so short that it broke here and there. I wanted a pastry that was strong enough to weave but did not compromise on the flakiness. The filling was good, but it was the usual apple filling except Linda added custard powder for extra flavor and to thicken the juices. I wanted a filling that's gooey with soft apple chunks, like --oh dear, dare I say it--McD's, but with more apples and less goo. That can only be achieved with cooking, but I didn't want the hassle of cooking my apples. So I consulted 3 different cookbooks and stole a bit of tips from each, and came up with this apple pie, which I am very happy with. The pie pastry is short but strong enough to be weaved. The apple filling has potato starch to blend the filling together (cornstarch and plain flour are deemed too gluey and dry respectively) and keep the bottom crust from getting soggy because I don't bother with baking blind (i.e. pre-baking the bottom crust). Because I didn't pre-bake the bottom crust, I used the lower element of the oven for the first 20 minutes to cook the bottom crust before the juice from the apples can cause the crust to go soft. The only thing I'll probably change is maybe cook my apples so I get more gooey sauce and softer apples. But that would be one fine day, not now. For now, this is as good as it gets.

Lattice-Top Apple Pie

Pie Crust
230 g (8oz) cold butter*, cut into 2 cm cubes
3 cups plain flour
1 t salt
1 1/2 T fine sugar
1 egg
1 t cider vinegar
4-6 T ice water

*you can use half butter & half Crisco too

1. Put the flour, firm butter, salt and sugar into your processor or cake mixer and whizz a couple of times until crumbly.

2. Whisk the egg, cold water and cider vinegar and add to the crumbly mixture. Use a long spatula to fold the mixture several times to mix.

3. Take the dough out and knead once or twice to get it into a ball. You may need to add another spoon or two of cold water, but not too much. Just enough for it all to come together.

4. Roll pastry into a large log, break off a small portion sof the dough and smear it on your work surface with the heel of your palm. Repeat one more time. The French call this fraisage and this step will ensure a short flaky crust. However, the most important thing (esp. in hot weather) is that everything must be cold--cold hands, cold butter, cold dough. The cold butter will melt upon baking and create tiny holes when it melts, resulting in short pastry. The next important thing is to work quickly, again to prevent the butter from melting.

My Documents2

5. Gather everything together again, cut 1/3 off to make a small disk, put it into a plastic bag and chill 1 hour. Roll the larger portion into a small disk and put into another bag and chill that too.

6. Put the smaller piece of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle about 30 cm/12" long and 23 cm/9" wide. (You can also use a 10-11"/26-28 cm dish, increase apples to 10, pastry remain the same amount but roll the bottom crust and strips wider/longer.) Transfer onto a piece of greaseproof paper-lined tray and chill. Take out when firm, use a pizza cutter to cut into 2.5 cm/1 " strips, 0.2 cm /1/8th inch thick .Weave into a lattice on the paper-lined tray. Return to fridge.

7. Roll the larger piece of dough into a thin round piece of 33 cm/13" in diameter. Transfer onto a 9" glass pie dish using a large rolling pin (or lightly flour it & fold it into quarters and unfold on the dish) and press firmly into the pie plate. Leave the excess crust overhanging. Put in fridge to chill (remember, keep the dough cold to make sure butter doesn't melt before it's baked).

1 kg (about 8) Granny Smiths, or a mixture of apples
1/3 cup golden raisins, washed
zest of 1 lemon
2 T lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup*
1/2 t cinnamon powder
1/4 t nutmeg
4 T potato starch
1/4 t salt

* or increase sugar to 3/4 cup. I used maple syrup because my bottle is expiring.

1. Peel and cut apples into quarters and slice. Put into a large bowl.

2. Toss apples with everything else on the list.

Baking The Pie
1. Oven preheated at 220 C, rack on bottom.

2. Scoop apple filling into crust-lined pie dish (retain the juice. If there's less than 3 T juice, add 3 -4T water to the retained juice), put the prepared lattice top over the top, trim and press the edges to seal, crimping with your thumb and fingers.

3. Brush the lattice with water and sprinkle some sugar on.

4. Turn heating to bottom element only. Bake 20 minutes. Carefully (HOT!) move the pie to the middle of the oven, turn heat down to 190 C, use upper and lower heating elements, pour the retained apple juice (stir well) into the holes between the lattice and bake another 35 to 40 minutes. If pie top is browning too quickly, reduce the heat a little.

5. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Expect extra loving reaction from family.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Of Those Days

everything went wrong today. i'm afraid to even fry an egg in case that too fails. and i certainly shouldn't blog tonight.

(the new camera--i am told to take this portion of my post down as they are resolving the matter, so thanks everyone for your encouragement :))

i baked a sheet cake to make Christmas petit fours and someone put a whole bowl of gravy ON the cake (even if the fridge was jammed pack, you could've put the bowl UNDER the cake!), making a round dent in the cake. of course i was piffed, to say the least.

then i went to the tiles showroom and the tiles that's half up our bathroom walls are out of stock, "it may be months before another batch comes in , would you like to choose something else?" what, and make a patchwork wall? my head reeling, i sent a pity message to a friend whose reply came "tomorrow will be better", which sounds ominous if you ask me at this point.

lucky dinner wasn't so bad. the bacon yi brought back from oz had expired and i had to finish them up fast. this is what we ate tonight but since the bacon tasted better than the wholegrain-mustard-butter-stuffed chicken, i'll just let you look at the photos. i am turning in, and i hope nothing happens between now and getting under the covers.



p.s well, right after i posted this, i went out the room and smelt smoke but thought it was from outside. i sat down, read the papers, harassed wey, read a magazine. then i went into the kitchen. my little new wmf pot was burnt black. i'd forgotten i was boiling a banana (long story why i did that). okay, that's it. goodnight. i won't even brush my teeth, just in case they fall off.

King Hu Restaurant

My daughter shudders whenever we go to King Hu or Supertanker. But between the two, we both prefer King Hu, although lately we both need a lot of persuasion. King Hu is my in-laws' favorite spur-of-the-moment restaurant for casual meals and lazy days so we get to eat there quite often (Say 'Hi' if you see me there).

The best thing about King Hu is that prices are very reasonable. It is also the only place in town for 'northern' chinese food ('northern' in inverted commas because to real northerners, the food here is probably more southern Chinese, except for the potstickers) like fried potstickers (guotie) and boiled potstickers (suijiao) with Chinese cabbage and meat, unlike the more common "West Malaysian potstickers" with soy-sauce marinaded meat and onion filling, which my in-laws dismiss as unauthentic. Recently I've noticed The Incredible Transfomation Of King Hu's Potstickers, from oval and big to round and small, with hardly any meat inside. And on top of that they increased the price.

Whenever we eat at King Hu, we eat the same things. It's almost a sin to deviate from our standard order. In the past, they bring in seasonal Hong Kong veg like yellow chives and green soy beans but I guess with business so good (you very likely have to stand outside if you don't have a reservation) the boss just doesn't bother. The lady behind the counter and her husband started the restaurant more than 30 years ago. Her husband used to cook, then when he passed on, the son, who reputedly has a master's degree in aeronautical engineering fron the States (but couldn't find a relevant job here) now fries your mee and chow san see. I suspect though, after last Monday's dinner there, that the fella has some local boys doing the dirty work for him now because the food just doesn't taste the same anymore.

Guotie, pot stickers. Made just like we do at home, except for the filling which is miserable.

Suijiao, boiled potstickers, which have shrunk to half of their previous size.

Hot & sour soup, which really is just sour. You have to add the pepper yourself. I've complained to the lady about the chipped soup bowls but looks like it fell on deaf ears.

Fried 'oily' noodles, which I prefer to their ja jiang mien, bean sauce noodles.

Tied pork leg or je ti with pickles. My MIL makes a much much better version so remind me to do a post on this before CNY.

Steamed Chinese cabbage. King Hu tends to overcook their veg so only Chinese cabbage can withstand their style of cooking.

Goo lao roe or sweet & sour pork, Wey's favorite provided there's no sauce.

King Hu's version of Peking Duck is unique. The skin's soft instead of crispy and they serve it with lots of meat on. I think the chef just said, what the heck, it's so much work to make every duck crispy so just serve it any which way. And we the locals are happy with it this way because honestly, I find Peking Duck quite a pretentious dish, thin pancakes with a slice of crispy skin inside. When you order this, you get a duck soup, which is quite tasty.

I just realised I've been there so often I don't even bother to check their prices. I can always check it for you next week.

King Hu is in Tanjung Aru, next to the only supermarket there. Good place to eat if you need to catch a flight because it's equidistance to both airports nearby.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Apple Cake


Apple cake

This doesn't look impressive, but believe me, it is absolutely yummy and a great substitute for the rich but heart-stopping apple pie. Every single one of my friends who has made it loved it. It is heavy on the apples, light on eggs and there's no butter but there's veg oil. Best of all, it's one of those recipes where you just whip everything together so there's no need to drag your Kenwood or KitchenAid out and there's no pile of bowls and utensils to wash. I think it originated from one of those Australian cook books, because I've seen it again and again in Australian magazines.

The cake is good by itself but even better with creme fraiche. Since we don't get that here all the time, I like to use a combination of fresh dairy cream lightly sweetened with some condensed milk. For me, ice cream detracts any cake so it's not allowed with this.

Apple Cake
1/2 kg Granny Smiths (green apples), peeled, cored & chopped chunky*
200 g self-raising flour, sifted
1/3 t cinnamon powder
200 g (or 150 g for slightly sweet n 170g for slight to medium sweet) fine sugar
1 cup oil
3 large eggs
1 t finely grated lemon rind

*update 2/4/12: I now cut the apples pea size because that makes the texture finer and the cake holds together better.

1. Sift the flour with the cinnamon powder. Put sugar, eggs and oil into a bowl and hand whisk until creamy. Add the sifted flour, stir in the apples.

2. Pour batter into a 8"/21 cm or 9"/23 cm round tin (lined) and bake at 170 C for 45 to 50 minutes until a wooden stick plunged into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Serve with creme fraiche or fresh cream sweetened with condensed milk, whipped or not.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Roti Kahwin


My latest fav snack is roti kahwin, a totally unhealthy choice. It has butter, sugar, coconut milk plus starch. Totally what I don't need right now, especially as Christmas is near. Just the other night I pulled on my jeans and found that no matter how I jumped, laid on the floor or stopped breathing, I couldn't button up. I am very tempted to use the liquify tool on several of my photos. So in a vain (literally) attempt to loose some weight before I tuck in all those Christmas goodies, I have decided to go on a vegan diet, during daylight hours (thus the lack of food posts recently). Dinner is a different matter. My body needs meat to repair.

The problem is when I know I am on a diet, I crave for food even more. It's like you guys or girls wanting the one you can't get. This is when I pass by Dott's Egg Tarts and drop in to grab a box of the best tarts in town, gobble them quickly before I hear voices in my head, or go to bed early so that I can get up in time to make it to McD's before 11 am for the only item I like there--their Sausage McMuffin. But lately, my weakness, like I told you, is roti kahwin. With a cuppa black coffee, just like those China ah peks.



Roti is bread in Malay, and kahwin is married. Married bread. Made in heaven. And it is, the way the kaya (custard spread made of thick coconut milk, eggs and sugar that looks like baby poo) and the butter just brings out the best in each other. For those who haven't eaten roti kahwin, let me tell you. The bread is super cottony soft with just the right amount of moisture. As you sink your teeth and lips in, the kaya hits your taste buds and nose (you can never go wrong with coconut milk) and then the cold butter melts to create a most wonderful taste with the kaya. You reach out for the second slice before you've even finished the first.

I used to favor Fook Yuen in Damai until a couple of months ago when I regurgitated my roti kahwin on first bite. They had used margarine instead of butter. They still do, because I brought a friend there last night and threatened the boss that I will only go to Kedai Kopi Gunung Emas in Foh San if they still put margarine in my bread. He looked startled, like I just told him I knew his biggest secret. I can taste it, I said, giving him a look that sent him running to his fridges, searching high and low for butter. It was most satisfying to see. He personally made the sandwiches and brought them to my table. Please, if you eat there, ask for butter. They have increased the price from RM1/US$0.28 to RM1.30 per set/US$0.37 of two slices of bread and are giving you the cheaper substitute. But of course, if margarine is more your taste, go ahead. I know some people can't taste the difference.

Kedai Kopi Gunung Emas has exactly the same bread and kaya as Fook Yuen. I know that for sure because I know both of the bakers/owners. They started out as partners in Fook Yuen. Fook Yuen is the more popular coffee shop, since it shares a walkway full of food stalls. It has also been featured on many TV programs, local and otherwise (Singapore & Hong Kong). I still get my bread and kaya there if I'm in the area, but more and more I go to Gunung Emas.

One loaf of white bread at Gunung Emas is RM2.50. I think the kaya is RM2.70. You can make about 5-6 sets of roti kahwin, with half a cup of kaya left over. Brew a cup of hot coffee and there's nothing more sublime.


p.s. Never eat roti kahwin in those new style 'old' coffee shops like Kopitiam and Old Town. The bread and kaya aren't worth eating.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Linda' s Four-Winged Bean Salad



These are four-winged beans, also called four-angled beans. These beans grow easily here, climbing up fences and giving a handful of beans every 3 days or so from one single plant. Because they grow and fruit easily, veg vendors usually have a plant or two, enough for their consumption with extra to sell. This is one veg I am pretty sure is pesticide free, especially when there's only a kilo or two of it out for sale. Once in a while I grow one plant in my garden but they are so fruitful that after a while nobody wants this on the table.

This is a superb salad my friend Linda often makes. I'm not sure of the origin, it could be nyonya (Malay-Chinese). There's no cooking required as the lime juice sort of pickles the beans which have to be cut super thin, one-cell thin if possible. Yes, thin enough to mount on a microscope slide. I was out of peanut brittle so I used grounded cashew nuts. It worked just as well. You will be taken by the burst of flavors from the bunga kantan, the dried shrimps and the fish sauce, the sting from the bird's eye chilies and the tangy sweetness of the lime juice and the sugar. You will also love the crunch of the uncooked beans. YUM.

p.s. I know veg recipes and posts aren't popular. You have heard of fibre and a painful condition if you don't eat enough veg? Starts with an 'h', 3 syllables. First one to answer correctly gets a carton of prune juice. Virtual of course.


Linda's Four-Winged Bean Salad
400 g 4 winged beans*
2 heap T dried shrimps, washed well
8 (to your liking) chili padis or hot chilies
1/2 heart of bunga kantan (a ginger flower)
juice from 2 large limes
1/2 to 1 T fish sauce
1/3 t salt
1/2 T fine sugar
2 T peanut brittle, pounded until fine

* instead of beans, Linda sometimes uses pakis (wild fern, fiddleheads) and the result is more than excellent. The pakis need to be blanched briefly in boiling water.

1. Wash the beans very well, drain & pat dry with a clean towel. Top and tail. Slice into very thin slices, as thin as you can. Cut the chilies up, cut the bunga kantan heart very finely.

2. Mix everything together except for the peanut brittle. Taste and season to your liking. Sprinkle the pounded peanut brittle on top.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Explain This Esplanade

One of the prettiest drive in KK is along the Likas Bay. These pictures were taken around noon today, giving harsh and washed out colors. Drive there in the afternoon, around 4, when the tide is high and the sea is bright blue, and you'll agree with me that this is our best scenic drive.


That's Mt Kinabalu peeking out.




Wait a minute, what's that big orange building coming up, facing the road?(Notice Mt Kinabalu--very faint-- in the background. Nice juxtaposition huh?)



Two storeys, the higher from which to look out to. Somebody, pleeeassee plant some big trees to hide this monster. In the meantime, paint it green or something.


On closer look, the huts aren't so bad. They would look better if the roofs are thatched with atap. No more atap? Can always import some from the Maldives. Many Malaysians love Maldivian banks.


And 200 years later anthropologists will tell us we are related to the Red Indians of British Columbia.

I say lay off Likas Bay!!
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