At the of age of 17, he wrote his first Science book, “Schitterend!” (Brilliant!) about the Universe and the theory of Evolution. He was 18 and the youngest nominee for the Eureka. At age 21, he published his second book, “Fantastisch!” (Fantastic!) on Evolution and Neuroscience. Fantastic! was also nominated for the Eureka. By age 25, he became the author of 3 Science Books and had invented a new food model for his patients to slow down ageing and reduce the risk of ageing-related diseases. This achievement won him the title of ‘Person of the year‘ in his home country, Belgium.

 

Dr Kris Verburgh is the author of one of the most controversial books, “De Voedselzandloper” (The Food Hourglass), which is available in 9 languages.





As you can see on the coverpage of the book, the 2 triangles interlocking at the pointed tips are quick summaries of 2 pyramids (“hourglass”).  One pointing up with its hierarchical strata of foods which we should consume more of and the top half tapering downwards indicating foods we should eat less of. Not many University Professors are in agreement with Dr Verburgh’s theory. As a result, he had to resign from the University he graduated with magna cum laude.

 

I did not buy Dr Kris Verburgh’s “Science” book, but I bought “De Voedselzandloperkookboek” (The Hourglass Cookbook), authored by Pauline Weuring based on the young doctor’s scientific theory of nutrition in slowing down the signs of ageing through what we eat, and losing weight in the process.




 

By the way, there is a catch. According to Dr Verburgh, he says, diets do not work and what does is educating oneself about what to eat with knowledge that is readily available. What we eat determines how fast we age. Basically, discovering thefountain of youth‘ is to avoid the typical diseases of ageing, which is anything from loss of eyesight to heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer or osteoporosis. 

 

Quotes from Kris Verburgh, MD

 

If you want to have the health benefits of healthy food, you have to do it your whole life. Not just for a period of time, but always

 

We can add more than 10 years to our lives if we know what foods to eat and which ones to avoid. That would keep us healthy well into our eighties

 

Ageing is a very complex process. We know that the rate of ageing is influenced by our genes and our environment and more specifically by how and what we eat. Powerful interventions that slow down the ageing process will come to see light in the coming decades. For now, the most potent tool at our disposal to impact the rate of ageing is our diet“.

 

Cakes and sweets should be replaced by dark chocolate and nuts

 

The Food Hourglass will show you how to immediately identify what is healthy and unhealthy food, and how to replace unhealthy foods with alternatives“.

 

 

Fountain of Youth

 

When I flipped through the pages of The Hourglass Cookbook, I saw a cake recipe!!! What’s a cake doing there? I exclaimed!

 

But then I realised it’s not an ordinary cake. It’s a cake recipe based on Dr Verburgh’s “fountain of youth” theory. Very interesting indeed.  No sugar. No flour. No butter. No milk.  Erm…how to make a cake without all the basic essentials?  Well, of course, the young doctor has the answer and the result? 

 

This! 



 

I made this healthy Banana Bread or Cake and was surprised at how moist and delicious the cake remained on the day of baking and subsequently. Anyway, the cake was gone in less than 48 hours! It was really light. I have made the cake twice already and was very pleased with the result both times.



 

Due to copyright, I am not listing the measurements of the cake. If you really want the recipe, leave your comment with a valid email address and I will get back to you personally or for readers who know me, please pm me😉


The ingredients used in the recipe are as following -

  • Bananas
  • Dates
  • Eggs
  • Almond meal or flour *
  • Baking soda
  • A pinch of Salt

Method -

  1. Pre-heat the oven
  2. Combine the mashed bananas and dates in a bowl
  3. Beat the eggs with salt until light and fluffy 
  4. Fold in the almond meal or flour and baking soda
  5. Grease the cake tin with some baking spray
  6. Pour in the batter and bake in the pre-heated oven
  7. The banana bread is cooked when a toothpick pricked in the middle of the cake comes out clean
  8. Cool the cake on a cooling rack before cutting

*Almond meal or flour is a result of ground almond nuts (with or without skins respectively) which is the healthier option to a normal cake flour



 

Note: For more variations, you may want to add pure chocolate chips or chopped pecan nuts

 

Obviously the sweet taste from the cake came from the bananas and dates.  Very natural and healthy options, indeed. 







 

Oh by the way, I think I’m feeling young already.  Yay! Ha ha…!

 

According to Wikipedia, a popular Flemish TV chef said his diabetes is stabilized due to the Food Hourglass theory and he claims to have lost almost 8 kg (17 pounds) as a result.

 

Honestly, I am fascinated by the theory, but I have some issues. I do love a good steak with fries, an oven-baked pizza, a bowl of spagbol with lots of grated mozzarella, cupcakes/ muffins, cakes (chiffon, pound, Sarawak kek lapis), and the “bad” list goes on….

 

Oops! There goes my fountain of youth! LOL!

 

BUT… I will not stop baking this light and gorgeous Banana Bread.

 

I’m linking this post to the Little Thumbs Up (March 2015 – BANANA) event organised by Zoe (Bake for Happy Kids)and Mui (my little favourite DIY) and hosted by Faeez of BitterSweetSpicy.

 



 

Homemade Mondays week 123 hosted by Sarah of Frugal by Choice, Cheap by NecessityAubrey of Homegrown & Healthy and Kelly from The Sustainable Couple 

Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking



Cook-Your-Books #21 @ Kitchen Flavours 



Tasty Tuesdays with HonestMum



Have a great week!

Cheers!

Banana is one of the most indispensable fruits in a child’s growing up diet. I remembered when I first started giving solid foods to my boys when they were 4-month old infants. Both boys were bowled over by the cool, soft and sweet taste of mashed bananas.  They loved it!

 

Well, not only infants or toddlers love the lusciously delicious and quite addictive fruit, you know :-D

 

The Large Dwarf

 

One bunch of bananas.  This collective noun is almost always included in my weekly shopping list, however, in Belgium we have only ONE choice. Quite sad, really. The Grand Nain bananas, aka the Chiquita bananas‘Grand Nain(e)‘ is French for Large Dwarf. I reckon the bananas are so-called due to the short stature of the trees while the bananas are quite large!

 

The banana when just ripe, has a lovely smooth yellow skin.   BUT it’s always not the case in my household! LOL!

 

Just before the end of the week, we start to see the peel browning. My boys will just close one eye and walk past the bananas on the hanger until the little brown pigments became bigger and bigger.  I knew someone in our household would thrash that in the bin at a certain point in time and before the poor blotched banana is dumped, I came to its rescue. I saved this one very, very ripe banana recently by sticking a self-explanatory message 😜

 



 

Gladly, the message was understood LOUD AND CLEAR  by my 3 guys 😄

 

Last weekend I transformed the once-upon-a-time ebony-skinned banana to a quick and yummy dessert.

 



 

First Dessert in Belgium

 

My late MIL was a very good cook and a great baker. She baked her own breads, cakes and made delicious desserts.  When I was first introduced to my MIL back in 1993, she was happy to know that her ‘future’ daughter-in-law was not a European 😊.   I remembered vividly the first 4-course lunch she prepared for us on a Sunday family reunion. The starter was a healthy grapefruit. The soup was pumpkin soup. The main course was pork chop with home-made gravy. The centrepiece was a whole cauliflower (cooked but retained the entirety) drizzled with white sauce and surrounded prettily by green peas and baby carrots.  And the dessert was her yummilicious rice pudding, which I cannot forget.

 

I’m not a dessert person, but my late MIL’s rice pudding was to die for.  I know I will not be able to replicate that beautiful consistency, texture and sweetness …. *sigh*

 

So I experimented and made my own version of rice pudding as a tribute to my late MIL but still a pudding that can be made by anyone, anywhere. It’s easy peasy. Takes only 5 minutes to assemble. No cooking necessary.

 

By the way, you need to have pre-cooked cold rice in this recipe. That’s the only “cooked” item, but must be made in advance.

 

Ingredients -

(makes 3 dessert glasses)

  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 1/4 cups cooked rice (cold)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsps brown sugar (for me, 1 Tbsp is just right, but I had to think of my sweet-tooth boys)
  • Cinnamon powder

 Garnish -

  • Some dried cranberries
  • Lemon zest
  • Cinnamon powder 



Direction -

Mash the banana and pour in the coconut milk. Stir to combine and then add in rice and brown sugar. Mix well. Add some cinnamon powder. Scoop in dessert bowls or glasses. Drizzle with some cinnamon powder, and garnish with some lemon zest and dried cranberries.

 

And there you go, my 5-minute Banana Rice Pudding ala Nasifriet 😄



For best result, refrigerate the banana rice pudding for at least 1 hour or more.





 

Verdict: It’s not a cooked rice pudding, hence the texture of the rice may not be what you would expect with cooked or baked rice pudding. There’s no cream, milk, eggs or butter in my 5-minute assembled banana rice pudding. The bottom line is, we loved it!  I loved the chewy texture of each bite of the rice. The level of sweetness was just right. The coconut milk was the best substitute for either milk or cream, which made the dessert vegan- friendly. We are not vegans, but we loved it.  I will definitely make it again. I’m just keeping an eye on the browning process of the bananas in my kitchen 😉


I’m linking this post to the Little Thumbs Up (March 2015 – BANANA) event organised by Zoe (Bake for Happy Kids)and Mui Mui (my little favourite DIY) and hosted by Faeez of BitterSweetSpicy.

 



 

Tasty Tuesdays by HonestMum



Homemade Mondays week 123 hosted by Sarah of Frugal by Choice, Cheap by NecessityAubrey of Homegrown & Healthy and Kelly from The Sustainable Couple 

Have a great weekend!

Cheers!

It is really amusing to observe a toddler’s reaction when eating a piece of tofu (soybean curd) for the first time.

His face changed and grimaced. “Yuck!” I remembered that was what my older son said when he first tasted tofu. He was 3 years old then. His younger brother said exactly the same thing at his age. Even worst. He spewed everything out, with a contorted face.

Okay, maybe they were the wrong audience to feed those white spongy, tasteless thingy, BUT… kids don’t lie. Remember? ;-)

Masking the Curd

I must admit soybean curd on its own is downright bland. That’s why my Mum made us “like” eating tofu by masking and dressing it up when we were younger. She won, because we absolutely loved and still adore Mum’s stuffed fried tofu “tauhu sumbat” with either meat or veg filling. I’d love to replicate Mum’s tauhu sumbat here in Belgium, but deep fat frying of the curd is not what I would venture into in my own kitchen … as yet. I’m sure my boys will be bowled over by the stuffed tofu. Yes, 100% !

On the other hand, I’ve whipped up a much healthier version of steaming the tofu and made a glossy gravy of sesame oil, oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, cooking wine, salt and pepper to taste and corn flour as thickener to go with the once-upon-a-time bland tofu.

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Or simply a bowl of clean healthy soup with cubed tofu and meatballs. And by the way, I made those tofu from scratch! You can check out how I made the soymilk the ‘traditional’ way (no soymilk maker then) and transformed the milk into soybean curd by using s secret ingredient here.

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My boys have grown into teens now and their palates and cravings have also evolved over the years. They want more spices and flavour in the foods they eat. I’m glad for them because I’m a spicy person when it comes to eating, hence, it makes cooking a lot easier for me :-D

The best ‘mask’ yet for a tofu dish is the unbeatable Mapo Tofu dish. I have had these in many Chinese restaurants, and I have always loved the smooth tofu and the heat that comes with it, however, the “heat” is not as spicy as I would love it to be.

So I decided to make my own fiery Mapo Tofu.

Here you go!

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Who or What the hell is Mapo?

Mapo tofu bluntly means ‘pockmarked elderly lady’s soybean curd’. It doesn’t sound very flattering, but the origin of the story dated back to the late 19th Century in Chengdu, the Provincial Capital of Sichuan in SW China. There may be little variations to the details of the story being told, but here’s one I learnt from a Chinese lady who used to run a mini Asian store near where we lived. I told her I wanted to make an authentic platter of mapo tofu dish and I wanted to know of the special ingredients that went in the dish. She was very helpful and immediately told me that the Pi’xian doubanjiang is one of the compulsory ingredients in the dish. I bought a bag of the spicy Sichuan Pixian fermented broad bean paste.

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Then her eyes twinkled and she asked me if I knew why the dish is called Mapo Tofu. I love listening to stories and I was looking forward to her story :-D

Here’s what she told me, “Once a upon a time there was an elderly woman by the name of Mrs Chen. She is said to have pockmarks on her face. She ran an eatery, mainly selling vegetarian dishes, on a route travelled by porters who were carrying heavy loads. Many stopped at her stall for her food. One day, a hungry labourer who had no money to pay for his meal, stopped by at Mrs Chen’s food stall. He barter-traded with Mrs Chen his rapeseed oil (similar to canola oil) and some meat in exchange for lunch. She created and tossed what were available, and topped the tofu-minced meat with infused chilli oil, and THAT was when the Mapo Tofu was born”, as in “Ma” meaning pockmarks and “Po“, which is the first syllable of “popo” meaning an elderly woman or a grandma.

What an interesting story!

Hot and Fiery and 7th Heaven!

According to Wikipedia, a true Mapo Tofu dish is powerfully spicy with both conventional “heat” spiciness and the characteristic “mala” (numbing spiciness) flavour of Sichuan cuisine. The characteristics considered to be the most defining of authentic Mapo Tofu dish must include the following seven specific adjectives:

1. numbing (from the Sichuan peppercorns)
2. spicy hot (from the dried chillies, chilli oil, chilli flakes, doubanjiang)
3. hot temperature (cooked on high heat)
4. fresh (from the fresh ingredients used – meat, spring onions, tofu, garlic, ginger)
5. tender and soft (from the tofu)
6. aromatic (from the stir-fried aromas of the spices)
7. flaky (melts in the mouth)

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As a bonus, I got this recipe from the friendly Chinese lady at the store. She only mentioned the ingredients used but not the measurements. Most unfortunately, she no longer works at the store and I have no clue where she is now, but I am very grateful for the recipe she had briefly shared with me.

Ingredients

Dried chillies (I used 4, cut in halves. Not for the faint-hearted. Be warned!)
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
Medium-firm soybean curd, cubed (I used 500 g)
Vegetable oil (again pure guestimate)
Minced meat (The choice of meat is yours. I used a mixture of pork-beef mince)
Fermented chilli broad bean paste (Sichuan Pixian doubanjiang) – I used 2 Tbsp
3 garlic cloves, finely diced (this one she mentioned)
Small knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced (“agak-agak”)
3 stalks spring onions, cut on the bias (yes, 3…)
Chilli-sesame oil (I used 2 Tbsp)
Chilli flakes (optional – depending on how hot you can take it!)
Salt and sugar (optional)

Cornflour Mixture
Chicken stock or water (this is pure guestimate!)
Light soy sauce
Chinese cooking wine (I used Shaoxing wine)
Cornflour

Note: For Vegetarian version, replace minced meat with water chestnuts, wood ear fungus or any vegetables of your choice.

Method

1. Dry roast/ toast the dry chillies and Sichuan peppercorns in a wok over a medium-high heat stirring continuously for a few seconds. Thereafter, I set aside 2 halves of the toasted dry chillies and transfer the rest to a pestle and mortar and grind finely. Let cool.

2. Prepare the cornflour mixture in a bowl by adding wine, light soy sauce and stock or water.

3. In a pan of water add the cubed soybean curd. Cover and bring to the boil. Drain. Set aside.

4. Add some oil in the wok over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of the ground toasted chilli and Sichuan peppercorns. Cook for a few seconds, stirring well up to the point where you see a thin wisp of smoke. Remove the peppercorns while retaining the oil in a small bowl.

5. In the same wok, add the minced meat. Stir fry for a couple of seconds over a medium- high heat.

6. Add the diced/ minced garlic and ginger. Continue stir-frying until fragrant.

7. Add the doubanjiang paste and the 2 halves of the toasted dry chillies. Stir-fry.

8. Pour in the cornflour mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

9. Add the cubed tofu, prepared chilli oil and chilli-sesame oil. At this stage, taste to check if salt or sugar is required. Bring to the boil and then immediately turn off the heat. Transfer to a serving plate

10. Finally, sprinkle the toasted ground peppercorns and garnish with spring onions.

Here’s my version of the famous Sichuan Mapo Tofu made by a Malaysian in Belgium :-D

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Enjoy!

Mapo Tofu is a very light yet tasty dish with the level of heat that can easily be adjusted to one’s preference. I’m linking this post to Bangers & Mash’s The Spice Trail with the theme “Temple Food

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With my chosen herb in this recipe, I am submitting this post to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs

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Mapo Tofu can be eaten anytime of the year. I don’t mind having this dish served at Chinese New Year lunch or dinner. For this, I’m submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb 2015)” hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

I’m also sharing this post to Cook and Celebrate: Chinese New Year 2015 organised by Yen from Eat Your Heart Out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.

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Tasty Tuesdays with HonestMum



Have a great weekend!

Cheers!

I’m so glad I finally made this sticky glutinous rice cake! This has been on my to-do list since time immemorial :-D

And what better way to have this auspicious cake posted on Chinese New Year day!

GONG XI FA CAI!

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Being half Chinese, this dessert has criss-crossed my Mum’s house in Kuching zillion times during the Chinese New Years gone by. She either got the cake as a gift from friends and relatives or she had made the cake herself. There was a time, when we received an abundance of the sweet sticky cake, to the point that my Mum would fill her two fridges to the brim, metaphorically speaking ;-)

We did not mind a bit that our fridges were stuffed with the sweet sticky cakes. And by the way, the cake has a name, “nian gao“. It is believed to bring good fortune if one consumes nian gao. According to Wikipediia, “nian gao” in Chinese Mandarin, is literally translated as ‘Year High’. Coincidentally, the Chinese word “nián” means ‘sticky’ and is identical in sound to ‘year’. Similarly, “gāo” means ‘cake’, which is identical in sound to ‘high or tall’. Having said that, eating nian gao has a symbolic meaning of raising oneself higher in each coming year, be it a promotion at work or, for a child, growing taller. And OMG… I haven’t had nian gao in years! I reckoned my achievement had stagnated from my last bite of the sticky sweet snack many donkeys’ years ago. Jeez….I hope not. Touch wood ;-)

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Legend has it …

Oh by the way, an interesting legend has it that nian gao is made each new year as an offering to the Kitchen God, with the main purpose of keeping his mouth shut. The Kitchen God is said to make a report of each human (Chinese) family to the Jade Emperor if they have been good or bad that year. By offering the nian gao to the Kitchen God will avoid him from badmouthing to the Celestial Court, as his mouth will be stuck with the sticky cake. He will not be able to talk a lot or too fast.

Whether, it’s true or not, many Chinese families keep the legend going to this day.

The many faces of nian gao

Not long ago I had a brief discussion with some friends about the word nian gao. The nian gao I knew was the sticky brown glutinous rice cake, which I have just discussed, however, one of my friends said the nian gao she knew was the white rice cake, which is usually stir fried with soy sauce, meat and vegetables as a savoury dish. Hmmm… interesting…

Brown + sweet vs white + savoury? Golly gosh! Two opposite poles! There must be an attraction at some point?

The only ‘attraction’ is the fact that China is such a vast country. Different provinces have their own language (dialect) and food! Nian gao being one of them. My friend was not wrong when she referred to nian gao as the white rice cake prepared as a savoury dish, because that’s where the dish is commonly served in Shanghai!

This was what I had for lunch today, the Shanghainese version of stir-fried nian gao. Just so you have an idea 😜

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The nian gao that is most popularly served in Malaysia and Singapore is originated from Fujian (Hokkien-speaking) and Guangdong (Cantonese-speaking) provinces. THE nian gao I am referring to in this post is the Cantonese-style, made the Malaysian way in Belgium ;-)

Japan and Korea have similar glutinous rice snacks, known as mochi and tteok respectively,

In Malaysia, this sticky snack is called Kuih Bakul (Cake in a Basket) in Malay, due to the fact that the banana leaf is used to tuck the cake in. The Straits Chinese or Peranakan Chinese or Baba-Nyonya of the Hokkien ancestary called this cake, “Tee Kueh” (Sweet Cake). Tee Kueh was exactly the word I grew up knowing. It was not nian gao. Surprisingly, the Chinese Filipino and Burmese also called the cake, “tikoy“. We definitely see China spreading her wings in the food we eat. Almost the same ingredients used in China years ago are preserved and retained by Chinese families today in Malaysia, Singapore, and elsewhere in East and South East Asia. As one of my brothers used to say, ” You can take a Malaysian out of Malaysia, but you cannot take Malaysia out of a Malaysian”. The same is true if you replaced Malaysian/Malaysia with Chinese/China.

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Labour of Love

There are only 3 ingredients used to make nian gao. Glutinous rice flour, sugar and water or coconut milk. Sounds simple, right? But it’s the hours and hours of constant stirring if done the traditional way (similar to making dodol) or hours and hours of steaming, as is done in the contemporary kitchen.

I steamed my nian gao for only half the original time. 5 hours instead of 10! I have 2 reasons for halving the time –

1. I started steaming the cake at 5.30pm. I had to be in bed by 11pm as it was a work day the following day , hence, I set the timer to stop at 10.30 pm.

2. I did not make a huge portion

This is a family recipe where I chose to use coconut milk over water.

Ingredients

400 g glutinous rice flour, sieved
200 g brown sugar ( I used cassonade brown sugar)
200 g organic cane sugar
400 ml coconut milk

Banana leaves to line a round dish ( I used ramekins and frozen banana leaves, cleaned and dabbed dry with absorbent papers).

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Heat the coconut milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool. Sieve the flour and pour in the coconut milk caramel. Mix well with a balloon whisk for at least 10 minutes until a smooth sticky batter consistency. Pour the batter in round ramekins lined with banana leaves.

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If you have all the time in the world, steam the cake for 10 to 12 hours. Unfortunately I did not have a lot of time to spare, hence, I shortened the steaming time to exactly 5 hours. I was not at all disappointed with the outcome. On the contrary. I loved the colour and the smooth finished texture.

Et voilà !

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I made 3 nian gao. One bigger ramekin and 2 small ones.

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You will notice that the colour changes after the refrigeration process.

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The purpose of refrigerating the cake is to harden it, so it will be more manageable when cutting with a knife. But of course you can eat it as is, warm and sticky, but I want to transform the cake into one of my childhood favourite snacks.

This!
*smiling sheepishly*

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I’m submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb 2015)” hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

I’m also sharing this post to Cook and Celebrate: Chinese New Year 2015 organised by Yen from Eat Your Heart Out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.

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If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody and share your happiness. ~Chinese Proverb~

Happy Lunar New Year to all celebrants!

Cheers!

My two sons were very excited at the prospect of their aunt’s and grandma’s visit last summer. They were secretly wishing, or rather, hoping, that their aunt (my sister) would be bringing along in their trip the most incredibly dreamy snack in the world – for them, at least – ie.,the savoury-sweet dried meat slices aka bak kwa.

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Bak kwa is quite similar to jerky but is not an equivalent definition. While the making of jerky uses lean meat (where most of the fat must be trimmed off) and then are cut into thin strips and dried with some salt to prevent spoilage, bak kwa is made with meat preservation, ie sweet and savoury marinades and requires at least 10% of fat, and then are dried by cooking at low temperature before cutting into squares and barbecuing over glowing fire.

By the way, my personal preference is the sliced bak kwa, however, minced meat bak kwa can be made anytime in the comfort of one’s kitchen. I was amazed at how easy it was to make this most sought-after Chinese New Year snack. The most renowned bak kwa is the Singaporean brand, Bee Cheng Hiang..

The barbecue aroma of the Bee Cheng Hiang bak kwa will linger in the palate from the first bite. Oh darn! It’s so addictive!

My sister hand-carried not one, but five packets of the savoury sweet meats – sliced pork, minced pork, chicken, turkey floss and crispy pork floss. My boys and I were over the moon. But… but … Wow! The price tags! I goggled at the price labels in disbelief. They cost a fortune! Thanks, sis, for the most incredibly scrumptious gifts.

6 months down the road, I wanted to relive that moment. What better time to buck up with Chinese New Year round the corner.

I went in search for Bee Cheng Hiang bak kwa recipe on the Internet. Zilch! Then again, most bloggers seemed to be using almost identical array of ingredients. THE most important point to consider in making bak kwa is how much of each ingredient is used to create a well-balanced flavour and texture. That was not easy the first or second time round. I’m speaking by experience here.

I have made the snack twice recently. The first time was completely impromptu as I had 300g of very lean calf mince in the fridge, which was meant for making bolognese sauce. Lean or not, I just had to make those bak kwa. I referred to the recipe from an online newsletter Mothership.sg. A contributor posted Homemade bak kwa from scratch . It’s not the nicest looking bak kwa but it’s more the technique of execution I was looking for. The idea of leaving the oven door ajar just to dry the meat and not burn or over-cook it was a clever idea, I thought. I bookmarked the recipe and this was the result!

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I followed the recipe to a tee by mathematically apportioning the measurement based on the 300g of minced meat.

I had quite positive comments from the guys. “Quite” because it was not perfect yet. Well, 300g was definitely not a lot of meat, hence, they were immediately gone from the moment the meat came out of the oven. There were two drawbacks, firstly the meat was TOO lean, and secondly, it was a wee bit salty to our liking. Everything else was almost perfect.

Once Bitten Twice Shy

I vowed to make a bigger batch with more fatty minced. I chose a mixture of pork and calf/ beef.

The original recipe used 1 kg, however I bought a bit more and increased the sweeter marinades (honey and kecap manis) by a tablespoon each.

Ingredients inspired from Mothership.sg with some modifications :
1.374 kg mix minced pork-beef
100g cassonade brown sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp mushroom oyster sauce (vegetarian)
2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 Tbsp ABC kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1/2 tsp 5- spice powder
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp Borneo Wild runny honey ( which I got from one of my sisters)
White Pepper
(Note I did not add salt while increasing the measurements of the sweeter marinades)

Additional ingredients: water and honey for brushing . I lost count on the measurements because I used quite a lot in several rounds, brushing every single slice, both sides, on the hot grill.

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Method -

1. Add all the ingredients and mix in well with the minced meat. I used a pair of chopsticks to stir until the mixture reaches a gooey consistency.

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2. Refrigerate the meat mixture overnight, covered with a clingfilm. When out of the fridge the next day, you will notice the colour of the mixture becomes more deep and intense. That means the meat mixture is cured. The Belgians would call this filet américain or a Martino . LOL!

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3. Spread the cured meat on a rectangular baking tray lined with a baking sheet. Cover the meat with a cling wrap and flatten it with a rolling pin, or you may use the back of a spoon.

4. Once the meat is flattened equally and thinly, transfer the baking tray to a pre-heated oven at 150 degrees Celcius. Leave the oven door ajar. All you need is to dry out the meat and not cook it thoroughly. The last thing you want is a burnt bak kwa. It takes about 15 minutes, depending on the type of your oven. At this stage, the juices from the meat will ooze. Remove the juice. I then cut the meat into desired squares and leave the meat to cool on a cooling rack.

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5. At this stage, I used my own method to wrap up the grand finale. I let my oven to R.I.P for the rest of the day while I unwrapped my secret weapon.

This!

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By the way, this was a gift I chose as my Year End gift from work. We were each given a unique password to order our Year End gift online. There were a few items to choose from : For Her, For Him, For Family or For Charity. I had my 2 sons to help me choose the gift and we finally agreed on the Tristar grill-teppanyaki-hot plate. :-D

Glad that the gift came in handy ! ;-)

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

As quoted from the homepage of Bee Cheng HiangThe bakkwa is then barbecued over a glowing fire until it spatters and caramelize the tender meat in the all right place. Hot grill combined with dripping meat juice releases a sweet barbecue aroma to the already succulent meat meld together to deliver the authentic Bee Cheng Hiang Bakkwa”

Unquote

And enjoy ogling;-)

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Visually, the bak kwa looks really authentic if kept the next day(s) in the fridge.

Like so …

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The meat became tastier and that’s when you would want to make a conclusion, ” it’s just perfect ” or “it’s okay and there’s still room for improvement”. I daresay that all my recipes are tried and tested on my blog, as my priced critics are my other half and my 2 sons. Then again, one man’s meat is another man’s poison…

The verdict: Thumbs Up, BUT, it’s still salty !!!

Okay…. Third time lucky, then 😜

I know there are many bloggers submitting their own rendition of the bak kwa in the CNY blog- hop cooking challenge, well, let’s say I’ve got the bug, too, and this snack is just one of my favourites during this auspicious occasion. Having said that, I’m submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies/ Valentine’s Day (Jan/Feb 2015)” hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

I’m also sharing this post to Cook and Celebrate: Chinese New Year 2015 organised by Yen from Eat Your Heart Out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.

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Chinese New Year is just round the corner and I’m sure every Chinese family is busy “spring cleaning” the house. I just received a message from one of my sisters that she’s dead tired cleaning every nook and cranny of the house in Kuching. No worries, sis. With the newly cleaned house, let us all hope for a new year filled with lots of good health, wealth and eternal happiness.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

I also linking this post to Tasty Tuesdays with HonestMum Live




Cheers!

Putting to the Test

Two weeks ago, my 13-year old son was telling me about one of his school projects. Yes, they have lots, but that one in particular required my intervention.

Oh…? What could that be? Yep, I was curious :-D

I had hoped it was an easy one because I was really exhausted, mentally, with tons of unanticipated reports to accomplish at work with specified deadlines. The last thing I wanted was another ton of bricks on my shoulders.

That evening, my boy came up to me and said, “Mama, I need a recipe from you for my school project, indicating at least 10 points or steps to accomplish the final outcome

Huh? Is that it? I thought, that was an easy one.

I told my son to go search for THE recipe on my blog he thought would befit his school project. And by the way, to make the quest a lot simpler for him, I have 2 big binders of the printed hardcopies of every single post I have published on my blog since March 2010!

It was such a novel seeing my boy sitting on the couch, flipping through the pages of my posts. For some posts, he seemed to take a longer time browsing than another. I was quite sure he could find something in no time at all. He finished browsing the first binder and went through flipping the second binder. He stopped longer on some of the posts than another. Good. Getting warmer…

When he came to the last page, I was eager to know what his choice was.

But then I saw the grimace on his face, which transmitted a bleak message on my end. Hmmmm….. not looking good.

So, have you found anything? I asked

He frowned briefly, and went through the binders the second time round.

At that point, I was getting fidgety. He wanted a recipe (tried and tested) which he had loads to choose from, with step-by-step photos to boot. And he dared tell me there was nothing. Yes, NOTHING! Grrrrr… I suddenly felt a ton of red hot bricks landing on my shoulders!

THUMP! Thud!

Ouch!

I tried to speed up the quest process by choosing a recipe which involved a few steps. I asked him if the Ngo Hiang” (5-spice Sausage Rolls or Wonton recipe which required some tactics of folding or wrapping would be a good choice. Nope!

How about the Honeycomb Cake Nope!
Or any of the Rice Cooker Cakes? Nope!
Brazilian Cheese Bread? Maybe

Okay, at least we had a “maybe”

Then you tell me what you want, son. I retorted.

At that instant, he was kind of bookmarking one of my posts dated 25th November 2013!

This! He said, pointing to the photo of my Moist Beetroot Chocolate Cake or Brownie

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BUT… on condition that I used apples instead of beetroot! He said the ingredients must be local, as in 100% Belgian produce, and most importantly, that it’s something that he would enjoy devouring. In other words, my son had put me to the test, in a very scheming manner. Oh yes. *grin*

He wanted me to bake fresh brownies using apples, and not copy paste any of the published posts I had on my blog! And OMG, I had wanted to have a good rest that weekend not wanting to do anything, especially, in the kitchen, however, it was not meant to be. Alas! No rest for me. *sob*

Precious Belgian Project

When Venus Williams came to Antwerp, Belgium in 2002 for the Diamond Games, a professional women’s tennis tournament, she was asked this question, “What will you be bringing back from Belgium to the US?”

Lots of Belgian chocolates, of course (besides diamonds…)

Well, it’s not only Venus who had made that statement but that could easily come from any tourists, my family from Malaysia, included. When my younger sister and Mum came to visit us in 2010, she ended up being ‘overweight’ when she checked-in their luggage at the airport in Zaventem heading back to Malaysia. And guess what, she ended up paying Eur 350 for the excess weight which comprised the heavyweight bars after bars of Belgian chocolates! She could have left the chocolates behind with us, and I could have arranged for a separate shipment from BE to MY but she wanted to indulge in the Belgian choc bars immediately when touched down in MY and not wanting to wait for another month for the chocolates to arrive in Kuching. Okey-dokey. Crystal Clear! Understood! If my sister was crazy enough to pay Eur 350 for the excess weight, it shows how precious and indispensable Belgian chocolates are ;-)

I made these brownies using one of Belgium’s purest and finest chocolates. The result was a dark, rich, chewy, bitter-sweet brownie.

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Ingredients

2 Haspengouw Jonagolds, finely grated
240g Galler Noir Profond 85% (Dark, bitter chocolate rich in cocoa!)
130g Solo butter
250g Candico organic cane sugar
3 eggs
8g Dr. Oetker Bourbon vanilla sugar
16g Dr. Oetker Backin baking powder
100g Anco self-raising flour
A pinch of salt

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For the detailed direction , please refer here.

Because this was my son’s school project, I took more recent photos of the steps that used the requested ingredients.

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Here were some compulsory photos my son requested me to take showing the end product and a jonagold.

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The Final Piece of the Puzzle

When I have finished baking and letting the cake cooled for at least 3 hours before cutting the brownies in little rectangles, my part was done. The last piece of the jigsaw puzzle was for my son. After all, it was his school project. How he wanted to direct the grand finale was totally up to him. He was the Director. I was only the Actor.

Of course I was curious ;-)

And here’s the final curtain…

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This was the result of what my 13-year old son had put together that same evening I baked those brownies. By the way, he took the photo of me grating the jonagolds ;-). He followed me around the kitchen closely and jotting down the ingredients and the steps all by himself! He transferred the scribbled notes and re-typed the entire manuscript on the computer. I was (and is) very proud of my son.

Good job, mama, BUT …. GREAT job, son!

Oh yes, I brought a few pieces of the brownies to work the next day. One of my colleagues commented that she had just experienced a culinary orgasm😊

Amongst all the colleagues’ remarks, I was especially looking forward to the comment of a particular colleague. He’s a fantastic baker. He has baked several birthday and anniversary cakes, complete with fondant decorations and up to 4-tier! And guess what? I got an email from him with the following feedback, “The brownies are so good. May I have the recipe?

I rest my case!

Because it’s February and someone commented that these brownies were a culinary orgasm and it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I’m submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies/ Valentine’s Day (Jan/Feb 2015)” hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

Because I have used 85% cocoa content per Galler bar multiply by 3, I’m linking this post to the February 2015 Little Thumbs Up with the theme “COCOA” organized by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of my little favourite DIY and hosted by Grace of Life can be Simple.

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I’m also submitting this post to We Should Cocoa hosted by Katie of Recipe for Perfection. I thought the February theme “BROWNIES” was absolutely spot on!

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I’m also linking this tasty brownie recipe to Tasty Tuesdays by HonestMum

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Have a great weekend and Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Here’s a story worth reading – The Story of St Valentine

Cheers!

I’m sorry, no, if you are thinking this post is related to a Slavic folk dance. Sorry to disappoint you. I wish it was, but right now, I’m feeling pretty nostalgic. I have not been back to Kuching since 2008! 7 years is a long time. The “itch” has begun ;-)

Kolo may be a Serbo-Croat word, meaning “wheel” or a Slavic dance performed in a circle, but the ‘kolo’ I grew up knowing is none other than the springy, curly, yellow noodles “dancing and bouncing” in my bowl, garnished with crushed crispy fried garlic and shallot, tasty minced pork, slices of sweet and succulent char siu (BBQ’d pork), with sprinkle of chopped spring onions. And by the way, the secret to the delectable taste and flavour of the kolo mee as the Kuchingites called it, lies in the use of rendered lard (or drippings of bacon)

Here’s a classic bowl of Kuching’s kolo mee. Very simple ingredients used, and proverbially phrased as “less is more“.

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Some hawker stalls would include chai sim, literally translated as “vegetable heart” or Chinese Flowering Cabbage. I remembered paying only 50 cents for a good quantity of kolo mee at the stall near my parents’ house many years ago. It was probably an illegally constructed stall built within the compound of the owner’s house. Illegal or not, my siblings and I were always looking forward to the opening hour of the stall in the evening. It was not an eat-in stall, but a take-away one. What the kolo mee seller did in those days was assembling the kolo mee on a newspaper lined with a clean plastic film like so.

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Obviously, I did not take this picture. Courtesy of MalaysiaFlavors.com and thanks!

When we brought home the paper-wrapped kolo mee, we never transferred the noodles on a plate or bowl. We ate the noodles as they were originally served, i.e. out of the paper with a pair of chopsticks! Absolutely no hassle of cleaning and washing up. That’s the beauty of simple living ;-)

When the Craving gets Tough …

Kolo mee is synonymous to Sarawak, particularly, Kuching. Even the chewy-springy-curly noodles are found only in Sarawak. It is not the same as wantan mee, where the colour is darker, drenched in dark soy sauce, when cooked.

However, the wonton noodles are easier to buy overseas. The noodles are quite similar but not curly and bouncy as kolo mee. When the craving gets tough, the tough gets going….

I was glad I could get hold of these wonton noodles in Belgium.

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For best result, kolo mee is always prepared per bowl per person and served immediately. Production time  of homemade kolo mee may be a wee bit longer as I lacked the proper utensils.

I skipped using lard and found an excellent substitute. Crispy fried shallots in oil! And it’s healthier😜

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Before assembling the bowl of kolo mee, you need to either make your own char siu or store bought. I homemade my char siu. I will blog about this in another post, but here’s the end result.  I daresay it was YUMS!

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The next item that needs prior preparation is the minced meat. White meat is preferred, for example pork, chicken or turkey. I used a mixture of pork and calf minces, marinated in light and dark soy sauces, oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce, freshly milled white pepper and some cornflour to bind the meat and seasonings together. Marinate for at least one hour and then cook the minced meat.  Set aside.

The Execution

Here’s how I executed my bowl of kolo noodle. I have chosen to use the word “noodle” here, because it is a generic term and it is not confined only to “mee” but also bee hoon, tang hoon, kway teow, etc.

Recently, I made kolo kway teow. It was a big hit with my 3 guys. It was not the first time I made kolo noodles, but it was the first time I used kway teow (flat rice noodle) in this recipe.

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After blanching/ cooking the flat rice noodle according to instruction, set that aside.

In a big pot, boil some water. While the water is boiling away, cook the prawns (washed and deveined. You may want to leave the tail end intact. I opted to remove the entire prawn shell).  Set the prawns aside.

Next in the pipeline is the colour ‘green’.  Although spring onions or chai sim are most popularly used, I chose to use Shanghai Bok Choy, which is easier to find than chai sim. Wash, clean and cut in desired length and size.  Set aside.

Finally, the chillies. I made pickled red chillies. Simply, fresh red chillies in white vinegar. Set aside.

At this stage, I felt ecstatic! I went through the checklist and ticked my “list” visually.

Blanched kway teow ✅

Homemade char siu

Cooked minced meat ✅

Homemade crispy shallots in oil ✅

Cooked prawns ✅

Washed, cleaned and cut Shanghai Bok Choy ✅

Boiling water ✅

Pickled red chillies ✅

Oh yes, forgot one thing. Cold water.

Ooh…. I was getting excited!  *big grin*

Don’t forget to reach out for these bottles from your larder – White vinegar, fish sauce, Sarawak white pepper, light soy sauce, sesame oil (optional), cooking wine (optional). These liquid items complement the whole dish.

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Now the “le moment suprême” (the moment of truth)

Reach for a working bowl and add a tablespoon of crispy shallots in oil and a teaspoon each of vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, a dash of white pepper and a pinch of chicken bouillon. You may or may not want to add sesame oil and rice wine, which may be too overpowering and makes the noodle tastes less authentic. My other half prefers the smoky flavours from the sesame oil and rice wine. As I have said, they are optional ingredients and are simply there as personal preference.

Next, get a big wire strainer ready. Scoop a portion of kway teow into the strainer. Dip the strainer in the boiling water until the kway teow softens, definitely not too long. We don’t want mushy and lumpy flat rice noodles.

Immediately transfer the hot kway teow to the cold water in just seconds and then back to the boiling water. Then immediately transfer the noodle to the working bowl and mix well to coat the kway teow with the seasoning liquid. Transfer the noodle portion to a nice serving bowl or plate.

Meanwhile, warm the prawns and baby Bok Choy in the hot water in a matter of seconds. Drain and garnish the bowl of kway teow with a few slices of char siu, prawns, minced meat and  baby Bok Choy, topped with some crispy shallots.  Serve immediately with pickled chillies and a bowl of clear broth, sprinkled with chopped spring onions.  Ridiculously hard work, but I’m a tough nut to crack! LOL!

Here you go … the visual steps.
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This is my version of the famous Kuching Kolo Mee/ Kway Teow made in Belgium😄
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Heaven! I’m in heaven!😋

And here were the ones made using wantan mee. Equally delicious, simply because they’re homemade.

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I’m definitely linking this post to Little Thumbs Up, organised by Doreen of my little favourite DIY and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids. The January 2015 LTU theme is “Noodles and Pasta” hosted by Anne from My Bare Cupboard

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Happy trying!

Well I’ve tried and I’ve done it and I’m totally satisfied.

Will I make this again? You bet!

Have a fantastic weekend!

Cheers!