Whenever I am back in my hometown, Kuching , one of the first things I would rummage is the radish cake. The Kuchingites called this cake, char kueh, literally translated as fried cakes, which were actually steamed, before being pan-fried. I just couldn’t get enough of this snack plate. Delish!
Our West Malaysian friends called this cake, Lo Bak Ko, as “lo bak” means radish and ko? A coined word for Kueh = Cake?
Since I have not been home for quite a while now, I will not be able to vouch for the best char kueh stall in Kuching, however, during my last trip home; my sisters recommended a good plate of char kueh served at Kenyalang Park. It was more than good. It was fragrant with the correct texture, crispness and colour, yet not burnt, which I liked a lot!
Believe you me; the many years I was in Malaysia before moving to Europe, I never actually cooked, let alone, lifted the wok! The only contribution I made to the culinary world was taking care of the mise en place, which is a French culinary term for putting in place all the ingredients necessary for a dish, prepared and ready to combine up to the point of cooking, or in layman’s term, assisting in the preparation of meals by chopping vegetables – strictly prep work! I was just a commis chef then 🙂
What a relief my Executive Chef was nothing like Gordon Ramsay. She’s the most loving and caring person because she’s my dearest mother, a simple housewife! I regretted not having watched and learnt from her the many cooking skills and tricks she had (and still has) under her sleeves. I remembered when she tasted Tom yum kung for the very first time many, many moons ago; she made a xerox copy of the soup the next day. It just hits the spot!
Of Craving and DIY
Fast forward to today. We don’t live a few blocks away from mum. We are thousands of kilometers away, for Pete’s sake! I have my own family now. The only way to survive if I’m craving for a childhood dish is simply, Do It Yourself (DIY)!! 😀
I am, undoubtedly, still learning the tricks of the trade. Some results paid off, while I do get nasty outcome every now and then. My cooking styles are by trial and error, or simply, be bold enough to be a little bit different than the norm 😉
Here’s what I did recently to appease my growling tummy by making one of my childhood dream plates come true 😛
By the way, there are no exact measurements in this recipe. You can either go mad with what you have in your pantry, or remain conservative. Your call…
400g rice flour (Do NOT use glutinous rice flour. It’s not the same!)
1 medium-sized daikon (Japanese radish = white radish = lo bak = mooli)
2 medium-sized carrots (for the colour)
A palmful dried shrimps (soaked and reserved soaked water) – chopped
4-5 dried shiitake (soaked, but only retain the water from the second soaking) – chopped
2 shallots (chopped)
Plenty of fresh coriander (spring onions or chives are great, too) – roughly chopped
White pepper (to taste)
Vegetarian stock cubes (I did not use salt, so I used about 2 cubes)
To proceed further –
Wash, peel and shred the daikon and carrots.
Chop the soaked dried shrimps and dried shiitake, and the shallots
Boil the shredded daikon and carrots with a small amount of water, just enough to cover the shreddings.
Sauté the chopped ingredients in a non-stick pan with one tablespoon of cooking oil until fragrant
Once the daikon and carrots are cooked, add the sautéed chopped ingredients, roughly chopped fresh coriander (or spring onions or chives), the soaked water from the dried shrimps and shiitake and finally the rice flour. Crumble the stock cubes and sprinkle some white pepper (which I brought all the way from Sarawak !)
Combine the mixture. If too thick, add a bit more water. The end result is a gooey consistency, not flowing or watery. If you think you have reached that point, pour the mixture into a lightly greased dish. I used the disposable aluminium foil dish.
Steam the cake over boiling water for about half an hour. You will know when the cake is cooked by inserting a toothpick, or a wooden skewer or even uncooked spaghetti stick into the centre of the cake. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done. When it comes out wet or gluey, the cake has not finished cooking. Leave it in the steamer for a few more minutes. You can also tell the difference between cooked or uncooked radish cakes. The cooked cake has a glossy finish.
To plate up the char kueh, you need to wait until the cooked steamed cake is really cold. Cut the cake in cubes of 2cm or thereabout, and start frying. I shallow fried my cakes. I like them with a bit of colour and quite crispy, with a beaten egg.
Or better still, use the Kuching Hokkien way of expressing: “Lai chiak. Mai khek khi” (Come eat. Don’t be shy)
Normally, I do not end my post with a sad tune, but the news that hit tiny Belgium became the news of the world of late.
(CNN) — Twenty-two children and six adults died when a bus crashed into the wall of a tunnel in Switzerland. The bus was on its way back to Belgium after a ski trip when it slammed into the side of a highway tunnel in Sierre in the Swiss canton of Valais. It was carrying 52 people: two drivers, four other adults and 46 children, aged 11 and 12 years old.
Out of the 22 final year grade school children who lost their lives in the fatal coach crash on Tuesday evening, 15 were pupils of ‘t Stekske, in Lommel (a municipality located in the Belgian province of Limburg) while 7 were pupils of Sint–Lambertusschool, in Heverlee (a part municipality of the city of Leuven ). Heverlee is just 5km away from where we live!
When I first heard the news on the radio while driving to work on Wednesday morning, I shed a tear. My younger son is about their age. When I picked up my son that evening after school, I hugged him so tightly until he whispered, “Mama, I can’t breathe”.
BBC News –
The country came to a standstill for a minute’s silence at 11:00 (10:00 GMT) and flags are being flown at half mast. After the minute’s silence, church bells rang out.
It has emerged that one of the victims was an 11-year-old British boy who had been a pupil at St Lambertus School in Heverlee.
A message of condolence from Pope Benedict XVI was read out at a service at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Lommel on Thursday evening.
A Vatican statement said the Pope was praying for the bereaved families and expressed his deepest sympathy for the injured and the emergency workers. He had conferred a special apostolic blessing on all affected by the tragedy.
Today, Friday, March 16th 2012, was a day of national mourning in Belgium. At 11:00CET, I was in my office room, observing a minute of silence. Wow! What a significant difference from the hustle and bustle of the daily rush of paces on the corridors and the manic sound of the keyboards.
It’s Oh, so quiet. Shh…! I could hear a pin drop…
Gone, but not forgotten
I take this opportunity to convey my heartfelt sympathy to all the parents, relatives, grandparents, friends and colleagues on the unexpected loss of their beloved son, daughter, god-child, niece, nephew, father, uncle, teacher and friend at this most tragic time.
Farewell, Rest in Peace.
Here’s a song that came from a father who felt and still feels the same pain of losing his own son..