Archive for the ‘Asian’ Category

A normal Saturday lunch in my household is usually a quick and hassle-free one, using available ingredients in my kitchen larder, fridge and freezer.

Last Saturday, however, my fridge was unusually, bare. I had a few stalks of spring onions, with parts of the greens turning brown, two small carrots, a green chilli and 8 small witloofs (Belgian endives) that I bought the previous week or two. Okay, veg was taken care of. Now, the protein. I walked down the basement where the freezer stands under the stairs. I started rummaging the compartments of the freezer for any interesting proteins that caught my eye.

Bingo!

I found not one, but two!! ‘Hidden’ somewhere in one of the freezer compartments, were 2 packets of prawns; one, with shells intact, and another, without. That was a gem of a find, I must say. I must have bought excess packets of prawns when I had friends over for a Laksa feast not too long ago.


Nope, I was not going to make Laksa again, so I had to put on my thinking cap. The first thing that came to my mind was curried prawns, but that would be too boring as I have cooked that on several occasions. Furthermore, I was missing some vital ingredients, so definitely no curry prawns 🙂

The Books That Saved My Day

As a matter of fact, I did not have to look far at all. In March, I had placed orders for 2 Thermomix Cookbooks. I had wanted to order more books, but due to the exorbitant shipping costs from Asia to Europe, I had to weigh my priorities. I contacted the “Suppliers” who immediately sent snapshots of the Table of Contents of a few Cookbooks. I was in love with 2 of the Cookbooks! “I just got to have them!” . Some friends wanted to know why I needed to buy the Cookbooks when I can already cook most of the Malaysian dishes. Erm …. Some dishes typical to West Malaysians are only starting to gain popularity in Sarawak and Sabah. When I was a kid growing up in Kuching, chwee kueh, pan mee, otak-otak, pulut tai tai, lo mai gai, lu rou fan, etc were unheard of. I grew up eating dishes I knew best : kolo mee, midin, mani chai, kueh chap, umai, kompia, kampua mee, Sarawak laksa, manok pansoh, terung dayak, ka chang ma, belacan beehoon, teh C special, linut, tomato kway teow, tumpik, kek lapis Sarawak … Well, I am pretty certain these dishes were unknown to our West Malaysian friends a decade or two ago, too. When I had my first taste of pan mee and chwee kueh in Belgium some 3 years ago, prepared by a friend who hails from KL, I could not get enough of those dishes, id est, if I’m craving for them, I’ve got to cook them myself. Likewise, after a long and hard day at work, I get home feeling like a ton of bricks raining on me. Then I would need something quick, fresh and nourishing and the pre-defined steps in the TM Cookbook is an absolute blessing. 

When the Cookbooks arrived in April (different delivery dates), I was over the moon. I have tried a few of the dishes already from both books. Last Saturday, I picked out one dish from each Cookbook. With two 500g-packet of frozen prawns ready to be consumed, I went straight to the Seafood section of the Cookbooks for some inspiration.

There were a few prawn dishes in the Cookbooks, but those 2 recipes caught my attention. I had all the ingredients, or almost! They are ridiculously simple to make, but will they taste ridiculously awesome?

Let’s find out …

From the Daily Asian Cookbook (DAC), I chose Crispy Stir Fried Prawns, pg 69


From Annie Xavier’s TM Cooks, You Relax (vol 1), I chose Tamarind Prawn, pg 54


The Battle of the Prawns. Bring ‘em on …!!

The DAC came with a cook chip, which made cooking a breeze. For the Crispy Stir Fried Prawns, I used the prawns with shells intact (without heads, though). I thawed both packs of prawns until it’s manageable to de-vein the shelled ones. The peeled prawns were all clean and good to go.

By the way, I followed the recipe from the DAC to a tee,


And here’s the result …


For the Tamarind Prawns, I had to modify Annie’s recipe a bit as her recipe calls for 250g prawns with shells and heads intact, while I had a 500g–pack of peeled and de-veined prawns. I did not double the other ingredients either, as I know doubling the measurement of sugar, for instance would result in a way-too-sweet dish, which will not be appetizing at all. I used dark brown sugar, by the way. I also used the sweet type of dark soy sauce, hence, I had to adjust the taste as I went along.  On the other hand, I used concentrated cooking tamarind  while balancing the sweet and sour flavor that I really wanted in the end.


And here’s the result, although not as dark as Annie’s version.

I garnished the prawns with some left-over spring onions and one thinly sliced green chillies.

My Verdict?

I followed both recipes using almost exactly the same ingredients with small modifications to the quantity according to desired taste. My family loves seafood, hence, serving prawns to them was not an issue. 

Now the taste test. I steamed Jasmine rice to go with the prawn dishes. I also cooked Belgian endives with carrot using the DAC recipe for Stir-fried cabbage with carrot.

After some munching, there was total silence….

I asked the guys which prawn dish was their favourite.

This?


Or this?


Annie’s tamarind prawn has a darker colour. I’m guessing that she used the saltier version of dark soy sauce. I did not have that soy sauce. Instead, I used the Thai version of dark soy sauce, which is similar to the Indonesian kicap manis. In order not to end up with an overly sweet dish, I had to adjust the amount of the soy sauce. My dish ended up quite saucy which went well with the plain steamed rice, so no complaints there. I also like my dish with a bit of heat, hence, the garnishing of the green chillies was Da Bomb!

The dishes were placed next to each other on the dining table. Like holding a pair of L-shaped metal dowsing rod, both my boys pointed their fingers in opposite direction to the platters infront of them at the same time, meaning, the guys had absolutely no preference to dish A or dish B. 

Both dishes were equally scrumptious. One was sweet and sour. I added green chillies to unite the trinity of flavours as well as for colour. At first I thought 12 garlic cloves were a lot for 250 g prawns (see, it’s not possible to double the quantity of garlic with my 500 g prawns! Important is to use your intuition and creativity), but I’m certain Annie knows what she’s talking about. We absolutely LOVE the garlicky taste, which was not too overpowering as the garlics were crushed/ bruised and not finely chopped.  After all, the dish is called Tamarind Prawns and not Garlic Prawns 😉

The other dish was lightly savoury with a hint of heat coming from the dried chillies.  The guided cooking for the crispy stir fried prawns was spot on where taste, timing and texture were concerned. Maybe next time, I will increase the quantity of dried chillies 🙂 

Guess what? I have bookmarked both the recipes and have classified them as “Tried and Tested” 

 

Blessed Pentecost!

Cheers!

1st November this year fell on a Tuesday. I could have made a bridge for a longer “weekend”, but could not due to my workload at work 😦

I was glad to break off work for that one day that week for a yearly family reunion, hosted by one of my SIL’s. While driving to my SIL’s, we stopped at a friend’s house. I received a text message from F that she was giving away some of her ‘harvests’ in her garden. 

Guess what? I hand-picked the chillies in her garden. They were so, very, very fresh! She wanted only the red ones, so I helped myself to the green chillies. I didn’t mind the ‘raw version’ at all, because I knew if I left the chillies wrapped in absorbent paper in the lower drawer of the fridge, the chillies would ripen. 

And I was right!

10 days later, some of the birds’ eye chillies had turned to a lovely bright orange-crimson colour. And I knew exactly where some of the chillies would end up into 😉

Thai Chef vs Me

There was one Wednesday that I took a day off and brought my 2 sons out for lunch (Note, both boys had half-day school / Univ on a Wednesday). We went to a Thai resto near our place. 

For starter, I ordered Tom Yum Goong (TYG) for us. It was a good TYG, but I missed that Oomph in their soup. It was a wee bit too lame. 

Saturday came, and TYG was in the pipeline for our lunch menu.

So here it was, my version vs the Thai Chef’s. 


And not only that, I made my TYG in my thermomix! 


To be honest, I could eat my TYG all day without anything else that day, because it had been a while since I last made the soup! I looked back at a post I wrote; it was in March this year when I had friends over. You can read it all … Here 🙂

Because I love bold-tasting soups, I thought of a way to totally infuse the aromatics in the soup first before proceeding further. Be warned! It’s a highly seasoned soup that hits the palate and warms the heart without burning, if you know what I meant 😉

(Note: This is my own recipe using my preferred method – tried and tested – after a few trials and errors).  

Please be aware that some measurements are not given as only you will know how much or how little you want to put in the dish. Remember, “Ut quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum” or what is food for one man may be bitter poison to others. 

Ingredients A

  • 2 cm piece galangal
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 2 coriander roots

Ingredient B

  • 5 g cooking oil / coconut oil

Ingredient C

  • 1,500 g water

Ingredients D

  • Lemongrass, bruised and halved
  • Shallots, halved 
  • Galangal, sliced
  • Bird’s eye chillies, lightly bruised
  • Kaffir lime leaves, lightly bruised with the fingers

Ingredients E

  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • Homemade chilli paste, eyeball for colour, taste and flavour
  • Salt, to taste 

Ingredients F

  • Prawns, shelled 
  • Mushrooms, sliced 

Ingredient G

  • Lime juice, to taste
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved or whole

Ingredient H

  • Fresh coriander 

Steps –

  • Place A in the TM bowl. Grind 5 sec/ sp 10  * 2

  • Add B. Sauté for 3 mins/100C/ sp 2 
  • Place D in SB and add C. Cook for 15 mins/ 120C/ sp1


  • Remove the SB and tip the aromatics in a bowl. Set aside for garnish later.

  • Transfer F in the SB. Cook for 4 mins/120C/ sp 1 or until the prawns are cooked. 

  • Remove the SB and set aside the cooked prawns, mushrooms, etc
  • Add E. Cook further for 5 mins/ 120C/ sp 2


  • Add G. Stir for 1 min/ R/ spoon
  • Assemble a serving bowl with prawns, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, some slices of galangal, bird’s eye chillies, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Garnish with H.
  • Done!


Happy 1st Anniversary!

I made the TYG to go with my Nasi Ulam and baked spiced chicken. Our Saturday lunch was the bomb, by the way, with full-blown explosion of flavours. Yup, my kind of food 🙂


There’s no better way to celebrate my first year anniversary of owning the thermomix than sharing with you some of the dishes I have conjured the past 12 months using my most used kitchen gadget today!

And as they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘ …


IMPORTANT NOTICE : Please be aware that I’m neither a Consultant/ Advisor nor an employee of Thermomix.  I am NOT paid anything from any parties. I just happened to own a thermomix and love doing what I’m doing and will continue doing so. 

Happy Mid-Week ya’ll!

Cheers!

Last Summer my family made a trip to Kuching; a very much delayed trip of 7 years’ overdue. While I was in 7th heaven binging foods I grew up eating, my Belgian hubs and Belsian boys were craving for their Belgian fries. Erm… I guess I could totally understand their cravings, because that’s what happened to me this Summer!

We were in the South of France for 2 weeks, consuming local Provençal’s 3-course meals almost daily. And guess what? My palate was screaming for SPICES!!! 

When we headed home, I was longing for that one dish that’s packed with spices and fresh herbs. Because I had been “pampered” with served meals while in the Provence, it was hard getting back to cooking mode. By the way, I have not been using my thermomix for almost a month! Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

Therefore, one weekend, I moved my thermie and placed it under the extractor hood. My mission? To appease my craving. Yup, I was craving for the Indonesian inspired dish, “soto ayam” because that’s one tantalising dish that’s packed with all the goodness of spices and fresh herbs. No ready-made or instant boemboes! Everything was fresh and cooked from scratch… in my thermie!

If you are wondering what “Soto” means, I was as blur as most of you, so I asked the right people, my Indonesian colleagues. They said it’s a soup dish. Yes, I knew it’s a soup dish, but what is soto? I did not get an answer right away but they went on to explain that usually chicken meat is submerged in water with specific spices and herbs to obtain the broth.

Okay, in my humble opinion, soto is not just a simple soup dish, it’s the method how the broth is made. My Indonesian colleagues agreed to my curious conclusion. 

And by the way, I used fresh turmeric to give the broth that vibrant yellow look, while poaching and simmering the chicken in the broth. It’s such a healthy dish, with lots of flavour and very, very aromatic.


Two years ago, I posted the soto ayam recipe done the conventional way, so in this post, I’m going the opposite direction. 

The Revival

Since our Summer hols in August, my thermomix had been left idle for about a month! When I started cooking the soto ayam, my thermie went bonkers. The sound of the blades spinning was not normal. It sounded rusty. I was hoping the squeaky sound would go away. It did not, until I started to boil the chicken. Guess what?!!! My thermie stopped cooking completely in the first 4 to 5 minutes. And I still had so many more minutes to go before the raw chicken meat was cooked!! Oh no!!!! Not now. So I did what I had to do, i.e. removed the plug and then re-plugged. At the same time, I had to re-start the menu. I felt like a surgeon reviving a comatose. Thank goodness, the ‘flatline’ re-acted and my thermie came back to life! It was a HUGE relief! Phew!!!

And here’s how I cooked my Soto Ayam, which I have personally translated as Fragrant Herbed Chicken Soup, because that’s what it actually is!

Ingredients A


  • 5g Sarawak white peppercorns 
  • 5g coriander seeds


Ingredients B


  • 70g garlic
  • 230g shallots
  • 50g galangal
  • 10g (1 stalk) lemongrass 
  • 25g turmeric 
  • 65g ginger
  • 20g candle nuts
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves



Ingredients C

  • 60g coconut oil

Ingredients D


  • 8 pcs (ca 1 kg) chicken drumsticks 
  • 800g water
  • 4 stalks lemon grass (bruised)
  • A palmful kaffir lime leaves (bruised)
  • Coarse sea salt to taste


Ingredients E


  • 8 – 9 medium-sized eggs placed in Varoma dish 


Ingredients F

  • 500g hot water

Garnishing 

  • Cucumber, julienned
  • Fried shallots (not in photo)
  • Spring onion 
  • Fresh coriander
  • Mint leaves 

Method


  1. Place A in TM bowl. Dry roast for 10 mins/ V/ sp 1. Mill the toasted spices when temp drops below 60C. Mill for 1 min/ sp 6->10/ MC
  2. Tip the ground spices onto a clean plate/ bowl. Set aside
  3. Meanwhile add B and blend for 15 sec/sp 10. Scrape the sides of the inner bowl and under the lid. Again, blend for 15 sec/ sp 10.  
  4. Add C and ground spices A and sauté for 15 mins/ V/ sp 1
  5. Add D. Cook for 15 mins/V/R/ spoon
  6. Place E on top of TM bowl and cook / boil further for 17 mins/ V/ R/ spoon (or until the eggs are boiled according to your liking or better still, use the TM5 recipe chip and boil the eggs separately. I like mine with firm white and runny yolk. Heaven!  )
  7. Remove Varoma dish and cool eggs under cold running water. Set aside.
  8. Remove cooked chicken. Set aside 
  9. Meanwhile add F and check the seasoning of the broth. Boil further for 5 mins/ 100 C/ R/ spoon
  10. Before drizzling the hot spiced broth, plate the sliced cooked chicken in a (deep) bowl and garnish with thinly stripped cucumber, coriander leaves, spring onions and mint leaves. Place a hard or medium or soft boiled egg on top and sprinkle with fried shallots/ onions.
  11. Pour the hot broth slowly over the chicken.
  12. Serve with steamed white basmati rice (which I also cooked in my thermie)

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words!


Sinfully yummy. One of the best comfort foods 🙂


Mmmmm….Simply gorgeous!

I served my soto ayam with steamed basmati rice.

My Verdict?

When my thermie stopped cooking in the first 5 minutes, I felt my whole world came crashing down around me! It was that bad. I was thinking that I had prepared everything for nothing. That’s just not me. I wanted to see, or better still, taste the end result. It appears that the thermie must not be left idle for a long time. It needs attention and wearing, therefore, TM owners, keep your thermie busy! 

Now, the verdict for the dish. Usually I would serve the soto ayam with vermicelli or noodles. This was the first time I had the fragrant herbed chicken broth with steamed rice. It was a complete meal which we all liked, but personally, I would serve the broth with rice noodles. As you can see, the egg was supposed to be hard-boiled, but it turned out soft, which we all liked, too 😀

With the summer temperatures behind us, this dish will be made quite frequently now. This dish is pure comfort food for cold weather. 

So I made this dish again with rice vermicelli, and making sure to boil the eggs separately as per the recipe chip. 

Et voilà!

Yummy !!!!


Stay warm! 


Cheers!


When I was a kid, my late Dad used to buy Indian snack for our simple high tea. I have made cucur roday or masala vada(i) a few times aleady on my own. You can find the recipes on my blog: Masala Vada (Spiced Dhall Fritters): Hawkers’ Delight and Crispy Roday – a tribute to my late dad

The other savoury and crunchy snack which I LOVED and still do is Murukku. Murukku is the Tamil word for ‘twisted’ which appropriately described the shape of the snack, which is shaped in a spiked surface spiral form. 


Making Murukku is not difficult at all if you have the right mould or Murukku or Chakli press. I did not have one until last Summer when I was in Kuching with my family. I made sure I bought all the necessary moulds which could not be found in BE. I did not buy a specific Murukku mould or press but more so, a multi purpose mould, which can be used to make string hoppers or putumayam or idiyappam. The mould can also be used to make cendol. It’s a plastic mould with 8 templates of different patterns. It’s not the best mould, but it’s light weight and easy to assemble and to clean…. and its’cheap. Only RM 14 or 3 Euros!


Chakli or Murukku?

I have not heard of the word Chakli while growing up, since Murukku, which is the Tamil word was popularly used in Kuching or Malaysia and Singapore, for that matter. By the way, there is a slight difference in the ingredients used for making Chakli vs Murukku. Chakli has rice flour and besan or chickpea or gram flour while Murukku has rice flour and urad or mung dhal.

Since I am more familiar with the word Murukku, and that there’s a twist in ingredients between Chakli and Murukku and the fact that I never deep-fry my foods in my kitchen, I christened this recipe as “Baked Twisted Murukku

And guess what, I pulverised the organic  dried chickpeas into chickpea flour in my thermie. That was the first step. 


You could also make rice flour from soaked raw rice, but since I had a 1 kg bag of store-bought rice flour in my pantry, I wanted to finish that first.

The idea of baking the Murukku is adapated and improvised from Tarla Dalal’s recipe for Baked Chaklis which I have converted by using the Thermomix. Tarla Dalal used only rice flour, but I added freshly ground chickpea flour to the rice flour. And by the way, I like the idea of adding yoghurt instead of water to the dough mixture.

Ingredient A

  • 100 g organic dried chickpeas


Ingredients B

  • 100 g rice flour
  • 130 g Greek yoghurt
  • 10 g white sesame seeds
  • 5 g whole jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 5 g lovage seeds 
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 5 g chilli powder 
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 tsp sunflower (or corn) oil


Ingredient C

  • 1 tsp water (or eye-ball)


Method



  1. Pre-heat the oven at 180 deg C.
  2. Place A in TM bowl. Mill 1 min/ sp 10/ MC. Scrape the sides of the inner bowl and mill again for 30 sec/ sp 10/ MC. Scrape the sides of the inner bowl and the lid.
  3. Add B. Mix for 1 min/ sp 2. Slowly add C and knead for 5 mins. Eye-ball for dough consistency, which should be a semi-soft dough.
  4. Tip the dough onto a clean bowl and knead briefly. Put some dough mixture into a murukku press using the single star nozzle. Press and make swirls of 5 to 6 cm diameter murukku on a pizza crisper tray or a baking tray lined with silicone baking sheet.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 16 to 17 mins. Do not over-bake as the murukku will be charred bitter.
  6. Cool and store the murukku in air-tight container.


My Verdict?

I LOVED it! The Murukku were super crispy. The flavours of the seeds – sesame, cumin and lovage transported me back to my childhood days. I felt the warmth in my tummy from the chilli flakes rather than in the mouth. It was a good feeling. The only drawback was, I was the only one eating the Murukku! My boys and hubby are not fans of the seeds. Sesame seeds were okay , but not the other Indian spices. Next time I will tweak the recipe and add ingredients that would appeal to their palates. Erm…. maybe the ingredients that go in making the Belgian Speculoos, without the sugar? Nope, don’t think so. Cinnamon and sugar go well. Cinnamon and salt? Nah!

Oh by the way, the addition of the natural yoghurt gave the Murukku just a bit of that tangy taste, which I actually liked. Tarla Dalal baked her chaklis for more than 30 mins which I thought was way too long. The Murukku came out perfect in my oven at just 15 to 16 mins baked on the pizza crisper and baking tray lined with silicone parchment sheet. I will definitely bake these again, on condition if I have a human helper in the kitchen to press the Murukku from the mould. That was the back-breaking and monotonous parts of the entire process, and the robotic Thermomix was no help at all (most unfortunately) *sigh*

 
Cheers! 

Larb is one of the iconic dishes of Laos and Isaan region of North Eastern Thailand. It is a warm salad of ground meat, with ground pork as the more common protein used, however chicken, beef, duck and fish make great substitutes.  

Little Thailand in Zaventem 

3 weeks ago, I was introduced to a little Thai takeaway by a colleague. He chanced upon the little takeaway joint when he was driving along the narrow street somewhere in Zaventem during lunch break. The tiny shoplot is not particularly an obvious sight unless you actually explore that street and pop your head in the shop to check.  The “Takeaway” sign is rather misleading as the tiny shoplot could miraculously accommodate 12 people at the most.  A business lunch dish is priced at Eur 9. Two types of dishes are prepared daily, spicy and non spicy. À la carte order is more expensive depending on the choice of protein – chicken, beef, pork, tofu, prawn or fish. 

In just 3 weeks, I have sampled their Panang Curry, Pad Grapao (holy basil stir-fry), Pad Thai, Pad See Ew (soy sauce stir-fry), Green Curry and Larb Gai (spicy chicken salad). I was completely Thai-away!

Oh by the way, the Larb Gai was not one of the dishes for business lunch, so I had to pay as per à la carte price. The portion was huge and came with steamed jasmine rice.


Fresh, Fast and Simple 

Methinks paying Eur 13.50 for the Larb Gai was daylight robbery because making Larb is not rocket science. It’s really simple to make.

I have made Larb several times but have not found the time to blog about it. Recently I made Larb again but with a twist. It’s a vegetarian Larb using minced Quorn. Quorn is gluten-free mycoprotein. I pan-fried the minced Quorn for 8-10 minutes with small amount of oil.

Looks like ground beef… well it’s vegetarian mock meat


The next ingredient is unique and a must-have in making Larb, ie toasted rice powder. Originally glutinous rice is used, however, jasmine rice is a great substitute. I used jasmine rice in this recipe.

The rice is dry-roasted on medium high heat until a deep golden brown colour is achieved. It is advisable to make as much as you need at a time.  I used about 2Tbsp jasmine rice for 200 g minced Quorn. 


Once the rice turned a ravishing brown colour, I transferred it to a stone mortar. The rice was ground to the consistency I wanted, not too powdery or flour-like but still fine with bits to bite on.  The smell of ‘popcorn’ emitting from the freshly pounded toasted rice was awesome.

Before assembling the Larb, I prepped the fresh herbs of mint, coriander and spring onion. Then I thinly sliced a shallot and a yellow chilli. For colour, I halved 8 cherry tomatoes.

Next I combined palm sugar, nam pla (fish sauce) and juice of 1 lime to configure the trinity of Thai marinade. Chilli flakes were sprinkled, all to taste. (Note, fish sauce can be substituted with light soy sauce to make this dish vegan)

Finally, the assembling of the dish!  My favourite part. After all, it’s an all-in-one-pot dish. Easy peasy!


And there you have it… My version of Vegetarian Larb. Scrumptious!


The extra sprinkle of the toasted jasmine rice powder was the pièce de résistance of an exquisite or almost authentic Larb dish. 

My Verdict?

I was glad I made good use of the 200 g minced Quorn. It was lying in my fridge for at least 2 weeks. I had wanted to make a vegetarian bolognese sauce for my boys after work in the evening but I never got round to making it. Well, my procrastination paid off. Hubs and the boys loved the refreshingly light vegetarian Larb. To be honest, Quorn is a rather dry ingredient, unlike chicken, pork, duck, prawn or beef when the technique of “Ruan” (cooking meat with water without a drop of oil) is used. I’m glad I added cherry tomatoes and the juice of 1 lime really perked up the dish and tantalised our palates. 

I’m linking this post to #CookBlogShare May 24-30 hosted by Hayley at Snap Happy Bakes

Have a great weekend!
Cheers!

When Fortune knocks, open the door, they say. 

But why should one make Fortune knock, by keeping the door shut?

~Idries Shah (Caravan of Dreams)

Now, my ‘fortune’ started at my SIL’s place when she hosted the yearly family reunion celebrating the New Year. I happened to grab one of the mags lying on a magazine rack. I flipped through the pages quickly as lunch was about to be served. There was this page that bewitched me. It was in Dutch. I stopped a little longer and then I took my iPhone and took a snapshot of the pages. They were 2 blurry pages. My SIL saw my action. 

Oh-oh… now what?” 

She said, “Stop! I can do better. I will print the pages for you” 

Phew! That was a close one…

So yes, my SIL printed the pages for me and in colour prints on A4. What a relief I did not have to squint my eyes reading the small prints on my iPhone. 

Curious to know what my SIL printed for me?

Well, my fortune cookies, of course!

What did my Fortune tell me?

Go make more fortunes! Ha ha ha…

Seriously? Well, I’ve been wanting to make the cookies for a long time. 

Origin

The exact origin of fortune cookies is rather vague. There are 3 claimants who claimed they invented or founded the cookie, however, to this day, the debate on the real founder is still on-going. Contrary to popular belief, the cookies were not invented in China (as rumoured). It’s an American thing, created by Asian immigrants in either the LA or SF areas, migrated from Hong Kong or Japan, depending on which crystal ball you want to believe in. LOL!

Whatever or wherever the origin came from, I see it as part of an entertainment, an ice-breaker or simply, a gift! (Hint: Mother’s Day is up next … ;-))

When I left my previous job more than a decade ago, I distributed about 50 store-bought fortune cookies much to the curiosity and delight of my former colleagues. It was something to remember by and a great way to stay engaged even if it was my last day. Cool!

Oh by the way, I met up with some of my ex-colleagues recently, one of whom I have not met since I left  “Coy P” in 2003! It was good meeting and catching up with them ~ a very international reunion with 6 different nationalities out of 8 that Friday evening!

We went to a Thai restaurant, so no, there were no fortune cookies 🙂

Now I get my fortune cookie when I am at a Chinese restaurant. You can tell the fortune cookies are mass-produced. Identical in size, shape, texture and taste. You will also notice that the pastry is pretty thick, like so …

   
 
 

With the recipe my SIL printed out for me, I wanted to surprise myself that I, too, can make these cookies in the comfort of my own kitchen. By the way, it looked damn easy on paper ~ but oh dear ~ the actual execution was near to disaster. The recipe yields 10, ten-centimeter diameter cookies. I wanted 6 cookies which I wanted to bring to a small gathering the next day. Did I manage to get 6 fortune cookies? We’ll see…

Ingredients (with some modifications)

(Makes 10 fortune cookies)

  • 36 g egg white (room temperature)
  • 30 g superfine sugar 
  • Pinch sea salt (ground in pestle and mortar)
  • Zest of 1 lime 
  • 55 g APF
  • 28.35 g melted butter

Decoration (optional – my own addition )

  • Poppy seeds
  • White sesame seeds

Method 

  

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 deg C (Note: Different ovens work differently. Frankly, this was more a trial-and-error. Cfr my verdict at the end of this post)
  2. Whisk the egg white until frothy
  3. Add sugar and whisk until smooth and glossy
  4. Add salt and lime zest. Whisk to combine
  5. Add flour. Whisk until the batter is smooth and lump-free
  6. Add melted butter and whisk for the last time
  7. Draw three 10 cm circles on a parchment or baking paper. Make sure to turn the paper pencil side down with the circles still visible on the reverse side
  8. Scoop about 3/4 Tbsp of the batter and spread it to follow the pattern of the circle on the baking sheet. Make sure to even out the thickness of the batter with the back of a spoon or a flat butter knife or even a fish knife
  9. Do not rush to bake the cookies. Make 3 at a time. Trust me, that’s plenty to keep you busy! Bake the cookies for 6 to 8 minutes. Seriously, the baking time depends on the type of oven you own. (Note, you need to work very fast as the cookie will crisp up and become brittle in no time at all)
  10. Insert a fortune in a cookie and ply the cookie in half immediately. Hold the cookie at both ends and gently curve the centre of the long straight side of the cookie on the edge of a cup or glass and transfer it to a muffin tin to hold the shape until it cools.
  11. Repeat the process until the batter is used up completely
  12. If the cookie is not crispy or under-cooked, crisp it up by baking in a low heat oven for 3 to 4 minutes or until you are satisfied with the texture. 

   
   

My verdict : I made 10 cookies, but I managed to salvage 6 – yes, on target !! I must confess, though, that the execution was not as easy as it sounded or looked on paper! The first 3 cookies that went in the oven first were a complete disaster – not the taste – but the cookies were not pliable at all. They crisped up and turned out to be crunchy as they were, round thin cookies! BUT, they were delicious! I was so happy I added lime zest  and sprinkled some poppy seeds and white sesame seeds. My younger son, was waiting nearby like a mindless eating machine, preying for the failed cookies. Mine! Mine! Mine! And failed, I did – 4 out of 10 times! To be honest, the failure stats would have been higher. To overcome subsequent  failures, I purposely under-baked the cookies first, and then took them out of the oven and placed a fortune in the cookie and started plying and folding to form the shape of a fortune cookie. Once done, I re-baked them in the oven to crisp them up. The cookies were soft when they were still hot. Re-shaping the cookie was a must and then immediately nesting each cookie in a muffin cavity. I brought the 6 cookies for a birthday gathering the next day for lunch. I was quite disappointed that the cookie was not as crispy as I wanted it to be (btw, that’s the honest verdict from the cookie I ate that afternoon). I’m sure the other girls were too polite not to mention about some of the calamities…(?) I thought, the cookies could do with more re-baking time. After all, it was my maiden attempt in making fortune cookies and for such an “important” function *wink*. 

Happy Birthday to the Birthday Girls , and thanks “A” for hosting us and for the scrummy “mee sua”

Now, there’s someone else who’s waiting for these cookies …My SIL! I promised her that I would make these when it is our turn to host the family reunion, total 17 pax (including 4 kids)! And that’ll be this summer!!! Fingers crossed for success.


By the way, what did my fortune say? 

Lol! 

I’m linking this post to #CookBlogShare: May 3-9, hosted by Snap Happy Bakes

Happy Mid Week!

Cheers!

Of Red and Tortoises

My Mum and siblings know it!

Every trip to Kuching, Mum or one of my sisters would buy at least half a dozen of the red, soft, sticky and chewy Chinese pastry filled with mung bean paste for our brekkie. This is one of my must-haves whenever I am in Kuching. The cake (transcribed from the local dialect, ‘kueh‘ ) is moulded to resemble a tortoise shell. 

Remember Grand Master Oogway, one of the characters from DreamWorks animated film, Kung Fu Panda? His character is a tortoise and his name, “Oogway” is the English approximation of the Chinese word for ‘turtle’. In the film, Oogway is shown to be highly venerated for his wisdom, tenacity, knowledge and experience. He is considered a sage (a legendary icon with profound wisdom). 

Here’s one of my favourite quotes *wink*

  

And by the way, tortoises have one of the longest lifespans of any animal. They are known to have lived longer than 150 years, therefore, by equating Red + Tortoise, we arrived at the most powerful equation. In Chinese culture, the colour red symbolizes joy and happiness, whilst the tortoise is traditionally used as a symbol of longevity, power and diligence

Not Red but all-natural Orange Tortoise

Traditionally, Ang Ku Kuehs are prepared during Chinese New Year as offerings to the Chinese deities, as well as auspicious occasions such as a newborn baby’s first month (muah guek) or birthdays of the elderly to symbolize blessings for the child and good fortune and longevity for the elderly.

In modern times, the colour red is no longer restricted to special occasions. These sweet pastries are commercially available all year round in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and Southern parts of Thailand. The two main components in Ang Ku Kueh (AKK) are the skin and the filling. The skin is made from both glutinous rice flour and sweet potato whereas the fillings are usually pre-cooked mung bean paste or grounded peanuts and sugar. The oval-shaped AKK is the result of the imprintment of the tortoise-shape mould used in shaping the sweet pastries.

Here were some photos I took during my last trip to Kuching in August last year. These were taken during the Annual Kuching Food Festival.
   
 

With the mass production of the AKK all year round, I am very certain food dyes are liberally used. I am not a fan of using food colouring in my kitchen, hence, my homemade Ang Ku Kueh will definitely not be Red.

Here’s the result of my all-natural Orange Tortoise Cakes. (Note the colour orange was the result of my using orange sweet potatoes)

  

This recipe is an adaptation of Nasi Lemak Lover’s AKK recipe with several modifications, as to the ratio of glutinous rice flour to sweet potato, reduced sugar and I added a pinch of salt and excluding food colouring. I did not use hot water as I was preparing the AKK in my Thermomix

Ingredient A

  • 180 g mung beans (rinsed with several changes of running water and soaked for 4 hours)

Ingredient B

  • 3 knotted pandan leaves

Ingredients C

  • 100 g sugar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 30 g corn oil

  

Ingredient D

  • 1,000 g water

Ingredient E

  • 220 g sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut in chunks 

Ingredients F

  • 170 g glutinous rice flour
  • 5 g rice flour
  • 15 g sugar
  • 20 g corn oil

Ingredient G

  • 80 g water

  

Ingredient H

  • 700 g water

Additional ingredients

  • Some corn oil
  • Some glutinous rice flour

How to prepare 

   

  1. Place A and B in the Simmering Basket (SB). Place E in the Varoma Dish (VD). Add D. Steam for 45 min/ V/ sp 2
  2. Remove SB and VD. Add the slightly cooled A without B into the TM Bowl. Add C. Blend for 45 sec/ sp 7.  Scrape the sides of the inner bowl and remove the dough into a clean bowl. Cover and set aside.
  3. Place the slightly cooled E into the TM Bowl. Blend for 5 sec/ sp 6. Add F and very slowly pour in G.   Mix for 30 sec/ sp 4. (Note, it is crucial at this stage to check the consistency of the dough. If it is too thick, add water; if too thin, add glutinous rice flour). Knead the dough further for 2 mins. Tip the dough out onto a clean bowl
  4. For the amount of ingredients I used in this recipe, I could make 18 AKK. Use your fantasy on how to put the mung bean filling in the sweet potato dough. I used a measuring spoon of a bit more than 1 Tbsp sweet potato dough and 1 Tbsp of mung bean paste. Try to form a ball and place the ball onto an AKK mould, which was pre-dusted with some glutinous rice flour. Press lightly with your hand and knock out the AKK on both of the long sides of the mould. Immediately sit the AKK on a greased banana leaf
  5. Repeat the process until the doughs are completely used up.  Pour H in the TM Bowl and set the dials to 30 mins/ V/ sp 2.  Once the temp reaches Varoma at approx 22 mins, reduce the temp to 100 deg C. Place the AKK on the Varoma set (Dish and Tray) and stack the Varoma set above the TM Bowl. Continue steaming until done.

   
  
 

Verdict: This was the first time I made Ang Ku Kueh which were not red but all-natural orange tortoise cakes! I have read several recipes, both conventional and thermomix way of preps on the net. Most of them sounded too good to be true. ” … cool the dough and shape in x balls …” or “… weigh each dough and shape in balls … ” or “… divide the dough into x balls …” . Balls? What balls? Honestly, I wished I could do that! Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) made her AKK for the first time and yet she could roll the skin dough into balls (yes, balls!) as well as the mung bean paste. Now, why couldn’t I do that? The sweet potato-glutinous rice flour dough was not easy to handle at all. I added a bit more GRF but dared not go overboard, lest the dough would be too hard and overly tough and chewy. I wanted a soft yet subtly chewy dough, so I ended up scooping the dough with a measuring spoon of 1 Tbsp and tried making a ball on a greased clean plate. Did it work? On the plate, yes, but not on my palm, so no balls. LOL!. Same thing for the mung bean paste. I had to add a bit more oil to make a ball. It was tedious task handlng the “balls” 36 times (skin and filling). I was so craving for AKK and when I finally made it, I was in 7th Heaven, but …..I would NOT suggest eating the AKK hot or warm, ie just coming out from the steamer (Varoma set). It was too soft and the skin was not at all chewy. It was like biting through a gelatinous pastry. Uh-uh! At that point, I was really disappointed and thought the recipe was a big, flat flop! And then I read on fatboo’s blog that the AKK can be kept without refrigeration for up to 3 days; and if they are refrigerated, to re-steam for 5 mins prior to serving. Did I follow the rule? Yes and No. I kept my orange tortoise cakes un-refrigerated for up to 24 hours only, not 3 days. Thanks to fatboo, the AKK tasted sublime the next day, like it should be – soft and chewy with the right balance at the same time. The glossy skin was absolutely fab! I did not even brush extra oil on my little orange tortoise cakes. Likewise, I was really glad I reduced the amount of sugar for the mung bean paste. It was bang on the money, not overly sweet. The subtle pandan flavour and the aroma from the banana leaf were undescribable. Just too nostalgic.

   
 

I had about 10 leftover pieces left. Since I am not used to leaving foods un-refrigerated for longer than 24 hours, I placed my precious orange tortoise cakes in the fridge. I did not re-steam the cakes because if I did, it would be a vicious circle. So I ate a piece of AKK in its cold refrigerated state. That was a BIG mistake! The skin was not chewy anymore. The sweet potato texture became more dominant. The filling was fantastic, though. In hindsight, I should have left the AKK un-refrigerated for 3 days. I guess that’s hinting me to make another batch of these Tortoise cakes, regardless the colour very soon *wink*

Ang Ku Kueh is Hokkien Chinese and is literally translated as Red Tortoise Cake. This sweet Chinese pastry is ubiquitous in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand all year round. For this, I’m linking up this local delicacy to April Tea Time Treats: Local & Regional Recipes hosted by Lavender and Lovage and The Hedgecombers

  

Have a great week!

Cheers!