Archive for the ‘Cook and Celebrate’ Category

It seems like only yesterday when we were chomping on our stuffed turkey, gratin, lobsters, soups with lots of cream and all the sweets – OMG! – Christmas cakes, puddings, cookies and whatnots! A back-to-back bountiful banquets with sinful indulgences! *blush*

The first month of the new year is usually a ‘slow’ month with less activities and less eating spree :-). To be honest, it’s a rude shock to get back to the pace of reality, for me, at least. Back to work after the holiday mode and crippled with the crazy traffic jams, the icy cold weather and it gets dark ever so early! Really, leaving home in the morning when it’s still dark and coming home from work in the evening when it’s dark. It’s like living in the ‘Dark Side’ 24/7. LOL!

Tribute to my late MIL

When it’s dark and cold, our tummies seemed to rumble a bit more than normal. With not a lot of leisure time to do extravagant cooking or baking during weekdays, I opted for the easiest way out. I have been meaning to bake this ‘healthier’ version of sponge cake in a long time. By the way, this was a recipe from the Thermomix (TM5) recipe book. It not only looked great, but was a breeze to make.

  
   

My late MIL used to bake her lemon sponge cake using yoghurt instead of butter. As I have said earlier, I have been meaning to bake this cake but have not got round to doing so until now. And I’m glad I finally did it! Thanks to my late MIL for ‘introducing’ this cake to me more than a decade ago.

Ingredients –

  • 80g oil (I used corn oil), plus extra for greasing
  • Zest of 1 organic lemon (see my honest review “Verdict”)
  • 150g sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 200g flour
  • 120g Greek yoghurt
  • A pinch of salt
  • 15g baking powder
  • Some icing sugar for dusting (see my honest review “Verdict”)

  
 

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C. Grease a bundt cake tin. Set aside
  2. Place lemon zest and sugar into mixing bowl and grind (For TM5 owners, grind for 10 sec @ speed 10. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula)
  3. Add eggs and mix with a hand or stand mixer (For TM5, mix for 30 sec @ speed 3)
  4. Add flour, baking powder, oil, yoghurt and salt and mix until all ingredients are combined (For TM5, mix for 1 min 15 sec @ speed 5)
  5. Place mixture into the greased bundt cake tin and bake for 30 minutes at 180 deg C. Allow to cool in cake tin for at least 10 minutes before tipping the cake from the mould to a serving plate. Leave to cool completely and then dust with icing sugar.

  

 
  
 

Verdict: The original recipe is called, simply, Yoghurt Cake. Seeing that lemon is used in the recipe, I wanted to intensify the lemony flavour of the cake, which was light and refreshing. In hindsight, I should have used the zest of two lemons instead of one and add a splash of cointreau and make a lemon icing glace instead of just dusting with icing sugar to elevate one of my favourite citrus fruits, lemon! And what better time to start baking again with the next festive season coming up. The Chinese New Year!

Cakes of all forms, shapes and sizes are omnipresent during ‘open houses’ at Festive occasions in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. With the playful and intelligent Monkey shooing the woolly Sheep away come 8th Feb, this cake will surely be a hit for kids from 1 to 92 😃

Without much ado, I’m linking this post to celebrate the auspicious occasion of prosperity at Cook and Celebrate: Chinese New Year 2016, hosted by Yen from GoodyFoodies, Diana from The Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids 

  
If you want to indulge in something sweet, but not overly sweet and yet tasty, zingy and not too boring at the same time, this healthier version of butter sponge cake will do justice on anyone’s palate anytime of the day. For, this, I’m linking this post to Simply Eggcellent #11 – start the year on an egg … hosted by Dom @ Belleau Kitchen

  
 

 

 

 

Stay warm if you are cold

Stay cool if you are warm

 

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

I was at an Asian store recently with my younger son, and was browsing the shelves in great detail, much to his chagrin.

C’mon, Mama! Don’t take too long. It’s so boring here. Let’s go…

Shhh!! I’m busy here…

 Pfff!

And then…. bingo! I was bewitched by one particular item on the shelf.

This!

  
I was beaming when I saw the familiar looking cookies and my son was delighted I finally found something after striding around for ages on end. Phew! While at the cash counter to pay for my items, the cashier looked up at me and smiled broadly 😃

He said, “You must be a Malaysian, right?”

Huh? How can you tell?” I asked

Because only Malaysians buy the pineapple jam cookies“, he replied with a huge smile on his face 😃

Store-bought vs Homemade

While home, I had a closer look at the plastic case and noticed the Malaysian flag on it. Ah…. that’s why!
 

  

By the way, I did not buy the jam tart because of the flag. I was, infact, as blind as a bat when I reached for the cookies at the time. Now the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

First thing’s first, the tart was crumbly from the first bite. It sort of of melt-in-the-mouth, but there was an unpleasant flavour. It must be the E-number artificial food colouring. No wonder, the pastry was too yellow for my liking. The pineapple paste filling was the stingiest I have ever seen. I could not remember how it tasted like at all, because there was almost nothing filled inside the pastry to draw a taste test. I tasted only the crumbly artificially-buttered-and-coloured pastry, which was quite off-putting, if you ask me.  On the contrary, I must admit that the shape and linear pattern on the cookies were rather impressive. 

  

 
With a lot of effort, we finally finished the store-bought pineapple tarts for more than a week. Then I challenged myself to make my own pineapple tarts from scratch. BUT, I was pampered by a blogger friend, Miss B, when she came to my house last year to pass me a packet of 500g of Redman Pineapple Paste all the way from Singapore (thanks, Miss B). Honestly, that was the best pineapple paste I have tasted ala store-bought. It was not too sweet with natural pineapple flavour and perfect consistency for making pineapple tarts. By the way, I tweaked the paste by spicing it up with some cinnamon and clove powders. Not a lot but just enough to enhance the Nyonya-ness of the paste. LOL!

Here were the results of the store-bought vs homemade pineapple tarts.

I was definitely feeling Goliath-ish that day 🙂

   
  

I have made pineapple tarts before and had always used the same recipe, however, this time, I used another recipe from a friend because I had half a kilogram of pineapple paste! I tweaked her recipe according to personal preference and availability of ingredients

Ingredients

  • 550g plain flour ( I reduced to 450g)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 350g butter (I used 250g cold butter because that’s what I had left in the fridge!)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp castor sugar – fine (I reduced to 1.5 Tbsp)
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence (I did not use)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp hot water (I did not use)
  • A few drops of yellow food colouring (I definitely did NOT use)
  • 500g Redman Pineapple paste (I added freshly ground cloves and a pinch of cinnamon powder and wore rubber gloves to knead the mixed spices into the paste)

Glazing/ Egg wash

  • Mix 1 egg yolk with 1 Tbsp condensed milk

Method (how I usually prep and assemble my tarts without using any flashy tart moulds)
The night or day before: Make equal size pineapple balls using a measuring spoon of 1/2 Tbsp each. Place onto a clean flat plate/ dish and cover with a cling film once done, and let rest in the fridge overnight or until ready to be used
   

1. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl

2. Knead cold rock solid butter into flour with finger tips until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

3. Add in egg yolks and continue kneading until a pastry is formed. It does not take long at all

  
4. Rest the pastry in the fridge for at least 30 minutes

5. Use a measuring spoon of 1 Tbsp to scoop the pastry and flatten it with the palm of your hand. Place the ball-shape pineapple paste in the centre of the flattened pastry. Close it up and form shapes to your preference. I shaped mine in a slightly rectangular form to represent the shape of a pineapple.

  

 6. Brush each tart top surface with the prepared glazing mixture

7. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 18 minutes and apply the egg wash for a second time. Continue baking for 5 minutes.

   
 8. Done!

   
    

Verdict: One thing’s for sure, store-bought pineapple tarts cannot beat homemade ones. The freshly baked cookies with the subtle aroma of the spiced up paste smelt amazing coming out from the oven. With the ‘new’ recipe I have used, it’s not as crumbly as the store-bought tarts. The baked pastry was mildly crispy on the outside but crumbly in the inside. BUT, the filling was top notch generous! In hindsight, I should have used the ingredients which I have used in my original recipe, with icing sugar, less egg yolks plus a bit of egg white and I noted that the percentage of butter to flour should be in the region of 60% or more. Only then I can shout out that I have made 99.9% melt-in-the-mouth pineapple tarts! For now, it’s 90% melt-in-the-mouth. But hey, who’s complaining? There are 4 pineapple cookie jar monsters in the house. The tarts gone in a jiffy!

  

  

Bonus

500g of pineapple paste was a LOT! There were 30 orphaned and naked pineapple balls left. Lol!

With no pastry left, the smart alec in me bought a roll of store-bought puff pastry and made 30 round-shape and 30 star-shape dough. I placed each pineapple paste on the round disc shape dough and topped it up with the star cap. They looked stunning, just like mini edible Terracotta Army . Ha ha ha..! I was so excited with my creative self.

  
 

Then I baked them in the oven….. BUT… I was in for a rude shock!!

Ring-a-ring o’ roses

A pocket full of posies

A-tishoo! A-tishoo!

We all fall down…

  
 

The puff pastry really puffed up and toppled every pineapple ball.

The poor fallen warriors. Lol!

And then the determined me quickly put them back together, while they were still hot.

   
  

Now, don’t they look pretty together?

Verdict: With not enough pastry to encase the paste, the taste of the tart was chewier when baked because there was more pineapple paste to chew on. Guess what, I crazily LOVED the taste and texture, and so did my 3 guys. Not the real McCoy, but it was only a quick fix to make use of everything. Waste not, want not 😜

The pineapple tart is one of the many favourites of all cookies served during Festive occasions in Malaysia and Singapore. Its definitely one of my favourites. With Chinese New Year round the corner, I am linking this post to Cook and Celebrate: Chinese New Year 2016 hosted by Yen from GoodyFoodies, Diana from The Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids 

  
Have a fantastic 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 😀

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 😀

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 😀

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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 😀

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. 😀

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!