Archive for the ‘Malaysian’ Category

My 2 sons were bored with the same holiday destination year after year each Summer. “It has become too predictable“, they said.

My younger son whinged, “Why are we always spending our summer hols in the Provence? We’re becoming the real experts of South France and Van Gogh!” *chuckle*

Hmmm… true!

So, early this year, while planning our annual family summer getaway, hubby and I rethought our summer destination.

Hubby prefers to drive and rents a holiday cottage rather than flying and staying in hotels if the stay is a week or more. By excluding France in the picture, we went for the elimination theory. Germany is too near and the summer weather sucks! Just like Belgium and the UK! Luxembourg is too small. We have been to the Netherlands and they speak pretty much the same language (as Flemish), hence nothing new.

The weather played an important role in the choice of our holiday destination, too. It’s got to be warmer than Belgium!

Oh-kay! Got it!

Spain!

Si Señor(a)! España, por favor!

Mind you, it’s almost 1.5k km away! I told hubby to split our summer hols by staying a night or two half way through the journey somewhere in mid or South France and then to resume with the rest of the journey to Spain. Instead, hubby opted to rent La Maison Blanche at St-Rémy-de-Provence for the entire week and 2 weeks in Spain! So yes, we were back in the Provence … again! 🙂

Well, anyway we were super excited and my younger son was especially thrilled to learn about our NEW summer destination… finally! 🙂

We’re headed to Caldes de Malavella in the province of Girona, North East Spain. Very little is known of Caldes de Malavella. It’s a sleepy town, by the way. However, we found out that the place was formerly renowned for its thermal baths or spas!

The remains of the Ancient Roman Bath in Caldes, for instance. Photo credit to Josep Renalias (Wikipedia).

We have never got any closer to the city because the summer residence we’re headed for was self-contained, and very well connected to other cities in Spain. That’s a plus point for us.

By the way, our knowledge of Spain as a holiday destination was nil. Zero! Being first timers to Catalonia, our summer hols this year became more challenging. We have only heard and read about the popular coastal region of Costa Brava and of course Barcelona, so Barca’s definitely on our itinerary! Other than that, we knew the eccentric Spanish artist and surrealist icon, Salvador Dali came from that region.

From La Maison Blanche to Can Fonzo

After one nostalgic week in South France, we left La Maison Blanche en route to Girona. The GPS flashed a distance of ca 370 km, and ETA at around 2 pm.

It was late morning on a Saturday and with a heavy traffic from Béziers all the way to Costa Brava, our ETA stretched to almost 6 pm when we arrived at Villa Can Fonzo in Caldes de Malavella.

OMG! The house was huge! I did not expect that at all. It’s located on a hill slope.

According to Barcelona Life, “Caldes became a prosperous place and today around the outskirts of the town you’ll find plenty of attractive private mansions and summer residences, built in the Modernista – ie. Catalan art nouveau – style.”

So true!

When I entered the house, I exclaimed, “oh oh, I will have to remember where I place my handphone or cable or the charger or just about anything… ” Lol!

South East Asian Connections

The house is owned by a Dutch couple. It’s interesting to see their connections with Asia within the house.

I was looking for coffee mugs in the kitchen cabinet, and found these mugs. Singaporeans may know this pottery factory 😉

And of course several memorabilia of Indonesia, being once a Dutch colony.

There’re many books of Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore on the many book shelves in the house, too.

We have never met the owners, but they left a strong message behind 😉

First Meal in Spain

After exploring the house, I decided to cook us a simple meal of Fusilli all’Arrabbiata, with the fresh chillies, garlic and fusilli I brought from Belgium and red peppers, dried herbs, smoked bacon and tomatoes from the Provence in the kitchen at Can Fonzo.

A simple yet satisfying meal 😉

While enjoying my plate of Fusilli and a glass of rosé on the patio, I gazed ahead of me a vision of a new and exciting tomorrow 😉

Ah …. what Peace and Serenity …. until I heard the buzzing sound of mosquitoes flapping their wings!

Arghhhh!!!!

Have a Blessed week!

Cheers!

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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!

Phew! It’s a looonng process, but I’m so glad I DID it … finally, with some help from my thermie 🙂

Eating white rice can be rather boring, so to make the staple more enticing, a bit of picasso and van gogh will bring the little white beads to life. 

Making Nasi Ulam is not rocket science, far from it, but there are several steps or parts to consider before the final piece of puzzle fell into place. 

With the lengthy list of fresh herbs and spices that go into making Nasi Ulam, it will not make you feel guilty even if you overindulged. 

I could eat the fresh and fragrant herbed rice on its own, but a baked chicken on the side certainly made my Sunday lunch more complete and a million percent more alluring and tantalizing.

Like so …


Choosing The Right Rice

I have done this herbed rice before using Jasmine rice. I found it was not quite the right type of rice to use. Why? The grains of Jasmine rice clinged and are somewhat stickier than for example the American long-grain rice or Basmati rice.

So I chose Basmati rice, which is easily available in our local stores. It was also easier to handle and toss the rice with the many fresh herbs and spices that went into the rice.

How to cook the rice in the Thermomix?

Weigh 300 g of basmati rice in the Simmering Basket. Remove it from the TM bowl and wash the rice to remove excess starch.

Place the SB with the rice back in the TM bowl. Add 1kg water. Cook/ steam the rice for 18 mins/ 100C/ sp 4/ MC


Leave the rice in the TM bowl for 10 minutes before taking it out to cool at room temperature.

Choosing Your Fresh Herbs 

I have been looking high and low for torch ginger (bunga kantan) but it’s nowhere to be found in our local Asian stores where I live. It’s a shame because bunga kantan is one of the main star herbs in Nasi Ulam. Well, it’s not the end of the world. There are many other fragrant herbs I could find to complement the making of my version of homemade Nasi Ulam

By the way, I used 7 different fresh herbs, of which 4 herbs were bought at the Asian store whilst the remaining 3 herbs can be found easily at the hyper market.


Spiced and Flavoured Ingredients


  • 1/2 cup dried shrimps (hay bee), soaked
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • Salted fish 
  • Shallots
  • Galangal
  • Lemongrass
  • Turmeric 
  • Freshly-milled white Sarawak pepper
  • Coarse sea salt, to taste

Herbed Ingredients 


  • Eryngium foetidum (Culantro)
  • Thai sweet basil leaves
  • Mint
  • Coriander (incl roots)
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • Kaffir lime leaves
  • Dill

Making Kerisik

Toast the dessicated coconut until golden brown. Transfer to TM bowl and grind for 10 sec/ sp 10. Scrape the sides of the inner bowl. Check the consistency. Grind for another 10 sec/ sp 10. Tip the Kerisik into a clean bowl and set aside.


Toasting the hay bee

Drain the water from the dried shrimps. Transfer the hay bee to the TM bowl. Blend for 5 sec/ sp 5.5.  Tip the roughly blended dried shrimps to a hot pan. Toast the dried shrimps until lightly brown and crusty. Transfer the toasted shrimps to a clean bowl. Set aside.


Dry-frying the salted fish 

I have bought an already fried salted fish from a local Asian store. All I did was to scrape the meat from the bones and head of the fish. I then dry-fry the fish and shred the meat. Set aside.


Chiffonaded Herbs

This was by far THE most time consuming part of ‘the making of’. 

Every single herb was chiffonaded evenly ( or almost 😉 ). I did not use my thermie for that because the herbs should end up in thin long strips and not chopped crazy or bruised too much. Patience is key here 😉


Assembling the Dish: Le Moment Suprême 

After all the chopping, slicing, toasting, shredding, blending, grinding etc, came the plain sailing and uncomplicated part: the assembling 🙂

From white boring rice, I transformed it to a golden colour with fresh turmeric. In went the spices one after another, completely coating the basmati rice. Then came the natural umami flavours in the form of dried shrimps, salted fish and kerisik. The greens were folded in last while going through the taste test before plating up.


By right the rice should be cooled down before the spicing and herbing, but there’s always a someone in the family who would freak out eating cold staples, so I microwaved his plate before serving 😬

Be warned! It’s a dry rice salad dish as there’s not a single drop of gravy or sauce in the fragrant herbed rice. With a stroke of genius, I made a palatable Tom Yum Goong to go with the rice. So no one’s choked at the dining table. Lol!


This is a great dish to bring at potluck. It’s hard work but with some help from my thermie, everything else was straightforward and plain sailing 😉


Have a blessed and smooth sailing 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!

Let me walk the talk.  As promised in my previous post, Freshly-pressed Fragrant Pandan Kaya, I will walk you through how I extracted the juice from freshly-packed frozen pandan leaves on this post. 

Yup, frozen! 

And I’m not complaining! Infact I’m glad I could buy them here in Europe! Maybe I should start growing this herb in my garden😜

  
What is pandan leaf?

In Malaysia and Indonesia, pandan leaf is called ‘daun pandan‘. Screwpine leaf was the name coined by English traders who travelled to Asia.

Most people associate the use of pandan leaves only in South (East) Asian desserts, cakes and puddings, however, this sweet-scented leaf makes most savoury dishes appetisingly fragrant and aromatic. I have used knotted pandan leaves in my curries (Thereupatic Pandan Chicken Curry),  fragrant rice (nasi lemak) and glutinous rice (pulut panggang).  Absolutely bang on the money!

   

  

Green with Envy

If you’re wondering why most South (East) Asian desserts, cakes and puddings are green, it has nothing to do with St Patrick’s Day. The ‘culprit’ is the juice or extract of the pandan leaves! The juice or extract is used to flavour and colour the food. 

This brings me back to a Cookery program on BBC last year, presented by a popular Chef and Cookery Writer, Nigel Slater. He was pleasantly surprised by the delicious green custard dessert prepared by Helen Goh, a Malaysian residing in the UK. He thought custards were meant to be (only) yellow! Helen’s recipe can be found here. The dessert is commonly known in Malaysia as Seri Muka (beautiful face).  And this dessert is on my to-do list!  Honestly, my list is getting longer by the day.

Since owning the Thermomix, extracting the juice of fresh or freshly-packed frozen pandan leaves is a breeze! 

Note: I did not add a drop of water in the ‘first-press’ of the pandan extract. 

Here’s how I extracted the juice from 20 pandan leaves (washed and patted dry).

Then cut the leaves to desired even lengths (really up to you) with a pair of scissors.

Set the TM5 dials to 20 sec/ speed 10. Transfer the cut pandan leaves through the hole of the lid in 4 to 5 batches until all leaves have been blended. Scrape the sides of the inner bowl and the inner lid if necessary. 

Immediately transfer the pulp to a clean muslin cloth.

  

Squeeze the muslin cloth with your bare hands to extract the pandan juice into a measuring jug. 

 

As you can see, the first-pressed pandan extract from 20 leaves only yielded 50 ml of juice. Note, I did not add any water, hence, what you see above was the most concentrated juice extract!   This extract is recommended to be used to flavour and colour cakes, desserts and puddings.

For the record, I did a 2nd and 3rd ‘pressing’ with the addition of water of 50g*2 @ 15 sec/speed 10 (2 batches). Waste not want not😊
  
The less concentrated juice is used for making soupy desserts, like lek tau suan, bubur cha cha, ang tau t’ng, etc.

  
And by the way, the most concentrated pandan extract from 20 pandan leaves was used recently in my homemade fragrant pandan kaya.  Note, 20 leaves yielded 50 ml and I needed 40 g.

And here’s the result👍


 
Happy Days🤓

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!