Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

After the magnificent and transcending walks in Carpentras and the summit of Le Mont Ventoux the day before, coupled with countless vitamin D, natural reflexology and tons of oxygen, we slumbered fathomlessly. We woke up super late the morning after and left the house at 11.30 am, immediately after a quick breakfast.

We headed for L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a small town in Vaucluse, also known as the Venice of Provence.

It was not our first time visiting L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue which was 66 km from our holiday home. It’s a charming little town with its many old but attractive water wheels, the many waterside cafés and restaurants and the little mossy bridges criss-crossing the canals. Charming!

Our late arrival at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue beckoned us to look for something to eat. After all it was almost 1 pm. With the glaring sun and 39 deg C, we were pressured to look for a cool shelter along the canal.  There were many restaurants and almost all were full house. We finally found one when a family of 4 just left the table. 

We were being served by young entrepreneurs (4 guys serving and a girl at the cash till), who spoke reasonably good English with French accent. Unfortunately the guys were not attentive lots as they had forgotten to bring the free jug of iced-cold water and a mini basket of cut baguette.  We had to remind them and the wait for our dishes to be served took a long time. 

By the way, the photo collage below may look “Wow” at the first instant, but what we were being served were complete rubbish. The only thing that deserved a positive feedback was the crème brûlée (what I had as dessert)

The starter of warm goat’s cheese on a slice of baguette on a bed of iceberg salad was nothing to shout about. 

The main course of grilled steak with fries and salad was the BIGGEST disaster! The thin slice of beef steak was burnt, dry and as hard and chewy as a leather. The fries were a FLOP – burnt and greasy to the core. Yucks! There was NO sauce!!!  Conclusion: Our main course was as dry as the Sahara Desert, all burnt under the 39 degrees Celsius of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue!

Hubby and the boys had a hattrick of the most disappointing meal with a burnt dessert of tarte tartin to round up! 

Well, what could I say? It was a Eur 16 three-course lunch menu. Even the Eur 14 complete menu at Carpentras was so much better.

Annual Floating Market

What a pity we missed the floating market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue! It’s held every first Sunday in August, however, we had other plan that Sunday (7th Aug). We were equally entertained that day, if you could recall Part 2 of my Back To Sunny Provence post 😉

To have an idea of the Floating Market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, below are some photos which I took from the Internet, which I have given credit to the photographers captioned under the photo-collage.

By the way, the flat-bottomed boats are known as Nègo Chin, which are traditionally used for fishing.

Impressive, isn’t it?

Photos courtesies of Valerie Biset and Tonton84


Going Back In Time …

I had no clue about the link between the eccentric late Keith Floyd, a British celebrity cook, TV personality, restaurateur, a bon viveur and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue until I read about the write up on that little town. Apparently, Keith Floyd had established a restaurant there during a lengthy sojourn in South France in the 70’s.  How interesting!

Well, our presence at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was not because of Keith Floyd, but more so, for the oldest flea market and antique fair. 

That’s right, we went “back in time” inundated with the mind-boggling items sold there. Literally, we did not know where to start.

And then I saw something familiar! I was excited. My mum had and still has the big vase, I’m pretty sure!! 

I remembered my Mum rearing 2 baby tortoises in there at one point of time, and then it was used as water reservoir. I haven’t the slightest inkling what my Mum has been using the vase for now 🤔 

Guess what, Mum, the vase is an antique!!! It’s worth Eur 120 (ca RM 600) at the antique fair at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue! Better keep the vase in tip-top condition. A little crack or restoration will, unfortunately, bring down the price🙁

This queer-looking antique shop has attracted hundreds and thousands of tourists over the years. The antique dealer deals only in animal format, dead or alive 😳

Down Memory Lane

I had walked more kilometres in a day in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue than I would in a week when I’m home! And I had never perspired that much 😁

It was interesting perusing the old scripts from yesteryears, for example the weekly French newspaper, L’Illustration from 1914 -1944. Each newspaper is worth Eur 15 today. I wonder how much it was worth then ?

Meanwhile, hubby was in nostalgic mode when he viewed the black-and-white postcards of Belgique / Belgium. It was interesting watching his expressions of awe at buildings and places he’s familiar with now compared to what he saw on the postcards.

It was fascinating  to watch an artist spending his time sketching intricately the detailed Medieval stained glass windows. I did not stay long to watch him splash colours on his sketch. We still had a lot to see.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw the price tags dangling on the Panama hats. Each was priced at Eur 70 and above ! They looked like the straw hats from, yes Panama, sold at the daily village market in Provence and each hat was priced from Eur 10 and a bit more.

Finally, I found these cute old suitcases, which reminded me of a school bag one of my sisters and I had when we were in Primary school. We called the bag, “kapit bag”. I’m sure my siblings will be laughing at this point. It’s a family story and personal, hence, I will leave it as such😉

After walking under the glaring sun for 4 hours plus, we wound up empty-handed! Nothing this year caught our eyes. In 2013, we bought a few things back. This year, we had to be careful with the space in our trunk. A good portion of the space had been reserved for the red wines and Muscat!

Anyway, it was another great walk and we enjoyed the spread of antiques from every stall. We left L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue at 5.30 pm.

Stay-Home Sunday

On the way home, we stopped at Intermarché. I bought some chicken, potatoes, onion, garlic, chillies, shallots, fresh coriander and cucumber. I had brought “Uncle Ben’s jasmine rice”, fresh ginger and Baba’s serbuk kari daging with me on our long-haul road trip 😃


I was craving for something SPICY!!! 

And I made this for our Sunday lunch. 

Yummy!

The next day, 15th August was a public holiday in France, as well as Belgium. It’s the day of The Assumption of Mary into Heaven.  We’re looking forward to a procession at our next stop.

Meaning

We had to get up early and leave the house early. Duh!

See you soon!

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! 

The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival is a statutory holiday in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet. It commemorates the life and death of the famous scholar and China’s first poet, Qu Yuan (Chiu Yuan). The festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month (Double Fifth) on the Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, hence, the date varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar. This year, the festival falls on 9th June, 2016. Although it is not a public holiday in most parts of the world, most Chinese around the world celebrate the festival by preparing the most iconic food of the festival, the sticky rice dumpling. There’s no wonder the Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Dumpling Festival (Note: there’s a sad legend behind this Festival at the end of this post)



Journey of Love

Making the sticky rice dumpling, or most popularly known as Bak Chang (meat dumpling) in the lingo I am familiar with, has always been at the back of my mind since time immemorial.  

And since time immemorial, I have been drooling looking at photos of one of the dreamiest dumplings on my planet of food list. 

I have been telling myself for years, “I must make these dumplings“… BUT… Zilch!  To be honest, it’s not difficult  to make Bak Chang, but the laborious cum tedious process was the stumbling block. IF only I had kitchen helpers …

When my Mum and big sis came to visit me two summers ago, I was thrilled. I told them that we could dedicate an entire day making  my sought-after glutinous rice dumplings.  No probs, promised Mum and sis 🙂

Labour of Love

There are many different varieties of Bak Chang ~ Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Nyonya… gosh, I’m out of breath now … and the list goes on, still. Therefore, in my opinion, there is no one rigid way to making these dumplings. The filling for the dumpling varies, which can be customised to one’s preference. For instance, some people may like a bit of sweet in their savoury Bak Chang, using fatty pork belly instead of lean meat or some colour in their glutinous rice (from white to blue tip to black … Hmmm…sounds like the belt grading systems of Taekwondo or perhaps Tang Soo Do or Jiu Jitsu? Lol!). Well, I am not fastidious about all that. I don’t care! Just give me the Bak Chang, please.  

By the way, I was glad to observe Mum and big sis conjuring the magnificent Bak Chang live in my kitchen two summers ago *wink*

I showed them the ingredients for our Bak Chang. Both ladies nodded their heads, but Mum winced when she looked at the dried bamboo leaves. She was not use to using the flimsy-feel of the bamboo leaves. Mum used to wrap her Bak Chang with the sturdier and fragrant giant pandan leaves, which were in abundance in Sarawak and Kalimantan.  Big sis had no issues with using the bamboo leaves because she had made Bak Chang in KL and Batu Pahat. Phew

I captured the 2 sifus with the camera on my iPhone. While Mum chopped cloves after cloves of garlic and shallots, big sis did all the stir fries. Every single ingredient was treated individually and separately.

The dried bamboo leaves were soaked with several changes of water overnight. On the day of use, new water replaced the overnight water. Again, several changes of water took place until the water ran clear. Each leaf was dabbed dry with a towel. The cleaned bamboo leaves were then set aside until they were ready to be used.


The glutinous rice was washed and soaked for at least 2 hours. The shallots were fried first until crispy and were removed with a slotted spoon leaving the aromatic oil in the wok. Then my sis stir fried plenty of chopped garlic in the same oil  until fragrant and she added the pre-soaked glutinous rice. The rice was seasoned with salt, chicken granules, freshly-milled white (Sarawak) peppercorns, light soy sauce, mushroom oyster sauce, freshly-ground dry-roasted coriander seeds and 5-spice powder, all to taste. She then quickly mixed and stir-fried the glutinous rice and added half of the crispy shallots. Note, the rice must not be completely cooked.

In another pan, my sis added some cooking oil and fried some chopped garlic until fragrant. She then added the minced pork and diced pre-soaked shiitake and seasoned with light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, mushroom oyster sauce, a little drizzle of sesame oil, freshly-ground coriander seeds, 5-spice powder, freshly-milled white pepper, salt and a dash of sugar, to taste. Finally, she added the remaining crispy fried shallots.



The dried shrimps were pre-soaked before they were quickly stir-fried. The peanuts were boiled. Then there were store-bought vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts and, yes… chickpeas, too!  That’s the beauty of homemade rustic Bak Chang 😀

A Picture is worth a Thousand Words …

Thank you dearest Chefs for being the BEST kitchen helpers in the whole wide world. Love ya LOTS!


The journey of love continued with the boiling of the wrapped Bak Chang in a big pot of boiling water. A bit of salt was added to the water and a batch of Bak Chang was submerged in the boiled water. 

These Bak Chang were boiled for at least 3 hours and then hanged briefly to dry before consuming


The End of a Gruelling Journey: The Moment of Truth …
Tada!


Honestly speaking, it was beyond BombDiggity yummy inside AND out!


I wish to relive that journey of love on my own some day… Perhaps in my thermomix *wink*

Too bad, though, two years on, I’m still drooling at the photos of my Mum’s and sister’s glutinous rice meat dumplings!  *blush*

Pinch

Ouch!

Oh by the way, the Bak Chang froze brilliantly. You need to steam them for at least half an hour or more until they are warmed through. 

It made excellent wholesome breakfast or a quick lunch, high-tea or dinner. 

Mum and sis, thank you so much for taking my offer. You have succeeded in banishing my longstanding torments of craving for this thingie, here, in my very own kitchen! I’m sure you would have made the Bak Chang differently in your own kitchen, but with my simple and challenging bag of ingredients, we have managed to incorporate a bit of China in the tetrahedral-shaped glutinous rice savoury meat dumpling ~ Hakka (minced meat and boiled peanuts), Teochew (crispy fried shallots and 5-spice powder), Nyonya (ground coriander seeds), Hokkien (dark soy sauce and chestnuts). What more could I ask for 🙂

Making Bak Chang is by no means an easy chore. It entails a string of well-thought and structured process.

I salute to all of you out there in making this annual repertoire of one of the most arduous and relentless products seemingly easy looking.

A Sad Legend Has It … 

(Adapted and modified from Beijing International “A Sad Story Of Qu Yuan” and the Wikipedia)

Have you ever wondered the connection between eating the glutinous rice dumpling with the Dragon Boat Festival? Well, I was one of the people who actually wondered about it, so I delved a bit further and read about the legend of the Chinese poet, Qu Yuan (or Chiu Yuan).

Qu Yuan was the number one advisor of the kingdom of Chu, however people were jealous of his position which also affected the King’s trust in him. The King unheeded his advice which resulted in the King’s death. The new King continued to enjoy the luxury life full of scandals and corruption. He thought Qu Yuan was a nuisance and a hindrance in his kingdom, so he was exiled. During that period, Qu Yuan wrote many patriotic poems.

One day, Qu Yuan met a fisherman, who never cared about the country and was quite satisfied with his life. The poet thought that the people only cared about themselves and not the future of the country. For the poet, it was meaningless to live, so he killed himself by drowning in the Miluo river.  The fishermen tried to rescue him but the body was never found.

In order to keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, they beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles.  They also threw rice into the water both as a food offering to Qu Yuan‘s spirit and also to distract the fish away from his body. However, the legend continues, that late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends and told them that he died because he had taken himself under the river. Then, he asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon.

These packages became a traditional food known as zongzi (Bak Chang or glutinous rice dumpling). The lumps of rice are now wrapped in leaves instead of silk. The act of racing to search for his body in boats gradually became the cultural tradition of dragon boat racing, held on the anniversary of his death every year on the fifth day of the fifth month (equivalent to Thursday, 9th June, 2016 in the Gregorian calendar)

Happy Duanwu Festival !

Happy Dragon Boat Festival to all celebrating!


Enjoy your Bak Chang 🙂

Cheers!

Pisang goreng or kinchio kueh … These were the familiar outlandish words I grew up calling that moreish deep fried banana fritters.

Choice Enough

My late Dad seemed to know his banana fritters’ stalls absolutely well. He used to buy his favourite pisang tanduk (plantain) fritters and brought home generous quantities, much to everyones’ delight. The batter that coated each banana slice was lusciously crispy with the sweet and a hint of sour and succulent inner side. Dreamy!

Where I grew up, the choice of bananas were endless. The tastes and textures also differ from one type of banana to another.

Here in Belgium, I only know of one type of banana ~ the Chiquita Banana! It’s a good banana (no choice, really) which I have used in my bakes and of course, just eating as is.
 

By the way, I have never fried banana fritters here in BE, but have always longed to eat one. People who know me will know I never deep fry my foods in my kitchen. That’s why I tend to skip a recipe that calls for deep frying.  Which reminds me of my previous post which I experimented in my kitchen, Baked Crispy Snail Nibbles *wink*

And then I saw someone posted “Banana Fritters’ Batter” recipe on FB not too long ago. I read mostly positive comments of the result of using the recipe.



I was curious and thrilled, so to speak, so I jumped on the bandwagon! I caught the kinchio kueh fever. LOL!

My initial thought was to bake the banana fritters, but knowing that Chiquita bananas do not hold their form when cooked or baked too long, ie they become mushy, but very sweet, so still edible. Uh-uh, I scrapped the idea of baking and went for a milder form of frying. I pan-fried the bananas!! It may look paler than deep-fried, but I was blown away by the crispy batter.



The batter recipe is adapted from Ellin Chong‘s recipe posted on Thermomix Truly Asian group page on Facebook while I resorted to the method I am comfortable with, id est, while deep frying is the common mode of preparing banana fritters, I opted to pan-frying mine.

Ingredients A –

  • 150 g SRF
  • 100 g Rice Flour
  • 250 g Water
  • 20 g raw sugar (I used organic raw cane sugar)
  • 50 g Cooking Oil (I used Corn Oil)
  • A pinch of salt (I used fleur de sel)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp sesame seeds (I did not use)

Ingredient B- 

  • 5 Chiquita Bananas

Ingredient C –

  • Oil for frying 

Method –


  1. Weigh ingredients A in the TM bowl. Mix for 30 sec/ Sp 4/ MC. Scrape the side of the inner bowl to mix the small amount of un-blended flour with a wooden spoon. Mix well.
  2. Pour the batter in a clean bowl. Set aside (in the fridge)
  3. Meanwhile, peel B and cut the bananas in any shape and form you fancy. 
  4. Heat some oil in a pan. Note I shallow fried the fritters, hence, not much oil was consumed.
  5. Coat each cut banana in the chilled batter. Pan-fry on medium high heat until golden brown.
  6. Remove the banana fritters with a slotted spoon and transfer them on absorbent papers.
  7. Done!

My Verdict?

I was pleasantly surprised with the result of my shallow-fried fritters. I thought it would take ages for the batter to crisp up but they did not take long at all, with the right heat, of course. Similarly, I thought the texture of the batter would be runnier, like pancake batter, but it was a bit thicker. The right amount of rice flour did a fantastic job in crisping the fritters. My boys loved the C*R*U*N*C*H*Y bits and so did I! I did not change the measurements of the ingredients one bit, except that I omitted using sesame seeds, because I had none that day. That’s not a big deal as I was used to plain banana fritters, anyway.

Will I use the recipe again? You bet! Oh yes, the next ‘victim’ will be the sweet potatoes in my cellar. Ha ha ha …

Ellin, thanks for sharing the recipe with us. I can conclude that the recipe is fully tried and tested in my kitchen as a foolproof recipe for that amazing crunchy result.


 
Happy Tuesday evening!

Cheers!

Like the Brazilian pão de queijo, these bite-sized crispy snail snack are super addictive.


Down Memory Lane …

When I was a kid, Mum used to concoct creative snacks for our afternoon tea. My siblings and I were always looking forward to 4 pm’s mystery nibbles made with love by Mum.

By the way, I have always loved the savoury snacks Mum made. I know I will not be able to replicate Mum’s kueh siput (snail cookie or snack or crisps), but I remembered most of the ingredients that went in there. While Mum always guesstimated the ingredients in her cookings, meaning she never had any exact measurements in the dishes she prepared, I tried my best to come up with some measurements, especially so when I started cooking with my Thermomix. With  the built-in weighing scale, I was forced to come up with a more or less precise measurement for the ingredients. 

Oh by the way, Mum deep fried her “snails” while I baked mine 🙂

I was pleasantly surprised by the result!  

Ingredients-

Fermented Beancurd and Fresh Coriander

  • 110 g SRF 
  • 35 g tapioca flour
  • 35 g melted butter
  • 56 g egg
  • 15 g fermented beancurd
  • Half veg stock cube
  • A pinch of brown sugar
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Freshly milled white pepper
  • 20 g fresh coriander, finely chopped 

Method –

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 165 deg C
  2. Weigh all ingredients in the TM bowl. Mix for 20 sec/ sp 1.5
  3. Knead for 2 mins. The dough may or may not be too wet; if a bit wet to handle, add some SRF. Continue to knead for 1 min. The dough should not stick to the bowl or the blades. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl.
  4. Pinch a small portion of the dough and spread a thin layer on the teeth of the fork, the right side up. Press gently and roll upward to form a pattern of a snail
  5. Bake for 22 to 25 mins until golden brown. Note the timing of doneness depends on the type of oven you own. I baked mine for 24 mins.


My Verdict?

My sons had never eaten this snack before, hence, were the best guinea pigs in providing an honest feedback. I placed a bowl of the baked “snails” on the kitchen table. My younger son who was upstairs then, came down and said he smelled chicken soup, whilst my older son said he smelled baked banana cake. Hmmm… What an interesting and contrasting combos! When they both ate the kueh siput, they said it tasted like cheese crisps, BUT there was no cheese! They kept popping the “snail” in their mouths.  Yup… Very addictive nibbles, indeed. 

When I told my sons that there was no cheese, but fermented tofu, they couldn’t be bothered but kept taking one nibble after another. The “snails” were slowly diminishing. The only way to recuperate the volume was to make some more!! And I did exactly that, the following day …

Oh by the way, I used a pizza crisper tray and a baguette baking tray to bake the snails. They crisped perfectly.

To be honest, I loved my Mum’s deep fried kueh siput, but I’m glad I have found a healthier and ridiculously hassle-free alternative of indulgence 😉

I’m linking this post to #CookBlogShare Week 19, hosted by Kirsty of Hijacked By Twins


Happy new 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!

It is amazing how time has flown by with the wink of an eye. It seems like only yesterday when I reflected on 2014. Now, exactly a year ago, I started my reflections with this phrase… Every one receives a blank 365-page book each New Year. We are being “tested” for each single day. What and how we fill each page-day is totally up to us. Has it been a good day, bad and horrid day, memorable and magical? Sometimes people forget how much 365 days actually bring to their lives.

Reflections … 2015

My last 365 days were a mix of bullish and bearish emotions – among others – excitement, anxiety, worry, sadness, joy, happiness, disappointment, panic, hope, jubilation, relief, love, elation…There was one page or pages, rather, that were filled with endless trickles of excitement, joy, love and happiness. My family of 4 from Belgium met up with my family of 19 from Kuching, KL, Sibu and Edmonton. We converged where the VIP aka Mum lives. It was a blessing to meet everyone after 7 long years! There were abundance of catching ups AND lots of eating frenzy !!

  

  
    

Looking back at how much I have done and indulged in my favourite banquet with my loved ones in such a short span of time was a fairly tall order. I am glad I have filled my year book with moments I could cherish for a long time.

FAMILY, like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one (author unknown)

Just 10 short days of acquaintance!

Oh yes, I was glad to be introduced to a new friend of the family during my summer hols in August. He was my youngest sister’s best pal. His name was Nicky. He had the most lovely pair of brown eyes that could melt anyone’s heart.  He succeeded in melting mine, by the way.

Introducing Nicky …

    

For 10 days, I’ve seen Nicky lovingly purring at our feet under the table, in the living room and eating his meals at almost predictable hours. Then one morning, he never turned up for his breakfast, and neither for his lunch.  And then one of my sisters received a phone call. It was the saddest news ever. No words could describe how crushed my family were upon hearing the news. Nicky’s gone! 

My youngest sister’s best pal was gone… Forever! She was there when Nicky was born. She was there when Nicky grew up. In that 10 days I was in Kuching, I sensed a huge bond between my sister and Nicky. It was the saddest moment in my year book to feel the pain and sadness my sister went through. To seal the pain, she made a collage of her pal, capturing the times she had with her true furry friend. He was too young to die. He was only an 8-month old kitten (equivalent to 15 human years) 

May he rest in peace! 

  

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

It was strange but true; Nicky’s mum was pregnant! She was a stray cat when my family took her in while she was carrying Nicky and looking for a shelter to deliver her only kitten then. Now she’s a part of the family. With Nicky’s death, the vacuum was almost immediately filled with triple joy! 

The house is full again😄

 

New and Absurdly Different

Last year I learnt a new way of ‘baking’ cakes in my no-fancy 20-year old 2-button rice cooker. I went through a learning curve improving my bakes from one use to another in my most absurd rice cooker! Now, late 2015, I was challenged with a totally new cooking technique, ie, cooking in the Thermomix! I bought the latest model, TM5, with the coolest built-in recipe chip, which I hardly used!  Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Cooking in my new thermie meant learning a new way of cooking, and complying to an electro language. To give you an idea, “Cook for 20 minutes, at 100 deg Celcius or Varoma, reverse dial at speed spoon to 1” 

Was I happy with my new “toy”? Well, the final results tell all. 

Here were some of them 😃  

 

As you can see, in just a month’s usage, my cooking became more versatile and my presentation skill has also improved by leaps and bounds. Anyway, I told my friends that it’s a sin not to use my thermie considering the fact that the “little kitchen” costs me a fortune. And no, I will not discard my conventional way of cooking. I still love the long hours of braising stewed meats in my slow cooker, AND, the traditional rice cooker is just priceless 😊 

Old habits certainly die hard and call me old-fashioned …sometimes😄

My Peaceful Moments

Honestly, I don’t have many peaceful moments. I used to read when I wanted to be in my own world, but I have not been reading a lot lately, which is a shame, therefore, I filled that gap with a paper, a pencil or pen and some colours with my right hand. I have recently relived my childish hobby… sketching, drawing and colouring! 

 

I hope to have more time to doodle my way through my new 365-day year book😜

My Wish …

I have a very simple wish. PEACE and LOVE in both micro and macro levels. Without these 2 components, fear exists. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering. 

Remember the words of Master Yoda

Fear is the path to the dark side

For those I may have wronged, I ask for forgiveness. For those whom I have helped, I wish I could have done more. For those I could not help, I ask for your understanding. And for those who have helped me, I am grateful for all you did. 

So, out with the old and in with the new. As we all know, with every new year comes greater challenges and obstacles, I wish you lots of courage filled with hope and faith to overcome all of the hurdles you may face. May you have a great year and a wonderful time ahead. 

And remember, tomorrow is the start of your first blank page. You are the master of that page. Take a pen in your hand and write a beautiful story for yourself.

  
See you next year! 😜

Cheers!