Archive for the ‘South East Asian’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Revival

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

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

Ingredients A


  • 5g Sarawak white peppercorns 
  • 5g coriander seeds


Ingredients B


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



Ingredients C

  • 60g coconut oil

Ingredients D


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


Ingredients E


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


Ingredients F

  • 500g hot water

Garnishing 

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

Method


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

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words!


Sinfully yummy. One of the best comfort foods 🙂


Mmmmm….Simply gorgeous!

I served my soto ayam with steamed basmati rice.

My Verdict?

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

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

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

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

Et voilà!

Yummy !!!!


Stay warm! 


Cheers!


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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!

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!

One beautiful Saturday afternoon, I hosted a potluck lunch for my girlfriends (without partners and kids), whom you have ‘met’ on these posts, here and here. One of the girls, C, just visited a farm near her place before coming to my house. She’s a great multi-tasker, conjuring 2 absolutely mouth-watering plates of stir-fried veggies a la minute in my kitchen! And not only that, she brought her fresh homemade pizza dough and baked 3 different toppings of pizzas that afternoon! Yup, in my kitchen. Thanks, C. All 3 dishes were absolutely DIVINE and went down our tummies effortlessly!  

  

Oh yes, the farm visit. C bought 3 dozens of super, super, SUPER fresh eggs. She must have waited for the chicken to lay the eggs at the farm as she was the last one to arrive that afternoon. Lol! Oh by the way, she also brought a Chiffon Cake pan, in the hope of using some of the eggs to bake a nice pandan Chiffon Cake in my kitchen, using my recipe, here.  

But alas, there was no baking of a Chiffon Cake because everyone was stuffed to the brim and was too tired to do anything “strenuous” that Saturday afternoon. 

Girls, thanks for bringing your “lucky” pot(s).  It was gluttony all the way. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!  😱

   

Before the girls left, C gave me 10 of the freshly laid free-range eggs. Boy, I felt so bad that I did not show her how to bake the Chiffon Cake. Sorry, C 😦

Making Good Use of C‘s Fresh Eggs

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the super fresh eggs I got from C. Making my childhood favourite toasted bread spread, called kaya, had always been on my to-do list since time immemorial. Kaya is a Malay word, meaning ‘rich’, because of the creamy and custardy texture from the coconut cream/ milk and eggs (chicken or duck) and sweetened with sugar. Then other flavours or colours come in. If the kaya is brown, palm sugar or gula Melaka or gula Apong is used, whilst the green-coloured kaya is flavoured with the sweet and fragrant herb called Pandanus (or Screwpine). 

  
I was lucky I had a packet of frozen pandan leaves in my freezer ~ not opened or used yet ~ but telepathically, waiting for me to conquer ’em. So yes, I was making the fragrant pandan coconut jam – FINALLY!

Great Helper

The most basic kaya recipe has only 3 ingredients ~ eggs, coconut cream/ milk and sugar, and yet most people shun from making it. Why? Because the task of standing hours on end stirring the mixture over the stovetop is immensely unexciting, dull and monotonous! It can take as long as 3 hours! It’s not like preparing slow-cooked meat stew that you can leave the cooking unattended, but you need to keep an eye on the kaya mixture, stirring constantly in order to end up with the texture you want, otherwise you have to start all over again! 

In my opinion, there is no one right homemade kaya consistency or texture. This is really subjective and very personal to one’s target preference.

By the way, I recently owned the latest model of the Thermomix, the TM5.  This kitchen gadget has been a great “helper”in my kitchen. Instead of me stirring the mixture, my thermie was doing the job. I could do 101 other things while waiting for my kaya to set. I was even watching the telly!

I know there are many shortcut recipes out there, that could churn the kaya in 10 to 15 minutes. But hey, I’m not the one who’s stirring, so time and energy are not the essence 😜

My objective was to make a decent kaya that I could enjoy and reminiscing my childhood days. Period.

As I have said earlier, the ingredients are pretty obvious in making kaya. Eggs (usually the yolks), sugar and coconut cream/ milk.  Since the eggs I got from C were super fresh, I decided to use 5 whole eggs!

Note: If you do not own a Thermomix, the ingredients remain the same, BUT you need to manually stir the mixture in a double boiler pot or a crock pot or a heavy bottom wok or pan. Eyeballing on the texture and consistency is key. Slow Cooker works well, too. You may want to refer to my pumpkin jam recipe, Slow-cooked Zesty Pumpkin Jam.

Ingredients

  •  5 fresh free-range whole eggs 
  • 140 g castor sugar (increase the quantity if you have sweet tooth, but 140 g is more than sweet)
  • 245 g coconut milk (if possible, get freshly squeezed coconut cream/milk, but there ain’t any here, so the best I could get hold of was 250 ml brik Chaokoh coconut milk)
  • A tiny pinch of sea salt (my secret ingredient)
  • 40 g freshly extracted first-pressed pandan juice (from 20 pandan leaves) ~ a post on how I extracted the pandan juice coming up next on my blog (here).

Preparation ( TM5 way) –

  1. Insert the butterfly attachment in the TM bowl and add sugar and eggs. Mix for 30 sec/ speed 3
  2. Add coconut milk, concentrated first-pressed pandan extract and a pinch of salt. Cook for 40 min/ 98C/speed 2 without MC
  3. Check the consistency of the texture by smearing a small portion of the cooked kaya with the spatula against the inner bowl of the TM. If the kaya mixture is still too runny, it’s not done yet, however, if the mixture takes a while to roll back to the bottom of the bowl, then it’s done. (Note: I had to do the ‘test’ twice as the consistency of my kaya was still a bit runny in the first 40 mins. I  added 2.5 mins * 2 at 90deg C.  Be warned that the texture and consistency of the kaya is subjective. If you prefer a runny kaya, then by all means, cook for a shorter time. I prefer a less runny kaya,  that’s all 😜)
  4. Once you have reached the texture you want, blend the mixture for 20 seconds from speed 0 to 4 for a smoother consistency (Note: you can blend above speed 4 if you don’t mind the mixture splattering to the lid and the sides of the inner bowl)
  5. Pour the kaya into sterilized jar(s). Refrigerate once cooled.
  6. Done!

   

  
My all-natural fragrant pandan coconut egg jam. 

How to eat Kaya ?

Imagine kaya as your Nutella spread, or peanut butter or jam or confituur. For me, I like to spread my kaya on white toasted bread with a layer of butter. The best brekkie or High-tea. Mmm… 

   
 

  

Oh by the way, with this recipe, I could only fill one jar, which is luckily bigger than the normal jam jars. It’s really quite addictive and Preciousss!! So you can imagine how miserly the consumption was. Lol!

This makes a great tea time treat anytime. For this, I am entering this post to the monthly Tea Time Treats Linky Party – March 2016 hosted by Karen of  Lavender and Lovage and  Jane of The Hedgecombers 

  
With such fresh eggs used in this recipe, I would not miss the boat this month on Dom’s Simply Eggcellent #13 – A Celebration of Eggs! over at Belleau Kitchen.

  
With the all-natural green colour from one of South East Asia’s most beloved herbs, the pandanus, I’m thrilled to link this post to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs for Easter and Spring

  

A Blessed AND Peaceful Easter!

Shalom!

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!

I don’t recall having lots of snowy winters in Belgium, and if there were, then they came at the least expected moments, rarely during the Christmas season. I have been in Belgium for almost 20 years and I have experienced, perhaps, once or twice of white landscapes between Christmas and the New Year.

Last month was rather mild with 2-digit temperatures of 11or 12 degrees Celsius, hence “too hot” for snowfalls, however, snow DID fall only for one day when the mercury dropped to minus 2 degrees Celsius on Sunday, 28th Dec 2014. And that’s about it! Now that we have flipped the calendar to another brand new year, we have also experienced lots of chilly weather the past three weeks.

Last weekend, Belgium woke up to an amazingly beautiful white landscape. The air was so fresh, the snow so white, crisp, light and fluffy to the touch. I was glad it snowed on Friday night leaving a picturesque landscape on Saturday. Here were some photos I took of our back and front yards.

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A Temporary Hermit and a Frugal Lunch

Actually I had planned to do some shopping on Saturday morning, but with such cold weather, I had to retract my plan. I became a weekend “hermit”, hibernating in my warm cocoon instead. Did I like it? Of course I LOVED it!

Coincidentally, I received a text message from a girlfriend asking me what my favourite warm winter dish is. I have lots, but looking at the fact that it’s cold outside, a warm soupy dish makes the best comfort food.

Okay, it was a weekend. My pantry was running low of fresh vegetables and meats. Hmmmm…… what to eat? I opened the fridge and there was a bag of beansprouts I bought earlier in the week and half a daikon. I went downstairs to our cellar and opened the deep freezer. Lo and behold, a bag of frozen prawns and another packet of fishballs were staring at me. I smiled gleefully and knew immediately what I could conjure from all the available main ingredients.

And by the way, I always have reserved packets of noodles or pastas in my kitchen cupboard. They come in REALLY handy. And boy was I glad I still had a packet of bee hoon or rice sticks or rice vermicelli or rice noodle or whatever-way-you-want-to-call-it noodle that day.

And here’s the result of our frugally yummy and comfy lunch, an all-in-one bowl Bee Hoon Soup.

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As this was an impromptu, flash-in-the-pan kind of cooking, I have no measurements, but only guestimates, which is also my middle name.

Ingredients for the broth
• 1 big Onion pricked with 4 cloves
• 5 cloves of Garlic
• 2 sticks Lemon Grass
• Kaffir Lime Leaves
• Ginger
• Star Anise
• Black Peppercorns
• Half a daikon (washed, peeled and cut in chunks)
• Water (pure guestimate for 4 eating adults plus a bit more for extra helpings)
• Chicken Stock Cube (if this was a planned dish, make your own chicken broth or vegetable stock)
• Salt and pepper to taste

Garnishing
• Bean Sprouts (top and tail)
• Coriander (or any fresh herbs of your choice. I happened to have some wilted coriander in my fridge that day…)
• Spring Onions (I always have these in the fridge. Remove the slimy brown bits and julienne them)
• Carrot (for colour – julienned)
• Frozen prawns (thawed, cleaned, deveined and boiled in small amount of water with half a stock cube and freshly milled black pepper. Set cooked prawns aside. Pour the cooked water from the prawns into the broth)
• Frozen fishballs (these can be added to the broth while simmering)
• 1 packet Bee Hoon (blanched in hot water or according to instruction)

Condiment
• Hot Chilli Flakes
• Sesame Oil
• Shaoxing Wine (or any type of cooking wine or Whisky)
• Lemon Juice
• A dash of Brown Sugar, to taste
• Salt and Pepper, to taste

What was nice about this dish was it was an all-in-one-pot cooking. Just let the broth simmer away. Your kitchen will smell deliciously herby.

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The soup is ready when you are absolutely sure of the flavour, taste and the right level of saltiness you want to scoop onto the bowl of Bee Hoon. Please note the blanched Bee Hoon is very, very bland on its own, hence, the soup or broth can do with a lot more seasonings. Be warned!

What I did to lift up the taste of my bowl of flash-in-the-pan Bee Hoon Soup was concocting a condiment to round up our Saturday “warm” winter dish. I must say, it was out-of-this-world, simple, yet delightfully delicious meal. My guys were completely bowled over. The warm broth combined with the extra heat from the homemade condiment almost instantly unclogged my older son’s stuffy nose. And mine, too. *sniffles* 😀

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Luckily, I had the foresight to cook more broth and not just for 4 servings because my sons had second helpings!

I’m submitting this post to Little Thumbs Up, organised by Doreen of my little favourite DIY and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids. The January 2015 LTU theme is “Noodles and Pasta” hosted by Anne from My Bare Cupboard

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I am also linking this post to The Great Britsh Store Cupboard: Cooking with Herbs Challenge – January 2015

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I came across Sarah’s blog, Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity by chance. I love her sense of humour and her motto “live a champagne life on a sparkling cider budget“. Exactly what her blog is about. So here I am, linking my post to Homemade Mondays – Week 116 hosted by Sarah of Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity, Aubrey of Homegrown and Healthy and co-hosted by Kelly of The Sustainable Couple

Stay warm!
Cheers!

Going back in time to my student days, learning about the geography and history of our neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia were compulsory subjects. If you asked me now, my knowledge of SEA is a smattering of everything which turned out to be rather piecemeal. Ha ha ha..

However, there’s one topic in “my” self-created chapter of SEA that really fascinates me. FOOD! While I could name a few dishes belonging to a particular SEAsian country, I was struggling with the dishes of the Philippines.

Least Known Kitchen in the World, or is it?

When my late Dad made a trip to Manila many years ago, he brought home with him some souvenirs including the barong tagalog, an embroidered and very lightweight shirt worn by the Filipinos. He also told us he sat in a jeepney and ate “rotten” eggs, with a chicken or duck embryo still intact in the egg. It sounded revolting and mind-boggling, but later I discovered that those “rotten” eggs are one of the country’s streetfood delicacies. I came to know the proper name of the egg from a Filipina friend. It’s called “Balut” or fertilized egg, where a developing – usually – duck embryo is boiled alive and eaten from the shell.

No offence to my friends from the Phil. I’ll give the balut a skip for now. Sorry D and N *grin*.

The dishes from the Philippines are the least known to most of us. While the Thai/ Laos, Vietnamese/ Cambodian, Indonesian/Malaysian/Singaporean/ Bruneian and Burmese’s kitchens are thriving and taking centre stage in Europe and elsewhere in the world, the semi-Hispanicized dishes of the Filipinos take backstage.

But wait a minute…

There’s one dish that completely defines the Philippines. It is none other than the country’s numero uno dish, the Adobo. Any Pinoys and Pinays would concur in unison: “No list of Filipino food would be complete without the Adobo”. So true.

Adobo with an “O”

It’s not Adobe as in “mud brick” or a computer software system. It’s ADOBO with an “O”, thank you.

The Philippines was a Spanish colony for more than three centuries, where Spanish culture had largely influenced the kitchen of the locals. Adobo is one of them.

Not long ago at work, I had a chat with a colleague, who is Spanish through and through. From one topic to another, we talked about Spain and of course the foods. I asked her if she has heard of ‘adobo’.

Why, of course, she said.

Adobo in Spanish means the method of pickling or preserving a dish, especially fish, meat and vegetables. It is definitely NOT a name of a dish; however in the Philippines the word adobo is given as part of a name to the dish, for instance, Chicken Adobo, Pork Adobo, Lamb Adobo, and etcetera.

Without a doubt, whatever adobo is a ubiquitous dish in every household in the Phil. The main ingredients in a basic adobo dish are vinegar (traditionally coconut vinegar), soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, black peppercorns and salt.

When I told my Spanish colleague that soy sauce is used in the Filipino adobo dish, she was baffled as soy sauce is not the common ingredient in ‘pickling’ Spanish dishes. The basic ingredients in a Spanish adobo are vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and paprika powder or annatto (“poor man’s saffron”), herbs (usually oregano) and sometimes olive oil.

But, hey, not bad at all! Only one odd ingredient – the black soy sauce! The Filipinos have retained and maintained the other ingredients to this day. In some Filipino household, the red paprika powder is still used as part of the ingredient of an adobo dish. The black soy sauce is definitely a Chinese influence 😉

Either the Spanish or the Filipino method, both ways are used to preserve and enhance the flavour of the meat or seafood dish.

I made my first adobo dish last Sunday. Here’s the outcome.

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Flex Dish

Although pork is popularly used in the Philippines, I chose chicken meat as the protein ingredient of our Sunday adobo lunch.

I was happy with my adobo after a Filipina friend gave me the confidence in cooking my first ever Filipino dish, without her realizing it. Thanks, D!

I ate my first adobo at a pot-luck garden party of a common friend not so long ago. D brought her home-cooked chicken adobo. She added carrots for colour, although that’s not traditionally one of the ingredients used.

So what?

1b. Spicy Chicken Adobo_potluck

A Filipina once commented that adobo is like spaghetti. Like spaghetti, there are many ways of preparing an adobo dish. There is no hard and fast rule to conjure a plate of adobo if you keep all the basic ingredients in place.

After gathering all the information, hmmm…. adobo is definitely my cup of tea 😉

It’s easy peasy. Love it!

By the way, my Chicken Adobo recipe was inspired by my Filipina friend, D and the Panlasang Pinoy.com website. Note I have made a few tweaks here and there (in blue) by amalgamating the best of everything in one dish at one time. The outcome was exactly what I was looking for – personally – mildly spiced, tasty, fragrant and I daresay, it was an excellent adobo, for a first timer *wink*

Ingredients –
(serves 4 -5)
• 2 lbs chicken, cut into serving pieces (I used 1.365kg or 4 chicken legs, divided into thighs and drumsticks)
• 3 pcs dried bay leaves (I used 4)
• 4 Tbsp soy sauce (It’s got to be dark soy sauce)
• 2 Tbsp vinegar (I used CRISTAL 100% natural white vinegar)
• 3 cloves garlic, crushed (I used 10 cloves garlic + ½ tsp coarse sea salt, pounded in a pestle and mortar)
• 1 to 2 cups water (I used 1 glass water)
• ¼ cup cooking oil (This was way too much. I used about 5 Tbsps corn oil for browning the chicken and sautéing the shallots)
• ½ Tbsp white sugar (I used Candico Kandij Cassonade Bruin “Brown” sugar)
• Salt (to taste)
• Whole peppercorn (I used 2 tsp whole black peppercorns)
• 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce – this was not in the recipe
• 2 tsp red paprika powder – this was not in the recipe
• ½ tsp turmeric powder – this was not in the recipe
• 2 green chillies, slit open lengthwise – this was definitely not in the recipe and btw I got these chillies from Miss B 🙂
• 2 shallots, chopped – this was not in the recipe
• 1 bunch/ plant fresh coriander leaves – this was not in the recipe (2/3 chopped and 1/3 for garnishing)

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Method (own and fine-tuned)

1. Clean the chicken thighs and drumsticks by rubbing with some coarse sea salt and rinse under cold running water.
2. Place the chicken parts in a large bowl. Add bay leaves, soy sauce, vinegar, minced garlic, black peppercorns, Worcestershire sauce, paprika & turmeric powders and 1 green chilli cut lengthwise. Marinate the chicken for at least 1 hour (cling filmed and refrigerated)
3. Brown the chicken and save the marinade for later.
4. In a wok, sauté the chopped shallots until fragrant. Add the chicken, the rest of the marinade, water, brown sugar and 1 green chilli, slit open lengthwise. Cover and simmer on low to medium heat for 45 minutes.
5. I added chopped fresh coriander at the 30th minute of cooking time.
6. Garnish with the remaining sprigs of coriander before serving with steamed white rice and your favourite vegetables or salad.

Masarap!

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I am definitely bringing this plate of Spicy Chicken Adobo to share with my friends at the Asian Food Fest . The July theme covers foods from The Philippines hosted by Swee San of  The Sweet Spot.

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There are no basils in this dish, but bay leaves and fresh coriander which I hope will do justice to Karen’s blog. Therefore, I’m linking this post to Lavender and Lovage’s  Cooking with Herbs challenge for July.

Cooking with Herbs

Since I ate my first ever Chicken Adobo at a potluck garden party, I thought it’s a perfect dish to link up with Four Seasons Food. Sure, I’m linking this post to Four Seasons Food  hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg. The July theme is Four Seasons Food goes Al Fresco! Grab a drumstick and enjoy!

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I’m also sharing this post this week at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Weekend Cooking

Oh by the way, I was amazed at how similar some Tagalog words are with the Malay words, but more so the Sarawak-Malay and extraordinarily, the Melanau! Here are some of the examples, from English to Tagalog.
Chicken – Manok
Pork – Baboy
Cat – Pusa
Dog – Aso
Goat – Kambing
Scissors – Gunting
Soap – Sabon
Towel – Tuwalya
Moon – Bulan
Husband – Asawa
Son – Anak
Teacher – Guro
Expensive – Mahal
Wet – Basa
Ball – Bola
Hair – Buhok
Male – Lalaki
Heaven/ Sky – Langit
Eye – Mata
Face – Mukha
Nail – Pako
Island – Pulo
Afraid – Takot
Laugh – Tawa
Head – Ulo
Foot – Paa
Brain – Utak
Debt – Utang

 

Tagay!

Cheers!