I'm in the midst of changing my template and am facing a problem. This is (was) a temporary one. (I can't even get my original one back! although I saved it). The error code message kept popping up when I tried putting in the new template....:(
:) This is my new template! Hope you all like it...
Saturday, December 27, 2008
For those of you who have read my book review post, three posts back, fried kuay teow is another dish that has been mentioned in Preeta's book Evening is the Whole Day. Like nasi lemak, fried kuay teow is yet another dish accepted wholeheartedly by all Malaysians of every race, creed and colour. And like nasi lemak too, fried kuay teow is another one of those comfort foods that every Malaysian misses, painfully, when they are away from the country.
Being a noodle dish, fried kuay teow is definitely a Chinese food that has been welcomed and consumed with open arms by the other races in Malaysia. I have yet to meet a Malaysian who will not salivate at the mention of fried kuay teow. And if such a Malaysian does exist I will pray for him/her.
There is also the Mamak (Indian Muslims in Malaysia) version of fried kuay teow which is equally equally scrumptious and which I hope to post a recipe of soon. I remember eating it as a child at the esplanade in Penang. It was served to us as we sat in the car, our appetites and the wild anticipation in our eyes dimly lit by the street lamp. The fried kuay teow came from an Indian stall that my parents were especially loyal to when it came to Mamak fried kuay teow. Just the thought of it pains me.
But before that here is the recipe for fried kuay teow, Malaysian Chinese style.
200 gm +- fresh kuay teow
3 or 4 fresh prawns, heads and skin removed, tails left intact
some fresh cockles
50 gm bean sprouts
30 gm chives, cut into 1 inch lengths
1 pip garlic, crushed and chopped finely
1 tsp chillie paste, from ground or pounded fresh or dried chillies
1/2 tbsp thick soy sauce
1 tsp thin soy sauce
Heat a wok or pan. Pour in 1 1/2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Saute the garlic until fragrant. Add chillie paste and saute for about 15 to 20 seconds. Throw in the prawns and cockles and stir fry till prawns turn pink and cockles are cooked. Add some salt at this point. Add half of chives and bean sprouts, kuay teow, the soy sauces. Mix a little and then push to one side of the wok. Break in an egg and let the egg half set and then scramble it into the kuay teow etc. Add the rest of the vegetables and stir fry on high heat until all the ingredients are well mixed. If necessary sprinkle some water in to loosen up the noodle mixture. Adjust salt if necessary. Serve. YUM!!
TIP : Noodles are best fried in single servings to get optimum taste and flavour or at most 2 servings at a time to ensure that all ingredients are well mixed.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I went in search of Kuay Teow (flat rice noodles) today at the wet market; yesterday, at the supermarket, and I just couldn't find any that said 'No Boric Acid' and 'No Preservatives". I used to get a brand that didn't use boric acid before but they are no where to be seen now. But even if they are still being manufactured the kuay teow that they produced wasn't exactly fantastic. I had bought it only because those were the only ones that did not use the dreaded boric acid.
Just in case you didn't know boric acid gives the noodles its bounciness plus a host of ailments if you ingest it. And since the enforcement of rules and regulations not to mention the law is somewhat questionable for the time being (I remain naively hopeful) I would rather avoid foods that are a threat to my family's health and well being.
I nag about this to the children all the time so that they avoid such foods when they eat out so much so that I'm beginning to see more whites in their eyeballs every time I talk to them. They'll thank me for this one day!
So I did a little digging around and found a recipe for flat rice noodles in a Taiwanese recipe book. I tried it and it was a complete disaster. Heh.. did you think I was going to say it was perfect? So I made further searches and I came across this recipe from a blog called neckredrecipes.blogspot.com and Sinner from this blog shared this really fantastic recipe for kuay teow. It's easy to make and tastes really good. Anytime better than the bought ones. So I have been eating and serving fresh homemade kuay teow to my family since and with a very clear conscience since it does not contain anything harmful.
Had I known that it was so easy I would never have bought kuay teow not even the 'safe' ones because even those look slathered with magarine and had a funny taste to it. Perhaps they put too much lye water in it. Lye water is basically alkaline water and is considered a poison. When ingested it can cause corrosive burns especially in the throat, oesophagus and the stomach lining.
In case you didn't know lye water is used commonly in yellow noodles, dried noodles, dried cuttle fish and also in pulled Chinese noodles and many other foods to give them the elastic and chewy texture. That's why I seldom or almost have never eaten yellow noodles or even kuay teow (except for the so called 'safe' ones) for the past several years since I had learnt this.
Lye water or alkaline water can be found easily in grocery shops. They are sold in clear glass bottles.
This recipe for kuay teow uses just rice flour, cornflour and wheat starch flour. All these can be found in your bakery supply store readily. Wheat starch flour is not the normal wheat flour but according to Sinner from Neckredrecipes.blogspot.com it is a non-gluten flour where the gluten has been removed leaving behind the starch, hence the name wheat starch. Please click here for a clearer explanation on noodles containing gluten and noodles which are non-glutinous which in turn explains the difference between wheat flour and wheat starch. According to Sinner wheat starch is called Tung Meen Fun in Chinese.
And I'm telling you that this is a really great recipe. Although it is a little time consuming it is definitely worth the effort. I've been told to never say never but I'll say now that I'll never buy kuay teow again.
One recipe makes about 500 gm of kuay teow and that is enough to serve 2 to 3 people.
150 gm rice flour
1 1/2 tbsp wheat starch flour
2 tbsp cornflour
400 ml cold water
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 or 3 shallow round cake pans (I used non-stick) that fits into your steamer. Grease them well with cooking oil using a pastry brush.
a plastic spatula for lifting off cooked sheets.
Mix all ingredients together and let rest for one hour
Get a steamer ready and bring the water to a rolling boil.
There are two ways of making these noodle sheets.
Method 1 :
Pour enough of the flour mixture into the oiled pan to form a thin layer (I like my layers slightly thick) and then steam for about 5 minutes on high until the sheet bubbles up in the pan. Remove the pan from the steamer and put in the next pan with another thin layer of mixture. While waiting for the second pan of noodle sheet to cook in the steamer the first sheet would have cooled down already. When it has cooled down enough for you to handle loosen the edges with a spatula, lift up an edge, roll it up, take it out of the pan onto a board and slice as wide or as narrow as you want. I love slicing it wide. Carry on doing this using the three pans consecutively until the batter has been used up. You might need to re-grease the pans once in a while.
Method 2 :
Alternatively, as a second method, I have also tried stacking up the layers in one pan, one layer at a time, adding on another layer of batter after the previous layer is cooked through. If you choose to do it by this method you should brush the top of the previous cooked sheet with oil before pouring on the next ladle of batter over it and the same thing goes for the following layers. (Always brush the previous layer with oil before adding the next ladle of batter). This method however requires a longer steaming time after the final layer to ensure that the last few layers are really cooked through. What you will end up with is a stack of noodle sheets in one pan looking very much like a solid white cake. I suppose it might be possible to invert the whole stack onto a plate or board when it has cooled and then proceed to seperate the layers by rolling or folding the topmost layer off first, lift it off onto a board and slice.
I have not been completely successful with the second method and at the moment I have only been able to stack at most three layers in one pan. I also find that it takes a longer time to do it this way.
So for the time being I prefer to cook the sheets one layer at a time using all three pans. The picture below however shows a three layered stack that I managed to do (by the second method) ready to be peeled, rolled and sliced.
Redneck recipes has a great video showing how to make it here. And a great site. Thanks Sinner!
Nasi lemak is synonymous with Malaysia. Nasi Lemak is Malaysia and Malaysia is Nasi Lemak. Apart from Singapore, which was once a part of Malaysia anyway, I doubt that Nasi Lemak, as in the complete package, exists anywhere else (But do correct me if I'm wrong). I think it is the most authentic Malay dish ever. A rustic paddy farmer's food. It is not an Indonesian carry over nor is it a dish that is a result of Indian or Chinese influences.
No Malaysain food blog would be complete without Nasi Lemak. A supposedly breakfast food; it's sold by roadsides, bus stops, on walkways, amidst snarling morning traffic and sometimes under 'NO HAWKING' signs; these stalls often snare the first pack of hungry breakfast-hunting salivating Malaysians.
That was what we thought it was until one day some one decided that Nasi Lemak had no reason to stop there. The fact that it was rice made it qualify as a lunch food, Kopitiam food, Mamak shop food, food court food, snack food, restaurant food, 5 star hotel food and finally it made it as a dinner food. Just last night I overheard a Chinese family ask for nasi lemak at an eatery where my husband and I frequent.
That was it. I snapped. I have to do the nasi lemak. This food is getting everywhere, all over the place and into every Malaysian's life, hair, blood, body and soul. And book.
Yes, if you have read my previous post where I had promised to post recipes of food that have been mentioned in Preeta Samarasan's book - Evening Is The Whole Day you know now that in Malaysia nasi lemak is as unavoidable as ...as ...as falling asleep in the middle of a conversation once you're on the wrong side of fifty or incontinence when you're old enough to have it.
Nasi Lemak is the common denominator of all Malaysians, young or old, city slicker or rural, rich or poor, blue blooded or not and last but not least, Malay or Indian, Chinese or Kadazan, Iban or Lain Lain (others). Now isn't that charming?
So tell me not to post this recipe and I will tell you to go have a nasi lemak.
More ornate versions exist nowadays with fried crispy chicken, fried crispy fish, a variety of curries, rendang and so on and so forth (the choice is yours), all tumbled onto your plate with the boiled coconut rice and the sambal but never without the token boiled egg and peanuts. Some nasi lemak comes as cheap as 1 ringgit per packet and comes wrapped in a banana leaf, kept snug and tight and ready to go. Others, more embellished, can go up to 12 ringgit per plate especially if you have it at restaurants or hotels.
However, I have made the elemental and fundamental version. I have even wrapped it in a banana leaf to give it that authentic look and feel when opened. With the must have Sambal Ikan Bilis (anchovies), hard boiled egg, fried peanuts and sliced cucumbers on the side.
Some say it is the anchovy sambal that makes the nasi lemak. Yet others say it is the coconut rice that makes it. I suppose it is both. The one without the other does not a Nasi Lemak make.
Serves 2 or 3.
The coconut rice/nasi lemak :
1 1/3 cups rice, washed and rinsed
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 or 3 pandan or screwpine leaves
1 lemon grass, crushed
2 slices ginger
1 tsp of cooking oil
salt to taste
Place rinsed rice in a rice cooker. Throw in the pandan leaf, lemon grass and slices of ginger. Pour in the coconut milk which should be of medium consistency (more or less like fresh milk) and the teaspoon of cooking oil. Add salt. Stir.Turn on the rice cooker and let cook till done.
TIP : The cooking oil keeps the grains seperate and fluffy.
The Anchovy Sambal :
1 cup of dried anchovies
3 - 4 tbsp chillie paste
2 medium onions
3 garlic, peeled
1 tsp tamarind paste mixed with 1/4 cup water, the juice strained
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
1/4 cooking oil
Pound or process the onions and garlic and mix with chillie paste. Keep aside.
Heat up the oil in a pot medium sized pot and fry the anchovies till lightly brown and crisp. Drain and keep aside. Remove some of the oil leaving about 4-5 tablespoons. While the oil is still hot saute the onion/garlic/chillie paste until the mixture turns darker red and the chillie is well cooked and some oil rises to the top. Add the strained tamamrind juice, and let simmer a while longer, about 3 - 5 minutes until the gravy turns a little thicker. Add salt and sugar. Add the fried anchovies and mix well. Adjust salt to taste. Because the anchovies are already salty be careful of adding too much salt. Done. Keep aside.
Other ingredients :
a few slices of cucumber
Some fried peanuts
Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a teaspoon of vinegar and then an egg or two. Boil 10 - 12 minutes and then remove egg, plunge in cold water and peel. Halve or quarter the egg.
To serve :
Place a serving of coconut rice on a plate and surround with the anchovy sambal, peanuts, slices of cucumber and half or quarter of a hard boiled egg. Serve.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Preeta Samarasan writes about a Malaysian Indian family who struggles to make sense of the emotional turmoil that plague and torment them in The Big House.
Unflinchingly, Preeta brings to life what perhaps many families are but hate to admit to being; dysfunctional.
Every member of this family appears dysfunctional. Aasha, the little girl who sees ghosts and who is aunguished by the inevitable departure of Uma her big sister. Appa, a successful lawyer who is disillusioned with the politics in the country as he struggles with his personal guilt and painful secrets. Amma suffers as an abused child and then as a bitter and misunderstood wife and mother, Paati, a mother-in-law who "reserved her bile for the immutable truths"... and who had declined physically into "a shriveled extra limb hanging off the family's robust torso, waiting to fall off". Chellam the servant girl, a shadow that zooms in and out and who struggles to deal with abuse and fray hopes for her future. Uma, the teenage daughter, who has, for some mysterious reason, taken to cutting off her emotional attachments towards those she once cared for.Uncle ballroom, brother and uncle who waltzes in and out according to his financial circumstances and young Suresh who seems to me the least dysfunctional in relation to the rest of them.
Preeta is a Malaysian but who now resides in France with her husband. This is her debut novel and she has been hailed as a talent to look out for. Her writing has been said to be reminiscent of Rushdie and Roy. I can certainly see the quirky similarities. The very familiar rolling of twoormorewordsintoalongsingleone, the string-of-hyphenated-words, the tragic comic scenes and the sharp wit and humour.
She writes vividly, with agility and grace. She has the ability to touch on the less obvious intentions of her characters and in one particular scene she hit a home run that left me with a gasp. She revealed the something that Appa was searching for in a wife :
"in Amma's luminous eyes....".."and in them he recognized what he had longed for all this time, what had been lacking in the attentions of Lily,Claudine and Nalini: gratitude."
I also found it refreshingly original that Appa lacked a sense of smell as it was this handicap that played a significant part in the development of the story at a certain point. In a comic, sad way it was somehow believable.
Since most of the characters have been given such depth and significance it does leave you wondering who the protagonist is. Unable to put my finger explicitly on one or even two of them I had to concede that this is a story of at least five characters all equally substantial and indispensable to the complexity of the emotional relationships and discord that runs through this family .
Tragic-comic scenes speckle the span of this saga and like many successful writers Preeta was able to get into her characters and play each one out in her writing touching the core of their hopes, pain, disgust or turmoil with utmost lucidity and in almost telescopic detail.
Not heavy on plot this book moves slowly and leaves you wondering what make these people tick rather than what would happen next. It was almost a character study. Deep and intense.
The only time in my reading that left me eager to know what would happen next was towards the end of the book. For the rest of the time I spent most of it enjoying Preeta's poetic prose, her imagery, the amusing Malaysian Indian accents in the dialogues like.."Shaddup your mouth and go away" or "acting-shackting", her sharp wit, the comic-tragic scenes but most of all I was constantly amazed at her ability to expose the complexities of human emotions and of deeper indescribable and unexpected thoughts with brilliant clarity.
The story is set against a political upheaval in Malaysia and at one point a whole chapter was a scene set against the backdrop of the 1969 race riots. Swipes have been taken at "ketuanan Melayu" (Malay master race) and of the disenchantment of Malaysian Indians in Malaysia.
But whatever message that Preeta has managed to get across politically, for me, this book comes across as a story of helplessness and dependency. The helplessness and dependency of children upon the adults responsible for them, the helplessness of those caught between the frying pan and the fire, and the helplessness of the abused.
Perhaps the dependency and helplessness was intended as a symbolic parallel to the feeling of perceived dependency and helplessness of the Indian minority upon a country that they came to in search of shelter, hope and a future. Perhaps. But for me the book touched my sensitivities as a mother, wife and daughter more than in any other way.
The only regret I had was that I longed to have been able to feel a connection for at least one of the characters so that I cared what would happen to him or her. Perhaps they were, each, all of them, too dysfunctional to be appealing. In other words, inspite of the agony and misery that these characters suffered they didn't move me enough or make a dent somewhere inside of me so that I pained for them like I would pain for some people I care for in real life or for some characters in some books. The only character that came close to providing me with that feeling was Aasha, the little girl who sees ghosts.
The story begins at the end and ends at the beginning, cleverly and slowly peeling away the layers and finally revealing part of the source of the dysfunctional misery. The ending, in turn, leaves you wondering what would happen next.
I found this book vibrantly written, elegant in prose, lucid yet complex with stunning descriptions that are often tinged with wit and humour. She plays with language effortlessly. A joy to read.
PS : Since this is a food blog and the fact that even dysfunctional families have to eat I will be providing recipes in the next few posts of the foods that have been mentioned in the book. :)
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I had a dream. A dream of a beautiful domed loaf of home made, hand-kneaded bread; squatting on my kitchen table. And that dream is squatting in front of me right now. Big, bulky, bronzed and beautiful.
This is the largest loaf I have made since I overcame the challenges and fear of yeast several years ago. And since I fought off the aghast and horror of all that kneading.
The aroma that wafted through the house as the bread was baking in the oven, the aroma that permeated every dust filled nook, crack and cranny in our home was almost as good as the aroma of toasted belacan. Heady, with the power of making you agreeable to almost anything that was asked of you - in exchange for the source of that aroma of course. The aroma of toasting belacan over an open flame, however, would have been a more intoxicating, heart-melting, finger gripping bargain but bread comes as a pretty close second.
...ummm......well.....maybe third...after the pungent aroma of salty fish in sizzling hot oil. An aroma that would make your knees buckle and detach your eyeballs at the same time. If you're Malaysian of course.
But there is nothing that can beat the warm glowing feeling that grows inside of you at the sight of a loaf of bread, freshly baked, wrapped in a tea towel and sitting on the kitchen table basking in the morning light. Love the sight!
So I thought that this would be a good post even though there is nothing mysterious or exotic in a bread recipe. This recipe yields one ultra huge loaf and one French loaf and is very soft without the use of any bread softeners. So enjoy!
1 kg bread flour, plain or wholemeal
15 gm dried yeast
1/4 cup oil
3 tsp salt
2 1/4 - 2 1/2 water
Mix yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 cup of lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl. Stir until the yeast dissolves and leave to rest, covered until the mixture froths.
Meanwhile sift flour and add to the frothed yeast mixture. Add sugar and salt. Add oil and then the remaining water, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups. Mix with a wooden spoon at first and finally with your hand when the mixture begins to come together.
Turn out onto a floured board or table and knead for 3 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place in a lightly greased large bowl and let the dough rest, covered with a damp cloth until doubled in size or when an indentation made by your finger remains.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead again for 5 minutes. Cover and let rise for 40 minutes and then knead again for 3 minutes, shape or place in mould after which you let rest again for the dough to rise for about 1 hour, brush the tops with milk and then bake at 190 C.
A large loaf would take about 1 to 1/1/4 hours and the French loaf would take 45 minutes. A good test would be when the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
How to shape a regular loaf :
Roll out the dough into a rectangle then roll like a swiss roll. Place in the mould, let rise for about 1 hour, brush top with milk then bake.
How to shape a French loaf :
Roll into a sausage shape and make 1 cm scores on the surface before letting it rise the last time for about 1 hour. Brush top with milk. Bake.
French loaf, sliced....
I made garlic bread with it and ate it with pineapple salsa...YUM
TIP : Don't forget to brush top with milk. The milk gives the top a beautiful shine when baked.
TIP : When putting into the oven be gentle and don't shake or bang the risen dough otherwise it will just deflate and you will have to knead and let rise again.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Miso again! This time I made a salad and it was good. Again I will be giving approximate amounts. It's really easy and I love making salads because it doesn't involve cooking and is always colourful and healthy of course.
Chinese cabbage, shredded
Carrots, shredded finely
Red onion, shredded finely
some cherry tomatoes halved
2 tsp miso
2 tsp yellow mustard
1 tsp honey
juice of 5-6 small limes
Mix all the dressing ingredients well putting in about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Adjust salt and pepper and the sourness. Mix into the vegetables just before serving.
I'm into miso now so this is a fried rice dish where I used some and believe it or not I used some Italian Dressing as well. It turned out rather good actually. Better than the usual fried rice that I make.
I will not be giving exact amounts that I used because I never thought that I would post this. The only reason I have pictures of it is because I was practicing some photography today.
Anyway here goes......... so adjust the amounts according to taste!
Overnight fried rice, loosened and seperated with wet fingers or freshly cooked rice
Chinese cabbage, shredded
Chillie, shredded finely
A few shitake mushrooms, sliced medium fine
1 big onion sliced finely
A few splashes of Italian dressing
Honey...yes honey!..LOL ..I don't know what I was thinking but it turned out fine.
Chicken thigh meat, sliced finely, seasoned with salt and pepper, sugar and cornflour
Some prawns, peeled and left whole and seasoned with the chicken meat
Saute seasoned chicken meat and prawns. Keep aside.
Heat a clean pan, when hot add oil and then saute the onions till golden. Before the onuions turn golden add the shitake mushrooms and saute until the onions turn golden. Put in the miso. I put in about 2 teaspoons. I was cooking about four to five servings. Add a splash of Italian dressing. I used Kraft. Squeeze some honey in. Add salt. Add the shredded cabbage and stir till slightly soft. Add the sliced chillies. Add pepper.
Mix in the rice in now and mix well until the rice is well mixed with the rest of the ingredients. Put in the sauteed chicken and prawns and mix well again. Adjust for salt and add more pepper or crushed bird chillies if you like. Serve hot.
I did not crack any eggs in as I don't put eggs in my fried rice for cholesterol reasons but you may if you like of course. But honestly it was very tasty even without the eggs.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I am on a a roll with pandan (screwpine leaves) this week. I came up with this pandan and coconut cream pancake and I thought that they would be delicious when swiped with pandan flavoured kaya for breakfast or tea. So this is the recipe that I came up with. It was very tender, moist with a lovely coconut creamy richness and of course the pandan juice added a lovely fragrance.
This is a must try really because unlike the normal pancakes made with milk these remain so tender and so very moist even after 4 or 5 hours. Unfortunately it blends in with my blog almost too well!
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 or 1/3 cup castor sugar, according to taste
150 ml thick coconut cream
1/4 cup water
4 pandan (screwpine) leaves
Blend the 4 pandan leaves with 1/4 cup of water and strain to get the juice. Keep aside.
Mix flour,baking powder, sugar, egg and coconut cream and the pandan juice and mix until you get a smooth batter. Add a pinch of salt.
Heat a griddle or pan. Put in a knob of butter and let melt. Pour in batter about 2-3 tablespoons for one pancake. Depending on the size of your pan you can make 2 or 3 at a time of even more if you have a larger pan. Use up the batter. It will be enough generously for four people.
Serve it with kaya or honey or palm sugar syrup.
Since I still had left over banana leaves froma previous recipe, a good amount of glutinous rice and uncontrollable pandan bushes in my backyard I thought I'd venture on making some kuih lopis.
Kuih Lopis is a Malay cake or dessert made from glutinous rice flavoured and coloured with the juice of the pandanus(screwpine) leaves, wrapped snugly in banana leaves and boiled in pandan flavoured water. What comes out is a very compact and solid bundle of green glutinous rice which you then roll in flaked or shredded coconut and serve with a sweet thick palm sugar syrup. Mmmmm delish!
This was my first attempt at making this sweet in a triangular shape. I used to make it in a cylindrical shape and then slice it into rounds. Uh Uh...that wasn't good enough for me now. I have risen up a notch and I now want to make it triangular in shape BUT unfortunately I hadn't a clue how to do that.
But destiny gave me a big nod by way of the AFC channel. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears when I happened to switch to the AFC channel and saw a restaurant owner showing the host of "Just Desserts" how to wrap a triangular shaped kuih lopis. I sat stock still, bolt upright and absorbed every morsel of flicker that came through that tv screen. Thank you God.
1 2/2 cups glutinous rice soaked in water with pandan juice added
The Pandan Juice :
6-7 medium pandan leaves, washed
1/3 cup water
Blend the pandan leaves and water and strain the juice. Add it to the water to be used for soaking the glutinous rice. Soak the glutinous rice in this green tinted water. Most people would add a few drops of green colouring to this to achieve the bright green colour typical of Malay cakes. I was hoping that the pandan juice-coloured water would give me a nice healthy natural pandan green but unfortunately what evolved after cooking the rice was a very pale and subtle green. I thought it was quite beautiful but most people would expect a bright green.
After soaking for a night, strain the rice and reserve the water.
Prepare the banana leaves :
The banana leaves do not need to be wilted for this. Just use as is. Clean and wipe them down.
Cut the banana leaves into squares roughly 8' by 8'. Roll the square piece of leaf into a cone shape. Make sure the hole at the bottom is as tiny as possible so that the rice won't escape.
Wrap your hand around the empty banana leaf cone comfortably with the loose end/flap facing you and with the sharp end pointing downwards. Using a tablespoon pour some rice into the cone. About 2 tablespoons of glutinous rice should do it. If you cut your banana leaf square bigger then you can put more.
Once filled, fold the opened top of the cone down completely so that you get a nice snug triangular packet of glutinous rice.
Don't bother to leave space for expansion for when the rice cooks and fluffs up. Through trial and error I realized that the little space that I had left which I thought was for expansion was not necessary at all. Because I had left that space the glutinous rice was not as compact and as tightly packed as it should have been when I unwrapped it after I had done boiling it.
So just fold the top down snugly over the rice and using a sharp bamboo toothpick or lidi (the spine of the coconut leaf) secure the top of the folded edge with it by poking through in and out like in the picture. It will look a little messed up from this side but if you turn it around and look at it from the other side it will look slightly better.
You can trim the extra edges if you like but not too much. Do the same for the rest of the glutinous rice until everything has been used up. You should get about 10 triangular packets in all.
Place the water that you strained from soaking the rice into a large pot. Add additional water, enough to cover all the packets of rice comfortably. It should be somewhat green from the pandan juice. I wanted the green colouring of the water to tint the glutinous rice green further as it boiled. Bring the water to a boil and then place the rice packets in and let boil for 45 minutes, covered.
When done lift them out carefully and place in a colander and let cool.
Unwrap. Roll the triangles in shredded coconut seasoned with a little salt. Serve with a thick palm sugar syrup.
Palm Sugar Syrup :
I won't be giving measurements here because I did not measure when I made this. So please use your own judgement. In the picture below is a block of palm sugar.
Palm sugar in blocks.
Boil all three together and until you get a nice thick syrup. Pour the dark sweet syrup over the kuih lopis and enjoy!
TIP : The banana leaf has a thick rib running through it. When sold the rib has been cut away and the two large flaps are rolled and wrapped for sale. The cut edge (ie the edge that was along the rib is stiffer and less flexible than the outside edge of the leaf.
When rolling the banana leaf into a cone you should use the softer more flexible outside edge as the tip of the cone so that the leaf doesn't tear as you roll it to a tip. If you use the stiffer edge it will be quite impossible to roll it into a tight tip without tearing the leaf.
TIP : when folding down and securing with the toothpick make sure that there are no loose ends or flaps where the cone can come apart while boiling. Make sure everything is secured buy the toothpick and the rice is safe inside.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
This is what I got from watching the AFC channel. If my memory doesn't fail me it was a series hosted by Marilee Parker and she was in India at the time.
I couldn't resist trying it after watching the way Marilee described how wonderful it tasted. I doubt that this is a typical Indian dish but it did taste good and it gave me something new to cook. Besides being very quick and simple to prepare it is very light, creamy and refreshing in flavour and I love the ginger-lemony flavour and the aroma the curry leaves let off.
I small red snapper or other white fish, cut in steaks or fillets, about 400 gm in all
3 shallots, sliced finely
1 inch ginger, sliced or shredded
1/2 tsp tumeric powder
a couple of crushed bird chillies, or more, optional
Half a handful of curry leaves
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
220 ml coconut cream
About 1/2 cup of water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Heat up the oil in a pot and saute the sliced ingredients until they turn translucent. Add the tumeric powder and saute a few seconds more. Add the curry leaves and enjoy the beautiful aroma that they release. Add bird chillies if you want a really spicy gravy otherwise add it at the end of the cooking so the heat from the chillies will not be too intense.
Add in about 100 ml of the coconut cream and the water. Bring to a boil and then add the fish cutlets or fillets. Allow to simmer.
Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and the rest of the coconut cream. Stir and let siommer untilteh fish is cooked through.
Serve with hot plain or buttered rice.
My father's favourite savoury snack and mine too. I did not really look forward to making this as it entails four separate activities. The cooking of the filling, the cooking of the glutinous rice, the wiping and wilting of the banana leaves and then finally the wrapping and rolling of the food in the banana leaves. But it was worth all the effort in the end and I now have a stack of yummy 'pulut udang' that I can snack on throughout the day. Makes 12 rolls.
Glutinous rice :
2 cups glutinous rice, soaked overnight
1/2 to 3/4 cup of thick coconut milk, an approximate amount
Bring a steamer pot of water to boil. Drain the glutinous rice, add the salt, and place the rice directly into the second tier of a steamer pot (the one with holes). Dribble some cococnut milk over the rice, probably about 3 or 4 tablespoons at a time, stir to mix, cover and let steam. After about 15 minutes open the lid, give the rice a toss (be careful of the hot steam) and dribble some more coconut milk. Taste for salt and add some more if bland.
Do this intermittently, a couple or more times, until the rice is completely cooked through. Unfortunately I did not time the cooking so I can't really tell you exactly how long it took. But by a rough estimate it probably took about 45 minutes or so. When it is done just leave the rice in the pot covered until you are ready to roll. The heat in the pot will continue to cook the rice while covered.
The Filling :
5-6 fresh red chillies
1 stalk of lemon grass, sliced finely
a knob of fresh tumeric or a 1/2 tsp of tumeric powder
The above three ingredients are to be pounded to a paste or chopped in a food prcessor till very fine.
1 1/2 tbsp dried prawns, soaked to soften and pounded coarsely
7 -8 medium sized prawns diced
2 cups grated coconut
2 Tbsp cooking oil
Heat the cooking oil in a pan and saute the pounded ingredients, and pounded dried prawns until they turn soft and slightly golden. Add the diced fresh prawns and stir until the prawns are cooked through.
Add the grated coconut and stir again to coat the coconut with the spices. Add salt to taste.
Preparing the banana leaves :
Wipe the banana leaves down with a clean damp cloth. Wilt them over the open flame of your stove by holding the banana leaves at one end and pulling it across directly over the flames making sure every part of the laef is heated and wilted. You will be able to see the banana leaves wilt and soften almost immediately upon contact with the flames. Be careful not to burn though. Cut them into squares roughly the same size about 6 by 6 or slightly larger if you like.
Here is a good explanation on various other methods on how to wilt and prepare banana leaves for wrapping foods.
The construction :
Take a blob of glutinous rice and place it on a pice of banana leaf. Flatten it like in the picture and then put some filling over it as you would when you make a sushi.
Use the top and bottom ends of the banana leaf to bring the rice over the filling and then open it up again and roll it up into a neat roll. Fold up the left and right ends and STAPLE!
This is a little strange because this is the only occasion where I have stapled a food item. The traditional way is to use a lidi (the spine of a coconut leaf) which looks something like bamboo skewers but which are more flexible and not as threathening. I couldn't get any lidis so like many other people in the city I used staples.
Anyway once all the pulut and filling have been used up and rolled and wrapped in the banana leaves arrange them in a single layer and place them on a baking tray and cook them under the broiler of your oven or grill them over an open fire (which is the traditional way just like grilling satay) or in a grilling pan on the stove until part of the banana wrapping have become somewhat burnt on the outside and looks grilled. It probably takes about 15 minutes over an open fire.
Serve the pulut udang with the banana leaves left on.
It will have a lovely smoky flavour as a result of the grilling which goes well with the yummy spicy combination of prawn filled grated coconut and sticky rice. After grilling the surface of the rice layer will be golden, crusty and a little chewy. Not much different from the 'kerak' or crust that's left at the bottom of your pot after you have cooked some rice. Yum.
TIP : Don't worry if the filling shows through rice layer a little. It will all be covered up by the banana leaves and when cooked it will taste just as good as when it looks perfect.
TIP : If you find the sticky rice sticking to your hands as you handle it, rub a little cooking oil on your hands before you work or use a patch of lightly oiled banana leaf to press and flatten the sticky rice ready to be filled.
TIP : Make sure you leave the rice in the pot COVERED while you make the filling or do other things other wise the rice will get dry on the surface and will be somewhat crusty. Uncover only when you are ready to use it.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Another one of my late mother-in-law's food that I have inherited.
At the orchard where my in parents in law lived fruits always grew in abundance and bananas were one of them. With combs and combs of bananas spilling over in their backyard, more than they could ever eat, my mother-in-law did what was the most natural thing to do in a hot tropical country like ours. She split the bananas lengthwise and baked them in the sun. Very much like sun dried fish, sun dried prawns and so many other kinds of dried foods in this part of the world.
The results, after a few blistering days in the searing sun, were caramelized bananas, browned and shrunken to half their original size. And golden with a rich caramelized sweetness.
Then my mother-in-law did the next most natural thing. She deep fried them in hot oil and she would serve them as a mid-afternoon snack almost everyday until the stock of bananas depleted.
So the first time that I was presented by my mother-in-law with a carton full of sun-baked bananas from their orchard I immediately made a batter that would crack and crackle at every bite to match the caramelized, candy sweetness of the fruit. It was pure heaven and I have never looked back since. My favourite banana fritters.
However, it has been years since I have had fried bananas like those again simply because I have never considered sun baking fruits as a desirable past time. There's a reason that I only exit the house in the later part of the afternoon or in the early part of the morning and use kilos of sun block each time. And there is a reason too that there are five air conditioners in our home.
So I did the next best thing that I could think of. I baked them for about an hour in the oven. The results though was not and can never be as nature would have caramelized them but they were better than not at all.
These were the bananas that I used. I wish I knew the name (I'll have to d a little asking around) but these are the bananas that are meant for frying. If I waited another day for them to ripen further they would have caramelized sweeter and richer when baked I'm sure......
Skin and then split each banana lengthwise and place the pieces on a baking tray lined with non stick baking paper. Bake them in the oven at 150 C for an hour or slightly more until the bananas have reduced in size a little and are slightly golden but not too much. I once baked them too long and they turned out as hard as bricks. So be careful not to overbake them!
After baking.....see how they have shrunk a little and how the sugar in the fruit look more concentrated. If these were sun dried they would be very very golden and you could almost feel the caramel when you squeezed it a little.
The bananas below were the ones that were still whole and unpeeled in teh picture above. I allowed them to ripen for 24 hours since I bought them and then baked them at 150 C for maybe 1 1/2 hours and look how they turned out!! Beautifully golden, sugary sweet and moist. It's looks almost as good as the sun baked ones! One lesson learnt. Use really really ripe bananas for baking. Can you see the difference from the top tray of bananas? It's a vast difference isn't it?
When done remove tray from the oven and let the bananas cool. In the meantime make the batter........
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup rice flour plus 1 Tbsp
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
a good pinch of salt
About 3/4 cup water ( I used a bit more..about 3/4 cup plus 1/8 cup)
Mix everything together until you get a smooth batter without any lumps. I must emphasize the salt here. It is really good if you can achieve a trace of saltiness in the batter. It brings out the sweetness of the fruit. It sounds strange but I suppose for the sake of logic the slight edge of saltiness in the batter contrasts and brings out the sweetness of the fruit even more (did I just repeat myself? So much for logic)... Anyway it really makes so much difference to the overall taste of the fritter.
Dip the bananas in the batter and fry them in hot oil until golden brown and crisp. Serve while still hot or warm to enjoy the crunch and crackle of the batter.
Note : The bananas will never be as sweet or as richly caramelized as sun dried ones but they do taste better, with a slight chewiness to it, than a banana fritter that has not been baked. That is my humble opinion of course.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
These are perfect for dunking in ice cold milk or hot coffee/teh tarik/kopi tarik.They are very crispy and crunchy and easy to make although I had a problem keeping 3 pairs of hungry eyes off them so that I could slice and re-bake them as sticks. Not much different from a biscotti except that they are shaped perfectly for dunking.
This recipe is from a magazine called The Better Cook.
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 cups unsweetened or semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts) optional
Preheat oven to 180 C.
In a large bowl beat butter and shortening for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar and soda. Beat until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla well. Beat in as much flour as you can and fold in the rest. Fold in the choc chips in and the nuts too if used.
Press dough evenly into a 13x9x2 inch baking pan and bake for 25 minutes or thereabouts until the centre is set.
Cool in pan for 1 hour. I did not wait that long because I was just simply impatient so I cut them while still slightly warm and it was OK.
Cut them 1/2 inch wide and about 6 inches long or half of the breadth of the pan that was used. Place them cut side down on an ungreased baking pan and bake them for about 8 to 10 minutes or until they look crispy around the edges.
Serve with a glass of cold cold milk or hot coffee.
Friday, November 28, 2008
It is very difficult to get sardines in oil in KL. Apparently Malaysians prefer their sardines in tomato sauce. So with the disappearance of the Waitrose brand of sardines in oil from the Cold Storage supermarket some time ago I had a hard time looking for another brand of sardines in oil. It was only on a visit to The Village Grocer's at Bangsar Village recently that I finally came across a can of sardines. In oil. It cost ringgit 7.90 which I think is expensive especially for a small can of sardines. The Waitrose brand cost only about four ringgit and is much tastier than this one.
However, with that in hand I was able to at last fry a plate of rice with sardines and sweet pepper. A dish I stirred up one day a long time ago when I was very hungry and nothing else convenient was available in the kitchen cupboard. It turned out quite delicious and tasty and I have been cooking it intermittently since.
I don't really like sweet peppers with their skins on so I peeled a sweet red pepper with a potato peeler and then cut it into strips. It tasted really sweet upon having been sauted and I did not get the taste of the skin which I really don't like.
2 small bowls of freshly cooked or overnight rice
1 can of sardines in oil
1 sweet red pepper, peeled and cut into strips
A handful of sliced cabbage or any veggie that you like
2 cloves of garlic pounded or chopped finely
1/2 tsp of dark sweet soy sauce
A few dashes of fish sauce
1 teaspn of chillie paste, or more if you like
Saute the garlic in about a tablespoon of oil. Add the chillie paste if used (which I always use) When garlic has softened throw in the sweet red pepper that have been skinned and cut into strips and the sliced cabbage. Stir fry until the veggies have softened a little. Add in the rice, soy sauce,a few dashes of fish sauce, a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add the drained can of sardines. Stir and toss well and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
TIP : My mother in law used to seperate clumped up refrigerated overnight rice with wet fingers before frying. Saves a lot of elbow grease while frying and prevents clumps of white rice in the final dish.
This was the can of sardines that I used. I much prefer sardines with bones as they somehow taste better and the pieces of fish did not disappear into the rice so easily as did this one.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
This is an apple tart/pie that I have been wanting to try. I love apple pies but don't relish going through all the effort of making them especially when it requires crusts both above and below and even more so if it has a lattice top. Of course there is no one stopping me from making an ugly pie but I wouldn't waste my time on that either.
So at long last, finally, in the end, ultimately and eventually I dragged myself to the bag of bright green Granny Smith's in the fridge and did I NOT enjoy peeling them. Another reason I don't really fancy making apple pie. But I did it and I was absolutely happy with the results.
So happy was I and my two boys at home that they were hovering around like flies when it came out of the oven. I had to click away at the pie with my camera before it got dragged out of the frame. That was how good it looked, how dizzyingly good it smelled and with a taste to match.
The pastry bottom was absolutely perfect in my book. It was a cross betweena short crust and a short bread. Just-nice sweet, crumbly, tender and buttery. PERFECT.
The topping was caramel like, dark and glossy and had that golden sweet flavour of caramelized apples. The original recipe called for Golden Delicious and warned that it would be dripping with caramel when it came out of the oven. Well mine was not dripping with caramel probably because the apples I used were not Golden Delicious.
And perhaps, also, because I used a bamboo steamer cover while the apples cooked on the stove so there was absorption rather than condensation taking place as they cooked; leaving no excess liquid in the apple filling.
The thought of having caramel dripping all over sounds heavenly but even without the dripping it was PERFECT as only heaven could be. All right I may be exaggerating but it was very very very good.
I tweaked the recipe for the pastry a little as I did not want to use icing sugar so I used castor sugar instead to provide a little crunch. And instead of lemon rind I used the rind of an orange which smelt so good when I was making it but in the end the flavour from the orange rind was overwhelmed by the yummy apple filling upon baking and I suppose it didn't really matter whether there was orange or lemon rind in it after all.
This apple tart would have been absolutely scrumptious with ice cream but there wasn't any and no one could wait the trip to the supermarket so we gobbled it down as it was. PERFECT.
For this recipe you would need a heavy skillet. I used a cast iron skillet/pan that I had bought years ago, meant obviously for something else but it worked well with the apple tart nevertheless, that measures about 10 inches in diameter and about an inch high. The original recipe called for a height of 2 inches. I didn't have that so I halved the apple filling recipe and carried on from there. In spite of that, the proportion of apple to pastry was PERFECT. For me anymore apple filling than that would have been too much although some people would perhaps like more apple than crust. In this tart it was half and half.
I know, I know....before I bore you to death................here is the recipe......
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup castor sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed small
2 large egg yolks
a little cold water if necessary
zest of 1 orange
Stir together flour, sugar and salt. Cut butter into the flour and crumble it until mixture is like fine breadcrumbs. Add a little cold water, maybe a teaspoon at first and bring the pastry together with your fingers. Do not handle with your whole hand especially in warm/hot weather like ours. Once the pastry comes together nicely in a lump and is not crumbly let it sit in the fridge for about fifteen or twenty minutes to firm up a little.
In that case do the filling first because the filling takes about an hour to cook.
TIP : This pastry is very delicate and you may find difficulty lifting it up to drape over the apple filling. So one way is to make sure the skillet of apple filling is right next to where you roll out the pastry. That will make it much much easier. But even if it breaks it is no big problem. Just pat it back into place over the filling.
TIP : Flour the board or table well before you roll out the pastry. Because it is quite a rich pastry the tendency to stick to the surface is greater.
1/3 cup icing sugar
2 lbs of apples (I used Granny Smiths) peeled, cored, sliced into eigths,
6 Tabspn butter, melted
In a heavy 10 inch oven proof skillet with straight sides like in the picture, sprinkle the bottom with 6 tablespoons of the icing sugar.
Arrange a layer of apples in tight concentric circles (I suppose I didn't make it tight enough) over the sugar. Brush the apples with melted butter and dust with cinnamon as much or as little as you like. Repeat the layers until all the apples are used up.
This is the final stage in the layering of the apples, sugar and cinnamon.
Cover with lid or with a buttered foil or a bamboo steamer cover and simmer over low to medium low heat for one hour until the apples are soft and the sugar caramelized. Be careful not to burn them. :D Unfortunately I burnt the centre of the apple filling as you can see in the last pic as I was careless with the flame BUT it did no great harm.
When the apple filling is done roll out the pastry to a circle big enough to fit the top of the skillet. Lift the pastry carefully. I did it the cheffy way by draping it over the rolling pin and carrying it over to the skillet with the rolling pin in hand :D
Cover the filling with the pastry and tuck in any stray edges. Bake in 180 C oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Because my apples were a little burnt in the middle and I did not want to burn it anymore in the oven I placed thick wads of newspaper on the baking tray before placing the skillet on it. It provides some insulation from the heat and I hoped that the apple filing would be safe and not burnt any further. I succeeded.
This is the cooked pie filling and ready for the pastry to be draped over the top. See the thick wads of newspaper underneath?
When the pastry top is nice and golden take it out of the oven.
Invert the tart carefully onto a dish with fairly deep sides if you used Golden Delicious but not necessary if you used Granny Smiths like I did. I'm not very sure whether the different apples used were the cause of less liquid in my apple filling though. I'm just guessing but it is a calculated guess.
Slice and enjoy with a pouring custard or better still with a smooth, silky scoop of vanilla ice cream!
TIP : If you would like a thicker pie use a smaller sized oven proof skillet.
TIP : Place the plate or dish over the skillet before inverting. I did it about 5 minutes out of the oven so do be careful. It's hot! And the skillet is heavy!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I was browsing a health freak food blog and I was struck down by guilt. I began thinking of all the unhealthy foods that I have been eating lately and wished that I had never looked at that blog. Anyway, just to ward off the guilt that was creeping and crawling all over me I cooked myself some oatmeal (even though it was 11 pm). I added a few extra ingredients that were healthy and with a little twist I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious an oatmeal porridge can be. This is what I did and it is diary free.
A few tablespoonfuls of rolled oats for one serving
A mashed banana
A sprinkle of sesame seeds
a pinch of salt
Cook the rolled oats as you would with some water. When it's halfway done add the mashed banana, honey and salt. When done pour the oatmeal into a serving dish.
Pour some coconut cream over. Just a little. A sprinkle of sesame seeds on top and it was good! I could eat this every morning!