Thursday, June 30, 2005

TeaTiMe ApAm

Recently after a doctor's appointment in Bangsar, I was feeling peckish so I tried these roadside stalls that sell these yummy-licious apam. Been a while since I ate there, the last time was when they used to be the stalls in front of Strudels, Lucky Garden. Now they have all moved to the other side of Lucky Garden, near the fruit stalls and in front of the veterinary clinic.

They sell two varieties; one with white sugar and the other with brown sugar. Done slowly over the fire in small woks, these apams are so nice and crispy (much nicer than my usual brekkie place). The apam is actually made from a batter of rice flour, coconut milk and sugar and they give you sweetened coconut milk for you to dip the apam in.

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Om Shakti Chelo's Apam Stall
Lorong Ara Kiri 3, Lucky Garden, Bangsar

They're opened at teatime onwards (not sure what time it closes) but they are closed on Sundays.

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from the restaurant for writing this review.

CoMfoRt Me WiTh PiE

Although the weather is hot, I had the urge to make Shepherd's Pie as it is really one of my favourite comfort foods. I have been in the mood for some comforting so I can't deny fluffy mash and yummy minced lamb filling. This is a version of Nigella Lawson's famous Rudolph Pie - she does it with minced venison and a cherry on top ala Rudolph for Christmas.

Splashie Boy loves English food - must be something they injected into his bloodstream when he was born in Reading. I used to joke that his mother picked up the wrong baby in hospital since he is so non-Malaysian in his eating habits but like someone pointed to me, that can't be possible since he would have been the only Asian baby in the ward. For me, English food has some bad and good memories depending on well my dining hall used to cook it. Fond memories are for the pies like Shepherd's, Beef and Guinness but not for their super bouncy and hard Lemon Meringue Pie. Other things they excelled in was steamed puddings (yum!) with lots of custard. Then there is Rhubarb Crumble which I love and so rarely get it here.

Okay, back to my pie - mine is full of minced lamb as it is not easy to come across minced venison in KL and without the cherry on top. Nigella's version uses deluxe stuff like dried porcini mushrooms and chopped up button mushrooms that tastes extra nice. If you have time, leave the pie for a few days frozen in your freezer as when you bake it in the oven, it tastes nicer as the flavours have really developed. If you are making it, do look at the proportions as Nigella's version is for a huge batch. This recipe is from her Christmas Bites telly show and is also found in Feast.

Rudolph Pie (Serves 14-16)

50g dried porcini
3 - 5 tablespoons olive oil
4 onions chopped
4 carrots chopped
4 cloves of garlic peeled and minced
500g button mushrooms, quartered
1kg minced venison
1kg minced pork
2 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons Marsala
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree diluted in 125ml water
Worcestershire sauce to taste

4kg potatoes
1500g parsnips (about 8 medium-sized)
125ml full-fat milk
125g butter, plus more to dot on the top
sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce

Pour 500ml of near-boiling water over the porcini mushrooms and leave to steep.Warm oil into very large thick bottomed pan and add the chopped onions, carrots and minced garlic. Cook stirring for about 10 minutes, sprinkling with the salt if the vegetables look as if they may burn. Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, chop coarsely and add with the button mushrooms to the vegetable mixture. After about 5 minutes tip the whole lot out to brown the meat.Add a little more oil to the pan then tip in the minced meats, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Stir for about five minutes until the rawness has left them a bit, add salt - unstintingly - and then return the vegetable mixture to the pan. Stir in the flour and add the mushroom-soaking liquid, tinned tomatoes, diluted puree, Marsala and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce.Stir well, cover partly with a lid and reduce heat so that the mince bubbles gently, for about 40 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile boil the potatoes in a large pan of salted water until they are nearly ready and then add the parsnips which have been peeled and cut into chunks.Boil until they are cooked to easily mashable tenderness, then drain and allow to dry slightly.Warm the milk and melt the butter in the heat of the potato-pan. Rice or mash the potatoes and parsnips straight into this, grate in some fresh nutmeg and add salt to taste.Put the mince into a large dish approximately 37cm x 32cm, then dollop the potato mash on top, spreading with a spatula, taking care to seal the edges to prevent the meat below from bubbling up in the oven.Fork lines over the top, then dot with butter and sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce.If you're cooking this straight away, about 10 minutes in a 225C oven should be enough to make it piping hot and crispily golden on top. If cooking from cold, about an hour in a 190C/Gas 5 oven should do it.

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Left: Straight from the oven, Right: All revealed with its yummy insides

MEME - ThE CooK NeXt DooR

I had been earlier tagged by Lilian of Penang Faces to answer my first Meme and boy, aren't these questions tough hence I procrastinated on answering them!

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?

I was a late starter in cooking and I only got started as I did not want to die from hunger. My first memory of cooking is making cheese sauce for my pasta in my first year in university. I was taught how to make it from a roux by sweet Caroline of Botswana so I would not starve to death.

Who had the most influence on your cooking?

I credit both my parents; my mother, the cook and my dad, the foodie. When I was young I remember my mother going for baking and cooking classes to learn new things all the time. She is a real legend in baking and people always demand her ever light and fluffy chiffon cake. She is a real perfectionist as I still remember how she practised so hard to get it right and since then she has always made a perfect chiffon cake. With my dad, he would always sniff out good food wherever he went in the world. He dragged me to so many markets and dingy stalls just to sample great food.

Do you have an old photo as “evidence” of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?

Sorry no photos of me cooking as I don't think anyone has taken one of me before in the act!
Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?

Splashie Boy's mother's signature nasi lemak. He credits his mother's nasi lemak as the best in town so I doubt I will ever be able to make the sambal the way he likes it.

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest let down?

Okay, I know it ain't a kitchen gadget but I love my wok and really can't think of life without it. It's so multi versatile as I use it for stir frying, deep frying and steaming since I don't have a special steamer. My biggest let down are those hand held graters. I can't seem to get one that gives me nice fluffy grated parmesan cheese like Jamie Oliver!

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else!

Okay, I have a sweet tooth and I find funny things to sprinkle sugar on; my toast which got me a lot of stares in England during breakfast and even my chinese dumplings. My Mauritian friend is worst than me, she used to dump six packets of sugar in her coffee and her excuse is she is helping Mauritius' economy since they produce sugar!

Another thing I like to eat is kerabu chicken leg skins! Strange stuff as it's gelatinous, crunchy and all spiced up with the thai herbs.

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without?

I love my vegetables and I really can't do without my tomatoes, mushrooms in all varieties and pumpkin.

Any question you missed in this meme, that you would have loved to answer?

Not that I can think of.

Three quickies:

Your favorite ice-cream… : Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (yummy chunks of choc chip dough treasures that I dig out to enjoy)

You will probably never eat… : Dogs, cats, snakes, monkeys and any other animal that I consider to be a pet. I once refused to eat a chicken as I played with it once and my mother was so annoyed with me.

Your own signature dish… : No idea which one am I famous for as I cook anything I can get my hands on.

Who do you want most to cook you dinner? : Splashie Boy as he so rarely cooks for me. Once he did rustle up some El Paso tacos for my Valentine's dinner.

Three people to tag:

Okay, this part really stumped me for the longest time as honestly I don't know many foodie bloggers as I am totally new to this. Morevover the ones I know or have been leaving comments in their blogs have already been tagged. Anyway, I came up with my friends as I am sure they do cook even though they deny it:

Jess from Two J's - She does do some cooking besides looking after her two cutie pies.

Drew from Tiny Thinks and Tiny Thoughts - I know you do cook as you keep talking about trying my recipes. Time to share what you're cooking up in Singapore. Gross stories about your fetish for boiled luncheon meat, porridge and your famous air sick bag story are acceptable.

Shagen and Vera from New Zealand at last - Not sure about Shagen but Vera definitely cooks as I have tasted her food before in KL. Time to spill to us how cooking in New Zealand is different from Malaysia.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

ThE WeLL TrAvElleD PiCkLe

I was thinking of a nifty title for my auntie's pickles (or what we call Acar in Malaysia) and thought hey, how about boasting a bit on how well this acar has travelled. My aunt (the one who made the chinese dumplings earlier) is a super duper cook and lucky for us she is always piling us with delicious food. She made this really yummy acar last week and all I got was a teeny weeny jar which I am now treasuring.

My aunt has certain signature dishes to her fame and one of them is this acar. The other one was her sambal hai bee (prawn sambal) which I used to carry faithfully each year to England and ration them since it was for my whole year there. I was told by my mother that this is not the usual acar that people have. I guess they don't come with the peanuts and it's just plain with vinegar. Am I right? I honestly don't know as the only acar I eat is my aunt's one. Her version has cabbage, cucumbers and carrots - all coated in chili sauce and crunchy peanuts. This tastes wickedly nice and goes well just on it's own i.e eaten sinfully from the jar, with some prawn crackers or with white rice. It's well travelled as it's gone to Australia, Canada, England, Hong Kong and Singapore.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

MaNgOsTeeN SoRbEt

The weather is super hot in Malaysia recently as we have not seen a drop of rain these past few days. As usual, when the heat strikes, I am always thinking of ways to cool off and I thought of making another sorbet. I was inspired by the mangosteen which is in season this month and has started flooding the fruit stalls in Kuala Lumpur. However, I notice that this year, the ones available are super tiny. Not sure why but my uncle offered a theory to say that nowadays the local farmers are cultivating nice fat and juicy ones for the export market like Japan as they earn more profits. The other downer about buying mangosteens are they are not a cheap fruit. You will think it's cheap since it is local but nope, it is selling for about RM4.99 per kilogram in Kuala Lumpur.

I bought a few mangosteen to make this sorbet that I saw in Vogue Entertaining's Short Order and Seasonal Cookbook (Autumn/Winter) since it looked so lusciously cooling and inviting. Not a cheap venture as once you deseed mangosteens, you don't get much pulp left. However, once you mix your sorbet up and when it is ready to scoop, it is so nice and cooling plus it is a great light purplish pink colour. As I don't have an ice-cream maker (am still contemplating whether to get one from my Citibank Reward Points), I just agak-agak (Malay for estimate) and throw everything in the blender to whiz to smoothen it out. Although the original recipe stated limes, I used the small calamansi limes that give a more orangish juice. Originally I thought of replacing the liquid glucose in the recipe with a sugar syrup but I managed to find some in a bake shop.

I guess the next time round if I can get my hands on some nice mangosteen and cheaper ones, I will try to make the mangosteen and prawn salad from Sao Nam Restaurant that serves yummy South Vietnamese cuisine.

Mangosteen Sorbet

500g mangosteen flesh, deseeded and shells reserved for decoration
juice of 1 lime (or to taste) - I used calamansi limes
100g caster sugar (or to taste)
100ml liquid glucose
8-10 mangosteen shells with lids, rinsed and dried

In a blender, puree the mangosteen flesh with the lime juice and the sugar till smooth. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the glucose and pour it into the blender with the mangosteen mixture. Blend together. Taste the mixture and if it is not sweet, add extra sugar and if too sweet, add more lime juice. If you have an ice-cream maker, process it as per the equipment's instructions or if you don't have one, just put it in a plastic container to the freezer and blend it again about 4 hours later. Leave it in the container till the next day and then scoop out into the mangosteen shells to serve.

Updated (21/7/05) : Recently came across a recipe for the sorbet and the chef served it with blueberry compote. Sounds like an interesting combination to try.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

IMBB 16 - Eggs

This month's IMBB 16 is hosted by Viv of Seattle Bon Vivant who hails from the rainy city of Seattle and she has chosen the theme of eggs. Such a humble ingredient but so many ways to make things out of it that I cracked my head thinking up an appropriate entry (see my earlier posting for what else I cracked up). I wanted something Malaysian and since we are a multi-culture society, it had to be something Malay. Moreover, I have yet to blog on any Malay food and I notice there is a lack of focus on this type of cuisine.

So I flicked through my library of cookbooks and magazines and noticed that eggs don't really feature a lot in Malay cuisine. It's either used as a garnish or cooked in a curry we call sambal in Malaysia. The other recipe I stumbled upon was eggs cooked in coconut milk which I thought I won't eat that as it sounded too rich! Sambal telur was toyed around but then I thought, it ain't much of a challenge. So I decided to try something mammoth called Roti Jala, a Malaysian pancake which means lacy/net egg pancakes which we eat with curry chicken and potatoes.

When I say mammoth, I thought I could tackle the task but I must admit, it is not easy to come up with perfect lacy pancakes and I kinda failed in making mine. My lace was not fine enough so it did not turn out to be the ideal Roti Jala. Oh well, I did enjoy making them, will definitely learn from my mistakes and despite their appearance, they tasted really nice.

My version of Roti Jala and the accompanying curry is all from a favourite local magazine of mine called Flavours. Published by a local newspaper, the Star, the monthly magazine features local food, restaurant reviews, wine reviews and etc. This recipe for Roti Jala is by Rohani Jelani, a popular chef who conducts cooking classes and workshops. It is a low fat version as the usual coconut milk is replaced with low fat milk. Even the curry that accompanies it is low fat as it is made from chicken breasts, low fat yoghurt and low fat milk.

To make Roti Jala, you need a mould that is found in most supermarkets (See the yellow mould below). If you can't get the mould, you can make one from poking holes in a can but make sure your holes are of equal size so the liquid flows down in equal proportions. I used a bit of turmeric in the batter so the pancakes has a nice light yellow colour. The batter is also sifted to remove lumps. As I did not have a flat griddle or a crepe pan, I used an ordinary frying pan which made it difficult to remove the pancake. As I was having problems removing it, I folded the pancake the same time so my pancakes don't look neat. You can also use a bunch of pandan leaves to brush the oil on the pan. It adds a lovely and slight flavour to your pancake.

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Top Left: Sifted batter, Top Right: Mould and pandan leaf brush
Bottom Left: Pancake being cooked, Bottom Right: Roti Jala and curry

Roti Jala (makes about 30 pancakes)
300g plain flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
300 ml low fat milk
3 large eggs
300 ml water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
A little oil for greasing the pan

Sift flour, salt and turmeric into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and into this, pour the milk, eggs, half the water and the oil. Use a wooden spoon or a whisk to incorporate the flour into the liquid to make a smooth, thick batter.

Stir in the remaining water and strain the batter through a fine sieve. This helps remove any lumps that will plug your roti jala mould that will cause problems. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and set the batter aside for 25-30 minutes.

Heat a heavy griddle pan or non stick pan over medium heat and brush surface lightly with oil using your pandan brush. Stir batter, dip in the roti jala mould into it and fill it about 1/3 full and move around the pan in steady concentric circles to form fine lacey pancakes.

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I suspect I failed in making my pancakes lacy enough as I overfilled my mould with batter so it came out thick and I was too far away from my pan. I should be nearer i.e. about 6 cm away from the pan when rotating the mould.

Despite my failed attempt to make real lacy Roti Jala, I enjoyed myself as it was the first time I was making a Malay dish. I guess I just need to practice more often and thanks to Viv, I got a chance to try my hand in making them.

My MaLaYsIaN EggS-pErIeNcE

I was racking my head on what to cook for this month's IMBB since there are so many ways to present eggs that I sought divine inspiration by flicking through some cookbooks. I found this very informative book called Encyclopedia of Asian Food - The Definitive Guide to Asian Cooking by Charmaine Solomon. I love the way she explained things especially the way she categorised her egg dishes so I borrowed her indexing to give you an insight on my take on eggs in Malaysia. It may not be comprehensive and feel free to advise on any other eggy dishes that should be added.

Eggs are easily available and reasonably priced in Malaysia thus making it an important source of nutrients. Usually eggs are supplied en masse by poultry farms but occasionally you will get small stall owners selling eggs fresh from the kampung (Malay for village) or their own backyard. Nowadays not that many people rear chickens in the urban city as they feel it's too dirty or troublesome to keep chickens at home. When I was a kid, I remember we had a pair of small white chickens (not sure what their breed was) and they used to lay a teeny weeny egg for my breakfast.

Nowadays there are so many kinds of eggs to choose from; organic ones, special ones with no cholestrol, Omega 3 eggs and etc. They also come in different sizes; small, medium and large. Small eggs are ideal to half boil and the yolk is larger than a normal egg. Medium eggs are generally used for baking and cooking. Large eggs have more egg white, extremely ideal to make chiffon cakes and sometimes there could be double yolks inside.

Duck eggs are used to make salted eggs and century eggs. Salted eggs are a popular condiment for porridge. In China where these eggs originated, the Chinese discovered that to preserve the egg, they can soak it in brine for more than a month. Once soaked, it is encased in salted mud and straw. By soaking the egg in brine, the egg white gets more firmer while the yolk gets denser as water in the egg is drawn out with osmosis. As there will still be bacteria within, it is advisable to cook the salted eggs either by hard boiling them or cooking them with their ingredients. Nowadays, restaurants use the raw salted egg yolk to fry crab or prawns as the sweetness of the seafood complements the salty and creamy taste of the salted egg yolk perfectly.

Century eggs or thousand year eggs are coated in salt, wood ash and lime mixed to a paste with water. It is an acquired taste for these eggs as the eggs are black in colour while the yolk turns greenish goo. Some also avoid it as they can't stand the smell and they claim that it is actually cured in a mixture of horse urine and mud. Usually, the eggs are used in porridge or just eaten plain with ginger pickles. It is also used to make the three egg steamed egg custard dish together with salted eggs and hen's eggs that Chinese homes love to serve.

Quail eggs are sought after as a delicacy by some but has dropped in popularity with Malaysians as they are deemed to be extremely high cholestrol for adults. They are usually used as part of dessert with some sweet syrup. You can also add quail eggs to curries.

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Top Left: Fresh eggs, Top Right: Salted duck eggs
Bottom Left: Century eggs, Bottom Right: Quail Eggs

Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs does not really feature that big in Malaysian cuisine so it took me a while to look for a picture of one. I found one in this hawker's version of Oh Chien (Chinese for Oyster Omelette). Although it should come in a form of an omelette with the Oh (Chinese for oyster) on top, some hawkers in Malaysia have different intepretation of it. So far besides this scrambled version, I have seen some which have cooked the oysters in the omelette until it's crispy and one which made it thicker and like a frittata.

For the Chinese, plain scrambled eggs is so boring that usually they throw in other delicacies like shark fins, crabmeat and water chesnuts in their version called kwai fah chee that is served in restaurants.

Nasi Lemak, what Malaysians may call their national dish that comes with rice cooked in coconut milk served with sambal, slices of cucumber, fried peanuts, fried ikan bilis (Malay for anchovies) and egg. Usually the egg is either hard boiled or fried but there is one stall owner in Bangsar, Nasi Lemak Lee that serves up his version with scrambled eggs.

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Oh Chien - all scrambled out


Omelette is also not featured in a big way in Malaysia and is usually added on as a topping or a garnish to an exisiting dish like fried rice or fried noodles. In this version of Lam Mee, strips of omelette are added on to the noodles as decoration and additional ingredients. Lam Mee is also known as Birthday Noodles and is served for birthday occasions especially in Penang.

For my second omelette dish, I had to turn to Thai hawkers. As Thailand is our neighbour, Thai food has kinda creeped into our system and has become a permanent feature in hawker centres and mamak stalls. This popular version is called Telur Bistik, where they cook the omelette in a sweet and sour sauce with vegetables. Ideal as a quick meal for lunch or dinner with lots of piping white rice to soak up all that tangy sauce.

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Left: Lam Mee, Right: Telur Bistik

Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs is used extensively in Malaysia and you can see them everywhere as garnishes and toppings for rice and noodle dishes like Nasi Lemak, Mee Siam, Laksa and etc.

One popular way Teochews cook their eggs is with soya sauce and they call it Tau Yu Tan (Chinese for Soya Sauce Eggs). These eggs are brown in colour after being stewed in the sauce and is ideal for eating with white porridge.

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Tau Yu (Soya Sauce) Egg

For the Malays, hard boiled eggs can be used to make Sambal Telur, where hard boiled eggs are cooked and then deep fried. Then a hot and spicy sauce is prepared from lots of chillies which is added with the hard boiled eggs. The Indians also deep fry their hard boiled eggs and add it in their rojak together with other fried stuff, some sotong and shredded cucumber and carrots. Then a hot and spicy peanut sauce is poured on top. As the rojak is extremely spicy, the rojak man always sells it together with a cendol man which is a cold dessert that helps bring down the heat of the rojak.

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Left: Sambal Telur, Right: Indian Rojak

A popular snack is marbled tea eggs, where eggs are cooked in tea and Chinese herbs so they absorb the flavours. The eggs are lightly cracked all over and boiled in the tea to get the marble effect. In Malaysia, it is easy to make these eggs as the Chinese herbal shop can pack all the ingredients for you and all you need to do is just boil them. In Indonesia, it seems they also have their own Marbled eggs version, which they use colouring to get the marbled look.

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Left: Tea Eggs being prepared, Right: Tea Eggs - uncracked

Steamed Eggs

Steamed eggs feature prominently in Chinese food and is extremely popular at Chinese economy stalls that serve a selection of home cooked food at reasonable prices for lunch and dinner. As eggs are relatively cheap, these stalls will have several varieties and the popular ones are plain steamed eggs or steamed eggs mixed with minced meat. Another steamed egg dish that is popular has the three eggs; salted egg, century egg and hen's eggs. Besides these dishes, you can also add eggs to soya bean milk to make your own steamed egg tofu. Steamed egg custards can also be made as dessert where you steam them with milk and ginger. If you go a town up north called Ipoh, this is readily available in coffeeshops.

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Left: Plain steamed egg, Right: Steamed egg with minced meat

Egg Combinations

As eggs are seen as a source of nourishment, they can be added to existing dishes. In most hawker stalls that serve rice or noodle dishes, it is not unusual for you to add one egg into your serving especially if you feel the portions are too small for your liking. Roti Canai which is extremely popular in Malaysia has several versions and this one has an egg added in it to create Roti Telur which is enjoyed with some curry.

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Roti Telur

Half Boiled Eggs

When I was young, my mother always insisted we take one half boiled egg before we went to school as additional nourishment. While I gobbled mine up, I still can remember my sister scrunching up her face to eat them as she hated eating eggs that way.

Nowadays half boiled eggs are back in high fashion as people flock to kopitiams (old coffee shops) to eat toasted white bread with butter and kaya, half boiled eggs and a cup of local coffee. The traditional way of making half boiled eggs at these kopitiam shops in to place the eggs in an enamel jug and pour boiling hot water to cover them. Leave them for about ten minutes and it is ready to eat. If you want to expedite the cooking process you can cover it as per the picture so it may take five to six minutes. Your eggs must be small size, extremely fresh and at room temperature.

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Left: The breakfast set with coffee, toast with kaya and half boiled eggs, Right: Eggs - unveiled

Eggy Desserts

Eggs are also used in desserts and one popular way to cook them is to make kaya which is coconut egg jam. The process of making kaya is quite tedious as you need to boil the eggs with coconut milk in a double boiler for quite a long time at low heat. It will thicken and caramelised into a brown jammy substance. Sometimes, pandan juice is added to flavour kaya. It is used to spread on toasted bread and in this instance paired up with a Nyonya cake called Pulut Tai-Tai, that is glutinous rice coloured blue and white.

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Pulut Tai Tai with lashings of kaya on top

Another amazing eggy dessert is the egg tart, where the pastry surrounding the eggy custard is flaky and melts in your mouth. This egg tart is from Tong Kee Confectionery which has been serving egg tarts for the longest time ever. When I was a kid, we always had these egg tarts for tea. Till now, that tradition still continues and the quality of their egg tart has remained unchanged.

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Oh so flaky egg tarts

Eggs as Wrappers

Eggs can also be used as a wrap for your food that look beautiful and also adds nourishment to your meal. A popular dish in hawker stalls is this Nasi Pattaya (Malay for Pattaya Rice) where fried rice is placed inside an omelette that is shaped like a pouch. Break open your egg pouch to get to your piping hot fried rice. This is also another Thai influenced dish that is now a permanent fixture in our roadside hawkers as a quick and easy meal.

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Nasi Pattaya with chili sauce

Eggs as tradition

Besides using them as delicious dishes, eggs are also used as traditions in Malaysian culture. The Malays like to distribute the bunga telur (Malay for flower egg) during weddings to their guest together with a hard boiled egg. The egg is said to symbolise fertility and the hope that the marriage will produce many children.

For the Chinese, they will distribute red eggs on the baby's full moon or first month anniversary that symbolise new life and good luck. Red eggs are also made for birthdays as a symbol of prosperity and happiness for the birthday boy/girl.

Friday, June 24, 2005


Malaysians are super lucky as we have so many varieties of laksa to choose from at every corner of Malaysia. Not only are there different types but sometimes the taste can differ from each state also. Each person will also have their special laksa variety based on their individual tastebuds; with the garnishes they love, the thickness of gravy and type of noodle that satisfies them. For the Curry Laksa which is more coconut based, the most famous variety is from Penang where they call it Curry Mee.
For moi, I like my Curry Laksa to be; lots of vegetables especially long beans and brinjals, less tofu puffs, cockles, a bit of tender chicken, gravy not too thick but still creamy with coconut milk and with beehoon. This is my ideal bowl of laksa from a stall in Restaurant Yong Len, Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. I have been told this is the Penang version but to be honest I have no idea as I have not tasted curry laksa in Penang. Usually when I am in Penang, I am too busy rushing from meetings.
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I was introduced to Yong Len by an ex-client of mine, a Penangnite who migrated to Kuala Lumpur for work and he said most Penang people go to this corner coffee shop for the Prawn Mee which reminds them of Penang. This shop also has Nyonya cakes for sale, their steamed paus (Chinese for buns) are light and fluffy, the char kuay teow (Chinese for fried noodles) is not bad and during weekends, they make a really smooth tau foo far (Chinese for soya bean milk pudding). We usually visit this place for breakfast after a refreshing walk up the Kiara Hills (4 km up and down those steep hills).

Restaurant Yong Len
Taman Tun Dr. Ismail
Kuala Lumpur
(opposite the Perodua showroom)
Closed on Mondays

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from the restaurant for writing this review.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

VeG Me OuT

I have been itching to try my hands in making this vegetarian dish, Loh Hon Chai (Chinese for mixed vegetables) for quite a while and recently my mother had time to give me a real crash course on making it. We used to have this dish on the first day of Chinese New Year and my mother will put all things nice in it. However in recent years, we don't have that tradition anymore since she now spends her Chinese New Year in Singapore. Maybe since I now know how to make it, I will try and revive this tradition next year.

It's up to you what you want to put in this dish as there is no limit of all the yummy stuff you wish to add. In fact, we missed out some stuff from this version i.e. the gingko nuts, the straw mushrooms, the dried oysters, the fatt choy and etc. There is also quite a lot of preparation work involved for the ingredients as they are usually dry ones so you will need some advance time to soak the dried lily bulbs, dried black fungus and dried Chinese mushrooms. You can buy the foo chook (Chinese for bean curd sheet) and tofu puffs ready fried or you can fry it yourself if you have the time. If you get it ready made, ensure you boil it in water for a few minutes to clean it and remove the excess oil within. I have not included the proportions of the ingredients as it's up to you to add it in depending on what you like to eat.

Loh Hon Chai
5 cm ginger
2-3 cloves garlic
Chinese Cabbage (the long type)
Dried Lily Bulbs
Dried Chinese Mushrooms
Dried Black Fungus (Wan Yue)
Dried Glass Noodles (Fun See)
Canned mushrooms
Deep fried Foo Chook
Deep fried Tofu Puffs
3-4 pieces of fermented bean curd (Nam Yee Beancurd)
1 tsp sugar
Oyster Sauce

To prepare the dry ingredients, start a day ahead. You will need to soak the Chinese mushrooms for approximately 4 hours. During the soaking time, wash them twice under a running tap and change the water the mushrooms are soaking it. Ensure your bowl is big as these mushrooms will expand. Once ready, you can put it in some liquid and keep it in the fridge until the next day when you cook it. For the dried lily bulbs, soak it for approximately 2 hours in water, again ensure your bowl is big enough as it expands. Once done, squeeze out the water and take out the hard bit on one side. Tie the lily bulbs in a knot. (It tastes better if you do the knot thingy) With the black fungus, also soak it for approximately 2 hours in a big enought bowl. Once done, squeeze out excess water. Trim out the hard bits and shred it into medium size bits.

On the day you wish to cook your dish, slice the ginger and garlic. Cut the Chinese cabbage in small pieces, approximately 1 inch in size. Boil your deep fried foo chook and tofu puffs in hot water to clean the excess oil. Squeeze dry and set aside.

Heat up the oil and fry your garlic and ginger till fragrant. Add the Chinese cabbage and toss them with the oil, ginger and garlic. Leave it for a while and cover. The cabbage will give out excess moisture. Take out about 3 to 4 pieces of the fermented bean curd and mash them into bits so it is easier to mix them in. Pour in the cabbage and toss to ensure evenly distributed. If the wok is dry, add a bit of water so your cabbage can cook down. Ensure your wok is big enough as you will find it diffcult to toss the ingredients if it's too small. Add the Chinese mushrooms, lily bulbs, wood fungus, red dates, tofu puffs and bean curd inside the wok. Add one teaspoon of sugar also, toss the ingredients to mix it and add a bit of water to cook it down. When using preserved items, you must add sugar to the food to complement it. Soak your glass noodles in some water to soften it. Taste the mixture to see if salty enough and if it needs extra fermented bean curd. Mix about 1 tablespoon oyster sauce in some water and mix it in. When almost ready, add in the glass noodle and mix it well. Dish up and serve with hot rice.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

KiCkInG Up A StOrM aT tHe CuRvE

Recently we had a semi-girls night out with my old college buddies at the Curve, Mutiara Damansara. Originally called the Kicking Five (as there were five of us studying A-Levels) the group has now expanded to the Kicking Five Plus One. The additional "One" is Ms. P; although she did not study with us, we all used to hang out with each other as she is Ms. C's cousin from Johor Bahru. The kicking nickname started out when one of the girls who used to kick her boyfriend in class to get his attention, not sure why but that name has stuck throughout the years.

After A-Levels, we all split up to different universities in England, except Ms. C and I as we ended up in the same place but studying different courses. We kept in touch throughout the years and to date, only four of us are in Malaysia while Ms. D is happily married to a Kwai Lou (Chinese for foreign devil) in England and Ms. C is still partying away in London looking for her flamenco partner. The get-together was to celebrate my birthday (pretty late but hey, it's still a celebration).

As the Curve is relatively new and most of us have not been there, we decided to try it out at the suggestion of Ms. J. Since I was not sure what is nice to eat at that place, Ms. J suggested Kafe Ceylon Hill since she has eaten there before. The restaurant is a branch of their main restaurant in downtown Kuala Lumpur set in an old bungalow. The menu is mainly local favourites and fusion food - kinda like the food that Bon Ton made famous long ago. For the non-KL-lites, Bon Ton is this restaurant set in a colonial bungalow where they serve fusion food, local food and yummy desserts. People go there for the atmosphere as the place is nicely done up in a rustic way. It's also a popular place for romantic dinners, not that I have had one there before as I usually go there for family dinners.

The place is quite dim, so I had to use my flash or else the pictures will be all black! On to the food, either Ms. P or Mr. P had the Black Pepper Udon. Not sure which dish was theirs as they both ordered similar stuff. Think this is Mr. P's, he said the food was okay.

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Ms. MY and I had the laksa; it's supposed to be a mix of Malacca and Singaporean laksa per their description on the menu. I have not had Malacca laksa before but I have tried the famous Singapore laksa in Katong so not sure if that truly describes this version of laksa. I thought this version was a bit unusual as it was too thick. There's not much ingredients in it but it's chockful of laksa leaves instead which I kept picking out. Sorry about the partially lit bowl as I took my own so I forgot to angle the camera away a bit.

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This is the fried Loh Shee Fun (Chinese for rat tails), which is rice noodles shaped in rat's tails that they fry with chicken and prawns. Ms. P had this, she said the taste is so-so and Souled Out at Desa Sri Hartamas does a better version of this.

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Ms. J had the Spiced Lamb Shanks which was yummy and really tender. I guess we all should have picked their fusion stuff since they did this quite well.

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This is the fried bananas with ice-cream that came with the lamb shanks as a free dessert. It was super yummy and not too oily.

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We had cake (I think it's a Tiramisu) for dessert! - a yummy one from La Patisserie Opera at Ikano Power Centre. Contrary to their french sounding name, it's actually a Japanese bakery. The cake is pretty light although it's full of mascarpone cream.

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Thanks for the yummy dinner, cake and pressies, gals and guy. It was a night to remember as we got to catch up on old times and argue about house lot sizes. Guess the next time when I am at the Curve, will try the fusion stuff at Kafe Ceylon Hill since they seem to do it better than their local dishes.

Kafe Ceylon Hill
Lot 156, First Floor
The Curve
Mutiara Damansara
Petaling Jaya
Tel No: 603 - 7710 1073

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from the restaurant for writing this review.

DeViL's FooD CaKe

This is a classic American cake that is said to be sinfully rich and is the antithesis of the light and fluffy angel food cake (for Malaysians, think chiffon cake). Originally, due to the chemical reaction of the cocoa powder and baking powder, the cake was red in colour, hence it was called red devil's cake.

The cake although it looks really sinful, this version is actually pretty light on your tummy. It tastes rich and looks rich, but there is no melted chocolate and all that chocolately taste comes from cocoa powder. It looks a little plain but if you like, jazz it up with some cream or icing.

Devil's Food Cake
180g plain superfine flour
1/4 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
60g cocoa
220 ml warm water
120g butter
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs, seperated
50g caster sugar

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt together. Set aside. Seperate the eggs. Mix the cocoa and warm water together until there is no lumps. I used a whisk to remove the lumps. Set aside to cool down completely. Beat the butter till soft and gradually add 250g sugar. Continue to beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Using a large metal spoon, fold in 1/3 of the cocoa mixture followed by 1/3 of the flour. Repeat until all are used, ending up with the flour. Whisk the egg whites till soft peaks form, add the 50g sugar. Continue to beat until stiff. Then gradually fold in 1/3 of the egg whites in the cake mixture to soften the mixture before folding in the rest. Fold it in carefully and don't overstir.

Pour cake batter into a greased pan (I used an 8 inch cake tin and it was a bit full, if it is more than 2/3rds full, transfer some batter to cupcakes to bake). Bake in a preheated oven to 180C/350F for 40 to 50 mins, turning down the temperature to 160C/350F after 30 minutes. Bake till well risen and the cake springs back when touched with a fingertip. Leave cake in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it out on a wire rack to cool.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

PiRaTeS AttAcK TeRenGGaNu

The Lanun Darats (Malay for Land Pirates) were on the move last weekend with a 4WD trip to Sungai Kelmin, Ulu Dungun, Terengganu. For those who are unfamiliar with the Lanun Darats, they're a group of Ford 4WD owners who get together a few times a year to take 4WD trips into the jungle. Nothing hard core but just family trips where they get to test their 4WD skills, relax in the jungle and dip in the river to cool off.

Before the flag off, breakfast is served and a Malaysian essential is Nasi Lemak (Malay for Coconut Milk Rice). Here you have the condiments that go with Nasi Lemak, the sliced cucumbers, hard boiled eggs, the fried peanuts, ikan bilis (Malay for anchovies) and the sambal that is usually hot and spicy.

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Usually, everyone tucks in to the food with gusto as it's probably the only decent food you will get during the weekend since you will be stuck in the jungle. There's also fried meehoon with a sprinkling of sliced up omelettes as a garnish.

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Here is this year's Petronas Trans-Himalayas 4WD Car - a souped up Ford Everest. Ford Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. is co-sponsoring the event which will kick off on August 17 this year. Mike Pease, the Managing Director of Ford Malaysia drove this car for the trip.

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These trips are usually catered and there is a kitchen crew on hand to cook up a storm for the participants. They usually pack up the kitchen essentials i.e. the wok, gas stoves and tanks which they will set up near the river to cook. Here you see them frying the fish with gas tanks - no mean feat as sometimes you need to do this in semi-darkness.

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Here is the traditional camp way to make ikan bakar (Malay for grilled fish). All the smoke will add flavour to your yummy ikan kembung (Malay for mackerel).

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The food that is served is usually Malay style with fried chicken, grilled ikan kembung, sayor kacang panjang (Malay for long beans), fish curry and rice.

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Here is the fish curry, all ready to be ladled out to the participants.

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As these are family trips, kids of all ages accompany their parents for a fun trip into the jungle. Think the youngest participant we ever had was a 6 months old baby. Here's the queue for food and that kid looks really hungry.

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Besides the catered food, some others will cook their own food. Fireman Ho (everyone goes by their callsign in these trips) made this yummy roast beef. It was actually pre-cooked before and he slathered his famous JD (Jack Daniels) Hickory BBQ Sauce on it and wow, it tasted so nice. See all those guys fighting for a piece of it.

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The next morning, essential to have some brunch before breaking camp and starting the journey home. On the menu for the morning is scrambled eggs.

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Splashie Boy obviously could not do without his usual weekly dosage of roti canai. He started playing mamak man a bit by making roti canai from those pre-packed roti canai you get from the supermarkets.

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A strange combination but guess it works for him, a cup of tomato soup and chicken kurma from the can to accompany his roti canai.

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I love this picture! Here we have the board meeting of the pirates before they head on towards home, you sit in the river to cool off while discussing really heavy topics like the latest 4WDs launched and what should we eat for lunch afterwards. They brought their chairs to place in the river and one fella actually tied himself to his cooler box to keep afloat!

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