a pound that wasn’t

In my case, NO.

I baked a pound cake that wasn’t worth its weight but do not let this somewhat deformed cake puts you off. This is a Quasimodo, ugly on the outside but golden on the inside. Truly aromatic, with generous use of real, rich condensed milk and flavoursome.

Most food blogs would boast a successfully cooked dish. Yours truly decided to be honest to show you what can really go wrong for a apprentice baker like me. I have butter fingers, nothing bakes well through this pair of hands. Either floppy, gooey or burnt.

Isn’t it despairing? You get so excited, motivated to cook a pound cake after watching hundreds of beautifully published recipes. I am a sucker for be well photographed pics, the centre piece and depth of field to emphasized the dish. Jun Belen, the one in particular won over the others. He is a professional photographer and an avid food blog. And his pound cake calls for condensed milk.

I need to consume some before they get expired this coming June.


Right. What could go wrong Joanne? A simple basic cake like this is just too easy for anyone, even amateurs.

I thought I thawed the butter that just came out of the refrigerator. It would be impossible to go into the mixer. I didn’t want to wait for it to thaw naturally. Instead, I happily thought I was a genius to melt that chunk of butter over the stove. Clever me, right?

There is no short cut. Got my little brother to get me some butter to replace from a grocery store nearby.

Castor sugar and fine sugar. Fine, I didn’t read properly and hastily used the sugar I joyfully grabbed the one nearest on hand. They are the sugar for my hubby’s kopi, coarse and took me a long time to beat them down with the butter.

Lastly, I could read temperatures!

I could not tell the knob on the baby oven, is readings in Celsius. So, imagine when Jun Belen asked for a 325 degree Fahrenheit oven, I rapped it to 325 degree Celsius.

I was liked brewing an atomic bomb.

The cake cooked quickly . Burning at the sides and top too fast. Luckily, I realised it “soon enough” and lowered it down. By then, the pound cake has gone through enough abuse. Look at the cake bursting in the middle because the sides are too hard for it to beat through when it rises.

Anyway, I am not easily disheartened. I am a mother, and mothers always try salvage situations.

It would be a disappointment if I told everybody, there is not gonna be any servings of this much awaited orange flavoured pound cake with condensed milk. They are so looking forward as the aroma of this milk has conquered the entire house. What an enticement? To end up with nothing?

I decided to cheat a little. Trimmed off all the slightly burnt and rubbery sides.

All is not lost.

In no time, the cake was consumed and I got a thumbs up for a pound that almost wasn’t 16 ounces. Imperfect in every way, but so great it tasted. I bet my family members are biased.

Thyme Roasted Chicken

a delighted Margaux

Oh! It’s Ready!

When we were signaled that Agnes’s Thyme Roasted Chicken is ready, there was cooperation. Everyone just got out of the pool, gather round her patina laden 14 ft lacquered table she gotten as a bargain from an antique dealer in Malacca.

No body negotiates like Agnes. What Agnes wants, she normally gets.

Yeah, she got us all drooling and salivating. Queuing politely. Anyway, with such a big chicken on the platter, no one needs to rush. You got to hint on your favourite part though. Since Stevie was carving the bird, I needn’t have to ask.

first come first serve
this thigh for me
kiddies first
sharing is togetherness


For those waiting for this recipe, be warned.

Firstly, this is Agnes’s maiden attempt to cook something on her brand new SMEG. No matter how great or reputable the make is, good roasting requires good handling of temperatures, ingredients and time in oven.

Secondly, Agnes loves to vary and replace ingredients to the availability or sometimes, as she puts it, based on her mood and liking at that point of time.

We encourage you to be adventurous. Use your intuition, it’s there, Come on use it!

Welcome to the “agak-agak” world of Momsie.


1                 Whole Free Range Chicken

3                 Potatoes

1                 Large Lemon

1                 Bunch of Thyme

20              Black Peppercorns

20              Cloves of Garlic

some          Asparagus

some          Streaky Bacon

some          Butter

some          Sea Salt

Choose your favorite potatoes. In our case, we had these 3 lying around and decided to rid of them. It is not good to keep potatoes for too long, least they start sprouting. If you love vegetables, feel free to toss in whatever you fancy. Carrots, squash, capsicum, pumpkins or onions.

Timing is important. If you decided on asparagus or capsicum, put them into the oven during the last 20 mins. You do not want them too soft when overcooked.

Prepare the chicken ahead. After it is clean, pat dry with a paper towel. Rub salt generously on the inside and outside. Cut the lemon into wedges and stuff it inside the cavity. If you prefer more thyme aroma, stuff more of it too. Leave it aside and you can move on to prepare the rest.

Set the oven to a temperature of 375F.

Rub a big roasting tray with butter. Put the chicken onto the centre of the tray and surround it with the cut potatoes. Spread the balance thyme and sprinkle some sea salt and peppercorns. Carrots can add colours, onions are best.

The highlight and most important ingredient is the streaky bacon to be spread across the chicken breast. Make sure you buy the non-smoked version. The bacon strip will be cooked and becomes crispy and releasing an aroma so inviting. Besides, the coverage will help keeps the breast part moist.

If you don’t prefer the strips of bacon, drizzle some olive oil over the chicken.

Put the tray into the oven and roast it for 40 mins at 375F. Put in your asparagus and turn down the temperature setting to 200F for a further 20 to 30 mins.

sunday brunch

Gatherings are a common thing in this family.

Of the 6 siblings; 4 often meet because of their proximity. 2 in Kuala Lumpur and 2 in Sungai Long. Coco, Agnes and Stevie frequently get together for dinners during the weekdays; Chris mostly on Sundays, either in Malacca, perhaps visit each others’ places, a picnics or outings somewhere nearby.

While writing this, the same gang and a few personal friends are over at Hakkamui or Agnes’s place for a BBQ.

My head says, go grab your camera or lots of beautiful moments won’t be captured. The conscience reminds me that my blog on last week’s brunch is going stale.

agnes getting a bite

It is difficult, not to fall in love with her new house. We openly declare it, our weekend holiday retreat. It would spare us the long hours driving out of the city, paying unnecessary money for crabby food just to enjoy a holiday away from home.

Mind you, Agnes home is no ordinary home.

Tucked in an obscure corner, in one of the busiest part of the city, this home is a home away from home.

Once inside, you are transported into another world. The outside, doesn’t matter any more. High ceiling and open interior, old terrazzo, antiques bring you back to the 70s.

chris and mitch gelber

This Sunday brunch, everyone was excited. You see, Agnes wants to overcome her fear of the oven and decided to roast us a chicken. There was already a big village chicken sitting frozen too comfortably in the freezer. Our numbers made it viable to roast and consume. Since the chicken would take a good hour to roast, a simple family snack, Tauhu & Fishball was set aside by the pool. An afternoon by the pool, wading or swimming, can make many hungry Chans.

skinny dip
favorite snack food

Tauhu and Fishball Recipe


Tauhu,/Taukua         4 pieces, cut to bite size, square or triangular

Fishballs                   60 small pieces

Cucumber                  1 or 2

For DIP:-

Choose all your faourite ingredients, buy the fried tauhu that is bitey yet soft to the palate. A walk round the wet market on a busy Sunday can be fun. I love going round to my favourite butcher, he gives me his best cut. Do not be shy to ask around, many aunties and uncles would be eager to offer to give you tips on the best tauhu and fishball stalls in your area.

A small bowl of soya sauce with a tablespoon of black vinegar. Cut chilies are optional. If you are not into soya sauce, a great chili sauce can be used.

hakkamui or agnes chan

The Dai Ka Che of the Chan Clan. Agnes is very hospitable when having guests but totally very private in person. Born 2nd in the family and eldest girl, she always take charge when it comes to the Chan family matters.

Occasionally blogs under her pen name Hakkamui, Agnes is a daughter, sister, mother, aunty and lawyer.

Although younger than I, being Stevie’s wife, a junior …. I am so happy to have her as my Che Che。

the gelbers - coco, sol and mitch
the gelbers are chans too
happy sol
margaux & angie sunning their buns
swimming ala kampong style
chris giving angie - both his hands
stevie and his mac

While everyone is having fun, my poor hubby has got a deadline to meet.

The hour has passed, the aroma of spices are already teasing our noses and I wonder if the roast is ready?

the roast

love is in the air

Can anyone tell me the name of this plant?

Yes, I am desperate. I am prepared to reward anyone who can come with a name for these beautiful blossoms.

We asked, tweeted and researched the internet but no one has been able to help me identify this pretty blossom. I patiently googled, scanned through all the pink and purple blooms. Night after night, both eyes gone blurry screening rows and rows of digital images of pink and purple blooms. I was hopeful when I saw a few posted on Flickr, however they were just tagged as “lilac blooms”.

Closest I got, the “syringa” – lilac or common lilac. Somehow the floral petals are so different from the ones here. I presumed those from our garden come from this same family.

I find it difficult to start on this blog, all because I cannot address it.

Anyway, I decided to address her as lilac blooms; and lilac means love. How romantic.

Recently, in mid February, mid of our Lunar New Year Celebration, our lilac was flourishing loudly to blend into the spring festivities.

Momsie asked if I had noticed that her lilac is in full bloom. She knows these lilacs in her garden has a very significant place in my heart.

We have a story about how a son borrowed some lilacs from his momsie’s garden, went down on his knees and made a formal proposal of marriage .

Lilac is about love, mind you.

13th DECEMBER 2009

It was a hot Sunday. Sundays are always hot. In Tanjong Minyak, Momsie’s home, it feels even hotter.

That day, our little princess turned 5. I was busy helping Agnes with Margaux’s birthday cake, candles, presents and what not. Sharen and Soon were so sweet, they brought along presents for the birthday girl and her best friend and also cousin, Tic Toc Chan. Soon, all friends and relatives were gathered at the patio. The party begun.

In any family festivities, I am the official photographer. Whether with my favourite G10 or iPhone, I happily shoot. A very large collection has been amassed these last 3 years; a treasure chest for me to dig in and write about our Chan family.

I happened to capture this, one of my favourite and made cover for our wedding invitation card.

Not suspecting anything because I know Stevie adores Margaux very much. Plucking flowers for his princess is a normal thing. Very often, he plucks wild flowers from outside her school compound, ready to greet her when he fetches her from school.

The lilacs were for me!

I blushed. Can you see the flush on my face?

Teary and pleasantly shocked. First time ever in my life, a guy went down on his knees and proposed for my hands.

Of course, I said “YES”.

moist chocolate cake

i so want to celebrate. i have butter fingers and never, never, ever baked anything successfully in my life. i dreaded the oven and squealed at any recipes that has to do with baking.

silently, i resorted to recipes that say “steam” and i have many a success with white radish steamed cake and yam cake.

but i want an easy cake that is almost like a baked cake but one that i could steam. i scoured the internet and found this “steam” moist chocolate cake.

Steamed Chocolate Moist Cake


180g          butter

150g          caster sugar

200ml       evaporated mil

2                 eggs

120g          plain flour ( i decided to add some flour)

50g            cocoa powder

1/2 tsp      baking powder

1/2 tsp     baking soda

1/2 tsp     vanilla essense ( i substituted with orange flavoured essence)


  1. Combine caster sugar, evaporated milk, vanilla essense and butter in a saucepan.
  2. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted, turn off the fire and keep warm.
  3. Add the beaten eggs into the slightly cold evaporated milk mixture and stir till well mix.
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda into a large mixing bowl, then pour the eggs mixture over the flour and stir till well mix (cake batter should be runny)
  5. Heat up the steamer.
  6. Lined or greased a rectangular pan or a 8 inch round baking pan.
  7. Pour the batter into the lined pan and place the pan into the steamer and cover the top of the pan loosely with a piece of aluminium foil.
  8. Cover the steamer and steam over medium heat for 45 mins.
  9. Cool the cake and spread the chocolate fudge toppings.

Chocolate Fudge Topping


1/2 can       condensed milk
1/2 tsp        vanilla essence ( again i substituted with orange flavoured essence)
1/4 cup       corn oil ( there was only peanut oil so i used extra virgin olive oil)
1/6 cup       cocoa powder,sifted
a pinch of salt


1. Combine the sifted cocoa powder,condense milk and oil.

2. Stir over low heat till thicken (stirring all the time).

3. Add in salt and vanilla extract or essence.

4. Cool the chocolate topping a little before spreading on the cake.

5. Quickly put it into the refrigerator to set, at room temperature the fudge will melt.

i found 2 recipes, san’s blessed moments and thelazychef , combined, adapted to this simply easy to make chocolate cake. i tried the first night and it was not completely successful. the middle of the cake just would not cook and runny with gooey chocolate. reason i think was i overlook the instruction to likely foil the top. i was so kiasu, i wrapped the foil tightly and there was over steaming and heating. my second guess is, 100 gm flour was too little and i topped them up to 120 gm.

joey, a sweet friend plies singapore and shah alam almost weekly. a dear friend i made through tweeter. hubby enlightened me that malaysian distributed condensed milk is palm and not dairy based. fortunately across the causeway, we can get the forgotten, natural and real milk. i am delighted that this recipe calls for its use and i can run them down and make my next order through joey. thanks.

Hee Pan 喜板

Hee Pan or Xi Ban, 喜板, is a childhood snack I loved, growing up in the then famous hakka village in Salak South. Back in the 60s, my mom used to treat us Hee Pan, and they used to taste so good.

Today, all 3 generations, my daughter, mom and I are crazy over Hee Pan. Any morning market outings, be sure we will pack few home for each other.

There is this warm, 溫暖 feeling and it has all to do with the texture, with every bite. It brings a special bond or attachment, yet it doesn’t stick and suffocate. You got it, right? That special feeling.

Hee Pan is generally a must item for Hakka weddings, birthdays and traditional ceremonies. Momsie makes them, especially in pink for such occasions. In less formal setting, she would use just about whatever flour in stock, whatever colour or flavour that fancy her that instance.

Marrying into the chan family, lets me enjoy many hakka cuisines. Some popularly available outside, more interesting are the many dishes,  chan-ised or adapted by momsie.

This Hee Pan snack is no exception.

Momsie is not making the regular pink ones. We are making Sweet Potato Hee Pan and she is sharing with us her secret recipe. If you noticed from the regular food blogs and their recipes, it calls for 2 doughs. The long wait for fermentation, some specify 6 hours or ovenight. This process that takes longer is absolutely unnecessary.

Momsie can do it all in 2 hours.

There are recipes that uses just wheat flour or a combination of wheat flour and glutinous rice flour.

Momsie’s secret ingredient ……. a little rice flour



200 grams               steamed sweet potatoes

500 grams               glutinous flour

700 grams               wheat flour

200 grams               rice flour * (secret recipe)

200 grams               sugar

650 ml                      lukewarm water

2 tbs                          cooking oil (for dough)

t tablespoon              yeast (add with warm water)

2 tbs                          cooking oil (to mould)


Brightly coloured orange potatoes are favoured, for the adventurous the purple ones are fun too. Momsie is easy. You can choose to steamed them peeled tuber or a faster way is to quickly boil them with some water. If you boiled, recycle the water for kneading dough. Use a small fork to mash the sweet potatoes up, set it aside.

Choose a big kneading pot, ideally with a large enough base and stable. Sieve in all flour ingredients, oil, sugar and slowly pour in the warm water while mixing them together. Gently fold in the yeast mixture and continue kneading. Momsie placed a floor mat at the bottom of the pot to ease my struggle. She truly wanted me to make my hands dirty with this Hee Pan, my maiden dish under her tutelage.


Knead for 20 minutes. Do not worry if they are soft and a little gooey. Dust some flour on your fingers, clean up all the little clumps stuck there. Wrap the pot with a big piece of cloth or close the top. We need to set it aside in a warm corner for an hour, the warmth will help the dough to rise.

While waiting, momsie and I made a visit to her garden to gather some banana leaves. For momsie, the banana leaf is a must. They add aroma when steamed. I understand you can buy them banana leaves from wet markets and supermarkets. If they are unavailable, your option would be parchment paper.

After an hour, the dough has risen. Momsie lend her hand, she says good, strong kneading gives rise to greater texture and bite.

Put the 2 tablespoon of oil into a small bowl, ready and handy to mould the sticky dough into small balls. Put enough water on the steamer wok to boil. Apply enough oil on your fingers and palms, slowly pull out enough dough to form a small ball and gently drop them onto the banana sheets.

Do not worry if there is randomness in size. Practice makes perfect, momsie consoled me. Put the first 20, arrange nicely on a steamer tray. By the time you finished transferring the balls into the sheets, the steamer wok is ready and the first tray has raised and form into beautiful bun shapes. They are ready to be steamed.

Steaming tips. Make sure water is boiling. Each tray takes 15 minutes, do not uncover and close the steamer lid in midst of steaming. Condensation on lid can drip down and spoil your tray of golden treasure. With every tray you steam, make sure to dry the steamer lid of the condensed water trapped.

Despair not if few turned out dimpled and ugly. Momsie said it is a common phenomenon she herself find difficult to explain. Maybe too much oil when mould them balls, our fingers were a little wet or water dripped down from the steamer lid. Baffles me. Another tip that momsie share is, remove all steamed buns to cool down on some old newspapers. They helped remove moisture trapped on the banana leaves, making safe storing possible.

A larger square banana sheet is used to allow for dough to rise and spread. Use a pair of good kitchen scissors to trim the excess leaves around the random shape of these steamed buns.

Hubby get to be my hero, willing to taste my first Swee Potato Hee Pan. Bravo. Eat them fresh. Every bite is so, so nice.

Labour Of Love

Momsie’s gonna teach me my favourite hakka snack food, Hee Pan (喜板) and we will need to get some banana leaves. So I was asking if we should go market and pick some, she laughed.

Most times, they can be substituted with parchment paper. Been told the aroma and taste would not be great. Since there are a few banana trees in momsie’s garden, we use natural then.

It was an opportunity for her to trim off many unruly branches, many were dried up too. Fortunately, there were enough for us to make at least 60 squares for the snack we are making.

There is no shortcut, every piece is wiped and cleaned properly. Momsie would measure them up and block cut them into smaller sheets before cutting them into moderate squares.

Momsie and her sporadic garden. Will take you through her garden and their seasonal blooms. Watch out !!!

nian gao sandwich

Ever craved for a Nian Gao sandwich and you just don’t know where to buy them? Even if they sell, you just do not want to drive 40 minutes to somewhere just to satiate that craving.

Making the sandwich is not difficult but you cannot buy Nian Gao anytime of the year. You don’t wake up one morning and decide to buy Nian Gao and make this dish.

However, it is post Chinese New Year festivities and there are plenty of Nian Gao left around. Momsie cuts them into 1 cm thick squares and stores them into tumblers for future easy use. Keep them in freezer and we can make and eat Nian Gao sandwich all year round.

Momsie is easy. We cook with whatever is available in the kitchen. Momsie told me not to be judgemental on the yam we are using. They are not the purple ones, popularly available. Ours looked pale and a little yellowish. A little tip here, if you liked your yam powdery and melts in your mouth, try keeping it in the open for a week before you cook them. Storing for awhile, helps dehydrate excess moisture trapped in the tuber.

Nian Gao can be fried more easily if sandwiched with a layer of taro (yam) and sweet potato. It is an easy dish, the choice is yours in selecting whether taro, sweet potato,  just with the plain simple batter or a combination to suit each individual’s taste bud in the family.

This easy batter is truly easy to make. You can go easy without the egg, or put as much as 2 eggs if you are in an indulgent mood. Trick is to add a little corn flour so that you get a crispier bite. Put all ingredient together with a pinch of salt, add some water and stir until you get a batter which is semi-thick. To check whether it is of the right consistency, when you lift up your whisk or fork the batter should not drip but flows down thickly (as shown in photo).

Heat up oil and fry on medium heat till batter turns golden brown. Remove and place on kitchen napkin to absorb excess oil before serving.


12 slices of nian gao (not more than 1cm thick

24 slices of yam (same thickness and dimension as nian gao slices)

Oil for deep frying


1 egg (optional)

200 gm wheat flour

2 teaspoon cornflour

pinch of salt