Assam Pedas Fish

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I was brought up cooking dishes very much my  mother’s style. Not that yours truly here have not got a style of her own. Let’s just say, my cooking was much influenced by mom.

However, I have been CHAN-ised.

When I told the Chan family that I was cooking Assam Pedas Fish for dinner, Stevie, Agnes and Coco yelled almost instantaneously …… NO SUGAR PLEASE!!!!

I like cooking this Assam Pedas Fish dish. It is pretty versatile and forgiving. You decide how sour by the amount of assam jawa and water used. You decide to have a soupy gravy dish or a thick sticky sauce by putting less water or add a little cornstarch.

Eating with the CHANs, taught me to seek clarity in taste.

Use good ingredients, few but sufficient.

For vegetable lovers like me, you can have a smaller ratio of fish to vegetables. Refrain from using brinjals or eggplants, they dilute the sour taste. Toss in as much ladies fingers as possible and I like how it thickens the sour soup naturally.

ASSAM PEDAS FISH RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:-

  • 4 or 5 pieces of fish fillet
  • 4 tablespoon of mom’s homemade chili boh
  • ladies fingers
  • 2 or 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 5 small chili padi
  • 2 tablespoon of assam jawa soaked with some water
  • oil
  • water
  • salt
  • soya sauce
METHOD:-
  1. Choose fish fillet or small scad, pompret or any of your favourite fish. Wash and rub salt to season.
  2. Bring a littlw water to boil and cook ladies fingers till just cook. Cut into small oblong pieces.
  3. Quartered the tomatoes.
  4. Remove seeds from chili padi.
  5. Heat some oil and fry chili boh paste till fragrant.
  6. Sieve in assam jawa juice.
  7. When boiling, put in pieces of fish and close lid for a few minutes on high heat. Make sure you do not close and open the lid.
  8. Add tomatoes and ladies fingers. Cook for 3 minutes.
  9. Add salt and soya sauce for taste and colour.Ready to serve.

Great dish for a hot evening. Totally opens up your appetite.

French Apple Cake

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I was introduced to David Lebovitz by Agnes.

But then, we never really got started on his recipes. Many that we have bookmarked. Either we have butter but no whip cream, and we may have fresh vanilla but no butter.

A week ago, Coco called us and declared that David’s French Apple Cake is a must try. She baked it one evening with Mitch, and it was awesome. This couple ate half and decided to reciprocate the other half to their kind neighbour. None for us.

Agnes kept reminding me that we MUST bake this cake. Suddenly 2 afternoons back, I got an SMS from Agnes that she has gotten a variety of apples and I was supposed to get butter and other baking stuff. Message was clear, we are baking this simple but tasty cake.

    

   

INGREDIENTS:-

3/4 cup (110g) flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large apples (a mix of varieties)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum – we could find any and omitted it
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (115g) butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature

METHOD:-

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.

2. Heavily butter an 8- or 9-inch (20-23cm) springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Peel and core the apples, then dice them into 1-inch (3cm) pieces.

5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy then whisk in the sugar, then rum and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then gently stir in half of the melted butter

6. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the butter.

7. Fold in the apple cubes until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top a little with a spatula.

8. Bake the cake for 50 minute to 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples are stuck to it.

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It was actually quite simple. No need for Kitchen Aid whatever, just a hand whisk and a deep stainless steel bowl.

This French Apple Cake is so simple that I decided to teach Min, my niece the step by step how to do it. Although they were in a hurry to get back home to Malacca, I managed to convince Min that I would be good to pick up on a simple apple cake/pie recipe and handy for potlucks and home parties.

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Whisking can be a social activity. Firstly, I showed Min how to whisk the eggs till foamy and to gradually add in the sugar. Continue whisking. Now that you have sugar inside, the batter is heavier to whisk. Hence, we invited Min’s mom, my adopted sister to help out. She gladly welcomed the invitation to be inside my photography too.

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I am thankful that I have my maid with me in the kitchen. Baking becomes a joy, no worries of washing and cleaning up the mess after. Besides, she can be handy to do the not so “glamorous” tasks, like peeling, coring and dicing the apples.

I loved these organic orange coloured yolks that Edward bought for me. Momsie and I have been complaining the low quality eggs we are buying off shelves. Pale and anaemic; not great for kaya and butter cakes.

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The recipe asked for dark rum and the nearest I could find in Stevie’s liquor collection is this Barcadi, and it truly adds flavour to the cake.

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We have only a very small oven in Sungai Long, temperature control is a bit of a problem because the heating device on top and bottom are very close to the cake. I didn’t want the cake to be overbaked or burn. I turned the temperature down to 160C and put a strip of foil to cover from the 40 minute onwards. We baked this cake for 50 mins but I think I could leave it there for another 10 more.

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Min is happy with the outcome and has accepted the tips of leaving the cake a little longer. Our cake is  moist and delicious. So I guessed, it is a matter of choice if you want it drier to bite.

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I am glad that I am home for the weekend. There is so much to catch up with my little sister, Lee Lee.

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The French Apple Cake doesn’t taste like a cake, doesn’t taste like an apple pie, so it is an interesting recipe. I am not a big fan of cinnamon and totally a fan of this recipe. To me, it is a very simple and delicious apple pie/cake. So delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Just before they left for Malacca, Min and I ran through the recipe again. I am sure she is going to attempt this soon. You should, and I bet you will not regret a bit.

Bon Appetite.

HAPPY FAMILY:- The Gelbers Hosting A Party

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Coco Chan, the youngest amongst the siblings. Marrying Mitch made her a Gelber Chan.

A decade ago, Mitch and Stevie used to be neighbours in New York. He invited Mitch for a holiday to Malaysia right after his return. Mitch came, met Coco and never left.

He was Chan-ised too.

Recently the Gelbers hosted a small potluck party for families and friends. The obvious choice location to host the party was definitely Agnes’s place. The usual suspects from the Chan Clan turned up. Mitch invited Ian, Diane, Glen, Paul and sister. Ian and Glen were ex- colleagues to Mitch in one of the leading architecture firm in Kuala Lumpur.

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Mitch is recently “retired” and a happy home-maker while Coco Chan works as a legal consultant for a oil and gas company. So Mitch’s temporary retirement is good for this new family to adjust to parenthood. Vel, their little baby boy is only 6 months and this arrangement seems perfect.

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Ian is from Germany, and has been travelling a bit. His employment term is expiring in Malaysia soon and he is aspiring to move on soon. Brilliant guy and speaks so humbly. I enjoyed the afternoon getting acquainted with new found friends. Funny thing was, I was admiring his partner, Diane from far. A dark beauty, beautiful hair and sweet personality. Smart me thought Ian found this beauty treasure and brought her here from some exotic Polynesian Islands. Turned out she is Malaysian, from Penang Island.

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POTLUCK FOOD ARRAY :-

Appetiser:-

Main:-
Dessert:-
                    
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Home away from home. Agnes’s abode is such a treasure dwelling. Everyone can stay at their perfect spot, private yet not distant from the festivity.

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Plenty of aperitif to uplift spirit, a few gin tonic can help warm a social event. Glen gladly offered to make for everyone.

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A candid moment.

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Sharing thoughts from each other’s perspective. Enlarging.

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Closing the evening with a sweet golden plump pumpkin desert, enjoying the beautiful evening light that warmed our hearts.

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An afternoon of sharing has to come to an end soon.

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And we bid goodbye, au revoir till we meet again!

Little Chan’s Cake a.k.a No Butter Sponge Cake

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Contemplation. Contemplation.

The night was still early. Dinner was over before half past seven and just didn’t seem right to be retiring for the evening.

Should we bake a bread or a cake?

Little Margaux Chan beamed.

Yes! Yes!

Let’s bake a Little Chan’s Cake.

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Margaux was so eager to bake with us and it would be sad to turn her down. She kept chanting, let’s bake a Little Chan’s Cake. A Little Chan’s Cake it shall be.

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My memory told me, no more butter. I didn’t give up on butter. There ought to be some lying around. Sadly, after rummaging the fridge, I found less than 20grams of butter. Not enough to even think of making pancakes.

Brilliant moms, Agnes and I, we quickly search for a cake recipe without butter. Random can be dangerous, as we did not sit and ponder things through. Moreover we were trying to finish the baking fast so that Margaux can be put to bed in time.

We followed this recipe from BBC but I would suggest you adopt this one from JeenasKitchen that has a more descriptive recipe to success.

INGREDIENTS:-

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
METHOD:-
  1. eat through the milk in a small plan until bubbling at edge. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix at high speed, eggs, until thick and lemon colored. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is smooth and well blended…about 5 min.
  4. At low speed, blend in flour mixture until smooth. Add warm milk and lemon peel, beating until combined. Immediately pour batter into ungreased, 9-inch cake pan.
  5. Bake 30 min, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely. Then serve.
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Little Chan is impressed with her cake. We didn’t have the heart to explain the difference between a cake baked well or other wise.

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I bet, for Margaux this is the best Little Chan’s Cake in the world.

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Rice Porridge

Chinese rice porridge is such a versatile dish. You need very few ingredients to get it going. Primarily, you need a great stock, rice grains and whatever meat or seafood that you have parked in the refrigerator. If those aren’t available, you can dish out a plain porridge and eat them with side condiments like fried peanuts, anchovies, fermented tofu etc.

I have been unwell lately. All the medication and especially the antibiotics, leave me with a very flat taste bud. I welcome the idea to a soupy rice broth that would wash down this stubborn discomfort at the throat.

But then, Chinese porridge can be tricky in dishing out too.

Momsie and Stevie both cooked me pork porridge for my breakfast and dinner consecutively. Both used similar ingredients for the porridge but the outcome on the texture, flavour and consistency of porridge differ vastly. The amount of water and rice ratio, the length of time to cook and when ingredients are dropped into the broth can totally affect the porridge quality and presentation.

Therefore, you can find many variations of rice porridge such as teowchew or hokkien style that has more rice texture and more soupy broth; whereas the cantonese version, congee that is cooked with more water for a longer time until it forms a sticky texture.

MOMSIE’S TEOWCHEW RICE PORRIDGE

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This teowchew version is my favourite for breakfast or lunch. It is not so filling and yet you get great satisfaction of consuming a big bowl of soup. Doesn’t stuff you up, totally light and easy.

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We eat very simple in this household. The Chan loves clarity. Notice that there aren’t any fried shallots, julienne ginger or sesame seed oil? Of course, it is definitely permissible, as it adds aroma and flavour.

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INGRIDIENTS:-

  • rice
  • lean pork sliced (can be replaced with fish or chicken)
  • tian jin dried vegetables
  • stock
  • cilantro
  • salt
  • fermented tofu (optional as a side dish)
METHOD
  1. Put rice and stock to boil.
  2. Place in tian jin fried vegetables the moment the rice is cooked.
  3. You can season a little salt and pepper to the sliced meat before putting into the rice broth.
  4. Boil till meat is cooked and add salt to taste.
  5. Pour into a serving boil garnished with cilantro.
STEVIE CHAN’S PORK CONGEE
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Stevie chosen the best cut of belly pork for me. Good to have these layers of fat and meat.
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Pork belly gives better texture to minced meat. The interlace of lard and meat keeps the paste moist when cooking.
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Hubby only use the best ingredients.

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You will notice that the main ingredients for both porridge and congee is the same. However, due to the treatment and cooking method, the outcome is different.
Stevie’s congee gives a warmer and fuller body. The minced meat gives the feeling that every spoonful is laced with bites. I would prefer this kind of texture for a colder evening and for dinner as they tend to give you a feeling of a more filling dish.
INGREDIENTS:-
  • rice
  • meat minced ( can be replaced with chicken or fish)
  • tian jin dried vegetable
  • stock
  • cilantro
  • sea salt
  • olive oil
  • light soya sauce (optional)
METHOD
  1. Rub olive oil and salt to rice, process believed to make a smoother congee paste. Leave for 10 minutes.
  2. Pour stock and add tian jin dried vegetable to the pot with rice.
  3. Put in minced meat.
  4. Boil for 20 to 30 minutes until you get a sticky congee whereby rice grain is quite broken down
  5. Pour into a serving boil garnished with cilantro.

Kee Heong Bakuteh 奇香肉骨茶

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My master, my chef, Mr. Stevie Chan.

He is an ardent home entertainer, or should I say great host to family parties. Loves cooking for immediate family members and close friends. Cooking at another’s kitchen can be stressful and difficult. Ingredients and utensils are alway not perfect as you needed them be, moreover you will be so conscious of the fact that you are actually invading someone else’s “important” place.

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As some of you already know, Stevie and I are in the midst of getting our matrimonial home in order. Bought the place before we wed and now we have been living like nomads in between residences of  Agnes and my Mom. It is moving well and we hope to be hosting many a great home parties for closed buddies and relatives. Pickyin a great food blogger from Singapore has booked to come and stay over to give me tuition on cooking and baking tips. I smell great feast and festivities!

Bakuteh, is a very difficult dish. You can asked around, what and how people like their BKT. Trust me, you get very funny and personal comments. I am an almost expert on BKT as I was brought up eating BKT for breakfast everyday before my dad dropped me off to school in Ulu Kepong in the 1970s.Then. in the 1980s we travelled slightly further to Klang and Imbi, venturing beyond in search for finer concoction and presentation of BKT.

I am quite open to the choices offered, I fancy the pig trotter braised in dark soya sauce, pork intestines and stomach, or the big bone/small bone delicacy, or a casserole pot of assorted meats and additional garnish of straw mushrooms, bean curd sheet, mushrooms, fried fritters/yau char kueh etc. You are spoilt for choice and there rightfully will be one that match your taste bud.

Bakuteh, truly a personal dish, one man’s meat can be another’s poison.

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Tofu a very complimentary stuff that goes well with casserole pot BKT. Choose the best, from Bukit Tinggi or Bentong.

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Our honored guests tonight is a very beautiful and soulful couple, Lam Yuet and hubby, Jian Quiang. Behind the cooking counter, Stevie is pretty stressed out because Jian Quiang comes from Klang and an expert on BKT and tea. Apologetic as well because, we chosen to take a short cut to use a very good ready mixed BKT herbal sachet from Kee Heong. Anyway, what matters is, Stevie is a very serious cook and makes sure he has the best ingredients.

While cooking we were reminiscing the last trip up to Ah Her’s at Pandamaran, Klang, recommended and treated by Jian Quiang. It was the best BKT we ever tasted, nowhere else in the world you can find another match. The consistency, the texture and flavour; immaculate and just right.

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Coco Chan, the youngest sibling of Stevie, sharing a light moment with hubby.

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Sol looking good at 6 months.

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Home parties are so warm and fun.

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My 3 choice recommendations for BKT is as follows:-

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Kee Heong Bakuteh 奇香肉骨茶

INGREDIENTS:-

  • 1 kilo of meat, ideally secret pork belly and soft spareribs (for halal substitute with chicken) Do Not cut meat into bite size.
  • 2 packet of Kee Heong Bakuteh Sachet
  • 4 big whole pulps of garlic with skin
  • kei chee, dangguai, huaishan, pakkei (optional)
  • whole bean curds and deep fried tofus
  • mushrooms
  • dark and lite soya sauce
  • salt
METHOD:-
  1. bring 3 liters of water to boil, add both dark and light soy sauces, whole garlic, whole meat and spareribs, and Kee Heong BKT herb sachets,
  2. boil for 10 minutes, turn fire to low setting,
  3. after 30 minutes, add whole deep fired tofus and whole bean curds,
  4. simmer for another 30 minutes
  5. cut into smaller bite size the meat to be served
  6. serve mushrooms, bean curds and deep fried tofus into smaller bowls as side dish (optional)
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Homemade Pandan Kaya

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After our successful stint with homemade bread, we want more. We needn’t look very far for excuses in wanting to attempt on homemade kaya.

One, Momsie is around. Two, we bought a tray of eggs and it would be good to consume them. Thirdly, there is a packet freshly blended and sieved coconut milk sitting in the fridge.

I know, we sounded crazy. Nowadays with so many kopitiams sprouting around town, you can have your favourite “roti bakar” or toasted bread with generous spread of kaya on cold butter. No reason to go through laborious process of making a homemade kaya at all, right?

Wrong, wrong wrong.

Homemade is always, BEST!

INGREDIENTS:-

10 eggs

equivalent sugar to eggs

2 tablespoons of sugar to make caramel to add colour (optional)

freshly squeezed milk from 2 old coconut

a bunch of screw pine leaves knotted together

METHOD :-

  1. Always use free range chicken eggs or duck eggs. They are better in colour and aroma. We used normal standard chicken eggs because we needed to deplete stock. Crack 10 of those in a deep stainless steel bowl.
  2. Pour in the sugar and stir till sugar is fully melted. Momsie warned me not to beat but to stir in one direction.
  3. Pour in the coconut milk. Here we had used ready packed ones from the wet market. It did not help us to get a better consistency because there is too much water added into it. Therefore, it is better if we could just buy grated coconuts and squeeze them ourselves. Drop the bunch of screw pine leaves inside.
  4. Bath the stainless steel bowl over a wok of water over medium low heat. Stirring it clockwise.
  5. 20 minutes later, sieve the liquid. Momsie said this will take out unwanted white that coagulated too early.
  6. Continue to bath the mixture for another 40 minutes.
  7. Leave to cool and transfer into jars.
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I have a confession, no, I have 2 things to confess here.

One, I am nuts and utterly a kaya fan. Tricky though, I love my kaya thick and eggy. I love my toast with slightly higher a ratio in kaya over butter.

Two, I tried making kaya twice and I flopped miserably.

Now that I had this simple practical exercise with Momsie, I will proudly show you my experiment in the near future.