I remember mine as carefree, filled with many indoor and outdoor activities with neighbours and visiting cousins. Joyful portrayal of brides with scarves and beauty accessories; plentiful make believe dishes from our “masak-masak” kitchen; skipping, hopping, picnics etc. Of course these are the usual for us girls and the boys would be collecting soft drink bottle caps, rubber seeds, marbles and occasionally spinning a top or out fishing at a nearby stream.
Tic Toc and Margaux, cousins and best friends spend hours together on their own, discovering friendship. When they play, they work very hard to make things real in their tiny little world. Margaux, though the younger one, usually leads. Tic Toc is comfortable following kiddo into the classroom when Margaux plays teacher, the submissive wife when kiddo is playing dad. I love to see them together.
I captured this series of photographs, a couple of years back when Stevie and I were dating. I carry with me a point and shoot camera. By now, I have a very huge collection of family photographs that I am dying to show off to everyone.
On this typical Sunday morning when we were back in Malacca, the children are having fun. Margaux was 4 and Tic Toc was 5, both blowing soap bubble and lost in their world, though on Momsie’s garden.
I bumped into this cute song and would like to share the cute ingredients with you.
A RECIPE FOR LOVE by Harry Connick, Jr.
A little bit of me and a whole lot of you
Add a dash of starlight and a dozen roses, too
Then let it rise for a hundred years or two
And that’s the recipe for making love
It doesn’t need sugar ’cause it’s already sweet
It doesn’t need an oven ’cause it’s got a lot of heat
Just add a dash of kisses to make it all complete
And that’s the recipe for making love
And if you’ve made it right you’ll know it
It’s not like anything you’ve made before
And if you’ve made it wrong you’ll know it
‘Cause it won’t keep you coming back for more
I didn’t get it from my grandma’s book upon the shelf
I didn’t get it from a magical and culinary elf
No, a little birdie told me you can’t make it by yourself
And that’s the recipe for making love
I know what “mien” is, but never the “geow” part. The only other “geow” I know actually means the dog.
It is hard to find a simpler meal than the humble Pan Mien, or “board noodle”: flour-and-water dough, ikan bilis stock, salt, and choysum. That’s it. Forget about the poached eggs and sambal.
In my family, this poor man’s noodle is a love affair.
When my grandma was around, we have a 30 kg cast-iron wok measuring 3 feet across the top, and it sat permanently on a wood fire stove; and it was in this wok that my grandma would cook pan min, in wholesale quantity.
When eaten freshly cooked, pan min is light and springy; and the fragrance of the ikan bilis stock sticks to your memory like a jealous girlfriend of your youth.
The leftover from lunch would then sit in the wok till dinner time when it takes on a hearty, stout, and full-bodied personality.
Pan Min is pure magic: one dish, with time, two personalities.
My mom cooks like my grandma did, in the sense that she doesn’t “prep” her stuff, or in professional kitchen parlance, mise en place.
She is not a chef; she doesn’t know the 68 ways to cut a carrot. Nor does she keep recipe cards.
It’s always a joy to watch her in the kitchen, this natural cook in my family.
But that’s a story for another time.
This afternoon we have a bunch of kids over for a swim-in, and with all the adults around, my mom needs to cook for about 10 people, in 30 minutes or less.
And guess what she cooked?
Mee Hoon Kueh Recipe
For Pasta Dough:-
1 kg of plain flour
prawn/chicken/meat, sliced and marinate quickly with soya sauce , tapioca flour and a dash of pepper
choy sum or any greens you can grab
ikan bilis, washed and drained
tung choy or preserved vegetables (optional)
cilantro and spring onions
fried ikan bilis
chili padi with soya sauce
Knead flour, salt and water (add water bit by bit) into a dough. Knead bit by bit till the entire dough is smooth and not sticking to your hands. Takes more than 10 mins of kneading. Rest the dough while you start preparing others.
Prepare meat, either prawns, chicken or pork. Cut them into reasonable bite size and marinate.
Wash and pick vegetables. Set aside for later use.
In a big wok fry all ikan bilis, scoop out what is needed as garnishing. Leave desired quantity, pour in sufficient water and brew into stock. You can choose to sieve out the bland ikan bilis while I know many who don’t mind it in.
Hand peel dough into small pieces of pastas and throw into stock.
When completed, start putting in meat and vegetable last.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Let individuals decide on the garnishing they like.
The Hakka Chan family in Kuala Lumpur is led by Agnes Chan. She plays mom and head of family among us siblings. Occasionally she will suggest a meet; either through a dim sum breakfast or a family cook together house party that can be hosted in any of our homes.
Growing up in a farm, this Hakka Chan misses the space, the green and clean crisp air.
The nearest substitute location, convenient to all is the little green patch a.k.a. a playground 200 years away from Coco Chan’s abode. It was a perfect escape for a simple dinner and we had such great fun.
Agnes and Margaux having a swing time.
Chris’s wife seen here, intense. Probably negotiating about a new house or car.
Chris and Margaux, overzealous with the monkey bar.
A simple picnic in the family means home prepared. With everyone busy with their workweek lives, Agnes Chan decided on a very no fuss menu for all. Although it was supposed to be a potluck thingy, the family all crowded into Coco’s tiny kitchen dishing out their favourite dishes.
Local coffee, be it Sin Seng or Aik Cheong, makes the family picnic menu complete.
The Chan’s is a typical Chinese household and pork is central to our cuisines so it’s only natural that many of our recipes involve pork.
To our Muslim friends who follow this blog, I would encourage you to try out our recipes by substituting pork with other meats (chicken, duck, or lamb), or even firm tofu/taokua, and voila ….. a whole new world of taste and flavor awaits you!
Last Sunday, my hubby was craving for his favorite porky soup and so we headed to a coffee shop in Sungai Way that’s popular for mixed pork & offal soup served with yam (taro root) rice.
I shared a bowl of yam rice with Agnes but found it a letdown. It wasn’t aromatic and I dug and dug, but found no chunky pieces of yam.
Unsatisfied, I decided to cook some for dinner that very night. There was half a yam left sitting in the fridge since Momsie’s visit. I thought to myself that no matter how badly my yam rice may turn out that night, it wouldn’t be as bad as the one I had that morning.
At the Chan household, I have learned not to waste food and be creative in dishing out a meal by improvising on what’s available. I checked in the refrigerator and the pantry and discovered I had sufficient ingredients to make a pared-down casserole yam rice.
I chose to use basmathi, when sufficiently soaked it produces very long, fluffy and fragrant rice when cooked. It is not starchy and very suitable for people with bloated stomach problems like Agnes and myself.
Many may choose to add wax sausages, roasted char siew or even dried shrimps, but I decided otherwise.
My yam rice here has very few ingredients, to ensure the clarity of flavour. Only the rice, yam, and the pork should take centre stage.
Yam rice is often served with porky soup, and sometimes, a sambal.
Recipe For Yam Rice
INGREDIENTS:- (serves 3-4)
1 cup (200 gm) uncooked basmati rice wash, rinse and soak for 20 mins
1 cup of water to cook rice
200 gm yam (taro), remove skin and cube
dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in water for 15 minutes, drain the water for use later and slice or cube fungi
100 gm pork belly cut to small pieces, marinate with a little oil, soya sauce and dash of pepper
salt to taste
dash of ground white pepper
2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
3/4 tbsp light soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Heat a wok or in my cast a cast iron pot and pour 2 tablespoon oil to fry shallots till golden brown. Scoop up for garnishing.
Remaining oil use to stir fry yam cubes on high heat for roughly 5 minutes till just about cooked. Set aside.
Using the remaining oil in the wok, stir meat and mushrooms on medium low heat till fragrant (about 2-3 minutes).
Return the cooked yam to the wok. Add rice and fry for 1-2 minutes till all the ingredients are well mixed.
Add water to cook rice followed by seasonings. Stir to make sure that the seasonings are well mixed.
Boil the rice mixture for roughly 20 minutes, or till the water has evaporated and the rice is fully cooked and puffy.
“Be kind to thy father,
for when thou wert young,
Who loved thee so fondly as he?
He caught the first accents that fell from thy tongue,
And joined in thy innocent glee.”
– Margaret Courtney
” Daddy, Happy Father’s Day, you eating bakuteh?” I greeted my dad this morning. We just had dinner last night and didn’t want to ply up Sungai Long just to have breakfast. For us, everyday is a happy day. However, I knew that short greeting over the phone was enough for dad to brag about at the breakfast table.
My dad is the sweetest and nicest dad in the world. He was only earning a meagre RM90 a month when my eldest brother and I was born. He was back then a coolie carrying big gunny sacks of rice for a wholesaler in Leboh Ampang. We were known as “the advanced” family. Mom’s sundries and groceries were all paid on dad’s advance on the next month’s pay.
He did well and progressed on to be a clerk, soon a salesman earning plenty trust with his employers. Made partners and earned a comfortable salary bringing up all of us.
I am so proud of him, for someone who had no formal education, he is pretty well read and respectable. Because he went through much hardship, dad treats everyone well. Our maid gets her daily breakfast and a packet of teh tarik.
Vanity is in thy name.
Afternoon siesta helps make dad keep his youth and cheerfulness.
My father-in-law is a shy guy and man of few words. That was my impression of him, the very first time I met him 3 years ago.
Today, I find him more relaxed and at ease socialising with family and friends. I look forward to having my morning breakfast with him whenever we are back in Tanjung Minyak, Malacca. Deep inside, I know all fathers love to show off their happiness to the neighbourhood at coffee shops.
“My wife asked me to write something about my dad but the truth is I don’t know him that well. You see, my dad’s not particularly articulate and definitely not the kind who talks about “stuff”. But he could finish a bottle of fine cognac in one sitting, all by himself. That much I know is true.”– Stevie Chan
When boys become men because of fatherhood, a sacred chance to really understand how they have had been loved by their dad. But no matter how adult a father is, they are always boys at heart.
Fargo is currently on a summer road trip with his family. I chanced on this photo posted by Shauna on FB a few days back.
…. in good times,
….. in bad times,
I’ll be on your side forever more…..
I am thankful that Stevie is a better father to my princess Adrienne not in material solace but as a true friend to share joy and happiness of growing up.
A very delicious tray of Kueh Koci was catered in for Momsie’s grand birthday a few months back. Pure white glutinous rice dough wrapped in white grated coconut, not the usual pandan dough with palm sugar coconut fillings. I thought it delicious and pretty.
But, I was told by everyone at the dinner that the best kueh koci are the ones made by my Momsie. Since she was the birthday girl, the family did not want her to sweat and labour the entire day to prepare any dishes; all food served that night was catered.
I don’t get to eat this kueh very often these days. Even if I do get to buy them, I find that they do not taste as good as the ones that I had tried when I was a little kid. Their glutinous rice skin tend to be harder and the fillings too sweet.
Luck was on my side, Agnes was craving for some and Momsie quickly volunteered to make them last Saturday. It was served as dessert over a luncheon set for Stevie’s parents to meet my parents. Bad me, the last time our parents met was during our wedding dinner banquet, some 16 months back.
Both my beautiful mothers.
Agnes Chan enjoying Momsie’s Kueh Koci.
Recipe for Kueh Koci
Glutinous Rice Dough
Makes about 20 pillows of Kueh Koci
500 gm glutinous rice flour
2 tablespoon thick coconut milk
natural pandan juice for colouring
bunga telang juice for colouring
225 white granulated sugar/palm sugar
225 gm grated white coconut
125 gm water
banana leaves for wraps
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
I laughed so loud when I found out the scientific name for bunga telang. Clitoria Ternatea, a named so inspired obviously by its shape . Anyway, the bunga telang plants are readily available in Momsie and Agnes sporadic gardens. They are organic food colouring and definitely handy in making Peranakan Kuehs. In Malacca, old folks plant them abundantly, collect and dry them to be sold at RM10 per 100 gram. Definitely not the crop to consider if you want to be ultra rich in a fast manner.
The great debate, simple white sugared grated coconut or the popularly accepted palm sugared grated coconut?
I was playful. I tried both as an experiment so that I could decide objectively.
I am voting for the white grated coconut for taste, whilst I think palm sugared grated coconut makes a prettier and more inviting cake. However, I suggest that one can be creative by using pandan flavoured and coloured glutinous dough or the clitoria blue with pandan green glutinous dough to complement the white coconut fillings.
You get pretty food when you are prepared to labour.
Momsie preparing the torched banana leaves into decent sizes for wrapping.
Momsie is a great teacher. She encourages me to do it with her, giving tips and guidance each and every step of the way. Honestly, I struggled trying to fold them into tidy pillows. It looked easy but I surely need to practice this more often.
Torch the bottom of the banana leaves on top of a gas burner, glide it under a moderate heat.
Wipe it clean on both sides and cut it into 30 cm by 30 cm pieces for wrapping.
Place knotted screwpine leaves, sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugars. Continue cooking until you get a thick syrup.
Add the white grated coconut and lower the heat.
Glutinous Rice Flour Dough:
Pour glutinous rice flour, some water, thick coconut milk and salt and start kneading.
Continue to pour water till you get dough to a right consistency.
Thumb rule, too soft to roll into balls without oil. The texture will be too hard if you can without oil.
Scoop out some dough to prepare the colour dough of desired quantities.
Oil the banana leave.
Place a scoop of plain dough, flatten it out but not too thin that fillings can leak out.
Wrap the dough up as if you are wrapping a pao dough. Round the edges with your palms.
I first saw this plant as a parasite, residing on the trunk of Momsie’s forty-six year old rambutan tree. Scrawny, yellow and hardly a worthy sight. During the three years that I had been visiting the Chan Clan house at Tanjung Minyak I never saw them bloom.
Momsie is not a keen orchid grower. She has no orchid plants of her own. A decade ago, Dai Lo found them young orchid plants at his shop in Pantai Kundur and brought them home for Momsie.
It is sad to grow orchids and having to wait such a long time to see them bloom.
Last Qing Ming, it suddenly bloomed in vigour. It was a sight of happiness, blossoming cheers and applause.
Hope we do not have to wait till Margaux is sweet 16 when it next bloom.
Isn’t it true this phrase, ” Facebook is for reconnecting with old friends and Twitter is for making new ones”?
Stevie and I made many fabulous new friends in Twitter. Joey is one of my many favourites. He is such a sweet and caring guy. I don’t love him because he bought me half a dozen of “real” condensed milk from Singapore. I am not easily bought.
Anyway last Saturday, Agnes and I were struggling to upload apps into our iPads. Although we sat across each other, our minds were converging at the same thought. Who can help us computer idiots in distress?
Of course, Joey the IT savvy guy from Twitter Jaya. We decided to hijack him from Shah Alam since he is back in Malaysia to spend some time with his two sons, Danish and Danial.
Joey obliged our invitation to our regular weekend hi-tea get-together for family friends and their children. Joey came with his youngest prince, Daniel.
Elaine was also present with her children Novia, Aaron and Erywna. They came for brunch and the children were all lazing around the living room after their morning swim and Chinese Pasta lunch.
While Joey, Agnes, Coco and I were spending the afternoon discussing parenthood and other stuffs, Danial and Erywna decided to get acquainted.
Obviously, Daniel and Erywna did not click from the very start.
Small in size, Erywna in reality is a BIG BULLY.
Children being children, through fight and tussle they finally found comfort as they spent time together.
Bread Butter Pudding
I was happy that Joey’s pudding came without a trace of cinnamon. I am not a big fan of this spice.
The pudding was prettily arranged with the sesame laced crust at the top. Golden and generously tossed with raisins, the pudding looked so delicious. There was thought of a vanilla custard to go with it but lazy Mrs. Chan took a short cut. Instead, we finished the tray of pudding with freshly whipped cream. Heavenly.
1 French loaf
3 cans of full cream evaporated milk
500 ml fresh milk
Fine & brown sugar
Beat eggs with sugar
Mix evaporated sugar with fresh milk together with egg mix
Add vanilla essence
Slice loaf as desired size n butter the slices
Soak slices and arrange in baking dish together with raisins
Unhappy with how the quality of the ready pressed coconut milk had affected the taste and texture of our previous batch of kaya, I decided to give it another try while Momsie is still in town.
Kaya is the best spread to have readily available in the house. It is a favourite of Coco, Margaux and yours truly. We have these tiny crackers Coco found in Malacca. Very often we will pack them back and dung them in a good kopi-o. These crackers are just right with a dip of Momsie’s rich pandan kaya for an afternoon tea snack.
2 days back, I bought a packet of sugar, 10 omega eggs and 2 freshly grated coconut on my way home and cooked a pot of thick and delicious kaya.
Moreover, there are a dozen of miniature alkaline rice dumplings sitting in the refrigerator. It would be good to eat them after you dip these cold dumplings generously into a rich, thick kaya.
Besides improving the coconut milk, I tried using omega eggs and was thrilled. The omega eggs had beautiful, golden egg yolks. Momsie and I were debating on the sugar, to keep it as equal amount to sugar or reduce them. While it is good to produce and eat sweet kaya, I think reducing 10% of it will not reduce the overall taste of a good kaya.
Cooking kaya takes at least an hour of constant stirring of the mixture over a hot bath. It makes sense to do a larger quantity as the time needed is the same, you save gas and time. 10 eggs gave us 4 small jars. I will consider doing a 30 eggs batch and get a worthy return of 12 small jars of kaya roughly for the same amount of effort and time.
Momsie’s Rich Pandan Kaya
10 eggs – 11 actually since the eggs were not large and i added a cracked classic egg that has been sitting in the fridge
equivalent sugar to eggs – you can reduce it but not more than 20%, what’s kaya without sweetness
2 tablespoons of sugar to make caramel to add colour – unnecessary with omega eggs
freshly squeezed milk from 2 old coconut – most messy task
a bunch of screw pine leaves knotted together
juice from 2 limes or a small lemon
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.
Pour in the sugar and stir till sugar is fully melted. Momsie warned me not to beat but to stir in one direction.
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.
Bath the stainless steel bowl over a wok of water over medium low heat. Stirring it clockwise.
20 minutes later, sieve the liquid. Momsie said this will take out unwanted white that coagulated too early.
Pour in the lime or lemon juice and you will notice the kaya changes colour.
Continue to bath the mixture for another 40 minutes.
At Hakka Chan, we do not have to wait for Double 5 端午節, 5th Day of 5th Month according to Chinese Lunar Calendar or more popularly known as the Dragon Boat Festival to have Momsie’s delicious home made rice dumplings. Whenever we crave for it and she gets to hear it, we will find them on the dining table when we next return to Malacca.
Chinese Rice Dumplings have so many version and varieties. Many will argue to defend their favourites. I do not get personal about it because I am open to savour all kinds of composition. When I was younger, I used to be crazy over the Peranakan version. As I grow older, I found it too sweet for my liking. Mind you, there are communities that eat their savoury dumplings dipped into sugar. No kidding.
There are such thing as Hokkien, Teo Chew, Hakka or Cantonese Dumplings on the general. There would appear to be a certain rules on how they wrapped and common ingredients used. However, when you put 10 hakka families dumplings for comparisons, you will find variations unique to each family’s culture and history.
Our Hakka Chan rice dumpling recipe has evolved the last 50 years.
When Momsie married to dad, Grandma Chan was guardian to many of Hakka Chan’s recipes. She cooked her food very carefully and most times in favour of Grandpa Chan’s palate. Momsie told me she had never wrapped dumplings when she first stepped foot into the family. On her way work to the rubber plantations, she will gather as many bamboo leaves. She practised hundreds of times wrapping sand into those leaves as if they were dumplings.
Today, she is the new guardian of this Rice Dumpling recipe. She remembered when Grandpa Chan was alive, the two main ingredients for fillings were dried shrimps and pork belly. When he passed on, she has adapted the ingredients over the years based on the responses and feedback from her children. Coco dislikes the texture and smell of oyster, meanwhile Agnes finds that dried shrimps overpower the flavour and has a very sandy texture.
There are endless of combination of ingredients that one can introduced. Salted duck egg yolks, split mung beans, black eyed peas, sugared melon, dried shrimps, dried scallops etc.
At Hakka Chan, our dumplings are served in simplicity. Brought home a few for my parents to try. Dad said it was the simplest dumpling and the tastiest dumpling he ever had. Full of praise.
When choosing bamboo leaves, be mindful that there are size variations. Try to choose the larger ones for wrapping savoury dumplings and the smaller one for alkaline dumplings.
If you have time, soak those leaves overnight and there is no need to boil to soften them. Moreover, they retain a prettier green colour than the yellow hue of those boiled. However, in case of shortages, you may need to boil a few to supplement.
Shallots and garlic add flavour and aroma. Make sure that you do not over fry them as they can be bitter when overcooked.
Dried chestnuts adds flavour and sweetness to the dumpling. The powdery sweet nut somehow delights the palate in an interesting manner. Soak them overnight and with the tip of a sharp little knife, dig out the thin membrane stubbornly stuck on thin grooves. If you are short of time and do not have 4 to 6 hours to soak, boil them first to soften.
Choose mushrooms with thick succulent flesh. Soak for an hour and slice thinly.
FILLINGS of Random Chopped Meat – Chan Family Recipe
1 kg pork – shoulder part, cut into cubes and randomly chopped
15 pieces chinese dried mushroom (pre-soaked till soft and cut into cubes not more than 1 cm sides)
8 shallots (sliced thinly)
1 bulb garlic (sliced thinly)
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons dark soya sauce
5 spice powder
a tablespoon of oyster sauce (a great debate to drop this off)
Liberal dashes of white pepper powder
a dash of light soya sauce
a little cornstarch with water to thicken excess gravy
3 tablespoon of oil for frying and cooking
Marinate random chopped shoulder port with salt, 5 spice powder, 2 teaspoon of salt,
Heat up 4 tablespoons of cooking oil in wok and fry the other half of garlic and shallots till aromatic. Drain and keep aside. Keep oil.
Trim soaked mushrooms into small thin slices. Drain all excess oil. Add a tsp of sugar and a tablespoon of oyster sauce. Mix well.
Pour 1 tablespoon of oil from frying shallots and garlic into a wok. Fry mushroom till fragrant.
Add pork and fry meat over medium heat. Add salt, light and dark soya sauce. Liberal dashes of white pepper powder. Stir and fry till pork is cooked. Pour in cornstarch paste to thicken the fillings.
Add fried shallots and fried garlic. Mix thoroughly.
Keep remaining fried garlic and fried shallot oil to fry glutinous rice.
Set aside and cool.
1 kg glutinous rice (washed, pre-soaked for 4 to 6 hours and drained)
3 tablespoon oil balance from frying shallots and garlic
light soya sauce
dark soya sauce
Pour 3 tablespoons of remaining oil into wok.
Pour in drained glutinous rice.
Add salt, light and dark soya sauce.
Fry for 10 to 15 minutes and it cool before you start wrapping.
Organise rice, meat filling and chestnuts for wrapping.
Boil Rice Dumplings for 3 hours completely submerged and covered. For best results, use a charcoal stove. For quick cooking, use a pressure cooker and boil for approximately 30 to 40 minutes on pressure.
Ah Na’s mother who is visiting her grandchildren in Kuala Lumpur during this school holidays dropped by Agnes’s place this afternoon. They came with their fusion Hakka and Hainanese rice dumpling made from mince meat. Momsie was delighted to have friends from Tanjong Minyak dropping by to share some gossip over coffee.
Wrapping rice dumpling can be a quite a messy task. It requires a certain skill that I obviously am lacking at the moment. Our visitors were uncomfortable seeing Agnes wrapping all alone. Before we knew it, Ah Na and her mom were all busy helping out to wrap our dumplings. A most welcome gesture and as a token, Momsie gave them half a dozen of our delicious Hakka Chan Rice Dumplings.