Recipe For Love

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What is your idealised childhood pastime?

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.

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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

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Mee Hoon Kueh – 麵粉粿

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In Hakka, it is called Mien Geow.

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?

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Mee Hoon Kueh Recipe

INGREDIENTS

For Pasta Dough:-

  • 1 kg of plain flour
  • water
  • salt

For Cooking:-

  • 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
  • mushrooms (optional)

For Stock:-

  • ikan bilis, washed and drained
  • some oil
  • salt
  • water
  • tung choy or preserved vegetables (optional)

For Garnishing:-

  • fried shallot
  • cilantro and spring onions
  • fried ikan bilis
  • chili padi with soya sauce
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 METHOD

  1. 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.
  2. Prepare meat, either prawns, chicken or pork. Cut them into reasonable bite size and marinate.
  3. Wash and pick vegetables. Set aside for later use.
  4. 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.
  5. Hand peel dough into small pieces of pastas and throw into stock.
  6. When completed, start putting in meat and vegetable last.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Let individuals decide on the garnishing they like.

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A delightful meal for most kids.

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Novia lazing around after a hearty meal.

Article contributed by Stevie Chan.

a simple picnic

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.

A Simple Picnic Menu

  • Tofu and Cucumber Salad
  • Long Beans Skinny Pancakes
  • Bakes Bacon on Potatoes and Tomatoes

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Yam Rice (Taro Rice) 芋头饭

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Seasonings

  •  3/4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
Garnishing
  • spring onions
  • fried shallots

METHOD:-

  1. 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.
  2. Remaining oil use to stir fry yam cubes on high heat for roughly 5 minutes till just about cooked. Set aside.
  3. Using the remaining oil in the wok, stir meat and mushrooms on medium low heat till fragrant (about 2-3 minutes).
  4. Return the cooked yam to the wok. Add rice and fry for 1-2 minutes till all the ingredients are well mixed.
  5. Add water to cook rice followed by seasonings. Stir to make sure that the seasonings are well mixed.
  6. Boil the rice mixture for roughly 20 minutes, or till the water has evaporated and the rice is fully cooked and puffy.
  7. Garnish with fried shallots and spring onions.

Happy Father’s Day

“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

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” 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.

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Vanity is in thy name.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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…. in good times,

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….. in bad times,

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I’ll be on your side forever more…..

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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.

Happy Father’s Day!

Kueh Koci

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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.

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Both my beautiful mothers.

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Agnes Chan enjoying Momsie’s Kueh Koci.

Recipe for Kueh Koci

INGREDIENTS:-

Glutinous Rice Dough

Makes about 20 pillows of Kueh Koci

  • 500 gm glutinous rice flour
  • 2 tablespoon thick coconut milk
  •  salt
  • natural pandan juice for colouring
  • bunga telang juice for colouring

Filling:

  • 225 white granulated sugar/palm sugar
  • 225 gm grated white coconut
  • salt
  • 125 gm water
Others:
  • banana leaves for wraps
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
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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.

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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.

 

METHOD:-
Banana Leaves:
  1. Torch the bottom of the banana leaves on top of a gas burner, glide it under a moderate heat.
  2. Wipe it clean on both sides and cut it into 30 cm by 30 cm pieces for wrapping.
Fillings:
  1. 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.
  2.  Add the white grated coconut and lower the heat.
Glutinous Rice Flour Dough:
  1. Pour glutinous rice flour, some water, thick coconut milk and salt and start kneading.
  2. Continue to pour water till you get dough to a right consistency.
  3. Thumb rule, too soft to roll into balls without oil. The texture will be too hard if you can without oil.
  4. Scoop out some dough to prepare the colour dough of desired quantities.
  5. Oil the banana leave.
  6. Place a scoop of plain dough, flatten it out but not too thin that fillings can leak out.
  7. Wrap the dough up as if you are wrapping a pao dough. Round the edges with your palms.
  8. Fold and wrap them into small tortoise pillows.
  9. Steam for 10 minutes.

wild orchids

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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.

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It is sad to grow orchids and having to wait such a long time to see them bloom.

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Last Qing Ming, it suddenly bloomed in vigour. It was a sight of happiness, blossoming cheers and applause.

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Hope we do not have to wait till Margaux is sweet 16 when it next bloom.