Every so often, I am tickled and amused by how my friends are all so crazy about a certain wanton noodle cooked the Sarawak way.
How good can it be, I asked. Of course I hadn’t tasted it before.
Being a loyalist, I wouldn’t have thought of a better way to serve a plate of wanton noodle other than it garnished with thick juicy barbecue marbled pork belly with a tiny bowl of chicken stock with 3 hearty meat dumplings.
Stevie, who isn’t too crazy about noodles, actually ate 3 bowls of kolo mee daily while in Kuching earlier for the Green Forest Musical Festival in year 2011. The simplicity of taste caught his attention.
Recently, a packet of half a dozen ball of kolo noodles arrived our home. Sacredly, like a much treasured commodity. Air flown and hand carried by a fellow Sarawakian friend.
I now believed that kolo mee is the much mule couriered stuff across the South China Sea between the Peninsular and the Borneo Island.
Hakka Chan Simple Sarawak Kolo Mee
Minced meat preferably marbled pork belly
Fired thinly slice garlic
Oil from frying garlic
Oil for frying meat
Spring Onions/Basil leaves – your choice
fish sauce – compulsory
salt and pepper
Marinate mince meat with some salt and pepper.
Prepare some oil to fry garlic till crispy and golden brown. Drain and set aside for garnishing.
The fragrant garlic oil be kept to use as base for assembling the meal.
Use a few tablespoon of the garlic oil to lightly fry the mince meat.When cooked, drain and set aside
Prepare to boil a pot with hot water for you to cook the noodles.
Prepare a deep serving bowl. Put a tablespoon of garlic oil. Some fish sauce and vinegar to your palette.
Toss in a ball of handmade kolo mee into the boiling water.
Cook it al dente, remember not to over cook or noodles tend to be soggy and mushy. Drain.
Place drained noodles into the prepared stock combination of oil, vinegar and fish sauce.
Mix thoroughly and garnish with the minced meat, fried garlics and basil leaves.
Yesterday, a huge, I mean a very huge bunch of bananas was delivered to us on a wheelbarrow by Yong Soon, Stevie’s cousin who is also our immediate neighbour in Tanjong Minyak. His family is not a great fan of plantain, while Coco and I love this fruit and it’s culinary versatility.
While cutting them into combs for easy distribution, I overheard pisang goreng being uttered by my father-in-law.
I woke up this morning knowing I must make some pisang goreng for dad before leaving for Kuala Lumpur.
However, there is this battle of the batters: should I use a crunchy recipe I have stumbled-upon online, or should I use Momsie’s simple batter recipe that is equally inviting?
Looking at the insane amount of bananas, I decided to make both.
golden and crunchy
I can’t tell the difference between the flavours of the 2 batters used. As for the texture, my vote goes to batter recipe picked from The Malaysian Cuisine.
The Chans were quickly snapping up these golden fritters. The light crunch outside and sweet sourish soft pulpy flesh inside literally made me go bananas. You just want more!
Anyway, 2 giant combs came home with us. I am seriously itching to ditch out some delicious banana snacks for my friends in Kuala Lumpur.
I learned to eat avocados when I was in Mauritius. Working as a Quality Controller for a Hong Kong based apparel company, I was seconded for a year there. Behind our big colonial type hostel, there were these 2 very huge avocado trees. Pleasant memories. How the guys tried to impress by plucking mature fruits from those trees. Most times, we girls would wait for them to fall on the ground and gleefully gather our harvest of butter fruits.
There was only one way we ate it back then. May sound distasteful to some. Be warned.
My factory manager, Mr. Lee, bespectacled and walked with a little polio limp gave me my first lesson on preparing a sweet avocado dessert. He would cut the chilled ripened fruit into halves and remove the stony seed. On each of the shelled halves, we poured a generous teaspoon of brown sugar into the hole that stony seed used to sit. Mash it to melt together, not too much, just enough. A little citric juice from a tiny wedge of lemon does wonder to the taste. Heavenly.
There are 2 very ripened Hass avocados sitting in the refrigerator. I am tempted to go back memory lane and prepare myself the dessert, just to reminisce that unforgettable taste. I had neither brown sugar nor lemons. I have to be careful what I produce, least no one help me to consume. It has to be either a guacamole dip or a sweet dessert.
The cake turns out slightly over moist. The chocolate marble adds flavour and I would say chocolate and avocado makes a great pair. If I were to do this cake again, I would convert the cornmeal to wheat flour.
AVOCADO CHOCOLATE MARBLE CAKE RECIPE
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal (used cornflour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk (adapted with full cream)
flesh of 1 ripe avocado mashed ( used 2 small ones)
some chocolate powder (for marble effect)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the loaf pan and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
Set the 2 eggs out on the counter to come to room temperature while you beat the butter and sugar.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed until softened and pliable. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the avocado and beat another minute to incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is thoroughly mixed.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after the addition of each egg. Beat in vanilla extract.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the flour mixture, all of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour mixture. Beat just until combined.
Scoop 2 tablespoon of mixture into a separate bowl. Add 2 teaspoon of chocolate powder and mix.
Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F. Pour mixture and alternate with the chocolate mixture for the marble effect.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
A non-working Saturday to Mrs. Chan, means a lot. It means I get to “lepak-lepak” or laze a bit doing nothing much or it could turn out to be a very busy day doing “happy chores” eating a hearty breakfast and grocery shopping at the wet market.
Being new to the Old Klang Road neighbourhood, we are pleased that Irene volunteered to bring us around and get acquainted with this charming place. This morning,after our grocery shopping we sat in front of the busiest coffee shop in Happy Garden, we discovered that the parallel row opposite has so many Chinese medicinal halls cum mini-markets and stand-alone specialty produce shops. Agnes and I find visiting such places a privilege and therapeutic, almost a fulfilling stand in for fashion retail therapies we once had. I know, we probably getting old. (smile)
We take a liking to a tiny store here which sells a wide variety of rice; from Pakistani Basmathi to California Short grain; organic stuffs and plenty of my old favourite cookies sold by the grams in very large yellow tins. Got excited when we saw a row of palm sugar in cylindrical blocks wrapped in tiny poly-bags. Perfect sweetener for local desserts, no overpowering sweetness but a hint of caramel. After all, since the durian season we had been saving up lots of surplus durians frozen in the fridge for either a sambal tempoyak or a durian pengat. So, pengat durian it is for our Saturday afternoon dessert!!!
Well, Agnes and I are not exactly made to toil in the kitchen. Maybe a perfect dish here and there. However, as a “team” we have been able to share courage to explore on dishing out new platters. I need to make a shocking declaration here, I not only do not know how to cook a Pengat Durian; I had never ever tasted it before. I thought it gross and repulsive. Anyway, I was prepared to be a sport. I even asked Twitterjaya if anyone has a perfect recipe. No one replied, I guessed it must have been the fasting month thingy. Anyway, between Agnes and I, we checked the internet and found many fascinating versions. We agreed on a simple and basic one.
Agnes played host to the LevArt Xinjiang 2011 gang, a role she plays so effortlessly.
Although there are 11 of us in this silk road tour, we have to discount four Chan’s because we are in a family. The seven new found friends have very interesting personalities. There is ChiaChi, a lawyer working in Singapore ; Easy Yashashii who is pursuing her doctorate in Hong Kong; Yen, a savvy businesswoman in the rag trade; Karen who distributes UMW generators; WeiLing who is in architecture; Irene sells lorries and Eloise in logistics.
We clicked instantaneously, despite the big age gap, especially for Margaux. We were a little concerned if she would be overwhelmed by the taxing journey, heat and socialising with unknown travellers. All turned out well, except for her little trip to the hospital. Everyone adores her and she comfortably made new friends with a bunch of adults, a bunch of very beautiful people.
We picked August 6 for this post-Xinjiang gathering to suit all our busy schedules. A little sad that Yen and Easy aren’t able to join us due to distance and commitments. The Chan’s volunteered to host while Irene gladly accepted my invitation to be guest chef to share her recipe on Braised Pork Belly, a popular Hokkien dish.
Everyone traveled from various destinations in order to make this afternoon happen.
Agnes drove to Melaka to fetch Margaux who was spending her school holidays with our parents. ChiaChi happily came in from Singapore for this little do before she heads home to Penang. She is busy spending time with love ones before starting her class in Japan in a month or so. Karen flew in from Kuantan. (Beautiful shots by Irene Ngoh)
While Agnes was in the kitchen busy preparing us the Seafood Platter Baked in Sea Salt and XinjiangSteamed Chicken Salad, our guests cheered themselves with our homemade Ribena Lemonade.
As the afternoon progressed, we ate a light Pao Paw Salad of raw papayas made by Pao, our Cambodian helping hand. It was great accompanied with samplings of Irene’s perfectly braised pork belly.
To celebrate, Stevie made these lovely ladies each a gin tonic served with lime and mint leaves. Cheers!
Irene shared with us 2 bottles of Fleur de Cap’s prized Noble Late Harvest from South Africa. I particularly enjoyed this sweet wine that was such a great pair to the Seafood Platter Baked in Sea Salt. While the party began with plenty of yamsengs, Mrs. Chan went to prepare Pumpkin Sweet Soup and French Apple Cake for our guests. I was all tipsy and high. Cheers!
We had such great time together and talks of a trip to Japan popped up. I know Agnes is eager to organise this and I look forward to travelling with this bunch again. It will be great to visit ChiaChi there, and Margaux thinks it was a great idea.
One group photo for the album. Wished you were here, Yen and Easy.
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.
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.
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.
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
4 or 5 pieces of fish fillet
4 tablespoon of mom’s homemade chili boh
2 or 3 ripe tomatoes
5 small chili padi
2 tablespoon of assam jawa soaked with some water
Choose fish fillet or small scad, pompret or any of your favourite fish. Wash and rub salt to season.
Bring a littlw water to boil and cook ladies fingers till just cook. Cut into small oblong pieces.
Quartered the tomatoes.
Remove seeds from chili padi.
Heat some oil and fry chili boh paste till fragrant.
Sieve in assam jawa juice.
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.
Add tomatoes and ladies fingers. Cook for 3 minutes.
Add salt and soya sauce for taste and colour.Ready to serve.
Great dish for a hot evening. Totally opens up your appetite.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am glad that I am home for the weekend. There is so much to catch up with my little sister, Lee Lee.
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.
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.