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.
While affixing plastic peach blossoms onto her water jasmine plant, Momsie proudly advised me what’s blooming in her sporadic garden.
Then with her chin, she proudly pointed to me a ‘must see’, her prized wild ginger flowers.
I was expecting the magenta button ginger flowers we commonly find decorating in hotel lobbies and spas. But what I saw were two potted plants with very large majestic flaming tangerine petals with a pale, waxy honeycomb centre. They look unreal from a distance.
A few years ago, Agnes brought home a Chinese New Year’s hamper decorated with a few stalks of fresh exotic flowers. Momsie liked the flowers very much and decided to grow them and this is the result from that love-at-first-sight.
Googled but failed to find out it’s name.
Regrettably, I do not know the name of these brightly coloured flowers, but momsie calls them “Japanese Flowers”. There is a 3 feet by 6 feet patch of this flowers right behind our clothes line. They attract many bees, butterflies and dragonflies as they bloom in bursts of vanilla yellow, fuchsia and rosy red.
Lookie here, so pretty are these chillies! I laughed my head off when momsie told me that they were grown from the seeds she had saved from the last batch of dried chillies used for making her sambal.
Mom likes to keep things simple, and improvises a lot. She prefers to learn from her friends tips on this and that instead of referring to recipe books because they are “too complicated.”
And her favourite go-to person is Ang Cho.
Ang Cho is widely regarded as the grandmaster of kueh-making in our kampong, and has no peer in this department. At a distant second would be a man named Nam Hua, a baba who makes very high quality nyonya kueh as a home business.
Mom is very close to Ang Cho, a recent breast-cancer surviver who lives a stone’s throw away.
Ang Cho never use ready-made rice flour that comes in the bags. She mills her own, at home, using heavy granite mill, like we used to do too, when grandma was alive.
Although mom is not as meticulous as Ang Cho, there is a certain art to her seeming chinchai-ness.
And that very chinchai-ness gives her culinary a charm unreplicatable.
RECIPE for Pineapple Tarts
makes more than 100
1 kg of flour
500 grams of margarine (set aside some to line on trays)
Heat oven at 160 degree Celsius.
Sieve flour into a large bowl for kneading.
On the side, crack 8 eggs and beat them lightly but even.
Slowly add the margarine and pour beaten eggs, use your fingers lightly to combine them.
Lightly knead and form them into a few manageable portions.
Set aside a small portion to be cut into tiny strips for decor.
The balance 3 eggs to separate and beat the yolks for glazing.
Use a large piece of polystyrene to roll out the dough.
Use the tart cutter and form the tart base.
Glaze egg yolk over the dough before placing the pineapple jam inserts.
Decorate with trimmings for presentation as necessary.
Glaze egg yolk over trimmings.
Bake for 20 minutes.
RECIPE for Pineapple Jam
6 bowls of scraped pineapples
3 bowls of sugar
Skin pineapple and scrape out the flesh. Drain flesh on a sieve for 10 minutes to obtain ½ cup of juice.
Place the scraped pineapple flesh in a non-stick pan and add granulated sugar and pineapple juice.
Place pan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally for about ½ hour until pineapple jam is sticky.
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.
I knocked out too early last night. I was drunk.I forgot and overzealously sipped too much expensive pu’erh served over a bakuteh lunch.
Hubby always label me a “cheap date” cos I rarely could hold alcohol. Who would spent that much if a coffee and tea can knock me out.
In short, I am allergic to caffeine.
Waking up early, I managed to catch the beautiful horizon of the morning sunrise from the balcony of our new home. Now, I am waiting for the cheery Negara-ku anthem to be sung daily by my very young neighbours. They are kids residing and studying in this Muslim boarding school right next to my block. Soon, in another 5 minutes.
I work alternate Saturdays. How I wished this is not a working Saturday?
I would be doing a million other better stuff. I would be happy shopping with Agnes. Like going to the wet market in Happy Garden and having a bowl of curry noodles for my breakfast. Grocery hunting at NSK Supermarket at Kuchai Lama, an awesome place for the best bargain for most produce.
In the afternoon, we will either be hosting a brunch or lunch. Agnes’s kitchen and oven will be fired up all times. I miss the simple food we cook together for a leisure weekend.
Agnes makes the best of socca. Honest, I am biased and I have only ever tried hers. Anyway, trust me because if you know Agnes, you know quality. She stocks the best wine, whiskeys, herbs and spices. Epicurean.
Agnes and I had many great afternoons eating adventure perfecting her socca. Made with very readily available ingredients and in very simple steps. You can either bake it in an oven or fry it over stove in a cast iron pan. We had experimented by “localising” it by adding lentils and shallots, bearable but I still prefer it original and neat.
I think I shall pop over to Agnes’s after work.
I need a serving.
Madagascar multi colored peppercorns.
Rosemary from Agnes’s garden.
CHICKPEA SOCCA RECIPE
1 1/4 cup of chickpea flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
fresh rosemary, a small sprig
3 tablespoon olive oil
Mix together the flour, water, salt, cumin, rosemary leaves and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let batter rest at least 2 hours, covered, at room temperature.
Heat the oven to 230F.
Oil a 9 inch pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and heat pan in the oven.
When pan and oven are blazing hot, take out the pan and pour batter, and sprinkle pepper evenly.
Swirl pan to let batter sits evenly and quickly pop it back into the oven.
Reduce temperature to 200F and bake for 20 minutes.
These last 3 years, we have been happy camping at my mom’s and Agnes’s place. So when you “tumpang” you live life in moderation and full of courtesies. From now onwards, Stevie and I actually gonna experience living by ourselves.
I know, many people say that it’s easier to be playmates than house mates. It’s inevitable though, when you are married you got to try.
I come from a family that practices a lot of Taoist rituals. Being the only girl in the family, I have been brought up, learning to assist my mom with everything that involves prayers, festivals and the altar.
All’s well. I am a very lazy Buddhist. I do not go far to pray as I have my altar in the heart. I see all religions as wanting to teach us to do good. To me, I adopt Buddhism merely as a philosophical guide to life. I am a strong believer of karma and reincarnations though.
Went to a Christian primary school, mixed with many Malay and Indian classmates throughout my elementary, secondary and university life. Heard enough of pantang-larangs throughout my life.
Our first encounter of “tolak-ansur” or “give and take” was on the house cleansing, a typical must do for most people before they officially habitat a new space. Be it an old house or newly built one. Most believe that there may be over-staying spirits that we must “invite out” before we can “move in”. Stevie’s fine with customary stuff as long as I don’t have to impose his participation. I am free to observe whatever I believe in.
Traditionally, mom would have insisted the “rice, salt and tea leaves” cleansing ritual. Equal parts of each, mixed together and being thrown to all corners of the house to rid bad chi. Knowing that it would be messy, mom suggested me to accord the vibrated coconuts practised by the disciples of Sahaja Yoga.
She checked the Chinese calendar, firstly, warned us against moving during the 7th Month or the Ghost Festival Month. It was a fair request. Secondly, we cannot simply choose any day to move on the auspicious 8th Month. I was advised to move on the 12th of September, the 13th day of the 8th Month of the Chinese calendar.
A week before the official moving date, yours truly bought 6 healthy coconuts. Meaning not those old ones that are dry or sprouting with shoots. The important thing here is to find the 3 “eyes”, 2 in front and the 3rd eye at the back. Carefully shaved them till you have quite a smooth surface to ease the drawing of a swastika with kumkum powder. I did the swastika clockwise to signify evolution. Finally, to go over the 3 “eyes” with kumkum as well.
I have placed these coconuts at the 4 corners of the living hall, and one each for the 2 bedrooms in our apartment. Through this puja session, we believe that these coconuts will help absorb all negative energies and protect us from any bad omen.
Been checking anxiously every morning when I wake up. To date, exactly a week after, none of these coconuts cracked.
At a state-run commie hotel in Xinjiang, my sister had a bad breakfast and needed to use the toilet.
“May I have a roll of toilet tissue?”
“We don’t have it.”
“What do you mean you don’t have it?”
“We gave it to you yesterday.”
“But I need more now!”
“We don’t have it. You had your ration.”
“What the f#@k, you want me to use the bath towel?”
The housekeeper walked off.
Taking a shit in Xinjiang is always a difficult business; becoz toilets are very hard to come by.
apprehensions before the toilet photo by eloise
And when you finally found one, you’re likely to face the above problem.
But to tell you the truth, living without toilet rolls is nothing new to my family.
My grandfather built our first family home with his own hands and he was a really fine carpenter. The attap house had sliding wooden shutters, a double-leaf front door that pivoted on upside-down liquor bottles, and it had an attic where we kids loved to play in.
Fifty yards away, between the main adobe and our vegetable farm was the pigsty and the outhouse that shared a very large open cesspool of potential organic fertilizer.
Inside the outhouse were two wooden planks where you squat on and do your business, and to the side a bucketful of flat bamboo pieces measuring about 6 inches long and half an inch wide.
Those bamboo pieces were used for scrapping ourselves clean after crapping.
It’s more or less like shaving with a straight razor, if you’re still wondering how it was done.
What you really need to know is that you need to pucker up your anus properly; otherwise the chances of getting hurt in the ass are rather high.
And if you have external haemorrhoids….., then God bless you.
And so this method of cleaning up oneself with bamboo lasted for another couple of years after the local tuck shop started selling toilet rolls and we soon learned to wrap the bamboo sticks with toilet papers.
Toilet tissues were such novelty during those days we kids went to the outhouse in unnecessary high frequency.