Kueh Lapis (九层糕)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Kueh lapis, take one: So there I was, poking the first layer of my nine-layer kueh lapis with a pair of chopsticks.  

Yup, it's cooked!

At this point, other people would proceed with steaming the second layer, but not me.  

Teochew Ngoh Hiang

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

I can never get enough of ngoh hiang, the deep-fried meat rolls that are full of the fragrance of five-spice powder and yam, the sweetness of prawns and pork, and the crunch of water chestnuts.

The salty beancurd skin wrapped around the filling adds to the aroma. More importantly, it stops moisture from escaping, keeping the meat roll moist and juicy.

Mmmmm . . . .

Crispy Bean Steamed Cod (豆酥鱈魚)

Monday, 28 November 2011

This is steamed cod served with a topping made with hot bean paste, crispy beans (豆酥), garlic and spring onions. The fish is moist and oily. The topping is crisp and fragrant.
This is a ball of crispy beans, aka 豆酥, the main ingredient in the topping. The taste is a bit like natto.
The ball has to be broken up and pounded into coarse bits.  

This is the video that shows how to steam the fish and make the topping.
Ladies and gentlemen, good luck. . . .  . . .  . . .  . .  . . . . .

CRISPY BEAN STEAMED COD (豆酥鱈魚)
Source: Adapted from 阿基師
(Recipe for 4 persons)

800 g black cod cut 3-cm thick, rinse, debone and slice into 8 equal size pieces
any white fish such as threadfin, sea bass or red snapper would do too
½ tsp salt
2 tsp white rice wine
1 sprig spring onion, wash, trim and cut 5 cm long
4 slices ginger
4 tbsp 辣豆瓣醬 (hot bean paste)
5 tbsp vegetable oil
45 g 豆酥, pound/grind into coarse 1-2 mm bits
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, peel and mince very finely
1 sprig spring onion, wash, trim and cut ½ cm long

Preheat plate by steaming over rapidly boiling water for 3 minutes. Sprinkle salt and rice wine on fish. Mix thoroughly. Spread ginger and spring onion on plate. Place fish on ginger and spring onion. Cover and steam over medium-low heat till just cooked, 7-10 minutes.

Check that fish is totally opaque inside by flaking thickest part with chopsticks. Remove from heat. Discard ginger and spring onion. Baste fish with liquid in the plate.

Whilst fish is steaming, stir-fry hot bean paste in 5 tbsp oil over low heat till fragrant. Strain oil onto crispy beans. Mix well. Set aside till fish is cooked. Keep drained hot bean paste for other dishes, such as 麻婆豆腐 or 回锅肉. 

Wipe pan/wok with paper towels. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil till moderately warm. Add crispy beans, minus excess oil (which may be used as for drained hot bean paste). Stir-fry over low heat till colour changes slightly, removing bubbles if any. Add garlic. Stir-fry till mixture is lightly golden. Taste and add some drained hot bean paste if too bland, or pinch of sugar if too salty. Turn off heat. Add spring onion and stir through. As residual heat dissipates, beans and garlic should turn just golden brown.

Spread mixture evenly on steamed fish. Serve immediately with rice.

Sambal Ikan Bilis (I)

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The good news is, anchovy stocks have doubled because their predators – the type that doesn't have legs – have declined sharply in numbers. This is where we, the two-legged predators, need to step up our efforts. Eat more anchovies, people!

I don't know about you but I don't need much persuasion to eat sambal ikan bilis. The salty little fishies and deep-fried peanuts make a perfect ménage à trois with the sweet and spicy sambal.

Pickled Green Papaya

Monday, 24 October 2011

The world is divided into two parts: those who love pickles, and those who hate pickles.
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Bubur Cha Cha (Yam & Sweet Potato in Coconut Milk)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Coconut milk is the most important ingredient in bubur cha cha, so I've got a photo of a coconut tree:
Nice tree, eh?
....... . . . .. ... . . ... . . . . . . ... . .. . . .... . .. . . . . . .
How does Miranda Kerr get her million-dollar bikini body?

Fried Wontons

Monday, 17 October 2011

Fried wontons are different from wontons in soup, apart from the fact that they're fried.

The filling for boiled wontons should have dried sole (大地鱼, aka 铁脯). The fish is toasted till brown, crisp and fragrant, then chopped into little bits. If it's not available, deep-fried shallots are a good substitute. With either of these ingredients in the filling, wontons cooked in soup would have a rich, intense aroma they wouldn't have otherwise. In Hong Kong, the motherland of Wonton Soup, the stock used is made with dried sole, amongst other things.

Nyonya Fried Rice

Friday, 14 October 2011

Fried rice is one of those things. It may be a great chef's finale for a grand Chinese banquet. Or it may be something rustled up by a hungry youngster snooping round the kitchen when Mum is out.

Brilliantly executed, fried rice is sublime. If not, it's (usually) at least edible.

Nyonya fried rice is easier than the Chinese version.

10-Minute Kaya (I)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

If you Google "kaya hours of stirring", you'll find people (like here and here) who really do stand beside their pots of kaya, stirring away for hours on end.

I greatly admire patience, dedication and tenacity but sadly these are virtues I don't possess. So I make kaya the quick way, in 10 minutes.

Buah Paya Masak Titek (Peppery Papaya Soup)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Buah paya masak titek is a Nyonya soup. It has a spicy kick from white peppercorns. And it's sweetened with the umaminess of papayas, prawns, salted fish and dried prawns.

My recipe is inspired by The Best of Singapore Cooking and Cooking for the President.

The recipe from The Best of Singapore Cooking is too salty. It uses too much salted fish bones and dried prawns, in addition to salt and a chicken stock cube.

Ikan Tempera (Nyonya Sweet & Sour Fish)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Previously on KitchenTigress, in the episode on Kueh Bengka Ubi in 90 Seconds, Mac wanted to eat fish.

Soon Kueh (Turnip Dumplings) (I)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Success at last at making the dough for soon kueh! It was my seventh attempt and sixth recipe. How's that for perseverance? As I kneaded the dough, I felt quite sure that this time it would work. And it did, beautifully. Mind you, I had spring roll wrappers standing by in case the dough failed again.

What was wrong with the five recipes that didn't work?

Babi Masak Assam

Friday, 23 September 2011

Compared to Shermay Lee, who supposedly began learning Peranakan cuisine when she was 5 years old, Wee Eng Hwa was a very late starter. She began learning Nyonya cookery at the relatively ancient age of 47.

Fortunately, Wee Eng Hwa had two advantages over the self-proclaimed culinary child prodigy.

One, she could see what was in the wok without standing on a chair.

Two, her sifu has been guiding her for some 20 years. Shermay's, even if you believe her marketing spin, kicked the bucket after lesson one.

Not LKY's Babi Pongteh

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Cast your mind back, all the way back to when you were 5 years old. Do you remember anything much?

Would you believe a 5-year-old child is capable of learning how to cook, and remembers what she's learnt when she's a 28-year-old adult? Would you believe a 5-year-old can be instilled with a passion for cooking?

Lotus Seed Sweet Soup (蓮子爽)

Saturday, 10 September 2011

I was buying lotus seeds when a fellow aunty shopper who was waiting for her turn asked me how the dried seeds should be cooked.

Whilst I pondered the question (and sized her up), she told me hers were still hard after soaking overnight and simmering for two hours!

Ah yes, my mother had warned me about that. I said to the lady (after deciding she wasn't trying to sell me something), "You mustn't let lotus seeds touch cold water, otherwise they won't soften. You have to wash them in hot water and, when you put them in the pot, the water must be boiling." By soaking lotus seeds in hot water which became cold overnight, she had violated the golden rule: no cold water!

Paper-Wrapped Chicken

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The paper in 纸包鸡 serves a purpose (other than containing the chicken).

It gives the chicken the best of two worlds: steaming and deep-frying.

Because the meat juices have nowhere to escape, the chicken is extremely juicy, much juicier than paperless deep-fried chicken could ever be.

Tau Suan

Saturday, 27 August 2011


If you know what 豆爽 (tau suan) is, you probably know that 豆 means beans.

What about 爽? What does 爽mean?

'Suan' means sticky soup, which may be savory or sweet. I guess '爽' is another word for  '羹'.

Cooking for the President has an alternative explanation that's quite interesting. 

Kiam Chye Ark (Salted Mustard Greens and Duck Soup)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

When I was looking at recipes for itek teem, I was surprised at the number of ingredients used for the Nyonya soup.

Various Peranakan adaptations of kiam chye ark had pig's trotters, assam skin, brandy, nutmeg, and even sea cucumber.

These were on top of the kiam chye (pickled mustard greens), ark (duck), pickled plums, and tomatoes found in every recipe, Nyonya or Chinese.

It all seemed a bit over-the-top to me, adding so much stuff.

Sayur Lodeh

Monday, 22 August 2011

It was Cook a Pot of Curry Day yesterday because, to cut a long story short, some mainland Chinese with a delicate nose had asked his Singaporean Indian to stop cooking curry. Indignant Singaporeans protested in unison when they heard the story. How dare they tell us not to cook curry! It was a wonderful excuse to tell the mainland Chinese where to shove it, all in the name of protecting the national identity. Before long, Curry Day was organized via Facebook.

There are curries, and there are curries. If it had been a Malay, Nyonya or local Chinese cooking curry next to the mainland Chinese, there probably would have been no dispute. But Indian curries are different when they're not adapted to suit the tastes of the Singaporean Chinese. They have a pungence that's far more powerful than Malay, Nyonya or Chinese-style curries. Chinese Singaporeans call it 'the Indian smell'. For those who don't mince their words, 'smell' may be replaced with 'stink' or 'pong'

Minced Pork Stir-Fry with Ketchup & Fermented Black Beans

Friday, 19 August 2011

Minced pork stir-fried with fermented black beans is one of the standard items served at places that sell Teochew porridge.

The dish is different from other fbb-based recipes because it's got a good amount of tomato ketchup.

Ketchup goes well with the salty fragrance of fbb. It adds a sweet and sour dimension not found in fbb dishes that are more traditional.

Kueh Bengka Ubi (I)

Monday, 15 August 2011

I was going to say it takes five minutes to put together a kueh bengka ubi (baked tapioca cake). But, thinking about it as I write, I'd say it takes only 90 seconds if, unlike me, you're not reading the instructions at the same time, and chasing cats out of the kitchen.

Yup, one and a half minutes is all kueh bengka ubi takes, or I'll eat my hat.

Baking time is not included, btw, so please don't say it takes you an hour, and then tell me to eat my hat with sambal. Neither is shopping time or washing up. And I reserve the right to change this agreement any time I like, in whatever way I like. I assume your arms and legs are fully functional and . . . .

Hey, I almost forgot I don't have any hats!

Diced Chicken in Spicy Fermented Tofu Sauce

Friday, 12 August 2011

Fermented beancurd is good stuff. It's gotta be. Otherwise, it wouldn't have survived war, peace, and technological upheavals for more than 2,000 years.

Fermented beancurd is salty, creamy and aromatic. It may be used as a seasoning, or eaten as it is with porridge or rice.

Tired of salting meat with soya sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and plain old salt?

Try fermented beancurd.

If you like chicken, and if you like fermented beancurd, you'd like chicken stir-fried with fermented beancurd. I'm sure of that, like I'm sure your mother is a woman.

DICED CHICKEN IN SPICY FERMENTED TOFU SAUCE (香辣腐乳鸡丁)
(Recipe for 4 persons)

400 g boneless chicken leg, wash and dice 2 cm
Marinade
1½ tbsp white fermented beancurd's pickling liquid
⅓ tsp salt
½ tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1½ tbsp water
Stir-fry
1 tbsp white sesame oil
1 piece ginger, half thumb size, peel, wash and slice thinly
3 cloves garlic, peel, wash and slice thinly
3 bird's eye chillies, wash, trim and slice diagonally 3 mm thick
3 sprigs spring onion (white part), cut 1 cm long
30 g white fermented beancurd, mash
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
Finishing touch
3 sprigs spring onion (green part), cut 1 cm long
¼ tsp white sesame oil

Mix chicken with marinade ingredients till all liquid is absorbed. Marinate for 15 minutes or longer.

Heat 1 tbsp white sesame oil till very hot. Add ginger and stir-fry over high heat till lightly golden. Add garlic, chillies and spring onions (white part). Stir-fry till garlic is also lightly golden. Add fermented beancurd and stir-fry till fragrant. Add chicken and stir-fry till wok is very hot. Drizzle with wine and stir through. Drizzle with 1 tbsp water and stir through again. Add 2 tbsp water and continue stirring – a few minutes would do – till chicken is just cooked (totally opaque and firm), and sauce is reduced and slightly thickened. Or leave sauce a bit watery if not eating within 10 minutes, because it thickens as it sits.

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Turn off heat. Sprinkle with spring onions (green part). Stir through. Sprinkle with ¼ tsp sesame oil. Plate and serve immediately.

Pork Stir-Fry with Sesame Oil

Sunday, 7 August 2011

I stir-fry pork with sesame oil. So did my mother, my mother's mother, my mother's mother's mother . . .

I'm guessing that since sesame oil was invented discovered in China –  supposedly some 2,300 years ago during the Three Kingdoms period – Chinese have been cooking pork in it one way or another. 

The version I make is with garlic, ginger, light soya sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine and salt. I've done it so many times I can practically do it with my eyes closed.

Fried Glutinous Rice

Thursday, 21 July 2011

I've been eating glutinous rice for about a year now, in place of the non-sticky variety. I steamed some one day 'cause I was out of regular rice, and I haven't looked back since. It's more fragrant than regular rice though the quality does vary from brand to brand.

Non-sticky rice can be steamed or boiled but the sticky one can only be steamed. If steamed without the rice sitting in water, it should be soaked for several hours, which was what I did when I was a sticky rice novice.

Of course, I didn't always have several hours' foresight into when I wanted to tuck into a bowl of piping hot rice, and hunger made my brain tick.

Hmm . . . instead of making the rice absorb water before cooking it, why not make it absorb water whilst it's being cooked? Hey, we all have to multi-task, even rice!

Mee Siam (Spicy Rice Vermicelli)

Friday, 24 June 2011

The mee siam recipe I'm sharing is from Cooking for the President.

When Wee Kim Wee was an ambassador in Malaysia and Japan, Mrs Wee's cooking took Tokyo and KL by storm (according to the cookbook). She invited 500 guests at a time, and laid out an entire spread of Nyonya delicacies.

Mee siam was one the guests' firm favourites, along with sambal udang and chicken satay.

Sambal Udang

Monday, 13 June 2011


Sambal udang was the first recipe I tried from Cooking for the President.

How was the presidential recipe for prawns smothered in chilli paste?

It was excellent!

The ingredients were simple, the instructions were clear and easy to follow, and the results were darn tasty.

Sambal Kangkong (Water Spinach with Chilli Paste)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Do you know that there's a connection between kangkong and the God of Fortune, aka 财神爷?

I'm guessing you don't, so here's the story:

3,000 years ago, China was ruled by an emperor who knew diddly squat about everything. As with all useless emperors, he had a wicked concubine, and his was called 妲己.

Black Pepper Crab

Sunday, 17 April 2011



Rule number one of crab handling: Make sure it's dead before cutting the string! Ask the crab politely, whilst tapping its legs with a knife or chopstick, 'Hello? Hello? Are you dead?' If it nods its head or says, "Yes, I'm dead," beware of the crafty crab! If there's no response and the legs aren't moving, then and only then should the string be cut. I never forget the rule so no, I wasn't bitten. I was just kidding!

Sambal Stingray (I)

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

I love banana leaves. Rice and curry taste so much better when it's on a banana leaf.

Banana leaves are fun, and I feel good using something that's disposable yet traditional and natural.

Who says only modern people are lazy?

Whoever first thought of using banana leaves as plates must have hated washing up, just like me!

The banana leaf in sambal stingray is the unsung hero. The sambal takes all the glory but even a good one would be even better with the banana leaf's subtle smokiness. Isn't the nicely charred leaf a perfect frame for the gleaming, red sambal? Sambal stingray without banana leaf just wouldn't be the same (though it's still better than no sambal stingray at all).

17 September 2012 Update

Here's my video guide for making sambal stingray:



SAMBAL STINGRAY
(Recipe for 3-4 persons)
Sambal (makes about 1 cup)
150 g shallots
75 g garlic
15 g ginger
40 g lemongrass, tender, non-bitter part only
50 g red chillies
15 g dried chillies
trim stems, cut 2 cm long, soak in warm water till soft, about 30 minutes; squeeze dry and discard water

15 g belacan (fermented shrimp paste)
roast at 150°C or dry-fry over medium-low heat till dry and crumbly
20 g tamarind paste
mash with 2 tbsp hot water, drain and discard seeds and pulp

½ cup vegetable oil
30 g palm sugar, roughly chopped
¼ tsp salt

1 piece stingray wing, 400-500 g
rinse and drain; cut a 2-3 slits in thicker end along the grain
1/3 tsp salt
1 piece frozen banana leaf
thaw and rinse; trim to fit baking tray
Garnish
calamansi limes, halved
red onion, thinly sliced
tomato or pineapple wedges
cucumber slices

Wash, trim, peel and roughly chop shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and red chillies as appropriate. Grind or pound with dried chillies and belachan till smooth.

Stir-fry sambal paste with vegetable oil over medium heat till fragrant and colour darkens, about 15 minutes. Add palm sugar. Stir-fry till dissolved. Add tamarind water and salt. Stir-fry till oil separates. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Remove from heat. Leave till cool.

You should have about 1 cup. Use about 1/2 cup for 400-500 g stingray. Remaining 1/2 cup may be stored for a few weeks refrigerated.

Preheat grill to 230°C (450°F). Line baking tray with aluminium foil. Lightly brush with vegetable oil.

Place stingray on baking tray, white side up. Season lightly with salt, including slits. Grill till 70-80% cooked, about 5 minutes depending on thickness of fish. Spread with sambal, thinly. Grill till top of stingray feels firm when pressed chopsticks, about 5 minutes.

Lift stingray from baking tray with a spatula. Place banana leaf in tray. Flip stingray onto banana leaf. Season lightly with salt. Grill till 70-80% cooked, about 7 minutes depending on thickness. Spread with sambal, thickly. Grill till fully cooked and sambal is sizzling and slightly charred, 5 minutes or so.

Slide foil, leaf and fish onto serving plate. Pull foil from underneath banana leaf and discard.

Garnish and serve immediately.

Herbal Mutton Soup

Thursday, 7 April 2011

My mother cooked just about everyday, and not once did she cook mutton, lamb or goat anything – not once. Hence, my knowledge of cooking anything that goes 'Meh-eh-heh!' or 'Baa-aaa!' is pretty paltry. I learn on the job which is, if you ask me, a fun way of learning.

Har Cheong Gai (Prawn Paste Chicken) (I)

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

There're many types of fermented prawn paste. I could smell this one once the bottle was open.

Phwoar! This is potent stuff!

It wasn't belachan, which is quite harmless until it's toasted or fried.

Nor was it Penang hae ko, which is absolutely benign because it has lots of sugar.

The 'Mee Siam Mai Hum' Mystery

Sunday, 27 March 2011


During one of his speeches a couple of years ago, the Prime Minister said, 'Mee siam mai hum.' He was relating how he would order the noodle dish, mee siam, without cockles.

The PM was perhaps making an attempt to connect with commoners who eat humble stuff, like me. But the speech set tongues wagging, to put it mildly, because mee siam doesn't have cockles, ever.

The harsher critiques thought the PM's little boo-boo showed how disconnected he was with everyday life. But I think there could be another explanation for his culinary faux pas. What he actually wanted to say was mee siam without tamarind, or mee siam mai assam. How do I know that? Take a look at his grandmother's mee siam recipe, extracted from Mrs Lee's Cookbook (Mrs Lee being said grandmother):

Run your eye through the list of ingredients for the gravy. See? There's no assam in Grandma's recipe.


So, confronted with the commoners' version that always comes with assam, the PM would say mee siam mai assam. But that fateful day, no thanks to a slip of the tongue, he said mai hum instead.

That might be one mystery solved, but I'm still scratching my head. Every single mee siam I've ever eaten is slightly tangy with assam. When I have a craving for mee siam, it's the spicy sourness that I long for. Why on earth would anyone make mee siam without assam?

Pandan Chiffon Cake (I)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

I'm in the mood for a local cake, and no cake is more local than Pandan Chiffon. I start by comparing recipes from Epicurative, The Best of Singapore Cooking, The Raffles Hotel Cookbook, and the four featured by ieat. I put everything in Excel with the amount of flour in every recipe standardized to 100 g, and all the other ingredients adjusted proportionately. (Yup, I'm a geek, and proud of it.) Here's the spreadsheet (strictly for geeks like me):

Once I'm comparing apples and apples, it's obvious The Best of Singapore Cooking has heap loads of everything, from coconut milk to oil, egg whites, egg yolks, and especially sugar and baking powder. Every . . . single . . . thing! Hmm, doesn't seem right. BSC – out!

Chicken Satay & Peanut Sauce

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Do you know how satay sauce gets its tinge of yellow Turmeric?

Wrong! The golden hue comes from roasted peanuts, which have to be finely ground and boiled to release their colour.

The first round of satay sauce I made was too chunky because the peanuts were all roughly chopped as per the recipe.

Thai Stuffed Chicken Wings

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

If you hate bones as much as this chap who's gritting his teeth, and staring daggers at the person who's making him gnaw his food like  a dog, then . . .

Chinese Rojak

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

I was busy stirring bowl after bowl after bowl of rojak sauce last weekend, trying to find one that I liked.

The first mistake I made was with the tamarind water. I followed the rojak recipe in The Best of Singapore Cooking, mixing a walnut size blob of assam with 80 ml of water. That totally spoilt the sauce/dressing 'cause it was way too watery.

Cereal Butter Prawns (I)

Friday, 25 February 2011

Melt some butter and, when it's bubbling nicely, grab a few sprigs of curry leaves and rip off the leaves (with style, of course). Toss 'em in the wok, together with a roughly chopped up cili padi. Stir vigorously, knocking the spatula against the wok now and then. (Not sure what the knocking is for but that's what chefs do. Maybe it's a man thing?)

Butter, curry leaves and cili padi are all ingredients with pretty strong flavours but they complement rather than overwhelm each other. Each stands its ground, yet works with the other two to create a killer combination loved by young and old alike.