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!

Udang Masak Nanas

Saturday, 2 July 2011

It's another Mrs Wee Kim Wee recipe today: udang masak nanas. This is the fourth recipe I've tried from Cooking for the President. It's a classic Nyonya soup made with, as its name says, udang and nanas – or prawns and pineapple for those who don't speak Malay. It's great for whetting the appetite 'cause it's slightly tangy and a wee bit spicy. And prawns are, for me, always a treat.

Udang masak nanas is an easy soup whether you masak as in cook for real, or masak-masak as in play at cooking. Just gather all the ingredients in a pot and simmer away – kid stuff!

My mother made a dish very similar to Udang Masak Nanas but, instead of prawns, she used a small fish called kekek (ponyfish). The president's wife sometimes used the wonderfully tasty fish too. That's not surprising since the basic recipe is quite common and adaptable. You know what's surprising? Mrs Wee made omelettes with pig brains on Sundays as a treat, just like my mother! Her daughter, like me, had to clean the brains with toothpicks. And the two cooks' recipes were practically the same, not that one could vary a Chinese style omelette much.

Mee Siam

Friday, 24 June 2011

Prostitute, as in to put one's abilities to base or unworthy use. There was a man who refused to prostitute himself: Ong Teng Cheong, President of Singapore, 1993-1999.

As the Head of State, Ong Teng Cheong was entrusted with the task of protecting Singapore's past financial reserves. He had the power to veto any withdrawal – in theory.

In reality, President Ong didn't even know how much reserves there were until 1996. He got the information only because he asked, and kept asking for three whole years. Then in 1998, the state-owned Post Office Savings Bank and the national reserves it was holding was divested without even his knowledge, never mind consent. He had to remind the cabinet that the divestment without his permission was against the Constitution of Singapore. And there were no procedures for the protection of past reserves. So he went about setting up the procedures, and that took him his entire six-year presidential term.

Sambal Timun

Friday, 17 June 2011

LinkI like Mrs Wee Kim's sambal timun recipe in Cooking for the President. The magic of the Spicy Pork Cucumber Salad is in the dressing – isn't it always, with salads?

Opposites attract, so bland, tasteless timun (cucumber) and spicy, hot sambal (chilli paste) are the proverbial match made in Nyonya heaven. And when the matchmaker is Mrs Wee, you can be assured it's a particularly blissful match.

Besides the usual red chillies and belachan, the ex-First Lady also uses pounded kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced bungah kantan (torch ginger bud) and julienned calamansi lime peel. That's a lot of intense flavours already but there's more.

Sambal Udang

Monday, 13 June 2011

It wasn't just any ordinary sambal udang. It was Sambal Udang made with a recipe from Cooking for the President.

Who was cooking for which president? That'd be Mrs Wee Kim Wee cooking for her husband, as told by their daughter, Wee Eng Hwa.

Sambal udang was the first recipe I tried from Cooking for the President – Reflections & Recipes of Mrs Wee Kim Wee.

How was the Wee family recipe for prawns smothered in chilli paste?

It was excellent!

Sambal Kangkong

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.

One day, 妲己 pretended to be ill and said she needed to eat 比干's heart to be cured. 比干 was the good guy who was trying to set the useless emperor on the right path, so the concubine – actually a 'fox spirit' in human form – wanted to get rid of him.

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!

Nyonya Achar

Sunday, 9 January 2011

I learnt how to make achar from my landlady's maid who, when she came and cleaned my place every week, occasionally left me little gifts in the fridge. I'm usually too shy (yes, really!) to ask anyone for recipes but I liked her achar so much that I did. She not only wrote it down for me but also – bless her! – brought all the ingredients to my place and showed me how.

Years later, after I bought The Best of Singapore Cooking, I realized that the written recipe she had given me was from Mrs Leong Yee Soo's cookbook. What she actually made, however, was quite different – and better – than Bibik Leong's, with less oil and more sugar. I guess it's important to "season to taste", which was what I did when I recreated the achar recipe I had forgotten because it wasn't written down. That's why I'm writing it down now!

15-Minute Dry Chicken Curry

Thursday, 30 September 2010

15 minutes is all it takes to make dry chicken curry. ... . . .... . . .
....... . . . . . .. .. ... . . ... . . . . . . ... . .. . . .... . .. . . . . . .

Assam Prawns

Saturday, 28 August 2010

I love prawns every which way. All the way from live (!), to raw, steamed, poached, stir fried, pan fried, deep fried, grilled and baked. Not forgetting dried prawns, which I can't live without. Stinky and fermented shrimp paste? Pickled cincalok? Bring it on!

Honestly, there's no such thing as bad prawns, so long as they're fresh and not overcooked. Yup, even dried, fermented and pickled prawns must be made with the freshest catch if you want quality stuff.

Tamarind Pork

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

PhotobucketI love Chinese food, and I love Malay food. So it's no wonder that Nyonya dishes that combine the best of these two great cuisines are my perennial favourites.

Babi assam – meaning tamarind pork – is a prime example of how the Straits Chinese or Peranakans combine Chinese and Malay flavours.

Fermented soya beans from China are melded with common Malay ingredients – tamarind, shrimp paste and chillies – in a slow, long simmer.