Kuih Bingka Ambon

Monday, 10 September 2012

Knock knock!

Who's there?

Honeycomb cake!

Honeycomb cake who?

Honey, come quick! The honeycomb cake is delicious!

Silly knock-knock joke out of the way, let's get down to the serious business of baking, shall we?

Kuih Seri Muka/Kueh Salat (II)

Monday, 20 August 2012

To live up to its name, kuih seri muka must have a layer of custard that's smooth as a baby's bottom because "seri muka" means beautiful face.

Unlike humans, kuih doesn't need cosmetics, plastic surgery or botox. All it requires is low, gentle heat whilst it's cooking, and the "muka" would be "seri" as can be.

Cereal Butter Prawns (II)

Monday, 13 August 2012

Tips for making cereal butter prawns:

I've come across recipes that use oat which, if you think about it, isn't crisp before you cook it. So you fry it in butter and it's supposed to crisp up? No way! It just turns into a soggy mess. When you see recipes that use oat, run!

Learn How to Make Kueh Lapis in 5 Minutes

Monday, 6 August 2012

Knock knock!

Who's there?

Kueh lapis!

Kueh lapis who?

Kueh lah, please make some kueh!

Har Cheong Gai (Prawn Paste Chicken) (II)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

How many ways are there to fry chicken?

More ways than there are to skin a . . . c-a-t. (Shhhh! Don't let the kitties hear us.)

Every culture has its own version of fried chicken. That is the chicken's destiny. That is why it crosses the road.

Sambal Ikan Bilis (II)

Monday, 9 July 2012

Ini ikan bilis; ini kacang.

"Beep beep beep! KT has reached maximum capacity of her Behasa Melayu."

What?!

That is so not true. I know lots more Malay words . . . like, um, nasi lemak, mee rebus, ayam, ikan, babi, pulut, pisang goreng . . .

Teochew Fish Porridge (潮州鱼粥)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


How do you tell if the fish you wanna buy is fresh? (a) It doesn't smell fishy. (b) The eyes are bright. (c) The gills are red. (d) It feels firm. (e) The skin is shiny. (f) All of the above. If you choose 'f', then sorry, you're wrong . . . mostly.

Bak Chang (肉粽; Meat Dumplings)

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

My mother made two types of 粽子 every year, kee chang and bak chang. The former is quite straightforward; it's just glutinous rice and lye water wrapped in bamboo leaves. Bak chang, however, is extremely varied in ingredients, seasoning, cooking method, and shape depending on which part of China your family is from. For us – we're Teochews – there're two types indigenous to our culture. The more elaborate type, called 双烹, has a small ball of sweet red bean paste wrapped in leaf lard. My mother always did the simpler type without the sweet red bean paste. The filling is 100% savory with fatty pork belly, chestnuts, mushrooms, dried prawns and fried shallots.

Kee Chang (碱水粽)

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Song Dynasty some 1,000 years ago was one of the golden eras of Chinese poetry. The more famous poets like 蘇東坡 and 李後主 are still household names now, more or less.

And then there's the whole bunch of guys from the Tang Dynasty, such as 李白 and 白居易, whose poems have been around for about 1,200 years. That's an awfully long time but it's nothing compared to 曹操 and 曹丕 who have clocked in almost 1,800 years

10-Minute Kaya (II)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

To enjoy a kaya toast brekky at home:

1. Make kaya in 10 minutes using the recipe here, up to one week ahead. On no account make kaya the traditional way which involves a double-boiler and stirring for hours on end. If you have a lot of free time, I suggest you bathe your dog, read a book, or take a nap.

2. The night before the kaya toast breakfast, remove eggs from the fridge to let them come to room temperature.

Kueh Bengka Ubi (II)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

If you can buy ready-grated tapioca and ready-squeezed fresh coconut milk, it'd criminal not to make kueh bengka ubi. It is so easy, so quick, so good.

It's hard to come up with tips for making kueh bengka ubi because the Malay/Nyonya cake is really straightforward. Even after eating lots of kueh to fuel my brain, I can think of only a few which anyone with some common sense/knowledge would know:

Orh Kueh/Steamed Yam Cake (II)

Monday, 28 May 2012


If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is my video worth? Let's see . . .

length of video = 5 minutes 10 seconds = 310 seconds
frames per second = 30
total no. of frames/pictures = 310 x 30 = 9,300
1 frame = 1,000 words
9,300 frames = 9,300,000 words

Samsui Ginger Chicken

Monday, 21 May 2012

Do you make 白切鸡, 'white-cut chicken'? If you do, chances are you stuff the cavity of the chicken with spring onions and ginger. After checking out the recipes online and in a few cookbooks, I think nine out of 10 people stuff their chicken. It's like these people, when they see an empty chicken, simply can't resist shoving in something. If you're one of them, I'm sorry to have to tell you, the method is wrong.

Why is it wrong?

Fried Spring Rolls (Video #135)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Regular readers of this blog would know I made my first cooking video last week. So why is this video #135 instead of #2?

Heh . . . heh . . . heh . . . 

Because I'm following a Chinese custom.

In the old days far, far away in China, an abundance of male heirs to carry on the family name was considered good fortune. So much so that if someone had only one or two sons – which was tantamount to a tragedy – he'd say he had 11 or 12. IOW, it was how many he actually had, plus 10. Hence, the eldest son became #11, and the second son #12.

Note that the creative accounting applied to sons only. It was perfectly alright to have only one daughter, or even none at all.

Pandan Chiffon Cake (II)

Monday, 7 May 2012

I've made my first video. This is my new hobby now, making cooking videos. It is fun!

The filming was a lot easier than I'd expected, and the "post production" a lot more fun.

Playing the film editor, I watched myself crack eggs in slow motion, made the upside down cake look like a (clumsy) flying saucer; zoomed in on my . . . .

OMG, my hands look so dry!

Pulut Inti

Saturday, 14 April 2012

What do pulut inti, kueh kochee, pulut chawan, lopes, ondeh ondeh, kueh salat, pulut tataa, kueh doldol, kueh bengka pulut, and kueh wajek durian have in common, apart from all of them being Nyonya kueh-kueh?

The 10 kueh-kueh are all made with coconut, and glutinous rice or glutinous rice flour. Yet they're all different as can be in texture, taste and look.

Orh Kueh/Steamed Yam Cake (I)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Making good orh kueh starts with choosing yam that's light for its size. Lighter ones have less water, and less watery ones are nicer because they're more fluffy, powdery and fragrant.

Next, be generous when trimming the yam. The outer part is usually waxy and tasteless. I usually cut 2-3 cm off the top and bottom, and 1-2 cm off the sides.

To enhance its fragrance, the yam should be fried and then seasoned lightly with salt and five-spice powder. Don't let the yam brown or it'd be leathery.

Braised Chicken with Chestnuts

Thursday, 15 March 2012


My mother always used dried chestnuts, so I'm clueless about prepping fresh ones. Using my common sense, I figure boiling should be the right method for tackling fresh chestnuts' shell and peel. It seems like the obvious thing to do, right?

How to Make GOOD Fried Rice

Friday, 2 March 2012


The most common tip for making fried rice is: use day-old rice because it's fluffy and no longer sticky. Unfortunately, fluffy rice alone doesn't make good fried rice. The chewiness of the rice is equally important, and that doesn't change much once the rice is cooked.

How to cook rice that's chewy? By steaming, so that the rice doesn't directly sit in boiling water.

When rice is cooked in boiling water, the cell walls break down, allowing the starch inside to leak out, absorb too much water and turn soft. The change in texture is irreversible, so the rice isn't chewy even if you let it rest overnight. Hence, rice cooked by boiling, in a rice cooker or on the stove, is destined to make fried rice that's at best mediocre even if it's day-old rice.

In contrast, rice that's steamed has no direct contact with boiling water. Cooked at a lower temperature, the cell walls don't break down much, so very little starch escapes. Hence, all the grains are chewy and they don't stick together. The overnight rest, a must for boiled rice, isn't necessary for steamed rice. This fried rice, made with 15-minute-old steamed rice, is as fluffy as can be:

Temperature isn't the only important factor. The amount of water absorbed by the rice is equally crucial. Too much water would make the rice loses its chewiness even if it's steamed. How much is too much? It depends on the type of starch found in the rice.

There're two types of rice starch: amylopectin and amylose. The latter makes rice fluffy and not sticky because it's insoluble. Basmati rice, for instance, is very fluffy because it has a high percentage of amylose. Amylopectin, on the other hand, makes rice chewy by absorbing water to form a gel. Glutinous rice is extremely chewy because it contains mostly amylopectin.

You might have come across the tip that aged, old rice is necessary for making good fried rice because it has more amylose than newly harvested rice. The tip isn't entirely correct. Rice that's too old has too much amylose and not enough amylopectin to make it chewy. It's fluffy alright but it's not chewy, and the texture gets worse when the rice cools down because amylose hardens when it's cold. New rice, on the other hand, runs a risk of turning mushy because it has a lot of amylopectin, which becomes soft if it absorbs too much water.

The best rice – that's easy to work with, fluffy, chewy, and doesn't harden when it's cold – should have a good balance of the two types of starch. I'd call it middle-aged. (Click here to learn more about old vs new rice from Harold McGee.)

So, the rice is steamed to fluffy and chewy perfection, and half the battle is won. Ready to stir and fry?

To win the second half of the battle without wok hei – the smoky, charred aroma created with a professional-grade stove – ingredients are the home cook's only weaponry. Forget about mincing a few cloves of garlic. You need a heap of ingredients – an atomic bomb, in other words, not a few hand grenades – or the rice would be tasteless. But not too much either or the rice would be overwhelmed. (You want to bomb a city, not destroy the entire planet.)

The mix of ingredients must be chosen carefully so that the rice is infused with both fragrance and umaminess. Shallots, dried prawns and salted fish make a great combination. The Chinese would mince these ingredients finely but I think the Nyonya method is far superior. Pounding with a mortar and pestle achieves a very fine grind which a knife can't possibly create. Imagine each and every grain of rice coated with countless specks of shallots, dried prawns and salted fish which have been fried till brown and fragrant. The aroma and umaminess pop in your mouth even before you start chewing.

Adding chunks of meat or seafood to fried rice would be to miss the point completely. It's fried rice, not stir-fried chicken or whatever. A modest amount, cut pea-sized or flaked if it's crab, adds variety but doesn't overwhelm. Each little piece is eaten with some rice in one mouthful, which wouldn't be possible if it's cut too big.

Most people expect eggs in Chinese fried rice so into the wok they go, fried rather than raw so that the rice doesn't sit in liquid eggs and lose its chewiness. Don't forget that eggs would absorb some aroma and umaminess, so there must be sufficient dried prawns, salted fish and shallots – or whatever you fancy – to flavour not just the rice but also the eggs.

Lastly, add salt and ground white pepper to taste, and lots of spring onion or maybe iceberg lettuce, and the job's done. Easy peasy.

DRIED PRAWN, SALTED FISH & CHICKEN FRIED RICE (虾米咸鱼鸡丁炒饭)
(Recipe for 4 persons)

360 g long grain Jasmine white rice (I use Songhe brand)
wash and drain thoroughly; place in 18-cm round cake tin; add 320 ml water (weight of rice plus water is 720 g); let rice soak 10 minutes

50 g dried prawns
50 g salted ikan kurau (threadfin), bones and scales removed if any
100 g shallots, peel

5½ tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs (use 1 tsp to marinate chicken)
beat with 2 tbsp milk, big dash of ground white pepper, and 1 tsp each of light soya sauce, white sesame oil and Shaoxing wine
200 g deboned chicken thigh or drumstick
wash, drain and dice 1½ cm; marinate with dash of ground white pepper, and 1 tsp each of light soya sauce, Shaoxing wine, egg and white sesame oil for 15 minutes or longer
salt to taste, about ¼ tsp
ground white pepper to taste, about ½ tsp
60 g spring onions
trim and wash; dice to yield 1 cup (sounds like a lot!)

Steam rice over rapidly boiling water for 15 minutes, then check whether rice needs more water. If surface layer is cooked but a bit hard, rice is ideal. Steam another 5 minutes – surface layer should now be soft but chewy – then remove rice from steamer. If surface layer is not cooked, sprinkle with 1-2 tbsp water and continue steaming for another 5 minutes. Repeat if necessary, till rice is just soft. Remove rice from steamer. If surface layer is cooked and soft, remove rice immediately (and use less water next time you steam rice).

After rice is cooked, fluff and set aside to firm up, about 20 minutes. Cover if not frying immediately.

If the rice is fried just after steaming, it's still fluffy and 'Q' but the soft grains would break into small pieces when stirred. You may skip the cooldown when hunger is more important than presentation, or if you can toss rice like a pro.

Whilst rice is cooking, rinse dried prawns, salted fish and shallots. Cut into small pieces, then blitz in mini chopper or pound till very fine. If pounding, start with salted fish, then dried prawns and finally shallots.

In a well-seasoned wok, make a thin omelette with eggs using ½ tbsp vegetable oil. When omelette is almost done, chop into small pieces with spatula. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same wok, heat remaining 5 tbsp vegetable oil till almost smoking. Add salted fish, dried prawns and shallots. Fry over medium heat till brown and fragrant. Increase heat to high. Add chicken and stir through. Add rice and eggs. Stir-fry till chicken is just cooked. Taste and add salt if necessary. Stir through. Turn off heat. Sprinkle with ground white pepper and spring onions. Stir through. Plate and serve.

15-Minute Flower Crab Dry Curry

Sunday, 26 February 2012


If you like crab but can't stomach the idea of being a crab killer, flower crab would be right up your alley. The blue crustaceans are mostly sold dead; live ones caught by local kelongs are available only once in a blue, blue moon, when you're extremely lucky. Or maybe unlucky if you're not into buying food that's still moving.