Tang Yuan (湯圓)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

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Christmas has become the second biggest festival in Singapore, next to Chinese New Year. It's very commercialized but the loss of spirituality doesn't bother me. I just join in the festive fun and food orgy. Party spirit in place of religious spirit, sort of. It's end of the year, work slows down, kids are on school holidays, and everyone's in a partying mood. Any excuse to take a break and relax is good!

Bombay Duck Soup

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

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These Bombay ducks look pretty ferocious, eh? Good thing they aren't moving anymore, or they might snap off my fingers! I think they could be the star of some B grade horror movie. Can you see them wriggling around, snake-like, wreaking havoc on unsuspecting teenagers skinny dipping in a lake? Would have to make them much bigger though, since these cute little critters are only about eight inches long. But boy, they sure don't need extra teeth!

Carrot Cake

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

PhotobucketCan a cake be moist yet light at the same time? Isn't that like asking a woman to be skinny and curvy? Yes, ideal women do exist, and so do ideal cakes.

I'm not that into cakes and neither is the rest of my extended clan. We find most cakes too rich and filling, especially after a heavy meal. And our meals are always heavy when we get together!

But there's one cake that has everyone's approval: Angela Nilsen's Carrot Cake, from The Ultimate Recipe Book. We love it 'cause it's really moist yet really light. No one needs any strong Chinese tea to wash down this yummy babe!

Saba Shioyaki (Grilled Mackerel)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

PhotobucketI had a little birthday party today. It was a small, cosy affair with just the birthday girl, two of her buddies and me.

Everyone at the party loves fish, so I made a fish dish, saba shioyaki. The fillets, grilled and seasoned sparingly with sea salt, turned out beautifully although it was only my second time DIYing saba shioyaki.

When I made my first attempt last night, I didn't feel too confident. Mum always said fresh is best but the mackerel I had were frozen and shipped all the way from Norway. I was also afraid my little toaster oven might not be hot enough for a charred and crisp outside whilst keeping the inside juicy and moist.

Kong! Bak! Pau! – Pork Belly with Steamed Buns

Friday, 20 November 2009

PhotobucketThe monsoon season this year has started earlier than usual. It's been pouring by the bucketload practically every day for the past couple of weeks. And the weatherman predicts rain daily for the next 10 days! Wunderbar! Nice! Provided I'm not caught in traffic which jams up because of the rain, I really love this weather. It's a great change from the usual heat and humidity in sunny, tropical Singapore. I don't do it now but when I was a kid, I loved playing football with my brothers in the rain. Sliding and splashing around in a wet, muddy field was so much more fun than kicking a ball when the ground was dry and hard. Definitely worth the good scolding for getting our clothes muddy! In the rain, even walking home from school was fun 'cause we could stomp through puddles of water. Of course, that dirtied our white canvas Bata school shoes and got us another good scolding. Mind you, the fun didn't end when the rain stopped. After a heavy downpour, the lungfish in the pond next to our house escaped with the overflowing water, so we had to rescue them. These were fish which had lungs and could breathe air. Weird, eh? They could survive on land for quite a long time and were always wriggling vigorously on the ground when we found them. Unfortunately – or fortunately, from their perspective – they weren't very palatable, so we just chucked them back in the pond. The rainy season also brought lots of tadpoles in water puddles, which we caught and placed in glass bottles. It was fascinating watching them grow legs and eventually turn into tiny little toads.

PhotobucketThat was then, this is now. Older, sedate and aware of lightning risks, I don't run around in the rain any more. I love curling up with my cats (that's Princess Mel in the photo) for a snooze when a heavy downpour cools the hot, humid air. Or sitting next to an open window with a cup of tea, feeling the rain on my face. Back when we were catching fish with lungs, we had a corrugated zinc veranda which made a real ruckus when it rained. And the wave pattern in the zinc roof created a water curtain with strings of rain. It was very relaxing listening to the thundering rain and watching the shimmering strings of water. No such sound and visual effect now, I'm afraid.

There's one thing rainy weather always does to me no matter how old or young I am. It makes me really hungry! So hungry it's a good time to eat a piping hot stew. Not just any stew but a pork belly stew which might be too rich and filling when the weather is hot. Some call it Lor Bak (滷肉), others call it Kong Bak(扣肉). Or Dong Po Rou (東坡肉) or Tau Yu Bak (豆油肉). All these are pork belly braised Chinese style but the ingredients vary depending on personal preferences. I love the one I make because it has lots of vinegar to cut through the richness of the pork. And onions, garlic and ginger slowly cooked and caramelized in a dark, thick sauce. They are unrecognizable by the time the stew's done but these black blobs of stuff are, trust me, more delicious than the pork. I enjoy the stew with either rice or Chinese steamed buns, and every single bite is worth the extra time on the treadmill come payback time. Before I pay back, however, I wash everything down with a cup of strong Chinese tea and have a good snooze. Can't exercise right after I eat, right? Later lah.

Check these out:
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Tamarind Pork
(Babi Assam)

Spareribs with
Dried Tangerine
Peel
Spareribs
with Fermented
Black Beans
Drunken Chicken and
Soft-Boiled Eggs

Xi Yan's Kou Shui Ji (口水鸡) – Drool Worthy Recipe

Monday, 9 November 2009

PhotobucketI'm not sure what Kou Shui Ji (口水鸡) should be in English. This is a Jacky Yu (of Xi Yan Private Dining) recipe, which he has named Chicken in Hot and Spicy Sauce. But I think that's a bit too generic. Sounds like Kung Pao Chicken, which is completely different. '口水' actually means 'saliva' and '鸡' means 'chicken'. Hence, '口水鸡' is sometimes translated into 'Saliva Chicken'. Ho . . . hum, I don't like that either. The translation is a bit too literal and direct for me. I'm leaning towards Sichuan Drooling Good Chicken, meaning it's way better than 'finger lickin' good" fried chicken. What do you think? Kou Shui Ji is indeed drool worthy, especially with the addition of century eggs, which are not found in the original Sichuan version. It's Jacky Yu's personal touch and once again, it's a brilliant adaptation. The spicy and fragrant sauce brings out the creaminess of the century eggs, which adds a different textural dimension to the dish. And provides a nice contrast to the crunchy Sichuan peppercorns and peanuts. But if you're not into century eggs, by all means leave them out. With or without the scary looking black eggs, the poached chicken is really yummy with the sauce and condiments. I like this dish so much I have a bottle of the sauce mixed and ready to be used with just a few shakes. I drizzle it on not just chicken but also pork, prawns, squids and instant noodles. This is my Homemade Sichuan Miracle Sauce. It's good for everything!

Other Jacky Yu (Xi Yan) recipes:
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Prawns with Red
Fermented Beancurd
Crispy Pork Ribs with
Dried Tangerine Peel
Tomatoes in Sesame
Wasabi Sauce
No-Steam Radish Cake
(Lor Bak Ko)

Spicy Dried Prawns – Hae Bee Hiam (蝦米香)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

PhotobucketYesterday, my neighbour gave me some groceries 'cause she was going away for a couple of weeks. It was mostly fruits and vegetables, stuff that she couldn't keep for much longer. There was a whole pile of shallots and garlic which were either perishing or flourishing, depending on how you looked at it. I didn't want to waste the budding bulbs, so some emergency action was needed to terminate the 'growing ambitions'. I sliced off the freshly sprouted roots and a few tiny shoots, and stripped off the peel. Ground up the lot with dried chillies and dried prawns, and made Spicy Dried Prawns – Hae Bee Hiam in local parlance – the first time in many years. Mum used to make it quite often back when she rendered lard every fortnight or so. The crispy lardons from cooking pork fat were finely chopped, then fried with lots of finely pounded dried chillies, shallots, garlic and dried shrimps. That was really old world food at its best, I tell you. We had another way for eating freshly fried lardons, by the way. Sprinkled with a bit of sugar and dipped in light soya sauce. I kid you not.

It seemed like a lot of work when I made Hae Bee Hiam yesterday, despite using a mini chopper instead of a mortar and pestle. So I really savoured my homemade Spicy Dried Prawns even though it didn't have any lardons. And it was a bit too finely chopped and lacked a bit of texture. Next time, I will leave some small dried prawns whole. Might even render some pork fat for a just-like-Mum-made-it version!

I gave some Spicy Dried Prawns to my brother, the one who drives from Tampines to Jurong to get his Hae Bee Hiam fix at I-don't- know-which hawker centre. He was over the moon, to put it mildly. And offered to exchange more Hae Bee Hiam with his sprouting garlic and shallots. Gosh, what's with all these people growing plants in the fridge? Maybe I should give them a few plant pots?

Check these out:
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Prawns with
Salted Egg Yolks
Prawns with
Red Fermented
Beancurd
Prawn Tom
Yum Soup
Kung Pao Prawns

Prawns with Red Fermented Beancurd

Friday, 30 October 2009

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Most people use the words prawn and shrimp interchangeably, or think shrimps are small prawns and prawns are big shrimps. To add to the confusion, some countries use one or the other terminology almost exclusively. In the UK, Australia and Singapore, for instance, prawn is far more common but Americans prefer shrimp.

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.

Steamed Pork Ribs with Fermented Black Beans

Thursday, 15 October 2009

One of my favourite dishes is steamed pork ribs with fermented black beans, a standard item at dim sum restaurants. But I don't like ordering it when I'm on a Sunday dim sum pig-out, because I like to eat it with rice. All that savory, fragrant and umami goodness from the ribs just begs to drench a bowl of steaming white rice! But I can't have rice during a dim sum pig-out because it would take away tummy space for the other goodies, right?

*sigh . . .*

Roasted Eggplant with Sweet Miso – Nobu's Recipe

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

PhotobucketSo, I was saying yesterday I had two more enormous eggplants in t1he fridge. Well, there's none left now. I've cooked both with the leftover miso paste which I had used to make Miso Cod. I was going to leave one but I was afraid it might get cold and lonely in the fridge . . . haha. I was wondering if I made too much but after I tasted a piece of the slightly charred eggplant, the thought flew out the window. It was mmm mmm mmm mmm MM! The miso enriched with mirin, sake and sugar was awesome with the smoky, lightly burnt eggplant! It was much more distinct than in the Miso Cod dish since eggplants have a more neutral taste compared to cod. I was planning on keeping some for tomorrow – baked eggplants are delicious cold – but before I knew it, I was wiping the last drop of miso from the plate with the last bit of eggplant! As I savoured the final morsel of sweet and soft eggplant, I suddenly remembered Mum used to make steamed eggplants dressed with Chinese fermented soya beans. I must say this Nobu version is much better. I think the mirin, sake and sugar orchestrate a rounder and more mellow flavour compared to Chinese fermented soya beans performing solo. I'm definitely getting more eggplants for a Japanese encore.

Check these out:
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Bitter Melon
Soup with Chicken
Stir Fried Eggplant
with Chicken
Sichuan Spicy
Kung Pao Prawns
Chai Poh (Preserved
Turnip) Omelette

Prawns with Salted Egg Yolks

Friday, 25 September 2009

PhotobucketSome dishes are so easy, it doesn't make sense to order them when eating out. Might as well save the money for something that's really complicated or has some secret recipe which can't be replicated at home, right?

Prawns with salted egg yolks is one such easy peasy dish. It doesn't take a genius to guess what the ingredients are. Nor does it require a great chef or domestic god(dess) to pull the ingredients together into a great tasting dish. Any home cook with minimal kitchen skills can do the job adequately.

Date and Walnut Soft Candy

Thursday, 24 September 2009

PhotobucketI used to cart loads of date and walnut soft candy back to Singapore whenever I went to Hong Kong. So did a lot of other people. Everyone loved the soft and chewy candy wrapped in colourful cellophane.

By and by, shops in Singapore started selling date and walnut soft candy, so everyone could have as much as they wanted, whenever they wanted.

Being so easily obtainable made them less desirable, I think, and they sort of went out of fashion.

No-Steam Chinese Turnip/Radish Cake – Lor Bak Ko

Saturday, 19 September 2009

PhotobucketI got hold of Jacky Yu's cookbooks a few days ago, and have been poring over his recipes as bedtime reading. Who's Jacky Yu (余健志)? He's chef extraordinaire from Hong Kong and founder of Xi Yan Private Dining Restaurant. Famed for his originality in contemporary Chinese cuisine, Jacky Yu combines ingredients and techniques across different regions in China, South-East Asia and Japan. His signature dish is Chicken in Hot and Spicy Sauce (口水鸡), a traditional Sichuan cold chicken dish which he has made famous by adding century eggs. You know where he gets his creativity from? His mother! That's right, his mother is also quite inventive, so it's all in the genes. According to the son, Mum's Turnip Pancake (妈妈萝卜餅) was invented by his mother. Of all the recipes in his three cookbooks, this is the only one he attributes to Mrs Yu. That's gotta mean it's good, right? I must say it sounds quite original. The recipe's like Lor Bak Ko (萝卜糕) but it doesn't involve steaming, and has glutinous rice flour added. Usually, Lor Bak Ko is made with only rice flour, without any glutinous rice flour. And it's steamed, then pan-fried when it's cold. I reread Mrs Yu's recipe in both Chinese and English (the cookbooks are bilingual) to make sure there wasn't a mistake. Nope, it says 'Scoop turnip batter onto pan. Fry until both sides are browned.' It goes on to explain that the amount of glutinous rice flour should be 1.5 times plain rice flour. Like mother, like son; both of them break rules.

I woke up this morning and decided to try Jacky Yu's Mum's Turnip Pancake. That's what happens when I spend a couple of hours reading cookbooks before going to bed. Also makes me hungry late at night, but that's another story. So, does the recipe work? Is it good? Yes, it works. Yes, it's very, very good, and different. It's like a cross: 80% Cantonese Lor Bak Ko and 20% Nian Gao (年糕). Inside, it's soft, smooth and just a wee bit sticky and chewy. Outside, it's way, way more crispy than normal steam-and-fry Lor Bak Ko. Eaten piping hot, it goes C-R-U-N-C-H when I bite into it. For me, that's the killer part. I've never had steam-and-fry Lor Bak Ko that's so crispy. From now on, it's bye-bye traditional Lor Bak Ko and hello Mum's Turnip Pancake. Next Chinese New Year, I'm having Mum's Turnip Pancake and renaming it Lor Bak Nian Gao. Saves me the trouble of having both Lor Bak Ko and Nian Gao, which are traditionally eaten during the Chinese Spring Festival.

18 February 2010 update – here's a photo of the nian gao I bought for the Chinese New Year:



Check these out:
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Spareribs with
Fermented Black
Bans
Char Siu Pau
(Roast Pork Buns)
Yam Kueh
Kong! Bak! Pau!

Sticky Toffee Pudding – Without a Date

Saturday, 12 September 2009

PhotobucketSticky Toffee Pudding, an English pudding, is traditionally made with dates. But because I don't have a date, I make prune pudding instead. HA . . . ha . . . and tell lame jokes, obviously. Aiyah, I just prefer prunes because they are less sweet.

I haven't made Sticky Toffee Pudding for a long time, so I pulled out my recipe this morning and did a test run. I'm going to make some – with dates – for my Muslim neighbours. They are fasting now, and will be celebrating Hari Raya Puasa on 20 September. Traditionally, Muslims eat dates when they break their fast. Besides energizing with their high sugar content, dates are also spiritually significant Photobucketbecause they were one of the Prophet's most frequently consumed foods. (Click here for more information on dates and fasting for Muslims.) My Malay neighbours are extremely friendly, and they pop over every so often with some goodies. See the photo of the chicken curry? That's from them. It was reheated a day after it was cooked but still looked and tasted gorgeous. I reciprocate every now and then, especially when I can make extra portions with no effort at all. Like homemade cookies. Of course, I never ever give them curry since that would be like making Kimchi for a Korean or Tom Yum Soup for a Thai. I think they will be very pleased with a gift of Sticky Toffee Date Pudding. It's appropriate for the religious festival and is something familiar yet new. And it reheats very well, so they can eat it whenever they want. Knowing them, they will be cooking tonnes of food, and giving me some. Mmm mmm, I'm looking forward to that.

STICKY TOFFEE PRUNE PUDDING
(For 6 persons)

This recipe is adapted from Angela Nilsen's Ultimate Sticky Toffee Pudding. It's slightly less sweet and not as rich.

225 g pitted prunes, roughly chopped
175 g (180 ml) boiling water
1 tsp vanilla extract
85 g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
60 g dark muscovado sugar (or soft dark brown sugar)
60 g demerara sugar
2 eggs
100 ml milk
175 g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking soda
Toffee Sauce
100 g dark muscovado sugar
300 g thick cream

Pour boiling water over prunes and soak for 30 minutes till soft. Add vanilla extract and mash with a fork.

Position oven rack in the middle and preheat oven to 180°C (360°F). Butter and flour the sides of 6 small pudding tins, each about 200 ml (7 fl oz). Alternatively, use small ramekins or ceramic rice bowls. Trim 6 pieces of parchment paper and place one at the bottom of each pudding container. Place pudding containers on a baking sheet or pan. Puddings can also be steamed. If steaming, bring a wok or big pot of water to a boil.

Beat butter with demerara sugar and dark muscovado sugar till smooth. Add eggs, then milk and prune mixture in stages and beat well in between each addition.

Sieve flour and baking powder over mixture and fold in evenly.

Divide pudding mixture amongst containers and bake, or steam on medium heat. Check after 20 minutes for metal containers, or after 25 minutes for ceramic containers. Puddings are done when an inserted skewer (or chopstick) comes out clean.

Unmould by running a small knife between the pudding and container and turn it upside down on a serving plate.

To make the sauce, put dark muscovado sugar and cream in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat till thick. If you want a richer sauce, add a knob of butter to the sauce.

Drizzle sauce over puddings and serve immediately.

Alternatively, wait a day or two for a more sticky pudding. Unmould puddings, then pour half of the sauce into the containers and swirl it round the bottom and sides. Put puddings back in, and top with the remaining sauce. Swirl containers around and let the sauce trickle down the sides. Leave puddings in the fridge, covered, for a day or two. When ready to eat, zap 'em in the microwave. Or bring puddings back to room temperature, then reheat by steaming or in a preheated oven at 180°C (360°F) for 15 minutes or so till heated through.

Claypot Fish Head

Friday, 11 September 2009

PhotobucketClaypot fish head is like a reliable friend. It turns out beautifully every single time and never fails you. No real skill is called for. It just needs a bit of time. It reheats very well and in fact, tastes better reheated. You can cook it early in the day and when you, and maybe some friends, are ready to eat, it's there for you. It's highly adaptable to your requirements. Just add more pork, Chinese cabbage and bean curd when there are more people at the table. If you have one or two ingredients missing, add more of what you have. And you keep adding . . . until there is so much delicious stuff in one pot, there is no need for anything else. Like truly good friends, one is enough.

Cream Scones

Saturday, 5 September 2009

PhotobucketI can't remember what was the first Chinese dish I ever cooked. I started helping Mum in the kitchen from the age of . . . oh . . . nine? ten?

It's hard to say exactly when or what I first cooked something totally by myself. Baking, however, was different. Mum never baked, so I picked up baking only when I went overseas to study, and there was an oven in the common kitchen.

My foray into baking was gentle and gradual. I started as the kitchen hand for my neighbour who was an avid and experienced baker. Her pièce de résistance was apple pie in which I performed a crucial albeit non-baking role.

French Toast

Sunday, 30 August 2009

PhotobucketThere used to be a Hilton Hotel in Hong Kong, where Cheung Kong Centre now stands. It was a pretty nondescript hotel in Central and most people probably never thought of it once it was gone. Neither would I except that was where I had the best French toast ever.

The French toast  was really special because it was crispy. I've had good French Toast elsewhere but the crispy part was always missing.

After the Hilton Hotel was torn down, I had no idea where their chefs went, so that was the end of crispy Hilton Hotel French Toast. And the beginning of homemade French Toast.

When I first made French Toast, it was bland, it shrank after it was fried, and it just wasn't crispy.

Over the years, I've tweaked the recipe many times. I started with just eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla extract and bread. Now, cream cheese is a key ingredient. It keeps the texture creamy and "custardy", and stops the bread from shriveling after it's cooked – provided the bread isn't oversoaked. It also adds depth to the flavor, which is enhanced with a splash of dark rum. Most importantly, it's crispy with a sprinkling of sugar caramelized under the grill. And it's not oily because it's not fried.

I now have the perfect French Toast for a weekend breakfast or even dessert. Yay!

FRENCH TOAST
(Recipe for 2 persons)

4 slices stale sandwich bread, thick-cut (I use Gardenia brand's Junior White)
regular-cut sandwich bread would turn soggy and not make good French toast
2 eggs
40 ml milk
20 g cream cheese
1 tbsp fine sugar
1 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp butter at room temperature
1 tbsp fine sugar (for sprinkling)

Depending on the type of bread used, the amount of egg mixture and soaking time required may vary. Please adjust as necessary. For dense bread, a few slits in the middle and a regular rather than thick-cut would help speed things along. The bread should be thoroughly saturated with the eggy liquid without turning soggy. If necessary, cut the bread in the middle and check.

If possible, make egg mixture the night before so that flavors have time to mingle and develop. Stale bread is essential; fresh bread turns soggy and shrinks after it's grilled. Let some butter come to room temperature before starting to cook.

When you're ready to make toast, preheat grill to 230°C, and line grill tray with parchment paper.

Put cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat till smooth. Add dark rum, vanilla extract and milk in stages, beating till smooth after each addition. Add eggs one at a time and – you guessed it – beat till smooth.

Remove bread crust. Do it by hand if you have time; jagged edges turn really crispy. Cut each slice into four pieces. Soak bread thoroughly in egg mixture, turning over half-way so that both sides are evenly saturated. Do not let bread get soggy.

Place bread on grill tray. Dot each piece with butter – just a bit, not too much. (You could put butter on a knife, then push small blobs onto bread with a tapered chopstick. Or, if you're making a lot of toast, make a small piping cone with parchment paper, then use it to pipe the butter. Third option: Keep butter chilled and hard, then shave with a vegetable peeler directly onto bread.) Sprinkle bread with sugar, right up to the edges.

Grill with the door closed till bread is golden brown or even slightly burnt, then repeat butter-sugar-grill procedure for the other side.

Enjoy French Toast piping hot with its best buddy, maple syrup. Or drizzle with melted butter and honey and serve it as dessert. How about a light coat of icing sugar, some fresh fruits and cream or ice cream? I'm sure that'll win you lots of 'Ooh!' and 'Aah!'

Fried Anchovies and Peanuts

Sunday, 23 August 2009

PhotoFried anchovies and peanuts is great with rice. In nasi lemak, for instance, it's one of the standard side dishes. For me, I find it a bit dry with rice. I like to eat it with Teochew porridge but mostly I eat it as it is as a savory snack.

You know how too much chocolate leaves a sweet aftertaste in your mouth and you long for something salty? That's a little craving I have not infrequently, especially in the afternoon after my Kit Kat break.

Being a well organized person who doesn't like to panic when confronted with such a culinary emergency, I like to keep a ready supply of the antidote in the fridge.

The key component of the antidote for sugar is, of course, salt, of which dried anchovies have plenty. So, I make a good size amount of fried anchovies, more rather than less because I want to make the most out of the oil I'm going to throw away.

PhotoFried peanuts make a classic combination with fried anchovies. The additional calories from the nuts doesn't spoil my diet since there isn't one. It flies out the window every time I set my eyes on chocolate.

The dosage for the sugar antidote is two tablespoons immediately after sugar consumption. Unfortunately, the antidote is addictive and more often than not, I eat a whole plateful.

You know how too much salt leaves you craving for something sweet? Back to Kit Kat . . . . Oh dear, I think I need help.

FRIED ANCHOVIES AND PEANUTS
(For 4 persons)

50 g dried anchovies (ikan bilis), without bones and heads
50 g dried, raw peanuts
150 ml vegetable oil
a pinch of salt (optional)

Wash and drain anchovies twice to remove excess salt. Squeeze and pat dry with paper towels. Heat oil in a pan till smoking and add anchovies. Fry, stirring occasionally, till almost golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Reduce heat to low. Let oil cool down slightly. Put one peanut in the oil to check that it's not too hot. Oil should not bubble on contact with raw peanut. Add all peanuts to oil when temperature is right. Stir to distribute heat evenly. Pick a peanut without skin and watch it. When it changes color slightly, turn off heat and quickly remove peanuts with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels and – if you think the anchovies aren't salty enough – toss peanuts with a pinch of salt. Combine fried anchovies and fried peanuts. Eat with rice, chocolate or beer. Have I ever eaten all of these together in one go? I'm not telling you.

Chai Poh Omelette (菜脯卵)

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

PhotobucketMy mother didn't make chai poh omelette (菜脯卵) very often, because chai poh wasn't a regular item in her pantry. So, I can't say I have a fabulous recipe which was passed on from my mother, and which I will pass on to my daughter. This is a recipe I came up with for friends who think that chai poh omelette is de rigueur when they come to my place for Teochew porridge.

My recipe combines the elements that I like in a French omelette – fluffy, creamy and not too oily – and a Chinese omelette – fragrant and aromatic because it's fried till golden brown, unlike its anemic French counterpart.

Teochew Porridge

Thursday, 23 July 2009

PhotobucketTo my friends, I'm known as 'the Teochew peasant' when it comes to food. The nickname's due to my fondness for Teochew muay (潮州糜) or rice porridge, a peasant staple traditionally eaten with simple, peasant dishes. If my friends let me choose what we eat, I'd say Teochew porridge nine times out of 10. (I am thus forbidden from making the suggestion at all – sob!)

Since I'm such a connoisseur of peasant food – is that an oxymoron? – I think it's only appropriate that I feature peasant recipes on my blog and the first place honor goes to none other than Teochew porridge. I grew up eating piping hot porridge for lunch and breakfast almost everyday. For me, it's the best comfort food bar none. A good bowl of hot porridge energizes the body, lifts the spirit, and warms the heart.

Sam Leong's Batter

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

It was about two years ago when Sam Leong, celebrity chef and kitchen honcho of the Tung Lok group of restaurants, showed off his batter recipe on a local TV program. I got round to testing the recipe recently – better late than never, right? – and I must say it worked very well. I made a pile of fried onion rings for a group of professional judges – my 11 nieces and nephews – who showed universal approval by polishing off everything in five minutes. They even ate the bits of batter that had broken off. That’s gotta mean they really liked it!