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Archive for July, 2010

No thanks to my old friend Suanie’s post on the Malaysian-Western chicken chop, I just HAD to make this dish. Heck, I ran out to the supermarket for some chicken the very next day. I tell you, that’s the one thing I hate about the Internet. You see beautiful food writeups coupled with mouthwatering pictures and description of food, and WHAM, you just HAVE to have it. Not such a big problem you say? Well, not if you’re living in Malaysia or a city where food is readily available, or better still ingredients are aplenty allowing you to whip up dishes as and when you like.

The opposite is true for me. Especially when it comes to Asian food. Asian ingredients are scarce here. I hoard lemongrass, pandan (screwpine leaves), kaffir lime leaves, cili padi and even curry leaves. One of my freezer drawers is dedicated especially for my precious, scarce ingredients. As I type, I have a small bucket of water in my balcony that I’ve filled with kangkung stalks. I’m trying to propagate them you see. Not so easy when you are living in an apartment. I’ll speak lovingly to my kangkung and encourage them to grow. Let’s see how that works out 😉

 

Ingredients

 

2 deboned chicken thighs, skin removed

3 tbsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp salt

Liberal dashes of white pepper powder

1 cup breadcrumbs

2 tsp cornflour

1 egg, beaten

Oil for frying

 

 

Mushroom sauce

1 large onion, sliced

4 tbsps butter

1 cup sliced button mushrooms

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup chicken broth (can be substituted with chicken cube or else 2 tbsp oyster sauce)

Black pepper to taste

 

 

Method

Chicken

1. Marinate the chicken pieces with Worcestershire sauce, salt and white pepper for 24 hours. (I marinated mine for 36 hours, and the chicken was really tasty and moist!)

2. Smear chicken pieces with cornflour.

3. Crack egg into a bowl that’s not too small and beat it. Chicken must be able to fit in the bowl as you want to coat it with the egg. Coat chicken evenly with egg.

3. Dredge chicken pieces with breadcrumbs, making sure that the surface of the chicken is completely and evenly coated with breadcrumbs.

4. Fry immediately in hot oil, flipping sides when it has turned a nice golden brown.

5. Drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

 

 

Mushroom sauce

1. Melt butter in a saucepan. When hot, add in onions and sautee till translucent and fragrant. Add in mushrooms till it browns.

2. Mixture should be slightly wet. Otherwise, add a little bit more butter. Add in flour, LITTLE BY LITTLE  alternating with chicken broth, otherwise you will end up with lumps. Mix to incorporate.

3. Add in flour to desired consistency. If you want a thicker sauce, use more flour for your roux. Otherwise, add more broth or water. Be careful with using cubes or broth, they may get too salty!

4. Add black pepper to taste.

5. Pour sauce over chicken chop.

 

Note:

1.Make sure that oil is hot when you start to fry, otherwise the oil will get absorbed into the chicken rendering it oily and mushy.

2.Fry chicken at small-medium fire, otherwise chicken gets burnt on the outside but will be uncooked on the inside.

3. Do not overcrowd the frying pan when frying. Do it in batches if you have to.

4. I like my mushroom sauce with chunky onion pieces. If you don’t, chop the onion finely to get a smoother sauce.

5. Serve with some salad at the side. Some rat one in my house finished a whole box of cherry tomatoes I had, hence I had to substitute with some lettuce and corn 😛

6. Serve with Lingham’s chilli sauce for a truly Malaysian experience 🙂

 

 

I’m glad I made this. It was surprisingly easy and quick. Thanks for the inspiration Suan 😉

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I’m *this* close to breaking out in sobs right now 😦

I went for a looooong overdue haircut today. My last haircut was on 20th May 2009 when I was in Malaysia :/ I have put off going to the hairdresser’s for as long as I could due to the language factor as well as the fact that one needs to make an appointment first before going to the hairdresser’s.

So a couple of months back, while I was still juggling with my driving lessons at the driving school, I saw this new salon open just next door to the driving school. This salon is not your usual salon. It was a Chinese (from China) salon. I didn’t think much of it until about a few weeks back when we received some promotional flyers from this salon. They charge about 12EUR for a cut and blow, about half the price of a normal Italian salon.

The past 1-2 weeks have been quite hot, and my hair that was almost reaching my elbows bothered me so much that I decided to bite the bullet and just go cut my hair. I made the mistake of  going to the aforementioned cheapo salon 😦 😦

It was filthy, there was hair all over, the hair brushes were clogged with hair, the counter was messy with all kinds of products strewn all over. I was already in there, and just SHOULD have run away, but I didn’t. There were 3 guys in there, one was glued to his laptop, and another 2 just didn’t seem all too bothered. He asked if I wanted to layer my hair, to which I agreed.

And now I look as if my 11 year old sister had cut my hair 😦  The supposed “layers” he gave me are all choppy and uneven. I didn’t want him to repair it as I was terrified that he would cut MORE of my hair off and leave me with short AND ugly hair.

And now I have ugly choppy hair that looks even worse when I tie it up!

 

Do you see the uneven length???

 

Look how choppy and jagged the ends are!! 😦

Serves me right for being cheap. As my dad used to say, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Except in this case I think even a monkey looks better than me 😦

I miss Grace Salon. I miss A Cut Above. I miss Peek-A-Boo. Heck I even miss the regular ol’ hairsalons in Malaysia 😦

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I don’t know what has gotten into me lately. All I want to do is cook, cook and COOK! It’s not like I’m hungry all the time, I just feel very motivated to try cooking new dishes. 

The hubs has been taking advantage capitalizing saying that since I enjoy cooking so much, he should have friends over for dinner. Now cooking for the both of us and cooking for guests are two different things altogether. Hubs has friends who comprises of people who, lemme see, are vegetarians, don’t eat fish, don’t eat seafood, eats “very healthily”, don’t eat any spices, don’t eat Asian food. So whenever we have guests coming over, I get REAL flustered trying to accomodate to people’s needs. Why can’t more people be like me? I eat everything and anything under the sun, save for innards. I’m not fussy, I’m open to new food, I eat spicy food, I eat bland food. I’m so easy to please! 

Two days ago, we had 2 friends over. Now cooking for these two is not much of a problem as they aren’t so fussy, though one of them eats quite healthily and sometimes have allergies, so I have to be careful what to cook. 

Since it was more of an impromptu kinda dinner, I made my Cold Sesame Seed Soba and put it in the fridge to be served when our friends arrived. I also made some grilled chicken wings served with a honey mustard dipping sauce. When I was still in Malaysia, I loved the honey mustard sauce served at Chilli’s and would always ask for more. I managed to replicate the sauce successfully and it was amazingly simple to make. 

 

I had some leftover toasted sesame seeds from my soba, so I put some on the wings, and whaddaya know, it goes very well! 

Ingredients  

  

10 chicken wings  

2 tsp Chinese wine  

2 tsp sesame oil  

1 tbsp light soy sauce  

2 tbsp dark soy sauce 

2 tbsp oyster sauce  

2 tbsp honey

Handful of toasted sesame seeds

Tabasco sauce, to taste 

Salt and pepper to taste  

  

Method  
 

1. Combine all ingredients except tabasco sauce, and marinate chicken wings overnight. I made these when we had guests over, and grilled the extra few wings the next night. The batch that was marinated longer tasted WAY better.

2. A ziploc bag works best as the wings are laid out flat and are marinated evenly. Turn the bag over 2-3 times a day during marination.

3. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius and using the grill function, grill the wings for about 15-20 minutes till they turn a nice glossy brown. Baste once or twice with the marinade while cooking, and turn the wings for even cooking. If you have a barbeque, even better!

4. About 10 minutes into cooking, sprinkle the wings liberally with tabasco sauce, more if you like your wings spicy. Continue grilling for about 5 minutes.

5. When wings look almost done, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, and grill for another 4-5 minutes.

6. Serve with honey mustard sauce and cucumber or celery sticks.

 

 

 

Honey Mustard Sauce

Honey Mustard Sauce – You will be dipping your fingers into this and eating it as it is. I did!

Ingredients

 

2 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tbsp honey

1.5 tsp Dijon mustard

A sprinkle of paprika powder (optional)

 

 

Method

Beat all ingredients well till there are no more lumps. Paprika powder is optional, but it gives the sauce a pretty hue.

 

Very addictive. You have been warned! 😉

 

 

 

 

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I have never cooked zucchini before, but living in Italy, I see it served at almost every Italian restaurant. It is usually grilled and served as part of a salad starter. It is quite cheap and I decided to try buying it while it is still in season.

I had some leftover oil from frying the tempeh in my previous post, and decided to put it to use before discarding it. And so herb-batter fried zucchini it was.

 

Ingredients

 

2 zucchinis, sliced into circles

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup corn flour

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

2 tsp dried basil

2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp chili flakes

1 tsp salt, or to taste

Oil for frying

 

Method

1. Heat oil in a wok or frying pan.

1. In a bowl, crack egg and add milk. Beat well.

2. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.

3. Dunk the zucchini slices into the egg mixture and coat well.

4. Dredge wet zucchini slice with the flour mixture, coat well and place into hot oil.

5. Repeat with every zucchini slice.

6. Do not overcrowd the wok with too many slices. Each slice should be immersed in the oil. Do it in batches if you have to.

7. Flip pieces over so that they are evenly brown.

8. Remove and place on paper towels prior to serving to absorb excess oil.

 

Yummy on its own or serve with chilli sauce.

Note:

-I sliced my zucchini slices a little thin to achive the crisp effect. HB says that he prefers it a little thicker as the zucchini has this creamy sweet taste that is more evident in the thicker slices. Slice according to your thickness preference.

– Taste the flour mixture prior to coating the slices by dipping your pinkie in it and tasting to see if it has enough seasoning. Some prefer it saltier, spicier etc. Taste and adjust to your preference.

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A couple of days back, an old friend of mine, C, asked on Facebook if anyone knew how to fry tempeh. I grew up in a small town in Johor, Malaysia that had a strong Javanese-origin population. Tempeh is Indonesian in origin, and is especially popular in Java.

An extract from Wikipedia:

Tempeh, or tempe in Indonesian, is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. Tempeh is unique among major traditional soy-foods in that it is the only one that did not originate in China or Japan. It originated in today’s Indonesia, and is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but tempeh is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh’s fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins. It has a firm texture and strong flavor. Because of its nutritional value, tempeh is used worldwide in vegetarian cuisine; some consider it to be a meat analogue.

 

I grew up eating tempeh. I was lucky as I grew up in a really multi ethnic family and community, and although our family has no Malay background, my mother grew up in a predominantly Malay society. She speaks like a Malay, sometimes dresses like a Malay, and she is very good at cooking Malay dishes. She just doesn’t look Malay 😉

And so, I grew up eating tempeh that mama used to buy from the Batu Pahat wet market. If I remember correctly, it used to cost RM 0.50 for each piece of tempeh that came wrapped in banana leaf. Mama would fry them as it is, and it would be accompanied by the must-have sambal kicap, a condiment that is very Johorean in origin. Johoreans eat almost everything with sambal kicap. Soto, sup ayam, ikan bakar and even pisang goreng! (Fried banana fritters) I never eat pisang goreng if it’s not from Batu Pahat.

So when I saw that question C posed on Facebook, I gave her some suggestions as to how to fry the tempeh. Mama usually fries it as it is, but sometimes you get food stalls that sells tempeh fried with a batter. That very day, I went to the organic shop just across my house to buy some Japanese soba. And what did I see? TEMPEH! Unbelievable. Of course I had to buy a packet. It didn’t come cheap though. Almost EUR5 for a 250g pack.

Tempeh

The HB had never heard of tempeh before (!!!) much less eaten it, so I decided to try something a little different by adding spices to it.

Tempeh goreng & sambal kicap

Tempeh goreng & sambal kicap

Ingredients

250 g tempeh, sliced into desired sizes

2 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp curry powder

3 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely pounded

2 tsp cumin seeds, coarsely pounded

2 tsp coriander seeds, coarsely pounded

1 tsp salt

Water, a few tablespoons

 

Fried tempeh with spices

Method

1. Mix spices and salt in a bowl.

2. Slowly add water to make a paste. Paste should not be runny or too thick, but enough to coat the tempeh.

3. Coat tempeh well.

4. Fry in hot oil, flip sides to brown evenly.

5. Remove from oil when golden brown, place on kitchen towel to absorb excess oil.

6. Serve with sambal kicap.

 

 

 

Sambal kicap Johor

Ingredients

1. 2 birds eye chili (cili padi) – more if you like it hot

2. 2 cloves garlic

3. 1 tsp sugar

4. 3 tbsps kicap manis (Chinese dark soy sauce WON’T work!)

5. 1/2 lime

 

 

Method

1. Pound chilli, garlic and sugar till it forms a fine paste and chilli seeds can’t be seen.

2. Add kicap manis to the mortar.

3. Remove from mortar, place into a small sauce dish.

4. Squeeze lime and mix well.

5. Enjoy!

 

 

For a person who has never tried tempeh, the HB liked it enough to polish it off. I think the pairing with sambal kicap made all the difference 😉

Note:

– You can add more of the spices if you like a stronger flavour

– If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, get one! If I can get one here in Modena after much hunting, I’m sure you can too 🙂

 

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Cold sesame seed soba with smoked salmon

Cold sesame seed soba with smoked salmon

 

When it was freezing cold in Modena, I was wishing so fervently for summer. And now that summer is here, with temperatures hovering around 37-38 degrees lately, I wish it was winter all over again. Thats the problem with Modena, we get winters that are quite cold (there was one day where it was minus 16 degrees celcius last year) and summers that are very hot. It can hit 40 degrees at times. Right now I wish we had air-conditioning at home.

I have been itching to cook, but with the hot hot weather, I’ve been feeling sluggish and sleepy. I decided to make this cold sesame seed soba with smoked salmon for dinner tonight. It would be a nice change to our regular hot dinners.

Cold sesame seed soba with smoked salmon

Cold sesame seed soba with smoked salmon

 

Ingredients

250g soba noodles

100g smoked salmon, cubed

70g sesame seeds

3 tsps rice vinegar ( I didn’t have this and substituted with Chinese vinegar)

6 tsps soy sauce

3 tsps honey

3 tsps sesame oil

A handful of sliced spring onion

 

Method

1. In a dry pan, toast sesame seeds till it turns a golden brown. Watch it carefully, it burns easily! Remove into a bowl immediately.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Do not salt it. When water comes to a boil, add in the noodles. Cook for 5-6 minutes or according to packet instructions. It should be tender, not al dente or soggy.

3. When cooked, drain water and plunge into a big bowl of cold water. Rinse with a few rounds of cold water.

4. In the bowl that you will serve the noodles, add soy sauce, vinegar, honey and sesame oil. Mix well to incorporate.

5. Add in the noodles and toss well.

6. Add smoked salmon, sesame seeds and spring onions. Toss well to incorporate.

7. Refrigerate and serve chilled.

 

 

 

There are different types of soba. They are sometimes brown or green. The one I used is green soba as it contains a herb called artemesia thus rendering the noodles green.

The hubs is on his way back home from the UK now, and I can’t wait for dinner! 😉

 

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Having been away from home for 2 years now I sometimes really, really crave Malaysian food. I realized that most times, it is the hawker food that I miss most. Prawn mee, curry mee, char kuay teow has got to be at the top of this list. In Johor and Kuala Lumpur where I lived in Malaysia, this dish is known as Prawn Mee. Up north in Penang, it is more commonly known as Penang Hokkien Mee.

Prawn Mee

Prawn Mee

Prawn Mee

Prawn Mee

I literally took months, if not a year, to prepare for this dish. You see, the secret in making a bowl of prawn mee that packs a real punch lies in the stock. And of course, it wouldn’t be called prawn mee if it doesn’t use prawns for the stock 🙂 And thus, I painstakingly collected prawn shells and prawn heads each time I bought prawns, which was not often as they’re quite expensive. I saved the shells and heads in a ziploc bag in the freezer compartment, and they kept well. A few weeks back, the ziploc bag finally reached maximum capacity, and thus it was time for me to start on my prawn mee. 🙂 It was good timing really, as it is now summer, and the tiny Chinese shop happens to sell kangkung (water convulvulus) that is called for in a bowl of prawn mee.

Sauteeing sambal at the front, boiling shrimp stock at the back

Sauteeing sambal at the front, boiling shrimp stock at the back

Condiments for prawn mee

Condiments for prawn mee

I used RasaMalaysia’s recipe and I was quite happy with the outcome.

Stock ingredients

1 ziploc bag of shrimp heads and shells

15 cups of water (reduced to about 12-13 cups of water after hours of boiling and simmering)
2-3 pieces of rock sugar or to taste
700 grammes of pork ribs (blanched)
Salt to taste

Chili Paste

I used the chilli paste that I made here but I added a handful of pounded dried prawns to the oil before sauteeing the chili paste.

Toppings

250 grammes lean pork meat (boiled and sliced thinly)
300 grammes prawns (shelled and deveined)
2 or 3 hard-boiled eggs (shelled and quartered)
Some fried shallot crisps (store-bought or homemade)

Others

500 grammes yellow noodles (scalded) – I used dried kuayteow sticks as I cannot find yellow noodles here
1 pack of rice vermicelli (scalded)
Some kangkung or water convolvulus (scalded)
Some bean sprouts (scalded)

Method

1.Heat up the wok and add cooking oil.

2. Add in the pounded dried prawns. When fragrant, add in the chili paste and stir till oil separates from the paste.

3. Dish up and set aside. On the same unwashed wok, add in a little oil and cook the raw shrimp topping. Add in a little chili paste, sugar, and salt. Fry the shrimp until they are very slightly charred. Dish up, let cool and slice them into halves. (I prefer mine whole).

4. Add 15 cups of water into a pot and bring it to boil. I used my 5-quart Le Creuset for this.

5. Add in all the shrimp heads and shell and simmer on low heat for about 3 hours or longer until the stock becomes cloudy and packs a punch.

6. Strain the prawn heads and shells using a sieve. Remove all visible foam or sediment.

7. Bring the stock to a boil again and add in the chili paste to preference. If you like it spicy, add in more.

8. Add in the blanched pork ribs and let it continue to simmer for another 2 hours.

9. Add rock sugar/salt to taste.

10. To serve, place some noodles, kangkung, bean sprouts in a bowl. You may choose to add the pork ribs too. Ladle the yummy stock over. Top with meat slices, quartered eggs, prawns and fried shallot crisps.

11. Serve immediately with chili paste as a condiment.

 

 

Phew! Sounds like a lot of work? It is! But totally worth it if you have the time. The HB and I ate till we were like beached whales that night. 😀 The recipe above yields enough for about 4 portions. We had prawn mee again the following day 😉

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