Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Deepavali!

Deepavali always reminds me of my high school best friend, Santa. I found this photo of us when we were 14 years old.

Unfortunately, we have lost touch. I remembered her mother was an excellent cook. Santa has 6 sisters and no brothers. I used to spend my school holidays in her home and her mum will make me tosai and chicken masala when I was there because she knew I love it. During my working days as a Secretary to the Managing Director with a French company, I used to wear sari to work quite often. I had five sets of sari of various colors. To me, sari is one of the most elegant attire for a woman. Ladies who would like to know how to tie a sari, click on the pic and it will bring you to a video tutorial which is very easy to follow.

Today is Deepavali and I wish to dedicate  this chicken masala which I cooked some time ago, but did not post it yet, to all my Hindu friends and readers.  I wish you all a Very Happy Deepavali.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Recipe adapted from Meeta Kurana


Marinating the Chicken:

3-4 boneless chicken breasts, skins removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
250g thick natural yogurt
1 tbs fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 cup curry leaves
1 onion, cut into six portion
Salt to taste

Skewers, If using wooden skewers completely submerge them in water for approx. 30 minutes. This will hinder them from catching fire while grilling.

Tomato Gravy:
250g canned cocktail tomatoes
250g heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 red chilies, finely chopped
2 ts ground cumin
2 tsp paprika powder
1 tbs ghee or clarified butter
Salt and pepper

 Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix until the chicken is nicely coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

On the next day, either prepare your charcoal grill or heat up the grill function of your oven to high.

Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers, discarding the marinade. Grill the chicken evenly on all sides, until juices run clear – approx. 5-6 minutes.

To prepare the gravy, heat a sauce pan to medium and melt the ghee/clarified butter. Sauté the garlic and chopped chilies, curry leaves and onions until fragrant. Sprinkle the ground cumin, paprika powder and a pinch of salt. Sauté for a further minute or two until the mixture turns into a paste-like texture.

Pour in the canned tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the skillet to deglaze it and to release any bits stuck to the pan. Simmer uncovered for approx. 10-15 minutes on low heat until the sauces begins to thicken, then add the grilled chicken pieces and cream. Simmer for a further 10 minutes, thickening the sauce further. Pour sauce over grilled chicken pieces.

Serve sprinkled deep fried red chillis and steamed Basmati rice or fresh naans and pickles.

Note: I did not pour sauce over chicken because it is easier  to photograph the chicken itself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Do I mind? Hell NO!

When pork loin is concerned, I only know one preparation and that is to braise it and serve it with brown gravy, mashed potatoes, vegetables and crusty bread.

If you would like the recipe, click on the photo

When I knew a certain recipe yields a tasty dish, I will use it over and over again. Go ahead and roll your eyes and shake your heads. Yes, I have to break out of my comfort zone in order to learn more new recipes and try to improve my cooking and baking skill further. However, we all have a comfort zone where everything feels safe and familiar but it is when we are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable that we learn new things. Please correct me if I am wrong.

One evening recently my Quay Lo saw me taking a piece of pork loin out of the freezer to thaw. He asked me what I was going to do with it? I said, "Braised lor." He smiled and said to me, “Honey, how about making something different with the it tonight instead of braising?" (Do you think this is a polite way of saying, I am tired of the same old dish? LOL!).  He continued to ask, "Do you mind I prepare it in a different way?” Mind? Hell, NO!  So, this is what he did with the pork loin. OH MY!!  he stuffed the pork loin with aromatic stuffings made from scratch and roasted it. When it was in the roasting, the whole house was filled with fragrance of spices. I knew we were going to have a succulent piece of meat that is flavorful and delicious and I was right. There was an awful lot more work involved by comparison but it was all worth it. Of course it was. That is because I did not do any work, my Quay Lo did! I did not even need to wash dishes. What a treat!  Have I made it sound exciting enough for you to be eagle to want to try his recipe? There you go!

Stuffed pork loin with country stuffing
A recipe from my Quay Lo

1 (1 pound) pork tenderloin
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped carrots
½ apple, cored and chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 cups soft bread crumbs
4 – 5 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
1  tbs chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbs chopped fresh thyme
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten

Trim off the fats and the skin if you have one like mine. I suggest you buy those without the skin and fat.  Make a lengthwise slit about 3/4 of the way through tenderloin; open tenderloin so it lies flat. Flatten to 1/4-in. thickness; set aside. Melt butter in pan, saute onion and carrots until tender. Add bread crumbs and saute until they are golden brown. Remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley, sage, rosemary, salt, pepper and enough egg to moisten the ingredients. Spread stuffing on one long side of tenderloin to within 1 in. from the edges. Close meat and tie with kitchen string. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 180C or 350F for 50-60 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 72C or160F. Let stand for 5 minutes. Slice and serve with mash potatoes, and your favorite green vegetables, gravy and crusty bread. 

Here is the link to how to slice the pork loin to prepare for stuffing. Have some baking string handy for retying the pork roast after it is stuffed and re-rolled.

Link to show you how to tie the stuffed pork loin

Note: You will have stuffing leftovers. Keep it and make another one later because I know you would.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Ngoh ker lang tit" (Mine is nicer)

Have you come across some people who always think that theirs are always nicer and better than yours?  We had a friend who says this all the time. Whenever you show him something that he too possessed, he will say “Ngoh ker lang tit” (Mine is nicer).  In the case of the churros we had at a cafe last month, I actually uttered the same phrase after the first bite. It was over cooked and oily! YIK!! I don’t think I will ever order churros at a café in future because I have tasted my own and it was SO lip smacking delicious that it will always be “Ngoh ker lang tit!”  (Mine is nicer) I am sorry it sounds like bragging.

I apologize for the lousy shots because I felt lazy that day. I just don't fell like setting up my DSLR camera. I used my point and shoot camera and took it in my kitchen with florescent lighting. So now you can say to yourself about the photo, "Ngoh ker lang tit" (Mine is nicer.) and I will absolutely agree with you. LOL!  Have a great weekend with your love ones. 

Churro Tots
Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup water
1 stick (4 ounces) butter
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 eggs & 2 egg whites

For dusting:
3 tablespoons of cinnamon and sugar, mixed

Prepare to fry the churros by heating about 1 1/2 inches of oil in a deep pan.  The oil should be about 360 degrees F.
To make the dough, bring the water, butter, cinnamon and salt to a rolling boil in a 3-quart saucepan.  Stir in the flour all at once.  Reduce the heat to low and stir vigorously until the mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute.  Remove the pan from the heat.
Let the batter sit for 5 minutes to cool. When it’s warm (not hot) to the touch, add one egg at a time. Keep stirring until the mixture comes together and is smooth.  (You can do this in a mixer with a paddle attachment if you’ve already had your daily workout.) Note: Since it was way too dry for me, I added 2 egg whites. It was then perfect. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  Have sterilized scissors on hand.  Hold the bag over the hot oil, squeeze a strip of dough about 1 inches long, snip it with the scissors and let it drop into the oil.  Fry 10 to 12 balls at a time, turning once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes on a side.  Drain on paper towels.  Roll the churro tots in the sugar/cinnamon and serve immediately.  These are really best minutes after they’ve been fried. Serve with whipped cream and/or melted chocolate.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Put one foot in front of the other

In Malay tradition, Kueh is a form of traditional "cake" or bite sized dish, that is either sweet or savory, and is especially abundant during holidays or celebrations. In this part of the world kueh is seen in such a large variety of offerings that there really is no description I can think of that perfectly describes these lovely morsels. Virtually all of the ethnic food traditions here have their favorite kuehs. They are a notable feature of the foods offered during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan for the Buka Puasa (breaking of the day's fast) each evening and the celebration of Hari Raya AidilFitri that follows, as well as during the Hindu celebration of Deepavali. So, given its prevalence here, I'm not sure why I had the preconception that it is difficult to make kueh, but it explains why I have not made any after I had attempted "chwee kueh" many months ago. 

If you would like to get the recipe, just click on the picture.

So why am I blogging a kueh now? It's because I decided to participate in this month's Aspiring Baker #12 which calls for traditional kueh. I was looking for a relatively simple kueh to make and since my mum likes pumpkin, I decided to make pumpkin kueh.  It was very fortunate that both the look and the taste were quite good after my first attempt.  I was very pleased.  Having said that, I remembered a post I had read recently from my friend, David’s blog, Pen to Page. It was a very simple picture but very powerful.  It showed a few steps of stairs and below it these words: "Things that seem hard are not always that hard. Put one foot in front of the other, and you’ll get to the end". I will keep this in mind and,the next time when something seems very hard to do and I procrastinate because of that, I'll remember to take that first step. It is pretty simple really. Just make yourself lift up that one foot and keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Very soon, you will complete a task which seemed difficult and perhaps come to realize it is not so hard after all. I did and it works! When I served a piece of this pumpkin kueh to my mum with a big grin, she said to me, "世上无难事,只怕有心人." (where there is a will, there is a way.)

Pumpkin Kueh
(Based on Madam Kwan's recipe with modification)

Steam pumpkin kueh
Largely adpated from Madam Kwan's recipe

100gm green bean powder/flour
250ml thick coconut milk
200gm sugar
300gm pumpkin

Steam 250gm diced pumpkin and 50gm sliced pumpkin till cooked. Mashed diced pumpkin. Add green bean powder to cononut milk and mix well. Add in sugar gradually and mix well. Add in mashed and sliced pumpkin, cook over moderate heat till thick. Transfer to a pan or mould and let cool. Refrigerate and serve cold.

Note: If you do not want to have sliced pumpkin, just mash them all for a more consistent texture and mouth feel. 

I am submitting this recipe to Aspiring Bakers #12 Traditional Kueh (October 2011) hosted by Smallsmallbaker

Friday, October 14, 2011

Man plans God decides

Last year today, I celebrated my best friend, Peng's birthday at my home. I made a simple dinner and a birthday cake for her. We drank wine, ate, chatted, laughed and had a good time together.

This year, I thought of going to Bangkok with her to celebrate her birthday there. This was planned two months ago. I was going to buy her dinner at our favorite Thai Restaurant, Ban Khun Mae in Siam Square. Air tickets were bought and hotel room were booked more than a month ago.  I planned to take her to have a massage everyday, eat and shop till we dropped.  I don’t think I need to go on and you already guessed what happened. We have to cancel our trip today because of the flood in Thailand.  Not only that our plan is spoilt but also the air tickets were burnt! The airline said that since they are still flying there, there will be no change of dates without penalty and no refund. What a RIP OFF!!  We have spoken to our clients in Bangkok and they said it is not advisable to go because the highway is flooded and no one is sure if the flood will hit Bangkok or not. I was rather upset yesterday after I have contacted the airline but then my Quay Lo asked me to take a deep breath and let go. When things goes wrong, we had a choice. We can stay upset or we can let go and be happy. On hindsight, loosing the money on the air tickets is better to be caught in a crisis like that in a foreign land. This is a blessing in disguise, don't you think? It is so true that Man plans, God decides. I believe in that, do you?

So much for my ranting and I have made my choice. Now, let's get on to a happier note. Today is Peng's birthday. I have a new idea. I am going to take her to a nice Spa for a two hours relaxation massage and then go on to have a scrumptious lunch with her. So please join me to wish her a Happy Birthday. Instead of a birthday cake how about these delicious chewy banana chocolate chips cookies as a birthday dessert with vanilla ice cream?

Chewy banana chocolate chips cookies
Adapted from Big Oven with modification

1 large egg
1 1/4  C All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/3 C Light brown sugar
¼ C oat meal (raw)
2 tbs corn flour
1 1/2  medium bananas, mashed (preferably banana raja)
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
75 gm Butter or margarine
1/3 C Sugar

Lightly grease cookie sheets. Put brown sugar, oat meal and corn flour in blender and blend well and set mixture (A) aside.  Peel banana and place in small bowl. Mash enough banana with fork to measure 1/2 cup. Set aside. Place flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; stir to combine. Beat mixture (A), butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down side of bowl once. Beat in banana, egg and vanilla, scraping down side of bowl once. Add flour mixture. Beat at low speed until well blended, scraping down side of bowl once. Stir in chips with mixing spoon. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes or more. Just before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drop by 2 heap table spoons onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 – 15 mins or until lightly browned.  Cool slightly and remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Food felt Thanks!

I finally got to taste the true Shanghai noodles today. I am writing this post to thank Sonia of Nasi Lemak for generously giving me the noodles. She brought them back all the way from Shanghai. Sonia, you are always so thoughtful. Thank you so much for thinking of me. I really appreciate it and I value our friendship. Food blogging RAWKS!! I've made so many new friends, some I have not even met yet,  but they are all awesome people!

I used them to make a scrumptious lunch today - fish soup Shanghai noodles. My Quay Lo and I love it to bits. When he was eating the bowl of noodles, he kept on saying this to me, "Honey, this is fantastic!" He not only finished the noodles, he drank up the soup!  The texture of these noodles is different from the ones we buy locally.  They are very smooth but give a good firm feel to the teeth.  Since we enjoyed our meal so much, I reckoned I should share the recipe with you all. I do not know if we can get the same type of noodles anywhere in Kuala Lumpur but if they're not available you may replace them with the noodles that are available here. Maybe the texture and the mouth feel will not be the same but I do not think there will be much difference to the flavours. The piece of pork croquette I added goes very well with the noodles buta chicken chop will work nicely as well. The fish stock is not only good for the noodles, it is also good for rice and meehoon. For those who have missed the two posts where I have used fish stock, just click on the pictures to get the recipes. To make the fish stock is very easy. Just deep fry the fish bones. Fry a few pieces of ginger till fragrant. Add water and Chinese cabbage, salt, white peppercorns and bring to boil for about 10 minutes and let it simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Then sift away the bones, cabbage and peppercorns and retain the stock. You may deep freeze the stock for future use. Fish stock has a deph of flavor that simply should not be missed in many of Southeast Asia's recipes. Many home cooks I've chatted with tend to use chicken stock as a shortcut for those recipes, and certainly it works to the extent that a good, hearty dish is the result. But home made fish stock takes the targeted dish into a higher level.  

Fish bone soup rice

Fish bone soup vermicilli 

Fish soup Shanghai noodles

300 gm Shanghai noodle
300 ml water to cook the noodle
1 tbs vegetable oil
300 ml fish stock
1 cup julienned “Char Choy” (Chinese pickled mustard root)
4 medium shitake mushroom, soaked, squeezed dry and sliced
3 florets of wood ear fungus, soaked and thinly sliced
some deep fried lardons (optional)
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp fish sauce
½ tsp sesame oil
4 cloves of shallots, thinly sliced

Ingredient for pork croquette:
200 gm minced pork
2 tbs crispy fry flour, (I use the brand Nona, see notes if you want to make your own)
2 tsp oil
2 tbs water
1 tsp oysters sauce
½ tsp sugar
1 tbs soya sauce
1 tbs corn starch

Ingredient for garnishing:
½ cup chopped Chinese parsley
1 tbs chopped spring onion

To make the pork croquette (may sub with chopped chicken):
In a bowl, mix minced pork, oysters sauce, sugar, soya sauce, sesame oil and corn starch together and let it marinate for 1 hour or more. Prepare the crispy flour by adding the water and oil. Form the minced pork into two croquettes and coat them with the crispy flour mixture. Heat oil till very hot and then deep fry the croquetts till golden brown. Place them on kitchen paper towel to have all the oil absorbed before placing them into the bowl of soup noodles.

To prepare the soup noodles:
Heat oil vegetable oil in wok and sauté garlic and shallots till fragrance. Add woodear and mushroom. Stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes and add fish sauce. Mix well and then set aside.

Bring water to boil and cook noodles for about 9 mins and drain off the water and divide into two bowls. Divide the mushroom and woodear mixture into two portion and put them on top of the noodles. Bring fish stock to boil and add “Char Choy”and let it boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour soup over noodles. Add a few pieces of deep fried lardons (optional). Garnish with parsley and spring onion. Serve hot.

Note: To make your own crispy fry flour; use equal portions of all purpose flour, corn flour and rice flour. You may want to add your own seasoning like, salt, pepper and your favorite spices and herbs. Get creative!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More means less

If a movie is a HUGE box office hit like the last “Batman”, there will always be several sequels. From one of the movie websites, Quote: “A staggering 7 out of the top 10 films were sequels raking in more than $866,000,000, not including rentals, DVD buys and other miscellaneous promotional purchases. Out of the top 3 films were 2 sequels that grossed over A BILLION DOLLARS!" 

Hey Quay Po, what are you blabbering about? This is not a Movie blog lah!  I know, but I am going to get to the point so bear with me okay? In other words if anything that is good, there has to be a sequel right?  Since the apricot pie was well received and there were some beauties left, I made a sequel dessert to it and it was the Apricot dessert cake. It did not rake in a million dollar profit but it had brought joy to my love ones who enjoyed that piece of cake. This is what money cannot buy. Many of us have been chasing after money for more than half of our lives and for some, our entire lives. In my opinion, I think we have cheated ourselves when we compromised happiness with money. Let us not forget the constant pursuit of more money to get more and better stuff  does not necessarily increase our happiness. I'd rather earn less, have less, but have more time to spend with my love ones than earn lots, and have more but have no time at all with them.  

For those who have missed the post of the apricot pie, you may click on the picture to go get the recipe if you like.

I have to confess that the apricot dessert cake tastes better than the pie but it is not as simple to make. However it is not a complicated recipe either. If I can handle it, that means it is a piece of cake for you talented bakers out there. I have to say the cake was as irresistable as honeysuckle to a swarm of bees. Don’t just take my words for it, try this recipe and let the unique taste convince you. To me, this cake is not only an opulent feast for the eyes, it is the most satisfying cake that had turned on the hungry beasts in my home. So, if you decided to do it, make more than one. 

Apricot dessert cake
Largely adapted from

Cake ingredients:
90g unsalted butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup caster sugar
2/3 cup self-raising flour
pinch of salt
orange juice, 1 whole orange, heated
1 tbs rum
14 to 15 apricot, halved and remove seeds
2 tbs sugar
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon

Line a 8 in square baking tin with baking paper.
Cook apricot with sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon till slightly soft not limp.  Drain apricot well and set the syrup aside.
Melt the butter over a low heat and gently stir in the brown sugar.  Beat well until the butter is absorbed.  Spread this caramel evenly over the base of the tin.  Place the drained apricot halves (rounded side down) on top of the caramel.
Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift the flour and salt then gently fold into the egg mixture.  Then fold in the warmed orange juice.  Pour mixture over the apricots and smooth over.  Bake for in preheat oven of 175 degrees C for 30 minutes or until golden and springs back to the touch, or tested with a skewer.  Let the cake cool and run your knife around the sides before carefully inverting the tin to place the cake on the serving platter.

Meanwhile, heat orange juice the balance of syrup from cooking the apricot and rum and pour over the cake and leave to soak for a few minutes before serving with whipped cream or ice cream.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The earth moves under my macs’ hidden feet!

Just a last week, I felt on top of the world because I thought I have conquered the intimidation of making macarons. The reason being I had received lots of compliments and congratulations from you all.  Alan of  Travelling Foodies said this to me, “wow! your days of macawrongs are over, sista! This recent batch looks perfect!” My answer to him was, “Please don't say that so soon, I can tell you now it is not over yet and you will read about it in my next post:D LOL!” You will know why I said that when you read on. Oh if you want to see some really professionally made macarons, go check out Alan's blog especially his Pierre Herme's Macaron Montebello.

Since I am still having the mac fever, I tried to make another batch of macs yesterday. The intention was to make these for one of my girlfriend's kiddies because she told me they wanted more after eating some of my maca-rights.

For this batch, here is my story. After putting the batter in the oven for baking, I did my usual. I placed my mum's low stool in front of the oven and waited patiently to see the feet of my macs grow. It is funny how this can give me so much joy, it comes within and it is a nice feeling. Sadly, this time around, it did not happen as anticipated. What happened was, my macs felt the earth moved under their hidden feet!  LOOK!

For those who had failed many times at making macs, I say, don’t despair, you are not alone. If you want to feel better when your macs had no feet, come to Quay Po Cooks and look at these “after earthquick” macs of mine! Yours cannot be worst than this right? One consolation though, they tasted good when paired with vanilla ice cream.  They melt in your mouth not in your hands. Want to help me finish them?  However, I am not giving up, I am going to make another batch soon. Hope you all are having a beautiful Sunday!