Monday, January 28, 2013

Did I just graduate?

Did I just graduate? Recently my friend Chef Ryan asked me to assist with a promotion at Carrefour of a brand of acqua culture prawn. The plan was to demonstrate preparing the prawn near the seafood department. I agreed as it sounded like fun, and a new experience. Arriving early at Carrefour Subang Jaya last Sunday, I met up with Chef Ryan to make sure the demonstration was set up. It was then that he said I had to wear a chef’s uniform for the cooking demo. “Me? I am not a chef" I said. To which he replied “Yes you are.”  Okay, if you said so. So I rise into the hallowed halls of "chefdom" and suddenly I think, "its my graduation day"! LOL! But I don't think so. To truly be a chef means considerably more, and of course, I know that. But GOSH it was fun to wear the whites, and prattle on as if I knew something. I think the next step should be a white smock with "Quay Po Cooks" embroidered on the front panel...what do you think?

The supermarket was busy with lots of passersby busily going about their shopping. But all it took was the fragrance of the first prawn dish, lemon grass prawn, cooking, and people slowed down.  Many stop and tasted the dish and commented favorably on the quality of the “Pelago” prawns. Several proceeded to buy a box to take home. If you want to know more about “Pelago” prawns, hop over to there website.

I will be doing another cooking demo next Sunday, 3rd February between 2pm to 4pm at Carrefour Subang Jaya. So if you would like to taste the “Pelago” prawns, do drop by and you will be pleased. The taste and texture comes closer to lobster but its best for you to be the judge.  Oh and see me in action which is also free for now. That way you can catch me before I am hauled away by the food network in the sky to become the next Anna Olsen LOL! (Tell me, should I get one of those tall chef hats?)

Actually after tasting "Pelago" prawns last Sunday, I became convinced that fresh frozen prawns can be as tasty as fresh prawns, something my hubby and I have argued about. He says that fresh frozen processors can deliver better quality because the time between harvesting and processing is so short. So I bought a 700g packet home yesterday. It cost RM29.90. I think the price is very reasonable for premium quality prawns. I used some of them to bake a puff pastry for lunch. It was delicious and, as promised, its time to share with my friends. So here goes:

Roasted pepper, basil, ginger prawn puff round


Ingredient for sauce:

Juice of a medium orange
zest of the orange
1 medium shallot, finely minced
1 tsp finely minced ginger
12 medium basil leaves, chopped coarsely
1/4 tsp light soy sauce 
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Whisk together all the ingredients and add prawns to marinate for 15 minutes.

1 puff pastry block of your favorite brand

The filling:
1 cup of orange, basil, ginger sauce (see recipe above)
12 marinated "Pelago" prawns, remove shells and devein
1 large sweet pepper, roasted
1 lemon cut into 4 wedges
4 or 5 medium whole leaves basil'
4 cups mozarella cheese, shredded


Lay pepper pieces on a baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and roast for approx. 15 minutes until just tender at 200 degrees C. Let it cool and remove the skin. Cut roasted pepper into 2 inches wide strips.

Cut pastry into 4 even quarters, roll out each to a disc approx 6 inches in diameter. Lay the pastry rounds on a lined baking sheet, spread centre with sauce, leaving ¾ in border all round. Top with cheese, roasted peppers, basil leaves and raw prawns. Brush puff pastry with beaten egg. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until prawn is cooked and pastry is golden brown.

Friday, January 25, 2013

I don't burn bridges

I am often told by my mum not to burn bridges.  I woukd hear that advice most often when I was changing jobs. My mother always reminded me not say anything about my ex employer unless it is positive. She reminds me often not to say anything unless it is positive about friends, fellow emplloyees, and acquaintenances.  So for all my life, I heeded her advice and I kept in touch with all my ex bosses, ex colleagues, ex business partners, and ex customers. My Mom was right. A large list of friends (they like to call this our "contacts") can be a store house of advice, or knowledge that you wouldn't have otherwise. Even more compelling they can be there for help, provided that you are willing to be the helper too.  For example, when I told my one of my ex colleagues who is now the marketing manager of a local company, that my son was looking for a job, she immediately said that she could take him in. Unfortunately my son did not like to do sales and left the organization within the probation period, but I will always feel grateful too her for extending the opportunity.  In another example, I recently needed to buy some new mattresses for a condo we were renovating, I got a generous discount from one of my ex customers who is part owner of an established brand. Burning bridges is the perfect metaphor. We can immediately recognize that we cut off an avenue and instantly grasp that it is better to hold close. When there are many rivers to cross during our life times, it is far better to cross a bridge than to swim. Don't you agree?

Just recently one of my ex bosses, Dato Aru Suppiah, whom I have allways held in high esteem and one of the people in my life that I have allways felt grateful to know, celebrated his BIG 60. He invited me and my Quay Lo to his birthday party.  For many years I've kept in touch with him, long  after I left his company.

His party was held in our favorite Italian restaurant, Nero Vivo. We ave always loved the food and service of this restaurant but alas on this evening it was short of the mark. Most likely iit was due to the big party of over a hundred guests.

The set up
The Menu

The meal we had (sorry about the quality of the pics, these
were taken with my iphone)

We were delighted to be able to share this very special moment of his and it was yet another lesson in cherishing your friends forever. Be ready to give back in times of need, and never ever burn a bridge. Mum got that one right!

At the party, I told Dato Aru that I now have my own food blog and one of these days, I would love to cook for him.  The following dish will be one to consider. This simple recipe produces an aromatic beef lovers ecstasy.

Braised beef tri-tip

1kg beef tri-tip
1 can dark beer such as Guiness
beef stock, enough to cover meat
2 tbs oil

Rub Ingredients (enough for a 2 kg meat)
1 tbs sea salt
1 tbs ground black pepper
1 ½  tbs minced garlic
1 tbs minced shallot
1 tbs cayenne
1 tbs chopped fresh thyme
1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbs chopped sage

Mix the rub ingredients together in a bowl.  Sprinkle the rub on the meat on all sides, and massage the rub into the meat. Cover and let sit at room temp for an hour. Heat oil in dutch oven on high heat, sear all sides of the meat. Remove it from the dutch oven and set aside. Deglazed beer. Return the meat into the dutch oven and add beef stock till just covered meat. Place dutch oven into the preheated oven at 150 degrees C. Braise for 3 hours. Transfer braised beef tri tip to cutting board and let stand for 15 minutes before cutting and serve with your favorite steam vegetables or roasted vegetables.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Too late but no regrets

A few months ago, I wanted to submit this recipe for the Malaysian Food Fest hosted by my friend, Wendy of "Table for 2 or more". By the time I remembered that I had written this post for food from Melaka, it was too late to submit. Oh well! LOL!  Anyway, I have no regrets cooking it and I hope you will try and feel the same. Although it was my first attempt it came out delicious suggesting its simplicity. I will definitely cook this again for my family and friends. 

I am not sure if I could call this Babi Ponteh because I have added a few of my own choices of spice and I used turnip which were not used in any Babi Ponteh recipes that I found so far.

Both my mum and my Quay Loo are not big fans of fatty pork but they both enjoyed this one. Needless to say, for myself, every bite into the meat sent yours truly to food heaven. LOL!  If you don't mind to tasting something a little different from what you are used to, you might consider trying my version of this famous Nyonya dish and here is the recipe. 

QPC’s version of Babi Ponteh

700 gm pork belly, cut into big pieces
4 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup oil
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anis
4 cardamon
3 cloves
2 tbs taucheo (fermented bean sauce)
1 tbs dark soy sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs palm sugar, chopped
4 potatoes (Yukons or Reds), peeled and cut into large pieces
1 turnip, cut into chunks.
chicken stock enough to cover the contents in the pot.
Salt and white pepper to taste

Set aside. Brown the pork belly in the dutch oven and dish out and set aside. Add oil and sauté shallot and garlic until fragrant. Add in taucheo, dark sauce, soy sauce and palm sugar. Stir until palm sugar has completely dissolved and liquid has thickened, about 30 seconds. Add pork belly, turnip and potatoes and add enough of chicken stock to cover the meat and potatoes.. Bring to a boil, turn off heat and braised in a pre heated oven at 150 degrees C for 1 hour or until pork belly is tender and potatoes are soft.  Season with salt and white ground pepper to taste. Serve hot with steamed rice.

I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Beautifully imperfect

I used to be a perfectionist but not anymore.  I once read an article by Henrik Edberg and he said:

“Does life have to be perfect before you are happy?

Do you have to behave in a perfect way and get perfect results to be happy?

If so, happiness will not be easy to find. Setting the bar for your performance at a level higher than reasonable usually leads to low self-esteem and feeling like you are not good enough, even though you may have had a lot of good or even excellent results. You will likely feel that what you do is never good enough. Maybe once in a while might feel like something goes just perfect, but then it will be on to next challenge."

I agree with Henrik, chasing for our idea of what is perfection will not only place ourselves on uncessary stress but it will spill over to our love ones or co-workers. So, when I bought this duck from the wet market a few weeks ago, I had the duck deboned and then realized it was the wrong thing to do if I were to make braised duck with ginger . In the old days, I would have run out to go buy another duck but now, I decided to just use what I had. Although the meat was a little dry, the flavors were great. By allowing myself to carry on, without stress or rush, and hoping for good enough, I enjoyed the cooking, and I enjoyed the "good enough duck". 

Okay here is the braised duck with ginger. With bone left in, it may come out pretty close to perfect. Let me know what you think of this close-to-perfect or beautifully imperfect dish?

Braised duck with ginger
adapted from with modification

1kg duck cut into big pieces
150 g young ginger, cut into thick sliced
1 bulb garlic, sliced
½ C shaoxing wine
1 tbs oil

2 tbs fermented Soya Bean Paste (Taucu)
1 1/2 tbs Oyster sauce
1 tsp Sugar

Heat oil and brown all the duck pieces. Remove duck pieces and set aside. Saute garlic and ginger. Add in duck pieces and seasonings and stir well. Add wine and leave to boil for about 5 mins. Pour water until it covers all the ingredients. Bring to boil and lower heat to simmer until meat is tender and sauce is thick for about 30 to 4o minutes. This dish will taste better the next day.

I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Spare the rod and spoil the child

I suspect that my mum still believes in this notion of “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. Oh, maybe she has mellowed a bit since my youngster years, but that was how I was brought up. Oh yes, there was a cane in her house when I was little. There was a cane in my house too when my son, Nick was little. Is there one in your house?

Many modern parents have a different view. A few days ago, I was at a “mamak” restaurant with my Quay Lo. There was this young mom with two handsome little boys, one age 4 or 5 and the younger one maybe two sitting just a few tables away from us.. Her little boys were so active and could not sit still. They were running around in the restaurant and making a lot of noise but their mom did not pay any attention to them. She kept on enjoying her food.  I marveled at her tolerance and patience with her boys. That reminded me of my childhood days when kids were expected to be "seen not heard". I cannot remember how many times, I got caned by my mum. Oops did I just reveal that I was a naughty little girl? LOL!

I remember when my son, Nick was little like the two little boys. I was more relaxed with him compared to my mum, but I was certainly not as easy going as their mom. There was no way that I could have kept calm and serene, and continue to enjoy my food, if Nick were to run around the restaurant making noise and banging chairs. When he went out for a meal with us, he knew he had to sit still and I think I was fortunate that he was a reasonable child and seemed quite happy just to be there with us.
During my childhood days, I also didn’t see parents making a large birthday celebration for their kids. Every year on my birthday, my mum would cook two hard boiled eggs and stain them with red dye to present to me. That was my birthday gift and celebration. I really wasn't aware that I was missing anything. In fact she does this for my Quay Lo for his birthday every year, and he is charmed by the practice.

I don’t remember there was even a birthday cake until much later in my life when my sister's parents throw a party for me when I was in my teens. Of course, now many parents plan big parties for their kids’ birthdays and my niece’s sister in law recently threw a big party for her one year old daughter. That was great because I got the opportunity to get in on the fun in a way.

My mum asked me if I would like to make a birthday cake and cup cakes for her. I was happy to, because the family are old friends of ours. I was unable to attend the party but I was told that not only the little kids loved the cupcakes that I baked, but the adults did too. One of her guests asked if she can place an order with me. LOL!

Here, they are and if you would like to bake these moist banana chocolate cupcakes, click on the pictures to get the recipe.

Here another way you may decorate the cupcakes for adults. I baked these for one of my readers, Kimmie when we met up. We had a nice lunch and a long chat.  She gave me a bottle of lovely Australian wine and I really enjoyed it.

As I am not very good at baking a huge single birthday cake, I baked a small one for the birthday girl. I used the same recipe but with chocolate ganache frosting instead of chocolate butter cream frosting.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Zuan Yuan at The One World Hotel

The first time I received an invitation from Feryal, the Assistant Public Relation Manager of One World Hotel, to taste the food at Zuan Yuan Chinese Restaurant and do a review, I was unable to go because of some prior commitment. The second invitation came at a time when I was less busy so I was able to attend and I am glad I did.

Setting out in my car I didn't bother with the GPS because I thought I knew my way there. First, I overshot the turn into The Curve and then, by the time I adjusted and returned, all I could see was  the Royal Bintang Hotel. No One World Hotel. Oh dear! I have made a mistake again. By then, I was caught in the jam. I quickly pulled to the side of the road and turn on my GPS. Fortunately, with its help I arrived at the hotel on the dot at 6.30pm. PHEW!! Otherwise, I may have become lost again and would have missed all the delicious food!!
Yee Sang with soft shell crab and condiments. The addition of deep fried soft shell crab
was brilliant giving a wonderful mouth feel. The flavor of the sauce was perfect striking a balance between sweet and sour.
Zuan Yuan crispy roasted duck was one of the best dishes of the night. The skin was crispy and
the duck meat was perfectly cooked. It was simply crispy caramel skin over lean but juicy meat, which for me, is exactly what duck should be. Simple, aromatic, and reflecting a light touch with seasoning or spices, allowing the natural husky flavors of the duck to shine through.

Steam Star garoupa with Mandarin orange skin and fresh bean curd. I love the smoothness of
the fresh bean curd and subtle tartness of the Mandarin orange skin in this dish. 

Wok fried tiger prawns with oats and chilli. The deep fried oats adds a nice crunchy texture and
the addition of chili highlighted the fresh briny flavors in the prawns.

Braised abalone with dried oysters and sea moss in "golden" bag. 
I am a big fan of sea moss. A creative and festive dish suitable for Chinese New Year celebrations. 

Steam lotus leaf rice with assorted preserved meat, Chinese sausage and yam. The last dish of the evening and there is very little room for this. The little bit that I tasted was 
delicious. If I had more room, I would have had more.

Pan fried "nian gao" with cheddar cheese. I am not a big fan of pan fried "nian gao" and prefer the deep fried versions. I must have become a traditionalist in my old age. The addition of cheddar cheese in this context seems out of place. However, compliments for the young chef and his sense of adventure. Based on overall execution that sense of adventure is bound to yield new additions to festive Chinese dining. 

The chef for all the delicious food. Meet Chef Woon.

If you guys don't want to bother with cooking a reunion dinner at home, you might want to check their Chinese New Year Menus out. There are three different sets to order from starting from RM1088.00++.  However, I hope you would omit the Shark's fin in the menus and replace it with some other dishes. If no one wants to eat shark's fin, then no restaurants would want to include that in their menus. You might want to read about how to save the sharks at the follwing link.


I heard from those who have tasted dim sum at Zuan Yuan and have testified as to its goodness. Here is their dim sum menu.

Zuan Yuan Chinese Restaurant
One World Hotel
First Avenue, Bandar Utama City Centre
47800, Petaling Jaya, Selangor,
Tel: 03-76811098

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Hi everyone, Quay Lo here.  Quay Po took the day off. It seems only fair to start by explaining the meaning of the word “Poppycock”. Here is what the Miriam Webster’s on-line dictionary notes:
noun \ˈpä-pē-ˌkäk\ informal + old-fashioned: foolish words or ideas :
: empty talk or writing : Nonsense

Examples of usage for POPPYCOCK
“The congressman imagined that he had given a great speech, one that speculated would be remembered in history, but he will more likely be remembered for uttering two hours of poppycock.”

“Starting with the cherry tree, much of what was written about George Washington's life by his early biographers was pure poppycock”

Dutch dialect pappekak, literally, soft dung, from Dutch pap (soft)  + kak (dung)
First Known Use: 1860s

So why in the world would I be talking about “Poppycock” in, of all places, a food blog? Given, as mentioned above, that it is an old fashioned term and its origin is scatological, and that it follows the well-established connection between words that mean dung, and words of beliefs, or assertions that are untrue or nonsensical. Let me explain. Firstly the word "poppycock" is largely an American term and in its American English sanitization of use, it became more a humorous expression used to describe the nonsensical, the absurd, or the outright fabrication.  Nobody reallly cares about where the word came from or its relationship to the Dutch ward for dung. If you make this recipe you'll understand why that is a good thing. 
How it came to be the name of a favorite confection of mine is a bit of a puzzle.  The word "Poppycock" as a proper noun was first used by a man named Harold  Vair, a Detroit candy shop owner. He was selecting a name for a snack he invented initially for his own use. He was looking for something that he himself would like to munch as he made automobile trips around his region. In 1960, the Lincoln Snack Company of Chicago (whose roots were in a Swiss firm called The Wander Co. founded in Berne in 1865), bought the rights to Poppycock, from Mr. Vair. I'm guessing he retired and munched on "poppycock" for the rest of his natural days.  Several more corporate deals later and Poppycock is today made by the same Lincoln Snack Co which is presently owned by the huge food conglomerate ConAgra. It is a proud trademark in a huge family of products. Did I mention that it had been a favorite snack of mine?  I didn’t consume a lot of it, as it is one of those sugary, buttery trifles with zero nutritional value, high calories, and huge amounts of pleasure value. In fact, I had not had any since well before I came to Malaysia. Imagine, then, my surprise to see it on the shelves of a local grocery here in Kuala Lumpur, a few years back. I quickly bought up four containers of the stuff and parsed it out like a scrooge saving pennies. Alas, it was a fleeting moment in my love affair with Poppycock as it disappeared again from local shelves. Slowly but surely Poppycock receded in my mind until just recently when I ran into an article about caramel corn. From that one article I did more searching. By time I had tired of it, I had learned that there are a million caramel corn recipes and almost as many companies that will ship to you (for a price of course) their version of “Gourmet” caramel corn. They almost always say that word in their name or their descriptions: “Gourmet”. Many of them add some nuts to their mix. Some of them added flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, and even coffee. All of them were expensive. VERY expensive. But the one thing I noticed was that all those recipes I read featured pretty much the same recipe and instructions for the basic caramel corn. That was when I decided that making the caramel corn was easy, and that insinuating some nuts into the mix seemed to be just as easy. I ended up having to tweak the recipe a little but not much. A little extra step and the addition of some vanilla and some sea salt seemed in order. It wasn’t enough to alter the basic flavor profiles of roasted nuts, popped corn and caramel candy). If you want to add a favorite nut (no, I don't mean your husband), or drizzle tempered chocolate over the whole batch instead of working with hard caramel, feel free.

Poppycock Caramel Popcorn, Almonds, and Pecans

1 cup pecan halves
1 cup whole almonds
10 cups popped popcorn 
2 cups brown sugar packed tightly
1 cup butter
1 cup corn syrup
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Medium course sea salt to taste

Place almonds and pecans on a cookie sheet and roast in an oven set to 150°C (300°F) for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool in a large mixing bowl.

Pop the popcorn (about ½ cup raw kernels to make 10 cups of popcorn), When finished add the popcorn to the nuts, (discarding uncooked kernels) and toss to distribute throughout.

In a heavy pot with a candy thermometer affixed or ready at the side, heat sugar, cream of tartar, butter, and corn syrup, bringing the contents up to hardball stage. Take away from heat and immediately add baking soda and vanilla, stirring to blend. Just as quickly pour caramel mix over the popcorn and nuts, tossing until the caramel is formed on all of the popcorn and nuts and large clumps begin to form. Wash and grease your hands with a bit of butter. Press the clumps into a cool cookie sheet so that contents are reasonably spread across the pan evenly (but not exactly). Sprinkle medium-course sea salt to taste. Allow to cool completely, then break apart with your fingers into smaller clumps of nuts and popcorn.  Store in a zip lock bag or a large cookie container. Turn on a favorite movie and enjoy with a friend. (This snack goes especially well with a cup of tea or coffee)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

If I fall into a hole, I know you will "Cover Me"

It was a great way for us to end 2012 and start 2013 because my son, Nick Davis launched his second single “Cover Me” at 12 midnight 31st December 2012.

On "Cover Me", Nick collaborated with another local performer under the name of, Róisín. "Cover Me" is a song about unconditional love and friendship.

"2012 has seen many ups and down for me. Lost In Time was written during a down time but I am glad the year ended with "Cover Me" which is a song written and produced during a happy time. It has been a great way to end the year and to start a new one with a bang. All these songs that I've written or am currently writing as a solo project, are deeply personal to me. It is from there deep inside me that my music resides. Giving them shape with music and lyrics is like keeping my personal diary. Songs like Cover Me and Lost In Time undoubtedly are realized within a very different side of me compared to performing as the front man of the alternative rock band, "Rosevelt", but I am loving it and I am very comfortable with it. 2013 will be an exciting year for me, and I am sure there will be more songs, more music. If I can point the way for my listeners to that part of them where their own songs are, I will realize my own dreams." - Nick Davis

Have you listen to his first single “Lost in Time” yet? If not, you may listen to it here.
If you like the song and would like to own the track, please purchase it from either iTune or CDbaby for US$0.99 only. Your support will be greatly appreciated.

As a mum, I am always very happy to see my son achieving another of his goals and hear that he is happy. He has been so busy with his 2nd single that we have not seen him since Christmas day. I can’t wait for him to come home to have a simple meal with us. I will make my mushroom spinach quiche.

Mushroom spinach quiche
Largely adapted from with modification

1 (9 inch) pie shells
76 gm butter
3/4 cup mushroom (sliced)
1 cup spinach (blanched and chopped)
1 cup milk
2 large eggs

1 cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ tsp chopped fresh thyme
¼ tsp chopped fresh rosemary
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 325°F. Saute mushrooms and spinach in butter. Beat together milk and eggs and then add (A). Combine the two mixtures and pour into pie shell. Bake for 35 minutes.

To make the pie crust, I use the recipe I learned from Joy of Baking (with a little extra care to keeping things cool in our equatorial weather).