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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pineapple Tarts, Love Letters and Kuih Bangkit

It's still Chinese New Year until the 15th of the Chinese Lunar calendar which falls on February 6th. Until then, celebration goes on with lot of eating and visiting to do.  Every house you visit will have all types of traditional and modern cookies.

I've promised my blogger friend, Veronica from Veronica's Kitchen, to post some Chinese New Year cookies either homemade or bought.  Do visit her blog as she has very fine collection of recipes and goodies.

So, here are 3 types of a typical Peranakan traditional cookies which I bought.  These are Pineapple Tarts, Kuih Bangkit and Love Letters.

There are many versions to the making of the Pineapple Tarts.  This particular version is the Peranakan version and I love the texture of the pastry which is similar but not quite like the 'short crust' pastry.  It's not too soft that it can break easily but soft enough to just crumble in the mouth.  With a generous filling of the pineapple jam, this is absolutely, I tell you, just absolutely delicious.  This is one of my favorite cookie/tart.  It just feels less Chinese New Year-like if you don't have this to serve during this auspicious celebration.  Well, at least, it's a 'must-have' for me.  However, the work involve in making this tart is really time consuming.  You will need to prepare the pineapple jam by blending the pineapple and cook it with sugar for hours until it becomes thick and jam-like.  The pastry is made by kneading flour, eggs, warm salted water and margarine (not butter.  Only use butter for pineapple rolls) and use the pineapple tart mould to get the 'plate' or in Peranakan, we call it 'piring' and then fill them up with the pineapple jam.  Then glaze with egg wash on the pastry, and bake.  The aroma while baking is just fantastic and brings in the festive mood!

Okay, next is the Kuih Bangkit.  It's kind of like the local version from the western cookie Melting Moments  in terms of the texture whereby it literally melts in the mouth.  When you eat this, don't attempt to open your mouth to speak as it will fill your mouth with this wonderful soft smooth texture melting when in contact with your saliva.  In Peranakan homes, this cookie will be decorated with a tiny red dot in the center.  However, not many can bake this cookie to perfection. If you have the measurement and method wrong, then it will turn out as hard as a rock.  I tried making this some years ago but it didn't turn out the way I want it although they were not hard.  I just didn't get the 'melt-in-the-mouth' effect that it supposed to have.  I shall try doing this again..soon..hopefully!  Basically, this is made by frying the tapioca flour without oil until it starts to have the 'crunchy' texture when you stir. Then mix in with coconut milk and sugar.  Use  the Kuih Bangkit mould to shape the cookie and knock it out from the mould and leave the cookie to dry before baking as the dough will be slightly moist.  Wooden mould is a better option than the plastic ones.

 Last but definitely not least from the long list of Peranakan delicacies, this the Love Letters.  It's so light and crispy that one would keep on eating and eating and not realize how much one has consumed especially when you are engrossed watching TV and you just keep on going and going just like popcorn.  the batter is runny and uses special kind of rounded metal mould with long handles and placed on a wire rack over hot coals to 'bake' this.  Care should be given with the coals.  If fire is too strong, it will burn.  That's the traditional way of making this but now there's electric mould which looks like waffle maker and is easier to use.

My sisters and I used to help my mom when we were little in making all these 3 types of cookies and many more.  I love making them and the time spent with my mom.  It was so much fun and I'm glad my mom thought us how cos at least, when I speak about these cookies, I know what I'm talking  Those memories of her I shall forever treasure till the end of my days.

Hope you enjoyed my ramblings on these delicacies...these really are simply wonderful little treats!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Buah Keluak Ikan Jenahak (Black Nut with Golden Snapper)

After a weeks' celebration of the Chinese New Year back home in Malacca, it's now back to routine life. With all the eating and fun, it is a wonder if I did not gain at least one or two kilos! Well, that's what family gatherings and celebrations are all about. No gain, no fun!'s okay, I'll try to shed some kilos when I'm back at work next week with the routine gym workout! (yeah, rite!!!)

In this blog, I introduce to you (unless you are a Straits Chinese or from my part of the world, you will know what this dish is, a Peranakan cuisine (yes, again!), "Buah Keluak Ikan Jenahak" or directly translated, "Black Nut with Golden Snapper".  Here's a little more information on the Buah Keluak which I've copied and paste from wikipedia.  Buah Keluak is known in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea and is considered to be one of the poisonous fruit.  There is, however, a method of treating the poison so that they are edible and safe to be consumed.

This is the Buah Keluak Tree although I've never seen one.  Here's the snipet on Buah Keluak taken from wikipedia:

Culinary uses:
The fresh fruit and seeds contain hydrogen cyanide and are deadly poisonous if consumed without prior preparation. The seeds are first boiled and then buried in ash, banana leaves and earth for forty days, during which time, they turn from a creamy white colour to dark brown or black. The method relies on the fact that the hydrogen cyanide released by the boiling and fermentation is water soluble and easily washed out.

In Singapore and Malaysia, the seeds are best known as an essential ingredient in ayam (chicken) or babi (pork) buah keluak, mainstay of Peranakan cuisine. Alternatively, the kernels may be ground up to form a thick black gravy called rawan (or rawon in parts of Indonesia) popular dishes include nasi rawan and sambal rawan. A stew made with beef and chicken also exists in East Java. The Toraia dishoammarrasan (black spice with fish or meat, also sometimes with vegetables) uses the black buah keluak powder.

This was prepared by my dad, who is a great cook himself.  Most times, we will have this dish on special occasions or whenever we have family reunion.  I must say that for some, they get turned-off by the Buah Keluak as the flesh is black in color and for someone to like it (like me), it is an acquired taste.

Here's the recipe:

Dried chilies
(Pound ingredients above to a paste)

Golden Snapper
Tamarind juice
Salt to taste
Black soya sauce (just a little for color)

1. Fry paste till fragrant, add tamarind juice.
2. Add in Buah Keluak and let boil. (Buah Keluak needs to be prepared at least 2 weeks in advance by soaking them in water. On the day for cooking, cut open at the sides - take extra caution as the shell is very hard to break).
3. Add salt to taste and lastly put in the fish.
Serve with hot rice.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Melting Moments

Chinese New Year is just nine days away and all the children are looking forward to it as they will be receiving lots of 'ang pows' (money in red packets) and lots of cookies to eat!  What about the adults?  They would groan and start balancing their bank account because this means expenditure is going to be extremely high this time of the year!  Well, this is truly unavoidable and we might as well just join in the fun with the kids..waakaakaa.

As part of the Chinese custom, a 'gift' in a form of hamper or maybe a bottle of cookie with some mandarin oranges or peanut or dried mushroom or a packet of chinese sausage or 'ling guo' (sticky glutinous rice cake) and the list goes on, will be given to family and close relatives and close friends.  Each year, we will do up a hamper with a combination of a few food items for my children ex-nanny and her family.  We are very close to them.  They adore my children and treat them just like their own grand-children.  They spoil them to bits!

This year, we decided to get something different for them.  Saw this beautiful Chinese Tea-Set and couldn't resist buying this. I packed it with some artificial cherry blossom and wrapped it into a hamper.  Apart from this, will be adding some food stuff and cookies to this little gift.   Hope they will like this!

 Ok, now that's done, I managed to squeeze some time to make 2 types of cookies today.  One is the Chocolate Chip Cookies, which is the same one I did for Christmas and the other is Melting Moments.  This recipe is great as it literally melts in the mouth.

Here's the recipe:

1/3 cup corn flour
2 1/2 cup self-raising flour
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 egg
155g melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
(the next time I bake these, I shall add 1tsp of lemon flavor with a little lemon rind, just for taste)

Pre-heat oven to 140d celsius.
1. Combine the corn flour, self-raising flour and icing sugar.  Mix and pour half of the flour into another bowl, and add in egg, vanilla and melted butter.  Beat for 2-3 mins.
2. Add the other half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and knead to form a soft but pliable dough.
3. Shape it into a ball and place on a baking tray line with parchment paper.  Using a fork press down the dough and form the little 'square' indentation on it.
4. Bake till done.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fried Vermicelli and Red Bean Dessert

Christmas is over, the New Year came and gone, and now the Chinese New Year is just 2 weeks away!  Seems like non-stop festive season with lots (really, really lots) of more shopping to do.  Year after year, I told myself that I'm going to make some cookies for Chinese New Year but I never got round to it!  It's hard to find time in-between work and home.  The only time I have (if any) would have to be on weekends and yet when weekends arrive, I just don't seem to be able to make them.  So, this year, I'm going to really, really try to make at least one type of cookie! (keeping my fingers cross..haahaa).

So, I shall be very busy in the next few weeks and before that happens, here are Fried Vermicelli and Red Bean Dessert to whet your appetite!

Fried Vermicelli is one of the easiest way to prepare Chinese noodle.  Here's how you do it:

1 packet of rice vermicelli (soak in water until it's soft and drain)
eggs (up to you on how many that you'd like - just scramble it in a wok first and set aside)
garlic - chopped
shallots - chopped
dried shrimp - a handful (soak in hot water to soften and then pound in a mortar)
fish cake and/or shrimp and/or pork slices and/or chicken fillet cut into strips
beansprouts (wash and drain)
1/2 cup hot water
light soya sauce to taste

1. Heat oil in a wok, fry the pounded shrimp till slightly crispy (be careful as it tends to splatter once it turns slightly crispy).
2. Add in chopped garlic and onion and saute for a few minutes till the onions are soft.  At this point, add in the fish cake and/or shrimp or any of the meat that you prefer as mentioned above or all of them, if you like.
3. Add beansprouts and stir for a few seconds, then add in the rice vermicelli.  Mix well.  Add in 1/2 cup of hot water (don't worry if it's a bit soupy as the vermicelli absorbs liquid pretty fast).
4. Put in the scrambled eggs and mix well.  Add light soya sauce to taste.  At this point, taste the vermicelli.  If it's a little hard, add more hot water and fry for a little longer.

Optional : to serve, you may sprinkle some fried shallots over it. (method: thinly slice shallots lengthwise and fry in some vegetable oil until it turns golden and set aside).

Red Bean Dessert or in Chinese Hokkien dialect, called 'Ang Tao Chui' or 'Hong Tao Sui' in Cantonese.  It is basically just water, sugar and red bean, boil together until the red bean is soft.  For flavor and aroma, boil it together with a few screwpine leaves.  I used palm sugar instead of white granulated sugar as it gives a thicker and wonderful syrpy taste to it while not being overly sweet.  You can boil this in a pot but I was a bit lazy and just dump everything in the rice cooker but the result was fantastic.  If you have the time, it will taste even better if you use the slow cooker and let it slowly simmer to a boil for a few hours.

This is a very easy dessert to make and very popular in most Chinese dessert stalls. Give this recipe a try - you can never go wrong.  You can either eat this lukewarm or cold.  I like mine lukewarm.  Yumzz.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Banana Split Bundt Cake

Hello, my dear fellow bloggers, this is my first post for the year 2012 and I have a feeling that this year will be a great one!

I was excited in using my newly acquired bundt pan - hubby bought it for me.  My first expensive Wilton pan and it will definitely not be the last..haahaa..My sister has this pan and she's been baking many bundt cakes and posted them in her blog and each time, I will drool at all her bakes.  She advised me to get the same brand pan as hers as this is really great and the cake doesn't stick to it.  Well, since it is an expensive pan, I kinda 'hinted' to my hubby that he can get that for me as a gift and yes, now, I own one..muahaahaa!  (If only it were as simple with a diamond ring!! lol)

Since this is a gift from my hubby and gonna use it for the first time, I let him have the honor of choosing the cake he wants and he chose Banana Split Bundt from the book 'Piece of Cake' by Camilla V Saulsburry.

After the cake is baked, I went "OMG! it's huge".  How are we gonna finish the whole cake?  So, the ever so lucky person to get a few pieces of this, is my good old neighbour - family of 6 including the maid (my office colleagues will be so envious of them, I tell you).

This cake is full of fruits and nuts and it's very moist..I like it.

 See how fat and plump the cake is!!

Here's the recipe.

Banana Split Bundt
(pre heat oven to 180d C)
10-inch Bundt pan, sprayed with nonstick baking spray with flour

3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar (I reduced to 1 1/4 cup)
1 tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups mashed ripe bananas
1 can (540ml) crushed pineapple, drained - squeeze out the juice until almost 'dry'
1 cup toasted pecans
1 cups sweetened flaked coconut (since I don't have this, I omitted it)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped drained maraschino cherries (I substitute with dried cranberries)

1. In a large bow, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
2. Add eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla to flour mixture. Using electric mixer on medium speed, beat for 1 minute till blended. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula. Beat on high speed for 2 mins. Gently stir in bananas and pineapple. Gently stir in pecans, coconut and cherries.
3. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
4. Bake in preheated oven for about 75 mins or until done. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 10mins then invert cake onto rack to cool completely. If desired, spoon over chocolate glaze icing and drizzle on cake.

* Note: this cake is good just on its own without any icing.

Next post shall be a local dessert which is called 'Ang Tao Chui' in Chinese Hokkien or translated in English, Red Bean Dessert and Fried Vermicelli.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My first 2012 Award

Thanks to Ambreen of simplysweetnsavory for sharing the Liebster Blog Award with me.  Thank you, Ambreen, for passing me this award.  Her blog has many wonderful recipes and her latest creation in baking a cake in a sandwich maker is simply genious.  Now I know that the sandwich maker is not just for making sandwiches! lol..Do check out her blog for yummy recipes.

The word 'Liebster' is a German word that essentially means 'dear' and is derived from the verb 'lieber' which means 'to love'.  This award has been conceived with the idea to bright to light fledgling and upcoming blogs which have a follower count less than 200.

Here are the rules for this award.

1. Thank the giver who gave the award and link back to his / her blog.
2. Choose 5 blogs whom you would like to give this award and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Hope that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers as well.
5. Thank all who read your blog and wish to follow you and of course - have fun!

I would love to extend this award to these five wonderful find some time, if you will, to visit their wonderful blogs:

Frozen Wings
Kitchen Flavors
Cup a Dee Cakes
Taste of Pearl City

Happy Blogging!