Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tamarind and Palm Sugar Popsicles - Off to Malaysia (Again?)

I am not a big fan of summertime's heat, it gets me sweaty from doing...even absolutely nothing. However, summer heat is the perfect excuse reason for everything icy.
Ice cream? I like.
Sorbet? Even better.
Shaved ice with syrup and coconut milk? Totally.
Icy stares thrown at uncles who gawk at your legs/chest? When else are we allowed to be so bitchy? Secretly enjoyable.
and above all...
Refreshing, thirst quenching, fruity, icy cold goodness on a stick, in a hot summer afternoon. Perfection.

In Summer, I prefer fruity treats over their creamy chocolatey cousins. Lemon, lime, orange, berries...nice, but for me, it's time to get a bit more exotic and well...Indonesian :)

Tamarind and Palm Sugar Popsicles

- A couple of spoonfuls of tamarind paste
- A few pieces of palm sugar (I used about 4 small pieces)
- Hot water

Boil water in a pot, add tamarind paste and palm sugar bit by bit and taste until you reach the perfect balance between the tang of tamarind and the sticky coconutey sweetness of palm sugar. Strain into another pot and let cool. Pour into popsicle mold and freeze.

To pull out the popsicles from the mold, dip them into a bowl of hot water for just a few seconds. They will slide out gently.

Lick, bite, suck.
Hear the sizzle as our bodies cool down.

Talk about heat, I am off to somewhere hot, Malaysia (again) for work, and I heard it is nowhere near any good food. Hello days of cup noodles and soyjoy....hope I could squeeze in a few moments of deliciousness. Wish me luck, and see you soon, my hungry monkeys! Stay yummy.

How to Make Chinese Savoury Sticky Rice Dumpling - My First Try

I love Chinese sticky rice dumplings. Nono. I freaking ADORE Chinese Sticky Rice Dumplings, I could've ask them to marry me. However, sometimes they remind me of my big fat calves in gladiator sandals, and I'd love my calves even less, but my love for the dumplings remains strong.

I've always wanted to learn how to wrap these little babies, and finally, I had a chance to try when sous chef's mom was preparing a huge batch of this deliciousness. The above savoury dumpling was done by me, marked with a red raffia, so that they could identify which ones I've done, which was absolutely unnecessary. The ugly ones were mine, whereas these cute and perfect little pyramids below were done by the master.

The difference? Like heaven and hell, eh?
Below, I'm gonna illustrate the basic wrapping technique which I've learnt. Why do I always have to illustrate instead of taking photographs?
You've guessed it right.
I. the dumbass. forgot. my camera.

How to Make Chinese Sticky Rice Dumplings
(Ugly Rectangular Wrapping)

The Ingredients

- Sticky rice (soaked overnight)
- Salted egg yolks
- Dry green beans (with no skin, soaked overnight)
- Dried scallops (soaked until softened)
- Pork meat, use cuts which contain some fat, marinate in five spice powder, soy sauce, sugar (alternatively, you can use chicken, sausages, or beef, just choose the ones with some fatty bits, we need the fat to moisturize the dumplings, otherwise we'd end up with dry and dense dumplings)
- Bamboo leafs for wrapping (available in Chinese grocers) and the strings

Feel free to improvise and add other ingredients too! Sous chef suggested adding ribena, the idea was immediately shot down by...everyone (thank God).

The Soaking

I don't think I needed to illustrate the soaking, but while I was at it, I got carried away and it would be such as waste not to post this illustration, so there you go!

The Wrapping
1. Lay two leafs, partially overlapping

2. The stacking, layer the ingredients this way:
- 1 heaping tbsp of sticky rice
- 1 heaping tbsp of green beans
- lay the meat in the middle, eggyolk and dried scallop on each side
- add 1 heaping tbsp of green beans on top
- top everything off with 1 heaping tbsp of sticky rice
Remember to allow some space on either side of the leafs

3. Cover the little mountain of ingredients with another piece of leaf

4. Fold both sides of the leafs in to securely cover the ingredients, gather the edges similar to the way you gift wrap...

5. Fold both ends in

6. Tie with a string, it doesn't have to be too tight as the ingredients will swell after cooking, just make sure it is secure and it doesn't leak

I wish mine were as pretty as the illustrations.

After wrapping a batch, boil the batch in a big pot for about 3 hrs, drain and let cool for later consumption. I reheated mine in microwave. Place a dumpling in a bowl, add a bit of water, microwave on high for a couple of minutes, unwrap and enjoy.

Some people eat their sticky rice dumplings with soy sauce, some sprinkle some sugar (which I found weird, but many people love it), some pour both sugar and soy sauce. I devoured mine with soy sauce and chilli sauce.

They may look imperfect, but they are moist, rich, fragrant, flavorful, scrumptuous, succulent, delicious...Help! I am out of yummy adjectives!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Shrimps and Strawberries - Will You Drink THIS Coffee?

Shrimps and strawberries? Don't they look good together? To me, they look more gorgeous than Brangelina on Oscar's night. Plus, they are more than just a pretty face, they taste fantastic. Ehm, I am sure Brangelina taste fantastic too..but they are just too unattainable, while this combo is easy to achieve ^_^

Shrimps and Strawberries

I was inspired by a modern Chinese dish I've tried in some Hong Kong eateries. Normally, they serve strawberries with deep fried pork ribs or chicken. I want it quite light, fresh and spring-ish, so I replaced the deep fried meat with fresh shrimps, and add fresh strawberries to the otherwise just-strawberry-jam sauce.

- 1/2 lb shrimps, peeled, deveined, butterflied
- 4 cloves of shallot, thinly sliced, or you can use half an onion
- 1 cup of fresh strawberries, halved
- olive oil, salt, white pepper, strawberry jam, white wine, lime juice, lime zest

Marinate shrimps in lime juice, lime zest, salt and pepper while preparing other ingredients. Saute shallot in olive oil until fragrant, add shrimps until they started to change color, season with salt, white pepper, add strawberry jam, a shot of white wine, taste, adjust if necessary, the flavors should be sweet, savoury, and tangy. Add fresh strawberries at the very end, and try not to cook everything for so long to avoid overcooking the shrimps.

Will you drink THIS Coffee?

I know that for food and drink looks doesn't matter that much....flavors are more important...blablabla...but would you drink coffee from a machine that says "POO"? Well, that's the coffee machine in my work place. Not very appetizing, innit?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sauteed Shrimps in White Wine - Would You Like A Fructus Lycii with That?

It's that time of the month's again...which means that I get unreasonably bitchy and we get to feast on wonderful photographs posted in Still Life Food Photograpy community. Be sure to drop by when you're not hungry, or it would be such a torture (that just happened to me, now I have to be a scavenger, hunting for remnants of lunch or snacks from my colleagues' desk).

The theme this month is shellfish, and I particularly love how photogenic shrimps are, so here's what I made:
Sauteed Shrimps in White Wine

- 2 cups of medium sized shrimps, keep shell on
- 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- butter, olive oil, salt, sugar, black pepper, lime juice, lime zest
- white wine
- italian herb mix (oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary)

Saute garlic in butter mixed with olive oil, add shrimps, season with salt, sugar, black pepper, and herbs mix, add white wine (I added 2 shots), bring to boil, cook until the shrimps turned vibrant red, squirt lime juice and grate lime zest, serve hot, with steamed rice/potatoes/pasta.

So quick, easy and tasty, I literally sucked everything outta the shrimps' shell, including the head. Oppps.

Ehm, would you like a Fructus Lycii with that?

I wouldn't want a fructus lycii with anything, but wolfberries would be great, thanks.

I bet you might want to order a steaming bowl of Smilax Glabra Roxb Soup too! It helps your body combatting Hong Kong notoriously humid summer.

Those would be great names for anyone's first born.
"Meet Mr. Smilax Roxb"
"The Oscar goes to...Smilax Roxb!!!!"
"The name is Roxb, Smilax Roxb"

Damn. Mochachocolata-Rita sounds so pitifully plain right now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Summer BBQ Ideas for BBQ Snobs

What is it with us and BBQ? When the weather gets cooler, we roll up our woolen sleeves and grill some meat. When the weather gets hotter, we take off put on our comfiest cotton tees, tied up our hair, and again...grill some meat, despite being drenched in sweat, even before the charcoal BBQ was lit.

We are all BBQ snobs. The days where mini cheese sausages and fishballs ruled the BBQ were longggg gone. Those are now only the extras, the filler snacks before we get to the good stuff. Soon, I expect them to be totally phased out.

Check out...
Our BBQ Spread
...and you'll know why.

The ever so creative Sir A made:
- Cherry tomatoes and cheddar cheese slice rolled in bacon
- Asparagus rolled in bacon
- Enoki mushrooms rolled in thinly sliced sukiyaki beef, and...

- Japanese sticky rice sticks wrapped in bacon with a slice of cheddar cheese
- Tomatoes filled with cheese topping

A&J made deliciousnesses in those glad bags...

- Beef fillet
- Pork Chops
- Pork neck fillet
- Lam Yu chicken wings - super delicious, I ate at least 6 of these
- Char Siew pork ribs

...and what did I make?
Indonesian Pork Satay (Sate Babi)
- For best result, prepare one day in advance
- Select pork meat with a combination of lean meat and fat
- If possible, ask your meat vendor to give you fatty bits of pork, mine gave me some tendons
- Cut pork meat into bite sized chunks
- Soak bamboo skewers in water to prevent them for burning too fast
- Prepare marinate

- Light soy sauce
- Sweet soy sauce (the dominant flavor should be sweet soy sauce)
- Shallot (thinly sliced)
- 1 tsp ground corriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin
- ground nutmeg (sprinkle all over)
- white pepper
- lime zest, lime juice
- Olive oil
Marinate for minimum 3 hours, preferably overnight. On the day of BBQ, stick meant together with bamboo skewers, combining lean meat with fatty bits, about 5 pieces per skewer.

Sauce for basting
- Sweet soy sauce (the dominant flavor)
- a dash of light soy sauce or fish sauce
- lime juice, lime zest
- ground nutmeg
- thinly sliced shallot
- olive oil
Baste the sate from time to time when grilling

Dipping sauce
- Sweet soy sauce (the dominant flavor)
- lime juice, lime zest
- ground nutmeg
- thinly sliced shallot
- chopped chilli (optional)
Place dipping sauce on a plate, dip sate after grilling, and serve sate hot.
They should be super tender, smoky from the charcoal grill, juicy, tasty...and very addictive. One stick is never gonna be enough.

How did the boys light up the charcoal BBQ? Ehm. They gas-bruleed it.

Did any of us get drunk? What did we drink?

Sadly, no one got drunk, but we sampled this deliciousness I brought from Bali.
Our skilled bartender, the A, mixed our drinks:
Arak Bali Cola Lime
- a shot of Arak Bali
- topped off with coke
- lime juice
- ice cubes
Super refreshing, just perfect for the hot evening BBQ.

The party was for our Bday girl, Carrie. A bday party is not a party without a cake and gifts.....

...and crazy poses from one of our hosts, the V.

Happy almost summer, bitches. ^_^

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Magical Way to Clean Clams

How do you like your clams? Grilled? Boiled? Raw? Sauteed? With a side of sand?

Bah, don't we hate it when it happens? I love my clams, but all the grinding actions from the sand could leave me toothless. Losing teeth over chocolate or candies might be fun, but losing 'em to sand is just not worth it.

During our BBQ session last weekend, I learnt..

A Magical Way to Clean Clams
When you learnt a useful tip, do you share the gospel? Or do you keep it to yourself and just laugh your pants off while the rest of us are munching on sandy clams? How fun it is to be the kind of person who chose the latter, but I believe in sharing (yes, I am not all about showin' off, there's also a good side of me hiding somewhere!).

It involves a spoon or a knife.
So, are we supposed to poke the clams with a dessert spoon or a knife and dig the grains of sand out? Is that possible?

Apparently not.

All we have to do is placing a spoon or a knife in the bucket/container where we wash the clams...

...clean the clam shells under the tap...

...and you're done! I didn't bite any single grain of sand and my teeth are all in tact!

What? How? Why? How come?
I've asked the very questions and the answer I got was "Dunno how, but it works".
That's the whole point, right?

Many thanks to Sir A who shared her mom's tips with us and many thanks to Amy who were washing the clams for us (You didn't think the beauty in the picture was me, did you? I am about twice her size).

Do you know the scientific explanation of this tip? Do share :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Easy Mixed Fruit Crumble - Kitchen "Hand Jobs" - Yay or Nay?

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Errr....really? Not exactly my philosophy. I'd try improving stuff which didn't need improving...normally up to the point where I just ruined them completely. Because life without failures is boring. Wow! That's so going to my book of lame unquotable quotes.

So, when I hauled these beautiful freebie fruits from the office, I just had to do something with them instead of feasting on their sweet freshness.

Easy Mixed Fruit Crumble

I grabbed a pear, a fuji apple and a star fruit for this treat, see how gorgeous they are sprinkled with tiny bit of sugar and ground cinnamon....all pale yellow, loveliest shade of pink and pale green. I wish I could wear them!
You can leave the skin of the fruits, simply cut them into bite sized chunks and toss them into an oven proof pan (I used a rectangular loaf pan), sprinkle with a bit of sugar (or not at all) and ground cinnamon.

Crumble Topping
(adapted from here)
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (or caster sugar)
- 1/2 cup firm butter (cut into cubes)
- dashes of cinnamon

Mix everything in a mixing bowl, mix them about with your hands, spread the dough on top of the fruit, dump the whole thing into a preheated oven (200C) and bake until golden brown (mine took about 15 minutes).

Now, now, now. What's up with the "hand job" thing?

Ehm, when I was working on the crumble topping with my hands, the feeling of touching the cold and satiny butter...the stickiness of the whole concoction...it sent me back to the moment when I was back in Indonesia, learning how to cook for the very first time.

Do you remember the first time you had to work with raw ingredients? The first time you had to touch a chunk of raw meat?

Growing up in Indonesia, dealing with food using my bare hands should have not been something strange for me. I enjoy eating the most when I could wrestle the food with my bare hands.

But raw ingredients, especially meat and fish....f
or me, it was all ew ew ew ew ew EW! It was all soft, springy and slippery...it smelt weird (not good weird)...it was nothing like the end products, which I love very much! Again, ew!

But once I got used to it, I kinda love working in the kitchen with my bare hands (except when touching the hot oven/pot/pans)...I get to feel my ingredients and learn to see if they are good or bad, seeing how they evolve from one form to another, from fresh to fabulous.

Back to my easy crumble...well, I think anything would taste fantastic with sweet and crunchy crumble topping, and these fruits were no exception.

I wondered if the star fruit would work for this, and it did. The refreshing sweetness with a touch of tang made the fruit perfect for this....and the pretty shape made it the star of the dish.

If you'd excuse me, I have another "hand job" to do....
Dish washing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spicy Turmeric Eggplant - Dinner with A View

How do you eat your dinner every day?

I tried my very best to produce delicious looking food pictures in beautiful settings (tried my very best =/= successful), but do I really eat my dinners on a beautifully set table, with forks, knives, fine china, vintage napkins and crystal wine glasses? When I said "Dinner with A View" did I mean something like this?

Nononononono....it's more like:
- eating off the floor
- in front of TV/laptop
- dishes on a tiny side table
- rice bowls on hand
- eating with my bare hands
- feet on sofa/chair

In events where:
- the dining table that I ordered has not arrived
- the side table in front of the TV is occupied
- the other rooms are all cleared and prepared, awaiting electrician to install lighting
...just eat in the kitchen, straight outta wok on the stove.

But whew! What a view! I am so loving this sparkly Hong Kong lights by the sea. Being able to cook overlooking such gorgeousness, I feel so inspired, so in awe,....ehm! Watch that butter! It's starting to burn!

The dish in the wok was...
Spicy Turmeric Eggplant - Terong Bumbu Kunyit

Another easy one -pot-wonder. It has the meat, the fibre, the heat, the spices and the combination of textures...creamy eggplant, crunchy chunky green chilli, and springy mushrooms.


- 1 long eggplant, halved and sliced in an angle, about 5 mm thick
- 3 large green chilli (not too spicy, replace with the small ones if you want more heat)
- 1 lb minced meat
- 1 cup oyster mushrooms (or button or straw mushrooms)
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 bulbs or shallot, thinly sliced
- 5 mm ginger, crushed
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground corriander seeds
- olive oil, white pepper, fish sauce (or salt), sugar

Soften your eggplants. I did this by tossing them in a bit of olive oil and salt, and dump them in the oven (200C) for about 10 minutes, until softened and a bit browned, set aside. Saute garlic, shallot and ginger in olive oil, add minced meat, cook until almost done (note the color change), add mushrooms, add eggplant, season, cover until thoroughly cooked. Tastes absolutely fantastical with steamed rice, but I bet it also tastes great stuffed into pita bread.

Now excuse me while I lick my kitchen clean (ha ha ha not funny)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pineapple Rum Cake - Devirginizing My New Kitchen

How should I devirginize my new kitchen?
- By sacrificing a virgin suckling pig? Nah, too cruel.
- By spritzing holy water all over it? Ehm, maybe some cleaning solution instead?
- With a prayer? Our Father who art in heaven, please bless this kitchen with less
food disasters...
- With a ceremony involving dancing naked in front of the kitchen window? Hmm, tempting idea, but may result in multiple law suits from the neighbors...

So I opted to go with baking something dead easy instead.
Pineapple Rum Cake

Pineapple and rum? New best friends in my new kitchen!
(yields 6 small muffins and 2 cakes in small ramekins)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 tsp rum
- 3/4 cup pineapple chunks (half of very small pineapple, peel skin, remove core, cut into bite sized chunks, or you can use canned pineapple)

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix all wet ingredients (except pineapple) in a bowl. Mix dry and wet ingredients, add pineapple chunks, pour into muffin tray lined with paper cups until 3/4 full and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

? vs !
Now, let me refresh your memory on my old kitchen...

Space? What space? There was almost no working space for me...and don't even think of working on living/dining room. Space is one luxurious thing I couldn't have.

I haven't taken pictures of the whole new kitchen. Surely it is not as spacious as normal kitchens, this is Hong Kong after all, but I am grateful of the every square centimeter (not meter) of working space I could have.

More pictures of the new kitchen coming, stay tuned!

PS. I bet my new kitchen kinda enjoyed the devirginisation ritual. I was gentle. ^_*