Monday, 28 January 2008

Daring Bakers Jan 2008: Lemon Meringue Pie

Greetings from Tasmania, an Australian island south-east of mainland Australia. I've been here with Quikong for over a week now. Lots of outdoor adventures, enjoying the fresh produce and relaxation. No internet, TV or mobile for most of our trip. It's been really refreshing. I'll write more about this wonderful place in my next post.

I have 3 hours before my flight back to Sydney and remembered that I have to post the first Daring Bakers' challenge for 2008, hosted by Jen of The Canadian Baker. So here I am at an internet cafe. I don't intend to be here long, so excuse this quick post. I have to hunt down more plump oysters and luscious cherries before I leave this beautiful island.

Jen chose Lemon Meringue Pie for this month's challenge because after all the holiday treats, she wanted something lighter. I've made lemon meringue pie heaps of times before and was excited to try a new recipe. I actually ended up baking this pie twice during the two weeks I was in Singapore because my family loved it so much. Jen, my family thanks you for picking this pie because it's my sister's favourite dessert.

I made a "standard" pie for the challenge (very un-daring of me, I know...) but you can check out my mini lemon meringue tart that I wrote about last year here. Do check out the other pies created by the other Daring Barkers here.

Kitchen Notes:
- Working in hot & humid weather:
I had to work very quickly because of the hot and humid Singapore weather. I also had to make the pastry by hand because despite Mom's vast collection of gadgets, she did not have a food processor. As a Daring Baker, I had to rise to the challenge - I froze the butter and that helped somewhat.
- Meringue oven temperature:
I also did not know Mom's oven that well. The photo you see is from my first attempt. On my second attempt, I used a much lower temperature to bake the meringue and was happier with the result.

If you still haven't made your own Lemon Meringue Pie, I urge you to have a go. Here is the recipe:

Lemon Meringue Pie
from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002

Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:

¾ cup cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
⅓ cup ice water

For the Filling:

2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup butter
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Meringue:

5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup granulated sugar

For the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

For the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.

Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

For the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Monday, 14 January 2008

WHB #116: The Odour that Launched a Thousand Ships

Durian Flesh - "XO" variety

Durian. Hail the King of Fruits.
(Try googling "King of Fruits" if you don't believe me!)

So potent is the odour from durians that they are prohibited in Singapore's full-airconditioned (and super-clean) subway system (called "MRT" - Mass Rapid Transit). This "no durians" rule is made very explicit - have a look at the sign that I saw outside the subway station last week:

How serious are the transport authorities about that? Have a look at the steep fine:


This is my last post from Singapore and my contribution to this week's Weekend Herb Blogging. WHB, created by Kalyn and now in its third year, is hosted by Rinku of Cooking in Westchester this week. I thought it would be appropriate to talk about this very interesting and infamous fruit.

Durians evokes very strong reactions - loved, revered, feared and loathed all at once. World renowned naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace had this to say about the durian: "It is like a buttery custard flavoured with almonds, intermingled with wafts of flavour that call to mind cream cheese, onion sauce, brown sherry and other incongruities... It is neither acid, nor sweet, nor juicy, yet one feels the want of none of these qualities, for it is perfect as it is." Others speak just as strongly about this controversial fruit, but to contrary effect.

Love it or hate it, there is no middle ground with durians. Durian-lovers go through great lengths to locate special seasonal varieties. How durian-crazy can we get? Well, we have durian cake, durian mousse, durian paste, durian crepes, durian puffs, durian porridge, durian ice-cream, durian jam... you get the picture.

A Thorny Fruit:
Have a look at a photo of the fruit here. The word Durio was established by Adnanson in 1763, derived from the Malay word duri which means "thorns." Zibethinus was established by scientist Murray in 1774 . He named it such as the fruit's repugnant smell was reminiscent of Zibetto, which is Italian for "civet cat".

The melon-shaped fruit then takes approximately three months to ripen, before falling and splitting on the ground. Durian fruits are distinguished by their olive green colour and coarse rind, which is studded with sharp, formidable spikes. This thick armour protects the durian fruit from being damaged by the impact of falling from considerable heights (that makes a lot of sense). The segments of the fruit reveal several portions of creamy, yellow flesh, each encasing a hard, light brown seed. It is this rich, custard-like flesh that is so eagerly devoured by durian fanatics.

The durian is indigenous to Southeast Asia and can be found in many of the region's low-lying forests. Due to the limited land area in Singapore, we now only have a small number of durian trees. Therefore, the durians we get in Singapore mostly are sourced from Malaysia and Thailand. I recall seeing durians in supermarkets in the USA (I think I was in California), perhaps when I was in BC, Canada, and it's definitely seasonally available in Australia.

To date, there are more than 100 durian clones available in the region. The more popular ones found in Singapore are the XO, D24, D145, D158 and the Thai Mon Thong. With their thick, sweet flesh, unique aroma and full flavour, they command the highest prices and are indulged by the more affluent Singaporean customers.

Durians are an important and nutritious source of food for many wild animals that inhabit the rainforest. Evidence shows that even tigers and elephants are fond of the fruit, valuing it for its high vitamin and mineral content, which includes vitamins A, B, C, and iron.

Arguably, the fruit tastes best when eaten fresh, but there are other ways to enjoy it as I’ve stated above. More traditional ways of using durian flesh includes: bubur (pudding, recipe below), dodol (sweet sticky rice flour snack), tempoyak (adding prawn paste to salted, preserved durian flesh). Another popular method is to preserve the flesh with brown sugar, then boil or fry it, to suit ones taste (lempok). Durian flesh can be frozen for months.

While researching for this post, I also discovered that durian seeds are also edible and are served boiled, baked or fried. Might try that during my next trip.

Source: National Library Board Singapore

Mom's Bubur Durian
- Durian Pudding -

Mom usually makes this durian pudding with a lower grade durian (we eat the good stuff fresh). Cooking durians somehow reduces the potent odour although you can still smell it a mile a way. My 10-year-old half-English nephew refuses to be in the kitchen when I am eating it. But then again his Marmite toast has the same effect on me ;-)

Durian Flesh
Palm Sugar
Pandan leaf
Fresh coconut milk

The quantity of each ingredient is really up to personal preference. Mom uses lots of durian flesh (to minimize the use of sugar) and just a touch of coconut milk. You can use only palm sugar but the pudding may end up too brown in colour. Therefore, Mom uses a combination of palm sugar and white sugar in order to maintain the natural colour of the durian.

Method: Over low-medium heat, cook the durian flesh with some sugar and pandan leaf. When the pandan fragrance is well incorporated into the mixture, add coconut milk and palm sugar. If the pudding is too thick, add some hot water. This pudding can be frozen.

Selamat Jalan…

This is my last day in Singapore but I will be back again in a year. My foray into the blogging world has definitely added a new element to visit with my family this time. I’ve always been interested in cooking but I’ve always left the cooking of traditional foods to Mom’s. Now that I’ve taken a greater interest in her recipes, I am more excited to practice more traditional recipes from my heritage in Sydney. Two weeks is not enough time to learn from Mom’s wealth of information and experience, but with the two books that she gave me, and a little experimentation depending on the ingredients I can find in Sydney, I am sure that my cooking repertoire will evolve in a refreshing and delicious way in my Sydney kitchen. Of course, no one can ever replace Mom’s cooking.


Sunday, 13 January 2008

Kitchen Gadgets Trivia - The Answers

Here are the answers to Mom’s kitchen gadget trivia from my last post. Thanks for the creative responses, it was fun reading them.

Don’t scroll down if you are still working out the answers ;-)

Kitchen Trivia Answers:


Greg of Greg Cooks was half correct when he guessed that this is a cake knife. It’s made of a special kind of plastic that makes cutting of steamed sticky cakes easier. These steamed cakes are usually made of rice flour and coconut milk. Examples would be cakes like putri salat, kuih lapis beras, talam ubi.


I was not surprised that Kevin of Closet Cooking knew the answer to this one (I noticed lots of Japanese recipes in his blog archives). This is a takoyaki maker. Takoyaki is Japanese-style fried octopus balls which originated in Osaka, Japan’s third largest city. I know what you are thinking, but no, not in the literal sense – each ball Is made with batter, diced octopus, tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger and green onions. It is then topped with green laver (anori), Japanese mayonnaise and thin fish shavings (katsuobu) is part of the ingredients for this delicious street snack. This blog has a great step-by-step demonstration on how to make takoyaki.

A side note: Osakans are very serious about food and have a kuidore attitude, which means “eating until collapse”, and this applies to both physically and financially. Osaka was not called “the best kitchen under heaven” during the Edo period for nothing. Osakans are very passionate about food and are known to ruin themselves by overspending on fine food. Besides takoyaki, other homegrown dishes include:
shabu-shabu, omuraisu (rice omelet), yakiniku (BBQ) and even instant noodles.


Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook was spot on when she guess that these are a multi-spout funnels for lacy crepes or pancakes called roti kirai or roti jala. Roti kirai is served at room temperature and eaten with a hot bowl of curry. Mom says that I make the best roti kirai in the East (*ahem*). The secret to making a beautiful lacey pattern is all in the wrist (steady hands, working quickly) and also the consistency of the batter. She gave me one of her three kirai funnels, so I can now make roti kirai in my Sydney kitchen and feature it on this blog in the future. It’s been a while, I hope I haven’t lost my kirai skills…


Muruku Press. Muruku is a deep-fried Indian snack, which is made up of spiced rice and lentil flour dough. The press has interchangeable discs (similar to a cookie press) that you can use to make pretty ragged edged coils or smooth ones. The batter is put into the press and by turning the handle like a mill, the batter streams out of the bottom directly into hot oil (Greg, that’s 2/5 for you!). Although Indians only make up about 8% of the 4.5 million Singaporeans, there are many Indian snacks and dishes that are popular with all Singaporeans.

I just asked Mom when she last used her muruku press and she said that she’s NEVER used it. She’s had it for 35 years!!! She had good intentions when she bought it but never got round to making her own muruku because she didn’t fancy having to use the deep fryer (which she also owns but only used twice).


KJ of A Cracking Good Egg was right that this contraption is for deep-frying. It's specially designed to fry rempeyek, a savoury Indonesian street food which is also very popular in Singapore and Malaysia. Rempeyak is a crunchy snack that looks like a small, thin wafer that is commonly made with peanut and tiny dried anchovy fillers. The batter is very flavoursome due to the coriander seeds, cumin, tumeric and garlic. The ones found in Singapore is usually "free form", but by using this contraption, you can make the rempeyek uniform in size. Mom's homemade ones are very addictive but she usually makes it "free-form", so this is yet another white elephant in the kitchen. ;-)

I hope that you had fun learning about unfamiliar kitchen gadgets and foods.

Tomorrow is my last day in Singapore (sob!) and I have one last post from here to share with you. It's a rather interesting one, so do drop by again tomorrow.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Kitchen Gadget Trivia

After a series of sugar-high posts, I figured I might write a calorie-free post. In fact, you might even burn a few extra calories from using your brain power to solve this trivia. ;-)

I was rummaging through Mom's kitchen cupboards (it's fun! I never know what I might find), when I unearthed these gadgets that I thought would be fun for a trivia. Mom has so many gadgets tucked away in her numerous kitchen cupboards that even she has lost track of her massive collection.

I'll present the items in order of difficulty. I am familiar with all of them, except the last one which stumped me. Even Grandma didn't know what it was.

Good Luck - and you don't have to be right. Have fun & amuse me with your creativity!

What Am I (or what am I designed to do)?

(A) I look like a knife but I am no ordinary knife. What am I designed to cut?

(B) Made in Japan... (never used, by the way)

(C) Mom actually has three of these, don't ask me why...

This is not what it's for (thanks, Grandma)

(D) Made in India...

(E) This is the toughest one, so I took a shot from three angles. Made in Indonesia.

I look forward to reading your guesses.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

BBD #6: (Sweet) Potato Braid

My friend Eva of Sweet Sins is hosting Bread Baking Day (BBD) #6. She is my "bread idol" - I savoured every last crumb of all the breads that she's given to me. About a year ago, she excitedly gave me some sourdough starter that she had painstaking and patiently made and I somehow managed to kill it. While I gave up making my own sourdough bread, she persisted and succeeded. Eva is also a very talented photographer, so do head over to her blog even if you are not thinking of participanting in BBD.

Zorra of
1x umrühren bitte created the monthly event BBD. For the month of Feb, Eva has chosen the theme Shaped Breads. Since I am in Singapore visiting my family, I thought I might make something traditional but I am in rice country, so I couldn't find any traditional shaped bread recipe to share. I decided to make a sweet bread that I know my family will enjoy.

This bread, which has mashed potato in it, is an adaptation of the Daring Baker's November challenge Tender Potato Bread. I simplified the method and added some sugar in the dough and sprinkled more sugar on the braided loaf just before baking it. I also used only 1/4 of the original recipe to get one braided loaf.

(Sweet) Potato Braid

400g all-purpose flour
½ tsp instant yeast
1/8 tsp salt
113g (4oz) potato, unpeeled weight
1 cup of potato water
¼ cup caster sugar
1 tbsp butter, at room temperature

melted butter


1. Peel potato and boil chunks in 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Drain and mash the potato. Reserve the potato water for making the dough. Let potato and the water cool to lukewarm.
2. Mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar together in a large bowl and make a well in the center.
3. Add the mashed potato, required amount of potato water and butter to the center of the flour and mix to soft dough.
4. Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. The dough will be quite sticky so use a dough scraper to keep your work surface clean. Add more water or flour if necessary. Knead dough until smooth and elastic.
5. Place in a lightly oil bowl, cover with a lightly oiled clear film and leave in a warm place for 1-1.5 hours, or until doubled in bulk.
6. Turn the dough into a lightly floured surface and knock it back (punch down) lightly. Shape the dough to your preference. To learn how to braid the dough, have a look here. Place it onto a baking sheet and cover with the oiled clear film and leave it to rise for a further 30-45 minutes.
7. When the dough is almost double in size, preheat the oven to 230° C. Brush the top of the dough with melted butter and sprinkle sugar liberally over the braids.
8. Bake at 230° C for about 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 190° C and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Due to the sugar, the bread might brown too quickly. So after 15 minutes, it may be necessary to cover the bread with foil.

Tasting Notes:
The bread had a hint of sweetness, so it was lovely buttered and enjoyed with a cup of tea. I liked the crackle that the sugar topping gave to the crust. Half the loaf was gone in a flash....need I say more?

Other breads to try:

Why not join in the fun? If you haven't tried shaping bread, then you should definitely use this opportunity to learn. You can have a look here for pictorial instructions on creating some basic shapes.

You have till 1 Feb to post your bread shaping creations. For more details have a look here. Eva will post the round-up by 5 Feb.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Something Light - Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Not the prettiest cake (let's call it "rustic" angle food cake... hee hee..) on the block but it's definitely tasty and your hips (for the ladies) and love-handles (for the men) will thank you. It was my first time making Angel Food cake, so I don't even know what the top is supposed to look like.

I made this cake for several reasons:
- I wanted to use up the leftover egg whites from making the Malay-style Semolina Cake (and I was to chicken to try making Macaroons), so I took up Lynn's suggestion.
- It's a nice guilt-free change from the calorie laden semolina cake
- I've not made angel food cake before, so this was a good opportunity to stretch my baking repertoire, especially since Mom has a - actually two - tube pans (my Sydney kitchen doesn't).

Kitchen Notes:
- I didn't have bittersweet chocolate, so I used milk chocolate.
- Most angel food cake recipes call for cake flour, but I only had plain flour, hence I used an Australian recipe that uses plain flour.
- Making the batter was uneventful but I am a bit disappointed with the look of the baked crust as you can see from the top photo. It was rather wrinkly and crumbly. Trying a new recipe at 11pm could have something to do with it. But I will not give myself excuses, so I will just have to keep on practising. I don't give up easily ;-)

Tasting Notes:
- Despite it's ugly, ahem, I mean, "rustic" and wrinkly appearance, taste-wise it's two thumbs up - light & spongy, yet not dry. The chocolate flavour is subtle but definitely there. Best of all, you won't feel guilty eating this (try to forget that it's laden with sugar...). I will definitely make this again (maybe reduce the sugar a bit) and take Nic's (Baking Bites) advice about how to bake the perfect angel food cake.

Chocolate Angel Food Cake
Adapted from Australian Good Taste & Epicurious
(serves 6-8)

· 6 egg whites
· 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
· 1/4 tsp salt
· 3/4 tsp vanilla essence
· 220g (1 cup) caster sugar
· 100g (2/3 cup) plain flour, triple sifted
· 1/8 cup cocoa powder
· 25g bittersweet chocolate, grated (or use choc sprinkles)
· Icing sugar (optional), to serve

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line the base of a 20cm tube pan with a removeable bottom with baking paper.
2. Place flour, cocoa powder and half the sugar in a bowl. Whisk to evenly distribute the ingredients.
3. Place egg whites, cream of tartar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Use electric beaters to whisk until soft peaks form. Whisk in the vanilla essence. Gradually add half of the sugar, 2 tbpns at a time, whisking well after each addition, until the mixture is thick and glossy (not stiff). Use a large metal spoon to fold in the flour mixture until just combined.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and use the metal spoon to gently smooth the surface. Tap pan on counter gently to remove any large air bubbles.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and firm to touch. Turn the cake pan upside down on the wire rack and allow the cake to cool completely. To release the cake, gently run a thin knife around the sides and around the bottom of the pan.
6. Sprinkle file cake with the icing sugar (if using). Cut into slices and serve with the poached fruits e.g. strawberries.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Kek Sugi / Malay-style Semolina Cake

Kek Sugi (or Malay-style Semolina Cake) is one of Mom's favourite cakes. Despite being a great cook, she told me that she felt less confident about making this particular cake because the recipe warned that the cake might sink if not prepared correctly. Since I am always up for a baking challenge, I thought that I would give it ago. Boy, was she excited. It was also an opportunity to try something that I would not bake in Sydney for myself because of the high fat content and it also uses 15 egg yolks! I am still thinking about what I will do with the rest of the egg whites. An Aussie Pavlova maybe ... hmmm, too easy... maybe something more challenging ...macaroons? ( ..shiver .. don't think I'm ready for that ) ... stay tuned.

This recipe comes from a series of Malay cookbooks called "Minta Ampun Sedapnya" (loosely translated to mean "Goodness Gracious, absolutely Delicious". These are a compilations of traditional Malay and Malay-inspired recipes contributed by Malay women of Singapore. These recipes have been tried and tested, then compiled by Asmah Laili, a former broadcaster turned renowned cookbook author, who is dedicated to keeping our Singaporean Malay food heritage alive. Mom and sis know her personally and Mom has all of her cookbooks. Last week, Mom gave me one of Asmah cookbooks (Vol. 5) that was written both in English and Malay (yeah!) so I can continue my Malay cuisine learning journey when I am back in Sydney.

Kitchen and tasting notes:
I made half of the recipe and baked it in a 9.5" x 5.5" loaf pan. Mom has been raving about the cake all afternoon. :-) I'm glad that the cake didn't sink and that it met her expectations. I thought that the cake was delicious - buttery, moist and with a tender crumb. The ground almond adds a nice texture to it too. But I can only have it in small doses because it's a very rich cake. It's best eaten at room temperature.

Kek Suji
- Malay Semolina Cake -

Translated from “Minta Ampun Sedapnya”, Vol 1
Recipe by Hjh Fatimah Bte Md Ibrahim Marican

500g butter*, room temperature
15 egg yolks
2 egg whites
320g cater sugar
230g ground almonds/almond meal
3 tbspn all-purpose flour, sifted
340g fine semolina
1 tbspn vanillin or vanilla sugar

*tinned butter (e.g. Golden Churn brand found in Singapore/Malaysia) was recommended.

Day before baking:
- Beat butter and the semolina till well-blended. Cover and leave it for at least 14 hours but no more than 24 hours.
- Toast the ground almond in a dry non-stick frying pan for about 2-5 minutes and cool before storing in an air-tight container.

The next day:
- Beat butter-semolina misture till pale and fluffy.
- Beat egg whites till stiff and fold this gently to the butter-semolina mizture. - - - Beat the egg yolks with the sugar (add sugar gradually) till pale and the sygar has disolved. Fold this into the semolina mixture.
- Add ground almond, flour and vanilla sugar and fold them in quickly but gently till well combined. The recipe recommended that this step by done by hand but I used a spatula.
- Immediately pour the thick batter into the buttered cake tin (11” x 8”). Smooth the top before baking it in a preheat oven (150°C) for 1 hrs 15 mins. Do not open the oven door during this time.
- After removing the cake from the oven, leave it in the pan for 10 mins before turning it out on a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, 7 January 2008

WHB # 115: Fried Tofu with Sweet Soy Dressing

Limau Kasturi (Kalamansi)

Tahu Goreng is a simple but delicous dish. Use the freshest tofu you can find. It's eaten as a side dish or a light lunch. I wonder if I can convince my meat-man Quikong to try this dish since he is not pro-tofu. I love tofu but the best part about this dish is definitely the dressing which is moreish because it has a wonderful tangy flavour with a hint of sweetness and garlic, as well as some heat from the chillies.

Limau kasturi or kalamansi (Citrus microcarpa) adds something special to the dressing because of its citrusy frangrance that is both sweet and sour at the same time and quite distinct from lemons and other types of limes. The kalamansi is small (2-3 cm in diameter) and the peel is green, yellowish green or yellow in colour. It contains quite a lot of seeds and it has an orange-yellowish flesh. The juice is sour and adds a piquant flavour to dishes. In Singapore, halved kalamansi is served with dishes such as fried noodles and squeezed over just before one tucks into the meal. The juice is also commonly made into a freshing drink.
This will be my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging #115. This week's host is Vani from Batasari.

Tahu Goreng

Fresh firm Tofu
Vegetable oil for frying
Bean sprouts, root removed, rinsed with hot water & drained immediately
Cucumber, sliced thickly

kecap manis ABC (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
tamarind juice
freshly squeezed kalamansi juice*
garlic, crushed
bird's eye chilli, chopped very finely
roasted peanuts, chopped roughly

Prepare the dressing: Mix all (except for peanuts) of the ingredients together. Taste and adjust the balance (i.e. sweet/sour) of the sauce according to your preference. (* subtitute with fresh lime juice if kalamansi is unavailable.)

Pat dry the tofu and fry it in oil till it is golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Slice it into cubes and transfer it into a bowl. Place some beansporuts and cucumber on the tofu. Drizzle the dressing over the tofu and scatter peanuts on top. Serve immediately.

Tip: The dressing can be used over several days. It also makes a wonderful dipping sauce for dim sum, fried calamari, spring rolls or as a salad dressing. You can also add the peanuts into the dressing and it becomes a thick sauce but I chose to have them seperately so that the peanuts can remain crunchy if I am using the dressing over several days.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Banned: Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

No kidding.

Poppy seeds are not sold in Singapore. We have very strict drug-free laws and that extends to poppy seeds. The sale of poopy seeds is banned in Singapore due to the morphine content. Although the drug opium is produced by "milking" latex from the unripe poppy fruits rather than from the seeds, all parts of the plant can contain or carry the opium alkaloids, especially morphine and codeine. This means that eating foods (such as muffins) that contain poppy seeds can result in a false positive for opiates in a drug test.

So although many bloogers have written about lemon poppy seed muffins, do you see why they are very special if you lived in Singapore? I brought my own supply of poppy seeds just because I wanted to bake these muffins for my sis. She is addicted to these muffins (hmm...that may be a bad choice of words...). If I had more poppy seeds, I would love for my sister to try to this
Polish poppy seed cake from Margot's mom.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
(from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
Makes 12 small-ish muffins

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon soda bicarbonate
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup lite sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the lemon glaze:
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
up to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh squeezed

For the muffins:
- Preheat oven to 200°C. Coat a 12-capacity muffin tray with nonstick spray or line with paper muffin cups.
- In a bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers to draw out the lemon oils from the zest. The sugar will take on a yellow tinge.
- Sift the dry ingredients into the sugar and whisk till completely combined.
- In another bowl mix together the sour cream, eggs melted butter, lemon juice and vanilla extract with a fork till well blended.
- Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir quickly and gently with a large metal spoon or rubber spatula. Don’t fret if there are some small lumps – do not overmix! Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin tins.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the lemon glaze/drizzle:
Mix the icing sugar with enough fresh lemon juice until it reaches a nice liquid consistency. Glaze or drizzle artisticaly on top.

Friday, 4 January 2008

World's Smallest Pineapple Tart

<Kuih Tart - Pineapple Tart

Without fail, whenever I return to Sinagpore, there will be a jar of freshly baked kuih tart, or miniature pineapple tarts, waiting for me. I've eaten these since I was a child. I'm not even sure of the history of this little tart. The word "kuih" usually refers to dessert. I just realised while writing this post that the name "kuih tart" does not make sense because we eat these tarts not for dessert but more as a snack or afternoon tea, and the name also makes no reference to pineapple. But everyone in Singapore and Malaysia knows that kuih tart always refers to these miniature pineapple tarts. In Singapore, they are commonly baked for festive occasions such as Eid, Chinese New Year and even Christmas. The pineapple jam filling is spiced with clove and cinnamon so it smells heavenly when Mom is simmering the jam on the stove.

As I have a busy day ahead of being pampered by my sis (lucky me to have a big sis!), I won't have time to translate Mom's recipe for these melt-in-your-mouth-can't-stop-at-one kuih tart today. But I will do so hopefully before I leave Singapore.

Mom also made these crispy and buttery almond cookies. I'll have to bug Mom for that recipe too because they are addictive. If only Mom wroted down all her recipes, catalogued them and also translated them to English. Maybe that will have to be my next project after I finish my thesis...
Have a great day everyone!!! :-)

Thursday, 3 January 2008

WHB #114: Assam Pedas Ikan - Sour Spicy Fish

Daun Kesom (Vietnamese Coriander, Polygonum odoratum)

Today Mom made Assam Pedas Ikan, a Malay dish directly translated as “Sour Spicy Fish”. Every respectable Malay kitchen would have their own version of assam pedas. My mom’s version has the perfect balance of spicy and sour. Daun kesom is an essential ingredient for my mom’s assam pedas.

Daun Kesom, or Vietnamese Coriander, has a coriander-like smell with a clear lemony note. Although it is closely related to water pepper there is hardly any pungency present. In Singapore and Malaysia, the shredded leaf is an essential garnish for laksa, and so, the herb is also commonly referred to in Malay as daun laksa (aksa leaf). More information on this herb here and here.

Mom always uses fish for her assam pedas - usually fish steaks since fish fillet would be too fragile after being cooked in the spicy broth. Today, she used a medium sized snapper head. Yes, you read that correctly. I apologise if this may be hard for many of you to stomach. Some of you know that Singapore is known for our famous Chilli Crab. Well, another dish that is also very popular with locals and some daring tourists is the Fish Head Curry. Fish head dishes are not considered exotic or a novelty. It is easily found in most neighbourhood eateries. When I was in my early 20’s I stopped eating fish head because I was put off by it. But in recent years, I am back to fish head lovin’.

Assam Pedas Ikan
- Sour Spicy Fish

Fish head or fish steaks (e.g. Red Snapper)
2 heaped tspn of powdered tumeric
chilli paste
tamarind juice
4 slices of tamarid pieces
2 medium red onion, peeled and chopped into 6-8 wedges
young eggplant (cut into small wedges)
3-4 stalks of daun kesom
vegetable oil
hot water

Chilli Paste:
4 clove garlic
15 shallots
30 dried chillies (yes, that is not a typo)
1 tbspn of belacan (prawn paste)
1-2 cm of fresh ginger root

Tamarid Juice:
2 heaped tbspn of tamarind pulp
1-1.5 cups of hot water

Prepare chilli paste – You will notice that this paste is similar to the one used for sambal prawns, but with the addition of ginger. Roughly cut dried chillies with a kitchen scissors and pour enough hot water to cover the chillies. Leave for 10 mins and drain. Blend the chillies finely with 1 cup of fresh water, and all other ingredients.

Prepare tamarind juice - Soak pulp in hot water, squeeze out the juice and strain.

Now you are ready to cook the dish:
In a large saucepan, heat some oil and over medium heat, stir fry the onion wedges till fragrant. Add the chilli paste and stir fry till fragrant (about 20 minutes). Add tamarid juice, tamarid pieces and tumeric. Add fish and enough hot water to almost cover the fish. When the fish is almost cooked, add the okra, eggplants, daun kesom and salt (to taste). Serve hot with steamed jasmin rice.

This will be my contribution to the first Weekend Herb Blogging for 2008. WHB is a food blogging event sponsored by Kalyn's Kitchen where each week food bloggers around the world photograph and write about herbs, plants, veggies, or flowers, and on the weekend, a Recap with links to all the posts is published by the host for that week. This week’s host (WHB #114) is the founder of WHB, Kaylyn. Do drop by her blog to check out the Recap.


More Singaporean foods:
Sambal Prawns
Black Glutinous Rice Porridge


Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Sambal Udang - Sambal Prawns

This is one of my all-time favourite dishes because I love seafood, especially prawns, and spicy foods. This dish is so tasty not just because I am a chilli addict but also because of the naturally slightly sweet flavour from the unshelled prawns and onions, as well as the tanginess from the assam.

Assam (or Tamarind) is the pulp that is obtained from the pods of the tamarind tree. Assam or Tamarind is a sticky fibrous mass which may sometimes include the seeds. In Singapore, when it is in the form of "Tamarind Pulp" it is known as Assam Jawa and if it is in the form of "Tamarind Pieces" it is known as Assam Keping.

How to use Assam pulp:
To obtain the Assam or Tamarind juice, this pulp is stirred through a little hot water, squeezed and then strained through a muslin cloth/sieve.

How to use Assam or Tamarind pieces:
These are often used in place of the pulp. One or two pieces are added to the dish and then removed when the food has attained the required sourness.

(Tamarid information from

Sambal Udang/Prawns

1kg large prawns, unshelled
1 tbspn tumeric powder
1 tspn chilli powder
chilli paste
2 medium red onion, peeled and chopped into 6 wedges
tamarid juice
vegetable oil

Chilli Paste
4 clove garlic
15 shallots
30 dried chillies (yes, that is not a typo)
1 tbspn of belacan (prawn paste)

Tamarid Juice
About 1 rounded teaspoon of tamarid pulp
2 tbspn of hot water


Prepare chilli paste - Roughly cut dried chillies with a kitchen scissors and pour enough hot water to cover the chillies. Leave for 10 mins and drain. Blend finely the chillies, 1 cup of fresh water, and all other ingredients. My mom used to use a motar and pestle but these days she uses a blender.

Prepare prawns - Marinade prawns in tumeric and chilli powder and salt. Leave aside for 15 minutes.

Prepare tamarind juice - Soak pulp in hot water, squeeze out the juice. My mom does not strain the juice.

Now you are ready to cook the dish:
1. In a hot wok, stir fry prawns in a little oil till pink. Be careful not to overcook the prawns. Remove from the wok and set aside.
2. In the same work, add more oil and over medium heat, stir fry the onion wedges till fragrant. Add the chilli paste and stir fry it till fragrant (about 20 minutes). Add tamarid juice and cooked prawns. Add salt to taste and a pinch of sugar. Cook for further 5 minutes.
3. Serve with steamed jasmin rice or coconut rice (nasi lemak) and stir fried vegetables (e.g. water spinach).

Mom sometimes add wedges of tomatoes and fresh coriander together with the prawns.


Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Bubur Pulut Hitam - Black Glutinous Rice Porridge

Happy New Year!

I hope that everyone had a terrific start to 2008. I welcomed the new year with my family back in Singapore. I arrived two days ago and I have not wasted time familiarising myself with a Singaporean passion - eating! Yes, Singaporeans are very proud of our food, which is very diversed - Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasion, Middle-Eastern and everything in between. One can find something to eat 24hrs, 7 days a week. Many restuarants don't even close between lunch and dinner. You can get a delicous meal to fit any budget, from just $3 to hundreds of dollars at acclaimed fine dining restaurants.

I promised some of you that I will do my best to learn some of my mother's recipes during my two weeks vacation in Singapore. However, I have to report that all I have been doing is indulging in Mom's lovingly prepared meals. Her dishes are mainly Malay, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. Through the years, she has also adapted these traditional recipes to make them healthier (such as reducing the amount of coconut milk and also grilling instead of deep-frying). My tummy has been very happy the last two days and there is more to come.

I have to admit that this sweet porridge is the first home cooked item that I captured on camera because I was too greedy at other times. It was actually my sister who reminded me to start taking photos for my blog. So, where possible and when time permits, I will take photos and share some recipes. I have to warm you though that Mom cooks by estimation, so it's unlikely that I will have exact measurements.

Today's sweet treat is a simple one but don't be fooled by it's boring looks. It can still excite the palate due to the flavours, texture and is oh-so-comforting. Although it's called "porridge", it is not something for breakfast but is usually eaten for afternoon tea. Variations of this sweet porridge can be seen in Malaysia and Thailand. I think the name of this porridge is a misnomer because when cooked, the glistening, long grains take on a deep purple tinge. Perhaps purple glutinous rice porridge does not sound as appetising....

There are two ingredients that make this such a delcious dessert:
Pandan Leaf - The pandan leaf comes from the Screwpine tree, which can be found in Madagascar, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the tropical areas of Australia. Pandan leaf in Southeast Asia is as frequently used as vanilla bean is in western cuisine. Pandan leaf is also commonly used to perfume savoury dishes.
Palm Sugar - Also referred to as gula jawa or gula Malacca/Melaka. It's a type of sugar made from the coconut tree. There are variable quality of palm sugars out there so when mom gets a hold of a good supply, I eat it like candy. I think that my addiction to palm sugar is probably bigger than my love for maple syrup. I can't find good palm sugar in Sydney, so I get my fix annually when I am back in Singapore :-). More info on palm sugar here.
Bubur Pulut Hitam
(Black Glutinous Rice Porridge)

For porridge:
Black glutinous rice
Palm sugar
Pandan leaf

For Topping:
Freshly squeezed coconut milk
pandan leaf

Porridge - Boil glutinous rice with the pandan leaf and water till tender. My mom uses a pressure cooker to save time. The consistency should not be too thick or watery, so add as much or little water to your preference.
Topping - Over low heat, boil the coconut milk with the pandan leaf and a pinch of salt. Add water if it's too thick.

To serve:
The porridge is usually eaten warm but is still delicious at room temperature. Just before serving, spoon some of the coconut milk topping over the porridge.