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Jiu Ceng Gao (九层糕)| Kueh Lapis Sagu

In Recipes, Singaporean on November 7, 2010 at 11:03 am

1. There are foods that taste great.
2. There are foods that are so pretty that they taste great even before they touch the tongue.
3. There are foods that taste great simply because you grew up with them.

And there are foods that fit all 3 categories:

I’d peel them layer….by layer….by layer…4, 5, 6th…… 7, 8th…and with brief hesitation, I’d nibble through the 9th and final of the rainbow-coloured soft n chewy layers, mm by mm by mm… mmmmm πŸ™‚ Happy food.

Of course, being a poor student with limited cash and limited space on the shelf, stocking up on all those colours is not economically nor logistically sensible.Β  Too bad that nyonya kueh doesn’t keep long (starch retrogrades and coconut milk goes rancid) and getting some from home on mama’s tab wouldn’t work. Surprise surprise, poorskinnychef makes her own, but with less colours in the equation:

The verdict: πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚


Jiu Ceng Gao | Kueh Lapis Sagu Recipe modified from IndoLists

Ingredients:

  • 200g tapioca / sago starch
  • 100g rice flour
  • 500ml coconut milk
  • 300ml water
  • 240g sugar
  • essence and colouring (I used pandan paste for green and rose paste for pink)

[use more tapioca starch for chewier texture, more coconut milk for stronger coconut flavour – this recipe yielded the same texture as the ones I have at home! soft yet springy!]

Method:

  1. Dissolve sugar in hot water to make a syrup and pour in coconut milk.
  2. Mix in starches with a hand whisk.
  3. Divide mixture into 3 portions (~350ml each)
  4. Grease a smooth-based tin (about 10” diameter or square tin would be even better for cutting later!) and heat in the steamer.
  5. Pour in 1/3 of white layer (~110-120ml) and steam for 3-4 min on high heat.
  6. Alternate with colours and steam each layer 3-4 min until 9 layers have been created!
  7. Cool, oil surfaces, unmould and cut into pieces with greased knife.
  8. Wrap pieces with greased plastic to prevent sticking!

The Squishy Surprise : Onde-Onde | Klepon

In Recipes, Singaporean on October 21, 2010 at 1:39 am

Did I mention in my last post that I’m done making green-coloured sweet snacks? Well, apparently not! Until onde-onde (as it’s called in M’sia / S’pore vs ‘klepon’ in Indonesia) is on the blog, it definitely warrants a revisit (to make the proper instructional photos). Within its soft chewy green exterior and snowy coconut-y coat, hides an unexpected sweet explosive surprise. Pop one into your mouth and BAM*! you’re hit with a burst of fragrant melted palm sugar that oozes out and engulfs your taste buds. Mmm, I really really love these green bally thingies!

This post is for the cuz who settled in Perth for 2 years now and unbelievably misses none of the lip-smacking Singaporean food except for — ONDE-ONDE (seriously, how can that be, A?)… as well as for the bunches of friends who have been pestering me for it since I was obsessively making it for every other international food gathering last year~ (and even for sale at the Asian supermarket). These little squishy surprises are such simple bundles of jumpy joy!

Onde-Onde | Klepon recipe (recipe by my own ‘feel’) makes 25 small balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup glutinous rice flour
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • Small piece of sweet potato (~50g)
  • 1/2 tsp pandan paste
  • 50g gula melaka (coconut palm sugar)
  • 1 tbsp white sugar / brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dessicated / shredded coconut
  • pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Cut sweet potato into small segments and boil / steam.
  2. Chop palm sugar into bits and mix in 1 tbsp of white / brown sugar. Set aside.
  3. Mash the cooked sweet potato and mix into glutinous rice flour.
  4. Bind together flour and sweet potato with warm water into a smooth dough. It should be easily shaped, not crumbly and not sticky. Adjust with water / flour.
  5. Add pandan paste to the dough and knead till colour is even. Alternatively, you could also add it in to the water at step 4.
  6. Pinch small balls of dough, flatten it with thumb, place a small amount of sugar in the middle, close and roll into a ball with the palms of your hand.
  7. Drop the balls into a pot of boiling water and give it a few stirs during cooking. When dough is cooked, it will rise to the surface (~3-5min).
  8. Meanwhile place the coconut in a deep dish and mix in a pinch of salt.
  9. Scoop the cooked dough into the coconut and swirl around to coat.
  10. Set aside to cool! Best enjoyed fresh as keeping overnight causes it to harden.

Simplification: Sweet potato amount can be increased for a softer texture, or eliminated altogether for a more chewy ball.

Announcement: Poorskinnychef’s onde-onde will be selling at Toko Indrani @ Salverdaplein frozen section πŸ™‚Β  wheee~

Steamed Sago Cake – Kueh Sagu

In Recipes, Singaporean on September 26, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I’ve been refraining as much as possible from buying new ingredients at the Asian supermarket, because they all come in packs of 500g – 1kg and I’m just about to move across town. Don’t want to be carting additional boxes of ingredients when I already have a massive amount of stuff to worry about. And so I decided to convert the remains of my packet of tapioca pearls into one of my favourite nyonya kueh for a recent international gathering. Steamed sago cake a.k.a. kueh sagu! But naturally, if I ever attempt to make anything, it’s of course ‘one of my favourites’, why else do I go through the effort then?


Just what is sago? And what are tapioca pearls and why do I seem to use it so interchangeably? NO, they are not FROG EGGS (in reference to their appearance) contrary to some Western belief that resulted from too much mischievous Asian teasing. Both are actually starches of very similar characteristics (transparent and chewy), and are produced in the form of granules or ‘pearls’ to be used conveniently for cooking. The former is obtained from the pith of the sago palm stem, while the latter is obtained from the cassava root. Nothing weird about it at all. Just starch, like potato starch, corn starch, wheat starch… made into a more convenient and potentially innovative form.

Yep, so here’s yet another green recipe (apart from ondeh ondeh and kueh dadar that I’ve been making frequently in the past year). It just happens that I never see any pressing need to obtain other colours for my recipes, apart from the green of my pandan paste. I hope that I’m not sending the wrong message that nyonya kueh are all green in colour, because they’re not and hopefully I will have a chance to show you soon πŸ™‚


Kueh Sagu Recipe modified from here

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pearl sago / tapioca pearls
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a few drops of pandan paste
  • 1/2 tsp pandan essence (or 1 tsp pandan essence + colouring)
  • 20g dessicated coconut with a pinch of salt mixed in

Method:

  1. Soak the pearls in a generous amount of water (1L maybe?) and leave aside for 1h. Will double to triple in volume.
  2. Drain away excess water then mix in sugar and pandan paste / essence.
  3. Transfer to a greased pot / bowl that fits in your steamer. Here’s how to do it if you don’t have a steamer.
  4. Steam on high heat for 20min.
  5. Cool and coat with dessicated coconut while cutting into bite-sized pieces.

Alternative spellings of the name: sago kueh / kuih sago

Variations on the recipe: create layers by splitting into 2 batches after flavouring with sugar and pandan essence. Add an additional few drops of pandan paste to colour one batch green. Steam the white layer for 10 min, then pour the green batch over and steam for another 20min.

Other variations: colour with other colours and make layers the same way, or use coconut palm sugar (gula melaka) in place of white sugar!

Lazy Honeydew Sago with Coconut Milk

In Recipes, Singaporean on September 25, 2010 at 5:07 pm

When you’re a lazy and poor student living in the Netherlands, you might be in search of refreshing dessert alternatives apart from yoghurt, vla (custard dessert) and rijst pap (rice pudding). The solution to this is simple — that is, to look eastwards and then southwards, where warmer climates and more recently developed countries mean that sweets that are brought to the table are often simple, cheap and refreshing.

If I were to always get my way, I’d say that fresh fruits would be sufficient to end the meal. But once, it seemed that my nicely cut apples weren’t too well-received as a dessert for a dinner gathering πŸ˜› So this time, when I got my hands on some really sweet honeydew melon from the farmer’s market, I made some into lazy honeydew dessert! Hmm, so lazy that I didn’t even bother to measure my ingredients nor take the time to make a proper photo of it. But anyway, here it is. A lazy alternative for non-yoghurt, non-vla, non-rijstpap dessert in a student dormitory dinner.

Honeydew Sago with Coconut Milk Recipe simplified from here

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a honeydew melon
  • ~ 1/2 cup pearl sago / tapioca pearls
  • 1 can (400ml) thin coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 100ml water
  • ice if convenient

Method:

  1. Boil sago in 1L of water. When sago turns translucent, pour into sieve / strainer and wash away excess starch with cold water.
  2. Dissolve sugar in warm water to make a sugar syrup (I used the microwave).
  3. Add syrup to coconut milk until desired sweetness is attained.
  4. Cut honeydew melon into small pieces.
  5. To serve, spoon some sago and honeydew into a bowl, top over with sweetened coconut milk and add some ice. πŸ™‚ That’s it!

Breakfast #1: Chee Cheong Fun | ηŒͺ肠粉

In Eats, Recipes, Singaporean, Singaporean on July 1, 2010 at 1:07 pm

One question that I’ve constantly been asked by my classmates is that IF I don’t eat bread or muesli for breakfast, then what is it that I eat?? Well, I can’t possibly expect people who have been eating bread for centuries and muesli for decades to make any sense of tau sar pau, roti prata, char kway, tau hway, chwee kueh, png kueh, you tiao, hum chee peng, chut bee png, can I? Explaining myself is always synonymous to ramming my head against a wall. Each time, it is a look of polite confusion or mock disgust at how I could eat sweet / salty / hot / spicy / funny coloured stuff for my breakfast. So most of the time, I just say I eat ‘rice, sticky rice and soy products’ or if I’m in a lazy or not-too-good mood, I say ‘I eat bread, cheese and spreads like you do, and a lot of other things too‘… and most often people are satisfied with the first half of my comment.

After my first long night of jetlagged sleeplessness, it was wonderful to wake up to one of my favourite breakfast foods that mom had bought from the supermarket (SGD$2.30/1.20 euro for 4 rolls – serving size 1-2 rolls). Chee Cheong Fun (dialect) or zhu chang fen (mandarin) literally means pig intestines noodles. It’s actually rice noodle rolls made of rice flour, water and a little oil that is steamed in thin sheets and rolled up in such a way that it resembles pig intestines. Most of the time it has little bits of mushrooms / shrimp / chicken / pork rolled in between the sheets, but mine was with a little bit of spring onions. It has the texture of very smooth rice noodle sheets, eaten warm with a generous scoop of sweet soya sauce and chilli sauce, and a sprinkle of sesame oil and sesame seeds. Great way to start the day!

I’ve also just found out that it’s possible to make it in a microwave too!

Here’s an easy Chee Cheong Fun recipe from notquitenigella:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups rice flour
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Method:

  1. Mix ingredients together.
  2. Pour a thin layer (about 1-2mm) into a microwave-safe flat container.
  3. Microwave on high for 2 min until just set.
  4. Sprinkle your desired chopped up filling and roll up.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you’ve used up all the batter.
  6. Serve with a sprinkle of soya sauce, chilli sauce and sesame oil!

Disclaimer: I have not tried this recipe myself, but it does sound quite fool-proof. I’ll give it a shot when I’m once again 9987km away from NTUC fairprice / Bukit Timah Market! πŸ™‚

Update: Upon meeting another foodie Singaporean, K, here in Wageningen, we decided to put Chee Cheong Fun to action after raving about how much we miss it when we’re away from home πŸ™‚ Hereby delighted to declare that this recipe is awesomely SIMPLE and DELICIOUS.

Because it tastes so good when it’s warm, we could barely resist gobbling it before the proper photos were taken!


Min Chiang Kueh | Apam Balik

In Recipes, Singaporean on May 9, 2010 at 12:25 am

It’s probably only in Singapore and Malaysia that you’d have two very different names for the same food. With our multi-ethnic composition, it’s very natural for cultural boundaries to be blurred and cuisines to be merged– hmm, I just couldn’t figure / find out whether this is supposed to be a Chinese pancake or a Malay pancake… so, let’s simply call it Singaporean / Malaysian!

I noticed while looking through recipes for Min Chiang Kueh that ‘alkaline water’ was a recurring ingredient in most recipes. Whenever the word ‘alkaline’ pops up, there’s always something interesting to say about the recipe. After all, how often do you add stuff that tastes like soap to your food? Or try this: name as many acidic foods as you can, and now try to name the alkaline ones. Umm baking soda (chemical leavener), ehhh egg white (very slightly alkaline), ehhhmmm sodium hydroxide (used to make Chinese century eggs or to make pretzels a rich dark brown!), uhhh… *blank*

Alkali is simply not normally found in food environments, but it sure has some useful properties — for instance, enhancing the Maillard reaction! [Let’s save the century egg chemistry for another day.] As spoken of in the earlier pretzel post, raising the pH promotes this chemical reaction that leads to the formation of more brown pigments and a more intense roasty aroma. That’s exactly what happens in my beloved Min Chiang Kueh, or so I believe to be true, as how else would it be possible to get such a lovely dark brown sheen by merely pan-heating the batter on medium heat for 3-5 min, without developing a crisp crust?

That said, now that we know what the alkaline solution is for, there’s no need to comb the country to find ‘alkaline water’ on the retail shelves (they sell it in baking stores in Singapore for several other Asian food applications), as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) I have used, worked perfectly well too. Yeast was my trusty leavener, conferring a nice bready flavour to the thick pancake that was porous enough to yield a satisfyingly soft yet chewy texture. Definitely one of my favourite Singaporean snacks!

Min Chiang Kueh / Apam Balik Recipe adapted from Lee Lee

Pancake

  • 150g plain flour
  • 10g corn / potato / rice flour (for a more tender texture)
  • 250ml warm water
  • 30g sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp instant yeast

Filling

  • 50g peanuts
  • 12g sesame
  • 25g sugar
  1. To make the filling, pulse the peanuts and 50g of sugar in a food processor (not too fine, nice to have some peanut bits to chew on). Mix in sesame seeds. (Or make more and store for the next time you make the pancake!)
  2. Mix all the pancake ingredients together and go do some studying for 1 hour.
  3. The batter gets all puffed up and sticky — add additional water (~50ml) to get a consistency that will flow on the pan.
  4. Use a paper towel and grease the surface of a 30cm diameter non-stick frying pan. Heat pan on medium heat.
  5. Pour half of the batter into the pan, swivel pan to spread evenly, and cover pan with a lid.
  6. Pancake is done when the top surface just completely dries out (about 5 min).
  7. Remove from pan and make the second pancake (batter makes two ~25cm pancakes).
  8. Spread a generous portion of peanut filling on one half of the pancake and fold over. Cut and serve!

Just 5 min of preparation, 1h of proofing (go do something useful meanwhile), and 15min of pancake-making. Creating delicious snacks hardly gets any easier than this!

All packed up for sharing! πŸ™‚

Kueh Dadar | Mamee Noodles

In Recipes, Singaporean on April 19, 2010 at 12:38 am

When you’re 10,000km away from home (or 9957km to be exact), some things from childhood have a special power to make you gasp with an irrational amount of joy and act with a ridiculous amount of irrationality (like paying $6 instead of $0.60 for a bite of dorayaki). Well, when you miss home as much as I do, and you want some ‘Mamee’ and ‘Dadar’, the next best option is to buy what you can, and make what you can’t.

Unlike Mamee that is pretty much an emo trip-to-my-childhood, I truly truly love nyonya kuehs. For flavouring ingredients as simple as coconut milk and palm sugar built on common starches like wheat, rice and tapioca, they have a taste and texture so irrepressibly addictive that I just can’t control myself every time I lay eyes on it (HY can vouch for that!). Best of all, it catapults me back home during those few moments of sensory indulgence for a quick and effective dose of anti-homesickness.


My two favourites are kueh dadar and ondeh ondeh, both of which I frequently make as my Singaporean ‘badge’ whenever I attend dinner parties. These ‘green coconut pancakes’ and ‘green bally thingies’ — as my European friends now refer to them– always elicits initial responses of surprise due to their unsettling green luminosity, yet it never takes much persuading to get the plate polished up. Anyway, it was kueh dadar this time — I’ll post on ondeh ondeh the next time I make it, though you’d already catch a glimpse of it in the background of my agar agar cake photo in the earlier post! πŸ˜‰


Kueh Dadar Recipe adapted from Rasa Malaysia

Pancake

  • 120g flour
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml coconut milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp pandan (screwpine) paste or just green colouring as a lesser alternative

Filling

  • 80g Gula Melaka (palm sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 80 ml water
  • 120g shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  1. Dissolve the sugars in water in a saucepan and stir in the shredded coconut and corn starch till you get a moist golden brown coconut filling. Leave aside to cool.
  2. Sift flour and salt in a mixing bowl, combine a lightly beaten egg and coconut milk by lightly whisking with a hand whisk. Add the pandan paste and stir till you get a homogenous green pancake batter.
  3. Heat up a non-stick frying pan on medium-low heat and spoon 1-2 tbsp of batter into the centre. Swirl or use the base of the spoon to make a thin pancake of about 15cm in diameter.
  4. When the surface is dries out, transfer to a plate with the top surface facing down (this will be the outside of the Kueh Dadar)
  5. Place two teaspoons of coconut filling on the pancake and roll up like a spring roll.
  6. Best served immediately, but within the same day is fine!

King and the Lucky Queen

In Recipes, Singaporean on April 1, 2010 at 10:35 am

No, this is not an April fool’s joke. Yes, a real King crab in Singapore’s famous chilli crab sauce on the blog of a Poor student. King-sized King crab. Gosh, I haven’t even had the luxury of eating King crab of any affordable form in Singapore, it’s always those small puny crabs that you’ll expend half the calories of your meal trying to crack the shells to reach the meat. Not that those puny crabs are any inferior (in fact, the orange gooey stuff beneath the shell and the art of picking the shells are irreplaceable), but WHOAA KING CRABBB ah…!


So what actually happened? Well, once upon a weekend, my housemate, U was having a guest T over, and he decided to purchase some fish roe from the fish shop. They didn’t have any, and so they offered him this eye-popping bag of crab legs for 200kr (SGD$50). I’d estimate that was some 2kg of King crab (and yes, you’re right, the bigger the crab, the larger the proportion of meat to shell).

What would you do, faced with a crazy offer like this, but not expecting to spend 200kr? Would you grab it? (OF COURSE LAH) But this buyer has not had crab before to realize the gravity of the matter, and he risked an offer of 100kr instead. The seller’s response: “oh alright, you can have it”. OMG OMG OMG!! I think if this were in Singapore, it would have been YOU SIAO AH!??!?!*daylight robbery*

I know that as a student, the first thing I do when I assess a recipe is: can I afford it? YES I know crab is expensive, but while cooking it, I realized that the sauce already tasted pretty amazing even before putting the crab in. Why not simmer in some shrimp instead or if you’re a stingy student like me, those tiny frozen shrimp and surimi sticks are what I use to add that umami (delicious, savoury flavour) kick to any stir-fries. Shiok ah! πŸ™‚

Singapore Chilli Crab Recipe inspired by Almost Bourdain’s recipe

  • 2 onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4-8 chilli padi (depending on your tolerance for spicyness!)
  • half inch ginger
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • couple of tomatoes
  • 6 tbsp ketchup
  • 3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 tbsp sambal belachan if you have it!
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • Juice of 1 large lime or half a lemon
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Crab / shrimp / surimi crabsticks
  • 2 eggs
  1. Throw the first 5 ingredients into a blender, otherwise, happy chopping!
  2. Stir fry (1) in oil until fragrant!
  3. Add in ketchup, chilli sauces (up to you to adjust), vinegar, lime / lemon, sugar and water and bring to a boil
  4. Taste and adjust sweetness / spicyness / saltiness as you wish (tasting is important unless you really know your ingredients)
  5. Throw in the crab / shrimp / surimi and simmer until flavours infused
  6. Thicken sauce with corn starch dispersed in a little water
  7. Stir in 2 eggs into simmering sauce
  8. Serve with rice, man tou (chinese steamed bun), or simply white fluffy bread!

Agar-Agar Agaration

In Recipes, Singaporean on March 30, 2010 at 12:36 am

Agar-Agar is one of my favourite desserts to make for the occasional international gathering because it’s easy and versatile, and also because I love being entertained by the disturbed responses it always elicits, especially from biology students. Despite that, any initial apprehension always vanishes instantly with the first piece of these refreshing stiff jellies. It’s simply not possible not to like these thingies!

Making agar-agar is awfully simple if you’re able to get your hands on one of these packets of agar-agar powder. It’s even got clear pictorial descriptions on how to make your own dessert (package says: dissolve 1 packet of powder in 1L water and add 250g sugar, bring to boil and pour into moulds to cool). Since I never ever have colourings or flavourings with me, I prefer to grab a can of fruit from the supermarket and use its syrup as the flavouring, then use agaration (*Singlish for estimation) with the sugar and water to get the stiffness and sweetness I want. I personally think that 1L of water makes a jelly that is way too stiff, hence I usually put up to 1.25L of liquid for these 12g packets of powder. At the same time that makes 25% more agar. Yay. And I also like to throw in some fresh kiwi / pineapple… which takes up even more volume. Yayyyy.

This time that I made agar-agar, I had with me a couple of star- and heart-shaped ice trays from Ikea, which I used as moulds for the dessert. The rest of it, I poured into a large glass bowl, which can then be inverted to get a pretty agar-agar cake like this one that I made during Christmas. I first coated the bowl with a very thin layer of agar solution, arranged the fruits, then poured the rest of the solution with the cut fruits into the bowl and left it in the refrigerator to cool.

Fruity Agar-Agar Recipe

  • 12g packet of Swallow Globe Brand agar-agar powder
  • Syrup of one can of fruit (peach, fruit cocktail or pineapple have always worked wonderfully), topped up to 1.25L in volume
  • Cut fruits into chunks, include other fresh soft fruits if desired
  • Sugar to taste
  1. Put agar-agar powder, sweet syrup solution and cut fruits in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add sugar to taste
  3. Transfer to a mould / huge bowl, chill
  4. Unmould before serving!

Recipe alternatives:

  1. Layered agar-agar with coconut milk works great as well, especially with pineapple…mmmm! You might want to start with 750ml total volume of water and syrup, bring to a boil, then divide into two equal portions. To one portion add additional 250ml water, to the other add 250ml coconut milk. Pour one layer into the container and chill in the freezer. When the surface is just beginning to set, carefully pour the other layer over it and chill in refrigerator. If surface is too set, use a fork and scrape the surface before pouring the second layer, otherwise it wouldn’t stick!
  2. Make some almond jelly by using 500ml milk + 750ml water / syrup + sugar to dissolve the agar. Chill set, and serve with fruit cocktail πŸ™‚