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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! 🙂

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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! 😉


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!

The 10-min Stir-fry

In Chinese, Recipes on April 12, 2010 at 7:10 am

I can practically live in the kitchen when it comes to baking and cooking for others, but when it comes to cooking for myself, quick, easy, healthy and cheap is my mantra. Normally, I would throw some soup vegetables into the pot (cabbage, carrot and onions for sweetness; potatoes, celery, tomatoes and mushrooms for the glutamate savoury-ness; 2 ginger slices for the spice), take my shower, and when I’m done I’ll add soya sauce / miso / fish sauce / tom yam stock cube in some combination, stir in an egg, add a dash of sesame oil and pepper and a sprinkle of fried onions (6kr for 200g packet from Fakta). Then I’ll enjoy it with some reheated rice that I cook for a few days at a time, or throw in some instant noodles a couple of minutes before taking the pot off the stove. Hardly 5min spent at the stove.

When I’m feeling a little more escapist (cooking is my main form of escape from serious work haha, but now blogging has joined the ranks!), I’ll spend a little more time in the kitchen and go for the 10-min stir-fry (which btw can be done with the same ingredients). I happened to have some frozen lean pork (Netto sale: 450g of pork steak for 18kr/SGD$4.50) that I had packed into eight tiny 50-60g packets that I’d defrost in the fridge in the morning of the day I plan to use it.

Here’s a really quick and simple recipe for a friend who has been feeling rather tired, experiencing muscle weakness, having gastrointestinal upsets and a poor appetite. From her description of her diet, I’m guessing that she might be lacking vitamin B1 and/or vitamin B6 (*nutrition info) and pork is one excellent source of them [apart from my beloved bran flakes, milk and eggs, but she loves pork, so maybe this is a better solution for her]. Well, I sincerely hope this works out, if not, we’ll continue to explore the possibilities!


The 10-min Stir-Fry Recipe born out of convenience and availability

  • 50g pork (or double for a more typical portion) – or chicken / fish / tofu / mushroom / shrimp / surimi
  • half onion, one clove garlic
  • ginger and fresh chilli (if you have)
  • 1tsp soya sauce, dash of sesame oil, sprinkle of pepper, 1/2 tsp corn starch for marinade
  • 1dsp oyster sauce or ketchup
  • 150g frozen vegetable or as much as you’d like
  • 1tsp oil

(for those without a freezer, a tray of meat and a pack of frozen veggie would make two meals for two, so just cook the whole tray and the whole pack and store the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to a week)

1. Marinate the defrosted sliced pork in soya sauce, sesame oil, pepper and corn starch. Dash of wine if you have. (1min) [corn starch gives the velveting effect that creates the perception of a smoother and more juicy / tender texture]. Save the marinade to add at the end if you’re cooking with mushrooms or tofu.
2. While meat is marinating, chop onion, garlic, ginger and chilli (1min)
3. Stir fry (2) till fragrant in a tsp of oil in a non-stick pan (1min)
4. Throw in a bunch of veggie and a little water to simmer (3min)
5. When veggies are almost cooked, push to the side, sear pork and then mix around with veggies until everything is fully cooked (2min)
6. Squirt in some oyster sauce/ketchup/chilli sauce/soya sauce for more flavour and to taste. (15sec)
7. Serve with rice / rice porridge / noodles / whatever carbohydrate you’d like to eat!

Hope this helps, E! 🙂 I’ll bring some for you on Wednesday’s exam day.

Hemophobics Beware

In Eats, Swedish on April 9, 2010 at 1:57 am


Not for the faint hearted. Last Wednesday, I was combing the supermarket in Sweden with a 100 Swedish kronor note (77DKK/SGD$19) in my pocket for picking out interesting eats (thank you supervisor K!). I found many appealing new foods, like lingonberry and cloudberry jam, flat and crisp breads, apple-pear cream cheese, bright green sweet pastries and awesome marabou chocolates that a normal person would probably have picked out. But something compelled me to grab THIS off the shelf. My food weirdo gene told my brain that I have to try some of this. Black pudding. Blood pudding. Mmm. Mmm?

It sat a week in the fridge because I didn’t want to try it on my own. I’ve eaten lots of weird foods before (snake, crocodile, ostrich, whale, crickets, jellyfish, sea urchin, octopus, century eggs…) and foods in weird [but really good, I insist!] combinations (ham&jam, icecream&bread, milk&peas, blacksesamesoyamilk&oatmeal)… but to eat blood, I needed some extra courage of a fellow food adventurer. So, the day yz came over to study, I cooked blood pudding for lunch.


Doesn’t look too bad, eh? The texture was rather unexpected. I’d thought it’ll be soft and crumbly, but it turned out gooey and clayey like a paste, nothing like the texture of clotted blood. Didn’t smell of it either — all hints of bloody metallic iron were totally masked by the flavours of cinnamon and cloves. I pan fried thin (0.5cm) slices of it in a little butter, that transformed it to a pitch black cakey mass. A slightly gummy blood pudding with a crisp crust, topped with brunost sauce (that I made by adding some brown cheese to a basic bechamel sauce), unsweetened applesauce (apples boiled in a little water and mashed), strawberry rhubarb jam and slices of gherkins and laid on Swedish Tunnbröd. — It actually tasted really good!

But that’s not how my story ends.

One important lesson I’ve learnt from my sensory science classes is that single exposure to a new food is not predictive of long term acceptance of the product. It’s because most people assume that preference is as simple as i-like-it-now-therefore-i-like-it-forever, that many products on the market fail despite extensive consumer research. Time is a factor, context is a factor. And because I have a penchant for new experiences, novel first experiences is most of the time positive for me.

With leftover ingredients from the lunch, I decided to reconstruct the meal in the lazy microwave way. I put the blood pudding in a bowl, scooped some leftover cheese sauce onto it and heated it up. Then I topped with some applesauce and pickles again and had some toasted bread to go with it. Mistake. DO NOT microwave blood in sauce because it becomes one bloody BLOODY mess.

Even though the ingredients were the same, this time, the texture of the blood pudding resembled blood more than it did before when pan fried till crisp. Now I can understand why some people can tell such horrifying stories of blood pudding, or strongly denounce it for its high fat content for the amount of sensory pleasure it gives (nobody ever says how terrible a brownie is, do they?). Eating the blood pudding soft wasn’t so much a bad sensory experience than it was a sudden psychological realization of disgust. I gobbled it up quick and fulfilled my iron requirements whilst persuading myself that I’m eating the same thing as the first time. After that, I went on eating rampage (ice cream, fruits, tom yam soup, ABC cake…). I prefer to think that blood pudding is calorifically unhealthy because of the amount of things you have to eat after that to wash those disgust emotions out of mind. But mind you, only if you don’t cook it right.

I’ve still got 200g of blood pudding sitting in the fridge, waiting for me to do it right again the next time, but this is a good example of how aversive learning (associating an experience with a negative consequence) can have such a commanding presence over earlier positive experiences.

Food choice and acceptance exam in 5 days. Wish me luck.

Thanks to yz who diligently translated the packaging with google translate while I was cooking, that I can share with you that Swedish blood pudding from ICA supermarket contains: 35% pig’s blood, water, rye flour, sugar, bread crumbs, fat and scraps of beef and pork, potato starch, pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, marjoram, onion powder, 220kcal /100g, 9g fat and 140% RDA of iron. Costs only 10SEK (~7DKK / 1Euro /SGD$2) for 400g, so it’s really an excellent and cheap nutritional source of iron. Good for you if you like it! 🙂

Tamagoyaki ♥ Sushi â™¥â™¥â™¥

In Japanese, Recipes on April 2, 2010 at 11:27 am

Eggs are my new best friend (hlyf, you’ve been displaced).

Another friend of mine once told me that nothing makes me happier than good food. Ha. Stubborn as I am, some things are just very hard to deny. Interestingly, this same friend has a love for tamagoyaki, a Japanese sweet-type omelette. I’ve always underrated this simple dish, opting for more ‘special options’ like unagi or jellyfish sushi on my visits to sushi restaurants while A happily tucks into one tamagoyaki sushi after another. Gee I’ve been missing out big time.

Since the start of my master’s course, I’ve learnt not to generalize food preferences. One man’s meat tamago is another man’s poison jellyfish. Too many factors contribute to the way we choose our food: culture, peer influence, family, gender, tasting abilities, personality, physiology, beliefs, individual life experiences, ambience, price, presentation… even our mother’s diet during pregnancy (amniotic fluid yumyum) can also play a part in how we choose our foods.

Anyway, the reason why I mention this is because I’d never have given tamagoyaki a chance, if I had not been faced with a task of preparing a sushi dinner for friends in an exorbitant land; if I had not a friend who has such a love for tamagoyaki; and if my impending food choice final exams had not made me especially aware that there could be good probability that something that is so liked by someone else might actually have certain intrinsic sensory characteristics that I have been blind to. Very blind.

Going back to ‘poor student’ theme, eggs are also a gem because they are cheaper than meat (18kr/SGD$4.60 for 15 eggs vs. 45kr / SGD$11.50 for 2 chicken breasts) and egg whites are also the best source of protein (besides breast milk) as its amino acid composition are in the exact proportions that our body needs. In addition, since becoming a flexitarian 2.5 years ago, I’ve been pretty much counting on eggs, milk and soya bean products (one of the few plant sources of complete protein) as my protein sources for my normal diet, whilst still indulging my food obsessions whenever I’m out on occasional food hunting trips with my foodie friends. 🙂 Unfortunately, since coming to Europe, I’ve been robbed of my soy options (definitely not a fan of tough meat-like western tofus) and eggs have suddenly risen my ingredient ranks. And with ♥ tamagoyaki ♥ in the picture now, eggs are so totally off the charts.

Tamagoyaki is simple, yet impressive. Depending on how authentic you want it to be, you can get really tasty tamagoyaki with simply egg, soya sauce / salt and sugar. (IMHO to a poor student, taste is more important than authenticity) But because I’ve bought mirin for preparing the sushi dinner, I’ve managed to make it complete, similar to the recipe of JustHungry except that I did not have the square pan — not that it mattered at all 😉

Tamagoyaki ♥ Recipe adapted from Just Hungry

  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 dessertspoons (dsp) or 3 tbsp water (can be omitted if you like a firmer egg)
  • 1 tsp soya sauce
  • sprinkle of salt
  • 1 heaped dsp or 1 flat tbsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp mirin
  1. Use a kitchen paper towel to grease the frying pan
  2. Mix ingredients in a beaker / measuring cup / easy-to-pour device
  3. Heat frying pan to moderate-low heat (or if you raise the heat, you brown one side of each layer and get something that looks like kueh lapis)
  4. Pour a thin layer of egg and swivel pan to coat base
  5. Roll from the edge, just as surface of egg starts to coagulate (jelly-like appearance)
  6. Repeat with layers until all the egg is used up
  7. Cut and eat if you’re impatient, or shape on a sushi mat for a more pleasing appearance / for tamagoyaki sushi

Recipe alternatives: Adding 1 tsp sugar + 1 dsp water + 1/2 tsp soya sauce or sprinkle of salt to 1 egg makes a simpler and yummy tamagoyaki though it tastes slightly different from the japanese ones. Good enough for me, I’d say! But for friends and family, only the best is good enough. 😉