Pearl of the Orient

This blog is inspired by the rich cluture and food found in Penang, an island in Malaysia known as the Pearl of the Orient. The author of this blog is Japanese influenced and she enjoys travelling, cooking and ofcourse, eating.

My Photo
Location: Penang, Malaysia

I'm a little plump rabbit who lives in Penang. I hop around with a camera round my neck snapping photos of Penang and foodstuffs. If you meet a rabbit like that in Penang, that should be me ; )

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Little Update About Nothing

This week is a real pressure week for me. I’ve been doing lots of real work this week. Working overtime and even on weekends. I almost had no time for blogging and cooking (except for the SHF/IMBB gingerbread teddies entry).

What I look forward to is this coming weekend. I really miss cooking. My hands have been itching to grab a pan to cook up something – even it is just plain ol’ fried egg or instant noodles.

Well, I guess I’ll just have to be patient. After this week, my training hurdle will be over. The week after that is the presentation to the big boss from Europe. And after that I’ll be running and shouting “Merdeka! Merdeka!” (Malay word for independence or freedom) all the way until end of this year – I hope. Anyway, I sure will be posting up something nice this weekend, so do drop by my blog okay?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Joint SHF/IMBB - Virtual Cookie Swap: Gingerbread Teddies on the Loose

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It’s that time of the month again where food bloggers from all over the globe crack their little heads to whip up something special in the kitchen to post it up in blogsphere. In conjunction with the festive season, IMBB and SHF join hands this month to create special food blog event to remember with a theme called Virtual Cookie-Swap!

But that’s not all folks, as I’ve said, this time is extra special! 12 lucky winners will walk away with a cool cookie book called “The Cookie Sutra” (complimentary of the event) – so, you can bet that everybody’s working overtime in their kitchen to win this. A big thanks to the host and hostess, Alberto from Il Forno and Jennifer from Domestic Goddess, for organizing and sponsoring this wonderful event.

My entry for this month is the traditional favourite, Gingerbread Cookies and it was a recipe from my cooking textbook, On Cooking (by Sarah R. Labensky and Alan M. Hause). The recipe was rather easy to follow. I didn’t have any trouble mixing the dough but challenge came when I wanted to shape the cookies. Firstly, I didn’t have a bear-shaped cookie cutter and I had to make do with a bear-shaped jelly mould. Secondly, to make matters worse, my cookie dough came out a bit too soft (even after refrigeration) to hold the shape of the bear and it broke into pieces when I wanted to transfer it to the baking tray.

Arghh! I got a bit frustrated with the dough and re-checked the recipe to see if I’ve gone wrong with the ingredients or steps. But as far as I can see, I didn’t make any mistakes and finally decided that most likely fault lies in the molasses. Honestly, I am not too familiar with this ingredient. I bought a couple of pre-packed ones labeled ‘molasses - 120 grams’ (but no with no further info) from a cake supply shop at our local market. I’ve never seen or handled them before in my life… so I guess it could be due to the wrong type of molasses. I don’t know, maybe some expert can impart some knowledge about molasses?

I decided to fold in a bit more flour into the dough to make if firmer. Then, with great care and delicateness I managed to shape the bears and successfully transfer it onto the baking tray. Phew! What a relief, I thought the ordeal was over but to my horror, when the bears came out of the oven, they were glued to the baking sheets! Luckily, I’ve managed to remove them from the baking sheet with a sharp knife. I was extra careful with the next few batches. I’ve made sure to generously grease the baking sheet with butter and dusted it with a bit of flour to keep the cookies from sticking…

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Two little gingerbread bears dressed in their holiday outfit. Oh! They're going on a trip to somewhere special to celebrate Christmas. He is wearing a green and yellow striped polo shirt while she is dressed in a feminine green frock with lovely pink roses and heart shaped buttons...

It was midnight when I finally iced the gingerbread bears with royal icing. I’ve completed my mission around 2:30 am in the morning and went off to work like a zombie the next day. But overall, I would say the hard work was worth it as the bears did turn out great. My siblings and especially my mom really admired them and were rather reluctant to eat them as they were too cute. When they finally did eat them, I had feedback that the taste was really good...

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Another gingerbread couple all ready for party time. He is sporting a formal blue shirt with a yellow tie, while she, an elegant yellow dress with pink ribbons and pearls...

Anyway, if you’re wondering, I decided to make gingerbread bears in couples (instead of the usual gingerbread man) as I thought it would be very symbolic since this is a joint event. I made a boy bear and a girl bear to represent each event. Hope you like the cookies! If you’d like to make them too, here’s the recipe!

Gingerbread Cookies
(Yields approx 1 dozen)

120 g Unsalted butter, softened
120 g Brown sugar
180 g Molasses
1 Egg
360 g All-purpose flour
1 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Ginger
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Clove

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg and beat to blend well; set aside.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating till just blended. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 1 hour.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the gingerbread to a thickness of 1/4 inch (6 millimeters). Cut out the cookies with floured cutter and transfer to greased baking sheets.

Bake at 325°F (160°C) until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges and feel barely firm when touched, approximately 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Decorate as desired with Royal Icing.

Royal Icing
(Yields 180 g)

180 g Powdered sugar
1 Egg white
1/4 tsp Lemon juice

Sift the sugar and set aside. Place the egg white and lemon juice in a stainless steel bowl. Add 120 grams of sugar and beat with an electric mixer or metal spoon until blended. The mixture should fall from a spoon in heavy globs. If it pours, it is too thin and will need the remaining 60 grams of sugar.

Once the consistency is correct, continue beating for 3 - 4 minutes. The icing should be white, smooth and thick enough to hold a stiff peak. Food colouring paste can be added at this time if desired. Cover the icing with a damp towel and plastic wrap to prevent it from hardening.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Western Food at Chef's Delights, Pulau Tikus, Penang

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If you're desperately craving for Western food but do not want to burn a hole in your pocket, do not despair, Chef's Delights is the place to run to. Located in a 'kopitiam' (Hokkien term for coffee shop) called Sin Hup Aun, beside the Pulau Tikus market, Chef Delights serves a variety of popular hawker style Western food including chicken chop, pork chop, fish and chips, chicken Maryland chicken cordon bleu, steaks, grills, burgers and soups.

In my opinion, Chef’s Delights is one of the best place in Penang to enjoy hawker style Western food simply because the price is very reasonable, the serving is generous (especially the pork chop) and the taste is quite good. For your info, a plate of chicken or pork chop costs only RM 5.50 and I usually dare not order the pork chop because the serving is too big. So I guess, I'll recommend pork chop to those with a big appetite!

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Pork chop at only RM 5.50. I couldn'd believe my eyes when I saw the serving size. This stuff is awesome!

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This is Chef's Special - which is basically chicken fillets fried in batter. I love this cos it's so easy to eat (no bones)! I would also like to recommend the weekend special (which is only available on weekends) whereby the sauce is sweet and spicy. Really delicious!

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Fish and Chips. I guess this may be a good choice for those who would prefer something on the lighter side...

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Chicken cordon bleu. The chicken fillet is stuffed with ham and cheese then coated with breadcrumb and deepfried till golden brown. Not bad...

Apart from Western food, there are also other hawker foods available in the kopitiam such as Jones Street’s mamak style ‘mee goreng’ (fried noodle) and ‘mee basah’ (noodles in thick and spicy gravy), Chinese stir fried noodles and rice dishes, putu mayam, tom yam spaghetti, ‘wet style’ pohpiah, sushi – yes, sushi and others. Hawker style sushi is definitely not common in Penang. The sushi looks quite good, so I may like try this on my next trip there. It should also be noted that some stalls only operate in the morning while others in the afternoon or evening.

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Famous Jones Street 'mee basah'. I saw many customers ordering this, so I decided to try. It was actually quite good...

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My mother loves the 'char hor fun' from the evening session's Chinese stir fried noodle and rice stall...

Another piece of info that is worth mentioning is about the kopitiam owner’s son. He happens to be Adrian Ang, the famous and talented bowler from Penang. I came to know about it through the interesting exhibit of trophies, medals and news paper clippings at the back of the koptiam. Well, it looks like the kopitiam certainly have another thing to shout about besides great Western food!

Chef's Delights open daily from 12:00pm - 2:30pm and from 6:30pm - 10:30pm. They also offer catering services and you may contact Mr David Tan at 016-455 2286 or 017-552 2286 for further information if you're interested...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Glutton Rabbit & the Amazing Juggling Act

I’ve been a bit busy with work (real work, not cooking) lately. That’s why my post is coming in kind of slow this week. All the while I've been doing a juggling act of balancing work, cooking and blogging. Work is getting a bit hectic lately and I'm beginning to feel a bit weak. Next week alone, I am scheduled to conduct a string of training and the week after that, I get to do presentation in front of the big boss from Europe. Oh how I dread the very thought of work…

Wouldn't be lovely if I had been conducting a cooking class and cooking show instead? Anyway, for those who don't already know, Glutton Rabbit aspires to be a professional cook although in reality she works with systems. Just recently, she decided to do something about her dream by doing a self study to pickup essential skills and knowledge on how to become a professional chef...
I just a self study just now and would like to share with you about something interesting findings from Own Cooking (my cooking text book), Chapter 1, under the sub topic called ‘The Professional Chef’. It goes...

“Although there is no one recipe for producing a good professional chef, we believe that with knowledge, skill, taste, judgment, dedication and pride a student chef will mature into a professional chef.”

As I read on, there was one part that really sank in…

“Dedication. Becoming a chef is hard work; so is being one. The work is physically taxing, the hours are usually long and the pace is frequently hectic. Despite these pressures, the chef is expected to efficiently produce consistently fine foods that are properly prepared, seasoned, garnished and presented. To do so the chef must be dedicated to the job. The dedicated chef should never falter…”

The part that "becoming a chef is hard work" keeps echoing in my mind. Wonder if I’ve over worked myself. Hadn't been feeling very well lately and had recently delevoped a bit of a back ache too. But I don't care! I really love cooking so much!... Wonder how long this Rabbit can keep up with her juggling act?

Announcement: Gathering for Bloggers & Netizens in Penang

Lucia Lai of Mental Jog is organizing a gathering for bloggers and netizens this coming Sunday, 27 November 2005. The venue is at Ice Ice Baby Restaurant, 411-A Burmah Road, Penang and the time, 3:00pm. For those who are interested, do find out more about the details from her site!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hay! Hay! It's Donna Day! - Self Frosting Cupcakes

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Hay! Hay! It’s Donna Day! Today marks the first event of Donna Day and I have obediently baked some Self Frosting Cupcakes according to instructions – well, maybe not so obedient - but I’ll explain later on. First of all, I think you might curious about who is Donna? Donna Hay (her full name), is a famous cook and food stylist from land of down under. She has her own magazine and also wrote a bunch of cook books which were sold around the world.

So I guess she’s a world famous person. Hadn’t heard of her before? Me too, I just knew about Donna (a week ago) through Nic’s eloquent description about her… But wait a sec Donna fans, don’t get upset with me! Not knowing Donna doesn’t mean I don’t like her. Sure I like Donna! I like anyone who’s into cooking. Especially those who do it so well like Donna. Anyway, I would like to thank Donna Hay for the lovely Self Frosting Cupcake recipe, Babara from winosandfoodies for being the hostess of this chic event, and last but not least, Nic from bakingsheet for introducing Donna to us and also for providing the Nutella Frosting Cupcake Recipe (which is the theme of the event) for our reference. Thanks everyone!

Well, the reason why this cupcake is ‘self frosting’ is because it has a baked-in frosting. I think this self-frosting concept is very clever. It saves one the trouble of frosting the cupcake and it looks just as pretty. It is also a lot less messy, so, I must agree that these cupcakes are very ideal for picnics, lunches, outings, traveling or such like events.

In addition, these cupcakes are so delicious! And I’ve made mine with German ‘Nutella’… what in the world?! Calm down, calm down dear Donna fans, please, allow me to explain. I bought a couple of ‘Nutella’ like products in my last trip to Germany. The stuff is called Nusspli, Nuss Naugat Crème made by Franz Zentis Gmbh & Co. It is also made of Halzelnut and chocolate cream, so I thought why waste money to buy another jar Nutella when I have a couple of Nuspli in my cupboard. Also, I am still a bit broke after coming back from the Germany trip this summer so using Nusspli in this recipe seem only reasonable… you wouldn't have the heart to be angry with a financially impaired Rabbit, would you? *sob* (melodramatic music playing in the background)...

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Anyway, on with the story! Prior to baking the cupcakes, I spooned some Nusspli into a piping bag and piped on some straight lines. With a bamboo stick (the ones used for skewering satay), I swirled the lines into designs and pop the cupcakes into the oven. At the end of the day, I was satisfied with the results and was also happy that my finicky eating siblings had liked the cupcakes. But one sad thing though, I don’t think I can call it Nutella Frosted Cupcakes. In my case, it should be called Nusspli Frosted Cupcakes instead…. that is unless, we want to play pretend ;p…

Friday, November 18, 2005

Blog Party #4 - The Gang's All Here: The Holiday Edition - Chicken Pie

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It’s party time again! Every third Friday of the month, Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness, will host a fantastic virtual cocktail party (with virtual food, drinks and music!) where everyone and anyone is invited to come. Thanks for being such a great hostess Stephanie!

The theme for this month’s blog party (Blog Party #4 - The Gang's All Here: The Holiday Edition) is holiday food. With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, holiday mood is definitely filling the air. For some of us, this is the time to get busy in the kitchen, preparing all kinds of goodies to serve our guests.

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I decided to make chicken pie for the party. I found the recipe in one of my mom’s old books called Nestle Happy Homes (vol. 5, April 1986). The book features recipes which were created using Nestle products but not to worry, you can still make the pie, the ingredients can be easily substituted with products of another brand if you can't find Nestle...

Honestly, I’ve never made a decent pie in my life. When I was kid, my mom used to bake all kinds of pies. Curry potato and meat pies were her specialties. At that time I was just a little helper running around the kitchen fetching this and that for her. I never had the chance to shape any pies because I was too young and even clumsy. The most that I got to do was to glaze the pies with egg yolks once my mom has finished decorating it.

But as I grew older, it never really struck me to bake any pies. I made cakes, cookies, snacks, desserts and all kinds… but never a pie. Perhaps I subconsciously looked down upon pies as something that is less interesting to make. I don’t know but I owe you an apology dear pie! After making chicken pie, I have totally changed whole perception towards pies.

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Now, I truly enjoy making pies and I am looking forward to bake some more pies in the future. The part I that I enjoyed most was the decoration part. The recipe below yielded two approximately 7 inches in diameter pies. I decorated one with some holly and the other with stars. I was really delighted with the results. It wasn’t really a work of a pro but I felt that it was definitely something to be proud of!

I served the pies together with a refreshing drink of rose flavoured cordial with mint sprigs and my fussy eating siblings enjoyed the whole meal. They gave good ratings for the pie. The was an 8 over 10 for taste with additional praises for presentation. If you know my siblings, they can really be hard to please when it comes to eating. So, I was really flattered and floating in cloud nine that day. Well, here goes the recipe. I sincerely hope that this recipe will bring you great results as well…

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Chicken Pie Recipe

Short Crust Dough:

500gm Flour
200gm Butter
100gm Water

500gm Chicken cut into cubes
100gm Potato cut into cubes
100gm Carrot cut into cubes
250gm Onion, sliced
50gm Green Peas

White Sauce:
50gm Butter
50gm Flour
250gm Chicken Stock
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Maggi Granulated Chicken Stock (I think this is optional or you can get another brand)
½ cup fresh cream or Nestle Cream (I used Marigold evaporated creamer)
Oil for cooking

For the Short Crust Dough, rub flour and butter thoroughly. Make a well and add the water. Mix into a dough and let it rest for ½ hour before use.

For the white sauce, heat butter, add in flour and mix thoroughly. Then add in the chicken stock and stir well and boil up.

Blanch or scald the carrot, potatoes and chicken meat in salt water. Saute the onion, add in chicken, potatoes, carrot and add in the white sauce and stir well. Add cream and season well. Lastly, add the green peas. Check the taste and thickness. Remove from heat and let it cool.

Divide dough in two portions and roll out. Place rolled out dough into the round mould and add in the cold filling. Cover with the other rolled out dough, cut out the edges. Fork the top of the dough. Brush with egg yolk, bake in oven at 180 Celsius for approximately 45 minutes.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sweet Potato 'Onde-onde'

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When I get into one of my cooking frenzies I often end up buying things I do not need. For example, a couple of days ago, I was shocked to find some sweet potatoes in my kitchen. I could not recall why I bought these sweet potatoes as I did not have any special recipe in mind. Anyway, the sweet potatoes look like they’ve been in my kitchen for sometime and I had better do something about it before it’s too late…

Also coincidentally, prior to this incident, I chanced upon some ‘gula melaka’ or palm sugar in the fridge. It was a gift from a colleague who visited his hometown in Malacca. It was a good thing that I spotted it or else it would have rotted in the fridge. I can’t remember when exactly did my colleague passed me the sugar, but if memory serves me right, in was last year! I accidentally found the thing while searching for some carrots in the crisper. It was wrapped in a green plastic bag and cleverly buried under a pile of vegetables. It’s a lucky thing that sugar can keep for a long time or else I would have found clump of mould or something squishy! Ew…

By the way, palm sugar or ‘gula melaka’ (which is a Malay word - literally translated as ‘Malacca sugar’) is made from the boiled down sap of the coconut tree. It has a pleasant fragrance and is dark brown in colour. Palm sugar are usually found in form of cylinders or flat round cakes. I would say that the taste is quite similar to coarse brown sugar.

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So, with these two ingredients, I decided to make sweet potato ‘onde-onde’. Onde-onde, which is sometimes known as ‘buah melaka’, is a kind of ‘kuih’ (local snack or dessert). It is green and round like little ball coated with freshly shredded coconut. The texture is soft chewy with palm sugar syrup inside. You can get onde-onde at any kuih stall, but it is not common to find ones made with sweet potatoes. The ones at the kuih stall is mostly made of glutinous rice flour. juice from the ‘pandan’ or screw pine leave is often added for a pleasant fragrant.

Somehow, I think that Japanese would love onde-onde very much or at least taste familiar to them. Hey Rabbit! How can you say such a thing like that? Well, Japanese do use ‘mochiko’ (glutinous rice flour) in making their desserts. So, I think onde-onde may strike them as some kind of ‘dango’ (dumpling).

Sweet Potato Onde-onde Recipe

2 large sweet potatoes (steamed, peeled and mashed)
250g glutinous rice flour
150ml warm water
A few drops of green colouring

3 cakes gula melaka (crushed) - you may use brown sugar if this is unavailable
2 tablespoon castor sugar

1 coconut (grated, white part only)
Pinch of salt

Mix well mashed potatoes, rice flour and food colouring. Add water gradually till a fairly stiff dough is obtained. Knead well. Divide dough into small equal portions. Form into balls.

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Make a well in the centre. Spoon in filling ingredients. Seal the hole and reshape the balls. Put a few balls into boiling water. When balls float to the surface, remove and roll in coating ingredients. Serve cold.

As usual, my cooking show will always end with tasting and judgment from the panel of food critics, my siblings. And the verdict was a mixed of opinions. One of my siblings would prefer if I had done the conventional onde-onde (the one without sweet potato) due to the reason that she disliked sweet potatoes. Others agreed that the onde-onde was a bit on the soft side but the taste is still nice. Actually, I was short on flour, so I kind of compromised the recipe a little. I guess the onde-onde would have been firmer if I added in more flour….

Saturday, November 12, 2005

'Chang' Shop at Cintra Street, Penang

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‘Bak chang’ or ‘chang’ is basically a triangular shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice, with filling of pork, shiitake mushrooms, chestnut and salted duck egg yolk all wrapped in bamboo leaves. Depending on style of cooking from one place to another, the filling may sometimes include additional goodies like dried shrimps, split mung beans and ‘rempah’ (spicy coconut filling).

There is also an interesting story behind it as well. It was believed to be eaten in remembrance of the death of China’s well-known poet, Qu Yuan who drowned himself in the Miluo river (central Hunan Province) in 221 B.C. after falling under the influence of corrupt ministers. The locals at that time dropped ‘chang’ into the river to prevent fishes from eating his body. Hence, this was made into a festival, known as the Dumpling Festival and celebrated by Chinese on every 5th day of the 5th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar. During this festival, chang is being sold and eaten extensively by Chinese people.

Today, chang has become a popular food and to be eaten not only during the festival but at anytime. You can easily find it at Chinese kuih stalls in Penang throughout the year. Chang is also a very convenient one course meal. One can eat it without using any utensils. The bamboo leaves is to prevent the dumpling from sticking to your fingers. This dumpling kind of reminds me of the Japanese ‘onigiri’ or rice balls with filling wrapped in seaweed, which is also eaten with bare hands. Don’t you agree?

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Cintra Food Corner at Cintra Street, Penang

There is a certain shop at Cintra Street, Penang, by the name of Cintra Food Corner, which is famous for ‘bak chang’ and Cantonese ‘tau chang’. Tau chang is literally translated as bean dumpling (‘tau’ means beans). In tau chang, split mung beans are added into the glutinous rice. The result is a pale looking dumpling with a rich and creamy taste of beans. The filling of tau chang is a standard fare consisting of pork, mushroom, chestnut and salted duck egg yolk.

Nowadays it is very hard to find tau chang because people don’t make them anymore – I wonder why? Some don’t even know that tau chang ever exist. In my knowledge, so far in Penang, tau chang is only available at Cintra Street. So, please share with me if you happen to know of any other places besides Cintra Street that sells tau chang!

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'Or kueh' or savoury steamed yam cakes ready to be cut and sold

Apart from chang, Cintra Food Corner also sells nice ‘or kueh’ (steamed yam cakes). For those who are interested to visit this place, Cintra Street is located in town area (Georgetown) not far away from KOMTAR. It is a very well known street with pre-war and old time shop houses. Just ask around for directions and you'll get there.

Oops! Almost forgot to mention (thanks Doc for reminding me!), this place also sells huge RM 5 bak chang with double yolk (and additional filling) to satisfy your big bak chang cravings as well as red bean dessert for your little sweet tooth. Dr Chen's from Ramblings also visited Cintra Food Corner not too long ago and she has some scrumptious photos to share. So, head over to her site to have a look!

Friday, November 11, 2005

November 2005 - Food Blog Events

Come one! Come all! Join this month's food blog event and make a it a Christmas to remember. For this month, SHF and IMBB join hands to create an event to remember! Cookie-Swap is the theme! Plus, there are some interesting prizes to be won too...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ganache Accident Results Mouse Cake & Raspberry Jello (GA = MC + RJ)

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I had been a bit obsessed with dark chocolate after participating in last month’s Sugar High Friday event (SHF #13 – Welcome to the dark side: Dark Chocolate theme). My entry was called, Chocolate Praline Cookies with Gummy Bears, which is a recipe by Alexander Goh with a little cute twist of Gummy Bears from Glutton Rabbit.

Right after the SHF, I bought another bar of cooking chocolate for ‘playing’ purposes but could not decide on what to cook until I came across an interesting ganache recipe by Alex Goh in his book called ‘Temptation of Chocolates’. This ganache recipe calls for milk instead of heavy or whip cream. Creams can be rather pricey, so I thought this was a clever recipe. I finally decided to bake a spongecake and frost it with milk ganache – as belated or rather overdue birthday present for my cute little sister who loves cheese.

By the way, for those are not so familiar with ganache, here is the description by ‘Own Cooking’ (my main reference)…

“Ganache is a blend of chocolate and cream. It may also include butter, liquour or other flavourings. Any bittersweet, semisweet or dark chocolate may be used… Depending on its consistency, ganache may be used as a filling, frosting or glaze type coating on cakes or pastries. The ratio of chocolate to cream determines how thick the cooled ganache will be. Equal parts of chocolate and cream are best for frostings…”

So this is what I did with my 200 gram bar of Van Houten (100% Cocoa Butter, Belgian Chocolate Recipe, Delicious Even As It Is) cooking chocolate. Sad to say, a mishap happened during my cooking endeavor. For your info, the original recipe called for 500 gram of chocolate and I only had 200 gram. Due to miscalculation or something (did I ever tell you that I was poor in mathematics?), I screw up the whole recipe by adding too much milk into the ganache…

What could be worse? The spongecake baked and ready, just waiting to be iced but the ganache was too runny. I tried to salvage the ganache by adding some powdered sugar. The consistency did become thicker (in sort of an unnatural way), but I wonder if this stuff can still qualify as a ganache after being added with so much powdered sugar? Any experts out there who can advise?

Having done this, I quickly iced and decorated the cake with a simple mouse cartoon and some cheese. It was a consolation that my little sister did like the cake very much – this was because she has a soft spot for mouse and cheese - but the other siblings complained about the spongecake being to soggy… whoops… I guess powdered sugar didn’t really help...

After icing the whole cake, I still had some leftover ganache. I didn’t want to waste the thing so I bought a packet of Lady’s Choice Raspberry Jelly Crystal and made a dessert out of it. In a tall glass I poured in alternative layers of ganache and raspberry jelly. The dessert was chilled and served with whip cream, wafer rolls and chocolate peices. Tasted quite good, but the ganache was a slighty on the grainy side...

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Overall, I would say that, the whole experience was rather discouraging. I somehow wished that the ganache had came out fine. But, as the saying goes practice makes perfect. Wish me luck in my future efforts…

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Curry Puff and Me

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I recently bought a recipe book on making ‘kuih’ (local snacks or desserts) called “Minuman Petang” (translated as “Afternoon Tea”) written by Sa’adiah Mohamad. The book is written in Malay and featured 48 types of sweet and savoury kuih recipes.

After flipping through the book, I decided to make ‘karipap’ or curry puffs, which is a very popular anytime snack in Malaysia. Although today we find many variations of curry puff – some with different styles of pastry or some with different kinds of filling - the standard or conventional curry puff is basically made of deep fried pastry with curry potato filling.

Whenever, I make curry puffs, I would remember my childhood days of playing ‘masak-masak’ (Malay word for cooking) with my siblings. We used to roll out some ‘plasticine’ (the Play Dough of our time) and pleat it into little curry puffs. We would then place the curry puffs on plastic toy plates and pretend to have tea. It was an interesting game to play since we were not yet old enough to be in the kitchen to do real cooking…

Anyway, thanks to my masak-masak lessons, I am now able to pleat nice curry puffs. But, sad to say, today, this skill is actually not necessary anymore with the advent of curry puff moulds. The curry puff mould is a simple yet clever invention. Just roll out the dough and leave the rest to the mould! It makes perfectly shaped curry puff every time and twice as fast!
In this recipe, I decided to do it manually, that’s because I couldn’t find my curry puff mould from the kitchen closet. Rats! Wonder where it had disappeared to? In this attempt, I also decided only to follow Sa’adiah’s curry puff ‘skin’ (pastry) recipe. The curry potato filling is my own recipe. As a suggestion, you can use other filling for the curry puff such as sardines in tomato sauce, ground peanuts and sugar, spicy coconut filling or anything else that you fancy. By the way, my choosy eating siblings really loved the curry puffs I made. So this is how the recipe goes… enjoy!

Curry Puff Recipe

(yields approx 1 dozen medium sized curry puffs)
250gm plain flour
60gm melted margarine
80 - 90ml water mixed with ½ teaspoon of salt

2 cups of potatoes (cubed, boiled and drained)
1 cup of cubed chicken flesh
½ cup of mince onion
4 – 5 tablespoon curry powder
½ cup coconut milk or milk
2 tablespoon butter
Salt to taste

In a large bowl, combine flour and margarine. Add in water a little at a time and knead until dough becomes smooth and pliable. Leave it for 10 - 15 minutes then, with a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a thin sheet (0.5cm). Using a round cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles and place a little filling in the middle. Fold over and pleat the ends of the pastry to seal in the filling. Deep fry curry puffs until golden.

For the filling, heat a pan and sauté the onions in the butter until soft. Add in chicken and curry powder and fry until fragrant. Finally, add in potatoes, milk, seasonings and cook until thick.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The 18th Century - Boulanger's Restaurant

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I am now doing a self study on the cooking textbook, “On Cooking”, written by Sarah R. Labensky and Alan M. Hause. For those who hadn’t read my earlier posts… I have a silly dream to become a professional cook and this self study is to get myself acquainted with the real world of food and beverage. In my previous post, I also promised to share with you whatever interesting bits I find from this book….

The first chapter of the book touches about how restaurants came about…

“The word “restaurant” is derived from the French word restaurer (to restore). Since the 16th century, the word “restorative” had been used to describe rich and highly flavoured soups or stews capable of restoring lost strength…”

“The French claim that the first modern restaurant opened one day in 1765 when a Parisian tavernkeeper, a Monsieur Boulanger, hung a sign advertising the sale of his special restorative, a dish of sheep feet in white sauce…”

“Boulanger’s establishment differed from the inns and taverns that had existed that throughout Europe for centuries. The inns and taverns served foods prepared (usually off-premises) by appropriate guild. The food – of which there were little choice – was offered by the keeper as incidental to the establishment’s primary function: providing sleeping accommodations or drink. Customers were served family-style and ate at communal tables. Boulanger’s contribution to the food service was to serve a variety of foods prepared on premises to customers whose primary interest was dining…”

“Several other restaurants opened in Paris during the succeeding decades, including the Grande Taverne de Londres in 1782. It’s owner Antione Beauvilliers (1754 – 1817) was the former steward to the Comte de Provence, later King Louis XVII of France. He advanced the development of modern restaurant by offering wealthy patrons a menu listing available dishes during fixed hours. Beauvillier’s empeccably trained wait staff served patrons at small, individual tables in an elegant setting.”

After reading this text, it amazes me how great the restaurant concept has catch on and advanced today. I could not imagine what would happen to us food lovers if there were no such thing as restaurants. Don't you think that we are so lucky?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Guten Tag! Ich bin Glutton Rabbit und das ist Spaghetti Bolognaise!

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Did I tell you that I was in Germany this summer? Too bad I hadn’t started my blog yet at that time or I would’ve been trigger happy with my camera shooting at all the German food that comes my way. I do have a few shots in my collection, perhaps will share them with you next time…

OK, so the Rabbit’s been to Deutchland… Big deal So what? Do you know that she was just on a job assignment and not tourism? And by the way, can you tell me what has Germany got to do with spaghetti bolognaise? Please explain… Well, Italian food is rather popular in Germany and I love the pasta they served over there. I frequented a couple of Italian restaurants over there and oh my! Such lovely pasta they serve, I just fell in love at first bite…

Then, on my last day in Germany, on the morning before I took off on the airplane, I went shopping at a grocery store called Netto. And if it weren’t for luggage space, I would have bought the whole store back to Penang.

The first thing that caught my attention were instant fixes (or instant mix). I thought it was a good idea to bring some of it home since they are very light and compact. Then, like a mad bunny, I just grabbed as much instant fix that I could. Spaghetti, chilli, lasagna, soups, pudding and whatever I could get my hands on.

The prices of these fixes are rather cheap as well. The ones I bought cost only 40 cents to 1 Euro. I had a hard time deciding on what to buy and what not to buy. I also grabbed some cooking chocolate along the way but decided to put it back like a good bunny because it was too bulky and heavy - a decision which I regret until today…

And so, with the instant fix that flew back with me from Germany, I present to you today, spaghetti bolognaise!!! And to go with the spaghetti, I also added some imported sausages from a glass bottle (air flown from Germany) for extra bite and flavour.

And what was the verdict? Simply AWESOME! My fussy eating siblings quickly swallowed down the whole pot of spaghetti and it vanished like magic within an hour! They also congratulated me for my good cooking. I just love pasta… it makes me feel so wanted… By the way, if you're wondering why my bolognaise sauce is lighter in colour, it is because I use pork instead of beef.

My reading adventures on "On Cooking" will be up next. I found the first chapter to be rather interesting. It's about the origin of Restaurants. Stay around if you want to find out more!