Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Beating It Stiff

I believe every cook has its challenges. Every cook has its qualms. As for me there are only two things in this culinary world that always gave me the apprehension. It is the yeast and the beat-till-stiff-peak thing. Oh yes, shamefully, as a cook, I have yet to even bake a bread myself, the thought of culturing a colony of yeast and then kneading them together and then hoping they would multiply and make your dough grow fat, seem so daunting, impossible even. But then, yesterday I had just overcome the other one of my culinary shortcomings, though not without some glitches. Before this, I had failed before in my attempt unknowingly, when I baked the birthday cake for my Ah Ma, resulting in a dense short sponge cake. This time however, I had finally beaten those stubborn egg whites stiff and baked myself a chiffon cake! Hurrah!

As a kid, I have always loved chiffon cake (similiar to sponge cake but lighter and taller). My
Ah Ma used to bake a mean pandan chiffon cake. She can make them rise really high in her huge chiffon pan, which she had passed on to me and which sadly, could not fit into my mini oven. Besides, here in Malaysia, chiffon cake is really popular among the locals. The most popular one is of course, the pandan flavoured chiffon cake then next is the orange chiffon cake. My mum used to buy it a lot too for me to bring to school last time, and I absolutely love the soft texture and the soft feeling of it. One can eat the whole chiffon cake without feeling you had eaten a bomb. In case you’re wondering, I have yet to try to eat the whole cake myself, ha-ha. Nowadays in KL, we can find chiffon cakes easily in the Pasar Malam (night market) and also at any of the hypermarkets like Tesco and Carrefour, which gives even better prices. Every time I wanted to buy them I would stop myself and then think “hey, you can easily bake one at home!” In the end I would end up deprived of them, cursing myself all the time. After so long, I guess it finally paid off. I succumbed to temptation, flipped through thousands of chiffon recipes, choose a promising one, braced myself and finally baked one.

Since this is such a well-loved light dessert for the Malaysians from eons ago, I am submitting this entry to Babe's Merdeka Open House 2006! Though this cake can still be found easily outside, I believe it is no longer the common bakes of Malaysian households, in a way it is a long forgotten recipe. Now with this easy and adaptable recipe, I hope everyone will bake one their own, just like how my Ah Ma would and make some kid really happy. Do look out for this wonderful event as Malaysia celebrates its 49th birthday.

All these while, I had always been used to the idea of pandan or orange chiffon cake, until I ate one cheese chiffon cake baked by C, a fellow
KC during our first gathering. Then it dawned on me that chiffon cake is actually really versatile, and could be flavoured in anyway you would want to. In fact we had been having the chocolate sponge cake in our famous blackforest cake all these while unknowingly. Chocolate seems like a good choice, but no too normal, then I do not have any cheese in stock (not after I just baked off a batch of overdue ones), then suddenly I stumbled upon this recipe, from Jo’s Deli Bakery for green tea chiffon cake. now this is certainly interesting. I love green tea, as drinks and also especially in ice cream. It is certainly an exotic taste, which I found really versatile in a lot of things. This green tea flavour took the chiffon cake up to another level of sophistication altogether, setting it apart from the usual ones. The green colour can be deceiving, as my mind would keep tricking me that I am eating pandan chiffon cake, but when I chew on the soft cottony cake a few times, and revel a bit in the flavour, then the green tea will come through and oh wow, I’m lost for words. Let me go try another one (yes it's an excuse) and come back with better words to describe it.

Green Tea Chiffon Cake

This recipe is actually for a fancy birthday cake, all dressed up with whipped cream and green tea powder, but I just took the basic sponge cake and give it a try. After all this is about me and the egg whites war, so a basic chiffon cake will do. I do not have a chiffon cake pan, but I heard before that it can be baked in the usual round cake pan so there goes the pan problem. Well, I finally manage to beat my egg whites stiff peak, it stands on the tip of my beater and I can turn the bowl over my head without being splash white (
Jamie’s way). Then I carefully fold in the green tea portion, taking care not to expel all the air I had whipped in. Now everything seems find till this step, but my one mistake is, I believe, my oven was too hot when I put it in. Before that I had been baking a chocolate cake at higher temperature, though I had lowered it down for a while before putting in the chiffon, apparently it is still hot, half of the top blacken considerably slightly after half time and that part did not rise as much, this is because my temperamental oven are usually hotter at the inner left, I don’t know why. Another thing to note is I used a 9 inch pan, instead of the 8 inch that the recipe called for, that is why my cake was shorter and with that it baked in a much lesser time, which luckily I check with a toothpick and took it out sooner. Oh ya, I also took care not to peak until only the last quarter of baking time.

A few things that I noted from this recipe are, first I would dissolve the green tea powder in the water, then only add to the flour mixture. As for the egg yolks, it should be beaten first, then add with the oil and beat further to mix well, as both are of the same kind, it should be easy and then add to the flour mixture too. This way it will be easier to incorporate everything together, which I had a hard time earlier. I would be reflecting these in the recipe.

Next time, I would also go back with the 8 inch pan and bake at the right temperature (until I found how to deal with my oven), and if possible get myself a chiffon cake pan for better heat distribution, in case you don’t know, chiffon cake pans have a tube in the middle for the heat distribution along with the sides of the pan. Now that I had finally successfully baked chiffon cake, and love it, I would be baking more soon, so definitely worth the investment (note to self). Look out for more of my chiffon cakes adventure, I would still be going back to this green tea a lot, but of course I will be experimenting on other flavours too, yum!

100 g cake flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
45g castor sugar
4 egg yolks
50g oil (I used olive)
70g water
2 tsp/3g green tea powder

4 egg whites
50g sugar
¼ tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 170C
Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl.
Add in the sugar.
Beat the egg yolks, then add in oil and beat well again.
Dissolve the green tea in the water.
Stir in both the oil and water mixture into the flour mixture.
Stir until incorporate well.
In a separate clean bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar till bubbly.
Gradually add in the sugar and whip at high speed until stiff peaks form
Fold 1/3 of the egg white into the green tea mixture to enlighten it
Then pour this mixture into the remaining egg whites and fold gently to combine
Pour into a 8 inch pan and bake for 40-45 minutes
As soon as the cake is removed from the oven, invert the pan and let it cool
Once cooled, run a knife around the sides of the pan to remove the cake

Update: We devoured (virtually) all the food at Babe's Merdeka Open House 2006!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Taking On the World

"When you leave here, don't forget why you came." Adlai Stevenson, to college graduates

I have finally graduated. Oh yes, it had been sometimes since the days I left my universities, hanging around, looking for job, shift to new place and getting into this new job, but somehow, only after the convocation, I felt that I have finally officially leave my student-hood behind me. Now armed with a scroll, I am ready to take on the world!

Reminiscing, it seems like only yesterday that I had step out the comfort of Taiping into this middle of the peninsular. I can still remember vividly the time Y and I ventured into the bustling area of Wangsa Maju. We were so excited that on the first night itself we just walk out and wander around the area. We do not even know where we are heading or what we are searching for. Instead, food found us. We are in midst of all sorts of food, cheap yet good eats. We are introduced to so much new hawker food fare that can never be found in our home sweet hometown, among those are like kampar fishball noodles, pork ball noodles, curry mee KL style, chee cheong fun KL style, nasi lemak ayam from the numerous mamak stalls, claypot lou shi fun, my favourite banana leaf and yu tau mai (fish head noodle). People say that good food cannot be found in Klang Valley, but I digress, as good food might not have originated from here, but it seems to have found its way here from all over Malaysia. Food connoisseurs set up stall claiming from somewhere famous like Penang Char Kuey Teow, Kampar Fishball Noodles and so forth, making this place a food haven, where you can get the best of everything under one roof, technically. In my opinion, if you know where to look, you are sure to find good eats around Klang Valley. Nowadays, with foodblogging fever catching on in Malaysia, I have been reading numerous Malaysian blogs that features a whole bunch of good eats around Klang Valley, which had been extremely informational and also not to mention dangerous as it makes me want to go out and satisfy my desires right away.

Typical of this tham jiak girl to start ranting about food while reminiscing of her days long gone. Let me get back to my graduation, ah yes, the convocation. It was certainly a once in a lifetime event, that my parents came, along with my Pho Pho accompanied by my aunt. How sweet of them. Although I had not been as excited about it the day before as I should, but during the time in the event itself, I was overwhelmed by a multitude of feelings. During the time we were waiting to go in the hall, I saw parents rushing around; once I saw a couple calling their child on the handphone, looking lost, I felt touched that how parents would come our of their own comfort cocoon to this unknown world just to see their child up there taking a piece of paper. This is how huge parents love is. Later, during the moment standing in the front row waiting for the time to go up, I felt honoured and proud that I have finally made it through the way I would I want it to be. I hope my parents are proud too.

J’s convocation was in the afternoon session and so he did not get to attend mine, but in the wee hours of the morning he had took me there, how sweet, and then he came again later in the afternoon to pick me up. I had let my parents leave early as the place was packed and I wanted to take more pictures with my uni-mates. Well, during the time he picks me and before his own convocation starts, we squeeze in a bit of time to go out to lunch. Oh yes, time to talk about food once again. J took me to end my desires about this superb yu tau mai (fish head noodles) that he had been raving about; it’s nearby his office, which I would preen with jealously every time he described it to me. KL has loads of good food but I, living near the PJ suburb seldom have the luxury to try it, therefore this is one of those golden times I get to, just the right time to celebrate my graduation, with food of course.

The place that J took me to is a little stall, off Jalan Raja Laut, that seems like it had been there since eons ago. When you got into it, you can see that it is filled with localites, looking like regulars who certainly had been coming back again and again. We took a sit near the side and ordered like how everyone would, yu tau mai and yit cha (brewed Chinese tea) for two. The yu tau mai comes in a huge claypot, the soup still boiling hot.

Yu tau mai is actually fish head noodles, where the broth is boiled from the fish bones with ginger and milk, and then the fish meat would be deep fried separately before being added into the soup along with everything else, depending on variations. This particular yu tau mai’s soup tasted really good, unlike some thick over-milky ones out there, this is surprisingly light yet not lacking in taste. Then it is filled with loads of liu (ingredients) such as fried fish head (of course), soft tofu, yam cubes (I seldom encounter this outside), beancurd, lala (clams), fishballs, homemade rice noodles (thicker than the usual meehoon but softer) that are garnished generously with parsley. The soup is really addictive, with J and I nearly finishing all of it, and the homemade noodles are springy and good, which sets this bowl (or rather claypot) of noodles out from its peers. Certainly a gem found in this quaint little stall hidden behind the busy bustling KL. I wish I could have the address to give, but I hope you are adventurous enough to find this stall (the one with yellow red stripe canopy), at Jalan Tiong Nam, behind the row of shop houses along Jalan Raja Laut, on the same side of Wisma Sime Darby. Good luck and may the good food be with you ;)

Ong Lai
Jalan Tiong Nam,
Off Jalan Raja Laut,
Kuala Lumpur

P/S: I found another review over here at Wantan Production which have some extra directions.

Updated with the information from Wantan Production and babe (in comments).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Guest Post, Again, by L: SOHO

Come weekend and with a friend from mainland visiting, the first thing that I wanted to do is EAT! Naturally - since my dream during my final year here in university is to review as many restaurants as I can. Although money is always a constraint, but dining out once a week should very much be allowed.

Soho, in the UK is well known to be a red-light district and boosts a similar name elsewhere across in New York. Here in Penang, it is very much a British concept pub, which serves food typical to the public houses in the UK. Located at Upper Penang road, Soho is a half club/half pub and a restaurant all in one. A hard to be missed double story building which is usually choked with tourists.

I had been there for drinks but never there for its food until recommended by a Penangnite who frequents it. So last Friday, I needed a place to eat and to review and decide to give Soho a try.

The lower floor has a bar, pool tables, dart boards and a dance floor and upstairs is mainly for dining purposes. I always loved the upstairs of Soho, with its lush interior wall carpeting, mini chandeliers, deep red curtains which boosts a very grand atmosphere, a solid wooden bar and my favorite part of it, an old fashioned balcony overlooking Upper Penang Road – the place where Penang’s party scene happens.

I was told that Fish & Chips lovers will not be disappointed with the one in Soho. Deep fried fish fillets to the scrumptious, in crisp yellow batter, with a dash of salt and pepper, - It is simply delicious. My friend ordered just that and another pal, ordered the roasted herb chicken. Roasted chicken that comes with a serving of homemade mashed potatoes and boosts thick gravy, a recipe by Soho itself.

I had Grilled lamb chop which honestly, the best lamb chop I had in years. Delicious lamb chops that is first marinated in their own concoction, served in mint sauce, chips and a garden salad. The chops are thick and succulent and grilled to perfection.

Soho is also the only pub in town that serves Kilkenny beer, all the way from Ireland and I was told that this waterhole probably boosts the cheapest beer in town. So if you are from out of Penang, looking for both cheap booze and the party scene, Soho is the best place to be.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Guest Post by L: A Girl's Night Out

One of the exuberance of youth to me is going out on dates. It gives you this surge in self confidence as you know someone had actually asked you out and would like to know you better. It’s a great feeling when someone takes an extra interest to you and there’s the whole dressing up part for the wooing and dining which is always fun.

Sadly it had been a long time since I had dates and in an impulse attempt to revive it, I asked a friend out. A dear friend of mine, PY whom also had been a lil’ drained in the love department. There are so many reasons to ask her out, for one, she’s a great companion and then, there’s the part I know, there’s never a chance that she will bail on me.

So we went out. A day before, I asked my local Penangnites friends on where can I go for good food, good ambience and all must come with a fair price due to the constraints of being a student. I was then referred to this small restaurant located right in the middle of Georgetown called Pintail. It is on the same row as Cititel Hotel, right opposite Oriental Hotel.

Pintail, sandwiched between the old buildings is dimly lighted and with a signboard that isn’t too prominent for new diners to come to realize. My date with PY happens on a Wednesday evening where both of us took a little initiative to dress up for dinner and then, dancing later on.

It wasn’t hard locating it but it was not prominent like I mentioned. Just a shop lot on its own, and a very warm ambience upon arrival, it was pretty packed on a Wednesday night. We were lucky to get the final table and as I realized it was mostly backpackers, tourists and some locals dining there.

I ordered rosemary lamb with a serving of sautéed vegetables in butter and pepper and mashed potatoes. PY had a half done steak with diced potatoes and sautéed greens as well. I would give a lot of credits to their selection of drinks which were made up of fresh fruits juices, on its own or a mixture and even alcoholic beverages at a fair price. My honey lime got me hooked as it was made perfectly for the sweet tooth that I am.

I wasn’t too pleased that my lamb was all chopped up for me upon arrival but I love the vegetables and mashed potatoes. PY’s steak was a little chewy and her potatoes were rather blunt. It fascinated me that she could eat it all with her braces.

But overall, I love the ambience and the service is extremely friendly. Cozy, warm and serves good food at a fair deal, I will definitely go back to that place more often. The bill for our meal was a little over RM60. Last order of the day is at 10.45pm and the restaurant closes at 11.30pm.

Pintail restaurant
84, Penang Road
10000 Georgetown

For reservations call: 04 264 2694
Opens whole week except on Mondays. From noon till night.

Monday, August 07, 2006

It's Weekend Again

Well a week just flew by in a breeze. It is weekend again. Although I know the weekend breakfast blogging is meant for, well weekend cooking, which means taking more time to prepare and enjoy breakfast. In oppose, I either sleep late on weekends or eat out. On weekdays though, I prefer to enjoy some healthy homemade breakfast before going to work. Knowing that I have a lovely breakfast waiting for me seems to be a pretty good motivation to get out of bed. Now that is the best alarm clock in the world, don’t you agree? So I had this really good, healthy and substantial muffin recipe from 101 cookbooks really long time ago in my to-do list, which I cannot resist sharing it here. I can’t seem to find this post anymore in that blog, so I could not link it, but I will share my adapted version here though.

This muffin turns out great the way I imagine it would be, slightly chocolatey, with good thick texture, occasional encounter on soft raisins and crunch on the nuts. To top it off, it uses all the readily available ingredients in your pantry and is really versatile for substitutions accordingly. These huge muffins can only keep for bout 3 days in room temperature but fret not, it freezes really well, so far I still have 2 left in my freezer and it is still keeping well. Whenever I wanted to have it the next day for breakfast before work, I would take one out the night before, put it in a tall container and leave it in room temperature, and by the time I wake up in the morning, it is ready to eat. No better reason to wake up than breakfast; pour a cold glass of milk and enjoy with this yummy muffin. Eating one is enough to fill you up for the whole morning, without feeling as if you ate too much. It’s really good and healthy too! Give it a try.

Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Muffins

I had, as usual, adapted the recipe to suit whatever I have or can get my hands on. Anyhow, feel free to experiment. Besides, I had halved the recipe to make do with my mini oven, thus there are cases like half a ¼ cup, which I hope you would understand, I advise to double the recipe since it freeze so well, for rainy days. The oat and bran cereal topping is optional, but it does give the muffin a novelty look besides adding more crunch and flavour to it. You can use whatever oat bran cereal you have, or even granolas. Remember to push it down slightly though when you sprinkle on before baking, as quite an amount of mine fell off during removal.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1.5/4 tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ overly ripe bananas, mashed
¼ cup low-fat yoghurt
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup of nuts (walnuts, almond, pecan)
¼ cup of raisins (original calls for currants)
1.5/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Oil for preparing the pan
Oat and bran cereal for topping

Preheat oven to 180C/350F
Lightly oil a 6 hole muffin pan (I used an oiled tissue to wipe it)
Combine flour, brown sugar, cocoa and baking soda together.
Add in mashed bananas, yoghurt, egg white, vanilla, nuts, raisins and coconut.
Stir until combined.
Pour batter into the muffin pan and top with the oat bran cereal.
Bake about 25-35 minutes, or tooth pick is clean when inserted.

Makes 6 large breakfast muffins

P/S: I just bought a new camera, Canon Ixus 60! I am so ready to take lovely food pictures now. Do you notice the clearer and better muffin pictures? I must admit I need more practice though, as I am still testing out my camera’s various functions and getting use to its ability. So look out for more pictures for you to drool on, I hope ;)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

A weekend of indulgence had past, with a meaty BBQ party on Friday ending with walnut birthday cake, then a full feast of Chinese course dinner on Saturday and a decadent cheesecake that I would be confessing about, a chow-down on durians, all the way from Taiping, along with a whole day of shopping on Saturday followed by another feast of course and then some more of the leftovers durian, cold from the refrigerator. Now try beating this wonderful tummy-filled birthday weekend. In sum, I had a blast.

The BBQ pictures will be up soon once I get the pictures from M, my
1984-recentlly-turned-housemate friend. As for the cheesecake that I mentioned about a confession, oh yes, I made a cake for my own birthday. That night it was a trio of celebration, where my sis, cousin and I celebrated, as we have our birthdays close together, spanning out in 10 days. I decided to go full force indulgence for this once-a-year event, and decided to make Oreo Cheesecake. I got this recipe from Kraft’s website, which I had faith would turn out well.

One bite into it, everybody says “Mmm, it’s good!’ My dad, who was always honest, he even commented on my not-risen-enough cake for my Grandma the last time, said I can give Secret Recipe a run of their money with this one. But half way through the cake, I started to get more comments. My sister’s boyfriend asked did I use blue cheese, and I was startled. I take a bite of the cake and oh no, I realized that something was wrong with my cream cheese. I confess, I used a block of cream cheese that had been, let’s say pretty long, maybe too long in my refrigerator. My mum and aunt decided the cheese was too heavy and did not finish their cake while my cousin though enjoyed it, wasn’t able to finish it either due to the ‘weird’ taste which became obvious after more than few bites. J can taste it right away, since he had so many of my cheesecakes before, and being a cheese lover himself. Only my dear Pho Pho, enjoyed her cake, this proving she’s a strong-cheese lover. As for me, let’s just say, the cake could have been good, the texture was great, the Oreos was yummy but the cream cheese was just, a little too cheesy, more for the savoury kind I might say. Anyhow, I would certainly try it again; I still think it is a good recipe. Ha-ha. So, let’s just call this my Blue Cheese Birthday Cake. How’s that. Anyway, the rest was finished later by J’s family and her sister even said it was not bad.

After the eventful weekend, I was suddenly swept back to reality with training and all, so was too busy to really post up anything. But in case you haven’t notice, I had just properly shifted all my recipes and posts’ links to a new index page, as my recipes grew too long for the sidebar and the categories I had was not enough to properly catalog them. In addition, I had finally made an about page of myself, do have a read about this tham jiak little girl behind this blog! ;)
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