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

Monday, March 27, 2006

IMBB 24: I Can Make it in 30 Minutes!

When I heard of the theme for IMBB #24, cooking in 30 minutes, and to top it off it has to be a full meal, it got me excited. To me a full meal means it has to be of various nutrients, enough to satiate hunger and to sustain through the day or night. To a Chinese, the fastest and easiest all in one meal could only mean one dish, yes, fried rice.

We Chinese fried rice like it is nobody’s business. There is no standard rule, no recipe to follow and every cook fried their rice their own personal way. Our fried rice does not mean just frying the rice, we add in whatever fresh ingredients we have in the pantry. We throw in this and that, whenever we see fits. In other words, fried rice is basically a dump and fried dish, albeit the prior washing and chopping.

In my opinion, fried rice must be originated from those genius housewives that have plenty of leftover rice everyday and came up with ways to make use of it. Cooked rice from last night dinner could be a quick nutritious whip up lunch for today. Whatever fresh leftovers, could be the extra handful of long beans or the two sticks of carrots or the last chicken fillet, can then be used up to make this magical fried rice. Using the leftover rice was actually the key, as I have been told, since the rice is drier and more tough, thus after frying, it will be at the right texture.

In most Chinese fried rice, the basic secret is in the sauce. Yes, the sauce added when we fried the rice. As far as I usually see, there are two distinct types of fried rice, the white ones or the brown ones. For the white fried rice, it could mostly mean the absence of the dark soya sauce, which is usually used for browning in Chinese cooking. It does have taste too; therefore white fried rice and brown fried rice taste somewhat different, but be careful with the dark soya sauce, as too much added, your dish would be bitter. Usually the white fried rice is added flavour with pepper while brown fried rice is usually heavily laden with soya sauce.

As for me, I have never ever fried rice two times the same way. The basic idea is there, but there are always different ingredients, different mixes of sauces thus different tastes. I fried rice numerous times as it’s my trusty quick nutritional whip up of a full meal. Since there are no ‘proper’ recipes for fried rice, in my context, I would just suggest what is there to add into your fried rice, your take.

It is real quick, especially with leftover rice, it could even be in 15 minutes, along with all the preparation, but if not, I’m sure you can cook the rice first, which takes only about 13 minutes. Be careful to add less water/no water as freshly cooked rice are slightly on the wet side, and you do not want a soggy fried rice. Ultimate fried rice has to be fluffy and every grain is separated. So overall, you will have a complete meal in less than 30 minutes!

Chinese fried rice (must haves)

Basic ingredients

Shallots – my grandma taught me this, as it imparts the important aroma in the every fried rice. Always fried the shallots first, till slightly brown, then add the rest of the ingredients.

Onions – in addition or in absence of the shallots, this could be a good substitute. Brown the onions well too.

Garlic – and lots of it I might say, it is one of the essential basic ingredient in every Chinese cooking, I personally like it finely chopped for fried rice

Eggs – it is this is an essential to seal in all the flavours of the fried rice. The secret is to throw it in at the end, mix thoroughly with the fried rice and the flavour is sealed in with extra kick! I learnt this from Ah Ma too, as not all Chinese cook does it, but I believe most of it does.

Meat (making the fried rice tastier)

Meat gives fried rice its sweetness and the full flavour of it. Though not necessary, but with it, your fried rice would be more kingly tasty and of course, the needed protein. Usually one kind of meat is use, in order to maintain its simplicity and not to complicate the flavours too much.

Chicken – boneless chicken are usually sliced and dice into small bite sizes to be used in fried rice. This is the most common meat next to pork.

Pork – a Chinese favourite red meat, really sweet and juicy and totally gives the fried rice a distinct taste. Usually chopped up, or sliced and even roughly minced for some.

Beef – though seldom used but I had ate some in restaurants, something different but nice too.

Prawn – this is actually the secret to a real fried rice fragrance and tastiness. In oppose to what I said, prawn can be added along with any other meat, it is after all seafood, but it serve the same purpose, and definitely do it much better.

Vegetables (personal should haves)

Veggies are good additions to fried rice to add in the nutrition and also making it more complex in tastes, textures and presentation.

Long beans – these veggies pack a good crunch to the fried rice, thus bringing the texture to the whole new layer. It is good for ya and just right with the fried rice.

Carrots – carrots also pack a good crunch to the fried rice. Have it sliced thinly or finely chopped. Not to mention it add good colours to the fried rice. Who doesn’t love orange?

Spring Onions – though I do not always add this in, as I seldom buy it, they come in huge bunch and I just seldom get to finish it. It is usually used for garnishes in dishes, in this case it is a good addition to fried rice, especially good with the brown ones.

Herbs – yes you could add in any herbs you think is right, like fresh Chinese parsley, or basil or even mint. I recently ate J’s mum brown fried rice with mint; it was tasty and refreshing with every bite on the mint.

Sauce (the usual)

Soya sauce – main base for the saltiness in the fired rice. We seldom use salt in this.

Dark soya sauce – to make brown fried rice

Oyster sauce – for the extra kick

Fish sauce – just for taste

Sesame oil – just add a little at the end

Chilli – sauce or sambal or paste, if you want a spicy fried rice

Saturday, March 25, 2006

What Blogging Did to Me

It made my day!

I was just going through the “blogs that link here” (you can see it at the bottom of this page on the right) through technorati, yes I am vain and want to see who links me up, and found that I had been linked up by FoodFreak, all the way from German, on his Meme. He had include me in along with a few Asian blogs on the question of a food blog located far from him. Quoted from him was:

Tham Jiak - a fellow cooking enthusiast in Malaysia, I love to read about his/her Asian food experiences.”

I am so happy that there are people out there who enjoyed my humble writing on food and my experiences.

I have just notice the lacking in my project of “exploring my origins” and of course not to mention all the foodblogging events that I had missed out. I am keeping track (note the top of the side bar) of them but time just seem to slip by for a struggling soon-to-graduate student like me. If you all have notice, I have also added the part of “Weekly Drools” at the side bar, indicating recipes that had picked my interest which I might, just might try out and are good reads.

Food blogs had in many ways changed my perception on food; there are so many new things to learn everyday, so many real people out there that are passionate about the same thing as me, food. After lurking around many wonderful food blogs for months, bookmarking them, trying the recipes and get obsessed over reading them, I finally created my own food blog, a far cry from the bests I know, but yet, just a humble attempt to also share my passion, my thoughts and my experiences. By blogging, I had then begun making good food, experimenting, braving myself to try various recipes, and of course enjoying it. Then there are the snapping of food pictures like they are my precious that are going away too fast (into my tummy) and then writing about it which then leads to the nicest part, that is getting the feedback from the readers. Yes, you all are what blogging is all about.

So stay tune alright to my blog, and do keep coming back. I promise to cook more, eat more and blog more on, what else, FOOD!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Contributing Recipes

A fellow blogger had asked me to join in a wonderful new blog that are for various bloggers/cooks alike to contribute and share their recipes all in one place. The site is call Recipes365, and for sure, with the name literary it means there would be a new recipes everyday or even more throughout the year. I for one am glad to be able to join in the fun and share the recipes that I had tried and tweaked and of course, also to share my experience. So go over there and have a look. I posted up my Chocolate Cheese Cake recipe there, and I’ve just seen a really delectable mushroom soup after my post! So what ya waiting for? Have a look at the site.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

CCC Craze

It is always good to be able to dig up my old archive to share with you guys. During the time I started this lovely blog of mine, I was in my term holidays. That was went I did lots of baking and cooking, and sharing it here. Now that time does not allow me to do so, I have continued religiously drooled over many food blogs out there.

So, about digging into my archives, I usually cook, take picture and then store it in a folder in my computer along with the recipe. So far, I just notice this folder getting much larger than other picture folders I have.

There was this local food forum that I joined, named Jo’s Deli Bakery. Then there was once we made a meet up along with fellow Malaysians from the forum Kitchen Capers, that I always talked about. At the party, obviously a food party, everyone is to make something to bring there. Like how we local like to call it potluck. Then a lovely forum member made a wonderful chocolate cheese cake, which got everyone hooked and craving for one. So naturally, we demanded for the recipe and then forth started the phase, we called it, the CCC craze.

If you keep drooling over various chocolate cheesecakes from the same recipe, and keep on hearing people rave about it day in day out in the forum, there is only one natural course of action. Yes, you make one too, not just to answer the craving since the gathering day but also to see what is all the fuss about.

And I have to say, it is all worth the fuss! It is fairly easy to do, and simply delicious. It is hard for me to describe how good, you go try it and you tell me! This might even start a CCC craze in the blogosphere, who knows, as it is really tempting and the result is going to be an expanded waistline with a wide smile.

Alright let us now see what the fuss is all about but be forewarned, it might start you into a phase.

Chocolate Cheese Cake

Making the mixtures was really easy, but layering them was the problem. When I poured in the final chocolate mixture onto the cheese layer, I made mistake by pouring too much in the middle, then end up scrapping it all to the side, which in the end causing the side rim to have too much. Nevertheless, the effect was not bad; I got wave-like layers, which some people thought I did it on purpose.

I also found that I had to take longer baking time than suggested, then later I found out its because I used an 8-inch pan instead of 9. But I will still stick to 8-inch, because the height of the cake is just nice with the layers clearly shown, and of course, it means bigger portion in every slice. You won’t regret it.

Mixture A:
250g cream cheese
60g castor sugar
1 egg

Beat cream cheese with sugar until light and fluffy
Beat in egg until well incorporated
Set mixture aside

Mixture B:
180g butter
150g sugar
3 eggs
3 tbsp cocoa
120g flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Beat in egg, one at a time until well incorporated into mixture
Sieve all the dried ingredients together
Fold it into the egg mixture

To assemble:
With an 8-inch cake pan, pour in half of mixture ‘B’, then all of mixture ‘A’, then remaining mixture ‘B’
Bake in preheat oven at 180C for 55-60 minutes (45-50 minutes for 9-inch pan) or until skewer comes out clean
Serve well chilled

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Now and Before

Not much cooking nowadays but all workload is starting to lessen. My final year project is soon to be over and then I can concentrate on my finals. Then it is off to the work force for me. Seem really daunting yet exciting. All said I am ready to take on the challenge and start a new journey in my life. We all have to learn to adapt to changes and make the best of it. I am glad I have learned to do so. What bout you?

Anyway, I just remembered this recipe I attempted ages ago (few months) that I have yet to share with you guys. It is from an issue of Flavours, a local food magazine which I am an avid fan of. I came across a simple yet intriguing recipe called Pongteh. This dish is from Peranakan origin, which we called Baba and Nonya. I had wrote bout them before. A glance at the recipe and it got me thinking of it day and night, so I had to put it to an end. I made it.

Pongteh (Chicken Stew with Preserved Soy Bean Paste)

This recipe uses ingredients readily available in most households. Chinese households if not. I’m not sure whether many would have the preserved bean paste, which is actually a thick, salty fermented soybean paste. I believe one can get in any asian market easily. Here, it is a must in this dish as it holds the base flavour of it. Gula melaka is actually unprocessed raw palm sugar, easily available in Malaysia. As the name stated, it is originated from Melaka, home of the Peranakans.

As usual, I had left out ingredients to suit my taste (or my pantry) and tweaked the recipe a wee little bit. In the original recipe, one can add belly pork and also shitake mushrooms and yam bean. In the recipe, it calls for first boiling the sauce with the mushroom for 20 minutes. Once again, I took the shortcut, and since I did not use Chinese mushrooms anyway, I only bring it to boil, cut down added water and cooked to a much shorter time.

The recipe noted that it will taste better the next day after the flavors had a chance to infuse into the meat. I for one am not going to compromise this. The overnight dish was great with the meat deeply infused in the taste, which comprises mainly of the bean paste. To me the taste is unique and it is an overall fairly easy recipe. Do try it!

5 chicken drumsticks
3 tbsp cooking oil

Grind to paste:
4 red onions
5 shallots
6 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp preserved bean paste (tau cheo)
600ml water
5 potatoes (cubed)

40g gula Melaka (palm sugar), or to taste
1 tsp of salt

Heat oil and sauté the onion, shallot and garlic paste till fragrant, stirring continuously.
Then add in the bean paste and fry till oil separates. (This did not really happen to mind as I had lowered the oil content considerably)
Add water and bring to boil.
Lower in the chicken and simmer for bout 15 minutes.
Add in the cubed potatoes.
Continue to cook for another 30 minutes or till chicken is tender and potatoes are soft.
Add water if gravy becomes too thick.
Season to taste with sugar and salt

Added: A fellow reader asked me about what tau cheo to make sure she got the right ingredient, so here it is:

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Since I had ventured into my culinary skills, I had been enjoying making a lot of food, baking and cooking. It is therapeutic in some way to me. I love it especially when I can make food for my loved ones to enjoy. I love the feeling that I felt when I see them enjoying what I had made. I love it even more when they appreciate it; they pat me on the back and praise me (although it might not have been that good). It is just the sense of euphoria, exaggerate I might seem, but I’m not.

Therefore, I came up with an ingenious plan to extend out my love to my dearest oldest longest group of friends that I have. I made a pact to bake each of them a cake for their birthday this year. It might seem like nothing, but the fact that my group of friends consists of 10 people and of high tastes I might say, seem pretty daunting. But nevertheless, it will certainly be a joy to me to make and customize a special and unique cake for each of them.

We called ourselves the 1984, which is the year we were born in. The name was stuck with us since high school and it never seems to fade away. We always say 1984 this, 1984 that, 1984 always, 1984 spirit and 1984 bond, you get the idea. They had been with me through thick and thin since 8 years ago, some even longer, and the stories about them could fill a book, a thick one for that matter. I would write about them if ever I have the time.

Well a friend S just had her birthday in January during Chinese New Year. The time was packed but I managed to make a cake for her, at my nanny’s place. I’ve been lucky to have her kitchen to use, as my Taiping house’s kitchen is such a sad place, you could not even find salt there! Cooking at my nanny had been really eye opening, more about that next time.

I had asked S before hand what type of cake she would want and her reply was really creative and challenging, she said “Colorful”. Wow, a great theme, it got me thinking. I consulted some of the other 1984s, and a friend inspired me. Finally, I made a simple chocolate cake with dark gooey chocolate frosting; and where are the colors you might ask? Well, take a look!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Little Hong Kong

Life has been the same. Now nearing my final year project subsmission, life just turn a lot more hectic. As usual, L came again, with more wonderful fare from up north Malaysia. This time is another Hong Kong wannabe bistro in Malaysia, which I had talked about and also cooked the famous cheese baked rice before. This kind of bistro is all over PJ and KL, now it is in Penang too. Talk about little Hong Kong in Malaysia!

Hongkie Kopitiam

E-Gate is one of my all time favorite spots in Penang. Located just right off the bridge, just next to Tesco, it is a brand new plaza with restaurants, a fitness center, a hair saloon and a few pubs and a pretty huge Starbucks. Bored with regularly eating ‘tar-pau’ed (take away) food for meals, my friend suggested that we try a brand new Hong Kong styled restaurant in E-Gate.

Hongkie Kopitiam has a very olden day Chinese restaurant ambience. Interior are mostly made of wood, including tables and chairs. Well it seems pretty congested to me as the furniture are placed within close proximity and the restaurant was almost full when I was there, perhaps it was regular dinner time.

It has a very extensive menu with rather interesting names for its food and I took almost 10 minutes to decide on my order. My friend was there for the second time said that the French toast was really good. We ordered that, along with a bowl of Fuku Leslie Cheung for her, which is ramen with one fried egg, sausage, ham and vegetables while I opted for meal with a quirky name, Zoo Pharms, baked fragrance rice with cheese and a triple combination of fish fillet, beef and chicken.

The meals we both ordered are very typical Hong Kong meals. Her bowl of ramen consists of a sunny side up, deep fried ham and sausage, garnished with vegetables. The soup was pretty salty but the portion came big. While my baked rice came with a generous serving of melted cheese with the triple combination of beef, fish fillet and chicken were nicely cooked and tender. It was good but somehow, eating too much cheese made me feel bloated. I could not even finish the serving.

The French toast was superb. It was greasy due to the melted butter that came a top of the toasted bread, but the sweet and thick peanut butter in between the loafs was fabulous. Of course, you got to eat it while it’s hot.

I ordered an almond tea with egg custard for my drink. I’m not sure why I kept expecting the infamous chilled ‘lai cha’ (milk tea) usually served in HK restaurants. Turns out, it came in a saucer, in scalding hot almond tea and a raw egg which I guess, was put in moments before it was served to me. It would at any other time, be a great cuppa for breakfast. However, after eating my baked cheese rice with awful lot of meat, I figure, that cup of sinfully sweet almond tea is just too much for me.

Perhaps, this isn’t exactly a rave review but remember I said it had an extensive menu, I’m sure, with more time in the future, and I would get to try better stuff of it.

Hongkie Kopitiam
Block 1-01-10
Lebuh Tunku Kudin 2
11700 Gelugor

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