Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.
Showing posts with label 1984. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1984. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

One-nine-eight-four: Ra-ta-too-ee

Have I tell you about 1984? Oh I have, many times it seems. How have we been? I would say we have our ups and downs, our disparities and commonness, but still till now we are as we are, always 1984. I’m sure you readers now have your hair standing, ha-ha.

1984 is the year we are all born in. It is the year of the Golden Rat, for the Chinese. All of us actually got together during our teens, when somehow we find commonness among ourselves. As my grandmother taught me long time ago when I was just a little kid, “birds of a feather, flock together”; I did not know then that this quote would apply to me personally as well as anywhere in this world (read the news and you know what I’m talking about) so well. But after we graduated from high school, we all started to grow different feathers, inevitably moving towards very different directions. Out of sentiments I guess, up till now, we are all still trying our very best to keep in touch, maybe once a while flock together.

I had just deleted a paragraph that I wrote about us, our timelines and so forth. Why? I feel that it would bore you readers with too much detail. Then I remembered a story I written quite long ago, at the time when we were in the midst of nearly breaking apart, to metaphorically describe 1984’s and my journey thus far:

The One Behind

Walking down the road, she turned and stared at the distant. She shields her eyes from the glaring sun. She squinted to see it. She knew that it is there. After some time, her eyes adjusted, and she can see the beautiful house, seemingly shining among the sky. Her eyes watered from the strained, yet she continues to stare. Giving a final look, she turned and went on her way.

The road in front of her would be long. It would be certainly different from the comfort life in the house. But she knew she had to move on. She had to walk this path, in order to fulfill her destiny. It is inevitably part of her life’s scheme. But yet she knew the life she once had in the house will always be in her heart.

As she moved along the road, her perspective of it seemed to change. When she left the house, the road seems narrow, rocky and steep. It seemed really hard to tread it. Yet now as days go by, the road seems bigger, wider, leveled and smoother. Her feet, once dragging on had begun to start walking. As she walked on, it started to skip along. The road now seems very enjoyable.

As she was walking down the road, the house is still in sight right behind her. It is always there for if ever once, she stumbled and fell, and she can always turn back and see that support is there, just within reach. Once a while, she did tripped and she did fumbled on the rocks on the road. And every time, with knees and hands on the floor she would look back and be reassured by the sight of the house and then with renewed strength, she would once again stand up and resumed her walk.

As days goes by, she learnt to skip the rocks, she learn to look for holes and she learn to tread with care. She had found walking the road so much easier. Along the way, she found more things to do, other sights to behold, flowers to be picked, sceneries to be enjoyed and wonderful breeze to revel in. Thus, she was so caught up with all these pleasures in walking down the road, the house seemed like a distant fading picture.

But soon she realizes something is missing. She enjoyed the sights. She loved the smell of the flowers. She stood in awe of the sceneries and she got swept away by the cooling breeze. Yet she knows she would not be here enjoying all these if it wasn’t for the house. So she stopped in her tracks; and once again turn back to look at the house, this time not for assurance, but just because.

She smiled, as the house still stood looming there, shining before the bright sky. This time, the sun did not even seem to bother her. With the image in her mind, etched deep in her memories, she returns to continue down her path. This time, there is even more spring in her steps.

Alright, now this post is getting a little heavy for a food blog. I thank you for your patience if you are still reading, so let’s move on to the food! Recently, one 1984 had a housewarming, and we decided to have steamboat along with a side dish (definitely my idea), which I volunteered to cook up ratatouille for them. Why ratatouille? Besides the fact that this dish had just won the hearts of many in the famed movie featuring the tham jiak Remy, it is also the fact that the movie had at one point of the show that I felt most compelling is the part where the once tried Remy’s ratatouille, the cynic Anton Ego was snapped right back to his childhood where he came home to a dish of ratatouille lovingly prepared by his mum. That scene got right to my heart. This is how the best food should be appreciated. This is how I had tried very hard to describe my Ah Ma’s cooking long time ago. This is how no matter where we go, how far we traveled, how many food we taste, it is always back to the basics, the most simple and humble dish churn out lovingly by someone especially for you. So this is why I chose ratatouille, to churn out this dish with my heart for my fellow 1984s, after such a long time that we finally reconcile in a home, so that when many years down the road, if they ever taste one nice (let’s just assume mine is good now) ratatouille, they would be snapped back right to that night where all of us sat together at the table laughing and eating good food.

Ratatouille (ra-ta-too-ee)
Adapted from Flavours (Sept-Oct 07 Issue)

Since I was privileged as a cook, I had my friend to do the grocery shopping for me. I had sent them the needed ingredients prior to this. Imagine, halfway between their shopping they called me up and ask me what the heck is zucchini? I laughed and told them to skip it then if they can’t find it. They also asked where to get rosemary (I was thinking of the vacuum-packed fresh ones), I tried to explain where to get it in Tesco but finally they end up buying me bottled dried rosemary. Then besides, they overlook the ingredient of canned tomato puree which is essential to this recipe. Oh well, I have to make do with what I have and improvise.

Therefore I ration some of the fresh tomatoes out and made my own tomato puree. I found that do not need to simmer for 1 hour (as per original recipe) as I see that everything is well cooked and the eggplant is starting to turn black and soft. Maybe because I altered the amount of tomato puree, I’m not sure why though. So use your own judgment when you cook it. The recipes also states that it will develop taste overnight but we can’t wait eh, we are having party! It tastes great nevertheless, with convictions from my friends.

2 long purple eggplant
salt for sprinkling
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, cut into cubes
1 red capsicum, seeded and cubed
1 green capsicum, seeded and cubed
3 cloves garlic, chopped

150g tomatoes, peeled and cubed
1-2 tbsp dried rosemary
sugar to taste

handful of black olives, seeded and chopped

Tomato puree:
50g tomatoes chopped finely
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
3 tbsp of tomato sauce
Mixed herbs

Split the eggplant lengthwise and sprinkle with salt to draw out bitterness. Set aside for 30 minutes, drain and cut into 2cm cubes
Prepare the rest of the ingredients as per above
For the tomato puree:
Sauté the tomatoes till soft, adding in salt and sugar to taste.
Smash the tomatoes while cooking it.
Then add in tomato sauce and sprinkle liberally with mixed herbs
Cooked till semi-dry and remove from pan then set aside
For ratatouille:
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed or cast iron pan. Add the eggplant and cook until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.
In the same pan, cook the onion (add more oil if necessary) until translucent. Add the red and green capsicums and cook until tender; add garlic, eggplant, zucchini, tomato and tomato puree. Cook for 1 minute.
Sprinkle in the dried rosemary liberally as well. Then add in the olives.
Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Season to taste with sugar and salt, but I find it unnecessary since my home-made tomato puree is already very well seasoned.

Serve immediately to a table of 10 hungry girls

Friday, September 08, 2006


Let’s see. Where do I start? There is so much to tell about a friend of mine, which is extraordinary in her own way. A girl I had mentioned quite a number of times in this blog. Y is a girl of exuberance. A girl who has a sweet smile on the face at all times. If I have to sum her up in one word, smile would would be it. She is smiling when she is walking, she is smiling when she is talking and she is even smiling when she is singing. Yes, she is a girl that smiles and brings joy to whoever she is with.

I have known Y more than 10 years ago, our passionate relationship kicks off when we both found ourselves sharing the same love for basketball. Then our friendship was forged deeper when we had the same class at 14, where we formed 1984; where we had tons and tons of laughter, excitement and adventure.

Our friendship was brought to the next level as we both came to the strange world of KL together, looking for more to life after the peaceful years of schooling and good food at the haven we are in. I call it fate that we both end up in the same college and soon end up as room mate, then to condo-cum-studio-mate and till now, housemate and not to forget, also my band mate. She had always been with me in KL, so to me; she is like my family here. I know I will always have someone to look to, to confide in and to share with, in times joy or turbulence.

I wish there is more I can tell about Y, as believe me she is not as simple as that. But somehow it seems impossible to mention everything about her. I can confidently say that she had always been a great friend, who never failed to be there for me when I needed and will always still be there for me even when I don’t need it. Confusing as it may seems, but believe me, she would understand what I mean. Love you Y, and have a great year ahead as a girl with the age-of-double-number. Cheers.

Extremely ChocolateY Chocolate ‘Kou
Adapted from Molly, Orangette

I made a cake for Y, specifically with all her preferences. I forgot to mention that she is a girl of acquired taste, extremely stubborn (which means if she does not like one thing, she would not ever change her mind bout it, no matter how much you try with all sorts of variation), a bit of a traditionalist and have a strong degree of liking to chocolate (who doesn’t?), and with certain specific no-no. She does not eat anything which is too bitter (thus degrade the idea she is addicted to chocolate, lets just add that she loves sweet things too), or anything with nuts, raisins or just anything round, hard or soft or whatsoever that appears in where she thinks it should not. Basically, she loves her food plain, simple and delicious. Since she has the weakness for chocolate, I decide to go all the way out to make an extremely decadent chocolate cake, which is flourless, and of course devoid of any trace of her no-nos.

I had been attracted to this cake since the day I read it at Orangette but have yet to find the occasion for such indulgence. Now this time, Y is going to be the victim, as the result of the cake is certainly addictive. When Y and my friends bit into it, they moaned with pleasure and I am not exaggerating here. In Y's words, she mentioned that the cake does not have the texture like regular cake at all but more to like ‘kou’ (as in kuih, like a marriage between pudding and cake), thus the name I christened it.

I would also recommend to use the best chocolate you can find (for me I would certainly go for bittersweet but since it is for Y, I used Vochelle cooking chocolate instead) and also the best butter, full fat kind, oh and the freshest egg around. I said this was good but I also said it was decadent remember.

200 g best-quality chocolate (bittersweet, unless for someone like Y)
200g full fat butter
220g granulated sugar
5 eggs
1 tbsp all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 180C.
Line an 8-inch round cake pan with foil.
Finely chop the chocolate and melt it with butter in a double boiler or microwave, stirring regularly.
Add sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, beat well and set aside to cool.
Then add in the eggs one at a time, beat well with a wooden spoon at each addition (I like this traditional way, working my arms over the batter).
Add the flour and mix well.
Pour batter into the pan and bake for 25-35 minutes (mine took quite long, I covered the top half way through to avoid burning), until the top is slightly burnt but the middle is still jiggly.
Pull the cake out immediately with the foil and let it cool.
Then slowly peel away the foil, then be strong and store it away into the refrigerator for a at least a day (Molly said its better the day after and I’m not going to compromise this).
Before serving, take it out and decorate as desire to fit for a birthday girl (in my case a huge love to sweet Y).
Then slice thinly to indulge slowly (you have been warned).

Saturday, July 29, 2006

With Love, L

I seldom post without picture if you had notice, just because I like to spice up my posts, but this testimonial had been long overdue in my laptop and I have yet the chance to post it. You see, I do not have internet connection at home and I usually online at J’s with this laptop. Most of my precious pictures are, unfortunately, in my house personal computer. So sometimes due to my usual forgetfulness, I forgot to copy the picture over to this laptop while I have the notes here at this laptop. Now I am posting from office, oh yes, this is how naughty I am and they banned my picture site, stating ‘Banned Phrase Found’. Now would I have anything naughty in there? Did I accidentally name my food that can offend or provoke people? Anyway, back to the topic, this testimonial is by none other than my favourite guest blogger, yes you guessed it, L. I mentioned that she will be leaving a testimonial here as she leaves to go back to Penang. How I missed her! Now on to her lovely and thoughtful note:

My mother is an excellent cook. She works her magic in the kitchen effortlessly and I watched her cooked, baked, skewed, sliced and chopped since I was a little girl. But at 22 today, one would normally assume that the daughter would have learnt a whole lot from the maestro herself. But assumptions do go wrong at times because she just can’t cook.

But one thing for sure, I enjoy eating and am always open for new eats. It is no surprise for someone who had always been accustomed to good food to be critical of others than her moms’. Thus, with this passion of mine and Rokh’s passion for cooking and eating out as well, we set out always in search of good eats, always talking about food and writing about them.

This testimonial is one which came way too late. I apologized for the delay as I was busy settling down up north again after my rather short 2 month stint in KL. I was there for my compulsory Industrial Training which every 2nd year university student needed to complete. And the word ‘wonderful’ is underrated to sum up my experience.

Of course, the highlight of my entire stay was staying with my good friends (all 3 including Rokh with additional good friends coming over every once in awhile)and our gastronomic adventures around the Klang Valley. A drain on our pockets for sure as we never resist to splurge on good food and then, expanding our waistlines. But it is always worthy; as I believe the connection made at a table of people eating is wonderful. You not only dine together but you connect. This is where friendships are forged and kept in checked.

Rokh is truly a wonderful and close friend of mine. Our friendship is further strengthen through this blog where we would discuss about food and new findings. She surprises me a couple of years back when she donned on an apron and whipped out utensils to cook. Shame on me to think it would be a passing fad but boy am I wrong, for she sure is an excellent cook today. I’m sure her future daughter would feel the same way as I do now. Grateful and ecstatic to always have good food waiting for her.

So this is my short say and do watch out for my detailed food ventures here with my good friends around town. There is nothing irreplaceable than hanging out with your friends, cracking up jokes,endless drinks and filling in stomachs together. That is what I would certify as life’s greatest pleasure.

P/S: Yes, I cannot resist putting a picture, this one from a cute site, and I also would like to leave that message to L, :). Oh, since I am already so thick, I might as well announce that tomorrow is my birthday! Look out for party food!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sweet Goodbye

If you all have been following this blog, you would be familiar with L. Yes, she had been my guest blog a few times, writing about her food adventure in Penang and also her great research on Chee Cheong Fun that had caught so many’s attention. L came up to KL for internship the last 2 months, which started our food whore out there, once I wrote about it, many more in my archives yet to be publish, due to more food eating and enjoying life. It had certainly been fun when she’s up here. We got around quite a bit, pretty adventurous with our food endeavour, sometimes burning holes in our pockets, yet we would still go out and do it again.

Let me give some introduction about L. She had been one of my longest friend, and also a fellow 1984. I’ve known her since 11, and from there we just clicked and our friendship had grown since then till now. We have a lot in common, sharing interests in writing, books, dreams and of course food. It is not a wonder we are so close.

Anyway, we had a mini farewell for her last Tuesday at our new home, with our housemates and a few close friends. She promised to leave a goodbye note here, which I have yet to receive from her, and would update when I do. We had steamboat party, which has the usual array fresh food, and clear soup which would then later be turn to tom yam to finish it off.

When I got home from work (oh, yes I started, it was great), I quickly got to the kitchen to make dessert for the party. Guess what I will be making? It’s bread pudding. This dessert is easy; one can prepare before the party starts, leave it in the fridge and bout 1 hour near to the end, take out the bread pudding and bake it, then serve right out of the oven. This is one time I made something with my ‘own’ recipe, adapting from here and there, and since I am making it specially for L, I am naming it

Farewell Bread Pudding

I had about half a loaf left on apricot and raisins bread that I bought last week for my daily alone breakfasts. After a few days, I got tired of it and chuck it into the fridge. Therefore came the inspiration to use up this bread when the party came. This is actually the Gardenia Toast 'em fruit breads, if you live in Malaysia you’ll know which one, and it can be bought just about anywhere. They are good to eat just like that but I love it especially when toasted, with a good cup of coffee. Now, I found out that making it into this pudding was really good as well. Browsing through various recipes, I encountered most using whip cream, which if you had notice, does not ever appear in my recipes. Not to say I do not like it, maybe it’s the high fat content, maybe it’s the unavailability and also maybe it’s expensive. Therefore I had to adapt and fine alternative. To me, evaporated milk would be good, thick milky taste yet light and slightly creamy. This following recipe is my adaptation from few recipes, which I just go with hunch this time with the milk ratios, since I did not use cream and phew, it turned out great. At first it would seem to wet but trust me, once baked, all the liquid will absorb into the bread, making it pudding like. During baking it would puff up so nicely making one happy, but after cooling, it will shrink down. My heart nearly jump to my throat at the sight, there goes my dessert, as it also looked really burnt on the top and sides. There is no turning back for me as everyone at the steamboat table is waiting. There you have it, the adrenaline rush of a first try, serving to a bunch of people. Despite the hard look, once you spoon on it, it is actually soft inside, while crusty on the outside. The sugar topping gives it a deeper taste, some guessed it was gula Melaka, and with some hint of cinnamon. No one guessed the presence of alcohol, but I’m sure that is where the complex flavour came from. My first try and all my guests are happy about dessert, though it took some initial coaxing to try, as all of them have never tried bread pudding before. One of them even expected a flan instead. Well, a nearly empty dessert bowl signifies success I guess.

8 slices day old bread
3 tbsp butter melted

3 eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup low fat milk
4 tbsp of sugar
½ rsp vanilla essence
½ tsp cinnamon

½ cup raisins (I used a little lesser because my bread came with raisins)
4 tbsp brandy

2 tbsp fine jaggery powder (or fine brown sugar or palm sugar)

Soak the raisins in the brandy for at bout 30 minutes
Melt butter in microwave, or on the stove
Use a spoon and slowly swirl and coat all the bread slices with butter
Trim off the sides if the bread (not necessary white clean, a little crusts would give a crunch)
Then cut it into about 8 triangles each slice, I did not care bout getting it really uniform, just about the same size
Reserve triangles from two side slices of bread to one side
Then line the bread triangles in two rows, slightly overlapping one another in a glass oven proof dish (I used an oval dish about 12 cm width, 5 cm thick, just use one big enough to accommodate all the bread and some room for puffing up)
Cream together eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon until bubbly
Then pour in the raisins and all the liquid and mix well
Slowly, pour this custard mixture onto the bread slices
Take the reserve bread slices and chuck it in at all the sides, with the crusts facing outwards, lining next to each other
Put the dish into the refrigerator and let it soak for about an hour
Preheat the oven to 180 C
Take the dish out and then sprinkle the jaggery powder all over the bread top
Bake the bread for 45 minutes

Serves 8-10 party people

Sunday, April 09, 2006

1984: Birthday 2

I have talked about my good friends 1984 before, and about me making a pact to bake a cake for each and everyone of them this year for their birthday. A customized and personal cake for each of them. The second eldest in the group had her birthday in March, and again, due to all our busy schedules, we had a late celebration.

This birthday girl E, is practically the chatterbox of the group. She chatters about her daily life to us without fail, since eons ago, and she is the only one I know about her life inside out. She would be the one relating stories to each and everyone who is absent from our gatherings, filling in on all the details which I myself might have even overlooked or forgot even if I’m present. She is truly the heart of our 1984 channel of communication.

Well, to be honest, 1984 was not the same as it was before when we were young and carefree in our schooldays, where our only main concern was what to eat in ‘rehat’ (recess). But now, each and every one of us had grown in our own way, lead our own lives and hold to our own principles. Though we may not ever be the same crazy bunch anymore, but somehow our bond is still there. Somehow, somewhere inside us, a part of it is made up of 1984. I know, that no matter what happens in the future, I will always remember that I am who I am today, because a part of me inside is mold and made by them, my beloved 1984s.

Alright, lets get on with the cake! I got to stick to my foodblog theme after all. As for E, she did not make any specific request; she said ‘anything’, one of her favourite phrase. But after drilling her, I found she did not want cheese, no fruits, no nuts, maybe raisins and no coffee. Well, she certainly floored me. I was busy yesterday, due to an extended interview of another fellow 1984 that I took her to, thus leaving me little time to go out and get some crucial ingredients on a cake I initially intended to make. Therefore, I decided to change, flipped through my home baking recipe book and choose the recipe that I happen to have all the ingredients. I did go down to the mini market in my condominium to get the milk and eggs though, easily obtainable.

Caramel Layer Cake

The result of the cake was not really satisfactory. The recipe picture showed a slowly brown coloured cake, which I did not obtain, as I used red sugar (jaggery) instead of brown sugar (that’s what I have in my pantry). Therefore, the resulting cake looked deceivingly like chocolate cake, which J pointed out. The cake texture was not bad, soft and fluffy, but taste wise it was pretty bland, and the caramel coating was not at its best. I guess I made a mistake, taking for granted as one stage in the method requires boiling the mixture to 119C (soft ball stage which I don’t know what the heck is about) on a sugar thermometer (which I do not have). I have yet to make candy and now I know it is pretty impossible without the equipment. Nevertheless, a nice 1984 said yum, and the rest gobbled it without a word, heh, but my dear J tactfully said it’s not one of my best. But oh well, at least I tried a new recipe. Not for keepers and I’m not gonna share it here due to unsatisfactory rating from me. In fact, it is exactly the type of cake I would not buy from the bakery. Here’s the deceiving looking cake (pardon the spur of the moment decoration with icing):

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!

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