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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Best of 2007


When I first read this event from One Hot Stove, I was like “wow, what a great idea!” Ecstatically I click to my own blog to review it for the year 2007. To my own disappointment though, I found Ithat I was actually a bad blogger of 2007, for the first half of the year I was practically missing in action, with just an occasional post as if to revive a dying blog. Then I started to pick up the momentum again for the last half year, with me resoluting recently to be once again active in the food blogging scene. Anyway with just the half year efforts of postings, and very little cooking, I will try to give you the bests of my blog in 2007, with more to look forward to in the New Year to come.

Best Recipe attempted in 2007

Banana Fro-yo
A delightful healthy treat that I have churned out many times every since
my first try, taking advantage of our local sweet bananas that are crazily cheap when they are at the ripest blackened time, which also meant the sweetest and softest time, best for churning to make Banana Frozen Yoghurt.

Best Restaurant discovered in 2007

Grandma’s Kitchen

J and I have been back there for numerous times when we hanker for some authentic home cooking fares. Never failed with many of the dishes we tried, maybe time for a second review when I had tried more new dishes.

Best Dish encountered in 2007

Som Tum

I have nearly expressed all my love for this dish in
my love letter, what more can I say about this sweet yet tangy delectable salad that had me looking out for it every time I am in Bangkok.

Best Idea thought of in 2007
Malaysian Floggers Interviews

The idea struck me one day out of nowhere that it would be great fun for me to interview the bloggers behind the scene of various great Malaysian food blogs out there. There are many more to come in 2008, as now Malaysian food bloggers are popping up like mushrooms after the rain, therefore they would certainly be interested in so many of our
seasoned food bloggers that had been around for years.

Best Place traveled in 2007

Bangkok

Alright, this one seem to be a bit cheating as it seems to be the only place I traveled that I blogged about but what who am I to resist, it was certainly a land of good food, great affordable massages and cheap yet trendy clothes. It was also
testified by many food bloggers out there.

Best Celebration and Gift for a tham jiak in 2007

My Birthday

It has to be definitely my birthday celebration where J had brought me to a buffet of delectable spread of food, food and more food. I wish it is my birthday again, but then again, we all do not need a reason to splurge once a while on food right (hinting to J)?

Cooking and eating resolutions for 2008
These resolutions would seem like the most
overused and over committed resolutions of this blog, just like the resolution to lose weight by so many people of this world, year after year. But somehow, we can’t run away from our unfulfilled resolutions, it will haunt us till we finally make it, therefore along with the crowd of just-human, I resolute to once again do more cooking and baking; try to eat in more often on my own home cook fares, make more delicious and healthy desserts for breakfasts or munchies, bake cakes for my family, 1984 and friends for their birthdays, start again on my abandoned ‘Exploring My Origin' project, venture out to try more of the food that Malaysia have to offer, travel to more places to eat what the locals eat and most of all, to put it all into this humble tham jiak blog of mine to share with everyone in the food blogosphere, where without you all, I would not have learn so much on cooking, baking and enjoying food to its fullest! In other words, I am aiming to be more tham jiak in the coming year, he-he.

Till then, see you next year and I wish you a very Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Winter in Malaysia


So it is end of the year again. December always seem to be the special month of the year, something like a black sheep of the family. Technically it is no different of any other month in the year, but somehow it is special. To some it would mean Christmas but to the Chinese it would mean Dongzhi Festival, for the school goers it would mean holiday and for many others it would just mean the end of year, the time to reflect, to pay gratitude and settle personal debts if there are.

As a Malaysian Chinese, even though I have never been to my origin of country before, China, where my grandparents and great-grandparents came from, I was like the rest here who had never forgetten their culture. We are still tied very much to our roots, calling ourselves Chinese, proudly claiming which clan we are from – Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Teo Chew, and Hainan and so on. It is so natural, where one Chinese would ask another their surname (to judge) or just asking straight out which clan they are from.

So even though we have long (or always) been living in Malaysia, and even with the ever predictable weather of either rain or shine, we still carried on the tradition of celebrating Dongzhi (Winter Solstice) Festival, where in Cantonese we call it Kor Tong, loosely translated as 'passing through the winter'. So in order to kor tong, the tradition is to eat Tong Yuen (glutinous rice dumplings), along with various hot sweet soup, my Ah Ma usually make the sweet ginger soup version. It seems that we like to celebrate with glutinous rice, reminded me of my Bak Chang for Duan Wu festival.

As I said before, after coming up to KL, away from family, I seldom have the chance to enjoy all these festivals anymore, what more to have the chance to eat Ah Ma’s tong yuen. I wish I would have the chance to once again make these with her, rolling of colorful balls, making them round this time. Fortunately though, I had a chance to eat home made tong yuen this ‘winter’ as J’s mum made some for the family. J and I only had it today, late from the real date because we had been away for a weekend escapade with friends (food adventure to follow soon). I was so happy when I found that J’s mum had made the sweet ginger soup version, this one sweeten with my favourite gula Melaka. J’s mum made small plain tong yuen in pinks and also big white ones with crushed peanuts filling. It was absolutely delicious! So I guess now I have officially kor tong, what bout you?


By the way to everyone who is celebrating, Merry Christmas, and to the Chinese of the world, Happy Dongzhi and I wish you all abundant with family and friends reunions.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Malaysia Flogger #4: Eat First Think Later

This is just the right time for my feature one of our well known Malaysia flogger, Teckiee of Eat First Think Later, albeit a bit late - but better late than never, as it was her birthday few days back. Teckiee, happy belated birthday! I hope this post will make your eventful week even more exciting.

When Teckiee first started food blogging, she hadset herself apart by coming up with video podcast, though not really my cup of tea as I’m am an addict for read and write and everything-to-do-with-words, but it was definitely something new and interesting in this food arena. After a while, the writing bug bites her back as well and she had been actively writing on food ever since. During her earlier posts, before I got to know her much, I have to admit that I had mistaken her for ‘he’, due to the nick name Teckiee; though not exactly a guy nick but it just struck me as so. I was exposed on this mistaken gender fiasco when I featured her video post on my Bak Chang write up, she had to comment to let me know about it. At that time I was really embarrassed but looking back now, it seems pretty hilarious, which I hope Teckiee finds it the same.

So now, without further adieu, let us move on to a techie interview of a foodie (pardon the pun):


1. Tell us a bit bout yourself - name, background, born and bred, work/study, dreams or plans
Teckiee spelt with a double e, pronounce as ‘tac-kiee’ and I’m female ;p Most people think I’m male and that got my nick from my line of work with Information Technology. TEC is actually my initials and my buddies call me Teckiee since I was 13. Born and raised in Petaling Jaya, but works in KL city. One of my realistic dreams is to obtain my Masters degree before I turn 28. (I am) planning to get to my studies very (very) soon.


2. Age old question, what got you into blogging, besides the love of food of course
I started blogging when I was 15 when I got my second PC and a 56k dial up modem; because I wanted to keep a diary, but have never written more than a few pages. Typing is so much easier. I didn’t want to just type, but I needed to express myself to tell someone, even if it’s a stranger.

3. How long have you been food blogging?
Eat First Think Later started off in 3 Nov 2005 initially as a vidcast. When life got busier, I didn’t have the time to do recordings so I decided to switch back to blogging. I have been strictly food blogging since 14 Jan 2006, that’s errr I think 1 year 10 months and errr …well you do the calculations lah ;p

4. What has food blogging bring/done to you?
Food blogging brought me so much new friends and experiences. It’s fascinating to sit with these folks and just eat sleep and talk about food and the world. Food blogging also made me much fatter and poorer more prosperous in the stomach than the pocket.

5. Who/what got you obsess with food/cooking?
My mom has always been, and still is, my inspiration when it comes to cooking. Although she is a working woman, she never fails to impress the whole family with delicious dishes, some which are well forgotten. I sometimes fill in as the chef in kitchen when she is busy, and it started off from there.

6. What is one food you always wanted to try/cook/bake but have yet to do so and why
(It would) definitely (be) something to do with grapes. I actually made scramble grapes omelet once. It made history in my home not because it was delicious, but it was totally ridiculous. I have not tried anything with grapes since then, but had always wanted to try to fix something new, absurd but nice with grapes.

7. List some food blogs that inspires you or got you hooked
When I started food blogging, I didn’t really know that there were so many many awesome food blogs. The first few food blogs on my read list are;
Lovely (lovely) birthday cakes at
http://cookingismypassion.blogspot.com/ by a fellow Malaysian who is studying in Australia.
A beautiful lady cooking Malaysian in her kitchen in the States at
http://rasamalaysia.com/
Awesome reviews by Boo_liciuos in http://masak-masak.blogspot.com/
I was particularly interested in http://singapuradailyphoto.blogspot.com/ because of the various food reviews in the National University of Singapore. My brother used to study there.
And the more recent (or not so recent) addition to my read list;
I like going to
http://imbinitchy.blogspot.com/ ever since she moved from Yahoo! to blogspot. I can comment now =)
Itadakimas with
http://blue_moon.typepad.com/blue_lotus/
And to end, simple yet delicious recipes with superb write up from http://www.cookingninja.com/

8. What would be your one comfort food that will sure brighten the day?
My daddy’s special porridge! Plain porridge mixed with steamed diced port, prawns, shredded steam chicken meat, flaked steam fish, preserved vegetables, spicy bean curd, ginger, chopped garlic and shallot oil and a few drops of sesame oil just for fragrance.

9. Sweet or savoury?
Anything is good for me. Just have to make sure the sweet stuff are sweet enough, and the savoury ones have a stronger fragrance or taste to it. Some times it kills the taste if the level of sugar or spice is reduced.

10. Name one food addiction and tell us how you go about it
Desserts! Just loveee the sweet stuff. I will always ‘attack’ the dessert counter first at buffets. Need my weekly dose of cakes. I always have a stash of chocolates and sweets at work and at home and sweets in my bag!

11. One Malaysian dish you can't do without and why
Penang Char Kuey Teow! Noodles fried with garlic, cockles, prawns, mini leaks (what is ‘kau choy’ called ah?), bean sprout, fish cake and lard. I just love the dry salty taste of the Penang style fried noodles with the fragrance with the garlic and lard. The prawns used …must be fresh and marinated with a little sugar to bring out the crunchy texture, and the cockles just slightly raw. SYOK!

12. Name one cuisine you love and would need a fix for now and then
Italian. Pasta. It’s something I love to eat and I think cook quite ok pasta. Bolognaise, creamy sauce, dry, fried, pesto’ish, herby, lightly tossed, baked, … just love them.

13. Tell us your favourite post of all time - favourite recipe/food review
Definitely all my Siem Reap travelogue at
http://eatfirstthinklater.blogspot.com/search?q=siem+reap

14. Some advices for the budding or new food bloggers in Malaysian scene
Prepare to put on weight. Exercise more because dieting is not an option ;p Be willing to try food out of your own comfort zone. Give honest reviews. Do it for the passion and remember to have fun!

15. Drop a message for your readers and the food fans out there
Thank you for all your support, comments and emails! If anyone needs food advice, extra taste bud, mouth, stomach, guinea pig, cook, waitress or a participant to enter a special edition of Food Fear Factor, just drop me an email. I will definitely be glad to help out ;)

And always remember to eat first think later!

16. Share with us a must make recipe/a must eat place

Lai Wok Pan (in Hakka) means "pulled wok sides" in English. A very traditional Hakka dish:http://eatfirstthinklater.blogspot.com/search?q=lai+wok+pan

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Resolution and a Review

If I did not post this one soon, I would certainly get the lecture and the look from my one of my dearest reader, Q, who is also J's sister. Q was once an avid reader of this humble blog, who had then moved on to live without the usual dose of it in the beginning of this year where I had lacked seriously in updating this blog. Now that I am slowly easing back to more postings, I better buck up as I see the count is still unsatisfactory. My upcoming New Year resolution is to once again actively scour for new food finds in Malaysia, cook, and bake and churn more food, travel and taste more new flavours and most importantly, post the worthy ones to share with the world. I can imagine Q rolling her eyes now, maybe you are too?

Changing the subject, let’s talk about Q instead. Q was also like me, a true tham jiak at heart, though very much also a health maniac who have been a trusted consultant of mine in my fitness endeavours, therefore we always discuss about food enthusiastically. One night, on a rare occasion, Q and I were out together, because we were spurred by the Guardian’s year-end-sale flyer (marketing victims), therefore we headed to the nearest big outlet in the ever popular SS2. In my mind I was already flipping through all the possible restaurants of SS2 to decide where to eat in. Although SS2 was really abundant with food hounds, we were stumped on the decision part. Finally Q, a trusty tham jiak companion said she read about a new restaurant in SS2 in the Star Metro, where the chef was former La Bodega chef who had ventured out to open a place himself. I remembered reading a bad review at Tankiasu’s before and told her about it and then she says “Aiya, cannot eat local food at these kind of café, after all the chef is from La Bodega (specializing in European food) right?” So I agreed happily and we headed on to the place.

Greenwood Café has a chic yet subtle interior where it would have been a nice dining atmosphere if not for a rowdy crowd there that day who is making some commotion for a birthday girl. That aside, the staff there was well mannered, though a bit timid in their food recommendations and servings. I settled on ordering tea for two, although the timid staff tried to have me try their claimed-famous kat jai shun mui (sour calamansi) drink, since I was in mood for hot tea that day. I ordered Chamomile tea and it came in a lovely English set.


Then for the main, I ordered Fish and Chips hoping that it would not turn out a disappointment like the countless bad fish and chips I had in Malaysia; too oily, too bready, not crunchy, too little fish or too crumbly. This one was a surprise where it came breaded with herbs and was deep fried to perfection. Certainly not the authentic Fish and Chips style, but this one is unique and I must say really tasty. The hint of herbs in the crust was certainly a nice touch to this dish and I also love the side salad that came with my favourite purple lettuce. The picture taken was a set up by Q, who knew I would post it on this blog, so she made it all the more elaborate and interesting for you all.


Next the dish for Q, she was attracted to the idea of create-your-own burger by the chef, thus she ‘assembled’ her burger of beef and cheese. It came looking really good with well thought presentation, I did not try it but according to Q it was as good as it looks.


Though the burger came a bit slow, the menu had put a warning of 15 minutes preparation, but we had waited up to 30 minutes for this, and the staffs were a bit timid, I would say overall this café is doing quite well for a new establishment. Q and I both agreed that the serving is just right for us, satiated without feeling bloated. I have spied on its breakfast menu and would be back one day to try it out; it seemed like a good choice for a lazy weekend brunch. Reading the various mixed reviews from other food bloggers, I came to conclusion that the western dishes served here are recommended for its taste as well as for its reasonable price and portion while the local dishes are to be avoided. Anyhow, if you are in SS2 hungry for some food and could not decide like me, Greenwood Café would be a fine choice to end the arduous decision making and to fill your growling stomach.

GreenWood Cafe Cuisine Cafe & Bistro
No.5, Jalan SS2/67,
Petaling Jaya, 47300
Selangor
03-78778577
Weekday 11am-1am
Weekend 10am-1am

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Malaysia Flogger #3: Audrey Cooks

When is the next dosage of our Malaysian flogger (food blogger), you might ask. Oh, it seems that it is here again. Who is it this time, behind the curtains of long time food blogging in Malaysia scene? It is non other than Audrey from her own blog space call, what else, Audrey Cooks.

When I first stumble upon her site, I was hooked immediately by all her authentic home cooked food that I have been yearning to learn and churn out in my own kitchen. Many of them are unpretentious and cooked by her with love for her family. Just like how I hope I would be in future when I cook for my entire family. I surf into her net to look around once more for this article, and who would know I got hooked rereading all her recipes and postponed this very article. Oh well, there cannot be too much of good things, or rather good reads. So not to make this later than it already is, here I present you Audrey who cooks from somewhere in her kitchen in Malaysia:


1. Tell us a bit bout yourself - name, background, born and bred, work/study, dreams or plans

My name is Audrey. I am born and bred in Penang, Malaysia. Graduated from a hotel school, worked in the industry for a few years and ended up working as a secretary in an architectural consultancy firm for 8 wonderful years.

My dreams are usually very much achievable and I don’t believe in taking on something beyond my capabilities. I dream of being able to encourage as many people as I can, to want to cook for themselves as well as for others. Being able to bless someone with this gift can bring tremendous satisfaction. As for plans, I’ll take a day as it goes. First, is to deliver my baby safely to this world and then I shall leave the rest to God. I am sure He never fails to amaze me with the things He has in stored for me. Praise God!

2. Age old question, what got you into blogging, besides the love of food of course

Actually my brother-in-law Jeffrey is the creator of my blog. After 2 whole years of centering my life around my daughter and her needs, I needed something for myself, something I love to do – Cook! I find pure unadulterated satisfaction when I am alone cooking in my kitchen. Something people call “escapism” - only me and my food.

3. How long have you been food blogging?

Coming to 2 years in March 2008.

4. What has food blogging bring/done to you?

I made new friends, people who enjoy food, some like to cook and some like to eat. Blogging has definitely opened up my horizon towards food and its culture.

5. Who/what got you obsess with food/cooking?

The ‘need’ to eat the food I was exposed to when I was growing up. Most of the time, we cannot get authentic tastes anymore unless we cook it ourselves.

6. What is one food you always wanted to try/cook/bake but have yet to do so and why

‘Kan Sui Choong’ or ‘Kee Chang’. Everytime I want to try it out I get distracted with something else.

7. List some food blogs that inspires you or got you hooked

Catherine of eatzybitzy.blogspot.com with her flare for writing and captivating photography, Kuidaore of brandoesq.blogspot.com with her creativity and beautiful crafted sweets, totally inspiring. Something I can only feasts with my eyes!

8. What would be your one comfort food that will sure brighten the day?

Cannot pinpoint because it depends greatly on my craving of the day.

9. Name one food addiction and tell us how you go about it (avoiding/indulging/making/sharing).

Curry. Must have curry at least 3 times a week eg chicken curry, beef rendang, mutton curry, pineapple curry etc. I indulge in curry usually together with my sister, my family and mom. I usually make it myself and if I happen to over-cook, my neighbours will have curry too. That happens quite often.

10. One Malaysian dish you can't do without and why

Actually my answer here is not a dish but a cup of wonderfully brewed coffee.

11. Name one cuisine you love and would need a fix for now and then

Whole steamed free-range chicken with ginger, chili and soy sauce dipping.

12. Tell us your favourite post of all time - favourite recipe/food review

Braised sea cucumber with oysters, abalone and scallops

13. Some advices for the budding or new food bloggers in Malaysian scene

Always be yourself, be genuine and original. Don’t post to please others but post for enjoyment.

14. Drop a message for your readers and the food fans out there

Keep checking up my website and do excuse me if I disappear from the blogosphere unannounced. Probably need to give birth.

15. Share with us a must make recipe/a must eat place (send along a picture if available)

Try all; everyone has their own likes and dislikes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Man of the House

Oh boy, am I glad I finally have the time to sit down and write. I barely had time to breath nowadays, sneaking only time in betweens to read my favourite blogs, flitting in and out like a busy bee. Well, all this is because I am packing the house (more like throwing out garbage), selling what I deem not needed, arranging where to put the rest of the boxes, tits tats of furnitures and my many BIG boxes of kitchen appliances, utensils, gadgets and I don’t even want go there now, ha-ha. This is what happen when a cook decide to shift. Again you ask, when just a year more ago I told you I moved into a new neighbourhood. Yes again, this time, I am moving into my own apartment! Yay! J and I had bought an apartment somewhere in the heart of PJ, which I can only officially move in most likely next year, so I have to unload a lot of things now. It is taking up my every weekend, and most of my free weekdays. Then there is the loan, the legal stuff, the call here and there and everything else. In short, it is really exhausting.

Nevertheless, today I was lucky to be release early from a work training today, therefore this post. I have been meaning to post is since the beginning of this month, which was my dad’s birthday. Yes my dad, the pillar of my house and the foundation of my family.

Every dad is special to every little girl, just like how my dad is. Since the day I was born, he had never really raise his voice on me, not to mention laid hands on me. But he had his ways to keep us (my sister and I) in check, his “because I say so” and his silent treatments. No matter how though, I always see through his scheme. I am the little girl of the house, hardheaded at most times but usually using her charms to manja (pamper) her way through his heart. Whenever he tried to put up his steel manner, I would manja if I ever see there is a chance to get what I want (opportunity sighting is learnt throughout the years of living together), so I usually end up with what I want. But I had never abuse this power though, cause at times I know there are many things that even the best charm can never change or get.

My dad is in someway whom we like to tease in Malaysia, China-man, which actually loosely translated to the same style of the ancient Chinese people’s thinking, but not necessarily meaning it in a bad way. He was strict and conservative in his sense, protective towards his only two daughters, and manly about his house rules. Anyway, as my sister and I grew older, he had learnt to take off his protective net, and let us roam ourselves out in the world. So far, as he is always nearby, traveling forthnighly back to Taiping, we always find chance to come out for a dinner during Sunday nights, just like how we used to do as a family those days. During our Taiping days, we always go out for a full fledged Chinese dinner on Sunday night, its like a ritual. Then we would always go to the same restaurant again and again until we are so bored of it we would change to another, and then the vicious cycle begin again. Anyway, no matter what, I love you, dad!

So back to dad and his birthday, this year, mum insist that all of us go back to Taiping to celebrate. So of we all drove back in 3 separate cars, sis and her boyfriend, J and I and then dad, pardon us for the pollution, but as I told you, my mum insisted. Oh well, since she had came up in our numerous occasions, we all agreed to head home. Then during one of our MSN sessions, yes my mum DO surf the net and chit chat on messengers, she casually mentioned that I should bake a cake for dad. It tugs at my heart, I badly wanted to, but I know time is not on my side. Anyhow, due to perseverance, I got up that early Saturday morning, after arriving the night before in Taiping after midnight, and got over to my Nanny’s house and bake a cake, no so direct as I had to decide a recipe then from one of her old cookbooks, drove out to get the remaining missing ingredients (fortunately everywhere is near in Taiping), and came back to bake the


Chocolate Cake with Sliced Peaches

Yes it is a weird combination, I admit. It is the spur of the moment, desperate searching ways to spruce up a basic chocolate cake recipe to make it fit for a birthday celebration. The supermarket is out of cheese, and there are not much lovely fruits to choose from, so I resorted to a can of sliced peaches. Therefore, I had to improvise, I had to make do, and when I assemble it I pray it will work well together, which I can say it did, not exceptionally well as in why-we-never-think-of-this or what-a-wonder-combination kind, but just the alright, it-is-special-and-not-bad kind. But don’t be put off as the chocolate cake itself was good, coming from an old Singaporean cookbook, it was moist, delicious and just right, not too sweet, Asian style chocolate cake. Definitely a must try, and you can then use your own ways to spruce it up or just eat it plain or dip into the chocolate glaze (as I did with the chocolate cake pieces from the cut cake session), it was heavenly! Here goes, by the way I had halved the recipe to make an 8-inch cake.

100g chocolate (use the rich kind, I used Varlhona)

Shift together:
112g flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of baking soda
28g cocoa

100g sugar
½ tsp baking soda
5 eggs, separated (I hope I got this right from memory, missed it out from my handcopy)
155g butter
¼ tin condense milk
1 tsp vanilla essense
1 tbsp brandy

Heat oven to 175 degrees.
Melt chocolate over steaming water (like the usual bain marie kind or my Nanny’s bowl-in-water-Asian-style kind)
Beat egg whites with half the sugar till fluffy. Add baking soda and beat till stiff but not dry.
beat butter and remaining sugar till light and fluffy (old books love this word)
Add condense milk by spoonful into the batter, beat well.
Add in melted chocolate bit by bit and beat till incorporated.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, beat well each time
Add vanilla and brandy, beat till blend.
Pour into the prepared and lined 8-inch pan.
Baked for bout 45-55 minutes (we had some trouble during baking, so do not have the exact right time) or till skewer comes out clean (use this method then)

Chocolate Glaze
Whipped up by me out of memory of many food blogs’ recipes I read and the remaining ingredients lying around

110g butter
110g chocolate

Melt them together over slow heat
Let cool a little and then scoop over chocolate cake

To assemble
Cut the cake in half (this was done skillfully by my Nanny)
Put the top side down, hiding the cracks if any
Slather chocolate icing liberally over the cake (cut side)
Arrange the slices of peach around it
Put the other cake slice over, cut side down
Pour the rest of the icing over the cake, forming a lovely overflowing chocolatey fountain
Nanny and I wish we could devour it then when the chocolate cake is dousing in the chocolate sauce, but we put it in the freezer instead and let it set

Then bring to the party and serves 8 people after a full Chinese course meal for sweet endings

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Malaysia Flogger #2: Babe in the City - KL

This post is late. Why? Because I spent most of my free time reading wonderful stories of mothers and grandmothers across the globe, bath in their various cultures and different lives, celebrating with their joy and empathizing with their pain. It was definitely a great theme, where it brought us all spilling our hearts out. Do head on to both Vanielje Kitchen and Passionate Palate, for the full roundups of love, love and more love.

Anyway, back to Malaysia after that world tour, for this round, another seasoned food blogger will be featured. It is non other than Babe from Babe in the city - KL. When I first surf into her blog, I was imagining a young babe cruising the streets of KL city, but when I read on I realize, this is actually one hot mama churning out wonderful food from her kitchen as well as bringing us around in her honest food reviews. She was also the founder of the only Malaysia food event - Merdeka Open House. I guess this famous Babe does not need much more of introduction from me, therefore let’s get on with knowing her even more:

1. Tell us a bit bout yourself - name, background, born and bred, work/study, dreams or plans

Babe_kl is born and bred in Kuala Lumpur. Prefer to remain anonymous for the sake of keeping some mystery at stake.

2. Age old question, what got you into blogging, besides the love of food of course

I was inspired by the now defunct Shiokadelicious way back in 2004. Started out without much direction, just simply post whatever I had wanted to write. Not sure how I got into serious food blogging… accidental I guess.

3. How long have you been food blogging?

3 years, 3 months, 16 days as of 7 Nov 2007.

4. What has food blogging bring/done to you?

Lots of new friends!!!

5. Who/what got you obsess with food/cooking?

I guess my parents played an important part since they loved to hunt for new places to try out. Later on as I started working, I have lots of foodies colleagues who took me to various places that I would never discover on my own.

6. What is one food you always wanted to try/cook/bake but have yet to do so and why

Chiffon cake!!!! Can you believe it? I’m not good with handling egg whites and I have heavy hands plus I’m a procrastinator heh… Hopefully I will pluck up my courage to try making my first chiffon cake.

7. What would be your one comfort food that will sure brighten the day?

As a foodie, I can’t single out one comfort food as it goes depending on my mood.

8. Sweet or savoury?

Both.

9. Name one food addiction and tell us how you go about it (avoiding/ indulging/ making/ sharing).

Ribena, I guess. I got this addiction after I gave birth. I must have one bottle on hand and another bottle in my larder on stand by! I mix Ribena in cold water; hot earl grey tea; vodka and sometimes turn it into sorbet. I can’t live without Ribena now!!!!

10. One Malaysian dish you can't do without and why

Must be the national favourite – nasi lemak. Can’t explain, it’s a Malaysian thing!

11. Name one cuisine you love and would need a fix for now and then

Banana Leaf Rice

12. Tell us your favourite post of all time - favourite recipe/food review


Hard to pinpoint since my posts are basically for me to archive what I’ve cooked and ate. Very handy for me to perform a search this way rather than flipping through my piles of printouts and books.

13. Some advices for the budding or new food bloggers in Malaysian scene

Be sincere and honest with what you write but most importantly, don’t make it as a habit to treat every eating session as “work” (i.e. take photos, jotting down notes etc). Just enjoy and have fun.

14. Drop a message for your readers and the food fans out there

Thanks for coming by Babe in the City – KL and linking it as well. I am grateful with all the comments left by the readers and not forgetting to mention the emails complimenting my blog or posts. As for queries, please give me a bit of time to feedback. Your patience is appreciated.

Thank you so much to rokh of Tham Jiak for starting this brilliant project even though she’s so busy with her own things. Your effort is highly commendable. I just hope you can continue to feed us more about your childhood stories and experiences with your ahma. These are gems and truly unique to each of us.

15. Share with us a must make recipe/a must eat place (send along a picture if available)

Babe in the City – KL everything is there LOL… very hard to pinpoint.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Apples & Thyme


I have many times told stories on my grandmothers, have I not? What about my grandfathers? Sadly I do not have much time with them as they both passed on when I was less than 5 years old. But anyhow, when it comes to food, especially in our Asian culture, it is almost mostly about our grandmothers. It would be them toiling away in the kitchen day in day out just to feed the family and as well as their dear husbands.

It had been a long time since I last join a food event, but this time it got me out of my cold storage box again, just because the theme really got me at my heart. This event is about, quoting african vanielje, celebrations of mothers and grandmothers and time spent with them in the kitchen, in dedication to Jeni’s mother. Apples and Thymes, it seems like the perfect name for the theme today, though I cannot explain why.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you would have read bout my stories about my Ah Ma (grandmother) in so many occasions. For Ah Ma, the ever diligent wife, mother and grandmother, the always seeking of self improvement, the only bind now to our big family tree, the reason we all should appreciate and celebrate life and the ties to our roots back to China itself. I bet these reasons are truly strong enough for a celebration, a big one at date. So let’s toast to my Ah Ma and all the mothers and grandmothers in the world. You all somehow make this world a better place.

Looking back, it seems that I did not spend enough time with my Ah ma in my earlier days. What a shame, I certainly could have learned a lot. It was not until I went to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, to study and now to work, that I learn what I have all these while been taking for granted – real food laboured with real love. Maybe it is also our Asian way of life, where kids are not allowed to play in the kitchen; too dangerous, too troublesome, going to cut self with knife, breakables would be broken, edibles made inedible and the list would go on. That is how then, this little Chinese kid got left out of her Ah Ma’s kitchen, much to her lament.

But I remember the festivals, the time where we (kids) just might have the reason, or rather the chance to help out in the kitchen. I remember once, during Tanglung (Lantern) festival, I don’t know why this event was etched firmly in my memory where I can picture it vividly in my mind, where my sister and I walked into the kitchen where there were hundreds of mini Tong Yuens (glutinuous rice dumplings balls) in plethora of pinks, whites, greens and yellows in a huge metal tray. Ah Ma’s version of Tong Yuen is more of the north Malaysia style, small and plain with no fillings. My sister and I would eagerly help to shape the balls. I still remember Ah Ma saying, “Aiya, not like that, one big one small. Aiya, not round enough, let me show you”. She then will show her spectacular skill of rolling Tong Yuen into a round ball at the right size at amazing speed, due to years of making of thousands of them. Although she would try her best to advise us, we end up with Tong Yuens of various sizes and some oval, some round, some flat. In the end, she would still smile, praise us for our help and then throw it all in boil and then add into the prepared sweet ginger soup. I found a video here at Malaysia Best, where there are two little boys helping out with making Tong Yuen.

Anyhow, after I went to the big world out there, I do also always try to return to my little hometown, where every time I would bombard my Ah Ma with various questions on how she make this or that dish. Just like every cook, especially the ones who enjoy it, she would go into a long and detail description from picking of the right vegetables to the right cut of meat, then to right preparations and the many seasonings up to the right way of cooking and down to the right time itself. I would sit there fixated, nodding occasionally and try to absorb everything. Sometimes when the list got too long, I might whip out my PDA or a paper to note things down. When I got home again, I would try to replicate some of dishes that I learned, mostly a success as Chinese cooking when once you understand its basics and have spent years in eating them, you can easily make it, but mostly it is never up to par to Ah Ma. Maybe in the future, after years of practice, I might make it as good as her.

Although there were many of her dishes that I loved, there was one dish that I hold really dearly to my heart personally. This one dish that I always beg her to make is ho lan shu chu yok (stir fry potato and pork in dark soy sauce). Whenever she cooks this dish is I would be eating and eating it way after I finish off my rice. I would have to pry myself from the table in risk of finishing it before anyone else can have the chance to eat it. Then, after a while off, I would then pester her again, “Ah Ma, when are you going to cook potato chu yok (this mixed term was coined since I was really young) again?”. She would then just smile and ask if I am ever bored at it, which I would shook my head vigorously. Even after long gone from home and back again, I once again request for this comfort dish of mine. I am so excited when we finally cook it together in her kitchen; after all I am not a kid anymore right, where I would be more of a help than a nuisance, then again, arming with camera in hand, I do seem worst off, but a food blogger got to do, what she got to do – shoot!


There would be no recipe this time, as I was busy shooting the video which I use to submit to a contest (which I did not win), so I did not note down the details of the recipe. I would not want to put in estimations here of it, as I want this perfect dish to be replicated successfully in another grandmother or mother’s kitchen, to serve a really happy kid, so I would put it up once I have it. Anyway, I hope you had enjoyed this short video of mine, if you have watched carefully, you might have catch a glimpse of my Ah Ma :)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Malaysia Flogger #1: A Self-proclaimed Foodaholic

From my previous posts featuring my cooking grandmas, I had just hit 100 posts, which is considered really small amount for my span of full two years of blogging, since my first virgin post. That is like 24 months since my public announcement that I am indeed a tham jiak girl. If you average out, it seems I am blogging every week, which is not true where during the early era of my blog, which was its golden days, I had been blogging frequently topping to even 7 posts a month! Then somewhere in between it dip to really bad to me having slowly picked up the momentum again to blog at least once a week, or somewhere there (give me the credit will ya?). This blog incepted due to the fact that I cook and bake, I love to eat, I love to read bout food and my hands itch to write about it too, and not to forget how I got addicted to all the food blogs out where after every post I wish I could cook, bake and write like that. I also want to use it as a place for me to share my endearing adventures in the kitchen, and my occasional rant of food here and there. Slowly, cooking/baking got sidelines, as working took over part of my life; I ate out more than I ate at home, what more cook/bake. There came the influx of food reviews from me and soon it became a mixture, hopefully to more balance of everything. After all, it is all about the food, right?

Anyway, as the celebration of my 2 years of blogging or my 100th post mark, I had came up with the idea of doing something different on this blog, albeit the cooking, baking and reviewing. I got myself into interviewing. It struck me suddenly, when I was just leisurely browsing my list of blogs that I frequented, as I notice since these two years, there had been more and more food blogs in Malaysia popping out, so much so that I had a hard time keeping up with all of them, I realize many of us (apart of fellow floggers who flog together regularly), do not know the person behind all the good food enough. So I decided to do virtual interviews so that we can all can learn bout the floggers that ‘brought’ us to makan (eat) places, taught us bout many dishes or inspired us to cook and bake more.

My first sporting interviewee is non-other than the
Self-proclaimed Foodaholic, Swee San. She is the lovely chef behind all the crazy good food that has diligently appeared in her seriously good-eats food blog. I had invited her as one of my selected few to interview first, as she is one of veteran floggers in Malaysia that had been blogging for a long time now. I remember her starting with her friends, where since then she had been the active baker who posted many delicious recipes. Then she drop the bomb that she got to realize the dream of many food-lover-chef-wannabe out there, which is to ensue in a course in non-other than the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, Australia. At first I thought she was really lucky but after the interview, I then see the other side, of how she had to do what she had to do to go for her dreams. You go girl! An extremely talented girl with a big heart, you can see through by how she toils for many bakes for her family and friends, I am certainly a fan of her food blog. Anyhow, without further ado, I shall present you, Swee San, behind the lovely blog A Self-proclaimed Foodaholic:

1. Tell us a bit bout yourself - name, background, born and bred, work/study, dreams or plans

Born in KL, bred in Klang (still Klang Valley anyway). I used to be an architecture student before pursuing patisserie in Le Cordon Bleu, Sydney. And, my name is Swee San. Right now, (I am) working as a pastry chef in a secretive place which will be revealed well, maybe later. :)

2. Age old question, what got you into blogging, besides the love of food of course

First was to write about the places we’ve dined at with the other 2 of my friends. Very soon they became too busy and I went full-on with baking; I started another foodblog to take account on my LCB journey and experiences

3. How long have you been food blogging?

Since 2005

4. What has food blogging bring/done to you?

Apart from the appreciating food more and being more adventurous in dining, it’s my job finding tool

5. Who/what got you obsess with food/cooking?

I used to watch this Taiwanese / Japanese cooking show when I was really young and I was really hooked on to it. It was more on sweet stuffs though. There is no history of chefs / bakers in my family, so I guess it’s more of an outsider-influential kind of thing

6. What is one food you always wanted to try/cook/bake but have yet to do so and why

I think the list of food to try / bake / cook is endless; possible reasons are, can’t find the ingredients here in M’sia.

7. List some food blogs that inspires you or got you hooked

Cakechef.info (not a blog tho) and other amazing chefs

8. What would be your one comfort food that will sure brighten the day?

It depends on my mood actually. I could be a smoking hot plate of nasi lemak, or it could be just fresh oysters or sashimi. Sometimes it could be just McD’s fries :P

9. Sweet or savoury?

Both

10. One Malaysian dish you can't do without and why

Bah Kut Teh. Why? I grew up in Klang. What do you think??

11. Name one cuisine you love and would need a fix for now and then

Japanese and Thai (my new found love in Sydney)

12. Tell us your favourite post of all time - favourite recipe/food review

All of my LCB-related entries are my favourite!!!! (
http://foodaholic.wordpress.com/category/le-cordon-bleu/)

13. You are one of the lucky few who get to fulfill their dream in Le Cordon Bleu, tell us about your experience there.

I don’t regard this as being lucky. I went there because I wanted to do what I want and what I like. It’s about compromising things to pursue your dreams. Anyhow, money didn’t drop from the sky. My experience? It was great fun and I really enjoyed every moment there and I’m glad I made the decision to do what I’m really passionate about.

14. Some advices for the budding or new food bloggers in Malaysian scene

Give truthful opinions. And enjoy eating everything

15. Drop a message for your readers and the food fans out there

Sorry for not updating for a really long time. I’m just working on something really exciting but it’s a secret for now :)

Now head on there to her blog yourself to get to know the chef and drool over her posts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Grandma Cooks Best

Is it true that grandmas always cook better than your mum? Is it due to fact that they had longer experience, more trial and errors with perfected dishes, as well as the whim and confidence of a seasoned cook? Or is it just because for my generation, our grandmas are the one who had been through real hardships in life, where in the end they persevered and channel their strength and love through food to their children, and their children’s children?

Both my grandmas, Ah Ma and Pho Pho, which I have so fondly talked about all the time, have gone through hardships in their own way. I had told a really extensive story before of Ah Ma, of how she a princess when she was young, thrown to hardship during the war times and then got into marriage and ended up raising 11 kids. For my Pho Pho is a whole new hardship of life, a whole new tale to spin. Ah well, that would be another post of another day, where I would be featuring a dish especially by her. A look at how she always put up a feast for every Chinese New Year shows what an experienced great cook she is. She just needs the morning, waking up at wee hours of 4am and then has the entire 10 course meal ready by lunch time for all. On the other hand, my Ah Ma cooks with her due time, cleaning every inch of the food, slicing everything to perfection and cooking each to the right time. Therefore Ah Ma need at least a day to laboriously churn out good food for the night. Both are entirely different, with entirely different taste of food, where my Ah Ma’s is usually simple and light Cantonese dishes while Pho Pho’s is thick, in depth and full of complex flavours Hakka dishes. For me Ah Ma’s food should always be for the no-nonsense everyday fare while Pho Pho’s food is for the elaborate all-out special occasions fare.

Anyway, far away from home, and lack of good grandma’s home-cooked food, I had to make do with outside food. Though it has been quite sometime since J and I went out in venture for food, due to work as well as more laidback life and cutback on our calories resolution, we found ourselves driving out one day in search of food without a direction. J had just got rewarded with Baskin Robbins (which is one of my icy treats indulgence) voucher for being a good employee, such a nice company right, and so we decided to head to Uptown where I know there is an independent BR outlet there. So we decided to have our dinner around that area and cruise around for the right shop to eat. Suddenly J spotted a restaurant, boasting of home cook food and dim sum choices. On the first trip we had really good dishes that even J, the renown food critic (only to me ha-ha) praises it. So promptly on that weekend itself, I met up with dad and uncle at the same restaurant for dinner, of course base on recommendation from J and me. The second trip was a bit of hit and miss, but overall it is still good enough for me to return for more tryouts.

First we had to have our fix of siu long bao, which came in 5 dumplings for one basket. For this I would say the skin was a little too thick for my liking, especially in compare to the Hong Kong ones I tried (look at the nearly translucent skin), yes I know it is unfair to compare, but the upside was the soup are all sealed in well here and was really well flavoured. For J, THE food critic, said this was even better than Dragon I’s as the one we had there last time leaked out all the wonderful soup, where from then he swore never to have it again at Dragon I, yes a really adamant critic. This one to his delight, when he bit into it, the juices shot out and got to me, luckily just my hands, yes, it was THAT soupy, so J gave it the thumbs up. Too bad they ran out of the big version where KY had, else we would really enjoy the ‘soup’ in the pao. Oh well, maybe next time.


Next up was the main dishes. J was already really hungry thus the bias review, but to me it was good as well, really with the home-cooked feel of grandma’s cooking. One I immediately have to call for was the Jiu Hu Char (stir fried yam bean with cuttlefish), which I say my Pho Pho makes a mean one, but this one was more of the lighter version, which my Ah Ma does cook minus the jiu hu (dried shredded cuttlefish) which we called chau mang kuang (stir fried yam bean), so this was like a cross version of my Ah Ma’s and Pho Pho’s, all the better. I am really missing them now. I found a recipe of this dish here, if any of you are brave enough to try.


Then J had to have his fix of egg, which was one of his favourite must-haves, he ordered the foo yong tan (fried egg with onion slices), which came like just out of a Chinese home kitchen. We love the simplicity!


Of course we then need meat in our fare, so J took the liberty and ordered butter curry leaves chicken. It was special, not really an everyday fare of grandma’s kitchen, but it was good. The chicken was first deep fried then poured on with butter and curry leaves thick sauce. Just describing it makes me want to eat again.


On the separate occasion with dad, we ordered chicken rendang, which came in Chinese-fied version, which tasted quite good as well. It reminds me of my Pho Pho’s curry chicken which was not too spicy yet very flavourful, but this one the drier version, hence rendang, which is cooked till dried.


Since twice our visit, the waitress recommended us to try the assam fish, therefore we give in on this time. Turn out, it was not so good. The fish was not so fresh, definitely a no-no in both my grandma’s kitchens, as well as it is not ‘assam’ (sour) enough and the soup was just bit too thick. Even my version of it was way better.


Last dish which we had different from our first trip was the lou tau foo (braised tofu in soy sauce) and eggs. This is a typical home cooked food, where it is a simple dish of braising the tofu and egg together with soy sauce, sugar and herbs.


Though we had a miss with the assam fish, we would definitely return again to have the thick-skin but soupy siu long bao, the cross version of both my grandmother’s jiu hu char and other dishes that I had noted down to try. I kept the receipt so that I have the address but somehow it got lost somewhere during my writing and finally my publishing of this post. Luckily, I found that KY did a review as well, so I just copied the address from his, thanks KY! As for the prices, it was really affordable, somewhere just smaller portion with same price as the usual Chinese cookout restaurants, but with a home cook taste.

Restoran Grandma Kitchen Cafe
6, Jalan SS21/39, D.U.,
PJ, 47400 Selangor
03-7722 1886

P/S: This review appeared in The Star (Malaysia leading English newspaper) Sundaymetro! I'm so happy, so if you're readers from there, welcome! The link is here (though I don't know how long before it will be archived).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Icy Treats

Living in Malaysia, where the whether is hot and humid, icy treats are a necessity to us, especially when we were kids. I remember, those times when I was still in my Primary school, a good friend and I used to buy the ice tube of frozen-flavoured-water, usually orange flavour. It is a crude and cheap treat for us then, costing only 10sen per tube, where I remember vividly which the uncle, who is really old but will stand diligently everyday at our school gate selling his home-made creations, will snip the knot at the top off for us. Then we would take it and pour into our mouth the sweet water that has melted and then proceed to suck on the ice. Ah, I remember feeling really cool and happy every time after the treat, and not to forget the frozen little fingers for holding on to the tube.

Then we got on to our secondary, and then it was those days of ice-cream on the stick, where there is one of my favourite, which has vanilla ice cream wrapped with very-green lime frozen ice. Definitely not the usual combination one would hear of but one that is loved by many of us. That is also when the emergence of more processed ice-creams in oppose to these home-made versions of yesteryears. Then there was also the occasional treat of McDonald’s sundae cone on top of the Value Meal, where every Saturday, after our society meet, we 1984s would walk there from our school.

Soon I came to KL, where eventually, my spending power increases bit by bit till I got into the rat race. So it is now more of indulgence in terms of calories and money for me, where I go for ice creams in Baskin Robbins. There was once, Y and I chance upon its 31% off promotion for every 31st of the month, where we both got a pint each and sat down on a bench nearby and finish it all in one sitting! Ah, those were our uni carefree indulgence days. Then I also go to Swensens’ a couple of times for their earthquake promotion only on Tuesdays, consisting of 8 scoops of ice cream of your choice, where J and I had managed to go a few times. Nowadays, when J and I just want a quick fix of icy treats, we will drop by Macdonald’s drive-thru’ and get ourselves the McFlurry sundae.

So since my histories and currents of ice creams or its like in my life, one of the special additions was my ice cream maker. It had been such a long time since my last post of my own-home-made icy treats. As I mentioned, I had tried many attempts before I fell in love with THE Chocolate Gelato, oh so smooth. Just quite-sometime-ago, I got struck again with the churning bug and churned out some really deceptively and surprisingly delicious


Banana Fro-yo
Inspired by Jaden’s Coconut Frozen Yoghurt

Jaden’s post of suggesting churning Greek yoghurt (strained yoghurt, hence more cheesy-like) to turn into one deceptively healthy icy treat got me really interested. I have been looking out for Greek yoghurt since then, and since I have been working at KLCC for the past few weeks, I had a chance upon it in Cold Storage supermarket, but was definitely put off by the price! It cost nearly four times more than the regular yoghurt! Oh well, it was never ‘cheaper’ for making one’s own ice cream/gelato/sorbet but it is definitely ‘healthier’ in the sense that you can choose what you put in it. If you ever have the time to read into those ice cream ingredients, I bet you can find hydrogenated oil as the main as well as much you-can’t-even-identify stuff even after all the science classes we put ourselves through high-school. Besides we can make all sorts of exotic flavours by harvesting on our local tropical fruits for various concoctions. Anyway, back to yoghurt, so since the Greek yoghurt is crazily expensive here, I decided to get the regular one and since I do not have the patience to strain it, I thought that banana would be a very good ‘thickener’. So I got a bunch of ripe-to-blacken banana that the seller is happily to let off for just RM1! Now we are talking ‘cheap’ and healthy!

300ml plain yoghurt (mine was slightly sweetened)
1 bunch of bananas (bout 6-8), sliced
1 tbsp of sugar (only needed if your banana is not sweet enough)
1 tbsp honey, melted

Blend the yoghurt and sliced bananas together till smooth.
Add in the sugar if needed and blend till incorporated.
Pour into a container and chill overnight. This part is crucial for the flavours to meld and develop, as well as for the banana to ‘thicken’ the yoghurt.

Next day, pour the thick ‘banana-yoghurt’ into an ice cream maker and churn for 40-45mins (or according to manufacturer’s instructions).
Then scoop, yes scoop because it will be very thick (looked like the mess in picture above) and level into a freezer-proof container.

Can be serve soft immediately (J’s sister and I had a huge spoonful each) or store in the freezer.
Before serving from the freezer, take it out for bout 5-10mins in room temperature or bout 30mins in the refrigerator.

Yields: approximately 1 quart

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
salt

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

Preparation:
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

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

When life gives you Monday

you take it as a reason to pigged out. Now listen to me, if your wonderful weekend has just whiz passed you, if you had just started to go into the fun drive but got the handbrake pulled instead and if the week ahead looks like a long road down to Alabama (from where I don’t know, it just sounds good), you go out there and get yourself satiated, no make it bloated. I am serious. Forget the doctor, forget the therapist, forget the depression pills, all you need is a good chow down on what your body craves or whatever possibilities of food that you saw that appeals to you in a zealous successful advertising way.

Anyway, last Monday, my
good fren L, if you remember my dearest guest blogger, who once made quite a few reviews of food in Penang, is now working in KL, which gave us more chances to food hunt, thus she called on me to rescue her blue day. Monday had somehow always been a killer, thus coined with Monday Blues. I don’t know how that term (again) comes about but I just know once a while it does take over the day and everything seems bit gloomy and nothing seems to go right. So L, she called me at the end of the day, telling me that once again, she have some certain cravings, this time for chocolate cake to comfort her mood. Oh well, would this tham jiak resist her best friend invitation? Of course not, this tham jiak can have a chance to dig into food while being a good friend, it is like killing two birds with one stone.

Anyway, once L arrives in KLCC (the current new place that I work in, more on that in another post), we went out in search of
chocolate cake, as L does not want to go to the usual norm of Secret Recipe. So I came up with the idea to go Chilis, which does have a chocolate molten cake on the menu, serving a tham jiak’s memory of it, but I have yet to try it before. The idea came as I wanted to eat their bottomless tostadas chips (evil, evil moriesh stuff, will write up on this) as well as the one salad that I always crave for. When we got there, the man in front who decides who get fed and who are condemned to eternity of hunger, told us the place is full (we totally forgot that it is Buka Puasa time), and ask us to return only after 8! This is definitely outrageous for two girls on high with food cravings. We could have took out our high heels and start whacking him but, as a victim of conformity to the social world we would hold ourselves back, thus our eyes and nose start searching for alternatives.

So naturally, when we saw the
Vienna Bagels stall, right opposite of Chillis, we got attracted straightaway. L asked me what bagel is and out of my food blogs surfing and recipes reading (yes I am that food crazy), I told her roughly how it is done. A bagel is first boiled and then baked, much healthier than its look-alike doughnut, fluffy due to the boiling of the dough and crunchy outer crust due to finishing with baking. Perfecto!

Since we both have yet to try this specialty, we quickly go over to the cute little stall and bought the set of 3, for only RM7.50. Then, like two school-girls with bunch of sweets, we chuckle in delight and took our box of bagels down to KLCC Park to feast on it, all to ourselves.


We sat down at the steps opposite a lovely view of fountain; sorry we are too busy digging into the bagels to take picture of the fountain, so back to the limelight - bagels. We bought three flavours, and thanks to the picture of the menu by
Teckiee, I am able to name all the bagels correctly. From far left is Mexitaliano Bagel (boo’s favourite), the most common tried and true Sour Cream and Onion and finally for our sweet cravings, Dark Flakes, the best seller dark chocolate sprinkled with almond flakes bagel, my favourite, bias as I am a chocolate and almond lover.



Since dear L have not been writing on my food blog for quite some time, I decided to get her to give a short review on each of the yummy bagels:

Mexitaliano
L: surprises me with the little tinge of spiciness. It will be a great savory if you want to escape having something sweet

Sour Cream
L: is always the classic. It is absolutely delicious and it will not fail you

Chocolate Flakes
L: For the chocolate enthusiastic, the almond flaked bagel with dark chocolate is also very satisfying. I was literally licking my fingers clean!

I don’t know if this is the best bagel ever as both of us never had any before this. As babe reviewed, it is too dense and chewy to be like bagel (not fluffy as should be for boiled) and it is more like pretzels, which we found quite true. L also commented on the similiarity to Auntie Anne’s bagel when she first bit into it, and so I did a quick research on the difference and found that pretzel are first dipped in warm lye water for 15 – 30 seconds and then bake in oppose to bagels boil in medium hot water for bout 1 minute before baking. Oh well, not to bore you with all these techniques (unless I planned to make them, which someday I sure hope I will, but not in this post anyway), all in all it was good eats for L and me. It certainly did solve our kicking hormones and drove away the Monday blues.

Vienna Soft Fresh Bagels
Lot K35, Third Floor
Suria KLCC
Kuala Lumpur
03-9200 4933

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