Malaysian Monday 48 (Merdeka Edition) : Kuih Sago (Tapioca pearl kuih) + Muhibbah Monday Round-up #2

Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy Monday everyone. A bit of a late post because I’ve had MC Senior home sick from school today. She’s all better now, although she’s been quite grumpy because I’ve only allowed her the blandest food all day (delicate stomach). Who’s a budding foodie then? 

Luckily, this kuih without the coconut coating, proved mild enough for her and she thoroughly enjoyed the little treat. In fact, MC Junior and I enjoyed it too, we ate it all in one go! Admittedly, I only made the smallest of servings, but this kuih is so easy to whip up, I’m sure I’ll be making more soon.

And because tomorrow is Merdeka Day (Malaysian Independence Day), I had a bit of fun adding food colouring to the tapioca pearls. I’m definitely not the most patriotic person around, but the date is one I cannot forget, having had it drilled into my brain through years of school. Plus, you know I welcome any excuse to play with my food.

Not forgetting, the Muhibbah Malaysian Round-up #2 has been hosted by my friend Suresh at 3 Hungry Tummies. Please check it out here to view lots of mouthwatering treats.

Have a great start to the week!

Kuih Sago

I couldn’t find a “proper” recipe, but based on the method described here, at a Malay language blog called Yatie Cooking, I made it up as I went along. Here’s how I did it.

You will need a steamer, and a suitable mould. I used a square ramekin, lightly oiled with sunflower oil. To steam, I place a trivet in a wok and fill with water to the required height, then cover with the wok lid.

Start with about ½ a cup of tapioca pearls.

Soak with enough water to cover the pearls by about an inch,  for about 15 minutes (the original method recommends a couple of hours but I was in a rush), then place in a sieve and rinse under running water until clear. This gets rid of excess starch. Make sure it’s very well drained, worth leaving it to drain for a little while. My tapioca pearls were a bit too wet and ended up merged together rather than looking like separate pearls. I think the soaking time also had a part in this, but the end result still tasted pretty good.

Add about 3 slightly heaped tablespoons of pure icing sugar (doesn’t contain cornstarch) to the drained tapioca pearls and stir to mix. I used a 15ml tablespoon.

Add a few drops of food colouring if desired.

Place the pearls in the prepared mould. Make sure water in the steamer has reached a rolling boil.

 The colours bled into one another and the white became transparent

Steam until the tapioca is cooked and translucent. Let it cool then cut into squares and roll in dessicated coconut. The Malaysian version uses fresh grated coconut with a pinch of salt added, but I couldn’t find fresh coconut and found the dry coconut an adequate substitute.

 Just add coconut :)


Burn baby burn – for the Daring Bakers

Friday, August 27, 2010

Woo hoo, made it on time ☺

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

Baked alaska sandwich - brown butter pound cake + brown bread ice-cream

First off, if you haven’t ever visited Elissa’s blog (actually, I hadn’t either until today), head over there like right now! She is super incredibly talented and only 18. I can’t even remember what I was doing at that age, but definitely not taking photos as amazing as the ones she’s got on her site.

Back to the challenge, I followed the given recipe for the Brown Butter Pound Cake, which was very straightforward and very delicious fresh from the oven (it dried out a bit the next day but the ice-cream soaked into it and made it ok). Actually, one little part was not so straightforward – I accidentally threw out the solids left over when making the browned butter, but realised later they would have added more flavour to the cake. No biggie.

For the ice-cream, I made a Brown Bread ice-cream using a combination of recipes, one found here at Nordljus and one here from The Times online.  Basically, I made the crumbs using the recipe posted at Nordljus, and I made the ice-cream base using the Times recipe. The only change I made was to use leftover crusts, even though the recipe states to use crustless bread. Well, I had to clear out the freezer to make space for the finished baked alaska, and these crusts had been hoarded for awhile now. Sometimes the MC’s request crustless sandwiches and rather than fight about it, I just save the crusts for later ☺

 Crunchy, sweet, toasty crumbs, yum!
I also used a frozen carton of cream for the ice-cream base, just to see if it could be done (never take the easy road is my motto). At first, things didn’t look like they were going well, the thawed cream wasn’t smooth, and when heated (to infuse the vanilla bean), the cream separated and there was a thin layer of “butter” floating on top. I just stirred it back in and strained the mixture, made the custard base according to instructions and strained the mixture again. No problems. Glad to have finally found a use for frozen cream – custard! The finished ice-cream was a touch hard because I don't own an ice-cream maker, but the flavour is fantastically toasty.

 This is what happens to frozen cream when heated

Custard base

The meringue part was straightforward too, I used 3 eggwhites rather than the recommended 8 because I only made two mini desserts (I whipped in 3 heaped tablespoons of caster sugar and a bit of vanilla extract, but forgot to add any salt). Not having a blowtorch, I baked the finished “bombes” in the oven, but only the tops got browned. Then I hit on the brilliant idea of holding the covered cakes close to the gas flame on the hob, and they coloured up in a flash ☺

Not content with that small act of pyromania, I then tried to set fire to my baked alaska. Trying to heat up the baked alaska, and the alcohol, then handling matches and the shutter button while keeping small children at bay  - no flambé.

C'mon, burn will ya!

Alcohol is supposed to be flammable! Can't you read Rum?


So I waited for Mr. Kitchen Hand and voila!

Thanks Elissa for a fun and fiery challenge. Do visit the rest of the Daring gang to see what they’ve come up with. The challenge recipe can be found at the Daring Kitchen or our host’s blog.

Booze is deceptively hard to light, the alcohol needs to be warmed up to about 130˚F and it needs to be at least 80 proof (beer won't cut it). The food to be flambed also needs to be warm enough so the alcohol doesn't cool too rapidly. For more flambe information and important SAFETY PRECAUTIONS, check here.

Whoopie dee doo dah

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

La, la, la, la….

Yup, feeling kind of  la-la lately – distracted but in a good way. We’ve had two sets of lovely visitors swing by our way, which meant our usually lazy weekends of pottering around at home were swapped for more entertaining options.

Add some unseasonably warm weather to the mix, and glorious blossoms popping up all around the neighbourhood, it’s no wonder I feel all dreamy. (And if I've missed returning your comments etc, sorry!)

oooh, purdy!

Needless to say, I haven’t spent much time baking at all, and luckily I made these whoopie pies the day before my aunty arrived. Well, I made the outside bits before she arrived, but didn’t get a chance to fill them until a day later. And of course no one was allowed to eat any until I’d photographed them!

 more purdy!

I’d seen/ heard/ read so much about these pies, but had never experienced the real thing before, so I’m not sure if these tasted like they were supposed to.  The recipe I used can be found here, it’s from the NY Times – with a few minor adjustments.

1)    I converted all cup / stick/ imperial measurements to metric (using various online conversion tools/references).
2)    I upped the cocoa powder content from ½ cup to 2/3 cup after reading some comments recommending to do so. (cups then converted to grammes of course)
3)    Accidentally used ¼ teaspoon of baking powder before I realised what I was doing, and then added the 1 tsp baking soda.

Not sure if the tops are meant to crack like that, but the cakes themselves tasted pretty chocolatey and the texture was very fluffy – I was actually expecting them to be denser.

By the way, some recipes I’d read called for Dutch cocoa, and after much scouring of the shelves in a limited supply area, I settled on a box of Van Houten cocoa. Nothing on the box indicated if the cocoa was Dutch processed, but I figured, hey, it’s a Dutch company…right?

As for the filling, due to a lack of time, and a surplus of unwanted marshmallows in the cupboard, I opted for using a melted marshmallow filling (found here) instead of the one given in the NY Times recipe.

Now, there is a reason these marshmallows are leftovers – I only ever buy them for the campfire, half the time the mallows get burnt, or fall off the stick, no one really eats them for the taste! (Actually, I have been told in no uncertain terms by an American friend, that Aussie marshmallows suck. I couldn’t find a suitable rebuttal.)

So, where am I going with this longwinded marshmallow diatribe? Well, if they don’t really taste all that great “raw”, then melting them didn’t really make all that much of a difference either. Next time, I’m going to make the proper filling given in the recipe.

 These were filled with leftover raspberry buttercream foudn in the freezer. Yum!

Now I’d better head off and get started on my Daring Baker’s challenge for this month. Something tells me I’m going to be late with this one, la la la la la.

Malaysian Monday 47: A simple Payasam

Monday, August 23, 2010

Whoosh – that was the sound of the weekend whizzing by as I played tour guide to visiting relatives. It’s been heaps of fun, and we’ve done a LOT of eating ☺

I really didn’t think I’d have anything to offer you this Monday, but the visiting Aunty Skewer reminded me of a warm Indian-style-soupy-pudding dish called Payasam. When I was growing up, we often ate this at her place. Luckily, I had all the requisite ingredients on hand, and she promised that it wouldn’t take very long at all to throw together.

Without further ado, here’s my aunty’s simple Payasam. Indian style payasam is usually made with rice, milk and sugar. Our version has always been made with sago (tapioca pearls), and occasionally thin semolina noodles were added too.

Payasam (warm milky pudding, don’t ask me what the word means, because even aunty doesn’t know!)

Make about 3-4 cups, the texture is supposed to be like a very thick soup.

About ¼ cup tapioca pearls, placed in a sieve and rinsed under cold running water. Drain well.
About 3 cups water
About 3 tablespoons of sugar (or to taste)

Handful of unsalted cashew nuts (just under ½ cup if you want measurements)
Smaller handful currants (about ¼ cup) – I only had currants. Otherwise, sultanas or raisins can be used.
Small piece of butter (or ghee if you prefer)
3 green cardamom pods – whack with the flat side of a knife and remove the black seeds. Save the seeds to use, throw out the husks. (Cardamom seeds can also be bought already de-podded, from Indian spice stores).

About ¼ - ½ cup milk (or evaporated milk if preferred)
A few drops rosewater (optional)

Prepare the nut mix – on low heat, melt the butter in a small frying pan. Add the cardamom seeds, cashews and currants and stir until it smells good and is very lightly browned. Be careful not to burn it.

Bring the 3 pots of water to a rolling boil, then add the drained tapioca pearls in, stirring well to stop the pearls from sinking to the bottom of the pan and sticking.

Keep stirring and cooking until the pearls look translucent (the centres will still be a little opaque, this is ok). Add the sugar in and stir well, then add in the nut mixture. Give it a stir, then when the mixture starts to simmer again, add in the milk and rosewater if using. Stir well, and allow it to just come back to a simmer, and take off the heat. If using milk, there is a tendency for the milk to curdle slightly or separate if accidentally boiled for too long. We used evaporated milk when I was a kid as it is more “stable”, but I didn’t have any on hand and didn’t feel like going to the store.

Serve warm.

Have a great start to the week ☺

Oops, in my posting haste, forgot to mention this:  If you'd like to join in the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday blog event, please send all entries to (sureshchong[at]yahoo[dot]com) at 3 Hungry Tummiesthis month.  

Hurrah for visitors.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Visitors, so many reasons to love them:

 1) They inspire momentary clean living. Without visitors, we wouldn’t experience the thrill of creatively hiding dirty laundry and kids toys in order to pretend our abode looks like a double page spread from Better Homes and Gardens all the time.

2)  They’re usually folks we haven’t seen in a while, so it’s a great excuse to crack open a good bottle of wine or bubbly to celebrate.

3)    The fridge gets stocked with all sorts of  special nibblies – “for the guests” of course.

4)    They’re just plain fun!

Obviously, to really celebrate with our visiting guests, a night out on the town was called for.  But with three kids in tow, it turned out to be more of an “early evening” out on the town. Which was actually a good thing in retrospect.

We found ourselves at Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese dumpling chain, at around 6ish, and managed to get a shared table pretty much straightaway. I’d only vaguely heard about this place (yes, I don’t get out much), so I wasn’t sure why they wouldn’t let us eat at the “outdoor seating” area.  It turned out that this was the waiting area, and by the time we left the restaurant after our meal, a sizeable crowd had gathered here. So the moral of this story is: eat out at toddler-friendly mealtimes and you’re sorted.

The waiting game

It turned out to be a fantastic night. The food was tasty enough, although the menu is pretty pork heavy, but what made it such a memorable night was the “fun”ness of it all. From the décor that doesn’t take itself too seriously right down to the zany coloured drinks, our Din Tai Fung experience was one I’d gladly repeat. Preferably with friends ☺

Here are some pics from our night.

 Peep into the kitchen and watch the dumpling masters at work

 The interior is decorated with culinary items, like these bowls. There were also steamer lids and giant chopsticks

Whoa, you're spinning me out man..., 

Don't be alarmed by the weird green drink.  It was a lychee, mint ice blended type drink, and it was SO refreshing and utterly delicious. The red one was watermelon juice.

Noodles in pork broth with fried pork strips on the side - for the kids. They loved it.

 This is a bad shot of some very unassuming looking noodles called Dandan Noodles. They turned out to be the best noodle dish of the night. The base was spicy peanut sauce base with sesame in it too. Very interesting.

 Forgot the name of these noodles. They came with minced pork, bits of pickle and soybeans.

Drunken chicken. It was ok, but we weren't overly bowled over by it, probably because it was served very cold (think refrigerator cold) rather than room temperature cold. Maybe it's a cultural thing we didn't get.

Tofu with pork floss and century egg. Again, served really cold. Only I was interested in this dish, although MC Senior ate the tofu and pork floss, and one of our friends braved an egg slice. (He wasn't a convert. ) Hard to pass judgement on this dish because I don't know if they made each component at the restaurant or whether it was a case of just assembling the various bits. I liked all the various bits but in was neither here nor there.

 Soup filled dumplings. This is what the restaurant is famous for, and they do deliver. These were pork ones, and were very tasty.

 But these pork and prawn jiaozi ones were even tastier, prompting us to order an extra helping. Even Mr. Kitchen Hand really liked them and he's really not that into prawns, so that's saying a lot!

Speaking of friends, we have more visitors with us this weekend, so Malaysian Monday might be a tad late.

Have a wonderful weekend, and see you real soon.

Din Tai Fung Sydney
Shop 11.04, World Square Shopping Centre,
644 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia

 On the way back to our car, we were treated to the sight of random fireworks. What a way to end the eveing :)

Chocolate for breakfast

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

 You’ve probably heard me mention this a few times – I’m not a morning person, and I find it hard to feel motivated about breakfast. Usually, my slave the wonderful Mr. Kitchen Hand fixes the MC’s their brekkie, and if I’m really lucky, he makes me a cup of tea and a slice of toast as well
But when I woke up on Saturday, he’d already whisked the MC’s away to their swimming lessons, so no toast or tea for me. What I did have to look forward to was a morning full of mundane cleaning chores. Which is when I hit upon the brilliant idea of making my breakfast a pre-reward for the chores I was about to do.

A truly inspiring breakfast based on the chocolate, olive oil and sea salt toasts which appeared in the June 2010 issue of my favourite Delicious Magazine.

Grab a couple of slices of sourdough bread, butter lightly, sandwich some dark chocolate in the middle, heat some olive oil in a pan and cook on one side. Remove from pan, wipe pan down with kitchen paper, repeat other side. Sprinkle with sea salt and tuck in. Oooh baby.

If you want to read the “proper” way of making these toasts, visit Ellie from Almost Bourdain, she takes you through the steps here.

And guess what, if you make more than one, simply wrap in aluminium foil and store in the fridge, then pop into a low oven to warm up – instant breakfast the next day. Very brilliant!

 MC Junior named the bread "Chocolate Yum"

For the record, the chores got done ☺

(Edit : Yay, Blogger seems to have fixed my photo issue now, thank you!)

Malaysian Monday 46: Snackety-snack

Monday, August 16, 2010

Happy Monday to all.

This post is a little bit late because we spent the weekend with some wonderful friends who'd visited from out of town, and it's taken me a little while to get out of relaxed mode.

Which will explain why today's offering is going to be quite short and sweet. What you will find is a compilation of all the "snacky" things we'd encountered on our visit to Malaysia recently. Enjoy :)

I just had to start with this because of the name! What it is, is actually "bubble tea" - a drink or tea with tapioca "pearls" added to it. I think the word blog is an acronym for something but I can't recall what exactly. As far as tastes go, my lychee flavoured drink was not too bad, a bit fake, but passable. I didn't like the waste factor though. The drink is made up for you, then a special machine dispenses and sticks on the foil lid. I would have been happy with just having it straight.

A "kacang putih" (literally chick-pea) stand. This used to be a common feature outside cinemas, and you'd pay a few cents (in my day it started at about 20 Malaysian cents) to purchase a paper cone filled with your preferred snack. In this picture is a variety of nuts, legumes and chips. The vendor made these cones from paper ripped out of glossy magazines - yes to recycling! Sadly, it's hard to find these stands now. This one was set up outside the National Museum.

A favourite childhood sweet. They are called Lobster sweets although I can assure you that it contains no shellfish at all (I think!). The lolly is made up of a crisp sweet peanut centre, surrounded by a thin, crisp sugar shell, finally wrapped in edible rice paper. It tastes slightly salty and sweet, and is very addictive!

Malaysians love to feed people. When one of the neighbours heard that we were visiting from overseas, she popped by to deliver these egg tarts and baked pau (baked pork buns). Check out the flaky layers on the tart pastry. 

More flaky layers. I don't know the proper name for this biscuit but it is one of my absolute favourites! In fact it was probably the first snack I ate when we got to my parent's home. We call it puff-biscuit in my house, and the Chinese name is "bay tay soh" (I really don't know how to write that properly, nor do I know what it means). The biscuit is made up of layers, and layers of super flaky pastry, and the centre is slightly hollow and filled with a gooey, treacle like filling that is flavoured with sesame. Oh yum! (If anyone knows how to make this from scratch, please, please share)

 Pick a snack, any snack... these gem biscuits, another childhood favourite. It's a little biscuit with a royal icing decoration, and no guesses which part always gets eaten first.

Ice-cream - Malaysian style. This is know as "aiskrim potong", or  "cut ice-cream". I'm not sure how it was made originally, but I think the ice-cream ended up in a long "roll" which was then cut, and individually  wrapped in paper. A stick would be set into one end. These boxed confections are the modern version. Not as tasty as the original, in my opinion but passes muster when feeling nostalgic.

And lest you think we survived purely on junk, here's some fruit. This fruit is called "jambu air" (sometimes known as water apple). The texture is crisp yet juicy, almost like a cross between an apple and a watermelon. This variety is very sweet, but some smaller ones are actually quite bland or slightly acidic.

And here is a selection of rambutan (rambut=hairy), mangosteen and duku-langsat. The duku langsat would probably be unfamiliar to those outside of SE Asia, it is a tangy, juicy fruit, and the skin exudes a bitter white sap. A bit of an aquired taste.

Hope you enjoyed this very brief view into some Malaysian snacks.

And don't forget, if you'd like to join in the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday blog event, please send all entries to (sureshchong[at]yahoo[dot]com) at 3 Hungry Tummiesthis month.  

Have a great start to the week :)