Malaysian Monday 92: Agar-agar Nona (Custard apple agar-agar).

Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy Friday everyone. It’s practically the weekend!

 And only a day until the end of the month, so hopefully you’ve gotten those posts in to Shannon from Just as Delish for the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round up.

I couldn’t let the month end without making a contribution to the “cause”, so please have a look at these Nona “jellies”.

Look! They're purple! Of course I'll buy some..

But before we begin: I posted about the Custard Apple some time ago and received comments/ emails from people telling me, “that’s not a custard apple, that’s a xyz”. Let me just say that we call this fruit Buah Nona in Malaysia (buah= fruit, and not to be confused with Buah Noni, an entirely different fruit).  I have also been using the term Custard Apple since I was a kid, and both in Malaysia and in Australia (Sydney at least), it is labelled as a custard apple. Wikipedia calls it a  Sugar Apple, but mentions the different names it is also known by. So, if you know this fruit by a different name, relax, it still tastes the same. ‘Mkay?

Right. Let’s get back to these agar-agar. They are really quick to make (surprised?) and you can substitute almost any fruit for the custard apple because unlike gelatin, agar-agar doesn’t seem to be affected by the type of fruit you use. I have however seen info to the contrary (on the interwebs), advising against using kiwifruit, pineapple, strawberry etc, but I have never had a problem with setting these fruits (see this post. Admittedly, I did cook some of the pineapple, but the rest was fresh, and the kiwifruit was fresh)). If in doubt, just use a bit more agar-agar.

Out of curiosity, if you have ever had problems (or not) setting these acid fruit, can you let me know? I’m keen to find out if the info disseminated on those websites are just “cut and paste” regurgitations, or through the result of proper cooking and experimentation.

Anyway, enough rambling. Suffice to say, these agar-agar were very well received and I would definitely make them again.

Here’s how I did it:

2 small custard apple
Juice from 1 small lime

Remove the seeds from the custard apple. I found the easiest way to do this is to squash the pulp in a sieve over a bowl. Some of the pulp will fall through but the rest remains is strands. Pick the seeds out.

While I was doing this, I realised that the pulp was oxidising and turning brown. So I squeezed a lime over all the pulp. (I had been toying with the idea of using something to cut the sweetness of the custard apple anyway).

Set the pulp aside while you prepare the agar-agar.

For the agar-agar:

Approximately half a 10g packet of agar-agar powder (about 5g)
500 ml water
90g sugar (adjust to taste)

Prepare some small agar-agar moulds or one big mould. No need to line them or anything, I just give mine a quick rinse and set it on a plate to catch the drips. Spoon equal amounts of the custard apple into the bottom of each mould.

Boil the water and when it has come to a rolling boil, stir in the agar-agar and sugar and stir until they both dissolve. Let it come back to the boil and if everything has dissolved, take it off the heat.

Ladle the agar-agar into the moulds, let it cool a little and then set it in the fridge. (Agar will actually set at room temperature but the dessert tastes better when its cold, so chill for at least 4-6 hours before serving).


I’m sending this to Shannon (shannoncclim(at)gmail(dot)com) who will be hosting the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up next week.  Suresh (3 Hungry Tummies) and I are extremely grateful to Shannon for helping us out at this busy time!

ps- unfortunately, I missed the Daring Bakers posting schedule again, but I might just surprise you next week :)

Have a great weekend!

Singapore Snippets 2

Sunday, June 24, 2012

 The Alkaff bridge at Robertson Quay, also known as the art bridge (the link takes you to the website created by the artist who painted it, Pacita Abad)

Hello there!


Here are some happy face pancakes to welcome the start of school holidays. Wait! Did I just say holidays? That must mean we’ve been here in Singapore a whole term already. Cliched as it sounds, time really does fly. In fact, the whole first week of the school hols have gone by while I tried to find time to create this post!

So, what have we been doing? Still eating relentlessly of course. Luckily, the food consumption has been balanced out a little by our use of public transport.  Walking between stations/ stops on the MRT system helps burn off a few of those extra calories ;). 

And what have we been eating? Well, in a country as food-obsessed as Singapore, it’s pretty easy to eat something new every day. However, there have been a couple of places that we’ve deemed worth a return visit. Here’s a sampling:

*disclaimer - part of the reason we like some of these places is because we can reach them easily by public transport, usually within 20-30 minutes from our doorstep.

 Chomp chomp hawker centre

 With a name like chomp-chomp, it was definitely worth visiting at least once. Plus, it’s been touted as one of the best hawker centres in Singapore, so we had to put it to the test didn’t we?
   Does it live up to the hype? If you like barbecued seafood, chicken wings, fried carrot cake, and sugar cane juice, then yes. Because that’s about all you can order here.

Ok, ok, I do exaggerate but there are many, many barbecue seafood stalls. Which one to pick? I’m not really sure, but I liked the look of the first stall that caught my eye as I walked in the main entrance and my food radar is usually pretty reliable. We’ve eaten the barbecued stingray from this place twice and both times it was really good. The “sambal” is rich, layered, and delightfully smoky (that would be from the barbecuing).

Barbecued stingray, sorry, shaky nightime iPhone shot!

The stingray is served with cincalok a type of condiment made from fermented tiny shrimp. See those tiny black spots? They are shrimp eyes! I know this sounds quite gross but it is really tasty.

We also had really good chicken wings from a stall further to the back of the centre (I’m sorry, I was totally hopeless and didn’t write down the name of this stall either but hey, explore a little, who knows what you’ll find ;))

The barbecue stall - I can see the numbers 01-01 on the edge, so that must be the stall number. Good luck.

The really fun part about this hawker centre is how the drinks arrive in ultra huge mugs if you order the “large” size. This mega sugar cane juice set us back S$2.50!

The hawker centre is really popular so be prepared to hover and nab tables when you see anyone just about to leave. Forget about waiting politely until they completely stand up and move away because chances are, another more seasoned hawker centre regular will suss you out for a newbie and steal the seat from right under your nose. True story.

Go Japanese

Another favourite haunt of ours is the Shokutsu-10-Yosoko Japan! area at the Serangoon NEX shopping centre. Shokutsu 10 is a little enclave of Japanese eateries (I think the number 10 refers to the number of eateries). You can find everything from sushi to Japanese pasta. So far, we’ve eaten at the Shimbashi Soba joint a few times. The noodles are hand made and you can watch the chef at work as he rolls and cuts the noodles. On one of our visits, we happened to be there at the end of his shift, and he entertained us by drawing caricatures of the MCs in the flour on his workbench. The girls were absolutely thrilled to bits.

MC Senior

MC Junior

The noodles are tasty and pretty affordable for a sit-down restaurant, and the desserts are really interesting too. Not your standard green tea ice-cream here! Desserts feature all sorts of interesting ingredients including kinako (roasted soybean) powder, an ingredient I’ve been wanting to taste for a while. (If you’re wondering, yes, I did enjoy the kinako, it tastes quite malty).

Next door to the noodle place is the Green Pumpkin bakery. Upon first inspection, some of the flavours on display are quite bizzare, but we’ve been back very often and we love it. The flavours are actually very restrained and subtle, and if you get the cakes, don’t be put off by the size vs price ratio, they’re worth it.

Green Pumpkin's signature soft buns - filled with, what else? Pumpkin puree. It's nice but I'm not a fan of pumpkin, so this isn't my favourite.

Some buns I haven't worked up the courage to try. They are strawberry-melon, mango-melon and choc-melon flavoured. Not too sure about melon in my buns...

This one is soooo cute and delicious. Chocolate filled soft sweet bun, and his nose is a dried apricot.

Sakura (cherry blossom) cake and a chocolate cake . I can't remember the exact name of the chocolate cake but it was amazing, with a surprise crispy layer hidden in between the rich chocolate.

 Odd but I had to try it. A takoyaki (octopus ball) flavoured bun. The bun is wrapped around an actual takoyaki. Strangely satisfying!


Ironically, before I left Asia, I never really drank coffee. But living with a coffee snob changed all that. Plus, we were lucky enough in Sydney to live around the corner from some awesome cafes.

Kith cafe gets the thumbs up from MC Junior. If you sit indoors, be prepared to leave smelling like breakfast as the ventilation isn't that great. But the food is good :)

So it was a bit of a shock to the system to discover that good Italian style coffee is not as easy to find. Of course, we have done like the locals and drunk “kopi-O” or “kopi-ais” but every now and again, the urge to sit and savour a coffee and a pastry takes over y’know? Luckily, we’ve found a few places to sate the cravings...(and for everyday fixes, we’ve bought ourselves a coffee machine).

Toby's estate cafe, cool place to hang out but the service can be a little slow, especially if they're busy. Friendly though.

I could go on and on but I think I’ll save the rest for another post. Instead, here are a few more happy snaps from our school holiday adventures and I’ll try to return with a Malaysian Monday post soon. Don’t hold me to it though, my uni workload starts again on Monday so posting might become quite erratic again.

We visited the Singapore Art Museum.

A very rare example of "street art" outside the art museum. Visitors had stuck their entry stickers on this traffic light pole. I was a bit sad to discover that the pole was completely squeaky clean when I passed that way again a few days later...

Until August 12, there is a highly interactive and very fun exhibition called Art Garden, aimed at the little ones. This is housed in the building known as SAM at 8Q just around the corner from the Singapore Art Museum (SAM). Your entry fee covers both buildings and it's worth a look even if you don't have kids :)

We also paid a visit to the National Museum of Singapore. Foodies will like the Singapore Living gallery featuring food. Rows of ingredient replicas line the walls.

At the ground floor of the museum, you'll find Novus restaurant and cafe, and the most decadent chocolate cake I've had in a while! It is a huge slab so make sure you share.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of the weekend. (Please excuse poor photo quality, all these shots were taken with my iPhone)

And here's a random photo to finish. Sometimes, the shopping malls in Singapore have slightly prehistoric decorating strategies...

Weirdly Wonderful Wednesday: Edible Lily Bulb and Arbutus (and wet market love)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Want to eat a lily bulb? No? How about an arbutus?

 Edible lily bulb -top view

 Ok, so it’s not really that weird, just a bit interesting, but long-time visitors to the blog will know how much I luuurve alliteration. And I so wish I’d though of it first but you can check out a whole host of Weird Food Wednesday posts over at Me Hungry (where I pinched the idea, ta!).

Back to these strange, uh, interesting things. I was wandering around the wet market with Mum recently when I spied something for sale buried in a box of sawdust. “What’s that?” I quizzed Mum, who happens to know and eat all sorts of weird and wonderful things (being Chinese and all). Mum questioned the stall holder for me (since I can’t communicate in any useful form of Chinese dialect), which is how we were introduced to the lily bulb.

 Edible lily bulb - base (covered in saw dust)

According to the vegetable stall “uncle”, the bulbs came from Hokkaido, Japan and could be eaten raw or cooked. We were told to handle the bulbs as gently as possible (they are sold individually packed in sawdust) and to “peel” the individual bulblets off, rather than use a knife.  “Add it only at the last minute,” we were warned, as prolonged cooking can cause the bulbs to disintegrate.

Cleaned bulblets

All this was sounding too difficult so I let Mum buy some bulbs to take home with her. Unfortunately for mum, and luckily for you blog readers, she totally forgot the package and left it in my fridge.

I had to find a way to cook the bulb that would ensure maximum “eaten-ness” by the family. A stir-fry sounded pretty safe. First though, I tasted a bit of the bulb raw. The taste and texture reminded me of water chestnuts but not as sweet - crunchy, mild and pleasant tasting with a bit of “earth”. If you’re familiar with jicama/ yam bean, you’ll get what I’m talking about.

The resulting green bean, carrot, chicken and lily bulb stir-fry went down relatively well with the family. The texture changes considerably when cooked and the sweetness disappears. I was terrified of overcooking the lily bulb so I think it was a little “under”  and the texture was  a bit “sticky” - similar to lotus root, or even slightly undercooked potato. Overall, no one hated the dish, but lily bulb isn’t exactly something everyone wants me to hunt down and cook again as soon as possible. It was really more of a novelty dish for us. Perhaps I should have prepared the bulb a different way to
extract maximum enjoyment?

I still have one bulb left in the fridge but I’m going to plant it in a pot and see what comes up :)

The arbutus though, was a different story. We really liked these and just ate them fresh. The taste is tart and sweet at the same time. The texture though is what makes it so interesting. Even though it looks “hairy”, each individual “hair” is actually fleshy and quite firm, giving it a very appealing mouth-feel. In fact, I think the arbutus is a type of berry (the plant is also known as a strawberry tree) which is why the texture reminds me of a firm mulberry. Unlike most berries, the arbutus has a little green seed in the middle. Overall a very exciting find and I’ll definitely get more of these when I see them.

As you can probably tell, I am totally enjoying my wet market expeditions. Not only are there interesting finds to be made, the stall holders are real characters. Once you frequent a stall a few times, they treat you very well and even start to offer advice on how you should cook whatever it is you are buying from them that day. I even scored a free bag of spice mix from the spice store “uncle” after confiding that my kids couldn’t handle the heat of chillies. “I’ll make you a special blend just for kids,” he assured me and deftly placed teaspoons and half teaspoons of various ground spices into a bag.

"Magic" spice blend

Then he launched into a very detailed explanation of how to cook a mild chicken curry with the spice mix - this involved first marinading some chicken with a bit of the mix, then frying a little bit more of the spice mix with onions, then tipping the rest of mix form the bag into the rapidly boiling curry at the correct moment. Intrigued, I followed his instructions to the letter (although I did end up not tipping all the spice mix in for fear it would be too spicy for the kids), and voila, delicious curry that the kids actually ate! I did have to dollop some plain yoghurt on for MC Junior because it was still a a teeny bit fiery, but at least it’s a start :)


Thanks for stopping by and if you are interested in contributing anything for Muhibbah Malaysian Monday, do remember to send your entries to Shannon from Just As Delish  who will be our host for the month of June: shannoncclim(at)gmail(dot)com

Take care and see you soon!

Btw - sorry for the photo quality, my poor, darling G10 is being repaired (the lens just decided to quit one day) so I’ve resorted to the iPhone for all pics. Hopefully G10 will be back shortly...

PS - if you are contemplating eating lily bulbs, please check to make sure they're edible as some varieties of lily can be poisonous!

Malaysian Monday Round - Up 21: June 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hello all!

Welcome to the month of June and another fantastic round-up of Malaysian food. As always, Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies and I owe a huge debt of thanks to everyone who participated in this round of Muhibbah Malaysian Monday, your support makes this all worthwhile.

As you can probably guess, it’s been a crazybusy time for both of us, and our posting has been a bit erratic. Luckily, for the next round-up (in July), someone has stepped in offering to help. Who is it? I’ll tell you more at the end of the post !

Let’s get to it then :)

First up, is Vivian from Vivian Pang kitchen. I owe this lady an apology as I’d accidentally left out her last two contributions. They’ve been included here, which brings her tally up to 5 for this round-up. Very impressive. Thank you Vivian!

 First, marvel at the fact that this lady made her own   wonton wrappers. Yup, from scratch!

 (non-halal) Then, she made more wrappers and used these to make dumplings. Brilliant effort!

If sweets are more your thing, try these pretty Moho kuih. Actually I had no idea what a Moho kuih was, but Vivian explains it on her blog (it’s is a type of steamed bun).

(non-halal) Another awesome looking steamed bun come in the shape of these “smiling” pork buns. The “smile” refers to the opened tops of the buns.

(non-halal) For a different take on pork, have a look at the Japanese style crispy pork. Looks intensely moreish.

Next up, we have Lena of Frozen Wings, who gives us an Indian style fish curry.  It looks so mouth wateringly good, I feel like rushing out and gathering ingredients immediately!

(non-halal) Another mouth watering offering comes from Cheah from No-Frills Recipes who gives us these   BBQ spare ribs. The classic “singed” bits just perfect for sinking the teeth into.

 And for something really unique,  check out the  steamed rice cake. Sure, you’ve heard of rice cakes before, but what about rice cakes with palm sugar and garlic sauce eh? Go have a look :)

(non-halal) Let’s welcome back Sherie from Mameemoomoo to the Malaysian Monday fold. She made  Char Siew (roast pork) using a very interesting sounding pan called the Happy Call. Please tell us more Sherie!

Ooops! And here we have a belated entry by Kristy of My Little Space
with a very beautiful looking kuih that tastes like dodol! (Dodol is a sticky delicacy made from coconut milk). If you want the flavour of dodol without the effort of long stirring, do check out her post.

And right at the end, we have Shannon from Just as Delish, who joins us with Malaysian Kerabu Beehoon. I saved this entry for last because ...drumroll please...Shannon will be your host for (oops, edit. I mistakenly wrote July when I meant) June!!

Yay! So please support Shannon and send all your entries to her at this address: shannoncclim(at)gmail(dot)com.

Hope you enjoyed this round-up even though it was a teeny bit late, and if I have accidentally left anyone out, please email me ASAP! You know it is never intentional.

Thanks and see you soon :)