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Oct 26, 2010

Chiffon Cake with Pandan Topping

This is a re-post and a long overdue pic of a previous recipe called Pandan Cake, which is a recipe contributed by the mum of one of my students. Thanks, Mrs H.

I thought I should change the name of the recipe (my apologies, Mrs H!) as the cake doesn't really have any pandan in it and neither is the pandan part, a cake. Although, you could use diluted pandan juice to substitute the 100g of water in the cake section of the recipe. Then, it would be definitely be called a pandan cake. I just like the dual-colored look to this dessert, so I've decided on a nice and simple vanilla chiffon....which was what the original recipe called for.

Now, don't make this lazy mistake I did ...... make sure the egg whites are whipped good and proper until every single bit gets to the hard peak stage ... with a proper whisk, electrical or otherwise. I just dumped mine into the food processor using the egg white paddle attachment (yeah, it was a paddle, not a whisk...should've known better) and didn't notice that the bottom bit was still a little runny even when the top was all nice and peaky. By the time I tipped the whole lot into the egg yolk mixture ..... AAaarrrggghhh!!!
It turned out ok but not as fluffy as I'd like it to be or when I was doing the non try-to-save-some-time way .... sigh.
It tastes good tho.

Anyway, I hope yours turn out better than mine did.



400 ml coconut milk (I used 2 X 200ml ready packed coconut milk)
50 ml pandan juice (about 10 large leaves blended with 1/2 cup water, sieve and measure out)
300 ml light pandan juice (add water to remainder of the above juice to make amount)
150 g sugar
60 g cornflour
1 tbs agar agar powder
1/8 tsp salt
green coloring, optional


Combine all of the above in a large pot and whisk until smooth. Heat over medium heat, whisking continuously until thickened to a starchy consistency. Pour into a 9" X 9" deep tray. Leave aside while you make the cake layer.


3 egg yolks
4 tbs castor sugar
2 tbs corn oil (I used grapeseed oil)
1 tsp vanilla essence (I used 2 tsps homemade vanilla extract)
100 ml water
100 g self raising flour

5 egg whites
4 tbs caster sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar


Preheat oven to 180˚C.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the 3 egg yolks, 4 tbs sugar, oil, vanilla, water and self raising flour. Whisk until mixture is smooth.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat the 5 egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Fold egg white mixture into egg yolk mixture until well combined.
Pour batter onto pandan layer.
Place cake pan into a water bath / bain marie and bake for about 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and water bath, cool and refrigerate before unmolding.


Oct 22, 2010

The Occasional Tip: Weatherproof Labels

This is just one of the many tips I've received from all the aunties, uncles, grandmas and grandpas, collected and stored in some dark recess of my cluttered brain. Every now and again, I find I need to dig some of this information out and use them....cobwebs and all. Some of them are quite the common knowledge and some can be just so simple. Take this one for example...
I like to label and date my raw or leftover foodstuff before keeping them in the refrigerator or freezer. And sometimes I run out of those waterproof felt pens and proper freezer labels.

So here's the tip : Just rub a white candle over the writing on your label. And that should prevent them from getting smeared.

Happy storing and freezing!

Oct 15, 2010

Sci-Fi Steak

The things that will get my husband into the kitchen to cook ...(eyes rolling). It's either a "MacGyver" dish or something like this... technical. Mr Extremes.

Maybe I shouldn't name it "Sci-Fi Steak" but "Scientific Steak". He watched a program called Kitchen Chemistry and the lightbulb on the top of his head lit up...and I could see the gears in his head start churning.

I'm not complaining, it turned out beautifully. If you like your steaks flavorful, juicy, tender and perfectly medium rare, this is the method to achieve it. This method creates the most evenly cooked steaks I've ever experienced....beautifully pink throughout. Not a graduation from fully cooked to the cold, raw centers we usually get when we ask for medium rare / rare "doneness". Is it only me or does anyone else have a problem with the term "doneness"?


1 large pot

1 pair of long stainless steel tongs

1 chopstick / skewer

Elastic bands

Heatproof plastic bag / Baking bag

Cooking thermometer



2 steaks of your choice

salt, pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

Clarified butter / Ghee


Bring a pot of water to a steady 60˚C. Use cooking thermometer to accurately maintain temperature.

Season steaks.

Heat pan with a little clarified butter / ghee and quickly sear both sides of the steaks on high heat. Remove. Add the chopped garlic and onion into the hot pan and stir until aromas are released. Take care not to burn the garlic. Remove pan from heat. Return the steaks to the pan and stir to mix through.

Put pan contents into a heat proof plastic bag. Expell as much air as possible and seal with elastic bands. Be careful not to scald yourself.

- A sealed vacuum in the bag is ideal. But if a little care is taken and there are no obviously large pockets of air in the bag, the dish will work out fine.

This is where my husband went MacGyver on me and used a contraption made up of, a short length of stainless steel tube, elastic bands, a wine bottle stopper and its related vacuum pump to achieve a sealed vacuum without a commercial vacuum sealing device. -

Suspend the sealed bag in the pot of 60˚C water for a minimum of 2 hours.

Remove steaks from bag. Serve immediately, no resting needed.

Reserve liquid. Thicken and season to taste. Serve with steaks.

* Side dishes - roasted potatoes, vegetables etc.

Recommended read - see, The method is apparently from the 1800's....where they found plastic bags, I wonder....hmmm. Searing the steaks first arguably has taste and food safety benefits. Keeping a 60˚C water bath sacrifices the last bit of tenderness but is above the recommended pasteurization temperature.


Oct 11, 2010

Fish Dipping Sauce

Well, yeah.... we like this with fried fish, but you can always have it with other stuff... maybe some grilled shrimp, baked crabs .... whatever you think that needs dipping.
This is another one of the "must-haves" in my family. I wouldn't suggest storing it for too long, as raw onions don't keep too well. Since it's such a simple recipe and needs no cooking, it can be made shortly before consumption.
As with the sambal belacan recipe, there is no specific amounts for this. The main ingredients are listed and you just add as you please. Just don't make it too runny. Oh, and the bird's eye chilly on top? That's just for illustration purposes only but, hey, go ahead, if you like the hot stuff. By the way, did you know that fresh milk actually calms a burning tongue? Just thought that bit of information might come in useful .........


onions / shallots
chillies or you can just substitute with some sambal belacan
belacan granules, if not using sambal
calamansi limes
Sweet caramel soy sauce


Thinly slice onions or shallots and chillies (seeded, if using). Squeeze calamansi limes for juice and thinly slice the peel. (Peel is optional). Discard seeds.
Mix everything together. Taste, and if needed, add more chillies / sambal for more heat, more lime juice for tartness.
Leave in refrigerator for about 30 mins for all the flavors to combine before serving.


Oct 6, 2010

Lemongrass Ginger Ale

Meet Joe Rhizome....

“The Gingerman, he's not too lucky,
He ended up in a pot of curry.
Alas, that is not all to his tale,
He also ended up in my ginger ale.”

ping (Wordsworth, I ain't)

Hot! HOT! HOT! The weather's been rather fickle lately. In this part of the world, there's supposed to be just hot and rainy and it used to be such that even those days have their own times of the year to unleash their wrath upon us hapless folks. But the seasons have all gone wonkers and the monsoons and the dry days seem to come and go as they please. The last 2 days have been sweltering, after a whole week of electrical storms, strong winds and heavy downpours. Did I mention wonky?

I've just finished a good, hard-bashing game of tennis with my tennis-mad posse, and am ready for a long, cool swig of something refreshing. It was very humid and all that sweating... wait, no, not sweat. Ladies, I'm told, perspire... no, no, lemme get this right.... horses sweat, men perspire, ladies glow. Aaahh, that's right. Umm... cool drink, ok, so .... I remembered I had a batch of "improvised" ginger ale made 2 days ago and by now it should be nice and fizzy. Yup, glad I made those.

"Improvised" - as in, I added some 3 - 4 crushed lemon grass stalks to the basic ginger ale recipe that you can find here
. Add it in at the first step. If you prefer a stronger lemon grass taste, feel free to add more stalks. More improvisation? Some ice and a good glug of vodka, limoncello, gin, etc ... you get happier as you go further along the list.


Oct 2, 2010

Sambal Belacan/Shrimp Paste Chilli Sauce

This is the stuff that heaven is made of ..... or not. I don't suppose everyone will agree with me on that one.
Every nyonya home must have a ready supply of sambal belacan, anytime, anyday. This is one condiment that will knock your socks off. And if it doesn't, it's not good enough.
I've added some bird's eye chillies in the blend as I find today's red chillies lacking oomph. Does anyone else notice that or is it just me? Maybe my tastebuds have gone numb from all the years of being chillified.

You really need good quality belacan / shrimp paste. The below par ones are not worth getting ... just a bunch of salt and what else, I dare not mention.

Unfortunately, there are no exact measurements for the ingredients of this recipe. As I have mentioned earlier, it all depends on the heat of the chillies and your tastebuds. The end result should be a good balance of heat, saltiness and tartness. Some people prefer a bit more of the shrimp paste taste (the result will turn out darker) and some may just want a hint of it. So adjust as you go along... buzz, taste, add, buzz, taste ....
Even the texture varies. My mum prefers it to be coarser and complains mine is a little too refined. It's all up to you.

Easy peasy....


Red chillies (10 - 15 large chillies should yield about 200g of sauce)
Bird's eye chillies, optional
Shrimp paste, toasted / shrimp paste granules
Calamansi lime juice, to taste / tamarind paste diluted with some water


Just plonk everything into a blender or food processor and buzz into the texture of your choice. Have a taste every now and then to decide if you need to add more ingredients.

* Goes great with Tau Yew Bak (Soy sauce pork), fried noodles, fried rice, whatever suits your fancy.


Tau Yew Bak / Soy Sauce Pork

As of many traditional recipes, there'll be different variations from each family. And as it passes down from generation to generation, it gets more and more tweaked, and this is one of them.

Tau Yew Bak is such a simple dish using very few ingredients but the end result is such a rich and flavorful favorite. Ask any Chinese family and they'll have their own version of Tau Yew Bak.

This has been passed down from my mother to me, from her mother to her, and how long it goes back, I'm not too sure. This is as minimalist as it gets. Even my aunties and uncles asked why I don't put in the usual black peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, hard boiled eggs, etc. They've tasted this and now they don't ask anymore. Maybe they've just written it off as a hopeless case? Maybe they like it? Anyway, it's simple, it's good, why change it?
I can get all the other versions in the shops but I haven't seen this version anywhere.

I've tsk-ed and tutted at my mum and aunts for using the belly pork and with the skin on to boot. I've tried making a healthier option with a leaner cut of meat and presented it to them and, you know what? Personally, I thought I deserved all the tsk-ing and tuttings they dished out back at me. The taste was nowhere near to when belly pork with the skin was used. It's the fat that makes the whole dish. Sorry folks. If it bothers you, just put it in the refrigerator and remove the layer of fat that will have solidified and reheat. Alternatively, you can substitute the pork with chicken but it will not taste the same as the real stuff.

This version is darker than other tau yew baks but that's due to not adding additional liquid other than the 2 tbs of water. So, it's really important to use the sweet caramel sauce. I've tried other brands and they have turned out a little too salty for my liking. I've stuck with Popo ever since ... just for tau yew bak!

Now comes the best part..... using the slow cooker!
This happens to be one of my favorite gadgets in my kitchen, next to the food processor and the bread maker.
The slow cooker is a real life saver ... to me anyway. Sometimes when it gets really busy, I can just plonk a bunch of stuff in and leave it until when we're ready to eat. No messy kitchen, no oil-splattered stove top, no pots and pans to wash. My hero!
Alternatively, this dish can be cooked over the stove but some of the liquid evaporates and you have to keep an eye on it. Why bother?


half kg pork belly (with skin) (sorry, people, no healthy options for tau yew bak, it's the fat that makes it rich ... indulge a little!)

1/4 cup + 2 tbs thick caramel soy sauce (I like using Popo brand, it's sweeter and not too salty, so you can omit sugar in the recipe)

3-4 cloves garlic, smashed

2 - 3 tbs water

1/2 tbs light soy sauce, optional (I don't usually do this but my mum always complains everything I cook is not salty enough ... and you wonder why she has hypertension)


Clean pork belly and cut into strips and then into slightly larger than
bite-sized pieces as the meat will shrink during cooking.
Place all ingredients into slow cooker, toss well to coat the meat evenly.
Cook on high for about an hour or until it starts to boil, then reduce setting to low and cook for another 2 hours or longer if you prefer the meat to be softer. Or just leave it on the low setting for 4 - 5 hours.
Don't worry about the lack of liquid initially... you'll get plenty from the juices from the meat.
Serve over cooked white rice with sambal belacan.

Oh boy... I'm getting hungry....