Sunday 26 August 2012


If you want a hearty, flavorful and aromatic stew, why not cook a Nyonya dish called Pongteh. I don't know what Pongteh means. There is the Chicken Pongteh (Ayam Pongteh) and the Pork Pongteh (Babi Pongteh). I did a chicken and pork combination because I could not make up my mind as to which I should cook. We have a similar dish in Terengganu which combines chicken and pork. That I will share in a future post.

I cooked my first Pongteh a couple of years ago and if I remembered correctly, one of the ingredients is corriander powder. I have since lost that recipe and my search for the Pongteh ended with a recipe by Ms Debbie Teoh which appeared in Kuali. This recipe calls for chicken and pork and  it was perfect for me. The first thing that pleases you when  cooking the Pongteh is the aroma which emanates throughout your kitchen when you saute the shallot, garlic and preserved bean paste. It is indeed a very appetising smell. I prefer to keep the Pongteh overnight as I find that the flavours deepen with time.

Ms Debbie Teoh's recipe is reproduced below with my modifications in red.

Pongteh (Recipe by Ms Debbie Teoh)

Ingredients :
- 600g chicken (I used 2 chicken legs cut into bite sizes)
- 600g pork belly (1 used 1 strip of pork belly)
- 6 tablespoons cooking oil

- 400g shallot paste (from about 40 shallots)(I used about 30)
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste (from 6 cloves garlic)(I used 3 big cloves)
- 2 tablespoons preserved bean paste (tau cheo)
- 10 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked and quartered (I left them whole)
- 800-1000ml water
- 3 potatoes, peeled and quartered (I used 6 potatoes to avoid fighting at the table)
- 250g yambean (jicama), cut as desired (I omitted this)
- 80g palm sugar (gula Melaka) or to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste (I omitted because the tau cheo was salty enough)

Method :
- Cut the chicken into pieces; cut the pork into 2cm thick slices.
- Heat oil to saute the shallot and garlic paste until fragrant, stirring continuously. Add teh bean paste and fry until oil starts to separate. (I blended the shallot, garlic and tau cheo together and then saute)
- Add the pork if using and fry for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and water, and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes before adding chicken. Continue simmering until chicken and pork and tender, adding the potatoes and yambean half way through. (I added the potatoes at the same time as the chicken)
- Add more water if gravy becomes too thick. Season to taste with sugar and salt. Serve with sambal belacan.

Note :
Pongteh tastes better the next day when the flavours are infused into the meat.

I am submitting this post to Malaysian Food Fest Melaka State hosted by Cindy of yummylittlecooks.

Saturday 25 August 2012

A Simple Roast Chicken

Last Saturday I was at the supermarket again. It was one day before Hari Raya. Even though it was still early, the crowd of last minute shoppers was building up and the festive mood was in the air. I don't like crowds and generally like to be there at 10:00am when it is usually quiet.

I had already picked up the veges in my basket and the last item I needed was a chicken. I noted that a particular branded chicken that used to cost RM19.90 per bird was now selling at RM22.90 each. They were all piled up in a heap in the chiller without any ice. I was apprehensive and moved on to the other choices. At least they were covered in ice.

Upon making my selection, I promptly handed the bird to the nice Pakcik (Uncle) for weighing and pricing. For the benefit of non-Asian readers not already familiar with Asian custom, we address an older person as Uncle or Aunty as a mark of respect. But please, kids, don't call me Aunty. Even if you are two. A respectful Cher-Cher, Kakak or Sister will be fine by me.

After Pakcik handed the chicken to me, I quickly made my way to the check-out counter. Back home, I put the veges away and prepared the chicken. 

I also made the marinade and noted down the amounts used. I don't usually do that of course, this was just for the sake of writing the recipe.

And I decided to note down the weight of the chicken too. As I peered at the price tag, I was astounded. Guess how much I paid for the chicken?

That's right, RM1.04 for a 1.2kg chicken. I normally check the price tag but I was in a hurry to leave. Had I seen that, I would have informed Pakcik immediately. And strangely, the cashier didn't notice it either. I guess everyone was in a holiday mood and the RM1.04 chicken escaped their attention.

Now on to my marinade. Have you ever just tossed something together without following a recipe? This was one of those moments. Just going with the flow. I mixed tomato ketchup, sweet chilli sauce, honey, soya sauce, Lee Kum Kee Spare Rib Sauce, black vinegar and grapeseed oil. I tasted it and it was pretty good. Feel free to add your personal touch to the marinade and I am sure you will come up with something to improve on this one.

Simple Roast Chicken

- 1 whole chicken (about 1.2kg)(I butterflied the chicken by cutting through the backbone)

- 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
- 1 tablesspoon sweet chilli sauce
- 1 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee spare rib sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soya sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon black vinegar (Balsamic if you are feeling extravagant)
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or any other vegetable oil)
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed skin on

For basting make another batch of the above marinade minus the oil.
- Mix all the marinade ingredients together.
- Put chicken into a plastic bag and pour marinade in.
- Seal the bag and toss it around to ensure that the chicken is evenly coated with marinade.
- Leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours or preferable overnight (I left it overnight)
- Bring the chicken to room temperature before roasting at 180C for about 40 to 45 minutes.
- Baste the chicken with extra marinade every 15 minutes or so.

Note : Place chicken breast side down and after 30 minutes of roasting, turn it breast side up and continue roasting until chicken is cooked.

Chicken, marinade and freezer bag

Chicken in the bag. Marinate overnight in the chiller.
Put on lined baking tray to roast.

It turned out quiet well.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

My Grandma's Steamed Crab Cakes (Chim Koay)

Two Saturdays ago was rather historic for me, my maiden attempt at cooking crabs. Hah! I wanted to recreate Grandma's steamed crab cakes and for the sake of authenticity (and nostalgia), I had to fill them in crab shells.

So I went to the supermarket and checked out the crabs. There were 2 types available, the flower crab (already dead and frozen) and the other type with dark green shells (live  ones and also packaged and chopped up). The nice Bangla man was recommending the live crabs, pointing out to me the ones that have crab roe. 

I couldn't possibly handle the live ones (previous attempts involved a lot of screaming), memories of Grandma cooking crabs flashed before my eyes. Every Chinese New Year, Grandma would make these crab cakes for our reunion dinner. She would heat up a huge steamer, dump a whole bunch of live crabs in, close the lid and weigh it down with a heavy mortar. And you could hear the clickety clack of crab claws as the poor things tried to escape. Horrors! Well, that was Grandma's style. And she is capable of lots of other stuff too. But let's not go there.

So I bought 4 flower crabs and it cost me RM28.25.

Flower Crabs.
I also bought some minced pork. Back home, I left the crabs to defrost further. Meanwhile, I seasoned the minced pork. I was clueless as to how long to to cook the crabs. So I just "agak-agak" (estimated) and boiled them for 25 minutes. A note about my cooking method. A very kind Mrs Lee left me a comment on Quay Po's post and she suggested that I should have steamed the crabs instead.
See how pretty they are!
When the crabs were cool enough to handle, that's when the hard labor began. I had forgotten how time consuming it is to extract the crab meat. An how messy. Back in the day, once in a blue moon, my Dad would buy a bunch of crabs from the fisherman and we would just have crabs for lunch. We would spread newspapers on the dining table and use a pestle to knock the crab claws and legs to get to the meat. By the time I got the hang of it, it was over. No more crabs. I don't even know if I was full because I was so focused on hammering the crabs.

Back to my crab cakes. I added the crab meat (there were some leftovers for my simple lunch) to the minced pork and stuffed them into the shells. And brushed them with egg yolk before steaming for about 25 minutes.

And how did they turn out? Tasted just like Grandma's! Was it worth the effort? Yes and no. Next time, I will look for frozen crab meat (don't buy the ones in cans, they are awful) and fill the crab cakes in small bowls instead. But who knows? By then I would have forgotten about the hard labor and start all over again.

Grandma's Steamed Crab Cakes (Chim Koay)
Ingredients :
- 4 crabs (Steamed and meat extracted)
- 500g minced pork
- 2 big onions (minced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tbsp light soya sauce
- pepper (as much as you like)
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp cornflour

- 1 egg yolk (for brushing)

Method :
1. Mix all the above ingredients.
2. Stuff generously into crab shells.
3. Brush with egg yolk.
4. Steam for about 25 minutes or until cooked.
These crab cakes taste great with Grandma' s chilli sauce. Recipe to follow in future post.
Brush with egg yolk.
Ready for steaming.
Grandma's chilli sauce.
Memories of Chinese New Year.
I must have this with chilli sauce.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Nasi Tomato (Tomato Rice)

When I tasted Nasi Tomato for the first time, I immediately fell in love with it. The aroma and flavor was tantalizing. Pair it with Ayam Masak Merah and you have a delicious meal made in heaven. It is also good with Kuzi Ayam or Kuzi Daging.

The ingredients are not much different from Nasi Minyak or Nasi Hujan Panas except for the addition of tomato puree and tomato ketchup. The recipe below is again taken from Kak Liza's book "Senangnya Memasak Nasi" (So Easy to Cook Rice).

Just in case you are wondering, you can freeze leftover Nasi Tomato (I doubt there'll be any) and reheat. It tastes just as good as fresh.

Nasi Tomato (Recipe by Chef Hanieliza with my modifications in red)

Ingredients A
- 5 cups rice (washed and drained) (I used 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup milk (I used 1/4 cup evaporated milk)
- 4 tomatoes (chopped)(I omitted and used 2 tablespoons tomato puree)
- 1/2 cup tomato ketchup (I used 2 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons ghee (I used about 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil and 1 tablespoon ghee)
- Salt to taste
- 6 cups water (I used 2 1/2 cups water)
- pandan leaf (knotted) (I used 2 leaves)
- 2 stalks lemongrass (I used 1 stalk)

Ingredients B (to saute)
- 3 cloves garlic (sliced) (I used 2 cloves)
- 5 shallots (sliced)
- 1 inch ginger (I used 1/2 inch)
- 3 cardamom (I used 2)
- 3 cloves (I used 2)
- 1 inch cinnamon stick (I used 1/2 inch)
- 2 star anise (I used 1)

Method :
1. Heat ghee in a pan and saute ingredients B, lemongrass and pandan leaf until fragrant.
2. Add tomatoes, salt and mix well.
3. Add milk and water and bring to a boil.
4. Put the sauteed ingredients into a rice pot together with the rice and cook as usual.
5. When rice is cooked and almost dry, mix the rice taking care not to break the rice grains.

Personal Note :
1. I mixed water, milk, tomato puree, tomato ketchup and salt in a measuring cup.
2. When the sauteed ingredients become aromatic, I put the rice into the pan and mixed.
3. Then I transferred the rice into the rice pot and poured the liquids in and cook the rice as normal.

I served the Nasi Tomato with Kuzi Ayam (Chicken Kuzi).
A simple acar (pickles) made with cucumber, pineapple, onions, vinegar, sugar and salt makes a great accompaniment. And sambal belacan too!
Sambal nenas (Pineapple sambal) also makes this very appetizing.
It's not unusual to have seconds :)
I would like to wish all my Muslim friends and readers Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. May all of you have a joyous and wonderful time with your family, friends and loved ones!

Saturday 11 August 2012

Devil Curry (Debal)

I have cooked this dish on a few occasions and have received very good reviews.  As I understand it, and upon further confirmation with Wikipedia, this is a curry from the Eurasian Kristang community in Malacca.  There are a few versions of this recipe, some using candlenuts and galangal, but the one I cooked do not contain these two ingredients.

When I came across this recipe from Amy Beh which appeared in Kuali, I thought that it was quiet interesting and gave it a try.  When I tasted the dish, it was just alright, nothing spectacular and kept some leftovers in the fridge.  The next day after I reheated it, KAPOW!  The Devil Curry took on a new personality.  The flavors were robust and very appealing.  It dawned upon me that this is a dish that requires time to mature for the flavors to develop and enhance.  So if you want to eat a good Devil Curry, cook it one day ahead.

I am reproducing the recipe below from Amy Beh and my modifications are in red.

Devil Curry

- 600g chicken, cut into bite size pieces
- 200g carrot, cut into wedges (I omitted)
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 tomato, quartered
- 1 green chilli, seeded (I omitted)

Ground Spices (to be combined)
- 5 dried chillies, soaked
- 6 fresh red chillies, seeded
- 5 shallots (I used 15 shallots as I like my curry thick)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 thumb-sized ginger
- 2-3 thin slices fresh tumeric (I used 1 inch fresh tumeric)
- 3/4 tsp mustard seeds

- 3 tbsp oil

- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 1 tsp prepared mustard
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 cup water

Heat oil in a saucepot. Fry the ground ingredients until fragrant and the oil rises to the top. Add chicken, carrot and onion and stir fry well.

Mix in green chilli, tomato and seasoning.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 25 to 30 minutes until chicken is cooked and tender,  Leave curry covered and set aside for 30 minutes before serving. (I recommend to keep this dish overnight for flavors to develop).

I am submitting this post to Malaysian Food Fest Melaka State hosted by Cindy of yummylittlecooks.

Sunday 5 August 2012

My Grandmother's Mistake

You must be wondering what was it that my grandmother did wrong. My grandmother called this dish Mistake but I think what she meant was Beefsteak. 

This is one of my grandmothers dishes that I love. It is minced beef patties in a tomato based sauce. One of the ingredients in the sauce is a thick black sweet sauce peculiar to Terengganu. It is called "kayciap" and if I remember correctly, it is made from boiling the by product and leftovers from making "budu" (fermented fish). I know this sounds awful but this sauce is very nice. You don't have to use it and can substitute it with ABC sauce or kicap manis.

My Grandma's Mistake (Beefsteak)

For the meatballs :
- 500g minced beef
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 big onions, minced
- 2 tablespoons light soya sauce
- 1 tablespoons Worchestire sauce
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon cornflour

- 6 tablespoons tomato ketchup
- 1 tablespoon Worchestire sauce
- 1 tablespoon soya sauce
- 2 tablespoons "kayciap" (or ABC sauce/kicap manis)
- 250ml water
- 2 teaspoons cornflour

- 1 big onion cut into wedges
-  cloves garlic minced
- 3 potatoes cut into wedges and deep fried until golden brown
- 1 tomato cut into wedges
- 1 small can green peas

Method :
1. Mix all the meatball ingredients until well combined.
2. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up the mixture
3. Shape into patties and deep fry until cooked and golden brown
4. Combine sauce ingredients and set aside
4. Heat oil in a wok and fry big onion until wilted.
5. Add garlic and fry for about one minute
6. Add sauce and bring to a boil
7. When sauce is thick, add the fried meatballs, potato wedges, tomato and green peas and stir until all ingredients are coated with the sauce.

Meatballs before frying. I made 16 patties.
Deep fry until cooked and golden brown.
Potato wedges.
Mix everything together.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Mummy's Coleslaw

My mother is an advocate of salads. Back home, every meal is accompanied by a salad, be it coleslaw, potato salad or my mother's version of the French Salad. My mother pairs the salads with the main dishes quiet well. For instance, coleslaw and potato salad compliments her curries or other spicier dishes. The milder dishes are often paired with the French Salad. Even when there is a stir fry dish, the salad still makes its appearance. Strange but true.

My Mother's version of the coleslaw sometimes contain hard boiled eggs and green peas. Being the Terengganu people that we are, she even adds our local herbs, the daun kesum (laksa leaves) and daun selasih (local basil). I put unconventional stuff into my coleslaw too, like cucumbers and crushed garlic. I know the chefs at Le Cordon Bleu will throw stones at me but it's ok. They don't know where I live.

Mummy's Coleslaw
Cabbage, shredded
Carrot, grated
Cucumber, cut into small cubes
Onion, chopped
Daun Kesum, finely sliced
Daun Selasih, finely sliced
Mayonnaise or salad cream

Method :
Put everything in a bowl and mix.

Cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, onions and herbs.
Our family all time preferred dressing for coleslaw.
All tossed and ready to serve.
Served with Mummy's chicken curry.