Friday 22 February 2013

Spicy Tapioca Chips (Kerepek Ubi Kayu Pedas)

I, Phong Hong, hereby pledge to kick start my diet and low carb eating regime after the Chinese New Year. So help me God. And as if I needed another addictive snack to tank my resolve, here I am making Spicy Tapioca Chips (Kerepek Ubi Kayu Pedas). I love this spicy snack but all this while it never occurred to me to make the chips myself. Thanks a bunch EstherIt was Esther's comment on my Ngaku Chips post that got me all itchy. Tsk! Tsk!

It has been a while since I ate these spicy chips. The last time I bought the chips from 99 Speedmart, I did not enjoy that particular brand. It had a stale taste although the  expiry date was quite far ahead. I reckon it is the stale oil that spoilt the whole thing. Besides, the chips were quiet oily, wet and soggy. Yuks!

My search for the recipe brought me to Subhie's Passions' Kerepek Ubi Kayu Pedas-Spicy Cassava Crisps. The recipes I found in other blogs were quiet similar but most did not give measurements. After trying the recipe, I figured that you could basically "agak-agak" (estimate) the ingredients for the chilli sauce.

The ingredients for the chilli sauce are quite basic. Fresh and dried chillies, garlic, ginger, sugar and salt. But after tasting the end product, I prefer it without ginger. Most of the recipes from the Malay blogs that I found did not contain ginger but this is a matter of personal taste.

Fresh and dried chilles, garlic and ginger.

Blend till medium fine.
The blended ingredients are then sauteed in oil until fragrant and some water is added. Simmer until the raw smell of chillis disappear and mixture is a slightly thick. Add salt and sugar to taste and set aside to cool.

And of course you will need cassava/tapioca. I call it tapioca and for this recipe I used a medium sized one, measuring about 7 inches long. It was actually slightly more than 12 inches in length when I bought it but 5 inches of it went soft. Just peel the tapioca, not that difficult as it has a skin that you can quiet easily peel off. If I remember correctly, my grandma once made a kerabu using the tapioca skin. I must check with my Mum or my Auntie.

Just make a slit along the tapioca and peel.

Give it a rinse and pat dry. Slice the tapioca thinly using either a mandolin or knife. Then simply deep fry until it turns golden brown and crispy. Once the chips are cool, toss them in the chilli sauce and you are good to go!

Because my tapioca chips were much less than what it should have been, the chilli sauce was a bit on the generous side. No complaints as I enjoyed every bit of it :)

Spicy Tapioca Chips (Kerepek Ubi Pedas)
Recipe source : Adapted from Subhie's Passions

Ingredients :
- 1 medium sized tapioca (about 12 inches in length)
- oil for deep frying

For chilli sauce
- 6 dried chillies, soaked to soften
- 2 fresh chillies
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 inch ginger (I would leave this out in my next attempt)
- 2 tablespoons honey (or sugar to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- About 1/4 cup water

Method :

To prepare chilli sauce :
1. Blend chillies, garlic and ginger till medium fine.
2. Saute blended ingredients till aromatic.
3. Add water and simmer until chilli sauce becomes thick.
4. Add salt and honey/sugar and mix. Simmer for about 1 minute.
5. Set aside to cool.

For tapioca chips :
1. Peel and rinse tapioca.
2. Slice thinly using mandolin or knife.
3. Deep fry until golden brown and crisp.
4. Drain on paper towels.

Once the tapioca chips are cool, toss them in the chilli sauce until well coated. Serve or can be stored in an airtight container.

No more chips after Chinese New Year. Sigh....

Sunday 17 February 2013

Cranberry Oat Cookies

What did I tell ya? That's right, more cookies from me! I cut out this recipe from Amy Beh's Cook's Nook which appeared in The Star on 18 December 2012 and you can find it here. That was way before I was hit by the cookie bug. There I was with a growing stack of cookie recipes and nothing much was happening except that I was stocking up on raisins, cranberries, oats, chocolate chips and what not like there is no tomorrow. And my tin of Nestum was still very much a virgin for almost one year.

It was only two weeks before Chinese New Year that I was somehow motivated to get my butt moving. My first experiment was with the Cornflakes Butter Cookies which failed initially due to my inexperience. Some of the cookies turned out gritty and some turned out raw in the middle. But I learnt a lot from that cookie which led me to the Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies which was my first successful cookie.

When I studied Amy Beh's recipe, the butter fiend in me declared that the butter content was too low. I know, I know. I should watch my fat intake but this is Chinese New Year territory and I only do this once a year. Besides, I was going to load up the cookies with extra oats which would, I hope trap the fats. Hah! Hah! What wishful thinking. Just as well I didn't make the mark to get into medical school. I would have been banned from cardiology.

By the way, Valentine's Day has come and gone. How many of you were wined and dined by your other half? Valentine schmalantine, I say. If you think that accountants are the most unromantic people on earth, you are right. My better half, the Penang accountant if you recall from here has an opinion on Valentine's Day. "It's all a highly commercialized venture.  We should not subscribe to such shenanigans", said he or something to that effect. Yes dear, I agree with you. I'm an accountant too. 

And how many of you love those sappy romantic love songs? When I was in Assunta circa 1982/1983 the girls would go wild when the school band played Endless Love by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross while I was trying very hard not to throw up. Songs like When I Need You (Leo Sayer), If You're Not The One (Daniel Beddingfield) and The Power of Love (Jennifer Rush) are the sort of songs that I simply cannot tahan. Back then, I was into heavy metal (yeah!) with the likes of Kiss, AC/DC, Judas Priest and Van Halen.

My mum was very strict when I was growing up but she was quite liberal when it came to the music I listened to. It was fine with her if I saved my pocket money to buy Iron Maiden's latest cassette (back then there is no CD). Come to think of it, my mum is very sporting. One time I asked her to pick up Van Halen's latest cassette from the now defunct Kimisawa. The shop assistant told her point blank "Auntie, that one is rock you know!"

Well, that was a bit of story from Auntie Phong Hong's teenage years. And I still don't like sappy romantic songs. The closest thing to a love song that I will listen to is Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' I Hate Myself for Loving You. And I used to fantasize about becoming a rock star playing bass guitar on stage.

Before I left school after the SPM exams, we were required to fill up a form and one of the questions is "What if your ambition?". We were given three options and to the amusement of my classmate Carina, I listed 1. Rock Star, 2. Accountant and 3. Doctor. Well, at least I achieved option number two. Way to go, Phong Hong!

Cranberry Oat Cookies
Recipe source : Adapted from Amy Beh

Ingredients :
- 250g butter
- 120g castor sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
- 300g self raising flour
- 120g rolled oats
- 120g dried cranberries

Method :
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add egg and vanilla essence and mix well.
- Add oats and cranberries and mix well.
- Fold in flour and mix until mixture becomes a dough.
- Pinch a small amount of dough and roll into a small ball.
- Place on a lined baking tray, spacing the cookie dough about 1 inch apart.
- Bake in preheated oven at 160C for 15-16 minutes for a softer chewy cookie or 18 minutes for a crunchy cookie (you need to adjust oven temperature and timing according to your oven)

I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover

Friday 15 February 2013

Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple Fried Rice came to mind when I thought about what other dishes I could come up with for this month's theme on Little Thumbs Up. I have always wanted to try the Pineapple Fried Rice at the Thai restaurants, you know the one they serve in a pineapple boat. Somehow, till today I never got a chance to do that.

And I thought, why not cook a Pineapple Fried Rice using my grandma's fried rice recipe. My grandma uses a spice paste made of fresh chillies, onions, garlic, dried prawns and belacan. Pretty much like the spice paste for Pineapple Kerabu except that the kerabu spice paste does not contain garlic. See how versatile this spice paste is? It is also used for cooking Mee Siam, something to be attempted in the near future.

Fried rice is best cooked using overnight rice as the rice grains are firm and dry. So the day before, I cooked some rice. I was a bit disappointed as the rice was a bit on the soggy side because I put a bit too much water. I remember my auntie telling me that the amount of water needs to be adjusted depending on whether the rice is "new" rice or "old" rice. When you have just opened a packet of rice, that is "new" rice. I usually like Basmathi rice but Aeon ran out of the small packets.

It didn't really matter as the fried rice turned out alright but there was something missing. Yikes! I realised that I had forgotten to add garlic to the spice paste. Drat! Double drat! But seriously, it wasn't that bad. The fried rice was still good as the belacan and dried prawns made the fried rice very tasty and the aroma was fabulous. And the sweet and sour pineapple made the fried rice even tastier.

If only I had been a little bit more industrious and peeled my own pineapple, I would have been able to fashion a pineapple boat to serve the fried rice. Oh well, I don't think it is that easy to carve out the pineapple flesh. I guess I saved myself the stress as I am quite sure I would have murdered the poor pineapple and there would not be a pineapple boat in sight!

Pineapple Fried Rice
Recipe source : Phong Hong

Ingredients :
- 600g overnight cooked rice
- 150g chicken fillet, cut into small cubes
- 200g prawns
- 350g pineapple cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons light soya sauce
- oil for frying

Spice paste :
- 3 red chillies (more if you like)
- 1 big onion
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons dried prawns, soaked and drained
- 15g belacan

Method :

For spice paste :
1. Blend all ingredients and set aside.

For fried rice :
1. Heat oil in wok and fry prawns until cooked.
2. Remove the prawns and set aside.
3. In the same oil, saute the blended spice paste until aromatic.
4. Add chicken fillet and continue frying until chicken is cooked.
5. Add rice and stir until rice is well mixed with the spice paste.
6. Add soya sauce and fish sauce and stir to mix well. Taste and adjust if necessary.
6. Add the cooked prawns and pineapples and stir to mix with the rice.
7. Garnish with sliced red chillies and coriander if you like.


This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of My Little Favourite DIY.

Monday 11 February 2013

Pineapple Kerabu

Pineapple is my must have ingredient whenever I make Kerabu or Rojak. Somehow, without pineapple I feel that my Kerabu or Rojak is incomplete. The sweet and sour taste of the pineapple really lights everything up. Besides it is full of vitamins, minerals and lots of fibre. If I am eating pineapple just by itself, I like to rub it with some salt all over and it tastes really good.

I dislike the chore of peeling pineapples and cutting off the eyes. Ugh! Messy, messy, messy (OK, I admit - lazy, lazy, lazy!)! So I buy the ready peeled Crystal pineapple available from Aeon supermarket. It is quite small, weighing about 350g. I usually like making kerabu with an assortment of vegetables like cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, young papaya and of course pineapple. This time I decided why not make pineapple the star of the show. And since it is Chinese New Year, I have lots of Mandarin oranges in the house. So, in goes a few segments of the oranges too.

For the kerabu dressing, I am using my grandma's recipe. Pretty simple - fresh chillies, onions, dried prawns (heh bee) and belacan. Instead of calamansi lime (limau kasturi) my family has always used lime (limau nipis) instead. I prefer limau nipis as I find that it imparts a stronger taste and aroma compared to limau kasturi.

Blended fresh chillies, dried prawns, onions and belacan.

My grandma and my mum add sugar to the kerabu dressing for sweetness but I prefer to use plum sauce instead. I love plum sauce because it is sweet and sour and gives the dressing a thicker consistency.

Add lime juice and plum sauce. Yum!

For this pineapple kerabu, I did not add any of the usual herbs like mint (only used as a garnish), basil and bunga kantan as I wanted the taste of the pineapple to shine through by itself. The Mandarin oranges complemented the pineapple very well, it was a beautiful marriage of flavors.

Speaking of pineapples, this reminds me of a joke told by an ex-colleague at my previous workplace. Apparently, Lionel Richie was touring China and his last stop was at a province highly populated by Hokkiens. He wasn't sure if these people were familiar with his work and he decided to perform "All Night Long" since it was a very catchy number. This was how the master of ceremony introduced him. "Ladies and gentlemen, this evening we are very honored to have a very famous artiste from USA to entertain us. His name is Mr Longan Lychee and he will be singing his hit song Ong Lai Long (pineapple factory in Hokkien)". Ever since that joke, everytime I hear All Night Long, in my head it goes like this "Ong Lai Long! Ong Lai.......Ong Lai.......".

Pineapple Kerabu
Recipe source : Phong Hong

Ingredients :
- 1 small pineapple, sliced (350g)
- 1 Mandarin orange, segments with skin removed
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- Mint leaves for garnishing

Dressing :
- 3 tablespoons sambal belacan
- 1 tablespoon plum sauce
- 1 tablespoon dried prawns, soaked and pounded
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- Juice from 2 limes (limau nipis)

Note : The dressing should taste sweet, sour and salty. Please adjust as necessary.

Method :
- Mix all the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust if necessary and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, put pineapple slices, mandarin orange segments and sliced onions. 
- Add dressing and toss to mix evenly.
- Garnish with mint leaves and serve.

I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.

This post is also linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of My Little Favourite DIY.

Saturday 9 February 2013

Nestum Chocolate Chip Cookies and Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Today is the eve of Chinese New Year and those of you who are the designated cooks for tonight's dinner are probably running helter skelter making last minute preparations. That was me in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, I got sick one day before the eve. Still, with my head feeling like the size of a heavy rock, I trooped on to the supermarket to get last minute supplies. And I had to throw away a pot of beef curry because the recipe wasn't quite right. That was my first run in with a defective recipe from a renowned chef. It was a very challenging year. And to top that off, I had to go to office on the third day of new year to take care of an urgent matter and then rush home to cook lunch.

These days, most people sub-contract/outsource their new year eve dinner to the hotels and restaurants. If the number of people in your family almost make up a small kampung (village), it would be more practical to eat out or call in a caterer. This year, I am on sabbatical hah! hah! and the satay pakcik is taking over feeding the small clan. 

As I was rolling my chocolate chip cookie dough in Nestum cereal, I really couldn't believe that I'm sweating it out making more cookies. It looks like you will be seeing more cookies from me. But most likely after Chinese New Year :) The inspiration to bake these cookie came about after I ran out of cornflakes while making Cornflakes Butter Cookies with Dried Cranberries. The butter cookies coated with Nestum tasted pretty good and I figured our that Nestum would go well with chocolate too.

I like my chocolate chip cookies with nuts and I felt tired just by the thought of chopping nuts. To make my life easier, I decided to just crush the nuts. I put almonds and hazelnuts into a freezer bag and used the good old "lesung batu" (pestle) to bash up the nuts, taking care not to crush them too finely.

Bash them up gently.
It worked and I was quiet pleased. After all, once it is inside the dough, no one would be the wiser. One thing that you have to watch out is the freshness of the nuts you buy. Always get it from a reliable supplier whose turnover is good to ensure fresh supply. I should have bought the nuts from Bake with Yen or Chan Tung but I was too lazy to go to Taman Megah. 

Americans like to eat raw cookie dough. I dare not try it. Might get addicted.
I got the nuts from a supermarket and some of the hazelnuts were not fresh. The problem with the supermarket is that if the staff handling the goods is incompetent or has a don't care attitude, they will not store the goods properly and nuts can go bad pretty fast even though their expiry date is still a long way off. I was too distracted to notice the odd smell. 

Just baked.
When my cookies were baked, some of them had the funky taste coming from bad hazelnuts. Some of them were fine, the combination of well roasted nuts, chocolate and Nestum was really good.

Store in an airtight container.
If you don't like nuts, just leave them out. I know there are some kids who aren't too crazy about nuts. You can also add dried fruits such as raisins or cranberries if you like. 

Nestum Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe Soure : Phong Hong

Ingredients :
- 250g self-raising flour
- 30g cocoa powder
- 300g butter (room temperature)
- 100g muscavado or brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 100g roasted almonds, chopped or crushed (optional)
- 100g roasted hazelnuts, chopped or crushed (optional)
- 200g chocolate chips
- Nestum cereal, enough to coat the cookie dough

Method :
1. Sift flour and cocoa powder and mix well. Set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.
4. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips
5. Add flour and mix until mixture forms a dough.
6. Using two teaspoons, scoop out a small amount of dough to form a small ball.
7. Drop the dough into the Nestum cereal and coat evenly.
8. Using your hands form the dough into a ball and place it on a lined baking tray.
9. Bake at 160C for 15 to 20 minutes until Nestum becomes golden brown.
10. Remove and cool on wire rack.

Note : My cookies were done at 18 minutes. I turned the baking tray at halftime to ensure even baking.

Our beloved friend Sonia is working OT baking her own CNY delights and at the same time keeping up with our delightful submissions. Kinda feel guilty bombarding her with my humble cookie :) Oh, what the heck!

I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.

And to all my Chinese Friends and Readers, I would like to wish all of you GONG XI FA CAI! May this New Year bring you Happiness, Good Health, Peace, Luck and Prosperity! And remember Health is Wealth!

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Hot and Sour Roasted Knuckle Soup

The first time I had this soup was when I was a teenager. My auntie cooked it and gave some to my family. My first impression of the soup was that it was very salty and sour. I liked the taste and it was not until many years later that I had a chance to taste this soup again. It was my auntie again who cooked it for me when I requested for the soup. My auntie got her roasted pork from the market and since I do not do my marketing at the wet market, I had to source my roasted pork from somewhere else.

Before 1-Utama underwent a major renovation in 2011, I used to buy the German Pork Knuckle from the Eurodeli outlet to cook this soup. Sounds strange, right? The idea came about when I bought the German Pork Knuckle and found that it was hard and dry. I was quiet disappointed and instead of letting it go to waste, I figured out that I could use it in the hot and sour soup. It worked beautifully and since then, every time I had a craving for this hot and sour soup, I will go and get the pork knuckle.

These days, I get pork from the Pearl Pork outlet at Aeon which I first mentioned in this post. One day while browsing at the outlet, I noticed that they have frozen roasted knuckle. And I was very pleased as I can't get my usual German Pork Knuckle anymore. 

This soup tastes better after one or two days as it takes time for the flavors to fully develop. It is one of my favorite soups as it makes for a complete meal by itself. You have your proteins and veges and it is oh so tasty! And I think this soup would be suitable to serve during Chinese New Year, perhaps as an appetizer as the sourish taste does stimulate the appetite.

Hot and Sour Roasted Knuckle Soup
Recipe source : Phong Hong

Ingredients :
- 1 piece roasted pork, about 750g (I used frozen)
- 600g pickled mustard greens/kiam chye (2 packets), soaked for 30 minutes, rinse and cut into smaller pieces
- 3 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
- 2 carrots, cut into cubes
- 2 pieces asam gelugur (garcinia)
- 6 dried chillies (as many or as few as you like)
- 1.2 liters water
- Chicken stock (I used 2 cubes)

Method :
1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil
2. Add roasted pork, pickled mustard greens, tomatoes, carrots, asam gelugur and dried chillies.
3. Bring to  a boil and reduce to a simmer.
4. Simmer for about 2 to 2.5 hours or until the roasted pork is tender.

I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.

Monday 4 February 2013

Spiced Mixed Nuts

A few years ago, a very beautiful lady from the Middle East gave me a packet of mixed nuts. She bought it from a gourmet shop and told me that it was her recipe as she supplies goods to this outlet. A small packet of the nuts costs RM20.00. It was really good. It was sweet, salty and had a hint of spices.

Roasted mixed nuts.

The next time I met up with her, I asked her for the recipe. She hemmed and hawed and I got really confused. And I realized that I should not have asked her as this must be her trade secret. I let the issue rest and made a mental note to Google the recipe.

Nuts mixed with sugar syrup spread on baking tray.

I forgot all about the delicious nuts until Chef John of Food Wishes shared his recipe for Mixed Nuts. I was really happy to finally get this recipe. It is really simple to make and you can save quite a bit of money. And if you can get your nuts from a supplier who can give you a good price, even better.

Final product after roasting.

These spiced nuts are quite versatile as you can put in your own mix of nuts and spices. I tried cumin, cinnamon, cajun seasoning and cracked black pepper. If you don't like spices, then just leave it out. Just use the sugar syrup and you'll get nuts coated with a crunchy sugar layer.

These nuts are very addictive and is nice served as a party snack. Try this and impress your guests. It makes a nice addition to the usual peanuts that we normally serve during Chinese New Year. In Chef John's recipe, he uses raw walnuts and pecans. He probably missed my comment because I asked him why these are used raw. I am guessing that it's because walnuts and pecans take a short time to roast and would be roasted by the time the sugar syrup dries up.

I did not use walnuts because the walnuts I bought were rancid even though the expiry date on the package was still a long way off. I did not have time to go to the supermarket to make a complaint. Walnuts spoil very easily due to it's high fat content. I still roasted the pecans and I am glad that I did. 

I am reproducing Chef John's recipe below with my modifications in red. Do go to his blog to check the video recipe.

Spiced Mixed Nuts
Recipe source : Food Wishes

Ingredients :
- 1 cup raw walnut halves (I omitted)
- 1 cup raw pecan halves (I put 2 cups)
- 1 cup unsalted, dry roasted almonds (1 put 2 cups)
- 1 cup unsalted, dry roasted cashews (I put 2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (I put 1 teaspoon)
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin (I put 1 teaspoon plus one teaspoon of cinnamon)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (I put 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning)

For the syrup :
- 1 or 2 tablespoons butter (I put 2 small pats of Ballantyne butter)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water

Note : I put 1/2 cup water because I used 6 cups of nuts but I realised that 1/4 cup of water would suffice. I did not increase the sugar and I found that 1/2 cup sugar is adequate.

Method :
1. Put all the nuts, salt, ground pepper, cumin and cayenne in a big mixing bowl.
2. In a saucepan put butter, sugar and water.
3. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.
4. Pour syrup into the nuts and stir to coat evenly.
5. Pour the nuts onto a lined and lightly greased baking tray (use cooking spray or just rub with oil)
6. Roast at 180C for 10 minutes and mix the nuts thoroughly. (I roasted at 160C)
7. Roast for another 6 minutes and repeat mixing. Continue to roast until the syrup has caramalised and thickened.
8. Cool completely and serve or store in an airtight container.

Note : I roasted at 160C for 10 minutes, 6 minutes and continued until the nuts were dry and sticky. All together I roasted for a total of 25 minutes and left the nuts in the oven for another 10 minutes. You need to adjust accordingly.

I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.