9 kuehs that you should know

KuehIt has been a while since I had last updated this blog, but today, I decided to take a look at my feed and look what popped up – this article on kueh on ladyironchef! (What are the chances, seriously.) Absolutely love the hand-drawn illustrations.

If you are new to kueh or just confused at the mind-blowing variety, don’t worry, you are not alone. Check out ladyironchef’s introduction to kueh below for a brief introduction. If you want to learn more about this delicious Asian snack, feel free to browse through my earlier posts (here, here, here and here. Oh, and here too).

La Petite Cuisine

My family and I came here to eat a while back! Just a walk down from the Botanic Gardens MRT, La Petite Cuisine is a casual, no-frills French bistro at the corner of a busy junction. It’s surprising that we don’t eat here at Serene Centre more often, considering how close we live to it. However, when we walked in for dinner, it dawned on me why – the place was really crowded! Our party of 5 barely managed to get a table outside (we had to make do with a 4-seater and an extra chair nearly blocking the narrow walkway). We definitely had the shorter end of the stick compared to the lucky patrons inside who were savouring the air-conditioning and the brighter lighting. Perhaps in some cooler climates, the outside seating would have made for a romantic setting, but not here in Singapore where the humid air just bears down on you and cars drive past with the occasional honk.

But since there weren’t many options nearby (probably another reason why we hardly visit this row of eateries), we made do, even if pedestrians had to squeeze behind my chair to get past.

(Source: cavinteo.blogspot.sg)

Other than the items on the menu, there are also some specials which are written on a large chalkboard inside. I have no idea how often these specials change, but if you do come down for a visit, don’t forget to look out for these items!

Orders are made at the counter, but there are servers who bring you your meal. Memorising orders for 5 people certainly isn’t easy; halfway through our mains, we realised that our dad forgot to order our starter!

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To kick-start our dinner, we had some bread rolls, which had a lovely toast on the outside and a warm, fluffy centre. I love places which serve bread before the actual meal. Not only does it help stave off my hunger while waiting, it also gives me something to do while making conversation! In any case, bread is always a good complement to soups, so this is definitely a plus point if you get any soup starters! At La Petite Cuisine, they have the typical French soups, like Mushroom Soup, Tomato Soup and Onion Soup. My family isn’t a big fan of Western soups, so we normally don’t order them unless they come in a set!

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I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry, so I got a lighter main – Filet of fresh salmon w/baby spinach (S$16.50). It was well-cooked, and I loved how they managed to slice the salmon so thinly! The baby spinach was lightly seasoned and was a fresh complement to the filet, which was topped by a sweet, tangy sauce. The downside is that there isn’t much carbs on this plate, so I would recommend ordering a heavier starter, or perhaps saving your stomach for dessert!

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This probably isn’t the most appetising picture, but you’ve got to taste it for yourself to judge! This is one of their appetisers – Ravioli of prawns and foie gras in light lemon crème (S$16). Yup, this is the starter that my dad forgot to order, so we made him go back to order it! Honestly, this can be a meal in itself. Each of the three ravioli wraps around one prawn and a generous piece of foie gras. Needless to say, between the five of us, there wasn’t much to go around (half a ravioli, think about that), but even so, it was a delectable starter. I feel that it’s quite easy for the subtle tastes of the foie gras and prawn to be drowned out in the stronger taste of the heavier cream, but I think this dish balances both well. Also, even though I hardly order cream-based pasta nowadays, the sauce was still addictive! It was probably the citrus which really added that extra kick.

I couldn’t snap pictures of the dishes the rest of my family ordered, but I tasted bits of them! My dad order the Sirloin steak w/gratin potato & salad (S$16.50), which had a really solid piece of juicy meat. I also tried my sister’s Confit de Canard w/gratin potato (S$17.50), which was another main that I was considering. I’ll probably get that the next time we drop by! I can’t remember what my mum and my brother got, but they were yummy. Sadly, we were all too full for some dessert, but we were still contented.

Towards the end of our meal, the chef actually came out and greeted us! I think it’s wonderful that the chef does his best to build rapport among his customers – how often do you see that in Singapore? I could really feel the warmth, passion and pride that he has in his food, and for that reason, I’m definitely coming back a second time.

Affordable French food – how much better can it get?

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10 Jalan Serene
#01-02 Serene Centre
Singapore 258748
Tel: +65 6314 3173

227 Upper Thomson Road
Singapore 574359
Tel: +65 6549 0553

Tue-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Closed on Monday

Kueh Fridays: Part V: Malaysian/Singaporean Kueh (II)

Kueh is a bite-sized snack or dessert originating from Southeast Asia. There are many different kinds of kueh which come in all sorts of colour, shape and size. Usually made from rice or glutinous rice, these kuehs are often steamed rather than baked, resulting in delectable treats that have unique textures, flavours and appearances from the ordinary Western pastry.

What really pushed me to find out more about these snacks is the amazing variety out there! It’s incredible how many kinds there are. Often, I would get confused with the names (ang ku kueh? kueh lapis?) and the origins (Chinese, Peranakan, Malay or Indonesian?), and pester my mum to explain the differences over and over again. With kueh being so ubiquitous in cosmopolitan Singapore, I felt that I really should find out more about these treats myself.

Read on to explore more about the second series of kueh – Malaysian/Singaporean!

1. Kuih Jelurut/ Selurut/ Celerut

(Source: virtualmalaysia.com)

This is quite similar to the Kue Clorot in the previous post! A traditional snack of Brunei and Sabah in East Malaysia, this kueh is made of rice flour and gula apong (nipah palm sugar – different from gula melaka, which is made from coconut palm!). It is then rolled with palm leaves into cones and steam cooked. Often, some flavour is added, such as pandan (like in the picture above, which gives the cake a green colour) or durian (normally yellow).

2. Kuih Kapit/Sapit/Sepi/Belanda aka Love Letters

Oh our favourite Chinese New Year snack! These crispy folded wafer biscuits can be found everywhere during the festive season, and no wonder – it’s incredibly addictive and tasty. However, before you go on a binge-eating session with this lovely snack, here’s a reminder of how sinful eating these snacks can be:

(Source: Khoo Teck Puat Hospital)

This infographic went viral earlier this year during CNY, leaving many of us a bit more uncomfortable as we feasted.

(Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/369576713145513612/)

(Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/467881848759158270/)

There are many versions of love letters around, not just from commercial shops but also from precious family recipes. My friend makes a mean love letter and every year when I visit, I am both impressed and fascinated by how she makes them! Well, so I went to search up this mysterious process (not so anymore!). Basically, after making the coconut-flavoured egg batter, the batter is poured into an iron mold, which is traditionally heated up on a charcoal stove. When the batter is baked, it is removed and folded before the biscuit hardens. The beautiful thing about these snacks are that they are etched with decorative and auspicious animal motifs (such as fish, roosters and snails) thanks to the molds. I already can’t wait for the next CNY – these snacks are gold.

3. Kuih Keria

Kueh Keria / Fried sweet potato donut

(Source: nasilemaklover.blogspot.sg)

I’ve finally found a kueh that uses sweet potato! These fried doughnuts are made with a sweet potato batter and rolled in caster sugar for a sweet finish. Surprisingly, even though these kuehs look like doughnuts (and are just as fluffy), no baking powder or yeast is used! I would look out for those calories though – I could imagine eating a handful and busting my limit already.

4. Kuih Kochi

(Source: wikipedia.com)

This glutinous rice dumpling, popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, is usually filled with a sweet paste like grated coconut with gula melaka. It is shaped in a pyramid and wrapped with banana leaves. This reminds me of the previous kuehs! I kind of recall other kuehs having a similar concept – a filling wrapped in some rice flour. Also, I find the name rather cute! It makes me think of the Japanese mochi (oh, the cravings are coming).

5. Kuih Lapis

(Source: epicureasia.com)

Another popular kueh which everyone thinks of when they hear ‘kueh’! There are two versions (baked and steamed), but people use this term for both kinds. The baked version, aka Kek Lapis (layered cake) is happily featured in our enlightening infographic above, since it is a common Chinese New Year snack. People often do not realise how dense this addictive cake really is!

 photo IMG_3410_zps63b2fbc7.jpg

(Source: melicacy.com)

The other kind, the nonya kueh lapis, is made from rice flour, coconut milk and sugar. This is quite unlike the cake one, which uses the ordinary baking ingredients like butter, wheat flours, eggs and sugar! Another difference is that this one is steamed. I really love the fun of eating this rainbow kueh – you could either eat several layers at once, or peel each layer apart! You can only imagine how my eyes used to light up when my grandma brought these colourful kuehs back home for an afternoon treat.

Anyhow, either cake is incredibly tedious to make – every layer is individually baked or steamed! You really need quite a bit of patience to see this process through. Something else worth noting is that food colouring is used to differentiate between the different layers.

6. Kuih Lidah/Tiram

(Source: penglipurlarafasola.blogspot.sg)

Kuih lidah (lidah means ‘tongue’) hails from the Bruneian Malay community of Papar in Sabah, Malaysia. This is a pretty simple cake – it only needs rice flour and eggs. However, the result is an adorable oyster-shaped cake! I’ve never tried this before, so I’m really curious what the texture is like.

7. Kueh Pie Tee

(Source: misstamchiak.com)

I absolutely love this! Another Chinese New Year favourite (though that’s the only time when I get to enjoy this delicious treat), kueh pie tee is essentially a thin, crispy pastry shell filled with all sorts of ingredients. The main filling is shredded Chinese turnips (or jicama) and carrots; but that’s only half of it! For the rest of the shell, I like to fill mine with chopped up eggs, tiny prawns, peanuts, sweet dark sauce, chilli sauce. After that, I’d top this Nyonya specialty off with a bit of parsley or coriander! It may seem like a lot of effort for such a tiny thing (most locals don’t mind meticulously assembling this shell by themselves). But trust me, when you put that entire shell in your mouth and feel that burst of flavours on your tongue… nothing can beat that feeling of just plain, good food.

8. Kuih Pinjaram

(Source: norafiqahnorbik.blogspot.sg)

This saucer-shaped deep-fried fritter looks as good as it gets. With crispy edges and a dense, chewy texture in the centre, kuih pinjaram is known by many names, including kuih UFO! It also bears an uncanny resemblance to another kueh (kueh cucur). However, unlike kueh cucur, this kuih doesn’t use coconut sugar. Instead, this kuih is made simply from rice flour, corn flour, milk and oil and is commonly sold in street markets in East Malaysia. Pandan leaves are sometimes added, enriching the fragrance of this sweet snack.

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Look forward to next week’s post! Maybe I’ll do one on Indonesian kue again~

Kueh Fridays: Part IV: Indonesian Kueh (II)

Kueh is a bite-sized snack or dessert originating from Southeast Asia. There are many different kinds of kueh which come in all sorts of colour, shape and size. Usually made from rice or glutinous rice, these kuehs are often steamed rather than baked, resulting in delectable treats that have unique textures, flavours and appearances from the ordinary Western pastry.

What really pushed me to find out more about these snacks is the amazing variety out there! It’s incredible how many kinds there are. Often, I would get confused with the names (ang ku kueh? kueh lapis?) and the origins (Chinese, Peranakan, Malay or Indonesian?), and pester my mum to explain the differences over and over again. With kueh being so ubiquitous in cosmopolitan Singapore, I felt that I really should find out more about these treats myself.

Read on to explore more about the third series of kueh – Indonesian!

1. Kue Bugis

(Sources: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/117656608990385234/; aphrodite14.blogspot.sg)

This green-coloured kueh, which gets its colour from pandan, is made up of a steamed glutinous rice flour and tapioca dough, and filled with grated coconut and coconut sugar. It is then wrapped inside banana leaf. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried this before… maybe from Kedai Kue Kue? I’m not sure, but I certainly can imagine what it probably tastes like – yummy!

2. Kue Carabikang

(Source: infomakan.com)

This has the same texture as the porous cake (kue apem) in the previous Kueh Fridays post. This one has a unique shape – blossoms! Made up of rice flour and coconut milk, this colourful but simple cake is certainly a sight to behold. It’s made with the help of a special mold – sort of like a paint palette! The dough is first poured inside, before the colouring (mixed with coconut milk) is specially drizzled on top. The result when the cake puffs up is definitely something to brighten up your kitchen and dining room!

3. Kue Cubit

(Source: katalogwisata.com)

Kue Cubit is one of the more famous Indonesian snacks around. Its strange name (“kue cubit” means ‘pinch cake’), comes from its small size, which results in people having to pinch it to eat it. This kue uses only flour, baking powder, sugar and milk, but the result is a very cute, and I would suspect, addictive, snack! Basically the liquid dough is poured inside a steel plate with several small round basins, giving the kue a round shape. Meises (chocolate granules) are then poured on top of it before the seller uses a special hooked stick to take the cake off from the steel plate.

4. Kue Clorot

(Source: berthanatalia.wordpress.com)

Literally ‘Trumpet Cake’, this kue is made of a sticky dough comprising of glutinous rice flour sweetened with coconut sugar (gula melaka?). This dough is then filled into the cone-shaped janur (young coconut leaf), and steamed until cooked. It looks wonderfully tasty! The fun way of eating this is to carefully unwrap the swirled coconut leaf and eat it like an ice-cream.

5. Kue Cucur

(Source: resepkuekering.org; berita.grosirkeripik.com)

This pancake is famous for being sweet and fibrous! Made of fried rice flour batter and coconut sugar, this kue is normally served at local celebrations in Indonesia. This doesn’t look like something you should be taking on a daily basis (well, it’s fried), but trying it just once won’t mean I’ll bust my calorie limit too often.

6. Kue Dadar Gulung

(Source: cemilanmalam.com)

This is pretty similar to a kueh I had in my second post of this series (I believe it was called kueh dadar as well). But for the sake of a refresher, I shall explain this kueh again! This kueh is essentially grated coconut with coconut sugar, wrapped inside a thin dadar (omelette) made of rice flour. This dadar is usually green in colour, as pandan leaves are used. This is one of the most common kuehs I see around!

7. Kue Getuk

(Source: bubblews.com)

This kue is traditionally made of cassava flour and coconut sugar, and served with sweetened grated coconut. I can’t really remember whether I’ve ever tried cassava fruit before, so I can’t really imagine how this tastes like! This cake is normally made with pretty colours, which makes for an interesting combination with its stringy shape. There are also many variations in taste, from strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla to even cheese!

8. Kue Klappertaart

(Source: infokuliner.com)

This coconut cake is a specialty of Manado city, located in North Sulawesi. Influenced by the Dutch who had previously occupied this city, klappertaart has two types – a more solid form (baked) and another non-baked version which supposedly melts in your mouth. It only needs a few basic ingredients: coconut, flour, eggs, milk and butter. I wonder how this sinful cake tastes like? I’m sure it must be excellent for the locals to keep eating it despite its high calories.

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I’m learning so much about all the different kuehs out there, and it’s absolutely fascinating! Truthfully, I still feel very much in the dark about this sweet treats, but I’m slowly uncovering each stone. I can’t wait to share more about these kuehs in the weeks to come!

Kueh Fridays: Part III: Indonesian Kueh (I)

Kueh is a bite-sized snack or dessert originating from Southeast Asia. There are many different kinds of kueh which come in all sorts of colour, shape and size. Usually made from rice or glutinous rice, these kuehs are often steamed rather than baked, resulting in delectable treats that have unique textures, flavours and appearances from the ordinary Western pastry.

What really pushed me to find out more about these snacks is the amazing variety out there! It’s incredible how many kinds there are. Often, I would get confused with the names (ang ku kueh? kueh lapis?) and the origins (Chinese, Peranakan, Malay or Indonesian?), and pester my mum to explain the differences over and over again. With kueh being so ubiquitous in cosmopolitan Singapore, I felt that I really should find out more about these treats myself.

Read on to explore more about the third series of kueh – Indonesian!

Indonesian kue, or occasionally spelled kueh, are popular snacks in Indonesia. There is a wide variety of Indonesian kueh, each reflecting a certain influence, be it local, Chinese or even European. In the Indonesian language, the word kue refers to not only these traditional snacks, but also all types of cakes and some types of pastries. Because of this, there are two types of kues, divided according to moisture content – kue basah (“wet kue”) and kue kering (“dry kue”). Most kue kering are technically pastries and many Western cakes can be considered as kue basah.

Here are some Indonesian basah kueh!

1. Kue Ape

(Source: resepmasakann.info)

This is a kueh made from rice flour, pandan, sugar and coconut milk. It is essentially a thin, green batter pancake with a crispy edge and a thicker, brown part in the middle. Apparently it’s quite a popular traditional snack with the local Indonesian school kids!

When I read up on this kueh, I was quite amused by the other name that the locals call it – kue tetek (breast cake). No prizes for guessing why.

2. Kue Apem

(Source: resepmakansedap.com)

(Source: resepmasakann.info)

Similar to Malay apam, this kue is made of cassava tapai, coconut water, coconut sugar, rice flour, and coconut milk. All these are mixed to form a dough, and then steamed until the dough is fluffy and cooked. It is usually served with grated coconut. Even though I may not have tried this exact Indonesian version, it looks very similar to the steamed cakes that I often find around Singapore! I love how there are so many colours, even though the traditional one is brown (the one in the top picture is flavoured with gula melaka, while the one at the bottom is probably flavoured with rose water).

3. Kue Bakpia

(Source: resepkue2014.blogspot.sg)

A lovely bean-filled Chinese pastry originally introduced to Indonesia by Fujianese immigrants. This really reminds me of the Chinese tau sar piah – it bears an uncanny resemblance, and has similar ingredients as well… which means there’s a high chance that I will love this pastry if I ever get the chance to try it!

4. Kue Bika/Bingka Ambon

(Source: bisikan.com)

This is a yellow cake made from tapioca flour, eggs, sugar and coconut milk. It has a unique porous texture, which I find very fascinating! Apparently, it’s the yeast used that gives this dessert its characteristic feature – the yeast creates bubbles, which results in a spongy texture when baked. Traditionally sold in pandan flavour, it also now comes in other flavours like banana, durian, cheese and chocolate. I’m really curious about the cheese flavour actually. I think I’ve tried the original kue, but I don’t think I’ve tried the other versions. In Singapore, some call this cake kueh bengka ambon. Here’s a recipe if you want to make this yourself: http://kitchentigress.blogspot.sg/2012/09/kuih-bingka-ambon-video.html.

5. Kue Bingka Kentang

(Source: topindonesian-foods.blogspot.sg)

Translated as “Potato Cake”, this kue is made from mashed potato, flour, eggs, sugar, coconut milk, vanilla, milk and margarine. This is all mixed as dough, then baked until golden brown and cooked. I think this is a pretty versatile cake, in the sense that it can come in all sorts of shapes, from flowers to circles.

6. Kue Bolen/ Pisang Molen

(Source: resepmasakanindonesia.info)

This one looks like the croissant! Kue bolen is a baked pastry with crust layers and a filling of cheese and banana (and in others, even durian!). This looks like a fantastic fusion between European and Indonesian food – where can I get this in Singapore?

7. Kue Bolu Kukus

(Sources: tips-cara.info; mocalover.blogspot.sg)

Another kind of steamed bun made of flour, sugar, eggs, margarine, and vanilla or chocolate flavouring. Unlike the earlier kue apem, this one doesn’t use coconut, which I guess makes it a regular steamed bun. This version is probably more similar to the ones which are easily available at the convenience stores here! I love the creativity that people have with the colourings – it gives the cakes a fun, edgy feel.

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I can easily say that I haven’t tried most of these Indonesian kuehs! Hopefully one of these days, I’ll be able to make a trip down to try these treats. Until then, I can only drool at the wonderful pictures that other people have posted!

Peranakan Delights (I)

I absolutely love Peranakan/Nonya food! As my family loves going to shopping centres, our favourite Peranakan restaurant is Grandma’s. It’s a pity that I don’t really know how to cook anything from this cuisine, but it’s alright – I’ve heard from my mother that this cuisine has one of the most tedious and time-consuming preparation and cooking processes! I’m not sure whether I have the patience to venture into this part of the cooking world; I’m much happier just eating.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Peranakans are Chinese immigrants who settled in South East Asia (mainly Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia) during the early days and intermarried with the local Malays. If you’re wondering what Nonya means, this old Malay word is actually a term of respect and affection for women of prominent social standing (part “madame”, part “auntie”) and has slowly come to refer to the Peranakan cuisine.

As you can guess from its history, Peranakan is a fusion of Chinese and Malay food – a mix of Chinese ingredients as well as the local spices and cooking techniques used by the Malays. Some of the common ingredients used: coconut milk, galangal (a cousin of ginger), candlenuts (for flavouring and thickening), laksa leaves, pandan leaves, belachan (shrimp paste), tamarind juice, lemongrass, torch ginger bud (normally found in assam laksa), jicama (a kind of turnip/root), kaffir lime, rice/egg noodles, and cincaluk (a special sour condiment that I’ll be explaining about in my next Peranakan Delights post!). Even though recipes differ across regions (e.g. Singapore’s laksa uses a lot more coconut milk than the northern assam laksa), these ingredients can generally be found in most Nonya dishes.

Okay, so this is the first part of Peranakan Delights, where I will document some of these wonderful dishes!

1. Acar

(Source: keeprecipes.com)

(Source: noobcook.com)

A popular condiment, acar is surprisingly packed with flavour despite its apparent simplicity. I absolutely love this, whether it’s served with prawn crackers, chicken curry or even chicken rice! I would eat in alone if I could (often I do) – that’s how much I love this complex mix of pickled meats and vegetables. Some common ingredients are cucumber, carrots, cabbage, peanuts, kaffir lime, shallots, sugar, pineapple and dried chillies. The sweetness and acidity of the acar complements rich courses like nasi goreng (fried rice), satay and most varieties of soto (a type of Indonesian soup) excellently!

Of course, this condiment is very versatile and has many variations which include other ingredients like lemongrass, ginger, eggplants, and even ikan bilis (fried anchovy). There was once when I volunteered at Willing Hearts and made acar with sweet Thai chilli sauce! Anything goes with this dish, as long as it comes out sweet and sour.

2. Assam Laksa

(Source: cateringexpert.com.my)

Considered one of Penang’s three signature dishes, assam laksa is essentially a sour and spicy soup (asam means ‘sour’). This fish-based soup (usually shredded mackerel) is a very complex dish – no surprises! Besides the translucent white rice noodles (aka vermicelli), there are a whole bunch of finely sliced vegetables which are either incorporated into the soup or added as toppings: tamarind (both kinds – asam jawa and asam gelugor), daun kesum (Vietnamese or laksa mint), cucumber, onions, red chillies, pineapple, lettuce, “daun kesum” (Vietnamese mint or laksa mint) and pink bunga kantan (torch ginger flower). This is then topped off with a thick, sweet dollop of shrimp paste, which is called petis udang or hae ko (蝦糕). My mum absolute loves this laksa version! I still prefer the Malacca/Singaporean version i.e. the one which uses coconut milk, but it’s all personal preference I guess. For me, I love the complexity in the dish! People who love tom yam will probably like this as well.

3. Ayam Buah Keluak

(Source: ivivu.com)

Another of my mum’s favourite dishes! I really love buah keluaks, though I was initially a bit hesitant (and lazy) to dig out blackist bits from a tough nut. Buah beluaks are nuts from the Kepayang tree, a mangrove tree that grows in Malaysia and Indonesia. I think this is an acquired taste (like durians), but the effort for this truly unique flavour is worth it! Anyway, ayam buah keluak (ayam means ‘chicken’) is a chicken dish cooked with these nuts and is very hard dish to make – indeed, the rempah (pounded spices) alone is made up of 7 ingredients and takes half a day to fry! And I haven’t even mentioned the scrubbing for each and every nut, the 2 days of soaking them, and the half a day of simmering with the chicken and rempah for the sauce to thicken. It’s a hundred times easier to just head down to a Peranakan restaurant to savour this dish than to cook it yourself! Trust me on this one.

4. Ayam Pongteh

(Source: rasamalaysia.com)

I haven’t had this yummy dish in ages! This thick chicken stew (ayam means ‘chicken’ and pongteh means ‘meat tea’) is normally cooked with tauchu (preserved bean sauce), gula melaka, potatoes and mushrooms. Sometimes, this dish is cooked with pork instead – this version is called Babi Pongteh. It is usually saltish-sweet and tastes the best when it’s stewed overnight! Just imagine the flavours infusing into the meat…

As this dish is relatively easy to prepare compared to many other Peranakan dishes, it’s quite a popular dish to make. In fact, my mum has made babi pongteh several times, most notably for our annual CNY reunions. My relatives always love it! Indeed, traditionally, this dish is served during special occasions like celebrations or family gatherings.

5. Babi Assam

(Source: aiskacangmerah.com)

This is yet another stew cooked with pork (babi means ‘pork’), but using tamarind juice instead! This gives the dish a more spicy and sour taste. People have used different cuts of pork for this stew, from the main meat to the leg to even the cheeks. The most popular cut by far, however, is the pork belly, with its fats in full glory! As the stew braises, not only does the meat become very tender, the fats also infuse into the dish, making the sauce extremely tasty. Popular within the Kristang community (also known as the “Portuguese-Eurasians” or the “Malacca Portuguese”), babi assam really is a classic Peranakan dish.

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Hope that was a helpful introduction to this amazing cuisine!

5 Microwave Meals (I): Thai/Chinese

This October, I’ll be starting on a brand new journey in university! I’m pretty stoked to start already, but there’s still 6 months left before I fly off. Before then, I will be documenting all the meals I can create with just a microwave, because my college doesn’t have a full kitchen (i.e. no cooking stove) due to safety reasons. I’ve got a feeling that I’ll miss good Chinese/Singaporean/Asian food when I’m there, so I’ve decided to embark on this personal project to find amazing microwave recipes!

I’ll be kickstarting this series of posts with some Thai (one of my favourite cuisines) and Chinese food.

1. Thai Green Curry with Chicken

(Source: partial-ingredients.com)

Total microwave time: 14-17 minutes Mix the curry paste and oil or coconut milk, and microwave on high for 3/4 minutes. Add the chicken and stir. Microwave on high for 4 minutes (or medium for 8 minutes) – make sure the chicken is cooked! After making this base, add the rest of the seasonings. Add coconut milk, basil, soy sauce, red chilli, lemon grass, and lime leaves. Stir and microwave for another 4/5 minutes. Stir again and let it rest for 3-4 minutes before serving. Add sugar, pepper, garnishes (e.g. scallions, cilantro) and/or fish sauce, depending on how it tastes like! Serve with plain steamed rice. This can easily be used for Indian curry.

Credits: http://www.foodnetwork.com/; http://www.manualslib.com/

2. Sticky Rice

(Source: articles.latimes.com)

Total microwave time: 8-12 minutes I absolutely love Sticky Rice with Mangoes! I lived in Thailand for a few years as a kid, and this is still one of my favourite desserts. Okay, the one thing I didn’t know about this dish is that you have to get a special kind of rice (not just any kind e.g. jasmine or basmati). It’s called “Sweet Rice”, which gets sticky after being cooked! After getting the rice, this dish is pretty simple to prepare. Soak the rice for 10 minutes in warm water. The water level should be just above the rice level. Cover the dish and microwave for 5-7 minutes. Stir the rice and lift the rice from the bottom to the top. Microwave for another 3-5 minutes. If it’s all cooked, all the grains should be translucent; if not, just heat it up for another few minutes (it really depends on your judgement). For the dessert, mix in sugar and coconut milk, cover, then let the dish stand for 20 minutes. Serve with mango! If not, sticky rice goes really well with normal Asian dishes as well.

Credits: http://www.thaitable.com/thai/recipe/sticky-rice; http://ricekingdom.blogspot.sg/2010/09/cooking-sticky-rice-in-microwave.html

3. Chinese Vegetable Stir-Fry

(Source: realfood.tesco.com)

Total microwave time: 6-8 minutes Combine oil, garlic, ginger and onion in a glass casserole, and cook uncovered on HI for 1 minute. Add carrots and green pepper, stir, cover with lid, and cook on Hi for 2 to 3 minutes more. Stir in asparagus, cabbage, soy sauce; cover and cook additional 2 to 3 minutes on HI. Toss in mushrooms and cook for an additional 1 minute. Let sit covered for 3 minutes. Serve. I would imagine that this recipe has a lot of flexibility in terms of what veggies to use!

Credit: http://www.food.com/recipe/chinese-stir-microwave-448180

4. Steamed Fish, Chinese-style

(Source: weeknitemeals.wordpress.com)

Fish is my favourite kind of meat (nothing beats Han Kee fish soup at Amoy), so naturally, I have to include a fish dish in this first list! Total microwave time: 5 minutes First, defrost the frozen fish before steaming it in the microwave so it cooks evenly. For the marinade, combine soy sauce or tamari, with a splash of rice wine vinegar or mirin and a splash of sesame oil in a microwave-safe dish. Use just enough to come about halfway up the sides of the fish when it’s placed in the liquid. Stir in minced ginger, chopped scallion and black pepper. Marinate the fish for about five minutes, turn the fish over, and marinate the other side for another five minutes. Cover the dish with microwave-safe plastic wrap, and cook on high for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish (1-inch thick fillet –> four minutes). The fish should be opaque all the way through the thickest part when safely cooked. Tada! Serve with rice and add garnishes (cilantro, parsley, chilli, ginger etc) to complete the dish.

Credit: http://www.ehow.com/how_12315049_cook-steamed-fish-chinesestyle-microwave.html

5. Sweet and Sour Chicken

(Source: howtocookhero.com)

The quintessential Chinese dish! The sauce is pretty easy to make once you make the ingredients, which is great. The proportions of each ingredient differs from recipe to recipe, so I guess it really depends on your tastebuds! I guess it’ll be good if I experiment before going over to the Foreign Land. Total microwave time: 11-15 minutes In general, for the chicken version, mix ketchup, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and garlic thoroughly in a large microwaveable dish with the chicken, onion and peppers. Microwave, uncovered, on High for 8-10 minutes until the chicken starts to cook and the sauce is sizzling. Stir in the pineapple pieces and sugar snap peas and microwave for another 3-5 minutes until the chicken is completely cooked. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then stir in the cashews (optional but great to have) and serve. If it’s just the sauce you’re looking for, it’s even simpler: combine ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch and water, then cook on high for 3 minutes or until the sauce starts to boil. Pour over the meat, and there, you’re done!

Credits: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1472/easy-sweet-and-sour-chicken, http://www.food.com/recipe/sweet-and-sour-sauce-microwave-335730

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That’s 5 dishes already! Looks like I’ve got a lot of experimenting in the kitchen to do. They probably won’t turn out as delicious as those in restaurants, but I’m sure they’ll be good enough to bring back memories from home!

Kueh Fridays: Part II: Malay/Peranakan Kueh (I)

Kueh is a bite-sized snack or dessert originating from Southeast Asia. There are many different kinds of kueh which come in all sorts of colour, shape and size. Usually made from rice or glutinous rice, these kuehs are often steamed rather than baked, resulting in delectable treats that have unique textures, flavours and appearances from the ordinary Western pastry.

What really pushed me to find out more about these snacks is the amazing variety out there! It’s incredible how many kinds there are. Often, I would get confused with the names (ang ku kueh? kueh lapis?) and the origins (Chinese, Peranakan, Malay or Indonesian?), and pester my mum to explain the differences over and over again. With kueh being so ubiquitous in cosmopolitan Singapore, I felt that I really should find out more about these treats myself.

Read on to explore more about the second series of kueh – Malay/Peranakan!

Among the many different kinds of Malay and Peranakan/Nonya kueh, there are a few common ingredients used for the basic flavour: grated coconut, coconut cream, pandan leaves and gula melaka. As for the base, it is usually rice flour, glutinous rice flour, glutinous rice or tapioca. Two other common ingredients are tapioca flour and green bean (mung bean) flour, which give these kuehs their distinctive pudding-like texture. Personally, these kuehs are a sweet treat for me so I only have them occasionally! But I love the how the flavours blend in so harmoniously with each other, as well as how diverse the range of flavours is. This is always the highlight of any Peranakan buffet for me!

Some of the kuehs I have included are rarely found in Singapore. Many are traditional Malay kuih-muih (sweet cakes and desserts), originating from Malaysia or Brunei. However, to show the variety there is, I have added them here. Malaysia and Brunei are hardly a stone’s throw away from Singapore after all!

1. Apam Balik

(Source: seasaltwithfood.com)

Wow, this snack brings back many fond childhood memories! I remember my Ah Gong and Ah Ma buying this back from the local market for our afternoon snack. Also known as a ‘Turnover Pancake’, this kueh has a similar texture to a crumpet with crisp edges. It is typically cooked on a griddle and filled with peanuts, though many variations have popped up over the years, such as cheese, red bean and lotus paste. I know this kueh better by its English name “Peanut Pancake”, which I usually get from the ubiquitous Jollibean! I prefer the one with the thinner crust, though I would eat the thicker one any day, especially since it was the one I grew up with.

2. Bahulu

(Source: buletinmutiara.com)

This beautiful little treats are incredibly addictive! A traditional Brunei and Malaysian snack, these tiny, crusty sponge cakes are normally baked and served during Hari Raya, though lately I’ve seen it appear during Chinese New Year as well. It normally comes in a shape of a button, but others have tried unusual shapes like fish.

3. Cucur Kodok/ Kuih Kodok/ Cokodok

IMG_75381

(Source: kwgls.wordpress.com)

I never knew that these deep-fried fritters, sometimes known as jemput-jemput, qualified as the traditional “kueh”, but I guess they do count as bite-sized snacks. These mashed banana fritter balls are simple to make (just flour and bananas), and have many variations, such as cucur udang (unshelled prawn) and cucur badak (sweet potato). I don’t remember ever trying this before, and I’m definitely not advocating this for the everyday snack, but it looks like a delicious treat to have every once in a while!

4. Curry Puff

(Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/48609941@N06/6192158356/)

One of my go-to snacks whenever I feel peckish! You can find this anywhere in Singapore, from hawker stalls and specialty stores like 1A Crispy Puff, to Old Chang Kee. A small pie filled with a curried filling, usually chicken and potatoes, in a deep-fried or baked pastry shell, this makes for a great afternoon snack. I also love how people have experimented with the traditional puff, trying out new fillings such as yam, durian, corn, nata de coco and even bird’s nest!

5. Kuih Akok

(Source: wendyinkk.blogspot.sg)

I’ve honestly never seen this kueh before, but it looks very interesting! A popular snack in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu in Malaysia, Kuih Akok is a rich treat made with lots of eggs, coconut milk, flour and brown sugar, giving it a distinctive sweet caramel taste. Some compare the taste and texture to a Yorkshire pudding. Apparently, when it bakes, the batter will puff up, but once out of the oven, the batter will deflate and shrink, giving the kueh a unique ‘wrinkly’ look. The next time I head down to Malaysia, perhaps I will get to try this special treat!

6. Kuih Cincin

(Source: afraliza.blogspot.sg)

Kuih Cincin, which literally translates to “Ring Cakes”, is a deep-fried dough pastry that looks like a collection of rings. It reminds me of the Indian snack Muruku! Popular with the Bruneian Malay people in Sabah, East Malaysia, this kueh is made of rice flour, brown sugar (gula melaka) and sometimes a hint of turmeric, which gives a golden orange colour.

7. Kuih Dadar/ Kuih Dadar Gulang/ Kuih Ketayap

(Sources: 41.media.tumblr.com; chaosnet3.co.uk)

I love this kueh! It’s one of my favourite nonya kuih and I always get this if it’s available. These are essentially rolled-up mini crepes with a grated coconut filling (normally sweetened with gula melaka). The crepes themselves are coloured and flavoured with pandan essence, or natural pandan juice extracted from pandan leaves themselves. It’s apparently one of the easier kuihs to make, so that’s good news for those who love to make their own desserts!

8. Kuih Jala

(Sources: mysabah.com; bibiey72.files.wordpress.com)

This is another kueh which I’ve never seen before! Kuih Jala, literally “Net Cake”, originates from the eastern Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. Not to be confused with the more well-known Roti Jala! Perhaps the most interesting thing about this kueh is not the taste itself, but the process of making it. A thick rice flour batter is ladled into an empty coconut shell which has many holes underneath. The shell is then quickly held over hot cooking oil, where the mixture drips into the oil like thread. The shell is moved in a circular motion, which forms a plate-like layer as the kuih fries. When the sizzling stops and the kuih turns yellowish, sticks are used to fold it into a triangle, or a tube for more skilled people. This sweet, crispy snack is definitely something to try if I ever go to those areas!

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That’s another 8! Lots of lovely kuehs/kuihs that I am fond of, but also many that I’ve never seen and that I’m dying to try. Stay updated for next Friday’s post!

6 Places to Eat at Amoy Street Food Centre

Here’s the follow-up to my Maxwell post! Ever since ending my internship, I’ve missed incredibly yummy lunches from these two hawker centres, especially of my all-time favourite fish soups. If you ever have the chance to drop by Amoy (hopefully before 11am or after 1.30/2pm), these are some great stalls to try!

1. Han Kee Fish Soup

Han Kee fish soup 1^ This is a very deceptive picture. Don’t believe this – you really have to see the queue with your own eyes during lunch hour!

Han Kee fish soup 3Han Kee fish soup 4(Source: ieatandeat.com)

This stall probably has the longest queue that you’ll ever see in either Maxwell or Amoy! Seriously, the queue just snakes around so many tables that it will probably deter any casual visitor. I count myself very lucky to have eaten here at least twice during the short 3 months I was interning here. In my opinion, this is by far the most generous of fish stalls! I nearly couldn’t finish my fish both times – it was like a bottomless bowl of glorious fish slices. I loved how fresh the fish was! Even though the prices are a bit steeper than Maxwell’s (the minimum is the $5 fish soup + 30c rice), it’s really worth the price and the effort queuing.

2. Piao Ji Fish Porridge

piao jo fish porridge 1piao jo fish porridge 2piao jo fish porridge 4(Source: ieatandeat.com)

This is a quite a deceiving name since the only time I ate from there, they didn’t have any porridge! But that’s alright, because I got to try their delicious fish soup. The direct competitor of Han Kee (they’re even both on the same floor), Piao Ji serves even more expensive bowls (at least $7) and slower service (about 4-5 minutes a person). However, they have shorter queues and sweeter veggies! I absolutely love their veggies and I can’t think how they are so amazingly sweet. Even though I feel that Han Kee is more generous with the fish (their $5 bowl rivals PJ’s $7 one) and some people claim that Piao Ji uses MSG in their soups, I would probably queue just for the veggies! All in all, however, I would choose Han Kee over Piao Ji if I had to.

3. Yuan Chun Famous Lor Mee


(Source: ieatishootipost.sg)

I don’t often eat Lor Mee, but this one had this really yummy fried prawn cake! Beautiful pictures from ieatishootipost, one of my favourite food blogs which I greatly admire.

4. A Noodle Story

(Source: foodiefc.blogspot.sg)

A Noodle Story is a fusion stall which sells only one item – the Singapore Style Ramen. It is basically a mix of ramen, a potato-wrapped prawn, a ramen-style egg, ramen-style chasu, and wanton! I feel that this bowl alone has one of the prettiest platings you can find in either hawker centre and I found the concept really interesting and unique. Credits to my good friend Kim for finding this gem before I ended my internship!

5. Laoshen Fruit Stall


(Source: i.insing.com.sg)

Out of the many fruit stalls at Amoy, my dad loves this the most, so that must mean something! Indeed, almost every single time I have come to Amoy, I have brought back some fruit juice from here to the office. Most of the time, I choose its famous ABC, which I find better than the Maxwell one. I’ve also tried the Avocado Milk with Honey, which brings back many fond school memories, as well as the Pumpkin Juice with Honeydew, which is only sold every Thursday and Friday. My friends have questioned the pumpkin juice, but I thought it was pretty yummy, like a dessert. Anyway, I loved all the juices, which certainly makes for a great healthy treat after a meal.

6. Coffee Break


(Source: let-k-eat-cake.blogspot.sg)

I’ve only tried this once, but I loved the coffee that I got! They have an amazing range of unique flavours, from red bean to taro to cinnamon. Although the prices are steeper than the average kopi/teh you can easily get from the other stalls, it still has a loyal following from the office crowd. And this is probably a much more sustainable alternative to Starbucks! I had their classic hazelnut coffee, while my mum had the ginger tea, and we both agreed that the flavours truly cut through. This is a great stall for the adventurous, and even better for the coffee lovers. It is best to come here in the early morning, because they close at 2.30pm!

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There are plenty of fantastic stalls that I haven’t yet had the chance the explore, for Amoy had been undergoing renovation most of the time that I was interning! However, even in the short few weeks that it was open during my time of work, I thoroughly enjoyed the food there. It’s really worth the trip down if you have time to spare.

Yi Jia Bakery House Cafe

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I have no idea what made me drag myself out of bed at 7am on a Sunday morning (the rumbling thunder didn’t help either), but I’m so glad I did! After dropping my sister off for training, my mum and I headed to Yi Jia Bakery House Cafe on Upper Thomson Rd for breakfast. Normally we would opt for Wang Café at Thomson Plaza, but it’s currently undergoing renovation – hopefully we’ll see more seating once it opens!

Yi Jia (which means ‘one family’) is a lovely café offering local breads and pastries, a contrast to the many modern Western cafés popping up everywhere. Also, unlike most local bread shops, Yi Jia has a few tables for dining in. I love how you can just grab any bun and eat it right there at the bakery, surrounded by the amazing smell of freshly baked bread! Yi Jia even serves the all-time classic toast set, which comes with 1 kaya toast, 2 half-boiled eggs, and a kopi or teh. I haven’t tried their set yet, because their buns always look so tempting! But I will some day (once I overcome my initial instinct to make a beeline for their bread). After all, the bread they use is their Hua Bao (Flower Loaf) and their kaya is homemade. Combined, it sounds like a great way to start the day!

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Just look at their variety!

They have all kinds of buns, from local flavours like char siew and sweet potato, to slightly more western-influenced ones like ham & cheese and sausage. They even have bo luo buns! You really have to go down yourself to see the range that they have.

My mum got the vegetable bun, which has a filling similar to popiah i.e. Chinese turnips and carrots, and teh c kosong (tea with condensed milk, no sugar). Meanwhile, I got the otah bun and yuan yang kosong (mixed tea and coffee, no sugar). The buns were amazing! I loved how soft and fluffy the buns were. The veggie bun was full of flavour and the crispy top was a great complement. As for my otah bun, well… anything with otah is bound to be good! And it was.

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I’m incredibly happy now after getting my local kopi fix~

Other than these buns, they have lots of pastries including swiss rolls, durian puffs, and tau sar piahs (a kind of flaky Chinese biscuit with a bean paste filling). I’ve tried their piahs once before and it brought back many fond memories spent in my Ah Ma’s house when I was younger!

I really like the peaceful ambiance and all the prices are very reasonable (most buns and drinks are under $2). This is a great place for breakfast and afternoon tea if you’re looking for one around the Upper Thomson area.

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Thomson Ridge Estate
229 Upper Thomson Road
Tel: +65 6456 1677
Daily: 7am – 9pm
Website: http://www.yijiabakery.com.sg/