A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
This month, the 4 Velveteers picked an easy challenge theme: 'Fruit' as in fruits fruits not the vegetables that are technically speaking fruits (so hold off your tomatoes). To spice up the challenge, it had to be a savoury dish. If fruit salad comes to your mind immediately, strike that out - it's the forbidden dish of the game. Ha Ha! We thought of everything.
For this month's challenge, I thought of making something with pineapple or mango or jackfruit or apples. Pierre kindly suggested Pineapple Rice but I have already posted that 3 years ago and have also done a simple stir-fry Pineapple Prawns, Coriander Pork with Pineapples and Rolled Roasted Pork with Dried Fruits . On top of that, my mom has been cooking pineapple savoury dish lately so I don't think my whole family wanted to eat another pineapple dish. Now jackfruit: the taste and texture is rather special. When I was a little girl and we were still living in a kampung (village), my mom used to cook this delicious jackfruit curry often, however that practically stopped once we moved to a housing flat. The last time she cooked this dish was back in the late 80s! The other childhood dish that I fondly remembered is green papaya curry. My mom used to cook it very often too as papaya plants were aplenty in our front and back garden. Back in the old days, a childhood friend of mine used to climb up our papaya plant to pluck the fruit for me. And she was very fast & agile too. I often wondered even till this day, how she managed to do that. I think if I ever climb one, I will snap it into two! For the life of me, I can't even climb a tree least a plant to save my life.
So I asked my mom to show me how to make this dish, however for some odd reason we couldn't find any green papaya in the markets nearby. In the end, we settled for one that looks the greenest among the sea of ripe papayas. My mom learnt how to cook this Green Papaya Curry from my paternal grandmother who used to make lots of delicious nonya dishes.
Before we proceed to the recipe, here are some information about papaya:
Green papayas are usually cooked in curries, stew or eaten as salads. Choose papayas with reddish-orange skin and that are slightly soft to the touch if you are eating it on the day of purchase. A few black spots on the surface are ok as they will not affect the taste. However avoid those that are bruised or overly soft. Store ripe papayas in the refrigerator and eat it within a day or two. For those that are green with some yellow patches, leave them at room temperature and they'll ripen in a few days. To speed up the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana. (yeah, really!)
Very aromatic with the sweet-spicy pepperish taste of coconut milk gravy. The papaya slices were cooked just right - not too soft and I could still taste the slight flavour of the papaya.
For a spicy taste, you can replace pepper with one or two long red or green chili (deseed). Just cook it together with the paste.
The 4 Velveteers
The 4 Velveteers (started by Pamela, Aparna, Asha, and Alessio) are a group of food bloggers, who are passionate about a new dish/ style of cooking/ cuisine and food in general. Each month, we will share with you our recipes, experiences & verdicts on our blogs. If you are interested in joining The 4 Velveteers! in our monthly adventure, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment.
Do, check out what other Velveteers have created:
Alessio - Recipe Taster
Aparna - My Diverse Kitchen with her Eggless Vegetable Nut Loaf with sweet
Asha - Fork, Spoon & Knife
Ken - Hungry Rabbit NYC with his Skillet Roasted Sweet n Sour Pork
Madhuli - My Food Court with her Raw banana Cutlets & mix fruit chutney
What to do with my home-made tofu? That question that has been floating in my head for days - awake or in sleep mode (yes, that's how dedicated I am with my food). Don't worry, I'll spare you the juicy details of what I did with my tofu in my dreams. I did thought of making curry out of it but I have already made my tofu curry in my earlier post. So strike that out. How about stir-fried tofu? Nah...too plain and uninteresting. Now the idea of turning tofu into something sweet is actually quite appealing and challenging. So many sweet desserts started floating in my brain: 1) Tofu Cheesecake: now this is out because my mom's place doesn't have the necessary equipment. 2) Tofu Ice Cream: don't have any ice cream making machine. 3) Tofu cake or muffins: Too hot to bake in Singapore. What to make? What to bake? The pressing question with no answer. Oh dear, the 4 Velveteers' dateline is drawing very near like TODAY!...then out of the blue, my inner bulb just went 'blink!' - Tofu Onde-Onde! Tofu what??? Yes you heard me right - Onde-Onde made out of tofu. I'm not explaining myself clearly, am I for those of you who haven't the faintest idea what this is. But for those who had this before, I can see you rubbing your eyes with disbelief at the title of this post. Is that even possible? Well, you already know the answer to this question or else you wouldn't be reading this, would you?
Onde-Onde (pronounced ‘on-day') is a Peranakan dessert made up of glutinous rice flour with pandan leaves flavour, filled with palm sugar and coated with freshly grated coconut flesh. It can be eaten at any time of the day - be it for breakfast, tea time or as snacks. This is one of my favourite childhood dessert.
It's very soft and slightly chewy like a mochi with the delicious oozing palm sugar in the middle. One definitely can't taste the tofu in them. My mom said it is as good as those made completely with glutinous rice (that is after I managed to convince her to try it. You should have seen my mom's doubtful look on it when she finally popped it in her mouth because I was standing right in front of her waiting for her verdict. LOL!). Pierre, who isn't a big fan of such Asian dessert, admitted that it was pretty good. As for me, I like this version very much and will definitely make it again.
For the flavours, I didn't have pandan essence or leaves at home, so I used vanilla essence. The flavour didn't quite come out but it still tastes good all the same. You may also omit the flavours and make it plain. Or you can make it plain with out any fillings or flavour and serve it with some sauce on top of it.
If you don't like the palm sugar filling, you can experiment with other types of fillings to your liking like peanuts or coconut mixed with palm sugar, etc.
You can also turn the above recipe into soup dumplings by replacing the fillings with red bean paste or peanuts and serve it in a sweeten broth.
4 months have passed since we moved into our new house and it's beginning to look more and more like home. Off with the old wallpaper (in most of the rooms, the wallpaper have been there for 4 decades!), a fresh coat of paint... voilà: it looks a whole lot prettier and modern. All this is possible due to relentless effort of my parents-in-law, without them, it would have taken us a lot longer to get the house looking like home. THANK YOU Michèle & Patrick for all that you have done for us.
Early this week we hosted a lovely Canadian couple who were here to visit Michèle & Patrick. With so many people around the house, it was la fête (a party) for Little One. Basked in the adoration limelight of everyone, she shines like a true star and charmed the Canadian couple (needless to say, the grandparents are already under her spell). Since this couple had been to Singapore before, I decided to cook curry - something local for them, my mom's Nonya Chicken Curry (who learned it from my grandma) - a Peranarakan Cuisine.
Mmm...yummy. It really DOES tastes like the curry I have back home, so I guess this is a success. I had prepared a tiramusi for dessert, but it was a tough sell after everybody had gotten a second (and for some even third) portion of the curry.
If you can't find galangal (blue ginger) in your area, substitute it with another stalk of lemongrass. As for candle nuts, you can replace it with either raw cashew nuts or macadamia nuts or blanched almonds.
This is one of my favourite childhood desserts. In the old days whenever my mom wanted to make this, she would ask us to help her dig out the cassava roots. This was always such a fun field trip even though it is just behind our 'kampong' (village) house. Which child wouldn't want to play with dirt and digging up earth, pulling out the plant roots, chopping up the plant and replanting them after that? I remember that I kept asking my mom frequently about when could we dig up the roots again after replanting it. Then my mom would send us to hunt for a coconut (there used to be lots of coconut trees in front of our kampong house) and start shredding the coconut flesh using the old fashion method (ie. sitting on a long wooden bench with a metal spike at the end). It was such a fun and learning activity that I wish I could do it nowadays with my Little One.
Cassava or tapioca plant or yuca (most people associate it with tapioca flour) is a tall plant that can reach up to 15 feet sometimes. They survive not only very well in dry season (with high humidity) but also in poor soil conditions. Cassava can be easily propagated by cutting the stems into sections and just planting them into the soil before the wet season. Their leaves can be eaten cooked however they are very toxic raw. My mom used to cook these leaves in spicy coconut milk base. As for their tuberous roots, we usually boil them and eat them as they are (without any seasoning) or make them into desserts.
I do not know how to really describe this taste but I'll do my best! The combination of flavours is balanced and one doesn't overwhelm the other. With each bite, you have the natural fragrance and taste of cassava and at the same time, fragrant sweet & salty taste of fresh shredded coconut blend together.
This dessert is best eaten on the day that it is made.
Since we touched down in Singapore, we have been eating non stop - be it home-cooked or coffee shops and Chinese new year goodies. It seems like Little One has a real adventurous taste buds. She practically eats whatever we give her and more. For example (might not be surprising for local children): fish balls, char siew, seaweed soup, peanut soup (she loves the peanuts), mee goreng, prawn mee, deep fried chicken wings, fish ball noodles, mee robus (even when it is spicy), bak kwa (BBQ pork), kueh pie ti (she even dipped the cups in chili sauce and ate it even though it was spicy, and after she had a big gulp of water to cool her palate, went back for more.). She loves cookies or tarts like: kueh bolu, pineapple tarts, love letters cookies etc. Every day she would grab one of the New Year goodies tin and go around the house asking anyone who would open it for her. If one refused her, no problem: this enterprising little lady would get a different tin and try again till she found someone in this household who would give her the cookie. hahaha ... kudos for her determination and persistence.
Pierre also has been enjoying the different Asian food offered locally but the other day he told me that he is really tired of it after getting some for every single meal... He just needs to recharge his taste buds and digestive system with some good old steak or any type of western food. He said to me 'Please, for a change, anything western food will do - be it Greek, Italian or even a fast food joint. I just can't stomach another Asian meal, no offense.' hehehe So yesterday evening we headed down town for some Italian meal. During the MRT train ride, he suddenly said this to me 'I don't know how you managed to stomach French food every day for the past 6 years. If it were me, I would have puked long time ago.' Me: 'Now you know how I felt and the sacrifices I made for you'
The first restaurant that we went to pig out is of course non other than a dim sum restaurant (we have been yearning dim sum for a year) located in Toa Payoh called Fortunate Restaurant. The restaurant is very spacious and the service is fast and courteous. The dim sum range is rather wide - from the usual dim sum fare to some originals created by their house chef. The dim sums are delicious and are served piping hot from a traditional push cart. The only pet peeve I have is that they charged us S$2.00 for a small plate of peanuts (we thought it was on the house since they brought it as soon as we sat, till we saw it on the bill).
The 2nd restaurant that we checked out is Shahi Maharani, located at Raffles City Shopping Centre. This rather high-end restaurant offers not only excellent Northern Indian cuisine, it's service is also impeccable and efficient. That day, they had a promotion on lunch buffet for S$ 20++ - a price which I think was a good value for money given the quality and choice of food and service. However in the evening, they only offer à la carte and each dish is about S$20.00 +/-. They also have live Indian instrumental music in the evening. I highly recommend anyone to dine there.
The 3rd restaurant we went to was Prego, a rather chic Italian restaurant. The service was efficient. Price wise : the prices for the antipasti are rather steep (for example: Calamari Fritti - S$26.00 but the portion is more of a main meal than an entrée and a plate of Ceasar salad costs S$18.00). Food wise: only excellent quality - the calamari were crispy on the outside without too much batter and tender on the inside. The seafood pasta that I ordered were superbly done - the prawns were so fresh and cooked just right. However the lobster pasta was a bit of a let down. Overall we had a great dinning experience. Just be prepared to fork out about S$80.00 per person for a 3 course meal excluding drinks.
We may be expanding sideways but we are definitely not yet done with our makan (eating) journey in Singapore. More adventures to come soon ... so stay tuned.
Craving ... a wonderful feeling to have when you can satisfy that but a torture when you can't. I have had this huge craving for Assam fish for quite a long time now which I had been trying to put out of my mind, without much success (like me trying to lose weight - I only ended gaining more instead of losing ). Fish is not my specialty - as you all remember the last time when I tried cooking fish, it didn't turned out quite right. So I try to avoid cooking anything that has scales and swim...but darn it, this Assam Fish soon started to even haunt me in my sleep - yes, I dreamt that I was happily slurping up the sauce and relishing on the fish! So I said to myself "come on, are you going to let a dead fish intimidate you for the rest of your life. A cooking ninja would never cower from a challenge." So I got 3 lovely fish the next day for dinner. First I gave my fishes a royal treatment - frontal and back massage with salt, then I had a little pep talk with them. I looked at them right into their eyes (not easy when they have one on each side) and said "Ok fish, I'm going to give you a nice aromatic spa treatment of lemon grass, galangal & other spices right now and you are going to come out smelling so good and tasting so sweet."
I was so darn excited that I managed to get my assam fish right and it tastes just like my mom's version (well, I still think mom's cook the best Assam fish). The sauce is very aromatic - the mackerel heightens the flavour of the sauce - great tasting of the spices mix with a spicy tint and a slight sourness - taste just right and it really opens up one's appetite. I love topping my rice with the sauce. My sister-in-law loves it, Pierre was less enthusiastic as he is not a big fan of fish to begin with.
I usually can make a big bowl of the paste, fry them till fragrant and then keep them in the refrigerator for later use. It comes in very handy when I have to do a last minute dinner entertainment. All I need to do is just defrost and the paste is ready.
I recently learned another new trick from my local Asian store lady - you can actually store the unused portion of galangal by slicing them into pieces, freeze them, then put them all in a plastic bag in the freezer. When in need, just take out the number of pieces you need for cooking.
The marvelous thing about living in the house of a great cook is you get delicious meals 365 days (obviously). However the danger is that you risk being spoiled for life regarding food - Asian food in my case - with the permanent tendency of comparing the dishes you eat outside to those at home. Now, who's this great chef I'm talking about? No, no, it's not Pierre - well he is a great chef in certain domain... which I won't tell you. Yes, the great chef of wok: my dear old mom. My friends are so used to hearing me complaining about the plate of chicken curry or chili prawns that I'm eating at the hawker center (aka Singaporean food court) being not as good as my mom's. They would their shake their head and smile... until I invited them over for lunch or dinner for some chili crabs or pineapple prawns. Even till today, whenever we talk about food, they will reminisce about my mom's cooking and will always ask me when am I going to invite them over for lunch again Some of them even offer to buy and pay for the groceries and food if my mom can whip up those delicious prawns and crabs for them again.
I have to admit that I have taken my mom' cooking for granted while I was living with her. To me, from a child's point of view, my mom will live forever (silly thinking isn't it) and she's never old. It's only in my late 20s that I looked at my mom closely one day and realized suddenly that she isn't getting any younger, and if I don't spend quality time with her, one day she might not be there anymore and I'll regret it for the rest of my life. It was then that I got to really appreciate every little things she does for me. My sis and I tried to learn cooking from her and to relieve her of that job so that she can relax and enjoy her old age... but my mom is stubborn: it's her kitchen and she kicks us out of it whenever we try to help her. She always says that we are giving her more work to do (messing up her kitchen) than helping and it would take her twice as long to cook than usual with us around.
But now that I'm living abroad with my own family, I have a chance to try out her recipe in my own kitchen Trying to cook my mom's recipes is not that easy because she's from the "old school" and takes no measurement at all. And being two continents apart doesn't help either, as 'about the size of the small bowl we have in the kitchen' isn't a very helpful information. Over time I still got my way around some recipes, such as the following which I did for my Peruvian and French friends this week.
Mmm...yummy... almost as good as my mom's (that's my own opinion) Pierre loves it so did my friends ... they were quite amazed by the flavour of it, slightly bitter, sweet and spicy at the same time.
Candlenut can be found in Southeast-Asian markets. You can substitute it with macadamia nuts or Brazil nuts (these are three times as large as candlenuts, so use fewer) or raw cashews (two cashews for every candlenut) or blanched almonds (two almonds for every candlenut).
If you don't have fish curry powder, you can just simply add chili powder (in lesser quantity of course) or grind dried chilis (deseed) together with the paste, it still taste delicious. Or you can add any curry powder you have in your pantry and add in some paprika for the red colour.
Char Kway Teow (translated literally as "fried flat noodles" ), is a popular noodle dish in Singapore and Malaysia. The original version is stir-fried with pork fats and crisp croûtons of pork lard which gives its characteristic taste together with ingredients like cockles, egg, bean sprouts, slices of Chinese sausage and fish cake. Because of its high animal fat content, Char Kway Teow has a reputation of being an unhealthy dish. It began as a poor man's meal, but over time many more ingredients were added, making it one of the most loved dishes in Singapore.
This is my entry for Ruth's Presto Pasta Night. My recipe does away with the pork fat and is easier on the arteries.
This is the 2nd time I'm cooking this dish. The results this time around is better because I didn't overcooked my noodles. I just realized yesterday night that this dish is so simple and quick to fix. (why? once done, I only had two dishes to wash in the kitchen )
We usually eat this as main course by itself. On the taste side, it is a sweet and salty dish at the same time, and is very typical of the colorful south-east Asian cuisine that is prevalent around Singapore.
The above quantities serve about 10 people.
If you find that your noodles are a bit under-cooked at the end, add a bit of water and stir the mixture. Let it cook for a minute or two and check the noodles again. If it is still not cooked to your liking, add a bit more water to it and stir it. However do not overcook the noodle or else it will break into small pieces when you stir it.
In preparation of this dish, I omitted the Chinese sausages and squid but added some pork slices and more prawns. You can add beef slices in place of pork if you wish. Or totally leave out the seafood if you are allergic to seafood. And if you find it troublesome or difficult to do the egg part, you can skip it too. The dish will still hold the wonderful flavour.
In some other recipe, fish sauce is replaced by oyster sauce and light soya sauce.