Sunday 25 December 2016

Christmas Tree Croquembouche/ Croquembouche de Noel 圣诞泡芙塔

The Informal Chef would like to wish everybody a blessed and fruitful Christmas!

Yes! I have finally done this. Croquembouche de noel. I have always been fascinated with this profiterole cone ever since I saw it on Kim Sam Soon (Korean drama). Traditionally, this is a French wedding cake but the shape of the cone makes it perfect for a Christmas tree, hence, Croquembouche de Noel. Nowadays, with my on-going home business, I hardly have time to update this blog. Today is different. It is Christmas and I am dying to do something different. With whatever free time that I had, I summoned my courage to try out this intriguing dessert.

Saturday 15 October 2016

Purple Sweet Potato Balls 炸紫薯球

I have been trying my best to update my blog these days. The opportunity comes when my mom actually had a disaster in the kitchen. Yes, she over-boiled her sweet potatoes making it too soft to be eaten or cooked. I was initially thinking of making sweet potato bread out of the pulp but she actually suggested something better. Potato balls...something that I haven't eaten for the longest time.

Normally, orange or white potato is used to make the balls. Purple sweet potatoes is considered better (and more expensive) as it is deemed to be more nutritious than its peers. Besides high in fiber, it has Vitamins A and C, Manganese and Anthocyanins (click here for more on purple sweet potato nutrients). I find the purple sweet potatoes to be the sweeter type and therefore I did not add as much sugar to it. If you are using the other types, do take this into consideration.

The making of sweet potato balls is relatively easy. Put some flour and knead it into a dough and then start pinching and rolling into smaller balls. Having said that, different places uses different flours for a variety of textures. In Thailand for example, plain flour and tapioca starch is used. In Malaysia, the Chinese like their balls a little chewy. Hence, the use of glutinous rice flour as part replacement. The more glutinous rice flour you put, the more chewy it would be. It is really up to your palate. I do not like my balls too chewy but remain fluffy and soft to the bite. Do play with your flour to get your desired texture. I added a little baking powder to make the ball puffed up as well. I like sweet potatoes balls best when it is still warm as the skin is crispy to the bite while the insides are soft and fluffy. A simple snack really, with basic ingredients and simple techniques but somehow it vows me everytime.

Fried Purple Sweet Potato Balls 炸紫薯球

Makes about 24 balls


300 g sweet potato, steamed and mashed
30 g glutinous rice flour (1/4 cup)
30 g cornstarch (1/4 cup)
2 tbsp sugar

Cooking Instruction

1. Mix all ingredients together to form a dough.

2. Pinch and roll with your palms to make a ball (approximately 15 g each).

3. Fry balls in pre-heated oil in medium heat, stirring constantly.

4. When balls starts to turn brown, remove from fire and strain. Best to serve hot.

Friday 29 July 2016

Four Heavenly Kings (Stir-Fried Mixed Vegetables) 四大天王

It took me quite some time to find the name for this dish. This rather popular dish is no stranger in Malaysia. In fact, it is authentically Malaysian. As to why it was named Four Heavenly Kings, I believe it is the use of four types of vegetables usually brinjal, okra, long beans, and stink beans. The vegetables are interchangeable with others such as winged beans or snake beans. Plainly put, it is just stir-fried mixed vegetables. In true Malaysian style, this dish is usually served spicy with the use of chilli paste or sambal and dried shrimp. It has this unique pungent smell of the dried shrimp and the sting of the sambal. A truly flavour-filled dish indeed.

Thursday 7 July 2016

Sambal Prawns with Stink Beans/Sambal Udang Petai


1 cup stink beans
100 g prawns, shelled and deveined
1 onion, sliced
2-3 tbsp chilli paste/sambal tumis*
4 tbsp spicy dried shrimp paste/sambal udang kering 
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
2 tbsp cooking oil

*sambal tumis can easily be bought in local grocery stores. Alternatively, omit this and add more sambal udang kering and some water.

Cooking Instruction

1. Saute onion in preheated oil in a wok. When onion becomes limp, add in sambal tumis and sambal udang kering. Saute until fragrant. 

2. Add in prawns and quickly stir-fry until it is half cooked. 

3. Throw in bitter beans and seasoning. When bitter beans are cooked, dish up and serve with rice.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Sambal Udang Kering/Dried Shrimp Sambal - The Product

It has been a while since I last blogged, almost a month to be exact. One must wonder what happened to this usually healthy blog. Well, here's the story....

It all started one fateful day when I took a step of faith to convert one of my recipes into an actual product, something that you could actually see, buy and eat. Praise God, I have never looked back since. The product sold so well that I have to mobilise my whole family including my aged mother for help. But all is well. Sales was impressive. Profit was satisfactory. But most of all, I get to work at home and spend time with my love one. Everybody was happy with the extra work albeit a little too tiring. This marks the beginning of my little cottage industry and I believe there would be more to come. Blogging, sadly and reluctantly, would have to take a back seat for the moment...but definitely not forgotten!

Saturday 11 June 2016

Almond Nestum Cookies/Nestum杏仁曲奇饼

Making cookies is one of the easiest in baking. And making these Almond Nestum Cookies is even easier. You don't even need a mixer or a food processor. The whole process is forgiving whereby you could shape the cookies into any shapes that you fancy and it does not burn easily. When I was making this cookie, immediately I thought of my Muslim counterparts who are fasting in this Ramadhan month. This is an ideal snack since it is so effortless to make. It also makes perfect gift.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Easy Turmeric Rice/Nasi Kunyit 黃薑飯 (Rice Cooker Method)

My mother told me today that she would be cooking chicken curry. Immediately I thought of cooking a small portion of nasi kunyit or turmeric rice to go with it. But how?

The traditional nasi kunyit requires us to pre-soak the rice for hours in turmeric and then steam. It also requires us to add coconut milk in 2 to 3 intervals, mixing in every intervals. Frankly saying, the amount of work for such small amount of yellow rice is often a put off, what more when I am in a hurry to cook some? So I improvised. I used the rice cooker. Yes, it can be done.

Friday 3 June 2016

Black Pepper Beef 黑椒牛肉

What was meant to be a post on doughnuts became a typical Chinese stir-fried. Yes, I screwed up again. My doughnuts looked like biscuit, unworthy of mention. But all for the better because this black pepper beef is so good I ate a good portion of it.

Many Chinese dishes are stir-fried and mostly in high temperature to get it fragrant. The Chinese call this "wok hei" or breath of wok, very important in Chinese cooking. The high heat fittingly brings out that peppery fragrant with a slight sting to the tongue. Do be careful though as this dish is very "heaty" in nature. So make sure you drink a lot of water or herbal tea or you might just risk getting ulcer or falling sick (the Chinese believe that too much of the "yang" element would upset the balance in the body and hence, making you sick) .

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Nestum Crumble Bread Pudding /Nestum 面包布丁

Making bread pudding is pretty easy to do. It was one of my earlier conquest when I started blogging. If you ever have trouble following a bread pudding recipe, just forget the recipe. You don't have to memorise. All you have to do is understand the dish. There are two main components in a bread pudding: the bread itself and the custard. Use any breads and cut it into decent sizes so that it could be soaked easily. As for the custard, use one large egg for every cup of milk (240 ml) and I guarantee you you won't go wrong. Cook for how long? This isn't an issue either. Use the old reliable skewer. If it comes out clean, it is cooked. Generally, it would take 15-20 minutes in ramekins at 170C.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Pumpkin Kaya Wholemeal Milk Bun 金瓜加椰全麦面包

Guess what I did to my yummy pumpkin kaya that I made yesterday? Yes, I paired it together with my Japanese milk bread recipe to make this Pumpkin Kaya Wholemeal Milk Bun. In line with the healthy nature of the pumpkin kaya, I braved myself to adapt my Japanese milk bread recipe to include wholemeal flour for a wholesome recipe. The experiment paid off handsomely. It was super delicious! A perfect combination. The bread remains soft and fluffy for two days because of the use of tangzhong method. Don't know about Day 3 though because we have already finished all the bread!

Sunday 22 May 2016

Pumpkin Kaya/Pumpkin Coconut Jam 金瓜加椰

I know there are many recipes for pumpkin kaya and I am not surprise one bit how popular it is. This kaya is a keeper! For a start, it is way healthier than the normal kaya we consume. It uses lesser sugar as the pumpkin itself is already naturally sweetened. But most of all it is eggless. Not only do you save on consuming bad cholesterol, it also means that people who are vegan or allergic to eggs could have a chance to savour this wonderful Malaysian delicacy called kaya. Blessed be the one who invented this pumpkin replacement! It is ingenious.

Thursday 19 May 2016

Chocolate Roti Jala with Caramelised Bananas 焦糖香蕉巧克力网煎饼

I am going all artsy-fartsy today. It took me a long time to come out with this dish. I had this idea dancing in my head to reinvent our good old roti jala or lacy pancake into something sweet and upscale. If you are clueless about what roti jala is, you can click here to know a little more.

I was inspired to make a chocolate flavoured roti jala for a sweet dish instead. I then paired it with bananas that has been caramelised in sugar for that sugary glaze and bittersweet taste. Lastly, I topped the roti jala with some wholesome yogurt and a sprinkle of crushed nuts that are bursting in nutritional goodness. How is that for breakfast? Any takers?

Sunday 15 May 2016

Curry Chicken Tart 咖喱鸡挞

I was flipping some old recipe books for inspiration when I came across this recipe on curry chicken tart. What I really liked about the recipe was the flaky pastry that involves combining a water dough and oil dough. Unlike western pastries, that is short and crumbly, this type of crust is flaky with many layers. This type of crust is used in many Chinese pastries like egg tarts and ham tan sou.

To make this flaky tart, an oil dough is first wrapped with the water dough. It is then worked like a puff pastry to get the nice layers. I didn't really get very distinct layers. Maybe I worked the dough too thin. I was, however, very satisfied with the taste and crunch.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Thai Green Curry Chicken 泰式绿咖喱鸡

I had my first taste of Thai green curry many years ago, not in South East Asia but in London. I was a student then and one kind friend brought this Thai takeaway and shared it with me on a cold winter's night. Needless to say, I was hooked from that fateful day. There is something about the blend of aroma from the herbs and spices with that creamy coconut milk that makes this so aromatic. It is not as intense a dish as its other curry counterparts, yet it holds its unique taste that is utterly addictive.

Thursday 5 May 2016

Steamed Egg with Ginger Juice 姜汁炖蛋

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to stay with my late grandmother in Ipoh. I remember vividly that she made me this humble egg custard dessert that I loved so much. As humble as it was, it was deemed a luxury to us back then. It was silky smooth. It was saporous sweet. And I was a hungry kid. There couldn't be a better match.

Now that I am all grown up, I realised what this dish is all about. Steamed egg with ginger juice is actually a very traditional Chinese dessert of the Cantonese clan. No wonder my grandmother had this dish up her sleeves.  She was Cantonese. This steamed egg with ginger juice is a pretty famous dessert in Hong Kong too. My grandmother's steamed egg with ginger juice, which I totally adore and vouch for, used whole eggs and ginger only, unlike other recipes whereby milk is also added. I only like it one way, that is how my grandmother made it. In case you are wondering what does it taste like, the custard tasted like Tong Kee's famous egg tart minus the tart shell.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Quick and Easy Apple Crumble Tart 苹果挞

Just yesterday, I was having a conversation with my old school mate. I was thrilled to know that she was following my blog ardently. Unfortunately, she did not try out any of the recipes. I asked her why and she told me the recipes were too complicated for her. On a hindsight, I might have overlooked readers who favours the simplest of methods. A lot of my recipes previously emphasized on authenticity. Therefore, for this week alone, I am going to introduce some shortcuts to make popular recipes quickly and easily.

This friend of mine adores apple crumble. This quick and easy apple crumble tart is a shortcut without having to make pie crusts. I hope that she will find this recipe useful. Either way, this is one worthy recipe as it uses a healthy, fatless ingredient to replace the rich pie crust. Leftover bread slices were used here. Not only did I managed to use up those extra stale slices that I kept frozen, I also used wholemeal for a healthier alternative. The result was a crunchy toasted crust that was absolutely wonderful to bite on.

Friday 29 April 2016

Breakfast Bread Bowl 面包碗早餐

Whenever I see postings of those perfectly cooked eggs with runny yolks, I am grossly tempted to take a bite. There is something about half-cooked eggs with sinful runny yolks, all bright and inviting. The yolk that graciously flows out when you cut into it, glorious indeed. And, mind you, my flesh is weak. I have no resistance to this. None what so ever.

After seeing these breakfast bread bowl recipes on social medias, it took me no time to make my own. There is not a need for recipe really. It is just a matter of assembling your typical breakfast ingredients, and nicely arranging it into a bread so that it looks more intriguing and inviting.

Sunday 24 April 2016

Braided Japanese Milk Bread 编织牛奶麵包

It has been a while since I last baked soft breads. Normally, the lazy me would just roll out the proofed dough and slather something in between before rolling it into a log and cut it into pieces. Today, I attempted something different. I have always been intrigued by the patterns on a Challah, a braided bread that the Jewish eat on Sabbath.

The Challah has many meanings related to the braids and shape of the bread. The strands that intertwine signifies love, whilst the round shape (which I am attempting today), signifies continuity. Instead of using an original Challah recipe, I am just using my prized Japanese milk bread recipe. I can't seem to divorce myself from this Japanese milk bread recipe ever since that faithful day I tasted it. Weird? Definitely! I use it on every recipe that requires soft bread. This recipe for Japanese milk bread yields some really soft fluffy bread. The tangzhong method used enables moisture to be retained, keeping the bread soft for days. You could read more about it from my older post here.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Canned Tuna Fish Cakes 罐头金枪鱼肉饼

Today I was looking for a quickie, a shortcut for my dinner dish. Suddenly, I had an aha moment to use canned tuna. I know the thought of canned food is not appealing at all. Therefore, least I could do was to repackage it and give those poor tuna a facelift. And this facelift took just minutes.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Yam Cake/Taro Cake 芋头糕

Taro cake or yam cake? Well, in this part of the world, it is called yam cake. Don't be deceived by the name. It is not a cake per se. This cake is savoury with lots of yam and other ingredients such as mushroom, dried shrimp and five-spice powder. I guess most of my Asian peers would have known that already. There is a slight difference between the Hong Kong version and our Southeast Asian version though. Ours is normally eaten steamed while the former is pan-fried after steaming. The Hong Kong version also have Chinese sausage and dried scallops added to the dish.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

How to Get Silky Smooth Chinese Steamed Eggs

The Chinese steamed eggs is a popular dish. It is simple, with only eggs, salt and water as base. Because of its soft custardy texture, it is perfect for elders or babies who do not have the ability to chew. So what's the big deal about steaming eggs? If you think steaming eggs is easy, you are most probably right. But if your quest is that silken, smooth, flawless glob that glides into your mouth and dissolves into nothingness, you might perhaps want to read on:

Friday 8 April 2016

Banana Flambe

About twenty odd years ago, I went for a short holiday in Germany. I stayed with my auntie who owned a quaint Chinese restaurant there. It was winter and the restaurant served this fried banana with ice-cream as dessert. To add on to that, the banana would be presented with liquor and set aflame in front to the customer. This banana flambe has etched itself in my mind ever since. I just love the theater, the drama that comes with the dish. It is really not a big deal but I think it serves up an excellent conversation point. It is really a genius way to elevate an otherwise common dish, both taste wise and presentation wise.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Strawberry Birthday Cake 草莓生日蛋糕

You don't think I am going to leave you in the lurch with just a sponge cake recipe, do you? Well, here's the final product - A Strawberry Birthday Cake. As I have mentioned earlier, this cake was intended for my niece. She adores strawberries. So this is what I came out with - loads of strawberries and cream. If you like strawberry cakes as much as she does, this one is for you!

Monday 4 April 2016

Basic Sponge Cake II 海绵蛋糕 2

This one is for my niece. I made her a strawberry cake for her birthday since she adores strawberries. For the sponge cake, I adapted from my chocolate sponge recipe that I made two weeks ago since it was a hit. I replaced cocoa powder with cake flour and adjusted other quantities accordingly.  The end result was as delightful as I have imagined. The cake turned out soft, fluffy, but at the same time structurally strong to hold the fillings and jam.

Thursday 31 March 2016

Gua Bao with Braised Pork Belly 割包

Gua Bao is a humble Taiwanese street food that has its origins from Fuzhou. It comprises a U-shaped bun sandwiching a piece of luscious pork belly. Traditionally it is topped with pickled vegetables, crushed peanuts and a sprinkle of greens. It is really just another convenient snack in Taiwan that sees lesser light than its other more popular peers like Shilin Fried Chicken, Pineapple Tart or Taiwanese Sausage. On the other hand, it is rather popular in America when chef David Chang adopted it and gave it a new lift in his famed restaurant, Momofuku. The fascination of a "Chinese hamburger" really caught on.

Monday 28 March 2016

Crispy Fried Banana/Pisang Goreng 炸香蕉

Everybody knows how to fry a banana. But the ultimate test is to have your bananas crispy and the crispiness to last for hours. I have been experimenting quite a bit with different batter recipes but each time I was left wanting. The problem was always the durability of the crunch. Somehow it does not last as long as those I bought by the roadside. There are many batter recipes out there. Even fried bananas sellers have differing recipes. I personally love the Indonesian method whereby the pisang goreng is coated with another layer of "kremes" or crispy bits. After learning the traits from an actual fried banana seller, I finally managed to come out with a most crispy fried banana.

Friday 25 March 2016

Lotus Leaf Bun 荷叶包

It has been a while since I last posted a recipe on bao or Chinese bun. Recently, my interest was pique with this Taiwanese Gua Bao which is basically a U-shaped bao whereby you put your filling in the middle just like Western sandwiches. In fact, is was also known as the Chinese sandwich/hamburger. Well, let's not excite you further with this delicious Chinese hamburger today (don't worry, I promise I will comeback to this in coming posts). We are just going to talk about a bun that has that U-shape and functions to sandwich decadent pork bellies and other wonderful fillings - the Lotus Leaf Bun.

Monday 21 March 2016

Birthday Chocolate Cake 巧克力生日蛋糕

Gosh! I think I just overdosed my three-year old with chocolate! And he loved every bite of it! It started when he requested a chocolate cake as his birthday cake. I did not plan on making a chocolate only chocolate cake but as it went along, chocolate seemed to be the best choice, be it for filling or glaze, or even the wording.

I started off with a moist chocolate sponge, cut into three layers (recipe here). For the filling, I couldn't think of anything more appropriate than whipped chocolate ganache. Why whipped chocolate ganache? Because it is more stable than just whipped cream or meringue. I crumb coated it with the same whipped ganache as well. My birthday chocolate cake was plain looking after the coating so I made some ganache and pour over it to get that dripping effect. I was glad I did because that was the highlight of the cake. Its intense chocolaty flavour really complemented the cake well. And the glaze looked tempting. I wrote the name in melted white chocolate and put it on the cake for contrast. I then added M&Ms for colour but it was a disaster as the colours came off due to condensation. If you like M&Ms on your cake too, make sure you put it at the last minute. It was a lesson well learned.

I was not really satisfied with the look on this cake, what more with the melting M&Ms. In fact, my hubby gave me a thumb down when I sent him a photo of the cake. I did not want to post this initially. However, this was one of the best tasting cake that I ever made. It was moist, light, not too sweet and smelled amazing. And those who ate it concurred. Therefore, I feel compelled to journal down the recipe. I would definitely to make this birthday chocolate cake again, with some changes in decorating perhaps. Just excuse my amateurish decoration this time.

Birthday Chocolate Cake 巧克力生日蛋糕

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

300 g whipping cream
125 g baking chocolate (chopped)/ semi-sweet chocolate chips

Simmer whipping cream in a saucepan. Once the cream starts boiling, remove from fire and pour onto chocolate. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Using a whisk, mix until chocolate is melted. Put a cling wrap on top of cream and let it cool at room temperature. Once cooled, put into chiller to let it chill completely before whipping.

Chocolate Ganache

110 g baking chocolate (chopped)/ semi-sweet chocolate chips
20 g evaporated milk
1 tbsp butter

Put everything into a microwave-safe bowl. Cook in microwave (high) in 30 seconds interval until the chocolate is thoroughly melted. I microwave twice to get the chocolate to completely melt. Do not overheat. Set aside to let it cool off a bit.

Cake Assembly

1. Fill and coat sponge cake with whipped chocolate ganache. You can get the sponge cake recipe here. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

2. Make chocolate ganache and slowly pour on top of cake. The ganache should be slighty warm and not hot or it will melt the cream.

3. Add M&Ms and other decoration of your choice (M&Ms should be put last).

My last year Teddy Bear Cake for my son's 2nd birthday:

Friday 18 March 2016

Stir-fried Beef with Ginger and Spring Onion 姜葱牛肉

I love this dish. Not so much of the ginger and spring onion per say, but I love the tender, springy beef slices. The ginger and spring onion compliment the dish well. It remove that beefy odour and at the same time, lend an aromatic sharp scent to the dish. It is really a match made in heaven. Best of all, this is a very easy dish. Everything happens in less than 5 minutes.

Having said that, it is essential not to overcook the beef or else it would become tough and chewy, spoiling the whole dish in the process. A very high heat is essential to bring out the flavour (the Chinese call it "wok hei"). The beef must not be cooked for too long in the wok. Therefore, do prepare everything beforehand. In order to make the beef more tender and springy, you could treat the beef with a little baking soda and then wash it off.

Monday 14 March 2016

Basic Chocolate Sponge 巧克力海绵蛋糕

Baking sponge cake is my nemesis. More often than not, I would get a cracked top or a shrunken middle. I always marveled at those who could get that perfect crease-free puffed up top. No matter how hard I tried, somehow the recipe would fail me. Oh well, maybe I failed the recipe. After rounds of trying, I have finally found something that worked for me. To cut the story short, I managed to come out with a decent chocolate sponge this time and I am utterly ecstatic about it.

Thursday 10 March 2016

Pork Belly with Taro (Yam) / Wu Tau Kau Yoke 芋頭扣肉

This comfort food has its origins from the Hakkas from China. It has that trademark upside-down presentation that is popular in Hakka dishes. By braising the dish in an upside-down manner for hours, the gravy and flavour are soaked completely by the meat and yam giving you that most scrumptious bite. It is no wonder why it is such a popular household dish.

Honestly speaking, this dish is not much of a looker. Any established chefs would have been appalled at its blackened mashed-up appearance. I would rather call this rustic. But once you have tasted these succulent layers of melt-in-your-mouth proteins, the mere uninspiring appearance would be enough make you salivating. I am not kidding.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Roti Jala/Lacy Pancakes 网煎饼

Mention Roti Jala to any fellow Malaysian and immediately you would see this glee on his/her face in recognition of this delicacy. It is nothing really, just some crepe, all in its lacy appearance. But when paired with some good dish of curry, oh wow, it is just amazing. The crepe itself is savoury, infused with coconut milk to make it fragrant, creamy and rich. The essence of a good Roti Jala is in its fluffiness and richness. This is one pancake that you would want to go back for more and more. No wonder it is a popular festive food. You would most certainly find it on occasions like Hari Raya and Malay weddings.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Crunchy Prawn Wonton Soup 虾云吞汤

Wonton is a smaller version of sui kow or dumplings, often with a thinner and and smaller skin. Just like its cousin, you can put almost any proteins to be wrapped in that silken skin. Prawn is a very popular ingredient for wonton. Unfortunately, we seldom find places selling good prawn wonton soup in Malaysia. I suspect fresh prawn is pretty costly, hence, making the business of selling prawn wonton soup unattractive.

Monday 22 February 2016

Recipe for Chinese Bbq Pork/Char Siu 叉燒

Ok, I have done it.

It seems like every Chinese blogger that I could put my finger to has a recipe for Chinese bbq pork or more fondly known as char siu. Together with siu yuk (crispy pork belly), these two are perhaps the two most blogged about dishes among the Chinese community. And it doesn't surprise me one bit as these two dishes are vastly popular, not only among the Chinese, but also in Western countries. This char siu, it is almost like an icon for Chinese cuisines. You could find its charred bit of succulent, juicy, tender, sweetish savoury portion hanging in the windows of practically every Chinese restaurants around the world.

Monday 15 February 2016

Chicken pot pie 杯式鸡肉派

Chicken pot pie has become my favourite ever since I had that fateful first bite some 20 odd years ago. At that time, I couldn't comprehend why was it called a pie when it was just a bowl of thicken chicken soup with a puff-up crust on top. I still couldn't.

Friday 12 February 2016

Red Velvet Molten Lava Cake 心太软

What should I make for my husband on Valentine's Day? You see, we are past that lovey-dovey stage. So expressive heart shapes with mushy wordings are totally out. I am sure there are many die-hard romantic souls out there but my family is more "Chinaman" inclined. So, I have decided on a Red Velvet Molten Lava cake. The message is subtle but is by no means less influential. The colour red represents the heart whilst the oozy centre represents one's overflowing love for each other. A perfect fit don't you think?

Wednesday 10 February 2016

How to make Crispy Pork Lard and Pork Oil 猪油渣

Now that the two important days of Lunar New Year are over, everything is beginning to get back to normal. I am also getting myself busy again after two full days of unproductive inactivity. As corny as it might sound, I am actually glad to be back to my normal hectic schedule. I know a lot of you are still in the holiday mood. Therefore, I am just going to post something simple.

Thursday 4 February 2016

Chinese New Year Dinner: Yam Basket/Fatt Putt 佛钵 (盘满钵满)

Today my family is in for a treat. Because I am doing this post for Chinese New Year dinner, my family gets to enjoy this crispy melt-in-the-mouth yam basket pre-Chinese New Year dinner. Like any other food served during Chinese New Year, it has an auspicious meaning. The yam basket/fatt putt is filled to the brim signify an overflowing of fortune (phoon woon put woon 盘满钵满 in Cantonese).

The yam basket derives its name from the Buddhist alms bowl (fatt putt). It is no wonder the yam basket bears resemblance to this said bowl. This dish is originally created as a vegetarian dish with ingredients such as carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, bamboo shoots and cashew nuts. Nowadays you could practically fill anything that you fancy inside.

A good yam basket is crispy on the outside at the same time fluffy inside. It must showcase the beautiful fluffy strands that encased the ring. Not an easy feat since fire control is essential here. If you have a thermometer, the temperature should be around 150C. But like most home cooks, we cook by feel. Here's the pointer to see if the oil temperature is right: drop a piece of the yam into the oil. If it disintegrates, the the oil is not hot enough. If it does not spread at all, the oil is too hot. Another challenge is to fry the yam basket whole. While the Chinese restaurants uses bamboo mat to hold the yam ring when putting in, we home cooks have to be creative. I used aluminium foil with cut holes.

I normally create my own recipes but for this scrumptious yam basket, I phoned my faraway hubby. He makes the perfect yam basket. Of course, the recipe comes in large quantity and I have to painstakingly reduce it and omit the msg for home cooking. I was pretty satisfied with the results and proceeded to take photographs. Upon showing my hubby the pictures, he said that the heat was too high when frying resulting in lesser fluffy strands. So I fried another mini yam ring to show all of you it is supposed to look. Gong Xi Fa Chai!

Chinese New Year Dinner: Yam Basket/Fatt Putt 佛钵 (盘满钵满 )

Makes 2 medium yam basket


360 g yam, diced and steamed
180 g wheat starch (tang mein)
180 g chicken stock (original uses water)
90 g lard (pork oil) (click here to find out how to make your own lard)
90 g shortening
1/8 tsp five spice powder
1/4 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)

oil to fry
aluminium foil
stir-fry dish of your choice to be put inside the ring
meehoon (rice vermicelli)

Cooking Instruction

1. Steam yam for about 10 minutes until cooked. Meanwhile, boil chicken stock. Add chicken stock to wheat starch and stir with a fork until combined.

2. Mash steamed yam and add into wheat starch mixture while it is still hot. Combine well with fork. Be careful as the mixture is still hot.

3. Add in all the other ingredients and seasoning and work the mixture into a dough with your hands. The dough is ready when it doesn't stick to your hands. Make holes on the dough (apparently for it to cool faster) and put in the chiller for it to cool.

4. Remove dough and use the dough to make your desired ring on a piece of aluminium foil. Make some holes on the aluminium foil so that oil could circulate.

Not enough oil initially. I have to add until the whole ring is submerged
5. Heat oil. Test the oil with a piece of yam dough. If you see beautiful strands forming, the oil is ready. Gently put ring into the oil. The oil should totally immerse the ring. Deep-fry ring until golden and crispy. Increase heat when about to remove. Remove and drain.

6. Add meehoon into the hot oil. The meehoon should expand beautifully. Quickly remove from the hot oil and drain well.

7. Put meehoon on a plate and the fried yam basket on top. Then fill it up with your choice of stir-fry until the brim symbolising an overflowing of goods.

1. Oil control is very important when frying this yam basket. Use clean oil for nicer looking yam basket.
2. The oil must totally immerse the yam ring, hence, a lot of oil is necessary. Find your desired pot/wok that is not too wide to save on oil, but at the same time allows you to remove the yam basket easily when cooked.
3. The basket and fried meehoon absorb a lot of liquid. Do prepare more gravy for your stir-fry if it is intended to be put into the basket.   

Would you like a wonderful desert to go with this dish for your Chinese New Year dinner?

Molten Lava Black Sesame Tang yuan

Pumpkin Tang Yuan

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