Saturday, September 22, 2007

Simple Foods: Daging Goreng Kunyit (Stir Fried Beef with Tumeric

Tumeric plays an integral part in Asian cuisine, that its importance is forgotten. With medicinal qualities, tumeric powder, root or pieces is added into stews, stir fries, and marinades. Its beautiful hue, accentuates dishes, lending a subtle hint of smell and flavor to foods. The 'kunyit hidup' or the kunyit root, is often pounded and then added to curries and what not, where the flavor and scent is stronger and more fresh than the tumeric powder.

My quest for rekindling happy food memories from my childhood has brought me to present, Daging Goreng Kunyit. The simplicity of this dish is obvious. Beef slices marinated with tumeric powder, then stir fried. Served with white rice.

500g fillet cut beef, sliced
3 tbs tumeric powder
4 tbs tamarind juice
1/4 cup water
some salt
1 whole red chilli , cut into slices
1 whole onion, cut into rings
4 tbs oil


1. mix the beef and the tumeric powder. Put it in the fridge for 2 hours prior to cooking.
2. Put the oil in the wok, let the wok heat up till slightly smoky.
3. Add in the beef slices. Let the beef sear and coated with the oil.
4. Add water.
5. When the water has reduced to half, add in the onion slices and cut chillies.
6. Add the tamarind juice,
7. Add salt to taste Fry for another 2 minutes, until the water is almost reduced. Off the stove and serve!

P/S : I have added cubed potatoes, that have been boiled and deep fried into this dish.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Simple Foods: Sambal

There are indeed many versions, of this 'sambal' thing. Sambals come in different colors and flavours, the simple one will be the one I will be explaining. The different textures and flavours of sambal varies for what is to be put in it.

Known differences:

1. Different ingredients mixed, pounded or grounded with the chillies.
2.Texture of the grounded or 'pulsed' end product.
3. Color, due to the different ingredients.
4. Consistency, for different purposes.
5. Flavorings used will result to different tastes, such as lime rind, lemon juice, tamarind pulp juice, and etc.

Some sambals, are served as condiments to a meal, think the Indian coconut sambar, sometimes served with vegetables as an appetizer, think of the vegetable tray served before a Thai meal, sometimes as a marinade such as the sambal on the ikan bakar (grilled fish on banana leaf) , sometimes as a dish itself, fried with meat of vegetables.

Textures vary, for the different purposes, It may range from fine to course. Ingredients vary as well, some are plain, some are 'spiked' with prawn powder or belachan ( bad for people like me, allergic to prawns ), some have gallangal, lemongrass, mint,corriander and other leafy herbs added to compliment the meats or vegetables they are to 'accompany', be in in a strir-fry, a steam, or even the grill. Some sambals are pounded with the pestle and mortar for a noticeable grainy, chilli-ish texture, and the grinder or a processor for fine paste like texture.

The main ingredient of a sambal, without a doubt are chillies. Dried chillies, rehydrated by soaking for a few hours, then pureed into a paste. In olden times, think, about three generations before me, there were no food processors ar any kitchen gadgets, so this paste was made using a grinding stone ( a slab of stone witha rolling pin-like gizmo, all done by hand).

Well, nowadays, you could just purchase this chilli paste at any Asian supermarkets or grocery store. How simple life is. But my mother, coming from the old-school of cooks, it definitely against the use of this store available and stove top ready wonders. My mom says, you do not know how 'dirty' the chilies are and how unhygenically they were prepared, and easily I retorted ' I have been consuming this a third of my life, and I never got diarrhoea!' Knock wood!

When my sister was in the States, she used to get the Vietnemese version of the chilli paste, to fry her noodles and etc. The paste, she brought some back for me to 'study' consisted of dried chillies, vinegar, salt and sugar. Yes, it is actually that simple.

Chilli paste

2 kilos of dried chillies, remove the seeds with a kitchen scissors
water, enough to cover all the chillies, soak for a couple of hours

1. Throw away the water.It will have some strange color.
2. Rinse it twice.
3. Have a pot or wok filled with water, cook the chillies for about 10 minutes.
4. Drain the chillies.
5. In a food processor, dump all the chillies with a tablespoon of cooking oil, preferebly vegetable oil and not olive.
6. Pulse till you get a fine paste.

The oil is used as a lubricant for the blade, my mother says so.
It will create a smooth paste.
I think it keeps the chillies in better shape, for a longer period of time (of course, cooking on the stove helps too!)

And there you have a batch of chilli paste. This keeps well frozen, what we do at home is to pack them in small bags, freeze them, and only take the small bags out according to the quantity needed for a dish.

Alright, I hope my mom is happy with the inclusion of the messy process above, below is the store bought paste:

Now, the store bought paste is almost 'pure' chilli. I would suggest the following:

Sambal Goreng

140g of store bought chilli paste
2 large onions
some salt
some sugar
some lemon juice or tamarind pulp juice
vegetable oil

1. Peel, slice and pulse the onions to a somewhat course texture. This will give you nice noticeable onion bits (see opening picture,top)
2. Pour oil in a wok, and let it heat up.
3. Add in the pulsed onions. Add a little salt to discourage burning. Fry till limp and fragrant.
4. Add in the chilli paste. Mix well in the wok, fry for about 7 minutes, constantly stirring to prevent burning.
5. Add a little sugar, salt and lemon juice to taste (these three are usually used to balance the flavors). Cook for another 5 minutes till slightly dry.
6. Put aside to cool. Store. Keeps about 1 week in the fridge. And slightly longer in the freezer.

For what usage you may ask? Some suggestions include:

1.Vegetable stir fries.
2.Meat stir fries.
3. The 'heat' in noodles for some'oomph'
4. As a dip.

I have used the above in my Snake Beans and Sambal stir fry. Clean and cut beans. Put very little oil in a wok. Add beans. Stir fry for about 5 minutes, or to the degree of your own vegetable done-ness, then add the magical 'Sambal Goreng' .The contracting colors, extremely appetising. Taste, excellent I might say. Serve with steamed rice, easily achieveable with the most useful Asian kitchen gadget: the rice cooker!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Spinach fettucine

The best food in life would be the ones that are actually simple to make. Trust me one this one. Of course you might ot have the gratifying pleasure of putting the meal togeter, but the moment your 'simple' meal is ready for you on the table, you feel so immensely satisfied, you just cannot believe yourself! These simple things in my life, are things I used to be ashamed of, to put in my blog. Yeah, people are going to say, "Oh gawd, that simple thing, I could make that!'

Or it could be anything, a porridge made with instant cooking oats, with currants and sliced almonds and a drizzle of honey, or a rice pudding, infused with a pod of vanilla, a family favorite bread and butter pudding, or toast with peanut butter, jelly and banana! Well , you had to peel the banana and slice it right?!

More profoundly, I would think, just like me, simple savory dishes are the ones we are most inclined to be too lazy to make, as it is to easy to prepare, the dishes that means something, has nothing and is actually YOUR everything. Thnik, there must be something that you like, but you just do not think it as a dish because it is too simple. In simpler words, a dish that has no recipe, and you cannot actually put into words to post on your blog!

In many cases of my gastronomy, there is the sambal goreng ( consisting of a sambal based paste, with vegetables, diced and fried potatoes, and 'tempe' fermented bean cake).I will give you the recipe for the sambal, and if you are familliar with Indonesian, Malaysian or Thai food, feel free to experiment with the vegetables and / or meats you decide to put in. Serve it with a bowl of fluffy rice, and you have yourself a meal!

Today, I am actually proud of my fettucine, I had to pick the leaves out of the bunch, one by one, but that is actually nice. Leave by leave, rinse , rinse, rinse and rinse once again. Then blanch it, then add it to the sauce and pasta and wallah! Your fettucine with specs of green spinach!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

crushed pineapple cupcakes

I would endorse this! Seriously, the most delicious pineapple tasting cake ever. Well, as usual, I turned the cake into individuals, lesser guilt, even after gorging two or three at one sitting.The ingredients are simple, just buy a can of pineapple in syrup from the grocery store and you are on your way!

As any foodie would know, it is crucial for all cooks and bakers alike to be organized, especially when you have about a million recipes and a massive collection of books. Here goes, like I mentioned earlier, this cake is exceptional, but unfortunately, I have misplaced the recipe! If you have a recipe with the same name and likeness, please do e-mail me or comment.

Just my luck, I came across this recipe, just to satisfy my butter cake/ pineapple craving. I made it and served with vanilla ice cream, delish!

Adapted from , titled FRUIT PASTRY CAKE.

Pineapple Crush Cake

A sifted together

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder


1 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
2 tbs yoghurt


3 eggs
1 egg yolk


6 tbs any fruit juice or even the juice from the canned pineapples
2 tsp vanilla essence


400 g canned pineapple, drained and coarsely crushed

F optional

bigger bits of canned pineapple to scatter on top


1. Drain E, crush and drain again.
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an grease an 8inch square pan.
3. Beat B till smooth and creamy.
4. Add C, one by one.
5. Add D.
6. Add A.
7. Fold in E.
8. Pour in pan, bake for 1 hour or till tester comes out clean.

Here is the end product, with the ice cream, as a serving suggestion...


Black Grape Muffins

For the first time, I actually bought fresh fruits for the sole purpose of baking somethings. Most of the time, fruits that are in the fridge after two days wil end up in my oven, but today, I felt adventurous and bought KOREAN black campbell grapes.

The were very 'winey'. They were not over ripe, but they were 'winey'. So I halved them, de-seeded them and in the muffin batter they went and the results were beautiful, as the color of the skin slightly tinted certain parts of the batter and where they cracked, the grapes popped out beautifully.

Moist Chocolate Chip and Coconut Muffin

They had a cake like texture as opposed to a true muffin one. They were nice to eat, lighter that an average muffin and had dark chocolate bits popping the tongues once in awhile.

Chocolate Cupcake Experiment No. ( Can't count anymore!)

I recently purchased MARTHA STEWART'S BAKING HANDBOOK and found this recipe, which uses vegetable oil instead of butter. I substituted that with canola oil and the end product was amazing.

It was a chocolatey cake, and healthy too. Nice texture as described in the book. The slightly different recipe is availabe online yielding the ultimate result as well.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake from


Makes 2 eight-inch square or 3 eight-inch round layers ( but I got 24 medium cupcakes instead)

Unsalted butter, for pans, optional for individual baking liners
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pans,optional for individual baking liners
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
* 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter round or square cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment; butter parchment, and dust with cocoa.
2. Into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, stir in eggs, 1 1/2 cups warm water, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla until smooth, about 3 minutes.
3. Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake, rotating once, until tester inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes for 8-inch layers, depending on amount of batter.
4. Let cakes cool in pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely, right side up on rack.

flavors and smells...

I love to cook.

I love to bake.

I hate chemistry.

How could I be interested in baking, cooking, molecular gastronomy, the kitchen sciences with my last statement? I do not know, but what I know is, where my old chemistry teacher is not present, everything that happens to me in the kitchen, is an experiment, a series of beautiful experiments waiting to be blogged and reported about.

Baking, needs more precision. More attention to details. More commitment.

The norm would be, with natrium bicarbonate ( hehehehe, baking soda) , the effect on the cake would be this, with more baking powder, bah blah blah...Is that not science? I never knew I would actually love chemistry! How could anyone not love it? Different ingredients, different effect, this is only physical part.O yes, cooking and baking is extremely emotional! Why do you think chefs get pissed and upset in the kitchen?

Cooking on the other hand, for me in particular, is loosely based on precision and meticulousness, but relies heavily on experiences and intuitions.


I am a Malay. Foods that are introduced to me as a child are of course predominantly Malay food, but I forgot to mention I am a lucky Malay.

My parents, particularly my Dad is an adventurous eater. I have had ox tongue simmered in butter for as long as I can remember, a dish that my Tok Mak ( my late grandmother, excellent cook) used to prepare for my Dad when he was a child, later prepared by my mum ( excellent cook number 2) when I was a child now prepared by my self as an adult (cook and baker). Tongues, French right? I did say I am a lucky girl. To be able to taste some weird foods Andrew Zimmern ate, but to think its delicious and to know Mr. Bourdain's favorite food is not to my liking?

Experiences are important, because it will give u a bench mark for how a food is supposed to taste like. I mean, if I had not had Moroccan food before, would I be able to make a Moroccan lamb stew or a chic pea dip?

Yes, technically, it is possible with the help of millions of books printed yearly worldwide. Wow, it does look like how it is in the picture, but would I know if its supposed to taste that way?

By experiencing the foods from restaurants, street vendors or shops, I would have the taste , the smell, the color , the texture and the whole dish in my fond memories ( could be in my most tortured memories too, hehehe)

What about the combination of flavors? This is where the best things happen. I mean, how dull the kitchen would be without the marriage of flavors! For instance,different spice mixes, gives different aromas and taste to the end product. You add to much saffron to a biryani the whole smell, the meaty smell ( say lamb biryani) the smell of the basmathi ( long grain rice, used in cooking pilafs and biryanis) will just collapse.

I cannot capture the title of my blog, as both elements are subjective, and only known to oneself. What could be an element of your nightmare as foodie, could trigger me as a fond memory.


If I had to choose the most terrible cake in the world ( I know, no such thing!) I would give my hands down to fruitcake. I just dislike the taste of the dried fruit mix I guess. I mean, its dehydrated fruit, fruits are supposed to be juicy, fleshy,supple, plump and colorful, but dried fruit, aargh, horrible looking things...

A few years back, I dissected a box of dried fruit mix, separated the components, just to check what is in it, yes of course , the standard . Let's see, raisins, currants, sultanas, cherry, orange peel and the likes. I eat all of these listed here, maybe I just dislike them together, I suppose, up till last week where I bought the BHG Pink Plaid Cookbook and found this particular recipe, which is also published on their site.

What attracted me to the recipe was:

1. The long list of ingredients, which 1/4 of a teaspoon of this, a teaspoon of that became a contributing factor to the long list.

2. It consisted of the dried fruit mix, and other dried fruits and nuts!

3. Very little flour.

4. So,so little butter!

My mother, an aficionado of fruitcakes and the likes of any dried for of fruit, was more than happy when I announced that I was going to bake my first baked good consisting the dried fruit mix from the box! So below is the recipe taken from the site, but I think a cook would not mind the addition of the Pink Plaid cookbook in their library!

Fruitcake from


* 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 3/4 cup diced mixed candied fruits and peels
* 1/2 cup raisins or snipped pitted dates
* 1/2 cup candied red or green cherries, quartered
* 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/2 cup orange juice or apple juice
* 1/3 cup butter, melted
* 2 tablespoons mild-flavored molasses
* Brandy or fruit juice


1. Grease and lightly flour an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan (or two 5 3/4x3x2-inch loaf pans). Set pan(s) aside.

2.In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Add fruits and peels, raisins, cherries, and nuts; mix ingredients well.

2. In another mixing bowl beat eggs; stir in brown sugar, juice, butter, and molasses until combined. Stir into fruit mixture. Pour batter into the prepared pan(s). (The smaller pans will be quite full.)

3. Bake in a 300 degree F oven for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours for the 8x4x2-inch pan, 55 to 65 minutes for the 5-3/4x3x2-inch pans, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. If necessary, cover pan(s) loosely with foil the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning. Place cake in pan(s) on a wire rack and cool thoroughly.

4. Remove cake from pan(s). Wrap cake in brandy- or fruit juice-moistened 100-percent-cotton cheesecloth. Overwrap with foil. Store in the refrigerator for 2 to 8 weeks to mellow flavors. Remoisten cheesecloth with brandy or fruit juice weekly or as needed. Makes 16 servings.

( )

...and this was what I got:

I actually ate the thing! Not because I made it, but maybe because I baked the batter in a brownie pan, so the cake has a shallow depth, it became more like a FRUITCAKE slice to me, and it was alright, the goods finished within one and a half days, the shorter the shelf life of any baked goods in my kitchen means, I have a fan for the goods! :-)

Well, I might, I stress on the word might try and baked other fruitcakes, but as far as I am concerned, I have used mixed dried fruit before and it turned out alright! Wohooooooooo!

P/S: If you are like me, dislike fruitcakes and mince pies , even at Christmas try this. Next dried fruit challenge, mince pies!