Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Indian White Mee Hoon Recipe

During my childhood I had the opportunity to know this wonderful and kind neighbour who was almost like a grandmother to me and my siblings. She lived two doors away and would come rushing to the house if either one of us was sick. Being a former nurse, she knew lots of remedies. On top of that she was a wonderful cook, the type that creates memories of countless comfort foods.

Both our illness season and birthday memories were filled with 'Aunty' bringing lots of gifts, and food so good that even the lack of appetite would give in to.

One of the fondest memories of her cooking is her wajik. Since she knew I loved it so much, she would make big batches just for me. I would just chill it in the fridge, and eat as I please. I did try to make it at home, but really never got any close to how she made it.

Another memory of her speciality is her Indian white mee hoon. This is very different from the regular mee hoon that is seasoned with all kinds of sauces that makes it reddish brown. Over here you get the flavour from spices, curry leaves and dried chilli. When recently I was searching for the best recipe for this, I also discovered that dried anchovies and prawns also make among the sautee, that gives it the rich aroma and flavour.

Since then, I make it regularly, and with reasonable vegetables added, it is very much a balanced meal on its own. Usually for the white mee hoon we use vegetables that can cook with the sautee, and nothing that gives crunch like beansprouts or bak choy. I am not sure quite why but I just have a feeling soft cooked vegetables is the essence for this mee hoon.

You need:

dried anchovies and shrimp, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes.
1 large onion, sliced
4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
some ginger

mee hoon
carrot, sliced thin
chinese cabbage, sliced thin
mustard seeds
dried chilli
curry leaves
coconut oil
salt to taste

Method:

1) Once the dried seafood is soaked well, drain the water and pound it together with ginger. Leave a aside.



2) Soak the mee hoon in tap water.
3) In a pan, heat up some coconut oil.
4) Once it is hot, you can add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and dried chilli. Also add the onion, let it sautee and spices pop a while.


5) You can add the pounded dried goods, and give it a nice sautee till brown and aromatic.



6) Add the carrot and cabbage and let it cook for 10 minutes.


7) Soon after you can add the drained mee hoon, and the chopped garlic. Season with little salt, as the dried seafood is already salty. Give it a nice stir and let it incorporate for about 10 minutes of stirring and cooking.



I had also fried some eggs separately and added into the mee hoon dish. I like this way that it does not coat the mee hoon strands. Do not be afraid to use more curry leaves, I was being gentle to my plant as it is picking up from a recent infection. Happy trying!

Journey To Pantai Kerachut

Last school holidays the boys had a trip to Pantai Kerachut with their taekwando team. At first it sounded all so fun with the sun and sand, only later we got to know that Pantai Kerachut is deep inside the National Park of Penang. It also turned out that Pantai Kerachut is actually a secluded beach with jungle terrain and is actually famous for wildlife viewing, including seasonal nesting turtles.

The boys followed their group that left earlier in the morning. It was a first experience for them travelling somewhere without us parents, just by themselves, and we were glad to let them have it, while we followed behind in our car, taking our time, grabbing some local delight on the way.

We had our speedy date, having breakfast 2 times, yes you read it right, acting all touristy in Georgetown. We first had some dimsum, and later we had some local toast at Lollipop Ropitiam. And yes we were free enough to take a few selfies, wefies, whatchacallit.



Soon after that we got to driving towards the National Park. It took a while, passing Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringi, practically everything, till we reached end of the world, really, it was End of The World Seafood that we saw, right before reaching the fishing village that later led to the National Park of Penang.


Just as we were registering at the office, we were warned that the path to Pantai Kerachut is not simple, and we ought to be properly dressed and equipped with water. and luckily we were so.

And off we went.



And went.



And went. Yes, the trekking path was like never ending, with challenging terrains and all kinds of scary jungle paths that I wouldn't know to name.

The first 15 minutes I almost lost my breath. What I initially thought was 40 minutes walk, turned out to be a very challenging 2 hour path!



We passed a dug out hill, some pit stops, sign boards with facts that made our pit stops informative,  a few clear water creeks, and somewhere before the beach there's a meromictic lake, which is pretty rare due to its two layers of salt and fresh water that do not mix. This is one of the useful information that you will find among the signages.


Really, we were not prepared to this, no we did not sign up for this either!


As we struggled, I kept thinking how did the kids make it through this path with their group. Then again, recalling back the amount of energy they usually have, this path seemed very fun for them. Also they were in a large group, so it won't feel as taxing as us two tired souls felt. And oh, it was a good thing we ate breakfast like there is no tomorrow, because, while the kids will have food provided by their group, we won't have any eating options at Pantai Kerachut.




Throughout the way, there were also distant markers, which were informative, but somehow the real time taken felt much longer than indicated there. Those were the longest 1 hour 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and 5 minutes of my life. Oh wait, maybe that is not true, I might have had more agonizing times in my life, like going through 14 hours of labour.

After what felt like 10 hours of walking, 2 bottles of water, and being drenched with sweat, we reached our destination. Super yeay!

And yes, Pantai Kerachut is an amazing sight indeed. Clean beach, clear water, and to think we were at the other side of the island that we always view from our place, it was just fulfilling. I must mention that there is no phone signal through most of the jungle trekking, and zero at the beach!


Soon after we decided, we are not trekking back. No Sir, we are not. Luckily there were motorboat operators who hover that area for potential passengers, so we booked one motorboat ride back.

We left soon after the kids were done with the activities. As beautiful as it was there, we were totally dying to be back to land where there's convenience and 4G.

See the t-shirt wordings, 'Spirit to practice, more than just self-defense'. Indeed, so much of spirit to practice when going through the path to reach here. Taekwando is not just about self defense. This event proved it right!


As we were all ready to just end this trip and be back to the jetty and head to the car, the motorboat operator made it more memorable for us. He took several stops to show us some famous rocks by the shores. Here, you can see a rabbit resting, can you see the eyes and ears pulled back on the right side?


And then there's this flat rock that looks like a turtle, head on the right.


And the finale, crocodile rock, which looked more like a dinosaur head to me.


What an expectedly and amazingly fun trip it was. Sure it was tiring as hell, testing our physical and mental strength, and once over, we only felt grateful for having this wonderful experience.


On the way back we saw this other famous beach called Monkey Beach, it has some water sports, food and drinks all available. We will surely make a trip here next time, by motorboat that is! No more jungle trekking!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dry Chilli Sambal Recipe

We all love pan mee at home. Specifically the chilli powder that comes along with the pan mee dish. It's always been a wonder for me how they make the dry chilli sambal that is crunchy and so flavourful. Little did I know that instead of just the glorified chilli in the name, dried shrimps play a huge role in making it.

Lately I also began to see online sellers marketing the dry sambal, advertising how it is perfect to be eaten with virtually anything, even plain rice. Now this is when I started making connections with the pan mee chilli, and yes, that is the one.  Without realising I have turned into this aunty who can make anything at home, and was determined to make this at home from scratch.



I asked Mr Google for some recipes, and I found out it is actually a Nyonya delicacy 'hae bee hiam'. I felt somewhat proud to be able to attempt this. After comparing a few recipes, I came to the conclusion that this is indeed the usual chilli paste that we make for sambal, with added dried shrimps to the kick. All it needs is some good seasoning and cooked from its liquid form till it dries into fine particles of its original ingredients. Sounds like a lot of hard work. Surprisingly, it is not. And on top of that, you get a very wonderful treat the end of it. I must warn you though, it is so delicious, you can eat it on its own, but the spoonfuls!

I decided to make this dry chilli sambal inspired from my own sambal paste, that is with turmeric and lemongrass.

Here's what you need:
A handful of dried chilli, soaked
3 fresh red chilli
6-8 shallots
3 cloves of garlic
a handful of dried shrimp, soaked
3cm fresh turmeric
1 stalk of lemongrass
some oil
salt
2 tbsp brown sugar

What you need to do:
1) The soaked ingredients works best with warm/hot water. 

2) Once you have soaked the dried shrimps and chilli for 15 minutes, you can strain the water, and move all ingredients (except salt/sugar/oil) into the blender, add some water and blend it fine. 


3) Pour the blended paste onto a hot pan and start cooking. Add the sugar and salt at this point.

4) Keep stirring as it cooks. I did take random breaks in between from stirring, especially if there is still some liquid form, it takes a while to evaporate. But once it has dried up, you can't take break from stirring, otherwise it might burn right there and then. Also frequent stirring ensure it is evenly cooked.


5) Halfway there, you can add the oil. I like to add this point because it helps in browning the paste into nice crunchy powder.

6) And yes, keep stirring, till you get this. And you are done!



Once it has coolest down, you can transfer it to your desired container, or just start eating right away!


I must confess, halfway as I was stirring it, I did think to myself 'ok, so this is not working out' because I did not see it drying up as quick as I thought it would, but patience really pays off handsomely. At the end of it you will tell yourself, it was so easy I'd do it again and again!

The very next day I got plan pan mee into work, and this is how we had our chilli sambal, with spinach noodles, minced meat, and homemade kimchi soup!


As I bit into the noodles with the minced meat, the crunchy bits of chilli sambal reminded me, yes I did it! Something tells me this is going to be a must-have condiment in the house! Happy trying!


Taiping Zoo Trip For The Family

Every time we drove up and down between Butterworth and KL we would see the Taiping Zoo signboards. We would remind each other to make a trip there, especially for Jeev who is a total animal lover. He talks, draw, and plays everything animal, and the last zoo trip we had to the National Zoo in KL was a total hit!

A few months ago, when we were feeling the need for a quick break, it was Zoo Taiping we went after! For the first time ever, we planned a little picnic and prepared some nuggets and sandwiches from home. There was a creek by the carpark, so we decided to 'unfold' our picnic right there. Although a short one, it definitely was very memorable as it was a first.

The boys were happy to pose by the creek, under our supervision, because it was rather steep.


The moment we entered, we had a family photo taken, and not missing the memories, we had to make a print of it. Coincidentally, we all wore shades of blue.



I've got some odd shots of the boys and hubby, generally the zoo of boys in a real zoo. Jokes aside, it was a good time to visit as it was not any holiday season, so there was lesser crowd. The zoo is simple yet well managed and clean. The tram ride can take you around the zoo in less than 30 minutes, after which we decided to take a walk for the kids to take closer and better look.





Luckily we had prepared our picnic supplies because unlike the National Zoo, Taiping Zoo did not have much options of food at the stalls. We had ice cream instead, it was an off day for the kids after all, so everything is allowed.

And here's the boys (including biggest boy) with Alex the lion from Madagascar. Despite being a huge fan, Jeev is still afraid to go close to any kinds of large mascots.



Notice the GI Joe haircuts on the kids? Well it was a hairstylist debacle which happened one night before, well it is history now. They are back with their stylo mylo hairstyles.

We had enough time to drive around in Taiping town, it is remarkably well kept, well manicured landscaping, and not to mention the natural greens everywhere. Historical old buildings are well preserved while adequate development is concentrated in the newer areas.

At night we had plans of having the much celebrated seafood in Kuala Sepetang, and indeed we did! Kuala Sepetang is about 30 minutes drive from Taiping town. Thanks to blog reviews, we decided on Restoran Tepi Sungai. It is indeed 'tepi sungai', by the river, with the view of the fishing village.

While waiting for the food, we had the chance to catch a few eagles flying about, and this is without even the eagle watching. I reckon the eagle watching activity provided there must be really interesting to see them closer.



As usual, I am not quick enough to catch good photos of the food, but I must say, the food was so delicious, and very very reasonable. We had some fried prawns, baby crabs, sweet sour prawn, and steamed fish.

All in all, the next morning was another foodie journey. We went to a local food area near the King Edward VII school. It was another adventure trying the curry mee totally different from how we get at other places. We also tried the Bismillah Cendol, which was very disappointing, especially for us ex-Klangites living in Penang, it does not even make it to the list. Please avoid!

Since moving to Penang, our short trips to PD were something we missed, but hey, this trip to Taiping, totally nailed it!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Nasi Lemak Kunyit Recipe

Nasi Lemak, or coconut rice, is a Malaysian staple and favourite, or rather Malaysian staple favourite, and it won't be even wrong to say favourite staple. And of course, we at home, love nasi lemak. Even more the kids especially when in Klang we used to get this awesome fried chicken together with it at the Shanmuga restaurant. It is definitely a must-have, must-eat, must-savour.

For the whole of my life I have never made nasi lemak at home, simply because it is easily available everywhere, any time. However, recently as I have been at home, cooking almost daily, I decided I should try making nasi lemak at home, giving some variety to the home menu. The same time I can prepare different types of sambal and curry to go with it.

I must admit though, the first time I was really nervous about not getting it right. Rightly so, the first time I had used only thick coconut milk and the outcome was not that pleasant. As I went on, I learnt the tricks and ingredients that help give a more fragrant coconut rice.

Over the last weekend, I was watching this cooking show, and they made this coconut rice, but with a sautee of turmeric with onion and ginger. I was delighted to watch them cook, and couldn't wait to try it on my own.

Over the last few months I have grown this new obsession with fresh turmeric since hubby has been taking them in his morning smoothies. It's been an experience of a kind discovering how much more fragrant and vibrant natural colour you get with turmeric in the recipe. And now I do not leave home (cook) without it.


So how do you make turmeric coconut rice, or nasi lemak kunyit?

It is pretty much the standard nasi lemak recipe. Some people cook rice in coconut milk, pandan leaves and ginger slices. Some people prefer to sautee the spices before cooking the rice. I do the latter.


Firstly take like 3-4cm of turmeric, and 4-5cm of ginger, and give it a nice grind or crushing (I am totally lost for words here) on the mortar and pestle. You could use a food processor if you like. Grind it slightly less than fine. Sautee chopped onion with the grinded turmeric and ginger, it can take about 10-15 minutes to give a nice fragrance. In the meantime, measure and wash your rice. Once the sautee is ready, pour in washed rice (minus water) and give it a nice stir to coat the grains of rice with the oil, flavour and colour. In about 10 minutes time, you can turn off the heat and transfer everything into the rice cooker. Add coconut milk diluted with water. Also add some fenugreek seeds, season with salt and cook like normal.

I decided to do away with pandan leaves, because I want the turmeric to be the master of the rice, The result, extremely fragrant and appetizing nasi lemak, not to mention the vibrant natural colour. Some recipes I checked online used turmeric powder, in which case you would need to give it adequate time on the flame to get off the raw powder taste. I must say, fresh turmeric just works best.



For us mothers, sometimes we are concerned over dietary factors of every meal we put on the table. I must admit I was always a tad bit skeptical making nasi lemak due to the lack of fiber content. The boys would just gobble the coconut rice without complaining. Now with nasi lemak kunyit, together with loads of raw cucumber, I think it works just perfect for taste and diet wise. Next round I am gonna use more turmeric and see how it turns out, because I can do with more natural vibrant yellow!

Happy trying!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Sitiawan Weekend Getaway

A few weekends ago we had an impromptu weekend getaway to Sitiawan, Perak, and it has got to be one of the very short and most fulfilling getaways we ever had.

One thing I researched most about Sitiawan, naturally, is the food. And thanks for the modern day technology, it is not rocket science to find great food online for every destination. And luckily for us Sitiawan is a relatively small town, so most of the hot spots are pretty close to each other.

The drive there took us 2.5 hours from Butterworth, and half the way we were driving through trunk road where you see nothing but jungle. Initially hubby thought I was bringing him through the wrong road, but eventually we realised it was what it was. 

First thing we did once reaching there was drive straight to the famous stall near Kampung Koh wet market that serves the kon lou mee. I read so much about it, and it felt so wrong to miss it for anything. Luckily we arrived there a little before their closing time at 1pm.

Jeev definitely enjoyed it as it was pretty similar to his favourite wantan noodles.



He has this special talent where he eats noodles strand by strand. True story.



And then we have the self-learner elder kid who picked up eating with chop sticks while I blinked. He is the food lover on par with hubby, and no one else comes close.




The kon lou mee was definitely worth the trip, perfect seasonings with slices of barbecued pork. We also tried the loh mee, but found it rather sour and strong for our liking. And the icing on the cake is that the pricing was very cheap compared to the city.



Later we took a drive around town to find a place to stay. After several checks online, we narrowed down to Mornington Hotel Sitiawan, and a quick check into the room confirmed our stay. The family deluxe was a tad bit pricey but spacious and perfect to stay with kids who like to run, roll, play and monkey around the room. And oh, it also had a nice bath tub, again, a plus point for the kids for little pool time.




By tea time, I was determined to get these Sitiawan famous biscuits at Cheong Cia Gong Pian. In the beginning it was a little tricky to find the shop, which later turned out to be just a small portion of a corner shop. Not only that, I turned out to be just a short walking distance from the hotel.

The very aroma of the biscuit is so familiar, till I got my hands on it. They are tandoor oven baked biscuits, that is the clay oven. It is crispy on the outside, with sweet and soft chopped onion on the inside, and a layer of what felt like pork fat. Then it hit me, it tasted just like the bacon and onion buns I used to make. The bacon and onion content gave it that aroma.



The biscuits are so famous that once the shop opens in the morning, the biscuits just get booked and disappear into hands of biscuit hungry people. In fact there is another shop that sells it, and it is no surprise people there never get enough of it.

In the evening we planned for some seafood, but before that we made a compulsory trip to the Teluk Batik beach. It is touted as one of the hidden treasures at Lumut, and since we did not go to the Pangkor Island, it was just perfect we get some dose of sand and sea in Lumut itself.



Apart from pleasure, we also completed some business, we managed to get the kids' passports done in less than an hour, with just a handful of people in the queue. It was record of sorts, and felt so relaxing getting pictures taken, papers done, without any rush or hassle. We went off for some breakfast and came back to passports ready to be picked up! How does it get any better than that!




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Calamansi Juice With A Twist

Recently together with all the home cooking and home baking I have found a new frontier, making my own drinks/juices! It's been fun brewing and mixing different concoctions for drinking pleasure with the meals, especially with our hot weather, there is nothing like downing some fresh minty drink.


However, I had noticed that in the last 2 weeks, I had finished a significant amount of brown sugar. The amount that usually stays untouched for a while, unless I am making cinnamon rolls, was gone in just two weeks. 

Then it hit me, in all the fun and juice bottoms-up we have been consuming a lot of sugar. So I got determined to try out other drinks that require minimal sugar, or at least just honey. For this, I also had to make sure I ordered 1kg of commercial honey. True story, grocery bills are so high when you make everything at home.


From my last week's Tesco order, I had a good amount of calamansi limes, and what better time to make some calamansi juice. And no, this is not the bottled calamansi juice.


I squeezed juice from 7-8 pieces of calamansi lime. Be sure to cut the top small section, cutting through the seed will give bitterness. Added some 2-3 tbsp of honey, some salt, and the twist here, some apple cider vinegar! Add some water and give it a taste, adjust the taste as per liking. I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, especially with the ACV twist. Not just healthy, its yummy too! And of course I top it up with some bruised mint leaves, and get this, ginger slices, just because!

And since it turned out so good, I am roaring to try other combinations next! Happy trying!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tomato Sambal Recipe

Online shopping is a boon to most of us. We don't have to step out of the house, drag the kids, or even our own feet, and make our way to the store, to purchase those sweet things we want to buy. And now, with Tesco online grocery shopping, things have just gone sweeter!

Living in a condo now, it is rather a chore to do grocery shopping buying all those bulky items, and gather the whole family to transport things upstairs. In this case, online shopping is really useful that you can plan, pick and add your items to your cart. 

However as with anything online, it has several disadvantages. One being you can get carried away, over-buy, and in my case, accidentally buy things in larger amounts or sizes. A month ago I ordered RM1.80 worth of fresh turmeric, and I received turmeric so much that I am still using it up slowly. One of the things I made was this tropical juice. Ever since, I have also added fresh turmeric in most of my cooking.

Two weeks ago, I had another Tesco delivery fiasco, when I received 2.5kg of tomatoes, and some obscene amount of calamansi limes (I had ordered RM3 worth). I put my thinking cap on and got planning!

I took the big amount of tomatoes to my stride (and into the fridge). I decided to make some tomato sambal that would go with rice, and even for our idli weekends (oh yes, there is such a thing in our household).


To my embarrassment, I realise that I did not snap a pic of the tomato sambal. However, I can still share the recipe of my sambal here.

For the sambal, I take about 3 onions, 5-6 cloves of garlic, about 3-4 inches of ginger, 7-9 dried chilli (soaked in hot water), 2cm of raw turmeric. Give it a nice blend with some water. Set aside.

Heat the pan with some oil, add 2 chopped onion and lemongrass (chopped too), sautee till fragrant. Then you can add the blended mixture, and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes or longer if you need to. Halfway here you can add 5-6 chopped tomatoes. If you feel the sambal is drying up very fast, you can keep adding water to your desired consistency. Season with salt and brown sugar to your liking. In my case, I keep trying till I get it right. The level of heat of the dried chilli really differs every time.

Tomato sambal goes well with plain rice, nasi lemak (especially if you are going vegetarian) and even with mee hoon! 

Everything has a silver lining. I started using turmeric into my sambal paste since the over-buy of turmeric and I have discovered turmeric really enhances the taste and gives the sambal a vibrant red hue. After the tomato sambal I used the calamansi to make some refreshing juice which I will share soon. Happy trying!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Malawi Dhal And Potato Salad Recipe

Dhal is something grew up eating, like 5 days a week. It was our main protein provider, save for the Sunday feast. Through time I got so tired of eating the yellow lentil soup that I hated the very sight of it, till I moved away for my higher education, and then working far from home, when I realised how it formed the taste of home for me, till today.

Presently dhal is in our weekly menu, paired with stir fried vegetables and raita, or just yogurt. The thing about making a pot of dhal is that it can last for more than one meal. This way if I make it for lunch, we eat with rice. And for dinner on that day, I just make capatis to add some variety, and the dhal still remains a hit.

Dhal is not just main source of protein, but you can also load various vegetables into it. Usually I do cauliflower, brinjal, potatoes, tomatoes and radish, that is apart from the onion and garlic. Here's how we go about making a hearty pot of dhal:

As you can see in the picture below, I prepared the dhal stew in a pressure cooker. About 1 cup of malawi dhal and a handful of masoori dhal. Let it soak or just start cooking right away. Add some brinjal, potatoes, tomatoes, radish and cauliflower, and also chopped onion and garlic. You can reduce or increase the amount of vegetables as you like.



In fact, in this dhal stew, I had included 4 additional whole potatoes, which I will scoop out once the dhal is cooked, to be mashed with some ingredients for a nice potato salad, Indian style.


For this stew, I seasoned with some turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, fish curry powder, and then some salt. 



Let it cook in the pressure cooker for about 3 whistles, around 20 minutes. Once done, let it sit for 30 minutes before doing the tempering.

For the tempering, heat some ghee in a pan. Add asafoetida, dried chilli, mixed spices and cumin seeds. And of course, don't forget the curry leaves. Once the seeds pop and get aromatic, you can take it off the heat and throw everything into the cooked dhal.


 Add some tamarind paste, and give it a last boil. Once it  comes to a boil, add in chopped coriander leaves. Give a stir and leave it uncovered for a while, so that the coriander don't turn black.



Remember the whole potatoes I boiled together with the dhal? Here they are, with some finely chopped onion, garlic and coriander leaves. And some Indian pickle masala. Season with salt and olive oil. 


Works best mashed with bare and clean hands. I can't help tasting and tasting as I mash this.



In fact this potato salad is similar to the filling that we make for aloo parathas, or potato stuffed parathas. After we had the dhal and salad for lunch, I used the remaining potato salad as filling for capati, and voila, we had hearty aloo parathas for dinner! Nothing beats that, really!

Till then, here's hoping my kids never get tired of their dhal doses. Happy trying!

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