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
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!


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