Sunday, August 29, 2010

Assam Fish (Fish in Spicy Tamarind Sauce)

I always look forward to weekends .. tell me who doesn't. These are the two days when I get to chill out and think about what to cook or bake or blog about! I sometimes I find it very hard to decide what recipes to try out as I want to experiment with so many!

I also noticed of late that I have been doing posting up more recipes on cooking rather than baking. Good for my other half as he prefers savoury foods rather than sweets. When I do tend to cook a proper dish I noticed that it is usually chicken. So maybe I should add fish into my repetiore of dishes and they do say that fish is "brain food". Hmm maybe that's the cause of my forgetfulness of late.

This particular recipe is well known and loved in Malaysia. It does not contain coconut milk and therefore keeps better in hot climates. Tamarind or "assam" as called in local Malay language is widely used throughout Asia. The word "assam" means “acid” or in layman's terms "sour". In cooking, it combines well with sugar, chillies and other flavours. Tamarind is also said to have medicinal uses. It cools the system and cleanses the blood. The pulp or paste is rich in vitamins and minerals, and is used in Chinese medicine. The bark is said to treat asthma while the flowers are said to reduce blood pressure. So this particular dish not only has medicinal value, it also stimulates your brain activity (i.e. fish meat). Now what else was I about to say .......

assam fish 2

Assam Fish (Fish in Spicy Tamarind Sauce)
Recipe Adapted from "Female Cookbook vol 12"
(Serves 4-5)


3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, cut into quarters
500g spanish mackeral (tenggiri)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic (grind finely)
20g ginger (grind finely)
15g ketumbar (coriander powder)
10g jintan putih (cumin)
15g chilli powder
10g tumeric powder
1/2kg lady's finders
2 cups water
1 1/2 Tbsp tamarind paste
2 tomatoes, cut into halves
2 green chillies - cut into halves
Salt and sugar to taste


1) Add tamarind paste to the water and squeeze the paste to extract the juice. Then pour tamarind juice through a sieve and leave aside.

2) Heat oil in wok. Fry onion with mustard seeds, garlic, ginger until fragrant. Then add in coriander powder, jintan putih, chilli powder, tumeric powder. Fry ingredients on low flame until fragrant.

3) Add in lady's fingers, tamarind water, salt, sugar, tomato and chillies. Bring to boil. Add in fish. Cook until fish and vegetables are soft.

4) Serve immediately with steamed rice.

assam fish 1

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Crackle Cookie

When I was making cookies last year as Christmas give-aways I came across a recipe called Chocolate Mexican Cookies which looks very much like these Crackle Cookies. I was very tempted then to try them out but unfortunately did not. I believe these cookies also go by the name of Chocolate Snowball Cookies.

I guess I totally forgot about this cookie until I borrowed "The Baker" from the local public library. In the cookie section of the book, I found a recipe called Crackle Cookies which looks very much like the Chocolate Mexican Cookies. I decided to it out because it looked so pretty. Instead of making half batches as I usually do when trying out new recipes, I made the full batch and I was thoroughly glad that I did! The cookies were absolutely delicious. They had a crunchy topping because of the icing sugar coating but the insides were soft and slightly chewy. It reminded me a bit of a chocolate brownie cookie. I brought a full cookie jar to my office and within three days they had all but disappeared. This is definitely one recipe for keeps!


(Makes about 60)
Recipe Adapted from “The Baker by Leanne Kitchen”


125g unsalted butter, softened
350g soft brown sugar (sugar has been reduced slightly)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
70g good quality dark chocolate, melted
80ml (1/3 cup) milk
340g plain flour
2 1/2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 chopped almonds (or almond nibs)
1/4 tsp salt
Icing sugar for dusting


1) Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

2) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3) Stir in vanilla, melted chocolate and milk

4) Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, allspice and cinnamon into the butter mixture and mix to incorporate. Stir in the almonds and stir. Do not over mix.

5) Place the cookie dough into the refrigerator for about 3 hours.

6) Preheat oven to 180C. Line baking trays with parchment paper.

7) Sift icing sugar onto a plate.

8) Using a small ice-cream scoop, drop cookie dough onto the icing sugar. Roll and coat entire dough ball.

9) Place dough onto baking tray, spacing them apart to allow the cookie to rise.

10) Bake for bout 20 – 25 minutes until lightly brown and firm,

11) Remove from oven and leave to cool on the trays before removing. Store in tightly sealed containers. Crackle cookies will last for a week, stored in a cool place.

crackle 1

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Steamed Sago Rolled in Coconut

Malaysian local cakes or "kuih" as we Malaysians call it are more often steamed than baked, and thus very different in texture, flavour and appearance from Western cakes or puff pastries. They are mostly sweet, but some are savoury.

It has often been said that Malaysian cakes and desserts know nothing at all about the word "healthy living and eating". I guess this is somewhat true and being a Malaysian, I'm not going to deny this totally. The local cakes are laden with sugar and/or coconut milk. The younger generation nowadays will tend to make the local cakes with less sugar and coconut milk. However small sacrifices in terms of taste will of course have to taken into account. When making such local Malaysian cakes the common ingredients used will include coconut, pandan leave, palm sugar, glutinous rice flour, sago and tapioca.

For most Malaysian cakes there is no single "original" or "authentic" recipe. Traditionally it was our great-grandmothers or grandmothers who would make such cakes and they never ever had written recipes to rely upon. Such recipes were passed from one generation to another - from great-grandmother, to grandmother to mother and now to daughter. If you were to ask whether it was one tablespoon or two, the usual answer would be "around that" or in local Malay language "agak-agak". They would instinctively take handfuls of ingredients and mix them without any measurements or any need of weighing scales. All is judged by its look and feel, the consistency of the batter and how it feels to the touch.

sago 2

Steamed Sago Rolled in Coconut
Serves 4 - 6

Ingredients to be steamed:

80g fresh grated coconut (do not use dessicated)
1 tsp salt

Place grated coconut on a plate and place in a steamer. Steam for 15 mins, remove, set aside and cool the coconut completely.

Ingredients for the Sago:

250g sago pearls (soaked in cold water for 15 minutes and drained)
80g grated Coconut
50g caster sugar
50g chopped palm sugar (gula melaka, if not available use caster sugar)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp Pandan essence
1 1/2 tsp rose extract (or replace with 2 tsp rose syrup)
A few drops of red food colouring
A few drops of green food colouring
60ml coconut cream (or coconut milk)


1) Divide the sago pearls into two portions and put them in separate bowls.

2) Add half of the grated coconut and coconut cream into each bowl. Add 1/2 tsp salt into each bowl

3) In one bowl, add the palm sugar, rose extract and red food colouring. Mix the ingredients thoroughly to ensure that everything is combined.

4) In the other bowl, add the caster sugar. Then add the green food colouring and the pandan essence. Mix the ingredients thoroughly to ensure that everything is combined.

5) Steam the red sago for 15 minutes and then add the green sago and steam for another 15 minutes. Let the sago cool a little. Then slice it and roll the pieces in the steamed grated coconut.

6) Serve immediately.

Cook's Note:

This dessert tends to go off if kept too long due to the fresh grated coconut. It does not keep well especially in humid weather. The steaming of the fresh grated coconut helps to keep it from turning off too quickly.

sago 4

sago 1

sago 3

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Malaysian Curry Chicken

I first came across this particular Malaysian curry chicken recipe last year and since then have stuck with it, with some adaption to the original recipe of course! I will cook curry chicken now and then. During the recent blogger's meetup, I contributed this dish as part of the feast which we all enjoyed. I particular like my curry chicken to have a thicker gravy and a more robust flavour.

If you ask any Malaysian, they would probably have their own version of a curry chicken dish. As Malaysia is a multi-racial country, each ethnic race, Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian would have a different version of curry chicken. Additional ingredients may be used such as spices, like star anise, cloves or cinnamon stick, lemon grass, fresh or dried red chillies, candlenut, fresh tomatoes, blue ginger, tumeric root, tamarind paste, fresh curry leaves, yoghurt or dried shrimp paste. The flavours of each curry dish will also vary based on the additonal ingredients used.

(Photos were taken in a rush, so quality was somewhat compromised.)

curry chicken 2

Malaysian Curry Chicken
Recipe Adapted from ""


1 medium sized chicken (about 1.5kg) cut into serving size pieces
6 Tbsp Malaysian meat curry powder (or any brand meat curry powder) - I used Baba's meat curry powder
2 Tbsp chili powder (slightly less or more, depending on spice levels)
1/2 cup cooking oil
200ml thick coconut cream (I used Kara brand)
1 1/2 cups water
4 medium sized potatoes, cut into 1/2 or 1/3
Salt to taste
1/3 cup sliced red shallots (grind finely)
8 cloves of garlic, sliced (grind finely)
1 1/2 inch fresh ginger, sliced (grind finely)
2" piece cinnamon stick
3 pieces star anise
4 - 5 pieces of cloves
4 stalks of curry leaves, stalk removed


1) Grind the shallots, garlic and ginger until fine and set aside.

2) In a small bowl, combine meat curry powder and chili powder, add a few tbsp of water and mix into a thick paste.

3) in a large pot (preferably non-stick), heat oil on high, add ground paste, cinnamon, star anise and cloves, stir-fry until fragrant (about 4 - 5 minutes)

4) Add curry paste and curry leaves, reduce heat to medium-low, stir-fry until fragrant and oil starts to ooze from paste. Make sure that you keep stirring to prevent the paste from burning.

5) Add chicken pieces, bring heat up to med-high, stir to coat chicken well with curry paste. Fry for about 3 - 4 minutes.

6) Add the water and followed with coconut cream.

7) Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to slow to medium fire. Simmer covered for about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

8) Then add the potatoes and salt to taste. Continue cooking for about 15 - 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender and soft.

9) Serve curry with bread, prata or steamed white rice.

curry chicken 1

curry chicken 3

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Daring Cooks With a Pierogi Challenge

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen . They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

When I first read the challenge the first thought came to mind was "What is a Pierogi?". After some reading, I found out that Pierogi started in Eastern Europe in the late 1800's and have been served as a side dish ever since. The Polish (who may be the originators), call them pierogis, translated into English means "small pies" Pierogi is a small pocket of dough made of flour, egg, salt and water, and is usually stuffed with a variety of combined ingredients. These ingredients could be a combination of potato and cheese, potato and onion, or sauerkraut and mushrooms, then boiled, steamed, fried or baked.

It was lucky that we were allowed to reinvent the pierogi to our local versions. I decided to interpret the original recipe to the Chinese dumpling. Would you be surprised if I told you that the word "Chinese Dumpling" would throw out 43 different versions from the internet? Well it does! Chinese dumplings can comprise of a sweet or a savoury filing. It can be pan-fried, deep-fried, boiled, steamed and sometimes even baked. I came across this particular recipe from a very old food and travel magazine. It is really, really easy and the filing is somewhat unusual.

DC 1

Pan-Fried Chives Dumpling
Serves 2 - 3


100g plain flour
50ml water
200g chives, finely diced
3 Tbsp of spicy dried shrimp sambal (recipe as below)
1 beaten egg, fried and finely diced
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste
1/8 tsp white pepper


1) Mix the flour and water together until it formsa dough. Knead the dough and leave aside for 15 to 20 minutes.

2) In a bowl, mix the chives, spicy shrimp sambal, egg, sesame oil, vegetable oil, salt and pepper.

3) Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece out thinly into a 4" circle.

4) In each piece, add sufficient filing, then fold in half. Press the edges together to seal the dumpling. Then pleat the edges to shape into a puff.

5) In a non-stick pan, add about 2 Tbsp vegetable oil. Pan-fry until dumplings on both sides until golden brown. Remove from pan and serve immediately with a chilli dipping sauce.

Spicy Dried Shrimp Sambal (Sambal Udang Kering)
Recipe from "The Kuali"


250g dried prawns, soaked and pounded finely
2 Tbsp tamarind pulp combined with 100ml water (squeeze, then strain the tamarind juice)
4 stalks lemongrass, smashed
Oil for frying

Spice Ingredients (to grind until fine)

4 candlenuts (buah keras)
2cm piece fresh turmeric
2cm square piece shrimp paste (belacan)
8 fresh red chillies
5-6 dried chillies, soaked and seeded
80g garlic
150g shallots


4-4 1/2 Tbsp sugar or to taste
3/4 - 1 tsp salt or to taste


1) Heat a little oil in a wok and fry lemongrass until fragrant. Reduce the heat to low and add blended spice ingredients. Fry until fragrant.

2) Add dried prawns and continue to fry for a while. Mix in tamarind juice and fry over a low heat until mixture is almost dry. (Keep stirring while frying to prevent it from sticking to the base of the wok). Adjust seasoning to taste. Dish out and leave to cool completely.

DC 2

DC 3

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Friends and a Bloggers Meet-Up

I really cannot believe that it was almost a month ago that Pei-Lin of Dodol & Mochi contacted a group of Singapore food bloggers asking if we would be interested to meet up. I have not met Pei-Lin personally but know her through her amazing blog and heh .. she is a fellow country-woman of mine too! And me being me, of course I jumped at the idea (with a somewhat tinge of reservation in meeting a bunch of total strangers). As more and more confirmed their participation, the gears of motion into planning the event started. Edith of Precious Moments kindly volunteered her beautiful home to all of us.

So it was on Sunday, 8 August, we all met up around noon for an afternoon of chatting and feasting. When I arrived just about noon, Jane of Passionate About Baking was already there. The rest started to stream in and just after 1:00 pm, we decided it was time to tuck into the delicious spread of food contributed by each. I was thoroughly blown away by the dishes prepared, and from scratch as well .. no pre-packed ingredients!

I had initially anticipated the afternoon to last about three odd hours but would you believe me if I told you that it lasted for 6 hours. OMG .. and this is a group of strangers meeting for the first time! I had to leave at about 5pm as my hubby was hanging around the vicinity but if I didn’t have to rush off, I could have continued the night away. Edith would probably have had to provide us with camping tents for the evening if that was the case.

meetup 2

meetup 2

The talent around the room spoke for itself. I was also taken aback that the youngest blogger in the group is only 18 years old. Gosh – I would never have thought of baking, cooking or blogging when I was at her age. In fact the kitchen was the last place I had wanted to be – I had to be scolded by my parents just to help out with the food preparation. We chatted on numerous topics, from food, recipes, ingredients, method of preparation, bloggers, etc. It was truly amazing that a single interest could bring all of us together so comfortably. I am truly glad that Pei-Lin took the initiative to organize the gathering .. thank you my dear friend! And thank you Edith for being a wonderful host! Also check out the talent behind these blogs.

Bee Bee of Honey Bee Sweets

Grace of Kitchen Corner

Jane of Passionate About Baking

Shirley of Kokken 69

Zhuoyuan (the only rose amongst the thorns) of Baking Library

Edith of Precious Moments

Jess of Bakericious

Ai Mei of My Baking Cottage

Yan Ee of Sweeter Side of Life

Pei-Lin of Dodol & Mochi

You-Fei of Loving Baking

Also check out the feast that was prepared.

meetup 4

meetup 7

meetup 6

meetup 8

meetup 5

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Penang Steamed Otak (Steamed Fish Parcels)

Otak-Otak is a fish cake dish that is common in Malaysia as well as Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. Although the dish itself is served in a number of countries in South East Asia, you could probably say that each country has evolved its own unique recipe.

The version I grew up eating is the Penang Steamed Otak. The Penang version which has Nyonya influence, is a steamed fish cake made from a mixture of eggs, fish fillet and a whole lot of herbs including serai (lemon grass), lengkuas (galangal), ginger, chillies, kaffir lime leaves and kaduk leaves. The fish paste is wrapped in banana leaf and steamed. The steaming method produces a dish that is fragrant upon opening the parcel, thoroughly delighting your sense of sight and smell. The fish cake itself is smooth, a custard/souffle like texture with chunks of fish in between. Totally delicious!

The style of wrapping otak-otak is also somewhat unique and immediately recognizable as Malaysian otak. Some would wrap it in a parcel shape and some is done up in a box-like shape. I choose the box-like shape for this particular recipe.

otah 2

Penang Steamed Otak
Recipe Adapted from "Meals from Asian Kitchens"


1.5kg fish fillet (eg. red snapper or threadfin)

To grind finely:

4 stalks (white part only) lemon grass (serai)
5cm piece ginger
7cm square piece shrimp paste (belacan)
6cm galangal (lengkuas)
10 fresh red chillies
25 white peppercorns
300g shallots
10 cloves garlic
3 1/2 Tbsp rice flour for thickening
2 coconuts, grated (can substitute with 200ml thick coconut cream)
5 large eggs
3 Tbsp oil
12 fragrant lime leaves (daun limau purut)
1 1/2 to 2 tsp salt
14 - 16 kadok leaves (Piper sarmentosum, pointed pepper leaves)
1 1/2 bundle of banana leaves


1) Cut the fish fillter into 1" slices

2) Squeeze the grated coconut without adding water for first milk.

3) Beat eggs. Shred lime leaves

4) Cut banana leaves into 16 pieces measuring 4" square and 16 pieces of 8" square. Wipe to clean the leaves and pass over a fire to soften them.

5) Fold up 2" of the edges of the larger piece and staple corners to make a box. Put one kadok leaf in the box. Repeat for remaining cut banana leaves.


1) Put ground ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add oil, first coconut, beaten eggs, shredded lime leaves and salt. Mix well and add the fish fillet.

2) Place a larger piece of banana leaf on a deep plate. Put a smaller piece of banana leaf in the centre of the larger piece.

3) Place 1 ladlefulof mixed ingredients with 3 slices of fish into each box. repeat until all the banana leaf boxes are filled. (Alternatively place 1 ladleful of mixed ingredients with 3 slices of fish on a leaf and fold the two sides over each other. Secure the ends with toothpicks)

4) Steam the packages for 10 - 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

otah 1

otah 3

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Butter Cereal Prawns

I have read that Butter Cereal Prawns is a dish concoted in Singapore. I'm not sure if this is true or not but it definitely has gained a following in seafood restaurants. The essence of this dish is deep fried prawns and the crispy cereal. If you think it sounds weird, believe me once you taste this dish you wouldn't think so at all. Heh if you can have cereal in say a cookie, why not in a savoury dish!

However I must confess that I did a shortcut with this dish. I bought ready made cereal prawn mix in a packet. If you are in Asia, you should be able to get this in your regular supermarket. If you are not in this part of the world, you may be able to get a pack in your local Asian grocery shop.

cereal prawn

Butter Cereal Prawns
Serves 3-4


1 packet of store-bought cereal prawn mix (found in Asian groceries - I used Singlong brand)
2 sprigs curry leaves
350g large prawns
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 chilli padi (bird’s eye chilli), sliced thinly
30g butter
vegetable oil for deep frying


1) Using a pair of kitchen scissors cut off the legs and trim the heads and tails slightly.

2) Using a very sharp knife slit across the top of the prawn and pull out the veins. Leave the shell and heads intact.

3) In a wok, add enough oil to cover the prawns. Once the oil is hot, add the prawns and deep fry until cooked. Remove the prawns and set aside.

4) Melt butter in the wok, add the curry leaves and fry for about 30 seconds. Then add in the egg yolks and fry until cooked. Then add in the cereal mix and quickly fry until fragrant. Lower the fire to prevent the cereal from burning.

5) Then add back the cooked prawns and coat entirely with the cereal. Serve hot.

cereal prawn 1

cereal prawn 3

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ginger Chiffon Cake with Key Lime Curd and Lime Zest Chantilly Cream

This particular recipe comes from "Sky High - Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes" and also happens to be the first few baking books to my library collection. I have not made layered cakes for quite a while now and thought it was about time I did one. I clearly remembered when I first got my hands on this book, I baked this particular Ginger Chiffon Cake and it was a total disaster. In my haste I had read the recipe wrongly and omitted the baking powder. The chiffon did not rise at all and ended up looking like flap-jacks and tasting like one week stale ones.

Lime ginger 3

After that I did not even bothered to attempt it again. Recently whilst sorting through my collection of cook books, I pulled out Sky High and flipped it's pages. I came across this recipe again and decided to give it a another go. This time I made sure I read the recipe slowly. I also omitted the original lime zest buttercream and settled for something lighter. I was glad I did so as it made the entire cake so light and refreshing. I had initially planned to bring some to the office for my colleagues but since it was so good, my hubs and I decided that we would keep the entire cake to ourselves. (Gosh ... however am I going to go on a diet!)

Lime ginger 1

Ginger Chiffon Cake with Key Lime Curd and Lime Zest Chantilly Cream
Recipe Adapted from "Sky High Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alice Huntsman & Peter Wynne"
Makes an 8" triple layer cake


6 eggs, separated
1/4 neutral vegetable oil (canola, soybean)
2 1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
6 Tbsp water
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Key Lime Curd
Lime Zest Chantilly Cream

Method for the Cake:

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottoms of three 8" cake pans with parchment, do not grease the pans.

2) Whisk eggo yolks, oil, ginger and water. Set aside

3) Sift 3/4 cup of sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the egg yolk mixture and whisk to form a smooth batter. Set aside.

4) Place egg whites in another mixing bowl and beat on medium high speed until frothy. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cream of tartar and continue to ship until soft droopy peaks form. Fold one-forth of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk batter, taking care not to deflate the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans. (I would use a weighing scale to ensure that each pan has the same weight of batter in it)

5) Bake for about 18 mins or until cake tester comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool completely. To remove, run a blunt knife around the edges, invert each pan, and tap out the cake onto a wire rack. Peel off the paper.

6) While the cakes are baking, make the Key Lime Curd and chill completely. You can also make the curd a day before.

7) To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate and spread half of the Key Lime Curd over the top, leaving a generous 1/4" margin around the edges. Repeat with another cake layer and the remaining lime curd. Top with the 3rd layer. Frost all over with the Lime Zest Chantilly Cream. Decorate as you like.

Key Lime Curd
(Makes about 1 1/4 cups)

6 egg yolks
1 Tbsp cornstarch
6 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp key lime juice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature


1) In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and cornstarch. Combine the sugar and lime juice in a non-reactive saucepan and whisk in the egg yolks. Bring to a bowl over medium low heat, whisking gently the entire time. Allow to boil for 1 minute.

2) Pour through a mesh strainer into a heatprool bowl and whisk in the butter until it is completely melted. Let cool slight, then cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface. Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.

Lime Zest Chantilly Cream

1 cup non-dairy whipping cream
1 tsp lime zest


Place the whipping cream and lime zest into a chilled mixing bowl. Whisk until stiff peaks are formed. Use immediately or chill for about 20 mins before using.

Lime ginger 2

Lime ginger 4
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