Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kaya on toast! Isn’t that a classic Singaporean brekkie?

Kaya on toast! Isn’t that a classic Singaporean breakfast? My son said to me when he sat down for breakfast this morning. Before, I could answer him, my wife came to table with half a dozen of half boiled eggs and a pot of Kopi-o. Yes indeed, we are having a full Singaporean brekkie. The reasons behind this unusual breakfast at home were our neighbour gave us a tub of homemade kaya (coconut egg jam) yesterday and we haven’t eaten kaya for ages.

In the days of my childhood, kaya on toasts were virtually eaten and only served at breakfast time. Today in Singapore, it is often eaten as a snack and is readily available throughout the day in most franchised kopitiams (cafes) chains. But it is still an integral part of everyday breakfast especially eaten with half boiled egg (3 minutes eggs) and a cuppa of kopi-O (local blended coffee). When I eat kaya on toast, my mouth waters for the kaya my mother used to make in our family kitchen. Although it was easily available, my mother had to laboriously cook the kaya over the charcoal stove for hours herself.
Kaya making remains a laborious task but there is nothing like homemade kaya. Here’s my mother kaya recipe and I can assure you that it worth the time and effort.

Kaya (Coconut egg jam) Recipe.

10 eggs
500g sugar
800ml thick coconut milk (If unavailable, use full cream canned coconut milk)
¼ cup brown sugar
2-3 pandan leaves (optional, if unavailable)


Beat eggs with sugar with a whisk for 10 minute. Traditionally, kaya is cooked in a typical enamelled double boiler. (If unavailable, cook the kaya inside a smaller steel mixing bowl over a bigger pot of boiling water). If one is available, fill the base unit of the double boiler with water and bring to boil. Strain egg mixture into the top unit of the double boiler and stirring all the time until sugar has dissolved. Pour in coconut milk into egg mixture and mix well. Stir with a wooden spoon for the next 30 minutes until egg mixture reaches a smooth custard consistency. Heat the brown sugar in another pot until brown sugar caramelised. Add it to egg mixture to get a rich brown colour and stir well. Double boil custard for 4-5 hours over medium heat. Do top up water of the base unit of double boiler to prevent kaya from burning. When kaya is cooked allow to cool before storing in jars. Keep refrigerated.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Mother-in-Law's Nonya Acar Recipe

I must admit that I still find it difficult to replicate this Nonya Acar (pickle) dish that my late mother in law had perfected together with her other signature pickle dishes such as bokwa sui(papaya pickles) and Acar Hu (fish pickle).

For a start, we are still juggling with the “agak agak” (rough estimate) measurements she used in her cooking. To make matter worse,the weight measurements were given in kati and taels (old Chinese weight measure). Although we have been analytical on how to create the balance of flavours from the combination of the various spices to the drying process of the vegetables, we are still miles away from its original taste.
Nevertheless, we call upon you to try out this Acar dish with our “new” recipe in metric conversion and perhaps, share with us your own result when preparing this dish.

Nonya Acar Recipe.


1 kg cucumber
500g cabbage, cut into 3cm square
200g carrot cut into 3cm strips
500g snake beans (long beans/ chai tow) If unavailable use French beans
200g cauliflower, cut into small florets
250g pineapple, if unavailable use canned pineapple

Spices paste:

75g dried red chillies / 3 tbsp chilli powder
200g onion
100g garlic
30gm fresh turmeric / 1 tsp turmeric powder
10g galangal / 1 teaspoon galangal powder
40 gm lemon grass if unavailable use 1 tbsp of grated lemon outer skin
30 gm balachan (prawn paste)
50g coriander seeds / 3 tbsp coriander powder
½ cup peanut roasted and coarsely pounded
¼ cup sesame seeds, roasted
¾ cup sugar
4 tbsp salt
¼ cup vinegar

For scaling fruit and vegetables:

1 litre water
1 litre vinegar
¼ cup salt
¼ cup sugar


Prepare cucumber by removing core and cut into 3cm strips. Rub 2 tbsp salt into the cucumber strips and leave aside for 1 hour. Place marinated cucumber strips on a piece of muslin cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Spread the cucumber out on a try and sun for 2-3 hours.
Sun other vegetables separately in trays for 1-2 hours.
Bring water, vinegar, salt and sugar to rapid boil. Blanch the sun dried vegetables separately.
2-3 seconds for cucumber and cabbage.
8-10 seconds for the other vegetables
Drain the blanched vegetables dry.
Heat oil in pan to fry spices till fragrant. Add ¾ cup sugar and 4 tbsp and leave to cool before adding ¼ cup vinegar. Combine all vegetables and mix well. Add sesame seeds and peanuts and leaves overnight to allow flavour to develop before serving. Keep refrigerated.

It must be the mung beans that Jack's mother threw out!

Ever since I was little and learnt the story of Jack and the bean stalk, I have always wanted to know the name of the bean that Jack's angry mother threw out the kitchen window.
Your guess is right! It must be the magical mung beans.According to the story, it grew overnight into a bean stalk that reached the sky.My bean sprouts have confirmed that this is a true tale.
I have placed a coffee mug next to the flower pot as a scale to compare the size of the pot. This photo was taken on the fifth day since I first sprout the beans.Look at the volume and the rate it has grown!

Whatever you do with the mung beans, please do not throw them out of the window. Unless you want to climb the bean stalk in the garden to the sky.

Friday, April 24, 2009

See what you get from having worms in your...

Not very often I give myself a pat on the shoulder. Today, I gave myself more than one pat on my shoulder. The first pat is for the successful harvest of these lovely organic grown hot chillies from my backyard and the second one is for disposing my food waste or kitchen scraps in an efficient and convenient way from my verandah. Thanks to my worm farm for making this possible. I only started this composting method last year, by using the worms which are nature’s own recyclers to convert my food waste into nutrient rich 100% organic fertiliser that my potted plants, herb garden and vegetables plots strive. Most important of all, I have contributed to the reduction of garbage at my local municipal land fill, by reducing the amount of waste I throw away.

I bought this worm farm kit form the local hardware store last March. For the uninitiated few, let me briefly describe the worm farm. The worm farm consists of four trays. The bottom tray is a collector tray which has a solid base to collect liquid fertilizer that drains from the upper levels of the system. You can collect the liquid fertilizer by draining it out from the tap and use it as it comes or dilute with water.

The worms are started off in the first tray by using bedding material which can be made from sawdust, coir, newspapers, manure and dry cuttings from the garden. Worm do not like direct light so enhance the “settling in” process by leaving the lid opened for a while till no worms are visible which have been placed there. They then simply eat their way up, wriggling into the tray above where they can detect the food above which have been placed there. By the time the top tray is full; most worms have left the first tray where they began which had the initial bedding material. You can now take out this tray, remove the worm casting (poo) and then return it to the top again.

Thus the cycle is never ending, and you will have a convenient, natural and efficient way to dispose of your food waste, while at the same time ensuring a constant supply of your very own 100% organic fertiliser.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

News Update of the Bean Sprouts

This photo was taken at 9am (22/04/09)

This photo was taken at 3pm (23/o4/09)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Collecting Australian Bush Tucker In My Driveway

I collected these beautiful Australian bush tuckers along my driveway while trimming and tidying the hedge,this morning. I have planted these evergreen shrubs from seedlings five years ago and they have grown into a beautiful hedge along the driveway. They were chosen because of their attractive glossy foliage and most important they produce an edible fruit like our jumbu in Singapore

It is commonly known as Lilly Pilly. There are about 60 species in Australia, and a few produce edible fruit that can be eaten fresh or used in jams and jellies. I usually add them to my rojak (Singaporean fruits and vegetable salads with spicy prawn paste (hae koe) dressing.
Ever since working in the forest of Papua New Guinea, I am always interested in bush tuckers and marvelled at the jungle survival skills of the people of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Botanically, this plant belongs to the syzygium species of the myrtle family. Not only it is related to our jumbu tree in Singapore, it also a close relative to the clove tree of Indonesia.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How to make Indian Rojak Nonya Style.

Since the recent hawker food scare in Singapore, we have been receiving requests for hawkers’ food recipes. The closest recipe we can get to the infamous Indian Rojak is the ngeow chu cheen (mouse fritter) with a thick spicy plum dipping sauce.

This Nonya style Indian Rojak is a common vegetarian dish known as “cheh hu” (vegetarian fish) amongst the babas and nonyas in Penang. The fritters served with this dish are known as “ngeow chu cheen” (mouse fritter) because when the batter are dropped in the hot oil they form mouse-shaped fritters (hence its name in Hokien for mouse).

Ingredients for Gravy:

2 tbsp finely ground dried chilli
1 onion finely blend
1 ½ cup tamarind juice (If unavailable substitute 6 tbsp plum sauce or tomato sauce)
2 cup boiled mashed potato
1 cup water
4 tbsp oil
Sugar to taste


Heat the oil in a pan until hot. Fry the onion and chilli until fragrant. Add water, peanut butter and mashed potato. Bring to boil and lower heat. Simmer and stirring sauce until thicken to pouring consistency. Strain by pressing through a colander to get a smoother sauce and set aside.

For the Prawn fritters aka Ngeow Chu Cheen (Mouse fritter):
250 g small prawns
1 cup flour
1 tbsp rice flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup water
½ tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
2 cucumber
1 yambean (mung kwan)
500g bean sprouts
2 pcs hard bean curd (taukua)
150 jellyfish, soaked


Mince prawn finely. Add the minced prawn to rest of ingredient to make a thick batter. Drop in hot oil to form cylindrical shape fritter like a mouse (hence, the name in Hokkien dialect for mouse). Deep fry fritters until golden. Serve with dipping sauce.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Recording the home birth of a bean sprout.

I was greeted with a surprise when I went to rinse the mung beans under the tap with warm water this afternoon at 4 pm. It was less than 24 hrs ago,since I first took the beans from the pantry to soak in the warm water. I was not sure whether it will germinate as it has been in the pantry for nearly a year.I was pleasantly thrilled to find the mung beans have sprung into lives by pushing out its tiny roots! Well, since I am rostered off work for the next three days I will be takings photos and recording its growth.

These photos were taken this morning at 9am. This nursery for the mung beans were prepared by soaking this flowerpot overnight and I put a piece of muslin cloth to cover the hole at the bottom of the pot to prevent the beans from washing out.I'll be kept busy by rinsing the beans under the tap with warm water at least three times a day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How not to be sinister wise with the bean sprouts?

We can’t get over how much Estee has to pay for taogay (bean sprouts) in Sweden. It is easily and cheaply available everywhere in Sydney. We only have to pay 70cents for this package of 450g from our local Asian green grocer store as we wanted to take a photo for this blog. But on focusing to take a photo of this package of taogay, I was taken aback by the advertisement printed in Chinese. “Fresh Bean Sprout No Bleach”. How could I not to be sinister wise with store bought taugay again? This will bring me back to my Papua New Guinean days, where I used to work as a forester and very much rely on my own fresh produce such as sprouting my own bean sprouts. I am always thankful for that period of my life in which I've learned to live simply. I am always grateful to the people especially to the villagers, who taught me how to be self sufficient and to live sustainably with the environments.

There are several ways to grow your bean sprouts. During my stay in Papua New Guinea, I used a wooden crate and lined it with copra sacks(hessian), although these may be hard to find these days.This time, I have made changes for it to be grown on the kitchen bench and use a clay flowerpot instead. First, measure 1 or 2 cups of mung beans depending on the size of the flowerpot and wash the seeds with lukewarm water. Prepare them by soaking the seeds overnight in tepid water. Also soak a clean flowerpot overnight and placed a muslin or cheese cloth to cover the hole at the bottom.
After soaking, place the seeds into the flowerpot and rinse the seeds three or more times daily by pouring warm water (not hot or cold). Let the flowerpot drains away excess water in the sink. The seed should be kept moist, but not wet. Place the flowerpot in a dark and humid place. I placed them in a black plastic bag with the end opened for ventilation. After 3 to 5 days sprouts will appear. Once it grows to about 45mm, rinse and drains them. Refrigerate in a cover container but don’t leave them too long as it may affect the flavor.Best before the first two leaves appear.

I'll post photos later as I have to wait for the beans to sprout :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

What is Australian Chinese long, short and combination soup?

Are there moments when you sit down to a dish and would say “oh that’s not what I have ordered”? Especially when you are ordering from an unfamiliar menu and you have already formed a preconceived picture of the dish in your mind from the description by the waiter before it is served. You are not alone.

This is especially true, when you are travelling and unfamiliar with the local taste and eating habits. To make matter worse, you don’t speak the language. Even if you do, it may turn out not authentic to your taste. Nearly every food court in Sydney sells “Hainan Chicken Rice” (a popular Singaporean dish). No matter how long you have been living away from Singapore,but still have a clear idea about what real Hainan chicken rice is and because you know right away how authentic it is in your memory. I suppose there is no food other then what you grew up with that you know as authentic. In my family,I would say authenticity in food is quite subjective.

Likewise, my son who grew up eating Australian-concept of Chinese food from a young age would say “that’s not Chinese food” when he was travelling in China. Can you imagine the puzzled look on our Chinese host when we had dinner in Macau.
By the way, one of his all time favourite soups is a combination of long and short soup. You may ask what's that? It is simply by having wanton and noodle together in a soup. Commonly known in Singapore as wanton noodle soup. Before you can make this combination soup, here is the recipe for making wanton aka short soup.

Recipe For Short Soup (Wanton Soup)

2 litre chicken stock
3 shallot finely chopped
1/2 tsp sesame oil

500g pork mince
1/4 small cabbage finely shred
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp corn flour
30 wanton wrappers
1 egg beaten
salt and pepper tpo taste

Combined pork mince with salt, soy sauce, sesame oil and grated ginger. Place a teaspoon of pork filling slightly below centre of wanton wrapper. Brush around edges of wrapper with egg. Fold wrapper diagonally in half to form triangle. Press edges to seal around filling. Brush on the front right corner of each triangle and back each left corner, Bring the to two moistened corners together. Pinch to seal.
Drop the wantons into boiling water, cook until they float to the top, about 15 minutes; drain. Put the drained wanton in hot stock and top with shopped shallot.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Do you like your soup long or short, mate?

For almost two centuries, the Chinese people have been arriving in Australia. The centuries-old Chinese Diaspora throughout Asia has ensured that Australia get its fair share of Chinese from South East Asia such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore, as well as from China itself. Many early Chinese first arrived in Australia from southern China as coolies (indentured labourers) even before the gold rush days, as cooks in rural homesteads. When gold was discovered, they set up market gardens and cookhouses to provide food for miners on the gold fields and continued through to serving the Chinese community with traditional Cantonese dishes based on fresh produce, fish, poultry, pork and rice, to the present days. This led to the popularisation of the Chinese food and was an important factor in the establishment of Chinese food stores and restaurants in Australia.

While Chinese food stores and restaurants have always been found in Chinatown areas in most major cities in Australia, it was not until the 1950s that Chinese takeaways and restaurants became common in suburbs and country towns. As a matter of fact, there is hardly a city suburb or major country town without a Chinese restaurant or takeaway and has becomes more noticed by its absence than its presence.

This historical background will provide me a platform to write about typical traditional Australian Chinese meals where you can still find in the menu of the rural towns and not wondering what is coming on the plate after you have ordered. Do you want your soup long or short, mate? In rural towns, Chinese soups come in two varieties: long or short.The long soup is cooked with long thin egg noodles. The short soup are the dumplings or won tons.

Here’s the long soup.

You will need:
250g lean pork or chicken
6 spring onion (shallots) Cut into white and green part.
¼ cabbage or bok choy(Chinese green)
1 1/2 litres chicken stock
½ tsp grated ginger
125 egg noodle
1 1/2 tbsp soya sauce
Salt and pepper to taste.
1. Heat oil in pan or wok, quickly stir fry pork or chicken and cabbage for a few minutes.
2. Add stock, salt and pepper, ginger, soya sauce and white part of shallot. Bring slowly to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Cook noodles in boiling water until tender for 5 minutes and drain well before serving noodles in soup bowl. Pour your hot soup over and sprinkle with chopped green part of shallot on top. Serve 8.

Stay tuned for the short soup.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kangaroos do have good table manners.

We would point out this unique Australian road sign to our overseas visitors, who often requested us to stop the car, in order to take a souvenir photo. This photo was taken yesterday when we visited our former neighbours who are now residing at a retirement village in Morisset.

These road signs are only found in the rural areas to protect this iconicAustralian native animal from being killed by passing vehicles, especially at night. Many of the species are nocturnal and usually spending the days resting in the shade and moving about in the nights or early mornings to feed. It is quite disheartening to see them lying with other native animals along the road after being hit by a vehicle as roadkill.

Of course, the Australians love their kangaroos, in which they have played an important part to both Australian culture and the national image. And consequently featured in the Australian coat of arms as well as being used as logos and sport. It was one of the mascots at the 2000 Sydney Olympic and also incorporated into the logo on the national carrier Qantas.

They are not farmed to any extent, but wild kangaroos are shot for meat and have become popular worldwide especially after the mad cow disease scare in Europe and the Asian bird flu in recent years. Personally I like to eat them, as I reckon it is a very nutritious and healthy red meat. They are readily available at the main supermarkets under the health food section. Although there are some controversies, harvesting kangaroos for meat has many environmental and health benefits over sheep or cows grazed for meat. Ironically, they are also culled to protect grazing land for sheep and cattle.

I am sure cattle and sheep farmers do not find it funny to learn that kangaroos have good table manners. I have just learned from goggling at Wikipedia, that the kangaroos do not belch out stomach gas, despite having an herbivorous diet similar to ruminants such as cattle and sheep which release large quantities of methane through exhaling and eructation. The kangaroo instead converts the hydrogen by-product into acetate, which is then used to provide further energy. It further stated that scientists are interested in the possibility of transferring the bacteria responsible from kangaroos to cattle, since the greenhouse gas effect of methane is 23 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. If that is the case, does it justify to eat this iconic Australian native animal?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

We were guests at our dinner table

Not very often we were told that we'll be dinner guests at our own home. Last night, we had a gathering of Singaporean friends and the main dinner was prepared by Garf and his wife. We were given a wonderful Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls dinner where everyone had to prepare their own dinner. At the start the dinner we were given a demonstration on how to make this yummy treat. Many of us find it a bit fiddly making our first roll but after the third roll we soon got the hung of it. In fact, it is quite similar to rolling a popiah (Singapore spring roll) except you have to soften the wrapper by sliding the rice wrapper in hot water and turning them until it begins to soften in about 30 seconds. Take the softened wrapper and lay it on a plate. Put half of leaf of lettuce, mint and chive, top with vermicelli noodle, prawn, and pork meat, arranging in a line across the lower half of the wrapper, leaving the edges clear. Fold the bottom of wrapper over the fillings, then fold the sides and roll into a tight cylinder. The roll is served with “nuoc mam”dipping sauce. I will post a detailed recipe for this refreshing and tasty Vietnamese dish once Mrs Garf emailed it to me.

True to our “bring a plate” dinner party’s protocol, we did bring a plate of dessert "kaya kuih"( Egg Custard Glutinous Rice Pudding). Here’s our contribution.

For making Rice Pudding Base:
21/2 cup glutinous rice
11/2 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp salt
For Kaya (Egg custard) Topping:
6 eggs
2 cup sugar
3 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp custard powder
1 tbsp plain flour.

Soak glutinous rice overnight. Drain the glutinous rice and put in a 25cm square tray. Pour coconut milk and water and steam the rice for 25 minute over high heat until cooked. Beat eggs lightly. Combined all ingredients and add to beaten egg mixture. Cook and stir the mixture over low heat for 1-2 minute until thickened. Remove steamed rice from heat and press the rice with the back of a wet spoon to compact it. Pour egg mixture over steamed rice and steam for 20-25 minutes or until set. Make sure the kaya kuih is cooled before cutting to serving sizes. Enjoy

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How to cook with a Thermos Flask

We wish we had learnt this method of cooking earlier, but we didn’t until we saw our host in Macau used the thermal cooker to prepare “Bak Kut Teh” (Pork ribs herbal soup) for us during our stay with his family. He explained all he needed was 15 minutes on the stove, leaves for work and he can return home to a ready cooked meal. Basically the thermal cooker consists of two pots. Just cook the food on the stove in the inner pot and bring it to boil for 10 minutes. Place the pot into the outer pot. A convection effect is created whereby the cooking process continues for up to 30 minutes and warms up to 8 hours. The most important part is it’s an energy saving and time saving way to cook your food.

We were so impressed that we couldn’t wait to buy one from 1Utama Shopping Mall in Kuala Lumpur. We bought a 7-Litre La Gourmet Thermal Wonder Cooker on sales at RM 399. (Malaysian dollar) and hand carried all the way to Sydney.

We thought that was a good investment until I googled to learn more about thermal cooking. I found out that you can use a simple thermos flask to the same effect. The only difference is the quantity. The thermos flask is only good for 1-2 servings whereas my new acquired 7-Litre is great for a gathering 8-10 people. We haven’t organised a big party since our return and our thermal cooker is still in its original packaging. Have I bought a white elephant?

I wish I had thought of this idea myself, but it so simple that I thought it is funny even to post it here. Neverthelees I want to show to Ange of France that it is possible to cook with a thermos flask!
In fact this cooking method is such a practical method that I use it often to cook my morning cereal or bento (packed lunch) for my workplace. My wife has her own thermos flask to cook her own special multi grain recipe. She mixes 8 kinds of grains which are brown rice, sorghum, buckwheat, barley, wheat, oat, millet, and black glutinous rice. She believes her homemade multi grains mixed are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fibre and much more nutritional than the store bought type. You probably can’t go wrong incorporating such a variety of grains in your diet. You can cook any whole grain in a thermos flask. I used a 1-litre Jackeroo Thermos Flask. It has an unbreakable stainless steel inner liner.

Here’s how I used my thermos flask to cook in three simple steps.
Step 1: Put ½ cup of rolled oat in the thermos flask.
Step2: Fill thermos flask with 3 cups of boiling water.
Step 3: Screw the lid of the flask tight and turn it upside down for a couple of times. Set the flask aside
You have just made your own cereal for tomorrow’s breakfast with minimum of time and fuss.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Pot By Any Other Name Is Still A Pot.

Next to the wok, my most favourite kitchen utensil is the Camp oven. Outside Australia, it is commonly known as a Dutch oven, cocotte in French, tetsunabe in Japanese or simply called as a casserole dish by the British. Camp ovens have been around for many years and the Dutch were producing these cast iron cooking vessels from the late 1600s and hence came to be referred to as “Dutch” ovens.

The modern Dutch ovens are now mainly designed by the French for use on the cooktop or in the oven are typically enamelled and smooth bottomed. Unlike those pricy cherry- red french ovens by the French manufacturer, my camp oven is a 50 year old thick walled cast iron cooking pot with a heavy lid. This much loved and treasured cooking vessel was handed to us from our elderly neighbour before they went to live in the retirement village seven years ago. Over time the camp oven has become one of my favourite cooking utensils. It is a frugal and practical cooking vessel that I use over and over again for preparing a great variety of food including stews roasts casseroles and curry. We use it almost daily, in many different ways because of its versatility and durability. It goes straight from the stove to the table and keeping the food warm during the mealtime because of its fabulous heat retention capacity.
In case you are thinking of buying a cast iron camp oven, we would like to share some of our tips on how to take care of your camp oven. Most camping stores carry good quality ovens but I have picked up one for my sister-in law from a thrift store a few years for $10. It comes in various sizes and with proper care it will last a life time.


Before using a camp oven and to prevent rust it needs to be “seasoned”. The first step with a new oven is to remove any labels and then wash it with hot soapy water, this will usually remove any protective coating of wax or shellac from the factory. Rinse well with warm water and dry completely. Grease the oven and lid inside out with vegetable oil soaked in a piece of paper towel. Do not use lard or any other animal fats as they will spoil and turn rancid. The oven should then be heated so as to bond the oil to the metal. You will probably need to repeat the process for the oven to obtain the desired uniform black patina that provides a non stick quality comparable to the best Teflon cookware available and also protects your oven from rust.
Avoid at first acidic foods such as tomatoes, vinegar which removes the ‘seasoning” otherwise you will have to repeat to re-season the oven. Instead, newly seasoned oven should be used to cook something high in oil or fat such as chicken, bacon or sausages or used for deep frying. In cleaning the oven never use detergents, simply scrape out the remaining food and clean the oven with hot water with a brush and allow to completely dry. To store your oven, lightly oil all surfaces, place a piece of paper towel inside the oven to absorb any moisture. It is best kept in a clean dry place with the lid ajar. A camp oven, when properly cared for, will last for decades of use.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

How to make Egg Tofu Restaurant Style...but

This recipe was given by a distant relative, who owns a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. We were invited to eat there several times during our recent trip to Malaysia. Each time, when asked what we would like to have in the restaurant, we would answer in unison, “Can we have the egg tofu”? How could we possibly refuse not to eat such a delightful savoury egg tofu dish? It was served with a crispy coating on the outside and creamy and silky on the inside with a sumptuous topping of pork mince and fragrantly fried chopped salted radish (chye poh). Unfortunately I‘ve never managed to recreate this dish exactly at home. And I am sure I won’t be able to find it at any restaurant here in Sydney. Although, it one of their many signature dishes, I didn’t pursue to find out how they did the meat topping and let it remains a trade secret to its owner. So I tried to do something else with it. Serving the egg tofu with mixed vegetables or added to pork-mince and prawn-mince with black bean sauce. Egg tofu is a very versatile ingredient with a smooth texture and can be used in any recipe to substitute the ordinary tofu. I even used it in steamboat. Please have a go at it.


500 cc soya milk
5 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper and chicken powder stock

Prepare steaming tray by lining an oblong loaf pan lined with cling wrap.
Combine soya milk with eggs and beat lightly.
Strain the mixture into loaf pan.
Bring water to boil and turn it down to medium-low after you put the mixture to steam about 20-30 minutes or a toothpick inserted in it comes out clean. The tofu will not be smooth if the steam is too strong and on high heat. Place pan in cold water and lift the wrap out of your baking pan. Refrigerate.

To have a crispy tofu:
Dust cooked tofu with corn flour and quickly transfer it to a heated fry pan with 1cm of cooking and pan fry for about a minute each side until golden brown. Carefully arrange it on a plate and add meat sauce/vegetables. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Are you your own dinner guest?

My wife and I have enough siblings to form two soccer teams with extras in the reserves. We always find preparing and cooking meals for one or two people can be a challenge, especially if you’re used to cooking for an extended family of 12 to15 family members back home. Since we have our own small family of three, we have learnt to "scale down" our cooking and meal preparations. We would like to share some of our thoughts and experiences on how to cook for one and to make the most of your meals and budget by planning ahead, making your cooking count and making your meals an experience. Living away from home for the first time, many overseas students have to fend for themselves when it come to meal preparation. They don't feel like cooking because they either do not know how to cook or often find it hard to get motivated to cook for just only for themselves, and if you are a student or single person arriving in a new country to study or live, most likely you cook and dine alone.

If you are your own dinner guest, we can assure that you’re not alone. With our aging population and changes in our eating patterns and lifestyles, family members rarely have time to eat together, cooking for one has become quite common. Just because you are a student doesn’t mean you’re stuck eating 2 minutes instant noodles and monotonous pre-packaged lunch boxes from the food courts. For the same cost as fast food, plus some basic cooking skill and time, you can eat healthy and delicious "home cook" food. Here's how:

Planning Ahead:

Meal planning begins before you go to the supermarket or the local grocery store. You can save money and preparation time by planning to buy foods that can be easily divided into portions for one. Pick up what’s freshest and cheapest and try not to buy more than you need. Picking up a bag of cheap apples or bananas isn’t frugal if you end up throwing half of it away. However, picking up a cheap bag of bananas, making some muffins or banana cake and freezing what you cannot use right away is! Once you get home from the store, dedicate some time to properly storing the foods you purchased. Divide them into single size portions and cling wrapped them individually before putting them away in the freezer. This will allow you to thaw out only the amount you need later.

Making your cooking count:

We firmly believe that if you have to spend 2 to 3hrs slaving over a hot stove, it could only be justified, if you can make a few meals out of your labour. Prepare meals by making larger quantities to make an extra few batches. Eat and enjoy one portion immediately and freeze the rest in single servings for those days when you’re busy with your uni assignments or tired. Remember to label your frozen meals with the date; most meals last for two to three months in the freezer. Meals that freeze well include curry, pasta dishes, casseroles and soups.

Make the most of leftovers:

Planning for leftovers makes preparation easier and reduces food waste. To preserve nutrients and keep the food safe to eat, cover and chill extra portions as soon as you’ve served the amount you’ll be eating right away. Leftovers stored in the fridge should be used within 2 - 3 days. They can also be stored in the freezer for 2 - 3 months.

Making your meal an experience:

If the weather’s permit, take your meal outside. We are sure that nothing beats a meal—no matter how simple and frugal—enjoyed outside on a balmy Sydney evening is delicious anytime.
Invite friends over for a meal and ask them to bring a plate as well. Not only you can taste others cooking, but also enjoy their companionship... at least, you are not your own dinner guest!