Saturday, May 30, 2009

How to make Traditional Javanese Chicken Satay.


In order to draw this picture of a wandering Javanese satay seller from my childhood days in Singapore, I have to scrat and cratch my memory across more than half a century. It was a common sight then, to see hawkers selling their food on makeshift roadside stalls, pushcarts and even walking from one neighbourhood to the next to sell their food, balancing with a bamboo pole on their shoulders with two receptacles hanging from each ends. I do not know of anywhere in modern Singapore where traditional hawkers still plied their trades in this way. Their demise gradually started from the 1960s, when concerns over public health and the rapid development of the city led to a major consolidation of satay stalls at Beach Road, which came to be collectively called the Satay Club. Open only after sunset, it became a popular place for families dining out and a venue for young lovers to meet.
In those days, there were no tables when you eat at street hawkers and customers usually ate their satays sitting on very low stools around the hawker’s small makeshift stalls. Sauces were either served in common containers or poured over the satay sticks and ketupat (rice dumpling wrapped in a square shape with coconut palm leaves).
Although we seldom prepare the satay in the traditional way, we thought it is appropriate to post the traditional recipe which my wife has found in her old scrap book here.

The Traditional Javanese Satay Recipe:

2 kati (1kg) Chicken meat cut into thin strips.
Ingredients to finely pound (ground)
(a) 2tbsp Ketumbar (coriander seeds)
(b) 1tbsp jintan manis
(c) 1tbsp jintan puteh
(d) I thumb size fresh turmeric (1tsp tumeric powder)
(e) 5 dried chillies (1tsp chillies powder)
(f) 1 stalk serai (lemon grass, if unavailable use the rind of 1lemon)
(g) 2 slices langkuas (galangar, if unavailable use ginger)
(h) 2 tbsp palm sugar ( if unavailable use brown sugar/sugar)
(i) 1 tbsp thick tamarind juice(if unavailable use lemon juice)
(j) Salt to taste

Method:

1. Roast coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds separately and grind to make a paste.
2 Add tamarind /lemon juice to the paste. Add the sugar and tumeric powder.
3 This is the satay marinade. Cover the meat with this marinade and leave till overnight in the refrigerator.
4 Skewer the marinated meat with bamboo/steel skewers, and grill them. Turn the skewered meat over now and then. Each time you turn the skewered meat, baste them with the marinade.


Dipping Sauce for Satay:

Method:

1. 2tbsp Ketumbar (coriander seeds)
2. 1tbsp jintan manis (fennel seeds)
3. 1tbsp jintan puteh (cumin seeds)
4. 10 dried chillies (11/2 tsp chilli powder)
5. 10 shallots
6. 2 cloves garlic
7. 1 tsp blachan powder
8. 4 buah keras (candlenuts)
9. 1 stalk serai(lemon grass)
10. 1 cup roasted peanut ground not too finely (substitute crunchy peanut butter)
11. 4 tbsp palm sugar (brown sugar)
12. 1 1/2cup coconut milk
13. 1 tbsp tamarind juice(lemon juice)
14. Salt to taste.
15. 2 tbsp oil.

Grind ingredients 1-9 to a paste. Hear oil in pan and fry all grounded ingredient till fragrant. Add other ingredients and simmer in low heat till oil rises to the top. Serve as a dipping sauce with grilled satay.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to make Candied Winter Melon aka Tung Kua(冬瓜糖)


It has been a long while since we last made the candied winter melon (冬瓜糖) at home. In most instances it is easier to purchase commercially glazed melon when it is required. Furthermore it takes about at least three to five days before it is ready to be used. Even through, I still want to share this recipe with those people who want to have homemade candied winter melon and for Ange of France, who may have difficulty buying them. Besides its many culinary uses such as making the rice dumpling filling, it is often included in the circular or octagonal nuts and candied fruits tray during the Chinese New Year. This tray is offered to all guests to eat while visiting and is called the “eight treasures tray” to bring good luck for the New Year.

Candied or crystallized winter melon is made by cooking it in heavy syrup until it becomes transparent. Basically the method is simply to place the melon in increasingly stronger solutions of heated sugar syrup, and the syrup gradually replaces the water content of the melon. This is not an easy procedure, since the concentration of the syrup must be carefully controlled. The syrup must penetrate to the inside of the fruit so that the fruit can be preserved to keep for a long period. The procedure involves the following:




Remove the outer green skin of the wintermelon and cut approximately 500g winter melon into 5cm sticks just like potato chips.
Blanched melon by putting into a pot of fresh water with 1 tsp of baking soda, and bring to a rapid boil for 1 minutes.
Transfer the melon to a colander to drain.
Heat 750g of sugar with ½ Litre of water in a shallow pan until dissolved.
Bring the syrup to the boil. Turn down heat to low.
Transfer the drained melon to the pot of syrup.
Press a round of greaseproof paper on top of the melon to immerse the fruit in the syrup.
Bring the syrup slowly to a simmer and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes; do not let it boil.
Take the pan from the heat and allow cooling.
Leave it in the syrup for 24 hours whilst leaving the fruit undisturbed.
Carefully lift the fruit from the syrup and leave to drain for 30 minutes.
Transfer the fruit to paper towels and leave until dry,and store in an airtight container.

Monday, May 25, 2009

How to make Nonya Rice Dumpling aka Pua Kiam Tee Chung


My mother usually prepared three types of rice dumplings for the Dragon Boat Festival and she had to spend three days to complete this annual task. On the first day, she prepared the Kiam Bak Chung (Salty Meat Rice Dumpling) and followed by the Pua Kiam Tee Chungs (Sweet and salty Rice dumpling). On the third day, the Kee Chung (an alkaline rice dumpling, which is normally eaten with honey or syrup) were specially prepared as an alter offering to the gods, especially the Kitchen God, who seems to have a sweet tooth. Mother believed the Kitchen God makes an annual report of all happenings in the household to the higher hierarchy in heavens and she made sure that he is always offered the best sweets on feast days. I often wonder, is there a more ingenious or ingenuous way to sweeten his mouth while reporting on the family?

Although Kee Chung is the gods favourite, but we mortals, would rather prefer Mother’s Pua Kiam Tee aka Nonya rice dumplings as our favourite.

Nonya Rice Dimplings aka Pua Kiam Tee Chung Recipe:

Ingredients


500g glutinous rice
1 tbsp pandan essence to provide green colour and flavour (normally the indigo blue colour is extracted from the butterfly pea flower is used in this recipe.)
2 tbsp cooking oil.

Seasoning:

1 tbsp pepper
2 tbsp coriander powder
8 cloves of grounded garlic
1 tbsp galangal powder
350g mince pork
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
150g candied winter melon (tung kwa) coarsely chopped
100g roasted peanut coarsely chopped.
30 dried bamboo leaves, soaked till pliable
Hemp strings
2 pandan leaves cut into 3cm length.

Soak the 350g glutinous rice overnight in water. In a separate stainless steel bowl, soak 150 with water and add pandan essence, overnight. Heat oil in a wok and fry seasonings till fragrant. Add minced pork and fry well. Stir in candied melon, peanuts until well mixed. Set aside to cool. Depending on the size of the bamboo leaf, fold one or two leaves in to a cone as shown in drawing. Fill the cone with one tablespoon of glutinous and 1 teaspoon of pandan green-coloured glutinous rice. Add 1 tablespoon of fillings and covered with another 1 tablespoon of glutinous rice. Top with a piece of pandan leaf. Wrap dumpling into a pyramid shape as shown in drawings and tie securely with hemp string.
In a large stock port, bring water into a rapid boil just before putting the dumplings to boil for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until cooked. Keep an eye on the water level by topping up the water in pot with hot water during the cooking process. Remove dumplings when cooked and hang to cool and dry.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

No Dragon Boat but we celebrate with an arsenic cocktail drink...

Although I did not associate dragon boat with the festival , I could vividly recall my mother always mixes realgar in water at mid- day and let family members take a sip of the concoction and children had them dabbed on their foreheads before spraying the rest in the four corners of the house. The realgar is said to be able to protect against poisonous insects and snakes. In the legendary folklore, Story of White Snake, Lady White drank this mixture, and thus changed during sleep into her original shape of a snake. Ancient Chinese believed realgar was an antidote for all poisons, and therefore most effective to drive away evil spirits and kill insects. This affirmation of the effect of realgar is such that it reached the level of superstition especially among the older generation of Taoist Singaporeans. Without a doubt, it had influenced my poor mother to form the custom of drinking realgar mixture on this feast day without knowing it was arsenic.

I am still reeling from shock, after I googled and learned that realgar is a mineral, comprised primarily of arsenic and sulphur. After being mined, any impurities are removed, after which it is ground into a fine powder for use. According to traditional Chinese medicine, it is used internally to kill intestinal parasites and treat sore throats, and is applied externally to treat swelling, abscesses, itching, rashes, and other skin disorders. Has modern science proven that this medicines is, in fact, quite beneficial to health? I hope it does.




I do not know whether some of these traditions still prevail in modern Singapore. But during my childhood, it was a common practice for Taoist families to hang a pair of calamus, an aquatic plant with sword shaped leaves on their front door to ward off and drive the devils away. On this day, children would wear necklaces or bracelets usually made of red, yellow, blue, white and black threads, to keep evils away from them. I am wondering where the young people of today, wearing plaited coloured- sting bracelets got their idea from. To be continued…

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The story behind the Dragon Boat Festival aka Bak Chung Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, which is on the 28th of May this year. This annual festival is of great significance to the Chinese people that Hong Kong and Taiwan declare a public holiday to commemorate it. However,personally I think most Singaporeans will associate this feast day as the “Eating Bak Chung Day” where pyramid-shaped dumplings made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or pandan leaves are specially eaten on the day, rather than the historical origin of the festival. According to the Chinese folklore, this festival was set aside in memory of the great poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself over 2,000 years ago after the emperor refused to heed his remonstration.

Growing up as a child in Singapore in the 50s, I do not remember dragon boats been raced to honour the memory of this ancient poet. It was much later that Singaporeans become involved in the spectacle of dragon boat racing. Now, it has become a popular sport in Singapore , where our dragon boat racers participate in international dragon boat races are held in Guangzhou , Hong Kong and Vietnam every year.

However, I can clearly remember how my family celebrated this festival when I was a child. The festive preparation began a week before the feast day. Grandma and mother would spend the whole day picking impurities such as pebbles and husk from the glutinous rice spread on a round bamboo tray. Strings for tying the dumplings were made by shredding the banana tree stems and left to dry in the sun. The frenzy of activities heightened as the feast day drew closer. Bamboo and pandan leaves collected and arranged in neat bundles and the rows of prepared ingredients for the dumpling filling were placed in their right sequence similar to a factory production line waiting for the final countdown to begin. To be continued...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Choko got to do with Budha?

The Cantonese literally named choko fruit as Buddha’s hand melon (佛手瓜 fut sao gwa) mainly because it looks like a pair of palms clasping together in prayer and furthermore,it is often used in the temples as an alter offering to the gods.I am just wondering whether the gods must have blessed this humble fruit by making it suitable and versatile for such a great varieties of things.


Ways to eat this vegetable:

There are one hundred and one ways of eating chokos. In angmoh cooking(western style cooking), chokos are halved and stuffed with all sorts of fillings - rice, bacon, tomato, onion, cheese and more. They can be served with a sauce, or simply steamed and buttered with a grinding of salt and pepper. In fact, it can it can be added and substituted for everything in any recipe. They can be used much like courgettes. It can be added in casseroles and to bulk up the volume of a dish in frugal cooking. Chokos are even used in desserts, tarts, breads, jams or cakes. They are also good in fruit and vegetable salads. Chokos can be pickled or used as a base for relishes.

How to prepare choko:

Large chokos need to be peeled before cooking. The cut flesh of the raw fruit exudes a slippery sap which is difficult to wash off one's hands, so if sensitive skin is a problem, oil hands lightly or protect hands with thin rubber gloves before peeling chokos. Cut the choko in quarters and remove the seed like you would remove the core of an apple. Small chokos, fewer than 5 cm, don’t need to be peeled and are perfect for stir-fries.

Choko is great for making Chinese soup. It can be substituted for hairy melon or winter melon as an ingredient in the soup. We usually like to replace hairy melon or winter melon with choko because it has a firmer texture and cheaper at this time of the year. Here is a simple Choko with dried scallops and peppercorns soup recipe.

Choko with Dried Scallops and Peppercorns Soup:

Ingredients:
• 3 Chokos, skinned, seed removed cut into quarters
• 1 Carrot, skinned and cut into pieces
10 pcs. dried scallops
• 500g Pork Ribs
• 1750ml Water
• Salt to taste
• 10 to 15 pepper corns

How to do it:

1. Blanch ribs with boiling water and drain.
2. In a pot, add all ingredients except salt.
3. Bring to boil.
4. Turn down fire and simmer for another hour and a half until choko is soft
5. Add salt to taste

Monday, May 18, 2009

Is Choko a vegetable or a fruit?


Have you ever left standing in front of a vegetable or fruit and wondering what is it? And the next probable question you will be asking yourself is “How do I eat it?”

Last week, at the local fruit and vegetables shop and standing next to me was a young couple pondering in front of a huge pile of chokos.They took a good look at these slightly flatten triangular pear-shaped fruits,before picking up a fruit each, in their hands for a closer inspection. At the same time, looking at the displayed name and price, she said aloud. “Choko, 99cents a kilo… wah so cheap but don’t know how to cook leh?” I could not help but asked “ Are you guys from Singapore or Malaysia?” Looking surprised, she answered. “Ya, Singapore and how do you know?” The answer was simple; we can’t run away with our accent. It is the trademark and a telltale sign of all Singaporeans worldwide. Before long, we were talking like long lost relatives in Singlish, oblivious to the pile of choko and other shoppers in the shop. Sorry, what was the question again?

Is choko a fruit or a vegetable?

Choko is everything.The root, young stems, seeds, and leaves are all edible. Choko is a versatile, rampant and prolific plant. During my stay in Papua New Guinea, I have seen the villagers used the tuberous root not only for their own consumption but also used the starchy roots as a fodder for the pigs. In fact, nothing is wasted. The stems or vines have also been ingeniously used by the villagers in the manufacture of baskets and ropes.

In other Asian countries choko fruits are known as 佛手瓜 fut sao gwa (lit. Buddha hand melon), 合掌瓜 hup jeung gwa (lit. closed palm melon), and chokos are are widely planted for their shoots and tendrils, known as lóng xü cài (龍鬚菜, literally "dragon-whisker vegetable"). Along with the young leaves, the shoot is a commonly consumed vegetable in those regions.

How to grow Choko:

Choko can be easily propagated by sprouting a fruit indoors in late winter and early spring in cooler areas, or all year round in tropical areas. It is a vigorous vine which is easy to grow and it is perennial as it will grow for years in mild, frost-free climates. Choko isn’t fussy about conditions but prefers rich, well-drained organic soils. Plant with the sprouting shoot just above the soil level. Because the choko plant is a climber, it can easily be grown on fences, trellises or frames allowing the fruit to hang down for easy harvesting. Feed the plant every six weeks with a complete fertilizer. It has few pests but needs protection from hot winds or frost. The choko plant bears fruit in autumn and winter. Pick fruits young when it is tender and has a delicate flavor.

Warning:

One Choko vine will easily cover and overrun the whole backyard, garage, shed, or even the house! It can become a rampant weed under the right conditions. So be warned. To be continued...

Friday, May 15, 2009

How to make Oyster Omelette aka Orr Luah, Orh Chien,


There is one hawker treat among all the delicious Singaporean hawker foods that lives in my heart. Not even my mother who was an creative and accomplished cook in her time could make it.

Only Orr Luah Pek (Uncle Oyster Omelette), our neighbour hawker made fried oyster omelette like nobody else. I remembered Orr Luah Pek’s rusty tri-cycle, where his 3 foot cast iron skillet rested above a makeshift “wood-fired” stove which was fashioned out of an old 44 gallons oil drum. He would pour the magic batter-mix and with a couple of wrist movements, an almost translucence crepe appeared in the middle of the skillet. He would then crack a couple of eggs with his left hand and spread them evenly to form an omelette, and at the same time topping a handful of local oysters with a couple of splashes of fish sauce into it. In that incredible moment, one of the most wonderful aromas would float through the neighbourhood. Then in no time, there it was a thin round oyster omelette – his batter transformed into a crispy edge scattered with succulent oysters and garnished with fresh coriander treat.

Unfortunately,the dramatic repertoire of this exquisitely flavourful dish can only belong to Orr Luah Pek in the bygone era. But today, we can only walk down memory lane and try to reproduce this extradinary dish in our kitchen with some adjustments and our own imaginations.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup corn starch
3/4 cup water
pinch of salt
10 pieces of fresh oyster
4 eggs
1 tbsp fish sauce or soya sauce
Oil

Instructions:

1. Mix the two starches and salt with water. Set this aside for now.
2. Heat up a large cast iron or non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, add some oil to grease the skillet
3. Add the oyster and stir fry a min. or two, until it’s almost cooked.
4. Add the starch water mix to the pan and spread thinly to cook until translucent.
5. Break the eggs directly on to the crepe and use the spatula to break open the
yokes and spread around
6. Flip the omelette over to cook the top side. Garnish with fresh coriander and
chilli sauce. ( We like Tabasco chilli sauce best for this dish)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Frugality is not cheapskate

Our most recent posting has received several comments and good recipes on how to get a good feed for yourself and your family for under $10. It is interesting to read a comment from Ange of France stating “When I was a poor student, I'd buy only local seasonal fruits and vegetables that were on sale due to over supply and the cheapest cuts of meat. Not eating out, not buying pre-prepared or ready-to-eat foods also helped tremendously”. We could not agree with Ange more. But what was interesting in the comment was the adjective “poor”. We rather prefer to change it to smart, if we may.

Frugality isn’t about deprivation, or about buying the cheapest things or spending the least amount of money. It goes beyond money and spending. It is about not leading a life of excess, about appreciating what you have, about making do and about letting go. It is definitely not about living in poverty but it is about living with balance. Since I’ve started actively trying to live a more frugal lifestyle, I have gained riches that have changed my life for the better especially in my personal growth.It has illuminated the pattern of changes that we are making in our everyday lives-adjustments in day-to-day living that are an active, positive response to the complex dilemmas and economical woes of our time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How to feed your family under $10.


The headline in last weekend Sydney Morning Herald caught my attention when I was trying to remove its cling-wrap from the papers. Home delivered papers in Sydney usually come rolled and cling wrapped to protect it from the weather. It was reported that the Australian Government will slash the skilled migration intake for a second time in as many months in a clear signal it expects the jobless to keep rising. The Government believes this is an aberration and the budget which will be announced on the second Tuesday of the month in May will forecast an unemployment rate of well above 8 per cent for the next financial year, prompting the cut of migrant intake. What this headline means for many is as clear as daylight. An 8 per cent of unemployment rate is equivalent of 1 million people out of work and the stack human cost of doing nothing.

A supermarket advertisement “Feed your family under $10” last week, is another revealing sign of the dire economic consequences to come. I took a closer look at the advertisement and did a mental sum on the exact costing s of the entire recipes in the flyer. Indeed, they are under $10 each, to feed a family of 4. Inevitably food prices and everything else prices are up and income is the same, but surely feel like less. My goal with this blog wasn’t how cheap we go but how can we keep eating well for less. To be continued...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How to make Ang Ku Kuih aka Kim Ku Kuih


The Kim Ku Kuih aka Ang Ku Kuih was made in our kitchen with the help of a couple of friends, last month. We named them “Kim Ku” which means golden tortoise in Hokkien because it derives this golden hue from the mashed Kumara (orange-coloured sweet potato) which we kneaded in when making the dough. We were very pleased with our variation from what is normal “ang ku” that we were talking about how to patent the kim ku kuih. Of course, we were joking. Traditionally, they are coloured red, hence the name “Ang Ku Kuih” (red tortoise cake).The dough of the "red tortoise cake" is dyed red, because red colour is a sign of happiness in Chinese culture. And it is molded to shape like a tortoise which signifies longevity in Chinese traditional belief.

We always question the use of food colouring in our food. We may be given the assurance that certain food colorings have been banned after many years on the market because they were found to be carcinogenic. I am still cynical about certified food colours used today. But if you removed food coloring, wouldn’t the food taste the same? I am sure it does, but for commercial reasons, food manufacturers are adding toxic food colorings so that their highly processed and artificially colored foods beckon you to buy.

Here is the homemade and naturally coloured Kim Ku aka Ang Ku Recipe:

Filling:
300g split mung beans, soaked overnight
300g sugar
4 tbsp oil





Pastry Skin:
500g glutinous rice powder
250g kumara (orange sweet potato) peeled, steamed and mashed.
5 tbsp sugar
3tbsp oil

1 pc banana leaf, (if unavailable, use grease proof paper) cut into size to fit mould.
1 tbsp oil for greasing cooked angku.

To prepare filling,steam mung beans over boiling water for 30 minutes. Combined steamed mung beans and oil in a pan and stir continuously over a medium heat until beans and sugar form a smooth texture and does not stick to hand. Set aside to cool.

To make the pastry skin:
Combine all the ingredients together and adding a small amount of water each time to knead until a smooth dough is obtained. Form dough into balls to fit the size of the mould.




Flatten a piece of dough to ½ cm thick with hand and put a ball of filling in the centre and wrap the pastry skin around the filling to cover it completely. Roll it lightly in the palms to smoothen the surface.
Dust the mould lightly with glutinous rice powder and press the ball into the mould. Dislodge the uncooked angku from the mould by tapping the side of the mould on the table. Place the Angku on a lightly greased banana leaf or grease proof paper and steam over medium heat for 15 minutes.

Lightly brush steamed angku with oil to prevent sticking. When cooled, trim the banana leaf neatly around the base of cooked angku,

Saturday, May 9, 2009

F is not a four-letter word...



In our endeavour towards simple living, the letter F is the first alphabet for spelling the word frugality. The dictionary defines frugal as "thrift". And, thrift is defined as "economy; careful management; providence. How do these definitions encompass what frugal living means to us? To us, frugality is all about living better for less. Whether you call it thrifty or frugality it all comes down to any vocabulary as getting more for your money. And since everyone is different, your definition of better is going to be a bit different from everyone else’s; your definition of frugal living is also going to be a bit different. Of course, it isn’t one-size-fits-all, and you can make it exactly what you want it to be.

I must admit that for many years in my younger days I did not practice being frugal, I wasted money and goods, and I might have been considered, a spendthrift. Now living a simple life has taught me how to be frugal.I am earning less money now, but it is amazing how much more money I seem to have in my pocket by practicing frugal living! It has given me a way to get by on a tight budget. Furthermore, it is a personal commitment to consume less and challenges myself to find ways to reuse what I have.

Last night’s dinner was a good example how I put my thoughts into action – challenging myself to live the version of frugality that I have created for myself and have fun doing it. We had friends over for dinner and everyone except me had to guess how many type of food are there in the “chai boey” dish. Traditionally this dish is prepared by using all the leftovers following a feast day or celebration. (especially during the festive season of the Chinese New Year or after a wedding feast). For last night's dinner, I used the roasted duck carcass saved in the freezer and almost all the remaining vegetables from my last shopping in the fridge.


Chai Boey (Mixed Vegetables and Braised Duck/Chicken/Pig Hocks) Recipe.

1 pc Roasted Duck Carcass
500g Kai Choy/Chinese greens/cabbage. shredded
100g carrot
2 pcs tomatoes
10 pcs dried shitake mushrooms, soaked
2 pcs Hard Tofu
6 pcs Assam Keping(Tamarine Peel)
6 pcs Dried Chillies
1 litre Chicken stock
2 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp water

In a stock pot bring chicken stock to boil. Add in the chopped duck carcass and all ingredients into the pot. Cooked on medium heat for about 30 minutes until cooked. Mixed the cornflour with water and stir this into soup to thicken. Bring the soup to boil. Seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How to make Bee Tai Bak aka Low Si Fun (Mouse Noodles)





In the past, Bee Tai Bak aka Low Si Fun (mouse noodle) has been sent to the sin bin for starting food scares in Malaysia. For many years, the use of lye water and similar alkaline and even toxic chemicals like borax, "Pang sah" has been a controversial subject in the manufacturing of Bee Tai Bak.
The potentially toxic Pang sah, or borax is used to give Bee Tai Bak, a springy almost elastic texture. I do not know whether the health authorities in South East Asian countries have tried to prohibit the use of pang sah, but from what I hear, its use is still prevalent all over Chinese restaurants in countries where the health authorities are not vigilant, or simply unaware. Pang sah is sometimes even added to popular dim-sum dishes like rice sheets or cheung fun and radish cake. So next time, when you encounter prawns in dishes like “Hargow”(prawns dumpling) or Crystal prawns" and the texture is extraordinarily chewy and elastic, chances are likely it has been treated with borax or a similar alkaline chemical. Here is the homemade version of Bee Tai Bak for you to try.





Bee Tai Bak aka Mouse Noodles Recipe

250g rice flour
50g tapioca flour
200ml water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sodium bi carbonate



Mix rice flour, tapioca flour with water. Stirring and rubbing with hand until the dough resembles breadcrumbs. Take 30g of the mixed dough and place it in a pan with 50ml of water. Stir continuously over medium heat with a wooden spoon, bring it to a boil. Remove the cooked dough from the pan and add it to the remaining dough. Mix in the salt and 60 ml water to get a soft dough.Add the 'breadcrumbed flour" into the soft dough until well combined. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the dough over a colander with large holes and press the dough through so that strands of dough will drop into the boiling water. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent the noodles form sticking together. Remove with a slotted spoon once the noodles float to the surface and dunk in ice cold water. Serve noodles in a clear fish stock /chicken stock.

Fake Tamiflu is more popular than erectile dysfuntion drug...

It was a sigh of relief to find that the swine flu was longer given the front page news. But in the second page of the newspaper, I was amazed to read about desperate people are paying up to $150 for the fake Tamiflu, the drug used to treat swine flu victims, because they are frightened pharmacies will run out of supplies if a pandemic occurs. It is sad if it is not funny, that spam emails for the fake drugs, which are being sold on the internet, have become more popular than those for erectile dysfunction and preyed on people who did not realised that Tamiflu would be distributed free if a pandemic was declared. Although the flu scare has triggered this rash of fake drugs, I hope that people are not gullible enough to fall victims of such scams. There are reports from the papers that the virus was less virulent than originally believed. That’s definitely good news for everyone to hear.




We have received an email from a couple who is living in the city of Sydney, stating that they lived in an apartment that is so tiny and could barely hold a week groceries in the cupboards, thus it is almost impossible to stock up food. The other reason is that they are renting and regularly moving; thereby impede their ability to do it. Storage is always a problem at home, isn’t it? You will need to purchase a stackable 30 litres plastic container which can easily hold a week supply of food. Besides, they keep out insects, rodents and moisture. If you are building your stockpile from scratch, start with the basic like rice, pasta, beans, salt and sugar. It is best you build a small supply of food that is part of your normal diet. One way to do this is to purchase a few extra items when you go shopping to build a one week supply of food. Then you can gradually increase your supply until it is sufficient in an emergency. These items should be used and rotated to avoid spoilage.
Here is a recipe from Coles Supermarket's flyer that you can easily cook from scratch by using the food stored in your stockpile.



Tuna Bake.
1 425g can tuna
1 550g Pasta sauce
500g Pasta
100g Tasty Cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper

Cook pasta according to instructions on pack. Strain and place in the oven-proof dish. Simply add sauce and tuna to dish. Top with a layer of grated cheese. Bake in moderate oven at 180 C for 20 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Do you stock-up your pantry regularly?

Having lived through one of the worst natural disasters in Papua New Guinea, where a volcano erupted with such a force that the whole township of Rabaul was totally wiped off the map in 1994, I always have a basic emergency kit in my home. It consists of a first aid kit, can opener, torch, batteries and my spare keys for the car and house. These items are kept in a backpack which I could easily carry, in case I need to evacuate my home in a hurry. You may notice that food and water are not included here because evacuation from the house in the quickest time is crucial as in cases of fire or earthquake.

Thanks goodness, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today that the new multi strain virus appears not to be as aggressive as was first feared. Heaven forbids if the swine flu reached our shore as a pandemic. It’ll be a different emergency situation altogether. Planning for a long stay at home, possibly without water and electricity, may be an emergency plan imposed by the authority. I wonder how many of us would have been caught short of an emergency preparation that requires an extended stay at home. Do we have adequate food, water and essential supplies to help us manage and cope with a prolong emergency at home?

I think that we should be prepared for times of crisis, whether it's a man-made disaster or a natural disaster, and I think it's wise and prudent to stock up on food. Being prepared for emergencies can reduce their impact on you and your family. Besides, stocking your pantry with basic ingredients leaves you prepared to create nearly any meal for only a few dollars. It also can help you find healthier meals to prepare instead of the expensive, pre-made store bought processed foods.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Be prepared for an emergency...

As a self confessed hoarder, I hoard because of various reasons. Before I write my reasons, I better change the hoarding into stockpiling. They meant the same thing but I like stockpiling better. To many, a hoarder is someone who hides away goods secretly and cashing in to make a profit at the expense of others. I would rather like to be compared to a squirrel stockpiling nuts for the winter for it's own survival sake.

Like most Singaporeans, I was born and brought up in a country almost free from all natural calamities such as typhoon, tornado, earthquake and tsunami until I went to live in countries where earth tremors are frequently felt and cyclonic weathers can prevail for weeks. Having lived and survived an earthquake that totally obliterated the township of Rabaul in East New Britain Province of Papua New Guinea, I know one thing to be true: in a large scale emergency, until outside helps arrive, everyone is own their own. It may take a few days coming; you’ll need to provide for yourself. I have learnt from this life threatening experience that to be self reliance and being able to look after yourself is no exception but also able to offer help to our family and friends if they need it. And to do that, we must have a stockpile of various goods. The most obvious thing to stockpile is food and water. And equally important are special items such as prescription medications and infants formula.

The fact that Singaporeans are so globalised these days; they may be put in an emergency anywhere in the world without much warning. Just like our recent devastating bushfire in Victoria that killed nearly two hundred people and untold miseries to many more in a matters of few hours. It can be any situation or threat of an emergency that is caused by some event whether it is natural (e.g. earthquake, bushfire, tsunami), technological (e.g. power failure), epidemic (e.g. SARS) or human-caused (e.g. September 11th terrorist attacks,Munbai bombing), that negatively affects the health, safety or property of a significant portion of the people in a community.
There is no excuse for not doing your homework. If you are new to a country, go to their websites and read about their emergency measure and plan. As an important step in ensuring themselves (especially true for Overseas Singaporeans) and their family is to have a proper emergency management program in place, and annually update your Emergency Measures Plan so that it reflects the procedures that would work best in managing an emergency in the country where they are living or studying. To be continued...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Stockpile but dont panic



The news on today’s Sydney Herald didn’t go down well with my bacon and egg breakfast this morning. It has reported that Australians are being advised to stockpile food and water to last for 14 days after the World Health Organisation yesterday raised the swine flu alert to phase five, signaling imminent pandemic. At the same time, it also reported that a spokesman for the Department of Health and Aging called for calm, saying the Government did not want to spark panic buying. According to the Federal Government’s Plan, a 132-page manual, insist that once the world reaches phase five, Australian should stock their pantry with food and bottled water to last 14 days, check on elderly neighbours and put emergency numbers by the phone. Even though, I am receiving conflicting messages, I couldn’t help but to check on my emergency kit such as batteries, flashlight, first aid, food and water are in order. A habit I have inherited from living in Papua New Guinea where cyclones cause havocs to the local populace during the annual cyclone season.

Although we know that influenza pandemics are natural phenomenon that have occurred from time to time for centuries – and yet the current outbreak of swine flu which originated from Mexico is indeed a worry to everyone of us. It may present a real and daunting challenge to the economic and social wellbeing of any country, as well as a serious risk to the health of its population. In light of today’s jet travel, it is inevitable that we are thinking about the possibility of the virus hitching a ride, to reach us as fast the plane can fly. To be continued...