Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to make Aussie Hot Cross Bun

I do not know what a hot cross bun is until I came to Australia to live. Before that, it had never occurred to me, it was referring to the spiced English bun associated with Good Friday known as a Hot Cross Bun. But I can still vaguely remember reciting it in a nursery rhyme. Like many older Singaporeans, we were taught British nursery rhymes in primary school in those days when Singapore was a British colony, but do not know about the significant of this delicious bun.
Although these popular hot cross bun began to appear in major supermarket chains almost at the same time as the post-Christmas sales were in their final discount, offering two items for the price of one to entice their customers to buy their unsold Christmas decorations, cards and puddings, it is not until Good Friday, the traditional day in which Lent ends and the buns are served eaten at Easter but now it seems they are now sold all year round.
Hot cross buns are sweet yeast-leavened bread, made with currants or raisins, often with candied citrus fruits and marked with a cross on the top eaten at Easter time. In Australia, the major supermarkets produce variations on the traditional recipe such as toffee, orange and cranberry, and apple and cinnamon.
The Aussies even have a yummy chocolate version of the bun which has become popular lately. It generally contains the same mixture of spices but chocolate chips are used instead of currants.

Aussie Hot Cross Bun Recipe:

Makes 12


• 4 cups plain flour
• 2 x 7g sachets dried yeast
• 1/4 cup caster sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
• pinch of salt
• 1 cup chocolate chips
• 40g butter
• 300ml milk
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten

• Flour paste
• 1/2 cup plain flour
• 4 to 5 tablespoons water


• 1/3 cup water
• 2 tablespoons caster sugar


1. Combine flour, yeast, sugar, mixed spice, salt and chocolate chips in a large bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add milk. Heat until lukewarm. Add warm milk mixture and eggs to mixture. Mix until dough almost comes together to form soft dough.
2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth. Place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.
3. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Punch dough down to its original size. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 12 even portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Place balls onto lined tray, about 1cm apart. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until buns double in size. Preheat oven to 190°C.
4. Make flour paste: Mix flour and water together in a small bowl to form smooth a paste. Spoon into a small piping bag. Pipe flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until buns are cooked through.
5. To make glaze: Pour water and sugar into a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes. Brush warm glaze over warm hot cross buns. Serve warm or at room temperature. These buns are best eaten on the day they are made. Otherwise, freeze for up to a week.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How to cross a street in Saigon City

As I was driven from the Tan Son Nhat International Airport into the CBD of Ho Chi Min City by a Vietnamese driver, one image stood fixed in my mind - an unfamiliar urban streetscape of staggering number of motorbikes, constantly beeping and weaving their way through the crowded streets only to be stopped by the pedestrians crossing in a haphazard manner.

The nightmare of crossing the road didn’t begin until the next morning, when I decided to take a short walk to the Ben Thanh market from the hotel where I was staying. I soon found out adherences to traffic signals in Saigon were not always followed; every street user tends to use their "best judgment and discretion". Just remember though that vehicles can always turn right at any time (regardless of traffic lights or signage). Motorbikes often drive in the wrong direction in the least unexpected places and running red lights or even driving on the sidewalks. The streets, sidewalks and outdoor markets are literally taken over by motorbikes, and not yet geared towards pedestrian traffic. Crossing roads and streets in Vietnam therefore can be a real challenge for newcomers who are used to traffic laws and traffic lights.

Believe me, the first time crossing the street may be a little hair-raising after that you will get used to it quite quickly. If ever in doubt, simply jump into the shadow of a local and follow the lead while crossing the street and just bear in mind of not making any sudden lurches forwards, backwards, or stop for that matter!
It is no doubt a terrifying nightmare for many of us, but after a couple of crossings, you soon learned to walk safely and find them easy to negotiate as long as you keep your wits around you for speeding motorbikes. However walking along the edge of a busy road is easy enough. Any motorbikes behind you will generally beep at you to let you know they're there or telling you to keep moving. During my stay in Saigon and just walking around the city brought back memories of what Singapore used to be not long ago. Seeing people cooked on the side of the street and streets hawkers turned a busy street into eat street of local food stalls every evening in a matter of 30 minutes flat-out, left me in awe and reminisced on how exactly Singaporeans of a bygone era transformed a daytime car park in Orchard Road into a popular open air food court at night in the 1960s.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pickled Vinegar Green Chillies in a Jiffy

I was pleasantly surprised to find pickled green chillies had been thoughtfully included and served as a condiment with the chicken noodles on board a SQ flight from Singapore to Ho Chi Min City. Sight of pickle green chillies always evokes memories of my childhood. I can see the wanton mee seller piling a spoonful of prickled green chillies to side of the freshly cooked noodle with char siew (Chinese BBQ pork) and succulent wanton as a takeaway from the stall. We knew the pickled green chillies were so crunchy and appetising with the noodle that we usually asked for an extra spoonful from him. As usual, wanton mee uncle obliged without fail but not before reminding us how the price of green chillies was going up in the market. These delicious pickles are not only delicious but so simple to make especially when they only take a jiffy to be ready and served with your wanton mee or sar hor fun.

Pickled Vinegar Green Chillies

300g green chillies
2-3 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
250ml vinegar

Wash the green chillies and cut diagonally into 1/2cm thick slices. Transfer cut chillies to a mixing bowl and sprinkles with sea salt, and let stand for 1 hour. Boil vinegar and sugar to dissolve the sugar and leave to cool before using. Wash, drain and discard chillies seeds before put them in a sterilised jar with a screw-top lid. Add vinegar and leave to pickle at least 2 days before serving.