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Simple Eats

蒜泥白肉 Szechuan Pork Belly with Spicy Garlic Sauce

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Mondays are usually “reserved” for unwinding after the weekend kueh making frenzy. Some “me time” to do some gardening, whip up some of my favorite dishes (I am a creature of comfort) while some keyboard music like Bach’s Goldberg variations or 古琴 tunes like 潇湘水云 or 渔樵问答 play in the background. Yesterday was Cho Seong Jin’s Debussy “Suite Bergamasque” (yes where the famous “Claire de Lune” came from) while I dig in some 蒜泥白肉, 番茄滑蛋 and homegrown sweet potato leaves and sambal udang kering stir fry. Eclectic yet sublime…

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Hyderabad Style Mutton Biryani

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Biryani or “Briyani” as it is being pronounced by some folks here in Singapore, is what I looked forward to enjoy on Fridays as it was offered only on this day in the past. Nowadays many hawker stalls have it on their daily menu. It is synonymously associated with the Indian Muslim food stalls here in Singapore alongside Roti Prata or “Indian Rojak”, where the mutton curry and the basmati rice are cooked separately though the traditional way of preparing this dish in India and parts of Middle East is to have them cooked together. Here’s my take of this very traditional dish from my very own kitchen…
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冰花煎饺 – 羽根つき餃子 Hanetsuki Gyoza

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I had some time after completing my nyonya kueh orders yesterday morning and quickly went to the wet market near my place to get some ingredients to make some 饺子 which I have been craving for some time now. Depending on where you are from, they may be called Chinese dumplings which is the generic name given to a lot of Chinese dishes where some filling is wrapped with an outer layer. Think 粽子, 云吞, 馄饨,蛋饺, 燕饺, 汤圆, 丸子, 元宵 are all called “Chinese dumplings”!!! These which I made yesterday were first lightly pan-fried before being steamed in a starch slurry hence lending to their name 煎饺 or 锅贴 in Chinese. The starch slurry crisps up as it dries up to for a uber thin lacy layer which resembles the crystalline structures of snowflakes thus giving them the name 冰花煎饺. The Japanese version is called 羽根つき餃子 Hanetsuki Gyoza cos of their feather-like appeal likening gyozas with wings!
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Tarte au Citron et Fraise

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A less busy week with fewer kueh orders means more time to play and practice on pastry making. I return to play with french tarts this week, after one round of mixed fruit tarts last week. It is tarte aux citron et fraise frais this time round…
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On the Trail of the Phoenix – Laksa Lemak…A Revisit

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There are certain types of food that we constantly revisit and never get tired of eating. These are usually not those delivered with Michelin star restaurant levels of precision but of flavours or aromas that remind of childhood. These are the kinda food that forge such a strong bond with us and/or are associated with some vivid and powerful memories so much so that a taste of those familiar flavours from those bygone years would instantly sweep us back in time and make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. For me, laksa lemak is one such dish.

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Ohana Pasta Poké Bowl

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Our local gastronomic scene seems to have been taken by storm with a new wave of “inventive” and somewhat “avant garde” kinda culinary styles where anything goes as long as it looks really appetising, tastes pretty good, seemingly healthy and most importantly, Instagram worthy. I don’t dig most of these “experimental” culinary concepts well but I must say some of them are really quite delicious, so much so that I would go through the trouble of garnering all of my favorite ingredients to make a portion at home just to satiate a craving. The poké bowl is one such recent craze.
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Porridge Postulations – Part 2 清粥小菜 – 第二篇

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The weather was crazy hot today but still I need to make a trip to Geylang Serai market for my weekly replenishing of provisions. I had wanted to get my nasi ambeng fix while I was there but as I was strolling along the aisles of the stalls selling fresh seafood, I saw some really lovely stingray and batang roe sacs. So a quick change of plans to come home to whip up something really fast. Unleashing the not-so-little-teochew in me to cook a small spread of dishes with the fresh produce to go with teochew porridge. Perfect for the weather I thought as it would help to sweat it out a bit and hopefully help provide some temporal relief to the excruciating heat…
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川味炸酱面 Szechuan style Zhajiang Mian

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Tuesday homecooked lunch – 川味炸酱面 Szechuan style Zhajiang Mian. Many of us are accustomed to eating the 老北京炸酱面 Beijing version of Zhajiang Mian or better known as 京酱面 or even the Korean “Jajangmyeon” but not many might have tried the Szechuan version of this noodle dish which one ironically, may not be able to find in Sichuan China itself! This is only because it is an improvisation of the original form, cooked and sold by the KMT soldiers and their families from Sichuan who retreated with Chiang Kai Shek in the mass exodus from Mainland China to Taiwan in 1949.
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On the Trail of the Phoenix – Jiu Hu Char… A Revisit

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Yesterday was Cheng Beng, traditionally a day when prayers would be made to our ancestors. Some folks would take the opportunity to visit and pay their respects at the graves of those who have passed on, a custom which is known as “teh chuah“. Those who “piara abu” i.e. house ancestral tablets at home may also prepare offerings of food and welcome their “nenek moyang” for a feast. And that was what I did. Traditionally, chap chye is one of the staple dishes  prepared in our home for ancestral worship but this year I’d decided to go for something similar yet different, and cooked Jiu Hu Char instead.
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鱼香茄子 Szechuan Style Spicy Brinjal

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鱼香茄子 Szechuan Style Spicy Brinjal is a classic dish from one of the 8 main cooking styles representative of Szechuan cuisine, which also include 麻辣,宫保 etc. There are several sources to how the name came about. One mentions the use of a range of ingredients like spicy soya bean paste, garlic, chilies, ginger and spring onion etc to create the sauce which was used traditionally for braising fish. In those days, fish was not a common dish on the daily dining table and only available during important festive occasions when the family pay their respects to the deities or ancestors was when fish was offered and the family got to eat. For everyday meals, cheaper vegetable alternatives often grown in their own fields like brinjal wer used instead…

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鸡精蒸滑鸡腿 Steamed Chicken Thigh with Essence of Chicken

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A good friend recently gave birth so when some friends and I visited her last week in the hospital, I thought of cooking her something which is simple yet nourishing at the same time. Remembered I still have some bottles of essence of chicken at home so a quick trip to the market in the morning to get some fresh chicken thighs to go along with some chinese herbs and dry ingredients I already have at home for a fix of 鸡精蒸滑鸡腿 Steamed Chicken Thighs with Essence of Chicken.
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八珍杜仲滋阴乌骨鸡汤 Herbal Silkie Chicken Soup and 马蹄腊肠蒸肉饼 Steamed Minced Pork Patty

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The whole week has been rather chilly in tropical Singapore with temperatures dipping to a low of 21-22°C a couple of days back. A rare sight to see everyone going around in jumpers and light jackets. It is the perfect time for herbal tonic soups as well. In the past, my mum used to stock quite a bit of dried Chinese herbs at home for soup making but nowadays, they are easily available in prepacked “concoction packets” where one just needs to buy one which is suitable for one’s needs and constitution to brew. And that was exactly what I did.
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Teochew Kana Chye Pasta

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I stayed in hostel during some years of my Uni and NIE PGDE years in NUS and then NTU. Those were the fun and crazy years, away from home with lots of me time. Perched on the Kent Ridge hilltop, staying in KEVII Hall isn’t the most convenient of all places to be. Yes the canteen provided meals of course but as we all know, hostel food sucks so sometimes we would eat out, either NUH canteen just down that treacherous and scary flight of steps down the hill, taking a bus to Clementi central or finding our way the other side of the campus where Fong Seng Nasi Lemak is. Nowhere remotely near to being the best nasi lemak around but that would have to do. But some days ended really late, with lab sessions that stretched all the way past sunset or rehearsals and sessional practices. It helped to stock up some “supplies”, usually canned food of course since we are not allowed had to pay more rent to keep a mini bar fridge in our rooms. Campbells was my best friend then, good with instant noodles as a “cheat meal” for “creamy pasta”. Then there are the familiar Asian flavours of course, pickled chye sim stems in soya sauce, fermented beancurd cubes, and of course a good old bottle of kana chye to go with Teochew porridge cooked in the common pantry, when the cylinder gas hadn’t been completed exhausted by my PRC hostel mates that is! So simple yet so so gratifying. On some days, when I decided to get experimental, weird concoctions and adventurous sounding dishes were derived,  usually out of hungry desperation truth be told, usually when some ingredients ran out, thus the need to put whatever’s available together.  In retrospect, the creations then which folks now cleverly call “fusion dishes”  looked more like a case of “confusion”. But it was fun nonetheless and Teochew Kana Chye Pasta was probably “invented” under such circumstances…

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冷やし中華 Hiyashi Chuka

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冷やし中華 Hiyashi Chuka literally meaning “chilled Chinese” is a popular Japanese noodle dish which is normally enjoyed during the summer months. Well, we don’t have distinct seasons in Singapore so all the more better as that meant we get to enjoy it all year round!
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Thịt Heo Nướng Xả – Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops with Rice Noodles

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I am gonna be brutally honest here. I am not at all that familiar with Indochinese cuisines. Despite being in the big ASEAN family, Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese dishes still largely fall within the “exotics” category for my palate. Hardly an excuse really, given the proximity but fact is I do not eat these foods as often as I could or should, despite there being quite a few good Vietnamese eateries around Singapore, especially in my all-too-familiar Joo Chiat area just a stone’s throw away from my favorite wet market at Geylang Serai. I love Pho Bo and have an affinity for Bahn Mi and Bahn Xeo but apart from these two dishes, my next to-go-to Vietnamese dish to order whenever I am dining in a local viet deli would be Thit Heo Nuong Xa Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops with Rice Noodles. Love the smokey and lightly charred aromas of the grilled pork chops against the assortment of crunchy and refreshing greens. And here’s my take of this popular yet healthy dish.  (more…)


On the Trail of a Phoenix – Nasi Ulam

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Nasi Ulam, or pronounced as “nasik ulam” in Baba Malay is a classic Peranakan dish which has its roots in Southeast Asian cooking. Comprising of essentially a variety of chiffonaded herbs tossed in steamed fragrant rice, it is painstaking to prepare and thus usually served on “ari besair” during weddings, birthdays or other celebratory events.

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On the Trail of the Phoenix – Laok Bunga Durian

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I’d not updated the “On the Trail of the Phoenix” series on this blog for quite some time now so perhaps it is a timely reminder. I was really fortunate and beyond happy to receive a big bag of durian blossoms from a friend’s tree. Truly a blessing of the season as it only occurs for a really short period of time each year between the flowers blooming to those which would fall if they were not pollinated by bats and bees. With these blossoms, I’d whipped up two traditional dishes to enjoy them as quickly as possible, the truly Peranakan way…
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意大利薯仔算盘子 Gnocchi Hakka Abacus Seeds

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I love suan pan zi 算盘子, a 客家 Hakka speciality which is enjoyed in many parts of the larger Chinese diaspora where the khek community resides. Often doubt as “Chinese gnocchi”, suan pan zi are fashioned out of taro while the Italian counterpart from potatoes. The similarities in their making are uncanny which leaves one to wonder if the myth of Marco Polo the famed Venetian traveller to the Far East bringing the art of Chinese noodle making back to Italy giving rise to modern day pasta, extends to suan pan zi evolving into gnocchi as well. I am no food historian so whether there are any possible links that may exist between the two, we may never know. But what I do know is, I can bring these two seemingly similar yet otherwise diverse dishes together again to reprise the “Chinese Gnocchi” or as I like to think as, the “Italian Suan Pan Zi“…  (more…)


Porridge Postulations – Part 1 清粥小菜 – 第一篇

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Been really busy with my kueh and food orders over the last couple of months which left this blog somewhat neglected. My own homecooking as well incidentally, ended up feeding others more often than myself. This week is slightly more relaxed with the orders consolidated somewhat over the weekend mostly which spares me some time to treat myself a little better. The weather’s been excruciatingly unforgiving the last couple of weeks despite coming to the end of the year soon so porridge seems to be a pretty good idea. Here’s a quick update of my homecooked 清粥小菜 porridge lunch today with 2 simple dishes… (more…)


สังขยาฟักทอง Sangkhaya Fak Thong – Thai Coconut and Pumpkin Custard

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I love Thai desserts. Their use of coconut milk or cream as well as pandan is pretty much like what we have here at home and is totally up my alley! In fact, many of the Thai desserts are very similar in shape and form to our own kuehs and desserts here far south and it is not difficult to imagine that all of them probably share the same origins! Khanom chan is like our kueh lapis beras or lapis sagu while lod chong is quite similar to our chendol. And of course there are other signatures like tub tim krob and mango sticky rice which are so immensely popular. So it is no wonder that we take to Thai desserts very easily. Of all the Thai desserts I have tried, I have a particular affinity for สังขยาฟักทอง Sangkhaya Fak Thong which is essentially a coconut milk custard steamed in a pumpkin. So so yummy…
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ห่อหมก Hor Mok Talay – Thai Curried Seafood Custard

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I think I’d been complaining too much lately about the wretched weather but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who is suffering under the heat. Desperate ends call for desperate measures and you know when you can’t beat ’em, you should jolly well join ’em! Combating the heat with more heat, well sorta! So here I am, whipping up an early week homecooked meal with some of my favorite spicy dishes. It sure feels good after a thorough sweat out eating the dishes and slurping the Tom Yum Goong! As a special treat for myself, I’d made some Hor Mok as well!
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Kerabu Pucuk Paku – Fiddlehead Fern Salad

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The “summer heat” in Singapore on most days these few weeks have reached the point of being unbearable. Save for the last few rainy nights which lent to breezy mornings and cloudy days, the rest of the time is basically hot hot hot! This kinda weather calls for something spicy and provocative to work up one’s appetite. Chanced upon some beautiful pucuk paku pakis on my most recent trip to the wet market and it is time to whip up a quick kerabu which is perfect for a homecooked meal!
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Lamb Rack Rendang

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I love rendang and cook it as often as I could. The ones available outside somewhat doesn’t make the cut, no pun intended. Even those available at the really good Nasi Padang stalls at Geylang Serai often end up dry and fibrous. The usual suspects for my homecooked rendang is beef shin or chicken thighs but recently I was given two lovely racks of lamb by Pure South so I thought to myself why not turn them into rendang! I am so glad I did!
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自製梅酒 Homemade Umeshu (Plum Wine) – A Pictorial Guide

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I love umeshu and I think a lot of you love it too! The standard brand we get off the shelves at wine shops, supermarkets and even at airport DFS is “choya” but you will find that it is quite common for Japanese households to make their own umeshu. It is a process which requires few ingredients and most importantly, doesn’t require a brewery or distillery! It is a simple act of infusion and steeping, which I have been doing for the last couple of years now, so this post is a collation of my journey and experience in making umeshu at home and I am here to share it with you…
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