Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Simple Eats

Marmite Pasta ver.1 2017

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The heat is excruciating to the point of being unbearable. But when one’s gotta eat, one’s gotta eat. There is of course the easy way out of running downstairs to the nearby coffeeshop to “tapao” but I seriously don’t wanna move an inch out in the sun. A few ingredients from the pantry and less than 30 min later, I have a quick and easy meal and for today its gonna be marmite pasta!
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Huiji Ku Kueh 汇集龟粿

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I love making angku kueh, always finding the shaping process rather therapeutic from pieces of non-descript looking dough to something intricate looking. While the traditional kuehs are classically red, sometimes when the opportunity arises, creativity can be injected into their making as well. In this case, I’d used Huiji Waist Tonic in the making of the skin and the taste is rather unique yet pleasant at the same time.
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炒粿條 Char Kway Teow

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Among the numerous popular hawker favorites, char kway teow has a special place in the hearts of many. It is a traditional fried noodle dish whipped up by street hawkers who gathered at the now-demolished Ellenborough Market just across Clarke Quay along Singapore River. The area was also a well known enclave of the early Teochew settlers who knew this place as tsah tsun tau 柴船头, owing to the provision of fuel-related goods like firewood, charcoal and kerosene in this area. At night, some of these hawkers take to the nearby old Thong Chai Medical Institution 同济医院  for the supper crowd who flocked here after a session of tua hee 大戏 aka Chinese wayang opera nearby or a movie produced by Cathay Organisation at Majestic cinema just a short stretch down Eu Tong Sen Road. But as peddling of street food waned in the 1980s as it became outlawed, gone were the days when these illegal hawkers had to scurry and run away from the health inspectors, colloquially known as 地牛 “tee gu“. Together with the establishment of hawker centres around the island, local delights like char kway teow spread to the heartlands and became everyone’s favorite as well.

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鮮蝦水餃湯麵 Shrimp Dumpling Soup Noodles

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I used to live along Upper Serangoon Road near the old Lim Tua Tow Market where there was lots of good and cheap hawker food around. Those were the days when our area were the only HDB blocks around and the vicinity was just nothing but a Teochew cemetery. Serangoon Central came later and NEX Shopping Mall didn’t even appear until 20 years had passed. The crocodile farm was still around and Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre was not a ghost town like today. Down my old block there used to be quite a good wanton mee stall, operated single-handedly by a middle-aged lady whom we refer to as the “wanton mee auntie”. Our favorites were her 鳳爪麵 “fung zau meen” with succulently braised chicken feet, that my mother forbade us from enjoying as it was believed that eating chicken feet during one’s pre-pubescent years can result in trembling hands and thus ugly handwriting.  We ate nonetheless, secretly buying from the “wanton mee auntie” of course, telling her they were for my mum! So yummy! How to resist!? For us, wanton mee auntie’s 鮮蝦水餃 sin har shuei gau was something special as well. It was a time when 1.50 can get you a bowl of springy egg noodles in yummy soup along with three plump shuei gau and an additional 50 cents can get you two more. Long gone are the days of cheap and affordable hawker food of course, and long gone are the days of authentically cooked hawker food as well…
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柱侯蘿蔔焖牛腩 Braised Beef and Radish in Chu Hou Sauce – a Revisit

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While many bloggers strive to continually blog on new recipes, sometimes rolling out dishes which they’d tried only on the first attempt, I find myself constantly revisiting my old recipes in hope to find ways to refine them, be it to suggest alternatives for ingredients, or perhaps to streamline the workflow of the recipe to make things work better. Just yesterday, I revisited a dish which I’d cooked many times over the course of the last few years. It is definitely one of my all-time favorites,柱侯蘿蔔焖牛腩 Braised Beef and Radish in Chu Hou Sauce
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Pak Putra Tandoori & Naan Restaurant @ Melaka

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There are lots of interesting eating places in Melaka apart from those that serve Peranakan cuisine. Like the Chinese braised duck noodles and really good “hum jeen pheang” I had recently in Tengkera nearer to Limbongan, as well as uber fresh cockles and clams at Taman Merdeka Batu Berendam. While many of these require a bit of traveling away from Melaka Central and thus often out of the tourist radar, some of these places which have really good food are right smack in town just minutes away from the bustling shopping districts, like Sun May Hiong Satay House in Kota Laksamana, as well as Pak Putra which many purportedly serve the best naan and tandoori chicken in all Malaysia!
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雪菜肉絲炒年糕 Stir Fried Ningbo Sticky Rice Cake

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I love visiting Taiwan and despite having made than a dozen trips there over the years, the place, the food, and the people continue to astound and inspire me in ways one or another. For most of my previous trips, I was more interested to discover and learn about the mainstream local food fare of Fujian (Min) origins and how the same dish may vary across different places within the island, be it the way which the dish is cooked or sometimes even how they are named. I was also fascinated by the incorporation of local specialty produce into some common dishes which set them apart from the other versions. In doing so, I try to map out the similarities and differences between the Taiwanese local cuisines, with dishes we commonly see at home here in Singapore and Malaysia, especially those of Hokkien origins and even those from the Peranakan heritage. In my most recent trip however, I turned my attention to cuisines from the minority communities within the Taiwanese Chinese diaspora, namely the Shanghainese and the Hakkas and the best place to start is usually chatting with the stall vendors at their local markets. That was where I’d learned and became inspired to cook many Taiwanese local dishes, including this classic dish, 雪菜肉絲炒年糕 Stir Fried Ningbo Sticky Rice Cake. (more…)


广式煲仔饭 Cantonese Claypot Rice – A Revisit…

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The weather has been rather cooling of late and this makes me crave for piping hot food. Such an irony right I know… when it’s hot and wretched, we want something cold and chilling, and when the temperature takes a dip, we yearn for something to get our rumbling tummies all warm and happy. There are many things I love to cook and eat really warm, like stews, soups, porridge and of course claypot rice. I love eating 广式煲仔饭 Cantonese claypot rice for the piping hot and perfectly cooked grains with succulent bits of chicken and of course my favorite Chinese sausages and salted fish! Really yums!!!
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昙花润肺养颜甜汤 Keng Hua Sweet Broth

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Seasons are changing, yes even in tropical Singapore. More cooling and rainy days, I simply love it! A good break from the hot and humid weather we typically get in the earlier months, leaving us all balmy and frustrated. I like to cook some hot “tong sui” during this time of the year too, a bowl of warm sweet broth packed with nourishing ingredients to prep us for the months to come. My small pot of “keng huay” is in bloom again, perfect timing to use those flowers to curb the cough and ease the sore throat that accompanied the flu bug for the last week or so!
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Kuih Cara Berlauk & A Free Cookbook Giveaway!

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Gosh time really flies and we are into the last two months of 2016 already! What and eventful year it had been so far! Just around this time last year, I was still working out the recipes for a joint collaboration with nine other recipe bloggers from Singapore and Malaysia in a cookbook kindly sponsored by Kwong Cheong Thye and published by InfoMedia. It was a crazy period for all of us, cooking and cooking and cooking to fine tune the recipes, the eventual photo shoot when we took turns to slog in the kitchen the whole day and work around the clock to churn out 40 dishes and bakes to put in front of the lens over two frantic days. The adrenaline rush was overwhelming, both stressful and fun at the same time!
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On the Trail of the Phoenix – Itek Sioh

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Yes my writing and blogging mojo is back and hopefully it would last a tad longer this time round. It is afterall nearing the end of the year and the festive mood is kicking in, with Christmas in just a couple of weeks’ time and Deepavali tomorrow! My Hindu neighbours are already cooking up a storm in their kitchen and I can smell the aromas of mustard seeds and other spices blistering in the oil as they are used to cook an assortment of yummy dishes! I’m busy in my own kitchen too, after getting a new hob gifted by Turbo-Italia. Lovin’ it totally! So spacious and the heat is so strong to the point of roaring! I can almost smell the wok hei as I was stir frying, or so I thought! Yet another homecooked meal yesterday to satisfy my cravings, and this time round, I am cooking Itek Sioh, a really old Peranakan dish. I checked my old photos and realised that the last time I’d cooked it was more than 2 years back. A timely revisit indeed!
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红糟鸡面线 Ang Jiu Chicken Mee Sua

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Yet another meal that is a result of a fridge clearing exercise, this time round, a bottle of anka paste which had been lying in the abyss of fridge since last year. I got this from my last Taiwan trip and havent gotten round to use it yet. Thank goodness it hasn’t expired yet! Ang Jiu Chicken Mee Sua for dinner, it shall be!
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The ingredients for cooking this Foochow aka Hock Chiew dish is really simple. I’m using a recipe that I’d cooked it several times after 2013 and still love the taste a lot. Only thing is this time round, I no longer have the homemade red yeast wine and lees like I’d used to, I’m using the regular mee sua which is thinner compared to the ones from Setiawan and I’d added Chinese mushrooms during the brief stewing as well!
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And this is what the bottle of anka from Taiwan looks like. It has 香椿 added as well which means that it would likely to be more salty than what one would have expected. Have to go easy on the salt and other flavourings…
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And this is what the contents look like, all mashed up to release the flavours but it is not as heady with alcohol or just as aromatic. Nothing beats homemade! Gotta go pester for another batch for this and next year!
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红糟鸡面线 Ang Jiu Chicken Mee Sua Recipe (serves 3-4) adapted from here

Ingredients
600g fresh chicken drumstick and thigh, chopped into chunks
thumbknob old ginger, julienned
5-6 dried Chinese mushroom, reconstituted with warm water
4-5 tbsp anka paste
1 cup ang jiu, can be replaced with huadiao wine or shaoxing wine
Salt to taste
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
coriander leaves and fried shallots garnishing
3-4 hardboiled eggs, peeled
1 1/2 cups water (including mushroom soaking liquids)

Method
In a heated wok, add sesame oil and sautee the ginger strips until nice, dried and aromatic.
Add chopped chicken chunks and pan fry them to render some fat into the oils. Fry until the skin begins to turn slightly brown.
Add anka sauce and soaked Chinese mushrooms.
Stir fry slightly to coat the chicken chunks uniformly with the reddish sauce.
Add mushroom soaking liquids and top up with more water if necessary. The chicken chunks should be at least 3/4 covered with liquids. Add hardboiled eggs at this moment as well. Simmer for 5-8 min, stirring periodically.
Remove lid but continue heating to reduce the liquids considerably, about 15-20 min under medium high heat.
Pour in the wine and give everything a good toss.
Ladle chicken and sauce over a bowl of cooked mee sua.
Top with coriander leaves and fried shallot bits.
Enjoy !!!

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Putu Mayam Idiyappam – Indian String Hoppers

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This is an impromptu post for an impromptu breakfast, only because my friend, Adeline Ang posted a vintage mould for making Indian string hoppers yesterday which she gotten recently at the local Thieves’ market that prompted me to go dig out mine and make some “putu mayam” for my first meal for the day! This is one of my regular childhood breakfast treats so being able to make it from scratch at home literally brought me back to the past!
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高丽菜饭 Kor Leh Chye Png – Chinese Cabbage Rice

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Yet another quick post! I just came back from a hearty discussion with two friends at Starbucks over homemade kueh sarlat and their matcha frappucino on heritage cuisine and some exciting projects that will be happening soon on this blog. All that talk of food made me very very hungry naturally. Just wanna eat some comfort food, something which would bring me back to the days of my childhood, something easy and fast yet full of flavour. There is only one dish I can think of, my mum’s  高丽菜饭 Kor Leh Chye Png Chinese Cabbage Rice.

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Teochew Shark Meat Porridge 潮州鲨鱼糜

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Teochew cuisine is characterised by a wide range of seafood dishes. Blessed with the long coastal line in the Chaoshan region in southeastern China, the Teochew people are accustomed to having seafood as part of their everyday lives. From cold crab (潮州冻蟹) to braised cuttlefish (卤墨鱼), their famous shark’s meat jelly (鲨鱼冻), and of course fishballs (潮州鱼丸) the Teochews are well known for their seafood fare, and their innovative use of the precious produce from the oceans. When folks think of Teochew porridge 潮州糜, the first thing that comes to mind is individually grained porridge often cooked with sweet potatoes, enjoyed over a wide range of condiments and dishes, sometimes as simple as preserved olive leaves (橄榄菜), pickled lettuce stems (菜心罐) or salted duck eggs (咸鸭蛋), to pickled radish omelette (菜脯蛋) or even steamed threadfin (蒸午鱼) or braised duck (卤鸭). Otherwise, it would be something as wholesome as a one pot meal like Chinese Pomfret Porridge (斗鲳糜). Yet for most of the Teochews in the past who lived and breathed frugally by the sea, the expensive Chinese Pomfret or threadfin (午鱼) may not be an everyday indulgence. As such, other varieties of Teochew porridge evolved and most notably, shark’s meat porridge 潮州鲨鱼糜.
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Simple Curry Puffs

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Fridge clearing exercises often bring the craziest of all ideas. Just a couple of days ago, I “recycled” some frozen filling of some of my earlier baking and kueh making ventures to whip up some quick snacks for tea break. I’d used some frozen grated coconut filling which had been cooked in gula melaka that I had used for making pulot inti just last week to make kueh dadar. It is essentially the same filling afterall. I could have made kueh kochi if I had wanted too as well but I’d ran out of banana leaves. The leftover filling for rempah udang was made into small puffs while the remaining curry chicken and potato filling I had used for my karipap pusing experiment 2 weeks back became instant curry puffs with frozen puff pastry at hand! Gave some to my neighbours and students to try and they said the curry puffs taste like those from Pxlxr. Not sure if that is exactly a compliment but the bakery which has shops and delis all over Singapore did win the best curry puff in some media award quite recently! The best part is, these curry puffs are quite easy to make!
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Chili and Taucheo Stingray

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Just a quick post to share with all of you a recipe which I’d cooked for lunch today, and incidentally, a dish which I enjoy very much as a child, Chili with Taucheo Stingray. It is a very quick dish to prepare and doesn’t require complicated rempah making. Yet the flavours are so robust and refreshing, excellent to go with rice or Teochew porridge!

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On the Trail of the Phoenix – Kueh Bongkong

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This is one of the many a times when a craving becomes too strong for one to withstand or hold back for another day. One of those I just have to “make and take a bite” moments. Saw my good friend Poh Lin’s mum Nyonya Guek made kueh bongkong just the other day and I wanted a bite of it so so badly. It is yet another kueh which I don’t make as often as I should. Then again, there are simply too many kuehs to make often to start with. It is not a difficult kueh to make, but for me, it is one which is difficult to master. Read on to find out why…

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On the Trail of the Phoenix – Pulot Inti

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After a long hiatus from blogging, I’m finally getting my engine started again. So much has happened over just a blink of an eye. “Sekelip mata” we say in Baba patois, both good things and bad things. While I slowed down on blogging this period of time, I have not stopped cooking, baking or making kueh. In fact, I’d finally picked up the courage of taking orders and help people make kuehs and cook traditional Peranakan dishes for their friends and family to enjoy. It is a win win situation for me as well, as not only does this provide me with the opportunity to hone and sharpen my cooking and kueh making skills, it also helped to supplement the expenses of the cooking and baking hobby. Alas, I’m glad to be back on the blog again, with one of my favorite kuehs, Pulot Inti.
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Classic Oxtail Stew

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I’m not sure about you guys, but I’ve had many a moments when I was trying out some dish at a restaurant or diner and immediately told myself, “Man, I’ve gotta cook for myself a pot of that!” This classic oxtail stew is basically one of the very many “recipe cracking” episodes I have of late. Thankfully, this is very simple and rustic food to begin with and thus, very forgiving. The ingredients are also fairly straightforward , all clearly “observable” against the rather clear soup base. The latter I thought, was interesting as most of the oxtail stews I’d had, some of which I’d featured on my blog here and here are more richly coloured. Everything is conveniently cooked in one pot, my trusty Le Creuset round casserole, most of the time in the oven. No fuss at all!

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豆豉炒魟鱼 Stir Fried Stingray with Fermented Black Beans

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最近听一位名人说过, 十二岁之前的味蕾能够永久记录下当时对食物的印象,化作永恒的回忆, 这可能就是我们长挂在嘴边的“古早味”或“老味道”。而在我十二岁之前,记忆里的味道,不是学校食堂所贩售的小吃,就是妈妈和外婆所烹煮的那一道道美味的家常菜。 即便走过大江南北,尝过各种异国风情,享受过多样美食飨宴,但至今让我最怀念的,就是家常菜的味道,也就是妈妈的味道。
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On the Trail of the Phoenix -Revisiting Ayam Buah Keluak

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There are many dishes which one can immediately draw parallelism to Peranakan culture, signature dishes which form the core of what is understood by many as “Straits Chinese cuisine” today. Babi Pongteh, Sambal Jantong Pisang, Ikan Gerang Asam, Kuah Hee Pio or even simple day to day dishes like Telor Tempra and Pong Tauhu just to name a few. But the one true dish which is quintessentially Peranakan must surely be Ayam Buah Keluak. It is THE one dish which many have heard of, being curious about, tried before and perhaps can even relate to. I’d wrote about it twice on this blog, here and here, and also a masterclass I’d attended before out of curiosity, not to mention talk about it on countless occasions, so here is it again, a refresher discussion on this “ambassador dish” that bridges and opens the gateway for anyone who seeks a more in-depth understanding into the culture.

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On the Trail of the Phoenix – Ikan Gerang Asam

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Ikan Gerang Asam is one of the first Peranakan dishes, or what is known to the babas and nyonyas as “laok embok” I’d “learnt” to cook when I was young, after getting to know the tricks to frying sunny sideups with runny yolks and crispy edges for telor tempra and braising tauyew bak until the collagen-packed babi sam cham become wobbly soft that is. “Cooking lessons” were never formal or formative, save for the times when I was taught how to use a “pisoh chye toh” , a Chinese cleaver that is, to do a wondrous list of things with it, to potong, to iris, to bukak, to persiang, to kupair a wide variety of ingredients. Otherwise it was always learning through observing how my mum and grandma worked around the kitchen while helping out with the tasks along the way and of course tasting the yummy dishes they’d prepared. And it was the same with “learning” to cook Ikan Gerang Asam”…

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Babi Asam Belimbing

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This is one of my favorite dishes to cook. The sauce is so flavourful, one would probably find it too salty to be eaten on its own. But I can down two plates of rice just with it and nothing else. It is usually cooked with regular tamarind, but when the belimbing trees are fruiting wildly in my estate, we turn to these sourish morsels instead for the job, for a salivating-worthy plate of Babi Asam Belimbing.
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