Archive for August, 2008

I Thought Mellie Might Like To Know That…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 25, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

I went to Espressino for my coffee this morning and lunch this afternoon and was suitably impressed with their spinach panini (with pecorino and free-range sunny side up). I thought the milk for the coffee was done really well, but the coffee tasted a little weak for a cappuccino. I might ask for a strong one next time.

Enak Eco

Posted in Uncategorized on August 7, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

Thank God for pre-made sauces that are artificial-preservative free, chemical-free, and are almost as good as their homemade counterparts. I was introduced to the Enak Eco satay sauce by the Jman’s mom, who in her own right is a cooking goddess, and I have learnt that whatever the cooking goddess says, goes. So no sweating over complicated spice mixes and proportions for this Saturday’s party!

Enak Eco does peanut sauces for gado-gado (a Malay vegetable salad with peanut sauce), pecel, and satay. For the satay this Saturday, I’ve decided against making the sauce from scratch and go with the pre-made one instead. I bought the pecel and satay sauces from the Great Eastern Asian grocers on Russell Street to figure out which one I liked better, since they are all peanut-based sauces.

The verdict: I actually prefer the pecel sauce over the satay one because of the addition of kaffir lime leaves (also known as limau leaves). The tang of the kaffir lime leaves is a fabulous twist and gives an otherwise stodgy sauce an instant lift! There are also more crunchy peanut bits in it, whereas the satay sauce is more pasty. It’s like crunchy peanut butter versus smooth; the satay sauce tastes more like sweet peanut butter to me. And personally, I am tempted to pick up a packet of the gado-gado sauce today just for the heck of it, and decide which one goes best with my stay.

For my party this Saturday, I have decided to mix the two (pecel and satay), then add more sambal and freshly roasted, crushed peanuts to up the OOMPH factor. I think it will be perfect – slightly sweet, crunchy, and tangy all at the same time. SCORE!

Next up: preparing the sambal and seasoning the satay…

Egging On

Posted in Cooking with tags on August 6, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean
Hard Boiled Egg

Hard Boiled Egg

I recently developed a fascination with eggs. Hard-boiled eggs in particular, because it takes a bit of skill to perfect them. The whites firm but not rubbery, and the yolks soft and moist in the centre with a bit of dampness retained, almost threatening to liquefy if you taunted it enough.

I also love a good soft-boiled egg, the kind that kopitiams are famous for, and which I had a number of times for breakfast last week. A good soft-boiled egg is characterized by an almost homogeneously translucent egg-white and a runny yolk. Back home, the egg is served in its shell. We crack it open onto a saucer, drizzle a couple of drops of dark soy and a sprinkling of white pepper, and slurp it up with a loud “Aaaaah!” of satisfaction. Others would also dip hot toasted bread to mop up the deliciousness. As for me, I do both.

I have found that the perfect timing for hard-boiling 63g free-range eggs is 7 minutes after the water starts to boil, and 3-4 minutes for a soft-boiled one. If the eggs were taken from the refrigerator, I’d let them soak in lukewarm water until they have reached room temperature. I also boil the eggs in tepid water as the stark contrast in temperatures if you did otherwise would cause the molecules in the egg-white to seize up, giving you a rubbery end product.

The Jman requested for an egg-mayo sandwich for breakfast tomorrow, and so I jumped at the opportunity to practise my egg-cooking skills. Little risk there, and even if I mucked up, it’d be hard to tell. The mayonnaise is very forgiving if the egg turned out to be far from desirable!

I cooked  it for 8 minutes tonight and while the centre of the yolk was still darker than the bits that were nearer the whites, I’d have preferred it to be a little less done. Ah well, like I said, no dramas there. The trusty homemade mayonnaise will hide my sins.

Preparing for Saturday Night Fever

Posted in Asian Cooking, Dinner Parties, Recipes with tags , , , on August 6, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

Ikan bilis and peanuts

The Singapore National Day is coming up this weekend, and to celebrate the occasion, I’ve invited a few of  my kawan kawan (meaning “friend” in Bahasa Melayu) from Singapore’s neighbouring countries. Menu for the night includes:

  1. Nasi Lemak;
  2. Chicken curry and
  3. Satay with ketupat

Preparing all these individually isn’t very difficult, but when cooking for a party of 10, a little bit of preparation ahead of time will go a long, long way.

I got the ball rolling tonight by frying up the anchovies (or more affectionately known as ikan bilis) and peanuts. This will be served as an accompaniment to the nasi lemak, either putting it as a side dish or sprinkled generously over the rice before it is served.

Preparing the ikan bilis is literally as simple as one plus one, as all that is required is a dry-fry equal amounts of both the ikan bilis and raw peanuts (volume wise, not weight) until they turn a lovely golden brown. You could add a little oil at the start if you wish, but it isn’t necessary. I like it dry and crisp. When it’s done (and it will take a while) and while still hot, sprinkle some sugar over it. It is advisable to use caster sugar as it melts more easily and will have more chance of gluing itself onto the peanuts instead of settling at the bottom of the pan.

Tomorrow night, I will prepare the sambal and start to marinate the meat for the satay. On Friday night, I will skewer the satays and cook the chicken curry, which is best left to sit overnight to let the flavours permeate through the meat. Come Saturday, all I’ll have to do is to set the satays on the barbeque, fry the omelette,  cook the ketupat and steam the coconut rice !

I love how this planning is going. I feel much, much more on top of things and I can let my hair down on Saturday before my guests arrive! Fab.

Undercover Geek

Posted in Asian Cooking, Dinner Parties, Food Shopping, Uncategorized with tags , on August 5, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

Planning a menu for a party of 10 is not an easy task, but with a little bit of planning and some geekness, it probably isn’t so daunting after all. More planning = less stress.

Of Phoenix Claws, Pigs Intestines and Worm Grass Herbs

Posted in Asian Cooking, Recipes with tags , on August 2, 2008 by thepseudoepicurean

Photo credits: Chinese Medical Centre

The past week has seen some ridiculously cold weather. I reckon/am hoping we’ve hit the rock bottom of winter. The Singaporean in me has been craving for some of that lovely tropical weather – the biting cold just doesn’t do it for me. Seeing how it’s not possible to simulate such weather in my office/home/city, and the soaring fuel prices have made it virtually impossible to fly back home on impulse, I have taken to doing the next best thing – making soups to keep me warm, and in particular the Chinesey stinky herbal ones that do a pretty good job at transporting me back to my mom’s kitchen back home.

It also couldn’t be more timely that the Jman’s grandmother presented me with a part of her prized possessions of Chinese herbs last night. She had built up her treasure trove of these woody twigs and odd-shaped stems on her last trip to Singapore. “People gee (give) me.“, she proudly announces. It’s a “pity” that the rest of the Jman’s family aren’t big fans of Chinesey stinky herbs, so the onus is on me to share in her herbal joys, which I happily partake in. After all, my own mother brought me up on these soups and herbs. She’s a firm believer in what I dub as the Chinese food chain. The ying and yang. The heaty, and the cooling. You can eat this with that, but not that with something else. I don’t quite understand, but I nod and I just eat up whatever she puts in front of me. It usually tastes great anyway.

The Jman is highly amused each time he sees his grandmother and I speak with each other. It’s chicken-and-duck talk, really. She speaks Hokkien which I can barely comprehend, while I can understand and speak a little Cantonese, enough to save my life in a yum cha restaurant. Yet when the topic revolves around traditional Chinese food, customs and herbs, we hit it off straight away. It seems that I’m the only one around the house who understands her herbs and stuff, which are seemingly strange to his family who is Westernized beyond recognition.

I’ll be completely honest and confess that apart from ginseng, dong kwai and cordyceps, I am clueless about the names of Chinese herbs. I know what they look like, I know how they smell, and I know what they should taste like, but trying to purchase them over the counter is akin to scaling Mount Everest.

Tonight, I made some herbal chicken soup. I don’t know what you’re supposed to put in, but I took a stab in the dark, closed my eyes and tried to recall whatever looked familiar in my mother’s soups. At the end of it all, the soup turned out to be really tasty, exactly like what my mother used to make for me.

Anyway, if you’re interested, here’s a part of the recipe with some herbs that are still anonymous – I promise to check that out the next time I visit the Asian grocers!

Herbal Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  1. 2 whole chicken thighs, skin-off
  2. 1 tablespoon Kei Chee (also known has wolfberries or Goji berries)
  3. 1 thumb-sized stem of Dong Guai / Tang Kwei (the spelling differs on each packet, but it should look remotely like this)
  4. 3-4 pieces of ___ herbs
  5. 4 small stems of ___ herbs

Method

Dump everything into a pot and cover with approximately 2 litres of water. Turn the heat on and once the soup has reached a boil, lower the fire down to its smallest flame and cover the pot. Let it simmer for an hour or 2. Season to taste. Enjoy!