Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Indonesian Hot Jasmine Tea - Still Life Food Photography Assignment

If I were still a student, I would've been punished so many times for not doing my homework. Opps. I've joined an online still life food photography club for a while, and I've missed quite a few assignments. Opps opps. This time, I managed to submit something.
Did you guys notice how low my expectation was?
Submitting something = a huge achievement (for me) ^_^'

I love brilliant ideas behind photographs. But most of the time, I have no idea, not even a stupid one, forget about brilliant ones.

When I do have some ideas, I mostly fail to execute them the way I wish they would turn out.
This assignment is a classic example.

I thought of using old, classic Indonesian sayings/jokes as ideas.

For the above picture, the idea came from an old Indonesian saying "Habis manis sepah dibuang" = when the sweetness is gone, the remnants get thrown out, which more or less means that once I've gotten everything I wanted out of you, I'd abandon you.

My idea was to show a used teabag in an almost empty glass of hot sweetened tea. Emphasis on "used". I wanted to desaturate the colors a little to make it less vibrant than my usual pictures. Darker, gloomier.
I've probably taken things too literally eh?

Anyway, I was happy with the idea, but look at my execution. Blah! I am not sure why, but blah.

Moving on to my next "idea"...

The idea for the above photo came from an old Indonesian joke I heard when I was young (and rather dumb).

Question: How do you know if a glass of tea is sweetened just by sight?
Answer: *thinking very hard* you can see the sugar (no, all stirred), it looks thicker, nicer, sweeter (ya ya, try identifying that by sight)...then how?
Correct answer: The sweet one has a spoon in it. HA HA HA
Answer : Grrrr (not funny!)

It's probably not funny, but that exactly how tea is served in Indonesia ^_^

So I wanted to show two glasses of hot tea (hot tea is often served in glasses, not in cups), one with a teaspoon in it, one without. Nice and simple.

But look at my execution! I forgot to stir the sugar, which pretty much ruined the joke...and since it's a happy joke, I should not have done the same desaturated, gloomy approach. A brighter, lighter, happier tones would probably be better ^_^'

Meh~ there's always another challenge, another homework...
...and I shall continue to learn.

Thank you for listening/reading my crap ^_^

Monday, April 26, 2010

Char Siew (BBQ Pork) Cupcakes

If we can have char siew bao (BBQ pork buns), why can't we have char siew cupcakes, right? The idea has been floating around in my head for a while, and finally, last weekend, I did it!

Did it work? Well, subtly sweet cupcakes with sticky-savoury-sweet-rich-and-hearty BBQ pork filling and topping?
It worked like magic, just like conditioner on my frizzy tangled hair :D

Plus, making these cupcakes should be wayyy easier than making char siew bao.
PS. Not that I know how to make char siew bao...saw it on TV, and believe that I wouldn't be able to do it >.<
PS II. Crazy me. Why would I even think of making char siew bao? I live in HONG KONG for freak's sake :D

I simply reduced the sweetness of a basic muffin recipe and tried to recreate the flavors of char siew bao filling.

The Char Siew Filling & Topping
- 1/2 lb of store bought BBQ pork or char siew, diced, not too finely, we still want a bit of a bite (about HK$10 and you'll have some leftover, buy HK$20 and you can keep some for lunch/dinner)
- 2 shallot, thinly sliced
- oyster sauce, dark soy, sugar, olive oil
- water (not hot), corn starch

If char siew is not something that's easily available in your area, then you're doomed. Kidding! Simply replace it with BBQ chicken/other meat ala you....or if you wanna make your own char siew, go for it, plenty of recipes are available online. Unfortunately, since I haven't tried any of the recipes, I can't recommend one :(

If you have char siew, we're ready to rumble!
Saute shallot in olive oil until fragrant and softened, add diced char siew, add oyster sauce, just a little dark soy, and a few tsp of sugar. Keep tasting until you reach a balance of savoury and sweet. Thicken the filling with about 3 tsp of corn starch in a bit of water. We want the filling and topping to be pretty thick, not runny, so that it won't leak when placed in or on top of the cake.

The Cake
- 1 cup of self raising flour (or 1 cup all purpose flour + 1 tsp baking powder)
- 5 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp chicken stock powder (or a pinch of salt)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 175C. In a mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients, make a well, and pour wet ingredients which has been mixed in another bowl. Whisk until just combined, pour 1 big tbsp of cake batter into muffin tray lined with paper cups, add about 1.5 tsp char siew filling, top with cake batter until the paper cup is almost full. Bake for 10 minutes, add about 1 tsp of char siew filling on top of each cake, continue to bake for 10 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Hmmm~ breakfast...with a cup of hot tea.

Speaking of char siew cupcakes, I'm not the only crazy one. A good friend of mine, Jason Bonvivant made
his version of char siew cupcakes too! Check it out la~

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Grilled Chicken Red Curry with Lychee

I fell in love with Thai red curry roast duck with lychee the first time I tried it in Sydney.
I thought, it would be so easy for me to kind of recreate in Hong Kong, since I could get roast duck for as little as HK$18 downstairs, stir in a pack of Thai red curry paste, throw in a box of coconut milk and a can of lychee...and I'd get an easy, yet super impressive dish. least that was the plan.

Naturally, since life is so kind, and luck is my middle name...when I needed a roast duck, it was too late and the siu mei shop just below my flat's closed.
This is totally predictable.
If I could get duck when I needed duck, that would be surprising :D

Anyway, no duck (or lack thereof) shall deprive me of curry lychee, so I went for chicken instead.
A little bit more troublesome, a little less flavorful, but, it should work.

(for two)

- 2 pieces of boneless chicken thigh fillet, with skin on
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, crushed
- 1 galangal, crushed
- 2 shallots, sliced thinly
- 1 pack of Thai red curry paste
- 200 ml box of coconut milk
- 1 can of lychee in syrup
- salt, pepper, olive oil
- freshly chopped corriander

Preheat oven to 200C. Season chicken fillet with salt and pepper, brown the skin and grill in the oven until it's almost cooked. Meanwhile, saute lemongrass, galangal and shallot until fragrant, throw in thai curry paste, stir in coconut milk and some syrup from the canned lychee. Keep tasting the mixture until you reach the perfect balance between sweet, sour, spicy, creamy and savoury. Add lychee pieces at the end. Take chicken out of the oven, slice and arrange chicken pieces in the curry sauce, try not to submerge the chicken skin to keep it crispy (unless you don't mind the chicken skin not being crispy anymore. Alternatively, you can also lay the sauce on a shallow plate and add the chicken pieces on the plate, but I wanted to get the chicken meat cooked in the curry sauce a bit). Garnish with freshly chopped corriander and serve with steamed rice or roti prata (I served mine with frozen roti prata, simply heated up in the oven until golden brown. Yum!)

You can also add okra/Thai eggplant/cherry tomatoes and sweet Thai basil into the curry or even make a vegetarian version of it.

PS. A cooking disaster happened when I was cooking this dish. I accidentally used the ladle I'd been using to stir the curry to stir the other dish, which was stir fried zucchini, tomatoes and beancurd sheets in oyster sauce. It was literally just a few secs of stirring, and the damage was done. The second dish was totally infused with a tinge of coconut milk and lychee flavor, it turned it inedible. I tried adding a bit of this and that, but there was no way to recover it. I had wasted a whole lot of ingredients and it broke my heart T_T

PS II. Moral of the story, look before you dip.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Soto Betawi - Indonesian Creamy Beef Soup

Nothing I love more than a get together than involves...ehm, food.

Especially some food that has a special sentimental value to us.
Oh, my hormones are making me extra sappy and romantic these days~
That's right. Blame it all on the hormones.

So, last Friday, after having been craving this dish for a friend Ieie and I decided to brave the lack of instant seasoning pack and make the dish we went through our college days with...from scratch. Gasp!

Making anything from scratch might be nothing special for most people. But for Ieie and I, instant seasoning princesses, it calls for a celebration.

Soto Betawi
adapted from here

Beef stock
- 1 lb beef (I used brisket, you can use other parts of beef with some offals)
- 1 galangal, crushed
- 1 stalk lemongrass, crushed
- 3 salam leaves (Indonesian bay leaves)
- water
Boil beef with galangal, lemongrass and salam leaves until tender. I used a pressure cooker, so this only took 30 minutes, if you are not using pressure cooker, bring to boil and simmer for at least 1.5 hours. Since I wanted to get rid of the fat from the brisket, I prepared this one night ahead, cool it down and keep it in the fridge. The next day, the fat has hardened and I could take it out easily. If you are using leaner meat, you can skip the fat removing process.

If you don't eat beef, replace it with other kinds of meat. Next time, I will add some bone-in chicken pieces too, to give the soup some glorious golden tinge.

- 5 shallot
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 cm ginger
- 1 tbsp ground corriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin
- white pepper, salt, olive oil
I threw everything into my food processor and pulsed until it forms a fine paste. In Indonesia, we normally use mortar and pestle.

- 400ml coconut milk
To finish the soup, bring beef and stock to boil, add spices, and add coconut milk. Adjust seasonings and spices according to your taste. The soup is done.

Other Ingredients
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into 8-12 sections each
- 2 tomatoes, sliced into 8-12 sections each
I pan fried the potato slices on a non stick pan with minimal amount of olive oil (only about 1 tbsp), pan fry slowly on medium heat until softened, crank up the heat afterwards to brown the surface. Alternatively, you can soften the potatoes by baking or microwaving them.
The tomatoes do not need to be cooked.

- spring onion, thinly sliced
- crispy shallot
- red chillies, sliced thinly
- Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
- emping (belinjo crackers) or prawn crackers (optional)
- lime (quartered)
To serve, place potatoes and tomatoes in a bowl, scoop some beef, pour soup over it, sprinkle some crackers, crispy shallot and spring onion. Serve with kecap manis, chilli and lime slices on the side as condiments.

Yummy with steamed rice ^_^

I am crap at food styling. But although the above pictures were crappily styled, the way we devoured it was even worse...

We devoured the soto with a mountain of Indonesian crackers.

It did send us back to our young, cute, but far-from-innocent college days :D
Ah, nostalgia~

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dry Kimchi Nongshim Ramyun - Korean Dry Instant Noodles

my #1 guilty pleasure, Indomie Goreng?
Finally. Nongshim made a dry version of their kimchi instant noodles, which is my #1 favorite instant noodle soup.

PS. In case you're wondering, nobody's holding me at gun point or paying me to write this. I am really just a truly Indomie Goreng and Nongshim noodles fanatic :D

If you love Nongshim noodles and you saw this package...

...grab it.

Actually, I didn't get to try this noodle, due to my current extreme aversion to strong flavors, such as garlic. SC gave it a try, and while he was inhaling the bowl, I could smell all the things I didn't wanna smell (one of them = garlic), from a meter away.

I strongly suggest NOT to eat this before or during dates.
Unless you plan to always stand at least 3m away from your date (restraining order?), or your date has a chronic sinusitis/fully blocked nose.

I added a couple of pork dumplings and freshly chopped corriander because...when it comes to noodles, I don't do plain.

Take a look at this chewy, springy, tasty goodness...

...I can't wait to give it a go.

Meanwhile, you'd have to trust SC on this one.
His verdict?

The empty bowl says it all.

He even said that this could be a strong competition to my favorite Indomie Goreng.
Whatttt???!!! The little nationalist girl inside me screamed "Nooooo...."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Convenience Store Midnight Snacks - I Love Hong Kong

Another reason why I love Hong Kong.
I don't live in the city, city. I live in the new territories.
New territories of Hong Kong?
Well, in my hood, don't expect a cow to cross the road any time soon. Do expect super speedy internet connection and people playing with their ultra modern gadgets everywhere :D

New territories and all, there's really no reason for me to worry about getting hungry/being out of toilet paper or toothpaste or shampoo/craving ice cream/wanting to get drunk/needing disposable underwear/suddenly wanting to get a mini induction cooker or hair curler/feeling an uncontrollable urge to own hello kitty related products in the middle of the night.

Thank God for convenience stores.

So, one midnight, when SC and I were feeling naughty...we went down to 7-11 to get some...
snacks :D

I love to start anything naughty with something savoury...

This bowl of microwaveable fish siu mai was a perfect start for the night. Not as yummy as the steamed ones, but good enough for hungry tummies.

Still within the yellow food group...

A few seconds in the microwave...

...and you get this pretty little thing.
It looked pretty, but it's way way way too sweet for my taste, with a super strong (probably chemically made?) milk scent.

Moving on to a different color zone...

...we could barely contain our excitement!

Did it taste as good as it sounds?

We love it. For something that's out of a microwave, in a plastic packaging, less than HK$20, in the middle of the's lovely. We fought for most of the sweet chocolatey liquid in the middle.

Of course I won.
These days, I'm the queen of the house, baby.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Easy Spicy Mackarel Pasta

Smiling fish canned fried mackarels in chilli sauce.

They remind me of my young college days...when we stayed in a all (hot) girls dorm (cough cough), and we're only allowed very minimum cooking, this was one of our staples along with endless supply of instant noodles.

The fish chunks taste amaaaazing simply heated and eaten with steamed rice...taste especially yummier when we were hungry and budget was extremely limited (one too many trips to the mall, which led to too many cute outfits, no more money for food and it's the end of the month).

My canned food and I, we're good friends.

I wonder if it would work for a quick and easy Asian inspired pasta dinner.

(for two)
- pasta of your choice (I like fusili)
- 2 cans of fried mackarels in chilli sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 cloves of shallot, sliced thinly
- 1 cm ginger, crushed
- a bit of lemon juice
- freshly chopped corriander
- light soy sauce, fish sauce, olive oil

Cook pasta according to instructions on the packet. Open the cans of mackarels, break down the fish meat into bite sized chunks (I removed the soft larger bones from the middle of the fish), reserve the chilli sauce. Saute garlic, shallot and ginger in a bit of olive oil until fragrant, add fish chunks, add the chilli sauce (please add bit by bit as you taste as it might be too hot) from the can, heat through, add light soy and fish sauce to balance the sweetness of the chilli sauce. Drain pasta and add to the fish, mix well, taste and adjust flavors if necessary, squeeze some lemon juice and garnish with freshly chopped corriander.

Hot, spicy, sweet, sour, savory, satisfying...and reminds me of my young golden days ;p

Sharing this with the folks at Presto Pasta Nights (oh gosh, it's been a while), created by Ruth, hosted this week by Daphne of More Than Words.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Popeye's Fried Chicken, Cajun Fries & Buttermilk Biscuit - Hong Kong International Airport

I did something crazy last weekend.

How crazy, exactly?
I went to Hong Kong International Airport.

How is that crazy? Going to the airport is pretty...normal.
Yes, if you're going for a trip.
Yes, if you're sending someone away.
Yes, if you're picking someone up.

I wasn't gonna do any of the above.

I went through the long train ride (mind you, more than 30 minutes on the train = long by Hong Kong standard) plus another bus ride to the airport, glaring at people with luggages going for their holidays, turning green with envy...

...just to have lunch at Popeye's Fried Chicken.


SC couldn't believe I was doing this when he found out.
Sometimes it is good that he didn't pay attention to what I say most of the time :D

What did I have?

The fried chicken. Super crispy skin with tender and juicy meat.
SC and I still love KFC's chicken better, but I was there for the "accessories".

The batter fried shrimps with tartar sauce. Crispy batter, succulent shrimp meat.

I was there mainly for these Cajun Fries. Tasty, tasty, tasty! Perfect with lots of ketchup and sweet chilli sauce.

...and I was there for this flaky and super buttery buttermilk biscuit, topped with honey.

Finally, I had one of my cravings satisfied ^_^

If you happen to be in Hong Kong International Airport, or if you're as crazy as me...go for it.
If you have Popeye's Chicken in town, I am jealous >.<

Popeye's Chicken
Hong Kong International Airport
Passenger Terminal One - Departure
(there's one outlet before immigration and another after immigration)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ramen Lunch at Wakayama, IFC, Central

I heard so much about this place, and since I am always in search for a good ramen place in Hong Kong, I dragged sc's ass to give this high-end ramen joint a try.

Mind you, sc and I aren't exactly fond of, nor fit the term high-end very well :P

What happens when we put an iPhone freak + 3G Internet access + not-knowing-what-to-order together?

You get SC browsing to see did others order and what did they love.

We are suckers for meal sets, so we went for their lunch sets, a bowl of ramen + a side dish.
The side dishes...

Gyoza (Japanese dumplings)...they're ok, nothing out of the ordinary.

My favorite, karaage (deep fried chicken), flavorful and crispy, but you get good karaage very easily in Hong Kong. So, again, nothing special.

Are we paying high prices for a bunch of nothing-specials?

Let's see if their ramen lived up to our high expectation.

The soft bone pork ramen may look ever so humble and ordinary...

...but it is anything but ordinary.
My photograph may not do the noodle justice. It's really wonderfully springy, cooked to perfection. The broth's flavorful, and the pork...


The tender was it?

So tender...

A large chunk of it fell right back into the bowl when sc was "posing" it for photographs.


Pretending to be Going high-end, I decided to order the most expensive ramen on the menu. The wagyu beef ramen. The same wonderful noodles, the same flavorful broth (I should've chosen a different broth. Opps), perfectly done egg, different sort of vegetables from the ones you get from random ramen shops...and of course...

Tha beef!

Tender, juicy, beautiful, flavorful, delicious slices of beef.
Don't try to eat the beef too rare, let them "cook" in the broth for a bit and they'll get even more tender, juicy and delicious.
For me, this bowl of ramen absolutely lived up to its high-end price tag (around HK$1xx per lunch set).
Totally worth it!

Wakayama Japanese Restaurant
Unit 3020, 3/F, IFC Mall, IFC Mall, Central
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2295 1221

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fried Shrimps with Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce - Udang Goreng Tepung Saus Kecap Manis

During those last few no-appetite-everything-taste-horrible months, what have I been eating? Just one or two spoonful of rice with a bit of healthy dishes, thanks to SC's parents home nearby. As a token of my appreciation, once I felt good enough to whip something up, I'd bring homemade cakes, desserts or a dish to family dinners.

This was one of those days.

SC's family dinner will be attended by a bunch of lazy boys who won't eat anything with bones or shells. I gotta make something they can pop into their mouth without having to struggle and wrestle with any inedible parts.

Hm, I had a pack of shrimp meat in my fridge.


Let's do some Fried Shrimps with Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce

- 1 lb shrimp meat, cleaned, deveined, butterflied
- For frying: corn starch; 1 egg, beaten; bread crumbs seasoned with a bit of salt & pepper; olive oil
For the Sauce:
- half an onion, sliced thinly
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 cm ginger, peeled and crushed
- sweet soy sauce (the dominant flavor), worchestershire sauce, ketchup, light soy sauce, pepper
- a bit of corn starch and water for thickening
- freshly squeezed lemon juice

Season shrimps with a bit of salt and pepper, and squirt some lemon juice on them. Prepare the frying ingredients on plates and bowls just like below...

Heat up some oil for frying.

Dip shrimps into corn starch, then egg, then seasoned bread crumbs...

...and dip into hot oil, fry over medium heat...

...until they're gloriously golden.

Do this dish right before serving. If you had to wait, you can recrisp the shrimps in the oven for a few minutes.

Now, the sticky sauce.

Saute garlic, onion and ginger in a bit of oil until fragrant, pour kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), light soy, worchestershire sauce, ketchup, mix well. Add a bit of water, bring to boil, taste and adjust flavors until you achieve the perfect balance of sweet and savory with a bit of a tang. Thicken with corn starch and water mix, do not pour over shrimps until right before serving.

To serve...

Place crispy shrimps on a plate, pour sauce over and squeeze more lemon juice if you wish.

The boys loved the shrimps, SC's mom wiped the caramelized onion clean...

...and SC's dad ended up doing the dishes.

Opppps :D

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bakuteh - Dinner plus Sauna 2-in1

Satiny smooth, fatty, meat-falling-off-the-bone tender ribs.
Silky, delicate beancurd sheets.
Piping hot, flavorful broth.
Thick, rich, hot and spicy dipping sauce.

Perfect for colder days.

Was yesterday cold? Nope, it was a warm and balmy day.
Thus, we ate this for dinner with sweat dripping down our backs and faces, just the way it's supposed to be consumed in Malaysia :D

Great. Dinner + sauna 2-in-1 indeed.

Anyway, hot days or cold days, this is one of my favorite dishes.
Easy to prepare (thanks to instant spice mix packets) and a sure pleaser.

You don't really need a recipe from me, simply follow what's on the spice packet...but this is how I did mine:

- Bakuteh spice mix
- 1 lb pork ribs, rinsed, patted dry
- 2 beancurd sheets (fu juk), cut into 4-5 cm pieces
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed (or as indicated in the packet)
- 1 cm ginger, peeled, crushed (it was not required, but I wanted some gingery flavor)
- 6 cups water
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 tbsp light soy sauce, a dash of fish sauce, 2 tsp sugar, white pepper, olive oil

Saute garlic and ginger in a bit of hot olive oil, add pork ribs, add water, spice bags and seasonings, bring to boil. I pressure cooked it for 25 minutes. If you are not using a pressure cooker, simmer on low heat until the meat is tender (one hour or more), add the delicate beancurd sheets and bring to boil before serving.

Dippity dip
- Dark soy
- Fish sauce
- Sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
- freshly chopped chillies (I used two)
- freshly chopped corriander
Mix everything together. Done!

Serve with steamed white rice, or chicken rice, crispy shallot rice, or garlic rice.

If you don't eat pork, you can use other meat. I think chicken on bone should work well too. You can also change the "accessories", use tofu puffs or silken tofu instead of beancurd sheets, or add some vegetables such as lettuce or chinese cabbage. Go easy on the extras though, they may reduce the richness of the flavors dramatically.

You can use a variety of garnish for this dish. Freshly chopped corriander, scallion, crispy shallot, slices of Chinese fried dough (yau jar gwai), etc.

Hmm, I think it would be fantastic with kerupuk (Indonesian crackers) too :D