Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mirror mirror on the wall, which is my fruit of tis season all ?

When summer starts winding down in September, pears start to make their appearance at grocery stores. You'll be in luck in search of fresh, juicy pears since the peak of most pears' varieties are in winter. Like apples, pears can be used for cooking and baking. But I just love my Yellow Bartlett(Bart-let) and Green Anjou (On-ju) as "on-the-hand-bite-me" fruits.

Left: Yellow Bartlett (Bart-let); right: Green Anjou (On-ju)

There are more than these pear varieties , and there are also pear recipes.

Pair up with a pear today!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Shiokingly good Singapore-Beach Road Prawn Mee@East Coast Road

It's now "eat, shoot, post and be merry" time! My "Shiokingly Good" series begins...

"Shiok" - originally a Malay exclamation, but now a universal Singaporean expression denoting extreme pleasure or the highest quality, on FOOD, particularly ! Yummy food !

Remember that prawn mee and lok bak we've tried in my ya-selamat-datang-terima-kasih post of Penang Village ?

Here's the Singaporean version.
Beach Road Prawn Mee@ 370 East Coast Road

Why does prawn mee often pairs up with Ngoh Hiang or 五香* ? We've had similar combination here as well...

At Singapore's Beach Road Prawn Mee House, this 五香 was our side-order.

*Ngoh Hiang or 五香 refers to the five spices used in the seasoning.

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Cheat eats with a SLur......rrp

Well, no wonder Singaporeans are sometimes referred to as "birds"...because where ever they go, they say "cheap cheap...chirp chirp". Now, I think most Singaporeans would not say "cheap cheap" on food, in Bay Area, CA if they are born and raised in Singapore...because in Singapore, a simple meal out or good food is really relatively cheap, compared to the Bay Area, CA. I'm comparing eating out. Thanks to the ubiquitous hawker centers, markets and coffeeshops (a.k.a kopi tiam) in Singapore. Good food and cheap eats are always less than 10mins away from home(no need for 30-minute meals in your own kitchen)! We used to take convenience and relative low-cost for granted in Singapore. Only when you are away for a while, you will realize that.

Check these out if you do "makan by" Singapore... Sbestfood , Makantime , Makansutra

We were physically back in Singapore for just 5 days and we devoured all kinds of food: food that we craved for when we were away from Singapore; food that we know can't be found easily (that explains the cravings...) in the Bay Area, CA.

What we had during the Thanksgiving week in Singapore, as far as could be remembered: economical bee hoon, hainanese chicken rice, fried carrot cake, prawn mee soup, fishball mee pok/kway teow mee, laksa, pork porridge, black pepper crabs, rojak, etc....SHIOK ! SEDAP! And THAT was our Thanksgiving celebration (S'pore version)...roast turkeys purposely EXcluded. Turkeys...what we never had, we never miss. But the cool California weather, what we've had, we have missed ! How I wish I could have spicy laksa, peppery crabs, and all those good eats in jacket-weather California! Then, I would not sweat through my tee, eating all the hot and spicy food in hot and humid Singapore. Well, there is really no such condition called "ideal", is there ? "Ideal" is just a word to explain theories, IMHO.

Cheap good eats will continue to tamper your taste buds. Let's go !
I eat, shoot (no guns, limited to photographs only) and post; covering the the West Coast of U.S.A and the East Coast of Singapore. I'm a true-blue East Coast Singaporean. The East Coast zone (East Coast Road, Upper East Coast Road, Katong, Siglap, Joo Chiat etc.) of Singapore is highly acclaimed for many good food.

Finally, the EAST MEETS THE WEST !

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Monday, November 27, 2006

A flavorful dish can be so simple

To vary stir-fry cabbage , celery can be added. Surprisingly tasty ! Oh, chinese cabbage and napa cabbage actually taste quite different.

Stir-fry celery with cabbage (serves 4)
-~5-6 ribs from celery stalks/hearts, washed, and sliced in medium thickness if you want more crunch
-half a chinese cabbage head, washed and jullienned ( remaining half of cabbage was used here )
-1/4 lbs minced pork
-1tsp dried shrimps
-1tsp minced ginger
-1tsp minced garlic
-~3tbsps warm water

1.Heat oil in pan and fry garlic, ginger and dried shrimp
2.Add the minced pork and fry for 2-3mins
3.Add in celery and fry for 1-2 mins, then add cabbage to fry for another 1-2mins
4.Add warm water, and allow the vegetables to simmer for 2-3 mins
5.Ready ready !

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咖喱, kari, curry...the saga continues

Enough curry favoring , ok...ok . You all can have those curry premix and try it your way too!

Then the curry saga continues...

A combination of different spices makes Malaysian, Thai and Indian curries taste essentially quite different, though all similarly tickles your taste buds. Malaysian curries typically use coconut milk and a paste of turmeric, shallots, ginger, belacan (shrimp paste), chilis, garlic and tamarind(sometimes). Popular spices used in Indian curries include saffron, turmeric, ginger,coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, garlic and cloves. Apart from the above mentioned spices, Thai curries will usually use lemon grass and/or basil.

Would you like some traditional Indian food? How does tandoori chicken, naan, goat curry sound? Turmeric Restaurant offers lunch buffet ($10.95 per person; ~$11.80 adding tax) with a spread of appetizers and entrees. We love dipping those naan in the curries. The curries and tandoori chicken goes well with the saffron rice too. When you are feeling hungry and yearn for some kind of spice in your life, give this a go! It's really worth it, when you are starving...

My 1st plate:

[Clockwise from the cucumber: Saffron rice, fish curry, goat curry(with bones),naan (below the goat curry), tandoori chicken, achari chicken, potato spinach cake, and makhari chicken(below the potato spinach cake]

My 2nd plate:

[Mixed vegetable curry topped over naan; and pea, cauliflower and potato dry curry]

3rd, 4th, 5th... with repeats of my favs...goat curry, mixed vegetable curry, makhari chicken. All of these goes well with naan and saffron rice. The tandoor chicken was also good, but since I have my naan, gonna choose dishes with gravies.

Another happy return to Turmeric !

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Friday, November 17, 2006

The ONE thing that we can't live without...IS...

Prima Taste Premix ! And that's especially when you are craving for Mee Siam, Laksa, Curry Chicken etc. , and living thousands of miles away from home. Simcooks got them and hopefully I get to re-stock mine soon, because Sim's Mee Siam makes me drool.

Now it's time for some 新加坡咖喱 Singapore curry, my way.

Oh, you want more variety ? Stay tuned !

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Curry favor the flavor, or curry flavor the favor

Oh, whatever...this is the true curry-in-a-hurry

Now, I've got a few pieces (~8-9) stew beef cubes left from cooking my beef stew . Should have used them all then. But I wanted to keep a few pieces for my SB Golden Curry. I've used the curry...plain the last time, topped over a sunny-side up with rice, and served with vegetables. Wanted to try something different this time, as suggested on the product packaging...

I'm angry with myself when it suddenly occurred to me that I CAN'T saute or pan-fry the beef cubes just like that. The stew beef cubes are chuck beef (shoulder part of the cow)-mainly muscles and collagen, thus MUST BE stewed, slow cooked or braised to make it more tender, moist and flavorful. What should I do ? What should I do ? I have to have that curry with beef! I can't be cooking beef stew another time with just THAT few pieces of stew beef cubes left, plus it's so stupid to braise(more than an hour, the least) so few pieces.

Ok, there is something called grinding, I know, I know. Phew...I did not pass on that. The worst of saying "goodbye" to these beef cubes almost happened. Grinding breaks up the "muscles and collagen" to tiny pieces so that they cook through like the usual ground beef and best of all, can be chewed the usual way too! And I got my curry topped over pan-fried ground beef.

The curry flavor is authentically Japan. Of course. It is Japanese curry, what do you expect ? Don't curry favor with me...will still tip you on getting those curries when they are on sale. I've got 2 packs for 3 bucks. What a bargain !

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Have your beef stew, and eat it "three"

Should it not be "Have your cake and eat it too!" ? Sorry, getting out of hand playing with words.

Decided to be more "professional" this time in making my beef stew. Previously, my "beef stew for dummies" method is to "dump" everything (beef cubes, root vegetables mix of celery, carrots and onions, and mushrooms) in the crock-pot and just let it cook and simmer. Trust me, it will not fail the beef stew. What can go wrong in making stew such a way, especially when you're using a crock pot/slow cooker. But if you have more time, and are prepared to get some "smoke and heat" up from your stove, you can try it this way too. I've tried it, and it's equally good (if not, better).

Slow cooker beef stew recipe
-~ 2lbs cubed beef stew meat
-1/4 cup corn starch
-1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
-3 tablespoons olive oil
-baby carrots
-1 bunch/stalk celery hearts
-8-10 caps crimini mushrooms
-white/yellow onions, sliced
-2 cups boiling water
-1tbsp butter
-some red wine to deglaze the skillet/pan after frying
-warm water

1.Place meat in a large plastic bag. Combine 1/4 cup flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt; pour into the bag with the meat, and shake to coat
2.Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add stew meat, and cook until evenly browned on the outside. Transfer to a slow cooker along with the carrots, celery, mushrooms, plus 2cups of boiling water
3.In the same skillet, melt butter and saute onions until softened; remove to the slow cooker
4.Pour red wine into the skillet, and stir to loosen browned bits of food on the bottom
5.Remove from heat, and pour into the slow cooker
6.Cover, and cook on High for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to Low, and cook for 5 hours, or until meat is fork tender.

There are simply too many variations to make beef stew eg. using bacon bits for more flavor, adding potatos for more starchiness and for thickening the stew etc. There are many ways to eat it too. For us, it's having our beef stew and eat it three ways! Served as a dish, together with rice,

eatin' and dippin' it with toast (good for lunch!),

or stir it up(like any pasta sauce) with macaroni.

Can even try a casserole, but I've really run out of beef stew for this. Uh-oh!

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Dear Okra, don't try to be funny with me

I never want to handle that okra again. It's not only funny on the outside (resembles a finger, thus a.k.a lady's fingers), it's also funny in the the inside (all that slime...slimy). You gotta know what the slime is up to while you cook it.

Tips to reduce THAT slime include frying the okra in high-heat within a short time, making less cuts to the okra(the more, and smaller you cut, the more SLIME), not introducing moisture while frying okra, and blanching in boiling water-then-plunging in ice-cold water. This is such a "difficult" plant vegetable to work with. It is even suggested that okra should not be cooked in a cast-iron or aluminium pot, to prevent them from turning "black" and thus unappetizing.

I can't handle that high heat! So, to ensure my okra gets cooked in the hot pan within 1 minute, I decided to "cheat" - and blanch them in boiling water first. Now, I can rest assured my okra does not end up uncooked/hard under my frying.

Okra with sambal chilli
-okra; blanch whole okra pods in boiling water for about 4-5 mins; remove with a slotted ladle and cool it in a bowl of ice water or until just tender (but still crisp). When cool, trim off the cap- and tail- ends.
-1tbsp of sambal chilli (GLORY brand Nonya Sambal Chilli); up to 2tbsp if you love HOT spicy
-1tbsp dried shrimps

1.Heat oil at medium-high in frying pan
2.Fry dried shrimps
3.Add in sambal chilli and continue frying for ~1 min, gradually turning on heat to high
4.On high heat, add in okra and fry quickly, just to "coat" the chilli-shrimp mix onto the already cooked okra
5. Dish up and serve

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ya, Selamat datang, Terima kasih

Selamat datang, or Welcome

What comes out of this zinc-roofed hut are wonders such as Loh Bak, Prawn Mee, Char Kway Teow.

Are you drooling ? You don't have to travel more than 8000 miles(13000km) to Malaysia to savor all these. Look! It's in Santa Clara (near SJ Airport), right at the Bay Area. The prawn mee got that thick, spicy soup/bisque, that is different from Singapore's prawn mee noodle where you typically get clear soup. I love it ! Did not regret all our orders. In Penang Village, you get real, tasty, authentic Malaysian cuisine.

It was another non-windy day to fly kite, but you can fly "Layang Layang" all year round. Layang Layang is yet another Malaysian restaurant in the Bay Area. Food was ok, but felt the service...ermmm...needs much improvement. This was our order of Roti Canai, Nasi Lemak, and Kari Lamb.


And...ya(I don't even know "Ya" is actually Malay language), or yes...IMO, the winner goes to Penang Village!

Catch tigerfish yelping for food ! Terima kasih, Thank you

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

How to pile up that Chinese take-out

Always wanted to try those chinese take-outs(not uncommon in the Bay Area), though I choose to think its highly unlikely that it will taste as real as mixed vegetables rice ("chap chai peng", direct translation) which is common back home-in hawker centers, food courts, kopi tiam and even companies' canteens. Typically, for a selection of 1 meat dish+ 2vegetable dishes(with rice), it economically comes up to S$2.50-$3.50 (more expensive of course if you have 2 meats+1vegetable dish).

My first take-out of "chap chai peng" in Ranch99 somewhat felt like buffet-to-go, since you can select ANY dish, take ANY amount you want, for a price of US$5.99($6.48 with tax), as long as you can ensure the box does not "explode" before it reaches the cashier's hands.

What is the correct/best way to "pile up" food in the standard styrofoam box provided, such that you get the best value for money? Hey, there is a technique to this, I somewhat believe. For example, trying to take leafy vegetables last, that is, piling them on top of the starch and meat, since those big leaves are light and take up volume. Naturally, tactics will work well when the food sellers place the cooked dishes in the order that you prefer, and/or when there is no queue!
Hmmmm...needs experience...and practice too !

And I can almost not tell any difference in taste from "chap chai peng".

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Snowing in fall !

That's too early! Need to create artificial snow. Ha!
You could still get snow peas anytime of the year, tho'. Going snow pea-ppers!

Stir-fry snow peas and peppers with shitake
-snow peas, washed, and trim off tips at both ends of the pod pea
-green and red peppers, washed and sliced in strips
-shitake mushrooms, wiped with damp kitchen towels, stalks removed, and cut caps into halves
-1 clove garlic, minced
-oyster sauce, to taste

1.Heat oil at medium in frying pan
2.Fry the minced garlic
3.Add the snow peas and fry lightly for 2 mins
4.Add in mushrooms and continue frying for 2-3 mins
5.Add oyster sauce, to taste. If mixture looks dry, add in some water
6.Finally, add in green and red peppers (added last since I do not want to overcook them; peppers can be taken raw anyway)
7.Fry lightly for another 2-3 mins; then ready to serve

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Three cups chicken

I pondered why it was named Sanbei ji (Three Cups Chicken)...then I realized the recipe called for 1 cup of Shaoxing wine, 1 cup of soya sauce, and 1 cup of sesame oil, so it's 3 cups !!!

Three cups chicken , Sanbei ji
-2lbs chicken thigh (you can use chicken breasts or leg fillets), cut to bite-size pieces
-1 cup or 6 soup spoons Chinese Shaoxing wine
-1 small cup or 4 soup spoons soya sauce
-1 samll cup or 3 soup spoons sesame oil
-4tsp minced ginger (you can use sliced ginger as well)
-Chopped spring onions or scallions, to garnish

1.Heat up sesame oil in wok or pan
2.Add chicken pieces, sear the chicken to brown on all sides
3.Add ginger, followed by soya sauce. Turn down heat to simmer 5 minutes
4.Turn heat up again when sauce is bubbling, add the Chinese wine (when adding wine, do nto drizzle directly on the cooking chicken; instead slowly pour wine
on the sides of the pan, allowing the heated metal to evaporate the alcohol content; this way, only the fragrance of the wine is retained)
5.Cook till chicken is done and sauce has reduced
6.Garnish with scallions, serve with hot rice

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