Monday, February 28, 2011

Old Friends

There's nothing like old friends. Each time I travel back home, I get together with these girls I've known since grade school, and it always feels like I've never left. Although we hardly keep in touch, the bond we formed through all those years growing up together has remained intact, and we pick up quickly where we left off.

When I was back home for a mini-break, I caught up with a dear old friend for lunch. After hours of catching up, she served these mini banana spring rolls with a dipping sauce of dulce de leche, the sweet taste of nostalgia.

To make dulce de leche, simply remove the paper label from a can of condensed milk, place in a pot full of water (making sure the can is covered to the brim), cover and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove the lid, and scoop out the thick, caramelized milk.

Use as a dessert dip or serve with your favorite sweet bun.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Weekends are for cleaning out the fridge, and trying to find ways of transforming leftovers into a new dish, a nice treat for my nocturnal Teenagers, whose first stop is the kitchen after a night out with friends.

I had a few slices of sauteed pork and a tub of kimchi, and I thought - Kimchi Fried Rice! I have always eaten kimchi as a side dish, but never as an ingredient in a cooked dish, so this was intriguing. Contrary to what I expected, the fried rice wasn't spicy at all! It was delicious, wiped out in the wee morning hours by my hungry vultures.

The recipe is from, check out the original here.

Kimchi Fried Rice

1 cup kimchi, drained and chopped
1 small onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup leftover meat, chopped
3-4 cups cooked rice
salt to taste
fried eggs for topping

Add some vegetable oil into a hot wok and saute onions and kimchi until transparent. Add the leftover meat, then garlic, soy sauce and butter. Cook for a minute, then pour in the cooked rice. Mix very well, breaking up any lumps of rice. Season with salt to taste. In a separate pan, cook about 3 fried eggs and place on top of the fried rice before serving.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Two for One

A couple of weeks ago, I made Hainanese Chicken Rice, a favorite Singaporean dish where chicken is boiled in a rich stock, with flavorful accompaniments of chili and ginger sauces, and served with with fragrant sauteed and steamed rice.

This Cantonese favorite, Soy-braised Chicken, uses five spice powder as its dominant flavor. A blend of star anise, cinnamon, fennel, cloves and szechuan peppercorn combines the unique flavors of Chinese cuisine - sweet, salty, sour, pungent and bitter.

The next day I marinated and braised some pork spareribs in the leftover sauce, and they were just as delicious!

Soy-braised Five Spice Chicken

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1 whole chicken (about 1.5kg)
6 cups water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
5 tablespoons kecap manis or thick, dark soya sauce
large knob (about 3 inches) ginger, bruised
3/4 teaspoon five spice powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil

In a wok over medium heat, add the vegetable oil and sugar. As soon as the sugar begins to caramelize into a golden brown syrup, immediately add the chicken and roll around the caramel to thoroughly coat all sides. Turn chicken over a few times for an even golden coating.

Add the water, soy sauces, ginger, five spice powder and salt. Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes. Turn chicken over gently, making sure not to bruise the skin, then continue simmering for another 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let chicken rest in the stock, covered, for another 10 minutes.

Lift chicken from the stock onto a chopping board. Chop into small pieces (debone the chicken if desired). Arrange on a serving plate with some sauteed chinese vegetables.

In the meantime, reduce the remaining stock over high heat until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add sesame oil. Drizzle over the chicken and serve some extra sauce on the side.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Many Thanks

Thank you to Karen and Nigella for including me on her list of Stylish Blogger Awardees! I always look forward to reading her posts with wonderful anecdotes and recipes.

There are four rules to accepting this award: thank and link the blogger who nominated you; share seven things about yourself; award fifteen new bloggers and tell them you have done it. So here goes:

  • I used to be afraid of dogs; I now have two.

    • My grandmother taught me how to cook at the age of 10 during my summer holiday - I was mad at her for weeks
    • I am a cookbook fiend - take me to a bookstore and I will procrastinate about the bestsellers but will always leave with a cookbook

    • My most loyal and favorite cookbook, though, is my old, stained spiral notebook
    • I can spend hours in a kitchen gadget store (a shoe store tops my list too)
    • Baking makes me nervous, but I'm trying
    • I am happy to be living in one of the world's food capitals

    I stepped into the blogging world with the intention of simply having a journal of the dishes I cooked for family and friends, and the memories that came along with it. But I have met many like-minded friends through this avenue, and would like to share the Stylish Blogger Award with them:

    Until my next post, happy reading!

    Banana Turrones@Kulinarya

    Thank you to fellow KCC member Pia for this month's challenge of Filipino Aphrodisiac Food. Now didn't we all think of the same thing when we read Pia's email? Yes, balut, a boiled, fertilized duck egg is the ultimate in Filipino aphrodisiac food, sold by street vendors all over the country. Not my favorite food, to be honest.

    After a bit of researching, I was pleased to find that bananas, widely grown in the Philippines, are in Gayot's list of top ten romantic foods. The banana "is a complete meal, loaded with potassium, magnesium and B vitamins. Central Americans drink the sap of the red banana as an aphrodisiac, while Hindus regard it as a symbol of fertility. A banana left on a doorstep indicates that a marriage is about to take place. Bananas made an early appearance in the Garden of Eden; according to Islamic myth, Adam and Eve covered themselves not with fig but banana leaves."

    So what better way to sweeten a Valentine's Day meal than with these Banana Turrones? I sliced some bananas (plantains are ideal, but regular bananas will do), placed them on a spring roll wrapper, sprinkled brown sugar over the filling, and rolled these into tight batons. Deep fry them briefly in vegetable oil until golden brown and drain well on paper towels. In the meantime, make a dipping sauce by mixing 1 cup coconut cream with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence. Simmer on low heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Serve Turrones with the Coconut Cream dip, or cinnamon sugar on the side.

    By the way, the lovely serving dishes were made by some very creative students at Impressions Art Studio in Singapore, who offer batik, ceramic and canvas painting in a bright and cheerful room on the second floor of an historic shophouse. Thank you Anna and Raquel for loaning these dishes for my post today!

    Kulinarya Cooking Club was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney, who are passionate about the Filipino culture and its colourful cuisine. Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino Food as we do.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Where's the Beef?

    Here are two great Asian beef dishes - one requires patience, the other speed.

    After a disappointing first try at making Beef Rendang a couple of weeks ago, this recipe is a winner, adapted from RasaMalaysia's Easy Asian Recipes. Rendang is a Malaysian/Indonesian stew, made with fragrant spices and coconut milk, simmered slowly until the sauce is reduced to a luxurious gravy. Don't make this if you're in a hurry - it will take at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours to tenderize the beef and thicken the gravy - but it is guaranteed to be well worth your patience!

    Beef Rendang

    700g beef rib cap, or boneless beef short ribs, cubed
    (use a cut of meat with some marbling, a lean cut will become too dry and tough)
    3 tablespoons cooking oil
    1 teaspoon five-spice powder
    1 lemon grass, halved and pounded once
    1 cup coconut milk
    1 cup water
    2 teaspoons tamarind pulp
    (soak tamarind paste in water, mash and remove seeds, then strain)
    (if not available, you could substitute this with lime juice)
    6 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
    6 tablespoons dessicated coconut, dry-fried until lightly toasted
    1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
    1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt, to taste

    for the spice paste:
    5 shallots, chopped
    1 inch piece galangal, peeled and chopped
    3 lemongrass stalks (white part only), chopped
    5 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
    10 dried red chilies (soak in warm water and seeded), chopped

    Blend spice paste ingredients until very fine.

    In a casserole or other heavy bottomed pot, fry the spice paste and 5-spice powder in oil until fragrant. Add the beef and lemongrass, and mix well with the sauteed spice paste. Pour in the coconut milk, tamarind pulp, and water. Stir well for about 5 minutes. Add the kaffir lime leaves, toasted coconut, salt and sugar. Mix well and let simmer on low, covered tightly, for about 1 hour.

    Remove lid and let it cover the pot only halfway. Continue simmering on low for another 45 minutes to an hour, stirring the beef occasionally. Turn off the heat once the meat is tender and the gravy is almost reduced (this will continue to thicken as the dish begins to cool down). Adjust your salt and sugar to taste.

    Serve with steamed rice. Save some for leftovers the next day - the flavors intensify overnight!

    The second recipe is for Stir-Fried Beef with Kailan (Chinese Broccoli), adapted from Christopher Tan's cookbook Shiok! As with all stir-fries, once your prep work is done, cooking is done swiftly.

    Stir-Fried Beef with Kailan

    250g beef sirloin, sliced thinly
    300g kailan (chinese brocolli)
    2 teaspoons cornstarch
    1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
    3 tablespoons shaoxing wine
    vegetable oil for frying
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon ginger, minced
    2 tablespoons oyster sauce
    1 tablespoon sesame oil
    freshly ground black pepper
    4 tablespoons water

    Wash and dry kailan, then cut into 2 inch lengths. Blanch vegetables in boiling water for maximum 2 minutes, then drain and dry well.

    Mix cornstarch, soy sauce and 1 1/2 tablespoons shaoxing wine. Pour marinade onto beef and mix well.

    Pour oil in a wok and heat until just smoking. Fry garlic and ginger, and immediately add beef, stir-frying quickly so the pieces separate and cook evenly.

    Add the remaining wine, oyster sauce, sesame oil, pepper and water, mix well. As soon as the sauce thickens, add the blanched kailan and toss well with the beef. Serve immediately with steamed white rice.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Mad Dash

    The 4-day Chinese New Year weekend is the only time when shops close in this otherwise consumer-friendly paradise. Our neighborhood grocer calls and reminds us to send him our list for the long weekend, just to make sure we don't panic when food runs out. I feel like a hoarder! I make a last minute dash to our fishmonger, and grab a can of crabmeat, which I use for one of our favorite pasta dishes, based on one of the many wonderful recipes I learned at an Italian cooking class many, many years ago. There were no hand-outs given before class, so we would furiously take notes as the teacher whizzed through her repertoire. My well-stained notebook is a cherished archive of favorites, filled with scribbled recipes such as this....

    Capellini with Crab and Roasted Red Peppers

    1 can (450g) crabmeat
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 bunch Italian parsley, minced
    1 small red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and diced
    olive oil
    1/2 cup white wine
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    freshly ground pepper or dash of chili flakes

    for tomato sauce:
    2 cans Italian chopped tomatoes
    1/2 onion, diced
    2-3 large basil leaves, chopped
    olive oil
    salt, pepper and sugar to taste

    Make the tomato sauce by sauteing the onions in olive oil until translucent. Add in the chopped tomatoes, basil leaves, salt, pepper and sugar, and a splash of red wine (if available), and simmer for about 30 minutes.

    In another pan, saute the garlic and parsley in olive oil until fragrant. Add the crabmeat and roasted red peppers. Season with salt and pepper (or chili flakes). Pour in the white wine and simmer until just reduced. Add the freshly made tomato sauce and mix well.

    Prepare pasta according to package instructions (make enough for 3-4 people).

    Pour drained pasta into the sauce and mix thoroughly. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil just before serving. Serve with lemon wedges if desired.