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Africa…

If you’re wondering what I cooked for my girl last week when she came home, well, there was the beef stew in my previous post…and the next morning, Saturday, for her breakfast, I fried her an egg, one of the two chorizo sausages that I got from my Kuching cousin recently…and I also added some of the potatoes, carrots and mushrooms from the stew…

Breakfast

…and she certainly enjoyed that.

For lunch that day, we headed to the hawker stalls here to try what I had been wanting to go back and try for sometime now. As a matter of fact, we did drop by the previous weekend but the sign there said that it would be closed till the 21st…and this time around, it was open, of course.

They did not have the shajira, whatever that is, and no, they did not have the ayam percik either even though it was stated on their menu board that it would be available on Saturdays and Sundays. This was the guy manning the stall…

African

…and I was telling my girl that he did not look Malay, more African or African-American and she agreed.

Both my girl and I had the Moroccan rice with grilled chicken (RM9.00)…

Morracan rice with grilled chicken

…that came with their own-made peri-peri sauce and a very nice salsa-like dip of tomatoes, chili, onions and lime plus some spices as well.

I loved the rice a lot – it was bursting with flavours with all the raisins and spices…

Spices

…that went into the cooking and the chicken was tender and tasted great too…and yes, I enjoyed all that was in the plate with the sauce and the dip.

My missus had the “pili pili” rice with grilled chicken (RM9.00)…

Pili-pili rice with grilled chicken

…which was very nice too but a little milder so I thought it paled a bit in comparison – between the two, I would go for the Moroccan!

They kept promoting their soto jawa (RM4.50)…

Soto jawa

…so I decided to order that to give it a try. It was all right, nice but nothing to get excited about and it was chicken! I think I would prefer that in beef soup or sup tulang (beef bone soup).

After having had our fill, the ladies went to the supermarket opposite to stock up on my girl’s rations for the coming week while I walked around the place to see what else they had in store and I stopped by this one…

Stall No. 10

…where I bought the tumpik before.

My attention was drawn to it by this sign…

New from the tumpik stall

Oh??? They now have two new varieties of the traditional Melanau delicacy? One with midin (wild jungle fern) and another with bubuk (dried tiny shrimps)? Of course I could not eat anymore so I ordered both to take home for afternoon tea later. They said that they had run out of midin so I had no choice but to order one only – the one with bubuk.

I looked around the stall and saw that they were also selling these (50 sen each)…

Tauhu goreng

…served with rojak sauce…and among the things for sale on the counter were these sagu‘ (toasted sago pellets)…

Sagu

– another Melanau delight!

They were out of the fritters that they were selling including the cucur bubuk and the girl there was cutting the long beans and the chives to make some more. While waiting for my order, I chatted with her and I asked her about that African-looking guy at the Moroccan rice stall…and true enough, he was African, married to a local – the boss at one place here!!!

Our delightful small talk came to an end when my order came and I left the place to head back home. Back in the house, I opened the packet and took out the tumpik bubuk (RM4.00)…

Tumpik bubuk 1

…that I had bought. It was slightly overdone but some people may prefer it this way as there would be the added fragrance and that, with the fragrance of the toasted grated coconut and the bubuk within…

Tumpik bubuk 2

…would bring the taste to a whole new level, along with the gula apong (attap/palm sugar) dip that came with it.

There wasn’t anything else at the other stalls that appealed to me – just the usual stuff like the nasi bryani, nasi lemak, mee jawa, Sarawak laksa…and if I were to go back again, I wouldn’t mind having another go at the Moroccan rice – it was that good albeit being a tad too pricey, in my opinion.

Hangin’ tough…

How do you all get your meat to be nice and tender, I wonder?

I used to have a slow cooker, two in fact, and be it beef, lamb…or even pork leg/trotters/knuckles or wild boar, the meat would turn out really tender, just the way I would love it. Well, the first one, I think, was a gift I got for my wedding. One fine day, I got impatient and moved the crock pot to the gas stove and turned on the heat. There was a loud crack…and my slow cooker went straight to Slow Cooker Heaven, just like that. Then I bought another one real cheap – RM60 something only with the coupons collected at a departmental store here. It was very good too…but not for chicken unless you are into chicken floss, all separated from the bones. For other types of tougher meat, it was absolutely great. Eventually, my missus spotted a hairline crack at the base, not that it was leaking or anything so I got rid of it. Now I am slow cooker-less…and my birthday and Christmas are both in December, still a long way to go. Hehehehehe!!!!

Now I would have to resort to one of the more traditional ways and those would include using papaya leaves…

Papaya leaf

I would pound them well…

Pounded

…and rub the meat with it and leave it to stand…

Leave to stand

…for an hour or so. After that, rinse the meat well to get rid of all the bits of leaf but I guess if there are traces of any left, it is perfectly all right. After all, I have heard of the wonders of papaya leaves in the treatment of dengue fever patients.

Of course, for those of you living in the big cities, it may hard for you to get hold of any of those leaves but they do sell this in bottles, liquid form with a picture of a papaya on the label. That is good too! Once I marinated the meat in the morning for a barbecue at my house and left it for the whole day till evening. The meat turned out like tofu…or one of those vegetarian meat, so soft that it hardly had the meat texture anymore.

Another way would be to make sure that you cut the meat across the grain…

Across the grain

…so that it would come apart easily when chewed or maybe, you would like to try my mum’s way which would be to put a porcelain spoon in the stew or soup. She said that according to the old folks, the hardness in the meat would “fight” with that of the spoon and of course, the meat would lose and be rendered all soft and tender.

Anyway, I bought some beef that day as I wanted to try this…

Beef casserole mix

…that my cousin in Australia sent me sometime ago.

I got all the other ingredients ready – the onions, carrots and potatoes…

Onions carrots potatoes

…and since we can’t get fresh button mushrooms easily here, I just used the canned ones…

Mushrooms

They sure made it sound so easy…

Easy

…on the label and I would say it was!

Incidentally, I had no intention of cooking it in a casserole in the oven – my plan at that point in time was to cook it as a stew so what I did was to put the meat in a pot and let it cook on very low heat till all the juices had come out…

Cook on low heat

…and then, I mixed the contents of the packet with water…

Mix plus water

…and poured that in. I did not have any tomato paste in the house so I added this…

Barbecue sauce

…instead – barbecue sauce. After all, there is tomato paste in the ingredients along with all the other things.

Once I had brought it back to boil, I added all the aforementioned ingredients, brought it back to boil again and let it simmer on low heat for an hour or so.

It turned out really nice…

Beef stew

…except that initially, when I tasted it, I thought it was very strong on those herbs and spices that one would find in western cuisine and some people may not be all too fond of those but when all the flavours from all the ingredients added had come out, it tasted really great and we sure did enjoy it a lot.

The beef was all right, not tough, quite tender…and if you’re wondering which method I used, I actually used all three – except that I do not have a porcelain spoon in the house so I threw in a stainless steel teaspoon instead. Hehehehehe!!!!

Hello Dolly!…

…or Dollee, to be exact!

Well, if you’re wondering what I am going on about, not too long ago, my friend in Sydney, Australia cooked some curry laksa using this instant paste…

Tean curry laksa paste

…and the bowl in the photograph that she shared on Facebook sure looked good. Obviously, you can buy this Down Under and in that post, she also asked if this…

Dollee curry laksa paste

…was any good. A friend of hers was quick to point out the error in their spelling of kari (curry in Malay) as cari (pronounced as cha-ri, search) but when I looked carefully, they did get the “Pes Kari Laksa” absolutely correct – I wonder if that is in another language.

No, I had no intention of cooking that very popular noodle dish in the peninsula – what I had in mind was to try and use the paste to cook some sayur lodeh or what we call sayur masak lemak here. I’ve tried this brand but no, it did not turn out like the real thing, not at all. The only time when I did manage to get it exactly the way I wanted it was when I used this brand from Singapore but that is extremely expensive – around RM18.00 a box now, if I’m not wrong, and I certainly would not want to fork out that amount of money just for this.

Well, I had some prawn stock in the freezer (from boiling the heads and shell of some prawns that I bought some time ago) so I did not need any seafood to enhance the flavour of the broth. I just brought the stock to boil and emptied the contents of the packet, the Dollee, that is, into it. Then I added the sweet potatoes…

Sweet potatoes & baby corn

…peeled and cut into chunks and boiled those for a while first, considering that they would take a while to soften. Then, I put in the baby corn, cut into quarters.

The bean curd sticks, soaked in hot water to soften…and the tofu puffs, cut into quarters, went in next…

Bean curd sticks, tofu puffs and cabbage

…and after that, I added a box of santan, the same brand I used for my pankek that day, and once it had started boiling again…

Boiling

…I added the cabbage…

Cabbage

…and turned off the heat to let it cook in the residual heat and that was it!

A word of caution here – do not add too much of everything unless you want to end up with a huge cauldron that would take ages to finish. Other things that we sometimes add to our sayur masak lemak include paku (wild jungle fun) or cangkuk manis, for a bit of green colour, young buah tupang/pulo and corn on the cob cut into short lengths would add to the sweetness, that’s for sure. Usually, we would use our udang galah (bamboo prawns) – our freshwater prawns and that would give the dish a touch of red and you can add fresh chilies for that same purpose too, if you want. My mum would add tang hoon (glass noodles) as well but that would be best added right before serving or they would soak up all the broth and you would end up getting something quite dry.

So what was my verdict? Well, I would say it was very nice…

Done

…and spicy though a little bit salty (maybe I did not add enough water or there wasn’t enough stock) but generally, I would say that the soup would make a lovely bowl of curry mee, as nice as any that I had had before in KL or in Penang or here, maybe even nicer…but no, it was nothing near what our sayur masak lemak would taste like.

Now, if you are not familiar with the dish and are wondering what it is like actually, you can go for a bowl of Katong 328 nyonya curry laksa – that, I would say is exactly like it! Perhaps if I use half a packet of the paste instead, and dilute it a bit more so the curry taste will not be all that strong…and maybe, add a bit more santan, I may get something a little closer. I will try that with the other brand.

Anyway, the next morning, I still had a lot of the broth left, not much of the ingredients so I used it to cook this curry laksa bihun

Curry laksa bihun 1

…for breakfast and yes, it was absolutely perfect. Very very nice…

Curry laksa bihun 2

…and not salty anymore (I did add a little bit of water to it.). I most certainly enjoyed that bowl of goodness! Yum! Yummmmm!!!!

Not that different…

I was somewhat intrigued when I saw the pankeks served at one place in Sean’s blog and I made up my mind right away that I would like to give it a try.

So when my girl was coming home last Friday, I pounded some pandan (screwpine) leaves, added a quarter cup of water and squeezed out the juice…

Pandan juice

…and I replaced the evaporated milk in the original recipe with a packet of santan (coconut milk)…

Santan

Other than that, I reduced the sugar from 3 tablespoons to 2 as I reckoned the santan would be sweet as well and anyway, I am cutting down on sugar (other than oil, salt and msg) these days and would not go for anything that’s too sweet.

Otherwise, it was the same recipe that we would usually follow where we would beat 125 gm of butter (half a block) with the aforementioned sugar and then add three eggs…

Butter sugar eggs

…and beat them altogether well.

The flour would go in next…

Flour
*This was the 2nd cup*

…one cup at a time with half of the cup of santan/pandan juice mix.

Once the batter was smooth, that would be the time to add the three teaspoons of ENO…

ENO

…and the whipping would continue for just a little bit more to mix everything together well.

After greasing the heated pan with butter, you would need to add the batter, a bit at a time, and spread it out and once you could see the bubbles appearing, that would mean you could flip it over in a bit to cook the other side. Keep the fire at medium, not high so that the pancake would brown nicely and will not get burnt.

Once done, remove from the pan and place on some kitchen towels before moving the pankek onto a plate to serve…

Done

With the amount of ingredients used, I was able to dish out quite a lot – one whole stack…

One stack

…in fact!

Indeed, it was very nice with a hint of the taste and fragrance of the santan and pandan (my missus thought I added kaya, coconut jam) though mine had a very slight tint of green…

Pankek

…not like the ones Sean had.

So there you have it! Pankek, the Malaysian version of the pancake, kek being the word for cake in Malay!

Beg to differ…

I came across belacan bihun at one place in Kuching a long time ago, a circular building in the Padungan area, around Jubilee Ground or something. My friends took me there but I had just had lunch at the time so I did not want to order that to try.

For one thing,  the belacan (dried prawn paste) smell was very strong – once you reach the place, you will be able to smell nothing but that! Some people may not like it like how some tourists from abroad are put off by the smell of durians. However, I must say it was very popular and everyone there was eating that. I did cast a glance at it and it looked like bihun (rice vermicelli) served with toppings of cuttle fish and strip of cucumber and taugeh (bean sprouts) drowned in the belacan broth. You can see a photograph of it in this blog…but that looked like a different place. The one I went to was this one, also featured in the same blog.

Well, I don’t think I will want to cook the same soup version so I beg to differ and cook mine differently. It so happened that the other day, I fried some  leftover rice with belacan added and it turned out very nice and I guessed I could do the same with bihun. These were the ingredients that I used…

Belacan bihun ingredients

– one shallot, peeled and sliced, two cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely, two fresh chilies, seeds removed and thinly sliced, some belacan, minced/chopped, a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and bihun, soaked to soften…plus some spring onions from my garden, chopped finely to use as garnishing.

Firstly, I fried the ikan bilis in a bit of oil till a little brown and then I pushed that aside to fry the shallot and garlic…

Frying

…and then, in went the belacan and the chilies, saving a bit of the latter for garnishing as well. I was caught up with trying to take clear photographs in the midst of the hot steam coming out from the wok so the ingredients got a little burnt…so I gave up trying to multi-task – cook and take snapshots at the same time. As the proverb goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Tsk! Tsk!

I quickly put in the bihun and mixed it well and lastly, I broke an egg into the wok and fried it with everything else in it and then I pushed it all aside and broke another egg, breaking the yolk and spreading everything all over. When it was a little bit cooked, I moved the bihun over right on top of that second egg and once it was done, I dished everything out and served…

STP's fried belacan bihun 1

…garnished with the aforementioned spring onions and sliced chilies.

If you’re wondering what on earth I was doing with the egg, actually, I was trying to replicate what they do with the very popular Ah Tor kway teow here and I would say that it was QUITE successful. For one thing, there was not enough egg to “wrap” all the bihun…

STP's fried belcan bihun 2

…so the egg covered only a section of the bihun.

It would have been just right if it had been one egg to one plate or one serving of bihun

STP's fried belacan bihun 3

…and besides, I think I should beat the egg first before pouring it into the wok so it would be all yellow and there would not be those huge patches of egg white.

Ah well! You learn new things everyday so I know what to do next time.

Go first…

One of my cousins who were in town, the one who came by air, left first on Sunday…so I drove her here and there to buy the things to cart back home – the kompia, the chu nu miang, the lung ngor…and she wanted to try the much-talked-about Ah Tor kway teow here

Ah Tor kway teow 1

No, this is not the so-called Pattaya style where they fry an omelette and wrap whatever they are serving inside – as you can see in the photograph…

Ah Tor kway teow 2

…the egg is stuck to the kway teow, it does not literally wrap it up. This is her brother’s favourite as well as all the other cousins, a must-eat when in town and she had never had it before…and yes, she loved it! According to her, it is virtually impossible to find this simple real old-school version of the fried kway teow in Kuching these days – all of them would have a whole lot of stuff added and of course, those would not be the same…and they would be nice because of the extra ingredients not because of the special way of cooking.

In the meantime, I have tried some of the goodies that they brought from Kuching. These pineapple jam tarts…

Kuching jam tarts

…were absolutely awesome, almost as nice as the ones we used to make at home in my younger days. If anyone is interested in grabbing some, this is the address…

Kuching jam tarts address

…but do not be deceived by what you see from the outside. They line the sides of the jar neatly with the tarts but inside the circle, you will find around two of them only. Don’t expect each layer to be filled completely with them.

I’ve tried one of the homemade sambals too, the one with sotong, and it was really good and so was this sambal hay bee/udang kering (dried prawns) that I had with some lemang

Sambal hay bee

…that I happened to have in the house.

These siew paos (baked buns)…

Hongkong siew pao

…were from what they call the Hongkong pao bakery or something and yes, they were great – like the celebrated Seremban ones but much nicer, the pastry and also the filling except that these were smaller. They were different from the Kai Joo Lane ones that I love a lot so I would not attempt to compare the two.

My girl enjoyed the cheese sticks and finished the whole box by herself…mostly. According to my cousin, she got that when she was in Singapore not too long ago.

Oh yes! We’ve had a bit of the special Bario rice too and since there was some leftover, I fried it, mixed with some of the usual plain white rice, with belacan and added a generous amount of the aforementioned sambal hay bee/udang kering to it…

Fried Bario rice with belacan

…and boy! That was good!

Now, let’s see what else I haven’t tried… Nom…nom…nom!!! LOL!!!

Piece by piece…

I did not cook anything really special when my girl came home on Friday for the weekend but I made these bergedil or potato patties or croquettes for her. She loves bergedil and at times, they are available at my regular Malay kuih stall at Bandong here. They’re not bad, I would say, though they are usually a tad too oily.

There were two potatoes left in the house so that was all I had to work upon. I washed them, cut them into quarters (so it would be easier to cook) and boiled them. In the meantime, I chopped some spring onions from my garden and peeled, sliced and pounded one Bombay onion…

spring onionsBombay onion

…and I also soaked some udang kering (dried prawns) and pounded them to add to the ingredients. After that, I added some breadcrumbs…

Udang keringBread crumbs

In the past, I had pounded my own cheese crackers but there wasn’t any in the house and I saw a half-used pack of breadcrumbs in one of the airtight containers in the pantry so I just decided to use that instead. Of course, it would be nice to add minced meat, beef especially, but I decided to do it differently.

I mixed everything together and then I put in the boiled potatoes, peeled and eyes removed…

Mix wellAdd potatoes

…and mashed them well. I broke an egg and beat it and added a bit to the mixture as a binding agent…and saved the rest for use later.

Once everything was ready…

Ready to roll

…I rolled the mixture into little balls and flattened them into pieces…

Pieces

…ready to be fried.

I heated some oil in a pan and once it was hot enough, I dipped each piece into the aforementioned egg, coated it with breadcrumbs and dropped it into the oil to fry till golden brown…

Potato croquettes 1

There you are! I let the pieces stand on some kitchen towel for a while to absorb any excess oil…before putting them in a plate to serve…

Potato croquettes 2

It certainly was not difficult to make and I sure would want to make some more some other time and try adding some other ingredients like cheese or ham or bacon. I bet with those, they would taste great too!