Differently…

The other morning, I peeped into the fridge and saw that my missus had bought some mee pok (flat noodles) and I decided to do it a little bit differently from the usual – which would be to toss it kampua mee style and sometimes, with Bovril added.

I boiled the mee pok and rinsed it in cold water to remove all the excess starch. Then, I melted a tablespoon of garlic butter in a pan and threw in the Bombay onion, sliced…

STP's fusion pasta 1

After frying that a bit to loosen it up, I added the Spam that I had cut into little cubes. I also put in some Thai basil/mint leaves from my garden. Having done that, I turned off the heat and added the mee pok….

STP's fusion pasta 2

I added a teaspoon of garlic salt and a couple of dashes of Lea & Perrins worcestershire sauce and tossed everything together thoroughly. I tried a bit but unfortunately, I thought it was just all right – not really that great…so I added a pinch of msg. Aha!!! Now, that certainly made it taste a whole lot better!

Satisfied with the end result, I dished everything out and served…

STP's fusion pasta 3

It was good but it probably would be nicer with some cheese – my missus doesn’t like stuff that’s rich and creamy though… or perhaps I can add some tomatoes or green peppers and sprinkle it with pepper…or maybe Parmesan cheese, just before serving. I think I would try that next time. Any suggestions as to what else I could do, anybody?

Help!…

Last Sunday, I cooked some fried mihun for breakfast and there was enough left over for dinner. We had lunch outside after the church service that morning, you see, and other than the mihun, I also cooked this soup to go with it. Then, I thought I might as well fry some vegetables for the roughage but horror of horrors!!! When I opened the fridge, I found that there wasn’t any in it…and I had no intention of driving to the nearby supermarket to buy some.

In the end, I decided to make a salad. There was a bit of tuna left…

Tuna, prawns & shallot

– we had that for sandwiches for breakfast one morning but I cannot remember exactly when now…and I threw in some prawns that I had boiled plus a bit of sliced shallots.

Next, I boiled a potato and cut that into cubes and in it went as well, together with some bacon that I had grilled till crispy in a  non-stick pan…

Boiled potatoes & grilled bacon

I mixed all that together…

Mixed

…and yes, I did add it some sliced chili as well – more for the colour than anything else as it was absolutely hopeless, not spicy at all and quite tasteless.

Hmmm…I thought it could do with a little bit of green so I added a bit of the Thai basil/mint from  my garden…

Thai basil/mint

…and after that, I added what was left of the thousand island dressing that I had bought a while ago…

Thousand island + condensed milk

There wasn’t really enough so I added a little bit of the condensed milk that my friend brought for me all the way from the US. I guessed that would help counter or balance the sour taste of the salad dressing.

I tossed everything and voila! My salad was ready…

STP's all-in salad

Was it good? Well, I certainly would think so…though I must say it did look quite a mess. Perhaps, if I had served it in a plate with cucumber and tomato slices round the side and some parsley on top, it would appear more presentable. I certainly would do that if I were to serve that at a dinner party at my house, I guess…

Gotcha…

I used to buy this a lot some years ago but for some unknown reason, they simply vanished from the shelves. Imagine my delight when I saw some at a supermarket round the corner from my house the other day and without any second thought, I quickly snapped up a few packets just in case they decide to do the disappearing act once again.

This is the Maggi crab and tanghoon (glass noodles) soup…

Maggi crab & tanghoon soup

I cannot remember how much they cost before but these current ones are priced at  RM3.50 each.

At one time, I used to buy it for my late aunt in the kampung (village) when she was still alive and whenever she cooked it, she would add minced pork, crab meat and what not to make it taste a whole lot nicer but actually, there is absolutely no necessity whatsoever to do so. It tastes nice as it is – no need for anything extra.

For one thing, I like it because it is so very easy to cook. You just empty the contents into 720 ml. of water in a pot…

Step 1

…and whisk it to make sure it dissolves completely.

Step 2

Then you add a tablespoon of soy sauce to it – this wlll give it a nicer darker colour and will also enhance the taste…before putting it over the fire and bringing it to boil…

Step 3

I would advise you to keep the pot uncovered and keep whisking as being a little bit thick, there is the possibility that some of it would stick to the bottom of the pot especially if you are using stainless steel ones and there is always the danger of it boiling over if left unattended.

When it has started boiling, pour an egg, beaten, slowly into it while whisking away…

Step 4

…so that the egg will disintegrate into tiny little bits. My apologies for the somewhat blurry photograph – I guess that is what may happen when one tries to multitask – whisk, pour the egg and take a photograph all at the same time.

Let it simmer for a while and that’s it!!! The soup is ready…

Maggi crab and tanghoon soup - served

You may add black vinegar before eating if you prefer it that way but do not add it while boiling. I seem to notice that if you add black vinegar to some thick starchy soup, it will dilute the soup and render it completely watery and no longer the way it should be.

And if you think that it looks like sharks’ fins soup, I really can’t blame you for it most certainly does! So if you cook this and throw in some sharks’ fins, it will taste exactly like what they serve at dinners in the Chinese restaurants or if you’re one of those animal rights activists, perhaps you would like to add sea cucumber, fish maw or fish lips instead…if you prefer something more impressive than a soup with bits of imitation crab sticks and glass noodles that are hardly visible to the naked eye.

Has anybody tried this before? It is nice, isn’t it?

As good as it gets…

After the not-very-satisfactory one that I had here, I had been wanting to cook my own Singapore mee siam from scratch but somehow or other, I never got round to doing it. The main reason, of course, was the fact that I was too lazy and furthermore, I took the trouble to browse through some of the video clips on Youtube to watch some people cooking it and I was horrified by the amount of ingredients that one would have to prepare and some did not seem like the real thing even, for instance, they did not use tau cheo (fermented bean paste) and things like that.

Well, the other day, I finally did! I cooked my own Singapore nyonya-style mee siam

Singapore mee siam 1

You see, when Melissa was home for the holidays sometime back, we spent a lot of time together and among the things that we did, we went window-shopping and roamed around the shopping complexes and supermarkets and imagine my delight when I saw this at one near my house

Mee siam mix 1

– the ready-to-cook sauce for mee siam, “an authentic Singaporean dish that will tempt you with its fragrant aroma” – that was what it said on the box.

I noted that it was made in Singapore…

Made in Singapore

…so I decided to buy it and give it a try but unfortunately, it did not come cheap – one box cost over RM13.00 and there was supposed to be enough for 2-3 servings. That means that one serving would be around RM4-6.00…but never mind!  I simply had to have it, period.

There were four sachets inside – the paste for the gravy and the one for frying the mihun (rice vermicelli) plus the sambal (chili paste) and the last one, the lime juice…

Mee siam mix 2

I boiled the prawns, shell removed…and used the stock for cooking the gravy. That was easy enough – all I had to do was to empty the contents of the sachet and bring it to boil…

Mee siam gravy

The peeling of the prawns and the de-veining was the tedious part and took quite a while. Besides, I also had to lightly fry the tau kua (bean curd/tofu cake) and the omelette and then slice them into small thin pieces/strips plus some spring onions for the garnishing. They usually have chives in mee siam but I am not a fan so I decided to omit that. I also decided not to have any hardboiled eggs either as there was the omelette already and I reckoned that would suffice.

When I had got everything ready, I started to fry the mihun. All I had to do was to heat up the wok and empty into it the second sachet – the one with the paste for frying…and then, I added the mihun, pre-soaked to soften, and mixed everything together thoroughly. Once done, I scooped it all out into a casserole dish and garnished it with everything that I had got ready earlier…

Mee siam mihun & garnishings

Lastly, I emptied the sambal into a bowl and added the lime juice to it…

Mee siam sambal & line juice

This would be the chili dip to accompany the main dish and I must say that it  was quite spicy and very very nice.

Finally, the moment of truth! I helped myself to some of the mihun and the condiments and poured a bit of the gravy over everything…

Singapore mee siam 2

Ooooo…it was good!!! Exactly like how I remembered the Singapore mee siam to be – the one that I had way back in 1973.

In case anyone is thinking that there wasn’t much gravy in the serving that I had, the truth is that I was scrimping on it – trying to stretch it a bit so that I could have extra servings and instead of 450 ml of water for the gravy according to the instructions on the box, I added a bit more – 500 ml…and in the end, there was enough for 5 servings instead of just 2-3.

For one thing, I thought that was a lot of work…and I just cannot imagine me preparing the ingredients and everything right from the start and cooking it all by myself, no way! Now that there is this available at the supermarket here and the end result is as good as it gets, should I be craving for mee siam again, I will just hop over to the place a stone’s throw away from my house and grab another box… Easy! Hehehehehehe!!!

Wild ones…

I managed to get hold of some of the meat the other day and of course, I used the bones and a bit of it to cook the soup

Wild boar soup

It is getting harder and harder to get hold of some decently-good ones these days. I blogged about it in 2008 and my next and last post was in 2010. It certainly looks like I can only get to eat it once in every two years. Of course, once in a while, one may get to see some around but they may not look very fresh…and I would get put off by the swarm of flies on the meat laid out on some newspapers on the ground by the roadside.

This one that I got the other day was not really good as it was most probably too young and as it is not the fruit season right now, it was not fat at all. The best ones would be those that are very old – you can tell by its thick and long black hair…and the fatter it is, the better. Those would be extra fragrant and very very tasty.

I also stewed some that day…

Stewed wild boar

To cook this, you just throw the chunks of meat into the pot and cook over a small fire till all the juices and the fat come out of it and the whole kitchen is filled with the aroma…and then, you add a bit of water and pour in soy sauce, add peppercorns, sugar and a bulb of garlic and simmer until it dries up.

To serve, you will have to cut the meat into thin slices…

Stewed wild boar - sliced

…and serve with the thick soy sauce gravy that is left in the pot.

Melissa thought it was a bit dry – probably because it was all lean and no fat and she preferred the soup which I thought was all right but somewhat mild and not wangi (fragrant) enough. I gave some to my friend and his family – the youngest, just one year plus, loved the soup and even had some of the meat while the other two liked the stewed one more. Ah well!!! Like I always say, one man’s meat is another man’s poison – to each his own!

It so happened that on that same day, my neighbour gave me some of her quinee (the local mango variety)…and since I needed a vegetable/fibre dish to go with all that meat, I decided to make some sambal quinee

Sambal quinee

Just peel the fruit and slice and cut into thin strips. I had half a Bombay onion sitting in the fridge so I sliced that and threw it in…and then I added some left over sambal belacan (dried prawn paste and chilies, pounded) and my missus had some pounded sambal hay bee (dried prawns pounded with chilies and a bit of dried prawn paste) so I added a bit of that and tossed everything together. It was nice but sweet – I think it would be better to use the unripe fruit to make this but still, we enjoyed it and finished the whole lot in one sitting. I thought of frying some ikan bilis (dried anchovies) to add to it and sprinkling some crushed peanut like what they do with Thai-style salad…but unfortunately, my laziness got the better of me. Hehehehehehe!!!

So, what have you been eating  lately?

The old-fashioned way…

I love the way my mum or for that matter, my grandma and aunties, cooked fish or prawns in their own kampung-style sort of way. Some may feel that it is actually assam (tamarind) fish or prawns but I would say that it is not exactly the same in that the end product would have nice clear sourish yellow-coloured soup like this…

STP's udang masak kunyit

This way of cooking is best with udang galah (freshwater prawns) or what the Chinese would call tua-thow hay (big-headed prawns)…

Sibu's freshwater prawns

…which cost a bomb these days, going up to over RM30-40 a kilo. Suitable alternatives would be fish like ikan buris or sai seng, tengirri or bay ka (mackerel) and others, even kembong.

It is very simple to cook really and all you need would be these ingredients…

STP's masak kunyit 1

– a bit of kunyit (tumeric), chili, one or two stalks of serai (lemon grass), some belacan (dried prawn paste) and a piece of assam keping (dried tamarind slice).

Bruise the ends of the serai and pound the kunyit and chili until they’re really really fine…

STP's masak kunyit 2

…or your soup will not be nice and clear.

Dilute the pounded ingredients in water and put the rest of the stuff in…

STP's masak kunyit 3

Hmmmm…it was a bit too red – maybe I added too much chili and there were little bits floating in the water – perhaps I should have pounded everything a bit more. Anyway, I would think that it looked a lot nicer than this assam fish that we had in KL…

Assam fish in KL

Bring that to boil and and simmer until the fragrance from the ingredients comes out and fills the whole house. Put in the prawns or the fish and simmer a while longer for the sweetness of the crustaceans to come out. Add salt and/or msg according to taste.

STP's udang masak kunyit

My attempt at cooking it in that old-fashioned way turned out quite well and I would think it was nicer than what we had before at a restaurant in town…

Claypot assam prawn

There is still room for improvement though – I would prefer it to be a little bit more sour so the next time around, I would add another piece or two of the assam slices and I also feel that a little bit more belacan would be nicer. Other than those, that huge chili that I used was absolutely hopeless – not pedas (spicy hot) at all. If I had known, I would have added a couple of cili padi for that sadly-missing extra kick that my missus and I would have loved.

Whatever it is, I certainly will try it again and again till I get it perfectly right – the way my mum used to cook it.

We do it like this…

I have had a number of posts already featuring our local kampung (village)-style of cooking this soupy dish that we called sayur rebus. Literally, it simply means boiled vegetables and these are the basic ingredients – some belacan (dried prawn paste), a handful of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and chillies.

Sayur rebus - ingredients

You dump all those in some water and bring it to boil and then you let it simmer for as long as you can to let the flavour of the belacan and the ikan bilis seep into the water so that you will have the most delicious stock for your soup.

The list of combinations that you can put in is endless – you may want to throw in some paku (jungle fern) and young/baby corn…or some cangkuk manis and sweet potatoes or pumpkin or perhaps, you would like some d’rian mentak or unripe durian…

D'rian mentak

I had some not too long ago that an uncle of mine in Kuching sent to me to cook for my mum as she was asking for it and there was none available around here. I followed my uncle’s way of cooking it which I thought was very nice but my mum did not really like it that way. She prefers it simple – the way we would usually cook sayur rebus.

Then the other day, I got some more from a cousin of mine. Her hubby has a kebun (garden, a fruit garden to be more precise) in his kampung and his durian trees are bearing fruits but since there isn’t anybody standing guard, by the time the fruits ripen, the people in the vicinity would “help themselves” and they themselves would not get to enjoy any. So he decided to pluck some and cook since most of us love to eat it this way.

To cook the d’rian mentak, you will have to split it open to remove the seeds…

D'rain mentak - seed removed

…before throwing the flesh into the sayur rebus stock that you have prepared. Once cook, the durian would have turned soft…

Rebus d'rian mentak 1

…and because the belacan and ikan bilis are already salty and there is the sweetness of the durian, there is no need to add salt or msg unless you so desire…

Rebus d'rian mentak 2

If you love belacan and you enjoy this kind of simple but exotic ethnic style of cooking, you will love it…a lot, this much I can assure you.

Half…

There was too much pumpkin for my missus and I to finish in one sitting the other day so I only cooked half of it then.

The next day, I took the other half and again, I cut the pumpkin into bite-size chunks…

Cut pumpkin

I also had some cangkuk manis that my missus planted in a giant pot outside the house and I tore that into shreds/bits and pieces…

Cangkuk manis

That way, it would bring out the sweetness of the vegetable and besides, it would make it much easier to chew and to digest.

I could have cooked soup, the kampong sayur rebus style whereby I would need to boil some ikan bilis (dried anchovies), belacan (dried prawn paste) and chilies in some water and then throw in the cangkuk manis and the pumpkin and that would be it! However, I did not feel like having that so I decided to cook my own dry version instead.

I got the ingredients ready…

Fried pumpkin/cangkuk manis - ingredients

…and heating up a bit of oil in the wok, I fried everything (except the belacan and the chili) until golden brown before adding the belacan – making sure that it disintegrated/dissolved in the hot oil and after blending it well with the other ingredients, I put in the chili…followed by the pumpkin. I poured in a bit of water to simmer the pumpkin so as  to soften and cook it…and finally, the cangkuk manis went in as well. After mixing it thoroughly with everything else, I added a pinch of msg and finally, the dish was ready…

Fried pumpkin with cangkuk manis 1

Was it nice?

Fried pumpkin with cangkuk manis 2

I would think so. The fragrant belacan-rich gravy was very nice and went absolutely well with rice…

Fried pumpkin with cangkuk manis 3

I certainly wouldn’t mind cooking it like this again for a change time and again.

One hundred ways…

Well, maybe not one hundred but we can cook pumpkin in so many ways. The Chinese will use it to make kim kua koi (steamed pumpkin cake), the same way they make or koi (steamed yam cake) and the Malays have their bingka labu and in western cuisine, there are the pumpkin soup or baked pumpkin served at the side.

Well, the other day, I bought a pumpkin from my regular stall at Bandong here…

Pumpkin

…for only RM2.50. My missus said that it was cheaper than at the market or the elsewhere in town.

The people from the kampong (village) do grow some vegetables and stuff in their garden and they may bring them to this stall for sale – thus, you can be assured that they are really very fresh. As a matter of fact, I bought their sweet corn not too long ago and because they were freshly-harvested, the corn was extra sweet and extra nice.

Anyway, going back to the pumpkin, the lady at the stall asked me how I would usually cook it and I told her, “Goreng dengan sambal udang kering (fried with dried prawn sambal).” She was so surprised to hear that and I explained to her that we would fry it the same way we would fry midin or paku (wild jungle fern) or kangkong (water spinach). Come to think of it, at the Malay food stall in the same vicinity around noon, they would either cook it with a bit of cangkuk manis, masak lemak style with santan (coconut milk) or sayur rebus style with ikan bilis (dried anchovies), belacan (dried prawn paste) and chilies.

Well, to fry it with sambal udang kering, you will need to cut the pumpkin into bite-size chunks like this…

Pumpkin - cut

…and you will need these ingredients to make the sambal

Ingredients for sambal

Soak the dried prawns to soften them and in the meantime, peel the shallots and garlic and cut them into thin slices. Do the same with the chillies…and pound all of them together with the cube of belacan. Put that to one side and after that, pound the dried prawns.

Heat a bit of oil in the wok and throw in all the pounded ingredients except the dried prawns. Stir until fragrant and nicely-browned before adding the pounded dried prawns. Mix thoroughly and keep on stirring till the sambal is ready – golden brown and the nice aroma would fill the whole house…

Sambal udang kering

Of course, you’re not supposed to take the sambal out of the wok – I just did that so that I could take a photograph of it to include in this post. LOL!!! Normally, we would throw in the pumpkin at this stage and add a bit of water to let it simmer and cook…and add a bit of salt and msg if so desired according to taste but that day, I did it a bit differently so that the pumpkin would not end up overcooked and mushy and the sambal wet and soggy.

I boiled the pumpkin first until it was cooked and then I drained it and added cold water to it to stop the cooking process. To check whether the pumpkin is cooked or not, just poke it with a toothpick – if it slides in and slides out easily (Hey! I’m talking about the toothpick here lah! Tsk! Tsk! Muahahahahaha!!!), it means that the pumpkin is cooked.

Once the sambal was ready, I threw in the cooked pumpkin and mixed everything thoroughly before dishing it out and serving it…

Labu masak sambal

Was it good?

Well, I would say it was…and the sambal went really well with the rice. Yummmm!!!!

Everything…

The Indonesian maid who used to work for my parents was amazed at how we used to eat everything – including durians that have not ripened yet…

Durian mantak

She said that they would buy the fruit in bulk and those that were not ripe, they would just throw away. She said that she did not know they could be eaten…and she certainly would do the same once she got back home.

To cook durian mantak as we would call it here, meaning unripe durian, the traditional kampung (village) way, you would need these ingredients…

Sayur rebus- durian mantak ingredients

– a bit of belacan (dried fermented prawn paste), a handful of ikan bilis or what we call ikan pusu here (dried anchovies) and a chili or two – depending on how hot you would want it to be. A stalk or two of serai (lemon grass) would also serve to enhance the taste…but this is optional.

Paku or wild jungle fern is also optional…

Paku

…and if you add ikan buris, it would certainly add a whole lot of sweetness to the soup…

Ikan buris

Ikan buris is a freshwater river fish that used to be found in the river here in abundance –  a dime a dozen. I did not like it when I was young as it is very lemak (fat or oily), the same reason why I would not eat buntut ayam (Parson’s nose). But lately, I have grown to love it a lot – after all, they say fish oil is healthy and good for us. Unfortunately, it is no longer so easily available at the market and prices may go up to over RM30 a kg.

To cook the dish, you boil the belacan, ikan bilis and chili in water…and let it simmer for a while to bring out the flavours…and then you add the durian (seeds removed) and the paku…and lastly, add the fish. The fish should not be added too early for fear that it will be overcooked and will disintegrate. Add a pinch of salt, if so desired…and the dish is ready…

Sayur rebus - durian mantak

Ooooo…that looks absolutely great. Want some?