Why Is Your Kangkung Like That?

 

I have always loved kangkung (water convolvulus). Even as a kid who hated vegetables, kangkung was the only green veggie I would eat without protest. But I digress.

As you can see, my kangkung stems are split into two. I know, it is rather unusual for many. It was my late grandpa who taught me that by splitting the kangkung stems into halves, it will taste nicer. And he was RIGHT!

No, I didn’t forget as I cut and cooked kangkung on that very day, the same way he taught me many years ago. With just garlic and some salt. Yes, nine years on and I still miss him.

In loving memory of my grandpa who left us on 23/09/2006.

The “Accidental” Godma

Tonight, I had the honour to witness the end of a beautiful love story that spanned over 50 years that taught me what true love is. True love is not about earth shattering kisses, little surprises, endless love sonnets or romantic holidays. True love is not giving up on the one you love, especially in sickness and tough times.

Tonight, I had the honour to be reminded of what marriage is all about – “for better, for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part”.

Tonight, I wept for a man whose heart is utterly shattered as death claimed the love of his life. I wept for his children who were like my own siblings and loved their mom so dearly. I wept for his grandchildren as I know the pain of losing a grandparent.

Tonight, I am reminded how fortunate I am to have had the privilege to have known this vivacious, loving, generous and kind lady who is my “accidental” godma. She taught me something that I carry with me to this day. She taught me to remember my self-worth as a woman and not to let any man disrespect me.

Goodbye, Aunty Judy. I will forever remember your kindness towards our family and me. Thank you for your love and care. May you be well and happy wherever you are.

Scrambled, Not Stirred

Am not a huge fan of sweet stuff for brekkie. The Nyonya in me loves Nasik Lemak, Laksa, Roti Canai and stuff like that for brekkie. But but but….I know…..those are not very healthy stuff to be eaten every day. So… in an effort to eat healthier stuff, I made this scrambled tofu for brekkie today, inspired by this link my sister sent me the other day. Easy peasy and pretty nice way to start the day with something mildly spicy and flavourful.

Scrambled Tofu

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces firm tofu
  • 1/4 yellow onion
  • 2 pips garlic
  • 1/2 red chilli (or more if you like it spicier)
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric powder
  • 5 cherry tomatoes (quartered)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Squish the tofu into a mush i.e. break the tofu into tiny bits.
  2. Heat up oil and saute chopped up garlic, onions and chilli.
  3. Once fragrant, add in tumeric powder.
  4. Add tofu and cherry tomatoes. Stir fry till tomatoes are soft.

Verdict?

Yummy enough for an encore. Would taste yummy with rice or bread or Puri. I recommend a side salad, as well as the fresh greens, will complement the savoury tofu nicely.

Sambal Serai v 1.0

The result of my experiment – Sambal Serai v 1.0

A thoughtful friend, Jace, gave me some lovely fresh green cili padi some days back and I had dumped some into my Korean ramen. These little fiery babies were extra fragrant, unlike their common cousins. Since I had about a handful more, my mind started concocting some kind of green sambal. After clearing our overgrown “serai” (lemongrass), I decided to hit the kitchen to experiment a bit. The results? Son No. 1 liked it although it was a tad too spicy for him. For me, pedas is GOOD! (Pedas = spicy)

Here’s my simple recipe of Sambal Serai

Ingredients

20 cili padi (Bird’s Eye Chilli)

15 shallots (or 1 large red onion)

10 cloves garlic (or 1 head of garlic)

8 stalks lemongrass

1 1/2 tsp vegetarian belacan

Oil 

Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Blend everything into a paste.
  2. Heat up the oil and pour the paste into the hot oil.
  3. Using medium heat, fry it till it is slightly crispy. Keep stirring to avoid burning the sambal.

If the sambal is too spicy, add in some sugar to tame the flames.

For mine, I went for the saltier version of this sambal. Good with hot steamed rice and a simple stir fry vege like kangkung (water convolvulus). Apologies for the lack of beauty shots of the sambal as I did not realise that it turned out way better than expected. I just love the aromatic blend of the lemongrass with the shallots. Serai + shallots = 1 happy nose!

Tiny fiery babies that can make even the macho-est man cry

Happy-ness is a choice!

The thing is about happy-ness, it is not a default option but the good news is, you can choose it. Most people think that they need external factors such as money, relationships, nice stuff, even more money, to be happy. But the thing is, happiness derived from these are fleeting. What happens when the money runs out? What happens when your BF/GF or husband/wife leaves you? Your world ends, your happiness is gone.

It took me many, many moons and brick walls before I realised that happiness from within is the type that lasts and we need to choose happiness in order to set the wheels in motion in pursuit of our own happiness. And I discovered myself that the best type of happiness is the happiness that we give to others. Learnt this simple but profound truth after reading this book “Why I Make Myself Unhappy”, written by Tsem Rinpoche.

So, what are you waiting for? Choose happy-ness. Give happy-ness.

Nyonya Kueh – Tea Time (Or Any Other Time) Favourites

Nyonyas are famous for their kuehs. These are sought after as desserts for any meals, tea time, snack time, weddings and even funerals or wakes. When served at wakes and funerals, the bright colours such as red and yellow will be replaced with a more sombre blue colour, usually derived naturally from “bunga telang” or Butterfly Pea Flower.

As memory might fail me one day down the road, am gonna compile a list of well-loved Nyonya kueh.

*Kueh Genggang*

Blue variety made with “Bunga Telang”.

A good kueh genggang has layers that you can peel one by one. It’s creamy flavour comes from the “santan” or coconut milk, flavoured with “pandan” (screwpine leaves). Some people call this “Kuih Lapis” but not to be confused with the Indonesian Kuih Lapis. Both are layer cakes but the Nyonya variety is steamed layer by layer, while the Indonesian version is baked.

*Ondeh-ondeh*

Lovely, explode-in-your-mouth Ondeh-Ondeh. Photo credits: Debbie Teoh

One of the few that I like as it practically explodes in your mouth with “Gula Melaka” (palm sugar), leaving you in Gula Melaka ecstacy. The white bits covering the pandan green balls are grated coconut flesh. Totally love this with lotsa grated coconut. This is also known as “Buah Melaka.” 

Good Ondeh-ondeh is soft and slightly chewy and the Gula Melaka must be liquefied and has almost like a caramel like taste.

*Kueh Kochi*

Left: Kueh Kochi Putih | Top right: Kueh Kochi Pulut Hitam | Bottom right: Kueh Kochi Pandan Photo credits: candyworldofkitchen.blogspot.com and kwgls.wordpress.com
Beautifully wrapped Kueh Kochi. Photo credits: Debbie Teoh

There are 3 types of Kueh Kochi – the white, the green and the black. The white and green (pandan flavoured) variety are the 2 commonly seen ones while the black skinned one is Kueh Kochi Pulut Hitam (My fav! Yums!!) is less common as the skinned is made from black glutinous rice. The skin should be soft and slightly chewy with the consistency almost like melted mozzarella. The filling is desiccated coconut cooked with “Gula Melaka” and should be moist and. It’s wrapped in banana leaf, giving it an extra lovely aroma. 

*Pulut Seri Kaya*

Beautiful yellow Seri Kaya on the top and “pulut tekan” Loosely translated “compressed glutinious rice”) with “Bunga Telang”. Photo credits: http://janechew.blogspot.my/
Love the blue hues of the “Bunga Telang”. Photo credits: Debbie Teoh

This is has a layer of “kaya” (egg and coconut jam) on the top and “pulut” (steamed glutinous rice) at the bottom. A nice combination of textures and flavours – smooth, creamy “kaya” with soft, chewy slightly saltish “pulut”. Some people may call this “Seri Muka.” I love those traditional Pulut Seri Kaya with pretty blue “Bunga Telang” decorating the pulut.

So pretty! My grandma would approve and say, “Senonoh skali!” which means that it is made beautifully. Nyonyas are known to be particular about how a dish or kueh should look like. Photo credits: Debbie Teoh

*Lepat Kacang*

Love this since I was a kid. Must be my grandma’s influence! 🙂
The combo of desiccated coconut, pulut and black-eyed peas is out of this world! Photo credits: letztravel.blogspot.com

This almost forgotten kueh is made from pulut, grated coconut and black-eyed peas, wrapped in “daun nipah.” The aroma from the leave lends this traditional kueh its flavour. It mainly sweet, coconut-y from the grated coconuts, with a slight hint of saltiness. I love how the slightly mushy peas complements the grated coconut’s creaminess and the slight saltiness of the steamed glutinous rice. One of my favs but pity it’s not easily available in my area. But then again, could be a blessing in disguise that I can’t get it here or I will be eating this all the time. 😀

*Pulut Inti*

This looks like little Nasi Lemak packets. But when you open it, it has grated coconut cooked in “Gula Melaka” on top of blue and white steamed pulut. The fragrance from this kueh comes not only from the coconut and “Gula Melaka” but also from the banana leaf it is wrapped in. Somehow everything with banana leaf tastes and smells good! A good inti is one that is not overpoweringly sweet but has a nice coating of Gula Melaka making the inti somewhat moist, fragrant and sweet.

Can Pulut Inti get any prettier than this? Photo credits: Debbie Teoh
Beautifully done with “Bunga Telang” and a generous amount of “inti” which means “filling”. Droolworthy! Photo credits: Debbie Teoh

*Kueh Talam*

This is one of my top favs as it has both sweet and salty layers. The top layer is the white salty layer while the bottom layer is a fragrant sweet kaya layer. My perfect Kueh Talam should have an equal portion of salty, “lemak”white top layer and a beautiful pandan-scented sweet green bottom layer. It should be soft but not mushy.

Salty + Sweet = Divine!! Photo credits: Debbie Teoh

*Apom Bokwa*

This kueh gets my vote for the kueh with the funniest name. Bokwa is actually the equivalent of the Malay word “berkuah” (loosely translated as “with gravy”)”Apom” or also called “

“Apom” or also called “apam”, is similar to the Indian version of “apam”. Like its Indian cousin, the Nyonya’s “apom” has its signature blue streaks of “Bunga Telang”. The “apom” is made from fermented rice batter, traditionally made with coconut water left to ferment mixed with rice flour, to create that fluffy “apom” texture. A good “apom” will not have a smooth surface but one with many little holes and the cross section of the kueh should look like a honeycomb.

This unique disc-like kueh that is best eaten with its “kuah” (gravy-like dip) that’s made of “Gula Melaka”, bananas, “santan” (coconut milk) and “aromatised” with fresh pandan leaves. I know many Nyonyas prefer to use “Pisang Emas” or “Pisang Raja” to make the kuah as these 2 types of bananas are known to be very sweet and “wangi” (fragrant).

See the pretty blue patterns on the top? The bottom part should have beautiful golden brown patterns. Photo credits: Debbie Teoh
The accompanying dip can make or break this kueh. It must have a natural banana flavour and aroma that complements the pandan and Gula Melaka. Photo credits: Debbie Teoh

I think I’ll stop here for now or my keyboard will be flooded with drool. More on Nyonya kuehs in my next post. Till then, happy eating! 

Where to get these favourites?

*Baba Charlie*
72, Jalan Tengkera Pantai 2C
75200 Melaka
Business hours: 10:30pm – 3pm (closed on Thursdays)
Tel: 019-666 2907 / 06-284 7209

*Debbie Teoh* 
https://www.facebook.com/debbie.teoh
[Debbie takes orders and it is best that you contact her about 1 week ahead.]

Sambal Queen Turun Padang

Am not really huge on Sports Days. But this year, I must say I was pretty impressed with Son #1’s school Sports Day. Why was I impressed?

When I arrived, there was a teacher on hand to usher me to my seat and gave me the Sports Day programme together with my Lucky Draw number. Yes! There was a Lucky Draw with pretty good prizes too. Once I was seated, another teacher handed me a bottled mineral water. (Brownie points!)

See my hot pink lucky number? Too bad the hot pink wasn’t “ONG” enough for me to win.

The march pass was well executed. The kids did a pretty good job, not haphazard like “kambing” (goat in Malay) marching everywhere. The interesting part of the march pass was how creative each of the houses represented themselves. One house had a whole bunch of them dressed up with a turtle shell ala Ninja Turtles. Another house carried Captain America shields and one even had Spiderman being carried on a make shift sedan chair. How cool is that?! Then, they even had a “lafaz ikrar” (Sportsman’s declaration) with all the flag bearer circling the podium ala Olympics. Nice touch to remind the sports(wo)men on the true spirit of sportsmanship.

Check out the Captain America shields!
The Ninja Turtles inspired shells. Cute!
Spidey in a sedan chair. I wonder what happened to his web swinging abilities.
Son #1 is somewhere in the midst of the ‘Pengawas” (Prefects) group.

There was even a lion dance that consisted of current students of the school who are trained by a former student. They may not be world class standard but they won many hearts today when they distributed sweets to all. My first time receiving sweets from a lion. Haha!

This was actually the grand finale with some auspicious wishes written on the scroll.
This is the first time I see lions giving away sweets.
I got some too! Thank you, Hot Pink Lion!

When the refreshments were served, I initially thought that it was meant for the VIPs but turns out that it was meant for all the guests. There was Nasi Lemak, curry puffs, donuts and fried bananas. The Nasi Lemak coconut rice was aromatic and tasty. The sambal was more like a gravy style and it was spicy and good! I sat by the field and watched the relay. Was a rather pleasant picnic-like atmosphere. 🙂 The hot sweet tea was a nice pairing with the spicy, savoury Nasi Lemak.

Table for VIPs.
Droolsome worthy Nasi Lemak.

I didn’t stay till the end as I had to rush off to the office. But I sure enjoyed this Sports Day. It was well organised, the teachers were hospitable and the students’ creative march pass is nothing I’ve seen before. Oh, the Nasi Lemak and lion dance made this a Sports Day I won’t forget for a long time. Kudos to the teachers and students of SMJK Katolik, Bentong!

*”turun padang” is an expression loosely translated as going down to the sports field

A Bowl Of Friendship & Lifetime Of Memories

Have you ever ate something and you suddenly feel as though you were transported to another place and time? This happened to me when I had this. (Please don’t drool on your keyboard!)

At the first taste, I was instantaneously transported back to my Primary School tuckshop (canteen as it was called back in the 70’s). The gravy tasted so much like the Curry Mee we loved in those days. Our canteen Curry Mee didn’t have all the beancurd sheets, taupok (beancurd puff) and long beans but just some noodles, maybe 2 fishballs and fishcake. But it was the curry gravy that got all of us hooked to it. Those of us who like it spicier would add in spoonfuls of watery chilli sauce that was available for us to ladle onto our noodles.

Our little spot of happiness during Primary School was in the form of 30sen Curry Mee and 10sen Nasi Lemak. Life was so much simpler than. We were just contented with these humble food and playing with our little friends during recess. And it is these little friends who have taught me the value and meaning of friendship.

Am glad that this bowl of Curry Mee made me think of them and our friendship that has endured many years, across many seas and countless dramas. 🙂

Cheers to friends of the past, present and future!

P/S: To my primary schoolmates, I wish you guys can try this. Seriously tastes like Canteen Auntie’s Curry Mee.