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Girls' Best Friend

Bright and sparkly. Gemstones came to my mind when I was removing this Dragon Fruit and Orange jelly from the mould. Like a combination of gemstones...rubies, amber and diamonds, all in one!

Dragon's Eyes

The literal translation for the name of a small brown, juicy exotic fruit from the lands of Asia, known as Longan in Chinese, packed into these muffins


A taste from the humble beginnings, the Long Bean Rice brings back beautiful memories of the yesteryears

Light and Fluffy

Lemon, Yogurt and Cranberries~a nice blend of flavours in a light and fluffy chiffon cake

Bread Stories

Asian style buns ~ Popular as breakfast food or snack, sweet/savoury fillings wrapped in soft, cottony bread

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Old Time Cookies - Kuih Siput

This is for old times sake, not exactly a cookie, more of a snack that my family used to make for Chinese New Year.  And yes, it's been so long since we had this :(  Wonder how many of my Chinese friends out there had this for CNY?  Do you make them still?

If I am not wrong, this snack has a Malay origin, i only know it by its Malay name which is Kuih Siput translated it means Snail/Shell Cakes (i like to think of it as shell which it resembles).  It's crunchy, savoury and spicy which makes it something very nice to munch on especially with a nice can of cold beer, very addictive i warn you!  

My memories recall my Mum mixing the dough and frying it while Pa (plus my sister and I as the little helpers) did the shaping with a grooved board similar to making gnocchi.  My Pa was very skilled at it, he even made his own board for this!  Unfortunately Pa can't recalled where he kept them when i asked him the other day.

I look at a few recipes but was quite lost in terms of the best water/fat ratio.  I had a pretty good idea of the spices that were in it though, so i played around twice and i am going to put the second attempt down for my future reference.  The shaping takes quite a bit of effort, i am still wondering how was it possible that we made them by the tins back then, given that there were 4 of us but still, it's quite a job...

  • 150g all purpose flour
  • 30g butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds, pounded
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds, pounded
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dried shrimps, washed, soaked for 10 minutes then pounded
  • 50ml water
  • 1/2 egg (lightly beaten)
  1. Sift flour then mix with salt, chilli powder, fennel, cumin and dried shrimps.
  2. Rub in butter.
  3. Mix in egg and stir well.
  4. Add in water gradually and mix until a soft and smooth dough is formed.
  5. Take a pinch of the dough, press it on a grooved board to get the imprints then using the thumb push it away from you, the piece of dough will roll up forming the shape of a seashell.
  6. Heat up oil in a wok or frying pan.
  7. Fry the shells over medium heat until golden brown.
  8. Ensure shells have cooled before storing in an air tight container.
  1. These are meant to be tiny morsels, making them big will result in shells that are so crunchy.
  2. Fry over medium heat, high heat will caused them to brown too easily. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

A little Bit of Amos Pecan Cookies

So, i am still on my Chinese New Year cookie baking marathon although it will be here in 5 days! Actually i only have 3 more days, minus 1 from travelling time back to hub's hometown and another to help mil prepare the reunion dinner on the eve. But in hindsight i have done quite a fair bit, 5 type of cookies already with enough for some sharing.  What is left is to repeat the cycle so that i can have more to share with loved ones and friends :)

This one was made with the purpose of using the pecans that i have in stock.  Might as well make good use of them and turned them into something Amos like which is well loved by many.  A simple crispy and crunchy cookie with pecans and Andes mint chocolate chips in it, need i say more??  

Source: My Sugar and Spice And All Things Nice

  • 150g butter
  • 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup choc chips (i used Andes mint choc chips)
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted pecan nut halfs (you can replace it with white chocolate chip or any other nuts)
  1. Heat up oven to 180C degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add yolk and vanilla essence and beat further.
  4. Mix flour, chips and nuts into batter with wooden spoon.
  5. Spoon batter onto baking sheet and bake for 10~15mins
  6. Cool on wire rack.
Note: Handle the cookies with care, as they tend to crumble easily.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Nian Gao - The Cheater's Way

Nian gao (年糕) is a traditional chinese cake that is mostly eaten during the lunar new year.   Like most food that are eaten during the new year, there is an auspicious meaning to it.  Nian means year in mandarin while gao which means cake also sounds like the word 'high', hence when put together it's a homonym for higher year i.e.  a better year ahead.  And mind you, Nian Gao is also food for the Gods, it is offered to the Kitchen God in hope that he will report only the good seen in the household, some goes to the extent of sticking a piece of the cake on his mouth to ensures this :)

Making the real mc coy is quite an effort as it is steamed over medium heat for at least 2-3 hours.  It takes patience and constant monitoring to ensure water in the steamer doesn't dry out.  I don't think I am up for this yet :)  I shudder to think of the disappointment that i will have to face should it fails after that enormous amount of effort. 

This version that i have here is a baked version that is more popular in the West.  Its preparation is much easier compared to the traditional one.  The recipe was shared by my sister.  It does not taste exactly like the traditional ones but there is some resemblance in terms of texture.  A different type of fragrance altogether with eggs and milk in the recipe.  And since it's bake it has a nice crust on top with some toasted sesame seeds adding to the crunch.    To be fair, me thinks this version of the nian gao should be allowed to bask in its own limelight, it's truly delicious in its own way.

The nian gao is baked in a square pan lined with banana leaves.

I have made this a couple of new years now and it has been quite well received.  I normally serve it as a dessert.


  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar (mildly sweet, possible to add up 1 1/2 cup if preferred)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 450g glutinous rice flour
  1. Prepare a 7 inch square pan.  Line pan with banana leaves (if available).  If banana leaves is not used, pan is to be greased with oil. 
  2. Beat eggs and sugar until pale in color and looks creamy.
  3. Add oil gradually and mix well.
  4. Add milk and flour alternately ending with flour and making sure batter is well mixed.
  5. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds for a nutty fragrance and to make it look prettier. 
  6. Bake at 180C for about 1 hour.
I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #39: CNY Rock and Roll! (Jan 2014) hosted by Food Playground 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Old Time Cookies - La Sam Pia aka Chinese Five Spice Pinwheel Cookie

I am on a roll, after making my first old time cookies for the coming lunar new year, i found myself reminiscing about cookies that we had back then.   

When i was young, making cookies was a family affair,  everyone had a role to play, grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins and all. My mum would be in charge of baking the more modern ones (i.e. those using butter/margarine and mostly baked) while the more traditional ones like kuih kapit (love letters) which were made over a charcoal stove were done at my grandma's place where there was a bigger space to setup the stove, working area and all.

We made cookies by the tins back then, recycle aluminium tins which were diligently collected, cleaned and stored away months ahead. No where were the plastic jars with red covers that we use nowadays in sight.

Since mum was in charged of the modern ones, we would make them at night in my home during the weekdays and if we were not too tired by the weekend we will join the gang at my grandma's place during the weekends.  Sessions at grandma's were especially fun although making those love letters over a charcoal stove at an average temperature of 32C was no laughing matter.  There were so many of us, chatting, sweating and laughing while carrying out our roles :) Somehow, traditions got lost, probably because there were no longer enough helping hands around after the younger ones grew up and left our hometown.  Reminiscing old times can be emotional at times...

This cookie that i have here is one that my mum used to make. Unique as there's an oriental touch to it.  A combination of sweet, savory and spicy.  I don't remember coming across it elsewhere. It's a little like the another chinese cookie called 'cow ear' biscuit but it's not, taste wise it's not as complex as those.   For ease of reference, i named it Chinese Five Spice cookie although we nicknamed it 'La Sam Pia' which translates to Dirty biscuit in Hokkien within the family! I know, i know, food and dirt are not suppose to go together, lol! If I remember correctly it was  because Big Uncle commented that they look like they had dirt on them because of the brownish wheel in between and the name stuck!  Btw, it's one of Big Uncle's favorite.

Mum has stopped baking cookies for a long time and she couldn't remember the recipe that she had used for it.  I tried making it last year but it didn't turn out quite right, the texture wasn't there.  It's not the buttery, melt in your mouth type of cookie, more like the crunchy and snap type.  I am pretty happy that it turned out quite like the way i remembered it this time.  I can't wait to surprise her with it and bring some for Big Uncle too :)

After comparing a few recipes, i decided to adapt from a checkerboard cookie recipe to recreate this cookie.  The original recipe used cake flour which i substituted to normal All Purpose flour to get the crunch.

Adapted from: Do What I Like

  • 100g butter (room temperature)
  • 70g castor sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
Plain dough 
  • 130g all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
Spice dough 
  • 125g all purpose flour
  • 5g Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  1. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Then add in vanilla essence and egg and cream till smooth and well combined.
  2. Divide butter mixture into 2 equal portions.
  3. Sift in plain dough into 1 portion of the butter mixture and spice dough into the other portion.
  4. Blend each dough in its mixing bowl till a dough can be formed. 
  5. Cover the dough with cling wrap then roll out each dough into a rectangular shape of 30cm x 20cm. .
  6. Place the 2 doughs on top of the another and roll it up like a swiss roll. Roll tightly to make sure the 2 pieces of dough stick together.  The dough will become a long cylindrical shape of around 5cm in diameter. If the dough is too soft, refrigerate it for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Cut dough into pieces of around 5mm wide.
  8. Bake at 180C for 18 minutes or till the golden brown in colou
I'm submitting this post to the Bake Along event hosted by Zoe of Bake for Happy KidsJoyce of Kitchen Flavours and Lena of Frozen Wings and the theme is 'Chinese New Year Cookies'.


Monday, 13 January 2014

Old Time Cookies - Hup Tou Sou

Of late I find myself more fascinated with the traditional type of Chinese New Year cookies (the likes of kuih bangkit, pineapple tarts etc) than the modern ones.  Festive seasons have a nostalgic effect on me :)

This one here is the Walnut Cookie also known as Hup Tou Sou (核桃酥) in Cantonese.  It's a Cantonese baby hence the Cantonese name.  I only realised that traditionally these cookies did not have any walnuts in them although they are named such when i started looking for a suitable recipe! Which was surprising, the way i remembered them was they had a very nice nutty aroma in them.   No walnuts, can it be?

So i had to decide whether to go traditional full fletched, with or without walnuts? I decided to go with the walnuts, i figured it could only taste better and not otherwise.

I decided on Lily's recipe, one that she has fine-tuned a couple of times, pretty sure it will be good.  The recipe calls for peanut oil which i didn't have on hand, i went with sunflower instead.  I tweaked the recipe a little, instead of all oil, i rubbed in a little butter and reduce a slight amount of the oil used.  My thoughts were a little butter will make it more fragrant and some melt in your mouth effect.   Verdict? Love it!

As I was preparing this post, it came to my mind that this cookie tasted like one that i used to eat when i was a little girl.  The one that i used to take from a big glass jar with a plastic red cover (i wish i had a photo to show) that was placed atop the cashier counter at my grandmother's kopitiam!   Those cookies were meant for selling but they were not made by grandmother though.   So, i searched further to find out if they are the same cookies.  The moment i saw this post, i knew i was right, they were shaped exactly like the ones that i used to eat except those were much bigger, 3-4 bigger than the ones on the post.   I made another batch shaped exactly like the ones i used to eat as a child just for old times sake...

I am glad i picked this cookie to try.  It brought me back to the times when i had lots of fun with my sister and cousins in my grandma's kopitiam, among them climbing up the cashier counter to get these cookies :)


  • 90 g all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder 
  • a pinch of salt 
  • 40 g confectioners' sugar (reduced to 35g icing sugar)
  • 1/2 cup roasted and ground walnuts 
  • 75 - 80 ml peanut oil (reduced to 50-60ml if butter is used)
  • 15g unsalted butter
 Egg Wash
  • 1 egg yolk plus 1 tbsp water  (milk)
  1. Sieve flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and confectioners' sugar. 
  2. Add in the ground walnuts and mix well.
  3. Rub in butter.
  4. Add in peanut oil and knead into a soft dough. 
  5. Divide dough into small portions (I use a melon ball scoop as a gauge but you can just eye ball the size you desire) and roll into a ball.  Flatten ball slightly and arrange them onto lined baking sheets.  (I used about 1 tbsp of dough and shaped it into a ball.  To get one with more edges, use something round and flat to press on the dough)
  6. Glaze cookies with egg wash 
  7. Put to bake in preheated oven 350F for 12 - 15 minutes until golden brown. Baking time defers according to the size of the cookies (Baked at 180C for 18minutes)

I'm submitting this post to the Bake Along event hosted by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids, Joyce of Kitchen Flavours and Lena of Frozen Wings and the theme is 'Chinese New Year Cookies'.


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Spring is in the Air - 8 Treasure Rice

Spring is in the air!  According to the lunar calendar that is...i know some of you are still bracing one of the harshest winter out there, my thoughts are with you.  The Chinese will be celebrating the beginning of a new lunar year aka the Spring festival on 31st January this year which is in 3 weeks time!

It is the time where family and friends gather and when we gather we feast! And feast in style we do, we give dishes auspicious names in hope that they will bring us luck, fortunes and happiness when eaten :)  May sound humorous to some but it's part of our culture and i find it pretty interesting to know how/why is a particular food considered  auspicious.  

This dish that i have tried out here is a all in one meal.  This recipe by Chris Wan caught my attention in the recent issue of Flavors magazine.  Upon doing a search, i was glad to find that she has included the recipe on her website.   It's auspicious enough to be included in the list for the reunion dinner (the dinner on new year's eve)  but it maybe too much since there will be many other dishes that will go better with white rice instead. Probably consider making it when you need to dish out something quick during one of the days during the festivity especially when all these ingredients are readily available since these are common CNY gifts.  

The name given to this dish is 8 treasure rice.  We Chinese love the number 8 primarily because its pronunciation sounds like 'to prosper'.  And treasures? I don't think it needs any explanation, anyone in the universe would love landing on some treasures.  So, here are the 8 treasures hidden in it and their auspiciousness (hope i am not wrong):-
  • Shitake Mushroom - associated with longevity
  • Dried Oysters - its chinese pronunciation 'hou si' sounds like good events ie symbolizing good events ahead
  • Chinese Sausage - more of a culture to eat cured eat during CNY and perhaps symbolizing a sweet year ahead i guess since its sweet :)
  • Pumpkin - its golden hue for prosperity 
  • Sweet Peas - symbolizing unity  
  • Dried Longan - associated to bringing forth many sons
  • Wolfberries - to sweeten the year ahead
  • Chestnuts - associated to bringing forth many sons (yes, again!)
It's a simple recipe, all you need to do is some simple stir frying then mix them into the rice cooked the way you usually do it be it in a rice cooker or over a stove.  I did mine in a rice cooker.

With such an array of ingredients in it, you can be assured it is going to be delicious.

Source: Flavors Magazine Jan 2014, recipe by Chris Wan with some slight variations from me in blue


Condiments A
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 100g sweet peas
  • 50g wolfberries (wash, soaked for 5 minutes and drained)
Condiments B
  • 100g gingko nuts, boiled for 20 minutes to soften (ready to eat chestnuts)
  • 100g dried oysters, soaked 30 minutes to soften
  • 50g dried mushroom, soaked for 1 hour to soften, then cut into strips
  • 100g dried longans, washed, soaked for 10 minutes to soften and drained, cut into halves
  • 100g bacon, cut into 1.5cm strips (replaced with wax sausage)
  • 200g pumpkin, cut into diced
  • 2 tbsp dried shrimps, washed, soaked for 10 minutes then chopped coarsely
  • Some fried whitebait for garnishing (optional)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 20ml water
  • 300g rice (2 cups)
  • 200ml vegetable/chicken stock (enough stock as per instruction on rice cooker for 2 cups of rice)
  1. Heat up oil in a small frying pan then sauté sweet peas with wolfberries for 1 minute.
  2. Remove and set aside.
  3. Heat up another 1 tbsp oil in frying pan then sauté oysters, dried shrimps, mushroom, sausage and pumpkin.
  4. Add in salt, light soy sauce and water.
  5. Simmer for 5 minutes  or until pumpkin is cooked then set aside.
  6. Cook rice in rice cooker.  (Taking a leaf out of the Japanese chestnut rice recipe, I added in chestnut to cook together with the rice).
  7. When stock is fully absorbed, add in condiment A, spread out evenly on top of rice and cook for a further 10 minutes. (Left it for 5 minutes only)
  8. Once rice is cooked, fluff up the rice and mix the ingredients.   (I added in condiments B before mixing up the rice and left everything in the rice cooker for another 5-10 minutes before serving)
  9. Add in condiments B and mix well before serving. (Completed in step 8)
  10. Serve garnish with some fried whitebait.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Mapo Phai Kuat

Let me make a guess, if you have heard of Mapo Tofu, you must be thinking Mapo what?? after reading the title of this post...Yes, you heard me right, it's Mapo Phai Kuat not Mapo Tofu :)

This is a simple twist of the popular Mapo Tofu dish done with soft bone pork ribs (aka Phai Kuat in Cantonese), the type which i like to use for steaming.   

Ever since trying out the Japanese version of Mapo Tofu recipe that my friend Lena posted when the Asian Food Fest event was featuring Japan, i have fallen in love with the recipe! This Japanese version is slightly milder in terms of the fieriness of a typical Szechuan version and there's a hint of sweetness coming from the use of mirin.  This toned down version suits my son well, making it something everyone in the family can enjoy.  I have cooked it many times.  It's a simple dish, one that can be done in 15 minutes yet very tasty and goes very well with rice.  It taste really delicious especially when you scooped it directly on top of a bowl of piping hot rice as soon as it is ready and start indulging from there on!

So, coming back to Mapo Phai Kuat...while still undecided on how to do my pork ribs,  this mapo tofu recipe came to mind.  And i thought, the mapo tofu sauce should make a great marinade for steaming too. And as they say, the rest is history, that plate of ribs turned out delicious!  I added some soft silken tofu to steam them together with the ribs too.  You won't get that maillard flavors that you will find in mapo tofu but you will get ribs that are just as tasty with the sauce infused into them.  Easy peasy, fast, healthy and tasty, can't ask for more!

Inspired byHer Frozen Wings with recipe from Just One Cookbook 

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 300 gms soft bone pork ribs
  • 1/2 package silken tofu, slice into medium size pieces
  • 2 stalks green onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp chilli bean paste ( doubanjiang with chilli)
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp miso
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
Thickening solution
  • 1tsp corn flour
  1. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl.
  2. Mix pork ribs with garlic, ginger and marinade.
  3. Set aside to marinade for 30 minutes.
  4. Before steaming, mix the ribs with a teaspoon of corn flour.
  5. Place ribs and tofu on a steaming dish.
  6. Steam over high heat for 20 minutes until pork ribs are cooked through.
  7. Sprinkle sliced spring onions on top of dish before serving hot.


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