Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Chicken Chop

Living in a different country can open you up to different cultures and experiences. Most importantly for me, it opens up a new arena of different ingredients that translates into new dishes to sample.  However, at the end of the day, there is no place like home, and home means the food that I grew up with.  

Spending the latter days of my teenage years and early twenties in New Zealand was a blessing in disguise.  Although it was difficult finding authentic food resembling that of those I had left behind, being such a melting pot of cultures, it wasn't too difficult to find ingredients to adapt recipes to those that I missed.  Coming to Queensland, it was even easier to put together Malaysian dishes, with temperatures and weather conditions similar to those back in Malaysia, allowing us to grow ingredients such as pandan in our backyard.

As you can gather, my passion for cooking started at a very young age, and while I absolutely enjoyed eating all the food from the hawker stalls, there was always a part of me observing the little tricks of the trade so that I could recreate these later down the track.

This Chicken Chop recipe is no ordinary Chicken Chop. This is a version resembling the famous Penang Bee Hooi Chicken Chop.  Due to my frequent visit to this kopi-tiam (literal translation coffee shop), I have learned a few tricks on a few of their dishes, including this one.  Even though our family no longer resides in Penang, I think it is so important for my children to know their culture and the foods that I grew up enjoying. And to be honest, I hear no complaints from them as they enjoy the local food with enthusiasm.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies

To me, chocolate chip cookies are synonymous with childhoods, whether it is freshly baked made-from-scratch cookies, or a particular version of store bought cookies. Growing up there were Cookie Time cookies, a large format cookie with generous chocolate chunks throughout. If I really wanted to, I could break the cookie into pieces and sneak them as a snack during class.  Then Christmas would come round, and they would do Cookie Time buckets - miniature versions of their chocolate chip chunk cookies in a bucket.  I'd have to buy 2 or 3 buckets just to get through that season, because goodness, they certainly didn't last very long. You'd have one, then two, and next thing you know you've eaten the ENTIRE bucket - whoops!  I kept telling myself I was getting good karma points though, because every bucket sold was raising funds toward the Cookie Time Charitable Trust.

Now you might think that there are much better cookies out there than the Cookie Time, and you're probably right. But the smell and taste of the Cookie Time cookies bring me straight back to my childhood.  Now that I am older, wiser (debatable) and no longer have a Cookie Time cookie available up the road from me anymore (cue tears), I've had to come up with a solution.  Although Cookie Time cookies will forever have a soft spot in my heart, I have been on the hunt for a go-to chocolate chip cookie I could whip up at home.  

My favourite type of chocolate chip cookies have now become crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and exploding with chocolate chips at every bite.  Because let's be serious, you can't call it a chocolate chip cookie if you don't get the chocolate chips in every bite.  The best thing about baking chocolate chip cookies? The fact your kitchen smells like a bakery and licking the bowl, spatula and beater of the cookie dough batter. Waste not, want not is my philosophy...!

So while trialing a few cookies along the way (and I wonder why my waistline is expanding...) I came across these today.  These were great as they were a simple dry ingredient, wet ingredient, mix both together dealio - a fantastic option to get the kidlets involved without screwing up the final results. I tweaked these just slightly, adding Maldon flaky sea salt instead of regular salt which I think adds a slightly 'cleaner' salt taste to the cookies. However, you can use regular salt as per the original recipe if you don't have flaky salt on hand.  

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Baked Zuchinni Slice

I'm pretty sure vegetables are the type of food that just don't get enough appreciation in the real world.  Growing up, I don't think I was particularly averse to many of the vegetables I had. In saying that, my mum wouldn't let me leave the dinner table until all my food had been finished. If that meant sitting at that table for an hour, with your food going cold, and everyone else had finished eating and left, well so be it.  I learnt pretty quickly I was never going to 'out-stubborn' my mum! Can I just say though, I don't think I will every freely enjoy bitter melons or brussel sprouts eurgh!!

I'm lucky both my boys do not dislike vegetables and that they will eat it of their own volition.  However, I know that children can be fussy for whatever reason, and so this recipe is great to sneak those vegetables into their diet without them catching on until maybe it's too late.  Although this recipe uses zucchini, carrots and mushrooms, you can add or minus whatever ingredients you want to use.  For example, when fresh corn is available, I will add corn kernels from a cob into the mix.  By adding bacon or equivalent meat into the dish, it helps cover the vegetable taste, thus the ability to sneak the vegetables into their meals!  

This is definitely something that can be split into cups for kids lunch boxes, or be made in a bigger batch so there is enough for dinner as well as lunch the next day. This is a favourite to eat for lunch with the boys, and a favourite of mine to make since it is so easy.

Baked Vegetarian Zuchinni Cups

In this day and age, it has been suggested mixing your regular meat-based meals with vegetarian alternatives can be beneficial for your health.  Growing up, certain Chinese religion would dictate certain times of the month or year as solely vegetarian.  

Being the ninth month in the lunar calendar year, this is the time of of the year where my grandma would bring out a separate complete set of utensils, pots and pans and we would go on a strict vegetarian diet for nine days.  This was a celebration for the 9 Emperor Gods and I would get so excited during this time as this was also a fabulous opportunity to taste different vegetarian dishes along the streets of Penang (and for those that haven't tasted hawker foods in a street environment, you don't know what you are missing!).

Although I now no longer practice the nine-day vegetarian diet, I have been asked by vegetarian friends to share some vegetarian recipes that they could try. I have tweaked my favourite zucchini slice recipe to turn this into a vegetarian option, which I might add, is still pretty darn tasty! 

I have created these into cups for ease of transportation for the boys lunch box, however you can absolutely combine all the ingredients and just put it into a big dish for dinner. This is a recipe that you can also add your own creative licencing to as well, adding any other kind of vegetables to it (can you tell I am a big advocate for "scrape-the-bottom-of-the-fridge-Friday" recipes??!).

Friday, 26 September 2014

Kung pou chicken

Chinese food is one of those things that can either be done really well, and you keep coming back for more, or it can be done terribly, where you end up spending the rest of the night drinking your weight in water to offset the amount of salt or MSG the restaurant has used in the dish.  I've had my share of bad experiences (cockroach scurrying across the entrance as you're walking through the door anyone?) where it gets to the point that I am resigned to just doing it at home.  At least I know for sure the ingredients and the amount of seasoning that goes into it (and hopefully no 'extra' additions that make it into the dish!).

This winning combination of spicy and sour, Kung Pou chicken is one of those typically popular dishes that you can find in most Chinese restaurants. What most people don't realise is how easy it is to whip up, requiring very little preparation beforehand.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Bak Steak aka Meat patties

Oh woe is me.  My body can't decide whether to be sick or not.  It could be hayfever though.  Either way, this in between not sick, not 100% makes me turn to my number one way to make myself feel better - food. Is that terrible? No, I didn't think so.  

The only problem is, I want to EAT food, but I don't necessarily want to spend hours over a hot stove COOKING it.  This is where this dish comes in.  Bak Steak means Meat Patties in Hokkien. This is a very common dish in the average Penang household and is one of my go-to dishes when in dire need for some TLC.

This is a one pot dish, combining all the essential elements of a well balanced meal - protein, vegetables and carbohydrates!  This is usually served on a bed of steamed rice.


Goodness gracious, it's kicking into strawberry season here in sunny Queensland.  Spring has certainly arrived with a bang, and with the 30 degrees I experienced up here in North Queensland, it certainly seems like summer is truly around the corner.

Strawberries are now selling for punnets upon punnets at ridiculous prices ($5 for 4 250g punnets anyone?) and being such a versatile fruit, I just want to eat it with EVERYTHING. Which brings me to a very classic dish that every recipe collector should have filed away - pancakes.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Finger-licking Good Grilled Chicken

It's school holidays here in Australia and with beautifully warm weather (26 degrees, blue skies), what better way to spend it then to have a picnic in the park with friends. So what do I make to bring to the park which is easy to make, yet healthy and delicious for the boys?  One thing that came to mind is the surefire winner of finger-licking good grilled chicken.

I usually serve this on a bed of rice for dinner, so normally marinating it for 30 minutes would be sufficient. But because we are going to leave the house in the early hours, I will have to marinate these overnight, making it taste even finger-lickin' better! 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Chap Cai T'ng aka Mixed Vegetables Soup

I hate being on the verge of being full blown sick. The sniffles, the watery eyes, ticklish throat.  I use every heavy artillery I have in my arsenal to knock those germs on the head. And yet, sometimes it all heads south, and I am just miserable, wallowing in self pity. It is at this point where I want to drown myself in all that is comforting, in particular, soup. It's just like a warm snuggly blanket for the insides.

Chap Cai T'ng is in Hokkien, literally translating to mixed vegetables in English. It was one of my late ah ma's (grandma) favourite dishes and my go-to when I need something to soothe my dreary soul.

Clear soup is so easy to prepare and they are delicious and healthy.  In Chinese culture, different combination of ingredients can be a remedy for whatever ailments you are suffering from.  The list is endless. 

With this soup, can serve this along with other dinner dishes (either as a starter, or to finish your meal), or if unwell like me, you can make a one bowl meal with some noodles.

Friday, 19 September 2014

How to : fold dumplings

Folding dumplings is a tricky business to master.  Practice makes perfect though, and with that comes plenty of dumplings to eat! 

Sticky pot pork and chives dumplings

Dumplings, dumplings, dumplings.  My obsession for these tasty little morsels never ceases to amaze me.  Although these are not a Malaysian dish, my family absolutely love love LOVE them!! And to be honest, if you don't like dumplings, you just haven't found your match made in heaven yet! 

Ba-ba-ba ba-ba na-na!

Have you watched Despicable Me 2? Minions are the cutest. When I think of bananas, I think of them. If you don't know what I am talking about, go youtube the video and have a giggle. Anyway, moving along...

The fantastic thing about having banana trees growing in one's backyard is that you get FREE bananas from time to time. However, when one ripens, the whole big bunch ripen at the same time. You have to either give it away or somehow consume them quickly. Although the ones we have are quite small, they are still very filling! 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Pandan Chiffon Cake

I absolutely love to cook and bake with pandan leaves. There is something intoxicating about the smell of pandan wafting through the kitchen as it cooks.  Although not very common here in Queensland, it is an item that is used throughout many traditional Malaysian recipes, adding a delicate sweet flavour to the dish.  I have seen friends and relatives in Malaysia using pandan leaves tied in a knot to use as an air freshener for their homes or car.  Personally, I think that would just make me hungry for pandan all the time!

Chiffon cake is a beautifully light, fluffy, cottony soft cake, very similar to sponge cake, but using oil instead of butter.  I would buy a slice of this deliciously fragrant cake for morning tea at school.  Now that I am an adult, I can bake these for morning tea and have a piece warm out of the oven with a cup of kopi-o (I am yet to find someone who doesn't follow the philosophy of coffee and cake as a match made in heaven!). 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Steamed bun/bread aka mantou (馒头)

Mantou (馒头) is not Malaysian at all, however deep fried mantou served with chilli crab is something you can find easily in seafood restaurants in Malaysia. Mantou is originally from China and it is basically flour, yeast and water. These days, there are so many variations of mantou you can make.

My boys love having mantou for breakfast. Sometimes if they are lucky, they find these in their lunchbox too, providing a filling lunch option (and a guaranteed empty lunch box at the end of the day!).

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Malaysian Egg Sponge Cake aka Kuih Bahulu

I love these little sponge cake with kopi-o (black malaysian coffee). Crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. You can get these cakes from the local markets in Malaysia. They usually come baked in a flower shape but this would work in just about any kind of mould.  I have used little cupcake moulds, as well as little teddy moulds for my boys.

If you have friends coming over on short notice, this is the recipe to go to. This can be whipped up and out of the oven within 30mins. These are perfect as lunch box treats too!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

This blog is dedicated to my two sons, and I thought what better way to kick it off with their favourite food - SWEET AND SOUR MEATBALLS. This dish is a twist to the traditional sweet and sour pork. My boys do not like to chew their food so instead of using pork pieces, I use pork mince (ironic right? since my blog is called LOVE to Cheu.. LOL!)

This dish has everything! Meat and veges.. all you need is a bowl of steamed rice. I love cooking this dish because my boys will guarantee to finish it within minutes!