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A Collection of my Still Life Photos...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 | Labels: | 13 Comments »

I have learnt so much about photography, especially food photography in the past year that seriously looking at my shots say even six months ago make me feel like cringing :O.  Anyway, there's still so much to learn and so much space to improve that it is really quite exciting for me.  If not for this blog, I probably would not have taken such a keen interest in photography and recently I have ventured a little into still life photography although food is still quite centric in the shots.  I just wanted to share with you some of my favourite still life shots I did recently and hope you enjoy them just as much as my usual recipes.

Red apples in still life - my first outdoor shot at a nearby park, the naturally distressed wooden table was just too gorgeous not to use.

Red Apples...

Popular Indian snack of murukku, shot with some beer. 

Indian Snack of Murukku

The simple things in life, morning coffee with chocolate cream biscuits.  The peaceful morning light streaming through my bedroom window basically woke me up and set up this simple shot.

Morning coffee and biscuits, the simple things in life...

Chinese Style Luxurious Chicken Soup Recipe

Sunday, January 29, 2012 | Labels: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Today's feature is a 'slow-fire' soup i.e. 老化汤 which is almost a staple in most Cantonese households and although we're not Cantonese, slow-fire soups are one of my absolute favourite comfort foods.  The Chinese believe that a good slow-fire soup acts like a tonic almost and different combinations of ingredients will render different health benefits.  My feature today is simple - free-range chicken boiled with some Chinese Yunnan Ham (云南火腿), dried scallops and some honey dates.  For soups like these, it is quite important to use good quality chicken, most free-range chicken should do it.  I don't use silky chicken in my cooking mostly as silky (black) chicken has heat-inducing properties that are not suitable for my family members so do take note of that.  Making soup is very straightforward, just get your ingredients right, be patient as you will have to simmer this for at least 5 hours (a pressure cooker does not result in similar flavours in my opinion) and never ever add more water once the soup starts boiling.  That's it.

Luxurious Chicken Soup, Chinese Style...

For most Chinese people, Chinese New Year is probably the time when you get (or rather have to) see certain relatives individuals who may not be your favourite people in the world.  Seriously, for some people - seeing them once a year is way extremely astoundingly more than enough as rudeness is really unacceptable to me.  I really should not be 'complaining' during Chinese New Year but I guess I'm only human :O and I do have my limits.  I think that should be another New Year resolution of mine - to not let unimportant people affect my moods, easy to say - definitely hard to execute at least for a sensitive soul like me but I will definitely give it a try for my own sanity since I don't think some people will ever change (this is proven year after year). This soup will be great for those days when you feel like you need some 'cooling down' as well - nourishing, healthy and delicious. 


Garlic Pan-fried Giant Prawns

Thursday, January 26, 2012 | Labels: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Prawns will never be absent from most Chinese meals during festive times - no exception in my household apart from the fact that we found these extremely huge tiger prawns, really one prawn per person was more than enough!  With really fresh seafood, you don't have to do much and honestly it will be a waste to smother the naturally and unbeatable fresh flavours with heavy sauces or seasoning.  For today's prawns, I just marinated the prawns in some minced garlic, a dash of Chinese rice wine, salt and pepper - then pan-fried them on very low heat and well, very patiently as these were so huge.  Easy and guaranteed delicious.

Pan-fried Giant Prawns

You can rub some corn flour onto the prawns as well and shallow or deep-fry them if you wish, totally up to you.  If you like, you can use the same marinade and then grill the prawns over open flame which will add a smoky depth.  If you like prawns, I am pretty sure you will love these!

Pan-fried Giant Prawns

Braised Mushrooms and Vegetables in Abalone Sauce Recipe

Monday, January 23, 2012 | Labels: , , | 3 Comments »

Happy Chinese New Year! It's the official first day of the Spring Festival and I hope that all of you have had a good start to the year of the Dragon.  I know this is a little late, but today's feature is an excellent dish for the festive season, (hey there are 15 days officially for Chinese New Year so perhaps, it's not too late :O), as you know at most Chinese festivities, a lot of rich (and delicious!) food is served so it is always good to serve a less meaty alternative to balance everything out.  Today's dish is a simple braised dish of mushrooms and a mixture of vegetables in abalone sauce and chicken broth.  To make it entirely vegetarian, use vegetarian oyster sauce instead and use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.

Braised Shiitake Mushrooms with Vegetables in Abalone Sauce

This is a very easy dish to whip up but do note that each ingredient is required to be stir-fried quickly on its' own first before placing everything together to braise to perfection.  This is to avoid muddled flavours and although a bit more time consuming, this step is really worth it - a big contrast to my college days when I thought just dumping everything together worked well.  I hope you like this dish and do give it a try soon!

Braised Shiitake Mushrooms in Abalone Sauce

This post is a part of my series in Yuen Chun Recipes, an ongoing project on this blog.

Happy Lunar New Year 2012!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012 | Labels: | 2 Comments »

Here's wishing all of you my wonderful readers a fantastic Dragon year and may you and your family be blessed with health, prosperity and success in the coming year!


Thank you again for your kind support of Smoky Wok :)

GUEST POST: Hyosun's Baechu Kimchi (Napa Cabbage Kimchi)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 | Labels: , , | 3 Comments »

Wow! What can I say? As most of you  know I am a huge gargantuan lover of Korean cuisine and I am so pleased today to be able to feature another guest poster of mine, the lovely Hyosun of Eating and Living (A Korean American's Mom Cooking).  I got to know Hyosun when I was looking through the blogosphere for Korean food and I was so impressed with her beautiful and mouthwatering Korean dishes.  For today, Hyosun has very kindly shared with us her recipe for traditional napa cabbage kimchi - a staple at most Korean meals and I for one am one of its' adoring fans and I can't wait to try out her recipe.  So, please welcome Hyosun and do hop over to her blog to check out more of her signature dishes!

Kamsahamnida Hyosun-shi! :)

Hi, I'm Hyosun from Eating and Living, the Korean homecooking blog.  I am so excited to be guest posting on this beautiful blog.  I've been a huge admirer of J's blog and it's an incredible honor for me to be here today.  I've been thinking hard about what I would share with you all for quite some time.  Looking through her blog, I thought a kimchi recipe would be helpful to go with the impressive spread of Korean recipes on this blog.  So I am going to share my recipe on how to make traditional napa cabbage kimchi , (aka poggi kimchi).


I probably don't need to tell you that kimchi is the best-known Korean dish and Korean eat kimchi literally everyday with every meal.  Kimchi is basically a catch-all Korean term for fermented vegetables.  There are hundreds of kimchi varieties in Korea.  The napa cabbage kimchi is the most common variety.  Depending on the types, quality and ratio of the seasoning ingredients, kimchi tastes vary widely.  Every household has its' own methods.  Making better kimchi is a frequent conversation subject when my middle-aged Korean friends get together.


Various jeotgal (salted seafood) are used in kimchi for the distinct pungency and depth of flavors and to aid the fermentation process.  Saeujeot (salted shrimp) and myulchiaekjeot (fish sauce made with anchovies) are the two that are most commonly used.  I usually make kimchi with 5-10 cabbages at a time.  Why so much? Besides the fact that we Koreans eat kimchi everyday, I am a typical Korean mom who makes a massive amount of kimchi to supply to my grown-up children.  Both my mother and mother-in-law did that for us for a long time, so I am definitely continuing the tradition.  Also, my family loves every dish made with well-fermented kimchi, such as kimchi jjigae, kimchi mandu, kimchi bibimguksu, kimchi bokkeumbap, kimchi jeon, tofu kimchi etc.  To help you start making kimchi at home, I came up with a recipe using one nappa cabbage.  Through this recipe, I hope you'll find that it's really not that difficult to make good kimchi at home.  Enjoy!

Durian Swiss Roll Cake Recipe

Saturday, January 14, 2012 | Labels: , , | 3 Comments »

Durian - you either love them or hate them, I for one am absolutely in love!  Durian is a tropical fruit very popular in Malaysia and you'll really have to taste it to know if you belong to pro or anti group.  When I talk to non-Malaysians about this fruit, most of the 'haters' cite the unique texture as something that they find hard to stomach.  The texture of durian is rather soft, actually a little akin to the texture of sea urchin in my opinion.  Anyway, today I have incorporated one of my favourite fruits ever into an easy roll cake.  Roll cakes are always popular with us as it is relatively light, easy to make and most of all delicious especially with a hot cup of coffee.  If you don't like durian, you can of course substitute the filling with other fruits like fresh strawberry slices, lychee like I did here.  

Durian Roll Cake

For today's roll cake, I just pureed some durian flesh together with some whipping cream, added some icing sugar to taste and that's it for the filling.  You do need a bit of patience to make a pretty roll cake, I did have some practice though I should add.  Be gentle while rolling and follow the steps below closely and you should have no problems rolling up a pretty one at home.

Durian Roll Cake

Glimpses of Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown Part II (Petaling Street)...

Monday, January 09, 2012 | Labels: , | 6 Comments »

This is my second installment of a mini photo tour around Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown after my first post on it here.  Although it was not a recipe as it usually is on Smoky Wok, I was glad that a lot of you found it interesting so here's more for you.  Traipsing around Petaling Street in the afternoon was quite tiring with the sweltering dry heat we have been experiencing lately but I was still glad I went as I thought there are still a lot of interesting things and people to photograph - a departure from the usual clean and well-lit shopping malls that I uh frequent (not that I don't love shopping malls!) but photographically speaking, definitely not as 'interesting'.

A pretty looking corridor, all decked up with Chinese New Year decorations...
Corridor of Bright Chinese New Year decorations!

I am actually very excited and bursting with some news that I cannot really divulge as yet but if everything materializes, I will be able to share even more 'interesting' photos with you - seriously just the thought alone excites me to no end.  To be honest, although I live in Kuala Lumpur, I have probably only really visited Petaling Street about 5 times.  According to my parents, when Petaling Street was in its' heyday, everything looked much better and the food was also much better.  Well, too bad I had to miss all that :O.  Anyway, if you visit Malaysia or Kuala Lumpur, do stop by to experience a different way of life, I for one am fascinated with all the old, almost derelict looking buildings that invariably still house many residents and the blend of old and new in the area.

The seller's view of rows of Chinese waxed ducks, a popular Chinese delicacy especially during the Lunar New Year
Rows of Chinese Waxed Ducks

Chinese Soy Roasted Spare Ribs Recipe 香烧排骨

Thursday, January 05, 2012 | Labels: , , | No Comment »

Today's dish is a minimal hassle, easy and delicious method of cooking spare ribs which comes in especially handy on those tired week nights or just when you don't feel like doing too much for a wholesome home cooked meal.  Spare ribs are marinated in a savoury mix of caramel sauce, soy sauce, garlic and some corn syrup and then simply roasted in the oven to a slightly charred doneness.  When I decided to cook spare ribs today, I thought of making a curry but then I thought it was too much work as I prefer to make my own spice paste and on top of that, I prefer using a mortar and pestle for the deed so today's dish was created. 

Roasted Soy Spareribs 香烧排骨

An easy answer to the times when you crave for something savoury, slightly sweet and most importantly delicious if I may say so myself.  What could be easier than marinating some ribs then simply popping them into the oven to roast? This is why I love cooking with the oven, it is just unbelievably simple and produces very satisfactory results while freeing up stove space and time for other side dishes.  Just get your marinade right and let the oven do the rest of the work - simplicity at its' best.  I served my ribs on a bed of crisp lettuce and garnished the ribs with a handful of toasted sesame seeds for some final presentation touches which really adds to the dish.  Alternatively, simply cut up some green onions right on top of the dish before serving for a touch of colour.

 Roasted Soy Spareribs 香烧排骨

This post is part of my Yuen Chun Recipes, an ongoing project on this blog.

Chinese Salted Vegetables with Pork Stir-fry Recipe

Wednesday, January 04, 2012 | Labels: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Now that the new year celebrations have mostly ended, I am looking forward to another new year - the Lunar New Year to be exact.  For the Chinese, the new year only officially starts when Chinese New Year comes about and to be more specific, this only happens on the sixth day this time as that is the official day when spring arrives or 'lap chun'.  Yes, kind of confusing but I am totally looking forward to it.  Today's feature however is just a simply stir-fry that is popular in a lot of Chinese households and usually never fails to be a 'rice-puller'.  The ever-humble salted vegetables ('ham choy') simply stir-fried with some pork slices.  This savoury and slightly sweet dish (we like to add a tiny bit of sugar to balance out the saltiness) is extremely addicting and very easy to whip up.

Salted Vegetables and Pork Stir-fry

Salted vegetables are one of the many preserved vegetables used in Chinese cooking and is well very salty and usually made with fresh bok choy.  Apart from simple stir-fries like today's dish, it is also extremely popular used in Chinese 'slow-fire' soups like this salted vegetables and tofu soup.  You can probably say that salted vegetables belong to the acquired taste category but I think if so, it's only on the milder scale as it is not really pungent but just well really salty with a slightly sourish flavour which I find pleasing.

Salted Vegetables and Pork Stir-fry

Vanilla Cupcakes with White Chocolate Curls & A Sweet 2012!

Monday, January 02, 2012 | Labels: , , | 8 Comments »

Here's a sweet start to the new year - some easy and pretty vanilla cupcakes frosted with vanilla icing and topped with some delicate white chocolate curls.  Although cupcakes are probably not as 'en vogue' as they were earlier, I still love making them now and again as they are just so pretty and convenient to eat don't you think?  I do admit that I probably only eat half of the icing on the cupcakes I frost as I do find it a tad too sweet but if you try lessening the icing sugar needed in the frosting, most of the time the consistency will not be right so perhaps you could compensate by lessening the amount of sugar used in the cupcakes.  Then again, I find un-frosted cupcakes just as delicious, especially dunked in coffee albeit not as pretty as the dressed-up, frosted ones.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Another reason for baking cupcakes today was because I bought these lovely wooden French styled forks and I just could not wait to photograph something with the forks and since cupcakes are quite easy to put together, there you have it.  Such is the plight of a food blogger/ photographer - we do get immensely attracted to props and at times will go to great lengths to get that 'perfect' bowl or vintage spoon - in addition, we can't contain ourselves when we manage to get our hands on some nice props and feel an inexplicable urge to shoot the prop as soon as possible.  In any event, I do hope that my first official blog post for 2012 starts the year on a sweet note for all of us!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Glimpses of Kuala Lumpur's China Town (Petaling Street)...

Sunday, January 01, 2012 | Labels: | 8 Comments »

Happy New Year again everyone! Today's post is quite different in that I usually stick to recipes for probably 99% of the time on this blog but I thought it would be nice to share with you some shots I took while wandering around Petaling Street (Malaysia's Chinatown) after having not been in the area for years.  Especially for those of you who have yet to visit Malaysia, perhaps this will give you some glimpses of an older and let's just say less developed part of town in Kuala Lumpur.  Photographically speaking, there are gems all over the place - shooting street or people scenes is something that is still very new to me and is vastly different from food photography but is definitely no less interesting.  I do hope you'll enjoy this mini photo tour through some parts in and around Petaling Street and for my fellow Malaysians living overseas, perhaps this will bring back some good memories.

The facade of a 'typical' Chinese style grocery or sundry store, see the abundance of dried foods available from dried shiitake mushrooms to anchovies...
Abundance of Chinese dried foods

I love the red gates leading into Kuala Lumpur's oldest Taoist temple located near Petaling Street and Central Market.  See the vibrant red colour and I love the combination of old and new in this photo..

Red Gate at Taoist temple

These shelves are filled to the brim with carefully prepackaged incense sticks and paper offerings for devotees to offer up to the Heavens...

Prepared offerings at Buddhist temple

Entrance to the temple, as the temple has an air well of sorts, the temple was very well-lit with natural light, it was an auspicious day for prayers when I visited hence there were quite a lot of devotees at the temple.
Kuala Lumpur's Oldest Taoist Temple

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