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Chinese Flaky Lotus Puff Pastries Recipe with Photo Tutorial ~ 莲蓉酥

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 27 Comments »

My love affair with pastry-making at home continues - today with a popular Chinese version of swirly and flaky pastries filled with sweet lotus paste.  Chinese pastries also require a quite bit of patience and dedication but compared to the classic puff pastry I made recently, requires far less waiting times, rolling plus folding and dare although it's not necessarily easier to make compared to French pastries. These swirly pastries always catch my eye whenever I walk past a Chinese bakery and you may have probably seen sweet snacks in Asian grocery stores as well.  Traditionally, these are served with a piping cup of hot Chinese tea since the tea serves as a great balance to the sweetness and slight oiliness of the pastry but I enjoy these with a hot cup of strong coffee as well.  These pastries are enjoyed throughout the day as a snack, at dim sum brunches or as dessert after a meal.

chinese pastries

For Chinese pastry-making, usually there are two kinds of doughs required that will be combined to give us that characteristic flaky texture, namely the oil dough and the oil 'skin'.  Two types of flour are used in this recipe as well, cake flour and bread flour which contain different protein levels where the cake flour is low-protein and bread is high-protein.  If you don't have cake flour, you can substitute safely with superfine flour which contains more or less the same level of protein.  You can also play around with the dough by flavouring the dough with essences of green tea, yam, pandan and the like.  For today, I decided to leave it plain and just used a bit of red food colouring for a pinkish hue as.  If you like pastries in general I think you will like these popular Chinese version and once you find out how easy it is to make these at home, I hope you will give this recipe a try. 


For another popular (and even easier) Chinese dessert using lotus paste, check out my steamed lotus buns.

Baked Eggs with Thyme and Sausage

Monday, March 28, 2011 | Labels: , | 30 Comments »

I have no idea why I did not make baked eggs sooner, for one reason or the other, making this always slipped my mind.  This is such an easy and delicious way to enjoy eggs that it is almost a travesty I made this so late.  I mean, I adore love eggs for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks, half-boiled, hard-boiled, fried, steamed - I've probably ate egg in all its' bareness or dressed up in all its' finery but I had never tried baked eggs until now, that is.  Apart from the taste and texture of the baked eggs I adored, I loved that it was oh so easy, no need to use a stove, just one (or two!) dishes to clean, it's almost like a lower maintenance version of a breakfast omelette.  I mean, what could be easier than throwing eggs, butter, a bit of cream, some herbs of your choice for flavouring and a sprinkling of cheese into a dish and then putting it in the oven?

Baked Eggs

All in all, this is a great breakfast dish especially on those lazy mornings when you want something a little more substantial than toast and coffee.

Baked Eggs

Chinese Chicken and Honeydew Soup Recipe 蜜瓜红枣鸡汤

Sunday, March 27, 2011 | Labels: , , | 11 Comments »

Whenever I am feeling under the weather, nothing soothes me as much as a good bowl of Chinese style soup (congee comes a close second).  However, when there is not enough time to make my favourite kind of 'slow-fire' soups which typically require a boiling time of at least 4-6 hours and also require more 'exotic' ingredients, today's feature is a great alternative.  Today's soup is an exceptionally soothing and extremely easy soup to make requiring only three ingredients, honeydew, chicken and red dates, I mean excluding water and salt.  The weather here in Malaysia has also been extremely hot and dry recently so this was a great soup to combat the dry heat. 


Making savoury soups with fruit is a first for me, the honeydew worked surprisingly well with the chicken where its' natural sweetness complimented the sweetness of the dates perfectly.  Honeydew is also a very nutritious fruit that is said to combat 'heatiness' and adding it today just made the chicken broth so much more soothing and refreshing than usual.  I do hope that you will give this simple Chinese home-style soup a try and I am glad I tried this today as I had always been a little wary of adding fruit to savoury soups - I was more than pleasantly surprised and I shall definitely be making this again.  The original recipe called for spareribs which would probably produce a deeper taste, using chicken produces a more delicate flavour - both great depending on your personal preferences.


Note to little brother in UK - you and your friends should totally make this, okay?

Kongnamul Bap or Korean Beansprouts Rice ~ 콩나물밥

Friday, March 25, 2011 | Labels: , , | 9 Comments »

This popular homestyle Korean rice dish is like a simpler cousin of the famous bibimbap.  Unlike bibimbap which is typically prepared with a variety of vegetables and meat, kongnamul bap only requires rice and beansprouts.  The rice is cooked together with the beansprouts and then served with a spicy sauce of sesame seeds, gochugaru (Korean chilli powder), red chilli peppers and sliced green onions.  This dish of course lends itself to a variety of interpretations where you can add minced beef, chicken or whatever you fancy.  This humble yet extremely tasty dish is something that a lot of Korean families whip up when there is nothing much left in the refrigerator.  This simple rice dish provides crunchy textures with the beansprouts and toasted sesame seeds and the refreshing and spicy sauce provides just the right amount of flavour while being easy on the palate, altogether a very satisfying dish.

kongnamul bap

I do hope that you will give this a try, I know that when cooking different cuisine, the list of 'exotic' ingredients may seem daunting so I think this is a great beginner's Korean dish as most of the ingredients are easily found in regular grocery stores with the exception of gochugaru perhaps.  A little pinch of this spicy powder goes a long way so if you buy a small packet it will be more than enough for you to try out many Korean dishes.  Gochugaru is also used in other popular broths like maeuntang and kimchi chigae.  Preparation of this dish is also relatively simpler and shorter compared to many Korean dishes that use a large variety of vegetables so although not difficult, does require a fair amount of slicing and chopping.
kongnamul bap

Classic Puff Pastry Recipe with Photo Tutorial and Danish Pastries...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 | Labels: , , | 20 Comments »

Making puff pastry or pâte feuilletée does require a little bit of time and patience but the end result is so worth it plus I find it rather fun as well (especially if it turns out well).  I am relieved to say that I loved the results of today's classic puff pastry and I actually prefer croissants made from classic puff pastry which is known as the patisseur's croissants in comparison to baker's croissants that I made earlier, the latter contains yeast whereas the former does not.  With puff pastry, you will be able to make so many delicious eats, both sweet and savoury.  As puff pastry is also easily freezed, you can store this for up to 1 year in a freezer provided it is wrapped well, however do note that freshly made puff pastry will always puff up better than frozen puff pastry.


For today, I used half of my puff pastry to make Danish pastries in both the popular 'windmill' and snail shapes.  As these were made with classic puff pastry, these pastries were flakier and did not have the soft bread texture so if that's what you prefer for your danish pastries, do use this puff pastry for other purposes.  I am already thinking of some good savoury fillings for the other half of my pastry like spicy tuna, sambal ikan bilis and the list goes on.  I find making puff pastry at home rewarding and not that difficult but as the dough works better left to rest overnight, do plan accordingly as this is at least a two-day affair.  A tricky part of making puff pastry, at least for me is that while rolling out the dough, I am always extra careful to roll evenly as to avoid the laminated butter from 'bursting' through the dough.  As for my favourite part, it would have to be the shaping part, hands-down.  I remember the windmill shape especially fondly since that was the first type of pastry I attempted almost 10 years ago for my little brother's birthday party (the pre-blogger days) and it was really heartwarming to see him and his little friends enjoying my pastries.


Hong Kong 'Cheong Fun' Recipe (Steamed Rice Noodle Rolls) with Photo Tutorial 港式肠粉

Saturday, March 19, 2011 | Labels: , , , , , | 63 Comments »

I am excited today to feature a classic dim sum favourite, steamed rice rolls Hong Kong style.  This version of steamed rice noodle rolls or 'cheong fun' which means intestine-shaped noodles can be made with a myriad of fillings, from roast pork, shrimp and scallops.  For today, I just used a simple filling of dried shrimp and chopped up scallions (green onions).  I absolutely loved the silky smooth and feather-like texture of the rolls and the simple savoury filling provided some great crunch and fragrance.  This is my first ever attempt at making cheong fun and I was glad they turned out well, so this is not hard to prepare but is a little time-consuming.  These rolls are easily available in most dim sum places but sometimes it is just more fun to make things from scratch - at least for me and I vastly preferred the texture of these compared to some versions at restaurants that I've had that were a little too chewy bordering on tough. 

cheong fun

The rolls are a simple concoction of rice flour, tapioca flour and corn flour and water where a thin layer is steamed with dried shrimp and scallions, and then rolled up.  The main thing to keep in mind is that the oil must always be added to the flour mixture before adding water gradually to form the batter.  You can either use a piece of wet cheesecloth placed on the tray, then spoon the batter or if you want to skip the cheesecloth, just be sure to lightly brush the tray with oil before ladling the batter to be steamed.  I actually tried both ways today and I found that both methods worked equally well.  I would actually just skip the cheesecloth as that is one less thing to wash.  As with most dim sum, these rolls are best served piping hot, in fact my guests were standing around me as I was making the rolls and eating as soon as I finished rolling.

cheong fun

Note that the rice rolls do not have much flavour on their own, most of the flavours in this dish come from the savoury soy-based dipping sauce.  For the sauce, you will need light soy sauce, sugar, water, some scallions and a small knob of ginger.  Add some chilli oil for a touch of heat.  I hope you will give this a try when your mood strikes and you're ready to make some 'cheong fun' from scratch plus trust me, your guests will be so impressed.

Japanese Simmered Spareribs and Vegetables ~ Niku Jyaga 肉じゃが

Thursday, March 17, 2011 | Labels: , , , | 12 Comments »

This popular home style Japanese dish belongs to the category of ofukuro no aji dishes or literally translated, "Mother's taste".  Niku means meat while jyaga or jaga means potatoes, these are the two classic ingredients in the dish while you can play around with the rest of the vegetables.  I love simmered dishes and the flavours of this dish are clean, fragrant (from the sake and the sauteed onions) and has a tinge of natural sweetness from the carrots.  Traditionally, peas are included in the dish as well but I skipped those and added some green onion slices instead.  With the vegetables, meat and potatoes in the dish, this is a great one-pot meal on those busy or lazy days.

niku jyaga

Japanese cuisine is often seen as delicate and artistically arranged but this colourful home style dish is a little bit more rustic in appearance yet no less tasty. The seasoning consists of shoyu, sake, mirin and sugar, a simple concoction that complements the spareribs, potatoes and carrots perfectly.  This is also an extremely simple dish to prepare and the ingredients easily found.  I must mention too that it is totally worth it to keep mirin in your pantry, you can use this indispensable Japanese condiment in a variety of other dishes, I like using mirin in some of my Chinese cooking as well to add that touch of fragrant sake aroma while lending a pleasing glaze to dishes as its' texture is almost like syrup.

niku jyaga

I hope you will give this easy recipe a try the next time you wish to cook your meat dishes a little differently, a definite good addition to your Japanese homecooking repertoire. 

Green Tea (Matcha) Latte Recipe ~ 緑茶ラテ

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 | Labels: , | 4 Comments »

I am one of those 'funny' people who always seem to find it difficult to make choices at restaurants when it comes to ordering as I can't seem to make up my mind, perhaps that is due to my tendencies as a Libra gal?  I almost always feel a slight tinge of regret after I order as soon as the server retreats from my table with the menu, although that habit is slowly improving I should think.  BUT whenever I step into Starbucks, I already know what I want to drink - green tea frappucino. So, imagine my delight when I discovered how to make green tea latte (frappucino without the crushed ice really) at home recently.  Extremely simple to make at home, I love that you can use whichever brand of milk you like best and of course adjust the strength of the matcha according to your desires, plus in the interests of frugality is much less costly to make at home PLUS no lines. So, really the advantages are endless.


Green tea tastes a little different in comparison to its' Chinese counterparts as the latter is roasted whereas green tea leaves are steamed then dried so it tastes a little milder while retaining more of the 'grassy' scent.  To make this drink, you will need matcha powder which is widely available at Asian grocery stores, whipping cream, sugar (or honey) and milk.  Easy right?  This is also the first drink 'recipe' I am featuring on Tastes of Home and I figured might as well make my first drink feature one of my absolute favourite drinks.  I hope that you will give this a try and for those of you green tea frappucino or green tea latte fans, you will love how simple this is to make at home.


Thai Basil Chicken Stir-fry Recipe ~ Gai Pad Grapow

Monday, March 14, 2011 | Labels: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Simple is really the best sometimes.  Although I do love fried chicken now and then, there is nothing as easy and delicious as a good stir-fried chicken dish.  For today's feature, I made Thai basil chicken - an extremely popular Thai method of cooking chicken.  Flavours are clean and spicy, this basil chicken is simply stir-fried with garlic, shallots, bird's eye chilli peppers and of course Thai basil (you can substitute with regular basil which is milder) which gives the dish a delicious and refreshing hint of peppermint.  Savoury fish sauce (nam pla) complete the dish. For the gorgeous glaze you see, I added some thick caramel sauce from my favourite brand, Yuen Chun that complements the slight sweetness of the dish as well. This dish goes perfect with rice and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes.  I actually love this chicken dish with pasta as well.

Thai basil chicken

As this is such a simple dish, again if at all possible, do use a Chinese wok - as long as you make sure your wok is hot enough before adding oil, you will not end up with bits of chicken sticking to your wok and that's a promise.  I have been touting the importance of wok breath in many simple dishes which is simply not achievable with non-stick pans as Chinese woks are usually heated to extremely high temperatures which will start melting the non-stick coating on such pans.  However, a perfectly delicious stir-fry is still possible with non-stick pans, in fact I have only recently 'graduated' to carbon woks but do try a wok if you want to recreate this elusive 'wok breath' at home which will add so much to your Chinese homecooking.

Thai basil chicken

This is part of my series in Yuen Chun recipes, an ongoing project for this blog.

Hakka Abacus Beads (Yam Gnocchi with Minced Pork) Recipe 算盘子

Thursday, March 10, 2011 | Labels: , , | 12 Comments »

I am fully Hakka which means both my parents are from the Hakka clan but regretfully my spoken Hakka leaves much to be desired.  I am also a little embarassed that my blog hardly feature Hakka recipes.  Today's feature is a classic Hakka dish which is popularly known as abacus beads in Chinese - these beads are actually little yam (taro) gnocchis which are made out of mashed yam and tapioca flour.  The 'beads' are then traditionally cooked in a savoury mixture of soy sauce, ground pork and dried shrimp bits.  As this dish is so simple, the freshness of the yam is extremely important since it would affect the texture of the gnocchis.  The texture of these beads are tender on the inside and chewy on the outside.  This dish is also a two-day affair where after steaming the yam, it is mashed up with tapioca flour and then shaped and left to rest overnight after being steamed again before being stir-fried which according to my mom would produce a better texture.

hakka abacus beads

This is truly a dish that brings me back to my roots.  Hakka cuisine is generally known for its' earthiness and simplicity, nothing too fancy.  Abacus beads is just one of many classic Hakka dishes - I am already planning my next Hakka feature, perhaps the ever popular salt baked chicken which is one of my favourite methods of preparing chicken.   As with many dishes, there are many schools of thought (yes, there are many sub-clans within the Hakka clan as well) on preparing this simple dish like say instead of steaming, some prefer to boil the yam beads.  With the stir-frying step, we usually just use minced pork, dried shrimp bits and some garlic but you can add other complementary ingredients like mushrooms, slices of crunchy wood-ear fungus and dried tofu pieces.

Hakka abacus beads

Step-by-step photos for shaping yam after the jump.

Agedashi Tofu Recipe with Tips (揚げ出し豆腐)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 28 Comments »

How can something that looks so simple be so flavourful and provide so many different textures at once? Delicate and umami flavours intermingling harmoniously with crispy and creamy textures- it's hard to resist this gorgeous dish. I love Japanese food but for some reason I have never tried making agedashi tofu at home and I can only say it's better late than never.  As I was thumbing through my Japanese recipe books last night, I was thinking that since I have never tried  making this - I thought I would give it a try and considering that I have all the ingredients in my pantry already, it would also help to clear up some pantry space.  I am not sure about you but for me, sometimes the feature I think about the least would actually turn out to be fantastic and sometimes the recipes which I had given a lot of thought on would turn out disappointing.  Today's feature definitely belongs to the former category.

how to make agedashi tofu

I used firm silken tofu, quartered it and shallow-fried it after dusting with some tapioca flour.  The tapioca flour worked great and there was no splattering while frying.  This was also helped by the low deep-frying temperature needed for the delicate tofu and the step where the tofu is wrapped in a clean kitchen towel for 1 hour to absorb moisture.  The amber sauce (even sounds beautiful doesn't it?) was simply a mixture of dashi, soy, mirin and some ginger juice.  It is important to clarify the sauce too before adding corn starch to ensure the clear amber hue which is just so beautiful to look at.  This is a simple dish to prepare although there are quite a few steps involved (especially if you are not used to cooking Japanese cuisine) so do have that in mind.  For today, I just topped the tofu with some sliced green onions, grated ginger and toasted sesame seeds.  I can't wait to make a more luxurious version next time and top the tofu with some crunchy roe.

easy Agedashi tofu recipe

Agedashi tofu has been around since the 16th century and 'age' (pronounced 'ah-gay') simply means fried while 'dashi' refers to the broth which it is coated in.

Palmiers Recipe (Palm Leaves)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011 | Labels: , , | 10 Comments »

I love laminated doughs like croissants and of course creations made out of puff pastry, there is just something inexplicably fun when biting into a flaky pastry, hearing the slight crunchy sound and feeling the soft yet crisp textures plus of course smelling the decadent buttery scent - what a delight to the senses.  When I made my croissants earlier, I also went about making puff pastry that went to making these palmiers today.  The main difference between the two doughs is that yeast is usually not used in making puff pastry.  Making laminated dough is really not that difficult but it does require patience and a little more awareness than the norm as there are many rounds of rolling and folding.  I also got a little bit more fastidious as I broke out my ruler to make sure my dough was rolled to the correct size, something I have not done in my previous baking adventures as I usually eyeball how large the dough is.  My absolute favourite part is the shaping of the dough, somehow all the waiting, rolling and measuring seem worth it when I get to fashion the dough into the desired shapes for baking.


Palmiers are pastry-like biscuits that are one of the representative French biscuits and are extremely easy to make.  Puff pastry or pate feuilletee as the French call it is sugared then rolled from both ends to meet in the middle, then sliced and placed on the baking sheet to bake to a golden hue and sugar is caramelized, perfect with a hot cup of tea or coffee.  This is another great basic recipe that you can be creative with and expand on endlessly, for example flavouring the dough itself, adding other spices or herbs to the puff pastry before rolling for savoury versions and the list goes on.   For a fast version, just use store-bought puff pastry which works fine although I still think making your own puff pastry will be more fun and rewarding.


If you intend to keep the dough overnight in the fridge before baking (which is advisable) do wrap it properly to avoid the dough from being exposed to the air and drying out.  The puff in puff pastries and the many layers that you see once you bite into one comes from the layers of butter which steam and cause the area between the flour and butter to expand in the oven.  I did not know about this previously but apparently in classic puff pastry, you want to create 729 layers of folded dough for the 'perfect' pastry much like how 9 layers are considered ideal when rolling tamago.

I would also like to thank Kristy from My Little Space and Holly from Beyond Kimchee for presenting the Stylish Blogger Award to Tastes of Home recently.

Thai Cucumber Salad

Monday, March 07, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 8 Comments »

I am not a big salad person but I always make exceptions for a refreshing and tangy bowl of Thai salad.  This salad is extremely simple, cucumber, carrot and shallot slivers are tossed with a tangy vinegar sauce and topped with some bird's eye chilli peppers for some characteristic Thai heat.  This is great as an accompaniment to many heavier main dishes, providing a refreshing contrast especially if you serve this with fried dishes.  This is another one of my instalments in my series of Yuen Chun recipes, an ongoing project on Tastes of Home. 


Growing up in Malaysia, I have always been fascinated with cuisine from our northern neighbour, from the famous tom yum soup to delicious pandan-wrapped chicken.  I love how this salad is open to interpretation, other popular additions include papaya, green mangoes and the list goes on.  Squirt a little bit of lime juice for a final tangy note right before serving- I used kalamansi limes.  You can also include some ground peanuts for added crunch.  For a more substantial salad, you can add in cooked shrimp or squid. 


Baker's Croissants (with Photo Tutorial)

Friday, March 04, 2011 | Labels: , | 17 Comments »

To say I love croissants is an understatement - this buttery, flaky, and decadent French concoction is my no. 1 favourite pastry. I am not quite sure why I took this long to feature croissants though, I think I was rather nervous with all the endless debates and tips on how to make the 'perfect' one.  I think the very first time I made French pastries was at least 8 years ago, at the time food blogs were not de rigeur and I just made pastries blindly, oblivious to all the various debates and literature.  Ignorance can be bliss sometimes.  That saying reminds me of one of my old history teachers who always used to shout "ignorance is not a sin" rather very sarcastically whenever any one of us students could not answer her questions in class.  I was fortunately safe from that since I was (I am?)  such a nerd and always read way in advance of what she was teaching.  I think I was labeled 'prim and proper' behind my back in secondary school although my mom would probably beg to differ. 


So, what made me get out of my pastry rut and make croissants? I would have to attribute this to all the talented bloggers on the web who have been featuring so many delicious and professional looking pastry concoctions, naturally I was inspired to try my hand at some.  I actually bought the butter required for this recipe about 2 weeks ago (do people still use fortnights?) and everytime I opened the fridge, I was reminded of my resolution to make these flaky pastries, so here they are.  I have always believed that with awareness and interest, one is able to learn anything.  These croissants were perfectly flaky and the recipe is pretty easy to follow.  Just plan in advance as this is a two-day affair since the dough should preferably be left overnight before being shaped into croissants.


Note: This dough contains yeast which is typical of Baker's croissants but differ from the lighter and flakier version of Patisseur's croissants (essentially classic puff pastry or pâte feuilletée)

Hiyashi Chuka (Cha Soba Version) or Japanese Cold Noodle Salad ~ 冷やし中華

Wednesday, March 02, 2011 | Labels: , | 14 Comments »

I love cold noodles and today's feature is a version of the popular Japanese summer dish, hiyashi chuka.  It is said that when you see restaurants in Japan serving hiyashi chuka, summer has officially arrived.  Although it is not summer yet, I am one who enjoys cold noodles anytime of the year.  I used cha soba noodles today but the traditional dish calls for fresh ramen as I prefer the former.  Hiyashi chuka is one of many Chinese-influenced Japanese dishes like buta kaku-ni (Nagasaki style braised pork) .  A lot of the Chinese-influenced Japanese dishes we see today were brought in via Nagasaki between the seventeenth and nineteenth century when Nagasaki was Japan's only open port.  There is even a Japanese adaptation of China's famous Dongpo Pork where a soy and bonito stock mixture is used to simmer the pork until tender.


The taste of this gorgeous noodle dish is light and refreshing on the palate where a tangy soy and vinegar based dressing is used.  The ultra-thin slivers of omelette, cucumber, carrots, ham and crabstick make for an incredibly colourful and vibrant topping.  The arrangement of the topping on top of the bed of noodles also reminds me of how Korea's famous bibimbap is served.  The preparation of this noodle dish is pretty simple, there is not much cooking involved but it may be a little time-consuming as there is a fair amount of chopping involved.  To make the dish as pretty as it should be, you should try to slice the toppings as thin as possible.  I admit my knife-work is hardly up to par so I cheated a little by using a peeler to peel off thin slices of cucumber and carrots before slicing them up as thinly as I could.

hiyashi chuka

I always found it interesting that although the weather in Malaysia is hot throughout the year, cold noodles are not part of the repertoire in Malaysian cuisine, instead Malaysian food is known for its' hot and fiery flavours.  Perhaps Malaysian cuisine operates along the same concept as Szechuan food since the weather in both places are humid hence eating heat-inducing foods helps to whet the appetite.  I am also sending this as an entry to Presto Pasta Nights created by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast and hosted by herself this week.

Photo featured on front page of Serious Eats, March 6, 2011

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