AFC GRILLED : Chef Sean Connolly

An evening of good food.

Lap Cheong Watermelon Bites

An asian take on watermelon bites!

Baked Fish with Kiwi in Sweet and Sour Sauce

Add a twist to sweet and sour fish!

Semperit Pandan Cookies

Cute cookies for the festive season!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Daun Kaduk (Wild Betel Leaf)

Daun Kaduk

Daun Kaduk
aka piper sarmentosum scientifically, is usually used in local cuisine to make ulam (traditional Malay salad) and otak-otak (fish cake).

It looks like a betel leaf, but is smaller in size and has a peppery taste.

It can be eaten raw or cooked - steamed, fried, souped, what-have-you. I have seen it used as a vegetable wrap on several occasions.

It doesn't keep long. Best to buy it closest to the day you intend to use it.

Earlier in the year, my sister-in-law asked me to help her out with an otak-otak dish. That's when I first noticed this leaf. I've probably eaten it before but only made a mental note of it now that I've taken an interest in cooking. You should have seen how engrossed I was with the leaf, scrutinising it as though it were a science project!

Anyway, here's an idea how to use it in cooking:

Otak-otak (Fish and prawns in coconut gravy - to be steamed into a cake)
with Daun Kaduk lined at the bottom

The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star 
~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dried Mandarin Orange Peels

Dried Mandarin Orange Peel

Save those mandarin orange peels!

Did you know that you can dry orange peels and use them for cooking later? It can be included into meat stews, hot soup desserts like red bean or barley soups, hot teas, used as seasoning and it can even be added into cakes. It doesn't just add flavour to cooking, it adds fragrance - it is this bit that gives recipes an extra edge.

I learned this from my aunt who's an ardent cook. It's pretty easy to do when you live in a country where it's summer all year round and it's sunny most times.


1) Peel skin from mandarin orange.
2) Scrape the excess pith off the skin (not difficult because there isn't much).
3) Dry the orange peels out in the hot sun for a few days and that's it.

Dried and ready for use - Mandarin Orange Peels

I guess the same can be done with a regular orange but removing the pith may be a challenge for me since it has a thicker layer of white pith.

Of course I could peel it with a knife, slicing just beneath the skin. It helps to have a steady hand. Something I don't have..

Monday, May 27, 2013

Vegemite Beef and Broccoli Sandwich

And then there are days I just don't know what I'm doing in the kitchen really. I'll be going, "Gosh, I'm hungry. I need sustenance." (a word I picked from up from Thor).

I should have just reached out for quick bread and jam, but when one is moved by the belly, one ends up complicating things with oo-I-should-add-this and oo-I should-add-that.

And then I take a step back and whoaa..what IS this!

..That's precisely how I landed myself with this beef and broccoli sandwich.

The Mega Broccoli and Beef Sandwich

This is the recipe, in the simplest form, because it wasn't something I planned with pen and paper.

I stir-fried onions and beef slices, and cooked it with a dollop of vegemite. Then, I felt guilty about it all being meat with no greens, so I boiled some broccoli florets to make it a balanced meal.

.....BUT broccoli on its own felt like a weird combination. I decided to fry it in egg, seasoned with a wee bit of salt and pepper.

Then, I toasted two slices of sandwich bread, spread the beef on it, followed by the broccoli and voila! Lunch finally gets served. I look at the time and slap my forehead.

Vegemite Beef

Broccoli fried in egg

Vegemite Beef and Broccoli Sandwich


Monday, May 13, 2013

Lala (Clam) Soup - A Spicier Take!


Lala Clam Soup

Lala, the Asian soft-shelled clam - one of my favourite seafood. I've often wondered how it got its name..just as hubby's often wondered what isn't my favourite food. Aahh.. I am so easy to please, food-wise.

If I had to use a song to describe this soup, it would be Kylie Minogue's La la la la lalala la ..can't get you out of my head for obvious cheesy reasons.

Lala clams cooked in a ginger based soup isn't something new but it is exciting on the taste buds. Ginger is often used to cover up that "fishy smell" of seafood. In this recipe, it also compliments the soup with a more robust flavour.

I  would say that this soup has a deep gingery, sweetish and spicy taste to it. The spiciness comes mainly from the chili and ginger. 

It's a simple recipe, using ingredients commonly found in Malaysian supermarkets.
- 160g lala clams
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 2 thumbs fresh ginger (julienned)
- 2 pc black fungus - medium variety (soak until soft - about 30 minutes, remove woody part and slice if you wish. I left it whole)
- 1 tbsp dried wolfberries or more (soak in water until soft - about 5 minutes)
- 5 green bird's eye chilies (seeded and sliced in half)
- 5 medium grey oyster mushrooms (halved)
- 1.5L water
- 1 stalk coriander (chopped, for garnishing)
- Cooking oil
- Salt and white pepper to taste

The Ingredients
1) Heat pot with oil and saute the garlic until lightly browned.Then, add the ginger and green chilies. Stir it about and add water. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

2) Allow the water to boil for just awhile longer to get that ginger taste out before adding the black fungus, mushrooms, wolfberries and lala clams.

3) Once all the ingredients have been added into the pot, let it cook for a few minutes further. Taste, season accordingly and it's done!

4) Serve garnished with coriander.

There she boils..

There you have it - lala clams in hot, hot soup! Prepare to tissue it out.

Lala Clam Soup - Hot stuff!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Baked Fish with Kiwi in Sweet and Sour Sauce

The Asian Seabass - Baked and smothered in sweet and sour Kiwi sauce

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about one of my favourite food, the Thai-inspired Deep Fried Fish in Three-Flavoured Sauce.

I did say that "it would be a matter of time" before I fire up my own stove to recreate a similar dish. It's happened sooner than I thought! And being me, I changed the recipe a little here and there for convenience sake and to suit my visual needs. I've got to go, "Whoa! What a sight to behold!"  ..silly as it sounds.

Finally, I couldn't decide if it could be called the "Three-Flavoured Sauce Fish" although technically, my version also passes for sweet, sour and spicy.

The original recipe calls for crisp fried fish... but my fish was way too large to fit into my electric pan so I did away with that step. I marinated the fish with some salt and black pepper, and popped it into the oven instead.

That's my baked fish - Asian Seabass / Barramundi !

For the sauce? A simple mix of Tesco's sweet and sour sauce with lots of cut ingredients. Typically, this recipe should include cubed pineapples but I figured a kiwi fruit would be more exciting.  It was a wonderful swap. I so loved the vibrant colour it added into the dish and how the sauce evolved into something that is very much alive in yummy flavour!

Here's how I did it, the recipe and how-to.

- One whole fish (Seasoned with salt and pepper and baked, or deep-fried if you prefer)

(Estimates for a 12-inch Barramundi fish - adjust accordingly)
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 2 medium red onions (chopped)
- 1 lemongrass (sliced thinly - peel/cut away the dry parts of the stem, use only the soft middle part)
- 2 tomatoes (cut into cubes)
- 1 kiwi fruit (cut into cubes)
- 1 red chili (seeded and chopped)
- 1 green chili (seeded and chopped)
- A handful of fresh coriander (roughly chopped)
- 2/3 cup sweet and sour bottled sauce (or combine sweet chili sauce with tomato ketchup)
- 1½ tbsp corn flour (mixed with water, into a diluted paste)
- ½ cup water (more or less)
- Cooking oil

The Ingredients

1) Heat oil in pan. Fry garlic and onions (not all) until lightly browned.

2) Add lemongrass. Give it a quick stir and then, add the tomatoes and chilli. Pour in the sweet and sour sauce and some water. Mix well and let it cook awhile until the tomatoes look smashed. Add water if it gets too dry.

3) Add the remainder of the onions and the kiwi fruit. Stir quickly (that is, don't let it cook), to coat it with the sauce.

4) Lift  the pan off the fire and pour in the corn flour mixture. Give it a quick stir. The gravy will thicken slightly, giving the sauce a gooey shine.

5) To serve, plate the fish and pour the kiwi sauce over the fish. Garnish with fresh coriander. 

Last in! Kiwis and Onions - to keep the crunch and freshness

There you go - Baked Barramundi with Kiwi in Sweet and Sour Sauce!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Food Discovery : Herbal Steamed Fresh Water Prawns


I love including Chinese dried herbs into my cooking. It gives plain dishes a slight edge. Adding say, red wolfberries, onto a plate of green vegetables makes it all the more attractive to eat.

I've always been comfortable with tossing it into chicken dishes too, but never seafood...never.. because it didn't seem like it could add flavour to an already awesome tasting ingredient but what can I say, I was wrong. It does, when done expertly.

This is the first time I'm tasting it on a seafood dish - a new discovery for me!

I was at Restoran Wei Sun, Kepong last week and the waitress recommended that I try their Steamed Herbal Fresh Water Prawn dish. It turned out to be mmm..mmmMm..most delicious!
Fresh Water Prawns - Steamed with wolfberries

The gravy carried all the juice from the steamed prawns. It was rich with sweet and salty all in. The wolfberries complimented the dish tremendously. It added a tinge of fruity sweetness onto every bite of prawn meat and every slurp of gravy. I cleaned the plate out.

It was so good!

I am learning that the key to new discoveries in cooking is to keep an open mind. That said, I guess I'll be making a similar dish soon and hopefully, it tastes as wonderful.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Nai Pak Choy (Extra Dwarf Chinese Cabbage)

Nai Pak Choy (Extra Dwarf Chinese Cabbage)

Nai Pak Choy in English is regularly referred to as the Extra Dwarf Chinese Cabbage. Other names it is known by locally - Fairlady or Sawi Susu in Malay.

Nai Pak Choy  is a smaller variety of Pak Choy / Bok Choy. Its distinctive trait is its short wide white petioles with dark green crumpled leaves held together by a stem in a rounded head.

The ones I purchased here were grown in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.

Buying and Storing
Look for fresh colours - the stems should be white and firm. The greens should be a lovely dark, glossy shade and not wilted. In short, they should look crunchy.

Leave it unwashed until ready for use. I left mine in its original plastic packaging for four days in the refrigerator. There were no signs of discoloration or wilting.

Before cooking, wash thoroughly. Either dip it in water and swish it around or separate the stems and wash it individually. Dirt is usually lodged in between the stems so that's where you should really focus on.

There are several ways to eat this. I've read that you can have it raw but that's something I've never done so I can't comment on it. I prefer mine cooked in quick stir fries, boiled in soup or with some sort of gravy. I find it really delicious done this way.

Here's a simple recipe on Nai Pak Choy that you can try out : Nai Pak Choy with Pork in Egg Gravy

Nai Pak Choy - Lovely white stems

Nai Pak Choy - Crumpled greens


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