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!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Food Discovery : Gurney Drive, Penang


Food is a many-splendored thing. There's just so many ways it can be cooked and enjoyed. Traveling gives us a small glimpse of what's out there. You don't have to go far to realise that there's no end to it.

I went on a local food adventure recently and if you were to ask whether I've cooked any of these, in all honesty, I would answer no. I have not even attempted to 'char' (fry) kway teow although I have regularly fried pasta and rice vermicelli!

Gurney Drive is a well known food haven. Stalls open in the evening. We were one of the few who arrived early and enjoyed the peace of surveying the area before finally deciding what to eat.

Gurney Drive, Penang

We placed our order on four yummy dishes. Too much? You could say we gleefully stuffed ourselves full. The multitude of flavours made it a joy to dig in.

A little about the dishes. Fried kway teow is wok stir-fried on high heat with prawns, cockles, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), bean sprouts and spring onions. It is a soy sauce based dish.

The ever popular Char Kway Teow

Oh Chien is the simple omelette, cooked with small oysters. It is eaten with a lime based chili sauce which gives it oomph to stand out from regular breakfast omelettes.

Asam Laksa , on the other hand, is a sour and spicy fish noodle soup. Tamarind gives the soup that sour tang. The soup is cooked with fish and laden with fresh ingredients, chiefly, julienned cucumber, lettuce, onion, red chili, mint leaves and pineapple. Crunchily rich!

Oh Chien (Fried Oyster Omelette) and Asam Laksa (Spicy Sour Noodle Fish Soup)

We settled on Pasembur to complete the day's food adventure. This typically consists of boiled egg and various batter-fried seafood which is served with vegetables like cucumber, potatoes and chinese turnips. Beancurd and crispy crackers are also key ingredients. The salad is then topped with a generous helping of spicy sweet potato and chopped peanut sauce. 

Pasembur (Salad of fried seafood and vegetables served with a sweet, spicy sauce)

The place was packed with people within the hour of opening. It was nice timing on our part to drop in just a little earlier.

The crowd comes in!

I hope you have been as enlightened as me on this food journey. I leave you with one of my favourite quotes.

Secrets, especially with cooking, are best shared so that the cuisine lives on.
~ Bo Songvisava


Monday, October 28, 2013

Stir-Fried Barley With Snow Peas


Barley, to me, is a very exciting ingredient to work with. Besides boiling it for the water, I use it in stir-fries and to make desserts. I'll share some of the ways I enjoy barley as we go along. For now, feast your eyes on this.

Stir-Fried Barley with Snow Peas

This stir-fry came about because I had boiled way too much barley the other day, an overzealous attempt to clear the grains before the expiry date! I'm trying to stay on the "dont-waste-food" track.

My earlier plan of fried rice for dinner was shelved. Boo hoo but on a brighter note, this was an equally yummy change ~ fried barley < -- if it can be called this.

This mild savoury mix with a tangy lemon scent is good as main or as a side. Feel free to double or triple the ingredients as this is a very small portion.

Ingredients :
- 1 clove garlic (chopped)
- ¼ red chili (chopped)
- 8 pcs snow peas
- cup cooked barley
- 1 to 2 tsp olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Pinch of black pepper
- A grating of lemon zest

1) Heat olive oil in small pan.
2) Saute garlic until lightly browned.
3) Add snow peas and chili. Stir until almost cooked.
4) Then, add the barley. Stir-fry and season with salt and black pepper (to taste).
5) Mix well and until peas are cooked. Serve garnished with a grating of lemon zest.

I don't know if it's weird that I snack on this for tea too. 

1) The Ingredients
2) Stir-fry
3) Add cooked barley and season!
Olive Oil Stir-Fried Barley with Snow Peas



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Food Discovery : Ice Ball

Ice balls or Ais Kepal, as Penangites call it, is a treat from days of old. It was made popular in the 70s but has been around much earlier.

What it is, is a bowl of ice shavings patted into a ball, slathered with syrup for taste. Very easy to make and so satisfying in humid weather.

Ice ball seller pouring the syrup on.
Check out the ice shaving machine.

I had my first taste a couple of months ago when I was in Penang for a holiday. Check out my mango flavoured ice ball. To eat, suck or bite into the ice (obviously). They've included a wooden skewer, I think, for dainty eaters.

Mango Flavoured Ice Ball


Today, shaved ice is a more complex dessert with tons of topping varieties ranging from ice cream, nuts, fruit, jellies to whatever one fancies. But simplicity works best when the day is too hot to make much of an effort. 


Monday, October 21, 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes


Red velvet cupcakes have always attracted me. There's just something romantic about it. I don't do a lot of baking or desserts because many of the recipes that I'm drawn to makes way more than two can eat - it's excessive!

Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

So, I was really excited when I stumbled across this website that had this amazing recipe which makes just four red velvet cupcakes.

It was so delicious that I was salivating for more. More! There's none left, of course. It was all gone in a matter of minutes. Now, why did I just make four ...on the bright side, there is no chance of overeating with this recipe.

Anyway, check out my adventure in photos. You may find the recipe here: Red Velvet Cupcakes | Dessert For Two

The only thing I did differently is reduce the red food colouring from one teaspoon to 3/4 and sprinkle small sugar decorations instead of chocolate chips on top.

Bake today and drool no more!

1) Mix dry ingredients
2) Mix wet ingredients (I used a hand mixer)
3) While mixing, gradually combine wet and dry ingredients
4) Pour batter into cupcake liners

Bake at 175C in a pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes

While the cake is baking, make the cream cheese frosting

Pipe cream cheese frosting onto red velvet cupcake

Sprinkle some sugar decorations on top ..voila!
Too pretty to eat but too delicious to resist.

This is how it looks like on the inside!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Red Lentil Zucchini Curry

Red Lentil Zucchini Curry

I wouldn't say that cooking curry is my forte but I have great love for it. There's always so much to explore with the tremendous variety of spices and curry powder that is available in the market. Half the names challenge my memory!

There was a period in my young life that I avoided cooking 'dal' altogether because I was under the impression that it involved long soaking and cooking hours < ----  conclusion made after seeing the amount of effort mom puts into it.

I had not realised then that there was more than one variety of dal. Oh, don't snigger. In all my early childhood, I had only ever been introduced to mung dal aka yellow lentils.

The ignorance bubble was burst when I steeled my spirit to master mom's recipe. By golly and wonderment! It seemed that there was more to dal than I imagined. That's how far my assumptions got me, a step nowhere.

Whole red lentils (Masoor Dal), I have now discovered, are my favourite. A quick 30-minute soak before cooking and just half an hour of simmering time to reach desired state of mushiness. Hah!

I'm sharing this recipe because I love it so much. It is a tasty flavourful vegetable dish that arose out of a desperate need to clear zucchini from the fridge. Incorporating it into a red lentil curry recipe is nothing new but I have never tried it ...until now, that is.

Red Lentil Zucchini Curry
- 1 ½ cup whole red lentils (soaked for 30 mins, rinsed)
- 2 medium tomatoes (cut into wedges and halved)
- 1 cup zucchini (cubed, skin removed)
- ½ medium carrot (cubed)
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- ¼ cup tomato puree
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1½ tsp chili powder
(Use a tbsp of water or more to mix turmeric and chili powder into paste)
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 4 cups water more or less
- 1 to 2 tbsp cooking oil

Adding an aromatic touch of flavour 

(To be done before serving)
- 1 small red onion (thinly sliced)
- ½ red chili (thinly sliced)
- ¼ tsp black mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp cooking oil

(Note: Heat oil in pan. Fry thinly sliced onions and fresh chili together with fennel seeds and mustard seeds until crisp)


1) Heat oil in large pan. Saute garlic and onions.

2) Stir in turmeric and chili powder wet paste. Fry it a little.  

3) Then, add tomato puree, fresh tomatoes, carrots and zucchini. Mix well.

4) Stir in red lentils.

5) Add water. Season with salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for half an hour or less until lentils look smashed.

6) Using a potato masher, roughly mash the larger ingredients. That's it!

7) Serve with fried chili, spices and onion stirred in (fried separately in another pan - see note above on adding an aromatic touch).

1) The ingredients
2) Stir in chili powder and turmeric
3) Add lentils and water
4) Simmer until lentils are soft, mash the larger ingredients a little

Red Lentil Zucchini Curry - Serve with fried chili, onions, spices. Stir before enjoying!

I'm submitting this post to Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event by Bunny.Eats.Design aimed at connecting food bloggers and inspiring us to try new things.

This month's event is hosted by Alice from nom nom cat. Check out her yummy food posts!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cake Mould for Kuih Bahulu


Kuih Bahulu is a small sponge cake that resembles the madeleine. It is extremely popular in Malaysia during the festive season.

This is the new addition to my kitchen - a typical aluminium Kuih Bahulu cake mould.

Aluminium Cake Mould for Kuih Bahulu

To use, preheat the mould in the oven for a few minutes. Then, grease it with cooking oil or butter. While it is still hot, fill the mould with cake batter. Doing this makes removing the cake from the mould an easier task.

Use a skewer or a toothpick to poke or ease the cake out once it is done.

Happy trying!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Winter Melon Pork Soup (Slow-Cooker)

It is always a good day for soup, so people say, and I agree. Chilled soups for humid season, hot soups for cold nights.

Admittedly, I've only ever been a fan of hot soup. Dunk in some bread and I have all the juice I need to vacuum the entire house before I start thinking about ..grilled steak, teriyaki chicken, Abbe's chocolate cupcakes, Shirley's pasta and the sort.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Winter Melon Pork Soup

This is clear soup, made the the slow-cooker way. Long hours of cooking breathe a lot of flavour into soups. For me, very little seasoning is required. Some may find the taste too light but I enjoy plain soups as much as rich ones.

- 2 cups of pork ribs
- 6 dried mushrooms (soak in water to rehydrate, this can take 1-2 hours or more)
- 1 cup winter melon (cut into cubes)
- 5 baby carrots (halved)
- 4-5 cups water
- 2 stalks spring onion for garnishing (chopped)
- Pinch of salt and pepper

Ingredients: Spring onions, Pork ribs, Dried mushrooms, Winter Melon
...oops, where's the carrot?!

1) Place all the ingredients into the slow cooker.
2) Season with a just pinch of salt and pepper.
3) Add water.
4) Set cooker on "high" and cook for 3 hours.
aste and season further, if required. Cook for another 30 minutes to infuse the flavour. 
5) Serve garnished with chopped spring onions.

Toss all the ingredients into the slow cooker

Add water and carrots (I forgot these), season!

Winter Melon Pork Soup garnished with spring onions

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bean Curd Knots in Marmalade Sauce

My Aunt is an ardent cook. You could say that she's our Dora the Explorer in the kitchen, which is why I always make a beeline to her place whenever I'm back in my hometown.

She's a goldmine of recipes ...but what family cook isn't! I've picked up 'several' tricks while observing my aunt. This is one of it - fried knotted bean curds glazed in marmalade sauce.

Doesn't it look gorgeous?

Bean Curd Knots in Marmalade Sauce

Knotted bean curds are popular in my little town, a surprising discovery after scouting several supermarkets to no avail. But lucky us, my aunt and I finally found a store which had some in stock.

The best way to cook this is to include it in curry dishes... according to the friendly yellow duck on the packet.

Package instructions - Cook in curry No. 1.
Soak in hot water for 5-10 minutes before use.

My aunt, however, has made it into a yummy snack. We had a very interesting afternoon impersonating the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson. No, we did not do a Gordon Ramsay. We were too happy to be grumpy! I am often in my jolliest at my aunt's kitchen because there is always something to laugh about and no limit to her creativity .

I share below the not-so-secret recipe.

Soak in hot water for 10 minutes

Deep fry these babies!

Drain oil.

A bottle of marmalade to make the glaze.

Heat oil in wok. Add marmalade - stir fry quickly!

Add fried knotted bean curds into wok.
Coat with marmalade sauce and remove.

This isn't something you should leave aside for long. Cook only what you need and eat immediately once it has cooled enough for a munch.

It loses it's crispiness pretty quickly and the center will be tough to bite into. Perhaps non-knotted bean curd sticks will fare better? <--- Yet to explore.

Taste-wise ~ this is a yummy sweet crunch! I haven't made this myself but I imagine wonderful possibilities with anything fried. Can't wait to try!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nagasari Jagung (Corn Kuih)

I tried this recipe out the other day :  MiMi Bakery House: Kueh Jagung - Corn Cake. It's fabulously easy to make. Coconutty sweet and jelly-like.

Traditionally, it is made with banana but it can be modified easily using other ingredients like cendol (coconut milk jelly noodles) or jackfruit. In this recipe, sweet corn is used. 

Nagasari Jagung (Corn Kuih)
This kuih is typically wrapped in banana leaf but I didn't have any so I used a mould instead. I also substituted mung bean flour with corn flour.

My adventure in pictures:

1. Prepare moulds.
2. One can sweet corn, water drained.
3. Whisk corn flour (120g), sugar (150g), coconut milk(250ml) and water(750ml).
4. Cook on low heat. Stir continuously until it thickens. Add salt (
¼ tsp) and pandan leaf.

5. Oops, over-cooked it. Came out a lil uneven with lumps. So, I strained it.
6. Better consistency.
7. Drop corn into moulds. Pour mixture in. I did it in layers.
8. Chill in fridge for an hour plus or longer.

Slide Out From Jelly Mould

Nom Nom!

In Between


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Improving Kitchen Habits : The Refrigerator

Ever since I've taken the challenge to be a better home cook, I've come to realise that it's always going to be more than just washing the kuali and hanging it up. It involves planning, organising and re-organising, improving storage practices and you-name-it.

More recently, I've been showing extra love towards my refrigerator which is now neater than before.

"You don't have to put that in the fridge, you know", I tell myself regularly these days.

I get very carried away with chilling everything. I think of it as a way to preserve food. My little fridge has been subject to great abuse, often unnecessarily overstuffed. You can say that it's a jungle in there!

Any one person can take several minutes to wade through bottles of condiments and leftovers just to get to a box of milk.

This, listed below, is how I've taken things up a notch in my kitchen. I'm still testing out a lot of stuff as I go along but I've managed to trim some items off the fridge list.

1. Fresh fruits and vegetables 
I no longer store apples, oranges, tomatoes into the fridge. I also leave mangoes out and pop them in only once it's ripe and ready to be eaten. Melons are okay left outside.

I keep track of fresh produce with a conscious effort not to buy too much these days, preferring to stick to the concept of "buy less, shop often". This means that I will buy only what I need and not hoard for convenience sake...unless it's shower gel. Well, that's a different story altogether.

2. Condiments
Chili sauce, tomato ketchup and various seasonings used to hog up a lot of space. I've discovered that even after opening, it lasts at room temperature for months as long as it's kept clean - no used spoons or leaving smudges of sauces around the cover.

Reading labels beyond the ingredients list and expiry date help. The fine print says, "NO refrigeration required". Hah! Used to put these in the fridge too. Who knew.. *shrugs*

3. A herb garden

My latest project, still a work-in-progress, is a mini herb garden. This means that I will no longer be buying fresh herbs. That'll definitely leave more space in the refrigerator.

I'll cut a few stalks from the garden, celebrity-chef style, whenever I need to use some. Coriander and spring onions top my list. It's the most often used herb in my household.

These are the three major changes I've made or am making to improve how I manage my fridge. Cheer me on if you don't mind. I need all the hip hip hoorays I can get to stay on course. Bad habits die hard.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tapai Pork (Pork in Rice Wine)

Tapai Pork

Tapai is a kind of rice wine native to Sabah where I was born. It is usually cooked with chicken and is popularly eaten during the month long post-childbirth confinement period. It is said to help with blood circulation and ease bloating or wind in the stomach.

I learned to cook tapai chicken from mom who makes it for dinner regularly due to high demand. Lots of ginger is usually added into the dish.

However, I've decided to do it a little differently this time. I'm going for a pork dish. If you're wondering what this dish will taste like, imagine sweet wine in pork gravy.

This is how I did it. Take a look at the recipe below.

- Pork Ribs (7 small cuts)
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 2 small onions (chopped)
- ½ cup Tapai (or more - can be replaced with any other rice wine)
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- Pinch of salt and pepper or to taste
- 5 pcs dried black fungus, small variety (pre-soaked for 30 minutes, halved)
- Fresh lettuce (a couple of leaves)
- Water
- Cooking oil

For marinating
- 1 tsp light sweet soy sauce
- ½ tsp dark sweet soy sauce 

1) Brown pork pieces. 
2) Add garlic/onion - fry. Add tapai and water - simmer.
3) 10 minutes in, add black fungus.
4) Serve with lettuce.

1) Marinate pork ribs in light and dark soy sauce. Leave aside for 30 minutes.

2) After 30 minutes, heat oil in non-stick cooking pot / wok (Don't use a lot of oil). Add pork. Let it fry and turn occasionally. The goal is to brown it on all sides, not cook it thoroughly.

3) Once browned, add garlic and onions into the same pot. Stir-fry it for a bit. Then, add half cup tapai, some water (1 cup or more). Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, followed by a teaspoon of brown sugar. Stir well.

4) Simmer covered for about half an hour on low heat until meat is just tender. Add black fungus 10 minutes into simmer time.

5) Serve with fresh lettuce and eat with rice.

(Note: If you want something a little stronger, stir in an additional ¼ cup tapai five minutes before end of cooking time.)


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