Friday, September 30, 2005

Soups to warm your Tummy!

Whenever you need a steaming hot bowl of soup to get that nourishing warm fuzzy feel, check out the following:

Asian Style Soups

Western Style Soups


With my digital SLR in tow, these are posts which log my re-discovery of the world thru' the camera lens:

Local Eats

Too lazy to cook up a storm in the kitchen, go and get sated (aka stuffed) on the streets of Singapore!

Chinese Zhe-Cha:
Food Courts:

Hawker Food:

  • Satisfying - Prawn Noodles Soup, Wonton Noodles and Prawn Roll (hei-cho) at corner of Jalan Besar/Allenby Road
  • Mental Boost - Pig's Brain and Chicken Feet Herbal Soup - same coffeeshop as Prawn Noodles Soup at corner of Jalan Besar/Allenby Road

Local Desserts:


Home Cooking

When in need of a quick food 'fix' for looming hunger pangs, or when you want to play 'masak-masak' (Malay for cooking) in the kitchen :

Fish & Seafood:
Pasta & Rice:
Savoury Tarts:
Asian Desserts:
Western Desserts:
Anything Else:


A list of postings on travels and their lighter side:

Beijing, China
Chengdu & Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan, China
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hanoi, Vietnam

What is That?

Many times I come across stuff in life that bring great exhilaration, trigger memories (good or bad), bring me through nine levels of curiosity or are worth mentioning at least once, here's some of them :

Ice-creams & Sorbets

Having just bought a Kenwood ice-cream machine, it looks like I will be featuring quite a few experiments in the flavouring of ices ....

Baking Adventures

Being not such an accomplished baker, everytime I venture into the kitchen to attempt baking anything involving flour, raising agent, sugar and butter (or any other edible fats), I am apprehensive of results. It's incredible how one's moods can rise sky-high if baking concoction turns out nice (note, I haven't achieved perfection) or plummet to the depths of the earth if cake has sunk, cratered, cracked, turned into mud or worse a bouncing brick!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Vacation Time - Yippeeee!

It's 7 more hours before I leave for the airport and fly off to Chengdu, Sichuan in China. And as usual, the past few days have been a total whirl of activity at work and in preparation for the trip..... my excuse for the lack of posts in the last couple of days :P

A group of friends, my sis-in-law and l will be visiting Jiuzhaigou Valley in the north of Sichuan Province, which is reputed for its breathtaking natural scenic beauty. We're pretty excited and can't wait to capture as much as possible of its enchantment in photos and video.

In the meantime, word has come through that the dining fare up in this mountainous valley is not exciting and may be fairly challenging to the Singapore palate used to spiciness. Thus, you see below our vacation emergency food supplies, comprising cups of noodles (in tom yam, curry and various other flavors), instant coffee mixes, tea-bags etc. Another friend will be bringing bottles of chilli sauce... okay, okay, you must thinking, that's the 'kiasu' Singaporean going overboard... sigh! when it comes down to satisfying that hunger in the night, better safe than sorry, right?
Anyway, with some foodies in the group, we have promised ourselves to attempt as much of the local cuisine as humanly possible within reasonable limits (i.e. bugs and unknown unappetizing looking items are outside these limits)!

Come back in a week's time for reports.. hopefully, we don't have to make too much of a dent in the emergency food supplies!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Neglected Piggy in Basket

Whenever Mid-Autumn Lantern (aka Mooncake) Festival comes around, I begin my annual hunt, not for delectable mooncakes but rather, for a childhood favourite snack which for some weird reason is only sold during this same period - yup, I'm talking about the little 'piglet in the basket' ("jyu zai beng" in Cantonese)!

Each of these biscuits is shaped in the form of a 'piglet' - you can just about make out the snout, indented ears, very plump-looking torso, and yes, a little knob at the end denoting the tail! They are usually packaged in oblong bright multi-colored (predominantly red and yellow colors) plastic baskets, though the ones I found the other day were in these really authentic and traditional-looking rattan baskets. The ones in the basket are from the famous Kee-Wah Bakery (from Hong Kong) and the fat-looking one in the foreground is from the other equally famous Hang Heung Bakery (also from HK) - though, I didn't have to make a trip up to HK for them - just pop down to Basement 1 of Great World City (Singapore) where both shops have set up kiosks during this period to market their mooncakes and other snacks.

These 'piglets' are actually made from the same pastry used for the outer shell of the traditional baked mooncakes. While some can be a little dry, there are others which are just the right balance between firm yet moist, making chewing into it a pleasure - especially for some of us who prefer the pastry shell of mooncakes to the lotus paste and egg yolk filling within.

Weird? I blame it on childhood conditioning. My mum never failed to get these for us kids when we were young as they were easy to hold in our hands and munch as we ran around with our little lighted lanterns. Sadly, these little 'piggies' are ever so neglected each year as the attention is focused time and again on the more glamourous mooncake with their variety of fillings - so, here's my post to encourage you to look for that little 'piglet' before it disappears altogether.

Oh, as a last note, personally, I rated the Hang Heung ones better based on my firm yet moist chewing pleasure test!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Olio e Aglio with Extras

Spaghetti Olio e Aglio (i.e. with olive oil and garlic) is a classic Italian recipe involving nothing more than just pasta, olive oil and minced garlic. Yet, there are times when Olio e Aglio in its purest form just will not do, especially when I'm looking for a one-dish meal. The extra ingredients (courtesy of whatever I can find in the freezer or fridge) which go well with olive oil and garlic are mixed into the pasta as well.
Prawn Fettuccine

Prawn, lean bacon and sliced button mushroom fettuccine was tonight's final result. Fettuccine would not have been my pasta of choice for this dish, being broad and better suited for pasta with lots of tomato sauce or creamy sauce, but I had run out of spaghetti. Still, the combination worked quite well.

I particularly loved the crispy bits of garlic lightly browned in the olive oil - be mindful of not burning the same as they will taste bitter and thoroughly ruin this wonderful dish. I usually scoop out the garlic bits from the pan when they are slightly golden with one to two tablespoons of the heated olive oil and place them into a small bowl, where they will continue to cook and brown. With the remaining olive oil, fry the lean bacon, sliced mushrooms and prawns, adding a pinch of salt and crushed red pepper for that extra zing.

At this juncture, I cannot but stress the importance of using good quality extra virgin olive oil for this dish (in fact the best you can afford) - you will definitely taste the difference in flavor as you slurp in the strands of spaghetti (or fettuccine). Oh, and don't hold back on the quantity of olive oil to be used in this dish (especially when adding other ingredients to the mix which will absorb the oil) so that there's enough to toss and coat the pasta. Olive oil is predominantly monounsaturated oil with very little or no cholesterol and generally reputed to be good for health - no guilty feelings when attacking this dish with gusto!

Monday, September 12, 2005

My Quiet Time


Every once in awhile, I take a step out of the 'rat-race merry-go-round' and spend some quiet time just relaxing by myself and getting some equilibrium back. I don't want to think about messy work deadlines, household chores or even dinner preparations... I just want to cuddle up in our red sofa with comfy cushions, read a good book (preferably a light one that tickles and makes one smile rather than guffaw), munch a couple of home-made cookies with a cold glass of milk at hand... simple bliss!

One of hubby's favourite cookies (mine as well) are chocolate chip oat cookies. In fact, I'm inclined to think that using rolled oats in baking is about the only way to make them truly delicious and palatable (oatmeal cereals on the other hand usually take some persuading and cajoling before attempts at ingestion). These cookies are extremely easy to bake, requiring not more than half an hour in the kitchen (I figure - the less time spent there, the more time spent seeking equilibrium - or just plain lazing around).
  • cream 150g unsalted butter together with 1 cup of soft brown sugar until pale creamy and smooth (if you have a KitchenAid or a KenwoodChef mixer - this is done in less than 2 minutes)
  • add one beaten egg and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract into creamed butter mixture and beat for short while until smooth
  • add 1 cup of plain flour (sifted), 1 teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt (do omit if using salted butter) into mixture and fold lightly
  • add 1 cup of chocolate chips and 2 cups of rolled oats into mixture and stir to combine
  • pick up 1 tablespoon of mixture, roll into a ball, flatten and place on greased or lined baking trays (do allow for at least 1-inch space between cookies as they do expand with baking)
  • bake in preheated oven at 180C for about 15 to 20 minutes until pale golden color
  • recipe makes about 30 good-sized cookies

Sunday, September 11, 2005

New Banner Finally!!

Have been playing around with my CSS code all afternoon in order to get my blog's banner up.... Voila, it's finally done! To match the lovely deep red borders, I've changed the background color to a light shade of pink! Hope you lovely readers will not have any problems seeing the photo-banner in your browsers... enjoy!

PS: Now if only I can get my blogbanner (in individual post page and on archive page) to redirect back to my blog home url... anyone who can help or has some clue to offer.. please let me know!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Black Chicken Soup

Am currently experiencing an unusual yearning for Chinese-style soups, and you, my poor reader, will just have to 'sup' with me!

Simmered black chicken soup with the above Chinese traditional herbs is one of my family's hot favourites on many a weekend, and even on weekday-nights (with the help of a crockpot, happily purring away for the whole day). The dark brown soup may look threateningly foul but in reality, far from it being evil-smelling or bitter-tasting, the soup is flavorful and tinged with sweetness from the addition of dried red dates and medlar seeds.

After imbibing a bowl or more of this soup, I always feel that I'm a little bit closer to achieving overall physical well-being and balancing out the yin and yang within (must be all that dogmatic indoctrination from young while under mum's care).

The traditional herbs and roots in the picture (with their supposed health benefits), starting clockwise from the red dates right at the base of the bowl are:
  • Chinese red dates (hong-cho, in Cantonese) - nourishes the stomach, spleen and blood
  • Dang Shen - benefits the lungs and helps in blood circulation
  • what I believed to be Chuan Qiong - a sliced root to nourish the blood
  • Medlar Seeds (kei-chi, in Cantonese) - improves vision (personally, I think they add sparkle to the eyes), nourishes the lung and kidneys and are believed to be good for diabetes
  • Huai Shan (wai-san, in Cantonese) - these are another form of root slices, chalk-white in color, which are believed to be good for the kidneys and lungs
And lastly, we mustn't forget the black-meat chicken, which is supposedly healthier than white-meat chicken as the former has less fat and lower calories but higher content of protein. Just one last nugget of info - black-meat chickens have black to dark grey flesh with black skin but are actually covered in white feathers (somewhat like the black and white minstrel shows of old). So far, I have only seen these chickens being used in Chinese-style brewed or double-boiled soups, and have yet to discover them in any other cuisine from other nationalities or cultures.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Traditional Soup - My Comfort Food

Still recovering from my recent bout of flu, I decided this evening to cook my favourite soup comprising soft-boned pork ribs, carrots, corn on the cob and dried scallops (for that extra oomph). Traditional Chinese-styled simmered and double-boiled soups are my comfort food especially when the body is in need of some replenishment in one area or another. After two hours of simmering on low heat, all the goodness of the ingredients will have been incorporated into the soup for easy digestion and absorption by the body. To make the meal a little bit more substantial, I added in mee-sua (thin wheat noodles) as shown in the picture.

Pork Ribs Soup
Nutritional ingredients of this particular soup:
  • pork ribs - rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin B - helps in the development and strengthening of bones and muscles
  • dried scallops (conpoy) (kong-yee-chi, in Cantonese) - are generally used for flavoring, imparting a unique sweet flavor to the soup - rich in amino acids, and minerals such as calcium and zinc
  • carrots and corn on the cob - apart from their obvious nutritional value, these two vegetables add sweetness to the soup
  • by the way, apparently carrots are more nutritious eaten cooked than when eaten raw (except when they are juiced) - because of their tough cellular walls, it is more difficult for the body to convert its beta carotene into vitamin A unless the cellular cell membranes are partially broken up by cooking (food for thought when munching the next carrot-stick in another attempt to diet)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Cruel Gruel

The flu bug has struck, and together with a runny nose, an itchy throat and a raspy voice, I have also temporarily lost both my senses of smell and taste. That spells disaster where food is concerned as I cannot stress enough the importance of these two sensorial functions to enhance a total dining experience. Food presentation can only do so much to excite the palate, but will not restore the appetite without the other two senses. Having little to zilch appetite in the last two days or so, I have already lost at least a kilo in weight .... am wondering why no one else has done more R&D work on the numbing of these two senses to decrease appetite and voila, in the process achieve a slimmer you ... but what a sacrifice for vanity it would be to lose the ability to breathe in the intoxicating aromas of delicious food and to taste heaven on your tongue!

Whenever I'm ill, and sustenance is required during recuperation, I turn to trusty Mr Quaker and his instant oatmeal cereal. Not taking more than 5 minutes to prepare (add boiling water to oatmeal and stir for a few minutes), I know I will not run the risk of fainting out of fatigue on the kitchen floor.

"Something to smile about..... Start your day right..... Oatmeal - Lots of ways, every day....." - that's just a few of the mantras on Mr Quaker's website [visit for a wealth of information on nutritional benefits of oats, the soluble fiber beta glucan in oats which experts claim have cholesterol-lowering benefits, and recipes using Quaker oats products].

Unfortunately, for something that is supposed to bring so many health benefits, oatmeal cereal is unlikely to make anyone's top 10 food lists. Apart from suffering under a negative association with gruel (a thin porridge made from crushed/rolled oats and water) fed to the orphans in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, cooked oatmeal porridge is really NOTHING much to look at - scoring very very low on food presentation and palate excitement (which is why I have placed this photo of my latest oatmeal porridge right at the end of this post).

If not for the slices of sweet succulent pear topping this bowl of oatmeal porridge which I had cooked together with some maple syrup and milk, and the fact that I was too sick to cook anything else, I sincerely doubt that I would have finished this bowl. I will try this next with some dried chopped apricots, honey and a dash of cinnamon... and pray that I will regain my senses of smell and taste as soon as possible!