Yakitate!! Japan

I confess; the real reason I had been missing in action since my sister’s wedding is watching an anime on baking bread, Yakitate!! Japan (Freshly Baked, Japanese Bread):

Yakitate!! Japan
Yakitate!! Japan

– picture source from Wikipedia

I know I would be considered a tad too late in the anime world to be raving about this series now, where in fact it had been a wave two years ago! There are even bloggers who already made the only recipe given bread in the anime – Rice Cooker Bread, and some inspired by it to make other creative pan (bread). The excerpt of the baking can be found in youtube, now it makes me really want to try it out, but first I got to get the automatic rice cooker, sigh, the things we do for passions.

The reasons I love this movie is how much it relates to me in some ways about cooking/baking. World of culinary is truly amazing, as how many times the anime had try to prove. In the end, the final message is that when something is made out of love and in the mind for that someone, it would definitely taste really delicious. So that is why grandma’s cooking are always the best, it was after all made with love for the whole family.

Besides that, they also emphasizes on being creative in your culinary adventures. Though there are times we should stick to traditions such as Chinese dishes, but when it comes to the world of baking, nothing is impossible. As they say, there is a fine line between a genius and a fool, and bounded by common sense we would not be possible to make new kind of pastries or bread. Thinking back how sometimes I would ask J how can you mix that with that(!) (whenever he try ‘weird’ things in front of me like bread with jam and sausage) and then munched away happily. But if you think just a bit further, meat and jam do go together, like the Swedish meatballs and raspberry sauce, oh so good! So in the end it is about crossing boundaries and willing to create and improve to come up with your own ultimate creation. Oh I am so inspired now!

I can’t wait to really make my own food again, cooking for the J, my family and friends of course. It would so much fun to continue my vow to bake a cake for each and every 1984. This feels like I am about to make a mid-year resolution.

Nevertheless, stay tuned and I will be back with more cooking, baking and of course food review!

Bridesmaid in Need

I am just dropping a note here to say that I am alive and well. Life has been real busy, as I said that I was involved in my sister’s wedding tea ceremony and dinner. After all the stress and sleepless nights, I would say it went really well. Anyway, time for me to catch up on my work, I leave you here with one of my favourite shot of the day:

Bride and Bridesmaid
Bride and Bridesmaid

Me, Myself and My Food

I had been tagged last year (that sound like ages ago) by Jake from Lovely Malaysian Food by a meme called “7 random facts about myself”. Then I was re-tagged by Mochachocolata-Rita on “5 facts about me“. I was thinking would anyone be interested in 5 facts about me what more 7? Maybe yes, maybe no, but oh well, as the rule of the game, tagged I am therefore I write:

1. Besides playing with kitchen appliances, I play guitar and drums. Yea, I was a cool teen; I used to have an all girl band name Addicted to Bliithe where I was the drummer. If you have been a long time reader, yes you can guessed it, it were consisted of my 1984s friends. We played in gigs, joined some competitions and even just ‘jam’ for fun. Does this make me similar to Jamie Oliver, the drummer who cooks?

2. Despite the fact that I am a Chinese, and my grandparents are from China, I do not even know how to read or write Chinese. Luckily I do know my dialects, such as Hokkien and Cantonese. So currently I am on a self learning journey in quest to learn Mandarin.

3. I have a bachelor degree in Business Information System, currently doing something with a mixture of business, finance and IT. I am happy with what I am doing, pretty challenging (the way I like it) yet it still feels like something is missing. This is because my ultimate dream is to have a business of my own, and of course it would be a food business. Food writing comes a close second.

4. I grew up in a lovely town call Taiping, up north in Perak, Malaysia. It is a place where people grew up and grow old. Somewhere in between are people like my mum and dad. Most of them are children and senior citizens. There is a really beautiful Lake Garden there, which was previously a tin ore mine, now made into a wonder garden of lushes trees and sparkling lakes.

5. Recently I had just bought an apartment with J in the heart of PJ, waiting eagerly to get the keys and start unloading all my kitchen gadgets into it and hopefully then, churn out more goodies for me, J, family and friends to enjoy and for you to drool on from this blog.

6. I secretly harbour the desire to knead and bake my own bread, but I have yet to get on with it. Once I bought a bottle of instant yeast and it was left in my shelves for ages and never got into bread making. I was never really a bread person, as in I do not take bread just because (with the exception of my morning breakfast of eggs and toast bread), and I am really picky about what makes a good bread, occasionally only manage to find it in posh restaurants or good bakeries. No, the usual roti canaiMalaysian’s favourite does not make it as one of those bread I desired to make. I want to bake rustic looking bread that would make good sandwiches, not those white bread sandwiching some sad looking lettuce and tuna.

7. I started a mini project in this blog called Exploring My Origin, where I am still very much interested to carry on. I want to learn and understand all there is to know about Chinese food origins, how it is to be made and what makes it so good that it lasted for generations. I am always so worried that these traditions would be lost in our era. If time and place permits it, I will definitely seek it out, practice and make it till it is right and then share all of it here.

There, five non-food-related facts about me and 2 tham jiak facts about me, to kill two birds with one stone. 7 is more than enough I’m sure, and I do hope you enjoy it!

Chinese New Year : Home is where the Best Feasts are

I am back! Just a long weekend off for my favourite celebration of the year, I felt as if I have left for an entire year! There was so much to catch up on, I felt as if I had an overrun marathon for the whole week that left me breathless.

Although I had eaten so much within that long weekend regardless that I had forewarned myself, I can vividly remember all the wonderful feasts. Few of them was taken outside in restaurants as we do not want to tire our dear grandmothers and mothers, but those few home made feasts was what I treasured most.

On my Ah Ma side, it had been many years since she cooked a feast for our Chinese New Year as all her children want her to rest and relax, while on my Pho Pho side, it would be the usual feast of my favourite dishes such as jiu hu char, which had me standing by the side of the bowl, nearly finishing off by wrapping it in fresh raw lettuce and popping it into my mouth again and again, ah bliss, and also the must have heart-attacking duck soup, I swear that it is more of duck ‘oil’, but nonetheless irresistible! These home cooked feasts will have me gobbling up as if there were no tomorrow while I just nibble on the restaurant food, which once I got so sick off I cheated my way out of dinner by saying I wanted to visit my Lai Ma (Nanny), which I did of course but with no food.

Speaking bout my Lai Ma, she is another wonder woman in kitchen, apart from being a wonder woman of raising kids, which would be another whole story I will share soon. Last year, when I got real lucky, she had me sit down and feasted on her food during my visit. At that time I was already full from lunch at Pho Pho’s but staring at her version of Chinese New Year home feasting; I could not resist and proceeded to have second lunch of the day! I cursed myself for eating too much beforehand while continued on feasting anyway. So this year, with the reminiscence of the wonderful feast I had with the tastes still vividly at the tip of my tongue, I smarted my way out from a lunch out with my relatives in a restaurant and ‘visited’ my Lai Ma on Chor Yat (first day of Chinese New Year) itself. Beside the fact that I was really yearning to see both my Lai Ma and Lai Pa (her husband) after a long time, I was also secretly yearning for her special dishes.

When I got there, many people were there visiting already, including U and her brother which grew up with me together under my Lai Ma’s care. I waited patiently while enjoying their company and once they leave, I casually asked if there is lunch. My Lai Ma was extremely surprised “What! You haven’t had your lunch? Why didn’t you say so just now?” Glancing at the clock which was showing only near to 3pm, it wasn’t that late from lunch but from my Lai Ma’s reaction, just like how a typical Chinese would react, it would had seemed like I had been starving for years. Quickly, she had me get the rice while she got me a big bowl of ham choy thong (salted vegetable soup). I stared at the spread in front of me and proceeded to enjoy the feast, this time with lots of room in my tham jiak stomach to fit in.

Stir Fry Ngaku / Chai Buey / Steam Chicken / Char Mangkuang@ Chinese New Year
Stir Fry Ngaku / Chai Buey / Steam Chicken / Char Mangkuang@ Chinese New Year

The ham choy thong is how I always remembered it would be, as she cooks it quite frequently, salty, slightly spicy and sourish, which serves real well as an appetizer. Then there was the must-have steamed chicken, eaten with her homemade green chili sauce. Another meat dish is the lor bak (deep fried marinated minced pork rolled in thin soybean sheets) which was home made by my Lai Ma’s sister was really good too. The chunky minced pork was really juicy and fragrant while the soybean sheets were perfectly crunchy. My Lai Ma made pickled cucumber to eat with it, which surprisingly pairs really well together and to me, it was better than the usual Loh sauce (dark sauce thicken with corn starch, usually served at the hawker stalls).

Lor Bak @ Chinese New Year
Lor Bak @ Chinese New Year

Then next is my favourite chow mangkuang (stir fried sliced yam bean) which tastes like my Ah Ma’s Cantonese version with added cuttlefish strips. This dish has similarity to my Pho Pho’s Hakka darker and much more sinful version, which is to be eaten best wrapped in fresh lettuces.

Finally, it was the star dish of the day, which was the first that came to my mind when I was reminiscing about her dishes of last year. It is the stir fried ngaku (arrowhead/arrowroots) with nam yue (fermented red beancurd) that despite looking weird with its pinkish hue, it was a real delight to the palate. Slight sweet yet salty and with just hints of nam yue (many people find this an acquired taste, but trust me it is just a slight complement here). This dish is also a darling to eat wrapped in fresh lettuce, but first slathered generously with tim cheong (sweet sauce). I once asked where to get the tim cheong and my Lai Ma said “Aiya, make it yourself. Very easy! Put this this and that that together, and ta-da – you got your ultimate tim cheong”. Sorry though I cannot remember those ‘easy’ steps, aih, they all make it sound so easy, time for me to buck up! I must start cooking and making more Chinese cuisines. This is definitely one better way to enjoy ngaku apart from the usual addictive fried ngaku crisps which are widely available (both homemade or store bought) at this time of the year.

Stir Fry Ngaku@ Chinese New Year
Stir Fry Ngaku@ Chinese New Year

I ate with such gluttony and tham jiak-ness that halfway through my feasting, Lai Pa took second helpings of rice and joined me together at the table. Now the real family feast has begun!