Honey Chiffon Cake @ Thank You Ah Ma

Two years ago around this time, Ah Ma left this world. I was there standing by her bedside while I sense her leaving, it is hard to put into words for the feeling.

Ten years ago Ah Ma passed me a chiffon baking pan when I asked her for the recipe as she makes a mean chiffon cake. She uses to make it a lot when I was younger, and I remember it soft, fluffy and huge! Of course the chiffon pan was huge too, and believe me, when I say it’s huge it is. I believe it can actually fit a 10 eggs recipe easily.

Six years ago I tried my hand first time beating the egg whites stiff and make a green tea chiffon cake in inspiration of Ah Ma, and looking back, I have come a long way. Now I can beat egg whites with confidence, but not exactly to perfection though at least I can tell which state it is in. As I lamented then, I couldn’t use the chiffon pan that Ah Ma gave me because it does not fit into my mini toaster oven. Though my mini oven has served me well in all my baking endeavours for all these years, I have to say I am rejoicing over my new built-in oven finally!

Honey Chiffon Cake Recipe
Honey Chiffon Cake

But I digress, yes Ah Ma, suddenly I have overwhelming thoughts of her. For the past two years, I have still been wishing Ah Ma on her birthday but I never really did remember her going away date. Maybe naturally I believe in celebrating life rather than death. But my sister mentioned it that day, so I thought hey I should bake something in memory of Ah Ma then, and so I did.

I didn’t manage to bake a chiffon cake as good as Ah Ma’s, but I believe she would be proud of me nonetheless for my

Honey Chiffon Cake

As my chiffon pan was huge as mentioned, it was actually a 9-inch pan. The recipe turns out too little for it, so I would recommend using a 7-inch chiffon pan if you have one. Using a larger pan also yielded a larger surface of baking, thus making it slightly over-baked than I would have liked it. If I am ever to repeat this, I will surely double/triple the recipe. Other than that, I also found that the cake has softened nicely and the flavours developed more distinctly after a day, so if you can bear it, let it sit a day before devouring it, you won’t regret it!

Egg yolks 3
Honey 4 tbsp
Oil 3 tbsp
Water 1 tbsp

Flour 85 gm
Baking powder 1 tsp
Salt

Egg whites 4 (please note the difference)
Cream of tartar 1/8 tsp
Sugar 1 tbsp

Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

Sift flour and baking powder together. (I sifted twice to make it lighter and finer)
Mix in the salt.

Whisk the wet ingredients together till well combined.
Fold in the earlier flour mixture to create a batter.

Beat the egg whites with cream of tartar and sugar till stiff peak.
Fold and whisk about 1/3 portion of it into the earlier batter to loosen it.
Then gently fold in the rest of beaten egg whites, be careful not to flatten it.

Pour into a 7-inch chiffon pan
Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes.

Invert pan immediately after baking.
After cooled, run a knife around it and remove from pan.

Chiffon Baking Pan
Ah Ma’s Chiffon Baking Pan

Apple and Gula Melaka Yogurt Muffin @ Cupcake vs Muffin

It was a nondescript rest day for me. I woke up in the middle of the day, feeling happy as it has been a while since I woke up with the sun high above the sky. Yes I am crazy like that, happy over little things like this. So I roll a bit more in my bed and let my mind wander. What should I do? It is a weekday, and everyone I know is busy running in their rat race and I for one is still looking for my own race. What should I break fast with? Suddenly I have a thought. What about the almond yogurt cake I’ve been wanting to make? I should also use up my huge tub of yogurt that is only halfway through so far. By the way, I am a yogurt enthusiast, I always have a tub sitting around. Plain yogurt goes wonders with fruits and nuts, kiwi is my current obsession.

Anyway the thought of baking got me jumping out of bed. So I quickly look for the said recipe and my mind start working. Alright I don’t want a cake, it’ll be too big for me to finish and too troublesome. I shall make it into little cups. Then I tweak around base on whim, fancy and whatever is in my pantry. By the end of it, my end result got me scratching my head.

Cupcake vs Muffin
Cupcake vs Muffin

First of all, I could not decide whether it is a cupcake or a muffin. If I adapted a cake recipe and make it into little cups, does that make it a cupcake? Some say that muffin is made from quick breads and cupcakes from cakes. So it is possible mine is a cupcake. But wait a minute. Others say it depends on the method that you use. If you beat/cream it then it is a cupcake, if you fold/mix then it is a muffin. But what bout me who first beat the wet ingredients and then fold in the dry ingredients? Hah, that got them, didn’t it? Some even say that a cupcake without the frosting and the little things that make it nice is a muffin. Mostly though people agree that cupcake is sweeter and has higher fat content while muffin is lighter, less sweet and less fat. Thus with that, I have to christened my creation a muffin! Although it started from a cake, it ended up as a muffin, how amazing.

My next headache was the name, as I have added few more ingredients into the recipe, which kind of highlight the taste of the muffin, thus it should be in the name. So pardon the long name, it is necessary, at least I decided on the muffin no?

Apple and Gula Melaka Yogurt Muffin Recipe
Apple and Gula Melaka Yogurt Muffin

Apple and Gula Melaka Yogurt Muffin

Inspired from Chocolate and Zucchini’s Yogurt Cake

I wanted to be healthy and use the white whole wheat flour that I discovered in Chang Tung, Taman Megah, Malaysia. Then I realize I don’t have sugar! So I decided to use Gula Melaka (Malacca Palm Sugar) instead, which I melted with some water and sub it with sugar, feeling a bit apprehensive about the extra liquid, thus I compensated with more ground almond and by whim reduced the oil as well. And oh, why not throw in some fruits for good measure? Kiwi? Orange? Banana? Apples? Ah yes, that’s it. Apples it is, and a green one seems to fit. Also, I actually ground the almonds myself, just put whole almond into your grinder and give it a little spin, it is that easy to make.

Just a warning though, this is kind of still a work in progress recipe, though mine does turn out well, in fact it tasted like our Malaysian Malaikoh (steamed Malay cakes) due to the Gula Melaka and it also amazingly have little holes to boot! But it was a little dry at the sides, so I might need to re-look into the baking time and heat. Anyway, be bold and try my recipe below and feel free to tweak! That’s part of the fun in baking.

White whole wheat flour  3/4 cup

Baking Powder                  1/2 tbsp

Yogurt                                1/2 cup

Gula Melaka                      1/2 cup  (melted with some water)

Egg                                      1

Oil                                       1 tbsp

Ground almonds               4 tbsp

Vanilla                                1/4 tsp

Green apple                       1 (cubed)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Line muffin pan with muffin cups

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, the oil and the sugar. Beat till smooth, during which add in the egg.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, the baking powder, the salt, and the almonds.

Add the flour mixture to the batter in three or four additions, and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.

Spoon mixture into muffin cups till 1/2 full and top with cubed apples.

Put into the oven to bake, for 40 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean (I just poked with a butter knife). If yours brown too fast, cover the top with foil, mine did not though.

Let cool and munch away with your best choice of drink. (Black coffee for me the addict, of course 😉

Makes 5 muffins (yes it is an odd number in the usual 6 holes muffin pan)

Hokkien Prawn Mee Recipe @ The Tale of Two Mothers

Hokkien Mee / Prawn Mee / Har Mee / Xia Mian / Hae Mee

Yes being of so many names (due to dialects), and not to be confused with the black stir-fried Hokkien thick noodles, it is actually a prawn noodle soup. Up north in Malaysia, Taiping included, we normally called it Hokkien Mee, so imagine my confusion when I moved down south to KL initially. From then on I have started to identify it as Har Mee (in Cantonese dialect that is widely use in KL), and so will this post for consistency.

The soup is a broth made of prawn shells broth that is boiled with pork ribs. Later on prior to serving, the soup will be added with belachan chili paste, which is an important ingredient to make it truly Malaysian. Though this dish may have originated from the Fujian province in China, the Hokkiens in Malaysia must have tweaked it with our famous belachan to make it more complex and intense in flavour. It is normally served with yellow noodles and/or mee hoon / bee hoon (rice vermicelli), and served with various condiments like fried pork lard (a personal must even though there are various health concerns about it, validated or not), taugeh (bean sprouts), kangkung (spinach), sliced tauhu (tofu) and of course prawns.

Tale of two mothers
Due to my mother’s lack of culinary inclination, the kitchen in my Taiping house have not seen much fire activities except the occasional boiling of eggs or cooking rice or quite scarily cooking instant noodles. Thus since a kid, I have the luxury to go out often and explore the street food and hawker stalls of Taiping. In fact my mother is not one who is tham jiak (I wonder where I get mine from, must be the Hokkien blood in me, my mother is Hakka by the way) but one who prefers familiarity and comfort. Therefore she would always go back for familiar Malaysian food. One of the food that she kept revisiting on our Saturday lunch rituals (she goes to work on weekdays so Saturday lunch is quite a precious mother-daughter thing), was the Har Mee in Tai Chien, Taiping. Sadly though the stall is no longer there as the proprietor had retired and there was no one to take his place, which unfortunately have also been the fate of most of the good food in Taiping.

My other mother, which is my nanny who had taken care of me in the first five years of my life, was totally different. Not only does she have a flair in culinary, she was also as tham jiak as me. We can see the similarity between us where she would seek out to try various food popping up in Taiping while she also loves to cook and bake at home. Besides, she have this good quality, which sadly I do not possess, was the determination to keep making something until it is right, so most of her signature dishes are to die for. She has her family and friends vouching for her, but most importantly, her husband who sing praises of it.

“You should ask Lai Ma to make Har Mee for you, hers is the best! You should definitely learn from her before its lost”

“Lai Ma, let’s make Har Mee, I want to learn”, I chirped.

Lai Ma rolled her eyes “There’s no ingredients…it’s troublesome….” and she continues with whatever grumbles she can come up with, as she knows, as much as I know, as much as also my Lai Pa knows, is that my Lai Pa himself wants to eat it. Of course I am sure his intention of me learning the trades are definitely there, but being tham jiak himself, he is obviously hankering for it. Despite my Lai Ma’s various excuses, she would next day wake up early to go marketing and even prepare all the necessary ingredients before calling me up, “You come over now, we are going to make Har Mee”, which is of no surprise to me and also much to my delight to be able to learn and eat it of course.

Ah, this is the power of love, and one that has been around for a long time. One hints, one understands, one gives excuses, one pretends and in the end both happy. One happy for the labour of love from the wife, another because her husband appreciates her labour of love.

Har Mee from a Taiping stall:
Taiping Har Mee have the flavour that is very similar to the Penang hokkien prawn mee but minus the char siew slices. I must say the Har Mee that I had in KL had always paled in comparison, so do try out Har Mee if you are up north in Malaysia. Else you can try to make one as below!

Malaysia Hokkien Prawn Mee
Hokkien Prawn Mee

Har Mee from a Taiping kitchen:
The difference of the Har Mee coming out from your own kitchen is the quality of ingredients that went into it. Here you will see big prawns and big chunks of pork ribs. Besides you can choose to have which ingredient more (or less) according to your palate. Just try not to be as tham jiak as me where it was overflowing with ‘lius’ (ingredients) till even the noodles were hidden. Then again, forget what I just said and liberally pile on your favourite stuffs!

The soup
1 big pot of prawn shells
800g to 1kg pork ribs
rock sugar
salt

Dry fry the prawn shells till fragrant
Then boil them in water to extract the flavours
Strain the liquid and discard the shells
Add extra water and then put in the pork ribs
Boil for about 2 hours or till meat is soft
Add rock sugar and salt to taste

Crispy lard and fried onions
Roughly a bowl of pork lard, chopped to small even cubes and then marinate with some salt
Big handful of small onions, sliced thinly

Add about 1/2 cup oil (depending how much pork lard) to wok and heat up
Deep fry pork lard till brown, pork lard will yield more oil in the end
(Lai Ma’s tip: normal oil is mixed with the pork lard so that it would not congeal after cool)
Scoop out the fried pork lard to a bowl, leaving bout 1/2 cup fat in the wok
Then fry the sliced onions in the fat
When almost brown, lower the fire and add a tablespoon of sugar to mix
(Another Lai Ma’s tip: sugar is added for the secrecy to crispy fried onions)
Scoop out to drain and then cool. Once cool keep in a bottle to keep it crispy

Chili paste and prawns
Blend belachan, onion, dry chili and fry till dry
1/2 cup small prawns, shell removed
3tbsp oils

Heat oil and fry 3 tbsp of the blended paste
Scoop out the paste leaving bout 2tsp behind
Fry it with the prawns till cook
Set aside both paste and prawns

Noodles and other toppings
1 bunch of Kangkung
Yellow mee
Bee hoon, pre-soaked till soft
1/2 cup big prawns

Bring water to boil
Blanch the kangkung, then remove
Then blanch the yellow mee
Then blanch the bihun mee
Finally right before serving, blanch the big prawns

To serve
Pile the noodles into the bowl
Pour the soup over the noodles till just covered and then pour it back into the pot (this is the secret to most noodle soups for the flavour to first coat the noodles)
Pour in the soup again with some pork ribs if desire
Top with the chili paste and little prawns
Then pile on remaining toppings as per preference

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I am sending this story and delicious Malaysian dish hailed from Taiping to Babe in City KL‘s Merdeka Open House 2011 – Makan Through Malaysia. The first time that I joined was her first open house 5 years ago (how time flies!) with my Chiffon Cake recipe and story. Thank you babe for choosing one of my ideas for the theme again and I can’t wait for the rest of the virtual roundup for delicious food from all over Malaysia!

Update: Get all the juicy roundup here.

Hainanese Pork Chop : Newember

N is for November. N is for new.

How apt. Cause November is when I need to start anew. A good friend hybrid this name for me when I wrote that November = new, and then told me I should so write a post on it, which I totally agree. This would be the month of renewal for me, the month where I put back the scattered train coaches back onto the tracks. The rail is still going, the journey have not ended. The destination is important but after all, it is the journey that counts.

New is a very positive word. New signifies birth, like a new born child crying when it got to this world in shock and then marvel at all the sights, sounds and smells around him. From then on a child will grow with curiosity where everything is like anew, everything is exciting, everything seem like a big opportunity for exploration. When was the last time you see things from the eyes of a child?

November – autumn, fall, rainy and cooling, depending on where you are in this world. The old would have to go before the new can come in. November had always been a quiet month for me, it is neither the end yet, no that’s for December, but yet it is definitely neither the beginning of the last quarter of the year. It is normally the month where people take the last opportunity to mellow a little, slack a little and wait for the holidays to come. It is just like how in autumn the trees shed the leaves; here human will shed their burdens. As for me, I am throwing in spring for this autumn. I would shed the leaves and grow new flowers. Flowers bring joy.

Life is a long road of journey, don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers.

****

There was a period of time when I had to take care of my dad after his heart operation and I must say cooking for him at that time is definitely mind-boggling. There are many food restrictions, some medically so and some motherly so. Yes my mother in all her Chinese ways manage to come up with lots of things that a person recovering from operation should not consume, never mind that I insist on a scientific explanation, her because-I-say-so shoots every logic into oblivion.

So armed with limited choices, and after rounds of cooking the usual home cooked Chinese food, I was thinking to cook something new, something that I totally pick out of the air for him. Yes new is the theme we are talking about here. Somehow, with whatever I can forage in my sister’s kitchen and what I had bought beforehand, I manage to whip up a Hainanese inspired pork chop.

I must say though this recipe is the typical example of Chinese cooking, it’s a little bit of this, a dash of that, a sprinkle of those and many, many finger dipping tasting into the hot sauce to come up with the right taste, so all the best if you are to attempt this and may you whip up a pork chop ala your own. So do read the following recipe as a gauge on how you may approach this and you go from there. Let your creative taste buds take charge!

Pork Chop ala Rokh

Ingredients
2-3 pork shoulder in slices
1 big onion
3-4 cloves of garlics

Sauce mix
Lots of splashes of soy sauce
Dash of sesame oil
Few dashes of rice wine
2-3 tbsps of tomato sauce
Mix water to taste

Punch the pork shoulder till soft and tender
Marinade with salt, pepper and mixed spice
Cut big yellow onion and few cloves of garlic into slices
Then mix for the sauce: Soy sauce and rice vinegar (few big splashes), sesame oil (few small splash) and tomato sauce (about 2 tbsps) and water add to taste
Pour in some olive oil and then pan fry the pork chop till no longer pink on both sides. Set aside
Using the same pan, throw in the sliced onions and cook till caramelize, add some olive oil if needed. (Do make sure it is nicely browned and caramelized as this would make or break the dish, google for some instructions if you’re unsure)
Next throw in the sliced garlic and stir fry some more till the aroma fills your nose
Then pour in the sauce mix and bring to boil, at same time start dipping, tasting and add on stuff if needed
Turn off the fire and pour the sauce over the cooked pork chop and voila!

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Yes I know that newember have come and gone, but why is this post only up in January? Let’s just say in my time of recuperating and time of renewal, I kept this post aside as quite a sacred thought to myself. Now that I have been renewed, I find it liberating to post it up. Do not let my idea of renewal be constraint to November, as I believe many of us takes January for this wonderful ritual. We all need it once in a while, so what’s your renewal for 2011?