Black Glutinous Rice Dessert : Pandan Leaves

I totally forgot the weekend herb blogging last week, sigh what a shame but it’s alright, I have every week to make it up to it. As I will be going back to my hometown tomorrow, for my grandma’s birthday, this post is early, as on today.

Anyway, this time I would be introduce a wonderful herb available locally in Malaysia. It is always used in both savoury and mostly sweets cooking. They are green in colour and make your food go green but no they are not vegetables, they are actually, pandan leaves.

Pandan Leaves
Pandan Leaves

I have talked bout these pandan leaves before where they were added into our kaya (local coconut jam) as additional flavouring. For me, pandan has the special fragrant smell that is not too strong but yet distinct enough to show its presence while not overpowering the entire dish.

Pandan leaves are a favourite in cooking together with rice like nasi lemak (coconut rice), nasi biryani or chicken rice (we locals here usually have our special Hainanese style oily rice cooked with chicken stock and pandan leaves to go with braised or roasted chicken). It will emit an extra fragrant aroma to the otherwise plain rice. Some people might not even realize its presence but will note how much more fragrant the rice is.

As for the sweets, we locals like to use it in ‘tong sui’ (sweet soup) and also in ‘kuih-muih’ (local cakes). Chinese had always been real good in tong sui making, we have huge varieties with different types of healing properties. I might blog more about it in future, featuring various tong sui that we usually have in Chinese cuisine, ah it can also be part of my ‘exploring my origins’ project.

Well for now, the limelight is on this week’s herb, pandan leaves. I have choices of so many favourites above, but somehow the alluring thoughts of tong sui evaded me and I succumbed to my old time favourite Hak Lor Mai (Sweet Black Glutinous Rice). My grandma use to make this only on occasions, and I would always be thrilled to have a bowful, then another helping, then another and another and…ok, too much! I just love the nutty flavours it emits (though no nuts here), and the crunch of the glutinous rice.

Usually, this Hak Lor Mai would be served with a drizzle of coconut milk, freshly squeezed and this is important as it will affect the flavour of the Hak Lor Mai. Some like a lot of coconut milk, some don’t, and I am one who loves my Hak Lor Mai black, just a little coconut milk plus whole load of pandan smell. Ah, bliss.

Black Glutinous Rice Dessert
Black Glutinous Rice Dessert

Hak Lor Mai (Sweet Black Glutinous Rice)

As now I am no longer in my teens where I can have a bowful and another and another without effect, I had become much more health conscious. Though delicious, coconut milk is not good to be consumed in excess. Therefore, I had substituted it with evaporated milk, and I personally like it much more. Though, this is strictly individual preferences, and most would gaps at this un-authenticity. Anyhow, J seems to prefer the evaporated milk version too, oh that vain boy!

300g Black Glutinous Rice
2 litres of water
4 pcs Pandan leaves

250g Gula Melaka (Palm sugar)
150 ml coconut milk/evaporated milk

Dump everything, except the gula melaka and coconute milk, into the slow cooker and put on auto/low for about 8 hours or overnight.
Next, add in gula melaka and cook till dissolved, bout 15-20 minutes more.
Serve a bowful of Hak Lor Mai with a drizzle of coconut milk or like me, evaporated milk.
This yummy tong sui goes well served warm or chilled.

Black Glutinous Rice Dessert
Black Glutinous Rice Dessert

Alternative method from KC:

Soak rice overnight.
Drain and wash rice the next day.
Put rice into rice cooker to cook.
Add enough water to cook the rice.
When rice is cooked, removed.
Boil water with gula melaka, pandan leaves till sugar is melted.
Add cooked rice to it and simmer over low heat for 2 hours.
Add more water if it dries up.
Served as suggested.

Makes for a person who can finish a bowl, then reach for another, and another, and another and….till the sixth bowl, if still possible 😉 To be safe, share these quickly!

Update: Get all those herbs over at Kalyn’s Kitchen

Ikan Assam @ Spicy Fish Tamarind Recipe : Lemongrass

It has been a while since I’ve been blogging. This had certainly been a busy week and it whizzed pass in no time. Nevertheless, I have still kept on cooking and baking, experimenting in the kitchen. Somehow cooking is therapeutic to me. No matter how long I spent the day inside that tiny little space of mine, I somehow emerge from there feeling victorious. Yes, even after a bunch of burnt cookies.

No matter how busy one is, we always have time for food. The first thing we thought of when we wake up is what to have to break the fast. It might not be breakfast, as sometimes (or usually) I break my fast with lunch. Ah, lazy me. Then in due time we would be thinking what to have for dinner. Such gluttony! But aren’t human born to live like that?

Anyway, to keep this post short and to rumble back to my busy dailies, I would continue on about the main thing you must be asking, “Where is the herb?” Pardon my long windedness, so here goes this week’s herb, Lemongrass (Serai).

Lemongrass
Lemongrass

This particular herb is featured mainly in Thai, Malay and Nonya cuisines, giving an instant lift to any food. Lemongrass is one herb that leaves a sweet lemony smell to your fingers after you cut it and it will instantly jazz up your spice mixes once grinded or pounded to release the aroma. It is widely used especially in cooking curries, soup (like the famous Thai Tom Yum soup that relies practically on this herb) and other spice mixing recipes. It can also be used in making of drinks like tea or honey. I once had honey lemongrass drink with the herb stalk itself used to stir the drink, exotic and certainly refreshing.

The recipe that I will be showing using this sweet herb is from the Nonya cuisine. Nonya is basically the people from the marriage between the Chinese and Malay, creating a new generation of Peranakan. Although they are half Chinese, these Peranakan had adopted Malay culture wholly with a little of their own influences, causing a new hybrid of culture that they call their own. These generations of people are prominent from Penang and Malacca but it is in Malacca that is left with many remnants of it. When one culture is created, most certainly a new cuisine of its kind emerged. Nonya cuisines are fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisines with Thai and Indonesia influences. There is an extensive explanation of Nonya cuisine over at Malaysian Food, if you are inclined to know more.


Well, I suppose this following recipe of mine must be of Thai influence with the usage of lemongrass, and it is a little bit spicy with a strong smell of belachan(shrimp paste), another acquired taste food. When frying the belachan, one is bound to be caught up with the strong aroma rising which would choke right up the nose, down the nasal to the throat. I’m not kidding here! I can still remember the days when my Nanny cook up a storm of Sambal Belachan (chilly fried with belachan paste), the whole house would be choking in the strong aroma. But secretly we would be smiling with glee anticipating what would appear on the dinner table next. Well, after a nasal war just now, I whipped up a sour fishy Nonya dish.

Ikan Assam @ Spicy Fish Tamarind Recipe
Ikan Assam @ Spicy Fish Tamarind


Ikan Assam (Spicy Fish in Tamarind)

Source: Female Appetite (Edition 1)

I did not have ginger flower and had omitted eggplants and lady’s fingers, adding more tomatoes instead, but I guess with those, it would had been much more flavourful and of course much more colourful. I ran out of lime thus added more tamarind for the sourness. I had also added 1 inch of Galangal (Lengkuas) just for fun, as I feel it would be appropriate, ah a cook’s whim.

4 tbsp oil
15g tamarind paste
500ml water
1 eggplant, julienned
1 tomato, cut in wedges
4 lady’s fingers
400g fish fillet
2 tbsp lime juice
Salt and sugar to taste

To grind:
30g dried prawns
20g shallots
30g onions
2cm belachan (shrimp paste)
20g dried chillies
20g red chillies
1 stalk lemongrass
1 stalk ginger flower

Heat wok over high flame, add oil and lower the flame.
Sitr in grounded ingredients and tamarind paste until aroma arises
Add water and bring to boil
Reduce heat and add eggplant, tomato and lady’s fingers. Cook for about 10 minutes before adding the fish.
When fish is cooked, add lime juice, salt and sugar.

Serves 4 – 6 (depending on edacity of guests)

Note: This spicy dish tasted much much better overnight (we got plenty leftovers) and reheated, the complex flavours developed more and had taken it to a whole new level. So next time, I would cook it and leave it soaking at least few hours first before devouring.

Update: Check out the list of herbs for this week over at Kalyn’s.

Malaysian Pineapple Tarts Recipe : IMBB Cookie Swap

This month, Alberto’s IMBB and Jennifer’s SHF are having a joint event this month which is the virtual Cookie Swap! This is indeed a rare event for the union and coincidently it is my first time joining in both of these sensational events. Lucky me, as this would be an easier entry for me to handle both events in one!

After reading about this cookie swap, it just struck me to share to the world something traditional and truly Malaysian. I believe no other cookie fit into this description more than the famous Pineapple Tarts (or rather pineapple cookies).

Malaysian Pineapple Tarts Recipe
Malaysian Pineapple Tarts

These cookies are a must in most festive seasons in Malaysia especially Chinese New Year, which is a celebration of a new year according to the Chinese calendar. There are many ways shapes these Pineapple Tarts are made, either open tart shape (the one I made), roll up shape, ball shape, pineapple fruit shape or even most recent creative ones with cartoon icons. These cookies are usually served during CNY because in Chinese Hokkien dialect, the word pineapple (Wong Lai) has the same meaning as the ‘coming of prosperity’. Therefore they are considered auspicious cookies.

This had indeed been my all time favourite cookie during CNY celebration, and I can never keep my hands off them. I have heard various comments on how tough it is to make it but also how it these homemade ones can never ever be replace by those commercial ones. Therefore, I roll up my sleeves and brace the challenge for the world to share in this local joy of mine. Enjoy.

Malaysian Pineapple Tarts Recipe
Malaysian Pineapple Tarts

Pineapple Tarts

Making these cookies prove to be no easy feat as it needs extra attention and long hours at the kitchen. After making these, I now know why it cost a bomb to purchase it outside. I first made the fillings, where in the original recipe it calls for stirring continuously for 2 hours at the stove! I found it a crazy feat. So I decided to use my non-stick pan and just stir it occasionally while I prepare the dough. Do not worry if the pineapple fillings seem dry at first for it will sweat once you add in the sugar.

I love the kind of melt-in-the-mouth cookies to go with these but had failed to achieve it. This I suspect was due to over baking, where my first batch was slightly over browned in my naughty mini oven (the ever so famous) because I was busy making another batch with the cookie cutter and failed to monitor it. While another huge batch, I tried it with my gas oven (a huge oven of mine which is attached to the stove and uses the gas as heating element) which even after long time of baking, the cookies are still pale looking which ended up drying the pineapple filling instead. Next time, I should just stick to my mini oven and diligently watch over it. I found the baking time and heat a little too much from the recipe, therefore I changed it in the following recipe. I also find that, while cutting out your cookies, chill the remaining dough in the refrigerator for easy handling. Do not roll out the dough too thin else it would not stick to the cutter making it impossible to remove it nicely.


Pineapple filling:
2 med size pineapples, grated & drain off juices, retaining a bit of moisture
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Sugar to taste (bout 100g)

Method:
1. Remove skin and black eyes from pineapple
2. Grate pineapple and squeeze out the juice.
3. Put pineapple into a non stick pan and cook.
4. Stir occasionally for about an hour.
5. Gradually, add sugar and cloves.
6. Cook for another 30 minutes or until it is dry and sticky.

Pastry Ingredients:
283g cookie flour (red rose flour)
28g sugar
184g butter
1 egg
Pinch of salt

Method:
1. Sieve flour, add salt and sugar and mix together
2. Rub butter into flour (use your fingers)
3. Beat egg lightly and add to the flour
4. Knead into a soft and sticky dough and leave it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
5. Roll pastry to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out with cookie cutter.
6. Fill pineapple filling onto the cookie.
7. Bake in oven at 190 C for 15 to 25 minutes till golden brown.

Makes bout 75 auspicious cookies (if you can resist popping it into your mouth)


Update:
Check out first half of result at Domestic Goddess
Don’t miss out the second half over at Il Forno