Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tadau Kaamatan @ Sutera Marina

Happy harvest festival to all our Kadazan family and friends! 

We stumbled upon this buffet in Sutera Marina club yesterday. We haven't had a buffet meal for ages as with all buffet we tend to over indulged and lose all sense of control. However, we gave in to this one because the spread look so home cook and featured the mood of the festival. It also offered less choice as compared to normal buffet and we reckoned we could moderate our intake (wishful thinking...).

The pickled bambangan, a must-have for any Kadazan feast but this didn't taste fresh. I suspect this could be last season's as bambangan season for this year is not here yet.

Hinava (pickled fish) another must-have in Kadazan cuisine. This was done very well and I made three trips for this *blush*. 

This terung bakar (bbq eggplant) reminded me of the same dish my late MIL used to cook and with a squeeze of lime...em... pure bliss.

I love this bouquet of ulam, all because of the sambal that went with it. Its fiery kick and aroma of the freshly grilled belacan (shrimp paste) with chili padi and lime created the ultimate salad dressing to accompany these veggies. 

Another favorite dish, rebung masak lemak (bamboo shoot with coconut milk). Made me polished off so much nasi bukit (hill rice)...

Nasi bukit.
The beras bukit was cooked with a subtle hint of santan and salt (almost like nasi lemak but less obvious). It was good even with just the duan raja, sambal belacan and of course, the hinava.

Ayam masak nanas (chicken with pineapple). 

Daging  kicep (Beef with soy sauce). 
These two meat dishes were very well done but for us, they were kinda of eclipsed by the veggies and fish dishes.
The only dessert I went for but found the santan (coconut milk) lacking.

K took this shot of the amazing view from the restaurant which we very often take for granted.

Once again, Kotobian Tadau Kaamatan.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cuttlefish Rice

Came across this recipe in a chinese blog, ikumichan. I am not very sure whether it is Japanese but by the look of most of the ingredients used I assumed that's what it is. It is such an elegant and unusual way to serve rice  and yet so easy to prepare. Next time I do this I am going to add some dried mushroom and cilantro for more flavor as I find the filling a little too bland. So the recipe given here is what I would do when I cook this dish again. 

10 whole small to medium cuttlefish, heads and hard spines removed, guts cleaned, towel dried
1 cup short grain rice (Calrose, Japanese or our Bario hill rice) soaked for 3 hours
1 1/2 cup minced pork
3 T finely chopped dried mushroom (soaked and drained)
3 T chopped cilantro
salt and pepper

Combine seasoned meat, rice, mushroom and cilantro together well. Fill each cuttlefish with the rice mixture to about 80% full (as the rice will expand when cooked). Secure the opening with a toothpick. 

2-3 cups water
2-3 T kikoman soy sauce
2 T cooking sake
2 T mirin
1-2 T sugar

Mix all ingredients together and bring to boil. Drop stuffed cuttlefish into the sauce. Bring to the boil again and simmer in medium heat for 40-50 minutes.
Adjust taste and thickness of sauce at the end of cooking.

Serve with some lettuce.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kung Bao Chicken

A kung bao chicken I tasted years ago when we were stationed in KL has set the benchmark for this dish. I have since given up hope years ago in finding one that rivals or even come close to it. I seem to be a sucker where this dish is concerned (very much like hubby's obsession with tom yam). I can never resist ordering it if I see it on the menu and more times than ever I came away feeling disappointed and deprived.
That was until I found this recipe... 
This is not the watery wash-down version we always seem to get whenever we ordered this dish in restaurants.
I found this recipe featured in one of the few Hawkers' Fair magazines I bought a while back. I have experimented with it several times and now, I nailed it down to just the way I like it and I can say it is as good as that elusive dish I craved. Of course the wok hei of chinese restaurant cooking can't be duplicate unless I get one of those pressurized kerosine stove but other than that, this is it.

Gong Bao Sauce
10 dried chillies, washed, seeded and chopped into small pieces
2 T chopped garlic
2 T chilli sauce
3 T black vinegar
2 T oyster sauce
1 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
1 t sesame oil
1/2 cup water
5 T oil

Heat oil and saute chilli and garlic until fragrant.
Add in all ingredients except water. Cook until the oil resurface.
Add in the water and cook at low heat until sauce thickens slightly (but not too thick because it will thickens further when chicken is added).

1 chicken breast, sliced or cubed
1 onion, cubed
5 slices ginger
1/2 each of red and green bell pepper, seeded and cubed (optional)
2 stalks spring onion, cut 3 cm lengthwise 
2 T water

To marinade chicken:
1 egg white
1 T corn flour
1/2 t salt 
a dash of pepper and sesame oil

Marinade chicken and leave for 30 minutes or so. 
Deep fry in hot oil for 3-5 minutes.
Drain and keep aside.
Leave 1 T oil in wok, saute ginger and onion until fragrant.
Add in chicken meat, gong bao sauce and water.
Stir well for a minute or two and add in spring onion.
Dish onto a serving plate (can leave and discard some of the red chili oil in the wok) and sprinkle with toasted cashew nuts.

Serve with a simple stir-fried leafy veggie and steaming rice.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Apple Cake

I like my cake to have some substance and bite with the softness. That is the reason why sponge or chiffon cakes are not high on my list of favorites as I find them just too airy  and empty like biting into sweetened cotton wool. The same applies for my bread too.
This apple cake recipe is adapted from the big blue book from Terri. I like that it has so many of my favorite things in a bite and with such simple and easy steps to follow. I don't do much cake baking as I am all thumbs when come to decorating it and the task of washing up after the baking and icing is just too daunting to consider. I salute all the blogs I visit that do such beautiful work of art with their cakes, truly inspirational (if only I can overcome this  disdain for cleaning up...). So only easy recipes end up in my kitchen. 
With most recipes, I would tweak the ingredients (especially the sugar content and for this recipe I more than halved the amount!) until I fine-tuned it to suit my palate (like doing it over and over for a whole week until I ran out of friends and foes to push the cake to). 
I don't have any problem with the taste of the cake (can't go wrong with this divine combination of apple, walnuts, raisins and maple syrup) but the texture was just not ideal as it was dry and too crumbly. 
In my first attempt, the cake turned out like rock buns and if I had given them to any of my friends they would surely be my friends no more.
After much persistence and perseverance, I finally get it down to this truly down-to-earth goodness with a solid but soft and moist texture which I think is blog-worthy. Here goes...

Apple Cake
100 g butter, softened
230 g all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t bicarbonate of soda
1/2 t cinnamon powder
70 g brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 eggs
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raisins, coarsely chopped
2 cups coarsely grated apple
a pinch of salt
**make sure all ingredients are at room temperature**

Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line (a must-do or you wouldn't be able to get the cake out of the tin) a 20cm (7 in) baking tin.
Mix butter, sugar, eggs, maple syrup and cinnamon together to combine well.
Sieve flour together with baking powder and b. soda into the butter mixture. Fold in the flour.
Stir in the nuts and raisins.
Spread mixture (the consistency of this batter is much thicker than, say, a normal butter cake batter) evenly into the lined pan.
Bake about 40 - 50 minutes. 
Cool cake on a wire rack.

Cut into cubes and serve them plain (the way I like it) with a cuppa tea or coffee, .

If rajin (diligent) like me ;p, frost cake with maple syrup or this gorgeous cream cheese frosting.
The only reason I frosted this last cake was just to coax someone, anyone to eat the cake! My family just about have had enough of my apple cakes. I think I'll have to wait out a year or so before I could do this recipe again. 4 in a week is too much, you think?

For maple frosting:
90 g butter
160 g icing sugar
1 t maple syrup
Mix all ingredients together until light and fluffy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Seri Mengasih - A Centre For The Special-Needs

Seri Mengasih Centre is a special developmental center for these intellectually disable children.
The aim of the center is to train and educate these children whose special needs are unable to be met by the conventional mainstream schools.

When we found out 21 years ago that Keshia has a condition called Down Syndrome, we didn't have an inkling what that meant except that she would be disabled. We were devastated when the doctor attending to her gave us a very grim and bleak outlook of her future telling us that she might not be able to walk or talk. I cried buckets for weeks out of despair and hopelessness thinking that there was nothing I could do for my baby. I thank God for my husband who was able to balance off my hysteria with his calmness, steadiness and acceptance when told of Keshia's condition. He cared for her no differently from our other children except maybe with even more tenderness. Until today I have never heard him raise his voice to her.
It took a long while but I eventually got out of the nightmare and came to my senses. I did what every mother would have done - sat up, assessed the situation and refused to give up hope. I combed through books in the libraries in town (no Internet then) and found out as much as I could about this condition. What I found was hope. 
I learned that down syndrome children do learn to walk, talk and capable of much, much more. The one most important thing I learned from these old dusty library books was EIP (Early Intervention Program). That is, to give my daughter a head start in learning, to teach her systematically as young as possible. I realized then I needed professional help. Went through some kindergartens and schools but none would take a child with her condition that young (she was about 2 then). Someone mentioned the welfare department might have something. They didn't but suggested I look up a school in Tanjong Aru which might be able to help my child. They gave me the address of this centre called Seri Mengasih and it changed the course of our lives.
At the centre, I knew instintively that I have found the right place for my daughter. The centre was just starting a pre-school unit for early intervention program that year and that was exactly what we were looking for. God's hand had brought us there at just the right time!

Today, Keshia speaks, reads and writes Bahasa and English. She trained at the school's bakery for 2 years in the vocational department of the school which also comprises of a paper recycling and a souvenir-making section for students 18 and  above. The bakery supplies mini suasage buns, egg tarts and doughnuts to other schools and kindergartens. 
Presently, Keshia is doing training in one of the outlets of Southern, a bakery in town. 
Making paper from recyclable materials by students from the Seri Mengasih Centre .

The recycled paper produced in the vocational department being transformed into a card with special message by another student. Many of these cards are sold in souvenir stores in leading hotels and shopping malls.  

Washing up time for the student in the bakery.

This centre started off in a changing room in the Likas Sport with a few fiercely dedicated staff more than 25 years ago. Until today, many of these pioneer staffs are still working selflessly in the school.
Today they have the use of two old government buildings at the Tanjong Aru third beach but for how long, that is anyone guess. 
This centre is a non-profit organization. Operations of the centre relies very heavily on volunteers and on funds received from public contributions and donation. There are about 130+ full time students and it takes more than RM5,000 a year to train a student as almost every student's learning program has to be tailored to suit him/her ability. With increasing enrollment each year, cost of running the centre is expected to go up. Fund raising has to be done yearly to keep the centre afloat and operating.
The centre holds a food fair once in two years at its premises. The main aim of this exercise is of course, to raise funds but just as important, is to raise public awareness in our society about the plight of these special children.

This year's food fair 'Pesta Mengasih' is to be held on the 15th June (Sunday) from 8am to 2pm at the centre.   
Do come with family and friends and join in a day of good fun with lots of good food (Malay, chinese, Japanese, Indian, Filipino, Indonesian and Western cuisine plus loads of cakes, pastries, kueh mueh, cookies and ice-cream), live band entertainment, magic show, lucky draw, clowns and games. 

Coupons are now available for sale at the centre. 

Any form of help is welcome; your time, skills, cash donation or just the awareness that this school is available for children that need it. 
With a big heart, give of yourself to this worthy cause. Help to make a difference to the lives of these children. 
Thank you for taking the time to read this acticle and please, please do something, anything to support the centre to help raise the hope for these children and their family.

You can contact the centre for any enquiries:
Address: PWD 75, Jalan Selangor (3rd beach)
                 88100 Kota Kinabalu

Tel no.   : 088-223221 / 014-6793221 

Email     :

Monday, May 19, 2008

Italian Meatballs Pasta

First we have Chinese noodles, now let's have some Italian pasta....

For the meatballs:
500 g pork, minced
2 egg yolks
2 T freshly grated parmesan
4 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp chopped parsley, basil or sage (dried or fresh)
80 g fresh breadcrumbs (just blitz some days-old toasted bread in the food processor)
black pepper
12-15 green olives

Mix every thing (except for the olives) together and season well. 
Divide into 12-15 equal portions (that would depend on how big you like the meatballs) .
Roll a portion into a ball, flatten slightly and place an olive in the center. 
Wrap the olive completely with the meat and shape into a firm ball. 
Do the same with the rest of the minced meat. 
Place in a tray, cover and place in the fridge until ready to cook. 

For the sauce:
1 big onion, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 t dried oregano (or any other dried herb you prefer)
2 T olive oil
1 stock cube + 50 ml water
1 can (500 ml) whole peeled tomato, chopped coarsely 
1 T tomato puree
100 ml white wine
sugar, salt and pepper
chives, for garnishing
Heat oil in a pot, sweat the chopped onion then add the garlic and fry until fragrant but not brown. Put the rest of the ingredients in the pot. Bring to boil and lower heat to simmer.

Meanwhile, fry meatballs in heated oil (or butter) in a pan until golden brown (about 8-10 minutes). 
Mix the sauce into the meatballs and continue to cook for 10 -15 minutes. Season with salt , pepper and sugar (optional). Off the fire.

And the meatballs sauce is ready.
All that is needed to do now is to boil the pasta according to package instruction or one's preference. 
Pile the sauce on the pasta, sprinkle with some chopped chives and presto... dinner is ready.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Chow Mein for Dave

Special delivery!! Don't these look familiar and bring you down memory lane (Tamparuli's lane to be exact)? Haven't had a chance to visit Tamparuli for a long while, so I made a special tapau (take-away) order to Kedai Yun Kee through Mui Fung. The noodle hasn't change much as far as packaging is concerned.
OK, let's open it...
Hah, what's on the news? Oh good, we've got the cartoon page!!

Here we are - the famous Tamparuli chow mein (fried noodle). David, this is all yours. Enjoy!

As for myself, a little presentation doesn't hurt. It still retained its shape of the packaging even when placed on a serving plate...

Toss and rearrange the noodle a little and serve with some chilli padi crushed in lime and soy sauce... a feast.
David, one of these days, I promise I will go to the shop and do a proper post.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Simple Pork Chop With Radish Pickle

It is Mother's day and half the family is not home :=(. It had been a hectic week especially during the week end but with all the heartwarming phone calls and sms from near and afar the day turned out so well.
The four of us had a very simple meal at home as this is one of those days that we would not risk venturing out to restaurants (and wait for hours with hundreds of patrons for food cooked under stress). So the best thing would be mum's cooking on mother's day, right?
Wanted something to go with these beautiful red and white radish... 

Bought these in one of those stalls on the way from Keningau to KK few days ago
These stalls are situated along the road from KK to Tambunan just before the highest point of the journey. 

The weather here is cool and we love to stop by just for a breath of the fresh and crisp air.    

With the farm just a stone throw away from the stalls, the produces are as fresh as you can get. 

The radish were so crisp and fresh that I thought I shouldn't do anything to them except to serve them fresh but knowing the children I had to pickle the white ones. 
Okay, enough said about the radish and let me get to this simple pork chops recipe.

300g pork chops, sliced about 2/3 cm and pound with back of cleaver
1/2 T fish sauce
1/2 t white pepper powder
1 T corn flour
2 T oil

Marinate pork chops with fish sauce and pepper for at least 30 minutes (overnight in the fridge would be even better but my diners weren't prepare to wait that long).
Remove meat from fridge and mix in the corn flour.
Pan fry the chops in hot oil until just cooked (about 2-3 minutes on each side) and golden brown. Better option to pan-fry than deep-fry as less oil is used and the chops get crisp outside but still moist inside. Deep-fry tend to dry out the chop easily as they are quite thin.
Easy peasy.    
Serve on top of white radish pickle and garnish with fresh red radish. Another 'yin' with 'yang'.

The chops would have gone very well with white rice but felt like having something different so we had soba instead.

Happy mother's day to every mother in the world!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bacon and Chicken Rolls

Met these delectable gems at Ben's place on Camalita's birthday. Created by Lena. 

Some were BBQ (K's station),

and others grilled (my station and I claimed overtime with these).

Great bites as hors d'oeuvre serve with beer.

This is how it was done (I think...) :

bacon slices, halved
chicken breast, sliced thinly diagonally 
spring onion, cut into 2-inch strips 
big red chilli, seeded and cut thin strips

Marinate the chicken with pepper and salt if you must (as I know old habit dies hard) but sparingly, as bacon can be very salty. 
Place some spring onion, strips of red chilli with a thin slice of chicken breast at one end of the 1/2 piece of bacon. Then roll the bacon round the chicken and secure with a toothpick. 
Bbq, grill, bake or maybe even pan-fry.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pan-Fried Nyonya Chicken

Flipped through some local recipe books in a book store at City Mall last weekend while waiting for Keshia and Leanne to get their school supply. Attracted to this recipe that sounded very promising. I only remembered the essential ingredients but not the quantity of each. Here the recipe became my own as I get to decide how much of each ingredient goes into the dish. 
I knew it turned out well when I saw Keshia and Leanne fighting over the last piece. To me, the star of this dish had to be the garlic and shallots that were used in the marinade. I put them in to cook with the chicken towards the end and they caramelized beautifully with an amazing aroma. You can see them piled at the front of the dish next to the slice of lime in the above picture.
1 chicken, cut into 8-10 large pieces or use 4 drumsticks and 4 thighs
5 stalks lemongrass, smashed with the side of cleaver
4 sprigs curry leaves, stalks removed
6 cloves garlics, crushed and peeled 
6 small shallots, peeled and crushed
1 T ginger juice
1 T curry powder
1 t turmeric (kunyit) powder
1 t salt
2 T oil

Marinate the chicken pieces with all the ingredients (but not the oil) for at least 3 hours, may taste better if marinated overnight in the fridge. 
Take out chicken from the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking to make sure the chicken pieces are at room temperature when fried. This is to ensure that the inside of chicken gets to be cooked properly when the outside turns golden brown.
Heat a wok and add the oil. When hot cook chicken pieces in two batches on high heat until golden brown all side, dish aside and repeat with the next batch. 
Lower heat to medium, return all the chicken into the wok and add the lemongrass, curry leaves, garlic and shallots into the wok. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes (turn chicken pieces occasionally to see that they don't burn) or until chicken is cooked through.
Dish out, discard the lemongrass but keep the golden caramelized garlic, shallots and curry leaves (the next time I cook this dish I would certainly add more garlic and shallots as they tasted so good with the chicken).
Serve with a cucumber/carrot raita.

I chose to serve the chicken dish with this cold raita as it is yin to the yang of the chicken (??). The truth is, I just wanted to use up the yogurt I made a few days ago and all the veggie in the fridge. Anyway, the raita actually complimented the dish very well, truly 'yin' and 'yang'. 
The above picture was taken before I drench the veggie with a cup of seasoned yogurt because if I were to take it after there would be nothing to show except a bowl of milk curd with some veggie floating around (the way raita is served).