Grandmother’s Prawns with Green Chili /回家过年咯/ Ready for Chinese New Year

IMG_3381It’s been awhile since I wrote last time. Guess what, I finally finished my thesis! 78 pages, I’ll be graduating and getting my Bachelor’s degree in March. 😀 FINALLY!

And right after I finished my thesis, I flew back to my home country Malaysia. It’s been 7 years since I last spent Chinese New Year with my family. Like celebrating Christmas, Chinese New Year is a big deal to the Chinese people. During these times, we eat, laugh, talk or actually scream like all the time. Chinese New Year lasts 15 days, you have to have and wear everything clean and new especially on the first few days. Therefore when we got here to Malaysia, my sister and I spent the first couple of days shopping for new clothes, and bought all kinds of food ingredients. It is because people in Malaysia have 6-7 public holidays during Chinese New Year. Shop owners particularly the Chinese people close their shops or stop working for at least a few days, some even rest for 2 weeks. It is a must to travel home and eat ‘Tuan Yuan Fan’ meaning re-union dinner with your family. I was so happy, because after 7 years, I finally made my way home for re-union dinner! My little sister said that this year the atmosphere of Chinese New Year is very strong, just because we are all here celebrating with them… I’m touched, I should make my decision that I will go home for re-union every year. I only need to apply my holiday from work a year before then.

Long story short, my mom asked me to cook since I had the guts to run a food blog publicly. Well, I have to show my skills and prove it to her in reality. So I did. This time I’m making my Grandmother’s own recipe, prawns with a lot of green chilies, my sisters’ favourite. My mom also gave praise for it. And I’m sharing this family’s recipe with you, I hope you will like it! 恭喜发财 Gong Hei Fat Choi!

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Ingredients:

500g Prawns, keep shells

15-20 Green chilli, halved and seeded

4 Medium size onion, sliced

2 tbsp Fermented bean sauce

2 tbsp Soy sauce

2 dl Water

1 tbsp Sugar

1 tbsp Shaoxing Wine

1 tsp Chicken powder

Methods:

1. Cut vertically from the back of the prawns and remove the intestinal track of the prawns, washed and set aside.

2. Heat up oil in wok, put in sliced onion and green chilli, stir-fried for 3-4 minutes until fragrance.

3. Add in prawns, and stir-fry until cooked. Add in fermented bean sauce, soy sauce, sugar, shaoxing wine and chicken powder. Mixed well. Add water, cover with lid and let it simmer for a few minutes.

4. Open the lid, stir-fry until most of the liquid drys up/absorbed by the dish. Turn of heat and serve.

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Just if you are wondering, that one sausage was not supposed to be there! 😀 My mom found some left overs… On this day we decided to eat ‘less fancy’ because the next day is the Chinese New Year Eve when we eat our lungs out!

IMG_3421On the Chinese New Year Eve, we were all too busy cooking, eating and having so much fun. I did not care much to take pictures of cooking nor paying any attention in writing down the measurements. Therefore unfortunately I am not sharing out any recipes from the actual day dishes. But we ate well, enjoyed and were really joyful. If you haven’t noticed, we were all in red. 🙂 (Except our new born baby- Enso) Red represents good luck, and number 8 that means good fortune. If you meet any Chinese people in the next 14 days, you should wish them ‘Gong Hei Fat Choy in Cantonese or ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ in Mandarin. If you are single and not married, you can expect an Angpao or Lai si from an elder Chinese, which is a red pocket that has money inside that will bring you good fortune for the start of the year. 😀

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马年行大运!

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Penang Char Kway Teow/ 素食炒粿条/ Fried flat rice noodle

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Char Kway Teow is said to be a dish symbolizes the Chinese people who came to Malaysia in the very beginning from the South of China. It is a street dish tossed with high heat and it generates high turnovers, like the hard-working Chinese people. It is true that these Chinese people are everywhere around the world. You see, every corners I’ve been, there are always Chinese restaurants somewhere, no matter if they are selling sweet & sour , thai food or sushi. They are all very hard-working business people. They go everywhere around the globe to look for opportunities.

As I said a thousand times before, I love noodles. Char Kway Teow is rice noodles coated with soy sauce, garlic and most importantly, packed with a strong, burned ‘wok’ flavor. Just like a perfect plate of fried rice, you got to have the ‘wok’ taste in it then you can call it right. You know, those that you might have gotten from the best restaurant in town. To get the ‘wok’ taste, it’s all about the ‘woking’. You’ve got to have your wok steaming hot and stir it real fast. With my home stove, the ‘wok’ flavor I managed to get was from the slightly bit of burning, and yet it is not the same like the one from the street back home. Unless you have a really big fire and a steady wok pan, you must let it burn a little in order to get there.

Char Kway Teow is a popular dish favored by all ages, always. Back home, you can get one steaming hot portion of Char Kway Teow with 50cent, maximum 1 Euro. The street hawker always ask: ‘With or without chili?  With or without eggs? With or without clams?’ Anyway it is just as good, so easy! If you have a super good, well heated stove at home, even only the dark soy sauce will do it perfect. It is not difficult to make, and it still tasted so good on the next day from the microwave. 🙂 What an efficient dish!

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Note: For a more authentic version, add some shrimps in and if you have, try clams. In Malaysia, some even like to have the clams raw in the noodles, so they are tossed in just before serving. But I don’t recommend doing so unless you have a really good stomach and really fresh clams. If I were you, I would make more portions, because it has never been enough! 😀IMG_3008

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(Make 4 servings)

Ingredients:

250g Dried flat rice noodle, soaked until soft

4 Garlic cloves, minced

50g Bean Sprouts

50g Chinese Cabbage, sliced

1 Firm Tofu, fried and cubed

Spring Onion, chopped

3 Eggs (optional)

4 tbsp Soy sauce

2 tbsp Chili paste (optional)

2 tbsp Dark soy sauce

Pinch of Salt

Dash of white Pepper

Fried Onion

Methods:

1) Heat up wok pan until it’s steaming hot, fry garlic with oil until golden brown. Add in chili paste. (Be careful!)

2) Add in the noodles, soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Stir with high heat until the noodle is well coated and dried.

3) Toss in all the vegetables and tofu. Mix well. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Wait until the eggs are half-way cooked and then stir well with the noodles.

4) Season with salt and pepper. Dish up and enjoy with fried onion.

 

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IMG_3086I have to take this picture because it was the third plates he took of that dish! My husband usually dislike carbohydrates, but this time, he couldn’t resist! 😉

Nasi Lemak with Vegetarian Acar /Memoir of the 90 years old granny

IMG_2730It was year 1993, in an old village where I used to live in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. A 90 years old Malay granny walked by my grandparents’ house.

‘Naaa…si Lemaaak…’, ‘Naaa…si Lemaaak…’ she dragged the vowels and sang so vulnerably.

Her voice was so hoarse and weak, sharp but harsh. I could hear her from far away especially in the early morning, right after our neighbor’s rooster woke everyone up. Just before I walked to my primary school at 6:45am, that was when she came to sell her Nasi Lemak.

As a kid I was already wondering why she needed to sell Nasi Lemak at her age. Instead of walking too slow, it seemed like she was basically trying to move forward like a turtle (my description as a kid), carrying a basket full of Nasi Lemaks wrapped in newspaper. Her back was bend and there was never anyone coming with her. My sister and I had always felt so pity for her. We even had a serious discussion about this. As a 7 and a 9 years old, we made up all kinds of reasons to help us understand why this thing would happen to her.

‘Her children must have had abandoned her!’

‘She must have been really poor!’

‘Maybe she is all alone in the world and she needs to take care of herself.’

How horrible. We always felt sad whenever we heard her calling for Nasi Lemak buyers on the street. My sister and I would spend our 50 cents, which was half of our daily meal allowance to buy her Nasi Lemak in order to support this poor old granny. We never understood what on earth had happened to her. Back then my grandmother was about 50 years old and she had never worked. How could anyone let this 90 years old work at this age in this condition? The little me realized that life was so unfair. Imagine that she needed to wake up around 4 or 5 am in order to prepare for Nasi Lemak, a traditional Malaysian dish that requires a lot of work. It would not do her any good. Once my uncle bought off all her Nasi Lemaks when he came visiting Johor Bahru. The granny was so happy, that she even graciously gave some discounts for my uncle. 4 Malaysian Ringgits for 10 packages, which made only 40 cents per package. I didn’t think that it was a good deal because I thought that the granny would have needed that money more than we did.

Need not to think, I’m sure that she is no longer selling Nasi Lemak anymore… But I still remember how she made her Nasi Lemak different than others.

This recipe is dedicated to her.

You can make Nasi Lemak in many ways and it usually turns out as delicious as it supposed to be. Most Nasi Lemak served with coconut rice, sambal, cucumber slices, fried anchovies and hard-boiled egg. You may easily find fancier ones that come with beef or chicken Rendang as well. I remember that the 90 years old granny used to make hers with a thin layer of omelet that was quite sweet and savory, which I have not seen anyone does it like that elsewhere. Today I’m making the egg her way just for remembering her. Her Nasi Lemak was always simple and plain, just sambal, peanut, anchovies, omelet and cucumber, and the rice was packed with flavor and fragrance from the coconut milk and banana leaf. It was always worth the 50 cents we have got on our hands, those shillings that we might have stolen from our grandfather’s pocket.

Nasi lemak has a strong flavor, especially the sambal. Sambal is something that you hate or you love, because it has a strong pungent flavor that comes from shallots and fermented shrimp paste. Surprisingly my Finnish husband loves Nasi Lemak, despite the combination of pungent taste, saltiness and sweetness of it. He loves it so much that once he ate only Nasi Lemak as breakfast, lunch and dinner in Malaysia! It is so easily found anywhere. We liked to take-away our Nasi Lemak from 7-eleven and ate it on our way in the bus from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur and the other way around. In Malaysia, the Malays make it, the Chineses make it and so as the Indians. But I have never seen a vegetarian version so far. Therefore I thought that it would be interesting to make it vegetarian this time especially for my vegetarian followers out there (hello and waves). And it turned out just GREAT. My husband loved it, as we all can predict already. 😉

Here are the main components for Nasi Lemak:

A: Coconut Rice

B: Sambal

C: Omelet /Boiled eggs

D. Salted peanuts

E. Cucumber slices

F. Fried Anchovies (omitted for vegetarian)

G: Vegetarian Acar /Pickled mix vegetables (Eva’s Special for vegetarian :D)

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(Make 4 servings)

A: Ingredients for Coconut Rice:

320g Jasmin rice

300ml Coconut Milk

180ml Water

1 tsp Salt

3 Pandanus leaves, knotted

Method:

1) Wash rice at least twice. Add in all the ingredients into a pot and bring to boil.

2) Turn the heat to medium high, cook for 5 minutes.

3) Stir to prevent sticking from the bottom, covered with lid. Turn off the heat and let it steam for 20 minutes.

4) Break the rice with chopsticks or fork, set aside.

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B: Ingredients for the Sambal:

4-6 Shallots (depends on size), chopped

4 Dried chilies, cut and soak in hot water for 10 minutes

2 Fresh chilies, chopped

3 Garlic cloves

1 stalk Lemongrass, chopped

1 Onion, sliced

1 tsp Tamarind paste and 2 tbsp hot water, squeezed out the juice and discard the residue

1 tbsp Sugar

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Soy sauce (optional)

Methods:

1) Put shallots, dried chilies, fresh chilies, garlic, lemongrass into food possessor, blend into a paste.

2) Heat up 2 tbsp oil in a sauce pan. Fry paste and onion until fragrance. Add in tamarind juice. Stir.

3) Add in sugar, salt and soy sauce. Turn to low heat and cook for at least 40 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent burning. Set aside.

Note: Making sambal is very challenging. It is crucial to cook it with low heat for a long time in order to allow the shallots to transform its pungent taste into sweetness. Keep tasting, if it does not taste right, it is not done yet! 😉 For non-vegetarian, mix in fried anchovies at last and cook for another 5 minutes before serving for more authentic version. It is wise to make a bigger batch of sambal since it takes a lot of work. It goes extremely well with fried noodles, fried rice and even with the curry for Roti canai (Malaysian-Indian bread). It stays well in a sterilized container for up to a week in the refrigerator.

C: Ingredients for the 90 years old granny’s omelet:

4 Eggs

1 tsp Sugar

2 tsp Soy sauce

Dash of white pepper

Methods:

1) Beat up eggs, whip in sugar, soy sauce and white pepper.

2) Heat up pan and add 1 tbsp oil. Pour in half of the batch, move the pan around to make thin layer of omelet. Flip if preferred.

3) Repeat for another batch. Cut ready omelet into serving size.

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G: Ingredients for Vegetarian Acar ( Pickled mix vegetables)

100g Cabbage, sliced

100g French Beans, cut into 4 cm length sticks

100g Roasted peanuts, grounded

2 tbsp Roasted sesame seed

1 Cucumber, cut into 4cm length sticks

2 Carrots, cut into 4 cm length sticks

1 pack /250g Tofu, cubed

150g Pineapple, cubed

1 Lemongrass, chopped

2 Red chilies, seeded and cut into 4 cm length sticks

3 Shallots, sliced

3 Garlic cloves, chopped

3 Dried chilies, cut and soak in hot water for 10 minutes

1 tsp Turmeric powder

1,5dl Vinegar

3dl Water

2 tbsp sugar

Methods:

1) Mix cabbage, french beans, cucumber and carrot together and mix with 2 tbsp of salt. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Squeeze out excess water and wash the salt away. Drain dry.

2) Blend shallots, garlic, lemongrass, dried chilies and chilies in food processor into a paste.

3) Heat up oil in a sauce pan and fry paste until fragrance. Add in vinegar, turmeric powder, water and sugar. Bring to boil.

4) Pour liquid over the mix vegetables, mix in tofu and pineapples. Covered and let it sit in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

5) Mix in ground peanuts and sesame seed, stir well before serving.

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To serve an authentic Nasi Lemak , prepare a piece of banana leaf on top of a piece of newspaper. Place one portion of coconut rice in the middle, assemble all the other components around it and top up with Sambal on a small piece of banana leaf. Wrap and fold the edges to the bottom. Served. Eat with your clean right hand.

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For her.

Maybe she just loved to share her Nasi Lemak with others.

Garlicky Pork Noodle Soup 猪肉粉 / My all time favorite

Pork noodle soup ready to serve

I remember when I used to live in Kuala Lumpur, there was this food court named ‘Big Prawns’ located about 1.5 kilometers away from our home. Despite all the delicacies you may find, like clay-pot chicken rice, Asam Laksa, economy rice buffet, grilled chicken wings, otak otak…, pork noodle soup is definitely my all time favorite. You have to be alert, got to remember to ask for the one with only pork meatballs, pork strips or minced meat. Otherwise you will find pork stomach, intestines, and sometimes blood sausages in your noodle soup when it is delivered! I am not a big fan of bizarre food, but of course it is up to one’s preference.

Later on when I moved back to Johor Bahru, Southern Malaysia where it is right next to Singapore, I’ve realized that they don’t sell pork noodle soup at all. According to Malaysian local newspaper GuangMing Daily, Pork noodle soup is actually one of the Kuala Lumpur iconic hot dishes. Therefore my friends, do try it out when you ever visit my home country. 🙂

Rice noodle

Summer Cabbage

This is my quick version of pork noodle soup whenever I have only 30 minutes to cook and I’m super hungry. I added pickled mustard for extra flavor which you can find in ethnic store.

Pickled Mustard

( Serve 1)

Ingredients:

50g Rice noodle

100g Pork strips

2 garlic cloves, minced

5dl Stock/ water

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp white pepper

80g/ 1 portion summer cabbage, chopped

1 tbsp pickled mustard strips (optional)

Chopped spring onion (optional)

Fried onion (optional)

Methods:

1) Heat up oil in a deep wok/ sauce pan. Saute garlic in oil until brown. Add pork and pickled mustard strips, stir-fry until pork is brown and fragrant.

2) Add stock/ water and bring to boil. Add soy sauce, white pepper and summer cabbage. Let it cook for a few minutes until the cabbage is cooked.

3) Served in a bowl with chopped spring onion and fried onions. Enjoy!

PS: For more authentic version, use pork bone stock and served with pork meatballs and minced meat. 🙂

Garlic in the frying

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1 bowl of water for 1 portion

Almost ready

开动咯!:D