The Cat of Hanoi

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The streets of Hanoi are crazy, chaotic, vibrant and exciting. Every pedestrian walkway and space in front of the shops is either filled with tables and chairs for a street-side food stall, or with scooters squashed together handlebar to handlebar. There’s really no place for a cat to find a foothold. But while on a night time food tour in Hanoi just a couple days ago, I came across this magnificent creature, all fuzzy, fat and pristine in its white coat and elegant black accents. Never mind that the horns of scooters were blaring incessantly, and people were trudging past barely a whisker away from its face. Here it sat, most serene; a picture of tranquility and dignity in a messy, crazy world. After a crazy, mind-blowing surprise like today, perhaps there’s something we can all learn from the Cat of Hanoi.

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The Saturday Kitchen – Chewy Peanut Butter, Fruit & Nut Cookies

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Cookies, particularly chewy ones, are one of the most irresistible comfort foods I can think of. When it’s about 4pm, whether I am peckish or not, I must have a cup of tea and a cookie. It’s a small mid-afternoon treat and perks you up when your internal engine is slowing down.

I made this batch of cookies recently which combines every evil edible I like – raisins, nuts, peanut butter and chocolate chips. It’s so easy to do, and didn’t last long in the cookie container.

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Chewy Peanut Butter, Fruit & Nut Cookies

  • Servings: about 24 cookies
  • Time: 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

125g soft butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
120g brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
120g cup plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup raisins
100g walnuts or almonds (or a mix of both), chopped
100g dark chocolate chopped

Method
• Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugar until is fluffy and light. Then beat in the egg.
• Combine flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl and mix well.
• Add it to the dough, mixing well. Stir in the raisins, nuts and chocolates.
• Drop tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough on a baking sheet, and bake 180C for 12 mins or until golden.
• Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

The Saturday Kitchen — Cheat’s Babi Guling (Balinese Roast Pork)

I may have dined in many famous, much-awarded restaurants around the world and eaten fabulous food by a myriad celebrated chefs. But the restaurant that has been haunting me for weeks and held me in its grip is Warung Rebo in Bali. Since dining there, the babi guling is something I have wanted to try to replicate. And I’m pleased to announce that I have finally attempted it! It is my own ‘cheat’s version’, and is based on Chef Heinz von Holzen’s recipe in the book ‘Bali Unveiled’.

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I have worked with Chef Heinz before, editing one of his books ‘The Street Food of Bali’. He is a delightful, hugely knowledgeable chef who has been living in Bali for well over 25 years, after having been the executive chef in Hyatt Singapore. If you want to try authentic Balinese food in a modern restaurant setting, or learn Balinese cooking, go to his restaurant Bumbu Bali in Nusa Dua, Bali.

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Anyway, I took his recipe which calls for a whole pig — his is totally authentic — and scaled it down to a 1.2 kg piece of pork belly. Did some short cuts on the marinade ingredients as well, and tested it out finally. For a first attempt, the result was very good. The crackling — so difficult to achieve — was thin, crisp and snapped into shards and the meat was moist, thanks I think to the fatty cut of the meat.

I served this to guests with the green bean and coconut lawar, a chilli and tomato sambal, and white rice.  I am well pleased with this, and hope you’d be curious enough to try. 🙂

Babi guling group

Cheat's Babi Guling

 
Serves 4-6 people

It’s actually an easy dish to make. The effort is mainly in pounding the herbs and spices for the marinade. After that, it’s just a matter of marinating and roasting it.

1.2 kg piece of pork belly, ask for a slightly thinner piece

Marinade
1 Tbsp salt or to taste
40 g shallots
20 g cloves garlic
20 g ginger, cut into smaller pieces
50 g candlenuts
20 g galangal (blue ginger)
2 lemongrass
4 birds’ eye chilli
1 Tbsp ground turmeric
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
3-4 kaffir lime leaves
1 generous tsp belacan, wrapped in foil and roasted in a dry pan
1 Tbsp oil

Method
• Scrub the pork down with 2 teaspoons of salt and wash the salt away. Pat dry, poke holes into the skin, then set it aside, skin side up.

• Now make the marinade. Pound all the ingredients in a pestle & mortar. (You can use an electric chopper and whizz it coarsely, but I prefer to pound it in a traditional mortar and pestle as the crushing and grinding motion gets the flavours and oils out better.)

• Coat the pork thoroughly with the marinade, then roll and tie it up with string. Leave it thus to marinate for at least 2 hours (but overnight is best).
• Preheat the oven to 240°C. Put the pork on a roasting rack, and roast for 20-25 mins. Then turn the oven down to 170°C and leave it to roast for another hour.
• Take it out and let it rest for 15 minutes then slice it thickly and serve.

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The Saturday Kitchen – Tempeh in Sweet Soy Sauce

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Greetings from The Saturday Kitchen again. Still finding inspiration from my recent trip to Bali, and realising I should eat more vegetables than meat, here’s another quick dish which finds its origins in Indonesia.

Tempeh is fermented soy beans, often sold in rectangular cakes wrapped neatly in banana leaves and paper. It is pretty substantial and meaty, so it’s suitable for hungry vegetarians. When you first unwrap it, it’s a soft cake covered in a downy white coating a little like that of brie cheese, under which you’ll find the fermented soy beans. When cooked, it has a nutty, mild flavour with a slightly astringent hint of aftertaste. It’s a whole food, and a healthy ingredient to add to your kitchen pantry.

Tempeh in Sweet Soy Sauce


Serves 4

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If you like a healthier take on this, bake it at 180C for about 20-25 minutes, instead of frying it.

4 packets of tempeh, sliced into 1-cm pieces
1 Tbsp sweet kicap manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce)
1 Tbsp Korean chilli sauce (gochujang)
1 heaped tsp brown sugar (or gula melaka)
1 shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 handful coriander, chopped
3 stalks spring onion, chopped
1 large green chilli, sliced
1/2 tsp finely chopped bunga kantan (torch ginger flower), optional
Salt to taste

Method
• Fry tempeh in a generous amount of oil until it is cooked and slightly crisp. Drain and set aside.
• Remove all the oil except for 1 Tbsp, and saute garlic and shallots until fragrant.
• Add kicap manis, chilli sauce and brown sugar and mix until it is combined.
• Add in the friend tempeh and toss to coat. Add some salt it it’s not salty enough for you.
• Transfer it to a plate, and top with coriander, spring onions, green chilli and bunga kantan if using.
• Toss before serving, with white rice.

Photo 101 – Edge, Alignment & Glass

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Playing catching up after a few days of being super busy, here’s my Photo 101 post that combines Edge & Alignment and Glass into one.

I had taken this in Melbourne, through the window of Coda, a quirky east-west restaurant in Flinders Lane. It was in the evening, and we were just heading in there for dinner. I like how the lights and the reflection on the window (that’s me!) seem to float amid the straight black lines of the metalwork. Incidentally, how many people can you see in the photo?

Photo 101 – Scale

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This is my country. I had taken this panorama of the city area overlooking Marina Bayfront in August last year when Singapore celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence. Even when I look at this picture now, I feel a great sense of pride. A little country with no resources, we took ourselves from third world to first world in half a century, and we are happily multiracial. Only thing is, it’s getting seriously expensive living here now, but we cope.

As you can see, it was a big party, and the fireworks had just been set off. There was a big parade at the Padang just to the right of this picture, which I didn’t capture in this frame.

As a family, we love the fireworks on National Day, but we’re not too enamoured with crowds. So we did a staycation at the Fairmont, to soak in the atmosphere, celebrate with the nation but in the comfort of our room. Chips, wine, beer, and nibbles, followed by dinner at a restaurant later.

Photo 101 – Architecture in Monochrome

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We visited Bordeaux last year when my husband and his friend went to run the Medoc Marathon. I can’t say much about the marathon but I loved the little streets of Bordeaux, winding between stone buildings and opening up unexpectedly in piazzas. I took this shot from a cafe window as we were having some wine after a walking tour of the city. It had just been sunny earlier, but the clouds came with little warning and it rained quite hard. I was glad the tour was over by then.