Japanese Home Style Cooking Class by Atelier Koinu

Last Friday, I took time off and travelled all the way from the west of Singapore to the east, to attend a hands-on class on Japanese Home Style Cooking conducted by Chef Aki Watanabe.

She used to teach at Shermay's Cooking School and I have attended quite a few of her cooking and baking classes which I enjoyed very much. Since Shermay has closed the school, Chef Aki is now conducting lessons at her private abode under "Atelier Koinu". In fact, she started Atelier Koinu even before teaching at Shermay's and has been doing so all this while.

Although I would love to attend more of her lessons, timing and distance is my concern. Anyways, I saw on her Facebook about this particular class with recipes that I'm very interested. So made up my mind to go the distance!

I must say I totally enjoyed the class, especially the hands-on, hardly had the chance to attend such classes. Learnt many useful cutting techniques and practical tips on cooking, and certainly gained more knowledge about Japanese cooking.

Best of all, we got to enjoy our fruits of labour immediately after the cooking and had a great time chit-chatting! This Japanese lunch set which I helped to prepare certainly looked tantalising and trust me, tasted equally good :)

The main course of the set, Chicken Namban. Chicken thigh meat that's light marinated and deep fried to a crisp and then coated with a sweet vinegar sauce. It's so yummy good to eat on its own but even better with the Yogurt Tartar Sauce! The sauce tasted similar to the tartar sauce found in Mcdonald's Fillet-O-Fish but fresher and tastier. I can already think of making this sauce to go with fish & chips, breaded prawns or calamari.

I love this refreshing salad made of daikon radish, japanese cucumber and carrot and tossed in a dressing made of shio koji and sesame. I think I could just eat a whole bowl of it as a main dish instead of a side salad :p

This is the first time I learn about Shio Koji, which is a rice malt and salt seasoning. Besides using it as a dressing, it can also be used to marinate meat and fish. I love the taste of it and can't wait to go to Meidi-ya supermarket (only available there) to get some so that I can prepare this salad soon!

I love this hijiki seaweed salad too! The beauty of it is, it can be cooked in advance and freeze for future consumption. The Japanese uses this salad as a filler dish for bento box because it's suitable for eating at room temperature. Taste-wise is a little sweet and salty, very light on the palate, healthy too and hence very popular salad.

It's actually not that easy to cook a bowl of good authentic miso soup. Nowadays, ready-made miso soups are readily sold at supermarkets, but the Japanese still believe in cooking it from scratch starting from the dashi stock made of water, kombu kelp and Katsuobushi bonito flakes. It's important not to let the miso paste boil after adding to the stock or else it will lose its flavour.

This bowl of miso soup tasted mild with a sweet after taste, whereas most miso soup I tasted (including the ones I tried cooking) were simply salty and flat. Now I know.

Steamed Japanese Rice, each grain represents the heart and soul of the Japanese people. Cooking Japanese rice also requires meticulous technique of rinsing and rubbing and soaking the grains, not as straightforward as we thought. The additional steps are important to ensure that the rice cooked will be glistering, fluffy and sweet.

Actually I couldn't wait to try out all the dishes, but didn't have time to go to the Meidi-ya supermarket to gather the essential ingredients that I lacked. But definitely, I have to try them soon!

Pandan Coconut Cupcake with Gula Melaka Buttercream Frosting

Wow, I realised that I haven't been baking anything new for months, apart from my cake orders and the same old like Blueberry Yogurt Muffin (for the kiddo) or Gula Melaka Banana Walnut Cake (for the hb).

And I haven't eaten any cupcake with frosting for months too. Well, I'm on diet for the past few months (still am) so it's bake-no-evil, eat-no-evil :p

I'm proud to announce that I've achieved my first weight loss target, hoping to lose more, but probably at a more relaxed pace :p So decided to reward myself with a cupcake! Actually it's because I have some leftover ingredients I want to use up before going on a holiday :) #excusetobake

So here's presenting my Pandan Coconut Cupcake with Gula Melaka Buttercream Frosting! I have a small block of Gula Melaka left over from my banana cake bakes, it's kind of irritating taking up space in the fridge so I gotta use it up. Have bookmarked several recipes on pandan and gula melaka, finally decided to adapt a recipe from BitterSweetSpicy. I think the combination of Pandan Coconut Cupcake and Gula Melaka Buttercream sounds heavenly.

Initially I had doubts about making this particular cake and frosting because looking at the sugar content and method, I knew that this was going to be sweet, and the cake texture would be more dense type. Personally I prefer cakes that are light and tender and less sweet such as sponge cake, combined with chantilly cream or whipped cream. Or just a simple chiffon cake.

Finally decided to just do it! I could probably jog a longer distance or eat lesser for dinner to compensate :p
Made slight changes to the recipe like reducing amount of sugar for both cupcake and frosting. Also increased the amount of pandan juice and reduced the amount of coconut milk, hoping that the coconut milk flavour will not be too strong and pandan flavour will stand out more.

Initially I didn't drizzle any Gula Melaka syrup onto the buttercream frosting and the cupcakes looked kind of plain. Was about to wash the pot (with a bit of syrup left) when the idea came to my mind. Bingo! The cupcakes looked more interesting now. And then, suddenly another idea of decorating the cupcakes further with tiny pandan leaves. Wow, now my cupcakes look kinda of chic and atas-looking. LOL!

I didn't bother with any colouring to the cake as well, so the cake wasn't tinted green, but rather a tinge of pale green tone, something like avocado.

The cupcake turned out quite well, moist and dense, but not too heavy. The coconut fragrance is present, slightly overpowering that of the pandan. Still a tad sweet, luckily I reduced some sugar. The buttercream is surprisingly not too heavy with a tinge of Gula Melaka taste. The additional drizzled syrup accentuated the overall taste, glad that I decided to drizzle some onto the frosting. The combination of the pandan coconut cake and Gula Melaka buttercream is so much better than expected, I found myself having one bite after another and soon, one cupcake gone, leaving me craving for more. Had to stop myself from having another one.

Pandan Coconut Cupcake with Gula Melaka Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
(makes 18 cupcakes, 4cm base, adapted from BitterSweetSpicy)

(A) Pandan Juice
  • 20 Pandan leaves (the pandan leaves I bought are quite small, if large leaves, use 10)
  • 3 tbsp water

(B) Cupcake
  • 200g Cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Fine salt
  • 125g Unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 150g Caster sugar (I use golden granulated unrefined sugar)
  • 2 eggs (I use 60g egg with shell)
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 65g Coconut milk + 25g Water
  • 2.5 tbsp Pandan juice (from A)

(C) Gula Melaka Syrup
  • 50g Gula Melaka
  • 3 Pandan leaves 
  • 2 tbsp Water

 (D) Gula Melaka Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
  • 3 Egg whites
  • 50g Caster sugar (I use golden granulated unrefined sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp Fine salt
  • 150g Unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 5-6 tsp Gula Melaka Syrup (from C)

  1. (A) Prepare pandan juice. Wash and trim 20 pandan leaves into 1" length. Place the leaves into electric food chopper and grind finely. Add about 3 tbsp of water to the ground pandan leaves and squeeze the juice. Sieve and set aside.
  2. (B) Prepare cupcake batter. Preheat oven (top/bottom heat) to 180 degree celsius. Line muffin pan with cupcake cases. Set aside.
  3. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and fine salt into a bowl. Set side.
  4. Mix coconut milk, water, pandan juice (from step 1) and vanilla extract, stir till blended. Set aside.
  5. Place unsalted butter in a mixing bowl, add sugar and beat at medium speed using the paddle attachment till creamy and fluffy. This will take about 3 mins, stop to scrap sides of bowl, then continue for another minute.
  6. Add eggs, one at a time, mix till incorporated.
  7. Add the flour mixture (from step 3), alternating with the coconut/pandan mixture (from step 4), in 3 additions. With each addition, mix till just incorporated, do not overbeat.
  8. Using ice-cream scoop, fill batter into cupcake cases, till about 2/3 full.
  9. Place muffin pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 20 mins.
  10. Remove from oven and cool the cupcakes on a wire rack completely before frosting.
  11. (C) Prepare Gula Melaka Syrup. Place Gula Melaka, water and pandan leaves in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat. Stir until all the sugar has melted, and mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.
  12. (D) Prepare buttercream. Place egg whites, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk continuously until the mixture is hot to touch and sugar is dissolved (rub some mixture using fingers, if it feels grainy, sugar hasn't dissolved completely).
  13. Transfer to mixer, beat the mixture using whisk attachment on medium high speed for about 4-5 mins, until stiff peaks and mixture has cooled to room temperature (touch the bottom of bowl).
  14. Turn speed to medium and add the butter, piece by piece. Keep beating till mixture gradually turns creamy and velvety, about 4-5 mins.
  15. Add the Gula Melaka syrup, 1 tsp at a time, till incorporated. I added about 5-6 tsp. The buttercream is ready for use.
  16. Transfer buttercream to piping bag and frost the cupcakes. Drizzle some Gula Melaka Syrup leftover (from C) onto the frosting if desired.


This recipe is definitely a keeper!

And if anyone is interested in ordering this cupcake, drop me a note at megtan@singnet.com.sg.

Koh Samui Jan 2015 Part IV - Dessert at Lolamui Cafe, Lamai Fresh Coconut Ice Cream

Continued from
Part I - Fenix Beach Resort at Lamai Beach
Part II - Lamai Sunday Night Market
Part III - Food at Krao Chao Ban, MK restaurant, Koh Tan Cuisine, Sabienglae 2

Actually we didn't have much room for dessert since we ate so much thai food for our meals.

But I passed by this interesting cafe which happens to be located at Lamai, and couldn't resist the temptation to take a look. In fact, it's located along the main road, very hard not to see it, especially with the distinctive old train car and interesting name post.

There's ample parking in the vicinity.

Upon entering the grounds, I could see a section of the vintage train car. Initially I thought it's just for display but it is actually a part of the cafe too, as in customers can choose to have their cakes/beverages here in the car. Cool!

The cafe is set among a lush hillside and appears to be converted from some wooden houses. It has this tropical feel with the white-bluish-grey colour scheme.

The main cafe houses the beverage preparation area, display counters as well as a kitchen where cakes are freshly baked daily. Here's the chef owner Khun Pun. She told us she bakes about 20 cakes daily for walk-in sales and sometimes additional if there are advance orders.

I wanted to try the coconut cake which is supposedly the house special and very popular, but it was sold out already :( Decided to make reservation and return the next day.

There are only 4 seats in the main cafe.

Here's the back of the main cafe/house where the kitchen is.

Alfresco area.

Steps leading to another house/more seating areas.

This house is much bigger, more seating available. Very simply furnished and decorated with some vintage items and mismatched furniture.

When we returned the next day, it was quite quiet due to a weekday. Apparently the cafe is packed during weekends and thai public holidays.

We ordered the signature Coconut Cake, Banoffee Pie, iced latte for the hubs and earl grey tea for me.

Banoffee Pie. This was surprisingly very good, a crushed crispy biscuit base, sweet and fragrant bananas with caramel sauce and generously topped with a light whipped cream and dusted with coffee powder.

I love the Coconut Cake! The sponge cake was feather soft and the coconut was so tender. Understand from Khun Pun that she specially selects a soft and creamy coconut called maprao kati (macapuno). Overall the cake was less sweet and very pleasing. Yummy! I would love to come back for this cake!
soft and creamy coconut called maprao kati (macapuno) - See more at: http://bk.asia-city.com/restaurants/article/best-thai-restaurants-samui#sthash.YLOoq2u7.dpuf
soft and creamy coconut called maprao kati (macapuno) - See more at: http://bk.asia-city.com/restaurants/article/best-thai-restaurants-samui#sthash.YLOoq2u7.dpuf
soft and creamy coconut called maprao kati (macapuno) - See more at: http://bk.asia-city.com/restaurants/article/best-thai-restaurants-samui#sthash.YLOoq2u7.dpuf

lolamui cafe
Open daily 11am-6pm. 127/184 Moo 3, Lamai, Maret. 089-688-4818, 077-601-607 - See more at: http://bk.asia-city.com/restaurants/article/best-thai-restaurants-samui#sthash.YLOoq2u7.dpuf
127/184 Moo.3, Lamai, Maret
Amphoe Koh Sa-Mui, Surat Thani, Thailand
+6689-688-4818, +6677-601-607
Opens 11am to 5pm daily

Besides lolamui cafe that is worth a visit, another must-try is the Lamai Fresh Coconut Ice-Cream!

Although more and more ice-cream stalls are popping up everywhere in Samui (in Bangkok as well), this is apparently the original one. Look out for this van that's parked at the Lad Koh Viewpoint (located between Chaweng and Lamai). The van is not always there though, during our previous trip, we tried once and wanted to eat more the next day and the van wasn't there.

The owner hard at work. The queue was perpetually non-stop.

She used a special tool to scrap the coconut meat from the husk.

Then added 2-3 scoops of coconut ice-cream, followed by toppings like candied yam, tapioca, sweet potato, banana, glutinous rice and peanuts.

Absolutely yummy, especially on a hot day. The ice-cream was very creamy and not too sweet, and the toppings complemented the ice-cream really nicely.

Enjoying ice-cream with a breathtaking view, only at Samui.

And this marks the end of my trip to Koh Samui, already looking forward to the next one, probably gotta wait till next year or if we get lucky to snag a good airfare deal!

Koh Samui Jan 2015 Part III - Food at Krao Chao Ban, Koh Tan Cuisine, Sabienglae 2, MK restaurant

Continued from
Part I - Fenix Beach Resort at Lamai Beach
Part II - Lamai Sunday Night Market

As I mentioned, food is a major reason of why we kept going back to Samui.

Sabienglae Restaurant at Lamai Beach is located just 5 minutes' walk from our resort. We wanted to dine there for our lunch after checking in but unfortunately the restaurant was closed during the period we were in Samui! Boohoo!

Ok, fret not. We made our way to Krao Chao Ban Restaurant, about 10-15 minutes from the resort.

The landscape of the restaurant is still as pretty as before, enhancing the dining experience altogether.

At Krao Chao Ban, this is a must-eat dish - deep fried fish drizzled with a spicy and sour tamarind sauce. It is this dish that made us come back over and over again. The fish was deep fried to perfect crisp on the outside yet remaining very tender and juicy inside. The sauce was sourish and a little spicy which is very appetising and goes very well with the white fish meat. The fried shallot bits were a perfect topping which complemented the entire dish very well. There are other restaurants that served similar style of cooking but none has managed to rival the one at Krao Chao Ban yet.

Craving for some Thai papaya salad and I must say the dish served here is very well-made indeed. Spicy, sour, salty and topped with some deep fried anchovy. Perfect!

The coconut/milky squid was not bad but nothing to shout about.

Stir fried morning glory (kang kong) was always nicely done in Thailand.

On the second day, we decided to explore the southern part of Samui island and rode our bike all the way to Thong Krut Beach. Thong Krut Beach is like a sleepy little town with a small stretch of sandy white beach and restaurants along the beach.

We stopped by this quaint little restaurant for our lunch.

Most of the restaurants here also provide additional services like canoeing or snorkeling trip to the nearby island, Koh Tan.

I ordered a thai-style stir-fried kway teow (flat rice noodles) which was very yummy!

Hubby wanted to try some tom yum soup. Not bad at all, spicy and sourish.

Some stir-fried vegetables to share.

Hubby also ordered a stir-fried pork with rice.

Over all the meal was enjoyable, made perfect with the comfortable surroundings and lovely sea view.

Saw a mobile vegetable stall outside the restaurant. So cool!

Central Festival is a large mall, the latest development at Chaweng Beach. We went there for shopping on the second afternoon.

Delighted to see MK restaurant, so decided to have dinner there.

MK restaurant's famous roast duck. The meat was tender and succulent and so yummy with the sauce. The spinach noodle is also very popular, texture is very springy.

Since we had so much meat and carbo, we ordered mostly vegetables for the hot pot.

On our 3rd morning, we decided to skip breakfast at the resort and headed to Lamai Beach area in search of some regular noodle soup.

Most shops weren't opened but we chanced upon this stall selling noodles.

Ordered kway teow noodle soup which came with shredded chicken and pork balls. A basket of assorted vegetables (basil, bean sprout, bittergourd) was given for us to add freely to the noodles. Nice!

For our lunch on the 3rd day, we decided to ride all the way to Sabienglae 2 restaurant at Chaweng since we really missed Saebienglae's food.

Actually we found that Sabienglae 2's food quality/standard is not as good as the original restaurant at Lamai Beach. The restaurant is also quite quiet since it's not located along the Chaweng Beach that's populated with tourists; it's located at the central main road.

I think the restaurant is serving mostly tour groups (especially from China) now because they started playing Chinese songs and a group of tourists came in after we ordered.

The tom yum goong here was still quite good.

Steamed squid with garlic and lime. Not bad, quite appetising.

One of my favourite thai dish, Tod Mun Goong, thai shrimp cake. Quite nice but standard seemed to have dropped a little, used to be better (I think not as fresh as before).

For our dinner on our 3rd/last night in Samui, we decided to go back to Krao Chao Ban since it's so near to our resort, and we wanted to eat the deep fried fish with tamarind sauce again.

The papaya salad we ate on the first day was good so we ordered it again.

This was salted egg yolk encased with minced pork and prawn, coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried. The first piece was yummy but subsequently too overwhelming. Don't think will order this dish again.

Braised king prawn with rice vermicelli. Very yummy as the rice vermicelli soaked up all the sauce and was very flavourful.

And we simply had to order the deep fried fish with tamarind sauce again! It was just soooooo good!
Once again, we over-indulged but couldn't help it lah!

Stay tuned for the last part on the desserts we had!