29 February 2012

Niao Gao Spring Roll

Chinese New Year has past more than a month and I thought it's a good time to eat Nian Gao 年糕 since the ones we bought are nice and hard already.

Instead of the usual deep fried nian gao with egg and batter, I decided to try the Nian Gao Taro Spring Roll recipe by Wendy of Table For 2. The idea of wrapping a stick of nian gao between mashed taro and spring roll skin then deep fried was interesting and I was intrigued by how the final product would be. I could already imagine the crisp of the spring roll!

Wendy gave very detailed photo illustration of the whole wrapping process which I gladly followed, except that I added slightly lesser taro as I wanted the niao gao to be more distinct. The wrapping was not as easy as it looked, quite hard to make sure the niao gao remained in the centre of the spring roll. I certainly need more practice. Frying wasn't easy either, it's advisable to use medium low fire so that the niao gao can melt sufficiently to create that oozing effect.

Verdict? I love it! I thought the whole combination was perfect, the sweetness of niao gao was balanced by the taro, the marriage of different textures - sticky gooey niao gao with fluffy taro and crispy spring roll skin, in addition bits of crunchy fresh grated coconut.

If I were to make it again, I would reduce the amount of sugar added to the taro and increase the amount of salt so that the contrast between sweetness (niao gao) and saltiness (taro) is more distinct. But hubby didn't like it, he claimed that the combination didn't work for him. Oh well, he's better off sticking to the usual deep fried niao gao then (pun intended).

Keen in the recipe? Hop over to Wendy's blog for a very comprehensive description!

27 February 2012

Strawberry Shortcake once more

This was a re-attempt of the Strawberry Shortcake that I made for my son's birthday last month. But this time round created for a dear friend, WH's son 5th birthday. When WH approached me to bake the Strawberry Shortcake, I was glad to have another opportunity to attempt the recipe again.

And it was a round cake (8 inches) which supposedly easier to frost than a square or angular-shaped cake. Despite experience from the previous attempt, I still found it a challenge to whisk the genoise sponge. Somehow I couldn't perfect the consistency of the batter and I suspected that the sponge would still turn out dry like the first time. True enough when I sought for feedback, the genoise sponge was dry and dense. Oh how do I get a feather light genoise sponge??

Luckily the chantilly cream which was a very light cream, managed to balance and "moisturise" the cake :p

But but but, I still had trouble frosting the cake, especially the sides. Alas my cake still wasn't smooth enough; although there was a slight improvement from the previous one. Is it because chantilly cream is more difficult to manage than buttercream?

Frosting a cake is definitely not easy and in fact when I browsed cake shops for ideas, I noticed most of the shops used chocolate or nuts to cover the sides of the cake. I think probably coz it saves time and hides flaws :p

Personally I like to keep the cake simple and neat, which means, more practice. Strawberry shortcake anyone?

16 February 2012

Bangkok Feb 2012

Hubby and I sneaked off to Bangkok over the past weekend for a quick getaway which was also meant as a celebration for Valentine's Day. Nothing interesting about this trip since it was a rest and relax trip where we took things pretty easy. In fact, my shopping haul was mediocre with just 2 t-shirts, 2 bottles of shower gel (from my fav brand in BKK, Divana Spa), an iPad sleeve, 2 hairclips and several packets of Thai noodles :p Highlight was probably staying at a new hotel and visited a spa that we've not been previously.

We took an afternoon flight on Thai Airways and to our disgust dismay, the flight was delayed for an hour (late arrival and heavy air traffic prior to taking off). As a result we arrived in Bangkok during the late evening peak hour, where the airport was in a frenzy state. Waited to take the AOT limousine taxi but was told the cheaper vehicles like Camry (1100 baht inclusive of toll charges) were all out have to wait minimum 20 mins, only left with Mercedes (1600 baht). Not waiting to spend an additional 500 baht, we decided to queue for public taxi which in fact was significantly cheaper, about 300 baht plus additional 70 baht toll charges. (Usually we would take the AOT taxi upon arrival and public taxi for departure.) To our utter disgust dismay, the public taxi queue was horrendous; there were several queues and we were totally idiotic to get into a line where 2 queues merged into 1. But beggars can't be choosers right?

We stood in line for 30 mins, hot and frustrated with a super slow moving queue. And to make matters worse, a big size foreigner kept using his huge bag to cut queue (he was behind us). Finally, we made the call to go back to AOT for the limousine taxi and we managed to get the Camry (well, 30 mins had passed). Phew! So glad with our comfy ride. By the time we got to our hotel, it was close to 9pm already! The check-in process was smooth and quick and a pretty front desk staff led us to our room and showed us all the amenities and features of the room.

The above and below photos were taken during the day time. When we checked-in, I was impressed by the floral arrangement at the hotel lobby. So lovely! The lobby is airy and spacious with lots of couches and sofas for people to laze around.
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok is quite a new hotel, opened for about a year or so and the best part, it's just next door to Siam Paragon. It's literally just a zebra crossing away and really convenient for shopping and to get to BTS Siam which is connected to Siam Paragon.
Anyways, the room is spacious and cozy with a super comfy king-size bed :) All drinks in the mini fridge are FOC (local beer and sodas) and there's also free coffee. Not just any coffee but those coffee machine where you load capsules to make coffee (but we don't drink coffee, duh).

Fresh fruits were offered everyday; we had mango and banana.
The special feature of the room must be the bathroom which is segregated by a glass wall! There, you can see the supersize bathtub. There's an automated blind which could be lowered for privacy of course.
Luxurious bathroom with all amenities provided generously.
View from inside the bathroom. I could watch TV while soaking in the bathtub :)
As it was rather late already, we quickly made our way out for a late dinner. Hubby spotted this roadside hawker along Thanon Rama I Road (road between Siam Paragon and Siam Square) while he was in the cab and wanted to give it a try.
This is Sukiyaki with broth. Basically, glass noodle cooked in soup with veggies and pork.
And this is Stir-fry Sukiyaki with veggies and seafood. Both tasted spicy and really yummy, probably coz we were famished :p

After the simple meal, we took a walk at the Pasar Malam (street) stalls along Thanon Rama I Road which sold mainly fashion and accessories. I bought a unique t-shirt there :) Actually there were 3 designs that I like but I couldn't decide whether to buy and ended up getting only 1 of them. The next day when I went back, that particular stall wasn't set up :( Boohoo... lesson learnt, when travelling buy if you see something you like coz you may not chance upon the same thing again.

The next morning, we woke up around 9+ and headed to a small hawker centre at Siam Square for breakfast.
Ordered a bowl of glass noodle soup. The broth was yummy and the braised pork was very tender and moist. The stall owner charged us 40 baht, whereas hubby saw that locals only paid 30 baht. Oh well.
Some sweet and juicy pineapple after breakfast.
Hubby also bought this snack, which is some crispy shell filled with a milky custard and bits of mango. Not bad.
Then we went to Health Land Spa & Massage at Asoke for our much anticipated massage. There are many Health Land branches in Bangkok but we chose this branch for its proximity to the BTS (about 8 mins walk). When we exited at the BTS we saw a new mall, Terminal 21 and decided to drop by after our massage.
This Health Land branch is big! There are even elevators inside the building, 7 storeys in fact.
Very spacious reception and lobby area.
Simply select the type of treatment, make payment and wait for your name to be called. Quite a busy spa as we saw many tourists and locals.
We were led to another lounge area for change into their inhouse slippers. Then took a lift up to level 5 to our treatment room.
Room with simple furnishings. Hubby did a 2hr Thai massage (450 baht) and I chose a 2hr Thai massage with herbal compress (750 baht). The therapists were very skillful and friendly and we found ourselves drifting off to lalaland. At the end of the massage, we were brought back to the lounge area for some herbal tea and changed back to our shoes.
We walked towards Terminal 21 mall and went for lunch first before shopping. There were many restaurants and eateries but most of them were very crowded with long queues. Finally settled for Pier 21 Foodcourt which was spacious with ample seats. Although it was crowded, there were enough seats and the staff were very efficient in clearing the tables after patrons left. The foodcourt operated on a store value card system; we purchased a card with whatever value we like then handed the card to the stall owners for deduction. After the meal, we could then get back whatever value that was left.
I had my favourite braised pork leg with crispy roast pork set (70 baht), whereas hubby had thai fried rice and tom yum soup. The crispy roast pork was very very nice! We also had sticky rice with mango and red ruby for dessert (forgot to take photo!).

After the sumptuous meal, we went our separate ways for shopping. The mall was quite big - with many small little alleys and shops in each level, featuring international brands, male & female fashion and accessories, sports and shoes, gourmet market and zakka goods. Unfortunately I didn't find anything I like, only got a iPad sleeve.

We headed to Erawan Shrine near BTS Chidlom to offer our prayers first, then to BTS Siam and went on separate ways again. We agreed to meet back in the hotel room at 7pm. I went to my favourite household department at Siam Paragon, as well as the lingerie and children's department and finally the supermarket.

For dinner, decided to dine at our favourite MK Gold Restaurant for some hotpot, with lots of veggies and mushroom.
After dinner, we went back to the Pasar Malam near Siam Square again. Didn't find the stall I bought the t-shirt the day before, but managed to find another stall with design that I like. Ok at least there was a consolation. Then we went back to the hotel where I had a long luxurious bath in the oversized bath tub.
The next day, we woke up mid morning and had a late breakfast at this bakery cafe at Siam Square which hubby discovered the previous day.
We could order full meal items from the menu or pick breads and pastries for dine-in.

I like the interior design and colour combination of this chirpy looking cafe.
Our bread and pastries for sharing. They tasted ok, nothing to shut about though. After the brunch, we shopped around Siam Square, but most of the shops were not opened yet apart from a Daiso.

Soon we went back to the hotel, lazed a bit before checking out and headed to the airport. Decided to go to the airport 3hrs ahead of our scheduled flight as based on past experience the queues at both the check-in counters and customs were usually horrendous (previously we queued for almost an hour at the immigrations). True enough, we queued for 45 mins at the check-in counter for Thai airways and another 20 mins at the customs.

Thank goodness we went to the airport early so we had time for a quick late lunch at a thai cafe. Ordered a Pad Thai which was so-so only. Hubby ordered a fried kway teow and tom yum soup. Price-wise was like 4-5 times that of Bangkok city!

Finally boarded the plane for an uneventful flight home. Although this was just a short trip, it felt good to be back to one of our favourite Asian City and enjoy the great food and thai hospitality. Well, hope to be back soon, if our prayers at Erawan Shrine got answered :)

Travel Resources

09 February 2012

鱼生 Yu Sheng and an Award

Although the Chinese New Year may be over, I'm still hankering after 鱼生 Yu Sheng, which is a raw fish salad that's eaten only during this particular festive period to signify good luck and prosperity. Unlike other goodies like bak kwa or pineapple tarts which are readily available anytime of the year, Yu Sheng is only available during CNY.

I love the combination of textures and flavours of the Yu Sheng, typically consisting of raw tri-colour radish (red, green and white) shreds, pickles, pomelo, raw fish and condiments like peanut, sesame seeds, cinnamon powder, pepper, and finally crispy crackers with a special sweet and sour sauce. Different eateries from restaurants to hawker stalls have their own creations of the dish. Pre-packed ingredients (without the radish and fish) are also available at supermarkets for people to create their home-made versions. I used to buy the pre-packed ones but found it rather tedious to make the radish shreds; somehow we could never achieve the thin shreds like commercial sold ones.

Anyway, I'm proud to declare that I ate the Yu Sheng 8 times this CNY :p Huat ah!!! Haha, shows how crazy I am over this dish right? Anyway, here's sharing one that I had at Chinatown Food Centre, a hawker stall Zhen Jie 珍姐 highly recommended by hubby's colleague. I understand that they only sell this during CNY period every year (normal days they sell claypot dishes).

*Apparently the lady boss is quite famous for she participated in a Channel U Super Mommy Competition a few years back. Saw her at the stall, she's indeed a beauty :)

There was a queue when we went there about 8+pm on Sat night, and hubby told me there was a long queue the next day when he went with his colleague for lunch.
Taste-wise, the Yu Sheng scored above average, not the best we've eaten but good enough. It's quite peculiar experience to toss Yu Sheng in a hawker centre as well :) They also sell porridge which tasted very good!

If I'm not wrong, the stall will sell this till 12 Feb, so head to Chinatown Food Centre before the season closes!



An Award presented by Jane from Passionate About Baking!

Big thanks to Jane for presenting this award to me :) Frankly, I don't know many blogger friends although I've been blogging for a few years :p And in fact some of whom I've not met before. That said, it's nice to receive notes and comments from fellow bloggers or even just anonymous readers and I really appreciate the thoughts. If opportunity arises or there's an occasion, I would love to join in some blogger gatherings or meet up with blogger friends too.

Anyway, I'm supposed to pass this on, and I noticed many of the blogger friends I know already have this award. So, I'll just pass it on to the following 3 bloggers :)

06 February 2012

Strawberry Cupcakes

I mentioned in a previous post about dear son's birthday celebrations, yes he had 2 celebrations! Lucky boy. Besides the celebration with close family members where I made him a Strawberry Shortcake, he also had another celebration at his Childcare Centre. Initially was thinking whether it was necessary, but it seems like a norm at his CCC (based on the party packs he received). Being a kiasu mummy, I didn't want him to miss out this moment of "glory" so celebration there shall be!

So this mummy had to bake some 40 cupcakes (for all the kids + teachers) and hunt for suitable party packs. Didn't want the usual party packs consisting of snacks and poppers, this perfectionist mummy wanted something different and special, so made a trip to Daiso and found something nice and practical. For the cake, since he already had a cake during the previous celebration, cupcakes would be something different and probably more manageable to distribute to the kids.

As for the flavour, would it be vanilla, chocolate or lychee? In the end, decided on strawberry cupcakes for economies of scale. I could use scrapes from the Strawberry Shortcake to make the strawberry puree for the cupcakes. Nice! Since dear son loves strawberries so much, he won't mind having more. And I've bookmarked Evan's Strawberry Cupcake recipe for some time already, now's the chance to try it :)

The steps were fairly quick and easy but I made a few minor changes like reducing amount of sugar (even though she had already reduced the sugar in the first place); as I didn't have any vanilla sugar I substituted with vanilla bean paste and instead of folding chopped strawberries into the batter I added them manually to ensure the amount of strawberries in each cupcake was equal.

The cupcakes turned out beautifully, very moist and tender with a tinge of strawberry fragrance. Alas the strawberry swiss meringue buttercream didn't turn out well though. I underwhipped the cream and hence the cream was still very soft when I piped them onto the cupcakes. Didn't have time to re-do another batch so had to make do with whatever I had. I thought they looked more like normal whipped cream then buttercream. This is not the first time that my buttercream was under-whipped, I always seem to have buttercream problem -_- More practise needed!!!
Overall I thought the cupcakes still looked quite presentable, especially with this Wilton cupcake holder.
Anyways, I think the kids at my son's CCC liked the cupcakes, most of them finished their share and some even asked for more. *Phew* Just glad that the celebration was over and things went quite smoothly. I wonder how many more years am I supposed to do this? LOL!

02 February 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

This Strawberry Shortcake was baked specially for dear son's 2nd birthday celebration (with closed family members). At first I couldn't decide what to do, to bake or just buy one? And if I were to bake, what flavour? Should I attempt something new or stick to something I've baked before - chocolate cake, strawberry hearts, tofu cheesecake, orange chiffon???

After thinking long and hard, I've decided to take a risk and attempt for the very first time, a Strawberry Shortcake! Well, if I fail I could always go buy another cake last minute :p Why Strawberry Shortcake? It's one of the most popular cake flavours, not too heavy on the palate, Korean strawberries are in season and dear son loves strawberries! In fact, I've long wanted to make one so now's the perfect opportunity.

After browsing several books, decided to use Chef Daniel Tay's recipe from his "Just Desserts" recipe book. Had also attended his class on "Strawberries" before and he demo-ed the same recipe from his book. But frankly speaking I forgot the details of what he went through already. Haha. So I just went ahead with the steps in the book along with some scribbled tips in the notes.

There are a few parts to this cake, first the Genoise Sponge, then the Chantilly Cream and finally assembly and frosting.

The steps of making the genoise sponge were pretty straightforward but the crux was in the folding of the batter to ensure that it would reach a flowing and shiny consistency, which would determine the texture of the cake. The chantilly cream was also pretty easy. But the nightmare came during the assembly and frosting.

Somehow I just couldn't smoothen the sides of the cake :( The cake ring didn't help much, after easing the cake out of the ring, the sides were still uneven. I took a whole hour to frost the cake, filling, smoothing and re-doing again. *sigh* From the photos, the sides of the cake were visible :(
Later on, I got a tip from a Japanese bakery book, that is to apply a thin coat of cream all over the cake, chill till slightly firm, then apply the cream proper. Next time I shall try it.

I baked the cake in an 8" square pan and trimmed about 1.5-2" off as my cake ring is 8" and also I wanted to taste-test the genoise sponge first. If it turned out too dry and coarse, I may abandon the cake altogether. Verdict, somehow I felt that my genoise sponge was not fine and moist enough, probably I didn't fold the batter well enough but hubby said it would be balanced once eaten with the chantilly cream. So I slathered some chantilly cream on the trimmed cake and true enough, the cake when combined with cream turned out alright! My hubby is a genius!

Still, I was all jittery at how the whole cake would turn out during the celebration. Luckily all went well and my family members were quite impressed with the cake even :p Best of all, dear son loved the cake, especially the chantilly cream and strawberries.

Very glad that my first attempt on a Strawberry Shortcake was encouraging. I shall attempt a round one next time, maybe it'll be easier to frost? Haha.

Strawberry Shortcake (makes one 20cm/8" cake)
  • 1 kg Strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced
Genoise Sponge
  • 110g Egg yolks (about 6-7 eggs)
  • 175g Eggs (about 3-4 eggs)
  • 170g Caster sugar
  • 110g Light cake flour, sifted (I use Nissen Violet Flour)
  • 55g Unsalted butter, melted
Chantilly Cream
  • 1 L Whipping cream
  • 100g Caster sugar
  • 100g Mascarpone cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degree celsius, conventional mode.
  2. Prepare genoise sponge. Combine egg yolks, eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk on high speed for 10 minutes. Reduce to medium speed and whisk for another 10 minutes or until fine air bubbles form.
  3. Lightly fold in flour, followed by melted butter, until fully incorporated.
  4. Pour batter into a lined 20cm (8-in) round/square cake tin. Level batter with a spatula and bake for 20-25 minutes or until top of cake is firm to touch. Remove from heat and leave aside to cool.
  5. Unmould cake and remove paper. Peel skin off top of cake and discard. If not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Genoise sponge can keep for up to 6 weeks, frozen and 3 days, refrigerated.
  6. Prepare chantilly cream. Combine cream, sugar and mascarpone cheese in a mixing bowl and whisk at medium speed for 3 minutes. Increase to high speed and continue to whisk until light and smooth. Set aside.
Cake Assembly
  1. Horizontally slice genoise sponge into 2 equal layers. Place one layer on a cake board and place a 22.5cm (9-in) cake ring over. Spoon half of chantilly cream over and around sides of the sponge layer and level with an angle palette knife. Arrange some strawberries on top of cream and then place second sponge layer over. Spoon remaining cream over and around sides of cake and level again. Refrigerate cake until slight firm.
  2. Gently ease cake ring from cake and remove. Coat side of cake with ground almonds, if desired. Decorate cake as desired and serve chilled.