30 June 2014

Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp (Chao Tom) - AFF IndoChina Jun 2014

At the start of AFF IndoChina beginning June, I had bookmarked this particular Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp recipe because it looks so yummy and I love shrimps and sugarcane. So throughout the month, I was looking out for sugarcane. The vegetable stores at the wet market do sell them in a bundle of half a dozen, but I only needed one. I guess many people buy the sugarcane to brew herbal drink, but I didn't want to brew any. I could probably go to a sugarcane drink stall to buy a stick of sugarcane, but hesitated coz I wasn't sure if the store owners would sell it me :p Or I could use lemongrass as replacement as suggested by the recipe.

I just kept procrastinating and sort of gave up on the idea. Until yesterday. Was at Bollywood Veggies at Kranji Countryside for lunch and they had a makeshift stall selling farm produce. Sugarcane was on sale at 2 for $1. Initially I wanted to buy, then once again hesitated coz I didn't know if I could split the sugarcane into small sticks required for the dish. Anyways, I bought some vegetables and when paying, the kind store owner gave me a stick of sugarcane! So sweet and nice of her :)

And so, I managed to make this Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp after all. Since I only wanted to make this for the fun of it and to find out about the taste, decided to make just 6 sticks using about 12 shrimp. Basically, chop up the shrimp, blend with marinate ingredients, chill for 30 mins, shape onto the sugarcane, steam for a few minutes and finally pan-fry (or air-fry). Sounds simple enough :)

Started off with preparing the sugarcane sticks. It wasn't that difficult after all. First hold the sugarcane vertically, use a sharp knife to cut into the top part of the skin then chop downward, the skin would just split by itself. Likewise for the sugarcane flesh, simply cut into the top part, chop downwards and the flesh would split by itself. Lengthwise, it's quite easy to cut through once each stick is slim. In no time, I had more than a dozen sugarcane sticks.

Next, proceeded to make the shrimp paste. Just deshell and devein the shrimp, and combine them with salt, cornstarch, palm sugar, black pepper, fish sauce, egg, garlic, shallot and olive oil. Blend into a coarse paste and chill the paste for about 30 mins. Then shape the paste onto the sugarcane sticks and steam on high heat for about 3-4 mins. And finally grill or pan-fry the sugarcane shrimp.

 I made 2 versions after steaming the sugarcane shrimp, 3 sticks were pan-fried in a frying pan.

And the remaining 3 sticks into the Airfryer. Could see that both yielded slightly different results in terms of appearance.

The sugarcane shrimps that were pan-fried were slightly more fragrant but the texture was softer. Whereas the ones that were air-fried were dryer with firmer texture. I enjoyed both versions, could taste the sweetness of the succulent shrimp. The fun part was chewing on the sugarcane and sucking the juice after eating the shrimp ball. Was too lazy to make the traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce to go along, instead I just ate the sugarcane shrimp on its own (it was flavourful enough) as well as with some thai sweet chilli sauce. I believe this traditional Vietnamese appetiser would be very popular as finger food if served at parties. Probably could add some water chestnut or coriander roots/leaves to make it even more crunchy and flavourful. Next time, if I couldn't get any sugarcane, I would give lemongrass sticks a try!

Vietnamese Sugarcane Shrimp (Chao Tom)
(recipe from Vietworld Kitchen, makes 6 sticks)
  • 12 pc medium size shrimp (about 230g), deshell and devein
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp palm sugar
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 cloves shallot
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  1. Place the shrimp and the rest of the ingredients into an electric chopper and blend into a coarse shrimp paste. Chill the shrimp paste for at least 30 mins.
  2. To make the sugarcane shrimp, first wet the hands. Take a ball of shrimp paste and place onto the palm. place a sugarcane stick in the middle and wrap the shrimp paste around the sugarcane stick.
  3. Steam the sugarcane shrimp on high heat for about 3-4 mins. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. To pan-fry, heat a tsp of olive oil on medium low fire, place 3 sticks of sugarcane shrimp onto the pan and pan-fry till golden brown.
  5. To air-fry, place sugarcane shrimp into the air-fryer, air-fry for 8 mins at 180 degree celsius.
  6. Serve warm with Vietnamese dipping sauce or thai sweet chilli sauce.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest – IndoChina hosted by Kelly Siew Cooks

29 June 2014

Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Rice Paper Roll - AFF IndoChina Jun 2014

Ever since I made the Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Hoisin Peanut Sauce earlier this month, I've been craving to eat it again. Since I still have some rice paper rolls left, decided to make a variation, this time based on Just As Delish Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef Rice Paper Rolls.

The flavour of this rice paper roll is more intense than the summer roll, due to the addition of aromatic herbs like sweet basil, mint leaf and lemongrass (beef). Each bite into the roll was a burst of flavours and textures, and the salty spicy dipping sauce added a further dimension to the roll. But if I were to compare this lemongrass beef rice paper roll to the summer roll with peanut hoisin sauce, the latter wins hands down. Just my personal opinion.

The lemongrass beef was good to eat on its own actually. I love the whiff of lemongrass as I chewed on the tender and juicy pieces of beef. And it's so easy to prepare. I got some tenderloin as they were on sale at the supermarket. Basically blend all the marinate ingredients together, marinate the sliced beef for at least 2 hrs, pan fry for a min each side and done!

Vietnamese Lemongrass Beef
  • 150g tenderloin, cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Blend all the ingredients (except beef) into a coarse paste.
  2. Add beef slices and toss to coat the marinate thoroughly. Chill for at least 2 hours.
  3. In a frying pan, add a tsp of olive oil and pan fry the beef slices for about 1 min on each side (done).
  4. Serve with salad leaves and Vietnamese dipping sauce, or use as ingredient for rice paper roll.
 Preparing for the roll. I used baby romaine lettuce, carrot strips, sweet basil and mint leaves.

This time, I decided to try the "open" method of wrapping the rice paper rolls. Basically just place the wet rice paper roll on a non-stick surface, next place 2 leaves of baby romaine, 1 strip of lemongrass beef, few strips of carrots, 2 leaves of sweet basil and 2 sprint of mint leaves. Fold the bottom of the rice paper upwards to cover 2/3 of the ingredients, then fold the left and right sides towards the centre as tight as possible, and that's it. This type of "open" roll feels more flimsy than the closed roll though.

The roll is good to eat on its own due to the strong flavours, but I do like it with the dipping sauce which is very easy to put together. Instead of lime, I used calamansi since that's what I had.

Vietnamese dipping sauce
  • 1/2 pc bird's eye chilli, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 calamansi, juiced
  1. Combine all the ingredients together and ready to use as dipping sauce.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest – IndoChina hosted by Kelly Siew Cooks

26 June 2014

Iced Gems 糖霜饼干

Remember these cutesy little biscuits that we used to buy from the neighbourhood provision stores (杂货店) when we were kids? They were usually packed in glass or tin canisters and sold by the weight. I didn't know what they were called; I simply pointed and told the store owner how much I wanted. Then I would eagerly open the packet and munched off the sugary top first, followed by the bottom cookie or sometimes just ditched left the cookies for my mum to eat :p Those were the days :) How nostalgic!

It's only when I started baking and searched around for recipes I learnt that they are called Iced Gems or Fancy Gems Biscuits. Now commercially packets are sold by Khong Guan Biscuits and Jacobs, but I think some old school provision shops still sell them by weight. Initially I thought this pretty little cookie is unique to Singapore, but after researching, I realised they were first made in the 1850s (the biscuit part) by British biscuit manufacturers (read the history from here and here)!

Anyways, I have bookmarked a few recipes for a long time now and finally gotten down to make it because I got into the SCS Dairy Singapore Star Baker Challenge (Round 2) and the theme is Cookies :) This is the best opportunity to test a new recipe! The recipes I found are quite similar to one another, so I just adapted accordingly.

So basically there are 2 parts: the butter cookie bottom using plain flour, unsalted butter, egg, sugar, golden syrup and salt (some recipes call for corn flour, milk, baking powder) and the royal icing top using meringue powder, icing sugar and water. Alternatively, instead of using meringue powder, use raw egg whites, icing sugar and water, or store-bought royal icing sugar with water. I'm concern about using raw egg whites (actually pasteurized ones are okay to use) and also couldn't find royal icing sugar, therefore settled for meringue powder.

First, sift the flour (200g) with salt (1/8 tsp). Then add cold, cubed unsalted butter (100g). Use the fingers to press into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand.

Next, add the whole egg (60g type), caster sugar (80g, original is 100g) and golden syrup (1/2 Tbsp) into the mixture. Use a butter knife to mix all the ingredients into a dough. Do not use hands as the dough will be sticky. *sugar level can be further reduced.

Divide the dough into 2 portions. Place each portion in between 2 sheets of parchment/baking/cooking paper. Then roll using rolling pin until about 1/2 inch thickness. Place both portions into fridge to chill for at least 1hr.
Take out one portion of dough and stamp the biscuit into desired shapes. I used a mini flower stamp which is about 1.5cm in diameter. Alternatively, use the bigger part of a piping nozzle, mine is 1.5cm in diameter (if using nozzle, would need a toothpick to help push out the dough). After stamping, the remaining dough can be re-used, just repeat the previous steps and stick the dough back to the fridge until firm. Meanwhile, repeat with the other portion of dough. Keep repeating till all dough used up.

Place the stamped cookie dough on a baking tray lined with baking paper/silpat mat. Bake at 180 degree celsius (fan mode) for 8-9 minutes till golden brown. Let the biscuits cool down completely before piping the icing.

For the royal icing top first sift the icing sugar (290g) to get rid of lumps. Then mix the icing sugar, meringue powder (2 tbsp) and warm water (4 tbsp) in an electric mixer. If the mixer is heavy-duty, mix at low speed for 7-10 mins; if mixer is handheld, mix at high speed for 10-12 mins. *The original recipe calls for 300g of icing sugar but I had only 290g left. If wish to reduce sugar further, water must be reduced accordingly because the icing may become too runny and cannot pipe.

After mixing for 10 mins, the royal icing will turn from initial opaque to white (like photo). I got about 360g, and divided into 4 portions of 90g each (there will be excess which can be piped and eaten on its own!). Tint the icing according to desired colours, by picking up a little bit of colour using toothpick and then adjust shade accordingly.

Transfer the 4 coloured icing into piping bags and ready to use. Cover the nozzles with aluminum foil when not using to prevent the icing from drying.

The meringue powder and icing colours are both from Wilton. The nozzles used are 17, Wilton 20, Wilton 21 and 199 respectively.

Proceed to pipe the icing on top of the biscuits! It helps to hold the biscuit when piping because the icing is quite sticky.

Let the icing set/harden for at least 2-3 hrs. Placing the trays of biscuits in an air-con room might speed up the hardening process. I didn't and after 3hrs, due to the humidity, although the icing had set, the biscuit turned slightly soft. So I placed the trays into the oven for 15-20 mins (DO NOT bake/turn on the timer, just use the remaining heat from the oven if it's still hot OR turn temperature to about 100 degree celsius without turning on timer) and after taking out and cool down, the biscuits turned crunchy again.

Remember to store in airtight container (only after biscuit is cooled)!

The biscuit base is not exactly like the ones sold commercially, it's munchy and in fact tasted more buttery and fragrant which I like! The icing top is exactly the same, sugary sweet and very crunchy :)
When my kiddo saw these biscuits, he kept asking for more, going from colour to colour. In fact, he was grumbling why I didn't make it with him. And so I have promised to make another batch with him next week. I think it would be a fun project for kids, stamping the dough, mixing the colours and piping the icing!

Iced Gems 糖霜饼干
(Yields about 180-185 biscuits)
(recipe references: Beverly Glock, Culinary Kitchenette, Cakes and Catwalks, Cherry on a Cake)

Biscuit base
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1/8 tsp fine salt
  • 100g unsalted butter, cubed, cold
  • 80g caster sugar (original 100g)
  • 1 whole egg (weighs 60g with shell)
  • 1/2 Tbsp golden syrup
  1. Sift the flour with salt. Then add the unsalted butter. Use the fingers to press the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  2. Next, add the caster sugar, egg and golden syrup into the mixture.
  3. Use a butter knife to mix all the ingredients into a dough.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 portions. Place each portion in between 2 sheets of parchment/baking/cooking paper. Then roll using rolling pin until about 1/2 inch thickness. Place both portions into fridge to chill for at least 1hr.
  5. Take out one portion of dough and stamp the biscuit into desired shapes. After stamping, the remaining dough can be re-used, just repeat step 4 and stick the dough back to the fridge until firm. Meanwhile, repeat with the other portion of dough. Keep repeating till all dough used up.
  6. Place the stamped cookie dough on a baking tray lined with baking paper/silpat mat. Bake at 180 degree celsius (fan mode) for 8-9 minutes till golden brown. Let the biscuits cool down completely before piping the icing.
Royal icing
  • 290g icing sugar, sifted (original 300g)
  • 2 tbsp meringue powder
  • 4 tbsp warm water
  1. Mix the icing sugar, meringue powder and warm water in an electric mixer. If the mixer is heavy-duty, mix at low speed for 7-10 mins; if mixer is handheld, mix at high speed for 10-12 mins.
  2. The royal icing will turn from initial opaque to white (like photo).
  3. Divide the icing into desired portions and tint with colours accordingly.
  4. Transfer the coloured icing into piping bags and pipe onto the biscuit base
  5. Let the icing set/harden for at least 2-3 hrs. If the biscuits turned slightly soft, place them into the oven for 15-20 mins (DO NOT bake/turn on the timer, just use the remaining heat from the oven if it's still hot OR turn temperature to about 100 degree celsius without turning on timer).
  6. Let the biscuits cool down completely and store in airtight container.

So as I was saying, I will be submitting this photo to the SCS Dairy Singapore Star Baker Challenge :) Hopefully I can be selected for Round 3! Wish me luck!

24 June 2014

Home-style Fried Hokkien Noodles

My kiddo seems to have a preference of noodles over rice. At home, he takes very little rice with much coercion coaxing, probably coz the rice I cook is a mixture of brown, red and jasmine rice which he doesn't like. But when we dine at Japanese restaurants, he would eat a lot of the Japanese rice. Duh -_-. Anyways back to noodles, he loves soba and udon but dislike beehoon. Decided to try hokkien noodles so that I can have more variety of food to cook, that is IF he likes it.

This is a home-style fried hokkien noodles, not the Hae Mee (hokkien prawn noodles) that most people are familiar with. Every Chinese New Year, my 五婶 (my dad's younger brother's wife) who is a very good cook would fry this style of noodles when we visit. But her version is slightly different without adding dark soy sauce and the broth she used is chicken stock plus brine from canned abalone. The noodles turned out springy and rich in flavour.

My version, I added a little bit of dark soy sauce for colour, with chicken stock, oyster sauce, light soy sauce and a little salt. In Malaysia, I think the hawkers add a lot of dark soy sauce and the noodles are those black black type.

 Ingredients are simple and it's really quick to put together. I bought the hokken noodles from the supermarket, this brand called KangKang, they have several types of noodles. Each packet is 420g which serves 3-4 pax, just nice for a small family. Other ingredients include choy sum (caixin), mushroom, fish cake and pork. I used pork belly here, actually any type of pork is fine like lean pork or pork shoulder. For the chicken stock, I ran out of homemade chicken stock and used store-bought, one 250ml packet was just nice for this recipe. More ingredients like prawns or even clams could be added, according to your preference.

Home-style Fried Hokkien Noodles
(serves 3-4 pax)

  • 420g Hokkien noodles (I use 1 pack KangKang brand)
  • 100g Pork belly (or lean pork, pork fillet, shoulder butt)
  • 80g Fish cake (1 rectangle pc)
  • 5pc white mushroom
  • 5 stalks Choy sum
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
Pork marinate
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp rice wine
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • dash of pepper
Noodle sauce
  • 250ml chicken stock (I use store-bought, 1 packet)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste (optional)
  1. Cut the pork into thin strips, marinate with the marinate ingredients for at least 30 mins.
  2. Cut fish cake into strips, set aside. Slice mushrooms, set aside. Cut choy sum into small sections, set aside.
  3. Blanch the noodles in boiling water for 1 min, drain and set aside.
  4. In a wok, heat some oil over medium heat and saute minced garlic till fragrant, add marinated pork and stir fry till opaque. Add mushroom and fishcake and continue stir-frying till pork is cooked. Dish up and set aside.
  5. In the same wok, add some oil and stir fry the choy sum till leaves are slightly wilted. Dish up and set aside.
  6. In the same wok, add some oil and the blanched noodles. Stir fry till noodles are loosened, then add the noodle sauce, except salt. Cover and let the noodles simmer till sauce is fully absorbed by the noodles.
  7. Add the ingredients from (4) and the choy sum into the noodles. Mix well and add salt to taste.
  8. Best serve warm.
The noodles tasted quite yummy, having absorbed the chicken broth sauce. The kiddo was delighted to see noodles served for dinner (instead of rice which he would usually show on his face) and happily declared noodles is his favourite. Hubby also gave thumbs-up. We finished 3 portions for dinner and I packed the remaining portion for hubby's bento lunch to office the next day.

19 June 2014

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Sandwich (Banh Mi Thit Heo Nuong Xa) - AFF IndoChina Jun 2014

I've never eaten Bánh mì, the Vietnamese Sandwich before, but have heard a lot about it. Hailed as the national sandwich of Vietnam, it's sort of a marriage of two different cultures; a product of French colonialism in Indochina, combining ingredients from the French (baguettes, pâté and mayonnaise) with native Vietnamese ingredients such as cilantro, fish sauce and pickled carrots (source: Wikipedia).

Those who tried raved much about it, and apparently many variations have evolved. Typical fillings include steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, grilled pork patties/meatballs, fried eggs, tofu etc. Accompanying vegetables typically include fresh cucumber slices, cilantro (leaves of the coriander plant) and shredded pickled carrots and daikon. Common condiments include spicy chilli sauce, sliced chilli, mayonnaise and cheese.

The weather has been so hot and humid that I didn't feel like embarking on any major workout in the kitchen, so keeping everything simple. Didn't bother to try baking the Vietnamese baguette which is supposed to be more airy with thinner crust, and just made do with the Delifrance baguette.

For the filling, decided to try the grilled lemongrass pork version since I love lemongrass and pork :p. Keeping in short and sweet, basically slice some pork shoulder, marinate and then grill using Air Fryer. No sweat :p. For the vegetables, I only added sliced Japanese cucumber, cilantro and made my own shredded pickled carrots and daikon. As for condiments, just Japanese mayonnaise. Was too lazy to do homemade mayonnaise like what most of the recipes recommended. Some recipes also recommended spreading some chicken liver pâté, but I'm not a fan so skipped it.

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Sandwich
(reference from The Ravenous Couple and Viet World Kitchen, makes about 6-7 sandwich)
  • 2 french baguette
  • 6-7 slices grilled lemongrass pork (recipe below)
  • Pickled daikon and carrot (recipe below)
  • Japanese cucumber, cut into 6" length and sliced
  • Cilantro, mayonnaise
  1. Slice the baguette into 6 inch (or 15cm) lengths. Half each baguette length-wise and toast for one minute.
  2. Spread some mayonnaise on the insides of the baguette, add 2 slices of cucumber, followed by grilled pork, some pickled daikon and carrot and lastly few sprigs of cilantro.
  3. Best serve warm.

Pickled Daikon and Carrot
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1/4 pc daikon
  • 1 pc red chilli
  1. Combine the white vinegar, brown rice vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a pot and heat over medium fire. Once the mixture boils and sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and cool down.
  2. Shred the carrot and daikon, like matchsticks. Slice the red chilli into small pieces.
  3. Add the shredded carrot, daikon and red chilli into the pickling liquid. Chill for at least one hour before use.

Grilled Lemongrass Pork
(reference from The Ravenous Couple and Viet World Kitchen)
  • 230g pork shoulder butt
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 cloves shallot
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  1. Slice the pork shoulder into 1/4 inch thickness. Tenderise the pork slices and set aside.
  2. Combine the rest of the ingredients into a blender/mini electric chopper. Blend till a paste forms. There will still be fragments of lemongrass in the paste.
  3. Marinate the pork slices for at least one hour at room temperature (covered) or in chiller overnight.
  4. Place the pork slices in the wire mesh of the Air Fryer, grill for 5-6 minutes at 180 degree Celsius, turning over once.
  5. Best serve warm.
The lemongrass pork tasted so delicious already on its own! As I love lemongrass, I added a whole stalk of it and I enjoyed chewing the fragments. Actually only half a stalk is required, so for those who just want a whiff of lemongrass taste, please adjust accordingly. The meat was tender, juicy, sweet, salty and aromatic! I think I can make this as a dish for one of my family dinner or just it as a filling for the Vietnamese Summer Roll :)

Although the Banh Mi looked very much like Delifrance or Subway sandwiches, but no, it's much more complex and colourful in terms of taste and texture. I love how the tastes and textures complemented one another, the crispy crust, the juicy and succulent pork which was perfectly marinated, the fragrance from the lemongrass and cilantro, not forgetting the tangy pickled carrots and daikon, the refreshing cucumber as well as the smooth and creamy mayonnaise. Unfortunately, I felt that the store-bought baguette was a little too chewy and hence my jaws got a little tired from chewing the bread :(

Anyways, I would say that the Banh Mi is indeed tantalizing and if I were to go Vietnam one day, I would love to go for the real deal.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest – IndoChina hosted by Kelly Siew Cooks.

16 June 2014

Homemade Strawberry Jam

My family just returned from a holiday to Cameron Highlands and Ipoh in Malaysia. I must say it was a great trip; lots to see, lots to eat and most importantly dear son enjoyed himself tremendously. (Hopefully I will blog about it soon coz I still have a few backlogs of overseas trips :p).

When we were in Cameron Highlands, we went crazy over strawberries (but, of course). Besides picking our own strawberries, we also bought a few boxes for consumption. In fact, we bought too much. Well, the strawberries were going for a song, RM10 per box of 500-600g, and 3 boxes for RM25. They were big and red and looked too tempting :p. I think all in all, we got 5 boxes (including 1 box self-picked). After feasting hard for a few days, there was still almost 1 box left. Not wanting to waste, I brought the strawberries back.

But by the time we got home (3-4 days after buying), most of the strawberries had over-ripened and turned mushy (didn't take care during the travelling :p). The only way to salvage is to turn them into strawberry jam.

Had to cook them quickly less they turned bad so I just made do with whatever ingredients I had at home.
Really like Wendy's (Table for 2... or more) recipe as she added green apple for additional flavoring and texture. Instead of green apple, I added red apple coz I only had 1 red apple left in the fridge, and I guess the sweetness from the apple could also make up for the lower amount of sugar I added (ran out of sugar).

Managed to yield 1 medium bottle and 3 small bottles of jam. Gave the 3 small bottles to my mum and MIL and kept the medium one for our own consumption.

Look at richness of the ruby red jam, all natural, without adding any preservatives or colouring!

Homemade Strawberry Jam
(with reference from Table for 2... or more and Simply Sweet'n Savory)
  • 400g strawberries
  • 1 red apple
  • 1 lemon
  • 230g sugar

  • Place a small plate in the freezer (will be using it to test whether the jam is set later).
  • Wash the strawberries thoroughly, hull and cut into halves or quarters. Set aside.
  • Peel and grate the apple. Set aside.
  • Zest and juice the lemon. Set aside.
  • In a stainless steel pot, combine strawberries, grated apple, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. Cook on medium low heat until sugar has dissolved completely and strawberries softened. Mash the strawberries using potato masher or back of spoon.
  • Increase the heat to medium high and bring mixture to boil. Continue boiling to thicken the mixture, stirring occasionally. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface with a spoon.
  • The jam will start to feel spongy (listen to the sound of jam boiling and bubbles formed become smaller). Each time you stir the jam, it will splatter quite vigorously.
  • Turn off heat and test for setting.
  • Put a teaspoon of jam on the prepared cold plate. Drag a chopstick across. If jam is ready, the parting made by the chopstick will remain open. If it closes, a little more cooking is required.
  • If jam is not set, turn on heat and cook again for a few more minutes before testing again. *I prefer my jam to be slightly gel-like and not too hard (the parting made by the chopstick closes very slowly).
  • Once jam is ready, let it cool down for 5 to 10 minutes before spooning it into sterilised jars.
  • Leave to cool at room temperature. Once cooled, cover and store in fridge.

The jam was really yummy! I couldn't resist eating it directly :p It was not too sweet and had a very fragrant fruity flavour from both the strawberries and apple, and a slight tartness from the lemon. Kudos to homemade jam!

05 June 2014

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Peanut Hoisin Sauce - AFF IndoChina Jun 2014

I've not been to Vietnam before and rarely ate any Vietnamese food (totally no recollection when was the last time I ever had any Vietnamese food). Recently was at Jurong East Westgate Mall and saw an eatery at the basement 2 level selling Vietnamese cuisine, called Pho Street. So decided to give it a try since the theme for AFF June 2014 is IndoChina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia).

I understand that the Pho noodle soup is one of the most well-known dish of Vietnam, but what really got me interested was the fresh spring rolls. They call it the Vietnamese Summer Rolls or Salad Rolls or Gỏi cuốn. Basically vegetables, herbs, rice vermicelli, meat and shrimp wrapped in rice paper and eaten with a peanut dipping sauce. This is totally my kind of food! Hubby and I ordered a bowl of Pho each and an appetizer platter to share which included the Summer Rolls. I loved it but hubby took a bite and rejected; never mind I was happy to take his share =D

And so the very first dish that I attempted for AFF June was Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce =D

Read through a few recipes and saw a couple of videos on how to prep and wrap the rolls. Quite quick and easy, wonder why I didn't try making this before :p It's ok, never too late!

I love the colour combination of the rolls; they look so appetising and refreshing. The different textures work very well together - chewy rice paper and rice vermicelli, crunchy veggies, succulent meat and shrimp.  They are eaten cold and hence suitable for summer or our hot and humid weather here. The roll is quite bland by itself, but totally delicious when eaten with the peanut hoisin sauce. The sauce is soooooo yummy; it's saltish and sweet with nutty and garlicky fragrance, goes very well with veggie sticks too!

The rolls look very healthy right? Since there are lots of veggies and boiled items. I chomped 5 rolls at one go, then realised I've eaten 5 shrimps and 5 slices of pork belly just like that. Well, it's my lunch and they are smaller rolls than the usual :p There, self-justified. Haha.

Here's a look at the ingredients - rice paper, rice vermicelli, assorted veggie and herbs, pork belly, shrimp and the various sauces/condiments.

I bought the rice paper from NTUC; there were 2 sizes, 16cm and 20cm. On hindsight I should have bought the 20cm coz bigger area can put more ingredients and easier to wrap. But I always like smaller size stuff so yep 16cm.

Most of the recipe I saw use the normal thin type of rice vermicelli. But the summer roll I had at Pho Street used the thick type (for Laksa) which I preferred, so I got a packet of it.

For veggie and herb, I used baby romaine, Jap cucumber, carrot, fresh mint and coriander leaves as I happened to have these in my fridge, so I just need to buy some chives.

I always have a box of frozen grey shrimp in my freezer. For the pork belly, I was going to cook another dish for dinner, so just cut a portion for this.

I have most of the sauces/condiments in my kitchen except for Hoisin sauce. As I was going to attempt a dish that requires Hoisin sauce, decided to get a bottle.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce
(reference from Just As Delish and Danangcuisine.com)
* makes 10-12 rolls using 16cm rice paper

Ingredients - fresh spring roll
  • 12pc small/medium size shrimp
  • 130g pork belly
  • Pinch of salt and slice of ginger
  • 30g thick rice vermicelli
  • 12pc rice paper (16cm)
  • Baby romaine lettuce, shredded carrot, cucumber strips, fresh mint leaves, coriander leaves, chinese chives (koo chye)
  1. In a pot, fry the shrimp on medium heat without any oil, till fully cooked (turned orange). Cool slightly and remove/discard the shells but set aside the shrimp heads. Slice the shrimp in halves horizontally, remove any dirt. Rinse, pat dry and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, heat about 2 cups of water with pinch of salt, slice of ginger and the shrimp heads. Once the water boils, add the pork belly and cook for about 15 mins (adjust according to size of pork). Once pork is cooked, remove and soak it in cold water for 5 mins. Then slice into thin pieces. Set aside.
  3. Set aside 3 tbsp of the pork/shrimp broth for the sauce later.
  4. Bring the remaining broth to boil again, add the thick rice vermicelli and cook for 5-6 mins. Once cooked, remove and rinse with cold water. Drain and set aside.
  5. Wash and pat dry the baby romaine lettuce, fresh mint leaves, coriander leaves and chinese chives, shred the carrot and cut cucumber into strips. Set aside.
Ingredients - Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 3 tbsp pork/shrimp broth
  • 1 tsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic chilli sauce
  • toasted crushed peanuts
  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a pot, add garlic and stir fry till fragrant.
  2. Add hoisin sauce, broth, peanut butter and sugar. Cook till the sauce boils and thickens.
  3. Transfer to serving dish, top with garlic chilli sauce, crushed peanuts and coriander leaves.

Steps for wrapping
  1. Take a piece of rice paper and soak in warm water for 10 secs. It will become translucent.
  2. Place the rice paper onto a cutting board (avoid silicone mat, the rice paper will stick to it). Place a leaf of romaine lettuce, some shredded carrot, a cucumber strip, 1-2 mint leaves and a stalk of coriander leaves onto the rice paper.
  3. Next, place a few strands of rice vermicelli onto the veggie.
  4. Roll and wrap the rice paper towards the centre. Place 2 slices of pork belly.
  5. Roll and wrap the rice paper towards the edge. Place 2 slices of shrimp.Wrap the sides of the paper. Place a stalk of chive.
  6. Complete the roll and wrap.
The wraps were a little sticky and it took some practice to get the rolls to look nice. I tore the skin of the first roll (the one on the left), luckily the entire roll still managed to stay intact.

Basically even for small spring rolls like these, you could see the 3 different ingredients - the greens, the pork and the shrimp.
There are many variations to these yummy summer rolls, I saw some cooks wrapping fruits like mango as well! I still have half a packet of rice paper left, thinking of making the lemongrass beef version; the ones made by Shannon, Just as Delish looked so good. I already foresee myself making these rolls from time to time as my lunch. Stay tuned!

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest – IndoChina hosted by Kelly Siew Cooks.

04 June 2014

水玉点点蛋糕卷 Polka Dot Roll Cake

Pattern/deco roll cakes have been on my to-bake list for the longest time. As a cookbook junkie, I've hoarded three books on Japanese-style pattern/deco roll cakes already - 彩绘蛋糕卷 by Sachi and 彩绘.蛋糕卷 1 and 彩绘.蛋糕卷 3 by Junko. Have always been very inspired by the Japanese way of styling and decorating their baked creations, and so have been salivating over the photos in the books but somehow always procrastinating, never get down to bake them :p

Then recently SCS Dairy Singapore announced a Star Baker Challenge 2014, where avid bakers could participate in baking challenges through 5 different stages. The 1st stage is open category, simply submit a photo of a baked creation to the official website and valid entries would be awarded with SCS 1-Star Baker status! Subsequently there would be themed challenges and invited participants who are successful would be awarded 2-Star, 3-Star, 4 Star certificates progressively. Eventually a final round where winner would be awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to Australia for two; whereas consolation prize winners would receive culinary vouchers at Palate Sensations! Finalists would also receive trophy, customized SCS apron, baker's kit and 5-Star Baker certificate. Ooooh, how cool does all these sound?

Well, I don't think I would make it very far, but at least I could try for 1-Star as a challenge for myself :) Was thinking hard what I  should bake for the first submission? Should I go for something tried and tested like strawberry shortcake, lychee ombre cake or rainbow cake? Although I was running tight schedule this week coz travelling next week, my heart told me to try something new. There, I've got the perfect motivation to try the pattern roll cake :)

Junko and Sachi used different methods to bake the patterns and sponge. Basically Junko's method is whipping egg whites separately and then folding into main batter; whereas Sachi uses bain marie (hot water bath) method to whip full eggs batter for aeration. Since the prerequisite is butter, I used Sachi's recipe that requires butter (Junko uses oil only).

For the pattern, something simple to start with, one of my favourite, the polka dot! As for the deco, I had some whipped cream, strawberries and mint leaves left in the fridge, just the right combination I need to achieve the kawaii Japanese-style of roll cakes.

Started quite late in the afternoon so was kind of rushing through, only managed a few photos of the process. Didn't prepare the pattern batter well enough and the dots looked a little "detached" from the sponge cake. I suspect the batter might be too thin. The recipe states that I should heat the butter and oil using bain marie method and beat till texture resembles mayonnaise. Quite puzzling coz once butter melts, how would it turn into mayonnaise texture? I tried and failed and decided to continue using the melted butter/oil resulting in slightly runny batter. Next time, I should just mix softened butter with oil (without any heat) to get the mayonnaise texture and probably the batter would be stiffer.

Anyways, I piped the polka dots free-hand :p There's a free pattern at the back of the book to use as guide but I didn't want to cut out the page :p (probably next time I should trace or photocopy the patterns).

The sponge cake was not as refined as I want it to be, could have beaten the batter longer time at lower speed. Nevertheless, very glad that the sponge cake didn't crack or anything. I must say this method of baking sponge cake yielded very tender texture (actually quite similar to my rainbow cakes) and I could probably adapt this recipe for my rainbow cakes as well.

Love the cheery, summer colours of the roll cake and the overall visual effect, very Nihon-looking, yeah =D
It was absolutely delish and not too sweet. Given thumbs up by both hubby and the kiddo. I'm definitely tempted to try more pattern roll cakes, hopefully soon as I have an ever-growing list of recipes bookmarked :p

Polka Dot Roll Cake
(makes one 9" by 9" roll)

Part I - Polka Dot batter
  • 25g cake flour (I use Nissen Violet flour)
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp oil (any neutral tasting oil like canola, sunflower or grapeseed)
  • 20g icing sugar
  • 15g egg whites
  • Pink icing gel (I use Wilton)
  1. Line baking parchment on a 9" by 9" tray. If using pattern guide for tracing, place the guide under the parchment. Set aside. (original recipe uses 8" by 11" tray)
  2. Sift flour and set aside.
  3. In a heatproof bowl, heat butter and oil over hot water bath till butter is melted and combined with oil. (suggest to combine softened butter and oil without heat for better result)
  4. Remove bowl from heat. Add icing sugar and stir till well blended.
  5. Add egg whites and mix well.
  6. Add flour and mix well. A sticky and thick batter will form.
  7. Use a toothpick to pick up a bit of pink icing gel and mix into batter. Adjust colour to desired tone.
  8. Prepare a piping bag with 5mm round tip. Pipe 1cm circles/polka dots at regular intervals onto the parchment paper prepared in (1).
  9. Place tray into fridge/chiller for 15-20 mins for the polka dots to firm up.
Part II - Sponge Cake
  • 30g cake flour (I use Nissen Violet flour)
  • 10g corn flour
  • 15g unsalted butter
  • 10g fresh milk
  • 3 eggs (55g to 60g eggs, about 160g in total)
  • 15g light corn syrup (book uses ingredient called 水饴 which I'm not sure so I used light corn syrup)
  • 45g caster sugar
  1. Preheat oven (top and bottom heat) to 200 degree celsius.
  2. Sift cake flour and corn flour together 2 times. Set aside.
  3. In a heatproof bowl, heat butter and milk over hot water bath till melted and combined. Set aside to cool down.
  4. In a mixing bowl, add eggs, light corn syrup and caster sugar and whisk together.
  5. Place the mixing bowl over hot water bath and continue whisking the mixture till foamy and very hot to touch. Do not stop whisking else the mixture would be cooked and lumpy.
  6. Transfer mixing bowl to electric mixer and beat at high speed using whisk attachment, till batter becomes glossy and slightly thicker than ribbon stage (when batter is lifted, it drops back very slowly and stays on top of the batter surface).
  7. Add flour mixture from step (2) into the batter, little by little over 4-5 times. After each addition, FOLD the flour into the batter very gently.
  8. Once all flour added, FOLD gently about 20 times to make sure thoroughly incorporated.
  9. Take a small batch of batter (about 2 scoops) and FOLD into butter/milk mixture from (3) till incorporated.
  10. Pour the small batch of batter from (9) back into the main batter. FOLD gently about 40-50 times to make sure thoroughly incorporated.
  11. Remove tray with polka dot pattern from fridge and gently pour the batter from (10) onto the tray.
  12. Make sure the batter is evenly distributed, use plastic card/scrapper to level if needed.
  13. Bang the tray onto counter-top 2 times to remove trapped air bubbles from the batter.
  14. Place tray into oven and bake at 180 degree celsius for 12-13 mins.
  15. Once ready, remove baking tray from oven and bang it onto counter to prevent sponge cake from shrinking.
  16. Remove cake from tray, place onto a cooling rack. Place another cooling rack on top of the cake and flip the cake to the other side. Remove the baking parchment gently (the polka dot design will be revealed). Let the cake cool down before assembly/decoration.
Part III - Chantilly cream - Assembly/Decoration
  • 250g dairy whipping cream
  • 50g mascarpone cheese
  • 25g icing sugar
  • Strawberries, mint leaves
  1. Place mixing bowl and whisk attachment in chiller for at least 30 mins, this will help in whipping the cream.
  2. Place the sponge cake onto a piece of parchment paper, pattern side down.
  3. At the side nearest to you, trim the edge of the cake at a 45 degree angle.
  4. Make slight vertical indents using a knife onto the surface of the cake. This will help in the rolling.
  5. Whisk cream together with mascarpone cheese and icing sugar till medium firm peaks. Be careful not to over-whip.
  6. Prepare 2 piping bags with round tip (8mm) and close star tip and fill with chantilly cream. Set side.
  7. Spread a thin layer of chantilly cream over the entire surface of the sponge cake.
  8. At the 1/3 area of the sponge cake (nearer to you), pipe 4 lines of cream across the cake, then 3 lines on top of the 4, then 2 lines (like pyramid).
  9. Ready to roll, lift the cake and parchment paper (side nearer to you) and roll towards the other side of the cake.
  10. Wrap the parchment paper around the roll, press a ruler by the side of the roll to tighten.
  11. Place roll into chiller for at least 30 mins to firm up.
  12. Remove the roll from the chiller, unwrap parchment paper. Warm up a sharp pastry knife and carefully trim both sides of the roll cake.
  13. Pipe some chantilly cream using the close star tip onto the roll cake and decorate with cut strawberries and mint leaves.
  14. Best serve chilled.

Besides the SCS Star Baker Challenge 2014, the Singapore Home Cooks (SHC) Facebook group is also running a June contest where participants stand a chance to win SCS Baker's Kit :)

Wish me luck!