KitchenTigress: 2012

Kueh Bangkit (Coconut Cookies)

Kueh bangkit is made with tapioca starch and coconut milk. It's one of the must-have cookies during Chinese New Year in Singapore.

Good kueh bangkit crumbles easily in the mouth, then quickly melts into nothingness as it releases a wonderful coconutty aroma. The cookies are baked gently, so they keep the white colour they get from coconut milk and tapioca starch.

Butterscotch Popcorn

To make corn pop, the moisture in the kernel must be heated and turned into steam. When the steam builds up enough pressure, it bursts through the wall of the kernel, creating popcorn.

Butter Cake

slices of butter cake
When I was looking at butter cake recipes online, I was surprised to find people moaning about cracks in their cakes. That seemed rather odd to me because the butter cakes my mother bought when I was a kid all had a big crack on top. Isn't the ruptured top the signature of butter cakes?

Japanese Soufflé Cheesecake

Soufflé cheesecake is the Japanese take on cheesecake. It's much lighter than the American or German version and not at all cheesy – the ideal cheesecake for cheesecake haters. The recipe I'm sharing is adapted from Diana's Desserts. I've made four changes to the original recipe:

Ginger Milk Pudding

Ginger milk pudding (薑汁撞奶) is a Cantonese dessert made with ginger juice and milk. Without steaming, baking, gelatine or agar-agar, the milk solidifies into a custard after it's mixed with ginger juice.

Sounds really easy, right? Hey, the devil is in the details!

Hong Kong Egg Tarts

Very few things in life are better than egg tarts fresh from the oven.

Tips for homemade Hong Kong Egg Tarts:

Kueh Ko Swee (Kuih Kosui)

Kueh ko swee (kuih kosui) is a steamed kueh made with a half tapioca starch and half rice flour batter. It's sweetened with gula melaka and sugar, and pandan leaves add a subtle fragrance. The texture is slightly bouncy because lye is added to the batter.

After the batter is steamed and cooled, the kueh is cut and then tossed in freshly grated coconut to enhance the texture, colour and taste.

Sambal Stingray (II)

Sambal stingray is stingray wing barbecued on a banana leaf and smothered in sambal. The spicy dish has many fans in Singapore and Malaysia. Good sambal stringray is charred yet juicy and smooth. It's topped with sambal that's super aromatic and moreish.

Kuih Bingka Ambon

Kue bika Ambon is a cake from Medan, not Ambon. It's made with tapioca starch, eggs and coconut milk. Aka kuih bingka Ambon and kueh bengka Ambon, the Indonesian cake is found in Malaysia and Singapore too. It tastes of caramel and coconut milk. The texture is springy and softly chewy.

Kue bika Ambon is leavened with yeast, which creates honeycombs when the batter is heated. The little air tunnels are not just pretty to look at. They help caramelise the cake, making it deliciously golden brown.

Kuih Seri Muka (Kueh Salat) (II)

To live up to its name, kuih seri muka must have a layer of custard that's smooth as a baby's bottom. Why? Because "seri muka" means beautiful face.

Kuih seri muka is also called kueh salat.

Cereal Butter Prawns (II)

Cereal butter prawns is a popular "zi char" dish in Singapore and Malaysia. Prawns are deep-fried, then tossed in a sandy cereal mix flavoured with butter, milk powder, curry leaves, and chillies. The flavours are strong and bold. There's a spicy kick. Both cereal and prawns are very crisp and aromatic.

Kueh Lapis (II)

Kueh lapis is tapioca starch that's mixed with coconut milk and sugar, then steamed one thin layer at a time.

Coconut milk gives kueh lapis its taste and aroma. Tapioca starch makes its texture chewy and stretchy.

Traditionally, there're 9 layers in kueh lapis. That's why it's Chinese name means 9-layer cake (九层糕).

Soon Kueh (Turnip Dumplings) (II)

Soon kueh is a Teochew steamed dumpling. It used to be made with bamboo shoots. That's why it's called "soon kueh", which means shoot dumpling. Nowadays, jicama has replaced bamboo shoots because it's way cheaper.

Soon kueh may be eaten steamed or pan-fried. Some people like it with chilli sauce and sweet black soya sauce. Some like it without. It's great for breakfast. It's also a great snack.

Sui Gaw (Water Dumplings)

There're 3 components to sui gaw: wrappers, filling, and broth. Wrap thin pieces of dough with a meaty filling. Cook these dumplings in a rich, umami broth, and you have delicious sui gaw.

Good sui gaw wrappers are thin but they don't tear when they're boiled. Thankfully, these are available readymade.

Har Cheong Gai (Prawn Paste Chicken) (II)

Har cheong gai is Singapore's take on fried chicken. It's not just crisp outside and juicy inside. It also has a fragrance and umami taste not found in other types of fried chicken. That comes from a marinade made with fermented prawn paste.

Sambal Ikan Bilis (II)

Sambal ikan bilis is a Malay dish in Singapore. Dried anchovies, aka ikan bilis in Malay, are deep-fried till crisp and brown, then mixed with sambal.

Deep-fried peanuts may be tossed with the spicy mix. They add to the fragrance, taste and texture of the anchovies. They also lower the cost since peanuts are much cheaper than ikan bilis.

Teochew Fish Porridge

Teochew fish porridge is kinda like fish soup with rice. Most people eat it as a one-bowl meal. Any type of mild tasting white fish with a fine, smooth texture may be used, but it must be very fresh.

Bak Chang (Meat Rice Dumplings)

My mother made two types of 粽子 every year, kee chang and bak chang.

Kee chang is quite straightforward. It's just glutinous rice mixed with lye water, wrapped in bamboo leaves, then boiled.

Kee Chang (Alkaline Dumplings)

Rice wrapped in bamboo leaves are a specialty of the Dumpling Festival. These rice dumplings (粽) are made with various ingredients, in various shapes and sizes.

10-Minute Kaya (II)

To enjoy a kaya toast brekky at home:

1. Make kaya in 10 minutes, up to one week ahead. On no account make kaya the traditional way which involves a double-boiler and stirring for hours on end. If you have a lot of free time, I suggest you bathe your dog, read a book, or take a nap.

Kueh Bengka Ubi (II)

Kueh beng ubi is full of the fragrance of coconut milk, caramelised sugar, and eggs. It's like an edible tropical paradise that's chewy and soft.

Lemon Coke Chicken Wings

I love chicken wings. And I love coke. Let's combine my two loves!

Step 1: Marinate, then pan-fry chicken wings.

Orh Kueh (Yam Cake) (II)

Orh kueh (yam cake) is a Chinese steamed kueh. Rice flour batter is heated on the stove till it's thick, then it's steamed. At its most basic, only yam is added to the batter. More luxurious versions would have additional ingredients such as lap cheong, dried mushrooms, dried prawns, and dried scallops.

Samsui Ginger Chicken

Do you make 白切鸡, "white-cut chicken"?

If you do, chances are you stuff the cavity of your chicken with spring onions and ginger. Most people, when they see an empty chicken, just can't resist shoving in something. If you're one of them, I'm sorry to have to tell you, the method is wrong.

Fried Spring Rolls

Chinese spring rolls are thin wheat flour wraps filled with stir-fried vegetables. Jicama is the most common vegetable used. Other choices include green beans, bean sprouts. Spring rolls that aren't fried must be made with very thin wraps that are sold fresh. Frozen wraps are thicker. These are for fried spring rolls.

Pandan Chiffon Cake (II)

Pandan chiffon cake is Singapore's unofficial national cake. It's fluffy like a cloud but this cloud is bright green, not white. The colour comes from pandan leaves. The floral aroma of the leaves enhances the coconut milk's fragrance in the cake.

Tips for perfect pandan chiffon cake:

Pandan leaves

Select pandan leaves like a painter mixing colours to get the right shade. If the mix of leaves is too dark, the colour of the cake will be dull, and the taste bitter and grassy. If it's too light, the cake will look pale.

Pulut Inti (Glutinous Rice with Coconut Topping)

Pulut inti is a Nyonya kueh. It's like Thai mango sticky rice except there's no mango. It has grated coconut instead, as a topping.

The rice layer is very pretty with a mix of blue and white. The blue bits are coloured with the juice of blue pea flowers. The coconut layer is brown because it's sweetened with palm sugar.

Orh Kueh (Yam Cake) (I)

delicious, freshly made orh kueh
Making good orh kueh starts with choosing yam that's light for its size. Lighter ones have less water, and less watery ones are nicer because they're more fluffy, powdery and fragrant.

Braised Chicken with Chestnuts

My mother always used dried chestnuts, so I'm clueless about prepping fresh ones. Using my common sense, I figure boiling should be the right method for tackling fresh chestnuts' shell and peel. It seems like the obvious thing to do, right?

Boiling 5 minutes or so works for the outer shell, which softens and becomes easy to cut through and tear off.

How to Make GOOD Fried Rice

The most common tip for making fried rice: use day-old rice. Why? Because it's fluffy and no longer sticky. Unfortunately, fluffy rice alone doesn't make good fried rice. The chewiness of the rice is equally important, and that doesn't change much once the rice is cooked.

15-Minute Flower Crab Curry

If you like crab but can't stomach the idea of being a crab killer, flower crab would be right up your alley. The blue crustaceans are mostly sold dead. Live ones caught by local kelongs are available only once in a blue moon, when you're extremely lucky. Or maybe unlucky if you're not into buying food that's still moving.

Kuih Seri Muka (Kueh Salat) (I)

Kueh Salat is a 2-layer kueh. Glutinous rice is steamed with coconut milk to make a firm bottom layer. The top custard layer, made with eggs and coconut milk, is sweet, soft, smooth and rich.

Traditionally, the rice layer is coloured with blue pea flowers. The custard layer is coloured with pandan leaves, which also adds a floral fragrance.

Cognac Fried Chicken Wings

I have a friend who knows a thing or two about food. He doesn't cook but he's a discerning eater. If he says a restaurant is good, then it's either very good or at least above average. His restaurant recommendations never disappoint me. I have total trust in his opinion.