Mid-Autumn Festival with Mushroom Chicken Rice

Today is Mid-Autumn Festival. The haze situation is bad and no one in our family organised any outdoor lantern session. It rained in the evening and now the floor is wet. Not in the mood to light up any candles outside the house.

With API reading of above 200 in our area, I decided to cook and eat at home. Not going out for family dinner. I cooked simple mushroom chicken rice with spare ribs and fish balls soup for dinner.

This mushroom chicken rice recipe is from Nestle, which I obtained from their website back in Nov 2012. I’ve made some changes to it to suit my family taste. It is a simple and nutritious meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 5 shallots, sliced thinly
  • 2 inch ginger, julienned
  • 500 g boneless chicken meat, fat and skin removed, cut into small pieces
  • 8 pcs (about 20g) dried shiitake mushroom, soaked and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 cups rice, washed
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons spring onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon salted fish, fried (optional)

Gravy Mix:

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons water (I used stock from spare ribs soup that I was boiling)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon oyster sauce

Phototastic-28_9_2015_e21bad96-26b5-47bf-aaf0-64885af11f53  Cooking Steps:

  1. Heat oil in a wok, then fry shallots and ginger until fragrant.
  2. Add chicken and mushrooms and fry for 5 minutes.
  3. Add sesame oil and gravy mix.
  4. Leave to simmer on medium heat for 3 minutes. Then set aside.
  5. Cook rice in a rice cooker with 2 1/2 cups of water. When the rice is just cooked (grains are fluffy, about 20 minutes), add in the chicken mixture.
  6. Stir, then cover the lid of and leave to cook for another 10 minutes.
  7. Garnish with spring onions or fried salted fish (optional) and serve with thinly cut chili and garlic in soya sauce.

WP_20150927_2081I also boiled spare ribs and fish balls soup to complement the mushroom chicken rice.

WP_20150927_396 The boys enjoyed the dinner and we saved the hassle from busy restaurant on Mid-Autumn festival, a Sunday evening of haze.

WP_20150925_3349Cute biscuits from Jaden’s classmate who came over to play with him over the school holiday.

Ever since I watched the HK drama, I always love to wish this in every Mid-Autumn festival … 家好月圆, 庆中秋!

Tomato Basil Bruschetta and Smoked Salmon Bruschetta

My body was aching after taking care of Jared and Jaden all by myself for the last 9 days. I was their driver, cook, cleaner, tutor, etc and it was just the 3 of us for more than a week, which was a record for me. Tough job, no wonder my body was aching terribly.

I made a massage appointment for 11am. Before left home for the appointment, I prepared and cooked meat sauce for spaghetti Bolognese for dinner tonight. Looking at the ingredients, suddenly bruschetta came to my mind. The thing about Italian food is all in few ingredients i.e. olive oil, garlic, tomato, salt and pepper. I decided to make Bruschetta as appetizer for dinner tonight which has been ages since I last made it.

I felt so good after a good 1.5 hours of warm oil massage with hot stone. I was served with ginger tea. While sipping the hot ginger tea, I admired these lanterns hanging at the massage place. Such a sweet colour and pretty lanterns.

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Sweet and pretty lanterns

There’s a nice Korean restaurant next to the massage place, owned by a Korean lady and have lots of Korean dine at the restaurant. I’ve been there several times and particularly like its kimchi pork stew.

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My favourite Kimchi pork stew

On the way home, I stopped by neighborhood café to buy baguette. The staff asked me “Do you want to cut the baguette into slices?” “Oh … yes please”. And that made my work even easier.

Bruschetta is another easy to prepare food. It’s just a mixture of chopped tomatoes, balsamic, basil and garlic, spooned over olive-oil brushed slices of toasted baguette. It is a perfect finger food for a party or as appetizer of Italian dinner.

We can prepare in advance a large bowl of bruschetta topping, cut baguette into slices (or asked shop assistant to cut for you) and toast them ahead of time. I remember preparing this and brought to friends house to eat and watch football match together. And it was a hit, especially we paired it with beer.

In this recipe, I’ve replaced balsamic vinegar with Maggie Beer’s Verjuice which we bought from Maggie’s Farm Shop in Barossa Valley.

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Simple ingredients for Bruschetta

Ingredients

  • 8 plum ripe tomatoes (cut out stem base, remove seeds and diced).
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Verjuice (or balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 baguette French bread, sliced diagonally 1 cm thick and toasted

Method

  1. In a bowl, mix together tomatoes, basil, Parmesan cheese and garlic.
  2. Mix in Verjuice (or balsamic vinegar), olive oil, kosher salt and pepper.
  3. Brush one side of each slice of baguette with olive oil and place olive oil-side facing up on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Toast in toaster or on the top rack of oven at 230°C, for 5 minutes until bread lightly browned around the edges.
  4. Serve the toasted baguette slices plain with a bowl of the tomato bruschetta mixture on the side for guests to top their own, or use a spoon to gently top each toasted bread slice with some of the tomato mixture, right before serving.

If you do not like the sour taste of tomato, peel away the tomato skin.

  • Put water in a pot to boil.
  • Make shallow cuts in a cross pattern at the tip ends of tomatoes to peel tomatoes easily.
  • Once water boiled, remove the pot from heat.
  • Put tomatoes in the hot water and blanch for 1 minute.
  • Remove tomato from pot and once cool, gently peel off the tomato skins.

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I made these few for my photo taking. And my bruschetta didn’t make it to appetizer for spaghetti dinner as they were all consumed during tea time.

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We can also add slices of smoked salmon on top of the bruschetta topping to make smoked salmon bruschetta.

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What is Happiness?

What is Happiness?

Simple … Fried egg + Soya sauce = Happiness. This is our food happiness.WP_20150727_15_43_36_Pro

The fried egg must be crispy by the side and eat immediately once served.

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Spaghetti Bolognese

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Idea to cook spaghetti Bolognese from the balance of tomato paste and tomato sauce that I used for lasagna. I also like the meat sauce from the lasagna recipe. With that, I cooked spaghetti Bolognese for lunch today.

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The recipe is pretty similar to the lasagna meat sauce recipe. I changed the carrot with portabella mushroom.

The ingredients below are good for 6 serving.

Ingredients for Meat Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 6 portabella mushroom, cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 600 g minced meat (chicken, beef or pork) – roughly 100g for each serving
  • 4 tomatoes, cut into pieces
  • 100 g tomato paste
  • 1/2 can (200 g) tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 2 dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Pasta

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Directions:

  1. In a pot, pour oil and cook mushroom, onion and garlic over medium heat until soft.
  2. Add in meat and cook until well browned.
  3. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste and tomato sauce.
  4. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and parsley.
  5. Simmer covered for about 1.5 hours. Stirring occasionally.
  6. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil.
  7. Add in pasta. Bring the water back to rolling boil before start counting cooking time to as indicated on pasta packaging.
  8. Drain pasta and transfer to serving plate.
  9. Scoop meat sauce over pasta and serve immediately.

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We all love to eat Spaghetti Bolognese. Jared likes it even more to eat the pasta that left to rest overnight.

My 2nd attempt of baking Lasagna

Jared and I love to eat lasagna. I’ve tried baking lasagna once, sometime back and it wasn’t a successful one. Lots of ingredients, not cheap with 3 different types of cheese, quite a bit of work and take a long time to prepare too.

After almost a year of staying away from baking lasagna, I decided to give it a try once again. Remembering what was good and what wasn’t from the first experience. The meat sauce was nice but the lasagna noodle was still hard.

1st lesson that I remembered is lots of ingredients to be prepared. I got Jared and Jaden to follow me to Hero Market and gave them the list of ingredients to purchase. Both of them were excited, did it like in amazing race, trying to compete who got the most items. I just followed them around, watched what they picked and ensure they were the right ones.

2nd lesson … it is quite expensive to bake lasagna with the 3 different types of cheese. I bought the cheeses from my favourite baking shop. It is cheaper. I’ve also changed the cheese sauce from using ricotta cheese recipe to cheddar cheese.

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The ingredients below are good for 6 serving.

Ingredients for Meat Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 300 g minced meat (chicken, beef or pork)
  • 200 g sweet Italian sausage (remove out from skin)
  • 1 can (400 g) crushed tomatoes (or replaced with 4 big tomatoes, cut into pieces)
  • 100 g tomato paste
  • 1/2 can (200 g) tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 2 dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 lasagna noodles

Ingredients for Cheese Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 125 g mozzarella or cheddar cheese

Ingredients for Cheese Topping:

  • 170 g mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 30 g grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. To cook meat sauce:
    • In a pot, pour oil and cook carrot, onion and garlic over medium heat until soft.
    • Add in meat and sausage and cook until well browned.
    • Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and tomato sauce.
    • Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and parsley.
    • Simmer covered for about 1.5 hours. Stirring occasionally.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water.
  3. For the cheese sauce:
    • Melt butter in a separate saucepan
    • Add in flour and cook for 1 minute over gentle heat
    • Remove from heat and stir in milk
    • Return to heat and stir until thick and smooth
    • Season with salt and pepper
    • Add in cheese and stir over the heat until cheese melts.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  5. To assemble,
    • Spread 1 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of a lightly greased baking dish.
    • Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce.
    • Spread with one half of the cheese mixture.
    • Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices.
    • Spoon 1 cup meat sauce over mozzarella
    • Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
    • Repeat layers
    • Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
  6. Cover with foil and ensure the foil does not touch the cheese to prevent sticking or spray foil with cooking spray
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.
  8. Remove foil and bake an additional 25 minutes.
  9. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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Baked lasagna on my favorite Pyrex baking dish. I like it for the right size, square and made of glass which allows me to see the food clearly.

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Much successful lasagna for this 2nd attempt. The meat sauce was really delicious especially with the herbs and cheese used.

It took me about 4 hours to prepare and bake this lasagna. I don’t think I’ll bake it often but there’ll surely be 3rd time and more.

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Steam Chicken with Olive Vegetable

When I was working, some days, Jared and Jaden would have their dinner passed 9pm after their Kumon classes. We usually eat in neighbourhood restaurant and by the time we ordered our food and food was served, it was already passed 9pm. I felt guilty of them having dinner so late.

Now, I will try to cook on those days that they have Kumon classes. By the time they are home, dinner is ready.

For today, I decided to try this steam chicken with olive vegetable shared by Auntie Gertie. She bought me this bottle of olive vegetable and gave me the recipe below.

Olive vegetable

Olive vegetable

  • Half a chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 tbsp of cuttlefish strips – optional
  • 3 slices of ginger, shredded
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. of chopped spring onion
  • 2 tsp of olive vegetable
  • 1/2 tbsp of oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp of light soya sauce
  • 1 tsp of sesame oi
  1. Wash and towel dry chicken and arrange on a steaming plate
  2. Fry cuttlefish, if using, with 1 tbsp of oil.
  3. Add ginger and garlic and fry till brown and fragrant
  4. Add spring onion and olive vegetable
  5. Add oyster sauce, soya sauce and sesame oil
  6. Pour the above seasoning oil onto chicken and steam for 15-20 mins.
Simple steps

Simple steps

The same seasoning sauce can be used to cook noodles.

I cooked simple dinner with at least a meat. Still adjusting my life and I want to ensure this is sustainable and not frighten with cooking.

My simple 3 dish dinner

My simple 3 dish dinner

I thought I could have the last piece of chicken and Jaden asked “Can I have these (the balance of tofu and chicken) for lunch tomorrow?”. I am happy that they love my cooking and also happy that they can have home cooked food before their Kumon classes and not after 9pm.

By 8pm, dinner was done, dishes washed, garbage thrown, floor mopped  and I’ve freshen up. Not an easy job but satisfying. Hope I can keep this going. Let’s see.

Bak Kut Teh

We had guest from China in our office few weeks ago. One of the items that she bought home as souvenir is our famous Bak Kut Teh herbal pack. I bought the following 3 different brands for her to try.

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Today, I feel like cooking Bak Kut Teh for dinner as it is relatively easy to cook.

I bought the Bak Kut Teh packet (the middle in the above picture) and only use 1 packet of the herbal pack and reduced half of the ingredients, to as follows:

  • 1.2 liter of water
  • 4 whole garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of black soya sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of light soya sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce
  • pinch of salt to taste
  • 1 packet of Bak Kut Teh herbal pack
  • 1 kg of meats – pork rib, pork belly
  • 10 mushroom
  • Fuchok (bean curd skin)
  • Lettuce
  • “Yau Cau Kwai”

 

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Lettuce head

Bean curd skin and mushroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking instructions:

  1. Rinse meat, remove fat
  2. Pour in water to a pot and wait for it to be fully boiled
  3. Add in garlic, black soya sauce, light soya sauce, oyster sauce, salt and a packet of Bak Kut Teh herbal pack (do not open the filter bag)
  4. Add in meat and use medium heat to cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Add in mushroom
  6. Simmer for another 1 hour until meat is fully cooked and tender
  7. Add pepper, fuchok and lettuce to boil before serving
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Simmering Bak Kut Teh in the pot

Jared likes the smell of the Bak Kut Teh while it was simmering and requested for some to taste.

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We had the Bak Kut Teh as dinner, together with steamed tofu.

 

Summerset Greens with Duck Breast and Roasted Pine Nuts

Teambuilding and cooking … seem to go in pair nowadays. More and more companies are organizing cooking classes or cooking competitions as a form of teambuilding. It’s easy to organize as there are so many culinary schools that offer such activities. The price is reasonable too. Most of all, at the end of the day, there will be so much fun, laughter, noise and good food to satisfy the hungry stomachs.

When our team decided to have cooking class as teambuilding, I suggested Food Studio and Bayan Indah which are my favourite culinary places. Bayan Indah has higher minimum pax requirement. As there were only 8 of us, we signed up with Food Studio for our teambuilding.

WP_20140618_003It was nice to see Chef Paul again, our chef for the day.

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It was also nice to be back to familiar place … a kitchen fully equipped with Electrolux appliances.

We learned to make Smoked duck salad as appetizer, herb crusted filet of salmon for our main course and Pavlova for our dessert.

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Ingredients for Smoked Duck Salad

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The presentation of the Summerset Greens with Duck Breast and Roasted Pine Nuts by Paul Chef. Beautiful! Love the different bright colors of the salad been presented on a white plate. We had to repeat and present the smoked duck salad in the same way.

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These were presented by all of us on our dining table. I think we did a good job. They all looked presentable.

A few days later, we were planning for dinner to celebrate Mom’s birthday. SC suggested to have dinner at home and she would roast chicken and grill lamb. Since it was a Western dinner, I volunteered to try to make this newly learned smoked duck salad.

The following are the ingredients:

  • 50 g  mixed and washed salad greens
  • 50 g Smoked Duckbreast
  • 15 g Pinenuts
  • 1 pc Orange
  • 2 Tbs Olive oil
  • 2 Tbs Orange Juice
  • 2 pcs cherry tomatoes
  • 1 mango, cut into small cubes
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Onion Sprouts
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The ingredients prepared by me

First, slice the duckbreast into thin slices. I bought this sliced, frozen smoked duck from Isetan. No need to slice, just need to warm them in oven.

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Remove skin from orange and cut out filets.

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Whisk together olive oil with orange juice and dash of salt and pepper.

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The whisked salad dressing.

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Roast the pinenuts in a dry pan until golden brown.

Mix salad with dressing in large bowl.

Slice tomatoes in half. Cut mango into small cubes.

Arrange salad nicely on a plate and add sliced duck.

Top with onion sprouts and roasted pinenuts.

Decorate with tomatoes, mango cubes and orange filets.

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My contribution for Mom’s birthday dinner. Successful.

This is how I presented it.

Guess we had teambuilding at home too. I organized it like a factory line, assigned duties to my siblings and nephews. Even Dad has to cut mango into small cubes. Each person was in charge of one item and presented it on each plate the way I showed them. It was fun, with lots of noise and laughter in the process.

WP_20140621_054Our table setting for Mom’s birthday dinner and it was a success!

 

Career and Family

2 weeks ago, I received an email from my company’s New Employee Assistant titled “Happy 1-Year Anniversary”. How time flies, I’ve been with the company for a year now. Honeymoon period is over, no more excuses and can’t say “I’m new” anymore 🙁

The ride so far has been (very) bumpy and definitely not quite straightforward. I had the set of challenges while I also have set of opportunities. I’m no longer a people manager, instead I’ve to report to a manager who is younger than me. sighhh.

Looking back, I think this is good for me. While I was climbing up the corporate ladder, this allows me to step back, experience, reflect and learn from it. I understand staff feeling better, I knew the frustration of staff and the expectation of staff from their manager as I certainly have expectation from my manager now. I promised myself that I will be a better manager when I become one again 🙂

There’s lot of opportunities to learn in this company, especially the rhythm of business and the way we communicate and share as a community. In the span of one year, I’ve attended so many conferences inclusive of conference in Atlanta, training in Singapore twice, trainings in local office, townhalls, online trainings, etc. There are so many community calls and learning circle in the company. The word “leverage” and “share” are keys here.

On personal side, I suddenly realized we’ve been eating out a lot since Moch went back. I felt like cooking (not baking). Must focus on “must have” and not “nice to have” when time is not on our side.

Early morning, I went to my favourite TTDI market for groceries shopping. Have not been to the market for a while and I saw two Porsche in the car park. Is this the new trend now, driving sports car to market or TTDI market become so high end already?

It was good to catch up with the aunties from the market. I bought some roast pork as I intended to fry rice for lunch. Bought pork ribs to boil soup, prawns (small and large for pasta, fry with vegetables, etc), cod fish to steam for dinner, dory fish for fish and chips, chicken, vegetables, mango, etc. Stopped at Soya bean stall and Bake with Yen to buy bread crumbs and self raising flour.

When I reached home, I quickly cleaned up all the seafood and meat that I bought. I cooked fried rice for lunch and this is my first time attempting to cook fried rice.

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Fried rice with prawn, roast pork, long bean, onion and egg,

The taste was not bad actually.

After lunch, we went to Parkson to get running shoes for Jared. He has outgrown his current pair. Ever since the advice from Jaden’s food podiatric, we are very particular when selecting the right pair of shoes for our boys.

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Adidas running shoes that cost RM199.

 We always end up buying Adidas shoes.

After a short stop at MPH, we went home and it was time to cook dinner.

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Tumeric Chicken

Jared requested for his favourite Tumeric Chicken and it wasn’t hard to cook this.

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Steamed White Codfish with Ginger Garlic Sauce

I got this steam codfish recipe from The Star Kuali, Amy Beh’s recipe. Hubby said the fish was nicely done, not overcooked. The flesh was fresh and tender.

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Hubby’s famous Steamed Egg

This is by Hubby. Our family love the steamed egg by him as it’s smooth and soft. We always don’t have enough to go round among us despite him steaming 3 eggs. I told him to steam 4 eggs but he refused to listen. He just love us fighting over his steamed egg.

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Kou Gei with Fish Ball Soup

This Kou Gei Soup is Jaden’s favourite. In fact, all these dishes are dishes that Moch used to cook for us and the boys have been missing them. I’m glad that we can cook pretty close to the food that we used to eat at home. Everyone was happy. I’m not a bad cook after all.

After dinner, it’s time to wash up all the pots and dishes, threw away rubbish and mop the floor. I was so tired at the end of it. My weekend was gone and it’s not easy to have Career and Family in our life. It’s not impossible but lot’s of choices to make and sacrifices in between.

And this is the choice that I made!

Crispy Seaweed Strips

This time round, our 5th Auntie who used to be a home science teacher cooked her famous curry chicken and she also made Crispy Seaweed Strips.

Dean’s fiance, Christine who joined us for the very first CNY celebration in Kluang loves to eat the Crispy Seaweed Strips. Our auntie offered to make for her to bring back to US.

After lunch, we had our 3rd cooking class. This time round, our auntie taught us to make Crispy Seaweed Strips.

Ingredients:

  • Popiah skin
  • Seaweed (try to buy the same size as popiah skin)
  • Egg, lightly beaten. Add sesame oil, pepper and pinch of salt.

New Folder

  1. Place popiah skin on non-stick surface
  2. Brush with egg wash
  3. Place a piece of seaweed on top of it
  4. Brush with egg wash again
  5. Cover with another piece of popiah skin
  6. Put it aside to let it dry, while continue with other pieces of popiah skin and seaweed
  7. Fold into 3 equal sizes and use scissors to cut along the folded line
  8. Cut into shorter strips of 1cm width

New Folder (2)

  1. Pour oil into frying wok
  2. Test it with chopsticks to see if the oil is hot enough for frying. Bubbles will appear in the oil when it’s hot
  3. Take a handful of seaweed strips and fry them in the wok
  4. Once they turn lightly brown, turn down the flame
  5. Take out from wok and place on a plate with kitchen towel.

WP_20130211_119[1]As the seaweed strips are still hot, they will continue to cook and turn brown.

Good students and helpers in the kitchen

Good students and helpers in the kitchen

We had quite a few helpers in the kitchen and we worked like “factory line” with different people performing different tasks. We were having fun and the entire process of making and frying the seaweed strips were done in half an hour. The seaweed strips were crispy, smell great and tasted good too.

Suggestions:

  • If you prefer the stronger taste of seaweed, you may start with seaweed, then popiah skin and end with seaweed.
  • Use egg white rather than whole egg as it will be crispier and the seaweed strips will last longer
  • My auntie told us that this seaweed strips go well with porridge.
The only and very happy man in the kitchen.

The only and very happy man in the kitchen.

We had lots of laugher, changing idea and cooking tips. It was certainly a good bonding time during this Chinese New Year break.