Cekodok Pisang (Fried Banana Cakes)

One common trait shared by all Malaysians? Eating. We eat breakfast, lunch and before dinner look for kuih-miuh for tea and then sometimes after dinner, look in the fridge or stand in front of the 24-hour mamak stall, thinking what to have for supper! :)

The thing that I miss most here in CA is the splendor of tea-breaks. In Malaysia, at around 2pm, from nowhere you would suddenly find a makcik and her daughter put up a foldable giant umbrella under the big, shady tree of the right side of the pavement and set up several trays of homemade cakes on a table. And on the left side of the pavement, another 'uncle' and his wife set up a big vessel with gallons of oil and start frying up crispy vadais and bondas and samosas. Beside his set-up, another 'uncle' arrives and opens up the container attached to his motorcycle and sets up his fruit rojak ‘stall’. And this is just on the left and right sides of one of the several the pavements, mind you!

Ahh…teatime is Malaysia is really celebrated. No makciks under umbrellas or 'uncles' and 'aunties' to get teatime treats from here. Somehow I have lost the interest in tea-breaks after coming here. It’s all good too…counting all the calories I can save ;) But sometimes on a breezy day like this, it’s just so comforting to eat hot cekodoks with a hot cuppa coffee :)

Cekodok is a type of fried cake made of flour and flavored with a varieties of things from dried shrimps, dried anchovies, onions and ripened bananas – making it good savory as well as sweet.The cekodok featured here is sweetened with ripened bananas. I made it even simpler fr me by I adding mashed up ripened bananas into a cup of my favorite store-bought pancake flour (Krusteaz)and then fried up the thick batter in hot oil.

The result: cekodok pisang – crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside!

Panko-crusted Baked Salmon Steak

When I was back in Malaysia earlier this year, I bought a couple of fillets of wild Norwegian salmon at Jaya Jusco (Melaka) and was pleased with the quality of the fish. It was a little bit pricey but I liked the fact that it was wild and not farm raised.

I have the same aversion to farm-raised fish just like poultry treated with antibiotics. With a toddler at home, I am especially more concern about such things these days. Luckily for us, all poultry and the dairy products sold at the grocery stores where we shop here in CA are sans plumping and antibiotics free.

However, there are aplenty of farm-raised seafood still available at these places: tilapia, salmon and even shrimps. Recently I have been reading a lot about how the level of PCBs (a toxic substance) is high in farm-raised salmon and how it can adversely affect our health. So it’s worth paying a couple of bucks extra to get wild caught fish. I am certain that I pay extra not just for safety but also for taste. I bought this packaged salmon from the grocery store the yesterday.

Frozen but wild caught and all natural so it was a good catch :) Marinated the salmon steaks in some ginger+garlic infused soy, mushroom and pepper sauce and then coated them with panko breadcrumbs and baked them to perfection in the oven!I just love the fact that I didn’t have to use even a single drop of oil in making this dish; just the natural and valuable oil of the salmon in this healthful, tasty dish.

The panko, Japanese breadcrumbs, stays crunchy even after the baking process and that’s why I prefer using this to coat my salmon steaks. Served on a bed of simple nasi goreng and some salad greens, a scrumptious lunch for sure!


'The No Claypot' Claypot Chicken Rice

Thanks to technology advancement, I not only got to browse the web for the recipe to make my version of the famous claypot chicken rice dish, I also got tips and shortcuts to help me make this dish in my kitchen :) If I were living in Malaysia, I doubt I’d ever consider making this special Chinese dish at home, especially when it is easily available at my favorite hawker’s center!

As the name suggests, the claypot chicken rice is cooked and served in a claypot in restaurants. I still remember the wonderful whiff that hits your face and fogs your spectacles as you open the cover of the pot!

After searching for sometime, I decided to stick with this recipe I got from a fellow blogger. Although easier and faster than the original version, the reason why I liked this recipe is because the blogger kind of shares my kitchen viewpoint: even though I like quick and simple cooking, “I never sacrifice taste or authenticity when it comes to my cooking.”

No claypot, no problem…the rice cooker or the pressure cooker (that steam-cooks the rice in a jiff), like in my case, works just fine. With rice, mushrooms, chicken being the main ingredients, I happily gathered the rest of the sauces and spices needed for the dish and adjusted some details like no pork sausage and fried dried prawns instead of salted fish for garnish and voila, a contented cook, happy hubby and baby (yes, he loved it too!).

I also prepared a must-have condiment: chopped garlic and bird’s eye chilis soaked in light soy sauce for that added kick!

Yet another satisfying one-pot dish!


Stir-fried Amaranth Leaves

Amaranth leaves also known as Chinese spinach is indeed very popular in India with each region having a special way to cook it. The name may sound unique but it belongs to the more familiar family of the spinach we all know: the regular spinach leaves are all green whereas the Amaranth leaves are green with red and purplish hue.

Just like how I had previously captured the vibrant green of my Chinese style stir-fried baby bok choy here, this time around it’s a dish of leafy Amaranth leaves.

The addition of split pigeon peas (chana dhal) and grated coconut as well as dried chilies and dry spices such as urad dhal (ulunthu), cumin seeds and mustard seeds makes this dish Indian inspired.

However it's cooked, we just can’t get enough of leafy greens in our diet…luv ‘em…gotta have ‘em! :)


Broccoli Potato Soup with Cheddar

Our little tyke is close to his second birthday and he is usually very happy being served the food that we have. Even at this age, he is comfortable eating spices (on a bearable level…I don’t usually serve him something if I find it too spicy) and most of the ingredients I use in my cooking and this makes it easier for me because I don’t have to spend extra time cooking a separate dish for him.

This time, I wanted to make him a toddler’s version of a comfort food on this cold fall’s day and I wanted him all to get all the warmth, calcium (cheese, milk, broccoli) and energy (potato) he’d need all in a bowl full.

This hearty soup, although as suitable it is for adults as for kids, was made especially for our bouncy toddler because mom and dad just don’t have the machine-like energy he has to burn off all the calories (hello, potatoes, cheese, whole milk!)!

The easiest meal in a bowl yet…For a single serving, I pressure cooked a couple of baby Yukon gold potatoes and then stir-fried it with just a tad of (unsalted) butter, one minced clove and a handful of chopped broccoli florets just till the broccoli is tender. Added in about an ounce of whole milk and another ounce of shredded cheddar (the salt in this is enough for my baby) and a pinch of ground black pepper before removing it off the heat and pulsing it a couple of times in the food processor.

The result: a velvety, smooth soup with so much going on in every spoonful!


Diwali 2009 Feast - Melaka, Malaysia

My interest in reading magazines featuring gourmet recipes and watching Food Network shows presenting modern ideas and ingredients have made me adventurous and creative in the kitchen. I cherish traditional recipes and ingredients; I value the modern art of cooking :)

I proudly admit that much of my natural cooking prowess comes from my mom. She cooks without even stopping a moment to think how she creates wonderfully tantalizing dishes. I have learned and still am learning many useful cooking tips and ideas from her. She is also a wonderful baker although she tells me that I have exceeded her talent of baking cakes :) Still, no one can bake Nescafe cookies, coconut biscuits or peanut cookies like she does…which explains why many, many pieces do not actually get into the cookie jars during our regular Diwali cookie-baking sessions!

Including the Diwali that had just passed, I have missed four Diwalis being home in Malaysia with my parents. Thanks to a friend, I got to see the pictures of the various dishes my mom had prepared on Diwali day. It was so thoughtful of her to visit my parents on Diwali day and take pictures to send it to me so that I could drool over the Diwali food galore we had been missing! ;)

It’s my pleasure to publish these pictures of my mom’s cooking from her kitchen in Melaka, Malaysia here on my blogsite. Enjoy!

Nasi Biryani - Spiced Rice Pilaf

Ayam Masak Merah - Chicken in Chili Gravy


Mutton Perattal - Mutton Fry in Dry Gravy

Sambal Udang - Prawn Sambal (Dried Chili Gravy)

Chicken Kurma

Vegetable Achar (Pickle)

Mix-Veg Salad with Mayo Dressing

P/S: Thanks, Janet for the pics!


Butter Cake with Lemon Icing

The satisfaction of eating a slice of homemade cake is heightened when it comes with a big dollop of homemade icing. I for one learned this through a very sickly sweet experience!

My favorite thing to bake is the basic butter cake because of its versatility to complement almost any type of icing…and my usual best choice of topping for my butter cake……. chocolate ganache…yum-o! I first learned making this basic butter cake in Malaysia several years back using a recipe from my mom's cookbook by a well-known Malaysian chef, Rohani Jelani. I have to admit that I learned a lot of good baking from her cookbook. Also when I prepare the cake batter, I usually use half of it for making a dozen of mini cupcakes, as seen in this pic, too for a convenient and cute treat :)


Back to my sickly sweet experience....For hubby’s birthday a couple of months back, I baked the wonderful butter cake but instead of using the regular chocolate ganache, I planned to use some lemon icing. The reason for this lemon-mania was that just a couple of weeks prior to that, hubby treated me to a delightfully enriching slice of lemon-raspberry cheese from the Cheesecake Factory restaurant and I had been craving for more lemony cake since then! There’s just something divine about tasting fresh lemon in a plate of desert…. a subtle yet pleasing sweetness.

So seeking convenience, I got a tub of store-bought lemon icing to decorate his birthday cake. But what a disappointment it was when we couldn’t really enjoy eating the cake as the icing was too very sweet…the kind of sweetness that and to top that displeasure, there was merely a hint of lemon in it.

This time, still craving for the lemony sweetness, I baked a basic butter cake and searched for a simple lemon icing recipe online. As usual I tweaked the ingredients to suit my needs and created the most beautiful lemon icing to satisfy my palate. The recipe calls for 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar but I used just 1 cup (this is fine because the cake has sugar and is already sweet); 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice but I used 4; and I added the zest of two whole lemons for that extra zing!

Adding ½ cup of butter to the above items, I whipped the life out it and came up with this fluffy, light and satisfactorily zesty cake topping!


My South Indian Thali

Thali is a Hindi word that means ‘plate’. A thali set basically refers to a selection of different dishes, usually served in a steel tray with multiple compartments. In India as well as here in the US, many Indian restaurants offer Indian dishes for lunch or dinner in a thali set. In India, different regions offer different types of thalis. Whatever it is, the dishes in a thali can be as simple or elaborate as one desires.

I have heard of many other cultures having this same concept too. For instance, thali is a Japanese version of the bento box: a lunch set that comes in a compartmentalized box.

This is my simple version of a South Indian Thali: rice, tomato cooked in lentils, fried tindora, papads and sweet mango pickle.

Tomato cooked in lentils – Back in Malaysia, many of my lentils-loving non-Indian friends used to ask me for recipes using the variety of available lentils. I wish I knew this back then because it’s just so simple and yet can satisfy any lentil-lovers palate. Lentils and fresh tomatoes are cooked for 10 minutes in a pressure cooker. Separately, sliced onion, crushed ginger and garlic, curry leaves, sliced green chilies with some dried spices (cumin, mustard seeds etc.) are fried till fragrant. This is then added to the cooked lentils and tomatoes and with salt to taste, voila….all ready to be savored! Good with chapatis, too!

Fried tindora – I never had this vegetable back in Malaysia. In fact, never had an idea until hubby mentioned to me about this vegetable as it is very popular in Andhra. The first time I bought this vegetable in the frozen section, I did some online search on how to prepare it and glad the cooking process is indeed simple and hence it is a regular now in my kitchen. The texture of this vegetable, also known as ivy gourd, is similar to that of green beans. Here, I fried my tindora with onions, ginger, garlic and some split chickpeas and added some fresh grated coconut at the end.

A wonderful vegetarian lunch!


Seafood Fried Rice

Fried rice which translates to nasi goreng in the Malay language is indeed a famous hawker food in Malaysia – good for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even supper! For most, nasi goreng is a humble way to make use of the leftover rice from the previous meal. It is just too easy to make but still it can be made gourmet with the right ingredients.

I just cannot list the varieties of nasi goreng available in Malaysia because there are just too many! There’s this specialty named ‘nasi goreng kampung’ which contains dried anchovies (ikan bilis) and lots and lots of bird’s eye chilis (cili padi) and even ‘nasi goreng USA’ that comes with slices of sausages. Since it’s a simple and a complete-meal-on-a-plate, people mostly create their own varieties according to their taste and creativity :)

Featured here is my version of nasi goreng flavored with a selection of seafood: imitation crab meat (which is basically made of a mixture of crab meat and white fish meat), dried shrimp (pounded with garlic, ginger and chilis) and some fresh shrimp. I jazzed it up a little by serving the seafood fried rice with a sunny-side-up egg and a couple of sticks of fried imitation crab meat.
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