Where is my cake? I Can’t See!–Famous Sarawak Midnight Cake (Cake Seri kaya Sarawak, Kek Belachan, Kek Hati Parit) revisited.. (砂朥越深夜蛋糕)

 

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UPDATED POST ON 8-9-2014

I have decided to prepare this cake this afternoon as I craved for this cake… I don’t usually prepare this cake because it is addictive, rather costly and time consuming. Even in Sarawak, this cake was only available during festivals such as Hari Raya Aidilfiltri..

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When I posted in the Facebook, most members of Facebook Group who have tasted the cake said that it is nice, rich and dense. For those that they purchased, it is also very expensive due to the cost of ingredients. Further discussion also revealed that this cake is also called Kek Hati Parit and Kek Belachan because its darkness resemble the shrimp paste.

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INTRODUCTION

Sarawak  is one of the states in Malaysia located in the island of Borneo. It has many unique cuisines and one of the rather unique pastries is the Sarawak Midnight Cake as mentioned in this post and another one more famous cake is the Sarawak layered cake or Kek Lapis Sarawak that looks below.

  Sarawak Layered cake: pic courtesy of http://senai.olx.com.my/

This post is concerned about Sarawak Midnight Cake or more well known locally as Seri kaya Sarawak Cake (hereinafter referred to as “Seri kaya Sarawak). Note that kaya is also known as coconut jam made using coconut milk, eggs and sugars.

Seri kaya Sarawak has lots of names. It is synonymous with “Black Cake” (Kek hitam), “Sarawak Black Forest Cake”, “Belachan Cake” ( a type of shrimp paste) or the more Americanized name of “Sarawak Midnight Cake!” 

So from the name Seri kaya, Midnight Cake, Belachan Cake what can we say about the cake? As can be inferred from its names, the cake has Kaya (coconut egg jam) with a belachan shape (and color) and it’s DARK in color. Recipes are calling to use various coloring agents to darken the cake be it artificial coloring, chocolate molasses, Sarawak black palm sugars, chocolate paste and even unconventional dark soya sauce. 

The uniqueness of this cake is that it is a moist, rich and dense steamed cake. 

 


WHY THIS CAKE

While I was writing some thing about Sarawak Cuisines in the Authentic Sarawak Food and History Page, Seri kaya Sarawak is one of the cakes that I have mentioned. After writing the post, I really felt the urge to make the cake since I have not tasted this cake for more than 15 years at least. 

When I was in Kuching,Sarawak, during Chinese New Year, one relative used to give us this cake and during Hari Raya time (a Muslim festival whereby we do house visit), whenever I visited my Malay friends, I will always look out for this cake. I usually can’t stop eating the cake because it is just so yummy.. Looking at the picture of the cakes made me drooling and therefore I have decided to bake my own cake.

Food bloggers some time called this cake “secretive cake” and most of them do not willing to provide a recipe to the cake, They just bake the cake and show to the readers. Even if you can get hold of some recipes, the recipes that you  have collected can be very different for each recipe. Be it the ratio, types of ingredients used, preparation method, everyone will claimed theirs  were the best.

For me, too many recipes is equivalent to no recipe. I have decided to create my own cake based on my memoirs on the texture of the cake and aroma of the cake. I have analyzed various recipes and come out with this recipe that I want to share with readers today.

This is a rather simple recipe by passing a number of traditional methods of baking and skipped some unimportant ingredients usually used by other recipes. The output is at least 90%-95% similar to the cakes that I have tasted many years ago. (Note: this cake has a very distinct taste and it should be a moist, dense cake with fragrance of Horlicks (chocolate malt) and Milo).


WHAT YOU NEED

Most of the ingredients that was used are the breakfast beverages items.

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  • 125 g of Milo
  • 125 g of Ovaltine Malt Drinks – Most recipe called for Horlicks but I have substituted this with Ovaltine Malt drinks as the price is at least 50% cheaper but the taste is quite indifferent;
  • 125g of  condensed milk or sweetened creamer
  • 250g of Kaya (coconut egg jam)

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  • 125 gram of brown sugar
  • 250 gram of eggs (about 4-5)
  • 250 gram of unsalted butter – melted
  • 2.5 table spoons of chocolate emulco
  • 250 gram of plain flour (not in the picture above)

 

Do you see any trend in the measurements of the above recipe? The recipe can be summarized again in the following ratio.

Brown sugar+Condensed milk : Milo + Ovaltine :Plain Flour : Coconut Jam = 250g : 250g : 250g : 250g = 1  :   1   :  1  :   1

The picture below summary all the ingredients

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

These steps of preparation are rather unconventional. Conventional method will advise the use of creaming method (meaning beating of sugar and butter). The creaming step is mainly used if you want a fluffier and lighter cake.

However, as this cake is supposed to be moist and DENSE, therefore, I do not use the creaming method. I have used the mixer purely for mixing purposes. In all the steps, just ensure that the mixer is at low speed and as long as the ingredients are well mixed, just put another ingredient in. Well mixed basically means that the color are consistent. This mixing method will saves you a lot of time as compared to the creaming method.

If you do not have a mixer, you can mix it manually and it shouldn’t be very difficult as most ingredients are liquid and has lot of moisture content.

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  • In a mixing bowl, put the brown sugar, condensed milk and melted butter together. Beat at low to medium speed;  It will take the most 1-2 minutes and look like the batter in pic 3.
  • Add in the cracked eggs and continue beating at the same speed until well mixed.

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  • Add in the coconut jam (kaya) and continue to beat at same speed for 1 minutes.
  • Note that I have used the Nonya Kaya which is greenish in color. However, you can also use other types of kaya such as gula melaka kaya (dark brownish) or Hainanese kaya (orange to light brownish).
  • Add in the Milo and Ovaltine (chocolate malt and can use Horlicks as well) and continue to beat for another 1 minutes or until color consistency is reached.

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  • After adding Ovaltine and Milo, you will note that the color start to turn brownish. As Ovaltine and Milo will coagulate and takes a while to dissolve, you just have to ensure that there are no more lumps in the mixture.
  • Sieve the plain flour into the mixture and continue to mix until color consistency is reached.
  • Plain flour shall be used and not the cake flour or self raising flour and no baking powder or baking soda is needed. THIS IS A DENSE CAKE and therefore, you do not want your cakes to be too fluffy.

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  • After it is ready, add in 2 table spoons of chocolate emulco (alternative chocolate paste, black palm sugar, brown color agent) and beat until the there is no more lumps and color is consistent. It takes another 1-2 minutes.
  • If you use black palm sugar, there is no need to use brown sugar. Volume will be 150g black palm sugar.

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  • Get ready a 6 inch square tin, grease the sides and bottom, dust with wheat flour.
  • Greasing can be done with any fats such as cooking oil etc. I have used the wrapper for the butter to grease the sides. Alternatively, you can just use the left over melted butter in your bowl to grease the side. This is something not usually presented in the recipe books but I have purposely put it here to share with readers since it is a good practice to “conserve” world resources, joking.

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  • Get ready a steamer and bring the water to boil. As this cake is very dense, therefore, it need a few hours of steaming. That steaming process can be rather long reaching 2-3 hours and if it an 8 inch tin, may need 4-5 hours.
  • Pour your batter into the baking tin and cover with aluminum foil. This is to avoid the condensation of water vapors dripping into the cake batter making it hard to get cooked.
  • When the water boiled, put in the cake tin and steaming over medium to high heat for 3-4 hours.
  • Note that how long it takes to cook will depend on lots of factors including the size of baking tins you used (a big baking tin with a shallower batter will be faster to get cooked than a smaller tin), the environment (in an enclosed environment it will be easier to get cooked than in a well ventilated area).
  • As a guideline, after 2 hours of steaming, you can slightly lift up the aluminum foil and see if the batter was set. Set means when you push, the batter wouldn’t move. Usually, the middle part is the part that takes longer to cook.
  • Whatever you do for this process, you have to be careful to minimize the heat loss, otherwise it will take time to get enough heat for the cake to rise again and some may not be able to rise as the cake structure had been destroyed.
  • If there is not enough water, just boil some hot water and pour inside the steamer carefully. You may need to replenish the water 2-3 times.

 

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  • The cake is cooked when it looks like the first picture. To counter ensure that it is cooked, use some stick to pierce down the batter and see if anything sticky in your stick. If none, the cake is ready.
  • Let it rest for say 30 minutes and transfer to your cake rake if you want. Note that when it is hot, the cake structure can be very fragile, cooling will gel backed the structure . So, any handling have to be done gently.
  • The 1st picture showed the cake just come out from the steamer. After about 1.5 hour of resting, I dusted with some Ovaltine and Milo (optional) powder. You can see from the cross section of the cake that it is very moist and dense.
  • Cutting the cakes into the desired size, serve with or without sauce.


Serving Suggestions

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  • Picture one is serving without any sauce.
  • Picture two to four is serving with evaporated milk and some dusted with Ovaltine and Milo powder. Fresh milk can also be used.
  • In picture four, I have decided to turn it into some form of wet dessert soaking in milk. As the texture is very soft, you can actually turn it into any shape with it. Trust me, it wouldn’t compromise the original taste. The original taste is very strong and this will smoothen out the strong cocoa and chocolate malt flavor.

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CONCLUSION

  • This is a super rich and dense cake. You can treat it as another form of chocolate mud cake or American midnight fudge cake. Taking a bite is resembling like having a scope of butter, coconut jam, chocolate malt, condense milk all at once which is extremely smooth and with the nice aromatic smell of breakfast beverages.
  • The origin of this cake is still unknown but it is unique that all the main ingredients are related to the breakfast items such as Milo, Horlicks, condensed milks and coconut jams used for toast. Could this be influenced by the British during the British colonization of Sarawak before 1945’s? Only coconut jam and black palm sugar is quite local and all other ingredients are most imported or originated from European countries. 

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  • The Western version of fudge cake or midnight cake requires chocolates, using the creaming method and utilizing the oven for baking. As oven is a luxury in traditional Sarawak, steaming method was used instead. Imported chocolate will cost a bomb and therefore these were substituted by breakfast beverages. Does it sound logical? Otherwise, how can an isolated island with so much diverse culture can come out with such a rich and nice cake like the desserts in Western countries? Let me know your opinion.
  • Like Sarawak Laksa paste, too secretive a recipe and too many versions of a recipe will equivalent to no recipe. I have simplified the ratio and the preparation method with no compromise in the texture and taste of my cakes.

I hoped for those who never try this cake before, please try to make one and you will never regret it. Hope that you enjoy the  post and happy reading. Cheers

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  • For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX (updated as at 28 July 2014)  here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit the blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE to keep abreast of my future posts.  


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Stay Safe This Halloween– Grilled Skeleton Marshmallows

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I was once a beautiful and fair lady. Somebody was jealous of my beauty and grilled me to death! Not only that, they eat my flesh!!!!!”

INTRODUCTION

This is a special post on Halloween that will be celebrated on Western countries on 31 October 2013. Being an Asian, I have never celebrated Halloween for all my past years. We do have festivals to pay respects to the death like the Chin Ming festivals. Therefore, I am rather unsure how Western countries really celebrate Halloween and what are their traditions. What I knew from watching television shows was that kids went house by house having some trick or treating activities and house owners will give them sweets or candy for their “visits”.

Being a blogger who have joined several blog hop parties, I can sense that how big Halloween is celebrated in these countries. I just want to join the fun and suddenly it come across my mind of baking some marshmallows. This post is not actually a recipe and but some baking art work that I am rather poor at and I am sure those who are interested will be able to do a much better design than me.


WHAT IS REQUIRED

  • Some round cylindrical shaped marshmallow candy
  • Some baking paper
  • Some honey for sticking

STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • In a big baking tray, put a sheet of baking paper. Roughly draw the shape of the hand. Use a scissor to cut the marshmallows in the shape of finger nails.

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  • Put a bit of honey and stick it to baking paper following the shape of the hand. Bake in the oven at 150 degree Celsius for 15-20 minutes. When cooled, cut away the baking paper following the candy shape.

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  • Note the increased in size of the marshmallows as the baking progresses. The sizes of the marshmallows will reduce once it is cool. Depending on how horror you want your creations to be, your can monitor the colour of the marshmallow.


How do you serve, put it in a plate for your “guest”!

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If you want it to be even more scary, have some strawberry sauce!

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So, is this edible? Yes,  it is very nice and extremely crispy and you would not want to stop at one piece only.

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They eat with the papers? No, it can easily peel off from the baking paper.

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What if they don’t want to have the candy in my house, what shall I do? Well, just pack it, hang it in the door for them and wish them Happy Halloween and STAY SAFE!

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Well, this is my creation and I knew the first picture is rather scary as on of my Google Plus friends is commenting, sending shivers down her spine. For the second batch, I have tone down the horror by baking it and packaging in a  less scary manner! Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day. For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit this blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE.

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For Four Seasons Blog Hop where I am the Co-host, please join us for the party where you can get a lot of the family related posts. Please click the above logo to enter your post.

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Simple, Tasty, Elegant …Chilled Ferrero Rocher Oreo Ice Cream Cheese Cake

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INTRODUCTION

I like to simplify my recipe. When I cooked or when I baked, i usually think of bachelor who are kitchen phobia and who do not like to cook. With this in mind, I always modify my recipe to the extent that it is simplest possible.

This is a modified traditional recipe for cheese cake. Instead of using cream, ice-cream was used. No gelatine were used to keep the cheese cake in shape, Therefore this chilled cake is suitable for those that are out of time and wanted an equally delicious presentable cheesecake.


WHAT IS REQUIRED

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  • 350 g of any sweet or plain biscuits
  • You can use biscuits of any type and I have used 3 types of biscuits (inclusive of oreo biscuits) and some Ferrero Roche chocolates.  It is advisable to have some sweetened biscuits as it will make the base tastier and there is no need to add additional sugar. Search you kitchen for some biscuits that have been with you for a while and use these instead of throwing it away..smile.

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  • 2 blocks of 250 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 150 grams of sweetened beverage creamer or condensed milk
  • 200 g of unsalted butter
  • 100 g of Oreo ice cream – melted at room temperature (can change to any flavour that you like)
  • 100 g of chocolate ice cream – melted at room temperature

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  • A 8” diameter spring-form tin – This is a special non stick baking tin with a spring on the side. It is not a must but if you have the tin, it will make your life much easier especially when you detach the cheesecake from the tin. Otherwise, try to use a baking tin whereby you can detach the bottom as in the third picture. If you wanted to cut your cheese cake into small finger sizes, you can use a detachable square tin, which is easier to cut and maximize your “recovery rates”.

STEPS OF PREPARATION

 

Getting Ready the biscuit crust

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  • Melt the butter either directly over small heat or using a microwave oven and heat for 1 minutes. Set aside for later use.
  • Grease a round 20cm (8 inch) spring-form tin with melted butter and line the base and side with baking paper.
  • IF YOU ARE USING A NON STICK SPRING-FORM BAKING TIN as in this illustration, there is no need to grease and line with baking paper. This illustration have by pass this step. Otherwise, you have to do the greasing and lining This step is important to ensure that when you open your “fragile” cheese cake, it would not break the size or base.
  • Finely crushed all the biscuits and chocolates using a food processor until very fine. If you do not have or do not wish to use a food processor, place them in a sealed plastic bag and crush them with something heavy like a rolling spin.
  • In the above illustration, the second picture is the plain crushed plain biscuits and the third picture is after additions of crushed  Oreo biscuits and Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

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  • Transfer to the bowl , add melted butter, stir until the biscuit crumbs are moist.
  • Press firmly over the base and up the side of the tin to create an even shell.
  • Refrigerate for about 20 minutes or until firm.
  • This biscuit crust is a rich and aromatic crust after the addition of Oreo biscuits and most important of all, Ferrero Rocher chocolates and it blends well with the cheesy fillings.

Making the fillings..

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  • Beat the softened cream cheese in a bowl for about 3 minutes, or until smooth.
  • Add in the condensed milk and continued to beat for another 1 minutes or until smooth.

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  • Separate the beaten cream cheese into two portions. Leave one portion in the mixing bowl.
  • Add the melted Oreo ice cream to the portion in the mixing bowl, beat for another one minute or until smooth. Set aside for later use.

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  • Place the other portion of beaten cream cheese in the bowl.
  • Add the melted chocolate ice cream, beat for one minutes or until smooth and the color is consistent. You have to scope up the cream cheese stick to the bottom of the mixing bowl and ensure there were no cream cheese left in mixing bowl.

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  • Pour both portions into the tin and dust with some crushed Ferrero Rocher and Oreo biscuit.
  • Chilled overnight decorate with fruits or extra cream.
  • Best serve directly from the fridge.

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VARIATIONS

There are many variations to this recipe. Do consider the following variations to suit your own taste buds. This recipe had used chocolate based flavour putting together Ferrero Rocher and Oreo Biscuit. However, you can always use other flavour like strawberry ice cream with strawberry flavoured biscuits, coconut ice cream with plain biscuit based (added shredded coconuts), Mocha ice cream with coffee flavoured biscuits etc. … Or you can just used plain biscuits using vanilla ice creams.

As this is an ice cream based cheesecake, therefore, the texture will be slightly soft but very creamy. If you like a firmer texture like the type that you seen in the pastry shops, you can add some gelatine to the batter.

To add gelatine, put about 3 tablespoons of plain water/lemon juice/orange juice, sprinkle some gelatine powder in an even layer over the surface and leave to go spongy. Bring a large pan filled with water to the boil, then remove from heat. Carefully lower the gelatine bowl into the water (at least halfway up the side of the bowl) then stir until the gelatine has dissolved. When the cream cheese batter is ready, fold in these melted gelatine to the mixture.

 


CONCLUSONS

  • This is a chilled cheesecake and no baking is required.
  • The replacement of normal cream in the making of cheesecake with ice creams make the cheese cake more aromatic.
  • It is a fusion of normal ice cream cake and traditional cheesecake that provides a cheesy yet creamy taste.
  • The recipe is fully flexible and you can easily tailor to the type of flavor that you preferred.
  • At the right temperature, it is very easy for you cut into your desired size. It is good to serve as a small house gathering snack.

Hope you like it and make a step towards making the cake. It is nothing difficult to make. Kitchen phobia bachelors, make this cake to surprise your loved ones.  Cheers

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Some Aloe Vera Sweet Fruit Dessert Just Specially For You, Dear! (水果芦荟甜品)

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”Aloe Vera is a stem less or very short-stemmed succulent plant growing to 60–100 cm (24–39 in) tall, spreading by offsets. The leaves are thick and fleshy, green to grey-green, with some varieties showing white flecks on the upper and lower stem surfaces.[6]The margin of the leaf is serrated and has small white teeth. The flowers are produced in summer on a spike up to 90 cm (35 in) tall, each flower being pendulous, with a yellow tubular corolla 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) long.“(Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloe_vera

Aloe Vera is a rather common ornamental house plant in Singapore and Malaysia. It can be an invasive species if not manage properly. Given enough soil nutrients, Aloe Vera can be quite sizeable. Common household usage are usually using its gel to protect the cuts and uncut wound (burns) where it is believed to promote soothing and healing of wounds. In addition, it is sometimes used as a home made skin care product.


Not all species of Aloe Vera are edible, research shows that only 5-6 cultivars are edible and one of the most common type is an Aloe Vera cultivar with white spotted stem or Aloe Vera Chinensis. Though there are no confirmed scientific evidence that ingestion of Aloe Vera will bring direct health benefits, but traditional folk medicines have view the plant as herbs. Chinese traditional medicines have used Aloe Vera as laxatives to treat minor constipation problems and believed that it is good for digestive system and improve the appetite. HOWEVER, IT SHOULD BE CAUTIONED THAT ALOE VERA HAVE LOW TOXICITY AND SHOULD BE CONSUMED IN MODERATION. Though there are recipes that called for fresh aloe vera direct ingestion, it is advisable to DE-SKIN THE ALOE VERA AND ONLY CONSUMED IN COOKED.

For my readers who are Chinese speaking, I have specifically include this excerpt. Note that the Chinese and English versions are not the same as they are from the different source.

芦荟

芦荟为一种多年生常绿草本植物(Aloe Vera var. chinensis)。叶大而肥厚、基出、簇生、狭长披针形,花黄色或有赤色斑点,多产于热带地方。又名“油葱”。叶边缘有尖锐的锯齿,花像穗子,叶汁可入药”。芦荟中的芦荟大黄素甙 (aloin)、芦荟大黄素(emodin)等有效成分起着增进食欲、大肠缓泄作用。服用适量芦荟,能强化胃功能,增强体质,因实证致虚而失去食欲的病危患者,服用芦荟也能恢复食欲。健康的人,长期服用芦荟和坚持芦荟浴,可以防治一定疾病,但还是要根据各人情况对症保健。健康人体液呈弱碱性,过度劳累或生活紧张等原因会使体液变成酸性,易感染病毒,常用库拉索芦荟会使体液保持碱性,维持健康、不患感冒。“(Source:http://www.baike.com)


WHY THIS DISH

Aloe Vera Chinensis is now easily available in Singapore supermarkets under the fresh vegetables section and the price per leaf is about SGD2-2.50 each. These Aloe Vera are mostly imported from Thailand where they are grown commercially. My son and daughter loves the Aloe Vera cubes that commonly available in commercial drinks and yoghurt. It is a big deal for them if some drinks have aloe vera in it as an ingredient. Knowing that this is something rather easy to prepare and I have a few guests at home now, I have decided to buy a piece of Aloe Vera leaf and prepare some sweet desserts for them.

Note that this is the recipe that I have tried and tested based on my own creativity and those who tested it will it a thumb up. I honestly believe that this dessert will be able to fulfill of the palates of both Asian and non-Asian foodies. It is healthy, light and especially good to serve after a greasy meals.


WHAT IS REQUIRED

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In today’s post, I do not think that it is necessary to detail the exact quantity of each ingredient as it is a matter of personal preference. I have started off with a piece of Aloe Vera leaf, two pears, some grapes, some oranges. As for side ingredients, you will need a bundle of pandanus  leaves, some Chinese goof berry, red dates and some rock or granulated sugars. If you like fruits, just increase the quantity. Other fruits that can be considered are apples, papaya (not that advisable though since both aloe vera and papaya have laxative effects), kiwi fruits etc.

Note that all ingredients mentioned here are substitutable and optional except Aloe Vera and rock sugar. Rock sugar can be substituted with white granulated sugar or honey. Of course, Aloe Vera should be changed, otherwise, this post will not exist.


PREPARATION STEPS

De-skin and dicing the Aloe Vera

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  • Use a kitchen peeler to peel of the skin and if you like, you may keep the skin and used it as a facial mask to moisturize your skin. You should only de-skin one side. The other side should not be de-skinned so that the skin can acts as a form to hold the aloe vera cubes as explained below.
  • Take a knife and cut the flesh into cubes but make sure that the cubes still  attached to the skin.
  • Use the knife to cut horizontally or parallel with the skin. The aloe vera cubes should detached from the skin now.

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  • Transfer all the cubes to the a bowl of water and sieve it. The gel will start to flow out of the hole and your aloe vera cube is ready.
  • In my demonstration here, as I personally do not like the gel as it is quite stinky (to me) and I have used a sieve to sieve off the gel. However, you can also cook the aloe vera cubes with the gel. If you like the gel, you can by pass this step totally.

Dicing other ingredients

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  • Clean and get ready a bundle of pandanus leaves.
  • Peel off the skins of the fruits and cut it into cubes. As mentioned above, alternative fruits are apples, kiwi, dragon fruits etc.

Cooking the desserts

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  • Have some water in a medium sized pot, put in the Pandanus leaves, Chinese goof berry, Chinese red dates and bring to boil under high heat for about 10  minutes.
  • Throw in the fruits and boil under medium heat for 15 minutes. Note that the different timing of putting the ingredients. This  is because their cooking time is different and some can be cooked very fast while others can stand long hours of heating (like oranges, red dates, goof berries).
  • Pour in the cut aloe vera, add rock sugar, bring to boil and the dessert is ready.
  • Serve hot or cold as desired.

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CONCLUSION

This dessert is a healthy dessert because:

  • It is fruit based that are loaded with vitamins and minerals;
  • It is a cooked dessert and most of the ingredients possess the cooling effects according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine;
  • Red dates are a good iron source especially beneficial to ladies whereas Chinese goof berry is reputable to improve the eye sight.
  • Aloe Vera is good for your digestive system, assist in constipation and also a great aid to improve your skin texture.

The dessert is light, sweet, crunchy, fruity and especially suitable for the working ladies. It is also a good choice after a greasy meals.  It is not a difficult dessert to make. Ingredients can be adjusted accordingly if you don’t have time to dice it. Try and make a bowl of this desserts to your love one and see what is his comments. However, as like all other food, the dessert should be taken with moderation as too much aloe vera (especially with gel) can cause stomach upset.

 

Happy reading.

The Plights of Kuey Neng Ko…The Traditional Chinese Steamed Sponge Cake…

IMG_3949 Chicken + egg + cake = Steamed Sponge Cake

Scenario 1

“Mimi, let’s have some “kuey neng ko” (“jidangao ( in Mandarin) or “Chicken egg cake” literally translated into English”) for breakfast! Yesterday is Chin Ming, your grandmother prepared a lot and gave one to us.”

Mimi replied, “Yuk! mum, you know that is not my cup of tea, don’t “hassle” me anymore! By the way, I am not hungry now and if I am hungry, I can buy some Swiss roll in Polar Cake Shop  or Ma La Gao in Tau Kee Pao Shop near my office!”

Scenario 2

In the office, “Mimi, I have bought some nice  mini cupcakes from a Japanese bakery shop in Vivo City. You want to try?’. “Of course. Um, it is nice, do you have another piece to spare me?”

Scenario 3

In a posh French Restaurant in Ann Siang Road, Mimi’s boyfriend Kaka asked, “Mimi, today is Christmas day, shall we have a slice of Bûche de Noël as dessert?’” Mimi nodded her head shyly and that was her nicest dessert she have ever had in years.


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INTRODUCTION

Kueh Neng Ko or “Jidangao (鸡蛋糕)” are traditional cakes prepared by the Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese for prayers usually to the ancestors or gods. In my childhood years, before any big festivals where offering to the ancestors or deities were required, my aunt would make this kuey neng ko, ang ku kueh and my mum will make another type of steamed rice cake called “huat kueh”. They will share with each other for the prayer sessions.

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The picture shows the traditional egg beater, an old woman preparing the traditional cake; the traditional kuey non ko.

(Courtesy of : http://zuzu88.blog.sohu.com, http://frognme.blogspot.com, www.cookingvoyeur.com)

Mimi’s adverse reaction to Kuey Neng Ko is typical of many Malaysian teenagers where such traditional cakes were ignored and belittled. What Mimi did not know is that the famous Ma La Gao (commonly sold in Hong Kong Dim Sum restaurant) or Swiss Roll or Japanese cupcakes and the French Buche de Noel essentially have the same ingredients except slight differences in the ratios between the ingredients and its method of preparation.

IMG_3961       IMG_3966Cousins” of kuey non ko belonging to his uncle “Oven”

Swiss rolls, Buche de Noel and Japanese Cupcakes utilize the baking method, whereas kuey neng ko uses steamed method. Though both Ma La Gao and Kuey Neng Ko used the steamed method but Ma La Gao recipes uses fats (vegetable shortening, oils or butter) in the preparation but Kuey Neng Go have none.

Theoretically, Kuey Neng Ko should be a healthier choice than Ma La Gao and Swiss Roll but why is it outdated and failed to win the heart of youngsters nowadays?


WHAT IS KUEY NENG KO?

Kuey neng ko is synonymous to “Sponge cake” in bakery terms and the best equivalent will “Chinese Steamed Sponge Cake”. Eggs  is omitted in the name because it is implicit in the word sponge cake. In Western Countries, steamed method of cooking are mostly limited to vegetables (of course there are some steamed cakes like steamed fruit cakes and puddings) but the Chinese have used this versatile method in preparation of its cuisines ranging from steamed meats (fish), dumplings, rice and the famous dim sum.

IS KUEY NENG KO A SPONGE CAKE?

According to Wikipedia, sponge cake is defined as follows;

“Sponge cake is a cake based on flour (usually wheat flour), sugar, and eggs, sometimes leavened with baking powder which has a firm, yet well aerated structure, similar to a sea sponge.  …….

Making of a sponge cake. Using the weight of 3 eggs, weigh the fat, sugar and flour. A typical sponge cake is made by beating the eggs with sugar until they are light and creamy, then carefully sieving and folding in the flour (depending on the recipe, the flour may be mixed with a small amount of baking powder, though some recipes use only the air incorporated into the egg mixture, relying on the denaturing of the egg proteins and the thermal expansion of the air to provide leavening). Sometimes, the yolks are beaten with the sugar first while the whites are beaten separately to a meringue-like foam, to be gently folded in later.The mixture is then poured into the chosen cake tin and baked. Both methods take great care to incorporate air in the beating, whisking and sieving stages. This makes a very light product, but it is easy to lose the air by removing the cake before it has finished in the oven.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sponge_cake

Based on the above definition and descriptions, Kuey Neng Ko clearly is  a sponge cake. It has eggs, sugar and flour. It is firm and a rather well aerated structure.  In fact, the recipes stated in the above quotes are the same as what I have used to make the cakes.  I will not dwell into the details of the above definition until I finish sharing with you how to make the Chinese steamed sponge cakes below. Thereafter, we will go into detail analysis of the failure of our traditional cakes.


WHAT YOU NEED?

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The ingredients are minimal as stated below:

  1. Eggs (1 cup – about 3 whole eggs);
  2. Self raising flour or just plain flour (1 cup);
  3. Granulated sugar (1 cup).
  4. Some coloring or flavoring- You can select strawberry essence for red color and the pandan paste or essence for green color. Of course, color is optional but in order to make the cake have a new look, I have decided to play with the colors of the cake.

Note that the ratio of eggs to flour to sugar is 1:1:1. It will speed up your preparation as you can use the same container to do all the measurements.

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This picture shows certain cooking equipment that you have to get ready but all are substitutable.

  1. Some small cupcake cups;
  2. 3 glasses with a plastic bag each – If you do not want to color your cupcakes, you can omit this.
  3. A steamer – An electric steamer is not a must but the advantage of using it is you can ensure that your heat are consistent throughout the steaming process, just use the traditional bamboo steaming method.
  4. Some form of sieves to sieve the flour.

STEPS OF PREPARATION

BEATING THE EGGS……

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  • Crack 3 eggs into the mixing bowl (here 3 eggs is equivalent to one cup).
  • Pour in I cup of sugar and beat the eggs using high speed until the mixture is light, creamy and glossy. As this recipe did not call for separate beating of egg whites and egg yolks, the beaten mixture will be slightly yellowish and not as light as you beat the egg white alone. During the process, you will start to notice the volume will start to increase resulting from the air introduced to the eggs mixture during the process of beating. Use a spatula to slightly scrap some beaten eggs and see if it fall down. If it fall down, it means that you need further beating. If it just stick at the spatula, it means it is ready and you can stop the machine. On high speed, it take me only 5-10 minutes of beating to get such form. Alternative is to use the hand beaters and traditional they are using a coil to beat the eggs. (look at the 3rd picture)

FOLDING THE FLOURS…

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  • Sieve the flour lightly into the beaten eggs and fold it gently using a spoon or a spatula. For me I have used the mixer of the mixing machine.
  • This process have to be done gently. You want your steam sponge cake to be soft that means that you are saying you want as many air as possible in your steamed sponge cake. Folding gently will ensure the air will continue be trapped in the beaten eggs until it was steamed. Too rough handling will push all the air out and your end products will be something like a pan cake.

GETTING READY TO PUMP THE BATTERS…

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  • Separate the batter into 3 equal portions. I have put the batter into a cup with a plastic bag on it. This is because I need  to pump it into the small cups without the bags, it is rather difficult unless you are very meticulous and or other type of pumps.

  • Coloring is optional. If you are not keen to put in the coloring or flavoring, you can go directly to the next step.
  • I have used the red/strawberry flavor for one portion and the other portion, I have use the pandan paste. Use a spoon to mix it gently until the color is even. I have decided to use coloring because I want these delicacies to look different from its traditional looks.

PUMPING THE BATTERS…

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  • In the steaming tray, line up all the cups nicely.
  • Take one portion and cut a small hole at one of the corners.
  • Pump in the cup at the design you desired.

In this illustration, I have used the smallest cupcake cups. When the batter is pumped into the cup, it will push it towards the side and that simply means that your batter is very soft and will lots of air and expect the final product to be slightly fluffy.

STEAMING THE MINI SPONGE CAKES

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Steamed for about 10 minutes and your steam sponge cakes will be ready. Note as this is a very small cup cakes, therefore, it is rather fast to cook.


ANALYSIS OF THE CUP CAKES

I have intentionally choose this size for the cupcakes as they are one bite size with attractive colors. As you can see, the small cutie is full of holes meaning it is very spongy. Of course this can be further modified by adding little bit of fats (like butter, vegetable oil), using flours with high gluten such as bread flours and shorten the beating process such that less air is incorporated. It is rather addictive and within about 2 hours of steaming it, we have eaten half of the cakes.

In another attempt to make sponge cakes, I have use 2 cups of flour, I cup of egg, 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of tonic water and the result are like this.

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Therefore, The shapes looks much nicer but the texture is less spongy and compared to the 1st one. In a muffin size tin, the output resembles a muffin but is a healthier choice as it contains no fats.


THE FAILURE OF TRADITIONAL KUEY NENG KO TO BECOME POPULAR…

In my humble opinion, the traditional Kuey Neng Ko is not attractive to a foodie because of the following reasons;

  • The quantity of flour in the batter. The Chinese believed that in order to pray to the God, the cake must “smile ‘meaning with some cracks in the shape of one cross shape. Only with this shape, the God will be happy and bring good luck to the prayers. However, in order to achieve this shape, the flour volume will accordingly be  bigger in order to support the structure. This in turns means that less air will be trapped in the cake making the cake denser.
  • No fats in the cake. As there are no fats in the cake, eaters will feel that the cake is rather dry and something will choke them if without a cup of drinks. Unlike Ma La Go, eaters feel the smoother feelings when they eat it. For Swiss roll, the combination of cream and various toppings have help to moisten the cake.
  • As the traditional Kuey Neng Ko have only eggs as the main ingredients, its fragrance is very monotonous. For other sponge cakes, the incorporation of fats such as butter will give the cake some buttery aroma whereas the usage of cream and other flavor enhancers such as vanilla will cover most of the eggy flavor.

CONCLUSIONS

  • Kuey Neng Ko is definitely a much healthier snacks as compared to all other cakes that I have mentioned here as it is non fat and utilizing the steam method of preparation.
  • In order to make this cake more acceptable to the taste of present society, one can consider to make the cake smaller and decorate it until it looks more appetizing.
  • Lowering the volume of the flour used and incorporation of fats will greatly enhance the texture of the cakes.

Lastly, it is hoped that readers will try to prepare this cake as it is relatively easy to prepare, healthier, tastier and more nutritional. The benefits of this recipe are:

  • The ratio of eggs:flour:sugar is 1:1:1 which make it easier to remember and assembling the ingredients;
  • Eggs:flour ratio of 1:1 will mean that the texture of steamed sponge cake will be softer than the traditional kuey neng ko;
  • No additional ingredients were required which saves you time and money;
  • Use of whole eggs instead of beating egg yolks and egg whites separately will shorten the preparation time;
  • Use of mini cup will shorten the steaming time;
  • Use of alternative colorings and flavors will make the cake more appetizing when compared to the traditional steamed sponge cake.

Let me know of what you think about our traditional cakes. Happy reading

Upadate on 15 August 2013

I have posted another steamed sponge cake recipe in  https://kwgls.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/my-steamed-sponge-cake-kuey-neng-ko-is-full-of-gas-%E6%B1%BD%E6%B0%B4%E9%B8%A1%E8%9B%8B%E7%B3%95%EF%BC%89/. You can follow the link to understand another way of making this steamed sponge cake.

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Hey, I have invented my own Sarawak Laksa Paste Recipe !!!……… An In Depth Analysis and Pictorial Procedural Description Of The Famous Sarawak Laksa (PART II)

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PART II – THE SECRET OF SARAWAK LAKSA PASTE

INTRODUCTION

Most Sarawakian households cooked their laksa from ready-made laksa pastes made popular by the Tan’s Family in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Most people will not even bother to question how these pastes were made as the prices were reasonable and it can be easily purchased in major shops of Kuching, Besides, people were told that it is hard to home-made the laksa paste as it is laborious, time-consuming and a great number of ingredients were needed. In an article by Bernama New Agency dated 20 March 2006 (“LAKSA SARAWAK PASTE SET TO GO GLOBAL”), it was written

“…...Refusing to disclose his recipe, Tan (refer to Mr. Barrette Tan, the son of the Late Tan Yong Him) said the original paste to make Sarawak Laksa comprised of a mixture of 20 herbs and spices needed to blend well with the noodles”

WHY MAKING MY OWN PASTE…

Guai Shu Shu was invited to a gathering of about 15 old classmates residing in Singapore and Southern Peninsular Malaysia and Guai Shu Shu promised them that he will cook laksa for the gathering but did not check the stock of his laksa pastes. In his mind, he still remembers that he had two 600 g packs of laksa pastes in the kitchen shelf. The night before the gathering, Guai Shu Shu discovered that he only had a pack of 300g laksa paste. That obviously is inadequate to serve 15 people and they have put high expectations on the laksa since they have not eaten laksas for a long time. Not to disappoint these old “comrades”, Guai Shu Shu decided to make his own laksa paste and the search begins…

At around 6.00 a.m. the day of gathering, Guai Shu Shu was browsing the internet searching for a recipe of Sarawak Laksa paste. He is delighted to have found Recipe A and Recipe B (will explain in detail towards the end of the post). Based on these two recipes, Guai Shu Shu head towards Geylang Serai Market in Singapore to purchase the necessary ingredients.

FUNTIME AT GEYLANG SERAI

Guai Shu Shu stopped by a store owned by one rather friendly Indian Muslim woman and told her that he wanted various types of spice powders. He asked her for a piece of paper and jotted down a list of all the ingredients in the recipe’s original units and he asked the woman to give him the powder equivalent of these raw ingredients.

To my surprise, she was also not sure of such equivalents. (For example, the powder equivalent of 2 cm of fresh galangal). After she glanced through his list, she took out some small plastic bags and asked him to decide himself how much powder he wanted. She would ask, “SGD 50 cents of galangal powder, enough for you? You want more? SGD1 is like this much?”. Guai Shu Shu knew that he had no choice but to decide for himself. Therefore, since nobody knew the equivalent units, he made the decision not to follow the recipe exactly. Based on his understanding of spices, he bought about 10 spices ranging from SGD50 cents-SGD2 each. When he told her that he wanted SGD50cents of clove powder, she looked at him and said, “Encik, clover powder is very expensive, SGD50cents is around 1 teaspoon only!!!” She is kind enough to label for him all the powders he bought. When the list was completed, Guai Shu Shu started to go through with the woman the other type of powders in the containers that is not in his first lists, and he ended buying almost all the powders that she sold except turmeric powder (actually, this is the yellowish curry powder that differentiates Sarawak Laksa from curry laksa).

He really enjoyed the process of buying the spices, the woman is helpful and most of important of all, he never knew that there were such things as lemon grass powders, galangal powders, lemon grass powders… and not to mention belachan powder readily available in the market. All the recipes in the internet will only state units like cloves of garlic, pieces of dry chilli, number of candle nuts, cm of belachan and etc. He had cut short his preparation process by using the raw ingredients in its powder form. This had saved him a lot of time. The only thing that she don’t have was the shallot powder and Guai Shu Shu have had prepared his own shallot paste by pounding the fresh shallots.

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After marketing all the necessary ingredients, Guai Shu Shu told his wife (who is also a Sarawakian) that he wanted to make his own laksa paste, she looked at him at disbelief and just said to him, “You better don’t “main-main”(Malay word of play)!” meaning she did not trust him and what would happen if he was not successful! Since Guai Shu Shu had bought all the ingredients,he was determined wanting to make the paste, otherwise the ingredients would be of no use to him.

WHAT HE BOUGHT EVENTUALLY…….

The following are the ingredients that Guai Shu Shu have bought. The picture on the right of each picture is the raw ingredients for the reader’s reference. As neither the sales lady nor Guai Shu Shu actually measured the ingredients, these quantities are estimated quantities based on his memories and will serve as references. A more meaningful comparison will be the ratios of each ingredient and an analysis will be done to reconfirm the ratios of the ingredients.

IMG_3085 ~200 g of galangal powder~ 25 g of white pepper powder
IMG_3083 ~100 g of candlenut powder~100 g of belachan powder
IMG_3094 ~5 g of cumins powder~5 g of fennel powder
IMG_3084 ~150g of lemon grass powder~5g of clove powder
IMG_3086 ~10 g of nutmeg powder~100 g of coriander powder
IMG_3082 ~300 g of garlic ginger paste~300 g of shallot paste
IMG_3081 ~150 g of fresh chilli paste~ 100g of tamarind paste
IMG_3106 ~ 150 g of peanut powder~ Salt to taste

~ 100 g of white sugar

~300-400 g of cooking oil

Overall, there are about 19 raw ingredients comprising about 1.0kg of dry powders and 850g of wet ingredients, Actually, this pretty closed to the 20 ingredients that Tan had mentioned above and there are a few items that were not included in my recipe above. These were star anise powder and cardamom powder. Therefore, this recipe should be pretty closed to Tan’s family recipe.

Overall, the gross uncooked paste weighs around 2 kg (inclusive of cooking oils)

THE GAMES BEGAN – MIXING THE DRY INGREDIENTS….

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Pour the ginger and garlic paste into a big mixing bowl followed by the remaining wet ingredients, namely shallot paste, chilli paste and tamarind paste.

Put all the dry ingredients on top of the wet ingredients (2nd picture);

Start mixing the ingredients and make sure that all the ingredients were well mixed.

If you find that the mixture is too dry, add in some plain water until the final mixture resemble a paste as in the 4th picture.

Once the color of the ingredients is consistent, the paste is ready for the next step.

COOKING THE PASTE

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Put the cooking oil in the wok and heat it using small to medium fire. You can begin by using half of the oil and add gradually when you realized that the ingredients are too dry and hard to fry (see below);

Initially, the raw ingredients are reddish in color before frying and the oils are very clear. Once you start frying, you will notice the ingredients start to absorb the oils. As long as you can still fry it smoothly, there is no need to add in more oil. Watch out for the heat used,  the heat used should be medium heat and not high heat. Your mixture will get burnt even before it is cooked;

The third picture was after 1o minutes of frying. Note the oil color had changed to orange  and the paste had started to change its color too. By this time, you should begin to smell the aroma from some cooked spices..

Cook for at least another 20 minutes or until the ingredients begin to separate from the oil. When the temperature is high, the moisture contents in the paste will boil and evaporated. Therefore, as you are using the same amount of oil to cook the dry ingredients, the excess oil will start seeping out of the mixture when there were less and less moisture.

When the color started to turn brownish, add in the sugar, salt to taste and peanut powder. Note that you may not be able to correctly add in the right quantity of salt at this point the time, but that is perfectly okay because you can adjust it when you cooked the laksa soup. However, for sugar, the role is not really to act as condiment but more to “color” the paste to the dark brownish colors. As Guai Shu Shu have used fresh chilli, the color of his pastes were rather bright. Most recipes use dry chili and if you used dry chilli, the color will be darker and you can see chili flakes in your pastes.

Fried for about 5-10 minutes until all you sugar start have melted and caramelized. Off the fire and if possible, let it stand for a night before cooking it. The fragrance will be stronger and more oils will be excreted.

It took at least 45 minutes to properly cook this paste.

MY FINAL PRODUCTS AND A BRIEF ANALYSIS..

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On the left was final laksa paste that Guai Shu Shu have made and on the right was the laksa gravy cooked with his home-made paste . He had objectively compared his paste with the ready-made paste and have the following findings:

Texture – The ready-made paste was much softer with more liquid in it. All the ingredients were very fine. His version was slightly harder but once it was boiled in the soup it dissolved in the soup. The harder texture of his paste was attributed to higher heat used to cook the ingredients initially. Once they lost the moisture content too fast, they will start to form small chunks. Therefore, the heat should not be too high and it takes patience to do this. As this is the first time he cooked this manually, the consistency will definitely cannot be compared with those pastes made by the machines.

Fragrance – He concluded that the taste was quite close to the ready-made paste and he gave himself about 80/100. His classmates who have eaten the laksa have no major complaints about the taste. Of course, the taste can be further improved by trial and error like what Tan’s family have done initially.

THE SEARCH CONTINUES – LAKSA PASTE RECIPE IN THE INTERNET

On the day following his gathering, he continued to search for Sarawak Laksa paste in the internet and jotted down the ingredients of each recipe. In fact, there were not many recipes over the net and goggling “Sarawak Laksa paste recipe” shows only 1,250 results and most of them were not actually recipes but users asking for the recipe. However, he had managed to to get hold of about 6 recipes, and the most complete recipe should be the recipe published by 3hungrytummies in November 2011 with the title “Secret of Sarawak Laksa Paste Revealed” (Note: this is Recipe A that I have mentioned at the beginning of the post”). Surprisingly, this recipe was published by 3 guys residing in Melbourne and testing out the paste overseas. Is it possible that because they could not get the ready-made paste, they have to depend on their own to make their paste. They were diligently enough using all the raw ingredients but Guai Shu Shu have opted to use ingredients in its intermediary form mostly powder and paste.

Guai Shu Shu is determined to find out what constitute the unique flavors of Sarawak Laksa and he used excel spreadsheet to perform an analysis of all the recipes that he obtained from the internet. The summary were tabulated as follows:

A

B

C

D

E

F

GSS

Shallots

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Garlics

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Onion

x

x

Galangal

x

x

x

x

x

X

Dried Chillies

x

x

x

x

x

x

X

Red chillies

x

x

x

X

Lemon Grass

x

x

x

x

x

X

Tamarind

X

x

X

Candlenuts

X

x

x

x

x

X

Cumin Seeds

x

X

Fennel seeds

X

X

Coriander seeds

x

X

X

Star Anise

X

Cloves

X

X

Nutmeg

X

X

Cardamoms

X

X

Cinnamon

x

x

Sesame seeds

X

Belachan

x

x

x

x

X

Dried Shrimps

X

Peanuts

x

X

Sugar

X

X

Salt

X

X

Source:

A:

http://3hungrytummies.blogspot.sg

B:

http://allrecipes.asia/recipe/1987/laksa-sarawak.aspx

C:

http://www.pickles-and-spices.com

D:

http://almaraz97.blogspot.sg/2012/02/laksa-sarawak-sambal-udang-kering.html

E:

http://koleksiresipi.blogspot.sg/2004/11/laksa-sarawak-dan-sambal-udang-kering.html

F:

http://www.bukisa.com/articles/78517_laksa-sarawak

GSS:

Guai Shu Shu recipe
CONCLUSIONS
Based on the above brief analysis,Guai Shu Su is of the opinion that:

  • The must-have ingredients for the laksa paste are shallots, garlics, candlenuts, galangal, lemon grass and corainder seeds.
  • The ratio of galangal to shallots should be about 1:1;
  • Coriander powder, garlic, candlenuts and lemon grass are equally important and the ratio should be at least half of the galangal or shallots volume;
  • All the spices should be used in moderation about 1/20 of the volume of galangal. These are not absolutely necessarysince many recipes do not use them;
  • The statement that “Sarawak Laksa Paste required more than 20 herbs and spices to produce” is valid and acceptable.
  • It can be rather time-consuming to make the paste specifically in the process of frying/cooking where only low to medium heat can be used to cook the paste. In addition, assembly of  all the ingredients can also be a tedious process.

Guai Shu Shu will continue to test his own laksa recipe. In the event that they are new findings, it will definitely be shared with readers. It is hoped that readers can also try the above recipe and feedback to me.

The final post of this short series will focus on the preparation of Sarawak Laksa.

Happy reading.