Hey, My Laksa Secret Recipe Was Stolen!!!……… An In Depth Analysis and Pictorial Procedural Description Of The Famous Sarawak Laksa (PART I)

IMG_2954

INTRODUCTION

Like any other Sarawakians, I am proud of our own version of laksa, Sarawak Laksa. It will not do Sarawak Laksa any justice if I did not do  a detail post on Sarawak Laksa. In fact, Sarawak laksa have gained popularity over the years and its importance cannot be ignored. Goggling “Sarawak Laksa” will yield 243,000 results where goggling “Assam Laksa” and “Curry Laksa” will only yield 143,000 and 158,000 results respectively.

Sarawakians believed that Sarawak Laksa is unique and cannot be compared with any other laksas in the regions. Sarawakian living in Sarawak can have laksas for almost any meals (be it breakfasts, lunches, dinners or suppers) where Sarawkian residing overseas are thinking dearly of their laksas in hometown. Their luggage will never lack of one or two packets of ready-made laksa paste for bringing over to their country of residence overseas. It is a treasure to them and only cooked in special occasions to entertain guests as a showcase that Sarawak laksas are distinctively better than any other laksas in the world!

Traditionally, laksa paste ingredients have been considered as family secrets belonging to a few families in Kuching, Sarawak. During my parent’s time, it was the “Swallow” brand of paste that we recognized as laksa. However, due to the discontinuation of “Swallow” brand, I have bought countless brands of laksa paste with various types  of “birds” logos. But none was closed to what I have eaten when I was young. May be this is one of the reasons that foodies in Kuching are always arguing who have the best laksa in Kuching and in Sarawak. Of course, who had the best laksa will always a matter of personal preference and the differences always lies in the ratios of the species used.

This series is rather long will both be “theoretical” and “practical” and comprise 3 posts as follows:

  • Part 1 – Sarawak Laksa and Its Origin
  • Part 2 – The Secret of Sarawak Laksa Paste
  • Part 3 – The Detail Preparation of Sarawak laksa

It is hoped that readers will bear with me for this long post. In my humble opinion, posting on how to cook the Sarawak Laksa using over-the-counter laksa paste purchased is of no value added to this blog and wasting readers’ time. Readers can find these preparation procedures all over the internet and in fact, at the back of the laksa paste label, there are clear instructions on how to cook the Sarawak laksa.


IMG_3054      IMG_3053

LAKSA AND SARAWAK LAKSA DEFINED……

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan culture, which is a merger of Chinese and Malay elements found in Malaysia and Singapore, and Indonesia.

Sarawak laksa (Malay: Laksa Sarawak) comes from the Malaysian state Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. It is actually very different from the curry laksa as the soup contains no curry at all. It has a base of Sambal belacan, sour tamarind, garlic, galangal, lemon grass and coconut milk, topped with omelets strips, chicken strips, prawns, fresh coriander and optionally lime. Ingredients such as bean sprouts, (sliced) fried tofu or other seafood are not traditional but are sometimes added. “

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laksa)

Many blogs and websites may have using the above quotes to define Sarawak Laksa as there were not many information pertaining to the definition of Sarawak Laksa. In Wikipedia.com, Sarawak Laksa belongs to one of the variants of two main laksa categories as follows:

  • Curry Laksa (coconut milk based gravy comprises curry laksa, laksa lemak, laksam, Katong Laksa)
  • Assam Laksa (tamarind based gravy comprises Penang Laksa, Perlis Laksa, Kedah Laksa, Ipoh Laksa, Kuala Kangsar Laksa,

Other variants of laksas (used both coconut milks and tamarind in its gravy), besides Sarawak Laksa, will include Johor Laksa, Kelatan Laksa, Bogor Laksa, Palembang Laksa, Banjar Laksa.

ORIGINS OF LAKSA AND SARAWAK LAKSA

Per Wikipedia, laksa origin is unclear. However, it is strongly believed to be closely related to the Hindi/Persian “Lakshah” referring to a type of vermicelli which in turns derived from the word Sanskrit lakshas meaning one hundred thousand. In Indonesian Malay, laksa refers to “sepuluh ribu” or 10,000 signifying many strands of fine white vermicelli noodles in the dish.

The origins of Sarawak laksa is equally unclear and there were no literature  that clearly confirmed its origin. However, it is widely agreed the popularity of Sarawak Sambal Laksa pastes were popularized by the Tan Family in Kuching in the 1960-1970’s.

In the article “Tasty State Secret” written by Paul Si of “thestar.com.my”, origins of Sarawak laksa paste can be traced back to the time when the late Mr. Tan Yong Him started experimenting his own concoctions of herbs and spices in the early 1960’s and packaged his laksa paste for sale under the “swallow brand”. The paste started to gain popularity in the 1970’s when economy picking up and people started to frequent eating outlets. Stall owners in the hawker centers and coffee shops were able to use the over-the-counter laksa paste and cook the laksa for sale and household can buy the paste and cooked the laksa at home. (Note:  the swallow brand had discontinued due to family differences in opinion and I understand the Barrett Brand belongs to one the late Tan’s sons and you  can now buy the Sarawak Sambal Laksa paste on-line via www.laksasarawak.com).

While the above paragraph provided a brief history accounting for the popularity of Sarawak Laksa and its unique flavors due to Tan’s hard work and own concoction of Laksa paste, but why Tan had had these ideas to start of his trial and error spice puzzles remained unclear. The same article mentioned that “old timers recalled that people did not eat out much in the leans years follow World War II so first memories of eating laksa at a coffee shop were set in the late 1950’s”.  So questions that still ponder in my mind would be were there any laksa being sold prior to 1950’s; if it was not popular eating out then, was there any home cooked laksa? Is the laksa paste ingredients consistent among households? Is it dominated by only one race? At the time of writing this, I could not locate any literatures to offer the answers. If answers to these questions were negative, then, the honor of popularizing  Sarawak Laksa would have to be accorded to the Tan Family.

CONCLUSION

From the above write up, the following preliminary conclusions can be drawn.

Laksa in short can be defined as a bowlful of rice vermicelli, under the influence of Malay, Chinese or Peranakan Cooking that have a unique soup based with either coconut milk or tamarind as the main ingredients. It should be noted laksa should only use thick of thin rice vermicelli and in accordance to this definition, “curry mees” or “curry noodles” do not fall under the category of laksa.

In the Malay Archipelagos stretching from Burma to Indonesia, most regions have their own versions of laksas of either curry based or tamarind based or a mixture of both. Therefore, it will not be a surprise at all if the region of Sarawak also have their own variants. As like laksas in general, Sarawak Laksa’s origin is unclear and it is possible that prior to World War II, the laksa in Sarawak could be the same as other regions in the Malay Archipelago.  However, the present unique flavors of Sarawak Laksa and its popularity among the Sarawak was very much due the entrepreneurial spirit and diligence of the late Tan Yong Him’s. The fact that Sarawak Laksa is widely accepted among the Sarawak Chinese Community could be another piece of evidence of Tan’s contribution.

In the next post, I will detail out an analysis of Sarawak Laksa Paste ingredients as compared to Guai Shu Shu’s version.

HAPPY READING and I am most happy to receive more information on the history and origins of Sarawak Laksa for this pride Sarawak “state” delicacies.

Who Said Bread Puddings Must Be Prepared As Such…..Bread Puddings “Reinvented”

 

IMG_2736      

THE “GUAI” IDEAS…

Guai Shu Shu is a “Shu Shu” that is Guai (literally translated to an uncle that has a bewildered behavior or behaved in an odd or even abnormal manner). Yes, Guai Shu Shu never contented with the present state of his surroundings; he like to explore; he like to change and he likes to mix and match. In his mind, he is thinking: “what would happen if chocolates were added to breads; breads were added to eggs; eggs were added to cakes; cakes were mixed with milk; milk were mixed with banana; banana were mixed with sugars, sugars were mixed with scones, scones mixed with donuts…………..etc. etc.. etc.”

After dinner, he took out a mixing bowl and a baking tin, he wasted no time wanted to experiment and confirm his new mix and match ideas. He started to  bake this “modified version” of egg puddings or bread puddings or chocolate puddings???? He knows for sure that if no actions were taken to address these idle “chocolates, breads and bananas” in the kitchen, they would soon be “kicked” out of the house…

 

BREAD PUDDINGS “DEFINED”….

As is consistent with my Food Preparation Series and Creative Food Series,  I will have some quotes from “Wikipedia” with regards to the food items that I am going to post. I believed that readers should have a better knowledge on the topics instead of just “whole heartedly” follow what I mentioned in the post.

“Bread pudding is a bread-based dessert popular in many countries’ cuisine, including that of Cuba, Ireland, Great Britain, France, Belgium,Puerto Rico, Mexico, Malta, Argentina, Louisiana Creole, Germany, and the southern United States. In other languages, its name is a translation of “bread pudding” or even just “pudding”, for example “pudín” or “budín” in Spanish; also in Spanish another name is “migas” (crumbs). In Mexico, there is a similar dish, capirotada.

There is no fixed recipe, but it is usually made using stale (usually left-over) bread, and some combination of ingredients like milk, egg, suet, sugar or syrup, dried fruit, and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, mace or vanilla. The bread is soaked in the liquids, mixed with the other ingredients, and baked.

It may be served with a sweet sauce of some sort, such as whiskey sauce, rum sauce, or caramel sauce, but is typically sprinkled with sugar and eaten warm in squares or slices. In Canada it is often made with maple syrup. In Malaysia, bread pudding is eaten with custard sauce. In Hong Kong, bread pudding is usually served with vanilla cream dressing. In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, black bread is used to make “black bread pudding” (Schwarzbrot pudding). In Hungary it is called ‘Máglyarakás’ which is baked with whipped egg whites on top of it.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_pudding)

 

RECIPE FOR BREAD PUDDINGS……? SUBSTITUTABLE?…

Besides understanding what is the output, it would be nice to spend a bit of time to understand the ingredients used and the rationale of using such ingredients. Understanding the role of the ingredients will help you to find suitable substitutes and exploring your own new recipes.. Theory is still important…

In the above quote, it is stated clearly that “THERE IS NO FIXED RECIPE” and usually made from… The important word is no fixed recipe. You can easily made substitutions to almost everything but the bread and eggs. Even then I have substitute the bread with some Chinese New Year Cookies and you can read it here.

The theory behind the proposed usage of bread and eggs are the need to have some glutens and liquids to hold the “mixture” in shape.. Any things that contain gluten are possibilities to explore. Gluten  is a protein in the flour that when combines with water will  produce an elastic and web like structure and if it is too technical, just think of it as wheat flour. For example, bread, scones, muffins, biscuits, breakfast cereals, donuts…..These are called “strengtheners”…..

However, baking flour alone will yield you nothing, you need liquids… Eggs are used because it is a perfect binding agent (meaning hold the flour together) and give you a nice aroma. Eggs here serves both as a role of “strengtheners and tenderizers”. Other liquids can be explore such as milk, melted fats (butters), waters.. Use your sense to mix and match and you will soon find an optimum combination that you and your family like. But remember “Garbage in garbage out”, if you want a simple taste, white breads will do. If you want other flavors, you can have cinnamon rolls, chocolate donuts etc. and it would not do you any harm as long as the ingredients are still edible and you like the tastes.

 

WHY STALE BREADS ARE USED

Looking at the Wikipedia quote again. “……..and usually made from stale bread……” Stale breads are breads just a fraction of time away before fungi and mold finds its new home, meaning  breads that are not that fresh, textures have slightly change, in your house already a few days but before it turns moldy…The “inventors” of bread puddings have found this wonderful combinations to hide away all the negative perceptions of these stale breads. They used eggs and milk and butters to enhance to taste and texture and making foodie would not able to resist a bite without knowing how it is prepared.

The definition of stale bread above should be expanded to include “the heels and pesky ends of your bread toast”, stale muffins, scones, cookies, buns etc. etc. etc. You can “collect” all these ingredients and put it in the fridge and once it reach a sizeable quantity, just made a bread budding and declared to your families that “For better future, we will implement cost savings measures, we have to be more budget conscious now. Lets have some stale breads for breakfast today..….” Be right back

 

WHAT I USED

IMG_2740

  • I have some lindor chocolates, some meiji dark chocolates, and some chocolates from Lambertz in Germany. I have difficult to eat all these chocolates as some are either too bitter or extremely sweet …
  • I have half a loaf of French loaf already with me for about a week, You can see the bread crumbs all falling out when I cut it signifying that the bread was too dry;
  • Some stale breakfast loaf as a “foundation” for my puddings.  The sides have started to “shrink” meaning a lack of moisture and should be consumed as soon as possible.
  • Some bananas. Why bananas? I bought a bunch of banana and after a few days of eating, I still left with 4 pieces and fruit flies kept visiting them, I thought I might as well threw it in.

IMG_2738

  • Some fresh full cream milk – don’t worry if you don’t have this or if you are health conscious, just substitute with 100% fat free milk or even just make some milk using your kids milk powder, or soya bean milk. The role of milk is to moisten the dry ingredients and to make it creamy. Of course, there is a thread off between health food and mouth watering sinful cuisines. Yes, plain water can also be used;
  • Some sugar – depending on the “type” of “sweet tooth” you have, some sugars to sweeten it. Yes, I forgot to say, condensed milk or creamer is a perfect substitute.
  • Some eggs – better use this as it help to bind the mixture. Any substitutes… can try corn starch..(I substitute corn starch for my vegetarian pineapple tarts and it work perfectly well.)
  • Some melted fats – Margarine or butter or vegetable shortening?.. you choose yourselves. These are called “shorteners”. I want a buttery flavor and I have some margarines left in the fridge, so I melted some butters and margarines…

 

HOW MUCH, HOW MANY,……..

For some readers who are keen to try, I have used the following measurements for the liquid mixtures:

  • 6 whole eggs;
  • 4 cups of full cream milks;
  • 1.5 cups of sugars;
  • 1 cup of melted margarines and butters;

As for the dry ingredients:

  • half a French Loaf (small sized);
  • 4 pieces of stale breads (front and end)
  • One left over lemon icing scone;
  • One leftover chocolate donut;
  • About 20 pieces of candy chocolates;
  • 4 over ripe bananas.

Again and again, the above measurements are for your reference only. How much it actually required will depends on the ingredients that you used. Some of the bread are drier and you will need more liquids. Used your best estimates. Don’t worry, in the event that your liquid mixture is not adequate, poor in some more milk or water…

 

PREPARING YOUR LIQUID MIXTURES..

IMG_2739

In a mixing bowl, break your eggs, add sugars, milk, melted fats and used an egg beater to whisk the mixture until  well mixed and if possible, all the sugars dissolved. Of course, you can use an electric mixer to do the job. Set aside for later use.

 

LAYERING YOUR INGREDIENTS

IMG_2741 

Here come the process that I like most and it all depends on your own creativities.

  • First layer – four slices of breakfast loaf. Intentionally used them in this level because it will be easier for you to scope out the puddings and it wouldn’t break;
  • Second layer – chocolates that I can’t appreciate in its “present form”. Actually, these are all branded chocolates but have been sleeping in my fridge for quite a while;
  • Third Layer – French loaf cut into small chunks. I used a scissor to cut it and frankly, this is the first time to use a scissor to cut my breads and the satisfaction is extremely good seeing this small little white bread chunks;
  • Fourth Layer – Banana slices. Is it not beautiful?

IMG_2742

  • Fifth Layer – slices of lemon icing scone and chocolate donuts bought from Starbucks three days ago. I sprinkled some dried cranberries (it possible, soaked in hot water or rum) on top to make it look more appetizing.

 

“BATHING” THE INGREDIENTS…..

  • Pour your liquid mixtures into the layers of dry ingredients. Don’t rush, let it go and fill all the holes that they can find. Alternatively, you can soaked all the dry ingredients first and dump everything in the baking tin…Then, you would not have a nice layer in your final puddings.
  • I like to “poke” the dry ingredients. Once you poked, suddenly, all the liquids will disappear (try to think of a sponge). You will  be surprise to see how much liquids these breads can absorb. Poke and pour and poke and pour and poke and pour until you are satisfied that all the breads are full and cannot take in any more “drinks”.
  • I am cruel and I use a spoon to press them again and ensure that none of the breads are telling lies… You should feel that some of the ingredients started to “float” and pressing will not decrease the liquid quantities any more;

IMG_2743

  • Being “kiasu” or afraid to lose, I usually pour some more milk to sit on top of the mixtures and in another 10 minutes or so, it will disappear. Actually, the breads like human being, needs time to absorb the liquid…
  • Heat your oven’s to about 180 degree Celsius and bake for about 30 to 45 minutes or until set. Until set means when you push your baking tin, you are pushing a tin full of solid or semi solid instead of a tin of water. Imagine you are eating an egg tart or  bean curd jelly “tau hua”.
  • Temperature of the oven can also be adjusted. Only you know your oven well, if you find that your pudding is slightly burnt and yet to get set, lower the temperature. In this “experiment”, after 30 minutes, I have lowered my oven temperature to 150 degrees because the center of pudding is still not that firm and the top layer appeared to get burnt.
  • If you looked carefully, you will see that I am using “steam bake” method for the baking of the pudding. Steam bake means you put some water in the oven and let the water vapors generated to moisten your puddings. However, this is not absolutely a must if your liquids are enough.
  • After 40 minutes, my pudding is ready. Overall, it took about one and a half hour from preparing the ingredients until “full completion”.  Can you see the crispy top layer.
  • In the unlikely event that you don’t have any oven, don’t worry, just steam it. It will turn out as delicious except that you do not have the golden brown top layer.

 

PUDDINGS DISSECTIONS AND ANALYSIS……

IMG_2737

I only “cut” plus “scope” the puddings this morning. If you look carefully and go back to the layers that I have mentioned above, you will be able to identify the various in this “ugly” puddings.

Remember the second layer of chocolates? It was replaced by a light yellowish layer of egg puddings. When you bake, the chocolates will melt; if it is too hot, all the fats will be excreted leaving a layer of cocoa powder. When they are empty spaces, the eggs and milks will drip down to fill the cavities and become egg puddings. Actually, this is the layers that I like most. Soft and tasty and complement the hardier texture of all the other ingredients.

As I have used lemon icing scones, the top layers of the puddings have a rather strong lemon flavor, the middle layer have some chocolates that oozes out when you bite them and some sweet slice of ripe bananas. And that follows by a layer of hard to resist egg puddings…

 

SERVING

My wife have a bowl without anything added and this is my kid’s version:

IMG_2745

Yes, serve with some cold chocolate fresh milk. 

If you serve this as a dessert, you can serve with maple syrups, ICE CREAMS…..

 

UGLINESS…..

Lastly, my wife complained that the shape looks terrible when I put one scope into the bowl. I protested that bread puddings should look something like what I baked. Shapeless means it is soft and moist.. To defend my ground, let’s look at some of the pictures in the internet.

Austin Leslie’s Creole bread pudding with vanilla whiskey sauce, from the late Pampy’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana

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

  This capirotada, or Mexican bread pudding, features layers of nuts, cheese, dried fruit, and bread drizzled with cinnamon-infused sugar syrup.  

Source: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/capirotada-mexican-bread-pudding

 

Amaretto Bread Puddings

Source: http://foodmuses.com/2009/12/14/amaretto-bread-pudding/

IMG_2753 Budget conscious cost saving puddings

Source:
http://kwgls.tumblr.com
https://instagram/kenwugls
https://twitter.com/kengls

This is a rather long post and I hope you like the post. Feel free to try your own versions and share with me about your own adventures.

Cheers.

From Plain to Eye Catching…From Muffins to Elegant Celebration Cakes

IMG_2573

 

Presumably if you need a cake to celebrate with someone close to you and an 8” cake is too big for you;

Presumably if you have no time and ingredients to bake at home and you don’t want a cake that will cost you a bomb;

Presumably again, if you are new to baking and not confident of making one your self;

but you know very clearly that you just want a small celebration cake that it easy to prepare, economical, elegant; and

most important of all, some piece of work that will explicitly express your thoughts and loves;

Why not consider the recipe below?

 

WHY THIS CAKE

My wife asked me to bake a cake for my nephew who is coming for dinner in the evening. I tried to think of a cake to bake but my mind was blank, I just lack inspiration and I do not have some of the ingredients at home. In view of such a short notice, I have decided not to bake a cake but to “source” outside. But the cakes that were sold were all rather big sizes, catering for may be about 10-12 persons and I just don’t think that it is the right cake.

In addition, as it is Mother’s Day in Singapore, most of the bakery shops, restaurants were selling cakes specially made for Mother’s Day… I am rather picky and never want to compromise my own ideas, I stopped by Starbucks, look at the “cake windows” and ponder for quite a while.. Lastly, I bought some muffins and decide to do my own decorations.

 

WHAT IS NEEDED?

I usually prepare something based on what I have on hand. The same applies to this recipe. What I used this time were:

  1. One unit of  condense milk (creamer for my coffee);
  2. Two units of  ice cream (unfinished chocolate ice cream the freezer);
  3. Some chocolates (unfinished Ferrero Rocher chocolates);
  4. One unit of cream cheese spread (type of spread for white toast during breakfast);
  5. Any types of muffin (I just simply pick the plain muffin from Starbucks, actually, anything will do)

IMG_2577   IMG_2575

Depending on the number of cakes you want to make, use you best judgments to estimate the number of units required. A rough guideline of the ratios are indicated above.

 

HOW TO DO?

It is extremely simple, if you have a electric mix, beat the cream cheese and condense milk until well mixed. Add in the ice cream, beat again until well mixed and the creamy topping is ready.  If you are lazy to get ready the electric mixer and cleaning it after usage, just take a bowl, beat it using the manual egg beater. The entire process is very fast (especially if your cream cheese is at room temperature) and take may be less than 10 minutes to complete this.

IMG_2539

Use something to grind/cut/break your Ferrero Rocher chocolates until small chunks and set aside. There are many alternatives like chopped nuts, shelved chocolates, cocoa powder ……

Pour the toppings on to the muffin, let it drip until your desired pattern. Sprinkle the ground Ferrero Roche on top. Add in dried fruits or nuts or chocolate toppings etc. and a lovely nice little celebration cake is ready.

 

CONCLUSION

The above recipe is just for reference and I encourage readers to think out of the box and prepare one based on what you have readily on hand, what you like and you perceived to be beautiful. Role of cheese here is to give you a cheesy taste; ice cream have the role of making it creamy and if keep in fridge will hold the shape and condense milk will help to sweeten your toppings.

IMG_2543  IMG_2545

Happy reading.

What is this series?–MY THOUGHTS

IMG_2359

RATIONALE BEHIND THIS SERIES

Sometime when I set the puzzles, I am just wondering if there are any readers following this series.

The rationale behind this series is not an attempt to drive traffics to my blog but more because I love patterns, especially uniform patterns.

During my university days, while the lecturer was lecturing, I would select a seat near the corner of  the lecture theater and start to draw funny patterns on a sheet of blank paper. When my peers asked me what I was drawing, I told them frankly that I don’t know. I am just sketching some patterns that I felt were nice by combining blue, black and red inks; round, triangular, hexagon, square shapes; fine, dotted and semi-dotted lines; shaded and non-shaded areas depending on my moods.

Until today, I still like to design patterns and with the availability of computer graphics imaging technologies and I-phone applications, I found that I can design many patterns within a short period of time and I thought it would be nice to share with readers and this can also serve as a record of what I was designing. May be one day I will compile into an E-gallery and give it to my kids for remembrance.

Hope you like the series. Cheers

What is this series–8?

IMG_2358

Today’s item is common found in the kitchen, if you are observant on my post, you will spot it in one of the picture.

Yesterday’s answer can be found here.

Answer: posted on 11-May-2013

 

IMG_2349

It is the lotus root cutting after cutting off the sides. I use the side for fried rice. Who say lotus root must be round in shape?

Cheers