Auguest 2020: Jiemei Sisters

Nasi Kerabu

“The kitchen is the heart of the home” — Jiemei Sisters

Auguest 2020: Jiemei Sisters

Looking back on my childhood, I am flooded with memories of the kitchen: our pantry in which we would sneak into to get little chewy sweets called sugus, sitting at the kitchen counter and having a cup of Milo and some biscuits after school, opening the fridge and exclaiming in disgust after sniffing an opened can of beer. As we grew older, we would stand in the kitchen and help our mom with menial tasks such as mincing garlic, chopping onions, cooking rice (ok, this one is not so menial) and other things.

Without fail, every night our family would have dinner together. Sitting around the dinner table, chatting about our day, what we did at school, and what we might want to do during the weekend – food was something that kept our family bond tight.

After I left home, it would take about 8 years before I would be reunited with my sisters in the same city. This time, while chatting about anything and everything in the kitchen, we started cooking dishes that are nostalgic to us.

We grew up partly in Brunei and partly in Malaysia. Our parents were well travelled and adventurous with food (a trait that they passed down to us). We like to try and cook everything from scratch (as much as we can), to try and replicate that taste of our childhood. That taste that brings back memories of our warm kitchen, with the black countertops and white cabinets, the pantry with the treasure trove of goodies, and the feeling of warm familial love.

Nasi Kerabu is a dish that we used to get only during Ramadan and Hari Raya. I don’t know if it was sold frequently at other times, but this was the time during the year where our mom would, after an exhausting day at work, pick us up from school and stop at a “gerai” (malay stall) on the way home. Nasi Kerabu was always a favourite. It reminds me of a salad. But, a good salad. None of that wilting leaves drenched in balsamic vinegar and oil. A good hearty salad with substance. The blue rice, fragrant herbs, refreshing vegetables, topped with the Kerisik Ikan (fish floss), accompanied by a good sambal sauce, along with keropok (fish crackers) – oh man. This dish is To. Die. For.

Last year, I moved away from the city I called home for the last 10 years. So, when my sisters came to visit, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cook together. Because I live in the interior, we were not able to hunt down some of the Southeast Asian herbs that are essential to the dish, but we made do. And it was still so very good.

Nasi Kerabu Ingredients

PREP TIME 20 MINS | COOKING TIME 1 HOUR | SERVES 2-3

INGREDIENTS

For the nasi kerabu

  • 10 pieces butterfly blue pea flower (this is to give the rice its beautiful blue hue)
  • 3 pandan leaves
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 2 cups Jasmine rice

For the kerisik ikan

  • 1 mackerel fillet (we used the salted fillets that are popular in Korean grocery stores)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup dried shrimp

For the kuah sambal

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp oil
  • 8 dried chilies (boiled in water for about 10 minutes)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 large red chilies
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp lemongrass
  • 2 tbsp tamarind juice
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Salt, to taste

For the grilled fish

  • Mackerel (we love mackerel in this household, but feel free to use whatever fish you like)
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp oil
  • Salt, to taste

To garnish

  • Bean sprouts, cut in half
  • Cabbage, diced
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Keropok
  • Mint, finely sliced
  • Salted Egg
  • Snake beans, finely diced

Other garnishes, if available, kaffir lime leaves, torch ginger flower, banana flower, and daun kesum. These are more herbs that you can add. We had to omit them due to the lack of variety in the small town I live in.

METHOD

  1. Kerisik Ikan: Broil the mackerel fillet in the oven on high heat for 8 minutes. Let it cool down before removing the skin and bones.
  2. Toast coconut flakes in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden brown.
  3. Toast dried shrimp separate from the coconut flakes, in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly until fragrant.
  4. Pound ingredients separately with a mortar and pestle until finely shredded. Mix everything in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Nasi Kerabu: Steep blue pea flowers in hot water for about 10 minutes.
  6. While waiting for the pea flower water to cool down, wash your rice. Clean the pandan leaves and tie it up in a bundle.
  7. When the pea flower water has cooled down, combine rice, pea flower water, and pandan leaves together and put it in the rice cooker and let it do its magic.
  8. Kuah Sambal: Blend shallots, garlic, chilies, lemongrass, 3 tbsp water and 1 tbsp of oil in a blender until it turns into a nice paste.
  9. Heat the 1/4 cup of oil in a pan and pour in the chili paste. Simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly for the first 3 minutes, and then every 2-3 minutes. Do this for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. The paste will start to pecah, which means “to break” in Malay. You’ll know it’s ready when the oil starts to separate from the paste. Sometimes it takes longer than 15 minutes. Your best indication to know when it’s ready is the separation of oil and paste.
  11. Add in the tamarind juice, sugar, and salt to taste. Then add in the coconut milk and let simmer for another 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and set aside, in the pan, once done.
  12. Grilled Fish: Marinate the fish with oil, turmeric, and salt.
  13. Broil on high for about 8 minutes. Note: this timing is for a fillet of mackerel. You will need to adjust accordingly if you use a different type of fish.
  14. Plating: Scoop the rice onto the middle of the plate. Surround the rice mound with your garnishes and grilled fish and top rice with kuah sambah and kerisik ikan. Serve and enjoy!

Nasi Kerabu

Like I mentioned above, this dish reminds me of a salad. Mix your garnishes and rice together. Top your spoonful of “salad” with a piece of fish and a little bit of the salted egg, and take a bite of the fragrant, harmonious, refreshing dish that is Nasi Kerabu.

Photo Courtesy & Recipe Copyright © 2020 | Jiemei Sisters (@jiemei.sisters)

BON APPÉTIT

– Jiemei Sisters

myTaste.com

Ondeh-Ondeh (Glutinous Rice Balls with Coconut Sugar Filling)

Ondeh-Ondeh (Glutinous Rice Balls with Coconut Sugar Filling)

Hello Everyone! In Singapore, Malaysia, and even in Brunei, Ondeh-Ondeh refers to a glutinous rice ball kuih (sweet snack or dessert). In Indonesia they call it Klepon. There are two versions of Ondeh-Ondeh. One is made with just plain glutinous rice flour and scented with pandan (screwpine) juice, while the other has a little sweet potato added to the dough.

Ondeh-Ondeh (Glutinous Rice Balls with Coconut Sugar Filling)

Ondeh-Ondeh is made with fresh pandan juice and glutinous rice flour rolled in freshly grated coconut with a little surprise on the inside. The surprise makes these balls of Ondeh-Ondeh oh so fun to eat! Its pandan-flavoured skin wraps semi-melted gula melaka (palm sugar) that would burst upon the first bite, like sweet little bombs as the sweetness explodes in the mouth. The slightly salted grated coconut further enhances the deliciousness of this kuih.

Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, please take the time to check out the original where I drew my inspiration from over on Rasa Malaysia by Bee.

Ondeh-Ondeh (Glutinous Rice Balls with Coconut Sugar Filling) Ingredients

PREP TIME 30 MINS | COOKING TIME 5-10 MINS | MAKES 12-14 BALLS

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 pandan leaves
  • 2 cups glutinous rice flour*
  • 1 cup water
  • 100g freshly grated coconut**
  • Coconut sugar***
  • Pinch of salt

* Using only glutinous rice flour will make the ondeh-ondeh rather soft in texture. Although some do enjoy such consistency, tapioca flour may be added to the dough to make it slightly firmer. You may also substitute tapioca flour with corn flour.

** If you are using desiccated coconut for this recipe, add 1 tablespoon of water and half a teaspoon of salt to half a cup of desiccated coconut. Mix well and steam the mixture for 15 to 20 minutes. The reason for steaming is because you want to achieve a fluffier/softer texture, similar to freshly grated coconut.

*** The amazing taste of ondeh-ondeh comes from the gula melaka, a special palm sugar which has a toffee taste to it. You may substitute this for brown sugar, coconut sugar, or other sweeteners if gula melaka isn’t available. That will, however, change the traditional taste of the ondeh-ondeh.

METHOD

  1. Pandan Juice: Place the pandan leaves together with the water in a food processor or heavy-duty blender, and blitz/blend for a few minutes until the pandan leaves have been finely puréed.
  2. Pour the blended pandan-infused water over a fine sieve and into a small bowl. Strain the liquid from the pandan leaf pulp, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon to extract all of the juice from the pulp. Discard the pandan leaf pulp.
  3. Dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the glutinous rice flour with the extracted pandan juice and lightly knead to form a smooth dough. Cover the dough and set aside for about 15 minutes to rest.
  4. Ondeh-Ondeh Balls: Bring a large pot of water to rolling boil. Pinch a thumb-sized piece of dough and flatten lightly and thinly. Fill the centre of the dough with about half a teaspoon of coconut sugar. Roll it in your palms to form a smooth ball and then place each ball on a baking tray lined with lightly greased cling film. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Carefully drop each ball into the boiling water. Do not overcrowd the pot. You may need to work in batches depending on how many balls you managed to make with the dough.
  6. When they float to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon and shake off the excess water. Coat the ondeh-ondeh balls with the slightly salted grated coconut and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Ondeh-Ondeh (Glutinous Rice Balls with Coconut Sugar Filling)

Notes:

Why does the dough crack?
The dough is too dry. Add some water and knead the dough again. Work in batches and store the dough in a bowl with a piece of damp cloth over it to prevent it from getting dry.

Why does the Ondeh-Ondeh burst while boiling?
Sometimes, the dough may crack during the cooking process. This is due to the thinness of the dough. However, remember not to make the dough too thick either. Wrap it closely around the palm sugar to prevent air from getting in. Otherwise it will burst during the cooking process.

Why did the palm sugar not melt?
The ondeh-ondeh wasn’t cooked long enough. To ensure that the pal sugar has fully melted, simmer them over low heat for another 5 to 10 minutes once they start to float. Also, the trick is to shave the palm sugar with a knife or mandoline or simply chop them into small chunks. This way, they would melt faster. Larger chunks may not melt as quickly as smaller pieces.

How long can ondeh-ondeh last for?
Cooked ondeh-ondeh with grated coconut will only last a day because grated coconut spoils easily. If you would want to prepare them in advance, you may refrigerate shaped ondeh-ondeh for up to 5 days covered with plastic wrap. Shaped ondeh-ondeh can also be frozen for up to 6 months if kept in an airtight container or freezer bag. Simply boil refrigerated or frozen ondeh-ondeh before coating them with shredded coconut.

Ondeh-Ondeh (Glutinous Rice Balls with Coconut Sugar Filling)

Before tackling this recipe, I read up on a few different ones online and gathered that on average, these Ondeh-Ondeh Balls take about 10 minutes to cook. I made mine slightly bigger than those in the recipes I looked at, but no way did it take 15 or 30 minutes to fully cook through. It was already way past the 1-hour mark and the balls were still rock hard. At first, I didn’t know where I went wrong… and then it hit me. I was using rice flour instead of glutinous rice flour. What a rookie mistake *facepalm* Nonetheless, after I got around to picking up some glutinous rice flour from the grocers and tackled the recipe again, it was a success!

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Seri Muka Kuih

Seri Muka Kuih

Hello Everyone! Our last recipe for the month of June is an amazing Malaysian and Nyonya kuih made of glutinous rice, coconut milk, sugar, and pandan leaves. Kuihs (or kuehs) are common snacks of the Hokkien, Teochew and Peranakan cuisine.The terminology is actually a general description for bite-size pastries/nibbles. These traditional delights come in many different forms and are either sweet or savoury snacks/desserts.

Seri Muka literally translates to beautiful face in Malay. It is a two-layered cake that consists of a glutinous rice layer steamed with coconut milk and topped off with a sweet and silky smooth pandan custard layer (hence the green colour). It’s heady with the flavour of coconut milk, a key ingredient used to impart a creamy taste when cooking the glutinous rice and making the custard layer.

Seri Muka Kuih

My fondest memory of Seri Muka would have to be during the festive season of the Islamic New Year. These pretty faces, alongside other kuihs of course, were served at almost every Malay household I would visit during that time of the year. The soft, sticky rice underneath with just a hint of saltiness pairs so deliciously with the decadently sweet pandan custard on top.

Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, please take the time to check out the original where I drew my inspiration from over on Rasa Malaysia by Bee. Seri Muka can also be found in the Indonesian province of South Kalimantan, and is also known as Kuih Putri Salat in Singapore.

Seri Muka Kuih Ingredients

PREP TIME 35 MINS | COOKING TIME 50 MINS | MAKES 14-16 SLICES

INGREDIENTS

For the bottom layer

  • 1 & 1/3 cups glutinous rice, soaked in water for 30 minutes
  • 1 cup thin coconut milk (1/2 cup coconut milk plus 1/2 cup water)
  • 2 pandan leaves
  • 1 tsp salt

For the top layer

  • 1 cup thick coconut milk (or coconut cream)
  • 1/2 cup pandan juice*
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 2 large free range egg yolks
  • 5 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch

*For the pandan juice

  • 8-10 pandan leaves
  • 1/2 cup water

METHOD

  1. Bottom Layer: In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients needed, except for the pandan leaves, to make the bottom layer. Evenly spread onto a lightly greased 8in x 11in rectangular baking dish and add the in pandan leaves, making sure that they are submerged in the rice mixture. Steam over high heat for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the pandan juice for the top layer.
  2. Pandan Juice: Place the pandan leaves together with the water in a food processor or heavy-duty blender, and blitz/blend for a few minutes until the pandan leaves have been finely puréed.
  3. Pour the blended pandan-infused water over a fine sieve and into a small bowl. Strain the liquid from the pandan leaf pulp, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon to extract all of the juice from the pulp. Discard the pandan leaf pulp.
  4. Top Layer: Mix all the remaining ingredients for the top layer in a medium-sized heatproof bowl until well combined.
  5. Create a bain-marie (double-boiler) by pouring some water into a pot that is slightly larger than your heat-proof bowl. Very important, check to see if your bowl can sit on top of the pot without any water touching the bottom of the bowl.
  6. Heat your pot of water over low-medium and bring to a slight simmer. Once slightly simmering, place the bowl with the pandan, coconut milk, and egg mixture over it. Cook until the mixture thickens slight, but is still runny enough to pour, about 8-10 minutes.
  7. Seri Muka Kuih: Once the rice layer is done, discard the pandan leaves. Stir and flatten the rice with the back of a spoon, making sure that it is compact. Using a fine sieve, strain the pandan, coconut milk, and egg mixture over the cooked rice. Return to the steamer and steam over medium heat for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from the steamer once done and leave aside to completely cool down before cutting them into diamond or rectangular-shaped bite-size pieces. Serve with a hot cup of coffee or tea for a lovely mid-afternoon snack. Enjoy!

Seri Muka Kuih

Seri Muka Kuih

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Kaya (Malaysian Pandan Coconut Egg Jam) with Fried Mantou

Nyonya-style Kaya (Malaysian Pandan Coconut Egg Jam)

Hello Everyone! Try something new on your morning toast! If you’re looking to change up your breakfast condiment selection from the everyday jams and jellies, try this Pandan Coconut Egg Jam. It will transport you to the tropics with its flavourful, rich, and sweet taste!

Kaya (Malaysian Pandan Coconut Egg Jam) with Fried Mantou

Kaya in the Malay language means “rich”, with reference to the texture of this jam. It is a sweet coconut egg jam that is rich, thick and custard-like in texture, and flavoured with pandan, giving it a fun green colour.

There are two well-known varieties of kaya:

  • Nyonya, which is green in colour
  • Hainanese, which is darker brown in colour and often sweetened with honey

The colour variation depends on the number of eggs, the caramelisation of the sugar, and the amount of pandan leaves used. In the Philippines, a variation of this jam is known as matamís sa báo, but it does not contain eggs and is less thick in texture. In Thailand, it is known as sangkhaya.

Kaya (Malaysian Pandan Coconut Egg Jam) with Fried Mantou

This version of kaya that I will be sharing with you guys tonight is the Nyonya-style one, which gets its aromatic fragrance and natural green colour from the pandan leaf. The idea of treating it as a dip rather than a spread or a filling was inspired from my trip to Thailand a couple years back, in 2013. We (my family and I) were at a roadside stall for dinner and on their menu they had steamed thick-sliced bread with a kaya and condensed milk dip. I decided to recreate this dish to share with you guys tonight, but instead of serving it with steamed bread, I fried some mantou buns for that extra-added crunch on the outer layer while still keeping the inside of the buns soft.

Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, please take the time to check out the original where I drew my inspiration from over on Curious Cuisiniere by Michelle Wong.

Kaya (Malaysian Pandan Coconut Egg Jam) Ingredients

PREP TIME 5 MINS | COOKING TIME 15 MINS | MAKES 1 SMALL JAR

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-5 pandan (screwpine) leaves
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar

Optional (to serve with)

  • Condensed milk
  • Fried mantou buns

METHOD

  1. Place the pandan leaves together with the coconut milk in a food processor or heavy-duty blender, and blitz/blend for a few minutes until the pandan leaves have been finely puréed.
  2. Pour the blended pandan-infused coconut milk over a fine sieve and into a large bowl. Strain the coconut milk from the pandan leaf pulp, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon to extract all of the coconut milk from the pulp. Discard the pandan leaf pulp.
  3. In a separate heat-proof bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar, until frothy. Then, add the pandan-infused coconut milk to the egg and sugar mixture.
  4. Create a bain-marie (double-boiler) by pouring some water into a pot that is slightly larger than your heat-proof bowl. Very important, check to see if your bowl can sit on top of the pot without any water touching the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Heat your pot of water over low-medium and bring to a slight simmer. Once slightly simmering, place the bowl with the coconut milk and eggs over it and gently whisk for 10-15 minutes, ensuring no water escapes from the bottom pot. It’s important to keep a low simmer or else the eggs can curdle quickly (refer to notes).
  6. Once done, transfer the kaya to a small serving dish and add just a touch of condensed milk (just enough that it doesn’t become overly sweet) and serve with your choice of steamed or fried bread. Whatever tickles your fancy! Enjoy!

Kaya (Malaysian Pandan Coconut Egg Jam) with Fried Mantou

Transfer the remaining kaya into a sterilised and clean jar. Let it cool before storing in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Kaya is eaten as a condiment spread on bread or toast, usually as breakfast.

Kaya (Malaysian Pandan Coconut Egg Jam)

Notes:

  • If you don’t have access to fresh pandan leaves, you may be able to find pandan extract which comes in a small bottle or pandan leaf powder, which will work perfectly fine with the recipe.
  • If your eggs curdle during the cooking process, not to fret! Continue to cook for the full 15 minutes, and then transfer the mixture to a blender. Blend until the kaya is smooth.

Growing up in Brunei, Nyonya-style kaya was my go-to choice of spread (together with peanut butter or just butter) on the waffles that you’d get at the local supermarket (Hua Ho) in the snack corner. Their freshly made kaya-filled pancakes, or even the kaya buns on their shelves were also my go-to choice. Also not forgetting the Hainanese kaya-filled cakoi (Chinese youtiao fried dough) from a nearby roadside stall from my workplace that my then workmates and I used to drive to our lunch breaks, and the kaya-buttered toast from a popular Chinese kopitiam known as Chop Jing Chew. These are, if not all, then some of my fondest memories of kaya.

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com