Whey Pancakes

Whey, the by-product of cheese, is the liquid that remains after the cheese curds are removed. This slightly acidic liquid is actually very suitable for making pancakes. It’s acidic nature reacts with the baking soda to release lots of carbon dioxide bubbles, making the pancakes airy and fluffy. 

I made some paneer cheese recently and was left with some whey. So I decided to make some plain pancakes and…some durian pancakes. Yes, I also had extra durians in the fridge, so why not?

I used the whey pancake recipe from King Arthur Baking Company, with a little bit of modification. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups whey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g butter (melted)
  • Optional: durian flesh (100-200g)

I could see bubbles forming in the batter as I let it sit for a few minutes after mixing. And indeed, the plain pancakes came out perfectly light. After making 2-3 plain pancakes, I added some durian flesh into the remaining batter. The durian made the batter thicker and creamier. The resulting pancakes were even thicker and fluffier than the plain ones. The image featured above this post is my stack of durian pancakes. They look so pretty!

Tip:

Flip the plain pancake after bubbles emerge all over the surface, but for the durian pancakes, you should start flipping when it begins to bubble because the sugar in durian causes the pancake to burn faster


DIY Paneer Cheese

Palak Paneer or spinach curry with Indian cottage cheese is a default dish that I always order when I go to an Indian restaurant. I like it that the spinach gravy is not spicy and of course, I love it for the cheese. An Indian friend once mentioned that you can make your own cheese with just milk and vinegar, and I have always wanted to try it out since. So while researching paneer recipes online, I came across a very detailed explanation on how to make your own paneer here: https://www.indianhealthyrecipes.com/how-to-make-paneer-cubes-at-home/

I gathered my ingredients and made 2 attempts at this experiment. I followed the method in the recipe using Chinese rice vinegar as my preferred form of acid. Rice vinegar does not have that sharp acidic smell so I did not have to rinse my curds off with water after. Here is what I learnt from my 2 experiments in the video below.

METHOD

Batch 1Batch 2
After turning off the heat, the milk was stirred for a couple of minutes to cool down before adding vinegarVinegar was added immediately after turning off the heat
Stirred the milk over long intervals in between spoons of vinegar
Intervals between each spoon of vinegar was short
Curdling process took about 15 minutesCurdling process took 5 minutes
Differences in methodology between Batch 1 and Batch 2

RESULTS

Batch 1Batch 2
Curds were small and of sandy texture. Final block of cheese was crumbly and breaks easily.Curds were in big lumps and smoother. Final block of cheese was firm and solid.
Differences observed in final product

CONCLUSION

The milk reacts quickly with vinegar while it is still hot. Vinegar needs to be added while the milk is hot because chemical reaction is retarded when milk cools down. The longer the curdling process is dragged out, the more dehydrated the curds become as it sits in the acidic liquid longer. Therefore, we can see the curds from Batch 1 is dry and crumbly compared to Batch 2.

My tips and recommendations from this experiment is:

  • use a pot with a narrow opening to prevent it from cooling too fast
  • use double layer of the disposable kitchen cloths. Disposable cloth is better because you don’t need to wash it after. The smell from the cheese is pretty strong and hard to wash off.
  • gather all curds into a ball and make sure they are not wrapped into the folds. This will give you a nicely shaped cheese.

DIY Organic Marigold Tea

My mother’s friend gave us some marigold seeds earlier this year. She studied Traditional Chinese Medicine and told us about the benefits of marigold flowers – it helps to maintain healthy eyes and soothe skin irritations and can replace the benefits of chrysanthemum as tea. We have been drinking chrysanthemum tea regularly and chemical free chrysanthemum flowers are difficult to come by nowadays as prices increase during the COVID-19 lockdown. So we decided to plant our own marigold flowers.

How to prepare your own marigold tea

  1. Pluck the marigold flowers and rinse them clean.
  2. Spread it out on a tray to dry. Before it completely dries, pluck out the petals. The bottom part of the flower are the seeds. You can sow the seeds to plant more marigolds.
  3. Let the petals air out and dry some more. The drier the flowers, the longer you can store them.
  4. Take a bunch of petals and put in a mug or teapot. Pour boiling water and steep for a few minutes and your marigold tea is ready.

Marigold is also known as the poor man’s saffron. You will notice that the tea turns yellow once you pour hot water onto the petals. It gives out a nice golden colour and a slight citrusy fragrance. I have some mint in the garden too and I dried them and mixed them with the marigold for a marigold mint tea. Ah, smells wonderful.

So try making your own marigold tea today instead of buying chemically processed teas. Healthy and organic teas can be easily made just at home.


Homestyle Salt Baked Chicken

My hometown Ipoh is famous for it’s traditional Cantonese style salt baked chicken. The marinated chicken is wrapped in baking paper and then buried in salt and baked. A good salt baked chicken is tender and juicy and very aromatic. Two important ingredients used in salt baked chicken are: 1) sand ginger (沙姜) or cekur root in Malay, and 2) Chinese Angelica root (当归).  Both have a very distinct smell and flavour that will immediately give you the association with Salt Baked Chicken for those who know their SBC well.

Sand Ginger 

I would like to clarify that sand ginger is actually different from normal ginger. Do not mistake the scientific name Kaempferia galanga with Thai galangal either. Sand ginger has a slight peppery taste and goes well as a marinade for chicken and pork. The Chinese call it sha jiang and the powder form can be found in traditional Chinese medicinal shops. In Malaysia it is called cekur and fresh cekur roots can be found in the wet markets. The roots and leaves are used in curries and traditional Malay rice dishes. Individual farmers plant them in small scale because the yield is low and it takes a long time to grow. Therefore, you might have to be at the market at the right time and day for a chance encounter.

Chinese Angelica Root

Chinese Angelica root or dang gui is a type of medicinal herb readily available in Chinese medicinal shops. It has a nice herbal fragrance that can be released when boiled. That is why it has to be soaked in boiling water for a few minutes before it is cooked with the chicken. If you use it dry, the smell will not come through. The main function of dang gui in this dish is to infuse the chicken with a herbal fragrance. Tuck the slices in between the chicken skin or nooks and crevices. 

With these two ingredients ready, you can easily make salt baked chicken at home. Thanks to modern technology, lazy home cooks like me can cheat our way through with an air fryer or electric oven. No need to buy a whole tonne of salt to bury the chicken. Just rub the marinade over the chicken, wrap in foil and bake in an air fryer.  

Marinating Ingredients:

  • 2 heaped tsp sand ginger powder
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4-5 tsp sesame oil (enough to make into paste)
  • sliced Chinese angelica roots (enough to tuck inside the chicken)

Tips:

  • Make sure you rub enough salted marinade over the thick parts of the chicken
  • You can use a whole chicken or cut it up for faster cooking. You can also use chicken drumsticks only
  • Poke a skewer through the thickest part of the chicken, if the juices run clear it is done

Easy Breakfast Quiche

Basic breakfast staples — eggs and toast. How many ways can you make breakfast with these two ingredients? I like to keep my weekend brunches interesting yet simple. So I decided to use bread as a shortcut for my mini quiche crust. You can call it mini egg tarts or shortcut quiche or even omelette muffins.

Basic Ingredients: 

  • Bread
  • Eggs
  • Salt and pepper

Additional Ingredients:

  • Milk
  • Onions
  • Chives /Parsley/Coriander/Basil
  • Dried Herbs
  • Bacon
  • Tomato
  • Avocado
  • Capsicum
  • Cheese

Tips:

  • Add milk if you like a slightly smoother texture. If you prefer a crispier version, ignore the milk. 
  • Bake at 170 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes. The egg will rise and puff up when it is done, but will flatten once it cools.
  • You can use the leftover bread and arrange them in a tray. Pour more egg mixture over it and sprinkle with tomatoes and cheese. A bigger version has been created.

My housemate Pam used to make these little egg muffins without the bread crust. She bakes the omelette mixture in a silicone muffin tray and once it is done, you can just tip the whole egg muffin out. She calls it her whatever-you-like egg muffin, loaded with bacon, onions, cheese and just whatever else she has at home. 


Durian Kuih in Handcrafted Pandan Cups

Durian. A thorny issue for many. Some love it for it’s rich and complex flavours, described as sweet, creamy, bittersweet, intense or buttery. Others stay far away from the disgusting, pungent, nauseating fruit that wrecks havoc in hotels, airplanes and confined spaces. When Western friends who have never tried the fruit ask me how durian tastes, I describe it like this: smells like onions but tastes like custard, imagine eating onion custard.

I like custard. So when I saw some Hoen Kwe flour in the cupboard, I decided to use the extra durians to make this custardy durian dessert. Hoen Kwe flour is a type of mung bean flour mixture mostly made in Indonesia. It is cooked and left to set into a pudding-like texture and best served cold. It is usually sold in small little packs of 100 grams. And it comes with instructions on the pack itself. I am adding durian into the mix for this durian delight, only for durian lovers. It actually tastes stronger than pure durian itself. 

Learn how to fold pandan cups in this video too

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack Hoen Kwe flour
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup durian flesh
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

This recipe can fill up approximately 30 pandan cups. If you did not make enough pandan wrappers, just pour the remaining mixture into a tray. Let it set, chill in the fridge and then cut into pieces for serving.

Tips:

  • If you are using thick coconut milk or coconut cream from a pack, dilute it with water to make up to 3 cups. You want the mixture to be milky, not too creamy. Then cook the mixture to a thick, goopy consistency.
  • Make sure the dessert is properly chilled before serving. It needs to be cold for that refreshing taste.


Chili and Lemon Grilled Fish with Banana Leaf

Grilled flounder wrapped in banana leaf

I love cooking with local Malaysian herbs and spices. Everything is just so pretty and colourful for the camera. But that’s not just it, the smell and flavour that these herbs release when you cut them is an like an appetiser, teasing your senses before the food is ready. 

Besides the mix of aromatic fresh herbs, banana leaf also contributes to another aspect of the dish. The light fragrance of the banana leaf gives your grill items a nice smell during cooking. It also protects the contents from drying up during the grilling process. You can find a lot of food that is cooked with banana leaf in Malaysia. 

So using the basic curry blend ingredients of garlic, shallots/onions, chilli, ginger and lemongrass, I added lemons into the grill fish wrap for a Thai twist. This basic blend is the base to many curry and spicy dishes. Whether you are using a charcoal grill or electric oven or air fryer, this recipe works for all gadgets in general.

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 pcs shallots
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 3 red chilis (more if you like spicy)
  • 2-inch pc of ginger
  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 2 lemons
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • banana leaf for wrapping

Tips:

Remember to add the oil generously. It helps to cook the fish and the herbs evenly and releases the aromas

Towards the end of grilling, just take the banana leaf off and let the grill crisp up the surface for an aromatic golden top

Press the lemons to release the juice when done


Turmeric Latte and all its benefits

My mother is always championing the benefits of turmeric, from relieving joint pains to aiding digestion. She sometimes adds a few pieces of turmeric to her stir fried vegetables and she also blends it with pumpkin for her spiced pumpkin soup. It gives her cooking an extra bit of a kick.

I first came across turmeric latte in a vegan cafe in Beijing. One of those organic, low fat, meat free cafes that promotes a healthy lifestyle for stressed out city folks. I never knew you can have turmeric in your drink because we usually use it for cooking curry in Malaysia. So, feeling adventurous, I went for a cup.

I could feel my body warming up as I sipped my turmeric latte, heat radiating from the centre to my extremities. It gets your blood circulating and that feels good even on a non-winter day. Hmm, not too bad.

I’ve been thinking about that drink recently and decided to do some research on it. Just like the Indian chai tea that has turned hip after reinventing itself as chai latte, the turmeric latte also had its roots as turmeric milk in India. The basic ingredients for the turmeric paste are turmeric, black pepper (aids the absorption of circumin, the active ingredient in turmeric) and cinnamon. Cook into paste with organic cold-pressed coconut oil (or olive oil if you don’t have coconut oil). You can also add on cardamom, cloves or fennel seed powder for an upgraded version.

Watch how to make your own fresh turmeric latte

Ingredients:

  • 500g turmeric root
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 2-3 tbsp organic cold-pressed coconut oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • optional spices: cardamom powder, fennel seed powder, clove powder
Fresh turmeric roots in a basket

Benefits of herbs and spices in this golden concoction:

Turmeric: aids digestion, relieves pain from inflammation, and fights against influenza

Black pepper: improves the absorption of Curcumin (active ingredient in turmeric) into our bodies

Cinnamon: encourages blood circulation and fights bacteria

Organic cold pressed coconut oil: raises the good cholesterol levels in your body and contains fats that boost brain function and reduce heart disease

And you know what is the best thing about this paste? You can use it to cook curries, add it to your stir fried vegetables or even put a dollop into your pumpkin soup! It’s so versatile once you have it all prepared.


Traditional Mung Bean Cake

Recently I found some wooden cake moulds while digging through the kitchen cupboards. These are blocks hand-carved from solid wood that my grandma used to make traditional rice cakes (炒米饼) with. I have not seen my grandma use them before but I do remember watching my mother hammer the wooden mould on the table as she shaped her mooncakes during mid-autumn festival.

As a tribute to my grandma’s kitchen antiques, I decided to make some mung bean cakes (绿豆糕) with these moulds. This is an old-fashioned cake, made traditionally by compressing mashed mung beans into a mould. These snacks are very easy to make and only requires 3 basic ingredients – mung beans, butter, sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 300g mung beans
  • 100g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • pinch of salt (not necessary if you use salted butter)

Just to be clear, the mung beans used here are actually the green mung beans with the shell removed. If you can’t find mung beans in the supermarket, you can get the green beans too. Just soak them overnight and rub them together with your hands to remove the outer shell. You can leave some green shells behind to give it some green colour. Just need to blend them in a food processor to properly mash them up.

Tips:

  • properly compact them into the mould so your shape would stay in place when you knock it out
  • chill them in refrigerator to let the cakes firm up
  • keep in fridge to stay fresh
  • you can use a food processor to blend it into a finer paste but I like the sandy texture of mashing with a fork

Nostalgic mung bean cakes are ready for tea time.


Grilled Lemongrass Pork Skewers

During my 13 years in China, I have discovered that I have an obsession with Yunnan cuisine. Maybe it’s the Thai, Vietnamese, and other southeast Asian flavours in their cooking that reminds me of home. Or the use of tropical herbs like lemongrass, mint, basil and chillies that sets it apart from other Chinese cuisines on the eastern coast.

I first came across this lemongrass skewer dish in a Yunnan restaurant in Beijing. The lemongrass is cut lengthwise through the middle and stuffed with chicken meat, then grilled. So I got the inspiration to stuff my lemongrass with mince pork instead. Minced meat is able to absorb more of the lemongrass flavour.

The secret to getting the most out of the lemongrass is to drizzle it with enough oil. The aroma and flavour of the lemongrass is released through the oils. Just like how the satay man dabs the lemongrass soaked in water and oil over the skewers frequently, the lemongrass essence needs a carrier to bring out its aroma.