Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cucur Pisang

I think by now it is pretty obvious that we like anything with bananas. Pisang is basically a Malay word for bananas. Cucur is used to describe fried fritters. So Cucur Pisang basically means banana fritters.

This banana snack used to cost RM0.10 per piece or RM1 for 10 to 12 pieces. Nowadays RM1 for 6-8 pieces (half of the old size) is like a bargain. It's really terrifying how the 40% Petrol Price Hikeprice ripples into almost all goods and consummables items.

For a slightly above average income earning family, it is maybe manageable with a little more care like turning off the air cond and lights when you are out of the room, & using a smaller car when travelling. But then how many above average income families does this country have?

Why couldn't there be a tapered price increase? Why were there no supporting plans already in place before the announcement of such an increase? Why wasn't global inflation managed in a better way? I have since stopped asking those futile questions. Guess we are beyond disappointment with the current administration.

Months after the announcement, we see exhorbitant price increase in everything. I cook alost daily & do my marketing once every week. I used to get by with an average RM150 -180 per week on food alone. Today, that amount can't even get you anything.

Mind you, that amount is just for the two of us. Besides, it is not my principle to scrimp on food. My father's foochow wise say "how much can one eat" and "what's the point of being a human being if you dont even eat", I would not save in this design. So ladies, let us continue to work hard in giving our family our very best effort with our God given intelligence and creativity.

Cool, isnt it?! Cucur Pisang can make me think so much. Anyway, back to the bananas. After the horror of rumours about using plastic in oil, I had not touched banana fritters bought outside except the few pieces that were given to us by a nice lady friend, Aunty Esther, which were pretty soggy and therefore a good sign that there were no unwanted agents there. So these days, I diy my own.

Make 25 pieces
200gm of rice flour
50gm of plain flour
1 teasp of baking powder
enough water to stir dry into thick batter that coats the spoon

Pisang tanduk or pisang kap0k

1) Mix dry together. Add water and stir into a thick batter if you want thicker skin and vice versa. This formula gives very crispy skin that last for a quite a little while.

2) Slice bananas into halves or slices and dip into the batter with a spoon. Drop into a wok of clean fresh oil and deep fried till golden brown and crispy.

Star Cruise: Greg & Nee On Board

Nee & I went on a cruise sometime ago in May. I know, we're guilty of not finishing up our post on that trip. So now, as a result of that, we've got two holiday trip postings running parallel to each other - the Star Cruise & the Europe trip.

So anyway, it was our very first boat cruise ever.

Before that, our contact with cruise ships had been limited to only LOGOS (the ship with international happy people that sells books), & watching the Titanic movie.

But now, this was the real deal.

As we boarded, we were filled with a sense of wonder, awe & suakoo-ness (mountain aunty-ness) over the grandeur of the ship.

The cruise ship was basically a hotel on water. It was run like a hotel.

We stayed at Level 9, which was an extremely good choice cos it was on the same level as all the major retaurants. Considering the fact that both of us were extremely lazy people, this was as good as living next door to the restaurants.

This was how our room looked like.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Caesar Salad

Pardon my ignorance but my first reaction to Caesar Salad has always been "Wow. It must have been Julius Caesar's favourite." And I have always been so totally convinced that it is Italian. So imagine when I mentioned this to a cook friend Sarah, She gave me a very funny look. How embarassing! If you thought so too, then let me save you the same embarassment.

I got this from a website a while ago but now I can't remember where the website is.

Most historians believe that Caesar salad honours restaurateur Caesar Cardini (1896-1956), who invented it in Tijuana, Mexico in 1924 on the Fourth of July weekend. It is said that on this busy weekend, Cardini was running low on food and he put together a salad for his guests from what was left over in the kitchen. His original recipe included romaine, garlic, croutons, and Parmesan cheese, boiled eggs, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. The original salad was prepared at tableside. When the salad dressing was ready, the romaine leaves were coated with the dressing and placed stem side out, in a circle and served on a flat dinner plate, so that the salad could be eaten with the fingers.

In 1926, Alex Cardini joined his brother, Caesar, at the Tijuana restaurant. Alex, an ace pilot in the Italian Air Force during World War I, added other ingredients, one of which was anchovies, and named the salad Aviator's Salad" in honor of the pilots from Rockwell Field Air Base in San Diego. It is reported that Alex's version became very popular, and later this salad was renamed "Caesar Salad." Caesar was said to be staunchly against the inclusion of anchovies in this mixture, contending that the Worcestershire sauce was what actually provided that faint fishy flavor. He also decreed that only Italian olive oil and imported Parmesan cheese be used in the dressing.

So for us, Caesar Salad at home means:

Romaine as the main vegie, croutons, hard boiled eggs and the sauce made from egg yolks, anchovies, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese and topped with some meat like bacon crisps or roast/pan fry meat if we are eating it as the main meal at home.

Once you make your own sauce and Caesar at home, the ones outside, unless if they are very well done, will actually look pretty miserable. It's sorta like my grass is greener than the other side. So don't try this unless you don't mind being stuck with making your own Caesar for the rest of your life like me.

Serve 3-4 as entree or 2 if you are eating as main meals.

3-4 stalks of baby romaine or about 250-300 gm of romaine, wash off dirt and sand. Break romaine into half or 1/3 depending on the size of the veg. For baby ones, just leave it whole.

2 hard boiled eggs, quatered to eight pieces per egg.

4 pieces of bacon, pan fry or oven baked without oil to crispy.

Shaved parmesan cheese.

1-2 pieces of plain bread, cut to cubes of 1cm
1/2 tbsp of butter
1/2 teasp of minced garlic

Caesar Sauce:
3 egg yolks
15 gm of parmesan powder
1/3 cup of olive oil
1/2 no of small lemon
3 pieces of anchovies, 2 if big pieces
1/2 tbsp of minced garlic
1/2 tbsp of dijon mustard
salt pepper and sugar to taste

1) Wash and prepare vegies. Prepare eggs. Crumble crispy bacon to finer bits or if your like your bacon semi crispy, then cut small strips once pan fried. Set aside to be assemble later.

2) Broil in the oven at 170 deg to brown the bread cubes to crunchy. Add butter and garlic when the cubes comes straight out of oven. Toss well & set aside.

3) With a small hand mixer or food processer, whisk up eggs to thick. Add half of olive oil in 3-4 batches in streams while continue whisking all the while. The eggs and the oil must not separate.

4) Stop to add the juice from half the lemon, followed by Dijon mustard. Continue whisking and adding rest of the olive oil in small streams and batches. Mixture looks creamy now.

5) Add anchovies, parmesan cheese and garlic. Whisk to creamy and even. Salt pepper and sugar to taste.

6) Add 6-8 tbsp of sauce to veges in a big bowl. Toss well. Divide into the portion required onto flat dinner plates. Add hard boiled eggs, croutons, bacon bits and shaved parmesan cheese. Crack some pepper over the top or add pieces of meat if desired. Serve.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Travel & Lodging in Paris

We were in Paris about 5 weeks ago. It's really taking us a long time to write about it cos Nee's primadonna recipes usually take center stage & for most of the time, the priority goes to that. But we know we need to finish the trip entries off cos it's partly for our own documentation, so that we can look back one day & remember it. Besides, if we don't do it soon, they'll start to grow mushrooms.

Anyway, our trip to Paris was DIY & it was an interesting experience, a different one, to have arrived at a foreign country for the first time underground. What greeted us was not the usual baggage retrieval carousal, nor the immigration officers, but the heart of Paris itself.

Arriving at an airport is like coming in through the front door. Arriving on the metro was like coming in thru the backdoor unsuspectingly, something like thru the butt of Paris.

Transportation in Paris is pretty convenient. The metro system works like clockwork right down to the minute despite the fact that it looks & feels old.

We got ourselves the Paris Visite tickets at Gare Du Nord basement, which was a 5-day pass (€27.50 per person) for unlimited usage on buses, metro, RER, & whatever else that was moving. If that scares you off, other 1-day, 2-day & 3-day passes are also available for your travelling pleasure.

But if travel is just within Paris, a Carte Orange will probably be more economical ~ €15 + €4 for photo ID for travel of 7 days. We really didn't know why we ended up with a Paris Visite. The lady at the counter recommended it to us, & we just took them quickly so that she doesn't start speaking to us in French.

We took the metro to Sebastopol station and then changed to the Arts et Metiers station one stop away. From Arts et Metiers, our hotel was just across the road at Rue Bailey.

Coming out from the Paris underground, we were immediately hit by the Parisian cafe culture, beautiful Parisian sunshine and fortunately, no Parisian dog poo.

This is where we stayed for 4 nights in Paris. If I remember it correctly, the rooms were about €105 per night, without breakfast.

The rooms here were huge compared to London standard. It was clean, bright and had all the usual basic ammenities like a long bath, security box, TV, airconditioning & free WIFI like what a standard hotel room should have.

Parisian hotels seemed more like the standard complete hotel, unlike the ones in London which were mostly refurbished town houses with limited toilets.

I guess it's pretty obvious that the tourism industry here is very much more mature.

Having said that, it still has its old charm & certain quiantness about it, like the pretty flower boxes on every window sill ...

.. and the elevator.

It had a wierd door that you had to swing open, step inside, & once you close the door, another metalic one will fold in mechanically.

The elevator had just enough standing room to fit the both of us. And that's only because we haven't started eating.

Oh, by the way, the best website to book Parisian hotels online would have to be here. It allows you to seach by district, read reviews, sort by price, & view the location map in 3 different formats:

Normal map

Satellite map

Hybrid map

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fish Mee Fen

Greg and I have always been quite telephatic about food. When we were dating, he would sometimes suggest to go for a certain food at a certain place and that would be exactly what I had in mind.

Recently it happened again. I was wondering hard what to cook for dinner because I knew I would have a busy evening ahead. So I decided on this dish "Fish Mee Fen (Bee hoon)". Before I reached home, Greg called and he said he had a craving for Fish Mee Fen. How is that for telephatic?

Greg: This is fun. Nee is like a cooking machine. You just press the button, & the food will come out
NEE: No, he just need to send a signal and my antenna will receive it.

This is a very simple yummy dish to cook. Greg can down a whole bowl all by himself. The recipe is actually for fish head. But both of us don't know how to take this so called excellent part of a fish but Greg seems to be slowly adapting to it as compared to me. I figured it is an acquired taste. So I normally use fish meat to cook this. Or I would buy a whole fish and chop it into cutlets and half the head. Fishes like Tilapia, Red Snappers, Garoupa or the more expensive Ngo Hoo cutlets are all good. I even try a fish called Banana fish because of yellow fins, available at Choice. I was going to try Hai Lian and I actually bought one for RM17, then Mum warned me that this type of fish sometimes has parasite worms sticking to its backbone. Errrrgggghhh....that was a big put off. I just can't bring myself to cook that one. So guess where it went?

Serve 3-4

600-800 gm of fish, cleaned and cut into cutlets, seasoned with
2 tbsp of light soya
2 tbsp of huatiaw cooking wine
1 tbsp of salt
1 cup of cornflour
4 cups of oil for frying

For the soup:
1.5 litre of water + some chicken bones (or 1.5 tbsp chicken granules/2 cube of stock)
3 no of big tomatos, cut into wedges
4-5 slices of ginger
1 tbsp of garlic
2-3 leaves/pcs of salty mustard or xien cai, washed slightly and roughly chopped
1 big red chillis, de-seeded, cut into thick strips
1 pc of tofu (optional)
1/2 cup of huatiaw cooking wine
2 tbsp of light soya
1 tbsp of ideal milk (optional)
1tbsp of cooking oil + 1 tbsp of sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 packet of thick mee fen

1) Soak Mee fen in room temperature to soften. Boil with hot water to cook mee fen. Strain and set aside .

2) Cook the superior chicken stock or use instant chicken stock. Keep stock simmering.

3) In the wok, heat up oil. Add ginger and garlic and stir fry till fragrant. Add xien cai, chilli and tomatos. Stir fry for a min or so. Add seasoning leftover from fish. Add light soya and huatiaw.

4) Transfer the mixture to the pot of simmering stock. Turn up fire and boil. Once boil, let stock simmer while you deep fry the fish cutlets. In a clean wok, heat up 4 cups of cooking oil. When oil is hot, add fish pieces. Fry till golden brown. Dish out and drip off the excessive oil.
5) Taste the soup and add seasoning like salt and pepper. Add ideal milk for extra richness and colour to the soup.

6) Divide mee fen into 4 bowls. Place 2-3 pcs of fried fish pieces and tofu pieces into each bowl and ladle the soup generously for each bowl. Divide tomatos and xiencai to each bowl. Sprinkle with some chopped spring onions or coriander as garnishing. Serve with soya and cut pickled chillis.

Note: If you don't want to fry your fish, you can pan fry like what Terri did with hers.

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