Day 30: Conclusion.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


Phew!


(Ok, I will say more than this but right now we are travelling. When we get back, I promise to post a better conclusion. Thanks for sticking with me for 30 days!)


Travel Show & Tell: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Saturday, June 29, 2013

 (Day 29  of the blogging blitz. If you’ve just joined us, I’m on a mission to get that ol’ blogging mojo back by attempting to post daily for 30 days.)

(This is an autopost, we are off travelling, back soon!)

My knowledge about Cambodia was (is) seriously dismal. Before we went there, I knew nothing about the food, the people or the culture. Embarrassingly, the words that sprung to mind whenever I heard Cambodia mentioned was “war”, “Angkor Wat” and “Angelina Jolie”. (I apologise for my ignorance).




 Travelling by tuk-tuk  brings smiles to faces

Let’s just say I was surprised and completely blown away by our visit here.

Of course, the Angkor Wat temple complex was amazing and worth the visit. After all, tourists the world over flock to this UNESCO world heritage site everyday. Yes, it is popular, so be prepared for about a gabillion people to walk through your photos.

But what stuck with me the most after our visit was the general ingenuity, resilience and good-naturedness of the local people in Siem Reap. A hefty dose of eating helped warm the heart too.



"Battery" powered fan
 
We got straight into the eating on our first day there, thanks to the “Street Food Tour”  organised by the place we stayed at. (The Rivergarden). The tour is more suited to adults, and luckily we were travelling with friends, so the kids stayed back with the daddies while the ladies hit the food.


 Deep fried chive snacks



 No, wasn't game enough to eat this

After a quick tour of the local market place and some snacks, we were taken to a local hangout called “Sixty Street/ Sixty Road”. Rows of stalls selling food, clothes and toys line the street, and all manner of amusements can be found. Locals bring their own mats and picnic by the roadside, but for those who want to buy their food at the stalls, mats can be rented for a small fee.







Game made of balloons poked through holes in boards. The player throws darts to pop the balloon.

As mentioned, this is a local hangout, so the food is not for the fainthearted. Alongside the more run-of-the-mill looking noodles and such, you can also find a barbecued frog or two, or cooked beetles and grubs. We sampled some water bugs and crickets, and they were rather tasty. Salty, chewy, crunchy and quite moreish. But the legs were quite off-putting so we didn’t eat a whole bunch of them.




But we didn’t just do street food. Usually we plan to include one indulgent meal outing when we travel. This time it was to Kroya, a modern Khmer restaurant situated in the Shinta Mani resort. (Mr. Kitchen Hand had visited the restaurant 6 years ago when it was under a different hotel). We loved the funky fitout and the comfy Khmer swings, although people who like to display their world-weary traveller credentials by “hating on” all things trendy should probably give this place a miss.




The food was delicious too, but I know too little about Khmer cuisine to pass judgement. We personally enjoyed the meal and the service was excellent. From what I can gather, Khmer food seems to share quite a few flavour similarities with neighbouring Thailand (e.g. the use of lemongrass, tumeric and galangal), but the flavours aren’t as spicy or punchy (when I say spicy I mean lots of chilli). There seems to be a bit of Chinese influence in the dishes as well.





While a meal at Kroya does seem over the top given the extreme poverty that much of the local people have to endure, we felt a little less guilty to learn of the existence of the Shintamani foundation , which helps provide education and healthcare services. Hopefully our tourism dollars end up in the right place. (We were told by our guide at Angkor that a lot of tourism money flows straight out of the country again as many tour companies and hotels are foreign owned).

It was a real eye-opening visit and I’m definitely up for learning more about Cambodia. Hope you enjoyed taking a little visit with me.







Travel Show & Tell: Bangkok

Friday, June 28, 2013

 (Day 28  of the blogging blitz. If you’ve just joined us, I’m on a mission to get that ol’ blogging mojo back by attempting to post daily for 30 days.)

(This is an autopost as we are away gallivanting again, tell you more soon)


We seriously love Thailand and have visited different parts of it. We especially love the food and have yet to be disappointed by a (Thai) meal in Thailand. The first time we went to Bangkok for our honeymoon, Mr. Kitchen Hand and I ate so well, even a “point and gesture, who knows what we’re eating” rice meal bought from a food-court in a major shopping centre proved so memorable we talk about it all these years later.




This time when we visited Bangkok for a quick weekend getaway, I wanted to find places recommended by locals. First stop, Leela’s blog, She Simmers. This post  mentioned many edible possibilities along Charoen Krung. So we trawled it one afternoon and settled on Prachak (a duck and rice place), mainly because I knew the MCs could handle the relatively non-spicy fare. While the MCs are pretty adventurous eaters, we find the chilli-heat level in many Thai dishes still too much for their palate.  And in Bangkok, we broke our self-imposed “no meals like they do at home”  rule when travelling. We ordered (a pretty awesome) woodfired pizza one night and hunted out some pastries for breakfast. But for the most part, we managed to always find one or two dishes the MCs could handle.

Anyway, back to Prachak. I remember that the meal was tasty but to be honest I can’t tell you much else because I spent the entire time vacillating between smugness (oh look at us, we are SO local), and fear (oh my god I may be poisoning my children). The worry was unfounded (thank goodness) and we lived to tell the tale :)




103 years old!

 
The reason I was a little nervous...


The most exciting meal along Charoen Krung (for me) though, was the discovery of these little cakes/ snacks called Kanom Bueng. They have a thin, crispy, base and are filled with a sweet meringue and topped with a savoury-ish coconut mix. Not too sure what’s in the mix but I definitely tasted kaffir lime leaf. I had eaten these cakes years ago in Malaysia but never knew what they were called. So once I found them again, I made sure I committed the name to memory.

There is so much to see and do in Bangkok, it’s best to plan ahead. Because we had visited Thailand quite a number of times before, we gave the temples a miss. Instead, we headed to markets. Four of them in total.

On our honeymoon (many, many, many years ago), Mr. Kitchen Hand and I visited the Damnoen Saduak floating markets and loved it. We really wanted to take the girls for a visit, so we hired a guide to drive us there. I have to say I was disappointed by how commercial and “touristy” it had all become. It was literally jammed with souvenior vendors and other tourists. Still, the kids really enjoyed riding around on a boat and we found some delicious food - rice cakes (kanom krok) and duck noodle soup. On our way back, we chatted to our guide who conceded that it was touristy but he also  thanked us, saying tourists who visited the markets helped keep this bit of “culture” alive. I’m not sure if he was just trying to make us feel better, but if that is the truth, then I am glad to have helped :)



Kanom Krok

If you want a not very “touristy” market, the Maeklong Railway market might be the answer. We stopped by on our way back from the floating markets. This is a typical “wet market” serving the local population. What’s fascinating is that the market is held on the railway tracks! We were too early for the arrival of the train, but here is a Youtube video of what actually happens when the train and market have to share the track.
 



Bowls perched above the railway line

Of course, you can’t mention Bangkok and market without visiting the Chatuchak weekend market . It’s humungous and worth a visit but very crowded so be prepared for jostling. And haggling.

The hordes heading to Chatuchak

However, while visiting Leela’s blog, I discovered a slightly less well known market next door to Chatuchak, the Or Tor Kor produce market.. The drawcard here is the food stalls up the back serving all manner of delicious goodness. We had to do a bit of “pointing and gesturing” ordering but it was worth it.



And something else that was worth it was our trip to Nahm. The food was sensational and the service impeccable. More than that, they were warm and went to great lengths to make us feel welcome, even making something non-spicy and not on the menu for MC Junior. MC Senior was so taken with the food, she bravely tucked in and enjoyed every mouthful.



Hope you enjoyed the visit :)


Relinquishing control

Thursday, June 27, 2013

 (Day 27  of the blogging blitz. If you’ve just joined us, I’m on a mission to get that ol’ blogging mojo back by attempting to post daily for 30 days.)
 
(A bit of a “mummy post” today, so read no further if tales of other people’s children don’t do it for you. It has a tiny bit of cooking in it though, if that helps?).

Well, thanks for staying the rest of you.

Here is MC Senior grinning maniacally because she has finally been allowed into the kitchen. By herself.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you that was a massive step. For me.

Although I let the MCs help out occasionally in the kitchen, it’s always been very “directed”.  They enjoy helping, and they really want to do more, but until very recently, I’ve resisted.

Oh, I could give you all sorts of excuses. “They’re just not ready,” or “They’ll burn/ cut/ chop/ fry themselves,” or “MC Senior has her head in the clouds most days and she’ll forget what she was cooking.”

The truth is much more mundane. I am a Class A control freak. Not so much in other parts of my life (oh, go away Mr. Kitchen Hand), but when it comes to the kitchen, I’m pretty much head chef. No one moves a spoon without my knowledge.

I’m not quite sure how it came about, but I think since I was the most efficient at preparing meals, the role of kitchen guardian fell my way.

And whenever MC Senior begged to be allowed to cook all by herself, I always had an excuse ready. Not today, too busy, too tricky, how about you just help? Besides, I consoled myself with the fact that I only really started cooking real food when I was in my 20s (but I’d been baking for much longer). You see, my mum was a little bit of a kitchen guardian too, and I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

But one day, when the begging became too persistent to ignore, I took a deep breath and locked myself in the bedroom. To stop myself from, watching, interrupting, interfering or nagging at the child as she baked cupcakes.

Mr. Kitchen Hand (who is totally not a control freak), was on oven duty, but MC Senior had free reign. She even washed up.

Much to my relief, the kitchen still stood, and nothing was broken. Although I did end up picking out bits of dough from a not-quite-washed spatula.


Once she conquered cupcakes, MC Senior then moved on to gingerbread, and then bean burgers for dinner one day.

I realise that pretty soon I can get her to make simple dinners a couple of times a week.

What was I so afraid of?

Ginger and chocolate and ice-cream, oh my.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

 (Day 26  of the blogging blitz. If you’ve just joined us, I’m on a mission to get that ol’ blogging mojo back by attempting to post daily for 30 days.)
 
Hullo all,

There’s ice-cream again today.

But not much else.

My nose has been trying to run away all day and I am too tired to think of interesting things to say.


Instead, let me tell you that attempting to make stracciatella ice-cream is a lot harder than it sounds. Trying to pour a steady stream of melted chocolate into moving ice-cream creates quite a bit of mess.




But the end result is worth it.

Especially if you made a ginger ice-cream base in the first place and threw in some chopped crystrallised ginger too.

Very nice.

The end.



Ginger ice-cream with chocolate shards

( For the custard base, I used 3 egg yolks, 2 large pieces of fresh ginger, 150 ml milk, 300 ml pouring cream, a pinch of salt and 90g demerara sugar. These are 3/5 of the measurements for the Fresh Ginger ice-cream found in The Perfect Scoop. I made the ice-cream using a method very similar to the cendol ice-cream. Next time, I would possibly reduce the sugar a touch depending on the type of crystallised ginger I throw in. The one I used was very heavily coated in sugar and I thought the ice-cream was a little too sweet. However, I served it to family and everyone dug in with gusto so maybe it was just me. )

Fluffy clouds of forgetfulness

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

 (Day 25  of the blogging blitz. If you’ve just joined us, I’m on a mission to get that ol’ blogging mojo back by attempting to post daily for 30 days.)
 
Woo! Woo! All aboard the ice-cream express. Sorry, got a bit carried away there.


 The ice-cream maker has been getting a bit of a workout lately even though I don’t love ice-cream all that much. However, Mr. Kitchen Hand and the MCs really dig ice-cream. Luckily, I love experimenting with flavours so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

The whole process yields quite a few surplus egg whites though, and I was running out of ideas.

Maybe macarons?

Um, yeah, about that..I haven’t baked any macarons since moving to Singapore because I’ve been too afraid of the humidity. One day soon the macaron drought will hopefully be broken, but until that day arrives I need to find another use for my egg whites.

Oh look. Someone else has already come up with quite a complete list . Who else but the maestro himself? (Can you tell I’m a bit of a stalker fan?)

So I followed one of the links and found a great idea for meringues over at Simply Recipes. Elise calls them Pecan Meringue Cookies, but one of the reader’s commented that her mother called these  “Forgotten Cookies”.  So called because these are the set and forget stars of the cookie world.

Basically, you need to make a meringue, stir in nuts, dollop the mixture onto a baking tray, put them in the oven, and then go to bed.

Yes! Put cookies in oven then go to bed? Now we’re talking!


 Oops, who ate that one in the corner? ;P


Of course I fiddled with the recipe a little. Only because I didn’t have any pecans at home (they cost a fortune here so a recipe has to be really special to warrant any pecan action). Instead, I threw in some slivered almonds, but I really should have toasted these up first. The meringues were quite delicious but I imagine they would have been awesome if the almonds had been toasted first.

Never mind, there’s always the next batch, and yes, I will make these again, and yes, I will share :)

Malaysian Monday 100: Ch-ch-changing up the Cendol

Monday, June 24, 2013

 (Day 24  of the blogging blitz. If you’ve just joined us, I’m on a mission to get that ol’ blogging mojo back by attempting to post daily for 30 days.)

Woo hoo! One hundreth Malaysian Monday post!

So I needed to make something special to celebrate right? I’m a big fan of cendol (a shaved ice-dessert), and when we were living in Sydney, I had to resort to making my own.

 Now that we live in Singapore, I can buy this dessert quite readily. It’s such a common dessert that the ready-made  “noodles” can even be found in the supermarket.

Wanting to make a dish with a bit of a twist, I tried setting the noodles to make a cendol agar-agar. Gula melaka (palm sugar) flavoured base with a coconut milk flavoured layer on top. Unfortunately, it tasted rather meh because I didn’t use enough sugar and the ready made noodles weren’t very tasty either (ah, the vagaries of convenience cooking).




Then I hit on the idea of making a cendol flavoured ice-cream. This time it was a success! It really does taste like cendol minus the green noodles. And I can always rely on Mr. Kitchen Hand and MC Junior as true barometers of authenticity. They didn’t like it which always means that the dessert is in fact very “Malaysian tasting”. MC Senior of course loved it.


Have a great week and I hope the air is clear where you are.

Cendol ice-cream 
(loosely based on David Lebovitz’s vanilla ice-cream)

makes a very small quantity, feel free to upsize. I didn’t want to make too much because I knew the family would have “issues” with the flavour.

2 egg yolks
30g demerara sugar (or sub with caster)
40g gula melaka, chopped (dark palm sugar available at Asian grocers)
100ml coconut milk (or cream. Cream will give a richer flavour)
100ml pouring cream
100ml milk
3 pandan leaves (this really gives the ice-cream that cendol flavour. If unavailable, use vanilla bean instead for a different flavour).

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks, set aside. Set the coconut cream in a bowl over an ice-bath and set aside. Warm the milk, cream, sugars and pandan leaves in a saucepan until just beginning to scald. Sieve the mixture onto the egg yolks, and quickly start beating the egg yolk mixture to prevent curdling.

Strain the mix back into the rinsed out saucepan. Rinse the pandan leaves and save.

Gently cook the egg mixture over low heat until it forms a smooth custard that coats the back of a spoon. Strain into the coconut cream and stir until cool. Put the pandan leaves back into the mixture, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. The pandan leaves will infuse the mixture with a gorgeous scent.

When ready to churn, fish out the pandan leaves and churn in an ice-cream machine.

(If you don’t own an ice-cream machine, check out this post on David’s blog for tips.)

A right pickle

Sunday, June 23, 2013

 (Day 23  of the blogging blitz. If you’ve just joined us, I’m on a mission to get that ol’ blogging mojo back by attempting to post daily for 30 days.)
  
Who’s up for a bit of sour?



 
Then look no further than these little fruit called Cermai (in Malaysia). They really pack a sour punch for such tiny little things.  (Cermai is also known as Otaheite Goseberry  or Malay Gooseberry, and can be found in many parts of Asia and South America.

I was gifted a bag of these and couldn’t quite decide what to do with them. Mr. Kitchen Hand bit into one and promptly spat it out again. The MCs nibbled a couple and didn’t mind them, but I couldn’t expect the girls to finish more than a few of the tart fruit.




 


As I was thinking of ways to use up the fruit, I remembered how preserved cermai were sold at snack stalls in Malaysia. Of course! Pickling was the answer.

The pickled cermai didn’t win any more fans in the house but at least I could keep them in the fridge for a longer time and nibble at leisure. The fruit maintain their crunch and make a tasty alternative to popcorn. Um, I should probably rephrase that as an “acquired taste alternative”.




To pickle
: I used a simple pickling liquid with a ratio of 1 part water to 3/4 parts sugar and 1 part vinegar. Then I added quite a bit of salt to taste. Warm the ingredients up in a saucepan or in the microwave and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Taste to check flavour, adjust to suit, then leave to cool. Stir the fruit into the liquid and store in a covered container in the fridge.



Travel Show and Tell: Bali

Saturday, June 22, 2013

 (Day 22  of the blogging blitz. If you’ve just joined us, I’m on a mission to get that ol’ blogging mojo back by attempting to post daily for 30 days.)




 Bali - there is so much to love on this beautiful island, and unfortunately much to dislike as well. The trouble with Bali, or Island of the Gods, is that it’s a victim of its own success. The tourists who flock to Bali feed the need for more development. The unchecked development threatens the very reason that tourists began arriving on its shores in the first place. Add to that the very ugly behaviour of some tourists (unfortunately a large proportion who happen to be Australian), and you can understand why opinions can be divided about this island.

And yes, I understand the irony of saying that since I was a tourist myself. But the tourist attractions I’m talking about (water theme parks, shooting ranges etc) don’t really reflect what Bali is all about. I know it sounds rather judgemental, but the reason I take my kids on holiday to a new country is to experience a new culture, not to “entertain” them at a theme park or to eat at McDonalds. We can just as easily do that at “home”.



 
This (not very good) photo, sort of captures the balance between tourism and daily life in Bali. (Bikini clad tourist in front of a temple ceremony.)


Anyhoo, we fall in the camp that loves Bali, and here are a few reasons why:

The natural world - being a tropical island, there is much greenery, both wild and cultivated.


Rice paddies in Canggu


 


The deep, underlying spirituality of the people - just walking down the street, you’ll notice the little offerings set out on the footpath. Feast days and holy days abound for the largely Hindu population.


We were there on a day when all metal things were taken to the local temples and shrines to be blessed. Metal objects included cars, motorbikes, and even guns!







Sunset at Tanah Lot







Kecak dance at Tanah Lot


Waves - while the beaches in Bali may not be the cleanest, and the sand can be quite alarming colours (eg. black) due to its volcanic origin, surfers don’t really care. As long as there’s a good wave turning over, that’s where they’ll head.




Bali is a bit of a lucky dip for food, options range from warungs (local streetside stalls) to fine dining options. One of the most memorable meals we had was at La Lucciola in Seminyak. It was a “last day of holiday” treat we gave ourselves for lunch and it was wonderful. The view, the service, and the food. Nothing to complain about here.








The view from our table






Dessert - Banana tarte tatin

Traffic in Bali however, might make even the most patient complain. So the best way to get around is to hire a car or a van with a driver. We would definitely recommend Dewa (dewa(at)balicarservice(dot)com) from Bali Car Service, he was patient, helpful, and a wealth of information. If you're a surfer, the bonus is that Dewa surfs too and can take you to the breaks, and he isn’t averse to the dawn patrol run. (The surf run done at the crack of dawn while more sane mortals sleep in)