Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Haberdashery - Words & Language

books 1

I have not been feeling well this week, so spent much time catching-up on my reading. Of course I read all the obituaries for William Safire who passed away on Sunday. While I might not identify with his politics, I always enjoyed his "On Language" columns in the New York Times. So I've started re-reading all of them — join me!

Singapore had its own language columnist - Janadas Devan. I am a big fan of his writing and miss reading his "On Words" columns in Singapore's Straits Times. I wish he would resume writing them and I wish Straits Times would have the complete archive of all his columns online, instead of only selected ones.

Another talented writer in Singapore is Alfian Sa'at. He now has a regular spot on the onlinecitizen and sometimes he dabbles about language. Try this one about Malay and Hokkien.

I enjoy the weekly Sunday Puzzles on NPR - their word puzzles are so imaginative. I have never entered in any of the contests — they are difficult! But maybe I will give the next one a try.

Shall we end on a bit of gossip? Lord Byron called William Wordsworth "Turdsworth" in a letter!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dinner Tonight

lobster dinner

We treated ourselves to a dinner at Old Port Lobster Shack tonight. It was our second time there — we first tried the restaurant after reading the recommendation of Anh-minh (she's listed more restaurant picks). Need we say it? It was delicious! I like the lobster roll - chunky pieces of lobster in seriously good bread. I also suggest the fried clams appetizers - goodness in a batter.

lobster dinner

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri - Part 2

kuih hari raya cookies

I received a few emails from concerned friends after my post on Hari Raya, followed by the sad poem by Neruda. I don't want to give the impression I was miserable here. We had a wonderful Hari Raya. We started the day at the mosque. Actually, S started the day watching a successful Manchester United game, so it set the tone for him for the rest of the day (in case you can't guess, he was elated). Then, we spent the day with S's family friends, who are our surrogate family here. We feasted on traditional Hari Raya food like rendang and sayur lodeh . We also had a taste of familiar cookies like pineapple tarts and cakar ayam from Singapore. Family, good food and hot weather thanks to an Indian summer - almost like being back in Singapore, no?

kuih hari raya cookies

A couple of days later, I received a package in the mail and was touched when I found Hari Raya goodies in the box. A dear friend, D, had sent them and she remembered not only my favorites, but S's too, bless her. Two jars of pineapple tarts, one packet of rempeyek and one jar of tumpi. The latter two are practically the only cookies I eat during Hari Raya (although they are more like crackers) — S and I savored every crunchy bite. So you see, we had a Hari Raya showered with food love, so we really do count our blessings.

hari raya food

kuih hari raya cookies

kuih hari raya cookies

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Froze

in San Francisco yesterday. Because I wore open-toed shoes. Smart.

San Francisco

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sambal Oelek Roasted Chicken

roasted chicken sambal oelek recipe

This is a quick post. S and I are about to go out to spend an afternoon in the city. We are going to hear Karen Armstrong speak as part of the City Arts & Lecture series this evening and before that we'll catch the Avedon exhibition in SFMoma.

Last night we made sambal oelek roasted chicken. This is my too lazy too cook dish. Remember the sambal oelek? I simply mix it with oil and rub it all over the chicken pieces and under the skin and toss them in the oven. Use 3 tablespoons of sambal oelek and two tablespoons of chili oil or vegetable oil for about four large pieces of chicken legs and roast at 400°F for about 30 minutes. Smaller pieces may be done earlier so watch the oven. While waiting, I boiled some small potatoes for my cilantro yogurt dressing. Quick braise shredded cabbage and carrot, and we have a meal.

roasted chicken sambal oelek recipe

roasted chicken sambal oelek recipe



I have not jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, but I chanced upon a few amusing Twitter users:

@shitmydadsays is the funniest I've seen. Not yet two months and the dude already has a book deal!

Blasphemy? Like in real life, you may have to decide on which "god" to follow - @god, @officialgodpage or @wwgt (what would god tweet).

Perhaps more useful @Foodimentary and @Vegimentary - food facts (and factoids) daily.

But is there much too much information on twitter? Oversharers say yes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Green Tea and White Chocolate Mousse

green tea white chocolate 2

As I was drafting this post, I thought that the pretty colors in the pictures deserve its own soundtrack. After yesterday's poem read by Andy Garcia, how about another poem by Neruda? This time "And Now You Are Mine" read by Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts. You may press play.

My easy and quick go-to dessert is Alton Brown's Moo-Less Chocolate Pie. Before you pooh-pooh the idea of tofu in your chocolate, try it first. Every time I make it for guests, which is many times, it always receives rave reviews. No one can taste the tofu, even people who hate tofu love it and have asked me for the recipe. It's convenient because I just keep a bag of chocolate chips and a box of tofu (I use Morinu's organic tofu which does not require refrigeration) in the pantry for emergency dessert (what do you mean you've never had such an emergency). It's easy because I skip the crust - just blend all the ingredients (I use expresso coffee instead of coffee liquer), pour the mixture in ramekins and let it set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Serve with some fruits of the season and have very happy guests.

But to avoid same dessert-fatigue, I set out to make a variation of my own. My version uses white chocolate and green tea. I've made this twice for friends we had over for dinner recently and I'm delighted that they enjoyed it. I served it with sliced strawberries and pistachios. One of my friends commented that she liked the strawberries because the slight tartness countered the sweetness of the white chocolate. So I imagine this would go well with blackberries and raspberries too. I lined the strawberries because I used glass cups. But you can easily use ramekins and put diced fruits at the base or on top of the mousse. The pistachio rounds up the mousse with the right texture and crunchy richness, so don't skip it. Use a good quality white chocolate bar - the inexpensive, chips in a packet tend to be higher in sugar and too sweet. This recipe is not vegan because white chocolate usually contains milk products. But you can get vegan white chocolate or make your own if you want to make it dairy-free.

green tea white chocolate mousse recipe

green tea white chocolate mousse recipe

Green Tea and White Chocolate Mousse
inspired by Alton Brown

10-12 strawberries
12 oz white chocolate
3 oz firm silken tofu
1 teaspoon matcha
⅓ cup hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 oz pistachios (shelled and peeled)

1. Slice the strawberries thinly and use them to line your glass cups or ramekins.

2. Use a double boiler or put a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Melt the white chocolate in the bowl and then stir in the vanilla.

3. Dissolve the matcha in the hot water. Pour into the blender with the tofu and liquefy. Then pour in the white chocolate and blend the mixture. Pour into the glass cups or ramekins. Refrigate until set - about 2 hours.

4. To serve, sprinkle pistachios over the mousse.

Makes 6 in 6 oz containers.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tonight I Can Write The Saddest Line

night 2

My taste in poems is, shall we say, common? I like crowd pleasers such as Yeats' He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven and Walt Whitman's Song of Myself. Pablo Neruda? I'll take all his love poems, thank you. If you need convincing, please press play.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

hariraya 8

There were tears.

Growing-up, my brother and I used to giggle when my mum wrote Hari Raya cards to her family in Malacca. It was a mere 6-hour drive away from Singapore. But during those times, we could only afford to visit them once a year and telephone calls were expensive, hence far and few in between. So every fasting month, she would write those cards to her parents and each of her siblings. She shared with us her words and thoughts. It was emotional for her because she missed them so much. But we laughed because of the language she used - Malay, only in an antiquated, formal manner. For example, "ayahanda" and "bonda" for father and mother, and "kekanda" and "adinda" for her brothers and sisters. It's as if your mother was writing in Shakespeare's English.

Fast-forward 25 years later and I now find myself at the receiving end of her Hari Raya cards. She still writes in the same formal language and old-fashioned spelling. Only I am not laughing anymore. Just grateful. And a little tearful we couldn't be with our families on this day.

Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin.

hariraya 10

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Asian-Inspired Salmon Patties

asian salmon patties recipe

I am one of those hosts who worries that there isn't enough food whenever I have friends over for a meal. I might have 5 steaks for 4 guests or have cooked a meal in my biggest pot, but I always wonder if everyone will be well-fed. What do I do if I run out of food? Will my guests leave hungry? Can I blame my mother for giving me this complex? Because it really was the way she cooked — big, hearty and enough for the family and the neighbors.

So when we had our friends over for dinner last week, I was fretting again. With just a couple of hours before dinner, I decided to make salmon patties. I used a recipe from Simply Recipes - the encyclopedic blog of recipes. I had never tried canned salmon before that, so I looked it up and it seems that canned salmon has a good amount of omega-3 and is sustainable. I bought the Wild Alaskan canned salmon from Whole Foods to try the recipe and both S and I liked the results. Since then, I always keep a can in the pantry. For the dinner though, in keeping with the theme of the meal, I asian-ified the patties and made them bite-sized for appetizers since I already had the entrée. This is a great recipe for appetizers for a crowd - you can keep the patties warm at the lowest temperature in the oven until you are ready to serve. I also made 2 dipping sauces - one with ginger and soy sauce, and another with sambal oelek. I am happy to report that everyone's tummy was well-filled at dinner.

asian salmon patties recipe

asian salmon patties recipe

Asian Salmon Patties
adapted from Simply Recipes

14 oz canned salmon
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
½ teaspoon ginger powder (optional)
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon flour
1 sliced bread, shredded
5 tablespoons long beans, sliced thin
1 egg, beaten
Oil for pan-frying

Sambal dipping sauce — mix:
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (homemade or store bought)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili oil

Ginger soy sauce dipping sauce — mix:
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
a few drops of sesame oil

1. Remove the salmon from the can - do not drain away the liquid. Flake the fish and remove any bits of fish skin if present. Gently stir in the ginger, garlic, fish sauce, flour, bread and long beans. Shape into small balls of about 1-inch wide. Then press into patties.

3. Heat oil to medium heat. Dip each patty into the beaten egg before frying until golden brown — about 1-2 minutes per side.

Makes 32-34 patties.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

George Orwell's Blog

george orwell

Did you know that George Orwell has a blog?

Previously unreleased entries of his diaries beginning 9th August, 1938 are being published - starting 9th August 2008 - on the blog. Each post corresponds to an entry in his diary and the diaries end in 1942. There is much talk of the war of course, but he also details his time in his vegetable garden - tomatoes, peas, raspberries, apples and potatoes - and, raising hens for eggs. A writer who gets his hands dirty in the soil - what's not to love?

(but if Chaucer is more your thing, you can check out his blog here.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Aunty Spice Cake and Uncle Ice-Cream

spice cake 4

My husband and I have less-than-common names that are not so easy to remember on first introduction, especially if you are not Malay. When we met, we discovered that we each had a "Starbucks" name. You know, the name you give your barista so that they don't sprain their tongue trying to pronounce your real name. Mine was "Anna" and his was "Sean". Then, after chatting about it, we decided to have fun by using outlandish names or names that would give the baristas a second look. Sometimes, I use "Regina" (to rhyme with "hyena") (sorry to all the Reginas of the world) and he uses random words like "Silver" or the name of Zorro's horse - "Toro". It was tough not to giggle while they repeat or call our names.

It is no surprise that our good friend L's young nieces, Sydney and Shannon, have the same problem of not being able to pronounce and remember our names. So they created their own "Starbuck" names for us. S is Uncle Ice Cream because he always takes them out for ice cream. When I met first them, I brought over a spice cake which they enjoyed, so now I bake the cake whenever they visit from the East Coast. And because of that, they call me Aunty Spice Cake.

The Cake
So when L and her family came over for dinner last week, I decided to bake the spice cake and fancy it up with layers and icing. I've never made icing before and was shocked that some recipes call for 5 cups of sugar. This may be a case where ignorance would have been bliss. So I made up my own icing recipe. It is not the easiest to spread with, but it goes well with the cake. I have made the cake several times, each time tweaking it and making changes from the original recipe especially since I use whole wheat pastry flour.

spice cake 2

spice cake 3

Spice Cake
adapted from

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground clove
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole milk
1 stick butter
1½ cup brown sugar
4 eggs

8 oz cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 cup castor sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 7-inch baking pans and line the base with parchment paper*. Sift the flour, spices, salt and baking powder. Cream the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add one egg at a time. Slowly beat in the flour mixture and then the milk until everything is well-incorporated.

2. Pour into the baking pans and put in the center rack in oven. Bake for 35-38 minutes until a toothpick comes out dry in the center of the cake.

3. To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Gradually stir in the castor sugar. Let the cakes cool. Then on one cake, spread ¼ of the icing ½-inch from the edge of the cake. Place the second cake on top of the first. Then spread the remaining icing on top and around the sides of the cakes. Refrigerate until the icing sets, about 30 minutes.

* You can also use one 9-inch baking pan. Bake for a few minutes longer - 38-42 minutes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Singing Spanish - Caetano Veloso

My friend Dave listens to Spanish radio to help improve his Spanish. I tried that but like with most pop music stations, I cannot deal with the DJs' shouting and drivel - especially drivel I can barely understand. I've decided to watch Spanish movies and listen to Spanish songs instead. This Caetano Veloso song is in an album of his that I own - Antologia 67/03. Unfortunately, I left the CD sleeve back in Singapore so I can't read the lyrics as I listen to his songs. Thank goodness for Google - found the lyrics and the translation below by Genève Gil. It's not a line-by-line translation but it's all there. You can read it as you listen to the song - it's completely charming.
Cucurrucucú Paloma

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fried Trout with Sambal Oelek

sambal oelek trout fish recipe

This is fried fish and sambal. Such a humble dish. If you know me, you'll know that this is the dish that still ties me to my mum's apron's strings. Before I return to Singapore for a visit, she'll ask me what I want to eat while I'm there (don't all mothers do that?). And so I give her a list, but I always plead with her, "Mak, when I arrive, can you have ikan selar kuning sambal tumis prepared, please?" Ikan selar kuning is a type of scad - a small fish with a yellow vertical stripe on the side. Oh, how it makes me happy when I catch sight of that plate of rice, vegetable and the small crispy fish which had been deep fried and generously coated with sauteed red chili paste. So you see, I may not know what is the last meal I want to have, but I am certain of what my first meal home should be, every time.

Cooking Trout
I have yet been able to find scad here. So I try to be adventurous when I go grocery shopping. On a recent trip, I saw that Whole Foods had trouts. I couldn't remember if I had ever tried trout, but it looks like a size that would fit into my wok (good criteria, no?), so I happily picked two. I knew I was going to fry the fish. Instead of using my mum's sambal recipe, I decided to make another version with the sambal oelek I had just made. You can use the store bought version too. The flesh is quite delicate so it should be cooked quickly. Verdict? We like trout and will definitely have it again. The flesh was flaky and sweet, and went well with the sambal. Plus, because the trout was butterflied, there was no bone in the fish which S especially liked.

sambal oelek trout fish recipe

sambal oelek trout fish recipe

Fried Trout with Sambal Oelek

2 trouts (or any fish), cleaned
2 tablespoons rice flour
2 teaspoons turmeric
3 tablespoons sambal oelek (homemade or store-bought)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 garlic, minced
1-inch cube ginger, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup tamarind juice (from 1 tablespoon tamarind paste)
oil for frying

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok to medium heat. Put in the sliced shallots and saute until caramelized - about 4-5 minutes. Add in the garlic and ginger. Lower the heat slight so that the garlic doesn't burn. Saute for another minute.

2. Put in the sambal oelek and the sugar. Stir until the sugar melts and then add in the tamarind juice. Continue stirring for about 5 minutes. Remove the sambal and clean the wok.

3. For the fish - dry the fish as much as possible with paper towels. Rub them with the turmeric and then the rice flour. Heat oil to medium high - there should be about ½-inch oil in the wok - should be enough to cover the length of the fish. As soon as the oil is hot, put in the fish. The oil should be sizzling. You can fry one at a time if your wok is not big enough. Fry until brown and then turn over carefully - about 2-3 minutes on each side.

4. Remove the fish to a paper towel to drain a little of the oil. Then put them on a plate and spread the sambal on each fish.

Serve with rice and a vegetable side dish.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Haberdashery - Obituaries

bird in sky

In my collection of obituaries, my favorite is the one Christopher Hitchens wrote about Edward Said. Why can't all obits be like it instead of the staid, list-like articles?

Perhaps it's because the Brits and Americans write their obituaries differently and I am reading the wrong publications for my obituary-fix.

Good read of obituaries from a now-defunct quarterly magazine - Good Bye! I like the one of Stephen Jay Gould - I've read all his books and didn't even know he had passed.

A collection of obituaries by McG is on my Amazon wishlist.

I'd love, love to attend a Great Obituary Writers' Conference. Especially after reading an article of what goes on during the conference, for example, a discussion of "How many ways can one say 'died'?".

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Music of the Birds

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli:

"Reading a newspaper, I saw a picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes (no Photoshop edit). I knew it wasn't the most original idea in the universe. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.

I sent the music to the photographer, Paulo Pinto, who I Googled on the internet. He told his editor, who told a reporter and the story ended up as an interview in the very same newspaper.

Here I've posted a short video made with the photo, the music and the score (composed by the birds)."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sticky Date Pudding with Two Sauces

sticky date pudding butterscotch and white chocolate sauce

Yet another date dessert. But it would be remiss of me not to try to make this dessert - not just because we overshopped and now have a couple pounds of dates, but also because I enjoyed it often in Singapore. My godmum's office is on Duxton Hill and I spent a fair amount of time there. Sometimes she'd take me out to lunch to Broth - an Australian restaurant on the same street. I am not big on salads but I always ordered the Caesar salad with poached egg and she would have the spinach and portobello mushroom salad. Delicious dishes but they really just gave us permission to follow-up our meal with a sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce. Yes, our salads spoke to us and told us to go ahead and order the dessert since we only had leaves for lunch.

And this would be the part I start sniffing about how I miss her and eating this sticky date pudding reminds me of her. Well, I do miss her, OK? Growing-up, she was my rock and she also brought up two beautiful girls who are generous enough to share their mother with me. So there. But even if you have no memory related to sticky date pudding, this is a great dessert to celebrate the coming of autumn with. (yup, I just ended a sentence with a preposition)

The Pudding
This turned out to be the perfect dessert for me to continue with to experiment baking with agave. Substitution of granulated sugar with agave calls for a reduction of a liquid and I usually have a hard time figuring out which liquid to reduce. But it was easy with recipe because water is an ingredient. I also added a teaspoon of molasses for color - this is optional. In addition to butterscotch sauce, I also decided to do a white chocolate sauce which I thought would be refreshing without losing the saccharine sweetness that is associated with butterscotch. I used Black & Green's white chocolate which has vanilla bean bits. The recipe I used called for dariole molds, which I've never even heard of, much less have. I was about to go and buy bouchon molds but upon close inspection realized it had a similar shape to my mini popover pan. So I used that, and also tried it with a muffin pan. Both worked well.

sticky date pudding butterscotch and white chocolate sauce

Sticky Date Pudding with Two Sauces
adapted from Masterchef Australia

1½ dates, chopped finely
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ stick butter
⅔ cup agave*
1 teaspoon molasses - optional
2 large eggs
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1. Lightly oil the baking pan and set the oven to 325˚ F. Heat the water and dates in a saucepan and when it reaches boiling point, switch off the heat and add the baking soda. Set aside to cool and stir occasionally.

2. Cream the butter and add agave, beating mixture for about 4 minutes. Add one egg at a time and vanilla essence until incorporated. Add the flour and baking powder, mixing slowly until well-combined. Then fold in the date mixture.

3. Pour the mixture into each popover mold, until ¾ full and put it on the middle rack in the oven. Place a tray of water under the popover pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The texture should be spongy.

Makes 12 puddings.

* If you don't have agave, you can substitute with 1 cup brown sugar and add ¼ cup water. Increase oven temperature to 350˚ F and reduce baking time to about 40 minutes.

The portion for each sauce below is sufficient for all the cakes in the recipe. Halve the portions if you want to make both sauces.

Butterscotch sauce
⅔ agave
½ stick butter
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
pinch of salt

1. Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan on low heat. When the butter is melted, increase heat until boiling point, then lower the heat and stir for 8-10 minutes.

2. Pour about one tablespoon of the warm butterscotch sauce over each cake. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

White chocolate sauce
1¼ cup cream
1 packet (3.5 oz) Green & Black's white chocolate

1. Mix the ingredients in a saucepan on low heat until the white chocolate melts. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Stir frequently for about 8-10 minutes.

2. Pour about one tablespoon of the white chocolate sauce over each cake.

sticky date pudding butterscotch and white chocolate sauce

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shoreline Park

shoreline 2

With the hot spell and the fasting (14 down and 15 to go!), we have not explored any new hikes recently. But being cooped up indoors is not an option. Despite the heat, I went for a walk at Shoreline Park. It is close to home and is one of my favorite walks. No, not because it is completely flat (well, that is one of the reasons) but there is open space for miles. As someone who grew up in a concrete jungle, I just want to grab all that elbow room, stuff it in my bag and release it whenever I am in cramped quarters again. Here, I can see the Santa Cruz mountains in the west, the Diablo range in the east and the air above in the middle. Paved trails snake through the estuary which provides a habitat for plenty of shorebirds. Egrets, wrens, sandpipers and schools of pelicans. So I can go my own and not be alone.

shoreline 4

shoreline 5

shoreline 6

shoreline 10

shoreline 9

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Sambal Series - Homemade Sambal Oelek

sambal oelek recipe

My mother swears that the second word to have come out of my mouth was 'lombok' which means 'chilies' in Javanese. Even though my first language is Malay, my maternal grandparents are Javanese - my grandfather left the Indonesian island of Java and set sailed to Malacca for greener pastures. So all their 9 children including my mother were brought up bilingual - Javanese at home and Malay in school.

With 9 siblings and half of them bearing families, you can imagine the chaos during our annual trip to visit our grandparents. Everyone could speak Malay, but the adults, when together, just slip into Javanese. The fast chatter was beyond my comprehension. To humor the children, they would sometimes teach us a few words but no one became fluent. I suspected that they liked having a 'secret' language so that they could talk adult stuff or lament about their children to each other. Thus, since the word 'lombok', I've added just 8 more Javanese words to my vocabulary - eggs and the numbers 1 to 7.

Actually, make that 9 more words. The word "oelek" in sambal oelek is also Javanese and is modernly spelled as "ulek". It has nothing to do with the the ingredients that make up the sambal, but refers to the mortar and pestle used to grind the chilies. Every household has its own version sambal oelek. When I moved to California, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bottle of sambal oelek at the supermarket and upon googling, found that it was a popular product. I was happy because it meant I didn't have to import it from my mum. But I looked at the ingredients: chili, salt, distilled vinegar, potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite, and xanthan gum. It contains both a preservative and an additive. I understand that might be necessary in some foods, but sambal is so easy to make, I decided to make my own to skip the preservative and additive.

Some versions of homemade sambal oelek include shrimp paste, shallots and lemongrass. I prefer it simpler with just salt and vinegar so that it can be used both as a condiment and an ingredient. Slicing and de-seeding chilies are not the most pleasant of jobs. As a kid, I used to waltz into the kitchen looking for a snack when a waft of the pungent fumes would sent me scurrying out of there immediately. It was the chilies, the red chilies my mother was relentlessly pounding in a mortar and pestle that released the stinging odor causing me to cough. Grinding them manually is better, but it's a breeze with the food processor or blender.

sambal oelek recipe

The type of chilies to use
Originally, the chilies used to make sambal oelek and sambal belacan are red serrano chilies. This is a problem because I can't always find them here in the Bay Area. Green serranos are plenty, but not red. So when I was at Milkpail and saw fresh serrano chilies, I grabbed a pound's worth. Since I already had sambal belacan, I decide to make sambal oelek. It made about 1 cup of sambal. I wish I had bought more. serrano 17You can always freeze a portion of the sambal for use later. When you are cutting and de-seeding the chilies, try to have only one hand in contact with chilies while the other hand holds the knife. Then you will have at least one hand untainted by the sting of the chilies. After everything is done, I suggest rubbing your fingers in a citrus (good) or soaking your fingers in a bowl of milk (better) or both (best)!

If you can't find red serrano chilies, try holland chilies which are slightly longer and narrower than serranos, or fresno chilies which are shorter and fatter. Both are worthy substitutes; they just have a little less heat than serranos. I can't find holland chilies here, but below is a photo of a fresno chili compared to a serrano. The same goes if you are making sambal belacan - serrano should be your first choice.

sambal oelek recipe

sambal oelek recipe

Sambal oelek recipe

1 pound serrano chilies
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vinegar

To slice the chilies: cut the top off and slice in half lengthwise. Remove the center veins and all the seeds. If you like it with more heat, leave some seeds in. Slice the chilies in about 1/2 inch pieces. Grind them in a food processor or grind them in a mortar and pestle until they become a thick paste - you may need to add up to 1-2 tablespoons of water to get it going. Pour the paste into a yet unheated wok or sauce pan set on medium to high heat. As the sambal heats up, add the salt and vinegar. Stir well. Leave on medium for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

Makes about 1 cup sambal oelek.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dinner tonight


Happy Teachers' Day!


I just wanted to wish my sister and sister-in-law a Happy Teachers' Day which falls today, 1st September. Teaching runs in the my family - 3 of my mum's siblings are teachers, as are 3 cousins. My mum always wished one of her children would become a teacher, so my sister made her very happy when she graduated from teachers' college. My parents had a lot of respect for our teachers' when we were in school, and they made sure we had the right level of deference. This is not always the case today, which is a pity, don't you think?

Some links related to teaching:

A study that shows a teacher's success (measured by her students' scores) improves when she gets better colleagues.

Slate used to have a diary column which followed someone in a week of his life. Here is one of a teacher.

A blog about using new technology in the classroom.

Online tools from onceateacher.