Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin with Crumble Crust

It's been some time since I last posted a baking entry, and this one is not only simple to make, but simply delicious.

Hubby had stuffed a bunch of 6 Del Monte bananas in my bag after Day 1 of Ethan's fencing tournament, and when we got back home, imagine our shock horror surprise when the bananas looked so bruised and battered! ;P

What to do? What to do? I had made Jemput Jemput Pisang just a few days prior, and I didn't want to make something fried for Ethan's fencing tournament the next day. Therefore, I decided to make banana muffins for him to eat in-between bouts to boost his energy. Banana muffins were ideal and what better energy boost than adding chocolate chips to the mix? ;P


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Line a muffin/cupcake tray with 12 muffin papers.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and canola oil. Stir the banana mixture, chocolate chips into the flour mixture just until moistened - don't over-stir, otherwise the muffin might be hard. Spoon batter equally into prepared muffin cups.
  3. In another small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut/crumble in 1 tablespoon of solid butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle topping equally over muffins.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Enjoy!

I'd love to claim that my muffins helped Ethan do well in his tournament - he was placed joint-3rd - but I know that the hardwork belonged to him alone. =)

Gulab Jamun

We were first introduced to this Indian dessert last year when hubby and Ethan went on a Heritage trail through Little India with a group of hubby's student from the NIE. They bought home some Indian desserts from a very old and famous Indian dessert shop along Serangoon Road.

I enjoyed the Gulab Jamun in particular because it has a lovely milky, sponge-cake like texture, soaked in a sweet, rose-flavoured syrup.

Therefore, this year, when Edna's school asked parents to volunteer making an ethnic food item for their Racial Harmony Day, I decided on trying my hands at making the Gulab Jamun. I felt that Edna's school friends were probably more familiar with Chinese and even Malay desserts, and like our family, have little experience with Indian desserts, delicious though they may be.

Therefore, I scoured the internet for recipes for this. Recipes are not hard to find, nor is the process difficult to do (according to what I read, anyway. ;)), but when I first tried the recipe, it didn't work out as well. Then I stumbled upon another recipe, and this one not only worked out well, it really was a very simple, yet had a wonderful outcome.

I followed the recipe exactly, but made the balls much smaller, thinking that it would help the preschooler eat it without having to take smaller bites. In all, I made about 120 balls.

The funny thing was that someone commented to me that they look like Tang Yuan - and I agree. However, unlike the glutinous rice balls, the texture and taste of the balls were totally different.

Sadly though, the preschoolers weren't adventurous enough to try the Gulab Jamun. The older preschoolers were more game to try, but the younger preschoolers were happy to eat the Oreos (?!) and Keropoks that were offered. LOL!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Sambal Belacan

When I was growing up, there were times there may be up to 3 different types of sambals on the table; each as a condiment for a different dish my Granny cooked. That was how seriously she felt about taste, and how serious accompaning sambals were to a Peranakan table.

One of the most versatile sambals on our Peranakan table would undoubtably be the Sambal Belacan. A good Sambal Belacan is all about the belacan. And there are many different types of belacan on the market, of varying quality, shapes and sizes.

When I was younger, before belacan was vacuumed-packed in pretty packages, Ah Mah used a belacan that came in a rectangle shape. So the usual measurement of 'about an inch' or 'about half and inch' made perfect sense - especially coupled with Ah Mah's cooking method of 'agak'-ation (estimation). Later on though, with belacans coming in circle shapes, differing rectangular blocks, well, it wasn't enough to give measurements by length. ;P

Anyway, Granny only uses this brand of belacan:

Brand loyalty on my part? Maybe. But I really find that the taste of this belacan is really good, compared to others that I've tried, because this brand is really, really hard to find in Singapore. My brother buys a few packets of this each time he goes to Malaysia for Ah Mah, and she hoards it like gold! =)

I finally found a stall in Holland Village market that sells this brand of belacan, so knowing that I have a steady supplier in Singapore, I only buy 2 packs each time either hubby or I am in the area. =)

Sambal belacan is one of those things that generally tastes the same, but is different depending on the person making it, precisely because of the quality and quantity of belacan used. There is really no 'standard' taste, but only 2 ingredients take centrestage to make the sambal what it is.

My sambal belacan is extremely spicy. But it's the way I like it. When I made the sambal belacan for my granny though, I used more big chilis which are milder, compared to the fiery hot chili padi, or birds' eye chili.


400g Big chilis
200g Chili padis
70g Belacan
Sugar to taste
Salt to taste

  1. Deseed all the chilis. I usually have to put on 2 plastic gloves, one over another, to do this. Trust me, it's an extremely hazardous thing to deseed chilis, which is why whenever I make my sambal belacan, I make a huge batch so that I don't have to revisit this 'torture' anytime soo. ;P Like I said, my sambal belacan is extremely hot, and you should tweak the chili proportions to your threshold of pain tastebuds. Keep the weight about the same, but use a whole lot more big chilis to the chili padi.
  2. Toast the belacan either in a toaster oven or pan-fry it dry. It's important to do so because it will heighten the flavour of the belacan.
  3. Because of the quantity I make, I use a food processor to blitz my chilis, making sure not to blitz it too finely, nor too coarse. The texture I aim for is for it to resemble pounded chili.
  4. Blitz the chilis with the belacan.
  5. Add salt and sugar to taste. Keep the sambal belacan in a clean glass jar in the fridge if used regularly, or in the freezer if not going to be used soon. I usually make 2 jars - one to be frozen to be used after the jar in the fridge is used up.
  6. Use a clean teaspoon to scoop about 2 teaspoons out from the jar. Serve the belacan with lime juice from a small lime (aka Sng Kum).

See? Even the bottle says it's hot. ;P

Ayam Goreng Kunyit

We just whipped this up in a hurry for dinner tonight. We had defrosted about 12 pieces of chicken drummets and mid-wings to make Chicken in Chinese Wine, but as we decided instead to buy fried rice for dinner, I decided that fried chicken would go better with it.

I had kunyit powder or tumeric powder on hand since the last time I made Ayam Lemak (another post for another day. ;P), so we used it as a simple marinate for this dish.


1/2 tbsp Kunyit Powder (aka Tumeric powder)
12 pieces Chicken Drummets/Mid-wings
2 tsp cooking oil + cooking oil for frying
Salt to taste

  1. Dry the chicken pieces with a kitchen paper towel. This will help the kunyit adhere to them.
  2. Using a glove - kunyit leaves a stubborn yellow stain - marinate and coat the chicken with the kunyit powder, 2 tsp of cooking oil and salt. We were in a hurry, so we only marinated for about 10 minutes. If you could, marinate as longer. Nonetheless, the 10 minutes marinate still tastes so good. =)
  3. Heat oil up and fry the chicken pieces until done. Keep to medium heat and fry about 8-10 minutes each batch. Drain well to leave behind a crispy, yummy Ayam Goreng.
And it will be a long time when we next buy Ayam Goreng from any Nasi Padang stall. ;P

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Sambal Tumis

This post is specially dedicated to my friend Maggie, who wants to know how to make my Sambal Tumis. =)

Sambal Tumis is the flavour of my growing up. My granny would fry fish and then fry this sambal to lovingly slather over the fish. My Peranakan granny would make this sambal enough for the fish and have me help her prepare the ingredients by peeling the shallots, garlic and deseed the chilis.

Sadly, it is only after she passed away this year, that I rediscovered and was able to recreat this most versatile and delicious sambal. I found a simple recipe online, and with "agak"-ation (that most typical way of cooking my granny does, by estimation ;P), I've managed to tweak it to that taste that never fails to remind me of Ah Mah.

Furthermore, the website I found the recipe also suggests making the sambal in a larger batch, so that unlike Ah Mah's way of frying the sambal only when needed, all I need to do is to scoop a tablespoon or so out and add it to whatever I have on hand to make a dish - hard-boiled eggs, fishball, prawns, squid and yes, fried fish. =) The sambal is a good intro for young kids to eating spices because despite its fierce RED, the spiciness is actually very mild. The kick to the sambal is actually the blend of the garlic and onions, giving it a lovely pungent flavour to the whole. Part of the redness is from the dried chili - which explains the mildness of the spice. Fresh chilis would have made for a more fiery sambal.

Therefore, the recipe I'm posting here makes about 600+ gram or 2 jam jars of the sambal. I usually freeze one jam jar and they do keep very well because of the oil and spices in the sambal.

To be pounded or processed into a paste:

100g Dried Chili (After measuring it out, deseed the chili, and soak for at least half an hour. Then drain. You can replace this with fresh chili for a spicier sambal, but the dried chili version keeps better than the fresh chili version.)
400g Shallots (or a shallot/Red onion mix or just red onions)
35g Garlic
9 pieces Candlenut (aka Buah Keras. Or if Candlenuts aren't available, substitute it with Macadamia nuts)
45g Belachan (toasted either in a toaster oven or pan-fry it dry; doing so will heighten its flavour.)

Because of the amount of spices involved, it would take a lot of energy to "tumbok" it in a pestle and mortar. Therefore I use a food processor to blitz my spices. However, to make sure that my spices are blended into a texture like pounding, I process my spices individually and then mix them in a bowl. However, if your food processor is larger, you may blend your spices together, and to help faciliate the blending, just add a little water or oil.

Also, the amount is an estimate. If you prefer a sweeter version of this, add more onions. More pungent? Add more garlic. Spicier? Then go with fresh chilis - or better yet, throw in a few chili padis! More lemak? More nuts. ;P

To be prepared ahead and added while frying:

60ml Assam water (or about 4 tsp Assam/Tamarind pulp mixed with 60 ml of water and strained.)
2.5 tbsp Sugar (or more if you like the paste sweeter)
1/2 tsp Salt (to taste - and depending on the brand of your belachan.)

  1. Heat up 1/2 cup of heart-healthy oil in a wok. (I use Canola oil. =)) Test the readiness of the oil with a small bit of the paste. When you see the small amount of paste sizzle, add in all the paste into the wok and set the timer for 10 minutes. Keep stirring the paste on and off for this duration at low to medium heat. There won't seem like much going on, just a bit of steaming, but this initial blending of the spices is to prepare it for the second step.

  2. The chair is there to facilitate the long process of frying the sambal. ;P See the amount of oil bubbling in the wok below:
  3. At the 10 minute mark, add the Assam water, sugar and salt. After adding the condiments, you could taste test and add more sugar or salt where needed. Continue frying about 15 to 20 minutes more at low heat.
  4. You'll notice that the paste appears to absorb all the oil, and there isn't a lot of bubbling, just a lot of evaporation:
  5. Towards the end of the frying time, you'll notice that some of the oil starts to separate from the paste, and there's a lot of steam produced. This is a good sign that your sambal is heading for completion. =)
  6. The sambal also looks dryer and stickier:
  7. Once the time is up, and you see that your sambal has turned a darker shade of red, remove it from the wok into a clean and dry bowl to cool. Once it is cooled, store it in clean glass jar in the fridge.

To use:
Be as creative as you like:
  1. To oil in a pan or wok, add about 1 to 2 tablespoonful (or more) of the sambal to warm it up and make it more pliable after its stint in the fridge.
  2. Add in other ingredient of choice. eg.
  • Hard boiled Eggs or Quail's Eggs
  • Ikan Bilis (Fry the ikan bilis first, then add the sambal into the pan)
  • Fish ball (Fry the fish balls first)
  • Prawns or Squid or other seafood (Fry the seafood a little first, then add in the sambal)
  • Fried fish (Fry the fish and plate it first, then fry the sambal and pour it over the fish)
Or use the sambal as a dipping sauce for Nasi Lemak, or eat it with keropok. Or like Ethan did - he added it to his Macaroni & Cheese! lol!

I love it added to my dry instant noodles - those instant noodles I buy without the soup condiments. It's lovely mixed in the noodles, with a sunny-side up egg on top. =)

It's also good on its own.