May 27, 2016 § Leave a comment
also known as fermented soybeans. Before it was labelled as one of the world’s most sought after plant-based protein, this traditional soy product was a trademark in most of my Malay meals. Every Saturday evening, my parents would pay a visit to the local pasar tani (night food market) beside a football stadium. Arriving at 5 pm, we would consider ourselves lucky if we found a good parking spot. Most of the market would be filled with residences walking around, window shopping, buying cincau bandung (grass jelly in rose syrup) or ais limau (iced-lime juice) to keep the body cool or, for the rest of us, wait at the significant empty spot.
This spot is reserved for a very well-known family owned nasi campur (mixed rice) store. They served nasi lemak (coconut rice), nasi kerabu (blue pea flower rice), nasi biryani (turmeric-spiced rice), assorted curries (either lamb, beef, or vegetables), sambal telur (fried egg in samba, my personal favourite and you can find it in our cookbook), archar (nyonya pickle vegetable) and of course, sambal tempeh goreng.
Deep fried cubbed tempehs, fried in hot sambal with long beans and ikan bilis (anchovies) until the dish turns to maroon. Doesn’t it sound heavenly? Well, at least to me (even at 7 years old). Mum and I would squeeze our way through the crowd and wait for our turns. We would pick three types of rice, a few curries, and for me, sambal tempeh with a fat chicken drumstick and some archar. Then we would pick some kueh-kuehs (mostly coconut or tapioca steamed cakes) and iced soy milk.
When I visited a tempeh shop/factory in Gainesville, Florida, there really wasn’t any amusement. Perhaps only for the fact that there were no makciks behind the counter but young white late teenagers. The real eye-opener was at the vegan/vegetarian restaurants that served tempeh in sandwiches, salads, fried rice, stews and so on. My great friend was kind enough to drive us there for an unforgettable day trip before I left the East and headed West.
Now, I eat tempeh in every possible way. Fried, steamed, baked, boiled, and sometimes if it’s really very fresh, raw. The makcik (Malay auntie) at the wet market would sell it at RM0.30 for one lovely piece and proclaimed that it is as fresh as good yeast could get. Big soft warm leaves (hibiscus leaves) still slightly moist from the fermentation, a white fluffy velvety mould holding the beans together, nicely folded with newspaper and tied with a rubber band.
A beautiful nostalgic ingredient and a staple in our refrigerator.
February 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
How are they so afraid to live a life
How are they so afraid to fall or hurt themselves even when it means being in the moment.
How are they so dense with their emotions and rigid with their thoughts.
How do they call this living?
Perhaps values sit on cushions that could never be too comfortable.
Perhaps fundamentals were taught with helmets on. Protect and shelter.
When you get to the box or game, you take the safest route. Striving to push with limits. Punching with withdrawal force.
We set our own goals. We draw our own perspectives.
We are our greatest enemy, with the strongest defense.
Two days ago I turned to a great friend for a listening ear. Over the year, she had become a pillar of strength and vice versa.
“Feeling sad and hurt is not a lack of strength: on the contrary, I think one has to be very brave to know how to cry when faced with heartaches. True strength is defined by the ability to live gracefully, compassionately, authentically. “
Our setbacks had made us closer. All setbacks make friends closer.
I had realized that we truly can’t live without failing. Even so, the greatest way to learn is through falling or getting dirty. Living in this island, I grew tired of people who constantly protect themselves from falling. People who are so fearful of dipping their hands into deep mud and don’t know how to hold their dignity or have their smiles on. It weighs me down that they put a “no” to the unknown.
The relationships we build nurture us. I longed yearn for people who walk more than their talks. Be a friend before they judge. Understands emotions, be good with words and relate to the heart.
And try to live a simple life.
Let’s start with a bowl of oatmeal.
Flaxseed oatmeal, topped with chia seeds, fresh creamy mango and blueberries. I become hopeless when the fruit stall carries sein ta lone mangoes. They are creamy, full of sweetness and floral flavours. Their skins are so delicate; flesh when ripened becomes almost orange.
70g of oatmeal
1 ½ tsp of flaxseed
140 ml of hot water
pinch of sea salt
2 tsp of chia seeds
handful of berries
Place the oatmeal, flaxseed and water in a microwavable or oven-friendly bowl. If you are using the microwave, cook it under medium to high-heat for one minute. For the oven, turn it to 170C and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on how you enjoy your oatmeal. For a creamier oatmeal, reduce the cooking time or alternatively use milk instead of water.
Stir in the salt, let it sit while preparing the mango or preferred fruits.
Slice the mango as closely as you can along the seed. Take a big spoon, scoop out the flesh and drop dollops of them on the oatmeal. Sprinkle chia seeds and berries.
January 26, 2016 § Leave a comment
So we are sitting here behind our screens, reading/watching the rest of the world face late winters, very hot summers, and extreme weather change. This global climate change we are all experiencing is expected.
People don’t want to hear it, they feel uncomfortable acknowledging it, they don’t want to change their behaviours because it’s just too much to ask for.
But on a very grand scale of the universe, we are one big family trying to sustain ourselves. When we realize that money is more important than the food we eat, we might be behind. In fact, I think mother nature is already giving signs that our natural resources are depleting immensely.
Money can’t give us time to grow a corn field. It can’t give us clean water like how the water cycle does. It can’t give birth to bees and pollinate flowers/trees which give us oxygen to breathe.
Beyond all the ways we try to save money and help the environment with gas/electricity/water, the only other way which essentially would help more than 50% in saving earth so that we can continue to sustain ourselves is reduce the consumption of meat/fish.
People ask me why am I vegan and how can I work in a kitchen with meat/fish. They ask, how is it possible for me to taste the food before it gets to the customer’s table. How do I know it is delicious, how do I know it is done?
I spent the first 17 years of life as a real carnivore. And when I say real, I mean if there is no meat in any of my meals, I would not even touch it. When we started learning about environmental issues in geography class, something happened. I started changing the way I eat, shower, buy clothes, etc. Not only did I realized how much I changed, my family’s lifestyle change as well. They stop buying as much meat, we started dining at vegetarian restaurants and spending more time with nature.
But as years go by and the longer I work in this food industry, I’d realized how much more detrimental and unaware we are as humans. In order for us to please customers like you, we use an unaccountable amount of water/electricity/gas & effort/care just to make your dining experience worthwhile. Now don’t misunderstand me, I do enjoy a grand affair of fine dining or scrumptious meals just like everyone else. I do find a deep satisfaction in cooking and serving my customers. But I do strongly believe in sustaining ourselves more than that? At the very end of it, I would without a doubt choose sustainability over anything else.
Being part of this industry is merely just a way of understanding and spreading this notion. We can’t bake the cake and have it too.
We can’t anymore.
Cowspiracy brought more awareness to our issues. It’s not just mine, it’s yours as well. Remember we are family. I may not know you or spoke to you before, but we share the same moon & sun. As far as the wind can blow (which according to El Niño is quite damn far), we share the same oxygen. If you burn your dry leaves, I will breathe the smoke. If you overfish your ocean, I will have nothing left (to serve my customers and feed my family). When you buy all the good produce,the next person will only have the left overs. It’s sharing and caring, thinking for the next person before yourself.
Live simply. We don’t need much. We already have too much.
July 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
I can’t budget for time like this. I do my best to prepare putting my heart where it needs to be, but I can’t rehearse it or perfect it. So much of life happens outside of our expectations and our preparedness. So much of life does not look perfect. – Rebecca Jessica Parker
It comes to a standstill. I have been waiting for this trip. When I finally board the flight, I couldn’t help but feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. Guilty ,because I left the crew to face the busy weekend, but excited to see B again.
There is only so much you can prepare, to look pretty, to feel fresh, to keep the heart light and greet with honesty. I have been traveling so much over the last few weeks, the teetered suitcase is still unpacked. The body recovers from heavy meals to another indulging meal & late night out.
But I feel at ease. I could put my feet up and feel comfortable in my own skin. The early hello to the sun, a late morning yoga session, light lunch, more walks & homemade dinner could not be more splendid. It is not always the case of let love and let go, but a matter of existence.
A few weeks in since we started the cafe, and everyone is worn out already. From the front of the house to the kitchen crew. The long standing hours kept us afloat with casual banters & silly laughters, but we are fatigued. Random glasses will be found in the corner of the kitchen, or an abandoned apron left on the chair, indicating the tiredness from last night’s busy service. I have dreams of missing an order or dropping a slice of cake, which both happened before. But as much as I want to be perfect at every element, I remember the little voice in my head going “breathe”.
These was the word I remember the most while working at the bakery in Orlando. With Katie it was always: let’s do our best, but remember to be present and be happy. It was simple but yet it was difficult. Meeting expectations & demands, composing a picture perfect cake almost too pretty to eat so a four year old child with gluten/peanut/soy allergies can enjoy her birthday in a little pink dress surrounded with concerned happy loved ones. And getting thank you notes from her parents for they thought she could never have another slice of cake again. The weariness easily dissipates into bubbles of joy illuminating our presence to time.
It’s with this constant reminder of appreciation, there is always extraordinary in the ordinary. A mocha for a dreary weather, a greeting from a regular through the glass window or perhaps even a snail mail.
Today was special. I got the loveliest wedding invitation card from Katie. Words cannot express how excited I am to visit her this fall but also for an extended trip up north. To add more icing to the cake, my little contribution for Books Actually’s Twenty-Four Flavours: Century Egg published.
May 22, 2013 § 6 Comments
She loves antiques. She loves junk. She loves anything she does not need but gets them nevertheless. She loves the idea of a hand me down, a good thrift store, a good bargain, a good steal and even more so, a fantastic car boot sale.
We would be forced to wake up at dawn, whist the moon barely set and dreams are just beginning to climax. Lifted from an innate zeal, she will get dressed eagerly and be at the door without haste. Layered in three/four winter clothing, she manages to look divine under the dim bedroom light. As we drive down the country side with beaming car lights shining along the hedges leading the way, I wonder if my stomach had completely digested the buttery apple pie from last night.
The cars lined up in a row and their things are laid unkempt with much order. It’s as disheveled as a lovely afternoon tea with the Royalties. You can get anything least likely to imagine. A box of jewelry from a recently deceased old lady, century old stamps, to a barely used camera. It’s a shopaholic haven. For mum, it is her nirvana.
I have fears of her stepping onto the wet field. Her heavy purse will be emptied and her grocery bags filled with unnecessaries.
For her birthday this year, I got her three brass bowls from an antique store. For what need, I do not know. The stubborn elderly man who runs the shop, could not have a better pair of eyes for collectable items. If anything, it would be his cranky personality that helps his memory. I ponder for a moment whether my mum should open her own antique store. The house is one itself.
Her all time favourite dessert is a simple apple pie. This year, I had decided to make a gluten free version as she has gotten slightly unfriendly with wheat.
Thank you for being the best mother and friend. Happy birthday mum!
300g Bob’s Mill all purpose gluten free flour
1/2 tsp salt
130g vegetable oil
20g non-dairy milk
1/2 cup ice water, perhaps less depending on the weather
apple pie filling
3 green apples, sliced thinly
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
130g Bob’s Mill all purpose gluten free flour
30g sorghum flour
30g walnuts, chopped
15g brown sugar
30g vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 200C, coat 8 inch pie tin with a light layer of oil.
2. Slice apples and combine brown sugar until well mixed, set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, mix pie dough ingredients except for ice water. With your hands kneed the dough until it comes together, add the ice water slowly until it forms a ball. If the weather is humid, add a little more ice in the water. Set the dough aside.
4. For the crumble, add all the ingredients together with a fork or get messy with your fingers. I like the later better.
5. Place the pie dough on the pie tin and spread it with your fingers, make sure to get an even layer on the sides. Lay apples evenly and sprinkle the crumble on the top.
6. Bake for 20 minutes at 200C and then, 25-30 minutes at 180C.
May 17, 2013 § Leave a comment
Finally a recipe post! This should be a regular go-to recipe as it is so simple to make. I have been approached by a few vegan/gluten-free home bakers on what to use for substitutions. While I have no fix gluten-free flour mix nor foolproof methods, I had managed to bring this lovely chocolate delight to the table just in time for tea.
Baking with gluten free flour is not as challenging as you think it is. I have failed and succeed; threw and sold many gluten free vegan cupcakes/brownies/cookies/shortbread. One thing, I have learnt is to never stop baking/cooking until you find the right fit. It is a journey for you to discover your own tastebuds and explore the wonders of different ingredients.
1 cup 70-80% dark chocolate, melted
1/2 cup fruit puree (apple, papaya, pear or any fruit you enjoy)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
50g rice flour
50g sorghum flour
30g tapioca flour
30g brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp guar gum/xanthan gum
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 vanilla pod
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and lined an 8-inch baking pan with a layer of oil.
2. Melt dark chocolate over the bain-marie or one minute medium heat in the microwave. Do not worry if the chocolate bits are not completely melted. Some bites are always welcomed. Puree fruit in the processor and set aside.
3. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Once chocolate is melted, add in fruit puree, oil, milk and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until very well incorporated.
4. Pour it into the pan and even the top with a spatula. Bake it for 25-30 minutes. It will come out soft and very moist. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before indulging.
And more to say, this is not available at the bakery/cafe I work in, but I am more than happy to share it with anyone.
*After leaving it for a day or two, it tends to get very dense. So best consume within the day of.
November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
Did November just pass without a trace? It’s hard to miss with all the beards and mustaches around. Along with Movember, I try my best to take it all in at once since the cafe has been very busy. Sporadical quiet moments, were either to catch a deep breath outside or read a short article.
At home, I have been rather blasé with stepping into the kitchen. At the very least, I will make pancakes on my days off. But, yesterday, for the very first time in 6 months, I turned the oven on.
My heart grows with excitement as the oven heat rises. Slicing two crimson beetroots into quarters, lightly rubbing some sea salt with my pink hands, laying them out on a cast iron pan, drizzling olive oil and cracking black pepper. The whole gesture made me fell in love with baking again.
I forgot how salt can be magically transform bitterness to sweetness. I forgot the sound of the ticking oven timer. I forgot how hot the kitchen can get. I forgot the loveliness of seeing the sides of a vegetable go from glaring smooth to golden brown crisp.
All of these were irreplaceable, despite baking everyday at work. I held on to the time as it stood still, with me staring into the oven glass watching them baked and day dreaming of light-hearted banters with customers. When it was time to indulge, I joyfully put some garnish on and tossed a few more fresh greens with roasted beets. Relishing the moments of getting my fingers dirty, appreciating wholesome vegetable and sharing it with the family.
beets, halved or quartered
salt, a pinch or two
black pepper, cracked
a whole garlic, broken into pieces
Preheat oven at 220C. Season the beets. Pop into the oven for 20 minutes, take them out, shake it, pop it back in for another 10-15. Yes it is that simple.