Archives for category: Imperfect Eats

I've always thought my mother's the best cook in the world.

Her Braised Mushroom Chicken in Oyster Sauce.

Her Chicken and Potatoes in Oyster Sauce.

Chicken and Ginger in Oyster Sauce.

Sunny Side Up Eggs with Oyster Sauce.

Yes, Oyster Sauce was a big part of my mother's cuisine. And my sister and I ate it up, smacked our lips and proclaimed my mom's food the best in the world, then and now.  

It wasn't until I got married that I discovered in slow-motion disbelief how little I actually knew about 'real' cuisine and cooking beyond Oyster Sauce. My mother-in-law, a housewife, had cookbooks upon cookbooks of dishes that she'd made, experimented with, adapted, created from scratch and basically memorised after years of feeding her two boys and husband, all of whom proclaim that she was the actual best cook in the world.

Of course, I would protest. In my heart. Her Braised Mushroom Chicken in Oyster Sauce was nice, but it came nowhere near my mother's. It was a family recipe, handed down by my grandmother and adapted by mom. And even though it was simple to make and required no real skill, my mom's Braised Mushroom Chicken in Oyster Sauce would be the one dish that I'd remember my mother's cooking by. And noone could take it from her.

Thing is, my mom's cooking wasn't about just taste or skill (or the lack of which). It was the fact that she'd been a working mother, who chose to teach afternoon classes because she wanted the time to make sure my sis and I always had homecooked meals everyday when we came back from school. Looking back, sure, the dishes we'd grown to love so much were really just mediocre. But it was whatever my mom could find the time to make, and what our family budget would allow.

It's been exactly one week since my in-laws have gone home, and I've been cooking up little storms everyday (well, almost. We're having Jack in the Box tonight because I got sick of rice). They're simple dishes, just like mom's, but as I watch my family tuck heartily into each meal I'd spend my time and effort making each day, the realisation that I am making history as the person who noone is ever going to measure up to in terms of homecooking as far as my kids are concerned, settled on me like a warm blanket.

Not exactly one of my cita-citas (objectives in life), but man, it feels great to know I will be remembered that way.

Look what I found trying to Google for Chinese pork recipes:

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And these were the results:

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I was telling Lokes the other day that someone should make a 'reverse' search engine for recipes where you input the ingredients you have in your fridge/pantry and then see what kind of dishes you can make instead of having to look around blindly.

Looks like someone in Google is already working on it?

(And you read it here first, from a newbie cook, no less!)

My friend Sharon, a Malaysian lady who also lives in Seattle with her family, said something the other day when we went trekking together, that struck me as irrefutably true, and I was surprised I'd never realised it before although it's something most Malaysians would already know: that Malaysian Chinese will travel anywhere, just to eat.

From the famous Klang Bak Kut Teh to Penang's Jelutong Asam Laksa to Ipoh's Cowan Street Chicken Kuay Teow soup to Sabah (or was it Sarawak?) for its Ko Lor Mee, we pride ourselves as being the most travelled food lovers in the world. And that is because we are blessed in Malaysia to have a diverse array of multicultural cuisines, all within driving distance. Well, one has to take a plane to Sabah/Sarawak, but even that has not stopped us.

In the US, we are still trying to find our way through the many gastronomical delights the beautiful city of Seattle has to offer. Arby's Reubens are good. The Malay Satay Hut is not. We found a Chinese eatery called Joy's Wok just ten minutes walk from the house, that serves tasty and cheap standard fare like Sweet and Sour Pork and Chow Mein.

Still, after three months, the food trek has been pretty tame. We've not found something that keeps us going back for more, so much so that if a friend from Malaysia is visiting, we would not be able to take him or her anywhere that's uniquely Northwest American. Mostly also because we don't know what THAT is. Yet.

Anyway, back to this whole travelling to eat business.

Yesterday, for their last night in Seattle, we decided to bring Lokes' parents to Red Lobster in Lynnwood, a town about 15 miles from Redmond, to enjoy their LobsterFest, because their ads on TV just made it look too good to pass (yea, we're much too gullible when it comes to food). Since we couldn't make a reservation, we decided to throw all caution to the wind and drive that many miles to see if the seafood was really as good as it looked.

30 minutes of uneventful driving later, we arrived at the bustling town of Lynnwood, which seemed like a small metropolis of restaurants, eateries and delis. I mean, never have we seen so many places to eat crammed into two, three strip malls side by side like that. Every American restaurant brand was there, including of course, our destination, the Red Lobster. Lokes dropped us at the entrance, we wrapped up the kids and proceeded to enter the establishment, our appetites ready to take on as many grilled crustaceans as we are willing to pay for.

Only to be faced by a wall of people waiting to be let in.

"How does it look?" I asked the hostess, a young, attractive girl who seemed very stressed out by her stressed out would-be customers. I mean, the waiting lobby was PACKED with hungry people. Who wouldn't be a little worried?

"How many?" she asked.

"Four adults and two kids," I answered.

She flipped her pages and pages of people's names, and came to an empty one, scribbled a "four" on it, and looked at me.

"30 to 40 minutes?"

In the best Malaysian food travelling tradition, we chose not to wait. I mean, driving 15 miles for lobster we don't know is good or not, is already giving it face. To have to wait what could be an hour to eat? No way.

We ended up at Applebee's, just down the road, and ended up having a scrumptious shrimp dinner that my in-laws thoroughly enjoyed. Sure, we spent 30 minutes on the road, but it wasn't wasted. We discovered a food lovers' paradise here just waiting to be explored.

One outlet at a time.

So I'm really down and out after a weekend of frolicky family fun.

My head aches. My nose is nnduck. I actually had to put on a sweater and gym pants to sleep last night because I got the shivers, and I don't own a pair of decent 'jammies and never had.

But yes, I own gym pants.

Anyway, I was still together enough to make angel cake (we Malaysians call it chiffon cake) this morning, but only because I couldn't wait to use all my new baking utensils. I've never baked in my entire life but since we have an oven here, and you know, some cake is always useful to cheer up an otherwise miserable Monday, so I did it. Right now, it's cookin' in there and the smell of vanilla is wafting through the house. Mmmm…I feel better already.

Comfort food. Nothing wrong with it.

Watch out for the recipe in my n00b cook's blog.

I've updated it with some tips and more recipes.

Go wild!

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Here’s a recipe for a simple, economic yet healthy lunch/snack your preschooler will just gobble down. Great if you are running out of time and lunchtime is looming, or when your fridge is running out of food!

It does need an oven though, although you can always fry the chicken with a pan in lieu of one. Baking is healthier – no grease.
Ingredients

  • one egg
  • a mid-sized pc of chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • handful of chips (can sub with tortilla, Lays, taco chips, cornflakes even)

Method

1. Beat egg
2. Add milk to egg and mix in a bowl
3. Put chips in a bag and whack until fine and then place in another bowl
4. Pre-heat oven for five minutes at 400F
5. Dip chicken into milk/egg mix and then coat with chips
6. Place onto baking tray with parchment paper (for easier cleaning) and bake for 10 minutes

You can add a bit of salt into the mix to taste, but if you use presalted Lays chips etc, it should be enough.

Serve with ketchup or a dip. I served with a few slices of buttered bread to make up for the carbs Rae needs, and she TOTALLY cleaned her plate.

Recipe is originally from allrecipes.com. Also in my recipe/food blog for cooking newbies!.

Hey, isn’t that the name of a cheesy Hong Kong serial? Or was it that Chow Yuen Fatt, Cherie Chung, Leslie Cheung movie?

Anyway, things are much better. Rae is still under the weather thanks to the antibiotics but we took her to the park and I attempted to skate AND push her in her stroller at the same time. Fell down once in front of a couple of strangers but sokay.

There’s always tomorrow.

The second thing that the last week has taught me is that the support of your man is important. Lokes was strong and calm throughout, hugs and kisses, soothing words.

It was nice to know that SOMEone was on my side, even if it seems to be us against our own child. One in unison. That’s how you survive parenthood.

And as a reward, I made egg and bacon swiss roll this morning. Yes, swiss roll! Smells yummy already in the oven.

Have a good week ahead, y’all.

Update

Tada!

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The unrolled product.

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Rolled…

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And ready to eat!

Want the recipe? Here it is:

1 cup of cheddar/cottage cheese, grated
3/4 cup of cream/milk mix (they call it half-and-half here, u can sub with just full cream milk)
1/4 tsp of salt
6oz of bacon, fried and crumbled (churning in blender works well) – substituting with Chinese ‘long yuk’/dried meat may also work!
Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp all purpose flour
9 eggs
Parchment/baking lining paper and baking pan (10-inch by 15-incher)

Method
– Blend half the cheese with milk in blender (leave half of the cheese for later)
– add eggs, salt and flour and process further
– line pan with paper and preheat oven to 375F
– pour mixture in and bake for 30 mins until puffy and golden brown
– once done, take out and immediately spread mustard and lay down the cheese and then lay down bacon on top
– roll up from short end like a swiss roll and wait five minutes before serving

It’s a bit of work but worth it. Yum-my!

Finally, Google approved my first cooking production!

This recipe is great for singles and parents who need to whip something simple yet nutritious and delicious up in under 30 minutes.

[googlevideo=http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?videoUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fvp.video.google.com%2Fvideodownload%3Fversion%3D0%26secureurl%3DpwAAAEkyRtKulDGimS8jsQV3i_SPPAbhupXYhYCmrtnMenp8HkAiZFlaDKv-jVi_M7Sv96kYYqXVAb8xTUU_GsWiLExdUxrw0r1W3YttiI05ukhKezdd8Zjc7oJztT6kqFb-sXOdMVooVjUANh4GFQ4HI699ZbHAwXvuFGP6j6E3CCxb0Uk09XKkNCmJJh1H_oVREYf29V77yaHBy9C-Ovak6FLLqwTZfXNFfIu9yMbNxHYa%26sigh%3D_qiG2fQVQKYEMNS2rEhHuqcEwJg%26begin%3D0%26len%3D244666%26docid%3D2803582362489096218&thumbnailUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo.google.com%2FThumbnailServer%3Fcontentid%3D1c38db45146490f3%26second%3D5%26itag%3Dw320%26urlcreated%3D1140739705%26sigh%3DJd7bW1o5bgj5bGu5Q198EYFCg8U&playerId=2803582362489096218&playerMode=embedded]

Need to run now, send Lokes to the airport. Will input ingredients and extra notes in text later. Enjoy!

Cont’d: So the ingredients for this delish dish are (in case the thing just zipped right by ya):

  • 2.5 cups of rice, cooked
  • 3-4 Chinese black mushrooms, cubed
  • 1 cup of chicken, cubed
  • 1/2 cup dried small shrimp
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp each of garlic and onions/shallots, chopped
  • Oyster and soy sauces, salt/pepper to taste (you can use one chicken cube seasoning for added flavor)

Try it!