Weekend Cooking: A very light banana cake

I always have bananas in my freezer as I buy bananas from Costco which come in a big bunch of at least 7-8 large bananas, and too often they seem to ripen at about the same time. They seem to go from green to almost yellow-green to yellow with brown spots all too soon. And I am no fan of ripe bananas. So into the freezer they go.

Usually I’m quite happy to make banana bread but somehow during the last round of banana bread I got tired of eating it really quickly. It just felt so heavy and stodgy. I wanted something that was a lot lighter, more of a cake than a bread. And somehow online I came across this cake recipe that read almost like it was heading a little towards a chiffon cake, something that would be light and different, with whipped egg whites and gula melaka (palm sugar). I reckon that if you can’t find palm sugar (usually at Asian supermarkets) you could use brown sugar, maybe with a bit of molasses to add a depth of flavour. I’ve adapted this recipe to include a step I learnt from Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Banana Bread Recipe, adding a sort of banana essence, made from the reduced liquid from thawed bananas. If you are not using frozen bananas, you can microwave your fresh bananas for a few minutes until soft and some liquid is released. It may be an extra step but it really adds such extra banana flavour to your cake!

Light banana cake

150g cake flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

4 large bananas – about 250g

(I use frozen bananas. Thaw them, sieve the liquid that inevitably remains, and heat the liquid on the stove, reduce it down to at least half and you get the most banana-y liquid ever. Almost like an essence)

100ml gula melaka syrup

100g vegetable or coconut oil

5 yolks

1/2 salt

5 whites

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

75g caster sugar

Line a 7″ square pan. Preheat oven to 350F.

Mash banana and add oil, egg yolks, salt, gula melaka syrup, mix the ingredients.

Add the baking powder and baking soda to the flour and sift this into the banana mixture and mix until well combined. Do not over-mix. Set aside.

Using a mixer, beat the egg white until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar. Continue beating on medium speed while gradually adding the caster sugar. Beat until you get firm peaks.

Gently fold the meringue into the flour mixture in 2 to 3 portions.

Pour into the baking tin. Drop the pan on the counter to get rid of big bubbles.

Place in a water bath and bake for 80 minutes at 350. Cover the top with foil if it is browning too fast.

Cool on a wire rack

Adapted from https://jeannietay.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/banana-gula-melaka-sponge-cake/

Weekend cooking and Cook It Up: LA Son by Roy Choi



The movers would bring our furniture, but we brought the kimchi. Our priorities were in order. We carried in at least thirty-five Tupperware containers of triple-Saran-wrapped soy-dried beef, radish water kimchi, spicy fish intestine, preserved eggs, cucumber kimchi, oyster cabbage kimchi, scallion sounds paste, dried squid, skate panchan, and pickled garlic to bless our brand-new home, our brand-new neighborhood.

Roy Choi is best known for his Kogi gourmet food truck in LA, and he’s now running several restaurants and even inspired a movie, Chef starring Jon Favreau (also the producer and director), which if you haven’t yet seen, I would highly recommend! Just don’t watch it hungry!!


[Photo: Merrick Morton/Open Road Films]


LA Son is Choi’s story. It takes us from the streets of Koreatown to Orange County to Seoul, Korea, even to New York City. Then back to SoCal and its casinos, where bowl after bowl of pho were consumed by the Vietnamese gamblers, and where he loses himself, and later, his money. Then to the Culinary Institute of America where he hones his skills. Choi takes up jobs around California, working for hotels and resorts and even a country club. His stint at Southeast Asian-inspired Rock Sugar brings his palate an even wider variety of tastes. The executive chef of Rock Sugar is from Singapore, which explains Choi’s recipes of satay and Hainan chicken (which one seldom sees in books that are not about Singapore cooking) – some of my absolute favourite things about Singapore. I grew up on these foods. Marinated chicken chunks skewered and grilled over a charcoal fire, dipped in peanut sauce. I love the chunkier peanut sauces with more chopped peanuts in them. It was intense. All those flavours from the meat and the char and the spices and the peanut. And in contrast the simpler tastes of the Hainanese chicken rice. Tender yet juicy chicken meat and that ridiculously mouthwatering rice flavored with chicken juices and pandan and garlic and ginger. Best eaten with a sauce you mix together yourself, with chili sauce, soy sauce (dark and light) and minced ginger. All eaten in the heat and humidity of a hawker centre, food in the middle of the circular table, six stools bolted to the (sometimes wet and slippery) floor. Washed down with giant glass mugs of sugarcane juice or some other kind of freshly squeezed juice (I am partial to carrot-apple) topped with plenty of ice although it will never be able to keep up with the heat and hopelessly melt away.

Oh the things I would order: rojak (a kind of salad of turnips, crispy bean curd, pineapple, beansprouts, cucumbers, with a spicy sweet-salty dressing); fried carrot cake (made with raddish cake similar to that you find at dim sum, but fried with eggs and spring onions and pickled raddish and soy sauce); roti prata; wanton mee.

I am getting carried away! It has been over a year since I was last in Singapore and I am longing for all that food and feasting.

But that is a sign of a good book, in my, er, books! To cause one to reflect and reminisce about ones favourite foods from back home. To have these flavours and tastes floating around as ideas for adapting your own recipes. To take note of all the recipes that sound both tantalising AND, more importantly, doable by home cooks.

His cooking reflects the diverse cuisines he tried as a kid growing up in Los Angeles. His parents, working hard, first at their own restaurant, then when that failed, running a jewellery business, left Roy to figure things out himself after school. There are recipes that are inspired by European cuisines, Latin American cuisines, Mediterranean foods, and of course Asian and American-style dishes.

Choi’s recipes include:

Carne Asada, but true to his own style, it includes mirin.

“Kung Pao Chicken, Papi Style” – he blends oyster sauce, sambal oelek (an Indonesian/Malaysian condiment), fish sauce, Tapatio, rice vinegar, kochujang, Sriracha, lemongrass and so many more things in his sauce that it would take me too long to type it out. Needless to say, I am curious!

The Perfect Instant Ramen – it has butter, cheese and sesame seeds.

Of course there is also the stuff that’s closest to his heart, like kimchi and dumplings and braised short rib stew

One of the best things about his recipes is that he likes to experiment, and it feels like he wants the reader to do the same.

In a few of his recipes, he adds tips like “anything you got, man” when it comes to the vegetables for fried rice. Or how it’s ok to “just buy macaroni salad and kimchi from the store, that’s fine”. And I love how he appreciates that zen moment you get when washing rice, as the rice grains swish and swirl gently in the pot, as you use your fingers to whisk them around. That is one of my favourite things about preparing meals.

There were so many dishes that I marked, that I really ought to get my own copy of this book! But the one I knew I had to try was the Korean short-rib stew. I’ve always loved galbi (here’s a recipe), that Korean barbecued version of ribs. A little salty, a little sweet. So good. But I’ve never tried it in a stew, and it sounded so good. His marinade was that essential Korean mix of sweet, tangy and salty – blitzing ginger, garlic, onions, soy sauce, mirin, apple juice and sugar (I didn’t have orange juice so just used apple juice). I didn’t have chestnuts, taro or butternut squash so I tried my own mix of Napa cabbage, daikon and leeks. I had wanted to add the kabocha squash but forgot all about it. I did a half portion of slightly under two pounds of ribs, and because we had a late afternoon doctor’s appointment, threw it all in the slow cooker, and it turned out perfect. I served it with short-grain rice the first day, then ate it with instant ramen the next day, the stew gravy poured over the noodles, seasoning packet discarded. Even my visiting father-in-law, who tends to never say anything about food, volunteered a “not bad”.



It’s not pretty, but it was pretty darn good!





Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs


Weekend Cooking: beef pasties



I first came across the beef pasty during my year in England, Brighton to be exact. As a poor Masters student, I survived on my own cooking, lots of sandwiches and salads. And the very tasty beef pasty. There was a pasty shop a few minutes’ walk from the international students’ housing – here I have to add that this was one of the attractions of Sussex University – its international graduate students were housed in a block of apartments across the beach. As in a hop skip and a jump to the pebbly beach and freezing water, and just down the beach was Brighton Pier and all. I woke up every morning to seagulls and the smell of the sea. And walked along the beach almost every day. It even snowed twice when I was there. And the sight of a snow-covered beach is something else altogether!

Ok meandering memories aside, I fell for the pasty. It was cheap(ish), filling and hearty, and very convenient!

(Interestingly the Husband (then The Boyfriend) and I also came across pasties when we drove from Champaign-Urbana where he was studying* to Mackinac Island in Upper Peninsula Michigan. According to this website, Cornish miners brought it to Michigan when they went to work in the copper mines there!)

My Mum and I have made this recipe from Rachel Allen’s Bake before (she bought me the book!), although we’ve had to tweak it a bit as I find her recipes lacking in salt (her pastry dough calls for a “pinch” of salt – I’m not very good with ‘pinches’ and would really prefer things measured in teaspoon or grams!). But this is the first time we’ve made a spicy version! Kind of like a beef curry puff I suppose (although curry puff aficionados in Singapore will snort in derision).

I’m copying and pasting her recipe below, also available online. We followed her hot water crust pastry quite exactly, making a double portion of it, as we had 1 pound of beef to use up. I felt that the dough was too soft though, so I’ll try to find another recipe for hot water crust pastry the next time I make this!

With the filling, instead of coriander seeds and cumin seeds and mint, we used a mixture of spices at hand, such as a bit of all-spice and a Everyday Seasoning mix from Trader Joe’s that I use regularly. Nothing too strong as this non-spicy version was for the kids. I didn’t have mint so we substituted coriander leaves instead. And added corn kernels as well as the peas.

My Mum decided to also make a spicy pasty, using the other half of the pound of ground beef. We added to that two small parboiled potatoes, in small cubes, and some chillies, these were really spicy little chillies, so the seeds had to be removed first, then chopped fine. Also added to the mixture was one shallot chopped fine and plenty of coriander leaves and a bit of the stems too. She also added some garam masala.

(No specific proportions unfortunately, as we aren’t very good at measuring things and it’s more of a taste and see how it goes kind of cooking!)

Instead, here are some other recipes, Singapore/Malaysia-style, that you might want to consider, if you’re into spicy pastries. I am especially fond of spicy sardine puffs and miss eating those!

Chicken curry puffs – Rasa Malaysia

Epok epos (beef) – The Malay Kitchen

Spiral sardine puffs – To Food with Love

Curry puffs – The Food Canon



Hot water crust pastry (Makes 250g) – from Rachel Allen’s Bake


75g butter, cubed
100ml water
225g plain flour
Pinch of salt (I used about 1/2 tsp)
1 egg, beaten

Place the butter and water in a medium-sized saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts, then allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil.

Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the egg.

Pour the hot liquid into the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to mix. Spread the mixture out on a large plate with the wooden spoon and allow to cool (about 15 minutes), then wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes until firm.


Beef and pea pasty filling – from Rachel Allen’s Bake

2 tbsp olive oil
150g (5oz) onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp finely grated root ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds (optional)
200g (7oz) minced beef
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
100g (3 ½ oz) fresh or frozen peas
1 tbsp chopped mint
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 220ºC (425°F), Gas mark 7. Make the pastry.

While the pastry is chilling, make the filling. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan set over a medium heat, add the onions, garlic and ginger, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onions are soft and slightly golden.

Grind the seeds in a mortar with a pestle, then add to the pan with the beef, tomato purée, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes or until the beef is cooked. Add the peas for the last 1–2 minutes of cooking. Add the chopped mint, then season to taste and allow to cool.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface until it is approximately 2mm (1/16 in) thick. Using a small saucer or something similar, cut the dough into 12cm (4 ½ in) circles.

Lay 1 generous tablespoon of the mixture on one half of the circle and brush the edge of the other half with beaten egg, then fold it over to form a semi-circle. Pinch the edges together to seal, making sure there is no air trapped inside, and mark the edges with a fork. Repeat until all the circles and filling are used up.

Brush the tops with beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the middle of each comes out hot. Serve hot or at room temperature.


Verdict: We LOVED the spicy version! I’m so going to make it again. I think I might try the non-spicy version with some fresh basil and some chopped up bacon or pancetta next time.

Or maybe try this version from The Guardian. Or maybe these mushroom, cheese and potato pasties from Hungry Hinny!


* yes we had a rather long-distance relationship, having met (on a blind date no less!) a few months before we were both going onto graduate studies. Me to England, him to Illinois. Then him to the San Francisco Bay Area, and me back in Singapore. It’s been quite a journey!




Cook It Up!: A Cookbook Challenge 


Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Weekend Cooking: Quick Brioche and Lemon cupcakes

I’ve been hesitant about trying the recipes from The World of Bread by Malaysian baker Alex Goh (can’t seem to find much information online about him other than this outdated blog, but here’s a link to a food blogger who has tried out quite a few of his recipes, including the intriguing Celery Bread).

My mother-in-law gave this to me for Christmas 2010 and nearly four years later, I’m trying out a recipe!

The problem is that baking, especially bread-making, requires specific instructions and the recipes in this book aren’t written that way. The publisher was probably trying to squeeze as much as possible – in English and Malay as you can see below – in this slim volume so details are scant.



I guess I’m used to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible where she specifies both the time and the Kitchenaid mixer speed for each of mixing. And how much the dough should rise during proofing.

So I was rather lost when I read through this recipe. But decided to persevere. Partly because I was intrigued by the instructions to place the dough in the freezer. In the freezer! Dough! In the freezer!

But yeah, it worked, kind of! I didn’t bother with the ‘tete’ or the head so it looks less like a brioche and more like a muffin, because, well, I used a muffin tin. So this brioche-muffin doesn’t look like a brioche but still tasted relatively eggy and buttery. And more importantly, it was really really quick. Just two hours of proofing and then into the oven it goes. I think most brioche recipes call for several hours of proofing or even overnight.

I might try it again but add an extra egg and see if that improves the taste.




And because my Mum is a lover of lemons, I thought I’d make her some lemon cupcakes from Bake by Rachel Allen, a cookbook that she bought for me some years ago. (Check out my post on my cookbook collection here). I’ve had some trouble with some of the recipes from this cookbook before (although others have been quite yummy) and unfortunately, this lemon cupcake recipe had some problems. I had to bake it for quite a bit longer than it called for, and the cupcake itself, without the frosting, was not very lemony despite my adding twice the amount of lemon zest required! But the lemon buttercream was quite lovely.




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Weekend Cooking and Cook it Up: Black bean patties, hearth bread and pizza!



Trish’s Cook It Up!: A Cookbook Challenge  encourages us to use our cookbooks more. And I managed to do just that this week!




I owe this one to my mum who was flipping through the May issue of Cooking Light (we get it in exchange for airline miles that we will never use) and pointed out this recipe for black bean patties with a cilantro cream sauce.

We didn’t follow it exactly as we are the glance at the recipe, get the gist of it and adapt it to our tastes/pantry kind of people. I always thought that was how people cooked until I met my mother-in-law, who firmly sticks to recipes, measuring out sauces exactly.

The recipe calls for a can of black beans to be mashed, and a mixture of cooked onion and garlic and spices (it uses ground coriander, cumin, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper but we went with paprika and a mixed herb thing I had lying around, as well as some chopped up cilantro leaves and stems) and two eggs to be mixed together. Then shape into patties and cooked.

We added the onion mixture to the beans and a bit of egg. Then did the flour-egg-panko coating that we had already done with the pork chops then fried them.

The recipe also includes a ginger-cilantro cream but required sour cream which we didn’t have (we seldom have any sort of cream in the house). But the patties worked great with a squeeze of lemon and some fresh cilantro leaves!

I imagine that they would taste even more fabulous with a spicy salsa or a fruity one too – peach and avocado? Or mango and avocado? Or for a southeast Asian twist, achar, a Nonya style, very spicy pickle of cucumber, cabbage, pineapple and various other vegetables.









Now this one is cheating a bit. Because we make kong bah (or loh bah) once in a while. And it’s really easy so there’s no need to use a recipe, at least not for us. But there was a recipe for this (although they call it loh bah) in Jo Marion Seow’s Soya and Spice. 

But I figure that most of you reading this post will have no idea what I’m talking about so here it is. Stewed pork belly (we used what the Asian supermarket called pork shank – less fatty and a bit tougher than belly meat) or what we in Singapore know as kong bah. 

It has long been a favourite of mine, something I would request my late maternal grandmother to make for my birthday when I was growing up in Singapore. It is delectable with its soft tender fall-off-the-chopsticks meat, its soya sauce-based gravy with a hint of spices (star anise, cinnamon) and a bit of sugar. The crockpot makes it all too easy to cook this dish but many prefer to do it on the stove. Sometimes eggs are cooked together with the meat, but we aren’t fans of hardboiled eggs here so we do without. But my Mum wanted to add some dried mushrooms. And these soak up the gravy so well. Yum.

It’s best served with steamed buns or steamed rice.




I mostly turn to my cookbooks for baking recipes. And this Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum is one I’ve been slowly making my way through. I really like her very clear precise instructions as well as ways of shaping loaves, which are great for this beginner.

On Friday I made the Basic Hearth Bread. Bread always takes more advanced planning than I’m ready for! We were going out to Ardenwood Historic Farm in the morning for a picnic lunch so there wasn’t time in the morning to make the bread. So I made the sponge and the starter, popped it in the fridge after an hour and a half on the counter. We got back after 1pm. And it was only around 2 that I managed to get started again. This dough requires about 4 hours of rising – one hour here, shape it then another hour there, that kind of thing. In between all the shaping and rising I was attempting to: put the little ones to nap, feed them a snack, clean up all the picnic stuff, clean the floor, and… type this post!!! It’s sitting in its final rise while I’m typing this sentence. Also rising is my pizza dough that will be dinner.


And that pizza dough is TA DA!!! also from a cookbook.

Alas, it is not something new that I dared to experiment with. Instead, it is a quick pizza dough from Smitten Kitchen that I have talked about here before. It is quick, it is easy. It is half an hour of rising and then you get to rolling and topping. And Wee Reader gets to join in the fun. He, thankfully, is good at not making too much of a mess, but hasn’t quite figured out that it’s all about scattering the cheese and instead prefers to dump big handfuls over the sauce. His favourite topping? Broccoli. And cheese. He happily ate two big slices of pizza. And fast too. That’s a sign of a good dinner.

All in all, not a bad week in terms of cooking from cookbooks!




Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs


Weekend Cooking and Cook it Up!: My cookbooks




Trish at Love, Laughter and Insanity is hosting a cookbook challenge! The details are over at her blog but she’s left it up to us to decide whether to focus on one cookbook a month or perhaps, like Andi, to try something different each week.

I’m hoping to cook from one of my cookbooks once a week. It’s all too easy to turn on the phone or tablet and google whatever it is I’m thinking of cooking. It’s a bit harder to figure out if my cookbooks have a particular recipe I’m looking for. It all seems to come down to meal planning! We hit the farmers market on Sunday mornings to get fruits and vegetables (luckily my farmers market has plenty of stalls selling Asian vegetables), but have to visit Costco and my usual Asian supermarket (Marina Foods or Ranch 99) for other things like meats, fish and other ingredients.

My cookbooks sit in a shelf just below water bottles and other random things, above my Kitchenaid mixer, paper towel, and water jugs. They’re always there, always accessible but it’s just too easy to reach for a device these day!

And as I snapped this picture I realized how much history I have with some of them.




The Best of Singapore Cooking (orange cover on the left) is actually my husband’s, it was a gift from his Mum when he left for the US for college.

Next to that  is The New Mrs Lee’s Cookbook, which its author (the granddaughter of the original author) updated. I interviewed her when I was working for a newspaper in Singapore and she gave me the cookbook. The book next to that, Penang Heritage Food, is written by my cousin’s father-in-law. Consuming Passions next to it, is a collection of recipes from ‘old girls’ of my secondary school, which my mum picked up for me in Singapore.


Speaking of my Mum, she actually gave me quite a few of these cookbooks! The baby cookbooks were all presents from her, as is Bake by Rachel Allen, Sylvia Tan’s Taste, and Soya & Spice by Jo Marion Seow, the last two being Singaporean writers.

The Bread Bible was a Christmas present from my sister (by my request). It’s got great illustrations on bread-making techniques like how to form a round loaf!

Harumi’s Japanese Cooking was a gift from my Japanese friend and former flatmate. I wrote about it – and my friendship with her – here. 

The top two books lying horizontal are bread-making books by a Malaysian baker that my mother-in-law gave me one Christmas, as she knows how much I enjoy baking!

Bills Food by Aussie chef Bill Granger was a gift from my good friends in Singapore when I was leaving Singapore for the UK to study for a year. It might be the most thumbed of all my cookbooks! I regularly bake his oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and brownie recipes. Simple and delicious.

I’ve also got a couple of books by Nigella Lawson (always fun – and wow, those ice-cream recipes in Forever Summer sound fantastic), one by Nigel Slater (his kitchen diary), some food magazines by Donna Hay (so pretty!), and Smitten Kitchen, whose quick pizza dough recipe I depend on.

Now where do I begin?!?! 






Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs