Min Jian Kueh or Peanut Pancake #WeekendCooking

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Something the husband always makes sure to eat when we visit Singapore, is a snack called min jian kueh or ban jian kuih. It’s essentially a thick fluffier than usual pancake that’s filled with a variety of ingredients, folded in half, and sliced up. There’s a thick soft version, but also a thin crispy version. I’m never sure if they’re both called by the same name.

I decided to see how easy (or not!) it was to make, first watching this video to see how it’s made. I combined two recipes, one from The Meat Men above, and also, this one from What To Cook Today. Because it used tapioca starch and that was something I had in the pantry.

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For the pancake batter

  1. 100g plain flour
  2. 30g tapioca starch
  3. ½ tsp baking soda
  4. ½ tsp instant yeast
  5. 2 tbsp sugar
  6. 1 egg
  7. 160ml water (lukewarm)
  8. pinch of salt

For the filling:

  1. 50g roasted ground peanuts
  2. 25g sugar
  3. A few small cubes of butter (optional)

Essentially, mix together the batter ingredients, until relatively smooth. Set it aside for at least half an hour to let proof. There should be some bubbles in the batter.

Meanwhile, mix your sugar and peanuts together for the filling.

Heat a medium-sized frying pan for a few minutes on medium heat. This is to make sure the whole pan is well heated, to ensure that you get the characteristic honeycomb look.

Spray some oil and spread it evenly with a paper towel.

Pour the batter into the pan. I used about a ladle and a half. Spread it across the pan properly.

Cover and let cook for about 4 minutes on medium heat. Don’t have the heat too high. The first time I made this, the bottom was a bit overdone.

Lift the cover and check that there’s bubbles and that the batter is cooked (you don’t want it to be wet, as it won’t be flipped over). Spread the filling over half the pancake. I also tried adding some small cubes of butter to one pancake before the peanuts, for additional flavour perhaps? Not sure if it’s needed.

Here’s where recipes seem to differ. Some of them say to put the filling on, and cook for a couple more minutes. Others say to take the pancake out of the pan and fill it. And fold it in half.

I guess it doesn’t really make that much of a difference if you make sure the pancake batter is no longer wet, then fill it. You don’t want to have raw batter in your pancake.

Other possible fillings…

cheese and scallions

chocolate chips or chocolate rice

shredded coconut

Instead of ground peanuts, some eateries in Singapore use chunky peanut butter. Also very good.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page

A blueberry pie that almost didn’t make it #WeekendCooking

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I’m not sure why I was determined to make a pie for Pi Day. We never did anything for Pi Day before, although they do talk about it in school. For whatever reason, I had it in my head that I would make a blueberry pie.

In Singapore, there was a little local bakery that my mom would take us. I have no idea its name, but it was near the library, or at least that’s how it is in my memory. And they had blueberry pie. Which is unusual, as it’s not exactly a dessert that was common in Singapore at that time. I’m sure blueberries were really expensive then – and they still might be? Singapore imports a lot of fruits and vegetables as there’s little space for farming.

But somehow I remember that pie.

And I wanted to make one.

I found this recipe on Food52 by Rose Levy Bernabaum. I am a fan of Bernabaum’s Bread Bible, and have loved everything I’ve made in that book, especially the scones, which are my go-to scone recipe. I always double that recipe so I have extra to store in the freezer.

The one thing I wasn’t so sure was the measurements. The recipe used cups which personally I detest. I feel like baking recipes should always provide weights which are far more accurate than cups. And usually, I would stay far away from a cups-only recipe. But this one sounded really good. The filling isn’t baked, just 1/4 of the berries are cooked, then the rest are mixed together with the syrupy cooked ones.

Well, unfortunately, somehow I got myself tripped up on the measurements and ended up using twice the amount of butter! I only realised it the next day when I put it into the oven to bake and the pastry started melting! Sigh…

I scraped it into the compost bin after it cooled and started over. But I didn’t have the time to work on the same dough so I just quickly went with this one by Smitten Kitchen. I let it rest for a while in the fridge, not as long as I wanted to, and then rolled it out and baked it. The dough shrank in some parts. Sadness.

It may be because of my glass pie dish. I have since ordered a metal dish so I’m hoping that will see some improvement?

The blueberries though were simple and delicious. A quarter of them are cooked in water, then some cornstarch solution and sugar are added. Then it’s mixed with the rest of the blueberries. Once the pie crust has cooled a few minutes, just pour in the blueberries. They need to set for at least two hours. I loved how the blueberries were mostly intact and they were juicy and plump. Although my dough didn’t look great, it was still tasty.

My 7yo, who’s probably my harshest critic who refused to eat the mixed berry muffins we made last week, declared it delicious and ate it again for breakfast the next day.

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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

Lunar New Year Nian Gao 年糕 #WeekendCooking

Happy Lunar New Year! Today (Saturday) is the second day of the Year of the Ox.

Nian Gao 年糕 is a traditional Lunar New Year treat. It’s something I’ve eaten as a kid growing up in Singapore but it was not something we made at home. But I loved eating it! If you’ve never eaten nian gao before, it’s a sweet sticky cake of sorts made with sugar, water and glutinous rice flour.

I don’t eat it on its own but instead, I slice it up, and dip it in egg and pan fry it. Panfrying it with egg softens the Nian Gao a bit and the warm sticky eggy cake is delicious.

I think there are several different interpretations between the meaning of the cake. I remember reading about how it’s offered to the Kitchen God, and the sticky cake will prevent him from saying bad things about the family to the Jade Emperor. The word 年(Nian) meaning “year” sounds the same as the word 粘 (Nian) which means “sticky”.

Also, 糕 (gao) means “cake” but also is the same sound as 高 which means higher, so 年高 means a higher (better) year.

This year, the fourth grader had an assignment, which was to make a Lunar New Year dish. Some of the other examples included dumplings, steamed fish, tangyuan. But he wanted to go with the Nian Gao. I looked up the recipe, (and also another and yet another ) and realised that it’s actually quite doable. It’s made up of a few main ingredients and needs to be steamed. Traditionally (at least in Singapore), it’s wrapped in banana leaves, but I didn’t have any (although I have seen them in the Asian supermarkets here). Instead I just oiled my cake tin well.

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So since this was the kid’s assignment, he was in charge of pretty much all of it. I pretty much only helped him with the steaming part as it’s tricky putting the tin into a pot of boiling water! Oh I also did help a bit when he had to simmer the water and sugar together on the stove, just to make sure the water stayed simmering and not boiling, and helped him to figure out if the sugar was dissolved properly.

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The really traditional way of making Nian Gao seems to involve some 10 to 12 hours of steaming in order to get the sugar to caramelise! There are quite a few different variations in the making of Nian Gao. This recipe from What to Cook Today also gives directions for making it in the Instant Pot and the slow cooker. I went with the regular steaming method, with a pot of water, a little metal stand to prop my cake tin, and a piece of aluminium foil to stop the drips of moisture from the lid getting into the Nian Gao.

I decided to follow the instructions of this recipe from Woks of Life, which said to test the cake with a toothpick and if it comes out clean, it’s done. It turned out quite nicely.

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Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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

Christmas cookies #WeekendCooking

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

although my cookie flavours this year really aren’t Christmassy at all!

This year I have been making cookies to give to friends from school as well as to send to the husband’s mentor.

You might notice that this year’s recipes are mostly from the same website! I like her recipes for its Asian flavours and its detailed instructions.

Chinese-style Walnut Cookies (Hup Toh Soh). Recipe here. I like this as it doesn’t use shortening (which I never have at home and can’t be bothered to make a trip to the supermarket to get).

Matcha Sesame Seed Shortbread. Recipe here. Another easy recipe that’s quite effective and I suppose, with its green, somewhat Christmassy? I added more salt to the recipe though, as I tend to prefer shortbread that’s not too sweet.

Red Bean Crinkle Cookies. Recipe here. I made a regular batch and then another batch replacing a tablespoon of floor with a tablespoon of matcha powder. I quite like it!

Lemon biscotti. Recipe here.  Previously I used the KAF American-style biscotti recipes, but this time went with the lemon biscotti. I didn’t want to use the almond extract though so I replaced it with lemon extract for extra lemony flavour. Also, I feel that most lemon recipes don’t have enough lemony-ness, so I increased the amount of zest and juice. It’s also a combination of regular lemon and Meyer lemon.

Do you bake Christmas cookies? What are your favorites?

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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

Sourdough, finally (and Tartine Bread) #WeekendCooking

I’ve also recently been nurturing a sourdough starter. Everyone’s into sourdough these days but the husband has never been a fan of sourdough (and me, I’m ok about it) so I never thought about making it. I was curious about starters though, the idea of wild yeast is always kinda fascinating!

It was only after watching The Chef Show on Netflix (if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it! It has Jon Favreau and Roy Choi and they just always seem to have such fun together, whatever it is that they’re cooking or baking), that I decided to go borrow the Tartine Bread book.

Tartine is a famous Bay Area bakery that I’ve never been to 😛 but well you can’t live in the Bay Area without knowing about it I guess! It’s now in LA and even in Seoul.

At any rate, I watched Jon Favreau make the sourdough bread (they also make pizza flatbread which looks delicious) with Tartine’s Chad Robertson (who wrote the book). And something about that made me go, huh I want to give it a try too.

And so I did.

This book is a good read for learning more about sourdough, at least the part about starters and leavens, as it gave me a bit more understanding about it than some recipes I was reading online. For instance, he describes the cycle of the starter, how the aroma changes etc. As well as how they gave the recipe and some dutch oven combo cookers (which he recommends people use to bake the bread in), to several test bakers, some who had never baked bread before, and how they modified it to suit their schedules.

Some of his instructions at the beginning are a bit vague – the feeding of the starter bit, which was along the lines of “replace it with equal amounts of water and the flour blend”, which is fine but really, as a beginner, I wanted to know, yes is it like 50g? 200g? So I ended up following the feeding instructions I found online, which was 60g of each.

I followed his recipe for country bread (a less detailed version is available on their website). And it is a bit time-consuming, with the first rise (bulk fermentation) of 3 hours requiring “turning” the dough every half hour – thankfully, in the container, so it’s not messy. The second rise (in tea-cloth covered bowls) is 3-4 hours.

I didn’t have a dutch oven or combo cooker, so I shaped then gently tumbled the dough onto a parchment and slid it onto the preheated pizza tray. I also had a preheated tray at the bottom of the oven which I poured some boiling water into.

And I think it was quite a successful first sourdough bake.

It didn’t have too much of a sourdough taste thankfully. So the husband said he was ok with eating it. The 7yo didn’t like it but the 9yo agreed that it was delicious. The recipe does say that if you leave the second rise in the fridge, it will develop a stronger taste – obviously I’m not going to do that.

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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

Chocolate Cherry Loaf Cake #WeekendCooking

I think I did it.

I actually added something to a recipe and made it better!

While I am fond of riffing off cooking recipes, I tend to be a stickler when it comes to baking. Follow that recipe. Follow its instructions! All of them! Well, except when it comes to sugar, as most American baking recipes are really too sweet so I tend to reduce the sugar amount by a quarter or so. But usually, I stick to the baked goods recipe.

But this time, I wanted to use up the remainder of the cherry preserve (recipe from here) of sorts that I had made for the husband’s Black Forest birthday cake and of which there had been far too much for the cake.

I had thought of a few things, including just adding it to a regular butter cake mixture, using it as topping for pancakes or yogurt (delicious).

But what about adding it to a chocolate cake? Especially a rich chocolate cake recipe like this Quadruple Chocolate Loaf by Nigella Lawson which is a beautiful rich and moisture chocolate cake. The chocolate is in the form of cocoa powder and chocolate pieces in the cake, as well as a chocolate syrup to be poured over the top after baking, and chocolate shavings to top it all off. It is an absolutely gorgeous cake to make in all its chocolate glory, but after following the recipe – but replacing chocolate chips with chocolate chunks I cut off from a bar of chocolate – I stirred in the cherry preserves into the batter.

It needed a little longer than an hour baking time, but it came out just nice. The cherries added that slight acidity to cut the richness of the cake. And also some added moisture, to an already moist cake. I didn’t add the chocolate syrup and it’s chocolatey enough to do without the chocolate shavings, but I’m sure making the proper quadruple chocolate loaf would make for an intense chocoholic stupor.

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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

Black Forest Cake, Eyeball Cupcakes, and Lemon Meringue Pie (oh my) #WeekendCooking

Oh boy, this was a bit of a crazy baking week for me. More like a crazy baking Friday, I guess.

We had been invited to a small Halloween backyard party, complete with pizza and Halloween art. And I’ve been well trained by my mum, and knew that I couldn’t go empty-handed.

So, Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie it was. Since I had quite a few Meyer lemons (albeit tiny ones), from my dwarf Meyer lemon tree. Then I thought, maybe I ought to do something more Halloween-appropriate. I know Meyer lemon season is now really, but the bright lemony yellow fruit doesn’t exactly scream “Halloween!” does it?

Chocolate cupcakes? Decorate them to make them look like eyeballs? I could do that, I thought!

I had made lemon meringue pie a few months back, as I adore lemon meringue pie but had somehow never made it. I had then used the recipe from King Arthur Flour but had not quite cooked the lemon filling as properly as I should have, resulting in a slightly liquid-y filling, but it was delicious though…

I decided to stick with the crust part of that recipe (it is a simple crust using oil, no need to stick the dough in the fridge for hours). But went with the filling from this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction – her crust sounds delicious but required shortening which I didn’t have, and several hours’ refrigeration which I didn’t have time for. But since I was using Meyer lemons which are far less tart (and more like a mix of lemon and tangerine, in case you haven’t tried it), I reduced the sugar quite a bit, and added a lot more zest as Meyer lemons smell amazing.

The pie came out wonderfully. The filling held perfectly, and everyone enjoyed it!

Since I was already on the Sally’s Baking Addiction website, I used her chocolate cupcake recipe. The batter was surprisingly thin so I was a bit worried, but it turned out to be a really delicious, moist and chocolate-y cupcake.

(Someone else made apple, peanut butter, marshmallow teeth!)

I also used her Vanilla Buttercream recipe, just 3/4 of it, that is, as I just am not fond of a cupcake that is all buttercream – it looks pretty, but ugh just way too much for me. I went with the lower amount of icing sugar (she gives a range in the recipe), and upped the salt quite a bit, as I really didn’t want it to be too sweet.

Unfortunately, the only food colouring gel I had on hand were pastels, so I had to make do with pinkish bloodshot eyes. 😛

And the final thing to do that day was to finish up the Black Forest cake for the husband’s birthday on Halloween. If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while, you may know that I make a Black Forest cake every year for the past few years. Here’s the post I did in 2018, one in 2014,  another in 2013 – I didn’t post about it every year, but I have apparently made it since 2013?

Anyway, I use the cake recipe from King Arthur Baking  (and had made the cake layers a couple of days ago, and froze them), and usually I find the sour cherries from Trader Joe’s, but this time they didn’t have any! So I had to resort to frozen regular cherries and made the cherry preserve mixture from Life, Love and Sugar (it did make more than I needed though!) then a simple whipped cream using heavy cream and sugar and a touch of vanilla extract. And decorated with chocolate shavings.

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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

Beef and beer pie #WeekendCooking

After my older son did his class craft, which was to make “mooncakes” using puff pastry and tangyuan, I was left with an extra sheet of puff pastry, and I wanted to do something for a meal with it.

So I found this recipe for Beef Guinness Pie from NY Times

It looked easy enough, although had an interesting link to trotter gear. Something that was new to me. I hadn’t heard of it before, have you?

Turns out, the pie recipe is from Jamie Oliver and Fergus Henderson (adapted by Sam Sifton for the NY Times), and Henderson is rather fond of using trotter gear in many of his restaurants’ dishes. It’s best described as a jellied broth made from pigs’ feet and vegetables.

I didn’t really fancy messing about with trotters, so luckily the recipe had a substitute – freshly grated cheddar cheese. That I found quite interesting. I can understand a jellied broth giving the unctuousness that this pie filling needs, but cheddar? Why have I never put cheddar into stews before? It really creates this silkiness that is quite delicious. I also adapted this recipe a bit as I didn’t have any stout but instead used a dark beer I had in the fridge. I only used one can of beer and added some stock instead (the recipe calls for two cans). Also, I cooked my stew on the stove top instead of the oven, and added in far more vegetables than the recipe calls for – two carrots and two ribs of celery to 3 pounds of meat seems a bit miserable. I increased it to five carrots and 6 ribs of celery.

After the filling cooks for a few hours, pop it into a pyrex dish, cover with the store-bought puff pastry (or follow the recipe for the crust), brush with egg wash, pop into the oven, and there you go, a comforting and delicious beef and beer pie for dinner!

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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

Plum cake#WeekendCooking

What do you do when your husband returns from the Sunday farmers market with a giant bag of plums – “they were on offer!”, he said. I should also mention, he also came home with a giant bag of green grapes and our usual flat (or is it a half-flat? There are nine of those little green baskets worth) of strawberries. And in the fridge also had clementines, apples, and a few pluots.

We do eat quite a bit of fruits – it’s our usual dessert after lunch and dinner – but that was quite a lot of plums.

So it was off to the Internet for a fun plum cake recipe, and this one by Smitten Kitchen looked delicious and easy. I especially liked that I only need to half and pit the plums – it was a busy day in the kitchen as I was also planning to cook up as much of the San Marzano tomatoes that I had harvested.

I followed her instructions although I only baked it for about 35 minutes – the skewer I stuck in came out clean, but on hindsight, I should have stuck it in in another spot as well to check.

The problem was that after letting the cake cool for 15 minutes (and thus having the plum juices seep into the cake), I had to invert it onto a plate and then onto a cooling rack, as I always do for cakes. But when I tipped it over, I realised that a little bit in the middle of the cake was a bit soggy and the inversion process had dripped some juices onto my counter. So it wasn’t as firm a cake as I imagined it would be. That could be due to a couple of things:

  • I had put in the maximum number of plum halves I could squeeze into my 9×9 cake tin.
  • I should have baked it for longer – questionable, as the skewer I used to test it came out clean.
  • A couple of the plums I used were a bit riper than the others (but they weren’t falling apart overripe, they cut in half cleanly)

Still it was a delicious cake. I loved how the plum juices turned it reddish, and it was a good excuse to eat some at breakfast – it’s mostly fruit!

Have you made any plum cakes? And what’s your favourite?

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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

Singapore-style carrot cake #WeekendCooking

Now when I say “carrot cake”, for most of you what comes to mind is that delightful dessert, often with a cream cheese frosting, sometimes with nuts in it, or with shredded coconut, and definitely with carrots in the batter.

But in Singapore, carrot cake or chai tow kway (in Teochew dialect), does not have carrots, instead has daikon or white radish, and is a delicious savoury dish found at most hawker centres and food courts.

It is one of my must-eat dishes when I’m back in Singapore. There are two versions, white or black. Black has the addition of a sweet black sauce so it has a slightly sweeter taste than the white.

But why “carrot cake”? Perhaps because in Mandarin (and other Chinese dialects), carrots are 红萝卜 (hong luobo) and daikon or white radish is 白萝卜 (bai luobo). The only difference between those two is the colour – 红 red vs 白 white. As for “cake”, the dialect word kway (which in Mandarin is 糕 gao) just means a cake or pastry of some sort. And the carrot cake does begin with a steamed “cake” of daikon and rice flour.

So now that you know a little bit about Singapore-style carrot cake, how is it made?

Part one: Make the steamed daikon cake (enough for 3-4 portions)

One medium-sized daikon, grated (it gave me about 600g grated)

50 ml water

Steam for about 30 minutes until the grated daikon turns translucent

200g rice flour

250 ml water

1 tsp salt

Mix the three ingredients along with the steamed grated daikon above. I placed it in a small metal cake tin, and into the steamer (which is for me, just a pot with a small metal rack on which to put the tin). Steam for 40 minutes until firm.

Let cool and then place it in the fridge. I did this overnight as it made it easier to cut up. 

The radish cake from above is enough for 3-4 portions

5 eggs, beaten together (more if you’d like)

2-3 tbsp of preserved radish – I soak this for a few minutes as it can be really salty. Then drain in a sieve.

4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped (then again, I do like garlic, you can decrease this a bit)

spring onions

fish sauce (to taste)

white pepper (to taste)

chili sauce (optional)

Cut the radish cake into small cubes.

I used a wok but you can use a nonstick skillet.

Heat oil, fry the radish cake cubes until slightly crisp and lightly browned.

Add the garlic and preserved radish to the pan. Fry it for a bit until the garlic smells good. Don’t burn the garlic!

Season with fish sauce, white pepper, chilli sauce. You can add salt if it’s not salty enough. 

Add the beaten eggs and let it cook a bit before flipping. Some prefer carrot cake that’s more stirred up and messy, others may prefer it a bit more like an omelette. 

Top with chopped spring onions. 

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and 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