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Chef Wan is my favorite Malaysian celebrity chefs of all. The man has arguably done the most for Malaysian cuisine than anyone ever had. I was genuinely proud when I saw his cooking show on TV when I was in Vietnam.

The man is my hero.

Chef Wan went around and gave tips to the contestants
Chef Wan went around and gave tips to the contestants

I finally got to see the man in real life a couple Saturdays ago during Pencarian Chef Selebriti 2 dan Gas PETRONAS event. Together with Petronas Dagangan Berhad‘s Nik Faizanira Nik Affandi, and Berita Harian‘s Jami’ah Sokri, they were the panel of judges for the event.

Pencarian Chef Selebriti 2 with Petronas Gas and BH at the Curve
Pencarian Chef Selebriti 2  Berita Harian dan Gas PETRONAS at the Curve, Damansara

Before I got ahead of myself, Pencarian Chef Selebriti 2 BH dan Gas PETRONAS is the second year of the unique competition that has the aim to find chefs who has interesting personality, highly eloquent, and be able to communicate and capture audience with his/her culinary knowledge. Of course, one must also be able to cook up great dishes.

Our hosts of the day were two very funny guys – Angah Raja Lawak and Mie Raja Lawak.

Mohd Zamri bin Sahari, the emcees, Kamarudin bin Dali, Riza bin Ismail
Mohd Zamri bin Sahari, the emcees, Kamarudin bin Dali, Riza bin Ismail

The competition was separated into two main categories – individual and professional. Kimberly and I attended the event just as the professional category was getting started.

These were the three finalists

  • Mohd Zamri bin Sahari, 25, Culinary lecturer and freelance chef
  • Riza bin Ismail, 28, Executive Chef
  • Kamarudin bin Dali, 38, Hotel Chef

and they had one hour to prepare an appetizer and a main dish
and they had one hour to prepare an appetizer and a main dish

The chefs were given one hour to come up with an appetizer and a main dish to impress the judges. Ample ingredients were given, which includes seafood, vegetable, meat, mushroom, seasonings, and so on. Blender, pots, pans, knife and all other necessary kitchen utensils were available as well.

While there’re kitchen helpers for the individual event, professional chefs had to do it all by themselves.

Ayu OIAM, Baby Shima, and Adam AF were among the performers
Ayu OIAM, Baby Shima, and Adam AF were among the p performers

While the contestants were busy cooking, we were entertained by Ayu OIAM, Baby Shima, and Adam AF. Chef Wan also went around to the contestants to give advice and asked questions as well.

An hour later, all three chefs successfully completed their two dishes each.

a photo with the contestants and judges, before tasting begins
a photo with the contestants and judges, before tasting begins

Then there’s judging time, and boy was Chef Wan an awesome judge.

He was harsh, to the point, and absolutely non-nonsense in his criticism to each dish and the contestants. It was a bit like Simon Cowell, except maybe with even more drama.

Case in point – “if orang mat salleh eat your under cooked potato, they’ll throw it to you”.

To be fair, he also gave some very good advice. If anything, I am now even more impressed with Chef Wan.

Chef Wan was harsh, to the point, and very very good in his critics
Chef Wan was harsh, to the point, and very very good in his critics

Among the dishes mussels in Thai sauce (which was criticized by Chef Wan for deviating away from 1Malaysia theme), salmon with begedil, deep fried tiger prawns, roti jala and so forth. They were beautifully decorated.

and here are your winners! congratulations
and here are your winners! congratulations

At the end, Mohd Zamri bin Sahari was crowned as the champion. His bergedil with pan seared salmon was praised by Chef Wan, and on top of that, I thought he was the most eloquent among the three contestants as well. The prize was RM 10,000, and a 6 month contract for Berita Harian penning the cooking column.

Riza bin Ismail and Kamarudin bin Dali came in as 2nd and 3rd place.

In the individual category, Chua Tor Aik won the top prize, while Azman Abu Samah and Rosni binti Johari were 2nd and 3rd.

I wish the best to the winning chefs and to the runner ups, there’s always next year.

After the event I tried to replicate the winning main dish – bergedil with pan seared salmon. It turned out to be a pretty simple dish to make, and one that wasn’t bad at all when it comes to taste as well. Check out the video!

This Thai minced pork cucumber soup is something that we came across while staying over at Khaolak for degassing purposes after a satisfying live-aboard diving trip at Similan Islands.

The soup was so good that when we came home, Haze and I tried to re-create the same dish at home, and I think she got it pretty close. Here’s the resulting soup that is somewhat healthy, simple to make, and may I say, quite delicious. :D

Thai Cucumber Soup with Minced Pork
Thai Minced Pork Cucumber Soup

Ingredients:

  • big fresh cucumber
  • fish sauce (or salt)
  • white pepper
  • minced meat (300 gram or enough for stuffing)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

ingredients are simple, we use fresh cucumber
ingredients are simple, we use fresh cucumber

Instructions:

  • While heating up 3 bowls of water, remove cucumber skin, cut in halves, then into bite size, remove the seeds
  • mix minced meat with generous amount of pepper, a teaspoon of fish sauce (or a dash of salt), and a teaspoon of sesame oil
  • apply minced meat on cucumber where the seeds used to be (you can 1/2 teaspoon of corn starch to make the mixture more sticky)
  • carefully put the cucumber into boiling water with meat side on top
  • boil for 15-20 minutes or until cucumber is soft
  • serve while hot

minced meat and cucumber is a great combination
minced meat and cucumber is a great combination

This soup usually comes with tong fun (glass noodle) so if you wanna add that, do go ahead. For even more flavorful soup base, feel free to add chicken/pork bones too.

Happy cooking!

I’ll be the first to admit, this blog isn’t exactly synonymous to healthy living. Most of the food entries in this blog are chosen only based on one criteria – they are tasty. The health aspect usually takes a back seat, or at least not featured prominently.

The good thing is though, you can actually eat healthy relatively easily – and this applies to both eating out as well as having home cooked meals.

There is one very simple rule of thumb – less oil and less fat.

I’m not saying one should avoid eating those sinful oily stuff completely, but toning it down is a good idea despite your age, and especially if you aren’t living a particularly active lifestyle to begin with.

seafood noodle soup and dry version, fried fish cake
fish noodle soup at B & Best, SS 4

There are always choices when it you are eating out, and avoiding having fried items like char kuih teow or mee goreng too often is a good thing. One of my favorites is in fact, fish noodle soup places such as B & Best at SS 4, other healthier choices include lui cha (vegetarian), kampar noodle, and beef noodle. All of which involves very little usage of oil, and aren’t deep fried.

Hing Ket Grill House Seafood, Klang
BBQ crab, lamb, and other seafood at Hing Ket, Klang

In essence, try to choose food that are prepared with as little oil/fat as possible – steam, boil, and even bbq version are usually a lot less oily. Hing Ket grilled seafood at Klang immediately comes in mind, and there are even restaurants that prepares everything by steaming, such as Restaurant K.T.L at  Cheras.

steamed tilapia and steamed egg are the must order items
everything is steamed at restaurant K.T.L.

When ordering stuff that involves frying, there’s always the option to ask for less oil. More often than not, the chef/hawker operator will comply. (same goes with when ordering drinks – kurang manis!)

Other than avoiding oil, having more fruits and vegetable too is another way to get a balance dose of nutrients for your body. Replacing snacks with fruits is perhaps one of the best choice anyone can make. I’m lucky that my company actually provides free fruits on Fridays, but ideally one should have at least a portion every day.

Home cooked food:

For those who cooks at home, it is even easier to have a healthy diet since everything is within your own control. Recipes can always be modified to use less oil by incorporating or replacing it with other methods of cooking that uses less oil. For those with the budget, there are now “air fryer” that uses very little oil for deep frying (80% less). Do check out Philips Airfryer and Tefal Actifry.

For those of us without those fancy fryer, here’s a recipe for yummy watercress soup that is simple to prepare, awesome to taste, cheap, and wholesomely healthy. I used to make this soup when I was in the States and misses mom’s meal.

watercress soup recipe
do wash and and only use the tender part of watercress

Ingredients (to make 2 bowls of soup):

  • watercress (I got this at supermarket for RM 2)
  • 4-5 pieces of pork bones (chicken wings or chicken bones for halal version) for soup taste
  • half a dozen dried red dates
  • 3-5 pieces of dried scallops (optional)
  • 3 bowls of water
  • salt to taste

boil meat/chicken, then add watercress, done!
boil meat/chicken, then add watercress, done!

Instructions:

  • boil the meat/bones in a separate pot for 2-3 minutes to get rid of impurities
  • in the main pot, bring water to boil and add red dates, meat, and dried scallops
  • add watercress
  • keep boiling on low temperature for half an hour
  • add salt to taste

the finished dish - watercress soup, healthy and tasty
the finished dish – watercress soup, healthy and tasty

There you go, a healthy bowl of soup that goes perfectly with steamed rice, ready in 30 minutes, and as homey as you can get. You can perhaps pair this with some steamed fish.

Eat healthy, stay fit, and live longer, happier.

P/S: Do tune into 1 Sihat Malaysia to get more health tips on eating habits and healthy living. The program is hosted by Fahrin Ahmad and features stories from the local celebrities. Head to gayahidupsihat.my for more, this post is brought to you by Ministry of Health.

One of the things I learned from going to college in the States was that Indian food is not limited to spicy curry, tandoori, nasi kandar, and roti canai. There were a host of other dishes that are mostly vegetarian, and mostly absent from the local Indian/mamak restaurants back in KL.

Later I would find out that India is a big country, with varying culinary cultures in different regions. The version of Indian food here in Malaysia is mostly influenced from the Southern region of India, while those available in States usually originates from the Northern region.

ingredients of baingan bharta, vegetarian
ingredients of baingan bharta, vegetarian

My favorite dish from this Punjabi/Northern Indian cuisine is Baingan Bhrata – a name that took me a while to remember and be able to spell it. It is basically an eggplant dish with mixture of onion, tomato, garlic, chili (or capsicum) and curry spices all cooked into almost like a pulp.

While presentation is never easy for something that looks like a pile of mud, this dish is quite strong tasting and flavorful. This is not a difficult dish to prepare, but one that is quite tedious in preparation, but here goes!

the key is to roast the eggplant first
the key is to roast the eggplant first

Ingredients:

  • one large eggplant (brinjal, aubergine, or whatever you want to call it)
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 capsicum
  • 1 yello onion
  • 7-8 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoon cooking oil

stir-fry everything till soft, add garam masala too
stir-fry everything till soft, add garam masala too

Instructions:

  • roast the eggplant in oven at 175 Celsius for 40 minutes, you might want to turn it over half way. The eggplant is ready when the skin is charred and start to cave in. Alternatively, you can put it in a microwave for 8-10 minutes, or grill it on your gas stove too
  • in the mean time, chopped all other ingredients finely
  • heat up cooking oil, and start frying onion, garlic, and capsicum for 3-4 minutes or until onion is translucent
  • next add tomato, stir for a minute
  • finally add eggplant and all the spices, and stir fry everything for a few more minutes until you get everything a pulp
  • add coriander as garnish (should have chopped them but I forgot)

Serve while hot, goes well with chapati or basmati rice but normal steamed rice will do too.

Happy cooking!

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Ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to talk about asparagus. Now most of us associate asparagus as sort of a Western style vegetable, something you find in a fancy restaurant sitting pretty next to your steak (such as this side dish at Mandarin Grill), or being wrapped in bacon and BBQ-ed (ala BBQ Addict’s menu).

You will be right, but I’ve always known asparagus from Sambal Belacan Asparagus, one of my favorite dishes from childhood, a Hokkien/Penang Nyonya specialty of sort.

ingredients for sambal asparagus
ingredients for sambal asparagus – sambal, garlic, ginger, dried shrimp

This dish is also surprisingly simple to make, but it is mighty handy if you’ve already have some ready made sambal belacan. For instruction on how to make a jar of wholesome sambal belacan, click here – sambal belacan fried rice.

Anyway, here’s the ingredients:

  • a bunch of asparagus, cut into 2-3 inches, only retain the top 2 sections, throw away the bottom wooden parts
  • 2 table spoon sambal belacan
  • 15 shalots
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 10 dried shrimps
  • 4 fresh prawns, peeled

the secret is the steaming
the secret is the steaming

Cooking this dish is fast and simple too!

Instructions:

  • use pastel and mortar to pound shallots, garlic, and dried shrimp
  • marinate peeled prawns with salt for a couple minutes
  • heat up a couple table spoon of cooking oil in medium heat
  • throw in prawns first, then everything else
  • fry for 5 minutes, then add a quarter cup of water, and close the lid to steam the vegetable for 2-3 minutes
  • remove lid and fry again till water evaporates
  • food is ready to serve!

a few prawns go a long way
a few prawns go a long way

The secret to cooking asparagus is really the steaming part, since the vegetable can be a little tough if not properly cooked, but frying it too long will get the outer layer burnt. So there you go, another recipe from yours truly who reignite the cooking passion ever since our kitchen is renovated. :D

Astro Byond PVR

I’ve recently gotten Astro B.yond PVR installed at home too, and check out what sort of programmes we have recorded.

Yes, mostly cooking shows. It’s brilliant, I can’t tell you how many times I missed out crucial part of cooking show just because they go over it a tad too fast. With the PVR’s record function this problem is a thing of a past. Of course PAUSE and REWIND function comes in mighty handy too.

I’ll be reviewing the PVR’s function soon too. In the mean time, happy cooking!

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