In Which a Cold is Chased Off by Nonya Flavors…

Believe it or not, this began as a packet of instant noodles

The weather in this part of the world has gone all weird again.

Just a few days ago, it was splendidly, bone-chillingly cold with strong Siberian winds whistling in the evenings.  Now, it’s depressingly hot and sunny, and I feel like melting down into the pavement whenever I’m on my way to work – plus, the heat does nothing whatsoever for my temper.  Thanks to these extreme weather shifts, I managed to catch a cold!

But colds – even those caused by those purported super-germs – can be fended off with plenty of liquids, Vitamin C, sleep, and good soups made fragrant with herbs and spices and made hearty by the addition of meat and veg for additional body-building / body-shielding nutrition.

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to make soup from scratch; with so many options currently available on your local supermarket’s shelves, you have plenty to choose from.  In my case, I’d either go for Korean ramyeun or udong, Japanese, shoyu or miso ramen, and this recent addition to my personal menu: laksa Singapura from Koka.

It’s hard to believe that something this rich and flavorful can actually come from a packet, but it did.  Firm wheat noodles (as opposed to the more traditional rice noodles for laksa) are cooked in a coconut-enriched broth made heady and fragrant with chilies, laksa leaf [curry leaf], lemongrass, galangal, and a hint of tamarind.  Served hot, the heavenly-smelling steam wafting over the bowl soothes clogged noses and helps one breathe more easily.  The fire of the chili, the tang of lemongrass and tamarind, and the sharpness of the other ingredients all help sharpen blunted tastebuds.  The galangal also promotes a sense of well-being for some strange reason, a culinary panacea to help you feel much, much better.

To make this bowl a bit more substantial, I also added prawn/shrimp rolls sliced into medallions, some leftover roast chicken chopped up finely, and a split egg – you whisk in the whites and poach the yolk whole.  I daresay leftover sate babi or sate ayam, chopped-up fried fish, and some beansprouts or tofu would be just as tasty.

With such a filling meal in you, you’ll be back up and running in no time.  I would know; it worked for me.  😉

In Which Holiday Leftovers are Turned into a Rich, Comforting Dessert…

Waste not, want not...

It irks me how, at the end of the Holiday Season, a lot of people simply toss out the remnants of any cakes, biscuits, and other desserts sent to them, saying that they’re stale or that the family has grown sick and tired of eating the stuff.

In these dreary, recession-riddled times when everything seems to cost an arm and a leg, such a wasteful act is practically a crime against one’s family!  That said, I suggest that you take a cue from thrifty French housewives and whip up a lovely pudding made from all those cake remnants.

This particular recipe takes a cue from a recipe I found in the Desserts volume of Time-Life’s series The Good Cook.  It was the creation of a matronly French restaurateur and was pretty much meant to use up leftover bread, cakes, biscuits, and ice cream.  My version is pretty much a mash-up of the French original with the custard base for Nigella Lawson‘s pain au chocolat pudding from How to Be a Domestic Goddess.

Freckled Pudding

I gave my version the name freckled pudding owing to its speckled appearance – the result of combining stale French bread (the heels of a baguette and a loaf of pain complet left in the fridge), three kinds of chocolate cake, and some banana muffins.  It’s not the prettiest dessert, but it’s absolutely delicious when served warm after a good dinner.

Freckled Pudding

  • approximately 500 grams assorted stale bread, cake, and cookies
  • 500 mL milk
  • 250 mL cream or melted ice cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 eggs

Warm up the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat till just simmering; remove from heat.  Whisk together the eggs, flavoring extracts, and sugar till foamy.  Pour in the warmed milk-cream mixture and whisk till well-incorporated into a thinnish custard.

Chop up the assorted bread and cakes and place in a large mixing bowl.  Pour the custard over the chopped bread and cake; give it a bit of a stir and leave to soak for 10 – 20 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees / Gas Mark 3.  Butter a large, round baking dish and pour in the custard-cake mixture.  Bake 45 – 50 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes and serve warm.  Note that this pudding has a much softer, creamier texture than more conventional bread puddings.

Serves 12.

In Which we Have Mochi to Sweeten the Year of the Dragon…

Kurosato Nama Daifuku in prep stage

Gong xi fa cai! Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!

In celebration of this most auspicious day – the beginning of the Year of the Black Water Dragon (MY year, baby!  I’m Dragon-born!), I’m bringing back my favorite mochi daifuku recipes as a certainly worthy substitute for the more customary tikoy [nian gao – sweet glutinous rice cake].

These daifuku are just as stickily sweet as tikoy, seeing how both are made from  the same basic formula of sugar, glutinous rice, and water.  But daifuku, in my personal opinion, are more symbolic:  apart from being round, they are also formed like money bags in that these are spherical and are stuffed with rich fillings – in this case, rich homespun butterscotch or rum-infused / raspberry-flavored chocolate ganache.

Try them yourself and bring in a bit more prosperity for you and those you love.  😉

  • Ichigo nama daifuku – strawberry or raspberry-infused mochi dough is wrapped around an equally fruity chocolate ganache;
  • Kurosato nama daifuku – mochi dough is prepared with brown sugar instead of white for a hint of caramel sweetness encasing rum-infused chocolate ganache; and
  • Butterscotch daifuku – brown-sugar mochi filled with rum-butter caramel cream.

In Which a Classic Cookie Becomes a Totally Unusual Cake…

Starbucks' Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

“What is that monstrosity, Midge?!” a colleague asked when I opened the little white box I’d ferried up from our friendly neighborhood Starbucks.

The dessert within had fallen onto its side: a layered confection described by the tag marking it in the cafe display case as a chocolate chip cookie-cake; more accurately, a warm chocolate chip cookie-cake.

The name pretty much describes it in full: chocolate chip cookie dough baked as a layer cake with rich chocolate fudge (it was a tad too sugary to be a proper ganache, alas) sandwiched within and spread on top like frosting.  As if that weren’t Baroque enough, your friendly neighborhood barista will squirt on clouds of fresh whipped cream and drizzle copious amounts of caramel sauce over all.

So, how was it?  Rich – and, admittedly I rarely say this about desserts, somehow a touch too rich even for me!  You get the buttery richness of the cookie dough overlaid with the bittersweet flavor of the fudge and spiked a bit by the touch of salted butter in the caramel.  The cream serves as a foil to all the sweetness, but it is every bit as rich as the rest of this dessert, so your throat starts to catch by the third bite.

To be fair, it is good.  However, I don’t recommend this as a dessert to eat on your own no matter how depressed you are!  I do recommend sharing this with a friend – and don’t forget the espressos as they’re the perfect counterpoint to all the sweetness.

In Which the Blogger Discovers a Totally Different Way to Eat Tempura…

The Ebi Tempura Roll

For as long as I can remember, tempura has been one of my favorite Japanese dishes, one that was only recently replaced by ramen in its myriad variations.  Nevertheless, sweet, succulent prawns that have been battered up and deep-fried remain high up on my list of favorites.

Tempura is normally served with rice, possibly the best way to do it, though it may sometimes be served with soup noodles (as in either a tempura ramen or a tempura udon) or with cold buckwheat noodles (ten-zaru soba) and dressed with chilled soy and scallions.  In recent years, some progressive-minded Japanese restaurants have been using tempura-fried prawns as an ingredient for hand-rolls (temaki) and maki; in many convenience stores in Japan, these are also used to pep up o-nigiri (rice balls) for quick, portable meals.

And now, one of my favorite Japanese bakeries recently introduced a completely different way of eating tempura: stuffing a whole battered prawn into a brioche roll.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is JiPan‘s Ebi Tempura Roll.

See the tail sticking out of one end?

Unlike many baked goods and pre-packaged snacks that claim to have the flavor of shrimp or prawns but have little (or absolutely nothing) in the way of the real thing, JiPan’s ebi tempura roll actually does involve wrapping a whole batter-fried prawn (proof of the matter: they leave the frilled tail sticking out of one end) in brioche dough and baking it into a delectable, portable, and satisfying snack along the lines of a prawn sandwich – only a bit lighter because there’s no mayo or any other egg-based dressings involved.  Instead, the battered prawn is dipped in tentsuyu (that sweet mirin-and-soy sauce used for dipping tempura) before being wrapped in the dough.  The dough is again brushed with more tentsuyu before baking.

Want a bite?

If you like shrimp sandwiches (I adore the ones made with avocado, by the way), lobster rolls, or crabmeat-salad sarnies, you’re going to like this.  The prawns used are large enough so you get shrimpy goodness with every bite straight down to the frilled tail at the end of the bun.  The taste is a delicious mix of sweet, salty, and utterly umami and the contrasting textures are interesting: the pillowy softness of the bread with the al dente prawn is quite desirable.

Each tempura roll goes for about P 60.00 – a tad pricey, but worth it given how prawns are rather expensive things.  But believe me when I say that it’s worth it.  Oh, and one other thing: don’t forget to grab one of JiPan’s cream cheese pies – cheesecake filling stuffed in puff pastry and baked – for dessert while you’re there.  😉