Ayam Panggang (Grilled Chicken)

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The hallmark of a good roast chicken is crispy skin, right? Nah, not necessarily. Crispy skin requires hours of air-drying and I can't be bothered most of the time. It's good enough for me if the skin is nicely browned so that there's a 'roasty' aroma.

What? That's good but not very sexy? Ok, let's sex it up a bit.

Lather the tanned chook with lots of sambal that's full of spices and enriched with coconut milk, then stick it back in the oven. As the spicy paste bubbles away merrily in the heat, it caramelizes and forms a crust, transforming the ordinary roast chicken into – tadaa! – Ayam Panggang. How's that?

Sambal Stingray (I)

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


I was in a restaurant somewhere in India. When the waiter came to set my place, a diner sitting nearby said something to him. It was all gibberish to me but I could tell that the tone wasn't too friendly. Next, the waiter trotted off with the banana leaf he had just laid on the table. And then he came trotting back with a stainless steel plate.

What the . . . ? Oi! Gimme back my banana leaf!

Chicken Satay & Peanut Sauce

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Do you know how satay sauce gets its tinge of yellow? Turmeric? Wrong! The golden hue comes from roasted peanuts, which have to be finely ground and boiled to release their colour.

Stuffed Tau Pok

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Working out the recipe for Chinese rojak didn't seem like work since it didn't involve any cooking. In fact, stirring and tasting was my kind of entertainment. Once I figured out how it was done, I wolfed down a huge bowl of fruits and vegetables. That was my '5 a day' as per doctor's orders, in one shot.

I then made a bucketload of the sauce, and kept some chopped up fruits and veggies in the fridge. When I felt like having rojak, all it took was 30 seconds. Rojak had never been so good and quick.

The readymade supply didn't last long and soon, I had to whip up another batch. This time, oh boy, it seemed like a lot of work!

Making the tamarind water was a real pain 'cause it was too thick for the strainer, so I had to pick out the seeds one by one . . . by one . . . . I counted up to 127, then started chanting, "Om . . . ."

Salt-Grilled Salmon Head

Sunday, 13 February 2011

I have a great solution for people who don't eat fish heads because they don't like the eyes staring at them. Eat the eyes first, then there's nothing to stare with!

Teriyaki Ribs

Thursday, 1 July 2010


A man and woman got into a lift together. She greeted him by saying, "T-G-I-F."

He smiled at her and replied, "S-H-I-T."

She looked at him, puzzled, and said again, "T-G-I-F."

He acknowledged her remark again by answering, "S-H-I-T."

The woman was trying to be friendly, so she smiled her biggest smile and repeated, as sweetly as possible, "T-G-I-F."

The man smiled back at her and once again replied with a quizzical expression, "S-H-I-T."

The woman finally said, 'T-G-I-F – thank God it's Friday, get it?"

Salmon Teriyaki

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

I'm sure there're lots of important things happening around the world, like . . . Ricky Martin coming out.  

Sigh . . . what a waste. 

But they're things I can't do anything about, mostly. So let's talk about things I can, like making a good salmon teriyaki.

Some people don't eat salmon skin but I love it. To me, that's the best part of the fish, whether it's grilled and charred or steamed and slimy.  

Sob! How could Ricky Martin be gay?

Saba Shioyaki (Grilled Mackerel)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

PhotobucketI had a little birthday party today. It was a small, cosy affair with just the birthday girl, two of her buddies and me.

Everyone at the party loves fish, so I made a fish dish, saba shioyaki. The fillets, grilled and seasoned sparingly with sea salt, turned out beautifully although it was only my second time DIYing saba shioyaki.

When I made my first attempt last night, I didn't feel too confident. Mum always said fresh is best but the mackerel I had were frozen and shipped all the way from Norway. I was also afraid my little toaster oven might not be hot enough for a charred and crisp outside whilst keeping the inside juicy and moist.

French Toast

Sunday, 30 August 2009

PhotobucketThere used to be a Hilton Hotel in Hong Kong, where Cheung Kong Centre now stands. It was a pretty nondescript hotel in Central and most people probably never thought of it once it was gone. Neither would I except that was where I had the best French toast ever.

The French toast  was really special because it was crispy. I've had good French Toast elsewhere but the crispy part was always missing.

After the Hilton Hotel was torn down, I had no idea where their chefs went, so that was the end of crispy Hilton Hotel French Toast. And the beginning of homemade French Toast.

When I first made French Toast, it was bland, it shrank after it was fried, and it just wasn't crispy.

Over the years, I've tweaked the recipe many times. I started with just eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla extract and bread. Now, cream cheese is a key ingredient. It keeps the texture creamy and "custardy", and stops the bread from shriveling after it's cooked – provided the bread isn't oversoaked. It also adds depth to the flavor, which is enhanced with a splash of dark rum. Most importantly, it's crispy with a sprinkling of sugar caramelized under the grill. And it's not oily because it's not fried.

I now have the perfect French Toast for a weekend breakfast or even dessert. Yay!

FRENCH TOAST
(Recipe for 2 persons)

4 slices stale sandwich bread, thick-cut (I use Gardenia brand's Junior White)
regular-cut sandwich bread would turn soggy and not make good French toast
2 eggs
40 ml milk
20 g cream cheese
1 tbsp fine sugar
1 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp butter at room temperature
1 tbsp fine sugar (for sprinkling)

Depending on the type of bread used, the amount of egg mixture and soaking time required may vary. Please adjust as necessary. For dense bread, a few slits in the middle and a regular rather than thick-cut would help speed things along. The bread should be thoroughly saturated with the eggy liquid without turning soggy. If necessary, cut the bread in the middle and check.

If possible, make egg mixture the night before so that flavors have time to mingle and develop. Stale bread is essential; fresh bread turns soggy and shrinks after it's grilled. Let some butter come to room temperature before starting to cook.

When you're ready to make toast, preheat grill to 230°C, and line grill tray with parchment paper.

Put cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat till smooth. Add dark rum, vanilla extract and milk in stages, beating till smooth after each addition. Add eggs one at a time and – you guessed it – beat till smooth.

Remove bread crust. Do it by hand if you have time; jagged edges turn really crispy. Cut each slice into four pieces. Soak bread thoroughly in egg mixture, turning over half-way so that both sides are evenly saturated. Do not let bread get soggy.

Place bread on grill tray. Dot each piece with butter – just a bit, not too much. (You could put butter on a knife, then push small blobs onto bread with a tapered chopstick. Or, if you're making a lot of toast, make a small piping cone with parchment paper, then use it to pipe the butter. Third option: Keep butter chilled and hard, then shave with a vegetable peeler directly onto bread.) Sprinkle bread with sugar, right up to the edges.

Grill with the door closed till bread is golden brown or even slightly burnt, then repeat butter-sugar-grill procedure for the other side.

Enjoy French Toast piping hot with its best buddy, maple syrup. Or drizzle with melted butter and honey and serve it as dessert. How about a light coat of icing sugar, some fresh fruits and cream or ice cream? I'm sure that'll win you lots of 'Ooh!' and 'Aah!'