Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy and Prosperous New Year 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

客家擂茶釀豆腐午餐 Hakka Tea and Stuffed Bean Curd Lunch

Yesterday, TK hosted a 擂茶釀豆腐 lunch for his siblings and family - eldest sister, second brother, second sister, their spouses and his niece who came into town from Brunei. The last such gathering was nearly two years ago!

As usual, my mum makes the 擂茶 (Hakka Tea) and 釀豆腐 ( Stuffed Bean Curd). The three other side dishes - 樹仔菜 (shuzicai), 長豆 (long bean) and 豆腐蒜 (bean curd-leek) were prepared by me.  TK did most of the preparation-cutting work while the maid was responsible for frying all the 豆腐 (doufu)!

Unfortunately no pictures of the food! All were too busy - preparation to serving takes about four to five hours. 

I think every one enjoyed the meal.  Next time, I will do a couple of articles on the recipes and preparation of the dishes!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

冬至 - Winter Solstice Festival

Today is 冬至(Dōngzhì Festival) or the Winter Solstice Festival.

For the Chinese it is the time, when one adds on one year to one's age and to eat 湯圓 (tangyuan) - small rice balls made from glutinous rice flour and cooked in a sweet syrup. The 湯圓 (tangyuan) are traditionally pink and white in colour but now people use other colours as well. Some of the湯圓 (tangyuan) also comes with fillings  - amongst them are those made from peanuts, sesame seed, or  lotus seed paste.

During the morning's worship and prayers to the family ancestors,  one of the food items amongst the offerings will be 湯圓 (tangyuan).

Of course, the 湯圓 (tangyuan) have to be hand-made at home.  It is pretty easy. All you need are glutinous rice flour and water plus a bit of colouring where necessary. My mum prefers plain pink and white 湯圓 (tangyuan) - no fillings

Knead the mixture to a consistent dough such that it feel like play dough.

The just make the dough into small balls.

Add to boiling water and once they are floating, they are done. For the syrup, it is just plain sugar solution though I add in pandan leaves for a nice pandan flavour. There you have it.

Happy 冬至(Dōngzhì).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Takakura Home Composting Part 1

On Tuesday 30th November, I went to the MBKS Auditorium to attend a talk on Takakura Home Composting (THC). The talk was given by Mr Hii Chang Kee, the Secretary of the SMC (Sibu Municipal Council). The SMC is at the forefront of adopting the THC Method and have been implementing his in Sibu for a number of years under the guidance of Japanese environmentalist, Mr Koji Takakura who pioneered this method in Surabaya, Indonesia.

I have been reading about the THC Method and have been interested in it. Now, armed with first-hand information on how to do it, decide to implement this method of composting. We have tried some home composting but the process is extremely slow and seems to takes months, if not years. Apparently, this THC method is very much faster and takes weeks only to do it properly.

To start off the process, I need to make the seed compost. In Sibu, the THC method is implemented at the Municipal, school and NGOs level - making the seed compost easily available to everyone. In Kuching, MBKS has yet to start off the process. So in Kuching, one have to make the seed compost. To make the seed compost, I started the following :

1. Sugar Fermentation Solution - water, brown sugar and tempe (or other fermented food like yogurt, taucheo). Ferment for 3-5 days until a fine layer of white mould can be seen on top.

2. Salt fermentation Solution - water, salt and fruit peels/vegetable scraps. Similarly, ferment for 3-5 days until a fine layer of white mould can be seen on top.

3. 60L Plastic basket/case with holes on the sides.

4. Rice bran and rice husk.

Items 1-3 are easily available but item 4 should be a headache for most people. Luckily some of my staff's families grow their own padi and have their padi milled at their kampong rice mills. So they were able to provide me with the bran and husks.

To be continued.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Very Sour Fruit ....

We have one belimbing buluh/asam or 杨桃酸 (Averrhoa bilimbi) tree at the back of the garden courtesy of my younger brother, Tak. It is a fast growing and rather attractive tree.

The tree produces bunches of  flower buds directly off the tree trunk. This is normal for camias.

The flowers are deep maroon in colour and are small but very attractive and seems to attract  a lot of insects.

The Belimbing fruit has a sour acidic taste compared to the much sweeter and tastier relative, the starfruit (known in the west as the carambola) and has a very high content of Vitamin C.

The tree is very productive, flowering and fruiting in abundance - with bunches of the fruits hanging off the main trunk!

How to deal with the bounty crop? It is used in some traditional medicines but at home, we use them for making drinks and dips and in cooking.

Put them into a blender. Add salt, sugar syrup and ice - you get a very nice tangy cold drink!

Or mash them and then fry with belacan and chilli to get a very nice sour belacan sambal as our Indonesian maid did.

My younger brother, however, prefers them cooked with peeled prawns. This make for a very very tasty prawn dish - which is why he has this tree growing in my garden!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Wriggly Snack

Years ago, the Satok Weekend Market was the sale centre for wild birds/animals and local wild game meat like wild boar, bats, etc were available. Nowadays, it is a much tamer affair and the wildest meat may be that of the local kampung chicken! :-)

Still, that does not means that one of Sarawak's best known local delicacy is not available. It is but is seasonal. Yup, it is our very own local bite-sized wriggly snack .....

The sago worm is the larva of the Sago Palm Weevil or Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus). To "farm" these worms, the locals cut down the sago palm and leave it in a wet water-logged area. Presumably, the sago palm weevils will deposit eggs inside these rotting sago trunk and the developing larvae grow fat inside the trunk.

Here, these worms are eaten as a snack - raw or fried like pieces of crinkled chips  though with very with crunchy heads :-) 

To fry them, just wash the worms and rinse with water a couple of times. Pat them dry and then throw them into a hot pan - add some oil and fried them. Then use the spatula to flatten them ....[squissssh].


Once brown, they are ready to eat :-) - our very own high protein crinkly chips!



Thursday, November 25, 2010

And what a stink there was ......

We have this succulent in the garden which is doing quite well in a pot, albeit not a tall-enough pot. It resembles a spineless, sprawling cacti.

The flower appeared as a long small bud at the end of one of the branches.

And it just got bigger and bigger or rather ballooned! 


Until it burst ....

.... and what a stink there was!


Indeed, this is the starfish flower (Stapelia gigantea) from South African and is one of the most notorious carrion flowers belonging to the Milkweed Family (Asclepiadaceae), a very diverse plant family characterized by milky-white sap. 

The starfish-shaped flower is a flesh-coloured, hairy blossom some 8 to 10 inches across (20-25 cm) and has a nauseating stench. Apparently, the fringes of soft white hairs on the flesh-coloured petals looks like mold growing on rotting matter through the compound eyes of carrion insects!

I did not have the proper camera to take closeup of the flies ... but they do swarmed in and around the flower.

It is easy to propagate - just cut off segments and plant them! Nice exotic plant for the garden but certainly not to have too many in bloom at the same time!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Chalice Vine

This is one nice plant that I like and which I planted as soon as my garden was ready. 

The plant is the Chalice vine or solandra longiflora and also variously known as Trumpet Plant or Flower. 

It did not do well in the open  and was eventually reduced to a single branch with one leaf ... and almost dead! Then while working in the garden, I stepped on it and virtually flattened it which was when I decided to move it into a small pot where it appeared to thrive. Several transplants later, it was some 1.56m tall and finally re-planted at the side of the house where we just built three sets of  wooden frames for climbers.

The various stages of the growing flower bud is interesting ....


It is great experience to see the flower buds growing day by day and the finally open just after sunset. The flowers are very lightly scented - not so noticeable when the plant is grown beside the other fragrant flowers in the garden.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Joy of ...

Apart from the gardening, it's great to have a test kitchen or two for pastries, cakes, bread and other baked items!

We have two test kitchens and they are also used for training  - the large one for training professional  bakers on new product lines and the smaller one to conduct classes for homemakers.

The test kitchens are where we experiment with all the latest product lines and to use these new product lines to make the latest baked creations - testing the flavour/texture and trying to gauge the acceptance to local taste buds.  

The latest samples from the test kitchens ....

Lovely stuff!!! 

When it comes to bread, a lot of Malaysians like the softer  variety of bread but we prefer hard bread like those found in Germany. So for me, the main part is to be able to bake top quality bread using top quality ingredients and eating great bread that are normally not available in Malaysia. From the test kitchen, made by a Master Baker from Germany ...

Eating them is a real pleasure!

The visiting Master Bakers from all over the world  not only make breads (seen above) but also produced trays and trays of fantastic stuff when conducting their training sessions ...

Any wonder we put on weight? :-)