Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fried Bugs in Bangkok

My idea for everyone to try eating insects didn’t go down well with the boys initially. After all, we were in Bangkok, one of the greatest food capitals of the world (to me at least) and insects were being served. I purchased about 60 baht (S$2.50) of various creepy crawlies from a street vendor in Chatuchak with the boys watching warily behind me. The toothless old woman gave me an amused smile as she packed the insects. Obviously, I hadn’t been the only ‘farang’ to buy insects for the sake of experimentation.

All my positive justifications to the boys about how bugs are high in protein and sustainable to the environment went to high hell once I placed the insects onto the plate. One look at the massive water beetle with its cockroach like legs and beady black eyes and I could almost smell the bile rising in everyone’s throat.

“I am not fucking eating that,” Deen declared, the tone of his voice telling me that his decision wasn’t up for discussion. I shrugged. I had expected that response and in that expectation, had bought only two of those foul looking prehistoric bugs. But there were still plenty more grasshoppers, crickets and grubs fried to a perfect crisp to be shared.

Slowly and grudgingly, the boys picked up the bugs and chewed them down between shots of coke and amusingly, a 2008 Marlborough Pinot Noir. Bet those schmucks at Denise didn’t think of including such a pairing at their tastings.

The credit though goes to Khairil for his bold and misinformed decision to eat the first water beetle. I had to overcome the wave of revulsion as he gamely plucked off one of the fat cockroach like legs and tried chewing on it before stuffing the whole bug in his mouth. After visibly fighting the urge to puke everything back up, he complained of a bad tasting pus-like liquid that came out of the beetle’s body once he chewed on it.

It was just disgusting to watch. I had to tell myself that it was all a psychological reaction that had been ingrained in our minds since young that bugs are disgusting creatures. I had to tell myself that because there was still one more water beetle left. And as the foodie in our group, there is no way I’m getting left behind on any culinary adventure. So yeah, I ate it. And just so you know, it’s really FUCKING DISGUSTING.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Steak Night

I am an animal lover. I really am. I usually prefer them grilled over a bed of charcoal or pan seared with a good measure of spices and salt thrown in. Maybe a side of vegetables to make it look healthy.

So yesterday was steak night. Steak night usually happens the night after an especially hard day at work. On such a night, I simply need some comfort food that would satisfy not only my appetite but my soul as well.

What better to soothe the soul than a thick slab of nicely marbled beef marinated in Worcestershire sauce and later pan fried with a massive dose of butter, garlic and honey barbecue sauce slathered all over it.

For the side salad, I had some sun dried tomatoes, Provencal olives, sliced onions and garlic with a healthy heap of greens tossed in Italian dressing. Its a simple and light salad, one easy to swallow though the olives may be an acquired taste for some. And while some people prefer a glass of Pinot Noir with their steak, I prefer a nice cold glass of San Pellegrino to wash it all down.

Such decadence and done all too simply. Give steak night a try. You may end up wanting to do it every week!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Spanish Seafood Paella

Pronounced 'pa-ea-ya'.

When i had my first taste of paella at a in a market off La Rambla in Spain, I fell in love with Spanish cuisine. It was more than just the taste. It became one of my distinct memories of Spain. If you had watched Disney's Ratatouille, remember the scene where Anton the food critic had a flashback when he tasted the dish? Having paella has the same effect on me.

However, here in Singapore, paella is incredibly overpriced and more often than not, is nothing spectacular despite their boasts of using Spanish Bomba or Calasparra rice. Marche at Vivocity for example charges a extortionate $16 for a plate of paella. Serenity on the ground floor charges around $50 for a pan for 2 pax. I then decided that the only way was to learn how to cook paella.

First of all, the Spanish rice used in traditional Spanish paella is almost impossible to find here in Singapore. As substitute, I used the medium-grain Calrose rice which is easily found in most supermarkets. As for paella pans, they are also easy to obtain. You can get expensive hundred dollar paella pans at specialist kitchenware shops or you can be like me and get a $15 paella pan at the cheap Sheng Siong Supermarket. As for saffron, I found a supply of Spanish Saffron at Mustafa Centre for $40 for a large box enough for a 50 paellas at least. Paella is best cooked over an open fire so it is definitely an ideal dish for a barbecue.

Recently I made this dish at a BBQ birthday party. It was my sixth time making this dish and it never failed every time. Credit to my 12 year old cousin, Hakim who helped me out to prepare this dish.


1/3 cup olive oil
1 red/green peppers - sliced lengthwise
8-12 fresh prawns
2 large squid - cut into rings
1 medium red onion - finely diced
2 cloves garlic - finely diced
1 can stewed tomatoes
3 cups medium grain rice
750ml chicken stock
1/2 tsp saffron
1/3 cup peas
1 lemon
8 - 10 boiled mussels*

Heat olive oil and saute the peppers in the paella pan over a charcoal fire.
Remove peppers. Saute the prawns in same pan and remove once they turn orange.
Saute onion and garlic until onion caramelizes. Add in stewed tomatoes. Cook for 5 mins.
Scatter rice evenly throughout pan and pour in chicken stock just sufficient to cover the layer of rice.
Allow rice to cook. Sprinkle saffron over rice after about 10 mins of cooking.
When almost done, mix in the green peas.
Finally, decorate the dish with the peppers, prawns, mussels and lemon wedges.

3 rules i follow for a good paella.

Do not allow rice to dry; add in chicken stock continually to ensure rice stays moist.
Do not stir the dish until almost done.
Taste test continually to check rice consistency

For great paella tips, check out:

* mussels are not included in the photo taken as a friend is allergic to shellfish

Friday, July 9, 2010

Gai Pad Krapow : Spicy Basil Chicken

After a month long hiatus from my blog, I’m finally back. While work and other commitments had been pretty much unforgiving the past month, I still managed to cook up supper or dinner at least twice a week. Just that I was too lazy to blog about it. Think about. I reach home at 8.30pm, cook up a meal, eat it… By then, it would already be close to 10pm. All I want would be to shower, throw myself in bed and slumber for the next 100 years or until a charming princess comes to awaken me with a magical kiss. Or at least until the alarm rings, signaling another tedious day at work.

Before I digress further into fairytales and charming princesses with hot legs, let’s get back to the main topic. Food. A favourite place I used to have dinner at when I was with my previous company was this little Thai stall at Maxwell Food Center. Introduced by my Thai colleague, this stall serves up the best tasting spicy stir fried basil chicken and steamed rice. A short Google search revealed it’s Thai name: Gai Pad Krapow. Sounds a little like a comic book sound effect but don’t be fooled. It’s certainly a spicy devil of a dish.
As usual, I didn’t really refer to any recipe book for this simple dish, instead I tried to recall the different flavors and aromas within the dish to pinpoint which ingredients are needed. The result? A rather spicy Thai dish smelling strongly of basil. I liked it. Add in a little bowl of chopped bird’s eye chilli and fish sauce and you have a fantastically fiery dinner. Try it. You’ll love it. Just have a gallon of water ready by your side.

Basil Chicken with Steamed Rice

300g Minced chicken
8 stalks long beans - sliced into 1 inch lengths
15 -20 Basil leaves - shredded
6 bird’s eye chilli – thinly sliced
1 red onion – diced
2 shallots - diced
1/2 clove garlic - diced
3 tbsp Fish sauce
1 tbsp Dark soya sauce
Oil for wok frying

Heat oil in wok. Fry shallots, onions and garlic until fragrant.
Add in fish sauce and dark soya sauce before adding in the minced chicken and basil.
Stir fry for 5 mins before adding in chilli and long beans.
If necessary add in more oil.
Serve with rice and fried egg.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sambal Stingray

I'm a fussy eater when it comes to stingrays. I am very sensitive to the ray's smell. When stingrays are not prepared properly during its gutting, it has this ammonia smell which can range from outright pungent to a slight scent. My nose somehow seems so sensitive to this scent that at one family gathering, almost everyone seemed to disagree that the barbecued ray being served had the smell. I would have declared them to be scent-handicapped but didn't think it would have gone down well with my grandpa.

Stingrays for me are best served either barbecued, in sambal or in the delicious Malay chilli gravy known as Assam Pedas. Coming home late one day from work, I decided to just make a meal of sambal stingray and rice. Although it may be surprising to you that i would even bother to cook after a long day at work, I find it extremely therapeutic to be cooking. It kinda lets me focus on the task at hand and not think about anything else during that period.

I used a shortcut this time round, using a 200g bottle of belachan chilli in addition to the standard shallots, onions, garlic and lots of vegetable oil. After letting the sambal simmer for a while, I slip in the ray, which had been soaked in assam and salt water into the pan of sambal. Toss in sliced spring onions before serving and lo behold:
A great dinner for two in less than half an hour.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spring rolls - Vietnamese Style

When I was in Ho Chi Minh city a couple of years back, I tried almost everything under the sun. From deep fried snake skin to stir fried crocodile, I found the underbelly of Vietnamese cuisine fascinating with a little touch of mystique. I mean, they had entire birds and snakes trapped in a bottles of whiskey which supposedly cured a variety of ailments from rheumatism to impotency.

While I bought a small bottle of cobra-whiskey as a keepsake, don't ask me whether it does the trick. It still sits on my souvenir shelf in case I suffer one of those ailments in the future.

Back to the Vietnamese cuisine however, spring rolls were definitely a favourite for me next to the ubiquitous pho noodles. In fact, i enjoyed spring rolls so much that i brought home four large packets of rice papers which I had initially thought would be unavailable back home. However, rice paper being one of Vietnam's chief contribution to the culinary world, i found it readily available at my supermarket though it was of a smaller size than the ones i saw in Vietnam.

Vietnamese spring rolls are simple to do although the wrapping part takes a little bit of skill which unfortunately I have little to no talent for. While i do not follow the exact ingredients required for a proper Vietnamese springrolls, i still found it pretty much authentic (as i remembered). When i made some for my friends at a home dinner, they pretty much gobbled everything down in record time.


1 pack of rice paper
20g glass noodles -soaked in hot water
300g grey prawns - shelled
basil leaves - shredded
local lettuce or butterhead lettuce
bird's eye chilli - diced

Boil prawns in salt and water
Wet rice paper individually.
Place a small portion of glass noodles, lettuce, basil and two prawns on moist rice paper and wrap
except chilli and fishsauce.
Make spicy fish sauce dip.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Thin Crust Pepperoni Pizza Sunday

After a great family picnic on Saturday and shopping for kitchenware with my mom on Sunday, I was determined to end my weekend with a blast. And so I decided to make a pizza from scratch. No frozen dough, no canned pizza sauce. It was already 7pm and I could see my mom looking rather doubtful that i could churn out a pizza for dinner in time. I remembered when I was young, my mom seemed to take an entire day to make a couple of pizzas.

So, with an evil and competitive gleam in my eye, I started working on making the pizza like a cheetah on steroids. In just one hour 30 minutes, I had strained, mixed, kneaded, diced, sauteed, tossed, baked and served two thin crust pan pizzas and a fat crust pizza. That even included the resting time for the dough which had surprisingly cooperated by doubling in size in just 45 minutes. Embarrassingly, i did forget a minor but crucial step in the process.. Greasing the pan. But it turned out fine though it needed a little 'persuasion' with a knife to get it off the pan.

As a surprise, I ran over with a pan pizza (the one without olives) over to my little cousin's place as a little treat since it was her birthday today. It's always pleasant to make kids smile and squeal in delight when you show up with a little something for them.

This weekend was pretty nice, having stayed at home most of the time and having to cook a huge variety of dishes for my mom's birthday on Saturday. I truly enjoy cooking. Maybe i did miss my calling to be a cook. No matter, as long as i get to preside over the stove with a spatula in hand, i'll always be happy :)


Pizza Dough -

follow bread recipe with 500 gm of flour but after letting the dough rest until doubled in size , knead and roll into a thin round shape and lay onto GREASED pan.

150g minced beef or meat of choice
1 can tomato puree
1 pack pepperoni slices
1 green pepper - diced
1 large onion - diced
2 cloves garlic - diced
1/2 cup olives
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
black pepper
mozzarella cheese
1 egg

Sautee minced meat, black pepper, dried oregano and salt in olive oil. Add in tomato puree followed shortly by green pepper, onion and garlic. Leave to cool.
Spread sauce and pepperoni over pizza. Brush exposed pizza crust with beaten egg.
Bake at 175 degrees Celcius for 15 -20 minutes or until the crust has turned a nice golden brown.