Jan 31, 2010

Bearing gifts in Gold

For last 2 years, a friend has ask if I could make some nice fancy nian gao(Chinese New year cakes) for her to bring as gifts when she returns to China to visit her in laws and extended family. Without fail, I obliged. This year, with a store, she understands how busy I will be and said I don't have to do it for her. But I wanted to. Because she was also my mentor..someone who taught me Food styling, food photography and all things culinary wise. She is none other than Dr Pauline D Loh. Once upon a time, she was my boss when I used to work at Miles Media(the company that publishes Kitchen Culture's Food and Travel Magazine). Then we started Cuisine Asia together with my friend , Jean Lee.

Despite leaving Cuisine Asia, I was still in touch with Pauline on and off as she travels extensively in Asia for her work with ChannelNewsAsia. She has since left CNA. Jean is in China too. With her hubby, and World Vision China.

Last night after closing shop at 9pm, I rush home to make nian gao for her. And woke up early again this morning and painted all the nian gao.

This is a Gold Bar with chinese words and a double set of Mandarin Oranges.

This is a pool of 8 baby koi fishes swimming around the chinese character "Fu" which means Wealth. Each fish is specked with Edible Gold leaf to bring wealth to the recipient

These are also 8 Baby koi fishes speck with Gold leaf and the chinese words meant "May Wealth flow in abundance for you"

And lastly, all homes and businesses should have these!

A Gold Ingot with fishes swimming upwards to it and coming back with gold speck on their foreheads!

To Pauline and Li De

Wishing you and all at home a year of blessings from above


Jan 27, 2010

Honeyed Bak Kwa(BBQ Pork)

Many KC forum members have ask me for this recipe. I remember seeing it in the forum. But I guess the person may have deleted the recipe from the forum.

I made it once..a year ago. But never had the real recipe on hand. This is made today, out of memory. And decided that I must document the steps, ratio of ingredients used.

Here's my version for you to try at home.

Honeyed Bak Kwa/BBQ Pork
Recipe by Gina Choong


1 kg streaky bacon
5 tbsp Thai Fish sauce
1.5 tbsp 5 spiced powder
150g honey
100g Golden syrup

1. Remove chilled bacon from packing, wash under tap water to remove any liquid(usually from packaging)
2. Pat dry with paper towels.
3. Line it on a large plastic container and pour fish sauce and 5 spiced powder over it.
4. Mix honey and golden syrup together.
5. Pour over the bacon.
6. Cover the container and leave it in the chiller(fridge) to marinate for at least 2 days.
7. Roast in preheated oven 220C for 10 to 15 minutes or until it turns golden brown. Brush the pork with remaining marinate sauce.
8. Drain excess oil by placing the BBQ pork on greaseproof paper.
9. Store in containers lined with waxed paper or greaseproof paper.

Make sure you cool it before storing.
Can keep for 2 weeks or more.


Jan 25, 2010

Cooling comfort

This is a dessert I created for family some years back. Especially great after a hearty meal of feasting of Reunion Dinner on the eve of chinese new year or after a few boxes of Chinese new year cookies of all sorts.

It soothes the throat, and is mildly sweet. Since then, I have taught this delightful dessert at Country clubs, various cooking schools and also with tourists who visited Singapore during the annual Singapore Food Festival.

Chrysanthemum Jelly
Recipe by Gina Choong

100g chrysanthemum flowers
1 litre of water
1.5 tbsp konnyaku jelly powder
150g fine sugar
100g honey(clear)

1. Heat up pot with water and sugar till sugar melts.
2. Add flowers to brew for 5 mins. Turn off the fire and leave it to stand for another 5 mins.
3. Carefully drained the flowers and soak in iced water.
4. Reserve 500ml of chrysanthemum drink and pour into another sauce pot.
5. Sprinkle jelly powder on top, turn on fire and use a whisk to whisk it it dissolves
6. Stir till the liquid slowly thickens.
7. Place one flower in the jelly mould and slowly pour the jelly liquid into it.
8. Leave it in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.
9. Chill the remaining chrysanthemum drink till very cold, add honey to stir till dissolve
10. To serve, unmould jelly into a bowl filled with honeyed chrysanthemum water.
11. Serve cold after a nice meal.

The flower in the jelly is just for decoration. It shouldn’t be eaten as it is bitter.
Never boil chrysanthemum flowers over high heat for longer than 10 mins. It will turn the drink into a dark pale colour and makes it very bitter despite having sugar in it.

This special dessert is ideal to serve after a heavy meal like Chinese New Year dinners.

Jan 21, 2010

Traditions and Symbolic Chinese Food

My mom used to tell me that every chinese food has a story or a tradition that goes with it. Its not just food on the table for the hungry tummy or an elaborate feast for the Emperor. Chinese food is very symbolic in its nature. If anyone can write about chinese cuisine, it would be my friend Dr Pauline D Loh. She is well travelled to many countries, ate all kinds of food and savour the best. She is still trying to cover all of China's culinary delicacies and documenting it. I go to Facebook to read the short stories she writes alongside with the beautiful photographs she took.

But this post today, is my mom's story. Of how and why the older generations must eat Fatt Kao or Huat Kueh every start of the New Year. I haven't found the truth behind all these. But my mom heard it from her mom. Like a tradition passed down the ages, I think this story is worth re-telling.

She says in the old China where farmers harvest their rice crops, a portion of the last crop was used to make Fermented Rice wine. The fermented rice dregs are then used to make Huat Kueh. Huat Kueh literally means "Prosperity Cakes". Huat means to prosper. Kueh is Cake. Its mixed with rice that has been blended into powder, mixed with water, yeast, sugar and left to ferment for 3 days. And pour into little tea cups, steamed at very high heat. When its cooked, the cakes 'sprouted' out from the cups and has a slight eruption in the centre of the cake. This 'eruption' is a good sign, it means "Huat" or Prosper. If the cake didn't have this effect, it means the year ahead is going to be a tough year for the family. It could mean a year of bad crops, droughts, etc.

It is also rumoured that making Huat kueh must be done in closed doors. There shouldn't be more than one person making it. And when you make this cake, you must be cheerful and happy. If you are in doubt or frustrated or angry with someone, the Huat Kueh will not "Huat".

It is one of the most well guarded recipes that passed down from generation to generation. I remembered fondly as a young kid, my late granny had her own rice mill that was made in stone. It sits upright on a wooden stand. She would teach me to add rice and gradually pour in sips of water and turn the mill and collect the "wet rice flour" in a pot under it. This is to be used to make steamed cakes.

In case you are wondering what on earth is a rice mill, here's one I found from the NET. Its similar to the one ah ma used to have. When we moved from kampong to HDB flats, my late ah ma junked the old mill.

Years later, my mom still reminscing about the old Huat Kueh she used to eat as a child and of her mom, I decided to learn how to make this cake. Then I found out many recipes out there. I tried many, and each time my mom would tell me it doesn't taste right. Only to find out the most important ingredient used was the Fermented Rice Dregs and wet rice flour. After a couple of experiments and many huat kueh thrown away, I managed to make Huat Kueh for my mom the way she likes it.

Sorry for my long winded story...here's my reward to you who read through the entire page:

This is my home made Rice Wine Residue. It has gone mushy because its way over 3 months old. And its kept in the fridge. If you made fresh ones, the rice grains are more firm. It should smell like a good Rice Wine..that is very rich in alcohol.

3 Day Huat Kueh
Recipe by Agnes Chang(Malaysia)

I got my inspiration from her. Just modified it to suit my tastes.

Ingredients for Starter Dough
125g cooked cold rice
1/2 tsp wine yeast powder
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tbsp of water

Method for Starter Dough
1. Add all the ingredients into a small bowl, stir to mix.
2. Leave it covered with a cling wrap and poke holes on top.
3. Leave it aside, away from direct heat(stove or window) for 48 hours or 2 days.
4. By the end of 48 hours, its ready for use.
5. It should smell like wine, not mouldy smell. If its mouldy, discard and try again.

Ingredients for 2nd day Dough
300g rice flour(sifted)
150g sugar
500ml hot water
1 tsp ENO Salt**
1 tsp Double Action Baking Powder
1 drop each of food colouring(red, yellow, green)

Method for 3rd day
1. Stir hot water with sugar till it melts. Leave it aside till it completely cools.
2. Using a blender, add Starter dough and 200ml of sugar syrup to blend till liquidy.
3. Add sifted rice flour and remaining sugar syrup to blend till its well mixed.
4. Remove and pour thru a sieve to collect any lumps..into a big bowl, cover with a dry cloth and leave it aside to ferment for at least 8 hours.

Method to assemble
1. Add baking powder and ENO salt to mix with the liquid dough.

2. Stir and divide into 3 portions.
3. Add each food colouring to stir with each portion.
4. Heat up steamer and steam the EMPTY cups for at least 3 to 5 mins. till the cups are warm.
5. Pour batter till 80% full.
6. Steam over medium heat for 10 mins.
7. Remove to cool completely before removing the huat kueh from the cups.

Serve on its own or with orange sugar(sometimes called Brown sugar)

About ENO Salt
found a link on it.

if you cannot get ENO Fruit salt, just substitute it with Baking Powder. Enough amount.

Jan 18, 2010

My Mother's Joy

My dad used to tell me about my mom, about her life as a child and how she won his heart to ask for her hand in marriage. My mom was the 2nd eldest in her family. Her eldest brother, being a boy, was spared of household duties and allowed to go out to play all day long. My mom, at a young tender age learn to cook, tend the house and also had to go out to get wood for the kitchen. From a young age, my mom learnt the way to run a household by herself.

My dad was her English Teacher. He says she gave up her studies in Secondary school so that her siblings had a chance for school. There were of course 2 things that my dad loved her for. A generous heart with a beautiful face to go with it. :)

Her mom(my late granny) gave her the authority over all her siblings and even my aunts, uncles use to tell me my mom had a schedule drawn up for each of them. Who was to get up early each day to draw water from the well, who was the last to sleep late at night, ensure all doors, windows are bolted and who was the one to check if elder brother has come home from his adventures outside.

Occasionally as kids even, my uncles will fail in their chores. My mom made it a point to teach them that if they do not do their chores, everyone has suffer for it. Like it when it was Uncle David's turn to collect wood, dry it in the back, he didn't..that would mean no warm meals on the table. And everyone ate leftovers which are cold and unappetizing.

For years, my mom's siblings have a deep respect for her. As they treated her like a second mother who loved them and cared for them. Her words reign over all. My mom spent her entire life like a loyal and faithful servant who waits upon her Master's orders and does all things as instructed, never complaining or whining about the day's work.

As her daughter, I believed she did this out of love, out of passion and out of joy. She does all things with bountiful joy. The food she cooks, the things she did, all evidence of her love for others. My dad used to tell me if I didn't inherit any genes from my mom, at least I should inherit her joy of giving. Everyone knows I looked like my dad, facial wise. My sister looked like my mom. My sister could also sew very well, just like my mom could.

So a decade ago, I told myself, I must learn from my mom. All the things she does, all the wonderful things. And how she loved everyone, strangers too. Even the poor, and sick and strangers to her, she loved them all the same.

My mother never hides her recipes nor minus one or two steps just to keep the recipe authentic to her name. She believes in sharing, in giving..that you bring out the best in everything you do. Through the years of learning to cook and to bake from her, I also pick up these extra 'skills and tips' from her.

Thus whenever I teach cooking or baking, all these extras comes out too. I never hide my recipes nor the way its done.

My mom taught me many life's lessons. One of the most important lessons she taught me was to love everyone. When I was to be married into the Lim family, my mom told me to love my parents in law the same way I would for my own parents. She told me "This is VERY important. If you loved them as much as you loved us, God will find favour in you. And you must do it with a sincere heart. Don't do it superficially. Its when you love unconditionally, its returned to you, unconditionally too."

I am very glad I listened to her. My parents in law loved me as if I was their flesh and blood child. Though my in-laws have their faults, who doesn't? My mom had her faults too. I know I have more to add. But I learnt to look beyond all that.

There are many important people in my life, but only two persons stands out above all.

One is my mother.
One is my dad.

This is the birthday we had for her in Dec 2004. 2 years before she became very ill and almost went to God.

My mother, now, though recovered from her illness which our merciful and loving God healed her. She is in her autumn years now. Taking a step back in everything she use to enjoy doing. Passing on the "Flame" to me. Or so, my dad says... Her love for others is now my love for others too. Her joy of giving is now my joy of giving. Now my mother's joy is my joy.

My mother did passed on her gene to me. Not on beauty though. But the one that brings joy to others by loving the unloved, caring for the forsaken, and feeding the hungry.

May you be blessed to this post. And May you continue to bless everyone you pass each day. Stranger or foe, lover or friend. Loved or unloved.

God Bless you!

This hymn : Thanks to God for my Redeemer is my mom's favourite hymn which she sings every night before bedtime. When my late granny died, my mom sang that again at her late mom's funeral.

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a mem'ry,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav'nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!




Jan 17, 2010

Family Bonding

Since last Christmas, my aunts, my sister and extended family wanted to learn to make Chocolate Truffles after they pinched some from my mom's.

These days with the popularity of FaceBook, I created an event in it for the family to be invited for a family bonding session with me yesterday. The majority of my relatives are on Facebook. We login to keep track of each other.

Yesterday, I taught them to make Chocolate Truffles at my humble home. Even my 2 nephews ; Joshua(8 years old) and Aaron(7 years old) came to learn too. We had good fun. And a wonderful bonding time.

Imagine 3 generations of relatives together making Chocolate Truffles..My aunt, her daughter in law, and her 2 grandsons..my sister, another aunt, and my cousin too.

We will have another one after Chinese New year..when the rest of my cousins are back in Singapore for the festivities.

By the way, this special class was conducted in local dialect Hokkien. I think Valrhona needs to have a Hokkien name for it.

This is Joshua, my nephew and his box of Chocolate bons bons which he made..and so proud of. A wonderful gift for his daddy as my cousin celebrates his 40th Birthday today!

Jan 11, 2010

To Love and Be Loved

Yesterday, my sister sms me to say that Simba has passed away. I heard that he was ill for some days and was hospitalised in an animal hospital near my sister's home. I didn't expect it to be so sudden that a mere flu could kill a cat. Like Melody said, "he's old, old cats cannot be sick."

The last time I saw Simba was some months back. I think it was almost last March or so. Ever since we open shop, I didn't go to my sister's home for quite a while.

Simba is a mixed Persian cat. He was 'discovered' and rescued by my niece Tricia and her close friend, Michael. And found in the monsoon drains near their home. Together with 2 other female cats that look like Simba. The 3 cats were cleaned up and the 2 females were rehomed by the Singapore Cats Welfare Society while Tricia decided to keep the male cat. He was given the name of Simba..as in Disney's animated movie "The Lion King".

He was skinny when he first came. And all he could think of was to go out and find his girlfriends. We suspected that the 2 females may be his wives or concubines. And he may have been someone's pets until they have to moved out and left the cats behind to fend for themselves.

But if you are a Cat person, you will know that while you may like to move to a new area to stay, your cat thinks otherwise. He may still think that home is not where your heart is, its where he grew up in or where he finds comfort in. And most likely, that will be the place he spends all his days at.

So Simba stayed put with his felines. Then a rainstorm came and he ended up in the drains. Cold, wet and almost dehydrated and very hungry, he was just too weak to move.

When my niece found him, he was all too please to be handled. My niece Tricia, is an animal lover. If she has her own place, we all knew that there will cats and dogs in every inch of her house! Simba was brought home, cleaned up and sent to the Vet for a full medical check up.

He stayed with the family. And was loved and adored by everyone in the family. My sis had parties to welcome Simba. All of us came to dine and also to play with the cat.

In return, Simba returned his love for the family. And was very much our family's pet and family member too. He ruled the house over the dog. Yes, there is a dog in the house too. They got on pretty well. No cat n dog fights.

I always believe in one simple thing about Love and that is :

If you love someone, what you get is more love in return. Just like Nat King Cole used to sing that song "Nature Boy". One of the verses to that song said " The Greatest thing, you will ever learn, is just To Love and Be Loved in return"

This post is dedicated to Simba, the cat that rules us. May he rest in peace, knowing that he will be greatly missed and still have a special place in our hearts and mind.

Here's Melody hugging and loving Simba who doesn't look very pleased, though!

First early photos of Simba during one of the parties for him.

Living in a house with dog has turned Simba to behave like a dog to sit up and beg for food

More pictures of him

Clearly shows he Rules the house, the couch and us!

Jan 8, 2010

Nian Nian You Yu at KC

Again, another late post. The demo is this Sunday, 10 January 2010. From 2pm to 3pm. Its a short demo, just to show everyone how I do my fancy nian gao that has many shapes and many colours. I will show only the baby koi fish.

This is what I made this morning..all in 30 minutes flat.

Venue :
Kitchen Capers
Block 71 #01-531 F Kallang Bahru Singapore 330071

Our store faces the food court and is just below NTUC Fairprice Supermarket.

Jan 4, 2010

A new year of blessings

This post today is a post to bless you, and you and you and many more out there. While many would have drawn up a list of new year resolutions of what they plan to do and to achieve by year's end. I tried not to be too optimistic about achieving too much. But rather, to look back and reflect. On the numerous blessings God has given us without us realising it. The things we see that is happening everyday.

Now, take time to reflect. To sing praise to God. For all the moments in your life and your loved ones too. Even those unseen ones. The ones we forget or overlooked. Thank Him for good times and for bad. With good times, we sing praise. But with bad times, why do we need to be thankful of? It is through bad times, we learn to persevere, we learn how to cope. We learn to love more. And we learn how to take stock of what is left, sweep up the mess and move on and to inspire others.

While its easy to say "Dear God, I want to do this, or that. I hope I can do this and do that"

Why not say "Dear God, thank you for blessing me, in good times and in bad. In all my days and my moments when there are bad things happening. Thank you, Lord, for teaching me how to cope, showing me that I have many family and friends who cared for me as much as you do. If only I learn to be humble and be still and learn to see all the wonders of the world. "

I give you my thoughts for this new year..that you learn to see that love is definitely all around. Its just a little misty and blurry. We need to clean our minds and our hearts and be more open to the world. Then we can see it happening all the time.

God Bless you..

This is a hymn song in Chinese. I think its beautifully sung.

Jan 2, 2010

Live Cooking Demo

Sorry if this post comes in too late. I was busy as usual. Cold Storage has contacted me since November last year to do another LIVE Cooking demo outside their store at Guthrie House, Sixth Avenue. It had to be healthy and easy cooking. I chose these two dishes as it was something I did for Natasha when she was on the Cohen's diet plan.

I won't post the recipe in this post, at least not until the demo is over tomorrow.

Here's what I will be showing:

Spinach and Chicken Roll

Spicy Salad

No pre-registration needed. Just come early and reserved your best seats in front!

3rd January 2010, Sunday from 2 pm to 3:30pm
Cold Storage Gourmet(Guthrie House)
1 Fifth Ave Guthrie House #01-05 Singapore 268802

View Map by Streetdirectory.com

Jan 1, 2010

New recipes on cooking

I have been sharing much baking recipes at my store since its opening in May 2009. So today, starts a new year for me. I would be sharing more cooking recipes.

Today, 2 recipes will be printed and distributed freely at our store at Kallang Bahru. So if you are in the area, drop by to get a copy. And of course, all the ingredients are readily available from our store. Except groceries, but no fear, NTUC Fairprice Supermarket is just above us.

My all time is the Salmon and Snow Pear Roll and the Ondeh ondeh.

Salmon n Snow Pears Rolls
Recipe by Gina Choong

Makes 12 rolls
200g salmon fillet(diced)
2 Snow Pears
(peel and discard skin, cored, diced)

1 tsp salt
1 tsp grounded white pepper
1 tbsp Sesame oil
12 pcs of Wafer paper**
oil for deep frying

1. In a bowl add diced salmon, pears and mix with salt, pepper, sesame oil.
2. Divide the portion into 12 portions or about 1.5 tbsp
3. Place each portion on the wafer paper, roll up to seal.
4. Heat up oil in wok.
5. Slowly slide rolls into hot oil and deep fry till golden brown.
6. Remove to drain on paper towels
7. When its slightly cooled, cut into smaller pieces.
8. Serve with mayo, salad cream or chilli sauce

** You can get Wafer Paper from Kitchen Capers. Its kept in the chiller.

A Chef who frequents our store gave me a fantastic recipe using our red bean paste to make finger snacks. He told me all I need was:

2 packets of Wanton skins
200g red bean paste(the ones we sold for mooncake making)
1 egg (lightly beaten)

1. Divide the bean paste into 20 portions.
2. Brush wanton skin lightly with egg wash, put a portion of the bean paste in the centre of the wanton skin.
3. Cover it with another piece of wanton sheet.
4. Press down with your thumb and seal it.
5. Brush the top with egg wash again.
6. Bake in preheated oven 180C for 10 mins or until the wanton looks golden brown and crisp.

He suggested that I could use other types of mooncake paste for variations. Thanks Chef James for your wonderful tip.

Sorry, I have no picture for that. But he said he did for Christmas just to try it out with his friends. It was a hit!