Thursday, February 13, 2014

Glutinous Rice Balls (汤圆) with Peanut Filling in Pandan & Ginger Syrup

There's a few things that really relaxes me. 

Editing photos or blogging Recipes are some of them. Besides that, my Spotify playlist or watching sitcoms (like 30 Rock, The Office, Parks & Recreation and also my new obsession Suburgatory) typically does the trick too.

Even though I've been eating Glutinous Rice Balls (汤圆) every year for as long as I could remember, these were actually the first time I made them. Usually Mum takes care of this department. But being away from my family in Malaysia and spending my Chinese New Year here in Melbourne instead, I have come to the realisation that it is now up to me to assume this responsibility. I made these for my friends when I hosted Chinese New Year dinner at my place 2 weeks ago. Was a helluva fun. We gambled and I won a bit of money that night =)

These Glutinous Rice Balls are eaten at many special occasions within a Chinese family. The stickiness of the texture signified the bond and unity of a person with their loved ones. The round shape symbolises how family makes life whole and complete.

Personally, I am quite happy to have these without the filling. I like my syrup to have a prominent pandan fragrance with the ginger overtone that isn't too overpowering.

Chinese New Year is not over yet so you still have time to make these. Though to be honest, we do have it at other times of the year as well.

Besides these Glutinous Rice Balls (汤圆), I almost made my parents' 8 Treasure Duck (八宝鸭) which is a real treat. You can find the recipe for it: HERE

Glutinous Rice Balls in Pandan & Ginger Syrup

(adapted from this recipe by Rasa Malaysia) 


Rice balls

250g glutinous rice flour
1 cup water


85g ground peanuts
3 1/2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp peanut butter


1.5L water
5 - 6 pandan leaves (tied in a knot)
1 thumb size ginger (cut to thin slices)
150g yellow rock sugar

Optional: Garnish with toasted sesame seeds


1. Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl. Set aside.

2. Mix the ingredients for the rice balls in a bowl. This will form your dumpling skin. If the mixture leaves your hands wet, add more flour. If the mixture tears too easily when you try to roll it out, add more water.

3. Take a pinch of the dumpling mixture and roll it into a ball. Flatten it on one palm of your hand with the palm of the other hand. 

4. Place a pinch of the filling into the centre. Fold one edge of the dumpling to the other and pinch until filling is fully encased. 

5. Roll it out with your palms again until it forms a ball. Repeat until rice balls and filling mixture is used up.

Tip: These rice balls may be stored in a container in the freezer for later use. I made these a week in advance of our CNY dinner

6. Place all the ingredients for the syrup in a pot. Bring the pot to a boil and allow to simmer uncovered for 20 minutes on medium heat.

7. Place the rice balls in a separate pot filled with water. Bring the pot to a boil. Once the balls are floating, they are ready. Drain and set aside to individual bowls.

8. Fill each bowl with syrup. Garnish with sesame seeds if using. Serve hot. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mum's Deep Fried Prawns Recipe

Thanks for texting me the recipe on Whatsapp, Mum!

We don't eat a lot of fried food growing up. Mainly because Mum has always been quite health conscious with the family's diet so we avoid oily food. In fact, I remember the times when Dad used to take my Sis and I to KFC when we were younger and bring a box of tissue with him. Why? To squeeze the chicken of excess oil as much as he can before using the spoon to scrape the fats from the skin. At the time, it was so weird as kids to see that and I remember how we would plead to Dad to stop. But, hey. Mum and Dad knows best huh?

But Mum and Dad are human too and we do have our fried food fix from time to time. On special occasions (especially during Chinese New Year dinners), Mum would make our favourite deep fried prawn fritters. Seriously one of my favourite childhood dishes.

Mum's prawn fritters are the best. She always uses the best and biggest prawns (often very expensive but hey, it's a special occasion) and what I love most is the batter she uses. Mum's batter is so flavourful, sticks to the prawn really well and has a great crunch and crispy edges. Plus, I love her generous addition of sesame seeds in the batter too. It's SO delicious. Sometimes, I don't like beer battered recipes as I find that it is too hollow around the meat from being too airy (not necessary).

Mum's secret to flavour and crunch? BUTTER. She finds that it makes the batter fragrant and also makes the batter light. At the same time, making the batter slightly thicker than usual helps it stick and creates a better crunch too.

Anyway, I asked Mum for the recipe via Whatsapp when I was hosting dinner for my relatives at my place 2 weekends ago. It turned out as good as Mum's and I'm so grateful for this recipe. Obviously, you can make this with anything else you'd like to batter but I just love fried prawns and I hope you give this a go too =)

Also made Mum's Sour Plum Duck (酸梅鸭) for dinner that evening =)

Seriously delish and you can find the recipe: here

A big plate of fried prawns... YIPPEE

Mum's Deep Fried Prawns


1kg of large prawns (king or tiger prawns)
150g (or 1 cup) self raising flour
50g butter
3/4 cup water
2 tbsp sesame seeds (preferably toasted)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
Oil for frying


1. Remove all the head and shell from the prawns, leaving the shell for the tail only.

2. Place the flour and butter in the a bowl. Press the butter into the flour with a fork until all broken up into tiny pieces and mixed thoroughly with the flour. Almost like making butter crumble mixture.

3. Whisk in the water, sesame seeds and sugar into the flour mixture until well combined. You should get a thick consistency. Leave aside to stand for 15 minutes.

4. Heat up oil in a large wok or pot until very hot. Add a small drop of the batter into the oil. If it starts bubbling immediately, the oil is ready.

5. Hold the prawns by the tail and coat it with the batter. Drop into the oil. Fry a few prawns at a time (depending on how big your wok/pot is) until golden on both sides. 

6. Once prawns are fried and golden, remove to rest on a plate lined with kitchen towel. Repeat in batches until all prawns are fried. Serve hot.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ah Po's Chinese New Year Vegetarian Stew ("Jye" or "Jap Chye")

A festive dish that is eaten by many Chinese Malaysian households on the 1st Day of Chinese New Year. Also known as "Jye" or "Jap Chye".

Chinese New Year is undoubtedly the most important time of the year for us (as well as being most fun). The main reason? My late Grandmother (阿婆 or "Ah Po", as we call her).

Ah Po was hands down the most important person in all of our lives. What all of us know about having a strong bond and love for our family, showing kindness to strangers, putting other people's needs before ours, forgiveness towards others, working hard to achieve our goals, we learned it ALL from her. She's touched the lives of so many people (and not just those in our family). She really brought our entire family and extended family together like no one else can. CNY always remind us so much of her because we would fly to her hometown to visit her every year without fail. I didn't know any other grandparent growing up (they've all passed before I was born) but Ah Po was all the grandparent I needed. 

Each of us has had so many cherished memories with our beloved Ah Po. I love how that out of all her many grandchildren, she always knew that I was the peckish and hungry one so she would always come and sit next to me in the living room to feed me rice in her homemade soup in the afternoons. Ah Po would blow each spoonful to make sure the temperature was just right before feeding it to me and I would always tell her "it's really yummy, Ah Po!" with glee in Hakka. I felt SO loved from every single bite.

I also remember how there was also a mentally challenged couple that always used to pay her a visit in the afternoons. Even though they were shunned and struggled with being accepted by many in society, Ah Po always spent the time talking to them, giving them food and making sure that they were doing alright on their feet. 

No matter how exhausted she was, she'd still take care of her family as a widow and go out of her way to help others. No matter how much a person's wronged her, she still chose to forgive, forget and embrace them like no other. Ah Po really was a remarkable human being. We were so blessed to have her in our lives and we love her so, so much. Her Passing was hands down the hardest thing any of us had to go through and it really shattered us to pieces. I still remember it like it was yesterday. It's been almost 10 years since we lost her but we still miss her tremendously. 

In loving memory...

Anyway, this was a dish that we would eat on the 1st Day of Chinese New Year. A tradition that most Malaysian Chinese families share. This recipe was passed down from my late Grandmother, to my mother, and now to me. 

Ah Po's version is slightly different because even though this dish is meant to be vegetarian, she always added Dried Oysters because it added a fantastic flavour and it is one of those premium ingredients that cost a lot (sometimes more than AU$100/kg) so we like to eat it on special occasions. The dried oysters I got from the Asian Grocery here in Melbourne aren't as extravagant in quality and price (about $19 for a generous box) but they do the job. Another twist to the tradition is that Ah Po would also always make this Dried Oyster, Red Dates and Radish Soup to go with the Vegatarian Stew (or "Jye").

Dried oysters that I bought from the Asian Grocery (along with all the other ingredients for the dish)

I learned this dish from Mum when I was back in Malaysia over Christmas. This was the first time I made this and as it was very important that I made this for my relatives when we had CNY dinner at my place last Saturday. Let's just say, Ah Po was definitely remembered at the dinner table that night. 

It is a huge privilege and joy for me to make this dish in remembrance of her and then share it with everyone today. I'm sure that she's looking down right now, smiling, and I cannot wait to see my Grandmother again one day… 

Miss you so much, Ah Po!


Ah Po's Chinese New Year Vegetarian Stew ("Jye" or "Jap Chye")


2 cups dried bean curd sheets (soaked overnight)
1/2 cup wood ear fungus (soaked overnight)
1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked overnight)
3/4 cup dried lily flowers (soaked overnight)
1 pack (approx 15 pieces) tofu puffs (soaked for 1/2 hour)
250g glass vermicelli (soaked for 1/2 hour)
1 large handful hair moss (soaked for 5 minutes)

1 tbsp oil 
3 cloves of garlic (smashed)
10 large Chinese cabbage or wombok leaves (cut to 1 inch strips)
4 small or 2 large carrots (sliced diagonally into strips)
10 pitted dried red dates
4 tbsp oyster sauce
1 piece rock sugar (approx. 1 inch cube)
5 cubes of fermented red tofu (approx. 2cm cubes)
1 tbsp of the fermented red tofu liquid
Water to cover

Optional but recommended:
7 dried oysters (soaked overnight)

To finish:
1 tbsp of oil


1. Remove all the liquid from the oysters (if using), beancurd sheets, wood ear fungus, mushrooms, lily flowers, tofu puffs, glass vermicilli and hair moss. 

2. Squeeze out the liquid from the mushrooms and slice in half. Cut the beancurd sheets into 2 inch strips. Cut the tofu puffs in half. Tie the strands of lily flowers into a knot.

3. Heat up a large wok. Add the oil and fry the garlic until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and wood ear fungus. Fry in high heat until it begins to sear and become fragrant, stirring occasionally. 

4. Add the dried oysters, beancurd sheets, lily flowers, Chinese cabbage, carrots and red dates. Stir to mix evenly.

5. Add the oyster sauce and stir to mix evenly.

6. Add enough water until just covers the ingredients. Add the rock sugar, fermented red tofu, tofu liquid and stir to mix evenly.

7. Add the tofu puffs and cover the wok. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.

8. Remove lid and stir in glass vermicilli and black moss. Taste to see if extra red tofu liquid or oyster sauce is required (usually not necessary).

9. Switch off heat. Drizzle final tablespoon of oil for extra sheen. Serve hot with rice.

Dried Oysters, Red Dates and White Radish Soup


8 dried oysters (soaked overnight)
10 pieces dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked overnight)
2 slender or 1 large white radish (aka daikon)
12 pitted dried red dates
2.5 litres of water
Small handful of black moss


1. Drain the oysters and mushrooms. Squeeze the mushrooms to release the liquid and slice in half.

2. Peel the white radish and slice diagonally, 2cm apart.

3. Add in all the ingredients in the pot (except the black moss) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot with the lid and reduce to simmer for 2 hours.

4. Finally, stir in the black moss. Serve.

Monday, February 3, 2014

La Cassolette, CBD

Situated just by the Yarra River across from Crown Casino... 

Complimentary starter

Crab Salad and Quinoa Taboule - $16

Seared Scallops & Creamy Sauce - $25

Flambéed with cognac or ricard at your table, served with homemade mash potatoes, parmesan and green salad

Cooked right at the table -- awesome!

Amazing final product!


More, please. *hic*

Scotch Fillet Black Angus 200g with Blue Cheese Sauce - $25

Ratatouille - $8

Fish Casserole & Aioli Sauce - $22

Banana Panna Cotta with Berry Coulis - $12

Pear Chocolate Fondant - $12


Thank you Mickael and team for being such wonderful hosts!

Without sounding too ungrateful, I generally prefer not to attend too many invites these days as I have found 2013 to be a seriously tiring year for me what with all the constant and heavy work/social life commitments. Also the main reason why I'm not actually very ambitious when it comes to blogging. I have no ambition to be at a certain ranking or hit any numbers at all. I don't intentionally set out to get opportunities or change certain things about this blog even though I've been advised it would "make me better" as my plate is full enough and I don't want anything to get in the way of spending time with the people I care about. If it happens, it happens. I'm really not fussed. Blogging, to me, is still a hobby or creative outlet more than anything. It's fun. That said, I have truly appreciated the fact that I do get so many fun opportunities that comes my way, despite this "not caring" or defiant attitude.

Even though I was having a blast, I did get really worn out last year so I'm hoping to take things much easier this year. On the other hand, these invites were also a good opportunity for me to take friends or family out for a free meal to catchup, especially if I haven't seen them in a while. Which is what I have been doing. Sort of killing two birds with one stone, really. Also, I really do enjoy the fact that with opportunities from blogging, I can always share these gifts I'm receiving with others as well. Trust me, I would've normally just stayed home and rest if I couldn't share the experiences with others and use it as a time for us to bond...

...which was exactly what I did when I was invited to dine at La Cassolette last year and brought my good mates Josh and Aaron along. 

The location was tricky, I must say. But, it was actually closer than people think and had a stunning view of Crown Casino and the Yarra River. I was greeted by a friendly and cheerful Frenchman by the name of Mickael at the door. As soon as we sat down, he brought over some sparkling water, white wine and cured meats to kick off as we looked through the menu. What a great start, I thought.

Our first dish was the crab and quinoa taboule -- which my friends and I thought was a GREAT starter. Such an interesting combo of flavour and texture and golly were they generous with the crab or what. Definitely signature dish worthy. Another specialty here was the flambéed dishes, which were cooked right at the table. Amazing! The scallops were utterly divine and again, I noticed how generous they were with them as well. Theatrics and flavour. I like. 

We enjoyed the rest of the meal that evening as well. Fish casserole was so fresh and perfectly seasoned. Steak was juicy and tender but the only suggestion I would make is that they should probably let it rest a little longer before putting it on the plate as the plate got rather wet from the liquid that was released during the meal. Otherwise, it was still really tasty. To finish, banana pannacotta probably wasn't my favourite flavour but was still well made and the chocolate fondant was seriously fantastic. I'm not a dessert person but I could inhale the whole thing to myself.

Overall, it was a really enjoyable meal from start to finish. The staff and host were incredibly hospitable to us. Besides that, getting to hear more about Mickael's background in the food scene, his food aspirations and also his inspirations behind La Cassolette really made my respect his vision for the restaurant even more. I liked how he shared about his experience of dining in various establishments in Melbourne, from Indian to French, dine in or takeaway, cheap to expensive to give him ideas about the identity he wishes to portray. It was also interesting how he mentioned that he was getting such portions in so many places in Melbourne that he almost found it "offensive". It was an interesting point of view and I respected him for it.

To sum up, I think La Cassolette is a great place for delicious French food that is value for money. My friends and I enjoyed every dish that evening and can totally see ourselves coming back too. Great work to the team and I wish you all the best with La Cassolette. Look forward to seeing everyone there again soon.

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