Monday, June 30, 2014

Chinese Steamed Egg Custard Recipe

A silky, smooth and thin custard topped with a savoury mince. A dish that's very common in many, many Chinese households around Malaysia

One of the reasons why I LOVE my company is that everyone is such foodies, no kidding. What brings us together is that we're all such fatties, which is something we happily embrace. We. LOVE. Food. Whether it's cooking awesome meals for your usual weekday lunch using the office kitchen; or telling each other about a new restaurant we've tried over the weekend; or even sharing a recipe we've tested that turned out amazing. 

Another thing that makes this whole foodie scenario more fun is the fact that we truly celebrate each other's cultural diversity. Which is why every few months, we have this thing called the "International Food Day". Basically, it's a potluck for everyone to bring a dish from their cultural heritage. Plus, we secretly love it even more when some people get their Mums/Aunties/Grandmothers to prepare these traditional dishes -- wowsers. If only Mum lived in Melbourne too so I can kindly ask her to contribute something and pass it as my own creation (as if anyone's going to buy that).

Obviously, we always, always overestimate the amount of food to bring and we end up having SO much leftovers. Personally, I'm not complaining because one of my favourite things about potlucks is (shamelessly) taking home the leftovers. 

Taken from my Instagram: @winceeee

We've honestly outdone ourselves the last time. We really did. Our company is growing, which also means, more food at International Food Day... Yeeew!! This time, we had Italian, Australian, Lebanese, Syrian, Jewish, Iranian, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Russian, Macedonian and Greek food... AMAZING to say the least. Everyone always puts in so much effort (or sometimes, their Mum does haha) that the end result is just too good.

For myself, I always make sure that the food I bring is Vegetarian, just so I can share with my vego friends in the office. Not the easiest thing to do if you're Chinese as we are natural carnivores but I think it's been so far so good. In the past, I've made my Seri Muka (Malaysian Pandan Custard with Sweet Glutinous Rice), Vego Fried Noodles, Malaysian Vegetable Curry and now this, Chinese Steamed Egg Custard (but the vego version). 

These photos are the vegetarian version, using tofu instead of minced meat =)

This dish is hands down one of my favourite childhood dishes to eat. It's a dish that's found in almost every Chinese household around Malaysia, with so many variations from family to family. There's 2 ways that I like to have this:
1) The quick steamed version (that creates a soft, pillowy custard) with the mince at the bottom of the dish
2) Low and slow steamed version (that creates a smooth, silky custard) with the mince at the top of the dish

I've shared the first version several years ago in the link: here

Photo of pillowy version from 2011 
*cringes at old photos*

Essentially the same dish, but the different methods make it feel like 2 completely different dishes. I make the first version at home on for a quick weeknight dinner and the second version when I want to make it more presentable to share with others. Both equally delicious and satisfying.

Anyway, here's the recipe for the smooth, silky, thin and light custard version. With vegetarian version, which is just as satisfying as the meat version, if I may add. 

Chinese Steamed Egg Custard Recipe


For the custard:
8 eggs *
400 ml stock or water *
1/2 tsp salt
White pepper
1 salted duck egg yolk (optional)
1 century egg (optional)

* Quantity may be adjusted to suit the size of your dish. Ratio is 50ml stock/water per egg.

For the seasoning:
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp Chinese Shao Xin wine
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp corn flour
2 tbsp water
Few dashes white pepper

For the mince:
200g minced pork or beef *
1 cup dried shiitake mushroom
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 brown onion (diced finely)
4 cloves garlic (diced finely)

For vegetarian version, replace minced meat with equal amount diced firm tofu

To garnish:
Chopped spring onions
Fried shallots (optional)
1 tsp soy sauce
Sesame oil


1. Beat all the ingredients of the custard in a large bowl until well combined. Dice the salted duck egg yolk and century egg (if using) and stir into the custard. Pour into a deep round dish and set aside.

2. Mix all the ingredients of the seasoning with the minced meat. Set aside.

3. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl of boiled water for 20 minutes to let it rehydrate. Drain and squeeze out the excess liquid. Dice to small cubes and set aside.

4. Heat up a pan with the oil. Add the onions and garlic and fry until fragrant. Add in the minced meat and mushrooms and stir until the meat is cooked. Dish out and set aside.

5. Place the dish with custard in a steamer. Steam on medium-high for 25 to 30 minutes until the egg is set but still slightly wobbles in the centre. It is done when liquid doesn't spill out when you cut into it. 

Tip: Don't cover the steamer completely with the lid (with about a 2cm gap) so that the steam doesn't get pent-up. This helps to make sure the custard remains smooth and silky.If the steam is too high, the custard will inflate and has lots of pores on the surface. 

6. Remove the cooked custard from the steamed and top with cooked mince mixture. Drizzle 1 tsp of soy sauce and few drops of sesame oil around the egg. Garnish with spring onions and fried shallots (if using). Serve immediately with rice.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Annie Smithers Bistrot, Kyneton

It was one day just before Mum was due to fly back to Malaysia after being in Melbourne for just over a month. We decided we'd take a trip to a regional town, somewhere to explore the area and enjoy a nice lunch. My friend Aaron had suggested Kyneton when he and a few friends came over for dinner the night before. 

It was only an hour from Melbourne anyway, easy drive, so Kyneton it was. We had no idea where to eat that day so just picked the first place that caught our attention on Google: Anne Smithers Bistrot

That's the brandied cumquats that they make in house and use in some of their desserts and drinks... Delicious

As soon as we walked in, I found the setting to be seriously pleasant. A soft ambience filled the entire restaurant and it felt very relaxed and comfortable. Everything from the fitout, to the tone of the restaurant and even how the people were in there. Lots of happy couples and families having a lovely time together. Nicely spread out, high ceilings and not noisy at all. Very beautiful. The wooden tables were polished and had very slender legs, which made it quite elegant whilst maintaining its country charm. Soft country music in background. Nice use of china. Great friendly service. There really was a lot to take in. Stunning.

Twice cooked Gruyere cheese souffle, nashi, tatoi, gorgonzola and local walnut salad - $18

Pan seared scallops, jerusalem artichoke puree, artichoke chips, pear, sorrel, prosciutto - $18

Grilled spice marinated quail, quinoa, cauliflower & pomegranate salad, yoghurt - $18

The entrees were a great start. Loved the multiple layers of flavours. Various ingredients that complements the tastes too. The cheese soufflé was so light and flavourful, with earthy nuts and crunchy sweet pears. Scallops were one of the best ever. It showed so much integrity for the beautiful scallops by cooking it to perfection. The purée and prosciutto chips together were a fantastic. combination. The quails was coated with a spice rub but contrasted with sweet pomegranates, crunchy quinoa and a sweet glaze. 

So much flavour without being overly complicated. You taste everything on the plate individually and hten together as whole with the rest of the elements. Still, no element wasn't overpowering the other. Very good.

Aged Sidonia Hills beef, dauphinois potato, roast carrots, horseradish creme, jus - $36

The beef was beautiful. The knife glided through the beef like butter, when we sliced into it. The horseradish played an underlaying and subtle tone throughout the dish. 

Market fresh fish (snapper), creamed leek, cauliflower beignets, herb salad

Fish was done really well too. Crispy skin with moist, tender flesh. The leek cream was lip-smackingly good and the fluffy fried cauliflowers on the side definitely excited our palates. Mum said it was the best fish dish she's had in Australia. 

Ricotta gnocchi, sauteed mushrooms, kale, poached egg, truffled pecorino - $36 

Finally, the richest dish of the day was surprisingly the vego gnocchi but it was so bold in flavours it was delicious! Great for mushroom lovers.

Vanilla bean panna cotta, brandied cumquats, cumquat brandy, gingerbread, sheeps milk yoghurt sorbet - $16

We were so full already by this point but just could not pass up dessert. Sis could not stop raving about the yoghurt. A good balance of sharpness and sweetness. The brandied cumquats were awesome and added a different depth. It went so well with the crushed spiced cake. 

White chocolate mousse, slow roasted quince, quince jelly, pedro ximenex ice cream, meringue - $16 

The sweet mousse, sour quince, fragrant PX ice cream and crunchy meringue could not have been a better combo. Enjoyed them both muchly.

Overall, it was honestly a really lovely meal with my family at Annie Smithers Bistrot from start to finish. To think, we picked this place by chance on Google too. What luck. Understated and tasteful touch everywhere in this country style restaurant. Beautiful food, setting and service. Impeccable quality. Only just realised after the meal that it was awarded 1 Chef Hat too, what a well deserved accolade.

We're so glad we took the hour drive here. Kyneton is such a foodie regional town, with so many eateries in the area. Definitely want to come back and explore this place a little bit more.

Annie Smithers Bistrot & Produce on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hammer & Tong, Fitzroy

My short black
Should've taken a photo of Mum's cappuccino because that was great

Buttermilk Lamb, Goats Cheese, Onion Rings, Eucalyptus & Apple Gel, Frisse - $22

Tiny morsel for a Main, IMO...

Sausage & Egg Muffin with Espresso Maple Bacon Foam, Smoked Cheese -- $16

Okay, so muffin and nothing else... Where's the rest of the food on my plate?
Quite exxy for $16

Soft Shell Crab Burger - $12

So small... Slightly taller but practically the size of a Maccas cheeseburger

Hammer and Tong… A place that gave me high expectations, thinking the chances of it being a disappointment would be highly unlikely. You know, being No. 1 on Urbanspoon now and all. We waited 30 mins in line, which was fine. I was prepared to wait at brunch places like these on weekends anyway.

I must say, I was just a little bit gobsmacked by the loudness of the noise in the cafe as soon as we walked in (why do all the cool places need to be like this). It was seriously loud and the banging music they were playing the background was even louder. The whole scene was giving me a little bit of a headache. I was almost screaming in my head that I couldn't wait to get out of there. What a horrible position to be in. I've been to many noisy cafes before but this really takes the cake. Call me an old fart, but this was neither relaxing nor how I want to spend my weekend after a long week at work. 

As for the food, we did find it to be totally underwhelming. We did not enjoy the muffin and lamb and thought that it sounded better than it tasted. The thing about dishes that sound too pretentious is it does create an expectation and what we got on the plate did not deliver. Obviously, we had to order the soft shell crab burger. It was tasty but IMO it's hard to go wrong with fried soft shell crab anyway. 

As a whole, I found the dishes to be severely lacking and incomplete. And, as mentioned, sounds better than it actually tastes. You order a burger and all you get is a burger on a plate with nothing else. You order the muffin and all you get is a muffin with nothing else. For me, the plates desperately screamed a sort of side or salad, something more to complement the dish. Not having anything else sort of felt like a half arsed effort, especially when a dish is over $15 (like the muffin). Not good value money for me at all.

Finally, I must say that we found the portions to be way too small too. We ate through them pretty quick because there wasn't much on the plate to begin with. Even my mum who's a small eater also left feeling hungry and unsatisfied, which says a lot. Put it this way, there's not many things that's worse than when you're paying to eat at a restaurant only to still leave feeling hungry

All that aside, what I will commend them on is their coffee. Good beans but the milk was the highlight for sure. It was frothed beautifully and so smooth to drink. To me, the difference was rather prominent. As I was paying, I realised that they were using the Saint David Dairy brand of milk. "Nooooo wonder", I thought. Superbly good quality and locally sourced milk goes a long way.

The truth is, there are so many great brunch places these days that this places doesn't even meet the top 20 for me. It just escapes me how this place is now voted as the most talked about restaurant in the whole of Melbourne. Well done to them but this place is definitely not for me. Loud space, small portions, incomplete and pricey dishes (as you can see). What more can I say. The soft shell crab burger is just fair but I can't say that putting soft shell crab in burgers are my favourite way of having them anyway. Theory applies to crispy pork belly. Not coming back for sure. 

Shameless plug: if you really enjoy soft shell crab I recommend that you make it at home using my Tempura Soft Shell Crab. Way more satisfying and at least 50% bigger than what you get at most places. Recipe: HERE

Hammer & Tong on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dolmades (Dill and Mint Stuffed Vine Leaves)

Yup, okay… 

I know what you're thinking. Most of you are probably wondering what this young Asian boy is doing fiddling with these Middle Eastern/Mediterranean treats. Trust me, I was so clueless throughout the entire process that I was wondering the same thing too. 

See, I've only had it once before something possessed me to give these a crack at home. You don't see stuffed vine leaves anywhere in Malaysia. My colleague had brought some that her Mum made to share in the office. It tasted so interesting and I really enjoyed them. It's been a while since I've experimented in the kitchen so I asked if she could help get me some vine leaves so I can make them at home too. I was definitely nervous about making them because cuisines from that region are really, really unfamiliar territory to me. But I'm glad I tried them out because they were much simpler than I thought and turned out quite tasty. They were actually quite quick and easy to roll. It was only that there was a lot of them to do, so make sure you trick someone in your family to helping you at it too.

Decided to add pine nuts as well to give the filling a bit of crunch, which ended up working really well. Love the colours from the filling! 

Dolmades reminds me a lot of dumplings. They're prevalent in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures; just as dumplings are to people with an Oriental heritage. The exact origins of both dishes are highly debatable but who the hell cares, they're tasty and that's all that matters to it. 

The Internet recently taught me that "Dolma", actually means "to stuff with" and is almost a category of food on its own. Because it's so common in many people's homes and cultures, there's so many variations to this dish. You can get them with different types of vegetables stuffed (zucchini, peppers, cabbage, etc); with or without meat in filling; tomato or cream sauce or no sauce at all; the list goes on… 

Personally, I love to keep these simple and vegetarian (stuffed with flavoured rice only). It has so much taste and flavour, but not heavy and more enjoyable because it doesn't have meat in them. Plus, I didn't want to have meat in them so I can share it with my vego friends too. This is a version that I enjoy but you can make it whichever way you want! I had lots of fun making this and definitely recommend people try it too to share with other friends and family =)

Dolmades (Dill and Mint Stuffed Vine Leaves)

(adapted from these recipes, makes approx. 60)


500g vine leaves *
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions (finely diced)
1 cup rice
6 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 cup or 150g pine nuts
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dried mint
1/2 cup fresh dill (chopped)
1 1/2 to 2 litres stock (chicken or vegetable)
Lemons (to serve)

* Can be fresh, dried or vacuum packed in brine. Available at Mediterranean or Middle Eastern wholesalers


1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Place the vine leaves in a pot and boil for 5 minutes. Remove vine leaves and place in a large bowl of cold water to cool.

2. Heat up a small frying pan. Fry the onions in the olive oil until it becomes fragrant and translucent. 

3. Remove onions from pan and place in a large bowl. Mix in all the remaining ingredients except the stock and lemon.

4. Place a piece of vine leaf on the plate with the spine of the leaf pointing away from you. Place a scoop of filling horizontally in a line near the bottom of the leaf. Roll the bottom, fold the sides, roll again until filling is wrapped tight. Repeat until all leaves and filling are used up. (You can check out a video of the process: here)

Tip: You may layer 2 or 3 vine leaves on top of one another to form a larger sheet if you find that some leaves to be too small or have holes.

5. Place all the vine leaves, seams down, tightly together at the bottom of a pot. Place a heavy plate at the top of the stack to hold it down tightly. Add extra weights, if possible. 

6. Place the stock in the pot until all dolmades is submerged in liquid. Simmer for 50 minutes. Top up with more stock or water if necessary. Remove from pot and squeeze generously with lemons just before serving.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Maya Tequila Bar & Grill, South Yarra

Disclaimer: Winston and family dined as guests of Maya Tequila Bar & Grill. All opinions are honest and based on own personal experience at the time.

Flores De Maria - $16
Hibiscus Jamaica Syrup, West Winds Gin, Lime, Martini Rosso

Jimmy's Margarita - $16
Tromba Reposado, Triple Sec, Lime, Agave Nectar

Salsa Habanera Corn Chips - $8
Habanero, orange, corn, pomegranate, coriander

Ellote - $8
Grilled corn cob, chipotle mayo, queso & lime

Ceviche - $14
Snapper, coconut, lime, roasted herb, tostada

Pollo Frito - $14
Crispy Yucatan chicken ribs, jalapeno mayo

El Cordero Asado - $14
Chargrilled spiced lamb ribs, orange, pomegranate

Pollo Mole Tortilla - $14
Slow cooked mole chicken, guac, corn salsa

Chipotle Beef Quesadillas - $16
Shredded Wagyu beef, pico de gallo

Chilli Chocolate Mousse - $10

XO Patron Affogato - $10

Head Chef/Owner Michael from Maya Tequila Bar & Grill contacted me a while ago to tell me about his restaurant. He described it as Modern yet affordable Mexican food, which sounded intriguing. I don't readily accept every offer I get these days, because I'm such a bum. But, something about Michael's enthusiasm about his food and also how personal his email was definitely warmed up to me. His invitation really jumped out of the pile and made me keen to want to drop by. I told him that I had family in town that week and he's generously asked me to take them all along for a nice meal and cocktails on them.

Michael first explained that Maya had actually been around for a while, but he's only really taken over and revamped the entire place from top to bottom (i.e. food, staff, fitout, et al) since late last year. The restaurant was very easy to get to, being in South Yarra. The restaurant had retained a lot of the original materials of the building, but had a new and sexy bar at the back. 

We were first greeted by Michael (jolly as can be) who was standing right in front of the kitchen, personally checking every plate before it gets sent to the table. Excitement was definitely heightened as soon as all the orders were placed after reading all the food on the menu.

Meal was off to a good start. Couldn't go past the corn chips and grilled corn at any Mexican restaurants. It was straightforward but I'm not complaining. I loved the flavour of the coconut with the lime in the ceviche and the lamb ribs were nicely charred and tender. 

Favourite was definitely the chicken ribs here. Michael did warn me I would love the chicken ribs here. I tried to get him to spill the beans on what he used in the seasoning of his batter because it tasted AWESOME but he wouldn't budge. Maybe next time. I would say that the starters were as good as many other places, but still done well and tasty. I enjoyed the variety of dishes we ordered too.

As for the Mains,  I really enjoyed the mole chicken taco. It was bang full of flavour and texture, hard to not enjoy every mouthful. The quesadillas with the braised wagyu was just as delicious too. The crunch from the toasted tortilla, with the flavourful filling and uber gooey cheese was damn good to eat. I must say that there are not a lot of places where I find myself enjoying Mains more than Starters, but this was actually one of them. As for drinks, I'm no cocktail expert but I did think the ones here was mixed quite well.

Finally for Desserts, I was quite disappointed when they told me that they had run out of the cream cheese cigars but no matter, chocolate will do. I think they definitely didn't hold back on the chilli and alcohol in the two desserts. Whether or not they could've taken it down a notch, really does come down to a matter of preference. I was definitely okay with the strong booze content in the affagato (which could be a bit strong for some) but did find the mousse a tad spicy. Although, my sister enjoyed the level of heat in that one. So, who's to say what levels it should be.

Overall, I'm glad to have gotten the invite to come and eat at Maya. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known about them. After that meal, I'm also glad that I have a place that immediately comes to mind when I'm in the mood for some Mexican food. As we all know, there are a few other good ones around but the queues for those places can be quite ridiculous. Maya does pretty solid food and cocktails that's fairly priced and in a nice location too. I can see that they've got a steady stream of business there and am definitely happy for them for that. Would definitely recommend people to Maya if they're looking for a chill place with something different to try. 

Maya Tequila Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon