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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Q's riceballs


Our paed advised us to incorporate our food and meal time/style into Q's routine as soon as we can. At 8-9 months, he was eating brown bread and buns with a little butter, cheese spread or olive oil. And we're advised to add fat into his mash/pasta/porridge. And since Q likes to be in charge, he wrestled the spoon from us as early as when he learn to use his wrists and hands.
he can't help himself but reach out to the window ledge where I was taking this shoot to get a rice ball, roll it into the beef semur and put it in his mouth! The look on his face when I was scolding him was priceless. I can't help but laughed and scoop him up and gave him the rest of the riceballs and thought I will work with whatever shots I have!

The paed insisted if we eat a lot of spicy food or any other special Asian ingredient - things I took as soy sauce, coconut milk, lemon grass, ginger, fish sauce etc to also add it into his food. We started a few months earlier for Q than Nabila. He was always puckering his lips and smacking his tongue when he smell the food cooking or being served. so I thought let's try some dishes.
I received a few mails asking about incorporating Asian flavour into baby food. In Asia, it is very normal for babies to start eating rice porridge (congee) with veggies - mashed/processed with some chicken, fish, beef or whitebait. I pretty much did the same with Q. Only he also got mashed potatoes with mashed carrots, greens and as soon as he can feed himself, he got a plate of pasta.

family favourite - semur daging (braised beef) with nasi lemak

The other thing I am introducing to Q is mixing and matching his own food. so instead of seeing a plate of food with *hidden* veggies or meat, I prepared it as if he is getting a full main course on his plate. And what he is getting is actually what we are eating - only sometimes a little toned down or say if we have curry, he gets only the meat and only a few drops of the gravy. this has been working out very well for all of us and he has been eating like this since he turned one.

As rice can be very messy, sticky and difficult to clean and I am not the most patient housekeeper around, this is how I serve rice for Q. I did the same thing with Nabila and she used to call it sushi - which made introducing sushi and temaki to her a breeze!

You can use the regular white or brown rice you are using and all you have to do is to wet your hands and shape them to balls. I use Nasi Lemak for this as I was also receiving some request for Nasi Lemak with the sambal tumis post.

Nasi Lemak

Ingredients:
500g rice
500ml water (or cook according to the package instruction)
50ml coconut milk (approximately 10-20percent of water used)
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 pandan leaves - washed and clean and tie into a knot
2 cm ginger - julienned
1 lemon grass - crushed

Method:
1. Wash and rise rice three times to get rid of all the starch.
2. Add all the ingredients together in a pot/rice cooker and stir to mix the coconut rice and salt thoroughly. Cook until rice is ready.
3. To make rice balls - just wash and wet your hand and shape the rice into balls. You can do this just before serving or at the table.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

sambal tumis udang


Making sambal tumis is not easy. At least not for me. The balance of flavour has to be just right. I don't believe there is a recipe for sambal that works every time. Usually when you ask for a recipe from the elders, you are given a list of ingredients - as per usual Asian dishes - but never exact measurement. I used to accuse my Mom and aunts of being stingy with their recipes.
But over the years I learnt one thing - you cannot make sambal tumis unless you go to the kitchen and practise and practise and practise. And you never get it right the first time or the second or the third.

The other thing I learnt is of course taste, taste, taste. You have to taste it consistently. A good sambal tumis will have sweet, sour, salty, heat, aroma and the umami which has to be balanced just right. Otherwise it will spoil everything else. So it is important to keep tasting and not just adding the seasoning at the end of cooking.

The third thing is focus. You have to learn to smell the chili paste hitting that moment and consistency when it is just cooked, and oil oozing out of the paste or what we call *pecah minyak* and this has to happen before you add the prawns, squids, chicken or dry whitebaits (bilis) and tamarind paste.

I was lucky to chance upon these small sweet prawns a few weeks ago - the perfect prawns to use for sambal. They were fresh and still crunchy after they were cooked. The secret I think is because I cooked the sambal until I get it right before I added the prawns. My mom taught me this trick when making a large batch but it worked just as well for making one kilo sambal tumis.

Here is the way I did it and the list of ingredients - sorry there is no specific measurements - like I said, you just have to practise till you get it right!

Sambal Tumis Udang

Ingredients:
1 kg of small prawns -shelled, deveined and lightly coat in turmeric powder
3 onions
3cm ginger
5-6 cloves of garlic
10 dry chillies - soaked in hot water until soft or 2 TBSP of sambal oelek
tamarind soaked in warm water to make paste
palm sugar
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Method:
1. Process dry chillies to make paste. Add onion, ginger and garlic and blitz some more. Set aside.
2. Fry the prawns for not more than one minute in a little oil and set aside. Season.
3. Heat some oil in a wok and add the chili paste. Fry until it reaches the pecah minyak stage. At this stage, you will smell the chili is cooked. The colour of the paste will darken. Season with salt, pepper and add palm sugar.
4. Add the tamarind paste and watch the consistency of the sambal change again. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
5. Let it simmer for a while and thicken. Taste one more time.
6. Add the prawns. Taste and season. Cook not longer than 5 minutes otherwise the prawns will be rubbery and dry. You want them to remain sweet and crunchy.
7. Serve with hot rice or noodles.
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