Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sun, Sea,Sand and Thai food

Escape to Koh Lipe

This year instead of our yearly routine family island trip to Redang Island, we decided to try out new island since we noticed Redang island was getting overly crowded and so commercialised that the nature of the island was deteriorating quickly each year and it was no longer as secluded as our past experience.

A few years ago, we started to hear about Koh Lipe, one of the islands in the Tarutao National Marine Park located in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Satun Province of Southern Thailand. At that time the island was still pretty deserted and the accommodation choices were limited, not so suitable for family with small kids. Last year when JS’s Canadian residing sister and hubby spent a holiday there and came back with good comments highlighting to us that the island had since been developed with various choices of lodgings from budget to lavish to accommodate family travellers, it prompted us to reconsider this option again.

With the island only a stone’s throw from Langkawi Island in the North of Malaysia and within easy reaching distance in the high season from May to October, we decided we would give it a try this year. Hence we planned the trip to coincide with our half marathon race at Penang Bridge International Marathon on 18th November which was also in the North of Malaysia. We made the journey to Langkawi island the day after we completed the race by travelling on a 3 hours ferry and spent a night at Langkawi. The very next morning, we embarked on another 45 minutes high speed boat ride at Langkawi Telaga harbour across the Andaman Sea to Koh Lipe.

Telaga Habour @ Langkawi

The weather in Koh Lipe for the 4 days we were there wasn't very good but we had luck. Weather was sunny on the day we arrived, 19th November. Our resort was located at a pristine beach (Pattaya Beach) just next to Satun Immigration Check point.

I was thrilled to find out the resort was well above my expectation, with modern air-conditioner, water heater for shower and satellite TV channels (albeit only one channel HBO in English, the rest in Thai). The power supply wasn’t stable and we experienced frequent power trips but overall I would say it was very decent accommodation for family stay.

Bundhaya Resort

We spent 4 days 3 nights with 2 full days of chartered snorkelling trip on our own.


On the 2nd day of the trip, when we started our first daily boat trip, it was a gloomy morning. But luckily the weather slowly cleared up as the trip went on. We had good time the whole day. Sunlight could be better for underwater photography in the morning but in the afternoon it was excellent. At the first snorkelling spot we anchored, it was really wavy; I hesitated to dive in. But once we got in the water, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the underwater world we saw. Lots of sea anemone and soft corals, I would say much healthier marine life than in Redang that we admired so much before.

Anemone and clown fish
That night, it rained heavily from 3am. It was still drizzling the following morning at 8:30am when we were about to start our second daily boat trip. The weather looked really bad out in the sea, with many patches of dark clouds in different parts of the horizon, some of which were heavy rainfall we could tell. The only spot that was still clear with sunshine was the first spot we were heading towards, Koh Hin Sorn. It was a 45 minutes boat ride and we were traveling in the only sunny spot in the entire horizon, really weird! Throughout the entire morning, as we moved from one spot to another, we were chased by rain clouds left, right and centre. The good thing was that it was never really windy and the sea remained calm all the time.

Rain cloud

We had light drizzle for a short while having lunch on the beach of an uninhabited island but other than that we had pretty good sunlight surprisingly the whole day. Near Koh Hin Sorn somewhere in the middle of the sea, we saw the best snorkelling spot - a site with patches of stunningly colourful and healthy soft corals. It was wavy and the current was strong but we still spent a lot of time there enjoying the rare underwater sights.

soft corals
The corals garden


Our auntie remained on the boat while we snorkelled and she would only get down when we were on beaches. Sometimes she fed fishes with some left over rice from our lunch packs. Surprisingly, she seemed to enjoy very much too for the 2 days of boat trips. I reckoned she must be one of the oldest Asian tourists at the Island. clip_image001[6]

Ming Ray was impressive for his age to say the least. He handled the current and wave so well it seemed like second nature. He had totally no fear even when he choked at times and at places where we had a bit of concern. He had so much fun we almost always had to reprimand him every time we wanted to move to the next spot as he was always unwilling to get back on the boat. It's very difficult to find good mask/snorkel/fin set for his age. The set JS got him was not very good in quality but he still managed to handle well.

On the second day, he just ditched the mask for his swimming goggles instead as the mask just kept leaking due to poor workmanship. This was also the first time he used a snorkel. And for a first timer, he could skin dive to a depth of 13 feet to mess with things underwater quite naturally with his snorkel and still managed to clear his snorkel easily when resurfaced. We were a bit stunned with his ability to be honest. Whenever he found something interesting in the water he would be so proud and excited to show to me and JS.
Ray the Stingray 


Other than snorkelling, we had great dinners every night. Seafood was fresh and relatively cheap. And for a family who loves Thai food, it was just great.
BBQ fish, Thai fish cake and squids

thai food

Besides the food, we enjoyed so much with the drinks too. We enjoyed fruit shakes every day. They came in a wide variety of fruit choices including mango, banana, watermelon and coconut. Not only it satisfied our taste buds but kept us cool for the day, a big thumb up clip_image002[4]


We left Lipe to return to Langkawi in the morning of the fourth day. We were drenched by heavy rain when we were boarding the boat. Our luggages were also wet. Nevertheless we were pleased it didn't happen to us during our 2 days of snorkelling trips. The high speed boat left the rain behind within 10 minutes of the boat ride. Turning back we could see Lipe totally devoured by rain clouds. We left with a pleasant memory of the experience we had on the island, some serious sunburn marks on our bodies, the kind blessings of the weather and dozens of great photos for sharing here. clip_image001[7]

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cheese and Bacon Scones 芝士培根烤饼

Are you new in baking yet wish to bake your own bread with zero failure? Not much time to spare in the morning yet longing for a good English breakfast?  Then this recipe is the best bet for you. J

This recipe is very simple.  Just mix dry and wet ingredients, no yeast, no long proofing time and with some light kneading before throwing the dough mixture into oven. Voila!  You get to enjoy a good English quick bread- Scones breakfast in no time. The recipe shared below is for savory scones. If you like sweet flavor scones, replace the cheese and bacon with chopped dates or fruits of your preference.
I learnt this recipe from the North Shore Women Centre cooking class when I resided in Auckland. The Centre organizes a free Healthy Budget Eating Cooking class once a month, even until now I still received email notifications from them on the invitation to participate in this free cooking class. I missed those days; it was such a great experience for me where I got the chance in meeting up a group of charming Kiwi ladies and learning along with them on Kiwi food and culture.

You can check out more recipes I learnt from this centre here.
The scones I made back in Auckland


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sweet Sesame Seeds Buns 香软芝麻甜面包

My First Stand Mixer

Some of you might still remember I mentioned in my pervious post I was seriously looking for a budget stand mixer to help with dough kneading and my dilemma of not willing to get a branded mixer due to its expensive import pricing in Malaysia.

After months of surveying, finally in Oct, I was delighted to spot an awesome deal in Malaysia Groupon. The deal came from a locally manufactured stand mixer branded “The Baker”. It was on offer a while ago and back on offer again with popular demand. It was on a 40% discount, selling at only RM450 from its original price of RM750. The deal went even lower to RM400 if 2 units were purchased. I came to know my neighbour was also looking for one, hence we combined our order to save RM50 each, at only RM400 a unit clip_image001

With the price we paid, we got to enjoy a robust 6 speed 800 watt stand mixer with a 5.2 litre steel bowl which holds up to 2kg of mixture of dough or cake batter. To me this basic feature of the mixer was more than enough to meet my primary objective in dough kneading. I knew I wasn't getting a Kitchen Aid hence I wasn’t disappointed with its basic appearance when the set delivered.

The Baker Stand Mixer I tested the machine last week and was satisfied with its performance so far. The result I got from my 1st trial :
  • a well knead dough, no undone dough at the bottom of the bowl
  • double the quantity of flour kneaded compared to what I was able to hand knead at any one time – 600g vs 300g
  • about the same amount of time when I had to wrest my muscles to hand knead the bread dough.
  • texture of the bread was more or less similar to my hand kneaded version.
  • a transparent cover with pocket opening to prevent over spillage of flour during operation.
So, what more to ask for at only 1/5 of the price I would otherwise have to pay for a Kitchen Aid? However having said that I must also admit that the mixer has its short falls of being:
  • Noisy – the higher the gear the noisier the motor.
  • Stability – the higher the gear, the stronger the vibration. I tested up to gear 5 and decided to stop, the machine trembled tremendously even on my granite kitchen top. A very stable top is needed to place the mixer while in operation.
Other than that, I have no complaint so far. Now just keeping my fingers crossed for its durability. clip_image002
The 1st batch of bread I made using this stand mixer as pilot had was a fluffy and soft texture clip_image001[1].

Sweet Sesame Seeds Buns 香软芝麻甜面包
This time with double the flour quantity, I used it to make some sausage rolls in addition to the sesame sweet buns.

My mistake of not checking on oven heat when I was still have not mastered our oven temperature. The buns were a bit too brown when the timer beep.

Shared below is the basic sweet buns dough recipe.   

Monday, October 15, 2012

Banana Yogurt Muffins 香蕉酸奶松糕

Banana Muffins + Yogurt = Banana Yogurt Muffins

With my success of making homemade yogurt, it motivated me further to use it in my baking recipes since now I get to have this ingredient easily and inexpensively.  With that, I started off my 1st experience in using my homemade yogurt to improvise my fool-proved simple and easy banana muffin recipe by replacing the milk content with yogurt and transform it into Banana Yogurt Muffins . Winking smile


These muffins were so moist and rich with banana flavour.  For kids version, I added in chocolate chips. With that you can imagine another bigThumbs up up from my boy Ray when he had his bite!


 With this success, next I think good to explore using homemade yogurt into cooking recipe, so stay tune! Open-mouthed smile 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mung bean Paste 綠豆蓉餡

In advance of the mid autumn festival (a.k.a. mooncake festival) tomorrow,I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my friends, relatives and readers a happy moon cake festival and happy reunion with your family.
To the Chinese, especially those staying away from their home town, the mid autumn festival (八月十五中秋节)is a big day for them to rush back to get together and celebrate with family members. The Chinese believe full moon symbolises reunion (月圆庆团圆).
This year, I had made both types of moon cakes, traditional baked moon cakes and snow skin moon cakes. (Click to access my old posts on moon cake making).
I had made 3 types of fillings which were Taro paste, red bean paste and mung bean paste. For the first two, I had already covered in previous posts. Just click on the words to lead you to the posts.
I brought these moon cakes and shared with my colleagues in the office a few days ago:
In conjunction with this happy occasion, I’m going to introduce another traditional moon cake fillings that I had used for my homemade moon cakes this year – Mung Bean Paste.
Mung bean is more widely known as green bean in South East Asia. As the name suggests, they are green in colour but when their skins are removed, Mung beans are light yellow in colour.
Mung Bean 綠豆

When these green beans are left to germinate and grow in water for days, they become “bean sprouts”, a type of vegetable that is commonly used for stir-frying, salad and soup in many Asian cuisine.
Check out my old post of Stir-fry Bean Sprouts with Prawn cutlets 豆芽炒虾球 this is a super fast and easy stir fry vegetable recipe.

Similar to red beans, Mung beans are also widely used in Chinese cuisine especially as dessert filling when made into paste form.
For the recipe I shared, I didn’t specify the measured quantity in details but merely sharing the major ingredients.  Usage ratio is very much depending on the flexibility of own taste preference.
The result of my mung bean paste was a bit dry and crumby. To have a finer texture I recommend to blend it further with a blender just like the red bean paste method. If you wish to have creamier and more flavourful texture, I recommend to substitute water with milk or coconut cream but for weight watchers it's better to stick to water.Smile

Mung Bean Paste 綠豆蓉餡

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Healthy and Cost effective homemade yogurt

I forgot where I heard this quote which said there were 2 good habits that’re all good and no bad - swimming and yogurt! Hubby is a strong believer in this quote and has been promoting this health message to our boy from young.

Frankly, I must admit all these years I have had no problem practicing the 1st habit but not so much on the yogurt part.  The reason that put me off from yogurt is its sour fermentation taste and smell. Only recently, knowing yogurt has a great benefit of slimming, I gradually acquired its taste and able to consume flavored yogurt.

For us to maintain the swimming habit is no issue as we live only 5 minutes away from our club which has an Olympic size pool. However for the yogurt part, we tend to have some difficulty where the nearest store for us to get fresh yogurt is 30 minutes away. Not only is the distance a letdown, yogurt is quite costly too if consumed daily.

Even though I’m a keen enthusiast in venturing into homemade cooking, homemade dairy products have never crossed my mind. Not until one day I stumbled upon a blog on cheesecake making that lead me to homemade cheese and yogurt.
When I made further research on the Net and watched some YouTube clips, I was thrilled to learn that making own yogurt is so simple and need no expensive and special gadget such as a yogurt maker.  All we need are the ingredients of fresh milk (low or full cream), milk powder, yogurt starter and sterile bottles, towels and microwave/oven which are standard items found in most kitchens. Next is the incubating time for the live bacteria in the yogurt starter to do their gem in culturing the liquid milk into tart to yield yogurt.

For my attempts, I made the yogurt at night around 9pm and by the next morning at 7am when I checked, I had beautiful fresh yogurt to serve for breakfast. Once you have successfully made the yogurt, do scoop out some of this yogurt and keep as yogurt starter for your next batch of homemade yogurt. Unless you are making yogurt daily, the yogurt starter can typically last for only 5-6 batches.   After that, you may need to buy new commercial plain yogurt to start the cycle again.
My 1st attempt using pasteurized milk with the incubation time of 8 hours showed the resulting yogurt to be a bit too runny. As for my second attempt using milk powder and a longer fermentation time of 12 hours, the texture was firmer (like bean curb) with stronger and more sour fermentation taste which better suited hubby’s preference.

homemade yogurt - 12 hours fermentation
You may notice a layer of yellowish liquid when the yogurt formed; this is the Whey water which is rich in Whey protein, an ingredient that’s good for fat burning. That is why yogurt is great for slimming.
A layer of Whey water on the surface of yogurt

However for both Ming Ray and I who preferred to have fruit flavored yogurt, we decided to make Passion Fruit Yogurt.  The outcome was a big thumb up from us! You can also enjoy simple sweetened yogurt by merely adding honey into the homemade yogurt.
Passion Fruit yogurt
Are you a yogurt lover? A LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) believer? Cost conscious in household planning? This homemade recipe is definitely a gem in your kitchen!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Palm Sugar Steamed Cake 椰糖马来糕

 24th August 2012 marked the 8th day of the 7th month in the Lunar calendar and was my late mother in law’s 4 years passing anniversary.  To commemorate that, Auntie Lan reminded us to pay respect by making a lunch meal as prayer offering at home.
With a week-long Raya break at home not going anywhere, I offered to make cake and my signature dish Hong Kong Style Crispy Roasted Pork Belly as part of the offering.  As I remembered my late MIL loved eating roasted pork.
HK style Crispy Roasted Pork Belly
The following steamed cake is a type of Malay Kuih/cake which is similar to Chinese “Huat Kuih” (发糕) commonly served in Chinese prayer offering. 

Palm Sugar Steamed Cake 椰糖马来糕

Palm sugar, also called Gula Melaka in Malaysia is a type of sugar made from palm tree. In Malaysia, this dark chocolate colored sugar is usually sold in a solid log form and the Malay loves to use it as sweetener to their dessert.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Lam Mee/Birthday Noodles 淋面

Nyonya Lam Mee

Traditionally for the older generations in Penang, Lam Mee is a must serve during birthday celebration to symbolize longevity. Therefore last July when we had a small birthday party for Ming Ray, his favourite Auntie Lan insisted to make Lam Mee as his main lunch meal.    

The specialty of this dish lies in the gravy, which is made of clear soup by boiling pork ribs/chicken bones for hours which gives strong flavour of the meat taste. It is then served with yellow noodle topped with shrimps, shredded meat, pink colored shredded omelets, shallot crisps and coriander leaves. Different from the variation served in Kuala Lumpur, Penang Lam mee is not as starchy and not as dark colored compared to KL Lam Mee.  

For a true authentic way of eating Lam Mee is best eatenwith a little bit of Sambal Belacan.  However since our host and his 2 little guests couldn’t take spicy food, we did not make effort to prepare it. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thai Style Deep-fried Fish Fillet 泰式脆鱼条

With a week of Raya holiday at home, I decided to spend some time to tidy up my photo folders and blog posts which was long overdue in my “to do” list.  I was surprised to find this blog post left in the folder yet to be published. It was over a year old post which I wrote in the final week in Auckland in March 2011.

Last Thai in Auckland
With our fridge sold in preparation for our repatriation to Malaysia, I had to do marketing on a daily basis. This morning when I saw fish fillet was on special, I bought a piece for dinner meal.  But without a fridge I had problem to keep the fish fresh until dinner time. To prevent the fish fillet from turning bad I had to marinate it first. To come up with deep fried ideas, I went through series of Hawkers delights cookbooks I had and spotted this yummy Thai recipe from Yummy Yummy Hawkers’ Fair by Chef Phang Fah.

The original recipe called for sweet basil leaves, which I didn’t have. Too bad basil was one of the herbs that was not available in my garden that I could harvest easily.  Without basil leaf, I substituted it with fresh flat-leaf parsley. I knew with this substitution, it would change the flavour of the dish. Basil has a sweet spicy flavour and was stronger but parsley was lighter in flavour. Nevertheless, I was glad the deep fried fish fillet turned out tasty.

For a true Thai flavour, next time I would give the original recipe a try.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies 蔓越莓巧克力曲奇

Last Friday when Ming Ray learnt that my sister from Penang planned to bring her daughter Kyra to spend a weekend with us in KL during the Raya holiday, he anxiously counted down the days looking forward to welcoming his little cousin sister and to show her around. However, we were surprised with the little 6 years old Kyra asking for a baking session with me. Seeing my little niece being so keen to learn baking, of course as her aunt I had no reason to disappoint my adorable niece. J  When Ming Ray knew about this plan, he too eagerly wanted to join his cousin sister in baking.

Kyra asked to make heart shaped cookies.  As teaching 2 kids to bake was undoubtedly a challenging task, I decided to make this simple butter chocolate chip cookies. With kids around, you could expect this wouldn’t be a proper baking session.

Yes, it ended up more like a play dough time to the kids. In between both of them had arguments to take turn to use the mixer and to mould the cookies dough but we were pleased to see both kids enjoyed their baking session anyway.

Heykids, baking or play dough time?

I was so relieved to see the cookies came out from oven still in one piece and in proper shape. Most importantly, Kyra enjoyed her baking time and loved her cookies very much and even gave 2 thumbs up for the taste of the cookies! J

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Red Bean Paste filling

As promised in my wholemeal steamed Pau post, this post I will illustrate  how to make homemade red bean paste. Red bean paste is a common ingredient for Asian cuisine especially for Chinese and Japanese cuisines. It is usually used as a filling ingredient for buns, dumplings, desserts and confectionaries.
I know it is not difficult to source ready-made red bean paste at bakery ingredients shop. In fact even when I was in Auckland I could easily find it in most Asian groceries shops. However, the homemade version always seems to taste better and feels healthier, doesn’t it? J
In return to enjoy better quality and healthier food we have to spend a little more time and hassle to prepare for it.  It is quite time consuming to cook the dry red bean into its paste form. Normally you will need to soak the beans for hours or even overnight before cooking to soften the beans. A quicker alternative is to skip this step  is by using a pressure cooker or a slow cooker.  Cook until the red beans turn soft. To have very fine and smooth texture, it is best to blend the cooked red bean puree until creamy form. Lastly, cook it again with oil and sugar to transform it into smooth creamy red bean paste that is ready for use.

For this trial, I used slow cooker to cook red beans overnight, this has cut down my hassle in spending time to monitor the red beans over stove.  The whole process took me more than 9 hours, but my actual working hours on blending, and stir frying the bean puree into paste only took me around an hour.

As mentioned it was pretty time consuming to get this paste done, but when you think of your loved ones getting to consume homemade paste which is free from preservative and unknown additive, plus the added benefits of adjusting the sweetness to your own preference, it all seems to justify the effort.

Mid autumn festival is around the corner. Why not give it a try to make your own red bean paste for the moon cake fillings to enjoy a healthier red bean flvaour moon cakes? You can also try out Yam/Taro paste filling, and the traditional moon cake recipe here. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wholemeal Pau 麦片包子

Healthy Pau   

I’ve been trying hard to keep my post up to date. However my current work schedule seems hard for me to keep up the pace. This was another month old birthday post, as this special healthy steamed bun/Pau was meant to be hubby’s birthday “cake”.

Happy belated birthday dear!

Hubby is never a pastry and sweet tooth guy, hence when I mentioned making a cake for him to celebrate his birthday instantly he declined and asking to have Supreme big Pau (steamed Bun) instead. Well, the ancient Chinese steamed peach shaped Bun 寿 did play similar role as the birthday cake today.
I had shared the steamed buns with shredded chicken breast, egg and yambean fillings and Kaya filling in my old posts. This improved version replaced 1/5 of the Pau flour with wholemeal flour. This time besides the chicken fillings, I also tried out my own homemade red bean paste. I will share the making of red bean paste in a later post.
Wholemeal Pau 麦片包子

Frankly, with the wholemeal grain, the texture of the Pau was not as refined and soft as plain Pau, kind of similar texture to expect when you eat white bread compared to wheat grain bread. Nowadays, with more and more people going for healthy diet, eating healthy and eating right has become the key factor in food preparing, overshadowing the taste of the food. Of course, it’s still best to have both!

In my opinion, all who love cooking love to be able to serve healthy and delicious food to our loved ones right? J


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