Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Soft and Moist Banana Cake - Banana Baking Addiction Relapsed!

Baking. I was a phobic turned a junkie. A discriminative junkie, though. I have this thing about banana baked goods, I am an addict and I think I know why. Banana baked goods are very forgiving for an novice idiotic baker like me. There was a period of time when all I baked were bananas, bananas and more bananas, I pretty much turned myself and my readers into glorified, highly educated, computer using, banana baked goods chomping monkeys.

Feeling rather bad, I went into banana baked goods rehab and tried my very best not to do any banana baked goods for a while. I've been quite a good girl, experimenting with other baked goods (namely chocolate), but you and I knew that this addiction is bound to relapse. So, 4 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days (not that I am counting or anything) after I swore off banana baked goods, here I am again....posting about another banana baked goods. HAHAHA! My monkeys (you know who you are), let's go!

Soft and Moist Banana Cake

(modified from Homemade Dessert Recipes)
- 1/2 cup butter (softened)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups flour (sifted)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1.5 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 beaten egg
- 1/2 cup yoghurt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup mashed ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350C. Cream 1/2 cup softened butter, add sugar, beat until fluffy (I used hand mixer), add beaten egg, add mashed bananas, mix well. Add flour by batch, I divided into 3 batches, add yoghurt and vanilla, mix well. Pour into a lightly greased loaf pan and bake for around 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Ohhhhh, it feels sooo good to be badddd....

Monday, March 30, 2009

Refreshing Sugar Cane, Coarse Grass & Winter Melon Drinks - Photography? Cool or Warm?

Food photography. Ehm ehm ehm, this is a topic I hardly discuss. I made a fool of myself the last time I described my Crappy to Yucky food photography experience. I didn't realise that from that point onward, I've grown quite a lot (hopefully for the better).

What's my learning journey like so far? How and what did I learn?

Learning activities
- I stare and gawk at beautiful pictures in Flickr for HOURS
- I joined a Still Life Photography group, from which I learnt A LOT. Check out my submissions and my behind the scene antics through these links: Hard Candy, Kitchen Confidential, and Spicy
- More often than not, I take things very seriously and am willing to spend hours of my weekend to bend and squat and climb and basically contort myself to (hopefully) get decent shots
- Most picture taking articles didn't help me. If I read the phrase "play with everything, different settings, different modes, and you will learn" one more time.... Arrrrggghhh. I know it is so true, but I want shortcuts, baby. Shortcuts! Where do I get them?

- I practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced....and still think that I am never good enough ^_^

Camera & Other Gadgets
Having a great camera does not mean great at taking pictures. Most of my pics taken right after I got my DSLR (Canon EOS 400D) looked worse than crap. Ew, but yay. How else would I learn?
- I love my small lens (50mm f1.8) so much (it's light, it takes gorgeous pictures, it's cute!), my kit lens is left sitting at the corner of my top drawer, crying itself to sleep (poor baby)
- Despite all the temptations, I am not ready for a better camera/lens. I am not even close to achieving what my devices can do best
I hate hate hate tripods, despite my trembling hands. This is why you see so many out of focus pictures in my blog. Those aren't done on purpose for artistic reasons, they are just really blurry. Haha!
Camera Bag
I had a great camera bag, it's crumpler, it's brilliantly designed, it's green, it's cute, and everything, but I ended up carrying my camera in my normal handbag most of the time. Camera bags do not work with my outfits well (oh, I am such a girl!)
Brand Conscious?
There will always be arguments re: Canon vs Nikon. Who cares? All great. I have a Canon as it fits my tiny budget, but gimme your Nikon anytime, and I'll give it some serious loving. ;)

Photography bad habits I can't shake off
Instant formulas
Once I have a "formula", I stick with it and lazy to try other settings. Bad bad bad! My favorite "formula" is Aperture priority mode, f4.5, portrait orientation, object on lower left or right of the picture, taken from around 45 degree bird eye view, auto white balance (I knowww I know I know, you hate AWB ^_^)
Digital Photography Syndrome
I could take hundreds of shots for a single setting and there's no systematic method of doing it. I always ended up staring at my pictures for hours, trying to figure out which ones to select. Helllppppp!!!
I simply don't know where to focus, even if there's only one single object in the picture, I might focus on the background sometimes.
Yellow-holic Anonymous
I love warm, yellowish tones so much, you'd see it all over my blog. One of my good blogging buddy, Pepy, asked me "Why are your pictures so yellow? Was that intentional or ....". My reply was "To match the yellowness of my teeth". I love yellow sooo much, sometimes I photoshopped a bit of yellow into naturally lit pictures. Must I join Yellow-holic Anonymous? How about you? Are you a cool or a warm tone person?

Enough photographic rant. I could really use a drink now.
Sugar Cane, Coarse Grass & Winter Melon Drink
(Wedang Tebu, Alang-alang & Tang Kweh)

This is something I always had back in Indonesia when I was growing up (minus the sugar cane), it is believed to help reducing body heat and prevent mouth ulcer.
- Hot water
- A bunch of sugar cane
- A bunch of coarse grass (Imperatae Rhizoma/Alang-alang)
- Sugar coated dried winter melon pieces (add bit by bit to adjust sweetness level)
- Add sugar cane, coarse grass and a few pieces of dried winter melon, bring to boil, reduce heat and cook for about 30 minutes or until fragrant. You can drink it hot in winter, but in summer, I love it icy cold with ice cubes.


Submitting the second picture to Click photography event, this month's theme is wood, represented by my favorite background, a tiny small table, the sugar cane, and the alang-alang. Check out the other fabulous pictures here.

The pictures on this post were results from experiments of using different lighting and different color tones, some fabulousness are strategic and intentional, but most of the times, they are purely opportunistic and accidental (haha!). Check out the whole series in the flickr set.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tom Yum Fried Rice - Mix and Match

Just like how I love mixing and matching my clothes to create the perfect, unique, and fabulous outfit every day (at least that was what I hope to achieve, and the results...well, let's say that there were hits, and there certainly were many misses. Haha!), I love mixing and matching flavor too. I love cross-overs. I love doing savoury versions of sweet things, or Asian/Indonesianized pasta dishes, or dry versions of soupy things, (or vice versa) just like what I've done here.

Who doesn't love the wonderful flavors of Tom Yum? The fresh tang, the kicks from the heat, and super fragrant scent? It was love at first slurp. So, I've decided to use the wonderful flavors of Thai Tom Yum, on a fried rice dish. It's not rocket science difficult, as I always like easy-no-fuss-no-muss executions, and it's not exactly super creative, as I am sure everyone loves the flavors of tom yum on anything, but it surely was tasty!

Tom Yum Fried Rice

(serves 4)
- 2 cups of rice, cooked the day before, refrigerate overnight
- 0.5 lb of shrimp, deshelled, deveined
- 0.5 lb minced meat
- a handful of straw mushrooms, halved or quartered
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 red chilli, thinly sliced
- juice of 1 lime, lime zest
- olive oil, fish sauce
- 2 packs of tomyum instant seasoning paste
- freshly chopped corriander for garnish (I didn't use it as SC is suddenly allergic to it)

Marinate shrimps and minced meat in lime juice, grated zest of 1 lime, and fish sauce, while preparing the other ingredients. Saute shrimps in hot oil until just cooked, set aside. Saute garlic, chilli, and onion in hot olive oil, add minced meat, add mushrooms, add tomyum seasoning paste, add rice (bit by bit) and mix well. Throw in shrimps, garnish with freshly chopped corriander.

I am submitting this for Masak Bareng (Cooking Together) Montly Event, the current theme is Fried Rice. Check out the site for more delicious fried rice creations.

Tom yum fried rice, fly me to carb heaven...up up up high...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kim Mi Korean BBQ - HK Style Korean BBQ Lessons

All you can eat Korean BBQ?!! How about the diet? The upcoming sun-bathing holiday? Well, screw 'em. I couldn't have possibly thought about diet facing all these yumminesses. When I saw these juicy oysters, especially after they got gorgeous browage all over them, the only D-word I could think of was DELICIOUS.

..and then E-AT, and F-ASTER, and G-OBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE!!!
There are many Korean BBQ joints in Hong Kong (naturally, the flavors have been very Hong Kong-ized), but we love Kim Mi. Each table of 4-6 has its own enclosures, for privacy (yes, we like to gossip when we dine with friends, surprise surprise), which is really rare in Hong Kong, the ones which gave you enough space and privacy normally are really bad for your budget ($$$$$).

The star of the night was the beef ribs. They are tender, juicy and super tasty, especially if you get some of those melt-in-your-mouth bits of fat. Heheh! Bye bye, waist! See you next summer! The thinly sliced ox tongue was also good. They're so thin, you practically have to pick them up as soon as you place them on the hot, sizzling bbq pan.

Another thing we love about Kim Mi is..
The Hong Kong Style Korean BBQ 101
Our experienced servers normally walk back and forth to check that we're having fun, enjoying our food, and most importantly not screwing up the BBQ or burning the place down!
Thus, the friendly uncles will give us some BBQ lessons.
We'd like to thank the uncles, who made us the Korean BBQ patrons we are today. Couldn't have done it without you, Ah Suk! This one's for you! (I seem to have forgotted that I am not here to receive the Oscars)

What have we learnt?
1. Always keep the BBQ pan full, empty pan burns fast
2. Always BBQ seafood, which does not release oil, together with meat, or anything that releases fat, to prevent the non-fat items from burning
3. Do not pour oil all over, especially before placing the food. Lay your food on the pan, and just pour a little oil in the middle. The oil will travel to the sides of the pan
4. Chicken wings, capelin, shrimps and fish should be placed on the outer side of the pan, where the heat is not so strong, allowing them to cook slowly, once they are done, you can get some brownage going by placing them in the middle of the pan for a short period of time. Cook them together with some meat in the middle. Keep the meat always going, never let the pan go empty
5. Eels should be placed skin down, grilled until golden, and flipped only once
6. Squid should be placed scored side down, held with metal chopstick, then let cook
7. Try to refrain from always flipping everything you grill (believe me, it isn't easy, flipping them around is so much fun!), they only need to be flipped once

The first few times we visited this place, we actually felt really nervous every time uncle passed our cubicle, the exact feeling I got during my school exams. Nowadays, we confidently laugh at our clueless neighbors when they were "taught" by uncle, only to find out that we are still doing it wrong. LOL!

Korean BBQ study is a lifelong process I guess...there's always something new to learn in every visit.

Can a ship have two captains?

Maybe it can't, but our little BBQ can have two strong male chefs, who handled most of the cooking.

My main job was to take crappy pictures and eat.

Hmm, I use my DSLR with 50mm lens to take pictures, and it is not the easiest thing to manouver. To take some of these shots, I had to stand on my chair (thank God for private cubicles) or stood wayyyy outside the cubicle!!! (Loz has some shots of me doing just that, I'll add the pictures later).

The capelin, eels, chicken franks and beef ribs. Yum!

Fancy some frog legs? Or baby octopus? You got 'em!

What else went down that night?

"Someone" scored a hole-in-one, dropping a piece of succulent grilled fish right into Loz' glass of tea. Ehm, not my kind of cocktail.

You know who you are! ^_*
Kim Mi Korean BBQ Restaurant
Sai Yeung Choi Street South
Mongkok City Centre
Mong Kok
Try to be there before 7pm to avoid dinner time mad rush!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mixed Mushrooms & Balls Easy Stir Fry - The Hotpot Doggie Bag Aftermath

My hotpot aftermath. Doesn't look that bad, does it? Well, I think it looks acceptable for something out of a doggie bag, it's easy and taste pretty darn delicious!

I mentioned it was an aftermath...an aftermath of whatttt exactly? Ehm, this Hotpot Food Fest for three, and those dishes weren't the only things...there were more!

I knew some people who hate-hate-hate to pack a doggie bag, even if there were tonnes of food left over. I am not one of those people. I pretty much requested for a doggie bag every time there's anything decent left, and I didn't even bother pretending that I have a dog. I AM the dog!

What was left from that delicious hotpot feast? A couple handfuls of meat and fishballs, and mixed mushrooms. The kind service lady gave us not only a bag, but a helpful advice on how to make the most out of our doggie bag, and here it goes...

Mixed Mushrooms and Balls Easy Stir Fry

(as if you needed any)
- Mixed mushrooms
- Mixed fish and meat balls, boil and drain
- Dark soy sauce, pepper, sugar, olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed

Saute garlic in hot olive oil, add mushrooms, saute until a bit wilted with a bit of brownage, add balls, season with soy sauce, pepper, and sugar. Serve with noodles or steamed rice.

If everything that comes out from a doggie bag can be this delish, then ARF! ARF!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kedai - I Adore Thee

If being adorable is a crime, Kedai is so guilty as charged. It's every little corner is so delightful, it's criminal! Unbelievable creativity is reflected on its entrance to its back corner, further to its creative menu, friendly crew, and delicious food...I stood in awe, speechless.

The place is pleasantly tinged with bright pastel hues, I felt like I was in a little wonderland.

A karambol table at a corner reminded me that I suck at it and should not make myself feel worse by attempting to play ever again. Haha!

The colanders hung upside down as lamp shades caught my eye. Darn it. Why didn't think of that first :)

The walls were full of old Indonesian posters, and I love the combination of Indonesian and Dutch colonial furniture, the mismatched chairs, and the pop corn machine at the corner! Wow!

Up to this point, I am pretty much speechless. Isn't every corner a surprise?

Busy gushing at the place, I almost forgot something important, the food. The dishes were creatively titled with Indonesian names, such as Nasi Goreng Jumat Kliwon (Jumat Kliwon Fried Rice. Jumat means Friday, kliwon indicates the fifth day in Javanese Calendar. In Indonesia, Jumat Kliwon is believed to have mystic association, so it creeps me out a little bit. I am sure the fried rice should be delicious though ^_^). The whole menu made me giggle.

Baked Rice (Nasi Panggang)

Delicious rice with bits of bacon, topped with cheese and baked. Need I say more?

Unusually delicious.

Lemongrass Chicken (Ayam Serai)

Light and simple, yet fragrant and full of flavors.

and here comes my favorite...
Bakwan Komplit (Indonesian Mixed Balls in Clear Broth)

It has everything I want in a bakwan komplit. A perfect combination of beef balls, fried tofy, fried dumpling, fried fishball, in hot clear broth. It may look light, but it's hearty. Best eaten with lots of chilli. Nothing's more enjoyable than slurping the hot broth with sweat trickling down my face.

I opted for the drink that I crave every time I am back in Indonesia...
Teh Panas/ Es Teh (Hot/Iced Tea)

No lemon, no milk. Just plain ol' tea with a touch of sugar.

Happy trio at Kedai.

To all of my Indonesian friends living overseas, please forgive me for teasing you with this post ^_^
I bet you can't wait to visit this place.

Noticed something on top of the restaurant's entrance? Oh yeah, they have an adorable knick knacks shop, Bikin Barang, which is full of vintage and handmade goodies. Too bad it wasn't open when I was there, I am so gonna visit next time.

Not visiting this place? That's a crime.

Kedai & Bikin Barang
Jl, Benda Raya no 89, Kemang. Phone:021-7815114, Jakarta, Indonesia

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spicy Lamb & Shrimp Paste Fusili

Oh my goodness. It's been a while since I've made pasta, I wonder if I could still pull it off. Those who normally read my blog know that I don't do things authentically, nor innovatively. I just do things my lazy way. There were times when I put 2 + 2 = 100, and there were times when I put 2 + 2 = -100, to put it simply, they didn't work. This time, I wanted some Asian flavors on my pasta, so I tried mixing lamb and shrimp paste. Let's see how it goes.

Don't you feel that when you've stopped doing something for too long, when you do it again, it feels kinda weird and you have to start getting a hang of it all over again? (Nooooo I am not talking about THAT. Hehe)

That's how I felt about cooking pasta. Suddenly, I didn't know how to tell if the pasta's cooked just right, I added too much shrimp paste (boy, it's powerful) and had to adjust and adjust. A lot of work, I was glad it ended up great. A tad too tasty, but it worked for me.

Spicy Lamb and Shrimp Paste Fusili

(serves 4)
- 1 cup of fusili
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 6 cloves of shallot, thinly sliced
- 3 red chillis, chopped
- a bunch of fresh corriander, chopped
- 0.7 lb lamb, sliced thinly, sukiyaki style
- 2 tsp shrimp paste
- 1 tsp sugar
- pepper, olive oil, water, salt

Cook pasta as directed in the packet, drain. Saute garlic, shallot, chilli and a bit of corriander in olive oil, add sliced lamb, add shrimp paste and sugar, cook through, add pasta, mix well, serve with freshly chopped corriander.

There's something else I haven't done for really really long time...submitting a pasta dish to one of my favorite foodblog events, Presto Pasta Nights. I miss it dearly. This one's for you, guys. This week's it's hosted by lovely Pam from Sidewalk Shoes. Hop over to her blog to check out the roundup.

Now...there's still another thing I haven't done for a very long time...I wonder if I'd still be good at it. Let's see. ;)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ha-Ne Sushi Mong Kok - Now I Can Eat Sashimi!

Meet Mr. Sushi Man.
Ain't he cute?
Doesn't he just make you wanna tear off his misterious face mask, his sexy plastic gloves, his cotton chef shirt (I'd keep the hat on), and get him to craft unlimited plates of sushi for ya?
I think he's hot. (sous chef isn't behind me reading this, is he?)

Now, on to the food...

Waitttt...isn't that a plate of the oh-so-popular salmon sushi?....aren't they....RAW???!!!! I don't do raw. The first couple of times I tried raw salmon, I was gagging! I was struggling trying to keep down HK$100-a-bite (US$12) raw fatty tuna! What is that salmon doing on my table?!

Let me introduce you the-all-new-and-improved Rita: she DOES enjoy raw fish now.

So, the new me thought the above salmon sushi is super delicious. Now I can't figure out why the heck did I hate that before...it's freaking delicious. It's all silky, satiny, buttery goodness!

My ordering style is pretty much sticking with what I love. I could order the exact same thing every visit, but not sous chef. His principal is "If I don't know what is it, I should probably try it". So he ordered this plate of raw shellfish sushi, and until now I couldn't quite figure out what was that? All I know is...it was sweet freshness on a golden plate, which means it's pricey. Damn.

My all time favorite, the roasted eel sushi. Now that I start to love raw seafood, I get harder when judging roasted eel sushi. This one in particular, wasn't that good. I missed the smoky, charcoaly flavor on this one.

This is one of the stars of Ha-ne sushi. Who doesn't love long legs? Especially if it's on a crab! This long legged crab meat sushi topped with fish roe and mayo...wow. Heaven. The sweetness from the crab, the saltiness from the roe, and the creamy and tangy mayo...simply wow!

Seeing plates after plates of delicious sushi doing the locomotion...I think it's more theurapeutic than seeing fish swimming back and forth in a tank/pond.

Here's where my Indonesian self failed to submerge, it wanted something deep fried! Hehe! I was glad I ordered this Deep Fried Oyster Sushi. Crunchy, creamy...delicious!

Even during the days when I haven't fallen in love with raw fish, I loved sea urchin. The creamy, delicate, fresh sweetness of it reminds me of the sea without all the nasty fishiness. This one is no exception. Super fresh.

By the way, where did Mr. Sushi Man go? He probably got scared of me. Oh, well.

Visit Ha-ne Sushi Mongkok to check him the food out.
Go before 1 pm at lunch time, or before 7 pm at dinner time to avoid Hong Kong's notoriously long sushi queue.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Restoran Sedap Gurih - Indonesian Food in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, we're pretty much spoilt with choices of Indonesian restaurants. OOOOUUUUCHHHHHH! (that's me, shrieking, being hit by sandals thrown by other food bloggers who are staying in countries where Indonesian restaurants are not available, or it is even impossible to find Indomie or Teh Botol. Ooppps. Sorry, folks!)

Once, I made a pact to try all Indonesian restaurants in Hong Kong and do a comparison on how authentic their food is, especially the common dishes such as nasi goreng or sate ayam. After I found out that there are sooooo many Indonesian restaurants in Hong Kong, I quickly licked my spit off the ground (HAHAHA). I decided to just do it slowly, one restaurant at a time.

Last weekend was perfect. I didn't have any mood to cook, I just burnt one of the electrical outlets of my kitchen, which is responsible for the oven and rice cooker (essentials!), and I was and still am up to my eyeballs with tasks. Work, personal, play, you name it! So I went to try this restaurant at the corner of Sugar Street...

Restoran Sedap Gurih

The first picture on this post showed something very dear to my heart, sambal (chilli paste). It's more than just a condiment for me, I can pretty much live off rice and sambal.

The above picture is mie ayam. It is something I crave all the time, something I order daily when I am back to Indonesia and so far, my quest to find the authentic mie ayam in Hong Kong has not been very successful. This one is no exception. The texture of the noodle is nothing like what I find in Indonesia, although everything else were delicious. The chicken topping, the MSG laden soup and meatballs, yummy.

This dish of empek empek palembang (fried fish cake) was even more disappointing. It wasn't light or crispy, it bore the texture of something which had been refried too many times. However...

This dish was the star of the day. The gule kambing's simply delish! It tasted just like what's available back home, if not even better. The meat's tender and the soup has all the right flavors, super rich! It compensated all the other disappointing dishes.

The place is humbly decorated, right under the bridge on Sugar Street, Causeway Bay. On weekends, it's full with Indonesian domestic helpers, I feel right at home. It's kinda fun listening to their conversation, since they thought I wouldn't understand. One of them said "Why the heck is she taking pictures? What is she taking?". Guess their facial expression when they learnt I could understand them completely? Priceless!

They were also winking repeatedly to sous chef when I wasn't looking. Oh my! How fun!