Ayam Pansoh Tagine Recipe


Again going back to my roots, as you may or may not know I am born to a Chinese father and Iban mother. Tomorrow (1st June) is a hugely celebrated Gawai Festival (Harvest Festival) by local "Dayak" natives in my home state Sarawak, Malaysia. The Iban tribe is one of the main Dayak group of natives and I am proud to be half Iban. Every year, people in Sarawak celebrate Gawai by visiting friends and relatives, drinking lots of tuak (Sarawak Rice Wine), eating lots of amazing local traditional dishes and just partying all night long.

This dish is a traditional Iban dish. Its name "Ayam Pansoh" means chicken cooked in bamboo. The Ibans also cook pork "pansoh" style and call it "Babi Pansoh". This dish is usually served with "Lemang" which is sticky glutinous rice with coconut, also cooked in a bamboo log. Being in Melbourne and away from family and all of their festivities tomorrow, I thought it was appropriate for me to try and recreate this dish with a few small cooking alterations due to my limited supply of rare ingredients.

Before I go into details of how to recreate this one of a kind dish only found in Sarawak, let me just first and foremost say this has got to be one of my proudest cooking achievements. I was very, very happy with the flavors of this dish and the tenderness of the chicken and the aroma it produced!

Hubby even said "You have possibly invented something people will really, really like Kim"

Although, in all fairness I didn't "invent" this dish - just altered the cooking style and substituted some rarer ingredients!

I also had a small group of friends over so they had a little taste. They all loved it!

So let's cut to the chase and find out how to cook this dish ay?

Ingredients:
Banana leaves
1.5kg chicken maryland, chopped into smaller pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
2 stalks lemongrass, stripped and sliced
1 inch cube ginger, julliened
5 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
15-20 Thai Basil leaves
2 red chillies, seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 cup liquid chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
In a large bowl, combine the chicken pieces, olive oil, lemongrass, julienned ginger, chopped garlic, Thai Basil leaves and sliced red chilles. Season well with salt and pepper and mix well. Let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes.


Now here's the twist... USUALLY, this chicken mixture is stuffed into a bamboo log and sealed with banana leaves at both ends and cooked over a woodfire / charcoal fire...


BUT I have searched and searched and no luck in finding an actual bamboo LOG. The idea is for the log to "trap" the flavors which makes the dish so flavorsome... so what do I do as an alternative, living in a Western country with limited access to rare ingredients such as a whole bamboo log? If I was in China, it would be abundant. But even florists have told me it's rare to find whole bamboo log these days in Australia...


TADA! I've figured if the idea was to "trap" the flavors then what better way to do it than to use my favorite pot in the whole wide world... the tagine! 


Place a couple of banana leaves in the tagine to form a base and add the marinated chicken. Pour in the chicken stock. 


Cover the tagine and cook over medium low heat for approximately 45 minutes.

(Serving Suggestion based on first picture featured at the start of this blog post)

ENJOY and Selamat Hari Gawai! Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai :)



Butter Sotong (Peppered Butter Squid)


In case some of you may not already know, I originally come from a small town called Kuching (well, it's really a small city) in Sarawak, Malaysia. Doesn't ring a bell? Well, it's on Borneo island. Does that narrow it down geographically? Growing up in Kuching, one of the best FOOD cities I believe IN THE WORLD, I was blessed to have amazing food in abundance. Kuching boasts some of the best food you will ever taste, and they are mostly street food (hawker styled food) and our local restaurants offer the best banquets at the most affordable prices.

To talk about Kuching food all over again would literally take up seven blog posts, so why not I link back to my Kuching Food Adventures Blog Series (Part 1 - Part 7) and you can check it out :)

Start here and keep clicking "Newer Post" at the end to view the next blog post.

Anyway, back to my recipe. Butter Sotong aka Butter Squid is one of the dishes I would always order at a local seafood restaurant whenever I'm in Kuching. The deep fried goodness of the calamari topped with a sweet buttery sauce was too good to resist. Completely unhealthy, of course - but who cares when you're there to indulge in good food, right? So I've finally decided that if I really was craving Kuching food that much, then maybe it's about time I start making the effort to try and cook it myself!

My first attempt.. not bad at all! Very close to the real deal. It didn't taste that good while it was still hot for some reason, my guess is because the butter when fully melted just tastes disgusting. So, when serving this dish, let it sit for a few minutes. Let the butter "harden up" again so it gives you a much more delightful taste. Once it's at the right temperature, it is DIVINE. Enjoy! :)

Ingredients:
20 squid rings
3 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp rice flour
1 tsp baking powder
Salt and pepper
1 egg
Enough oil for deep frying
1 heaped tbsp softened butter
1 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tbsp pepper
1/2 tbsp chilli flakes

Method:
Mix plain flour, rice flour and baking powder together. Add salt and pepper to season the flour mix.

Crack egg open in a separate small bowl. Beat egg until smooth.

Heat oil in frying wok until it is hot. Dip squid rings one by one into egg, and then coat with flour, and deep fry until brown and crispy. Once all squid rings are deep fried, set aside.

Mix butter, condensed milk, pepper and chilli flakes together. Using a clean wok, heat butter mixture on medium heat until it starts to bubble and the butter melts. Add deep fried squid rings and stir evenly for a few minutes to heat through. Serve on a plate, let it cool for a few minutes before digging in!




Fish Head Tom Yum Soup


If you are completely turned off by the thought of eating fish head let alone some "delicate" bits of the fish head aka the gooey eye balls, then I would probably suggest you flick over to some other blog now, haha! On the contrary, if you are a huge fan of fish head like obviously I am - and if you think the fish head is really the best part of the fish and brings out the best flavors in a soup or fish curry or assam curry, then by all means please continue reading this blog post.

I haven't had too many cravings. I just WANT food all the time. I do find that I tend to somehow "crave" seafood more than anything else. And spicy soups. And I can't get enough of 2-minute noodles although I know how bad they are for me. I am totally not interested in roast meats at this stage. I like soupy things and fishy things.

So naturally, as soon as my taste buds decided to pop the FISH HEAD SOUP idea into my head, I could not make it go away. I went to South Melbourne Market on Wednesday and asked THREE seafood outlets for fish head but none of them had any. So I had to wait until Friday and went again nice and early!


Seafood Shop Person: Hi, can I help you?
Me: Yes, you don't happen to have any Snapper Fish Heads out at the back, do you?
Seafood Shop Person: Fish heads.. err.. yeah ok let me check. (walks to the back room to check)
Me: (Waits... waits...)
Seafood Shop Person: (walks out of the back room carrying a MASSIVE Snapper fish head) Like this one?
Me: PERFECT! How many you got?!
Seafood Shop Person: (holds up FOUR fingers)
Me: Yeah, I'll take them ALL thanks!!

Fellow Shopper: Do you make soup out of those fish heads?
Me: Yeah. Usually a spicy soup like Tom Yum or a Fish Head Curry.
Fellow Shopper: And do you like add anything else to it like prawns, etc?
Me: You can. I would if I had the prawns. And calamari too. And obviously the mushrooms and veggies, etc depending if I was making a Tom Yum or Curry the veggies would vary.
Fellow Shopper: Man.. I just bought the entire fish to make soup. Maybe I should've just asked for the fish heads too...
Me: Oh yeah, they're great and they're good value.
Fellow Shopper: Oh yeah, the fish heads the best bit! Anyway thanks, I know now for next time..

Me: (turning back to Seafood Shop Person) so how much?
Seafood Shop Person: 10 dollars, thanks.
Me: SWEET!~


Ingredients:
2 x large Snapper Fish Heads
200g mushrooms, sliced
4 tbsp Instant Tom Yum Paste
4 litres water
3 tbsp fish sauce
100g calamari rings
1 bunch of spring onions, roughly chopped
Fresh Coriander leaves for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
In a large pot, boil water until just simmering. Add tom yum paste and stir well.

Add fish heads, calamari and mushrooms. Close the lid of the pot and reduce heat to medium low and let the soup gently simmer for approx. 20 minutes. 

Add fish sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Add spring onions and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot and garnish with coriander leaves.


Mud Crab Feast at Omah's Malaysian Restaurant

Where can you find the finest, most delicious, freshly cooked MUD CRAB in Melbourne?


The answer is at Omah's Malaysian Restaurant, located in Port Melbourne and its newly opened restaurant in Hawthorn. Omah's boasts a fine selection of Malaysian-Nyonya cuisine and hawker (street food) favorites, many which actually brings back a lot of childhood memories for me.

I've just had what was probably one of the best meals I have had in a long, long time. Together with 12 others, we feasted on 9 mud crabs with a variety of flavors (mostly chilli crab) and a selection of other dishes and dessert. The staff at Omah's were most accommodating and they did a great job making sure all the food were promptly served and drinks were taken care of, despite a very busy night!


I simply couldn't pass on the opportunity to enjoy fresh whole coconut juice...


When the first lot of mud crabs were served, we all got down and dirty with our fingers - the way we were meant to fully enjoy the experience of eating Mud Crab! Our first crab was the Salted Egg Crab. To me, it was absolutely divine... it was delicious! I loved the fried flavors and although most people preferred the Chilli Crab just because it's good to have a lot of sauce available for the Roti bread served with the crabs, I was quite happy with this "dry" version of crab because it was very tasty!!


 The Black Pepper Crab was very tasty too! I'm sorry, this post will be quite boring because I will mostly have good things to say about the crabs. All the flavors we ordered were very different, so it's like comparing apples and oranges, we can't possibly pick a favorite because they were all different.


Aahhh... CHILLI CRAB. How can you possibly go wrong with Chilli Crab?! Out of the 9 crabs we had, 6 of them were Chilli Crab. We have specifically asked for more spicy, less sweet Chill Crab and the chef delivered! We couldn't ask for super spicy, as some people were less tolerant than others. So we settled for Medium level of spicy and it was just perfect. The flavors were strong, and the sauce went really well with the Roti bread, and the crab was fresh and succulent and TASTY!! Very satisfying indeed.


The Lemongrass Crab was slightly underestimated to begin with. Although it didn't LOOK like much, it looked like Black Pepper Crab, I can speak on behalf of 4 people including myself that the flavors in the Lemongrass Crab were spectacular. Do NOT underestimate the Lemongrass Crab! A lot of people on our table decided to pass on this one because they were mostly full, so it was the lucky 4 of us at one end of the table who had the chance to devour this quite happily on our own... hehe.


As soon as the mud crabs were out of the way, we all washed our hands and tried some other dishes Omah's had to offer. Firstly was the "BK Duck" - Half a duck deboned, then pan fried. Served with a piquant sauce of chilli, Bunga Kantan (ginger flower) & a dash of lemon juice. I must admit by now, I was extremely full and just could not fit it in. I had a small taste, and it was OK, but it was very hard for the duck to outshine the fantastic crabs we just had, so I left it up to the rest to finish it up.


Next came the Char Kuay Teow - it was VERY good and very authentic. I must say a job well done considering it is very hard to find a well cooked Char Kuay Teow in Melbourne! It tasted 92% close to what an authentic Char Kuay Teow should taste like in the streets of Penang or KL or Kuching in Malaysia. All it needed was that little bit of "oomph!" and a more smoky flavor which comes from the "lingering" flavors in the traditional wok used in hawker stalls in Malaysia.


The Belachan Kang-kung.. need I say more?! Comfort food to the max. Tickles my taste buds and made me forget for one split second that I was actually in Australia. Tasted pretty much exactly like how my dad would cook it for me at home. Good stuff!!


 The Kong Poh Chicken I admit was a very "Aussie" Malaysian dish, haha. I didn't even try this one so I can't really comment!


The Five Spiced Calamari that nearly did not make it to our table because we couldn't decide whether to cancel it or not, and thankfully it was already cooking so ok bring it on! So glad it made it to our table.. it was so delicious! I love anything cooked five spiced anyway, and why did the calamari had to be so small, but otherwise it was very delicious!!

And here comes the dessert!


Mango Pudding - had a little taste, it was what a mango pudding should be! Soft textured and tasted very mango-ey.


Banana Fritter


Sticky Date Pudding


Ice Kachang - the ultimate Malaysian dessert, I stole a few spoonfuls and totally regretted not ordering this myself. It was soooo good!! Full of flavor and mouthwatering and refreshing and yummy!!


Hubby and I shared the Omah's Sundae - a trio of Vanilla, Black Sesame and Green Tea ice cream. The black sesame ice cream was a bit weird to begin with, had a very grainy after taste, and the green tea ice cream just wasn't sweet at all, very strong Green Tea taste, but together with the sweet Vanilla it was perfectly fine!

I cannot believe how long that took to blog, hehe. Can you believe how much FOOD we ate?! At the end of the night, all the above plus multiple serves of some dishes of the same kind plus roti bread plus drinks, etc - the bill came to about $60 per person. That's actually quite reasonable considering we stuffed our face and mostly with mud crab which is not cheap!

Thank you Omah's for the wonderful food and experience, especially the eating of the crabs without a care in the world about how messy it all really was - good food is meant to be enjoyed in a big group and if it involves eating with your fingers, then you happily dig in with your fingers!


Omah's Malaysian on Urbanspoon

An Inside Look at the Thermomix

Is Thermomix the world's most awesome kitchen appliance ever invented?


Firstly, let me just say that I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have never heard of Thermomix until a few days ago when a lovely lady from church told me about her brand new Thermomix and seeing as I write in a food blog, she thought I might be interested in coming along to a demo. Ever since the initial invitation, before I even went to the demo, I started doing my research online and asking people about it. Again, how embarrassing that I had no clue! Shame on me. So called foodie.

From what I have read alone, I've gathered the conclusion that the Thermomix is more than just a food processor. It does EVERYTHING! Well, almost everything. Take a look at what it can do: (Reference: www.thermomix.com.au)

Mills, Grinds, Pulverises and Grates

  • All Grains eg. wheat, barley, buckwheat, oats, rice
  • Coffee Beans
  • Chocolate
  • Parmesan and other hard cheeses
  • Sugar into icing sugar
  • All Seeds eg. linseed, sesame, poppy, sunflower (make LSA)
  • All Nuts eg. almond, walnuts, hazelnuts (make Dukkah)
  • All Spices eg. peppercorns, cinnamon, lemon zest, nutmeg, vanilla (make Garam Masala)
  • Breadcrumbs

Kneads

  • All Breads, Pizza, Foccacia and Brioche
  • Pasta Dough
  • Pastries including Choux

Minces

  • All meat including chicken and fish
  • Chops
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Onion, Garlic, Ginger and Chillies
  • Herbs

Crushes

  • Ice

    Prepares

    • Drinks eg. juices, lemonades,
      cocktails and milkshakes
    • Pâtés, Dips, Pesto and Tapenades
    • Salads
    • Dressings including Mayonnaise
    • Ice creams, Sorbets and Desserts
    • Cakes and Pavlovas
    • Jams, Marmalade, Preserves and Spreads (eg. peanut butter, hazelnut)
    • Cappuccino, Caffè Latte and Ice Coffee
    • Yoghurt

    Cooks

    • Soups
    • Sauces and Pastes
      eg. tomato, seafood,
      hollandaise, curry
    • Curries, Stews and Casseroles
    • Pasta
    • Risotto
    • Custard
    • Baby food

    Whips

    • Egg whites
    • Cake frosting and fillings
    • Cream
    • Butter

    Steams

    • Fish and other seafood
    • Vegetables
    • Meat and chicken
    • Dumplings and buns

    All that in one appliance that will even wash itself! (Are you kidding me?!)


    Did I mention it's also a digital weighing scale?

    So apparently this current Thermomix model is a result of 20 million Euros investment in the Research and Development of this product. It has won many design awards, and is actually very popular even in commercial kitchens. Professional chefs apparently love using Thermomix for various types of usage in their commercial kitchens. Let me just get one thing out of the way... HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

    Well, whether you are a commercial user or a home user, you can ONLY purchase Thermomix via a consultant by attending a demo or hosting one or becoming a consultant yourself to earn one. Otherwise, the price is the same across the board for anyone who wishes to purchase the Thermomix...

    AUD $1,939 a pop.

    Ouch.

    But wait, wouldn't you pay that much if it significantly saves you time and even money in the long run? You see, you'll be able to make a lot of things from scratch, and it's fast and easy, and you have control over what goes in your food. No preservatives, no artificial flavors. It is a healthier option, and gives you freedom to create delicious anything in your own home. Making food from scratch also proves to be cheaper than store bought food in many cases, and our consultant Kate demonstrated a few examples last night.


    She started off by making an Apple, Pear and Ginger Sorbet. She used Raw Sugar and literally pulverised it into Icing Sugar in 10 seconds! Then she added the Apple, Pear and Ginger and Ice and processed it all together and within minutes...


    Fresh sorbet! You never have to worry about not having dessert to serve when people randomly come over again... I can just imagine all the yummy "custom" flavors of sorbet and ice cream I would make.


    Our demonstrator also showed us how to many home made dip. I can't remember what herb she used (Kate, if you're reading this.. a bit of help? Forgot to take notes, hehe) but the Thermomix was cool enough to be able to finely chop ONE GARLIC CLOVE, just a teeny tiny garlic clove and it was chopped finely, add your herbs and cream cheese and voila! Again, my mind is already thinking of all the various flavors I'd like to try in a dip. And store bought dip are not cheap! Edit: The herbs used were garlic, spring onion and parsley.


    You can also transform fruit and veggies into a salad in just a few seconds, with dressing!


    (Random Photo: I think this was pouring oil / dressing into the salad?)


    Here's one of my favorite feature. I never make bread from scratch because it is messy and I am too lazy to knead. The Thermomix kneads bread for you! It may not cook it, but by the time the Thermomix is done, you don't have a messy kitchen bench and all you do is stick the dough into the oven!


    This was the dough before it rises.


    And after letting it rise in the oven at low heat, you start rolling the dough and making your homemade bread rolls! Wheee... so much fun :)


    The bread rolls are now ready to go in the oven. On the left, is the Mushroom Risotto sitting in a Thermomix warming bowl (food stays warm in it for up to 2 hours) but I will get to the risotto soon.


    The end result! Soft, and warm, freshly baked bread... mmmm...


    It was so fresh and warm the butter melted immediately. It was soooo goooood...


    The 5th course... Chocolate Custard! Again, this looked way too easy and was ready within 10 minutes. From memory, I believe the ingredients included a block of chocolate (completely crushed and pulverised using the Thermomix) and milk and eggs. What did I miss? I wish I took notes... lol.


    And finally, the pouring of this wine in this photo above brings us to our final 6th dish and my personal favorite - the Mushroom Risotto. Imagine having the onions and herbs chopped in the Thermomix, and then the Thermomix stir fries it for you, and then you add your Arborio rice and season well and add wine and mushrooms, etc... and you just let it cook itself for 20 minutes.


    When it's done, just stir in some freshly grated parmesan cheese...


    Although the Thermomix jug only fits 2 litres, I'd say that is more than enough risotto to feed a family!

    So that was pretty much an inside look at a Thermomix demonstration. Six dishes in just over 2 hours, and with talking in between! At the end of it, there wasn't much of a mess to clean up at all, since we only used the one appliance (and the oven) to do most of the cooking.

    The way I see it, Thermomix is perfect for people with food allergies, gluten intolerant, busy mums, busy career people, chefs, foodies who love experimenting with their own flavors, foodies who love making their own spices and curry paste and their own jam, etc, and lazy people who enjoy the convenience and speed, who hates cleaning, who will otherwise not bother cooking. Doesn't that pretty much cover everyone?!

    They also send you a Starter Recipe Book with every purchase, and they have more specific recipe books available if you want to focus more on Vegetarian, or Asian, or Soups, or Dips, or anything any other niche. But then again, you don't have to worry there are heaps of recipes available online everywhere! 

    So the only thing stopping me from buying the Thermomix immediately is what am I going to do with all the other kitchen appliances I will no longer use?

    Thank you to the family who invited me to the demo (you know who you are), hubby and I had a great night. Thank you Kate for showing us the ropes. Now who wants to come to a Thermomix demo to see it all for yourself, if I do decide to host one?? Hehe. At least you know there will be FOOD!


    Oh, I almost forgot to show you a picture with the steamer basket. Fits a whole fish, a stack loads of veggies and you can cook your rice at the same time in the standard jug! Talk about multi purpose :)

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