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Sambal Belachan – So shiok!

Some years ago, I went to Janda Baik in Malaysia for a course on Awareness Before Change 

It was my Company that encouraged me to go for it. To go for this course was one of the best  decisions that I made – I should say. It changed my life, the way I think and what to do if I ever need to get what I want. I am not saying need. It is What I want!. I didn’t practise what I learnt because I don’t have any wants in life. If I had been the go getter probably I would be a multi millionaires now!

No! I was more intrigued by the lifestyle of the trainers, the Colonel and his beautiful petite wife and who they have become to be.

At Janda Baik, at lunch time, our long wooden table always carried a cane basket full of this winged beans which were plucked  from the garden or maybe from the jungle nearby.

I was not going to eat vegetables that were not cooked especially vegetables that I am not familiar with. But I was coersed by the Cooks that I should try as it is very good for health.  Decided to give a try and it was indeed very refreshing.  I was hooked!

Back in Singapore – I couldn’t find it for a long time. I wanted my girls to eat this vegetable because they enjoy raw food. And I got a friend to buy it at a local market. (now I can get it at the Kranji farm which has this organic vegetable and other varieties too). But to eat this raw one needs a sambal to go with it.

I notice most of our various cultures have some form of sambals/dips in the diet. Indians have their chutneys, pickles, Italians their various olive oil dips, Thais have their nam prik, nam pla and many more.

But I love a mean sambal belachan which can be eaten with raw vegetables, or stir fried or as an accompaniment to rice.

As a child in my grandma’s place in Bukit Timah, I have seen my Malay neighbours eating together as a group using one huge tray of food. They sit on the floor in a circle around the tray and enjoy their rice with boiled vegetables, sambal belachan and fried fish. It is a sight to behold. I remember allowing them into my grandma’s garden to pluck sweet potato leaves and tapioca and some other vegetables on a regular basis.

My grandma was a giver of food, just like my mum. I remember that almost daily, some people will come and ask for permission to pluck fruits and vegetables. We had plenty to eat and to give away too.

I remember too, when I was married and had my own place, there were just too many ladies fingers and brinjals in my backyard that I gave away daily. Sometimes I pack it and give to whoever I meet when I go for a walk or when I wanted to fetch my girls from school.

Somehow this habit of giving food has been instilled in me that I tend to cook more than necessary so that I can pack the leftovers for my guests to bring home too.

Now when I am teaching baking or cooking at my Potong Pasir Community Club, I also tend to cook extra and my student residents are just too happy to have more. And I do this teaching voluntarily too.   I remember my WEC Chairman, Ms Jenny Yong, telling me once when I initially started to teach about 5 ½ years ago, that we want happy residents.  I totally agree with her.

This joy of seeing others happy is just too great. Money definitely cannot buy that, right? (more…)

Tauhu Sambal

tauhu sambal 2

 

There are many times when I prefer to eat non-meat meals at home. Inevitably it will be legumes. One such bean is the soya bean and when it is transformed to tauhu (beancurd) – it tastes wonderful.

Tauhu on its own is bland, it is nicer deep fried or added to curries and sambals.

 

tauhu sambal 1

 

The Chinese love their tauhu, so do the Malays, the Indians have their paneer (indian cheese) as the substitute but then tauhu is so readily available in the supermarkets and is also very economical.

Many people I know love tauhu sambal, it’s my family’s favourite too, hence this simple version. I have made it with very little oil. It is also a protein rich dish and can be eaten with my spinach pilaf, or just plain rice and chappati. The ground paste can be made ahead. It also freezes well.   Once you have the ground paste ready, you could make this dish in 15 to 20 minutes. So no excuse to say no time to cook!

 

spinach pilaf 2
Tauhu sambal, pictured with spinach pilaf (recipe for which is on the blog)

 

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Thai Green Curry Paste

green curry chicken 3

 

I was introduced to Thai cuisine when I visited Thailand many years ago. During those days, the only Thai restaurant in Singapore which served very good and authentic Thai food was Silk Road in Tanjong Pagar. It was very expensive to dine there. Since I was drawn to Thai food, I decided to test Thai recipes from various sources and some Thai friends. The basic ingredient is the Thai curry paste, there are many types depending on what you are cooking. It is quite easy to identify the curry pastes as they call it green, red etc., according to the colour of the curry.

So here it is – my own basic Thai green curry paste. The ingredients may be daunting, but it is very well worth the trouble. You can find all the ingredients in Asian grocery stores or if in Singapore, Tekka market has everything. This basic green curry paste is versatile as you can be creative and use it for other dishes, not only for Thai green curry chicken (recipe for which can be found on my blog as well). I appreciate your comments, of course.

How to use this paste:

  1. You can make Thai green curry with chicken or vegetables of your choice, brussel sprouts are so nice.
  2. You can stir fry seafood especially prawns, clams or squid.
  3. You can rub the paste on salmon steaks or fillets and pan fry or bake.
  4. So the possibilities are endless, once you have the basics – your recipe will taste wonderful and authentically Thai!

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