Friday, November 25, 2011

An intro to Chwee Kueh, with tips from cookbook author, Wee Eng Hwa

Besides the well known chilli crab, chicken rice and hokkien mee, there are multitudes of lesser known dishes that tourists and non-tourists alike might not be aware of when they first arrive on Singapore’s shores.  Let's first begin with a quick introduction to the delight that is chwee kueh.

I consulted Ms. Wee Eng Hwa, author of the cookbook-cum-biography, Cooking for the President on her advice about chwee kueh.  Having personally tried her homemade chwee kueh, there was no doubt that the vivacious food-enthusiast was the go-to for tips on this dish.

Photo from Wee Eng Hwa's cookbook-cum-biography, Cooking for the President.

Chwee kueh, a steamed rice “water” cake, is of Hokkien origin and a favourite amongst Chinese Singaporeans. Usually eaten at breakfast or as a light snack, the simple dish is available at hawker centres or can be easily made at home.  Wee Eng Hwa tells us about her childhood experiences. “I have happy vivid memories of eating piping-hot fragrant chwee kueh served on a rectangular piece of opeh (a beige-coloured parchment) and using a lidi (a stick of brown dried rib of the palm leaf) like a fork. It was sold by itinerant hawkers or at wet market foodstalls,” she recalls.

Her cookbook predominantly comprise Nonya recipes, but she includes chwee kueh to help document and preserve the traditional recipe--because she has found that chwee kueh at foodstalls have changed overtime and now differ in taste and texture from that of a generation ago.

“A good chwee kueh is slightly salted, essential to bring out the taste of the rice flour. The texture is neither firm nor stodgy, but light and supple with some body and tension. It is a question of balancing the “chwee” and the “kueh” elements,” she explains.  And not forgetting the other most important element to chwee kueh, “The savoury topping – chai por - must be aromatic and nicely brown, yet tender with bite, not an indistinguishable dark mess. It may be topped with a little chilli sauce. In the old days, the chilli sauce served was smooth and slightly sweet and sour. Our family likes to spice the cake with a little finely chopped dried red chillies fried in oil.”

The chwee kueh she makes is indeed supple and savoury, so we ask her for some technique tips that make all the difference between in an average versus a good one.  “Speed is of the essence,” she advises, “All the elements making the cakes must be very hot. The hot flour mixture must be poured into the hot moulds as soon as the lid of the hot wok is opened. Once the mixture in the moulds is cooked, turn off the fire and leave the moulds in the open wok to cool completely and set before attempting to serve the cakes.”

Wee Eng Hwa encourages everyone to try their hand at making it, and not to forget that practice makes perfect.  Here is her family chwee kueh recipe from her cookbook, Cooking for the President below.  Let us know if you try this recipe!


CHWEE KUEH, Steamed Rice “Water” Cakes
Recipe from Wee Eng Hwa's cookbook-cum-biography, Cooking for the President. Reproduced with her kind permission.

The success of this popular Hokkien breakfast food depends on the texture of the steamed rice cake and the texture and aroma of the toppings. The cake is soft, light and supple with body, not sticky or stodgy. The neutral-tasting cake is made appetising by the aromatic fried chai por (preserved Chinese white radish) which is tender with bite and also by the fried dried red chillies.
(makes 20)

240ml oil
50g garlic, peel and chop 2mm bits
150g chai por (preserved Chinese white radish), chop 3mm bits and soak 5 minutes
160ml water
20g dried red chillies, soften in hot water and chop 2mm bits
½ tsp salt

Mixture A
200g rice flour
40g tapioca flour
480ml water

Mixture B
480ml boiling water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
20 chwee kueh metal cups

1.  Fry the chai por. Fry the garlic in 120ml hot oil in a wok over medium-low heat few seconds. Add the chai por and fry until light brown and aromatic. Add the water and simmer over low heat until tender and almost dry, medium brown and intensely aromatic. Do not over-fry to avoid the chai por becoming tough and garlic becoming bitter. Set aside the fried chai por in its oil.

Fry the dried chillies in 120ml hot oil in a wok with the salt over medium-low to low heat until darker red and aromatic. Set aside the fried chillies in the oil.

2.  Make the rice cakes. Steam the chwee kueh cups very hot in a covered wok. Mix Mixture A ingredients and strain into a saucepan. Boil Mixture B ingredients in another saucepan. Add hot Mixture B to Mixture A. Stir quickly to mix well. Uncover the wok and quickly fill the hot cups up to just below the rim. Wipe dry the inner surface of the lid and cover the wok. Steam 15 minutes over medium-low heat until cooked. Cool to set.

3.  Assemble to serve. Re-steam the cakes. Take a cup from the steamer, run a slender spatula along the inside, lift and slide the cake onto a serving plate. Top the cake with 1 teaspoon fried chai por (which may be heated if desired) and ½ teaspoon fried chillies if desired.

4.  Serve the cake hot or at room temperature as a snack. It is particularly suitable for breakfast, but can be served at tea time.

Article was written for  
Find the link here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Don't miss the Flood Flashmob (Bangkok)

I have a lot of family in Bangkok, including my mother, grandmother, brother and his wife's family.  Everyone is safe from the floods thankfully, but my brother and my sister-in-law were forced to evacuate from their home since the water in the area is about 1 metre high.

Athalie, my sister-in-law is organising a Flood Flashmob TODAY in order to help raise awareness about the situation in Thailand.  They will send the end result to the 11/11/11 project, to be included in a documentary next year.  Please see the information below if you want to participate.

She's a talented musician and strung together a simple tune in both English and Thai, to be sung later today.  See the youtube links below.

FRIDAY 11/11/11
4:30pm (Bangkok)
Be part of a huge awareness flashmob to help Thailand flood relief!

Every drop of donated blood…
Every drop of drinking water…
Every drop of sweat when you are helping to rebuild…
Every drop counts!

On Friday 11/11/11, we will meet at Big C at Saphan Khwai BTS Station, 16:30 to sing a message and spread it to the world. We will practice together first and then walk to Mo Chit (flooded area) to record a video of our message!

In the youtube attachment, you will find a rough draft version of our motto. We will sing this mantra together and ad some new lines and rhythms of our own! So start thinking about the message you want to add to this existing chorus, and bring any percussion insruments you may have. The event will be in THAI and ENGLISH, we will have translation for everything.

After our meeting, I will compile the material into a video and send it to the 11/11/11 Project. This will help the message spread faster and further. People of all backgrounds, all beliefs, and all levels of experience—with pure intention, let’s promote clean blood and clean drinking water for our country. Let’s put our hands and voices together to help Thailand! Every drop counts if it’s clean!!

If you have any questions, CALL 086-1251434 (English) or 087-9207711 (Thai).

1. Yourself and as many friends as possible!!
2. Boots/water resistant shoes
3. Percussion instruments – shakers, drums, bamboo sticks
4. A fat marker pen


Flash Mob ร่วมใจน้ำท่วม - ทุกหยดมีคุณค่า ถ้าบริสุทธิ์

หยดเลือด ทุกหยดที่ให้
หยดน้ำ ทุกหยดที่ดื่ม
หยาดเหงื่อ ทุกหยดที่ร่วมช่วยกัน
... ... ทุกหยดมีคุณค่า

เราอยากเห็นกลุ่มคน กลุ่มเล็กๆ มารวมกัน ( ประมาณ 25 คน ) เพื่อรณรงค์และระดมทุนช่วยเหลือวิกฤตินำ้ท่วมให้คนทั่วโลก รับรู้ โดยการร้องเพลง ในบริเวณใกล้ใกล้ ที่น้ำท่วม (ระดับครึ่งขา ถึงเข่า ) ในวันที่ 11/11/11 เจอกันที่ Big C สะพานควาย ตอน 16.30

เราจะฝึกซ้อมด้วยกันก่อน สั้นๆ ก่อนเดินไปร้องจริง ในที่บริเวณที่มีน้ำท่วม ดูตัวอย่างได้ในลิงค์ you tube
เพื่อนๆทุกคนสามารถนำอุปกรณ์ เครื่องดนตรีชิ้นเล็ก เครื่องเขย่าไปร่วมแจมได้ เราจะร้องทั้งภาษาไทยและอังกฤษ โดยจะมีการแปลทุกข้อความที่ร้อง
หลังจากนั้น เราจะนำวีดีโอมาตัดต่อและเรียบเรียง เพื่อส่งไปยัง 11/11/11 Project เพื่อส่งต่อข้อความของพวกเราให้ไปได้ไกลขึ้น เร็วขึ้น และง่ายขึ้น มาช่วยกันส่งเสริมและรณรงค์ให้บริจาค นำ้สะอาด และเลือดที่บริสุทธ์ ให้กับประเทศไทยของเรา

สนใจ หรือ มีคำถาม ติดต่อ 087 920 7711

1. ตัวคุณและชวนเพื่อนมาด้วยให้มากที่สุดเท่าจะบอกต่อได้
2. ร้องเท้าบูทระดับเข่า หรือ กางเกงกันน้ำถ้ามี ถ้าไม่มีหาซื้อได้ที่ Big C
3. เครื่องดนตรี เครื่องเขย่า
4. ปากกาเมจิก หัวใหญ่ ถ้าไม่มีเราจะเตรียมไว้ให้

Friday, November 4, 2011

My First Restaurant Guide in print

I spent the last few months at Appetite magazine dishing together Appetite's Guide to European Restaurants 2012.  It's just a guide/directory, along with great editorial pieces by Appetite writers, Edipresse editors and freelance writers.  So, while it isn't a big deal to some, it's still my first guide as a project editor.

...and it makes me happy to finally see it in print! (Don't rain on my parade, yo)
This little guy took many long hours.  I was lucky to have the help of Appetite's editor, deputy editor and online editor's help - especially during those really late nights before production.

I believe it's being sold along with November issue of Appetite magazine (2 for 1!), otherwise you can buy it individually off of bookshelves.  Let me know if you come across a copy!


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