Potatoes Stir Frying – Expectation or Reality?

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My second post of 2018, potatoes stir-frying (Aloo Stir-Fried).
The fun part of stir-frying, I believed it should be like the photo above. When you try some stunts on toasting the potatoes in the air, you would feel like the potatoes were tastier than usual. Heat from the bottom, your hand was actually on top of the fire “almost,” but my concentration was on holding back the potato cubes after the flip. Therefore, I did not realize it until I washed my hand later on.

In reality, do you think the potatoes were more delicious if we added some actions? Check my video below, you will get the “REAL” answer.

After sometimes

Ingredients:

5 Potatoes
30gm Curry Leaves
1 tbsp Garam Masala
1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
2 tbsp Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp Tumeric
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
3 tbsp Honey Mustard Seasoning

Steps:

  1. Put the whole potatoes in boiling water for 15minutes.
  2. Take out and soak in cold water for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Cut into cubes and soak into cold water for the second times. The starch will reduce from the potatoes cubes.
  4. Drain and season with 3tbsp of Honey Mustard seasoning. The Honey Mustard Seasoning I recommended is seasoned with salt and sugar. If ordinary honey mustard spice, add a few pinches of salt.
  5. Heat the frying pan with 3 tbsp of cooking oil, add 2tbsp of Mustard Seeds, 1tbsp of Cumin Seeds and Curry Leaves. Remember to set on low flame. Saute until the mustard seeds crack open with a “pop.”
  6. Add in the cubes and saute for 3 minutes, add in turmeric powder and chili powder. Continue stir-frying another 5 minutes.
  7. Blend in the last Garam Masala before serving.

 

 

Meaningless to celebrate Reunion Dinner?

 

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Is it necessary to have reunion lunch or dinner for Chinese New Year eve? My son asked me about the meaning of Reunion Dinner? What is Reunion Dinner? Why do we need to celebrate the reunion since we meet every day or maybe not see some relatives for a long, long time? I was unable to answer it that where should I start to tell him about the story of Reunion Dinner. The Reunion day is the day we cook many dishes and food. All the family members will gather together and celebrate the start of new year. Wishing and praying that we move forward to a better year with good fortune. Indeed will the celebration promise you the prosperous year ahead?

The 2018 Chinese New Year, My brother and I produced a Chinese New Year wishing video clip. The production took us around six days for recording. Excluded the pre-production preparation and post-production. To complete the Chinese New Year dishes, it was not an easy job as I thought. The above clip will let you have an overall picture of the reunion dishes.

While I was doing the cooking, I started to remember many things from the past, my granny’s last words, grandfather’s old stories, my mother’s recipes and the method to cook it. The memories of past were playing like a movie. We produced eight type of Chinese New Year dishes which we used to have it in the REUNION DINNER. I enjoyed the cooking process, and the taste of every dishes just like yesterday I learned to cook it. More than ten years, I did not cook these Chinese New Year dishes. The reasons may be no longer needed to explain, too hard to describe.

I forgot the moment of happiness of Chinese New Year, mainly the childhood memories, playing firecrackers, lion dance, praying ceremony to the ancestor, red packet “Angpow,” Chinese New Year snacks and neighborhood friends.

Time, I am getting old and living in a different chapter of history. The feeling of appreciation is not as before. I realized the gap between generation. The topics we talk about are the past.

Food culture is apparently changing. One of the main ingredients in my Chinese New Year dishes is “Chinese Fermented Red Bean Curd 南乳.” The presentation of the taste and the origin, authentic of food preparation, the key ingredient is essential.

The highlight is the authentic taste does not come from the skills and knowledge we obtained. The original flavor comes from our memory. The ingredient is acting the sensor to wake up our mind. My spices expertise and skills could not bring the authentic dishes to the new level. “Do not change the ingredients, “OUR” taste is different!” This statement jumped out from my head. The important reminder while I learned the recipe.

However, my son does not like the taste of Chinese New Year food. The feeling of Chinese New Year is not meaningful compared to Christmas. The smell of fermented red bean curd is disgusting. Waxed meat is not his selection. I am trying to give him the idea of “ham.” How do you think about the result? It did not work.

I started to think about the Chinese New Year celebration, is it the only happy moment I had in childhood? The reality of life is not the same as we wanted. Many stories are created to show us the wanted messages. I could not feel the moment of joyful, happy, wealthy and prosperous.

The small family may not practice the old fashion celebration. The traditional food is meaningless to our younger generation. Playing firecracker is illegal.
He learns about “How to save our planet?” and “Do not pollute the environment!” Firecrackers are noisy and dangerous.

After the production, I realized that the Reunion dishes are mainly meat diet? Can we have more vegetables? People care about a healthy lifestyle.

Preparation time, long hours and long process and labour intensive. People will not consider spending too much time to cook and prepare these Chinese New Year dishes. Therefore, the modern family will celebrate the Reunion Dinner at restaurant. Clean and Easy!

Any good reason to maintain the celebration?

 

Healthy Salad

 

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Ingredients:

150g chopped rocket
200g diced cherry tomatoes (red & yellow)
1 1/2 onions sliced
1 lime juiced
1/2 pomegranate, seeds removed
200g freshly grated coconut
1/2 tsp chili powder
3-4 chopped fresh chili (Optional)
1 tsp Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (coarse)

The straightforward recipe, mix everything to the bowl, season to taste, stir well. If you like it spicier, give a full tsp of chili powder or add more fresh chili. I love it just a hint of chili powder.

This recipe includes diced onions, if you are strict Vegan, you can replace with cucumber. I prefer this version of the salad, more refreshing because of the freshly grated coconut. Further, Pomegranate seeds are juicy, sweet and sour, bursting after you chew it.

The best served immediately once prepared, even you keep in the fridge, it doesn’t keep long. It is not an impressive vegetarian recipe, but it is one of my healthy dinner selections. Try it if you have freshly grated coconut!

Vegan’s Spices

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Last week, I was lucky that I met a friend and his mom in my shop. They were collecting some spices before they went back to America. He is a “Vegan.” He produced many vegan recipe books. His name is Healy Youngton.

Although I work in this spice business for many years, I do not have a clear picture of Vegan’s food preparation. I know some of them can not take garlic, onion, milk, and egg.

I took the opportunity to update him on my current project at Jack’s Spice Kitchen – “Cooking Video.”

Healy said he would “like” my cooking video after I posted it on Youtube. I appreciated his support.

I started to think about Vegan’s cooking after I saw Healy. Maybe this is the time for me to make a complete crackdown on Vegan’s food. After many days of research and hard work, my conclusion is that Vegetarian diet is not a new recipe. “Where shall I begin?” The idea was very fragile. I need a “MEAT FREE” mindset.

Recently, the Vegan foods are famous that many people are venturing into Vegan cooking. I am not a vegetarian. However, I am trying to look for my inspiration in the vegetarian dish.

Vegetarian foods must be something unusual! Many people converted into a vegetarian lifestyle.  Today, vegetarian is a “Culture.” The trend that people follow and workship. The new branding happens in the food industry.

Is this the signal of change?

The fundamental of a vegetarian concept is practiced due to rituals and religious activities, purifying the soul of greed, hatred, and destruction, developing our inner peace and compassion.  However, the purification does not limit our mind and soul but physically transform into food. How do you cook? What do you eat?

I think that a “REVOLUTION” of belief was created, beyond the original. Vegan’s theory is the new lifestyle. A Vegan practitioner must be able to let go the original, sacrificing now and reborn in new life.

A choice of killing a chicken for food, right by your hand or starve to death, which one will you choose? Easy answer, right? My wife will pick up the second option. The ideology is not as pure as quoted by Shakespeare “To be, or not to be, that is the question”? Anyway, we better look into my actual topic “Vegan’s Spices.”

Spices are long used ingredients in vegetarian foods, to balance the ph level, improve the taste of food. Before we have the refrigerator, we preserve cooking with spices. No doubt that spices are rich in nutrition and medical benefits.

The checklist of Vegan’s Spices, first to make sure all resources are free from animal-related substances directly or indirectly. The borderline is similar to “Organic food” checklist in our market. It depends on the trustworthy of a supplier.

Second, I would like to highlight the “Five Acrid and Strong-smelling Vegetables.” Some Vegans, they are very strict to determine the ingredients of “Five Spices” which contain strong-smelling taste because of its tendency to excite human senses.

Garlic, Onion, leek, Allium (Chives, Spring Onion) and Asafoetida.

I had a bad experience with Asafoetida, an excellent ingredient to replace garlic and onion for vegetarian foods, especially for dhals, beans, and earthy taste plants. I strongly recommended it to a Chinese Vegan. She cooked it, but the garlic-onion taste from Asafoetida shocked her. She immediately thought that I tricked her with garlic-onion powder.Unexpected! I learned a good lesson to be more careful in future.

However, the “Five Spices” restriction is binding to some Vegans only. We will stick with the first checklist in general. I listed the top 10 spices for vegetarian food.

1. Turmeric                           6. Coriander
2. Ginger                                7. Star Anise
3. Chili                                    8. Cinnamon
4. Paprika                              9. Tamarind
5. Cumin                               10. Peppers

The favorite spice blend is Vegetarian Curry powder; the other curry blends are depending if you are mimicking fish curry. The spices blending method varies from meat, seafood, and vegetables.

Before the main menu, I prepared a “Healthy Salad” for a starter. The simple recipe to tune into my world of vegetarian cooking.

Nutmeg Nowadays

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“In the Banda Islands, ten pounds of nutmeg cost less than one English penny. In London, that same spice sold for more than £2.10s. – a markup of a staggering 60,000 percent. A small sackful was enough to set a man up for life, buying him a gabled dwelling in Holborn and a servant to attend to his needs.” from Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: How One Man’s Courage Changed the Course of History. 

I like this paragraph from the author, Giles Milton. The book described “Spice Trade in the seventeenth century.” A beautifully told adventure story and “NUTMEG” a fabulous valuable spice in Europe.

Today, the glorious moment of Nutmeg already faded.

Nowadays, Nutmeg is no longer the expensive spice that will make you rich as what we read in Nathaniel’s Nutmeg.

Do you think that Nutmeg will disappear or extinct in the human world? The fact is that we no longer depend on “Nutmeg” nowadays to preserve our food, we have the freezer.  In fact, we have created many new technologies to store our food. The powerful medicinal properties of Nutmeg that men would risk their lives to obtain it because it would cure the deadly disease. Nowadays, we have discovered and invented many medicines to replace nutmeg. Nutmeg used to be an essential ingredient in food and beverage industry, nowadays, we created many different chemicals to flavour our food and drinks.

In our daily cooking practice, do you know how many people are really using Nutmeg as their magic spice? In my spice shop, Nutmeg is the slow-moving spice, especially the whole Nutmeg seed. Recently, I noticed that many customers are using it for traditional medicine. Local people usually name it “JAMU”- a herbal medicine from varieties of natural ingredients.

When I started to write about Nutmeg, I remembered one of my old friend who was an importer and exporter of Nutmeg. He traded Nutmegs from Indonesia to EU countries. He got a huge storage place to store Nutmeg, brokering the future price of Nutmeg in the world market price. You may imagine he must be wealthy and cool!  INTERESTING! EXCITING! I did feel the same way many years ago. I thought he must be an expert of Nutmeg. He would know every single method or details about How, Where, When or Why that you should use Nutmeg.

The reality, he was a talented “BROKER.”

The future of NUTMEG…

 

 

 

How much will you pay for spices?

How much will you pay for a kilo of turmeric powder? RM10, RM 20, RM30 or less than RM5. I always confused about my thoughts for the value of spices. How do we judge the price of each item? The standard costing formula, we add in everything we do from the farm until retail market. The cost included farming, crops treatment, research, grading, cleaning, logistics, storage, production, research, marketing, distribution & promotion. If we make it details, how much do you think a spice will be?

I would say that the price is beyond the value I can sell on the market, regardless which market segment, from upstream to downstream. Even a break-even point is a myth.

The recent pressure on economy slowing down; food cost increased beyond our control. The impact is no longer an indirect factor; it is directly influencing our daily activities. How to save more? How to select the best option? Lower price better quality?

Do you think that spices and herbs are essential “add-on” to our food as an enhancer of taste? I remembered that I was once furiously promoting spices marination as an “added” value of meat. Simplifying the process of cooking and provide better value to consumers. We successfully achieved our “target” because the trend of ready-to-cook (RTC) was growing. I was luckily made it on time to advance the business into marination. Did we manage to change our food preparation habit? Will you buy a turmeric marinated meat to save your cooking preparation time?

In reality, everything is “pre-assumed” with a price. For example, turmeric powder is RM15 per kilo in the market. If you try to sell higher than this amount, people will think that you are trying to gain more profit. Some consumers will consider to buy it due to the quality concern. In general cooking, turmeric is for colouring, as long as you make it yellow. Therefore, some yellow turmeric powder is RM5 or lower. Do you believe it?

Yes, this range of product exists and high in demand.

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow Chicken Soup

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Ingredient:-

450g Chicken Meat Boneless
5 Green Cardamon
2 inches of Cinnamon Stick
2 tsp of Cumin Seeds
1 tbsp of Ground Turmeric
3 Cloves of Garlic Crushed
1 Onion chopped (fine)
350ml milk (full cream/skimmed milk)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp of cooking oil
Coriander leaves for garnishing
Salt to taste

1) Heat up a deep skillet pan with 2 tbsp of cooking oil at medium heat, slightly toss the crushed garlic and chopped onion. Add in spices (Cardamon, Cinnamon & Cumin Seeds), stir-fry about 1 minutes.

2) Add in Chicken Meat, stir fry 5 minutes then add in milk. Bring to boil and cook until the chicken meat is tender.

3) Add lemon juice, salt to taste. Garnish with coriander leaves before serving with rice.

The Truth of Turmeric

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My first idea of turmeric is “curry”. I remembered that an Indian man commonly asked “What type of curry? The local language is “Curry apa? He used to roll a brownish paper and wrapped into a cone shape to keep the curry powder. He skillfully mixed a few types of powder together.

Importantly, I must say the magic word “tak mahu pedas!” before he did anything. The Indian man shakes his head. I thought he did not like it anywhere when I said “Less Spicy”.

My family originally not a curry lover. The main culinary practice at my hometown also not a curry based cooking. The truth, I thought Tumeric was curry until many years later after I started to cook. I realised that “Turmeric” is a different ingredient.

I also knew the truth reason “Why” the Indian man shook his head many years later. He wanted to tell me that he could make it less spicy!

Cinnamon Fig braised Chicken

3 skinless whole chicken legs
1 Ceylon Cinnamon Quill (5 inches)
180g dried figs
2 bay leaves, 12 shallots, 2 tbsp oil
180g small button mushrooms, cleaned
2 tbsp Tomato powder
1/2 tsp Ginger grounded
300ml water
1 tsp brown sugar (Optional)
Salt to taste
2 tsp cornstarch

Serve with:
Mashed potatoes
Seasonal vegetables

 
1. Place the chicken in a deep baking tray with bay leaves, Ceylon Cinnamon, and figs.

2. Put the shallots in a bowl and cover with hot boiling water about 2 minutes. Drain with cold water and peel away the skins.

3. Put the shallots and mushrooms in a preheated oil frying pan. Gently cook for 3 minutes. Add in water, tomato powder, ginger powder and cook further 3-4 minutes.

4. Slowly pour over the cooked shallots and mushrooms into the tray. Season with salt. Cook in the preheated 170°C oven for 1 hour.

5. Take out the chicken and keep in a warm place. Blend cornstarch with 2 tbsp cold water and stir into the braised liquid. Sugar and salt to taste if needed.

6. Arrange the chicken and ready to serve the mashed potatoes or with green vegetables.

I love this recipe so much because the figs combined so well with the sweetness and fermented taste of Ceylon Cinnamon. These are the main ingredients. We can further add in wholegrain mustard or black peppercorn if you prefer a hint of heat aftertaste.

Authentic Cinnamon? Cassia or Ceylon Cinnamon?

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Many types of Cinnamon are available in the market, which one is the real one we are using? Most frequent question after we have learned about the varieties of Cinnamon and the health concern about “coumarin” contain in Cinnamon. “Coumarin” is a kind of natural chemical substance comes with the plant. Here, I believe that everybody can search the net; it is easy!

Many years ago, the Indonesian Cinnamon dominated the whole local market, and not many people know about Ceylon Cinnamon. The real cinnamon for everyone is Cassia Cinnamon, our household taste in daily cooking. The Ceylon Cinnamon from Sri Lanka is a newcomer. People valued it as another kind of cinnamon, less pungent, expensive and doubtful about its potential. I thought I had a wrong starting point. I was in a state of selling shoes at a place where people is barefoot, different knowledge and unfit to local custom, but I believe it was a great business opportunity.

My first encounter about Ceylon Cinnamon had changed my life. I had a deep feeling about Ceylon Cinnamon, and I always use Cinnamon as my opening topic when I do a sales talk. However, I remembered one occasion that I was so embarrassed where I was trying to show my best Ceylon Cinnamon to a France Chef, many years ago. Unexpectedly, she turned down my conversation because she could not accept the smell of cinnamon. No matter it was Cassia or Ceylon. I made another appointment and cleared out all my cinnamon from my spice bag before the next meeting. I learned that Ceylon Cinnamon is my personal preference spice, but not the absolute for others.

The point I would like to highlight is “Authentic” flavour. The value originally used by the people. The “Original Flavour”. The selected ingredients or method of cooking which forms a genuine character. In other words, “Authentic” is a part of people living pattern. The way we eat and our lifestyle. Some people may have a different experience and changed the original taste. Therefore, the flavour is a complexity of living. It is beyond our ordinary senses, a creation of many things.

Now, I have majority customers use Ceylon Cinnamon because it is real, sweeter aroma, good for health and it is the diabetic medicine from natural remedies. So, my clients like the Cinnamon? Do they change their original eating behaviour?

Authentic cinnamon is not the important matter because we value the facts in reality. The aroma and taste of Cinnamon are the secondary consideration. The flavour differences are strictly the cooking concerns.

Last, before I put an end to my Cinnamon topic, I share my real life experience with you. I like Cinnamon because it smells good and comfortable. I use it in my cooking recipes. My favourite masala tea with Ceylon Cinnamon. Try to love spices and discover the natural flavour. Search for your spice starter.