Chinese New Year Part 2 @ 8A LK

Every year my mum’s best friend will open up her beautiful home and host an epic Chinese New Year party for close family friends. This year was no exception and she stuffed us all to the fullest again. Let’s take a look at what was offered this year, shall we?

Upon entering the house, there is a low coffee table filled with an inviting assortment of traditional New Year biscuits, a two-tier cake stand of Chinese yam and carrot cakes, and a gigantic bowl of deep red cherries.

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I was especially taken with the flower-shaped coffee-flavoured biscuits. Light and extremely crunchy with strong espresso taste.

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Shortly after a huge plate of sliced fruits (persimmons, peaches, nectarines and pomelo) was placed on the same table.

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Then dinner began. First up was the traditional Yu Sheng for “Lo Hei” that was plated so magnificently.

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Then we were further spoiled with a buffet of Cantonese-style steamed fish, suckling pigs from Peach Garden, her famous Sin Hua Fried Bee Hoon with braised pig trotters, Roast Duck, DIY Vietnamese Pho, Braised Chicken with jellyfish in a thick Peanut sauce, and thinly sliced Pork Belly in a spicy Vietnamese sauce.

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But we were all waiting for the star of the evening: Buddha Jump Over the Wall. Indulgent large pots of thick stock choked full of abalone, scallop, chicken legs, pork belly, fish maw, Chinese mushrooms.

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For desserts, there were traditional Chinese treats from from Sichuan Dou Hua: Liu Sha Bao (orange paus filled with salted egg yolk), traditional Fried Nian Gao coated with a thick egg batter, and Nian Gao with Glutinous Rice Pearl (“This twist on the traditional ‘nian gao’ comes with a layer of glutinous rice pearls sandwiched between a layer of traditional ‘nian gao’ and a layer of sugarcane and water chestnut, lending a chewy texture to a dessert that is bound to be a crowd-pleaser. “) It was sliced thinly and fried resulting in an extremely caramelized crispy texture. It was very special.

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A Tiramisu Cake from L’Atelier Tiramisu

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Two Birthday cakes; Durian Sponge and a Blueberry Cheesecake from Dino Bakery on Upper Thomson Road.

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It was a blessed splendid evening. Can’t wait for next year! x

Chinese New Year 2014 Part 1

Three glorious days of feasting, gambling, and constantly surrounded by love. That was how I started my new year. I was utterly exhausted come Monday. Who knew sinning could be so tiring? However that did not deter me from spending my Monday afternoon in PS Cafe enjoying brunch with my best friend, and aimlessly walking around Orchard Road for five hours..

This year in particular the food astounded me. My Aunties’ cooking finesse was most clear to me this year. In every house I was greeted with a large table of food of every variety, and all cooked with the utmost love. Only perfect homely mostly-Chinese food was served. It was as if the aunties were secretly competing and seeing who could pull out all stops. While I was glad the weekend was over and I could finally take a break from eating, the spread and dedication my Aunts put in were most memorable.

For my family’s turn, my Mum order Fatty Ox Hong Kong Roast Meat who came down and catered food for us. It blew me away. Freshly roasted duck, chicken, roast pork, and braised beef brisket was served alongside perfectly cooked Wanton Noodles with a bite. Then there were these Wanton filled with nothing but juicy seasoned minced pork.

My body took a full two days to clean out the long week of food but it was all so worth it. Here are some pictures from last weekend.

Reunion Steamboat dinner at my 5th Uncle’s place. The preservative fishballs filled with mentaiko were most memorable.
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On the first day, as per tradition, we visited my maternal grandmother who lives with my eldest Uncle. And there was homemade Apple Cider. The alcohol content was potent, the set up so ghetto, and couldnt be a better way to start the year. Also on offer was a Mongolian Goat’s Milk Wine that looked exactly like white wine but tasted nowhere close. It was a surprisingly smooth wine that left a minty refreshing aftertaste.
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After that it was onwards to my paternal 5th Uncle’s house, and my Aunt cooked up a storm since 6am. So much was on offer that I could not finish trying all.

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In the evening we hightailed to my paternal eldest Uncle’s house. My eldest Aunt surprised us with her delicious olive fried rice with crunchy peanuts. Her KL Hokkien Noodles were such a hit but it was the braised pork belly in black soy sauce that hit the spot for me. Thinly-sliced, lustrous belly that has been briased for hours in this thick rich soy sauce with hints of black vinegar and five spiced powder – very impressive. Her chicken curry was thick and coconuty, my favourite consistency for curry. Her Buddha Jump Over the Wall contained a large juicy chicken and hidden underneath were gems of abalone, pork belly, chinese mushrooms, and ginseng. Again, impossible to eat all.   

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The next day, my 4th Uncle hosted us for lunch and dinner. A lot of people were craving for her prawn mee but it was her filipino-style spaghetti that really got me hooked. Minced chicken and button mushrooms in a subtle sweet spaghetti sauce. The homemade “Bubur Pulut Hitam“ refers to Black Glutinous Rice porridge, I coveted. Subtly sweet and so thick it was almost impossible to stir. The perfect dessert.

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For dinner, there was a Penang buffet spread outdoor but indoor was where the feast laid. Homemade Laksa, more pork belly in soy sauce paired with the biggest fluffiest pau I ever had. Chicken and beef satay from Gim Moh Market was such a standout, and those Peach Buns filled with sweet lotus paste and salted egg yolk to celebrate my Uncle’s birthday were close to perfection. Just enough sweetness contrasting with the saltiness.

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On Sunday, I gave up house visiting in the morning and afternoon as my stomach could take it no more and I had to prepare myself for….
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Fatty Ox Hong Kong Roast Meat.
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There was some serious meat overload.
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My first bowl of meat on top of yellow perfect noodles.
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Detoxed with my best friend on Monday at PS Cafe. The Chocolate Cake standard has dropped, the truffle fries portion have been significantly reduced but the ability to lay on the seat for a full two hours without being disturbed made it all so worth it.
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Chinese New Year Cake Bonanza!

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When my sister suggested we set up a Dessert Table at our place when my relatives came over for the annual Chinese New Year house visiting, my immediate response was “sure!”. She gladly prepared two items (which later and wonderfully turned to three), and I prepared three. It was an easy task for me. I have held three open house cakes parties efore, and served up five different cakes each time. No matter how many it all boils down to planning, planning, and planning. But this time around, I surprised myself by finishing all three by 10am on the day itself. It probably wasn’t the best idea since I spent the greater part of the afternoon hovering around my cakes, picking at the crumbs – generally being all greedy.

However deciding on the three cakes was hard! I have many favourite recipes and many more on my bucket list. As usual, I flip-flopped between the lists many times until two days before when I forced myself to concretized so that I could churn out a grocery list and baking schedule. In the end, I decided on Roasted Blueberry No-Bake Cheesecake, Martha Stewart’s Carrot Cake from her newest “Cakes” book, and a Scrumptious Sticky Toffee Cake from “The Clandestine Cake Cake Club” cook book.

My Mum specifically requested for the Roasted Blueberry Cheesecake which turned out to be the first cake that was wiped clean from the cake stand. It never fails to surprise me how popular and well-received the cake is. Maybe so because I would never have believed my own recipe would be so successful. This time around I amped up the blueberries; three boxes instead of the usual one or two. This was achieve a fuller more decadent look. While the onslaught on blueberries was most inviting, it did not hold up well outside the fridge and “bled” into the cake. Although it did not deter my relatives, I reckon tidying and neatening up is the way forward.

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The Scrumptious Sticky Toffee Cake was exactly as the title called it and blew me away again! This time I splurged on some very expensive, healthy dates, and it almost turned the cake into a human being. When warm the tenderness of the cake and the deep sweetness from the dates sang in my mouth. When cool, the dates deepened in flavoured, turned earthy, and continued to sing in everyone’s mouth. I served alongside Toffee sauce in a teapot set over a little burner so that it would always be warm. Again, a hugely popular decision. The toffee sauce was made using muscovado sugar – another indulgence but boy was it worth it! It was sweet but not cloying so. The sweetness was not as jarring compared to the use of brown sugar, and it was a milder and smoother form that continued to develop in the mouth.

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Oh, and when the cake was fresh out of the oven, I did a toffee soak. I used a pastry brush to brush the toffee sauce over the top of the cake, and when the cake was slightly cooled I turned it over and did another soak. The way Serious Eats wrote about. This ensured a glossy moist sticky cake that shined bright like a diamond.

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The date cake was tight; a textural success.

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I baked Martha Stewart’s Carrot Cake in a bundt pan purely for a variation-in-appearance purposes. I poured a cream cheese glaze over and let it flowed down sensually. Finally, inspired by Sticky Fingers Bakery I topped roasted shredded carrots which I had reserved earlier from those going into the cake, and sprinkled pearl sugar over for a glamourous look.

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My cousin declared this cake to be better than Cedele’s. I am not going to take much credit for this as Martha is always reliable. All I did was follow the recipe to the tee and success ensued. Moistness, texture, multiple flavours from the variety of spices in the recipe, and the earthiness of the carrots were all present. It was a no holds barred carrot cake recipe that was intended to astound and definitely achieved it.

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The recipe resulted in mammoth amount of batter which I delightfully baked into mini muffins and were the most ideal snack poppers.

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Brainstorming: Salted White Chocolate Macadamia Fudgy Brownies

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One morning, I had a sudden desire to bake a chocolate brownie after scrolling through mouth-watering pictures of blondies. It was one of those greedy mornings. I knew my brownie had to possess several qualities: salted (to contrast with the sweetness of the brownie; fleur de sel should do the trick), and fudgy (because I am obsessed with intense chocolate flavour). Yet there was still an aspect missing; crunch. But this was resolved the very next day when I spotted a box of White Chocolate-coated Macadamia Nuts on the dining table. The ultra long name of this brownie may have been a mouthful especially when informing my guests but there were just too many elements, and each could not be done without the other.

Baking is a momentus task for me, one that requires ample research on ingredients (contrasing texture and flavours, sorted!), presentation (shall I place the nuts neatly aligned in a straight line or haphazardly placed around?), and most importantly the technique (crispy crust and mushy chocolate interior only). For the perfect technique, I looked no further than Yvonne Ruperti who said:

To get that nice, crunchy layer on top, the eggs and sugar need to be whipped. Dissolved sugar will help contribute to a smooth, glossy top, and the whipped air lightens up the mixture so that the sugar rises to the top, creating the crust.

Still, I needed a foolproof recipe and lucky me, Thomas Keller had one which looked very simple! (By the way, his Perfect Roast Chicken is sooo good. The recipe is again so unbelievable simple.) Mr Keller’s recipe required THREE WHOLE STICKS OF BUTTER. Yes, you read it right, all 339 grams will be needed and used to create this sublime brownie. This did freak me out a little but I was going to serve to many relatives, so technically each person would only be consuming a bit.

Here’s how to prepare this recipe. First preheat your oven to 350°F (180 degress celcius). Butter and flour (using unsweetened cocoa powder) a square metal pan. Set aside. Sift together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup unsweetened alkalized (dutch-processed) cocoa powder or cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt  in a bowl and set aside. These will be know as your dry ingredients. Lay out your white chocolate coated macdamia nuts and start oogling at them but exercise some serious self control to resist popping a few into your mouth.

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Melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a microwave or small saucepan over medium heat till melted. Place another 1 1/2 sticks of cubed butter in a medium bowl, and pour the hot melted butter in. Let sit for a few minutes then stir until the butter looks creamy with small bits of unmelted butter. You should get a thick creamy butter mixture with coagulated bits and the mixture should be a pale yellow in colour.

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Lay out all your materials and marvel at your closet organisational skills.

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In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together 3 large eggs and 1 3/4 cups of granulated sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until thick and very pale. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. On low speed, add about one-third of the dry ingredients, then add one-third of the butter, and continue alternating the remaining flour and butter.

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The batter will be very thick and glossy. Dip your finger in there and take a big bite of your amazing baking skills! (Mr Keller also said the batter can be refrigerated for up to 1 week but seriously, can you resist not baking immediately?!?!)

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Spread your batter carefully in the metal pan. It will not be easy due to the thick batter but perservere. Neatly place the white chocolate macadamia nuts onto the batter and slightly push them down.

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Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester or wooden skewer poked into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it. I baked mine for 40 minutes just for extra fudginess. Cool in the pan until the brownie is just a bit warmer than room temperature. Run a knife around the edges if not using a silicone mold, and invert the brownie onto a cutting board.

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Slice the butter-laden brownie into little squares and place some small fleu de sel on each cube.

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Here’s what the inside looks like. It is so dark and intense. The brownie emits this intense chocolate fragrance as it is cooling down. Biting down, it is so just so rich. The high butter content ensures the brownie will never dry out. Finishing with the fleur de sel brings out the chocolate flavour even further and tempers the sweetness. It prevents the brownie from becoming too one-tone. It would also be amazing if the brownies were warm when served. All my relatives were clamoring for second pieces.

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I am so very glad my first attept was a huge success so give it a bake but try not to consume the whole thing by yourself. 😉

By the way, this Beetroot, Ginger and Chocolate Muffins pictorial recipe looks amazing! And these Brownie drawings from Draw Something are so incredible. I only wish to be half as artistic.