Category Archives: Lunch

Soaked

One of the reasons how Countless Plates came to being was because there aren’t many sources for traditional Malay recipes online. I’m an avid foodblog reader and though it’s easy to google French and Italian fare, it just doesn’t make any sense to perpetually feed my family (with sambal belacan & petai palate) lasagnes, aglio olios, pizzas, stews and raviolis right?

Well, here’s a dish that I guess everyone with the same traditional taste can relate to: Nasi Rawon.

Each time I prepare this dish at home, I always see beaming faces eager to dig in. Yes, albeit at 5am. Why?

Steaming hot white rice – check!

Warm Rawon gravy – check!

Empeng Bilis – check!

Serunding – check!

Sambal Belacan – check!

Nasi Rawon has every element to appease almost every Melayu palate lol. It looks pretty straightforward but oh boy, the preparation is lengthy. But if it makes my family happy, it’s gotta be worth it!

Let’s begin with the basic Rawon gravy. This recipe makes a huge pot, and might I add, the flavours get more intense after about 2-3 days of reheating. So it’d be a great idea to save half the pot in the freezer for later.

For Broth:

1/2kg Beef Tripe

1/2kg Beef Brisket

2 litres Water

2 inch Ginger

1 large Onion

2 tsp Salt

For sautéeing:

3 tbsp Coriander Seeds

1 1/2 tbsp Fennel Seeds

1 tbsp Black Peppercorns

10 Shallots

2 Red onions

1 handful Buah Keluak meat

6 tbsp dried Chilli Paste

2 stalks Lemongrass

3 inch Galangal

4 Salam Leaves

4 Kaffir Lime Leaves

1 or 2 Dried Tamarind Sheets

In a huge pot, boil all the ingredients for the broth, till the meats are tender.

As for the sautéed spices, the procedure is similar to Ayam Korma’ – Toast and grind the coriander, fennel and black pepper seeds. Shallots, onions, buah keluak and dried chilli paste goes into the blender to form a smooth paste. You can toss your ground spices in as well.

Heat oil in a flat pan and pour the paste in. Be extra careful – it might splatter (most of the time it does). This process will take between 30-45 minutes. I’m risking sounding like a broken record but repeat after me, ensure that you see the oil seeping through the spices (naik bau/terbit minyak). Pound the lemongrass and galangal, loosely tear salam, kaffir lime leaves and tamarind sheets; they too, join the spicefest in the pan.

Keep the heat on. The aroma will intensify and most of the time, it makes me go a little weak in the knees! Pour all of your pan’s contents into the pot of broth. Stir and let it simmer for under an hour, and then you’re good to go!

Serve this Indonesian beef stew with some hot white rice.

Personally, I like my rice soaked in all that glorious goodness for a couple of minutes before lapping it up with all the sides that were mentioned in the checklist above. It goes well too, with a range of other sinful sides; from Fried Tempeh (fermented soy beans), Bagedil (mashed potatoes with spring onions and beef), Paru (beef lung) to Sambal Sotong (cured squid in chilli paste).

And just cos Ramadhan is partly about sharing, I’ll be a little generous with the recipe-sharing. I’m sure you’ve noticed the Empeng Bilis at the side?

Here are the few ingredients that go into it:

200g Silverfish*

4 chopped Garlic Cloves

2 thinly-sliced Large Onions

2 tbsp chopped Spring Onions

1 tbsp Dried Chilli Flakes

2 sliced Green Chillies

1 beaten Egg

3/4 cup Fritter Flour**

Water

*Silverfish are available in the supermarket’s fresh clingwrapped section. You know the refrigerated sections where the salmon are? Silverfish are slightly meatier than the usual anchovy and less salty too.

** I use Adabi’s Tepung Goreng Pisang for this but any kind of fritter flour is fine. Shortcut alert: If you don’t have it, use the same amount of plain flour and rice flour with 1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Add just enough water so the mixture combines. Too much moisture will cause the fritters to be a little flat and it’ll splatter in the oil. Heat your pan with oil, and fry a tablespoon of batter each. Ensure your oil’s hot enough or the Empeng Bilis will end up soggy. Not pretty!

I made Nasi Rawon for Sahur as my family’s the kind that can’t get our engines revved up the next day without rice in our tummies. But I do have friends who do the opposite (have their rice meals during Iftar), so whatever rocks your boat really. Enjoy, lovelies! =)

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Filed under Dinner, Lunch, Recipes, Sahur Recipe

Parchment-baked Pasta

If there’s any staple food that deserves the title of Most Versatile, it would be pasta. C’mon, pasta types count to the hundreds and pasta dishes in the thousands. In fact, did you know that in the 1800, there are already 260 types of pasta? 211 years later, imagine the pasta population!

Whether it be sautéed, or in a soup, or served with stew, or baked in a tray, or fried in a frittata; one thing remains – it’s an all-time favourite that’s here to stay for another century. I’m an ardent fan of quick-fix pasta recipes, because when I crave for it, I just wanna whip it up in a jiffy to hush the aching crave.

That said, here’s a fuss-free, cook-while-you’re-busy-with-chores recipe that I’d like to share: Parchment-baked Linguine with Prawns.

This one serves 2 (or 1 of me), so do increase the proportions of you’re cooking for more:

Linguine

Salt & Black Pepper

1 tbsp Butter

1/2 diced Yellow Onion

4 crushed Garlic Cloves

10 shelled Prawns

1/4 cup Pasta Water*

1 tbsp dried Italian Herbs

1/2 cup canned Mushroom Soup mix

1 tsp grated Parmesan Cheese

1 tsp dried Oregano leaves

1) Bring a pot of liberally salt-&-peppered water to a boil and cook the linguine to al dente. Drain it and add a dollop of butter and toss it about to coat each strand.

Here are a few simple good-to-know tips about boiling pasta:

Bring the water to a rolling boil before sliding in the linguine. Putting it in while the water is still cold results in al dente cooked pasta on the outer layer, whereas the centre of the pasta is solid white. By the time you wait for the whole string to cook, the outer layer would have already been mush.

For string pastas, hold the bunch in the middle of your pot before letting them all disperse into the water. This ensures that it does not clump. If it does clump, just use a fork and swirl about in the water. Easy peasy!

Salting the water liberally adds taste to the otherwise bland linguine. Also, after draining your al dente pasta, keep aside about a cup or less of the pasta water* to thin your sauce. There’s really no magic in it; it had been claimed to thicken or add flavour to your sauce of choice but plainly put, it’s just handy to have rather than fetching a cup from your kettle.

2) In a cup, mix the italian herbs, mushroom soup mix and parmesan cheese with pasta water. Once it thickens, tumble the prawns, garlic and onion in the concoction. You might want to substitute prawns with calamari rings or cubed chicken, or all of it if you’d like. It’s really a one-size-fits-all type of recipe!

3) Lay a tray with parchment paper (also known as baking sheet). Plonk your pile of linguine and top it off with the marinated prawns and dust some dried oregano over it. Now, wrap the dish in the parchment paper like a tootsie roll. The aim is to ensure that they get maximum coverage, without having the insides unglamorously spilling out in the oven.

4) Bake it in the oven at 220°C for 15-20 minutes. Take extra care while eagerly opening up the sheet and take a whiff of all that goodness! Like a steam facial, only better. What cooking in the oven under wraps actually does is, it creates a sauna-like environment; you could say you have steamed’ your pasta dish, melted the onions and garlic down, whilst having all the wonderful flavours absorbed fully into the linguine. It works the same if you’d like to experiment with marinara sauce and with other pasta types.

5) Give it a little toss, and serve it hot. Quick, easy, and yet oddly satisfying!


This one’s perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons, or you could bookmark it as an iftar menu in the month of Ramadhan. Just pop it in the oven say, about 30 minutes before azan and voila, ready for chow down!

This post was written for Muzlimbuzz (Travel&Food):

Ramadan Recipe: Parchment-baked Linguine 

Muzlimbuzz is an e-magazine that caters to the modern, active, socially-engaged and spiritual Muslim. We aim to document and articulate the Muslim experience, particularly of those in Singapore and in the region.Apart from News and opinion pieces, we have daily columns that cover a wide array of topics from Health to Marriage, Spirituality to Technology, Travel & Photo Essays. In a nutshell, there’s bound to be something that would interest you here at Muzlimbuzz.

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Filed under Dinner, Iftar Recipe, Lunch, Muzlimbuzz, Recipes, Tips

Familiar Flavour

As a child, my brother and I frequented our granny’s place when both our parents headed off to their 9-to-5. Lunch & dinner were usually prepared lovingly by her and she never failed to note our favourites, cook them and watch us both lap up our plates with glee.

Apart from the simple but satisfying combination of rice-butter-sunny-side up-&-dark-soy-sauce (Still my ultimate fave!), I fondly remember her preparing Ayam Korma’ at least twice a week, because it was a familiar flavour that topped my favourites list. I was already a foodie back when I was 7 lol!

Now, each time I prepare this dish, my mind forms a vivid recollection of her feeding me amid my rambling about events in school. Oh alright, sentimental memories and granny stories aside; here are the ingredients you’ll need for Ayam Korma’ as prepared by the wise ole lady herself – I have em all at my fingertips cos it’s a household staple!

For Spices mix:

3 tsp Coriander Seeds

1 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds

1 tsp White Peppercorn

1/2 Nutmeg

1 tbsp Korma’ spice powder

4 cloves Garlic (blend)

2 large Red Onions (blend)

2 stalks Lemongrass

1 inch Galangal

2 Kaffir Lime Leaves

1 Whole Chicken

1 cup (or less) Coconut Milk

For Garnish:

Coriander Leaves

Fried Shallots

Toast the 4 spices in a pan over a medium heat, to intensify the aroma. Roll them around so they don’t get burnt.

Here are some quick tips on dried spices:

When you’re cooking with spices like cumin, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and the likes, get the right proportions. Under-adding spices will result in a less aromatic dish, yet over-adding spices will overpower other ingredients and may even cause the dish to be bitter! Yikes!

Toasting spices helps to release their aroma. It is however, important to not burn it. Burning your spices too will result in a bitter dish, so do keep it under close watch.

In a mortar, grind the toasted spices with Korma’ spice powder. Once it’s well-grounded, mix it to the blended garlic cloves and onions. This fragrant mix is the foundation of the Ayam Korma’. Now, give yourself a pat on the back! =)

In a large pot, heat the oil before sautéeing the mixture. Pound the lemongrass stalks and galangal, and toss them into the pot. Remember the tip I mentioned in the Mee Bandung recipe? Ensure that you see the oil seeping through the spices, or “naik bau/terbit minyak” before proceeding to the next step. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, your chicken is ready to dive right in! Rip the lime leaves and add it to the pot while you’re at it.

Here’s a useful rule that I abide by:

Avoid adding water when you add meat to sautéed spices. This will ensure that the meat will retain all the lovely flavours of your spice mix. Meat, especially beef and chicken, will release their juices into the spices as they cook, and forms the gravy. You’ll get tender meat and gravy that’s bursting with flavour and aroma, I promise!

Pour in half a cup of coconut milk, stir, cover the pot and let it simmer for 2 minutes. Intermittently add the rest of your coconut milk later. Give it a few minutes to simmer a little more. Once your poultry is cooked, sprinkle coriander leaves and fried shallots; cover the pot, get it off the fire and let it rest.

Serve with piping hot white rice, or if you can’t live a day without bread, why not? This is a great dish to serve during Aidilfitri too, alongside ketupat or lontong (traditional Malay rice cakes).

I wouldn’t say it’s a quick & easy recipe – let’s just say, you just have to constantly remind yourself that cooking is a labour of love (speaking from experience!). If you have a soft spot for familiar Malay home-cooked flavours, you’d know that Ayam Korma’ is undeniably good.

You’d also know that this recipe is definitely worth a try or two, yes?

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Amirah’s for all Occasions

Middle Eastern cuisine has set a strong foothold here in Singapore. And needless to say, restaurant owners are taking good advantage of this by setting up theirs at locations beyond Arab Street. Albeit, the calmness of Medina-like Arab Street still captures the true essence of dining amidst the aroma of rich spices & puffs of flavoured sheesha.

Amirah’s Grill at Bussorah Street remains a staple go-to for me.

The restaurant interior is heavily-decorated with all things authentically Arab – beautiful embroidered surahs in bright gold on a black velvet canvas, tinted glass lamps, capped swords, camel figurines and intricately woven carpets hung on walls.

Though the restaurant doesn’t exactly boast gold and porcelain sophistication like others do, their top-notch Middle Eastern-Western fusion platters just quite cuts it for me. After all, I am paying for the latter, no?

Food is justly-priced, given the portions are fit for a king. Here’s an example – For $30, you get a delectable meal that is scrumptious all through; from appetizer right up to dessert:

A plate of yummy-to-the-last-swipe hummus with warm pita bread

Chicken or mushroom soup with garlic bread

A main course platter of your choice

Hot/cold drink and Dessert

Enough with the narratives, let’s get on with the feast (for the eyes), shall we?

Hummus with Warm Pita Bread

Remember that hummus I just talked about – it is as good as hummus gets.

Smooth, mild nutty notes, fragrant olive oil and slight tanginess of lemon; warm pita makes the perfect spoon!

Soups (Chicken or Mushroom) with Garlic Bread

The soups are decent-tasting and it definitely whets your appetite for the monstrosity of a plate that comes right after.

After umpteen visits to Amirah’s Grill, these 2 main courses keep appearing in my order list. Mysterious.

1) Turkish Mixed Tenderloin Kebab

Nothing screams Mediterranean more than Kebabs. Quite frankly, this one’s for the fickle-minded who can’t decide the irresistible chicken, lamb and beef selections in the menu. Expect a mixed plate of grilled skewers of boneless chicken, grilled beef tenderloin & pieces of kofta drenched in savoury spiced sauce (read: quadruple YUM); accompanied with choice of Arabic fragrant rice or roasted potatoes.

2) Grilled Lamb Chops

If you’re a die-hard lamb fan, please don’t give this a miss. Please. The fragrant blend of spices that go into this platter does justice to the tender cuts of lamb. The well-marinated fresh lamb is soft and juicy to the bite; is cooked to absolute perfection. Based on experience, I’ve never had the lamb chops reek of any unpleasant mutton odour. Just yummy, juicy, tender chops, dipped in aromatic sauce so good, you’d request for a ladle more!

Drinks & Dessert

When you’re done lapping up your main course, down it with a glass of fresh Alexandria Mango Juice, salty or sweet Labaan, or you may even opt for teapot of hot Morroccan Mint Tea. Refreshing!

And be sure to reserve some space for dessert. You could have a scoop of good ole ice cream or the creme caramel, that is a real treat for a sweet tooth!

All in all, Amirah’s Grill is definitely a great dine-in choice for any occasion – be it bridal showers, boys night out, weekend family lunch or for birthday celebration with your loved ones.

This post was written for Muzlimbuzz (Travel&Food):

Amirah’s for all Occasions 

Muzlimbuzz is an e-magazine that caters to the modern, active, socially-engaged and spiritual Muslim. We aim to document and articulate the Muslim experience, particularly of those in Singapore and in the region. Apart from News and opinion pieces, we have daily columns that cover a wide array of topics from Health to Marriage, Spirituality to Technology, Travel & Photo Essays. In a nutshell, there’s bound to be something that would interest you here at Muzlimbuzz.

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Filed under Desserts, Dinner, Favourites, Lunch, Muzlimbuzz

Sides at Swensen’s

I particularly recall fond childhood memories at the former Swensen’s branch at Changi Airport Terminal 2. Yes, the one with the indoor playground at their doorstep. Parents seated at dinner tables, with their heads outstretched occasionally to look out for their kids monkeying around at the play area. Swensen’s was the chosen venue for when parents get a fatter paycheck or strictly for birthdays only because it had Fish & Chips and Banana Split – which were the luxuries then.

Swensen’s today is a far cry from being a mere Fish & Chips and Banana Split restaurant. Being a synonymous household name means they’re constantly expanding their already wide array of Western, Asian and Dessert selections to suit our expanding appetite. You get seriously spoilt for choice when you’re seated holding up the 14-odd paged menu; focusing mainly on the Main Course and Sundaes & Sweet Treats pages. Probably needs about an hour to browse from cover to cover.

You’d think to yourself – hmm now, that Breaded Chicken Meuniere is definitely a must-have and mmmm, wash it down with a generous serving of Frosted Chocolate Malt.

And as you flip the menu to look at other food selections, Mr Waiter comes by with a warm smile and utters an amicable ”Hi Sir, may I take your order now?” Your order gets noted, it gets transmitted to the kitchen and… that’s when you start flipping to look at the sides.

And by then, you’ll think you’d be too full to add on the side orders. Swensen’s sides are severely under-rated, honest! Here are the 4 M’s in that page of 12 sides that never fail to make it into my order list:

Meatballs in Black Pepper Sauce

The dish is pretty self explanatory – succulent chicken with beef meatballs basking in richly seasoned black pepper sauce with a good dollop of kid-friendly mash.

Dare you say no to meatballs?

Deep-fried Mushrooms

I had tried incessantly to recreate this delish pop-it-in-your-mouths, but they’ll never turn out just like Swensen’s. Hot and tender shiitake mushroom in a light crisp coating of batter, dipped in trusty ole tartar sauce. The initial audible crunch of batter, a whiff of earthy mushroom aroma; and as you sink your teeth in further, feel the velvety texture of the shiitake, rolling around your mouth with tangy hints of sour tartar.


Mmm! Definitely a winner, this one!

Mozarella Cheese Sticks

There is nothing more sinfully gratifying than stringing warm mozarella cheese.
And when you break into these fried crisp mozarella cheese sticks, you get just that – warm ooze of pale yellow goodness!

*Gasps* Bet your jaw just dropped and your salivary glands just went on overdrive, right there.

Baked Mussels

Still on the topic of cheese, though this time baked – are piping hot green mussels under a veneer of cheese and cream and all things magical. The shield of cheese steams mussel on the inside so you get to savour the enticing mix of salty cheese and sweetness from the tender mussel. Use a fork to nudge the base of the shell to loosen the cheesy crusts and slowly slide the whole mollusc into your mouth.

Your tastebuds would flip in excitement, I promise!

4 M’s – Meatballs, Mushroom, Mozarella and Mussels that are definite Must-haves in your next Swensen’s order! Be sure to make some space in your tummy for it!

This post was written for Muzlimbuzz (Travel&Food):

Sides at Swensen’s 

Muzlimbuzz is an e-magazine that caters to the modern, active, socially-engaged and spiritual Muslim. We aim to document and articulate the Muslim experience, particularly of those in Singapore and in the region. Apart from News and opinion pieces, we have daily columns that cover a wide array of topics from Health to Marriage, Spirituality to Technology, Travel & Photo Essays. In a nutshell, there’s bound to be something that would interest you here at Muzlimbuzz.

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Filed under Dinner, Favourites, Lunch, Muzlimbuzz, Snacks, Teatime

Back to Basics

So here’s lunch today; Pucuk Ubi masak Lemak Cili Padi – one of many granny’s kampung recipes. It loosely translates to Tapioca Leaves in Spicy Coconut Milk Gravy.

Used to detest making this dish, because the first time I bagged a bunch of tapioca leaves from the market, there were one too many little wriggly worms! Argh! They were a nightmare to clean, had to slap the bunch of leaves a couple of times and soak them in salt & water to get rid of them all!

I know I shouldn’t be putting you off, so let’s forget I said all that ok? Hehe. But you should know that cooking and market-ing is not always as pretty as when it’s on the serving plate, right!

Hope it didn’t scare you off cooking!

Anyhoo, this traditional dish tastes sooooooo good with piping hot rice and fried fish, accompanied with freshly-concocted sambal belacan.

It’s in the simplest basics sometimes.

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Couch Potato

Last Saturday, hopes of what would’ve been a great afternoon at Botanical Gardens with my mister having a great time with the swans, got dashed by the what’s-new weather. Rained like craaaaaazy so we had to activate Plan B: Sit home, enjoy each other’s company and do what we do best –

Eat and Laze around.

We’re really cats in human clothing, hehe!

I’d like to share with you this Baked Potato Pieor so my mister named it – recipe that was adapted from one contributed by a lovely lady friend of mine – Kalsom Arip (I call her Kak Som) to Manja’s June issue. I’ve had the privilege of trying it at her cosy place and I absolutely loved it!

Perfect for rainy afternoons, I say.

Grab the issue for the original recipe (and many other potato recipes) because I tweaked the recipe a little; added a bit of this, did without a bit of that.

What I love about recipes like this one is, you can prepare it ahead of time, leave it in the tray and bake it about an hour before guests arrive. Definitely one to note for the coming festive season or for friends coming over.

For potatoes:

4 Large Potatoes

Salt & Pepper

For filling:

1/2 sliced Yellow Onion (horizontally)

3 tbsp Mozarella Cheese

1 tbsp Butter

1 tsp Olive Oil

1/2 Chopped Yellow Onion

4 sliced Garlic Cloves (horizontally)

1 tsp grated Ginger

6 sliced Chicken Karaage

6 sliced Button Mushrooms

1/2 tsp Dried Oregano

1/2 tsp Black Pepper

For cream mixture:

180ml Cream

4 beaten Eggs

1 tsp Dried Chilli Flakes

2 tbsp Plain Flour

3 tbsp chopped Spring Onions

For topping:

1 cup Mozarella Cheese

1/2 cup toasted Bread Crumbs

Pepper & oregano

Drop your potatoes in a pot of water, sprinkle salt & pepper and bring it to a boil till potatoes are tender. After potatoes are done (check with a knife, it should pierce through easily), slice them lengthwise. At the same time, you might want to fry the chicken karaage to crisp golden brown perfection and slice into bite-sized morsels.

In a sautée pan, heat oil and butter before adding in onions and mushrooms. Once mushrooms are slightly done, throw in the rest of the ingredients – garlic, ginger, chicken, dash of oregano and black pepper. Set the savoury filling aside.

Have all your ingredients for cream mixture in a bowl – cream, eggs, flour, chilli flakes and spring onions – and beat lightly with a fork. Also, mix cheese, bread crumbs with pepper and oregano.

Now, time to layer it!

If you’ve done lasagne before, this should be easy peasy.

Grease a tray of 20 by 20cm with butter and line the sides with a dash of bread crumbs.

Layer it in this order (bottom to top): potatoes, onion, savoury filling, cheese, cream mixture, repeat this order once more but final layer has to be potatoes and cream mixture. Cover the tray with foil and bake in a 180°C oven for 40 minutes.

Open up the foil and take a whiff of all that goodness! 

Like a steam facial, only better.

And sprinkle your cheese topping mixture and pop it back into the oven for another 15 minutes. I thought to myself, boy do these oven makers know just how to tease! Looking at the cheese slowly melt and start to form a perfect golden crust, through the translucent glass panel of the oven door, is just so painful to look at, omg! *clenches chest*

Personally, I love getting a recipe right the first time! Who doesn’t? Erm, this is my first time baking this recipe, you know? God knows how many times i yelled “Yes! Yes! Yes!” in the kitchen, at the oven, at the dining table, after getting that first hot tasty mouthful! Hehe.

You could cover the tray up and present it as a gift to a friend or a new neighbour. Or bring it out to a picnic by the lake with your loved one.

Or! You could have it disappear right at home while watching TV.

Ahhh, comfort food. And of course, coupled with……………

Bring on the calories, baby!

But more than anything, I want to grow old and happy and fat with you! You know who you are. =)

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