Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Moujaddara - Rice with lentils

One of my friend who is originally from Israel, took us to Wallah, a middle-eastern restaurant in St Kilda. They have some interesting middle-eastern cuisine which I have never tried before, one which I like a lot is Moujaddarra (initially I had difficulty saying the name, but now it comes naturally). This dish has very nice texture (between fluffy rice and biting lentils) and it is so fragrant with the spices and caramelised onions. And it is absolutely nutritious.

The next day, I had a go at cooking the dish, and I am hooked.


1 cup of Brown lentils, rinsed
1 1/2 cups of Basmati Rice, rinsed
3 to 3 1/2 cups of Water
4 Onions, sliced
1/2 tsp Cumin powder
1/4 tsp Mixed Spices
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Serves 4

  • Put lentils in a deep pan, bring it to boil for a few seconds. Then lower the fire to simmer for 20 mins.
  • Add salt, pepper, cumin, mixed spices, rice, let it simmer (covered) for another 20 mins.
  • While the rice and lentils is cooking, heat the olive oil in a sauce pan. Fry the onions until caramelised (be careful not to burn the onions). Remove the onions using a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Add the oil that was used for the onions to the rice and lentils, stir gently in.
  • Scoop the rice and lentils out to a serving dish and garnish with the caramelised onions
Serve hot or cold with yoghurt.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Nasi Dagang with Tuna Fish Curry

I am always fascinated with the food and culture on the East coast states of Peninsular Malaysia, i.e. Kelantan and Trengganu. They are so different from the West coast which are very much influenced by the Indian, Indonesian , Chinese, Persian and Arab. The food and culture in Kelantan seem to be untouched through the passage of time and seem to have parallels with the Balinese.

My own theory is that they represent the traditional food that was once in this region before the huge influx of spice traders from India and the Middle East to this area. And during that time, there was a big change in the culture from a Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms (remember the enormous Borobudur and Angkor Wat structure) to the Persian influenced Islamic sultanate sometime in the fifteenth century. As Kelantan is quite remote from the influence from the Islamic sultanates, much of their culture remained from that time, similarly the Balinese (former subject of the Hindu kingdom of Majapahit) kept their heritage when they are exiled to the island of Bali. You can see the roots of the culture from the characters from the 'Wayang Kulit', a traditional shadow puppet play which depicts the story from Hindu's Ramayana, which is still perform today in both Bali and Kelantan.

Sorry to be carried away with the history lesson, now this dish - the Nasi Dagang together with the Tuna Fish Curry is a traditional dish from Kelantan. Translated, 'Nasi Dagang' means 'trader's rice'. This dish is probably a street food as a quick meal. This combination of the rice with the curry is one of my favourite.

I have cooked on several occasions referencing on Amy Beh's recipe and have modified it slightly to reflect on the ingredients that we can get in Melbourne.

Nasi Dagang (the fragrant rice)

  • 300g Red Basmati Rice (or substitute with 200g good grade Long Grain rice mixed with 100g glutinous rice)
  • 165 ml Coconut Milk (Small Can of Coconut Milk to make 3/4 cup thick coconut milk and 3/4 cup thin coconut milk)
  • 1/4 tsp Fenugreek seeds
  • 2 cloves Garlic, sliced finely
  • 3 Shallots, sliced finely ( or sustitue with 1 red onion )
  • 2 cm young Ginger, sliced finely
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Wash the rice and soak for five hours. Drain and steam the rice for 20 to 25 minutes or until half-cooked.
  2. Stir in the thin coconut milk and continue steaming for 15 minutes until the rice is nearly cooked.
  3. Combine the thick coconut milk, shallots, garlic, ginger, fenugreek and salt. Stir into the cooked rice and continue steaming for another 10 to 15 minutes or until rice is fully cooked.
Serve rice with Tuna Fish Curry

Tuna Fish Curry (the curry)

  • 400g Smaller species of Tuna or Mackerel, e.g. Bonito, Spanish Mackerel
  • 2 eggplants, quartered
  • 2 pieces dried tamarind skin
  • 200 ml Coconut Milk (Half a Tin of Coconut Milk to make 1/4 cup thick coconut milk and 1 cup thin coconut milk)
Ground the spices below in a food processor to make the curry paste:
  • 6 shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cm piece galangal
  • 1 stalk lemon grass
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili paste
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar or Palm Sugar to taste (about 1 tsp)


Seal the fish
  1. Cut fish into 2 cm thick round slices.
  2. Season fish with salt and leave aside.
  3. Heat oil in a pan until hot, coat the fish with the flour and fry fish for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  4. Dish out and set aside.
Cook the curry
  1. Heat pan with 3 tbsp oil and saute combined ground spice ingredients until fragrant.
  2. Pour in thin coconut milk and add dried tamarind skin pieces and egg plants.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add in fish slices and thick coconut milk.
  5. Add in seasoning and boil for 3 to 4 minutes.
Serve with nasi dagang.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Traditional Ethiopian Coffee

Not many people are aware that coffee drinking is originated from East Africa. Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia. There is a myth or legend on how it came about -
"Once a upon a time, there was a goat herder in the mountains of Ethiopia who noticed that his goats have been extra active after eating the beans from a bush. He took the beans back to the priests and explain what had happened. The priest was not very impressed and threw the beans in a hearth fire. The beans produced a nice fragrant (like in an Italian cafe?). Having been attracted to the fragrance, the priest took the roasted beans and boiled it like a spice and voila he just made the first cup of coffee"

Eventually the use of the beans as beverages were introduced to Arab cities (Mecca?) and then it made it way to Baghdad and Venice. So if you want to be part of the coffee history, try coffee in the traditional Ethiopian way.

The video shows the ambient and the warm hospitality of Harambe, an Ethiopian restaurant in Footscray, Melbourne.  The owner of the restaurant, Mrs Dershaye is preparing and serving the coffee after our meal there. It was a fantastic relaxing Saturday afternoon ( Easter weekend) well spent.

Background music: Medo Hane, by Jump to Addis from the Ethiopiques Vol 15 Album: Europe meet Ethiopia.

Durian Gâteaux

The cake is made in a French style, i.e. sponge cake layers, frosting and filling. The cake is inspired by Elin's recipe , which is simple and easy to follow. It is always good not to mix the fruit pulp (of tropical fruits) into the cake mixture and bake it, the huge flavour of the fruits is usually lost in the baking process. This is confirm in my recent attempt in baking a passion fruit cake. So for this recipe (thanks to Elin) , the raw pulp retains 100% of its flavour. The strong flavour of the durian blended perfectly (in fact subdued to a 'classy' level) with rich cream and the sponge cake.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Old Raffles Place - Melbourne

I came to know this restaurant many years ago when it was first introduced by my cousin. This little joint is tucked in the corner of busy Johnston Street, which is more known as the Spanish quarter of Melbourne.

While waiting for my food, I approached the owner, Mr. Alan Han, to let him know that I would like to do a blog on his restaurant . His candid response was "Are you going to write something controversial about my place?"  He told me how upset he was with some 'bad review' in the internet about his food. This guy must be quite passionate of what he does to get too upset over it.

When we finished our meals, I complimented him for the authenticity of food served and how yummy they were, especially the 'Hainanese Chicken Rice' (photo above).  This cuisine is originated from the Hainan island in Southern China. Where the folks from this island, the Hainanese, migrated to the South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, they brought with them this traditional cuisine.

The Hainanese Chicken Rice served here one of the best you can get in Melbourne. Every detail is looked into, i.e. the chili sauce that accompanied it and the intricate flavour of the rice (cooked with chicken stock with seasonings, hint of ginger, stock from the boiled chicken) and most important the chicken is tender and 'slippery' in texture. For those who are not familiar with this cuisine, they usually complained that the chicken is not well cooked.

The other favourite of mine is the Char Keow Teow (stir fried flat rice noodles with prawns, bean sprouts and eggs). The menu items have interesting names though they are common dishes . Each item is prefixed with a place name in Singapore where you can find a best stall or hawker centre that serves that particular dish. For example, the Racecourse Char Keow Teow served is in the 'style' that is found in Racecourse (a place in Singapore). Other items are: Lorong Melayu Nasi Goreng, Katong Chicken Laksa.

I have never asked Alan where he is originated from, as I assumed he must have come from Singapore. The restaurant proclaimed that the food served are authentic "Singaporean heritage cuisine". All menu items are street food (or hawker food) that are common in Singapore and Malaysia.

The restaurant from outside looks like an typical Asian takeway with banners shouting for attention, but when you stepped inside, it has an interesting decor, reminiscent of 70's with pink walls and photos of Singapore's colonial days. I quite like the ambient (have only dined here during the day).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pork Chops with Blueberry Sauce

This dish is based on a recipe from a popular Italian recipe cookbook, 'The Silver Spoon". I came across this recipe sometime back, and have always wanted to give it a try, however the price of fresh blueberries has been very prohibitive.

I decided to use imported frozen ones from Chile, South America which cost three times cheaper, which I wonder if the fresh berries will make a difference in the taste (will try it with fresh berries next round to compare.)

I served it with some mashed potato and a stalk of blanched brocollini.


4 pcs Spare-rib pork chops
Plain Flour, for dusting
25 g Butter
3 tblsp Olive Oil
175 ml Red wine
300 g Blueberries
100 g Clear honey
Salt for seasonings


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.
  2. Dust the chops with flour.
  3. Heat the butter and oil in a small flameproof casserole, add the chops and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over.
  4. Pour in the wine and cook until it has partly evaporated, then season with salt.
  5. Pass the blueberries through a food processor and mix with the honey in a bowl. Spread the mixture over the chops, then cover the casserole, transfer to the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then serve.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Appam & Putumayam - South Indian traditional dishes

This scene could have been in Chennai or Colombo. Well no, this is at The Palms food court at Blackburn Road. The hoppers or appam is a pancake made from fermented rice flour batter. These pancake are quite bland and usually have to be accompanied with sambal, a thick chilli based sauce served as condiments and a small side dish curry of your choice.

The appam is served with a choice of two types of sambal, from the three that are offered, i.e. Pol sambal - which is a grated coconut mixed with ginger and lime juice and some garlic, Katta - a sambal made from dried Maldive fish flake with chilli paste, shallot and salt, or Seeni sambal- a spicy caramelized onions and dried Maldive fish flake condiment.

I had this 'Special Hopper Deal' which includes three plain hoppers and one egg hopper with a Pol (yellow turmeric) and Seeni sambal, and a small serve of lamb curry.

You can also order a Jaggery hopper as a snack or dessert, which is simply the same appam pancake except that Jaggery, the palm sugar is added in. Instead I choose to have the Putumayam - a rice flour dough serve with brown palm sugar and grated coconut.

The appam and putumayam is very familiar to me, as I have lived with the large number of Tamils from South India in Malaysia. I practically grew up with these foods, and I considered myself lucky to be able to continue to enjoy these foods in Melbourne.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wickedly Delicious Patisserie

I am extremely cautious of restaurant with name already complimenting itself before you even step into it. In this case, my skepticism was unfounded, the food was truely 'wickedly delicious'. We stopped by this place for lunch on our way to pick some raspberry and strawberry. We were happy to have found a new place to stopover on our visit to the Dandenong Hills.

The Wickedly Delicious Pastisserie is owned by the talented pastry chef, Helena Panasweycz. Unfortunately we did not get to meet her, instead we met her mother who is helping out at the restaurant and the sous chef, Molly (picture on the left)

We had croissants, a caramelised onion and steak pie and a raspberry cake. The pie was amazing, with fillings that was so generous with big chunky steak pieces and thick gravy, and most important it was flavoursome.

The croissant was well made with the beautiful crust outside and soft centre, however it could have been better if we have come early when it was fresh out from the oven. The cake is made from hazelnut flour and with raspberry sauce dripped over it. The sauce was the highlight, and it did not dissappoint us.