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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Banana Cake

It's baking time!

Well actually, this banana cake featured here was done quite a while ago. And the photos have sat in my to-blog folder forever! So long it probably is about time to be baking this again, soon...

This, is a favorite of mine (oh and I have got so many other favorites! lol). My history with the banana cake started even before I actually started schooling really. An uncle of mine used to man and run a concession stand right in the middle of a huge golf course back in my hometown. That's where the golfers stopped to take a break from the game, stay off the sun (and sometimes rain) for a brief moment and have a drink and something light to munch on before moving on.

And kids being kids - with nothing more practical and productive to do most of the days - weekends especially, this golf course was where I used to spend a whole lot of my free time back then. My job description included helping around whenever and wherever help was needed (even that came optional) and being the boss during the brief minutes of my uncle/aunt/or cousin sisters' absence. But really, a bigger part - no, in fact most of the time spent was just me (sometimes with my brother) and my cousin sisters playing around in the nature - feeding the fish and turtles in the surrounding ponds and chasing the monitor lizards (yup, not even kidding here lol!).

All these came with this - which was the best part of all - that I could help myself to the endless food and beverages at the concession stand all day long! The banana cake was my big time top favorite! Bought freshly baked daily from a bakery shop in town, I would always remember the aroma of the bananas lingering around, noticeable even before you actually make an entry into the shop. And as of the last time I checked with my mom-in-law, the shop's standing strong to-date still. Which, just reminded me - I probably should make a stop for a slice of the banana cake there during my next trip back!

That marked the official start between me and the banana cake story. Over the years, I have had plenty other banana cakes everywhere. You get them everywhere in Malaysia, thanks to the great abundance of the bananas grown locally. Bakeries aside, they have been greatly manufactured and are actually sold in pre-packaged loaves (with long expiry), just like how the everyday breads are sold. In fact, that's where you can find the banana cakes - on the bread shelves! With such a vast selection in the market, there are easily the really not-so-good ones - essentially baked with a bunch of flour making up the volume and artificially flavored with some banana essence giving the taste, probably with a tinge of coloring to make it look all the more appealing too. And of course there are the real good ones - nothing artificial in their making - just like the one that made me fall in love with the banana cake at my very first try decades ago.

The sweet Pisang Mas (or the mini bananas) makes the best banana cakes - a fact made known to me by my mom. But the baby bananas are not something that we see much around in the market here. So I resorted to using the main and the most popular commercial variety sold here - the Cavendish (or better known as the Montel bananas in Malaysia). Left to ripen fully when it will have more brown spots than yellow, the banana is said to be at their height of sweetness bearing the strongest banana flavour, which then makes it all perfect for baking...

This recipe is one I adapted from Christine from Christine's Recipes in her post on the Banana Cake Recipe. And this marked my second attempt at this using the same recipe. This second time, I have made an adjustment calling for a slight reduction in the amount of sugar used and a reduction in the baking time as well. Those two, are of course subjected to personal preference and the performance level of different ovens. But this is one that I have got really happy with for now, so here's me penning this down as a reference to myself hereon, and to everyone else who may share the same interest in baking a homemade loaf of banana cake...

Just a final note here - if you noticed the darker layer at the bottom of the loaf of banana cake, to be honest I was a little concerned with that bit when I first sliced through the cake, thinking that I might have underbaked it. But nope, that part wasn't sticky, nor was it hard or having a texture any different from the rest. It tasted perfectly fine! So really, why a different tone? I honestly have not an idea. Anyone with any idea?

Anyhow, you should really try this for yourself - the cake's moist, so fragrant and soft it makes my man at home who is just an ok ok person with the banana cake fall for it even!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Crispy Curry Fried Chicken Wings 香脆咖喱粉炸鸡翼 Mom's Recipe #3

Picking up from where I last stopped in my Mom's Recipes collection, here's one of my big-time favorite - mom's fried chicken! This is one that I have fallen in love forever, probably as soon as I had started learning on how to nibble on chicken bones safely. A recipe that has survived through the decades of me growing up, it was the guaranteed center of attention in each and every birthday party that dad and mom had hosted for my brother and I when we were kiddos still.

A must-have on each of those occasions and a regular on other days a home, there is just nothing not to love about these wings.

Over the years, the recipe has been modified, detailed and perfected time and again. Mom has always been one who cooks by feel, so were all the changes that she would be making from time to time, all of which she obviously deemed as necessary (when I would have thought that it is already as perfect as it can get!). And as of the last time I checked with her just a couple of months back - this is her latest version of the recipe. A treasure now mine, it is now quickly becoming a favorite of ours here at home too.

A good accompaniment to go with rice, noodles or just a snack on its own, it makes a great dish to be presented on the dining table and even a greater candidate for a party food!

The making is relatively easy and yet the taste is never compromised. Deep frying done right with the right temperature and the right heat locks in the moist real well and marinating it well ahead of time - that's where all the flavors really do come from. So what you get in the end are pieces of fried chicken wings that are crunchy on the outside and perfectly juicy and flavorful on the inside.

And yes... they're finger lickin' good!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sambal Stuffed Mackerel 参巴塞 Kembung 鱼

Back! I'm back! It has been a really long while and a good break that sure was! One that left me yearning for more (and definitely so looking forward to another break anytime soon), coming home was just... a little difficult indeed. But truth be told, I'm back feeling like I am a better person, having learned that there is so much more installed in life and surely... all energized! It took me a while to get back to blogging and I do sincerely apologize for not being back on time. But now that both the hesitation and procrastination barriers have been broken through, this will hopefully set me back on track... fingers crossed! *wink*

Deciding on a starting point, I thought this would make a fair continuation to where I last stopped - the Laksam Kelantan. Not directly related in any ways, their similarity simply lies on the fact that they share a common ingredient in both their makings - the Indian mackerel fish (better known as the Ikan Kembung in Malaysia). I chanced upon the Indian mackerel fish not that long ago - probably just a couple of months back - but I was truly thrilled to have found it in one of the Vietnamese grocery stores around where we live. And that finding almost immediately sparked off plenty of ideas as to what I can now make and cook out of it - all of which are some specialties of Malaysian cuisine - mostly those that I am rather familiar with, others not so.

And I started off with the Laksam Kelantan in conjunction to the Malaysian Food Fest (MFF) Kelantan Month held by Gertrude from My Kitchen Snippets last month. This Sambal Stuffed Mackerel 参巴塞 Kembung 鱼 was one of my mom's specialities, my dad's all-time favorite despite the fact that he had always disliked fish (for their bones and the danger they pose! lol)! Yup, this was his one and only exception. But seriously, anyone who have tried this would have easily fallen for this too.

Nothing like the usual steamed of deep fried, this Sambal Stuffed Mackerel 参巴塞 Kembung 鱼 is just so delectable (and even that hardly justify how good they really are!). And obviously, it is the sambal that makes it all special - spicy, salty with a tad of sweetness and tanginess from the tamarind. Stuffed and then pan fried to give them a slightly charred look (and crispiness at some parts while the firm flesh within not at all jeopardized), they are seriously finger-licking good and best had with rice!

And just like how my dad had obviously decided back then - going bare hands and picking at the fish bones in this case was just worth it all!

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