Thursday 22 November 2012

Go Bananas !! - Apom Balik (Gula Melaka Pancakes With Banana Caramel Sauce)

I have an enduring love affair with this pudding. It is truly scrumptious and highly addictive. Until now, it has always been a secret pleasure of mine. I would often make this in large batches and then devouring the whole lot, sauce and all, by myself , cocooned in my own little dunking heaven and scooping up the odd chunks of delightful bananas along the way.  The sticky and gooey pancakes, flavoured with the aromatic Gula Melaka or palm sugar along with the sweet and unctuous banana sauce that is made with fragrant coconut milk and once again, Gula Melaka, are just simply too good to resist.

Even though I have called this Apom Balik but in truth, this is not like the traditional version which are peanut filled pancakes also known as Mee Jian Kueh in Singapore. How this recipe came about was because there used to be this street food stall in our local Pasar Malam or night market in Ipoh where they would filled these spongey pancakes with slices of  banana drizzled with Gula Melaka syrup and were simply out of this world. Sensing our slight addition to these delicious treats, my nan toyed with the idea of turning that sweet banana fillings into a rich, dipping sauce and serve them with these amazing fragrant gula melaka pancakes of hers and lord and behold, it soon turned into a classic in our household. Since then, whenever she want to 'silence' us and have a bit of peace and quiet to herself, this ingenious pudding would make an appearance and with bribery as delicious and moreish as this, believe me, we were not complaining.

On my recent supperclub nights, this family classic made its debut entrance and it was very well received by the diners and the back of house team. Some even named this as their favourite dish of the night and there was a great deal of sauce drinking straight from the pot. The success of this dish did not surprised me at all as I have a great deal of faith in my nan's wonderful cooking and this just reinforce what I always knew deep in my heart - My nan is the greatest chef in the world!

Ingredients (makes about 25 pancakes)

350g gula melaka, grated
50g soft dark brown sugar
150ml coconut water
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
300ml coconut milk
1 large free-range egg, lightly beaten
Sunflower oil, for brushing the pan

For the banana caramel sauce:
600g gula melaka, grated
50g soft dark brown sugar
750ml coconut milk
6 pandan leaves, tied into knot
10-12 ripen bananas, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp rice flour, mixed with 2 tbsp water


To make the banana sauce, combined the gula melaka, brown sugar, coconut milk and pandan leaves into a saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. 

Add the sliced bananas, salt and rice flour mixture and simmer for another 8-10 minutes, until the bananas has soften. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Place the gula melaka, brown sugar and coconut water in a saucepan and heat gentle. Stir until the sugar has dissolved leaving a smooth syrup. Set aside and allow to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the coconut milk and egg.

Pour the now cooled sugar syrup into the flour mixture along the coconut and egg mixture. Whisk to a smooth batter consistency and set aside to rest for at least 20 minutes.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and brush with some sunflower oil. Add a ladle of the batter  (you need just enough batter to form a rough 8cm diameter pancakes) and cook for about 2 minutes, until tiny craters start forming on the surface. Remove from pan and fold over in half. Set aside and repeat until all the batter has been used up. 

Serve the pancakes with the warm banana caramel sauce and dunk away...

Monday 5 November 2012

Crawl Up! Crawl Up! Singapore Chilli Crab Is In Da House

Singapore Chilli Crab - one of the true classic seafood dish that has come represent the best of Singapore cuisine and quite rightly so. This saucy beauty of a dish make use of the freshness of the crab which is at it's sweetest and coat it with a hot and spicy gooey sauce that just enticed you into mopping it all up with the accompanying crusty bread or in some case, crispy fried mantou (yeast buns).

I remember those days when I used to savour this dish in the famous and long standing Long Beach seafood Restaurant in East Coast park, Singapore where all the live seafood would be exhibited in full view in the rows of fish tanks surrounding the restaurant. Obviously the crabs will be the main attractions of many who visits and I was one of them.

There are many variations to create this wonderful dish and this is one of mine. I like to dredge the crab in flour and then deep fried them first as I think it helps the sticky sauce to cling well onto crustaceans when cooked, all the more better as the sauce is what make this crab dish so incredibly irresistible.

For this dish, the crabs should always be bought live if at all possible though this I find is much easier if you pop down to a good fishmonger or Chinatown. The best variety to get is the Chinese freshwater crabs which have distinctive hairy claws and autumn is the best time to look out for these in most Chinese supermarket as this is when they are at their juiciest and finest.

Before cooking, the crab must be prepared. And this is the daunting bit for some so for the squeamish, perhaps tackle this with a pair of reliable extra-long tongs, as making this with those prepared and cooked crabs from supermarket is sacrilegious and is consider as a criminal offence in Singapore. (OK, so the latter was a complete fabrication but trust me, you will want live and kicking crabs for this)

In Singapore, the most common way to kill a crab is to insert a chopstick deep inside its mouth opening. But I tend to put it into a freezer first for about 20-25 minutes to induce it into a sweet gently coma before laying it on its back on a chopping board, lift up the flab from the underside belly and inserting a knife straight through the dent in one go. Next pry off the top shell. Remove the back and the spongey innards and dead men's fingers. Remove the claws from the main body and make a few cracks with the back of your knife (or in my case, the pestle). This will help with the cooking and eating later. Cut the remaining body into 2 pieces, leaving the leg attached. Wash and pat dry completely and now you are ready to cook up a perfect crab heaven, believe me, this is good!


2 large or 3 medium live crabs, prepared and cut into pieces as described above
sunflower oil for deep-frying
100g plain flour
1 large onion, cut into quarters
100ml tomato ketchup
40ml good quality shop-bought chilli sauce
1tbsp tamarind purée
550ml water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp corn flour, mixed with 3 tbsp water
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1 spring onion, cut into thin stops, for garnish
1 large red chilli, deseeded and cut into thin strips, for garnish
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the ginger spice paste:
6 large fresh red chillies
4 large dried chillies, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
8 shallots, skinned and chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2.5 cm length fresh ginger, skinned and finely chopped


Pound all the ingredients for the ginger spice paste in a mortar and pestle inot a smooth paste or alternatively, blitz in a food processor.

Heat some oil in a wok until very hot. Lightly coat the crab pieces in flour and deep-fry them for 2-3 minutes, few pieces at a time. Remove and drain on some kitchen paper. 

Pour away the frying oil. Clean and return the wok to the heat. Add 3 tablespoon of oil and heat over medium heat until smoking. Add the ginger spice paste and stir-fry for  3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the onions and cook for another  minutes before adding the crab pieces. Turn frequently to coat the crab in the aromatic spice paste. Add the ketchup, chilli sauce, tamarind, water, sugar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the crab are cooked through.

Add the corn flour mixture and stir to mix well, the sauce should starts to thicken. Slowly stir in the beaten eggs, give a final stir. Turn off the heat when the eggs start to set. You should have a thick, creamy, curdled sauce, fret not, this is how it is meant to be. 

Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with the spring onion and chilli and serve hot with lots of crusty baguette or in true Singapore style - fried mantou.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Fly My Pretties, Fly (Because Orange Bull Give You Wings) - The Orange Buffalo, Brick Lane

Wings are an addiction of mine, just like fried chicken. I have spent many-a-nights curbing my cravings with attempts to come up with a top notch recipe that will showcase these little meaty lollipops to their best effect. But the truth is, I love them in all their incarnations - see my late night spicy wings. Now when I got wind of a street vendor selling some bonafide New York Buffalo Wings, my inner wings radar dragged me all the way to Liverpool Street station and a moments later, I find myself being confronted by this alluring aroma, whiffing through the cold icy air.

So what are buffalo wings? It is believed to have originated from the Anchor Bar in New York in 1940 by the Bellisimo family. The chicken wings are first deep fried and then coated in a fiery sauce, served with celery baton and blue cheese dipping sauce. Now doesn't that sounds delicious and that was precisely what is on offer here at The Orange Buffalo.

For a mere £6, you get 8 pieces of free range wings (from Smithfield Market) deep-fried to order before your very eyes. These crispy batons are then drenched in the sauce of your choice. All the four sauces on offer are homemade with different intensity of 'hotness' ranging from the medium 'Original' to the wonderfully named hot 'Woof Woof', an ever hotter 'Pawl F' and the pièce de resistánce, super-hot 'Viper' featuring the scorching Naga chilli as one of it's killer ingredients. Being the chilli fiend as I am, I went for the half and half of the hottest two, Paul F and Viper. Nick (the vendor) even adorn the viper wings with a stick of the Orange Buffalo flag,  which made me felt a bit like Adam Rickman (of Man Vs Food) in one of his hot wings challenge here.

The wings were flavoursome and lean, with just enough meat to allow the sauce to be the equal star and not just an inferior side-kick. Paul F were slight sweet and fruity with a tinge of chilli kick which, although were good, will have to play second fiddler to the stinging Viper. It's punchy kick and tanginess paired well with the crunchy skin and tender meat of the wings, just hot enough to allow you to savour the brilliant combination without having to chug down pints of ice cold beer to ease the pain. The accompanying rich and creamy blue cheese dipping sauce help with cooling down the heat. Like most street food, these are messy business, so expect to be smother in gooey sauces and be prepared to lick your fingers. There were paper towels on the premises but why on earth would you let the sauce go to waste? It belongs in your mouth and not on some dead trees.

One of the most exciting find on the menu was the inclusion of curly fries. These springy, fusilli-like curly potatoes chips concoction were one of my childhood favourite and they did not disappoint. Crispy and topped with the mandatory American Chip Spice...Ah! It was good! So now I'm torn, will I be coming back for the wings or the curly fries. Well, either way, as Arnold once said..... I'll Be Back! (in a dodgy Austrian accent)

The Orange Buffalo on Urbanspoon


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