Archive for the ‘appetiser’ Category

Why pay so much when you can make your own meang kam?

In appetiser, eastern, Thai on January 11, 2015 at 7:26 pm


Have you ever gone to a Thai restaurant and ate that leaf-wrapped thing? That appetiser is called meang kam and that leaf is daun kadok, a common wild plant that can be planted in your garden. You can find it at some wet markets – look for stalls that sell kampung vegetables – but nothing beats a ready supply from your garden.

The daun that grows in a pot in my condo garden.

The daun kadok that grows in a pot in my condo garden.

Even though I am familiar with meang kam which my mother used to sometimes make at home, my first encounter with the plant was during a nature walk in Langkawi. I asked the guide if I could uproot it and take it home to plant. Later on, I found the plant growing out from under the hoardings of a construction site near my home and uprooted some too. I have also spotted the leaves growing under some shrubs near the sheltered bus stop across the road from Bangsar Shopping Centre.

Keep your eyes peeled for this plant. When I served this at a gathering at my home recently, a few friends noted that they have seen this plant in their garden but did not know the leaves could be eaten. My mother also uses the daun kadok to line the bowl when steaming otak-otak.

I’ve also discovered that the taste of daun kadok goes well with burger patties and fried onions marinated in fish sauce or Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce – I use the daun kadok in place of lettuce and tomato when I make a burger at home. Other ways to use it is to cut into thin shreds and fry with canned sardines or add to fried rice.

For a few years there were just a few leaves but since last year my plant has really flourished, probably helped by the almost daily rainfall. It grows well in damp and shady areas. When I go on my long holidays, I would often return home to shriveled leaves. My daun kadok is planted in pots placed in the front yard of my condo. It would often creep away to seek water from the pond next to my yard. When it looks like it is about to go on an adventure of its own, I would bring it back and twirl it round and round in the pots.

Making meang kam is a matter of assembly. But first, you need to make the sauce. I got the recipe from my mother and it’s agak-agak, so I can’t give you exact measurements. Melt some dark brown sugar (not the light-coloured granulated brown sugar) with some tamarind water over a slow fire. Adjust between adding water or brown sugar until the sauce has the thick consistency of honey.

The five ingredients that go into the wrap are as follows:
Grated coconut – panfry
Lime – cut into little pieces
Ginger – cut into little pieces
Peanuts – panfry, remove skin
Dried prawns – give them a short soak in hot water to clean, then panfry


To assemble the meang kam, first put a dollop of sauce onto the leaf. Then put a little of the other ingredients. Wrap and eat. The good thing about having your own plant is you can go out and pluck them as needed, which I did numerous times when I made meang kam for my friends. Once you get the hang of making this simple appetiser, you’ll never want to pay a huge sum for just a few leaves that leaves you wanting more.

Hunting list: daun kadok

Shopping list: dark brown sugar, dried tamarind, dried prawns, peanuts, lime, ginger

Can I do it?: It’s easier than assembling IKEA furniture

Tip: As indicated, sauce first, then ingredients – this helps the ingredients ‘stick’ together.

Credit: Mummy


Spicy squid salad with cucumber and capers

In appetiser, Bill Granger, salad, seafood, vege on February 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm

spicy squid salad with cucumber and capers

If your idea of a salad is Caesar Salad, you need to expand your horizons. There is so much more to a salad than lettuce and tomatoes. If you’ve been cooking with Jamie Oliver, you would have been introduced to basil and rocket.

But today I’m writing about Bill Granger’s salad recipe. This one uses squid, and other than a quick cooking of the marinated squid (with olive oil, garlic and chilli) and the pickled capers, everything else is raw. It’s easy assembly. Just drizzle with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice seasoned with salt and pepper and you’re done.

Shopping list: squid, chilli, Lebanese cucumber (I used Japanese cucumber), yellow teardrop tomatoes (any small tomatoes will do, e.g. cherry tomatoes), celery stalks, celery leaves, basil, lemon, capers (you can find this in ‘expat’ mini markets like Hock Lee’s)

From the pantry: olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper

Hardware: salad spinner (to dry the washed basil to prevent a soggy salad)

Can I do it?: If you can handle a knife, you’re all set.

Credit: Every Day by Bill Granger.

Tip: The success of this recipe is in the squid. Watch the stove. Don’t overcook the squid or it’ll end up rubbery.


Fresh Spring Rolls

In appetiser, eastern, salad, vege, vietnamese on October 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm

When it comes to traditional food, I’d say, stick to the tradition! Why mess with a good thing?

When truffle mooncakes appeared at the office, everyone made a beeline for them. I too was curious. I took a bite and… I can’t even describe the taste. No one could. It was very strange and AWFUL. So bad you’d want to spit it out. Sometimes, simplicity is really the best policy. All this fusion thing for the sake of being different is not working.

Which is why I like Bobby Chinn’s take on the Vietnamese spring rolls. I’m not sure if this is the original traditional version, but I’ve tried a few (including one with mango – didn’t work) and this is the best so far.

There are lots of vege in this, and it is surprisingly filling. Great for a simple meal if you’ve been pigging out. If cows can survive on greens (and they have four stomaches), so can you.

It’s easy to make. Just a matter of assembly. Except for the rice vermicelli and prawns, everything else is raw.  I favour steaming the prawns over boiling to retain the nutrients. Be careful not to overcook or you’ll get a rubbery texture.

Shopping list: rice papers, rice vermicelli, lettuce, mint, coriander, chive; for the fish sauce dip: rice vinegar, sugar, bird’s-eye chilli, garlic, lime, fish sauce

Hardware: salad spinner and a very large plate to soak the rice papers flat (you can also use a cake pan or baking tray)

Can I do it?: Of course. Assembly is easier than putting together IKEA furniture. But you do need a delicate touch not to tear the soft rice paper.

Credit: Vietnamese Cooking by Bobby Chinn. Full recipe here.

Tip 1: For the leaves, buy just enough a day or two before you make the rolls. Leaves don’t keep well. Wrap in newspapers if you need to store them in the fridge. Don’t leave them in plastic wrappers as condensation will ruin them. Use a salad spinner to get rid of excess water after washing.

Tip 2: Consume immediately. If you need to prepare these beforehand, place a damp muslin cloth (kitchen rolls will do too) over them to keep the rice paper from hardening.


World’s Best Baked Onions

In appetiser, baking, Jamie Olver, vege on November 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I first saw this on The Naked Chef years ago and have wanted to try it ever since. Jamie always manages to make whatever he’s dishing out seem super delicious. And anything that’s wrapped in bacon is bound to make me salivate.

Onions are rarely eaten on their own, especially whole like this. Don’t worry. You’d need to boil them first for about 15 minutes, so the sharp taste would be gone by then.

How this works is you dig out the middle part of the onion, chop it up and fry with some rosemary and garlic. Then, add double cream and Parmesan.

Slice off the base of the whole onion (so it can stand), wrap the bacon around it and secure with toothpicks (or rosemary twigs). Finally, put in the cooked onion mix into the onion cavity, place on a roasting tray and bake in the oven – 200 degrees Celsius for about 25 minutes.

Shopping list: white onions, fresh rosemary (or dried), double cream, Parmesan cheese (grated) ginger, pancetta or smoked streaky bacon rashers

From the pantry: cooking oil, garlic, salt and pepper for seasoning

Hardware: grater (for the cheese), toothpicks, oven

Can I do it?: It’s Jamie’s, of course you can!

Credit: Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver

Spicy Mexican Snack Cups

In appetiser, salad on June 22, 2010 at 2:13 am

This is easily one of my top favourite experiments to date. I made this for a small gathering. It’s a great party food. It looks interesting and is easier to prepare than it looks. That’s because it’s a salad dressed up to entice.

I love vege, but am not entirely thrilled at eating salads. I don’t usually order them when I eat out, but I used to have them for my dinners because they’re healthy and easy to prepare. With this flirty presentation, I might just start having salads again. (Yes, even adults need some encouragement to finish their vege.)

The cups make all the difference. Tortillas baked in the oven to give them a little crisp. I might just try the same technique with chapati.

This recipe has also introduced me to a new ingredient – kidney beans. It adds a nice texture to the salad. You get the crisp from the tortilla, the zest from the lemon, freshness from the pepper, zing from the shallots, mush from the tomatoes, wake up call from the garlic and finally, the crumble from the beans.

Shopping list: tortillas (get it from the frozen section of the supermarket), canned black or red kidney beans, tomatoes, garlic, shallots or onion, chilli pepper (not sure what this is – I used red pepper, also known as capsicum), lime or lemon

From the pantry: olive oil, corn oil for brushing (I used olive oil), maple syrup (I used honey)

Optional: coriander for garnishing, grated lime or lemon rind

Hardware: oven, bun tray (I used a muffin tray)

Can I do it?: The salad part is easy – just mix everything. Gentle skills needed to shape the tortillas into cups as they break easily.

Tips: Bake the cups shortly before serving. You don’t want them to ‘masuk angin’. Same with spooning the salad mix into the cups. Too soon and you’ll end up with soggy cups. Lastly, keep an eye on the cups in the oven. Be careful that they don’t burn.

Credit: Cook’s Kitchen Handbook & 500 Basic Recipes

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