When I was young, I thought that sus (or kue sus) is a local Indonesian dessert. They are sold everywhere and in fact, easier to buy from stores that sell traditional Indonesian sweets rather than the big bakery chains, no wonder the confusion right? Then, one day in college I got my hands on a copy of Joy of Cooking and lo and behold, I chanced upon choux pastry section and that was how I learned about sus being a non Indonesian sweets. I am no etymologist, but I bet the origin of sus is probably choux from choux pastry.
There are probably a million choux recipe out there, and you are free to stick to your favorite, but if you don’t have one, the recipe I have here is pretty good. Now, the more interesting part of this recipe is not the choux portion, but the pastry cream, which uses rice flour instead of the more common corn starch. I chanced upon this recipe from food52, and boy oh boy, the pastry cream indeed deserves all the rave reviews it gets.
Pineapple jam sticky rice flour bread rolls. I have plenty of pineapple jam leftover from making pineapple jam squares, so I turn them into fillings for this bread rolls that is slightly unusual than my regular ones because the addition of sticky rice flour (a.k.a. glutinous rice flour) to make it slightly chewier, but ultimately, still very delicious.
Homemade pineapple jam
Maybe because I grow up eating homemade nastar (Chinese pineapple tart), where the pineapple jam is heavily infused with cinnamon and cloves, I can never dig store-bought pineapple jam. It must be home made, or I would rather use other kind of jam, or filling for this bread. Whichever route you take, just make sure you have about 1 cup of jam for filling. And the jam needs to be chilled first, so they are not too runny.
Bread dough with sticky rice flour
This bread dough has sticky rice flour in it to give it a slightly chewier texture. I usually use the one from Erawan, but I guess other brands should work just as well. If you want to ditch the sticky rice flour, just substitute with the same amount of bread flour. In which case, the bread roll texture will be more like regular Asian bakery style bread. So don’t worry too much about it.
Egg wash and black sesame seeds
I like applying egg wash to my bread because the sheen once baked is just very attractive, and to me, they make the bread looks delicious. It is not a must, so if you are not used to applying egg wash to your bread, you can definitely skip it. Also, the black sesame seeds are purely for decoration. You can use slivered almonds if you wish, which I think is another great option.
Lemper ayam is an Indonesian snack consists of steamed glutinous rice filled with spiced chicken floss, and typically wrapped in banana leaves. I think of lemper as Indonesian version of onigiri, except of course we don’t eat the banana leaves, just the rice and the filling. And if I have to choose between the two, I will always choose lemper.
What is lemper ayam?
Lemper ayam is basically a steamed glutinous rice/sticky rice snack with chicken floss (or other savory) filling, and typically wrapped in banana leaves. As such, there are two components in any lemper making endeavor:
sticky rice/glutinous rice (Indonesian: beras ketan) The sticky rice component stays the same regardless of which filling you make, so once you master this recipe, you can go wild and experiment with other filling.
meat filling The most common filling for lemper is undoubtedly spiced chicken floss, and since Indonesian for chicken is ayam, we call this particular combo lemper ayam.
This lemper ayam recipe does call for a long list of ingredients, but it is actually very easy to cook the two parts that make up of a typical lemper:
Steam the sticky/glutinous rice with salt, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, daun salam, and pandan leaves.
Poach, shred, and fry the chicken (or other meat of your choice) with all the listed spices.
Once you are done preparing the sticky rice and the meat filling, the next step is assembling the lemper.
How to assemble lemper, the traditional way
The traditional way to assemble a lemper is by taking a handful of steamed sticky rice/glutinous rice, place some meat filling at the center, enclose the meat witht the rice, then wrap the whole thing in banana leaves. And repeat until all the steamed rice and/or meat filling is used up.
Sounds complicated and tedious? Well, let me tell you how I do it at home because it is so dead simple compared to the traditional way.
A much easier way to assemble lemper
Instead of all the complicated steps that I just mentioned, here is how I assemble my lemper, which I guarantee is exceedingly easy.
Next, spread half of the steamed sticky rice on the pan and press into an even layer.
Then, spread all the spiced chicken floss on top and press again into an even layer.
And finally, spread and press the remaining half of the sticky rice on top of the chicken layer.
Serving the lemper
When you want to serve the lemper, grab the saran plastic overhang to remove the rice/meat assembly from the pan. With an oiled knife (or better yet, a plastic knife), cut into serving sizes.
If you want big portions, then 2×4 (8 pieces) is the way to go. I usually cut it into 3×5 (15 pieces) since I think this size is closest to what I find in Indonesia. Or, if you prefer squares, you can do 3×3 (9 pieces) or 4×4 (16 pieces).
Whichever way you choose to cut, I think a pot of hot tea will go down nicely with lemper for tea time.
This simple dessert is not only popular in Indonesia, but also throughout most other Southeast Asian and East Asian countries. Like most Asian dessert, bubur ketan hitam also happens to be gluten-free and vegan friendly.
Almost any Asian grocery store should carry this, most likely in the rice section, and possibly just next to the white sticky rice (sometimes also known as sweet rice).
Since black glutinous rice takes quite a bit of time to cook, we usually soak it for at least 4 hours, preferrably overnight, to shorten the cooking time. I usually wash and rinse them before I go to bed and soak in cold water overnight, then cook the rice the following day.
I understand that sometimes it can be hard to procure weird ingredients, like pandan leaves. And although you may be tempted to skip it since we only use 2 leaves for the whole recipe, I highly suggest you hunt down said leaves for this recipe.
Sure black glutinous rice is very fragrant on its own, but pandan leaves is our version of vanilla, and your bubur ketan hitam will definitely be different if you don’t cook it with some pandan leaves.
In most Asian grocery stores that I have frequented over the years, and over many cities throughout United States, they are usually in the freezer alongside frozen banana leaves.
Coconut milk/coconut cream
Coconut milk and bubur ketan hitam just goes hand in hand. For those of us who grow up eating bubur ketan hitam for breakfast (and tea time, or even for supper), bubur ketan hitam is just not complete without a big dollop of thick coconut milk.
If you can find coconut cream instead of coconut milk, even better!
In my photos, I added toasted sesame seeds, and slices of toasted almond. These are not common, but I have to say, the sesame seeds and the almond slices give an extra nuttiness edge to the already nutty bubur ketan hitam. But if you have nuts allergy, definitely don’t add them.
As is, the basic combination of bubur ketan hitam plus coconut milk/cream is already super delicious.
One of the food that I miss most from Malaysia is clay pot chicken rice.
As its name implies, this rice is cooked in a clay pot and served hot straight from the stove. The smell is just incredible, and the rice at the bottom of the pot will form a burnt crust, which is pretty tasty actually.
Since I don’t own a clay pot, the best way to replicate this dish at home is to use a rice cooker.
The taste is really close, but the result is sans the crunchy burnt crust, not sure if it is a plus or a minus. I guess, one day in the future when the coating of my rice cooker pot is no longer perfect, I will end up with the said burnt crust anyway. ♥
How to prepare the chicken portion of the clay pot chicken rice
The first step is to prepare about 1 pound (450 gram) of bite size chicken meat. You can use either chicken thigh, or chicken breast, though I highly prefer chicken thigh since they are so much juicier.
As for the marinade, you will need oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and grated fresh ginger.
and finally, measure out salt, sugar, pepper, and sesame oil
Cooking the clay pot chicken rice with a rice cooker
Once all the prep work is done and the chicken has been marinated, it is time to start cooking.
1. Start on the stove top
Heat some oil in a wok/frying pan and fry garlic, ginger, shiitake mushroom, chicken (with all the marinating sauce), salt, sugar, and pepper. Once the chicken is no longer pink, add rice, mix well and turn off heat.
2. Finish in a rice cooker
Transfer everything from the wok/frying pan into a rice cooker pot, then add water and sesame oil, and mix well. Push the “cook rice” or “white rice” button and let the rice cooker cook the rice.
Once the light turns to “keep warm”, let it rest for another 15 minutes, then open the lid, add scallions, and fluff with a rice paddle/spatula.
The clay pot chicken rice, cooked in a rice cooker, is ready to be served. Enjoy!
Wajik is a traditional Indonesian snack/cake made with steamed glutinous (sticky) rice and further cooked in palm sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves.
The cooked rice is then spread and flatted in a baking tray. Once it cools to room temperature, we cut this into small pieces in the shape of a diamond (er, okay, a rhombus or a parallelogram to be geometrically precise).
Incidentally, in a card game, the diamond is translated as a wajik. So, you are not supposed to cut your wajik into squares. ♥
What you need to prepare wajik (Indonesian sticky rice in palm sugar and pandan leaves).
As far as Indonesian snack/dessert/cake recipe goes, wajik is one of the simplest one to prepare. You need only 4 ingredients:
All four ingredients are critical and should not be substituted with anything else. Well, if you must, you can use black sticky rice (black glutinous rice) instead of white sticky rice, but you absolutely need the other three ingredients and these three should not be substituted at all.
A steamer and how to properly steam sticky rice
To make wajik, you will need a steamer to steam the white sticky rice. You can use a bamboo steamer, a stainless steel steamer, or even the steamer basket that comes with your rice cooker if it is large enough to hold the rice. Regardless of choice, here are my tips for successfully steaming sticky rice:
Make sure there is enough water in the bottom pot for around one hour of steaming. I would suggest about 2″ of water in the bottom pot.
Make sure that the water is already boiling and there are plenty of steam visible before steaming the sticky rice.
Just to be safe, line your steamer basket with either a clean kitchen towel, or a parchment paper riddled with tiny holes (smaller than the size of sticky rice) before you add the sticky rice. You don’t want the sticky rice to all end up falling down into the bottom pot instead of staying in the steamer basket.
Make sure to steam the sticky rice until al dente (soft and tender to bite). I cannot stress this point enough. Since I cannot be sure that we all have the same temperature on our stoves and depending on the size of your steamer (and hence the depth of the rice), steaming time will vary. To test for doneness, grab a tiny spoon of steamed rice and eat it. If you like the texture, then that’s when you should stop steaming. Just for reference, on my 8″ stainless steel steamer pot, I need 1 hour of steaming over medium high heat.
How to serve wajik
Like I mention earlier, wajik means diamond, as in the diamond suit in a pack of cards. The cake gets its name from this particular shape, so be sure to cut them into diamonds instead of squares or rectangles.
Wajik is always served at room temperature, so although you can refrigerate any leftovers, be sure to take them out from the fridge and only serve them once they have return to room temperature.
There are two really classic Chinese sticky rice dish, one is bak cang (粽子), and the other one is lo mai gai (糯米鸡). The first one is wrapped in bamboo leaves and served during dragon boat festival, while the later is wrapped in lotus leaves and commonly found in dim sum.
I love both versions, and I especially love my Mom’s bak cang which she makes annually (I know, I know, I am so spoiled when it comes to good food ♥). Since I am no expert in wrapping a cang, I just make this super simple version when a craving for one hits me.
Purists are probably gonna hate me for tempering with their bak cang or lo mai gai, not to mention I dare to use a rice cooker too! But, I will take all the hatred hurled at me as long as I can have my bak cang/lo mai gai fix whenever I want one. 😛
The ingredients needed to prepare no mi fan – Chinese savory sticky rice
Just like regular bak cang, you can make a super fancy no mi fan, or make a really simple one. For this recipe, I only use these three ingredients, which to me is perfect for non special occasions:
If you need something fancier, you can add the followings too:
salted egg yolks
soaked dried shrimps
chicken meat/pork meat cut to bite size pieces
So feel free to pick and choose what you want to add to your no mi fan, and if you have some favorite ingredients that I miss out, do share them with me in the comment. 🙂
Dried shiitake mushrooms and the shiitake stock (a.k.a. shiitake soaking water)
Lately, fresh shiitakes have been getting more and more common, and I think they are perfect for a quick stir fry job with some Chinese greens. But for no mi fan (or bak cang/lo mai gai), please stick to using dried shiitake mushrooms.
Also, be sure to soak them in plenty of water (for this recipe, about 2 to 2.5 cups of water) to rehydrate.
Hopefully, once the shiitake mushrooms are back to their fluffy state, you are left with about 2 cups of natural shiitake stock. Using this shiitake stock to cook the no mi fan gives a much flavorful result than simply using water or chicken stock, so please don’t throw the soaking water away.
The ingredients for no mi fan sauce, and my note on Shaoxing wine
The last important part to prepare no mi fan is the sauce. And for that, you will need the following ingredients:
Shaoxing wine (if possible, choose the one with 0% salt like Pagoda brand)
salt (only add salt if your Shaoxing wine has 0% salt)
A note on Shaoxing wine. If you are using good quality Shaoxing wine that has 0% salt, then use the salt in the recipe to prepare your no mi fan sauce. If you notice that your Shaoxing wine contains salt, then please don’t add any more salt to the sauce or the no mi fan may end up too salty.
Two step process to cook no mi fan, stove top and rice cooker
Once all the prep work is done, it is time to finally cook the no mi fan. Here is the two step cooking process:
1. Start on the stove top
Fry garlic, scallion (white parts only), Chinese sausage, shiitake, sticky rice, and no mi fan sauce in a wok/frying pan on the stove top.
2. Finish in a rice cooker
Then transfer the ingredients from the wok/frying pan into the rice cooker pot, add shiitake stock (a.k.a. shiitake soaking water) and let the rice cooker cook the rice with “cook rice” or “white rice” function.
Remember to wait 10 minutes once the rice cooker turns to “keep warm” function. Add scallion (green parts) and close the lid and wait another 10 minutes before fluffing and serving the no mi fan.
It must have been more than a decade since I last sink my teeth into a piece of 白糖糕 bai tang gao – steamed rice cake. Since both sets of my grandparents are Cantonese, I grew up eating tons of this soft and chewy cake.
It looks so simple, but believe me, getting that just right texture can be super tricky. Case in point, no one in my family ever attempts this cake and just buy some from the neighborhood shop when the craving hits.
Of course, living halfway across the globe means I have no access to the said trusty shop. But at last, I have managed to recreate this favorite childhood cake of mine 🙂
What you need to prepare bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake)
Turns out, you only need three ingredients to make a bai tang gao:
rice flour (Note: I always use the one from Erawan brand, if you use another brand, proceed at your own risk)
instant yeast, you can use active yeast too but instant is easier
How to prepare the batter for bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake)
I have a detailed step-by-step photo that I hope is sufficient to show the visuals of what you can expect the bai tang gao batter should look like.
First, mix 250 gram of rice flour with 150 ml room temperature water into clumps.
Boil 150 gram sugar with 370 ml water in a small saucepot. Once all the sugar dissolves, pour this to the clumpy rice flour mix from step 1. Whisk into a smooth batter.
Wait for the batter to cool until only warm to touch. If you want to be precise like me, you can use a thermometer and it should read 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). Also, you want to preheat the oven to 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) at this point.
Add the instant yeast to the batter and whisk to mix. Cover the mixing bowl with a saran wrap, then rest in the preheated oven. Immediately turn off the oven heat, and rest the batter for 40 minutes.
At the end of the resting time, you should see that the batter has many air bubbles, which indicates that the yeast is doing its job and we should be getting the desired cake texture. If you don’t see the air bubbles, your yeast is either dead or expired, and unfortunately, there is no point to continue cooking the cake since it will 100% fail.
Can I use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast?
If all you have in your pantry is active dry yeast, you can use that too. But we will need to modify some of our steps above.
Step 1: no change.
Step 2: instead of boiling 150 gram sugar with 370 ml water, use only 150 gram water with 350 ml water.
Step 3: no change.
Step 4: mix 20 ml warm water (38 Celsius/100 Fahrenheit) with the active dry yeast and wait until foamy (usually about 5-10 minutes). Then add to the warm batter (not hot! preferably the batter is also 38 Celsius/100 Fahrenheit), and mix. The rest of the step is the same.
Same as the case with using instant yeast, your batter should have many air bubbles at the end of the resting period. From my own experience, when I use active dry yeast if at step 4 I don’t see any foam after 5-10 minutes from the time I mix the yeast with warm water, it is 100% guaranteed that my yeast has already expired and is completely useless.
Prepping the cake pan
Once your batter has finish resting and has produced many tiny air bubbles, let’s prep our cake pan. I use an 8″x2″ round cake pan.
For a successful bai tang gao, you need to pour the batter into a hot pan, so be sure to preheat the pan. It doesn’t need to be scalding hot, but definitely hot enough so it won’t be comfortable to grab it with bare hands.
Brush the hot pan with oil, give the cake batter a final stir so everything is well mixed, then pour the cake batter, and steam.
Steamer pot and tips for a successful steamed rice cake
I hope you do realize before this step that you need a steamer to complete this recipe. After all, we are making a steamed cake, and it even says so in the title.
You can use any kind of steamer as long as it can fit an 8”x2” round cake pan. I prefer a stainless steel steamer for hygiene reasons. But you can use a bamboo steamer too, and you are more likely to get a better result with a bamboo steamer.
Create a makeshift steamer
There is no need to rush out and buy a steamer if you currently don’t have one at home. Instead, you can use this guide from Food52 to create a makeshift steamer.
Fill a large pot with about half an inch of boiling water. Use aluminum foil to make three balls of roughly equal size. Once we are ready to steam, rest the cake pan on top of the foil balls. Cover the pot and steam the cake. Of course, you need to make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate the aluminum foil balls and the cake pan.
Make sure to prevent water droplets fall onto the cake surface
Please make sure that there are no water droplets drop onto the surface of the cake. The steam that rises during the steaming process can condense and turn into water droplets that may fall onto the cake surface. If this happens, your cake may turn sticky and pudding-like instead of light and fluffy.
If you steam with a bamboo steamer and a bamboo cover, you shouldn’t encounter this problem. If your cover is made from metal or glass, please wrap with a piece of kitchen cloth so the cloth will trap the steam and prevent any water droplets from falling onto the cake surface.
And that’s all the tips that I have to prepare a successful bai tang gao (Chinese steamed cake). Enjoy!
Kwetiau goreng is Chinese stir-fried flat rice noodles. We know it as kwetiau goreng in Indonesia, but the Malaysians/Singaporeans know this as char kway teow, and of course, this dish is known as 炒粿條 for the Chinese.
This dish has so many varieties, and the vegetarian version (known as kwetiau goreng putih/白炒粿條) is the simplest possible incarnation. Once you master the vegetarian version, you can handle any varieties of kwetiau goreng!
What you will need for a simple vegetarian kwetiau goreng / fried flat rice noodles
My vegetarian version of kwetiau goreng has the following ingredients:
flat rice noodles, choose the widest possible version
yu choy sum, or other Chinese greens such as bok choy or gai lan
mung bean sprouts
chives, if you can’t find this, increase the amount of scallions used
salt, sugar, and white pepper
Fresh vs. dried flat rice noodles
Some Asian grocery stores stock fresh flat rice noodles, and if you see that, I would highly recommend choosing fresh over the dried version. But, you can successfully make kwetiau goreng even with dried flat rice noodles, just be sure to choose the widest possible versions.
For fresh noodles, rinse with boiling water to separate the strands.
For dried noodles, soak the noodles in cold water for about 1 hour to soften.
In both cases, you will want to drain the noodles really well before using to prevent splattering of hot oil during the stir fry process.
How to cook a proper kwetiau goreng/char kway teow
The best tool to cook a proper kwetiau goreng, or any Chinese fried rice or fried noodles dish, is a wok and on high heat. Chinese have a term called “wok hei”, which translates to the breath of the wok.
Whenever we order fried rice/fried noodles from a restaurant, my parents would judge these dishes harshly if they don’t detect the elusive wok hei and just like that, they would never step back into said restaurant.
The story is a bit different for your average home cooks since most household range simply cannot crank up the heat as crazy hot as is required to produce wok hei. But, you still want to invest in a good wok if you want to step up your fried rice/fried noodles game.
The next little trick is speed, from the moment the first ingredients enter the wok to the finished dish, it shouldn’t take any more than 3 minutes! Really, the prep work will take so much longer in comparison to the cooking time.
Always double-check that you have all the ingredients lined up and in order so you can move from one ingredient to another without losing speed.
Line up all your ingredients, from nearest to farthest:
yu choy sum (or other Chinese greens) and salt
flat rice noodles, mung bean sprouts, and chives
scallions, soy sauce, sugar, and ground white pepper
Here’s the complete step-by-step:
Heat wok until hot and smoking on high heat. (Or medium-high if the smoke might trigger your fire alarm!)
Reduce heat to medium-high, then add oil, swirl around to coat the wok.
Add garlic, stir 30 seconds until garlic is golden brown.
Add yu choy sum and salt, stir 15 seconds to lightly wilt the greens.
Add flat rice noodles, mung bean sprouts, and chives, stir 1 minute.
Add scallions, soy sauce, sugar, and ground white pepper. Stir only to mix.
Remove from heat and immediately transfer to plates and serve!
It only sounds complicated, but I assure you, it is quite easy in practice. Please give this recipe a try, and I am sure you will be able to produce outstanding kwetiau goreng/char kway teow in no time at all. 🙂
Chicken in Chinese rice wine is a classic Chinese confinement dish that is super easy to make, as long as you can get a hold of the rice wine.
This recipe is passed down to me from my Mom, and hers specifically use two kinds of rice wine, the yellow rice wine (Chinese: huang jiu) and the white rice wine (Chinese: bai jiu) in a two to one ratio.
The requisite old ginger is there, but it also has angelica root, red dates, and goji berries. You just know it is going to taste great with a list of ingredients like that, right? ♥
What are the ingredients to cook chicken in Chinese rice wine?
1 whole free-range chicken (Indonesian: ayam kampung), or 6-8 chicken drumsticks, or 3-4 chicken leg quarters
1 tablespoon sesame oil
100 gram ginger, preferably old ginger, peeled (optional) and thinly sliced
15 gram red dates/jujube (红枣- hong zao)
10 gram Angelica roots (当归- dang gui)
10 gram goji berries (枸杞- gou qi)
400 ml Chinese yellow rice wine (黄酒- huang jiu)
200 ml Chinese white rice wine (白酒- bai jiu)
50 gram rock sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, omit if your rice wine has salt content in it
Some Chinese yellow rice wine to consider are 糯米酒 (nuo mi jiu), 紹興酒 (shao xing jiu), and 花雕酒 (hua diao jiu).
For Chinese white rice wine, I usually get a bottle of 米酒(mi jiu). I’ve even used Japanese sake instead of Chinese white rice wine and it works beautifully.
If possible, skip the cooking aisle and go to the alcoholic drink section in your Asian market. This should be where you can find all the different drinking wine such as Chinese Shao xing, Japanese sake, and Korean soju.
Any bottle you get from this aisle will be of higher quality than the ones from the cooking aisle. Plus, the drinking grade is almost certainly free of salt, so you can add as much salt as needed. Also, these wine are good for drinking too!
How to cook chicken in Chinese rice wine?
This is a really simple and straightforward dish. Here is my step-by-step:
Heat sesame oil in a pot on medium-high heat and fry ginger until fragrant. About 3 minutes.
Add chicken pieces and cook until no longer pink. About 2 minutes.
Add red dates, Angelica roots, goji berries, yellow rice wine, and white rice wine. Mix well, and bring to a boil.
Season with salt, then turn the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 1 hour.
Add rock sugar and cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off the heat and serve the chicken in immediately.
Traditional Chinese confinement dish
In many Chinese families, a lot of households will start making bottles of homemade rice wine whenever someone in the family is expecting a baby. Once the baby is born, the mother will start her 30 days of confinement period (坐月子- zuo yue zi).
During confinement, the mother is usually expected to stay indoors to recover, to have plenty of rest, and to learn how to take care of her baby. There is a focus on eating plenty of nourishing food too, especially food to recover and heal the body from delivering a baby, and also, food that increases breastmilk.
Most Chinese confinement food has high protein, also most will feature ginger, sesame oil, and rice wine, which is exactly what goes into this chicken in Chinese rice wine dish.
If you are indeed preparing this dish for a new mother, some people advise omitting salt and sugar, but I think it’s such a tiny amount anyway and should be quite fine, but do consult your physician. 🙂
Some other popular Chinese dishes for this period are sesame oil chicken, steamed Chinese herbal chicken, and chicken herbal soup.