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A moment in life #31

>> Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blue spring

It is raining heavily in Sydney today when I wish to come out and do some shopping. Now, talking about bad timing!

An old photo from the archive. Hope you find a little sunshine from where you live!

! Have a great week ahead !


Blue & White Dot Roll Cake

>> Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blue and white dot roll cake

Once, when I was little, my mom took me to a drawing class. I know a lot of kids who are naturally gifted with drawing. Well, I was not one of them. Actually I was so horrible at it that drawing was one of the two subjects I scared the most during school (the other one is physics if you ask).

Still, I admire art, especially painting. My father used to have an art book which detailed the life and work of a famous artist called Levitan. I remember looking through the book, admiring all the beautiful and peaceful paintings. Later on, through my growing friendship with MP, my love for art increased. We spent a lot of time searching for art books by famous artists in the Old Quarter of Hanoi and shared our thoughts with each other.

The bottom line is I love colors. Sure I cannot draw but I find different ways to incorporate colors in my life! Baking is a way, although I haven’t been interested in cake decorating and food coloring that much.

Blue and white dot roll cake

Anyway, just for fun, I made some roll cake during the weekend. For some reasons, the two colors blue and white were playing in my head. Actually I was thinking of deep dark blue, but for food, a lighter shade would be better, yes? So there I was, in the kitchen, mixing all the colors together. It felt like fun. It was like being in a drawing class again, with colors to play with, but with all the ingredients I was familiar with. At least I could bake a pretty cake even if I still cannot draw!

I gotta tell you that the recipe for the roll cake is a keeper. I learnt it from a Viet blogger, who in turn, got it from her teacher. The recipe produced a moist and soft cake. It is so easy to roll (no cracking!) and not at all eggy like a lot of other recipes.

I love the end result. The cake looks cute and its appearance brings a smile to my face.

Blue and white dot roll cake

Blue & White Dot Roll Cake

Cake recipe adapted from here (in Vietnamese)

If you do not want to use food coloring, use normal chocolate choc chips instead to create the dot effects.


A – 3 egg yolks (room temperature), 25g sugar, 50g plain flour, 10g corn flour, 25g fresh milk, 25g corn oil, ¼ tsp baking powder, 1 tsp vanilla, tiny drop of coloring is using

B – 3 eggs white (room temperature), 35g sugar, ¼ tsp cream of tartar (optional. I did not use any), ¼ tsp salt

C – White chocolate chips (pls use these since normal chocolate will melt in the oven) – around 150g

Filling -100g thickened cream. Whipped until soft peak forms with 1-2 tbp of sugar and some orange blossom water.

Making dot roll cake


Preheat oven to 190C.

Line the swiss roll baking tray. Carefully arrange the chocolate chips in rows over the baking paper. Set aside.

Starting with mixture A: Sift the flours and baking powder together. Whish the egg yolks, sugar, milk and oil together. Add in the flour mixture and whisk well until combined. Add in a bit of food coloring now if desired.

Mixture B: Whisk the egg whites with cream of tartar, sugar and salt until soft peaks form.

Fold 1/3 of egg white mixture into mixture A to lighten up the batter. Add in the rest and fold everything together. Be careful not to destroy all the air bubbles.

Pour the mixture onto the baking tray. Bake in the oven for around 10 mins or until baked through.

Take the baking tray out of the oven. Cool for 10 mins then invert the cake onto another sheet of baking paper. Cool completely.

Prepare the filling. Use whatever you fancy!

Invert the cake again so that the chocolate side is facing down. Spread the filling onto the cake. Roll up from the shorter ends, using the baking paper as a guide. Wrap the baking paper over the cake. Chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours so the cake can maintain its shape.

Cut and serve.

Blue and white dot roll cake


Kids food – ABC pancakes

>> Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ABC pancakes

Do you remember the time in high school when life was so young and free? Back then, some of my friends said they did not want to marry early and maintain their independence. Strangely enough, time changes us. The girl T., who seemed to have the strongest idea and will of being an independent woman, actually married first among all the girls. And she is surely happy with her little daughter B., who is like an angel! Motherhood seems to be such a wonderful thing since I have seen my friends change so much for the better around their newborns…

It seems that with my friend T., her main concern right now is how to feed and ‘entertain’ her child properly. To help her and other mothers from afar, I made this ABC pancakes.

The inspiration is not from me really. I saw it on this website and thought it was cool. I had fun making it and sharing with the adults living with me. We all loved them. Ah.. There is a child in everyone of us ;).

ABC pancakes

ABC pancakes
Slightly adapted from here


200g self-raising flour
2 tbs maple syrup
310ml (1 1/4 cups) milk
1 egg, lightly whisked
Olive oil spray, to grease
Jam, to serve


Sift the flour, baking powderinto a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

Whisk together the milk, maple syrup and egg in a jug. Pour into the flour mixture and whisk until a smooth batter forms.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over low heat. Lightly spray with olive oil spray to grease. Spoon half the batter into a small plastic bag. Cut 1 corner off bag and pipe four 8cm letters into pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface. Turn and cook for a further 1 minute or until golden. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter, reheating pan between batches. Serve with jam.


~ Happiness is a jar full of home-made cookies ~

>> Friday, October 09, 2009

Happiness is a jar full of cookies...

I just love Peabody’s recent post titled “Life is like a bowl of cupcakes”? Sweet, isn’t it?

I read my fried MP’s latest blog entry and it brought a smile my face. Her whimsical, deeply romantic and beautifully written entry (in Vietnamese) reminds me of the sweetest things in life. It may sound cheesy but sometimes I forget to look around and get inspired by things around me.

At home I got some goodies to cheer me up with a cup of strong black Vietnamese coffee. I love to have some home-baked goodies around. My absolute favourite at the moment is white chocolate-pistachio combo. And do you know the ‘secret’ to the cookies? Condensed milk that is. It gives the cookies such a rich and creamy taste. Sure the cookies are not crunchy, but that is how I love it. If I want crunchy cookies, I will bake Anzac biscuits instead.

It feels like winter in Sydney at the moment (the wind, oh the wind. So strong and cold). But with these, I feel the comfort of being home. Tonight will be a night in for me after a few weeks of travelling, airport delay, and excessive eating out. There are a few episodes of silly but entertaining Korean drama to be watched. Life is good, really.

Home-made cookies

White chocolate and pistachio cookies

200 unsalted butter
1/4 cup castor sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/4 cup condensed milk
2 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup white chocolate, chopped
1 cup pistachio (the unsalted ones), chopped

Turn the oven to 190C.

Cream sugar and butter until pale and light. Add in the condensed milk and beat until creamy.

Sift flour into the butter and sugar mixture. Add in the chocolate, salt and chopped pistachio. Stir to combine.

Drop a tablespoon of the batter onto a lined baking sheet. Flatten the ball a little with your hand.

Bake for about 15’ until the cookies are golden. Take out and leave to cool on a rack.


Viet Cooking Session #1 – Tam Ki Chicken Rice

>> Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Vietnamese-style chicken rice

I am happy to announce a new section for this blog ~ Viet Cooking Session ~. Each month, I will make an effort to write detailed descriptions and cooking method of a particular Vietnamese dish. Some of them are traditional, and some will be my own interpretation of Vietnamese cuisine.

I hope this new feature will help you understand more about Vietnamese cuisine and may inspire to cook some healthy dishes at home ;).

~ The dish ~

The first dish of this new series is Tam Ki Chicken Rice. In western countries, the most famous form of chicken rice is Hainese-style. Little is known about an absolutely delicious variation from Quang Nam, Vietnam. The dish is very typical of Central-style Vietnamese cooking. The flavours are deeper, bolder and a lot spicier compared with the northern style that I grew up with.

The way to cook Tam Ki chicken rice is very similar to Hainese chicken rice. Start with the very best chicken, poach gently to get really juicy meat. The broth is then used to cook rice, two varieties, jasmine and sticky rice.

Then, comes the interesting part. The chicken, after being cooked, is coarsely shredded and mixed with herbs, lemon juice, sliced onions and chilli. The result is a beautifully balanced and refreshing flavour, which is very different from Chinese-style chicken rice. To accompany the dish is a variation of nuoc cham (Viet dipping sauce). The dipping sauce is smooth and thick, and fairly strong in flavours. Just think about the chicken flavour in harmony with that sweet-sour-spicy-salty note. So refreshing, and so Vietnamese!

~ Ingredients Notes ~

One of the most important ingredients for this recipe, I feel, is good fish sauce. Outside of Vietnam, I trust Viet Huong Three Crabs brand. It costs a bit more but totally worth the quality. Make sure to look carefully at the products since I have seen imitation brands out there. Substitute: other brands will do, but they tend to vary in flavours so tasting is important when cooking.

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Rice varieties: we use two varieties of rice in this recipe. Normal jasmine rice and sticky rice. Sticky rice is also called sweet rice or glutinous rice. Substitution: you can use 100% jasmine rice. Basmati rice will be a nice substitute although the texture will be different.

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Featuring herb: laksa leaves (also called Vietnamese mint, Vietnamese cilantro, Cambodian mint and hot mint). This herb has spicy note and really aromatic. Substitute: I feel a combination of cilantro (corriander) and spear mint may work.

Chillies: I have adjusted the chilli in this recipe by using the combo of bird eye chillies and long red chillies. The result is a mildly spicy dish. Feel free to adjust this ratio for hotter or less spicy outcome.

The chicken: free-range and organic. In short, the best you can find. In Vietnam, the local free-range chicken is used and this type of chicken is very flavoursome.

~ Equipment note ~

Large saucepan to cook the chicken.

Rice cooker is your friend. If not, use the stove top method.

Mortal and pestle

~ Ingredients ~

For 5-6 serving

2 cup jasmine rice
1/4 cup sticky rice

1 chicken, around 1.5kg
1-2 spring onion, clean
1 thumb-size piece of ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

5 cloves garlic
4 bird eye chillies
2 long red chillies

1 brown onions
2 handfuls Vietnamese mint (laksa leaves) ~ around two small bunches. Leaves and top part picked our, coarsely chopped.
1 lime

1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar

Sugar, Salt, white pepper, cooking oil

1 tomato (optional, decoration only), sliced. Or use cucumber.

~ Preparation~

Soak the rice (both types) in cold water for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. 1 hour of soaking is ideal.

Bring a large saucepan full of water to the boil. Add in some salt and ½ tsp turmeric powder. Stuff the chicken captivity with spring onion and ginger. Gently lower the chicken into the boiling water. Wait until the water return to boiling point. Keep boiling over high heat for about 3 minutes before turn the heat to minimum so that the water barely simmers. Cover the pot and cook the chicken for 30-40 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, take it out and put in a large bowl filled with cold water. This way, the chicken will not be overcooked. Leave the chicken to cool and discard the onion and ginger.

When the chicken is being cooked, peel the onion and thinly sliced. Soak the onion in a bowl of water mixed with 1/4c white vinegar. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Pound the garlic using the mortal and pestle until crushed. Similarly, pound the chillies (removing the chilli seeds will help to reduce the level of spiciness) to a coarse paste.

Making the chicken rice - the ingredient

Once the chicken is cooked, drain the water from the rice. Put the rice in a rice cooker. Add in 1 tsp oil and a pinch of salt. Then, pour in around 1 cup or more of chicken broth. The water level should just reach the rice surface so adjust the quantity of broth accordingly. Cook the rice according to the manufacturer’s instruction. (If you do not have a rice cooker, you can follow the absorption method and cook the rice on the stove. Remember to turn the fire low so you don’t burn your rice).

Prepare the chicken: coarsely shred the chicken into medium pieces. Discard the bones.

Marinade the chicken: put about 1tsp salt and a pinch of pepper into the chicken meat. Start with 2 tbp sugar and juice of 1/2 lime. Mix everything together. Taste the chicken. It should have a good balance of saltiness, sweetness and sourness. Adjust the amount of ingredients until you have the desired taste. Once the taste is achieved, add in 1 handful of chopped laksa leaves, drained onion slices and half of the chilli paste prepared earlier.

Prepare the sauce: Put 2 tbp sugar in 1/4 cup fish sauce. Stir to combine. Add in juice of ¼ lime. Taste. The mixture should be intense in flavours but with hint of sweetness and sourness. Finally, when the taste is good, mix in all the garlic paste and the rest of the chillies paste. Stir to combine.

~ Serving~

Vietnamese-style chicken rice

Arrange the tomato slices, rice then the chicken on a bowl. Serve with the sauce.

It is recommended that you cook some light soup with the leftover broth using Asian greens (or mixture of peas, carrots, or potatoes). This will go nicely with the dish.

Good side dish: sliced cucumber or some sorts of steamed greens are nice.

~ More Viet flavours ~

Care to cook more Vietnamese dishes? Check out my Viet recipe index.

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