Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tempeh and Sambal Belachan

Everytime I moved to another country, the first two things that I search are tempeh and belachan. I love fried tempeh with sambal (chili) belachan on the side. I ate them a lot when I was growing up and even though the chili was so spicy, I kept eating them. It was that addictive :D.

Fried Tempeh and Sambal Belachan
Tempeh is basically a traditional fermented soy product from Indonesia. Tempeh is full of protein and dietary fiber and is often used in vegetarian cuisine. I find tempeh to be quite versatile, you can just simply In the US, you can find this in Whole Foods Market. Now, they have all the fancy tempeh (whole grain, even tempeh bacon), but I like the normal one better. You can also find it in the Asian Store, in the frozen section. If you feel like doing it yourself, you can find tempeh starter online to make the tempeh at home.
The tempeh that I found in Whole Foods Market

Belachan is a pungent shrimp paste commonly used in South East asian cuisine. This ingredient can be found in Asian stores that sells Malaysian/Singaporean/Indonesian products.

How to prepare

Fried Tempeh:
1. Cut them into rectangular pieces with medium thickness.

2. Make some criss cross light incisions  on both surface of the tempeh.

3. Soak the pieces into brine (be generous with the salt) for about 10 minutes.

4. Deep fry the pieces in hot vegetable oil.

5. Once the tempeh becomes golden brown, take them out and drain the excess oil.

If you want to cut on fat, you can also bake the tempeh.

Baked Tempeh:
1. Follow step 1 and 2 above.

2. Put the tempeh and1.5 table spoon of vegetable oil in a bowl. Mix them together.

3. Arrange them on a baking sheet covered with the parchment paper.

4. Sprinkle some salt on one side and do the same to the other side.

5. Bake them in 180C/350F until they are golden brown.

Sambal Belachan:
1. Get some red chili peppers. I use Fresno chili peppers, you can probably try Jalapeno.
*Do not use the bird's eye chili unless you are a champion in spicy food eating competition.

2. Chopped the chilies into small pieces.

3. Get some belachan. You do not need a lot of this. In my case I need only half teaspoon of belachan for 3 Fresno chili peppers.

4. Heat some oil on your pan. Once it's ready, put the belachan, stir fry it for a few seconds and then put the chopped chili.

5. Turn off the heat once the chili becomes soft.

6. Put the mixture of chili and belachan into a mortar and grind them to make the sambal. Add some salt.
*If you do not have a mortar, you can also use your food chopper. If you want your sambal to still have some texture, go easy on the food chopper so that you don't have a mushy sambal.

7. Get some piping hot rice (or not) and enjoy your fried tempeh and sambal belachan.

Till next time.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Today, I decided to do some baking (another chance to play with my new KitchenAid Artisan mixer). I made some chocolate chiffon cake using this recipe.

I did some modifications on the recipe. For instance, I used normal flour instead of the cake flower mentioned in the recipe. Also, I replaced the water with low-fat milk. In my opinion, the milk makes the cake softer.

The cake turned out good after 50 minutes of baking in a 300F oven. The not-so-fancy oven in my apartment doesn't seem to be intelligent enough to keep the temperature stable. I had to monitor the baking process to make sure the cake was not overcooked (or burnt).

Here is the recipe that I used:

2 cups sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable oil
7 eggs, separated and at room temperature
3/4 cup low fat milk.
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Heat oven to 325°F (160° C).

2. Combine 1-3/4 cups sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and baking soda in large bowl. Add oil, egg yolks, water and vanilla; beat until smooth.

3. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in extra-large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Gradually pour chocolate batter over beaten egg whites, folding with rubber spatula just until blended. Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

4. Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly. Invert pan on heat-proof funnel until completely cool. Remove cake from pan; invert onto serving plate.
Makes 12-16 servings.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A New Adventure in Houston

We've been in Houston for more than one month now. We moved from Paris due to my husband's job. Life has been good so far. There is a huge contrast between Paris and Houston.

People seem to be friendlier here than in Paris and probably service is better here as well. The surroundings are cleaner even though I see a lot of dogs around. Also, for the same rent that we paid in Paris, our current apartment is almost three times bigger. Bye bye 50 square meter in Paris!!

Of course, we still need to adjust to the American food, which is too greasy and too sweet for us. We still have to find a French baker who can supply us with good croissants and p√Ętisseries. Looking at the good side, this forces us to cook at home more often. Especially since we have three big grocery stores nearby (organic and non-organic stores).

I will probably do a lot of experiments in the kitchen given that I can't find easily the food that I like to eat. I'll post the results in this blog.

That's it for now :).