Goreng Pisang on Toast

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There are too many things, upon my arrival in the homeland, this special little red dot, that I was much too eager to get into again (jet lag came, stole all my energy and enthusiasm. But now that that’s gone, each day seems a refreshing beam of light, a hopeful promise). But yes. Café hopping, family and friends aside, it’s all about food. Old flavours, fun memories, revisited. That’s what I missed. There’s always something to be aware of, to be curious and excited about. Right now I’m deeply appreciating, here in Singapore, access to good food at much cheaper prices, and the cool and quirky Asian/pan-Asian delights one can find anywhere, in the basement of any big mall (my favourite is the Takashimaya one, for the record).

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A recent tea party I had with my dear friend Charlie at an Airbnb café– how cool are these? They specially made vegan chocolate avocado mousse for me, and the accompanying chai tea was sublime. 
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My favourite place for good sourdough– The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough at Bukit Timah. Thick almond butter and honey on thick, crusty toast. The sort of thing I actually will pay for once in a while, it’s that good.

It’s a time to revisit, guiltlessly, all the sweet flavours I missed. Black sesame, durian, matcha galore. Endless. Gorgeous! One of my favourite food thingys that I used to have on a regular basis, aside from durian puffs and dark chocolate taiyakis, was goring pisang (fried banana). My grandmother still occasionally buys them from the hawker centre, and are too, too perfect with a cold dollop of vanilla bean ice cream, or just on their own as they are.

It feels downright weird to be back. With no dissertation to complete, I am officially a graduate (ok not entirely, the graduation is in October, but still). Now, there’s a space in my head, one that need not necessarily be filled all the time. A space to feel, to think, to scroll through all the emotions that have been mashed together for too long in the days leading up to some exam, or assignment, or thesis. Because sometimes scrolling through emotions means putting rationality on the back-burner. This feels so free. This feels like a good, long, abdominal breath. And true enough, it is important to take time, intentionally, to do this daily, or at least weekly. But it’s also good to get away from it all entirely, take a break even from blogging, as I did the past two weeks. Routine, a good one, is a conscientious way of re-organizing one’s priorities. But sometimes a little break from routine allows for reflection on the meaning of the routine itself, instead of being on autopilot all the time. It’s sort of like atoms in a certain structure. The bits that make up the structure may be strong and sturdy, but breaking away and re-organizing them in a smarter and more efficient manner may leave you with a structure even stronger than before).

Now let’s go bananas. It’s all about the right banana and the right batter. The two must complement each other– too ripe a banana will leave you with mushy bits of nothing, while the batter should comprise ice-cold water, rice flour and corn starch for the perfect degree of crispiness. Then everything is fried, and I don’t think you can go wrong by either shallow or deep-frying, because it’s still a fried banana, and you can’t go wrong with that, can you?

Traditionally, these golden beauties are eaten with ice cream or with a custard, but that Monday I decided to bung it on some toast layered with fresh, thick coconut yoghurt, peanut butter and jam, and my taste buds were on absolute fire. The combination of the creamy yoghurt, tangy and sweet with peanut butter and jam, cradled the crisp, wispy outer layer of goring pisang batter. You think about it, and the whole thing seems or sounds a little silly. I mean, fried anything can’t really go wrong. Or just leave the poor banana alone, for goodness sake. Why coat it, why ruin it? But that’s the fun of experimentation, is it not? I’ll breathe down the back of the traditionalist for as long as I can, challenging the norm. If we can fry bananas, or mars bars, or friggin’ tea bags, then why not put them on something and call it a meal? Like your usual pb&j toast. The coconut yoghurt really is just for fun. The whole thing is just fun and delicious, so let’s just leave it at that.

 

Ingredients

2-3 ripe (but not too ripe!) bananas, sliced in half (along the breadth, not down the long centre)

40g plain flour

2 tbsp each of rice flour and cornflour

¼ tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

5 tbsp ice-cold water

vegetable oil for deep frying, of which a tablespoon you will mix into the batter

*optional accompaniments: bread slices (use whatever bread you like but whole-wheat or sourdough is preferable), coconut/soy yoghurt, peanut butter, jam

 

Directions

Mix all batter ingredients (everything listed above except for the bananas) in a shallow bowl. The batter should be smooth, without any lumps. This can be done by adding the water slowly, in thirds, and whisking well in between. The batter should not be all that thick– if it is, add a little more water to thin it out.

Add your cut bananas to the batter and coat them well with the help of a fork or spoon. Meanwhile, heat 1.5-2 inches of vegetable oil in a wok/frying pan. Add enough so that the bananas will be just covered. You can also save some oil by using less oil and turning the bananas halfway through. Once the oil temperature has reached 180C (320F), and you can do this with any candy thermometer, add the coated bananas and fry until they are visibly golden-yellow. 2-3 bananas are perfect for this recipe because too many will make the temperature of the oil drop a little. Once visibly golden and crispy, take the bananas out with a pair of tongs and place them on a paper towel to drain the excess oil. Be careful this whole time, the oil may spit and hurt you. These are best eaten immediately or at least the same day they are made. For this twist, toast your bread slices, then add a tablespoon each of coconut yoghurt, peanut butter, and finally the jam. I like strawberry jam, but that bit’s up to you. Then cut your fried bananas in half lengthwise, then put them on the piece (or pieces) of toast. Take a bite. Savour that. Love that.

Mochi Pancakes and a Matcha Ritual

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I meant to be writing this on a train to Durham, best beanie on, heart on my sleeve. Instead, I’m sat snuggled in a jumper at home, hoodie on, tea on my sleeve. The train was cancelled, everything was delayed, and my heart was pumping with an anger and impatience it wasn’t used to. Acceptance is typified as the answer to frustrating situations, which in itself is frustrating once things don’t go as perfectly planned. Acceptance, a lighter heart, and a laugh that starts out as fake to try and persuade yourself,  before reifying the humour of day-to-day disappointments, making it all ok again. Small hiccups in a big world. I had a conversation with a sweet old lady as we sat waiting for the next District Line train, shivering from our covered heads to toes. This is Earth’s payback for what we’re doing to it, she exclaimed. And to an extent, I agree. I smiled in the cold. There’s only so much we can do, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do.

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Exams are done!! On Friday I used up the ink of three pens, and now it’s time to use up all my flour. More time to potter around in the kitchen, experimenting with different sweet and nourishing recipes, putting more time and effort into this blog, my baby, my alter ego. These spurts of creativity, life-giving and soul-satisfying, perfectly balance the head-banging revision one can endure in the space of a couple given days. After my recent trip to Austria, where I was gifted with some gorgeous fresh matcha (Attila Hildmann). And so started my daily matcha ritual, complete with the whisk, bowl, meditation, everything. It has replaced my Nespresso ritual, that crutch, but now I can’t look back. The harder shots of black are welcome once in a while, but the strong emerald brew gives a lasting, strong mental energy which I especially needed the last few weeks. The earthy scent and potency of fresh ground matcha twirling in rich heated almond milk, lightly sweetened with maple syrup, is the best thing to ease yourself into a hardcore (or easycore?) day.

So here’s a recipe for my favourite matcha latte, which may be jazzed up with some froth on top and some smears of hot chocolate, if you please. It goes perfectly with my new pancake recipe– MOCHI PANCAKES. Yes, you read and heard right. Made with rice flour and a good deal of soluble protein for stretch and the perfect balance of light and heartiness. Funny how being in Germany and Austria made me think of Japan so much. The hospitality, cleanliness and attitude in both countries are fairly similar, perhaps. Or maybe it was because I was surrounded by clean, white lines and it all resonated with the minimal simplicity I find so appealing in Japan.

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These pancakes are delicate and tender, a far cry from the fluffy ones I’m used to making but nonetheless delicious. Perfect with pear, tahini, a homemade red bean paste (watch this space, might refine that recipe to be posted soon!) and soy yoghurt, as pictured above.

 

Matcha Latte (serves one)

Ingredients

1 tbsp matcha powder (I use the Attila Hildmann brand)

2 tbsp hot water

240ml (1 cup) plant milk of choice

1 tsp maple syrup

Optional: 2 tbsp hot chocolate powder or chopped dark chocolate, and a scoop of either vegan vanilla ice cream/whipped cream to top.

 

Directions

Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. While waiting for it to come to a boil, whisk the matcha and water together in a small bowl. I use my cute little matcha whisk from Kanuka Tea for a good, thorough whisk. Pour the matcha mixture into a large mug, add the maple syrup, then pour in the hot milk. Mix everything together with a teaspoon. For some extra fancy schmancy, add the hot chocolate powder or chopped dark chocolate to the bottom of your mug first, before pouring in the matcha mix and milk. Then after pouring in the milk, top with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream that will melt on top of the hot matcha to create a sweet, frothy top.

 

Mochi Pancakes (serves 2-3 people)

Ingredients

70g plain flour+50g rice flour

50g porridge oats (or substitute coconut flour/almond flour/any other gluten-free flour)

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp ground flaxseed

6 tbsp water

5 tbsp melted vegan butter/coconut oil (just melt it by putting the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and nuking it for 30 seconds or until you can see that it’s mostly melted)

pinch of salt

3 tbsp white/brown/coconut sugar

350ml plant milk of choice (I use a mix of rice and soy)

 

Directions

In a small bowl, make your egg– mix the flax and water and set it aside to thicken. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients– flours, oats, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Then pour in the milk and butter. Mix briefly, then add the flaxseed mixture, and continue mixing until everything is well combined. It should be quite a wet and drippy mixture. If not, add more milk until it reaches that consistency. Heat a pan on medium pan, add a pat of vegan butter and let melt. Once it is sizzling a little, dollop tablespoonfuls of batter onto the pan (or griddle if you have one) and let the first sides cook. Flip once you see bubbles form on the surfaces. Let the second sides cook for 20-30 seconds before removing and placing on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess moisture, or if you’re making a big batch for guests and you want to keep the pancakes warm ahead of time, in a warm oven until they arrive and you are ready to serve.

Chocolate Chip Waffles

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Things to note this past week:

My class’s Friday book/film club is adorable and is the perfect excuse to bake every Thursday night if not being lazy.

The National Gallery is an underrated treasure here in London.

Another underrated food is caramelised banana.

Learning is the right balance of acceptance and curiosity.

The bright and vivid, dark ink of a new pen is almost orgasmic.

I picked at a mostly dry stack of buckwheat pancakes the other Saturday and am now afraid of ordering pancakes or waffles somewhere ever again. Today’s post is thus born out of a love for the neglected kitchen, a strong tribute to the homemakers of the century– who needs waffles outside when you can make amazing ones within the warm comfort of your home, to accompany a freshly brewed Nespresso cuppa, a book or probing documentary, and mountains of whatever toppings you would like?

Now that the first huge set of assignments are done, I’m relaxing with my waffles, already on my second cup of coffee. As I type, some doughnuts hibernate behind me. A free Wednesday is therapeutic and needed, sometimes. I think I spend all my money on flour and nothing else. Flour, frozen berries, bread and veggies. Those top the list. What else is required for a happy life; what else is needed to dedicate concentration to the hours that don’t make up breakfast, lunch and dinner?

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These waffles. They’re thick. They burst and bubble with specks of chocolate, all crisp round the edges and mildly chewy everywhere else. The rims and ridges are sharp and taut, ravines ready to catch your lashings of maple syrup (didn’t have any syrup this time sadly, so used blackstrap molasses which did the trick anyway). You probably can’t tell, but the first picture shows a plain version, the second is chocolate chip-stuffed. Depending on your mood, make either, but at your own caution, for chocolate, melting and caught between each crevice, really makes all the difference.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Waffles For One (scale up for more people as needed)

Ingredients

25g rolled oats

120g plain flour (or whole-wheat if you prefer)

35-40g chopped dark chocolate

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

120ml (1/2 cup) almond milk, or any other plant milk (soy/coconut/oat) you have

3 tbsp olive/coconut oil/vegan butter (doesn’t have to be melted, as long as it’s soft or at room temperature)

3 tbsp maple syrup/blackstrap molasses/rice syrup (use honey if you’re not vegan)

 

Directions

Tip all ingredients into a bowl and mix until all is well combined. The mixture should be like a thick cake batter; add more flour if it isn’t. You could do this the night before and pop the bowl into your fridge so you save a little time in the morning when you make it!

Preheat your waffle iron according to its instructions, grease with whatever fat you used in the batter itself (in this case I used coconut oil) and pour the batter in, making sure not to exceed the tips of the iron ridges. Cook until the surfaces are lightly browned. My waffle iron doesn’t require me to flip the waffles over, but if you feel the heating is uneven, go ahead and do just that after 3-4 minutes, depending on how fast and strong your iron is. This recipe makes about 2 thick waffles, a generous serving for one person, but sharing with someone else works too. Freeze any extras and toast in your toaster when you want to have them again. Soooo good with thick and creamy soy yoghurt, berries, caramelised banana (see above) and maple syrup.

No-bake Chocolate Coconut Bars

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Treats. They right a lot of wrong in the world.

Exactly this time last week I had the privilege of eating alone during my lunch break in between working hours, and I wrote down a few realisations:

  • Eating alone is a thing to be celebrated
  • Korean is possibly favourite cuisine (this may change in a couple of weeks)
  • I need to travel more when its pretty parts and cultures still exist
  • Talks with old friends who still ride on the same wavelength, energy and compassion are incredibly underrated and never dull. These are the occasions which one should be happy to steal away time. The world needs more Real People Conversations. This world should thrive on that bravery,
  • At the lab where I’m undertaking an internship, it is invigorating to tend to the invisible. To pipette precisely, up and down, take exact volumes. This precision forces me to think about things in detail, making me aware of my surroundings and in awe of the big picture that is the Earth’s beauty and mysteries. Detail is a meditation.
  • Some people never go through an awkward tween phase
  • Some pairings like coconut and chocolate are meant to be, like the zip on my Laurice pencil case and removable cap of an ink pen.

To accompany solitude and writing is my iced black cuppa, the one thing that has stayed true to my lifelong affair with breakfast, foam from Nespresso dispensing interrupted by crushed ice.

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An old friend returned from studying overseas and, upon sampling one, two and three, could not believe they were vegan. The chocolate mousse layer is of the perfect consistency- a small finger press gives way to a tender indent, holding firm without being flimsy. These bars are sticky, sweet and devilishly good, but the opaque richness of the coconut cream provides a slight bitterness to offset and ripen the other flavours instantaneously on your tongue.

No-bake Chocolate Coconut Bars (Adapted from this delightful raw tiramisu recipe)

Ingredients

For the base:

8 pitted dates (medjool dates are ideal; I typically freeze a stock and microwave the necessary amount when needed)

210g cashew nuts

pinch of salt

3 tbsp water

4 tbsp liquid/melted coconut oil

1/2 tsp instant espresso powder

For the chocolate mousse layer:

420g cashews, pre-soaked and strained (simply soak them the night before in enough water to cover them in a bowl)

8 pitted dates

120ml almond/cashew milk

100ml maple syrup

7 tbsp cacao powder

7 tbsp liquid /melted coconut oil

2 tbsp white tahini

2 tbsp instant espresso powder

pinch of salt

For the coconut cream:

2 cans coconut cream, left in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight

Directions

In a food processor, blend together the ingredients for the base. Line a 9×9-inch pan with parchment paper and press the mix down with your knuckles until you get an even layer. Place the pan in the fridge to stiffen while you make the chocolate mousse filling.

Make sure the food processor has all the remnants scraped out, but you don’t have to clean it. Put the ingredients for the chocolate mousse layer into the processor and blend until you get a smooth and even filling. Take out your pan from the fridge and smooth the mousse layer on top. Take your cans of coconut cream and open them– there should be thick, spoonable white cream on top. Take it and spread a thin layer on top of the coconut mousse layer. Save the liquid left behind for things like curries! Put the pan in the freezer to stiffen.

Put the pan in the fridge an hour before serving to soften the layers a little and to make it easier to cut.

 

Chocolate, Pear and Banana Clafoutis

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There’s been hassle in the head, but the kitchen binds all tassles of stress and chucks it out to the cold. I surmise it’s the cold, sometimes, that keeps me going. It’s a wakeup call, like a cold shower first thing in the morning.

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A chocolate, pear and banana clafoutis, packed with molten chocolate and moist, plump pear. To be eaten à la mode.

Rusticity once more, with wreaths of sugar, chocolate and love. There is a lot going for this clafoutis, and my favourite bits, edges aside, are the moist, pear juice-saturated bits of clafoutis right up next to the cooked pear. Forkable business, that. A past Saturday spent with someone special saw a rapid finishing of this beauty to enhance all that fun and whimsy, reminding me of all the times and things we take for granted or misunderstand. Guess it’s always good to stop and smell the roses, stop blurring the edges of pain with the fastest remedy. And this clafoutis is a remedy, to be enjoyed slowly, during and after, a candle in the wind. It’s just up to you what to make of that occasional sweet event.

I tend to vacillate between wanting the simple and complex. Usually it’s the former, with some variation/hop/twist/flicker. Chocolate and pear is a classic combination, and the banana adds a moist, sweet dimension without being too easily detected. Not that the flavour doesn’t pair well, but the mildest hint of it enhances and doesn’t shadow the two stars. Although I used a pan instead of the more desirable cast iron skillet, the edges still turned out very crispy, and yes I can vouch that I shall attain the crispiest ever result in time when I earn enough (ha ha). The clafoutis itself retained a lovely almost pudding-like consistency in the middle, flying the flan flag high and bright.

Served with the simple integrity of vanilla ice cream, this is the perfect breakfast, dessert, or in-betweener.

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Chocolate, Pear and Banana Clafoutis (makes one 9-inch wide pan)

Ingredients

2 large pears, peeled, cored and quartered

240ml milk of choice (whole/plant-based preferably)

65g white sugar

2 bananas, mashed

1 egg (sub: another mashed banana)

100g chopped dark chocolate, split into two portions

50g plain flour

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 200C (400F) and butter a large iron cast skillet or pan (as I did). Lay your quartered pear in a ring in the pan so the tops all face and touch at the middle.

In a bowl, whisk together almost everything else– the flour, sugar, bananas, one portion of dark chocolate and milk. Pour this over the pears, making sure that there’s an even amount of batter between each quarter. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate on top.

Bake for 35 minutes, then remove and let cool for at least 10 before tucking in with something cold like ice cream or creamy like custard. What a star show.