6 Lessons from Sekinchan Fruit Orchard

31st January 2016

One of the highlights of my trip to Sekinchan was the free tour of his fruit orchard (Wan Chai Mango King) – My grandma, aunt and I were in 7th heaven! ❤

I’ve never met anyone so passionate about agriculture and fruits like this fruit vendor. You can really feel his energy when he’s sharing his knowledge about the Malaysian local fruits, how to grow them and how to choose the good quality ones.

After about an hour in the fruit stall, we ended up with many kilos of golden dragon mangoes (as long as my forearm!), kedongdong, kafir lime, jambu air and guava. It was so interesting, it would be a waste not to share what I know now 😀

Here are the 6 lessons:

1.Golden dragon mango tree: Cut the centre of the mango tree to allow sunlight to reach the hidden centre of the mango tree. Basically, keeps the mango tree nourished with sunlight.

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Notice the branches growing outwards? Yup, that’s because they cut the centre of the tree deliberately to create space for sunlight to get in. That’s a sign of sweet mango coming right up! 😀

2. Jambu air tree: Wrap the budding flowers with a plastic bag to keep birds and insects from eating it up. It is a crucial stage of growing a jambu air plant. If you wrap it a little too late, the jambu air plant will not grow. Even if it does, it’s definitely not market quality. Jambu air is a low calorie & healthy fruit to eat but so hard to grow 😦

3. Soursop fruit: According to the fruit farmer, he says this is the most perfect soursop he has ever grown. So perfect, he wasn’t willing to sell it to us because he wanted to eat it hahaha

  • The prickly bits of the soursop should not be too spaced out but more importantly, not too close to each other
  • It should be luscious green
  • It should not too soft (otherwise it means it’s overly ripen).

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    See how beautifully spaced out it is all around? Except the middle part where the prickly bits are close together but that’s okay.

4. Nangka plant (jackfruit): Sweet sweet jackfruit. This fruit doesn’t need to be treated like a princess, thank goodness! The main thing would be to cover the fruits with a plastic bag (with holes so it doesn’t get sweaty in the bag. Eeek!) and with newspaper.

I’m guessing the newspaper is to absorb the moisture the fruit will create some           vapour due to the warm temperature in the bag. Time to wrap this fruit up before the animals and birds get to it!

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Huge but still green so it’s not quite ready for eating!

5. Guava fruit: The best type of guava are the sweet and “crispy” ones. Literally crispy, not hard and crunchy. This are some tips from my grandma for choosing perfect guavas

  • Choose the ones with light coloured skin
  • The tip of the guava should be relatively flat (more rounded than oval), firm but not rock hard.

It’s okay if it has brown bits on the fruit. Imperfection is beautiful and in this case, tastier!

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That’s as green (skin) as I would go. Strange isn’t it that lighter ones are generally better quality! 🙂

6. Keeping flies away from the plants and humans: This was so cool. He hung these yellow sticky bags around his farm which were filled with sweet liquid to attract the flies. The flies will get stuck onto the yellow bags and hence won’t attack the plants or humans. Kinda sad for the flies but it made the experience in the farm a lot more pleasant.

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All the flies stuck to the bag!!!

Hope you enjoyed it!

Xx

GK

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Handmade fresh tortellini in prato

Tortellini filled with goat ricotta cheese in a butter sage sauce

No Italian holiday is complete without a pasta making class..

During my trip to Prato, I got an incredible opportunity to learn to how to make pasta from scratch from pasta maker, Roberto. We cooked the most classic of the classic pasta dish from the region of Emilia Romagna!

Emilia Romagno is an area from north of Italy where pasta making and eating was born. Emilia Romagno is renown for having one of the best pasta in Italy. If you don’t believe me, read this article by “Life in Italy” 😉 Roberto is now carrying on a family business started by his mother who is also a pasta maker from Emilia Romagno… 😀

The pasta from Emilia Romagna is made using only 4 ingredients :

  • Semolina flour
  • Water
  • Eggs
  • A pinch of salt.

The filling ingredients:

  • Goats ricotta cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • A dash of nutmeg

The pasta was soft and smooth on the palette. The filling was creamy but not too rich and did not over-power the flavour of the pasta (I didn’t put any measurements because it is to taste). The whole dish was perfectly seasoned; you can taste every component of the dish 👌🏽 Good Italian food is about creating amazing dishes with simple ingredients. Yum!

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Rolling pasta sheet thin for tortellini

Roberto’s tips to make pasta the Italian way:

  • Kneading is crucial

The most important tip here is to knead the pasta well to “activate” the gluten so that the pasta will be compact enough to hold the filling when the tortellini is placed in a hot pot of water for cooking. When kneading the dough, use the lower half of your palm. You can test the dough to see if it has been kneaded enough simply by pulling the pasta dough apart and if it stretches without breaking too fast, then your pasta is ready.

  • Don’t let the dough dry out

When the pasta dough is ready, allow it to sit aside (it activates the gluten as well). The dough will change to a darker yellow when it has rested for a few minutes. Make sure the pasta is covered with a tea towel to prevent the dough from drying out; the pasta dough should still be malleable after resting.

Roberto’s advice when cooking pasta:

  1. Al dente please! Over-cooking pasta is a sin
  2. When it comes to pasta sauce, less ingredients is more!
  3. Cook pasta in water with salt

 

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Me, Roberto and his wife clearly hard at work. Check out the mess we made and my messy hair!

 

They have recently opened their new shop in Prato and will eventually start selling to the local people of Prato. So.. if you want to try some fresh handmade pasta, go knock on Roberto’s door and order some pasta – it’s seriously worth it!! (It’s only a few doors down from the train station, Prato al Porta S.G)

P.S. A huge huge thanks to my friends, Giulia and Giuseppe for organising this pasta making class for me – truly completed my trip to Italy!

Xx

GK

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End result – my very first handmade tortellini ❤

 

Easy short crust pastry recipe

[Recipe & Tips] Crumbly and Buttery Short Crust Pastry

18 January 2016 – Cooking fiesta with grandma

During my holiday back in Malaysia, my sis and I listed down a list of dishes we MUST learn from our grandma and her short crust pastry was top on the list 😀

Rule of thumb for yummy short crust pastry – 2 flour : 1 fat

(Fat includes butter, lard, vegetable fat, margarine – but I highly discourage margarine and vegetable fat as it is too high in omega 6 and not good for cardiovascular health)

Let’s not complicate things. Short crust pastry is relatively easy to make as long as you do not over knead, use cool water and cool hands and basically treat the fat and flour mixture with lots of TLC! ❤


Ingredients:

  • 2 flour : 1 fat
(I used 500g flour and 250g fat for 1 big pie and 1 medium pie – sorry didn’t measure)

Method:

(1) Rub the fat into the flour, using the tips of your fingers, to create a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs. See Image 3.

(2) Gradually add cool water to bind the flour mixture and form a dough.

(3) Knead the dough gently until the dough is malleable, soft but not wet.

(4) Wrap the dough up in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

(5) On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to desired shape and thickness.

(6) Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 30 mins or golden brown.

What to do with pastry:

  • Tarts (sweet/savoury)
  • Pies  (sweet/savoury)

 

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Tip 1: For light and crumbly pastry – Gentle fingers when rubbing the fat into the flour. It should look like breadcrumbs.

Tip 2: For light and crumbly pastry –Make sure your hands and the bench top are cool. Use cold/cool water to bind the flour mixture to make a dough.

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After rubbing the fat into the flour, this is what it should look like – bread crumbs. See Step 1

Tip 3: For equal cooking time – Put a layer of pastry on the rim of the dish to keep the cooking time the same for the entire pastry. It also easier to manage the aesthetics of the pastry on top later.

Tip 4: For light, buttery pastry (not rock hard) – Don’t over-knead your pastry!!

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Before laying the pastry on top, we cover the rim of the dish with some pastry to keep the cooking time of the pastry the same. The rim of the dish is slightly higher than the other parts of the pastry and has no contact with the moist apple mixture so we need it thicker to prevent over cooking the pastry.

Tip 5: For aesthetics – Use a sharp scissors to make little snippets around the rim of the pastry (looks prettier but you can use a fork to make line shapes on the rim of the pastry). Use a knife to make small “cuts” around the edges of the pastry (looks rustic). Use the leftover pastry to make different shapes like roses, leaves and christmas mistletoes.

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Happy baking!! Remember to eat in moderation 😉

Xx

Generation Kitchen

tips to steep Oolong tea the best way

4 Things I learnt from the Taiwanese Tea House

One of the MOST significant highlights of my trip to Taiwan was learning about Chinese teas (i.e. how to drink tea without activating the caffeine etc) 🙂

In the city of Tai Chung, we visited a tea house where we sampled several types of Oolong Teas grown in the highlands as Taiwan is particularly famous for their Oolong Teas 🙂 If only I got to visit the actual tea plantation but as it was soo cold in Taiwan, the cold weather and snow had damaged majority of the tea plantation. Maybe next time!

1. How genuine are your tea leaves? Hmm..

It makes sense to choose your loose tea leaves based on how fragrant it is, right? Well, apparently not! The fragrance is the no. 1 indication that synthetic tea fragrances have been added to the tea leaves. Follow these 3 simple methods to test for genuine tea:

  • Smell tea leaves should not smell like tea (but rather does not have a fragrance at all)
  • Eattea leaves should not taste like tea (but rather have a bitter, earthy flavour)
  • Steep tea leaves in a mineral water bottle then shake for 1 minute  only very little bubbles should be formed and the bubbles should dissolve within 1-2 minutes (if it doesn’t, then it means that preservatives have been added)

Bet the first two was a shocker 😉 Easy peasy!

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The tea gurus vacuum pack the teas to prevent the Oolong Tea from losing its fragrance. The tea leaves were what we sampled to learn how to differentiate genuine and non-genuine tea! And yes, I ate it!

 

2. Tea caffeine, no longer your worst enemy

Thankfully, unlike most people, I sleep like a baby despite how much tea I drink at night. But for many of you who are sensitive to caffeine, there’s a solution – make your own cold brewed tea 😀 This way, there is no heat to extract the caffeine from the leaves.

Method:

  • Soak the tea leaves in cold water for at least 5 hours
  • Strain out the tea leaves and the cold brewed tea can be kept up to 3 days
  • Enjoy!

P.S. Do not drink the cold brewed tea after 3 days (It will turn sour and sticky) & Do not heat up the cold brewed tea (It will lose its flavour)

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Left: The yellow tea leaves (steeped in hot water) indicate that caffeine has been released. Right: The vibrant green tea leaves (steeped in cold water) denote that caffeine is still retained inside the leaves. So for people sensitive to caffeine, you want your tea leaves to remain green 🙂

3. Highland tea is healthier

Because there are less insects due to the cool to cold weather up in the mountains, tea farmers don’t have the need to spray insecticides and hence, there are less chemicals being released in the steeping process.

How to test for real highland tea? Eat a piece of dry highland tea leaves, then drink a cup of water. If the water tastes especially sweet, it’s real highland tea! 🙂

4. Drinking tea – a mindful practice

I’ll admit. I struggle with this. I love tea so much I usually just bottoms-up it all! The art of drinking tea is actually meant to be a very calming and mindful experience.

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The long & short tea cups used in the preparation and presentation of tea drinking have their own unique roles.

In the tea house, the hot tea was poured into the tall tea cup and then turned over into the short tea cup. The tea gurus recommended to enjoy the fragrant aroma of the tea from the tea cup and roll the hot tea cup on the palms of your hands (to keep warm, I think). When drinking tea, the tea gurus advise that we hold and swirl the tea in our mouths for a few seconds. The tea actually tastes better and more fragrant – try it.

I’m really happy to have been able to learn more about Chinese tea with my papa who is just as big a Chinese tea addict as me, if not more ❤

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Papa and I with the biggest bag of tea I’ve ever seen 🙂

Hope you enjoyed the tips!

Xx

GK

garlic oil - how to use it

My Kitchen Staple : Garlic oil & how to use it?

Here is Chinese cooking lesson 101 from my family – you must always have garlic oil at hand. I remember my grandma, popo would have both garlic oil AND onion oil! Imagine how much time and effort she put in to make them and feed her 7 kids and many grandchildren haha 🙂

The container of garlic oil you see below, it’s hardly ever empty. If it does go empty, it’s only for a couple of days.. Garlic oil amazing for an extra punch of flavour and shortcut to delicious stir fry. Really, this is life changing. Especially, for the time-starved and flavour-hungry!

Recipe for garlic oil:

Ingredients

  • 2 bulbs garlic, chopped
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. On a low heat, cook the garlic in the olive oil until golden brown

Tip 1: Do not wait to remove only when it has turned golden brown because it will continue cooking in the residual heat later. Allow extra 1 minute of cooking in the residual heat.

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Here are some of the dishes that you can put up using our kitchen staple, garlic oil:

Tofu and garlic oil

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  1. Steam the tofu for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the size and type of tofu.
  2. Season with soy sauce, chopped spring onions and 1-2 tbsps of garlic oil.

Omit Step 1 if you want to serve your tofu cold, it’s still delicious but my dad would beg to differ. Hmm..

Bean sprouts stir fry

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  1. Slightly “steam” the beansprouts in a wok with a bit of water or stir fry in a wok with a bit of olive oil (Mainly to soften the beansprouts).
  2. Then add the chives for 1 minute.
  3. Season with soy sauce, white or black pepper and garlic oil.

Toppings for bone broths

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Simply top a clear bone broth with garlic oil. Believe it or not, we made this soup using leftover turkey one christmas and with the addition of 1 tbsp of garlic oil, the whole dish became so asian. It was scrumptious, flavourful and soo satisfying!!

Dry noodles (konjac)

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  1. Wash the konjac noodles in warm water or cook wheat or egg noodles until aldente
  2. Simply seasoned with Himalayan salt, cracked pepper, black caramel sauce, non GMO soy sauce, oyster sauce and garlic oil.

Tip 1: The black caramel sauce gives sweetness and oyster sauce gives salty-ness to dish. Add gradually until you find the right balance of salty and sweet flavours.

Tip 2: 1-2 tbsps of garlic oil for 1 person should suffice. If you’re adding blanched vegetables to the dish, 2 tbsps of garlic oil will be necessary!

Benefits of konjac:
– water soluble fiber
– no fat, sugar, starch
– zero net carbs
– zero calories
– wheat & gluten free
– excellent diabetic supporting effects such as increasing insulin and lower blood sugar levels
– alkaline food
– regulate gastrointestinal tract
– reduce IBS

Enjoy! Thank me later after you’ve tried 😉

Xx

Generation Kitchen