Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Lovers aka Bookworms.

I must absolutely write about this. I've been an avid reader at a tender age of 10 and for that, I should really thank cousin Fern because she inadvertently, unknowingly, sowed seeds of passion of reading in me. Back in those days, English fictional storybooks were hard to come by in our small town, Batu Pahat. I may have lost a lot of my childhood memories but I can remember vividly how I walked, cycled or took a free ride to cousin Fern's house to read her newly bought storybooks (and later on novels) which she got from Singapore. I remember too the good old days when her mom would make dainty little tea cakes or pastry and served with sweet orange juice and brought all these foodstuff to the air conditioned room where both Fern and I were sprawling on the bed, immersed in the world of fiction. Those were the good old days which remains as a fond memory till today.

What I wanna share here is that I've finally found a place that sells novels at an unbelievable price. A paperback novel would normally cost between RM32.90 to RM34.90. However, I can get certain selection for as low as RM17.90! I flipped through all the books and realized they were just the same as those sold in MPH or Borders. The place I'm talking here is Bookxcess located in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya. They have recently moved to a bigger store but it is still located in Amcorp Mall itself. You may not get all the titles you want but they normally carry bestsellers in the likes of  John Grisham, Sidney Sheldonw, J.K Rowling, Stephanie Meyer etc. I could've clout my own head when I came across the Twilight saga at only RM17.90 each which I bought at RM49.90 in MPH !!! Darn !

Eversince I found this place, I no longer buy from Borders or MPH or Kinokuniya unless I couldn't find the book I want in Bookxcess. And if I can't even find the books I want in the above 3 mentioned giant bookstores, I'll resort to buying online from Acmamall. offers an excellent and a very comprehensive plus user friendly website to check on books but sadly the shipping fees from US to Malaysia is a hefty sum. So what I normally do is to check on the reviews written in Amazon before I proceed to buy from Oh by the way, you can even purchase 2nd hand books from Borders Market Place which I did before. Of course shipping fees were exorbitant but if you die die must have the book, then you must have the book. Just insert your credit card number, click yes. Thereafter, don't even think of this purchase anymore and you won't feel the pinch afterwards. Recently, I've made an online purchase from Kinokuniya Bookstore which is located in KLCC via this website This bookstore offers a wide range of titles (better than MPH in my opinion) and if you are interested to buy but the long journey to KLCC puts you off, you can always opt to buy online. It cost only RM8 per shipment. So, it'll be wiser if you were to consolidate a few titles and purchase it online as one shipment. That way, you can split the shipping cost over several books.

I can be very generous when it comes to books but if you were to ask my hubby, he'll probably say I'm in fact, very generous in a lot of things such as clothes, bags, shoes, skincare , hair care etc. Anyway, book is a wonderful companion to me and has been one for the longest time possible. I don't really care if I spend on books because afterall, it's a reading material.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Steamed Mince Pork with Salted Vegetable (Dong Choy)

This is a dish my mom used to make in Batu Pahat , when I was a young little girl. Until today, whenever I'm in a hawker centre selecting 3 dishes to go with my rice, my hands seem to be automatically reaching out for a chunky piece of this mince pork. The good thing about this dish is it doesn't need a lot of ingredients to prepare. The main ingredient will of course be the salted vegetable which I have washed and drained for 3 times, a little sesame oil, a little soy sauce and some fried shallot. If my memory served correctly, my mom occasionally would add some chopped raw garlic in it but I prefer to remove this  ingredient entirely because the smell and taste of garlic is too overpowering. I knocked off sharp from office on a Wednesday and hurried home to prepare the ingredients for my dinner. I had to get everything done real fast because I was on a 'jogging date' with hubby. Right after the jogging session, I put everything on the steamer pot and steamed them at one go whilst I ran upstairs and had a quick shower. Minutes later, I came down, opened the cover lid and to my surprise, I found the mince pork had shrunk considerably and as a result, it looked like an island submerging in shallow water. This is how it looked like.

I wished I had added more sesame oil. It would've been a great idea to marinate with a little constarch to make the meat slightly tender.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Homemade Soya Bean Drink

Till today, I'm still enamored with my i-chef cook set. In case you're wondering which one, I'm referring to my i-chef bean paste maker. As I said earlier, hubby was appalled with the money I spent on this piece of drink maker but he commented that as long as I use it often, it will justify. He was betting his last dollar that I would cease using it in a month's time. Well, he of course,  lost the bet. The first and foremost reason why I bought this in the first place is because I want to make my own soya drink. I want to be able to control the amount of sugar I add in, the cleanliness in preparing it and also the type of soya bean to use. I've been making soya bean drink for countless time since day 1. To make this simple drink, I use the following :
  • organic soya bean (you don't use much and it doesn't cost much)
  • 4 small pandan leaves
  • a little rice (optional)
  • a little molasses or oligo fructose (liquid)
I used to just make it as a beverage for me to bring to office. In the recent days, I've begun to add in glutinuous rice balls since I'm a huge fan of this sweet dessert. Hubby on the other hand shun the 'balls'. He prefers the drink itself. Looks like I'm never gonna get  bored drinking this homemade soya bean simply because it just taste heavenly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Penang Fried Kway Teow (Char Kway Teow)

It was only when I made this dish that I finally threw  in the white towel and face the horror fact that I hate my new wok !!!! Ohhh.. how I despise it. I have been without a wok for more than a month before I finally found this Meyer hard anodized wok at a promotional price. Imagine my eagerness to try out this new wok soonest possible. I thought it would be a great idea to fry a Fried Kway Teow recipe with this new wok but oh, how wrong I was. I don't know the fault really lies with my cooking method or with the wok itself but you can guess I'm putting the blame on the wok because the 2 other dish I've cooked the other day using this same wok, produced the same problems to me. I finally managed to salvage this dish by dishing out the half cooked kway teow and set it aside while I washed the sticky wok. Thereafter, I resumed frying my kway teow with a clean wok and a little olive oil. The taste was satisfying despite all the earlier 'glitch' if you would call it. The recipe was adapted from Agnes Chang but I made a little adjustment :

Ingredients :
600g kway teow
300g beansprouts (taugeh)
300g prawns, shelled
100g chives (kuchai), cut into 11/2" length
2 eggs
2 chinese sausage (lap cheong), slice slanting
2 piece of fish cake (optional)
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp pounded chili (with shallots) / or chili boh

Seasoning :
1 tbsp soya sauce,
1/2 tsp chicken stock granules
1 tsp salt
a dash of pepper

Method :
1. Heat up 4 tbsp oil in wok and saute chinese sausage over low fire. Dish out and set asie. Next stir fry garlic till light brown. Add pounded chillies and shallots and continue to fry until fragrant.
2. Add prawns and stirf ry until cooked then add in the fish cake.  Add kway teow and stir until well mixed.
3. Add beansprouts, chives and seasoning. Mix well.
4. Push kway teow to one side, add 1 tbsp oil and break in eggs. Spread kway teow on top of eggs and fry well.

You may want to garnish with coriander leaves and red chillies.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

From the very first day I tasted Aglio Olio in New York New York restaurant, I fell in love with extra virgin olive oil, swiss brown mushroom and zucchini. Aglio Olio pasta is purely a vegetarian dish (if you consider garlic as vegan) with nothing except pasta toss in garlic and abundance of olive oil.

I prefer to have some ingredients to go along with pasta and the best option would be zucchini and swiss mushrooom. I bought 3 packets of swiss mushroom with every intention to cook another mushroom soup. Finally, I was forced to discard the idea of mushroom soup due to night classes and late nights in office. Instead, I used the mushrooms to prepare a dinner of spaghetti aglio olio. Since I have a fat little zucchini in my fridge, I thought this would be the best time to use it up.

The entire preparation and cooking process took no longer than an hour to complete. I sprinkled a packet of Domino's Pizza chili flake in it to give me a hot and spicy taste. I think hubby has begun to lift his ban on spaghetti and pizza because he ate a huge plate of the pasta.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

101 Essential DSLR Photography Tips: High Dynamic Range (HDR)

It has been awhile I did not post in our blog, all due to too many public holidays in a month plus my increasing work load. Long story cut short, since there’s a request of HDR, here we go.

What is HDR? HDR stand for High Dynamic Range. Dynamic range is the difference of brightest (highlight) and darkest (shadow) part of an image and yet reveals highlight and shadow details. HDR photography involves producing image with much greater light range than it normally possible that the DSLR camera sensor able to capture. It is always close to how human eyes capture a scene and it is possible beyond it with HDR photography. HDR photography works perfectly for great contrast scenes like sunrise, sunset and scenes with bright skies and its darker surrounding subjects.

The methodology to create HDR image is fairly simple, software & post processing play a vital role here. First you must get yourself a software eg. Photoshop, Photomatix or any others HDR software and secondly, a tripod is required or recommended.

Step 1 Find a scene suitable for HDR image you want to capture and take several shots at varying exposure levels eg. -2 EV, 0 EV, +2 EV and so on. If your DSLR camera has the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) function, use it instead of manually varying the exposure.

Step 2 Back home in front of your computer download these images and merge it by Photoshop or Photomatix into an HDR image that reveals highlight and shadow details.

Step 3 Adjust the settings to get the result that you want; good patience is required here to achieve the desired end results. The HDR image can be from natural-looking to oil-painting feel by adjusting color balance, contrast, saturation and hue of the image to suit your personal taste.

I travelled to Siem Reap in October 2009 and was in Angkar Wat, waiting with bated breath for sunset, expecting to shoot some stunning sunset image but apparently luck was not on my side that day. The sky was dull and cloudy as well but a sudden thought popped into my mind; that maybe with the aide of HDR, I might able to produce some good images. The results proved to be very rewarding.

I used my NIKON D90 mounted on my BENRO tripod, captured three shots with the exposure value of -2 stop, 0 stop and +2 stop which I think was good enough to cover the whole light range of this scene. Below was the original images I took before processing. Not impress at all with these images right?
But after I processed with Photomatix by merging the above three images, with some fine tuning and adjustments, below was the result I got and this is why I love HDR!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fried Carrot Cake (Chai Tao Kueh) - Batu Pahat style

I miss Batu Pahat's fried Carrot Cake aka Chai Tao Kueh (CTK). Sure you can get it in KL but the way they fried it here is black in color and I can tell you a hundred times how much I hated the distinct taste of just thick soy sauce. I reckon if I were gonna eat this BP style CTK, I'll have 3 options to choose from : (1) drive 3 hours back to BP to eat it, (2) wait for mom to visit me in Year 2011 (God knows which month) and request her to fry it for me or (3) buy the carrot cake and fry it myself (but still I need to get the carrot cake from Singapore). Seems like the best options among the worst would be the last option.
During my recent trip back to Singapore, my sis in law got me these 2 gigantic bomb look-alike carrot cake. I threw in lots of chopped garlic, lots of chaipo, lots of chili and lastly mediocre portion of spring onion. My fire was big but somehow, I couldn't quite bring out the wok taste. Nonetheless it was definitely way better than those I've eaten in KL. Hubby commented it was a tad too salty (chaipo being the culprit) and that mom fried it better than me. He took a look at my face and quickly rephrased that mine was good but it's just that my mom is too skillfull at this dish. I choose to believe him.