Mum’s cookbook: Pandan chiffon cake

Pandan cake
Pandan cake: Green on the inside, brown and caramelized on the outside

Making pandan chiffon cake is an art in itself. My mum uses the same recipe, same mould and same ingredients for the past 20 years, but every time the results would vary wildly. Baking it is almost like playing Russian roulette, sometimes it would rise gloriously to the occasion but at other times, it will end with my mum wailing about the failed product.

But this chiffon cake remains a favorite amongst most of my family members because it is light, fluffy and most importantly, the smell is absolutely divine, thanks to the pandan leaves, which also gives it its unique color.

Pandan is a bush-like plant typically found in Southeast Asia that spots a bright green color and a distinctive smell that is believed to help deter pests like cockroaches. The plant is widely used in local cooking to help enhance the taste of the food, though never directly consumed.

In this post, I am sharing my mum’s trustworthy recipe she has been using throughout all these years. You will need a chiffon cake mould for this. Despite the simplicity of ingredients, pandan cake is tricky to make because it is so light inside that makes the cake structure delicate and difficult to stand tall.
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Mum’s cookbook: Southeast Asian chicken curry [recipe below]

Curry chickenCurries taste vastly different depending on where you are having them and in Southeast Asia, we like it spicy and flavorful. In my family, we are used to handling it real hot and this might potentially sound crazy but eating spicy food does help to cool you down amidst the heat and intense humidity.

And Singaporeans love our curries so much that we have it…
– with various meats, fish, beef, chicken, or simply some vegetables
– during breakfast as a dip, as a soup base with noodles for lunch or as a main dish with rice for dinner.
– on all occasions – during weddings, parties and even at funerals (I kid you not)

You get it. Curry is THAT deeply ingrained into our national food psyche.
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My grandma’s stories: Hungry ghost festival, part two [PICS]

(This is part two of the eighth installment of an ongoing series recounting my grandma’s stories about her life and the old days in Singapore. Click here for the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eight part I of this series)

A live getai, literally translated as a singing stage, performance

“Many ghosts that come out of Hades during the Hungry Ghost Festival are hungry and miserable spirits roaming the streets for food. Misfortunes might befall upon you should you bump into the fierce and hungry ones. The way around it is to burn more money and prepare food for them in hope they will leave you alone,” grandma explained.

The Hungry Ghost Festival or yu lan festival, held during the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, has gradually evolved from the past to today in Singapore and Malaysia as culturally interesting events.

One of the highlights would have to be the free entertainment that could be found almost everywhere around the island every day of the week for the seventh month.

If you have yet to read the first part to this post, click here. [Scroll below for photo slideshow]

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My grandma’s stories: Hungry ghost festival, part one

(This is part one of the eighth installment of an ongoing series recounting my grandma’s stories about her life and the old days in Singapore. Click here for the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh part of this series)

Every seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the belief is that the doors of Hades would open for ghosts to wander back on earth. Many of them have suffered in hell where they starved for months making it necessary to feed them with offerings to ward off any evil, hungry spirits.

Though widely consecrated amongst the Chinese diaspora, the month-long Yu Lan festival, as it is also known, in Singapore and Malaysia tends to be loud, garish and colorful events.

This post would be split into two parts, published at the start and end of the week, where Ah Ma and my mum would discuss about the evolution of this festival.
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Book review: Malay Sketches and Eid Mubarak!

A late Eid Mubarak everyone! For all Muslim friends and readers out there, hope your weekend was filled with love and forgiveness, not forgetting good food and company!“Malay Sketches” by Singaporean author Alfian Sa’at will be my recommended read for this festive season, tinged with a strong dose of Southeast Asian flavor.

This book is about the Malays, an ethnic group residing around Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and southern Thailand, where the majority are Muslims.

I have always took the identity of Malays for granted until when my foreign friends asked me and it become quite awkward because having grown up with Malay friends and relatives, I did not consciously think about who they were.

This issue was also brought up in “Malay Sketches” through a fictional character Hidayah, a Singaporean Malay student studying in New York. Continue reading