Wednesday, December 19, 2012

About the Geeky Cooks: The Specter

Lets see. I'm not quite good at autobiographies. Read a lot about it but never ever attempted to have my own. I cant find the words to describe myself other than the word obscure. Sad but true. Either i don't know myself that well, or i'm just not as complicated as i thought i was - to be summed up into a single word. Sad.

I started cooking ever since i was 4 years old. My parents had just bought a gas stove with a built in oven. Back then, it was quite the luxury to own one. What i did with it was, i made my first baked sausage. You must be like "What? That's nothing!", but hey, i was 4. Placing the sausage on a plate and putting it in the oven and cooking it for 10 minutes on a 180°C heat and to have a well cooked sausage was quite an accomplishment for a 4 year old. It wowed my parent and other siblings, having to see me do that on my own. So there it was, the encouragements came pouring in.

Within the same year, i remembered the month approaching to Ramadhan. My family has this liking towards pizza. Most of the time, my mom would ask of my brother to place an order at Pizza Hut. Her favourite would be the Hawaiian chicken. Often enough, we would get to enjoy eating pizza. So during that fasting month, i thought of making pizza. I told my dad to buy Gardenia Bread, Cheese and you guess it, sausages! So what i did was, I took a few slices of the square Gardenia bread (4 to be exact) and pressed the edges of the bread together to form a perfect square. I used a bit of water to mend it together. Once done, i spread some ketchup (tomato) sauce, sprinkled some crush black pepper and put some sliced boiled sausages on top. And to finish, i then put some sliced cheese. Back then, my dad only got me the square cheese Singles (also a type of cheddar cheese) . Since it came in single squares, i had to roughly slice it up and spread it all over the bread. Once done, i place it on an oven tray and put it in the oven for 15 minutes under a 200°C just enough to melt the cheese and to crisp the bread.

And there it was. My first self made recipe for a quick pizza. May i humbly remind you, i was 4. So don't expect it to be brilliant like what chef Mario would have done. But nevertheless, i was proud of. it To make things better, my family actually enjoyed it when we ate it for break fast. Like a gratitude to any chef, having an empty plate after wouldn't feel any greater then.

Ever since, i started cooking whatever i can and experimenting as i go. Most of are failures, but there are times i can actually impress the people around me.


So. as you can see, i'm very much different from Pedro. He prefers formal lessons towards cookery. As for me, i prefer to experiment and try out anything i can. My education of cookery mostly comes from observation and of course solely reliant on my taste buds. Sometime it works, sometimes it doesn't Pretty much a gamble most of the time. But when it comes to that moment when you created something so great, its all worth it then!

Hence here we are. Me and Pedro. In search of that great culinary adventure that can make anyone's taste buds flare with wonderful flavours!

Wish us both luck yes?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Introduction to Bread Making

It is almost a week after my last post. We have been busy with work and been going back home late. But with the growing membership of this blog  (two (2) at the time of this writing! hahaha!) I would not want the blog to be stagnant. Although I am still a newbie in bread making, I believe i can share some information on the subject as per the two workshops I attended at Bagus

The first workshop I attended was the Bun-Making workshop. The Specter and Rachel do not share the same interest as me. But for my birthday this year, The Specter sponsored the fee for the workshop! I asked him to come with me too as I do not want to go there alone. He said he's ok with it but without enthusiasm. 

On the day of the workshop, we went to the Kajang branch but we were early. We headed for breakfast and shop around for some baking supplies. Once we were done shopping and paid for the workshop registration, we headed upstairs of the shop. Not so surprisingly, the medium of instruction was not in English. But Chef Chee Seng tried to explain to me in English as much as he could. He was quite shy at first and so I turned to The Specter to translate what Chef Chee Seng was saying.

We were handed a recipe sheet with just the ingredients listed for all the buns we will then be making. The bread dough is the the same for all the buns. The instruction the chef gave was very simple. Dump all the ingredients in the bowl and then knead in the mixer. But since I didn't have a mixer then, I asked the chef to show how to knead manually by hand. So he did two batches of the dough. At different timings of kneading in the mixer, the chef gave us sample of the dough for us to observe the texture. He then showed us how to do the Window Pane test to ensure that the dough is ready. This part was what I liked the most as I learned what is actually expected of the dough to become. At this point, The Specter, who was just there to give me moral support, started to get interested and asked a lot of questions. After the dough has risen, Chef Chee Seng divided the dough for each students to shape and fill the buns. For me, it was fun doing it but my moral supporter was more into it than me. I did not say anything then as i do not want to ruin his mood. But if you were there too, you would see that he was really enjoying it.

The only photo I have from the Bun Making Workshop. Mine is the first 3 on top and rightmost below. The rest made by The Specter.

Now, enough of the background story. So here's the recipe:

Basic Sweet Bread Dough

  • 500 g bread flour
  • 80 g caster sugar
  • 6 g salt
  • 20 g milk powder
  • 10 g instant yeast
  • 1 pc egg
  • 220 ml cold water
  • 80 g butter

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. 
  2. Mix to form the dough and start kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic. (Please see notes below)
  3. Let dough rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until double in volume, in a slightly oiled bowl. Then cover with wet kitchen towel to prevent dryness of the dough's outer layer.
  4. Turn dough onto work surface and divide dough into 40/50 grams or desired size. 
  5. Flatten dough lightly with a rolling pin and put fillings. Shape as you want. Or roll dough into a small round shape but do not put topping yet.
  6. Proof dough for another 45 minutes or until it's doubled in size.
  7. Pre-heat oven at 190 degrees Celcius. 
  8. Put desired topping for the small round shaped dough.
  9. Bake buns for 8 minutes. Turn the baking sheet 180 degrees then bake for 7 minutes more.
  10. Remove buns from baking sheet after taking it out of the oven. Check if the bun is cooked by tapping underneath the bun, it should sound hollow. 

You may select any of the below fillings or topping:

Chocolate Bun :

  • 1 kg Chocolate filling

Chicken and Ham and Cheese Bun

  • Chicken Ham
  • Cheddar Cheese

Peanut Butter Bun

  • Peanut Butter
  • Almond Nib

Black Pepper Tuna Bun (just saute in a pan)

  • 150 g  tuna
  • 40 g onion
  • 4 g powdered black pepper
  • 2 g salt
  • 40 g mayonnaise

Onion Sweet Corn Bun

  • 5 g butter
  • 20 g onion
  • 100 g sweetcorn
  • 2 g powdered black pepper


Tomato Cheese Bun
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Tomato Slice
  • Parsley

The Specter's notes from the workshop:

On Ingredients:

  • Medium/high protein flour makes softer bun.
  • Subtitute milk powder with soya for those who are lactose intolerant.
  • Dry yeast is better in taste but live(cake) yeast is healthier.
  • Eggs and butter help dough to have better texture.
  • For this sweet dough, always use cold water, never warm water.


  • Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Do the Window Pane test to check if dough is ready. Take a little amount of dough and stretch it slowly on all side until you can form a translucent layer. If dough breaks, it is not ready.
  • To make the dough rise quicker, put dough on the rack of oven that is turned off . Place hot/warm water in bowl under the resting dough.
  • To test if dough is ready after the first rise (45 minutes to 1 hour after kneading), push fingers onto dough lightly, if the indentation does not go back, the dough is ready.
  • Butter/oil your hands when re-kneading in a cold room.
  • Flour hands when re-kneading in a warm room.


  • When dough shrinks back during rolling/shaping, it means that it has not rested enough.
  • The fillings must taste stronger than usual.
  • After adding the filling. let dough rest for another 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Paste fillings can be shaped. Do not shape wet fillings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

About the Geeky Cooks: Pedro

At a young age of 7, I already know how to cook rice - not in a rice cooker, just a regular cast iron pot we call kaldero. We were living in Pasig City then. I remember one time I was told to cook the rice and ended up me being scolded by my mother for not being able to pick up her joke. We usually just cook 2 gatang. Gatang is a unit of measure that does not actually have a standard. We used the medium sized can of Alaska condensed milk. My mama told me "twelve" when I asked her how many gatang is should cook. Being stupid, I measured 12 gatang of rice into our kaldero. Rinsed it , the put enough water by using my middle finger to measure how high the rice is and then puting the same amount of water above the rice. So there, I put it on the stove and waited for it to cook. Dinner time came, the rice already cooked. I told my  mama that we are almost out of rice. She then looked at rice container (which is actually big can of biscuits), and found out that there's not much left in it. She asked me how come that the container is almost empty. I replied, "Sabi nyo 12 na gatang ang iluto." ("You said to cook 12 gatang."). So there goes the scolding. My mama cannot believe that I did it as the cooked rice is just right. I was also wondering how the rice was cooked nicely when it should have been overflowing from the kaldero.

We transfered to Cavite when i was 8 years young. The day before the fiestas and other important holidays when the rest of the clan will be there at our grandpa's and grandma's (father side) house. There is always cooking preparation job distributed amongst my uncles, aunties, cousins and some helpful neighbors. Some would be peeling the veggies and I specifically did not like working with onions. It's so dramatic! The workers bees (us who were allowed to handle knives) were given the veggies and told to cut for a specific recipe. Say, pang-menudo (for Menudo) wherein the potatoes/carrots are cut into cubes of around 1cm. Pang-Aritada (for Afritada), the small potatoes are quarted and the big once are cut similar to the quarted small potatoes. We de-string the chickpeas, french beans and string beans. Cut the cauliflower head and bring it to smaller size by nipping the small "branches." With some practice, I was able to do cutting meats too! But for the usual recipes too. :) 

My grandmother would always make Atcharang Papaya (Pickled Green Papaya) weeks before the fiesta. We help out by peeling, cutting and grating the green papaya. Afterwards, we would play seesaw to press out all the liquids from the papaya. Wrapped in clean flour sack, the papaya is placed in between two long benches. with one of the bench on top, we sit there and have fun playing. 

On weekends, our parents used to go to Manila. Mama would tell us what is available for us to cook as me and my sister had to stay at home. It was my moment to learn how to clean fish, but unfortunately, with my big fingers, I always ruin the fish and so the task went to my sister. We used to do a pretend cooking show we called PLJ Cooking Show. That's me, my sister and my cousin. One time, mama left ingredient for Dinuguan (Pig'sBlood Stew). Usually the pigs' innards are well cleaned from the market already. Somehow, the one we had is not really that clean. When we started sauteeing the innards, it smelled bad! My sister right away said "Kuya, isara natin ung bintana at pinto, baka akalain ng kapitbahay nagluluto tayo ng tae!" (Brother, let's close the windows and door, the neighbors might think we are cooking turd!) So we did. after we put the vinegar, the smell got better. The stew was alright after it was cooked. Since it's been boiling, we guessed it was ok to eat.

Once my father taught me how to properly fry Dinaing na Bangus (Butterflied Milkfish marinated in vinegar). So, I put the fish into the kawali (wok) with hot cooking oil with the fish skin side at the bottom. Since it's wet, the oil was spattering and crackling. Then it was time to flip it. The oil spattered and with my father right beside me, I screamed like a girl! Aaaiie!!! He looked at me but did not say anything. Since then I practiced my surprised reaction with a manly "Uughh!"

High school, my elective for Home Economics and Livelihood Education subject when I was in my junior year, was baking. I failed miserably in that subject. Failed to make Chocolate Crinkles. It just looked like chocolate munchkins from Dunkin Donuts, but a bit harder. Still taste nice though. I did my own Chocolate Cake which was also a big embarassment as I even gave it to my teacher for the subject after the home economics subject. I do not remember the taste of the cake itself but I can vividly recall the icing that I made. It was snowy white and like soap bubbles, it pops gradually until it was back into its original egg state. Good thing my teacher did not experience food poisoning.

One time, The Specter asked me why i like baking pastries and desserts so much. I told him about my high school cooking experience. I believe that it is actually why i am into baking now. I failed before and I want to make up for it.

There's a lot of stories to tell about me cooking. I guess the above is enough for now. Next time i will tell you about my first time baking bread. I can't stop smiling thinking about it. You will too! :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Quan Ice Cream and Coffee House @ Desa Pandan

Last Saturday, after Rachel and I finished the Espasol and Pastillas de Leche, we did not have the time to prepare for dinner as she needs to be back home early. So we just decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants - Quan Ice Cream and Coffee House.

We have been visiting Quan for numerous times already. And even way way way back before this blog, i have been feeling this eagerness to promote the restaurant to my colleagues. There was also a time when i would try to find restaurant review websites featuring Quan and comment with all excitement.

Since Quan @ Desa Pandan is not located near train stations, I have been trying to find a way to get there by bus. Just in case The Specter is not around and I have the craving to go there. I believe the easiest will be boarding this bus from Dato Keramat. Coming from Pandan Indan, i think it will be easier for me to take a cab and give this address:

Desa Pandan Branch
No. 10, Jalan 4/76 C,
Desa Pandan,
55100 Kuala Lumpur.

Or I may just go to the Pandan Indah branch which is just 5 to 8 minutes walk from our apartment, hahaha! (Just went there twice. Though same restaurant, it just feels better seeing familiar faces at Desa Pandan.)

Pandan Indah Branch
8G, Jalan Pandan Indah 4/33,
Pandan Indah
55100 KL

We arrived at the place around 7:00 pm  Never did we encounter driving around just to find a parking space. There is always an available parking space around the vicinity. There was not much customer that time and so we just went straight to our favorite spot - the innermost corner of the dining area near the kitchen window.

Once we were seated, May (i am guessing how the name is spelled) handed us the menu with a smile. This is one of the reasons why I prefer eating out at Quan in Desa Pandan. Some of the staff may not be so sun-shiny, but they really are attentive of the customers.

There is a lot to choose from Quan's menu. May it be noodles, rice, soups, western and lots of different drinks and, of course, ice creams! Our meal for that night is as delicious as always. I remember the first time i was there. My eyes were smiling and i really can't get over the sight of the beautiful eggs on my fried rice. The egg whites were well cooked and the yolk was still liquid. Just like the way i like my sunny side-up! I ordered Butter Fish Rice, Big Bowl Noodle, and Iced Jasmice Tea. The Specter has Singapore Fried Mee Hoon. Ginger Beef Soo Hoon for Rachel. She asked the noodles to be changed and may was really helpful in customising Rachel's food. Some Abalone Mushrooms and Calamari for all of us.

I can only describe my food. Though I ate The Specter's left-overs, I will just focus on what I ordered. The Butter Fish Rice is just creamy enough. It won't make you feel like you are eating melted butter. I won't describe the egg anymore. As you can derive from my description above, yes, i am so in love with the eggs. My soup, Big Bowl Noodle, has the taste of all the fried items combined. Not oily and salty. The seasoning is just right. The Abalone Mushroom and Calamari coated with the crispy light batter that i wish the chef would share with me. Wish! Wish! Wish!

Butter Fish Rice
Singapore Fried Mee Hoon
Ginger Beef Soo Hoon
Abalone Mushroom
Big Bowl Noodle
With the delectable food, Quan has reasonable price. Below is our receipt to prove that you can get gratifying meal with less!

Some other blogs have a Must Try at Quan in their posts. But i say and believe that you'll enjoy anything you are going to order.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Espasol and Pastillas de Leche

Living outside the Philippines, most of my Filipino colleagues and friends misses Filipino treats. This time, my friend Rachel requested for us to make Espasol and Pastillas de Leche. So here they are...


  • 3 cups glutinous rice flour, toasted and divided
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, toasted
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cups white granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, pour-in the coconut milk and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the sugars, toasted grated coconut and vanilla and stir to combine. Let it boil for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add 2 1/2 cups of toasted rice flour and keep on stirring constantly until mixture is hard and dry.
  4. Remove the mixture from the pot and place and flatten onto floured board for about 1/2 inch thickness. Allow to cool down.
  5. Cut the mixture into desired size and and roll onto the rest of the flour. Shake off excess flour.

Pastillas de Leche


  • 515 g (1 can) condensed milk
  • 2 3/4 cups of powdered milk
  • caster sugar
  1. In a bowl, mix condensed milk and powdered milk until well combined. (I asked Rachel to reserve half and i added strawberry paste to add flavor. The mixture got a bit too soft and so next time we should be adding some more powdered milk.)
  2. Spoon small amount onto greased (we used butter) hands and roll the mixture into a ball and shape into a cylinder afterwards.
  3. Roll onto caster sugar, just enough to cover the shaped pastillas. 
  4. Wrap in paper or cellophane.