Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Banana Bread French Toast, Candied Walnuts and Banana Brûlée | 法式香蕉蛋糕西多士

Overripe bananas? Make banana bread. Bored of plain banana bread? Make banana bread French toast! For the longest time, banana bread is the obvious solution to an over-abundance of bananas that may have past their retail prime, but now, there is a very real reason to make a loaf with all intents and purposes.

The first time I've had banana bread French toast was at a little cafe in the suburbs of Brisbane, Australia. The thick, golden, battered slice came topped with a generous scoop of house-made ice-cream and a crunchy nut streusel then drizzled with local honey. One bite and the rest was history. I swore this would go on the menu were I to open up a cafe one day. Even if that does not happen eventually, the fantasy lives on.

As banana bread is already naturally sweet, no additional sugar is necessary in the milk and egg batter
Brunch just got sexier: treat yourself to a heavenly brunch with this French toast with a scrumptious twist!
Switching up regular toast with banana bread adds a scrumptious twist to this weekend brunch classic. The tender, moist cake makes a wonderful canvas that soaks up the milk and egg batter, seamlessly marrying the aroma of sweet banana with the warmth of cinnamon and vanilla. It is simply heavenly pan-fried in a generous dose of butter. Now, one could opt to stop right there with just French toast with perhaps a drizzle of maple syrup, a light dusting of confectioners sugar, or a side of fresh berries. But as they say, go big or go home - why not take this up another notch?

As banana bread has a relative high moisture content, you may find that it never quite crisps up as much as stale bread when making French toast. It gives us all the more reason to pair banana bread French toast with additional toppings that bestows just that extra va-va-voom it needs.

Think sticky candied walnuts that adds an irresistible crunch and toasty flavor; and torched banana that brings a delicate smokiness to the palate.

Banana bread French toast just went from sexy to sensational. And if that still doesn't suffice? Make it a-la-mode: top it all with a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream. And if that still doesn't do the trick? Give it a drizzle of dark rum. That, I believe, should hit it out the ball park.

Torching not only takes away the raw edge in the banana, but also adds a tantalizing smokiness to the ensemble

Now, this may not be your typical low-calorie brunch. But let's face it - no one's exactly thinking of going on a diet when making French toast. Rather, I say, why not make each French toast count?

To make this banana bread French toast, you will need to first make banana bread. Get the recipe here (day-old banana bread is even better!):
Classic Banana Bread

Ingredients: Servings for 2
Banana Bread French Toast
4 slices banana bread, sliced 1-inch thick
1 egg
1/4 cup whole milk
Drizzle of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

Quick Candied Walnuts
A palmful of walnuts (approx. 25g)
Drizzle of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon honey

Banana Brûlée
1 ripe but firm banana
Brown sugar

Banana Bread French Toast
Whisk the egg, milk, cinnamon and vanilla extract in a shallow dish. Dip the banana bread slices into the egg mixture, coating both sides and let soak for 1 minute on each side. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the banana bread slices to the skillet and cook until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining slices.

Quick Candied Walnuts
Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F. Coat walnuts with oil, brown sugar, and honey. Transfer nuts to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 7-8 minutes until golden and bubbling. Keep an eye on them once you smell the fragrance of roasted nuts as they burn quickly. Remove from oven and let cool to form the crunchy glaze.

Banana Brûlée
Choose firm, just-ripe bananas so they don't fall apart. Slice bananas into half-inch coins. Arrange on a heat-proof dish and sprinkle brown sugar liberally over the surfaces. Use butane torch to brûlée, moving the flame evenly back and forth over the sugar coating until caramelized.

Stack banana bread French toast and scatter candied nuts and torched banana over the top. Finish with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and some fresh berries on the side. For an extra decadent treat, add a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Bon appétit!

What's your favorite topping on a French toast?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

【 法式香蕉蛋糕西多士 】

香蕉蛋糕                     4 件,各 1 寸厚(食譜按此
雞蛋                             1 隻
鮮奶                             60 毫升
雲尼拿香油                少量
肉桂粉                        1/4 茶匙
牛油                            15 克

核桃                              25 克
菜油                              少量
黃糖                              1 茶匙
蜂蜜                              1 茶匙             

香蕉                              1 隻
黃糖                              少量

1. 雞蛋、鮮奶、肉桂粉和雲尼拿香油加入打勻,放入淺碟中。
2. 香蕉蛋糕浸入蛋液中,每面浸約一分鐘,直至徹底吸滿蛋液。
3. 牛油放入平底鑊中煮溶,放入蛋液香蕉蛋糕,以中火半煎炸至兩面金黃,盛起

1. 預熱焗爐至 220°C / 425°F。核桃跟油、黃糖和蜂蜜拌勻。
2. 轉放在鋪了烘培紙的焗盤上,焗約 7-8 分鐘。烘好取出晾凉。

1. 選用剛熟而不軟身的香蕉,切成半寸厚的圓片,鋪在耐熱的器皿上。
2. 撒上黃糖,以火槍燒至糖分融化。


What's your favorite topping on a French toast?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Classic Banana Bread | 香蕉蛋糕

The first thing I ever baked was a banana bread. That goes to show that making banana bread is about as easy as baking can get - so long as you have bananas that are so ripe and freckled they would have otherwise ended up in the reject pile at the supermarket.
While some people make banana bread only as a way to use up forgotten bananas, others like me routinely stake out at the quick sale corner hunting precisely for these often orphaned, blemished, and (heavily discounted) overripe bananas - for none other than to bake the most impossibly scrumptious and moist homemade banana bread. After all, banana bread is half the reason why bananas exist, right?

Over the years I have carried banana bread to the office at my first desk job; brought a slice or two to my hairdresser and bribed a security guard; shared with my fellow chirpy flight attendants during boot camp training as a new recruit; and on countless occasions served it at housewarmings, game nights, or simply as an afternoon treat. Over time, friends, neighbors, co-workers have fallen in love with this banana bread. Some even declared it a favorite.

Banana bread can be something rather ordinary, a usual suspect at coffee shops everywhere; it is so basic and so ubiquitous yet so universally loved it's almost uncanny. Abundant as they are, however, some banana bread may turn out dry, overly sweet or, worse yet, taste of artificial flavoring. What makes homemade ones extraordinary and sets it apart from commercial ones is its texture, the moist and soft crumb, the incredibly rich color and buttery aroma, and the unmistakable natural sweetness from ripe bananas.

Year after year I swear by this simple recipe, deviating only in experimentation with different combinations of sugars. I tend to gravitate towards using brown or even black sugar to imbue the cake with a rich, caramelly flavor and moisture, but also mixing in white sugar just to provide enough sweetness without overpowering the banana flavor. Using white sugar alone will produce a paler banana bread with a more single-noted flavor. The sugar amount is flexible. Most recipes call for one full cup of sugar, but I find 3/4 cup to be just perfect - or even less if you are using very, very ripe bananas or upping banana count to four.

As far as baking goes, banana bread is by far the most beginner-friendly. It is the simplest and most forgiving, especially for someone like me who detests precise measurements and flinch at the thought of baking an angel food cake. There may be plenty of ways to fancy up a good old banana bread; you can add walnuts, pecans, chocolate chips, dark rum, all of which I've tried - but some of my best bakes are the ones that were kept simple and classic. Sometimes simplicity is best (I am a bit of a purist when it comes to banana bread).

Ordinary as it may be, banana bread is surely well loved by all and oddly so it is also one of my most requested recipes from friends. This is my go-to favorite recipe for banana bread, one that I have written out on a loose piece of junk paper and which I have cherished over the years. Calling this the "best-ever" banana bread may be a bold statement, but I am here to admit it might just be the best banana bread you've ever had. It will surely make you go bananas!

1 1/2 cup (195 g) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large overripe bananas
1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence


Preheat oven at 350F/180C. Cream together the butter and sugar. Crush bananas with a fork or a masher. Add eggs and vanilla essence and combine well with the butter and sugar mixture.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Fold into creamed mixture. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Do you like your banana bread plain or with nuts?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

 【 香蕉蛋糕 】

中筋麵粉               195 克
蘇打粉                   1 茶匙
幼鹽                        1/2 茶匙
無鹽牛油               115 克
紅糖                        110 克
砂糖                        50 克
熟透香蕉               3 條(大)
雞蛋                        2 隻
雲呢拿香油          1/2 茶匙

1. 預熱焗爐至 350F/180C。
2. 牛油放於室溫軟化,加入糖用攪拌器攪拌至均勻幼滑。
3. 香蕉放在碗裡用叉子壓成泥狀,可以保留一點顆粒口感。
4. 加入雞蛋和雲尼拿香油拌勻,然後跟牛油和糖拌勻。
5. 加入過篩後的麵粉、鹽和蘇打粉,輕輕攪拌均勻。
6. 把粉漿倒入已掃油的糕盤內,放入焗爐焗約 50-60 分鐘至金黃熟透即可。

Do you like your banana bread plain or with nuts?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Lemon, Garlic & Herb Roasted Spatchcock Chicken | 香草檸檬蒜香烤雞

Nothing quite beats a perfect chicken roast, especially when it can be done with ease and in a short time! A homey chicken roast sounds sublime for a cozy Sunday dinner in with the family or loved ones, yet it is also impressive enough to wow your friends and neighbors. This roast chicken will fill your kitchen with the tantalizing scent of garlic, rosemary, and lemon, giving you impossibly juicy meat and skin so crispy it easily beats the pants off any rotisserie chicken.

Spatchcocking your chicken is a surefire way to ensure juicy results and crispy skin every time. Not only do you cut short on the cooking time, it also makes for easy marinading the night before. Works great also on the grill for a summery outdoors barbecue. As I shared in my last post, ever since I started spatchcocking I've never turned back; in fact, a simple spatchcock chicken roast has saved me many a time when I invited friends over for dinner!

Go to my tutorial: How to Spatchcock a Chicken: A Step-by-Step Guide

Lay the bird on a bed of root vegetables, onion, and garlic for a wholesome, easy meal all in one pan!

Let the bird marinate overnight for extra flavor and tenderness
To make for a complete meal in one pan, I like to throw in chopped root vegetables, onion wedges, whole garlic cloves, and hearty vegetables like brussels sprouts to roast together. For a even more scrumptious treat, however, I like to build a layer of thinly sliced potatoes and sweet potatoes underneath the chicken, which soaks up the juices from the roast and crisps up with crunchy bits towards the end. Now, that is truly irresistible.

The roast will generate a copious amount of drippings, which you can use to whip up a luscious gravy if you are feeling extra fancy. Personally, I find the chicken in and of itself so flavorsome and moist that I'd skip completely on the gravy. Rather, I would reserve the lemon-infused, richly-flavored, garlicky drippings for cooking another day - whether it's in roasting baby potatoes, stir-frying vegetables, or cooking another chicken dish. It is absolutely sensational in preparing my Lemon Chicken Piccata with Zoodles recipe!

Get the recipe: Lemon Chicken Piccata with Zoodles

Pair this roast chicken with a perfect side dish: Brown Butter Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Sage, and Almonds - work on the stove while the chicken is roasting, then pop the dish into the oven once the bird is out resting!

•  Get the recipe: Brown Butter Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Sage, and Almonds

The chicken is so tender the leg freely wriggles off without even using a knife - watch as the juices flow!

1 whole chicken
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh herbs, chopped (rosemary/thyme)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 whole lemon
Potatoes (optional) 

1. Spatchcock the chicken: Pat the chicken dry. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut along each side of the spine to remove the backbone. Trim excess fat and clean out the cavity. With breast side up, press down firmly in the middle of the breastbone to flatten the bird. (For my step-by-step guide, click here)

Get under the skin: using your fingers, carefully separate the skin and the flesh in the breast and thigh. Spread marinade nicely in these "pockets" and evenly all over the whole chicken.
2. Season the chicken: Combine garlic, herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Rub marinade evenly throughout the chicken and under the skin. Drizzle with lemon juice from half of the whole lemon. Reserve the squeezed half lemon for roasting. Marinate overnight.

3. Roast the chicken: Preheat oven to 425°F/220°C. Remove chicken from fridge and allow 20 minutes to return to room temperature. In a large cast iron skillet or sheet pan, scatter thinly sliced potatoes and salt generously. Place squeezed lemon half in center to help prop up chicken for better air circulation. Place chicken on top and tuck the wing tips under to prevent burning. Slice remaining half lemon and scatter around chicken.

4. Roast for 20 minutes. Baste the potato slices with drippings. Rotate the pan and return to the oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until golden and crispy, depending on size of the chicken. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Dig in!

Tried this recipe?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

【 香草檸檬蒜香烤雞 】

急凍全雞                          1 隻
蒜末                                   3 大蒜瓣
新鮮迷迭香/百里香       適量(剁碎)
初榨橄欖油                      3 湯匙
粗鹽                                   1 湯匙
黑胡椒                               1 茶匙
檸檬                                   1 個
薯仔                                   隨意

1. 先將全雞來個蝶式開邊。(詳細做法:蝴蝶式全雞開邊法
2. 準備醃料:把蒜末、香草、橄欖油、鹽和胡椒拌勻。
3. 用手指輕輕把雞胸和雞腿的皮與肉之間分隔開,有助塞進醃料。把整隻雞塗滿醃料,擠上半個檸檬汁,放進雪櫃醃過夜。擠完的檸檬半保留備用。
4. 醃好的雞置室內解凍約 20 分鐘。預熱焗爐至 425°F/220°C。
5. 薯仔切薄片,平鋪在烤盤上並撒上鹽和胡椒。擠過的檸檬半放在中間。
6. 放上雞隻,將雞翼尖向下疊好以防止燒焦。剩餘半隻檸檬切片,撒在烤盤上。
7. 放進焗爐烤 20 分鐘。薯仔掃上雞油,再烤 15 - 20 分鐘至雞隻金黃皮脆,即成!

Tried this recipe?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

How to Spatchcock a Chicken: A Step-by-Step Guide | 蝴蝶式全雞開邊法

For many a seasoned home cook, roasting whole chicken may be like a walk in the park; but for the vast many others, me including, roasting chicken instills a certain fear. There is often that most daunting fear that the chook cooks unevenly, with the breast turning into rubber while the drumstick runs pink; the hassle of turning, flipping, and then the basting; oh, and the long wait. For yet others, there is the issue with size - their oven is so petite that it can barely accommodate even a small bird lying on its tummy. Trust me, I have been there, done that. Nothing feels more comforting than a juicy roast chicken on a Sunday, yet for the longest time I have denied myself this ultimate pleasure for fear of failure and hassle.

This was all about to change when I learned how to spatchcock a chicken, which is just a fancy way of saying to butterfly a chicken. By removing the backbone from tail to crown and laying the chicken flat like an open book, you essentially turn something three-dimensional into two, not only creating a more even surface to cook evenly, but also exposing more skin, which crisps up nicely under high temperature - and who doesn't go nuts over crispy skin?! (Those who discard and push the skin to the edge of the plate, pass them over please.)

Another main advantage of spatchcocking a chicken is faster cooking time, whether on the grill or roasting in an oven. Time after time, I will have a perfectly juicy, tender roast chicken ready in just 35 minutes - a whopping third faster than roasting a chicken whole. Additionally, a butterflied chicken makes a wonderful palette for marinating, given the easier access to the cavity and exterior.

A whole chicken from the supermarkets in Hong Kong typically comes with the full package - head, neck, feet and all but the giblets. Spatchcocking is like operating a surgery. For first-timers, the process may get you a wee bit queasy especially with the poor bird staring back at you. Memories of dissecting a dead frog in biology lab may flash back. Go ahead, chop the head off and discard it out of sight to calm the guilt but never do so without giving thanks. If anything, spatchcocking a chicken allows us to be just one step closer to understanding and appreciating the animals that feed us. And if this step hasn't converted you into vegetarianism yet, go on and proceed with a pair of sharp kitchen shears.

Advantages of spatchcocking:
•  More even cooking - consistently tender and juicy
•  Greater surface area for crispy skin
•  Short cooking time - approx. 35 minutes
•  No flipping and turning necessary
•  Great for marinating
•  Perfect for both oven roasting and grilling
  Excellent for smaller ovens
•  No carving necessary - just section the chicken off when serving
•  You get to practice CPR
At the risk of sounding exaggerated, I dare say learning to spatchcock a chicken was positively life-changing. Consistent, juicy results every time. All my fears for roasting chicken dissipated, and not for a second do I consider going back to roasting a chicken whole, ever.

此不再恐懼烤全雞!把雞剪開成蝴蝶狀,使全雞在同一個平面及相同的厚度均勻受熱,除了大大縮減烤焗時間,更能每次都做出嫩滑多汁、皮脆可口的效果!— 拖延已久,終於完成了這一個小小的 tutorial 跟大家分享不敗烤雞秘訣 : 

{ A Step-by-Step Guide: Let's Begin }

Grab your kitchen shears

Pat your chicken dry. Remove and discard the head and neck. Cut feet off at the joint of the drumstick. Set aside.

Cut along the backbone

Starting at the tail, cut along one side of the backbone with kitchen shears. Make the cut as close to the spine as possible.

Remove the backbone

Repeat on the other side of the spine toremove the entire backbone from neck to tail.

Trim and clean

Trim excess fat and clean out the cavity. Reserve backbone and feet for stock or freeze for later use — do not discard!


Flatten the chook

Now, on to my favorite step: "give CPR". With breast side up, press down firmly in the middle of the breastbone to flatten the bird — you will hear a sensational crack. This step is dangerously satisfying.
「心肺復甦術」: 雞胸向上,用掌心於胸骨中央用力壓一壓,隨即會聽見「啪啦」一聲,將全雞壓平。

Get under the skin

For maximum flavor, you want to get your marinade under the skin. Carefully use your finger to create pockets between the skin and the flesh in the breast and thigh. Be careful not to break the skin!

You've just spatchcocked!

Well done — your chicken is now relaxed and ready for the marinade and the grill!

Do you like to roast your chicken whole or spatchcocked?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Som Tum Thai: Green Papaya Salad | 泰式青木瓜沙律


Thai food lovers will most certainly be no stranger to som tum (ส้มตำ) - or green papaya salad - the salad that is at once impossibly fiery and refreshingly crunchy; intensely savory and insanely tangy - in short, it is a kaleidoscope of explosive sensation on a plate.  

Som tum originates in Isaan, the northeastern region of Thailand bordering Laos (some may argue that the dish originally came from Laos), though it is now widely consumed across the country with a multitude of variations which may include salted crab, fermented fish paste, or green mango in place of papaya. What most of us come to recognize as the typical som tum is actually called "som tum thai" (ส้มตำไทย) - a classic version that is perhaps most palatable internationally as it does not contain any of the more pungent ingredients.

The core ingredients of a som tum are shredded green papaya, tomatoes, green long beans, dried shrimp, and peanuts, pounded together with chilies, fresh garlic, palm sugar, fish sauce, and juicy limes, all of which combine to create a perfect balance of salty, sweet, spicy, and sour. Som tum is almost always prepared with a large clay or wooden mortar and pestle - a must have in any Thai kitchen really - which allows for easy pounding, crushing, and melding of ingredients and flavors. After all, the word tum in som tum is derived from the verb "to pound" (and "sour" for "som"). I have attempted making som tum before by simply tossing the ingredients without a mortar and pestle and, trust me, the salad was just that - a bland, soul-less, "deconstructed" salad. 

Now, what if you haven't got space for an unwieldy mortar and pestle at home? Well, join the club. I may not have one, but instead make use of the resources at home and retrieved a large glass mixing bowl, paired it with my wooden cocktail muddler bought from the Japanese dollar store, and together they just worked wonders.

When it comes to prepping the green papaya, I have at one point or another observed chefs and street cart vendors in Bangkok shredding the green papayas by vigorously slashing and paring away the surface of the fruit, a traditional method that yields an intentionally coarse and uneven shred for extra crunch. My knife skills may be questionable, and I am in no hurry of slashing a finger or two, so I resort to my trustee grater and alternate between the medium and large-sized holes for that effortlessly rustic, crunchy result. 

For the most authentic result, it is ideal to sweeten the dish with Thai palm sugar, available at most southeast Asian grocery shops; if unavailable, substitute with soft light brown sugar for a "same same but different" caramelized taste. With sourness being a dominant flavor in som tum - as the name suggests - the use of fresh lime is essential for a citrusy tang to balance off the sweetness of palm sugar and saltiness of fish sauce and dried shrimp. It is also not uncommon to use a bit of tamarind water in addition to lime juice for a more complex note of sweetness and tartness, so give that a try!

On a different note, around this time of year, people all across Thailand would normally be gearing up for the Thai New Year celebrations. Under the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, however, numerous Songkran events are cancelled, families are urged to stay in, the young are asked to avoid visiting their elderly family members in order to protect the most vulnerable, and international travel continues to be severely restricted. What is usually the most festive national holiday, doused with globally renowned ritual water splashing that draws tens of thousands of visitors each year, may present an oddly quiet scene this year. As with the rest of the planet, I hope that this global crisis will soon come to an end, and that life can resume its track as soon as possible for all.

With that said, sawadee pee mai krub!

Half a green papaya (about 2-3 cups shredded)
Half a small carrot
6 string beans or 2 long beans
1-2 small tomatoes or 6 cherry tomatoes
1-3 red bird’s eye chilies 
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tablespoons Thai palm sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of 1-2 Thai limes
2 tablespoons peanuts
1 tablespoon dried shrimp (optional)
1. In a small, dry frying pan, toast the peanuts over medium heat until fragrant and golden brown. Remove and set aside.
2. Peel and shred green papaya and carrot with a julienne peeler or a regular cheese grater with medium to large sized holes. Trim ends and cut long beans into 2-inch segments. Slice tomatoes into wedges, or halve the cherry tomatoes if using.

3. Cut each garlic clove into three pieces. Coarsely smash garlic and whole chilies in a mortar and pestle. Add the palm sugar, beans and tomatoes. Lightly pound to bruise the beans and break up the tomatoes, and ensure that the palm sugar is fully dissolved. Squeeze in the lime juice and fish sauce and pound to combine.
4. Add the green papaya, carrot, dried shrimp (if using), and toasted peanuts. Lightly pound and toss to combine. Check seasoning. The taste should be sweet and salty in perfect balance, with a sharp, sour and spicy tang. Plate up and enjoy fresh!

Tried this recipe?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

【 泰式青木瓜沙律 】

Sawadee Pee Mai Krub!適逢泰國迎接新年,同大家分享地道前菜簡易食譜!青木瓜沙律 (ส้มตำ) 味道酸辣鮮甜又醒胃,往往叫人食得津津有味。就是使用街市常見用來煲湯的那種青木瓜,十元八塊就可以泡製爽脆新鮮的 Som Tum - 在家都能輕易造出正宗泰國風味!

青木瓜                 半個
甘筍                     半枝
長豆角                 2 條
小蕃茄                 1 個(或車厘茄 6 粒)
指天椒                 1 - 3 隻
蒜頭                     2 瓣
棕櫚糖                 1 1/2 湯匙
魚露                     1 1/2 湯匙
泰國青檸            1 - 2 個
花生                     2 湯匙
蝦米                     隨意
1. 花生用乾鍋烘香,備用。
2. 青木瓜和甘筍去皮刨絲,長角豆切段,番茄切件(車厘茄切半)。
3. 把蒜頭和指天椒摏碎。
4. 加長角豆、番茄和棕櫚糖輕輕摏碎至糖完全溶解。
5. 倒入魚露和新鮮青檸汁,拌勻來混合各種材料。
6. 加入青木瓜、甘筍絲、蝦米和花生,一邊繼續輕輕摏碎、一邊拌勻,令各樣材料更為入味。試味並再作適當調味,即成!

Tried this recipe?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Steamed White Sugar Sponge Cake | 傳統白糖糕

The classic Chinese steamed white sugar sponge cake is a childhood favorite for many, and it is no exception for me growing up in 1990's Hong Kong. The sheer thought of this humble street snack brings back many sweet memories - of my mother always buying me a couple of slices every time she visited the wet market; and me always looking at her with puppy eyes whenever we passed by a shop selling the familiar triangular slices. It is a symbol of joy in its simplest form.

The steamed white sugar sponge cake (白糖糕, bak tong gou) is light and fluffy, glossy and slightly sticky to the touch, and moist and springy on the inside. It is sweet - but not tooth-achingly sweet, with a faint floral aroma that reminds of sweet rice wine and fermented glutinous rice that I adore (even as a child) and later come to recognize as yeast. Tearing into the cake would reveal an intricate honeycomb-like columnar structure that I always, to this day, find absolutely fascinating.

I may have since then left home for the United States for school for a number of years and not had bak tong gou for ages, but my affinity for this childhood favorite never weakened. Even upon my return to Hong Kong, I always made a stop at this old hawker who sold all kinds of traditional homemade confections from a little cart on Wellington Street, Central. This old hawker would have long gone by now. And with this old gentleman being quite possibly the very last hawker vending traditional sweets under the government's non-transferable itinerant hawker license, bak tong gou and the like will now be only found at handfuls of traditional bakeries, congee shops, and occasional dim sum lunches across town. The fond memories that many of us share of this childhood favorite, however, never fades.

Making the steamed white sugar sponge cake at home is really rather simple. With such a simple and inexpensive ingredient list, making this cake yourself and revisiting the memory lane might in fact be easier than finding this cake on the streets these days. As the name suggests, bak tong gou calls for granulated white sugar, giving the cake that pure white appearance that becomes slightly off-white only with the addition of yeast. Using brown sugar would create a sister version of the sponge cake, (黃糖糕) wong tong gou, or as Hong Kongers call it - steamed yellow sugar sponge cake. And like many traditional Chinese cakes, the sponge cake is steamed rather than baked.

The yeast gives the steamed sponge cake a distinct, honeycomb-like columnar texture and appearance
I have tried different methods and measurements for making the bak tong gou, and the one I share here by far trumps all others when it comes to effort and ease. Conventional approach will suggest cooking the rice flour mixture together with the sugar syrup over low heat on the stove top, which would require rigorous stirring and a greater attention span to prevent lumps from forming. I have also tried the double-boiler method which, while providing less direct heat, likewise requires continuous stirring. Instead, to make life and an already easy recipe a whole lot easier (who doesn't like the sound of that?), simply dissolve the sugar and yeast in warm water and add them to the rice flour mixture and give that a good stir, and the mixture is ready to rest.

Bak tong gou should taste sweet but not sour, which is a sign of over fermentation
By doing this, not only will you save loads of time from having to wait impatiently for the mixture to cool down before adding the yeast (lest you kill the yeast), you also spare a whole lot of elbow grease and the risk of ending up with undesirable lumps in the batter. Boom, an easy recipe just made even easier.

After putting together the batter, it is to be simply left covered for hours to allow the yeast to do its thing. The exact amount of time varies with ambient temperature, ranging anywhere from three hours in summer up to seven in colder months. Following the below technique will significantly cut the idle time, regardless the season.

I have long been known to detest precise measurements in the kitchen, relying almost too wholeheartedly on "the senses" and cups and tablespoons and only reluctantly pulling my kitchen scale out when converting recipes into metric units when called for. Most recipes online for the steamed sponge cake come in metric unit. Fortunately, the steamed sponge cake is very forgiving to minor mathematical errors. Out of convenience, here I provide both measurements in cups as well as grams or millimeters. From here on out, with this recipe finally consolidated and added to my collection, I am rejoicing that my kitchen scale can rest in peace inside the cabinet whenever I make bak tong gou. Perhaps I would be making this cake and walking down the memory lane more often from now on!

1 cup warm water, divided
1 cup water
2 cups (280 g) rice flour
3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar, divided
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil

Proofing the yeast & making the batter
1. Transfer 1/4 cup of the warm water into a cup or bowl. The water should be around or just slightly higher than body temperature (roughly 100°F/38°C) and not hot to the touch. Tip in the active dry yeast along with 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar, stir well and let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice flour and 1 cup of water (room temperature). Stir until thick and smooth.

3. Add sugar to the remaining 3/4 cup of warm water and mix well until sugar dissolves. Check that the syrup is close to body temperature and not hot to the touch.

4. Add the yeast mixture and syrup to the flour mixture and stir well to combine. Cover with cling wrap and place inside a microwave or oven along with two cups of boiling water to generate heat. Close the door and let the batter rest for 2 hours or until large bubbles form on the surface of the batter. Refresh the boiling water to speed up the process if needed.

Steaming the cake
1. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan generously with oil. Once the batter is ready, remove from the oven, stir well, and transfer batter to a large measuring cup. Add vegetable oil and stir to combine.

2. For a smoother cake surface, pour batter over a strainer into the cake pan and discard the foam. Steam over high heat, covered with the lid wrapped with a tea towel, for 25 minutes.

3. Turn the heat off and allow the cake to rest in the steamer for 10 minutes with the lid off. Remove cake from the steamer and let cool for another 10 minutes on the counter. Slice and enjoy fresh at its best!

Note: Cover and store at room temperature for up to 24 hours. After that, refrigerate for up to 4 days. To reheat, steam gently.

Is Bak Tong Gou also your childhood favorite?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!

【 傳統白糖糕 】


溫水*                      240 毫升
清水                        240 毫升
粘米粉                    280 克
砂糖                        150 克
即溶酵母                2 茶匙
菜油                        1/4 茶匙

1. 先用 60 毫升溫水來開即溶酵母,加入半茶匙砂糖,拌勻備用約 10 分鐘。
2. 粘米粉及清水拌勻至輕微黏稠狀,備用。
3. 剩餘砂糖與溫水攪勻至完全溶解。
4. 將發好起泡的酵母和糖水加入粘米粉漿內拌勻。
5. 蓋上保鮮紙,連同 2 杯滾水放置在微波爐或焗爐裡面發酵 2 小時,直至粉漿出現大氣泡。滾水會製造蒸氣熱力,有助粉漿在受控的環境下迅速發酵。
6. 發酵好的粉漿加入菜油拌勻,隔篩(隔除過量氣泡,白糖糕表面會更加光滑)倒入已掃油的圓形不鏽鋼碟內,用大火蒸約25分鐘。
7.  熄火開蓋,待涼約 10 分鐘後把白糖糕取出再晾涼約 10 分鐘後切件即成!

1. *注意暖水溫度應接近或輕微高於體溫,不應燙手,不然會「殺死」酵母。
2. 家中如有蒸籠,可以用蒸籠去蒸,不然可以用毛巾包著煲蓋隔水蒸,有助防止倒汗水滴在糕面,影響製成品。
3. 正宗白糖糕其實不該帶有酸味,而酸味可能來自發酵過度。

Is Bak Tong Gou also your childhood favorite?
Share with me or leave a comment below! Tag #alvinspenthousekitchen.
Find me on Instagram @alvinckl and @alvin.penthousekitchen and follow my Facebook Fan Page!