Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nestum Prawns with Curry Leaves

I have been home for 2 weeks and I have already made this twice. Nestum is this wholegrain cereal thing (so descriptive, I know) that comes in dry flakes and tastes sooo good with warm milk and a little sugar. And for some odd reason, it also just happens to make for a perfect crisp coating for prawns. This dish is pretty popular in Malaysia, and was often a staple during our family dinners at seafood restaurants... ahh, the ones with red or pink tablecloth (sometimes even plastic sheets) and huge lazy Susans in the centre.

Basically, it's really good. The garlic is lovely with the distinct zing and earthiness of the curry leaves; there's this crisp texture and just a smiiidgen of sweetness and heat to bring this together. And if you don't go all out with the oil, it really isn't that awful for you.

So I gathered some curry leaves and plucked a few chilli peppers from my garden, and off to the wok I went. Can I just say how much I love being able to do this? I wonder if a cili padi plant would flourish perched upon my somewhat sunny windowsill in Chicago, hmm. Doubtful.

In other news, my sister and her husband will be arriving sooner than anticipated. I'm really excited!

Recipe here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I know just four months from now, as I am stomping my way through the delectable grey mixture of snow and dirt in knee high waterproofed boots, cursing myself for choosing to fly to the other side of the world FOR WHAT? ...FOR THIS!--- I am going to wish so much to be home. In my garden, surrounded by coconut trees and leaves as large as my head and sweet pink guava picked fresh. Shushing my Alouette, who is barking up a tree at a silly squirrel.

Okay, okay. I think I'll try to forget about the W word (hint: it rhymes with 'splinter') and just bask in what I have now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teh Susu

So I am here. Home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Coming home is always a little strange... even jarring at first, particularly after one and a half years of being over 9000 miles away. This morning, I was in a hawker centre with my father and the lady yelled across the restaurant asking what I would have to drink. I was craving the quintessential tea with milk, but my mind was drawing an absolute blank as to how to order it with hawker stall finesse. You know, to NOT sound like a tourist. I glanced at my father in slight panic, and said, "Uhm... the tea drink with a bit of milk and sugar?"

"Teh susu!"

"Oh, right."

How embarrassing for someone who carries a bright red Malaysian passport and has been raised speaking English, Malay and Indonesian!

I have been thoroughly enjoying the food that I miss 11 months out of the 12. Fish ball noodle soup, rojak, pork floss, char siu, pork ball noodles, sayur asam, Nestum curry prawns, freshly made sambal belacan, and DURIAN DURIAN DURIAAAN. I have missed durian so much! You can find durian smoothies in Chicago (I recommend Dong Ky's by Broadway Market), but nothing beats the sweet intoxicating yellow pulp of fresh durian... particularly when its thorny embrace has been pried open mere seconds before. O durian, my fruit drug, how I adore thee!

Speaking of fruit, I cannot believe how much more fruit I eat at home. Fruit as a snack. Fruit as lunch. Fruit after breakfast. Fruit after lunch. Fruit after dinner. I feel spoilt rotten by the kaleidoscopia of Southeast Asian tropical fruit, and my local Dominick's in Chicago just does not quite compare. Apples and oranges are so boring, really.

Oh, but this morning I had my two wisdom teeth removed. I had mashed jackfruit with milk for lunch. Hi, my name is Jasmine, and I will be eating like a toddler for the next few days.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oak Park

Transformers 3 was (still is?) filming in Chicago this weekend, so we decided to trade the noisy city and annoying street closures for Oak Park... just 8 miles away. I have been wanting to see this suburb for myself, so this was a highly anticipated day trip! First, we stopped by Freddy's in Cicero for some pizza and basil gelato. Such perfect gelato! It was abundant with chopped basil leaves and robust with flavour. I could not recommend the gelato more.

A trip to Oak Park would not be complete without a stroll by Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural works. We only made it to the homes on Forest Avenue, but what remarkable homes they were! My favourite was the Arthur Heurtley home (pictured directly above), beautiful brickwork in earthy tones.

At the end of Forest Avenue, we stumbled across Austin Gardens where actors were rehearsing Shakespeare's Love's Labour Lost for next week. After a leisurely walk in the quaint downtown area (so many cafes and restaurants!), it started drizzling on us so we had to head back home. I loved this weekend. Chicago is nice, but sometimes you just need a change of scenery!

A change of scenery is definitely what I will be getting this week. I leave for Asia on Wednesday. December 2008 was the last time I was home, so this has been a long anticipated trip. I will miss my Second City though... my comfortable apartment, my little blue Betta fish named Staccato, and the people I love here.

Such is the life of a student far away from home.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pork and Four Ingredients

Sometimes, there are those nights when I am sitting in my apartment, admiring my new grey-beige dipped nails against my white laptop, my boyfriend's out playing basketball, my class reading has been sufficiently absorbed and... I just feel like making dinner! In my ambitious little mind I am visualising the most elaborate and exquisite meal. And then I pore over the contents of the pantry. Hmm. Limited at best! So this is me winging it and working with what I've got on hand. And it turned out to be one of the simplest and most satisfying meals I've ever prepared.

I marinated a few thin pork chops in palm sugar, a pat of butter, soy sauce, and excessive amounts of minced garlic. I think it was almost an entire knob? Who knows. Another thing about me: I'm not very good at measuring ingredients. I can never get enough garlic, and my SlapChopper Wannabe aids me so well in this garlic-loving plight. I then browned the pork in a pan, then popped it in the oven for 10 minutes or so. I also roasted carrots, skin-on potatoes and shallots in the oven, drizzled with rosemary, sea salt and pepper.

Sophia, my friend, you were not kidding about roasted shallots. My apartment was filled with eau de caramelised shallots. Smelled divine, tasted even better! Smooth, tender and surprisingly sweet. The pork was good as well, for such a simple marinade. My boyfriend's plate was clean, white, and sauceless. Maybe it was because he was starving from two hours of basketball, but I'd like to think it was because his girlfriend made him a pleasing meal. :)