Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Now Open Again for Chinese New Year Orders!


Every year for the past 5 years, Chinese New Year has meant three things: sleep deprivation, loss of sanity and an odd warm thrill of satisfaction and accomplishment when the last order is shipped. Handmaking hundreds of intricate bitesize cookies from scratch, one by one, in a small home kitchen not built for such purposes is simultaneously fulfilling and ridiculously stressful.

So why do I do it? 


Because I know that if like me, you're far away from home, family and any decent Malaysian bakery able to replicate local flavours accurately, then CNY goodies that actually taste authentic can mean the world this time of year. You may not have endless relatives to visit or red cards to decorate the home with or angpow to collect/give out, but by golly you can still eat festively!:)


This year, because I'm feeling exceptionally enthusiastic, I've decided to add a much awaited classic that will be especially significant to Malaysians and Singaporeans: Yee Sang/Yu Sheng, for those who want to usher in prosperity with the classic lou hei tradition! 


Some nitty-gritty: for Angelenos who don't want to pay shipping, cash upon receipt or Venmo is best and collection in person can easily be arranged (I am based in Koreatown). For everyone else (including outside the US), feel free to drop me a line at samtanskitchen@gmail.com to discuss shipping and Paypal payment details. 

Please get your orders in by Monday February 9th in order to guarantee receipt by February 19th 2015.


All cookies come in clear plastic deli-style tubs, either small or large depending on the type of cookie. Like so:




Gong Hei Fatt Choy to all my readers, and wishing you a prosperous Year of the Goat ahead! :)

THE LIST

Kuih Nastar (Rolled Pineapple Jam Tarts)- $20 per tub of 22 pcs
Homemade jam slow-cooked from fresh whole pineapples and aromatic spices, encased in a hand-shaped all butter crumbly pastry

Fah Sang Peng (Peanut Cookies)- $20 per tub of 30 pcs
Extremely addictive, be warned! Fragrant, crumbly and deliciously nutty, made the
proper way with ground whole peanuts (none of this peanut butter business)

Kuih Bangkit (Tapioca Coconut Cookies)- $20 per tub of 32 pcs
Handmade traditionally shaped little cookies with a crisp bite and powdery melt-in-the-mouth texture. Aromatic and tasty with the definitive flavours of tapioca, pandan and coconut.

Open-Faced Pineapple Jam Tarts- $28 per tub of 35 pcs
Made with the same blobs of scrumptious homemade jam as the Kuih Nastar,
only sunny side up with a patterned pastry base

Almond London- $28 per tub of 34 pcs
One for the chocoholics- a whole roasted almond encased in a butter cookie, topped
with melted dark chocolate and chopped nuts

Kuih Ros/ Kuih Loyang (Crispy Beehive Cookies)- $15 per tub of 15 pcs
Large and pretty honeycomb/rosette shaped crunchies, deep-fried until satisfyingly crisp
from a batter of coconut milk and rice flour. Fragrant, lightly sweet, very addictive.


Buttery Coconut Cornflake Crunchies- $15 per tub of 25 pcs
A version of the family favourite Mum taught me growing up! :) A crunchy and
fragrant blend of dessicated coconut and crushed cornflakes
with the added bite of sweet raisins

Mini Honey Cornflake Cups- $15 per tub of 30 pcs
Delectable little bitesize bundles of cornflakes coated in a buttery honey caramel, then baked
until crunchy. Exceedingly moreish- expect to eat a whole box in one sitting.

Bakkwa/Rougan (Chinese Dried Pork Jerky)- sold by weight, $39/lb
Free of the colouring and preservatives usually present in mass-produced versions, 
this delicious favourite of Malaysians (also known in Cantonese as "yoke gon" or "long yoke") is home-marinated
 and grilled until the perfect sticky-sweet-salty flavour and texture is achieved. 
A Chinese New Year staple!


Fresh Prosperity Yee Sang/Yu Sheng (Chinese New Year Raw Fish Salad)
The fresh, mouthwatering real deal, complete with a dazzling array of hand-grated ingredients, homemade "pok chui" (crunchy crackers) and all condiments and toppings. Not your dried up boxed variety.
*Please contact for pricing details. Not available for shipping, sorry!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Homemade British Sausage Rolls


This season we craved a taste of London, so I am proud to share a successful experiment in The Classic British Sausage Roll: herby meaty bits of porky deliciousness, encased in a flaky buttery puff pastry!

It sounds unusual, but some grated lemon zest really turned out to be the secret ingredient to lift and lighten what can sometimes be an overly stodgy treat. I learned the trick online, and I can't recommend it enough. Herbwise I stuck with the classic combo of sage and thyme (and the household highly approved), but feel free to play around with whatever aromatics you see fit. You can also use store bought puff pastry if you're too lazy to make the dough from scratch. Both the filling and pastry can be made a day or two ahead of time.

They're rich, hearty, and quite possibly the best savoury party bites ever. Merry Christmas and happy eating this holiday season everyone! :)

Homemade British Sausage Rolls
Makes about 40 bitesize pieces (*Feel free to make large individual portions if you like. Adjust cooking times accordingly and bear in mind the pastry will puff up.)

  • Filling (you can make this several days in advance for the flavours to intensify):
Stir together in a bowl or mush in a ziplock bag to marinate:
1 1/2 lbs minced pork (*I asked my butcher to grind up a piece of pork loin. You can also use shoulder or ready-bought sausagemeat. Some recipes suggest pork belly or adding some streaky bacon... personally I think this would be too fatty)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp fresh chopped sage leaves (roughly a handful)
Roughly 2 tbsp fresh thyme (about 16 sprigs- I usually just run my hand down the stem and pull the leaves off instead of chopping)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and black pepper to taste


Like herby pork Play Doh :)
  • Puff pastry
Toss together in a large bowl (*the colder all your ingredients are, the better. It can help to put this whole bowl into the freezer briefly):
2 sticks (230g) very cold butter, diced into cubes
2 cups plain flour
Pinch of salt

Gradually add 1/2 cup ice cold water bit by bit, stirring slowly with a butter knife until incorporated and kneadable (not too sticky). Press with your hands into a rough dough ball (the butter cubes will still be visible) and cling wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 mins or overnight.

To bake:

Have 1 beaten egg and some flour on standby. Preheat your oven to 425 F (220 C).

Place the rested dough ball on a well-floured surface, dust the top with more flour (I like to cover it with a sheet of cling wrap to ease clean up) and roll out slightly into a disc. Fold in the edges to form a square, flip it over and roll out into a large rectangle about 0.5 cm thin.

Cut the dough into 4 strips. Working with one piece at a time, roll each dough strip out longer and thinner if necessary. Squeeze a quarter of the meat into a long log with your hands (beware sexual innuendoes from cheeky roommates) and place in the centre of the pastry. Brush one edge with some water or egg wash, and roll it up snugly. 

Cut into about 10 pieces. Arrange on a baking tray.  Repeat with the other 3 strips of pastry and the rest of the meat.

Make a slit or several on top of each piece with a knife (to allow steam to escape). You can also prick with a fork.

Brush each piece with some egg wash.

Bake at 425 F (220C) for 25-30 mins until golden brown and crisp. The oil from the pork may ooze and bubble- don't worry, it's meant to happen :)

Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

Serve warm, with some good ol' HP brown sauce if you wanna be really pukka :) Enjoy!



Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Presenting: Me, Plus Food :) Sam Tan's Kitchen finally has a logo!

Hello foodie friends!

So, you may have noticed that the culinary shenanigans on my blog have come to a sudden halt these past few months.

After the big conclusion of my Actors Studio Drama School adventure in New York, my fiance Ari and I jumped ship and swapped coasts to Los Angeles in July. I haven't been cooking because we haven't had our own kitchen (we've been crashing on our lovely friends Sue and Sean's couch since arrival), but FINALLY this weekend we will move into our own apartment and hopefully, resume foodie activities!

Not one to like wasting a moment, I have in the meantime taken the opportunity to develop something I've wanted for Sam Tan's Kitchen for a long while: a logo. Something simple and personal to capture the essence of me, something fun and unpretentious to celebrate the joyous nature of food and the sheer happiness a hearty meal can bring.

So here: after many hours of doodling and figuring out Adobe Illustrator, I am proud to present Digital Mini Me, brandishing - yes, what else but a plate piled with food :)




Quite unintentionally (though perhaps subconsciously- I did draw it after all), the plate has been interpreted by most people to either be Hainanese Chicken Rice (my death row meal) or Malaysia's national dish Nasi Lemak. What does it look like to you? :)

I am also steadily working on revamping this site- watch this space for when the new www.samtanskitchen.com will go live :) 

Thank you all for your continued support. Until next time, happy eating!


Saturday, 5 July 2014

Sunflower Seed and Coconut Cookies

A riff on my own fah sang peng recipe, using sunflower seeds and dessicated coconut instead of peanuts. Little adorable melt-in-the-mouth bites of fragrant high fibre goodness! :)

Sunflower Seed and Coconut Cookies
Makes about 70 bitesize pieces

Blitz 200g (approx 1 1/2 cups) roasted salted sunflower seeds (I like Trader Joe's) in a blender/spice mill until finely ground. You can leave some coarse bits for texture if you like.

Chuck in and blitz until well-combined:
50 g (approx 1/2 cup) unsweetened dessicated coconut (I use the super dry powdery kind from my Asian grocery store pictured below, NOT sweetened coconut flakes)
200g (approx. 1 1/2 cups) plain flour
100g (approx. 3/4 cup) icing sugar (essential for the fine texture. Do not substitute with normal sugar)
1/2 tsp baking powder

Add a good glug of vegetable oil (any mild variety like corn, soya, sunflower, rapeseed or groundnut will do) and blitz at high speed, adding more oil if necessary until a soft rollable dough is formed. Be sure not to pour in too much oil at one go.

My unsweetened dessicated coconut of choice

Roll into equal sized little balls (about a teaspoonful of dough each) with your hands.

Poke the top with a chopstick to make an indentation. 
*This step is primarily for cuteness. Skip altogether if you don't really care.

Bake at 320 F/160 C fan-assisted (or 350 F/180 C for non-convection ovens) for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Let cool before popping into your mouth one at at time. Exercise self-control.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Zev and Eliza's Engagement Party

With Mr. and soon-to-be Mrs. Lebowitz

In November 2013, a lovely young couple named Zev Lebowitz and Eliza Quanbeck emailed me out of the blue to enquire if I would be willing to cater a full selection of traditional Malaysian dishes for their upcoming engagement party of about 100 guests. It was the first request of this scale that I had ever received, and I was both surprised and more than a little tickled that two New Yorkers who neither knew me personally nor were Malaysian themselves had a) found my little blog online randomly somehow (thanks Google!) b) trusted I was the real deal based solely on my food porn pictures c) seemed to have such a passion for and in-depth knowledge of local dishes I had grown up with and d) actually wanted to pay me to cook the stuff for their friends and family!

Some back-and-forth later, it emerged that Zev and Eliza had just concluded an epic 14-month world tour (check out their fun food/travel blog A Feast Afoot), during which a month was spent eating and attending cooking classes in Kuala Lumpur. To my delight they not only were familiar with but specifically requested rendangayam goreng berempahsayur lodeh and kuih amongst other traditional delicacies, and before I knew it I had agreed with a resounding "yes!" and was standing in their Upper West Side apartment cooking a mini trial taster dinner of 10 different appetizers, mains and desserts.

The food went down well, and we eventually settled on the following menu for the big day on 8 March 2014:

The savouries:
Mini karipap (spiral curry puffs), popiah (fresh vegetable spring rolls), ayam goreng berempah (Malaysian spiced fried chicken), Nyonya acar awak (spicy vegetable pickle) with rice, beef rendang (dry coconut curry) with rice

The sweets: 
Fah sang peng (peanut cookies), kuih ketayap/ dadar/ gulung (pandan crepes with caramelised coconut filling), sago gula melaka (tapioca pearl pudding with palm sugar and coconut milk)

Now, let's get real.

I was honoured and excited, but also mildly terrified. Never in my life had I catered for so many people at once before; 20+ on a low-budget film set maybe, perhaps 50 in a potluck setting with friends where everyone brings food and no one holds it against you if your dish sucks. Absolutely not something like this, where I am solely and fully responsible for planning, prepping, and plating nine different dishes into little canapé size morsels that are tasty, hygienically safe to eat and look pretty, for 100 guests who have never met me and have no reason to expect anything less than restaurant quality.

On top of that, it was a school week where I could only cook in the evenings after I got home from class and rehearsals. AND my kitchen, to put it mildly, is modestly sized with very little countertop space and no professional equipment. AND I live in a 5th floor walk up and don't own a car (ever tried grocery shopping for 100 people and carrying it up the stairs? Who needs a gym!).

Ambitious much? Insanely so.

I do love a good challenge though, and thankfully with adequate amounts of pre-planning, detailed lists and the willingness to forego sleep in order to stir curries on a stove til 5am, everything somehow worked out! Thank goodness for my ever-patient fiance Ari, who would help me roll hundreds of fah sang peng and lug incredibly heavy bags of ingredients (eight pounds of jicama, five litres of coconut cream etc... ) all the way up from Chinatown via the crowded subway. Thank heavens too for my loving and tolerant roommates Adam and G, who didn't complain for one second about my noisy blender grinding into the night, or the perpetual pungency of spice pastes filling the air, or the fact that they couldn't really make any meals for themselves the whole week because I took up the entire fridge and stovetop. G even helped us carry our things into a cab across the street on the day, when my poor planning caused some bags to break and made it impossible for us to juggle everything! I love you all, you guys make my life.

So here below, I share with you some pictorial proof that this actually happened. Thank you Zev and Eliza once again for the leap of faith you took in hiring me, I had a lot of fun and hope you did too!

THE PREQUEL

Step 1: Make detailed shopping list/ timeline of tasks for the week leading up to March 8th

Step 2: Buy gigantic 16-quart pot from Amazon. Worry about where to store it later.

Step 3: Use pot for everything (like making rendang in advance).

Dough for 300 mini curry puffs ready to be shaped

Quick scribbles of my own recipes in shorthand to refer to in the kitchen
(with quantities multiplied for 100 pax)

SHOW NIGHT

Frying the karipap freshly on site. Yes that is a Hard Rock Kuala Lumpur T-shirt. Represent!:)

Some of the plated dishes ready to roll. Clockwise from top left; acar on rice, mini karipap, beef rendang on rice, fresh popiah

Assembling the bitesize ayam goreng. That's Dan Williams behind me,
who led the team of servers for the night


My trusty kitchen elf/ slave/ general helpful fiance. The model of intense concentration as he assembles the shots of sago :)

Friday pops by to say goodnight! (Or maybe he was just intrigued by the curious smells)