Saturday, January 30, 2010

Southwestern Corn Chowder

I adapted this from a recipe I got off of recipezaar. My mom had this soup at work one day and I thought I could do an even better version from scratch. Now my mom can't eat the one they do at work anymore, she says mine is so much better! And it is a fairly simple and quick recipe to whip up on a cold night. We serve it with crusty bread and butter. Em likes to dip her bread in the soup.


* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 cup celery, finely chopped (I like to do the veggies approximately the same size as the corn)
* 1 cup onion, finely chopped
* 1 red pepper, finely chopped
* 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
* 2 tbls chili powder
* 2 tbls teaspoon cumin
* 3 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
* 1 (15 ounce) can cream-style corn
* 16 ounces frozen corn (I like to do a half bag of regular corn and a half bag of Trader Joes Fire Roasted Corn, it really is a good flavor!)
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 6 tablespoons flour
* 2 cups cheese, shredded (I usually use cheddar)


Melt butter in a heavy pan. Saute onion, celery, red pepper and garlic until tender. Stir in broth, chili powder, cumin, and corn. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Bring the soup up to a medium heat. In a small bowl, add cream to the flour, whisking until smooth. Add to soup mixture. Stir until thickened. Cook approximately 5 minutes, stirring often. Add cheese, stirring until melted. Serve.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Ch. Whatzisname?

We both stood in silence in the kitchen, both trying to coax the darn name of the thingamajig from our apparently dormant Malaysian brains, or should I say, fake Malaysian brains.

I have been thinking of this Malaysian snack. I miss it. This snack is one of those things that can be easily whipped up. Good for when company drops by unexpectedly or at short notice. These deep fried fritters can be unhealthy if eaten on a daily or even weekly basis, but once in a while, it is a treat, especially for those who live in foreign lands (outside Asia). That is one reason I think I have forgotten what it's called, because I hate deep frying, and because whenever I have made this snack in the past, it turned out tough. So eventually I gave up making it. It's not worth it to slave over hot oil on the stove top only to produce little rocks that test the mettle of your jaw muscles. And I think, hubs probably forgot its name because I make it once in every 5 years (or 8).

He had asked the kids if they were making pancakes for breakfast, and I chimed in,

"I'm making cekodok here!"

I was cleaning a bowl of little dried anchovies because he likes his anchovies cleaned. He is not fussy about everything else, but his anchovies, oh, they have to be cleaned. So cleaned them I did.

"Cekodok? That's not cekodok. We don't have bananas. That's not what it's called!" hubs retorted.

"I know. I can't remember what it's called. Somehow I knew cekodok sounded wrong, but it's not jemput-jemput. So what is it?" I asked, admitting defeat.

And that's when a wave of shameful silence swept over us. Such an embarrassment to our fellow Malaysians. I guess that's what happens when you live overseas for so long, and you do not really strictly adhere to your culture like how magnet sticks to metal. The fact that hubs (who is usually more Malay than I am, and makes fun of me for not being Malay enough) also forgot, is a terrible sign. We are both horribly floating away from our Malaysian roots. We already have trouble remembering what certain Malaysian dishes or food item are supposed to taste like, and now this. I think we've gone over the limit. We need to go back for a visit very soon.

He finally left the kitchen and went back to his Arabic assignment, while I continued working in the kitchen, still trying to recall the dang darned name. And all of a sudden, the rusty wheels started turning, clanging and clonking all the way.


"Cucur!" I exclaimed.

"That's what it is!"

I am still Malaysian after all! Hah! I beat hubs on this one.

And that's what it's called; Cucur. There are many different kinds of Cucur. Cucur Ikan Bilis, Cucur Bawang, Cucur Udang. Let me translate that. Anchovy Cucur, Onion Cucur, Shrimp Cucur.

It's basically fried dollops of batter made of flour, water, salt, egg (though some may omit this) and whatever you decide to dump in, either anchovies, chopped shrimps or plain chopped/sliced onions. It's formation is somewhat akin to the formation of Jemput-Jemput Pisang, but the ingredients are completely different. And for the one that I made this morning, I utilized the little baking know-how I've gained over the years to fend off the rocky versions of my past Cucur, hence the addition of eggs (to give it more air), milk (to make it tender) and baking powder.

The oil needs to be hot. We Malaysians do not measure the temperature of our oil, so unfortunately I can't say what temperature the oil should be at, but I'm guessing 375 Fahrenheit or 350. What I usually do is observe three things with regard to the oil so know if it's hot enough or not; the viscosity (the hotter it is the more viscous it is), the silence (the more silent it is, the hotter it is) and how hot it feels to your palm when you hover your palm about 3-4 inches above the oil's surface. When in doubt, I'd drop a small piece of whatever is supposed to be fried in the oil, and if it sizzles beautifully, it's ready. If not, either you will end up with a sticky problem or your to-be fried item cooperates as you prod it and you can fish it back out and let the oil heat up a little bit more. Not much help, I know. Sorry.

Because I am a blameworthy perfectionist, I can go crazy if my Cucur are not formed properly. Same goes with my Jemput-Jemput Pisang. I don't like them too big (and since I put in baking powder, it will double in size) so I use two teaspoons to form the Cucur dollops. I hold one spoon in each hand, and because I am right handed, I scoop the batter with my right spoon, pour it onto the left spoon, flip my now empty right spoon upside down and smooth the batter in the left spoon with the right spoon, curved side facing down. Basically, I am making a rounded shape on the left spoon and I swipe off any dangling bits of batter hanging off the left spoon. Then, very carefully and gently, I hold the left spoon over the hot oil, very close to the hot oil, and slide the rounded dollop off the left spoon with the right spoon. The batter should slide pretty easily and submissively into the hot oil. can't even hear a plop. Once drowned in the hot oil, the baking powder, the little air beaten into the egg, and everything liquid and dry together perform the chemical performance they're meant to perform. The dollop rises as the chemical concert fill its surrounding with wonderful gas (no, not the far-tey kind), expanding the molecules inside the batter, very much like what happens to a cake batter in the oven.

However, because I used a flat frying pan as opposed to a deep rounded bottom wok, the shapes of my Cucur are not that rounded. Instead, they have this distorted hourglass look because the part of the batter underneath the surface of the oil expands, and pushes the top part above the oil level, resulting in a pinched middle. Because I was too cheap to use the wok for fear of using up too much oil, I guess I have to live with that shape. I am a perfectionist, but not an extreme one.

By the way, a friend of mine, a Malay, living in Malaysia, says that she calls everything cekodok (every deep fried dollop that is) and that Cucur, in her family's vocabulary, refers to something else. So...I guess, maybe I wasn't that far off from what I meant to say. Yeah right! I guess to Kuala Lumpurians, we refer to this particular snack as Cucur, so I still am an embarrassment to my fellow Kuala Lumpurians at the very least. Malaysia is a pretty diverse country, very multicultural and even among the Malays, the names of food item can be pretty mixed up and can get confusing as you go from state to state. It's a beautiful thing, really. It's like pop and soda in the United States.


3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder/ground turmeric
3 stalks green onion, sliced
about 1 cup cleaned anchovies
1/4-1/2 C sliced red onion/4-5 small shallots
1 egg
1/2 C milk
3/4 - 1 C warm/hot water

1. Combine flour, baking powder, turmeric, salt, green onions, anchovies in bowl
2. Lightly beat the egg with a fork
3. Combine egg with milk and water
4. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until a slightly watery batter results. Its consistency is thicker than pancake batter, but not too thick like peanut butter.
5. Make sure the oil is hot (read above, in bold and italicized)
6. Form the dollops using the method described above (in bold) or simply scoop the batter with a teaspoon and drop it in the hot oil. (It's not complicated. I just love making things complicated. My husband can attest to this)
7. Do not overcrowd the pan , so place just enough dollops in the pan to keep the oil temperature stable because if the temperature drops, your dollops might stick to the pan, and even worse, those dollops will absorb a lot of the oil
7. When the bottom side is golden brown, flip the darned dollops
8. Once evenly browned, lift and drain on wads of kitchen paper towel or strainer. I'd say strainer is your best bet to further cut down on the evils of deep-fried food
9. Enjoy with tomato ketchup or chilli sauce

Break one open while it's still hot. As you do so, wisps of steam will gush out from the depths of the Cucur. Right before your eyes, (if you haven't yet popped it inside your mouth) the treasures within the Cucur greet you; the emerald green onions, rubies red onions, and golden anchovy tails, all wonderfully embedded in the saffron yellow of the soft Cucur. Sink your teeth in it. Delight in the medley of experience taking place on your tongue. Your taste buds and olfactory senses are texting each other.