Our area, North Sumatra that is, is famous of its passion fruit juice. The area’s souvenir shops don’t actually sell cheap and flimsy key chains, fridge magnets or t-shirts. The shops are packed with bottled passion fruit syrup, swiss roll cakes, bika ambon (a type of sand-cooked coconut cake, which I might never feature in this blog), peanut brittles, fried cassava chips and many more. Passion fruit syrup sold in the shops has gone through simple cooking process, slowly heating the juice and sugar, sometimes preservatives are added. The cheaper version would be purely passion fruit essence and sugar with water. The local name for this is Jus Markisa. A pretty name for such a sour fruit. Markisa syrup, sold commercially, would have a lot more sugar in it and needs to be cooked and naturally slightly thicker. To serve the syrup, dilute 1/4 of syrup with water.

Households in our area usually would prepare passion fruit drink in form of fruit juice, without any heating process and no sugar. It is believed the cooking will prolong the shelf life, but also killing the natural flavor of passion fruit, which explains the need of artificial flavoring in commercially sold syrup. Homemade version of passion fruit drinks would be simple juice, served with a lot of ice cubes to dilute and sugar syrup to taste.

This is how we do it at home. Our house makes this often, but always for out-of-town guests so they can bring them back when they leave. The homemade juice has to be refrigerated at all times and consumed within a week.

Buy some passion fruits. The smooth and black colored are considered good ones. As you can see, there’s none here. I woke up too late that Sunday and by the time we got to the market, all the good ones were already gone. I received an earful from mother, naturally. The green ones are not ripe enough. The wrinkly ones are day old fruits.

Cut the fruits into half with a sharp knife. A trick to halve these round fruits safely with fingers intact at the end is to make an deep indentation with a knife and just chop hard at the spot where you made the hole. The wobbly fruits won’t roll and you keep your fingers.

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Prawn Noodle, Hae Mee

I live in a city about 25 minutes flight away from Penang. And who doesn’t love Penang? It is a foodie heaven. It has the best street food in South East Asia. It has combination of regional dishes, fused into one style, Penang style. It is the home of Rasa Malaysia. Prawn noodle (or also known as ‘hae mee’) is not widely known in our area as it is in Malaysia and Singapore.

Many years ago, my auntie had been selling this in a school cafeteria and my mother is really fond of it. She is the only one in our family who cooks the dish. She was taught by someone she knows a long time ago and has been tweaking here and there since then. There wasn’t any googling activity going on then. I am sure it is not the authentic version of Penang prawn noodle, but it is pretty kicking. Sweet and spicy, with pungent smell of shrimp paste. My auntie is amazing. She has all these little tricks that is perfectly simple and plain common sense but always miss me by an inch.

Her (or now I can safely claim as mine) prawn noodle is egg noodle with prawn-flavored spicy soup, served with water spinach, prawns, chicken and egg. The special spicy sauce is made by shallots, shrimp paste and freshly ground chili. And sugar. It is the most vibrant bowl of noodle soup I have in a while.

Dried anchovies are one of the main ingredients for the prawn stock. The real version would be using a lot of shrimp heads for boiling the stock. We only bought half a kilo of prawns, so we cheated slightly by adding dried anchovies to flavor the stock. Give these a quick rinse under cold water and drain. Do not soak, as soaking will dilute the pungent flavor, which is the whole point of using anchovies.

Get a bunch of medium sized prawns. Trim head and feet off them. Don’t throw them away though. Those would be use for the stock as well.

Get some chicken. A couple of pieces should be enough. Real Penang style would be using pork ribs.

Cut water spinach into equal pieces. You don’t really need to subcategorize stalks and leaves that way. My auntie just does that to get into my head.

She actually made this from scratch. She went to the market to buy fresh chilies. Then she sun-dried them for a couple of days. And ground the dried chili. Look at the vibrant color. Is she great or is she great? And no, you can’t have her.

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Chocolate Chip Muffin

Something easy and super quick for a mid-week post. I can’t resist myself whenever I spotted Hershey’s chocolate chip at the store. It doesn’t happen very often, our local shop would rather stock up on local chocolate chip brands. Mother’s reaction at my muffins was this “Why don’t you just eat a chocolate bar?” Of course, I take it as a compliment.

The good thing about muffin is that you only need one basic recipe, like a little prayer that you would say when you are getting late, or hunting for a parking spot. Just one formula to create many, many versions of muffins as wild as heaven permits. Okay chocolate chip muffins are not as wild as I would like. But you get my idea.

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Kremes means crunch. We love our fried chicken to be flavorful with a bit of crunch. Ayam kremes is a popular fried chicken dish and mostly served in smaller eateries scattered across the city. Budget lunch would include a piece of fried chicken, a handful of vegetables, a serving of sambal belacan and a plate of steamed rice. Oh yeah, don’t forget sweet iced tea.

Indonesian-style fried chicken is a bit tedious to do. Mortar and pestle are involved in preparing the spices. Chicken is always cooked in advance by boiling. The actual frying is done when chicken is completely cooked and spices is absorbed. The residual stock from boiling the chicken is used to make the crunchy bits.

This is actually my first attempt, and I tell you, it is a messy business. Practice makes perfect, and I am lacking in practicing deep-frying chicken and making kremes.

Grind garlic and shallot in mortar and pestle.

I forgot the candlenuts. Okay, put in the candlenuts.

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One more dish pulled out from our quick lunch menus prepared from home, delivered to office. The easy ones are mostly vegetarian stir-fry dishes.

This one is colorful and tasty with a hint of hot chili. I love biting on those chilies. Serve with steamed rice with a bowl of pork rib soup. That’s office lunch.

Stir-fry garlic and shallots with a bit of hot oil. Our home cooking use a lot more oil than necessary, I must admit. It is just the way it is done. I could complain till my lips turn blue, nobody would listen. Why go against when I could just sit quietly, enjoy the meals prepared in front of me? I do just that now.

Add a tablespoon of taoco, or fermented soy beans. The taoco has been prepped, grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle to get more texture out of it instead of just chunks of salty beans.

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