Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pau Part 1

Pau was my jam in Malaysia.  Never could a bad day not be turned around with this little piece of steamed bun heaven.  My morning routine almost always involved stopping by Lotus Restaurant on the corner of my street and the main road on my morning walk to school.  1 red bean pau cost me RM1.07, I believe.  The best .30 US I think I have ever spent.  Lotus caught a lot of my business this past year.  I bought pau in the mornings and dumplings in the evenings... talk about delicious.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.
If there is one food that is very clearly missing in my life these days, it is pau.  So, I sent my friend David a message on Whatsapp asking him for a pau recipe.  He responded with one and gave me lots of pointers.  David literally always knows the answers to my questions and it rocks.  Today, I set out on an adventure to the Asian market and asked for pau flour.  I got a huge bag along with a can of red bean paste and could not wait to get home and get to work.
I've been making some purchases recently, including this bamboo steamer and those bowls.  And those are two of my cookbooks that made the long journey around the world.  Seriously, how can you not love Asia??  If for nothing else, all the cool cooking equipment. 
So I got to work.  However, I quickly realized that this was not going to end well for 2 reasons: 1. The recipe is in grams and I do not have a kitchen scale... yet. 2. It called for caster sugar.  No idea what that was, but regular sugar will work just fine, right??  I got all my dry ingredients into the mixing bowl, using approximate conversions from grams to cups.
I started mixing and poured in the water.  What ensued was a clear sign that I would not be eating pau anytime soon.  I had soup.  I threw in some more flour, waited for it to come together, but alas it never did.  (For reference, this is supposed to be dough... like bread dough)

Lesson learned: Use the actual ingredients called for.  Buy a kitchen scale.
I tried!  And I'm sure with some adjustments I will have pau the next time.  Special thanks to David for providing me with the recipe and being my coach from afar! 
Stay tuned, friends.  This will happen.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Kita Makan!

My YAGM, PC, and Lutheridge pal Daniel recently told me that the Malaysian restaurant in Greenville, SC is owned by a couple from Sabah (my state in Malaysia).  I had been to this restaurant once before with my sister, but saw no signs of any Malaysians.  So, we had to go back.  I was visiting my sister in Greenville this past week and my only request was to go to YAP! again.  We sat down, ordered and I was on the prowl for the owners.  In my mind, I had this whole scenario worked out that after a long conversation in Malay, they'd invite me back into the kitchen and teach me how to cook everything I've ever wanted to know how to make.  Dream big, right?
Well this man sitting at the front of the restaurant was being so loud about how he had been to Malaysia once and this was kind of authentic, but not at all what he experienced.  He proceeded to pass along this critique to the woman who checked him out, and she asked him if he had ever been to Sabah and KK, because that's where she was from.  (He hadn't. Bless his heart.) Y'all.  This was her!  Not only was she from my state but she was from my city!  I was freaking out.  This was my in.  I was staring her down and as she walked by our table I quickly blurted out, "You're from KK?! I lived there this past year!!!"  The conversation that ensued was pretty anticlimactic.  It was short, we exchanged where we lived in the city, we talked about missing the fruit in Malaysia, and she went on her way.  1. I didn't get asked back to the kitchen. 2. All my memory of Malay went out the window in this 30 second exchange.  I left feeling full of delicious mee goreng, but slightly defeated.
If you know me, you know I love to cook.  It is both a simple joy but also a pretty great coping mechanism.  Senior year exam week, my townhouse was erupting with cookies, bread, and cakes.  This past year, I picked up cookbooks and a few aprons along my journey.  I have looked through my cookbooks, but have been far too intimidated to really try anything out of them.  Anytime I asked one of my Malaysian friends or coworkers to teach me to cook something, they'd respond with "It's so simple!"  And that was that.  So I enjoyed lots of food this past year, but didn't ever learn how to make any of it.  
And that is where we pick up today.  I have this blog that holds lots of stories and lessons from this past year, and now I'll take you through my adventures in the kitchen as I try to recreate some of my favorite meals from Southeast Asia.  

I've located the nearest Asian market.  I have my wok and my rice cooker.  And I have cookbooks covering all things dumplings, to Chinese feasts and festivals, to Malaysian hawker stall favorites, to traditional Thai cuisine.  
Here we go, people!  Kita makan!  Let's eat!