Dimwit Recipe: Smashin’ Cucumber Salad

With the daily temperature rising upwards north of 37C, mixed with haze and smell of acrid smoke of open-burning (courtesy from Indonesia), no wonder people around me are going apeshit!

So what’s a cooling salad that’s quick and easy to toss up – and perfect for stress release?  A Smashed Cucumber Salad, came to mind.  This is  extremely   easy to make, even the dimwit goes, “Smashin’ stuff!”  It’s Healthy and  Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!

Basic ingredient:
Cucumber*

Optionals:
Garlic
Chili

Dressing:
Sesame oil*
Honey (optional)
Apple-cider vinegar (or any vinegar based dressing)
Pinch of salt

Excellent observation, Watson!   If you notice that I have left out the quantity, that’s because I’m just a novice home-cook, not a chef (yet).  😄

Well, the seasoning is entirely up to you – whether you want it hot, sweet or garlicky.  The key ingredients here are the cucumbers, sesame oil – sesame oil being key to Asian cooking to impart the nutty flavour and fragrance, vinegar (any brands/kinds you have on hand) and a pinch of salt.  Add 5 minutes to chill in the fridge.

20131001-175945.jpg

Cucumber, garlic, chilli (I’m making mine hot and garlicky)

STEP 1:  Cut both ends of the cucumber off.  The key point to remember is to rub both ends of the cucumber to get rid of bitterness, note the white gunk.

20131001-175957.jpg

White bitter gunk – excuse my undressed nails

If you are a dunce at chopping lovely even pieces, this is a perfect salad for you!

STEP 2:  Simply  use the back of the chopper to smash the cucumber to bits – perfect if you are in need of stress release or rehabing in anger-management treatment.  Then scoop the seeds out.  Old-wives tales suggested that uneven jagged pieces pick up more of the dressing but my modern scientific brain tells me that there are more surface areas to pick up the dressing.  *Duh*

20131001-180010.jpg

Whack and smash the cucumber

STEP 3:  Chop up the chili and mince the garlic cloves (optional step – only if you like your salad to be hot and garlicky)

STEP 4:  Make the dressing by mixing sesame oil, honey and apple cider vinegar together

STEP 5:  Place cucumber pieces in a large bowl and toss with a pinch of salt.  Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for 5 minutes.

There we have it – a healthy crunchy and garlicky, uh-so marvellous salad that is SO cool and refreshing – and SO very cheap!

20131001-180023.jpg

Smashed Cucumber Salad

Best to eat immediately.

To make this salad even more abridged and simpler – and because I realised how much cleaning up I had to do after the smashin’ part, I made an even more  basic version I have pictured below – Chopped Cucumber Salad.

Simply chop up 1 cucumber (don’t worry about scooping out the seeds).  Rub both ends of the cucumber. Toss in store-bought honeyed apple-cider vinegar, sesame oil and a pinch of salt.  Leave it to chillax in the fridge before serving.   Voila!  Another fantastically easy salad!

*Ya, dimwits.  I hear y’all roaring with cheers!  Haha!  Thanks!  😘 *

20131004-174021.jpg

Chopped Cucumber Salad

A Nyonya Breakfast @ Kuching, Malaysia

Date of Visit: September 11 2013

Before my flight back to the Boo, my friend S insisted that I should sample what she claims to be the best Popiah in Kuching. The coffee shop is somewhere along the 3rd Mile – the name escapes me – but she was kind enough to give me the directions should I want to visit the place in the future: “Opposite KTS village apartments, behind ‘Rice n Noodles’ shop. Few doors away from Hainan Cafe”. Goobledygook to me, but perhaps might make some sense to the Kuchingites who are familiar with the landmarks.

Our vegetarian breakfast consisted of 2 popular Nyonya snacks – popiah and pie tie. By the way, Nyonyas are Chinese women married to Malay men. Their descendents of this mixed-racial marriage are called Peranakans. Nyonya delicacies often involves a lot of work – julienning, dicing and pounding the vegetables or herbs.

20130916-180825.jpg

My Nyonya Breakfast: Popiah, Pie Tie and 3-Layer Iced Tea

The vendor of the popiah store is Joseph, a man in his 60s. What made his popiahs special were that the thin flour pancakes are stuffed with the julienned wholesome goodness of jicama, long beans, bean sprouts, cabbages and chopped up dried bean curds given a dash of life with sweet crunchy peanut and chili sauces then tightly rolled into a tight package as big as a burrito roll with a hefty tag of RM3. Being purely vegetarian, they were packed with minerals, vitamins and fibres. the notable thing about Sarawakian popiahs are that the ingredients used are all dried. In this case, the jicamas have been been steamed then squeezed dried.

Now, you may be wondering what is ‘Jicama’. It is also referred as Mexican yam or Mexican turnip. It is a large brown bulbous root. Inside the rough and tough skin is the white crunchy flesh, similar to a raw potato but wetter and crunchier. The flavor is slightly sweet, a little nutty. It can be eaten both raw and cooked, although my own favorite is raw, (a key vegetable in rojaks) since its crispness and colour can be retained over time.

20130916-180841.jpg

X-section: Stuffed Vegetarian Popiah

Kuih Pie Tee or ‘Top Hat‘, thus called due to the thin crispy shell casings when inverted look like a lot like a top hat. This crispy shell is usually filled with the same mixture of thinly sliced vegetables that popiah uses. Considering that making the little top hats is tedious work, it commands a premium of RM1 each. This is a popular Peranakan tidbit, something to amuse the mouth.

20130916-181012.jpg

Pie Tie

20130916-181020.jpg

X-section: Pie Tie

I have been seeing advertorial posters of an interesting drink called ‘3 Layer Tea‘ adorning walls in nearly all the coffee shops I have eaten at but had never ordered. Today, I decided to order one too.

The 3 layers of my iced 3 layer tea consisted of black palm sugar syrup at the bottom, creamy evaporated milk in the middle and brown brewed tea on top. It is a distinctively coloured drink when carefully layered. The sweetness has a refreshing pandan leaves fragrance to it which I enjoyed.

It was a good wholesome breakfast which I appreciated. So, thanks again S!

Hits and Misses @ Bills Woollahra, Sydney

Date of Visit: July 31 2013

Even though I am back in Sydney for a few weeks of R&R, work still travels with me. Yesterday, I had a meeting with an associate who is training for the Blackmores full marathon in September. I had also signed up for the half-marathon, but since I can’t see myself to be back in Sydney for the marathon, I had eased back on training. Moreover, with the cold chilly weather and working on the computer reading up and replying litigation emails to idiots – seriously, dudes if you ever engage lawyers don’t let them make you out to be such morons – had made me too lazy to go outside for a run. So, starting August 1 (tomorrow), I am going on a diet…

Better still, why not start today since Mom suggested a light lunch at Bills? She wanted to have their Tuna Poke, but unfortunately, the tuna poke she fancied was no longer on the menu. So, here is a piece of iPhoto memory – a bowl of red translucent tuna sashimi slices, avocado, tomatoes, parsley, samphire (those tiny salty crunchy green veggies that grow along the coastal line which ones has to forage), sesame seeds which has barley underneath and seasoned with soy sauce.

20121116-133625.jpg

Tuna Poke

Bills is a busy cafe, where most of the patrons are ladies (of leisure). The outdoor sitting area with heaters is a fantastic spot to catch some sun. With the wind chills and spot of drizzle, we opted for indoor seating instead, for that, we had to wait for 20 minutes, so we went shopping.

Woollahra is a leafy shopping village with quite a few fashion boutiques (international labels includes Akira, Collete Diningan, et al), organic grocers (e.g Whole Foods, Simon Johnson), home furnishings, antiques dealers and galleries, besides the usual cafes of course.

20130731-133553.jpg

Al fresco dining in Queens Court

A quick twenty minutes later, we are back, with our shopping in tow…

Mom ordered Ocean Trout Salad which had rice vermicelli under the salad of sugar snap peas, watercress, mint and coriander. The grapefruit imparts a sweet tanginess that tarted up the perfect ocean trout. The dressing was a simple dash of fish sauce.

20130731-133523.jpg

Crisp Ocean Trout, Ruby Grapefruit, Coriander and Chili Salad ($22.00)

As for yours truly who is staying faithful to her ‘diet plans’, I ordered the healthy anti-oxidant superfood of Quinoa Salad. There were a lot of sunflower seeds mixed with the quinoa, the wedge of lime did wonders to furnish sourness to beetroot and carrot shavings on the salad. Overall, a satisfying and appetising salad that hope to replicate at home!

20130731-133530.jpg

Quinoa, Sprouting Sunflower, Beetroot, Chilli and Feta Salad($19.50)

My Bro who joined us for lunch had the more hearty Veal and Pork Ragu Pappardelle. No doubt it was hand-made in the house by the look of the thick unevenly cut pappardelle. It looked small, but was absolutely filling.

20130731-133517.jpg

Veal and Pork Ragu, Pappardelle, Tarragon, Lemon and Parmesan ($24.50)

I like going to Bills for light salads which are easy to assemble at home and I often learn a thing or 2 from dining there.

More iPhoto memories from past visits…

20121116-132712.jpg

Raw Green Salad with Feta – beans, feta, zucchini,mint and parsley

20121118-114741.jpg

Vitamix quickie – Chilled tomato and cucumber soup

A busy cafe has its off-days, and here is a pic of my Raw Green Salad looking totally sub-standard, with 1 piece of chopped bean (yes, I counted!), bits of veggies and simply tossed up!  If one is not a regular, I suppose this is the last straw!

20121116-132455.jpg

(Sub-par) Raw Green Salad with Feta – beans, feta, zucchini,mint and parsley

An astute businessman, he has his latest cookbook ‘Easy by Bill Granger’ on display. I am at odds whether to get it.

His cookings are quite Asianised, little wonder since he was co-owner/founder to Billy Kwong which chef Kylie Kwong later took over. The kimchi rice is very popular and whenever I have visitors from overseas, I would suggest they order this spicy rice dish (with comes with a bottle of Sriracha chilli sauce – the one with a picture of the rooster – and this is pushing the authentic button). However, it was the corn fritters and truffled eggs that made Bills’ name, and they are available in the all-day breakfast menu.

Bills has 3 cafes in Sydney and expanding overseas. I often wondered at Japanese tourists who trekked to Woollahra for lunch in his cafe. It only clicked when I saw his one of his cafes in Tokyo. He is one heck of an global entrepreneur indeed – who’d think one can launch an empire from cooking eggs?

At the time of review, Bills scored 79% out of 157 votes

Bills on Urbanspoon

Dining Lebanese in KLCC @ Al-Amar, Pavilion KLCC, Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit: Numerous times since 2011, the latest visit being November 2012

Tabouli is basically a salad of bulgur, parsley, tomatoes, mint, green onions, olive oil and lemon juice. Simple as it is, I love tabouli very much. I love the zingy sharp acidity of lemons mixed with the robust flavours of mint, parsleys and shallots. When I first arrived KL, I often went to Al-Amar for my tabouli fix. Although their tabouli is overly masticated to a pulp, I still went there for their Tabasco-ey tabouli which included the hot red chili padi that suited the Malaysian tastebuds.

Yes, I know tabouli is easy to make at home, but getting my hands on the fresh herbs was a chore for a new arrival especially since the supermarket downstairs does not have a complete stock of fresh herbs and I don’t know where the market is.  Anyway, how convenient was it to have one of Malaysia’s Best Restaurant at your doorsteps right?

Anyway, here is the review of my last visit from a while ago:

20130718-114841.jpg

Tabouli

The nice thing about Al-Amar is that each table gets 2 types of complimentary breads together with olive oil and seasoning salts.

20130718-114907.jpg

Baby Bagels

20130718-115104.jpg

Pita breads

Normally one would order the mezze plate of assorted hummus, but why order them if one can whizz these dips easily at home? (Chuck a can of drained chickpeas and a drizzle a bit of olive oil, then blend in the blender).

Foods in Al-Amar tend to be on the sour side.   If you crave for something really sour, I recommend the Dolmades (rice stuffed in vine leaves and marinated in lemon juice and olive oil) or what they call Warak Enab in Lebanese for appetiser.  A really sour finger food which jolts one awake, this is a welcoming respite after all the sweet Malaysian fares eaten in KL.

The restaurant has a huge oven on display, so naturally one would ordered grilled dishes.

I ordered Lamb Kofta, which came with more bread, spices and onions – warranting no complaints from me. (for the adventurous, there are raw lamb meats too!)

20130718-114939.jpg

Lamb Kofta

The oven baked Snapper looked festive sitting on a bed of lettuce and surrounded by lemons, tomatoes and onions.  It was a delicious fish.  Tarator dressing (made from more lemon juice, yoghurt, oil and nuts) was paired with the fish if one wants more flavour.  In the midst of eating, we realised that the fish was not cooked in the middle so we had to send it back, which was a negative.

20130718-115004.jpg

Oven Baked Fish

We had a bottle of Lebanese red wine from Chateau Musar which I thought  was rather special, as this was my first time tasting vino from the ancient civilisation of Mesopotamia  (Interesting history read up here ).   It’s a young fruity wine, with a nose of rich red fruits, cherries and violets. The tannins left a long velvety touch hinting towards dark fruits at the end.

20130718-115130.jpg

Chateau Musar Jeaune Red

20130718-115158.jpg

Interior

The interior harkens to Aladdin’s caves with red furnishings and exotic ornaments which is rather dated, but still attracting Middle-Eastern clienteles.   The restaurants serve huge buffet spread during the weekends.  A perfect chance to sample all the offerings the restaurant has.  I definitely recommend Al-Amar to the vegetarians, raw foodists and those who wanted something savoury and tart, away from the unctuously sweet dishes.

A Bowl of Salad and Chippies Ahoy! @ Ben’s, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Date of Visit: June 10 2013

Following a hearty lunch at Tonkatsu earlier on (my review here), I was still feeling rather full. But it’s dinner time and rather than raiding the fridge in the middle of the night by skipping my dinner, I opted for a lighter salad fare. However, finding a place that serves proper salads in KL is hard – I have tried Pavilion’s TGI Friday where they offer an uninteresting single varietal salad of iceberg lettuces, sweet corns and cherry tomatoes heavily drenched in dressing which  defeats the purpose of a ‘light fare’.

Meanwhile, I have walked passed Ben’s countless times and perused its overly lengthy board menu placed at the entrance. The restaurant aims to please all its diners by offering an array of choices, unfortunately, this was a put-off for the indecisives. But because I remembered that they have salads on offer and since I had already decided on what I am going to order – a salad – hence the mission of ordering should be easy.

image

So, here we are, Mom, Bro and I, ending up at Ben’s to be quickly ushered into the restaurant.   I am not sure about the replica of  a living room at the front.  Perhaps, the big blue sofa is for the take-away patrons to rest their tired derrières while waiting for their orders.  A huge lamp for reading the Hello! magazines were very thoughtfully provided.   Nonetheless, the standout is the colour of the bright yellow feature wall which I thought absolutely stunning (I love bright colours).

image

image

The restaurant itself is a long space.  A banquette with throw cushions was set against one wall, making excellent spatial economics for when the restaurant has to accomodate for a large group.  The tables need only be joined together and some chairs borrowed.  The space spills out to an outdoor dining area on the balcony overlooking the Bukit Bintang strip which would be perfect for an idle afternoon tea or to partake in the vibrancy when BB comes alive at night.

image

Cleverness in details is one thing that I noted about Ben’s.  Everything from the napkins, to the box of card games for ideas to kick off conversations on the table right down to the details of the waist-coat-aprons on the wait-staffs.

image

image

Despite my simple plan of ordering a salad, the extensive menu of 10 different salads on offer still required a decision from me.  Finally, I went straight for the vegetarian option. Ben’s House Salad ($15.90) came with all my favourite goodies – endame and avocado. I have asked to have the dressing on the side since nothing can be more annoying than a salad drowned in dressing.  I was taken in by the freshness of the roasted pistachios, almonds, walnuts, sun-flower seeds, flaxseeds et al, which were noted as ‘7 seeds’ on the menu.   So stuffed to the brim with vegies, I am rest assured that I would not be raiding the fridge when night falls.

image

For my Mom and Bro, the process of eliminating Sandwiches, Pies, Pastas, Asians and Soups narrowed down to the Traditional options for them.  My Mom opted for  the Fish and Chips ($29.90) .  This came with a small side of coleslaw. With such an array of choices to choose from, it would not come a suprise if the fish fingers and chips were from the  frozen prepackaged supermarket origin rather than from the markets.   Nevertheless, how can one resist the seduction of a Machiavellian piece of crispy fried  temptation?  As in trance, I reached out for a piece, then another, and another, and soon half the chips were in my stomach! Oh dear!

image

My brother’s normal dinner at home is always a piece of steak.  His Steak Frites ($52.90) was a pretty ordinary chargrilled strip loin with black peper sauce.  Together, the chips and  plateful of green beans ensured that he is taking in his recommended vegetables for the day.

image

Although we did not have dessert, the lovey-dovey-gooey  looks exchanged by the couples at the next table while they tucked in their luscious slice of chocolate brownie cake said it all.   With my induction done, I shall be back for more salads and dessert the next time!