16 September 2014

The Best Spaghetti Bolognese

One of my absolute favorite dishes is the ubiquitous Spaghetti Bolognese. I know it's not saying much to say I know how to cook it: it's one of the easiest pasta dishes you can make. But having said that, there are just so many bad versions of this dish that it's ridiculous.*

I first learned to make this dish from my mother. Over the years I've tried various methods and recipes: I've used carrots, celery and onion, I've used chicken, I've used many different variations of this same recipe. I think now I've nailed it. It's also, I think, the quickest method with only the most important ingredients, as well as the tastiest. It does require some multi-tasking though.

Pardon the photo. Lifted off my Instagram account.

Mise-en-place: A kuali. A pot with salted boiling water. Chopped onions, smashed garlic, sliced mushrooms, minced beef (NOT FROZEN), tomato sauce, fish sauce, worcester sauce, tabasco sauce, salt, sugar, crushed black pepper, spaghetti, parmesan cheese.

Oh, and I used a KUALI.

Step One:
In the smoking hot kuali/wok, pour some oil in. Fry the beef until all of it has well browned and is quite crispy. Lower the flame. Take out and set aside. You'll see lots of browned beef bits at the bottom of the kuali.

Step Two:
In the same kuali over medium heat, fry the onions and garlic with a pinch or two of sugar. Let it caramelize on the edges. At the same time, boil your pasta. Back to the onions and garlic. Once it's browned, use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the bottom of the kuali. Then add the beef, mushrooms and tomato sauce. Bring it to a boil, then lower the flame and simmer.

Step Three:
Let the sauce simmer. Check the pasta: it should be cooked 3/4 of the way through. Drain of the liquid. Set aside. Back to the sauce. Season to taste with fish sauce, worcester sauce, tabasco sauce, oregano, salt, pepper and sugar. Turn off the flame and let it stand for 10 minutes.

Step Four:
In a large bowl, put some spaghetti and some sauce. Mix. Repeat this step until all the spaghetti is used up and is well coated. Plate. Sprinkle parmesan cheese. Enjoy the best bolognese ever made.

Brilliant. Savory, beefy, meaty with a hint of tang from the tomato sauce, earthiness from the mushrooms and some spice. If you're going to make this dish, make it right.
  1. This method took me about 35 minutes to prepare, and still produced the best tasting version of Spaghetti Bolognese I've made.
  2. Frying the beef until brown and slightly crisped produces the best, beefiest flavor. Hence the reason not to use frozen mince: frozen mince will let out a lot of water and make cooking times longer.
  3. Don't put oil into the boiling water. It doesn't help one bit. You're just throwing away the oil.
  4. However, always salt the boiling water. That gives your pasta flavor.
  5. I undercooked the pasta because I mixed it with the still hot sauce at the end. That'll cook the pasta further in the bowl/plate.
  6. Don't worry about the use of fish sauce or nam pla. It actually enhances the meaty, umami flavor of this recipe.

*Crimes against spaghetti bolognese:
  • Overcooked, mushy pasta 
  • Overtly sweet sauce
  • Watery sauce
  • Limp tasting meat and vegetables

09 September 2014

20 Things That Will Happen When You Become A Chef

Being a chef is one of the best things I've achieved in this life. That's not to say it hasn't come with some peculiar side effect, though..

  1. Watching people cook will become difficult.
  2. Eating others cooking will become difficult because people expect you to comment on their cooking, which leads to...
  3. ... People feeling pressured when they cook for you.
  4. "Oh, chef ke? Bagus la, boleh saya minta recipe nanti!"
  5. "Sorry ye kalau tak sedap, maklum la, kita ni bukan chef."
  6. People ask you when are you going to open a restaurant. All the time.
  7. You get calls asking where is a good place to eat...
  8. You are expected to know 100% everything there is to know about cooking regardless of your culinary background.
  9. "Wah, chef ke? Bagus ni, nanti boleh jadi celebrity macam Chef Wan!"
  10. You get asked why you didn't enter Masterchef.
  11. And you go on to explain why.
  12. You develop a new-found and deep appreciation for all grunt jobs: cleaners, garbage collectors, dishwashers etc
  13. You acquire an appreciation for foreign workers and realize how most locals have it good at their jobs.
  14. When you cook, you think about how the food will look like on a plate.
  15. You very rarely lose your cool with waiters and servers during busy service periods like lunch or weekend dinners.
  16. You dream of owning a restaurant. Or chain of restaurants.
  17. You wish that Malaysians appreciate the culinary arts more than they say they do.
  18. You watch ‘Chopped’ and think about how you’d do things.
  19. You watch ‘Masterchef Malaysia’ and think about how you’re glad you didn’t sign up.
  20. If you’re a male chef in Malaysia, EVERYONE will ask you if you’re gay.
I have no idea what I'm doing

Yet, I still love my profession



18 July 2014

Sambal Goreng Ikan Bilis

Here's one of (maybe even THE MOST) my favorite dishes ever. Sambal Goreng Ikan Bilis. My mom usually makes it. I took or learnt the recipe from her. But since I like my sambals fiery hot, I upped the cili padi count in this one.

Now if I had a habanero or two...

Sambal Goreng Ikan Bilis
Ikan bilis, onion, shallots, red chillies, cili padi, lime, salt, sugar