Home Kitchen Recipe | Ayam Pongteh – Nyonya Soybean Paste Chicken Stew with Potato/Mushroom

Ayam Pongteh or Babi Pongteh is a Nyonya dish made popular by a Singaporean drama series – Little Nyonya. ‘Ayam’ means chicken and ‘Babi’ is literally translated as ‘pork’ in Malaysian language. Ayam (or Babi) Pongteh is a famous Peranakan dish, generally a chicken (or pork) stew cooked with fermented soybean paste, potatoes and shiitake mushrooms. An aromatic dish from Nyonya’s kitchen, it is served with plenty of delectable broth and delivers the taste of sweet-savory owing to the main ingredients of fermented soybean paste and palm sugar.
Ayam Pongteh - A famous Nyonya dish
Back in my hometown Penang, Ayam/Babi Pongteh is one of the dishes that is made convenience at certain economy rice stalls. Not a common dish but the odds of getting a cooked Ayam/Babi Pongteh is high if one knows its where about. Contrary happens in Austin, all the hometown dishes that we love are the produce of our home kitchen!

Motivated by my recent ‘pongteh’ yearning, I attempted my first experiment. Most recipe references suggested braising or simmering the dish. However, I opted for stewing using crock pot (slow cooker) to allow the chicken, potatoes and mushrooms to cook gradually rather than instantaneously. Slow cooking leads them to turn out softer, juicier and more flavorful.  
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Texas Marble Falls | Sweet Berry Farm – Pick Your Own Strawberry

Spring is in the air and strawberries are found everywhere! Be it at H.E.B. (groceries store) or farmer’s
markets, this fruit is grabbed fast for its freshness and best value.
Almost ripe and young one...
Ever wonder the fun to pick your own fruits as much as you like?
Mommy...I am not done yet!
In Texas, there are farms that offer the experience to pick-your-own fruits. We happened to make a drive to Marble Falls for wildflower viewing and detoured to Sweet Berry Farm – a venue that provides us a chance to pick the ripe strawberry! Guess we did right at the season top quality strawberry harvest!

Welcome to Sweet Barry Farm
Welcome to Sweet Barry Farm

Are we going row by row?
Sweet Berry Farm is located about 1.2 miles from the intersection of R.M. 1431 (from Marble Falls) and F.M. 1980. We arrived on last Sunday at 12 noon and the gate of the farm was still closed. The signpost said “Sunday: 1pm to 5 pm“. To kill time, we drove along FM 1980 and pulled out our camera to snap the spectacular landscape of Texas bluebonnets, Indian paint-brush and the wild flowers contrasting the sight of country farm.

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Texas Marble Falls | River City Grille Restaurant

Our plan was to grab some lovely pies at Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls after our visit to Longhorn Cavern State Park. However when reached Blue Bonnet Cafe around 5pm, we noticed the sign post stating “Sunday: 6am – 1:45pm“. That explained why there was no sight of long queue at the facade like what happened when we passed by that morning!

The facade of River City Grille
The facade of River City Grille

This incident somehow was a happy inconvenience. Instead of going for the pie, our instinct brought us to hunt for food at River City Grille Restaurant which happens to sits next to Colorado River. The restaurant offers two types of dining area, one being indoor in the rustic atmosphere by wood panels and mural walls. Second option is an outdoor patio overlooking the beautiful Lake Marble Falls. We opted for the outdoor patio (it is more popular and we did wait for a while) whereby the view of classical steel bridge across the river painted the landscape on the east while the calm Marble Falls Lake cutting through the country land on the west. What a picturesque Texas Hill Country spot to enjoy our early dinner!
Incredible view of Lake Marble Falls
The charming steel bridge - landmark of Marble Falls
River City Grille serves a huge array of Texas cuisine from appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, tacos, a long list of entrees such as burger, seafood, beef, pork, chicken, not forgetting the tempting desserts and something for the kids as well.
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Texas Marble Falls | Longhorn Cavern State Park

As the name suggests, the main attraction at Longhorn Cavern State Park is the natural cave. Declared as U.S. Natural Landmark in 1971, Longhorn Cavern is located south-west of Burnet or north-west of Marble Falls in Hill Country of Texas.

Registered as U.S. Natural Landmark
Registered as U.S. Natural Landmark

The cavern is believed to exist a few million years ago and relatively is considered a young geologic formation. Bones of elephant, bison, bear, dear and other animals have been found here. Evidence shows it has been used as shelter since prehistoric era.
Longhorn Cavern State Park's Visitor Center, gift shop cum deli
Civilian Conservation Corps Museum
Trail behind CCC museum, heading to entrance of Longhorn Cavern
This cavern was used to manufacture and store gun powder during Civil War (1861-1965). Legends claimed that the outlaw Sam Bass hid $2 million cache inside the cavern and Texas ranger found a kidnapped girl from Indians here.
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Spring Wildflower in Central Texas | Scenic Loop Drive Austin – Marble Falls – Longhorn Cavern

I was made aware about the wonderful wild flowers viewing when I received an email from MD. From her suggested drive for the best sightseeing, I twisted our journey to include fruit picking, visiting Longhorn Cavern State Park and food hunting in Marble Falls.

The country farm near Sweet Berry Farm at Marble Falls, TX
The country farm near Sweet Berry Farm at Marble Falls, TX
Huge patch of Texas paintbrushes (red) domininating the meadow
Started from Austin we traveled south, then headed west via Hwy 71 passing Bee Cave and Spicewood before taking a turn into Hwy 281 North and continued our journey to Marble Falls. Next, we drove on RM 1431 for 1.5 miles before turning right into FM 1980. Traveling another 1.2 miles brought us to Sweet Berry Farm to experience pick-your-own fruit. Spring is the season to harvest strawberries. Oh! Perfect for us to pick as much as we wish!
Texas wildflower - captured at Longhorn Cavern State Park
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Home Kitchen Recipe | Curry Mee (Coconut Curry Noodles Soup) – Curry Laksa

I never believe my mom when she told me that Curry Mee is one of the simplest to prepare among all the Penang Hawker Food. Not until when I tried it myself at my home kitchen. Life in Penang used to be very luxurious since there are plenty of Curry Mee stalls and I never bother to learn how to cook it. However, living in Austin now sounds pathetic when we crave for Penang Curry Mee. Caught in desperation, I decided to cook our own version at home, recalling the recipe my mom used to share with me!
Mouth watering Curry Mee
If you have tried Penang Curry Mee, you would notice that it is commonly served with pig’s blood, cockles, cuttlefish and prawns. Since both my SO and I do not fancy the exotic stuff, we usually ask the hawker operator to omit them which means most of the time, our Penang Curry Mee is served with bean sprouts, tofu balls and long bean. Yet, it is still fabulous! What happen at my home kitchen version? I add some lean pork, home-made turkey balls and hard-boiled egg for protein. And, it appears to resemble what the southern Malaysian called ‘Laksa‘ or Curry Laksa.
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Home Kitchen Recipe | Honey Barbecue (BBQ) Chicken

After I picked up the arts of how to cook BBQ Pork or ‘char siew’ at my home kitchen, we seldom frequented Chinese restaurants for BBQ Pork anymore. Branching out to chicken, this attempt shares the recipe for Honey Barbecue (BBQ) Chicken which is adapted from BBQ Pork recipe. Similar marinade is prepared except for chicken, I have added some honey.
Honey Barbecue (BBQ) Chicken served with vegetables and mashed potato
Ready to check out it goes?
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Texas Austin Downtown Biannual Event | Old Pecan Street Festival – Sixth Street

Since last year, I have been telling myself to take a peek at Sixth Street. The venue that is well-known to be the heart of live entertainment and most desirable hang-out spot in Austin Downtown. Being too occupied with other activities, I did not seem to have time until recently when we turned up at ‘Old Pecan Street Festival’ which was held on the first weekend of May (1 & 2 May) 2010.

Old Pecan Festival in Austin Downtown
Old Pecan Festival in Austin Downtown

Sixth Street - Historic District of Austin Downtown
Variety of choices to chow down...
Held along Sixth Street or formerly known as Pecan Street, the festival is a biannual event that runs on a weekend in spring and fall each year. It has been an Austin’s tradition for the past 32 years where the artisans from nationwide flock, display and sell their homemade art and craft work. Interestingly, here is where I found anything is possible, the wildest imagination and outrageous creativity that God has given to mankind!
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Home Kitchen Recipe | Mee Jawa (Jawa Noodles) – Mee Rebus (Boiled Noodles)

For the past 6 months we had been searching for yellow noodles in Austin. Both my Significant Other and I love this noodle, even just a plain stir-fried style. One fine day, we came across the similar noodles in the cooler when we passed an aisle at MT Supermarket. Without hesitant, we bought home to try and that led me to think of ‘Mee Jawa’ – one of Penang hawker food. Oh dear! This the downside of living in Austin now when you grow up in a place called ‘Food Paradise’ – the nicknamed of Penang.  

The next thing to do is browsing for Mee Jawa recipe but after some reading, I found there is no clear distinction between Mee Jawa and Mee Rebus. Basic ingredients are similar but they are called differently for some reason.

Mee Jawa a.k.a. Mee Rebus
Mee Jawa a.k.a. Mee Rebus

Attempting to serve a home cooked Mee Jawa, I opted to adapt the recipe from Penang Passion with some modification based on what we love to eat and the ingredients I have at home.
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Best Ice-cream of The Month | Mikawaya Red Bean (Ogura) Mochi Ice Cream

Momma used to tell me, “When you eat something nice, you got to share with others!”. Since it sounds impossible to share my plate on website, I got myself armed with a compact camera, taking some shots to share how fantastic the ice-cream I had last week!

Blame it to rising temperature in Austin, lately I have been eying on ice-cream for obvious reason. Three weeks in a row, I pampered myself with this sinful indulgence. Hugging pint after pint of ice-cream three weeks ago, then a packet of 8 cones vanilla ice-cream and the most recent irresistible temptation was landed with Mochi Ice cream.

Check out what happen?

Picture 1 – Life is like a box of ice-cream! You never know what you’re gonna get.
A box of Mochi Icre Cream - red bean

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