I am a scientist who loves to cook because there are many similarities between working in a lab and cooking in a kitchen. I love to share my cooking experience with you and to inspire others to cook.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Here's how the conversation transpired 9 years ago:

Friend: Do you want to get some hummus for dinner?
Me: Err, what's a hummus?
Friend: It is a Middle Eastern dish made with chickpeas.
Me: What is chickpeas, does it has anything to do with chicken?
Friend: No, it is a kind of legume.
Me: What do you eat it with?
Friend: Just pita bread.
Me: This is like going to a restaurant and ordering just plain rice for dinner.

Alas, that was 9 years ago!

Some of you might be having the same conversation in your head - "what's hummus"?

Hummus is made of chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzo beans, that are boiled and then ground to smooth paste. It is like making peanut butter, except, chickpeas are low in fat and high in protein. Making chickpeas/hummus a very healthy food. Hummus is either served as an appetizer or itself could be the main course. So I was wrong when I compared eating hummus to eating rice because hummus is much more nutritious than rice.

You can either use canned/cooked chickpeas or raw chickpeas, which require slightly more prep work but well worth the effort. The other key ingredient of making delicious hummus is tahini sauce, which is white sesame paste. Tahini sauce cost too much in the grocery so I decided to make my own tahini sauce.

Ingredients: (yield about 1 large bowl)
0.5lb raw chickpeas (about 1 cup)
Quater cup of raw white sesame seeds
1 clove of garlic, chopped/crushed into small pieces
1 lemon, juiced
salt to taste
olive oil

Prepping the chickpeas
1. Soak chickpeas in water overnight for a few hours or overnight.
2. Drain the water and replace with just enough water to cover the chickpeas.
3. Cook the chickpeas either by steaming or in a pot on the stove top (KEEP THE COOKING JUICE).
4. Set aside.

Prepping the tahini sauce
1. Toast the sesame seed on a pan until it turns slightly golden brown.
2. Transfer the sesame seed to a mortar and add some olive oil. Beat the sesame paste with a pestle until it becomes a paste. Add more oil when the paste is too dry.

Putting all together:
1. Transfer the cooked chickpeas into the blender, add some olive oil and beat the chickpeas until it becomes a paste. Add some cooking juice when the paste becomes too dry.
2. Add the tahini sauce, lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend again.
3. Adjust the consistency and taste with more oil, cooking juice, lemon juice and salt until you reach the consistency and taste that you like. (Apologize to folks who have never tried hummus since you won't know what's the "right" consistency or taste, or you can just wing it)

I have made 3 batches of hummus within a short period of 1 month and I have learned a few things that I would like to share with you

1. Toasted and crushed white sesame seeds smell heavenly. The aroma is like nothing I have smell before.

2. Make sure you use a cylindrical blender, not a conical blender. This is key to making smooth hummus as cylindrical blender ensures more even blending than a conical blender.

3. Do not skimp on the lemon juice. The tanginess of the lemon juice adds complexity to the hummus.

4. You might read in certain blogs that recommend removing the skin of the chickpeas after cooking to ensure a smooth hummus. I did not do this because it requires a lot of effort (try peeling 50 chickpeas), and that coarse chickpeas adds texture, besides I am sure there are some nutritious value in chickpeans skin.

So there you go, a snack as healthy as it gets, rich in protein, low in fat and easy to make! A spoonful of this keeps you going for a while.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Restaurant Review: Coliseum Steakhouse

                                                                                         (source: some random dude's facebook photo)

Coliseum is a steakhouse/western restaurant situated in Jaya33. The original location is in KL and this is their first branch.

I am going to keep this review simple by going along with this simple format : the good, the bad, the ugly.

The good:
I like my steak medium rare and that's how I ordered it. To my SURPRISE, my ribeye came out exactly medium rare. A dinner companion ordered the crab cake, which was served on a piece of crab shell. Points for being "interesting". I didn't try it but was told that it tasted good.

The bad:
Where do I began, another companion ordered roasted chicken and it was too dry and lack the tenderness and juiciness of a good roasted chicken. "Interestingly", the roasted chicken was overlaid with a piece of crispy chicken skin. Hmmmm......ok, I will take that. The "special" salad was standard fair without anything "special", then again, this is salad we are talking about.

The ugly:
The fries. This was the first thing I put in my mouth and it completely threw me off my grid. Cold fries. COLD FRIES. HOW DARE YOU??????? My dinner companion had a different kind of fries and that too was COLD!!!  Come on....

That's not all.

Through out the whole dinner, I wasn't ask, for once, if I wanted anything to drink. Okay, maybe I am too spoiled by certain experience where water is the first thing you get when you sit down. Maybe I shouldn't whine about this. Just raise your hand and ask for your water.

Things that could go either way:
The oxtail soup: heavily peppered soup, and served with two pieces of oxtail. Definitely for sharing between 2 people. Not my favorite oxtail soup. My favorite is this oxtail soup.

I don't like any sauce on my steak and this is the de facto way of serving steak in this part of the world. I should've known better and asked them for the sauce on the side.

The decor/ambiance: Paint a huge room white, put lots of tables, covered them with white table clothes and you got yourself a steakhouse. This is not a "fancy" place by any means although they priced themselves as a fancy steakhouse. I won't recommend this place for a romantic dinner date unless eating steak while wearing sandals and shorts is your thing.

Crowd: You definitely need to make a reservation and make them in advance. This place gets really crowded on weekends! Not sure about weekdays.

Miscellaneous tips: If you do come here, make sure you park your car in the multi-level car park unless you are willing to pay RM15 for the parking spots directly in front of the restaurant.

My verdict: I think it is clear that I won't be coming back here EVER. If I want a good piece of steak, I'd go somewhere else although I am not sure, at this point, where to go.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Homemade Nutrition Bar

I am not sure if you can call this nutrition bar because I failed to make "bars". Instead, I made nutrition lumps

The energy/protein/nutrition bars that I tried in the past taste either "funny/artificial" or "too sweet". I don't know what it is but these bars did not make me say "I want more". I eat it because "I just came back from the gym" or "I am hungry, what's convenient?".

I looked into my pantry and quickly put together a recipe for some homemade nutrition bars. You can put anything you want into making energy bars. All you need are two items - dry ingredients (nuts, dried fruits, M&Ms, chocolate chips, seeds, etc) and wet ingredients (oil, honey, caramel, etc)

In this recipe: 
Dry ingredients are: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts (crushed), sunflower seed, black and white sesame seeds, raisins (chopped).

Wet ingredients: coconut oil and honey.

(I intentionally do not tell you the amount because it is more like "however much you want")

Making nutrition bars is easy:
1. Toss everything together.
2. Press it flat on a large baking tray over a wax paper.
3. Refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the honey bind the dry ingredients together.

My recipe and techniques are not perfect. I did not use enough honey to bind everything together in a solid form to make bars since I do not want to over-sweetened my bars. I don't know how do people make nutrition bars that's a piece of solid chunk. Lots of sugar, I suppose.

You can't go wrong with this set of ingredients because the crunchiness of the nuts provides a good texture for the naturally sweet raisins and honey. The sunflower and sesame seeds are like icing on the cake, and coconut oil provides a perfumery fragrance.

Overall, this is a good snack for anytime of the day.