Hos­pi­tal­ity from the heart

Pri­vate banker San­dra Hee en­joys be­ing around peo­ple and cook­ing for them, which is why her new home is de­signed to en­ter­tain friends and fam­ily. By Low Shi Ping

Epicure - - AT HOME WITH -

As a se­nior pri­vate banker of a for­eign bank, San­dra Hee is no stranger to stress and long hours. To mit­i­gate this, she cooks. For­tu­nately, her three chil­dren, hus­band and mother, who all live with her, “love to eat”, per­fectly com­ple­ment­ing her ther­a­peu­tic hobby. Her friends are also lucky re­cip­i­ents of her kitchen ex­per­i­ments; she has them over al­most ev­ery Fri­day for din­ner, “I am a peo­ple per­son and hav­ing them around makes me happy.”

En­ter­tain­ing by de­sign

The hos­pitable foodie stands in the spa­cious dry kitchen of her 612 sq m semi-de­tached house in Bukit Timah, which she and her fam­ily moved into in March. In the mid­dle of it is an ex­pan­sive is­land mea­sur­ing 1.25m by 4.3m, where she is plat­ing the lo­cal snacks she has cre­ated for a tea party. That sense of space is fur­ther en­hanced by floor-to-ceiling slid­ing doors that wrap arounds the dry kitchen – de­lib­er­ately in­cluded by ar­chi­tect Rene Tan, co-founder of RT+Q Ar­chi­tects. The side looks out to the swim­ming pool run­ning the length of the house; the back looks out to an al fresco ter­race an­chored by a long ta­ble that can sit 12. Be­yond that is an un­ob­structed panorama of the south­ern part of Sin­ga­pore, made pos­si­ble be­cause the house is built into a slope and el­e­vated above the landed res­i­den­tial es­tate. “We al­ways en­ter­tain on the ter­race be­cause it is also very windy,” re­veals Hee.

The kitchens and back ter­race take up ap­prox­i­mately half the built area of the ground floor, which are the main ar­eas she use when she en­ter­tains. “My pre-req­ui­site to Rene, when we were de­sign­ing the house, was that I had to have a big space for cook­ing,” shares Hee, as she lays the ta­ble. An­other re­quest she made was to have a pantry where she can, “in one look”, see what it con­tains, to help her de­cide what to cook. Tan’s so­lu­tion was to glass off one end of the wet kitchen and line it with shelves for stor­age pur­poses. “He helped me make my dream come true,” Hee en­thuses.

A var­ied reper­toire

The spa­cious kitchen has bound the fam­ily even more closely to­gether, “My elder daugh­ter Ni­cole loves to cook, so we spend the week­ends do­ing this. We like to make pasta, pita bread and pizza. I also learn to make Chi­nese food from my mother – many of the recipes are hers.” Hee’s reper­toire also ex­tends to sweets. Choco­late cake is one of her favourites, and she is try­ing to mas­ter ganache now. She counts tiramisu – which she serves in in­di­vid­ual glass jars learnt from lo­cal dessert shop Aw­fully Choco­late – as one of her sig­na­ture dishes (seafood paella is an­other), ad­mit­ting her son Naa­man is cur­rently “in love” with it.

For the lo­cal snack themed tea party this af­ter­noon, she has pre­pared steamed radish cake cake, gluti­nous rice wrapped in lo­tus leaves, ba­nana cake with a sea salt gula me­laka glaze and kueh ko­sui. A jar of home-made cala­mansi juice stands on the side to wash all the food down. The gluti­nous rice is a recipe of her mother’s, who watches over Hee as she un­wraps the lo­tus leaf. “Pre­par­ing this makes me happy,” she says, “Be­cause when you cut it up, it looks like a sun­flower.” It proves to be a hit among her eight friends from church who have joined her to­day, in ad­di­tion to Rene and his wife Wei Wei. Just as pop­u­lar is the car­rot cake, which is fin­ished in a few min­utes.

Hee says the de­ci­sion on what to cook is guided by what she feels like at that mo­ment in time, as well as what is in the pantry. While she turns to the in­ter­net for ideas and in­spi­ra­tion, her so­cial cir­cle, many of whom are home chefs too, also guide her in her hobby. “And of course, I have to prac­tice. But I am lucky be­cause I have good sup­port­ers to eat and cri­tique my food, so I can im­prove.”


Recipe from San­dra Hee’s mother, Madam Teo Hong Kiew

Serves 12

Prep Time 30 min­utes Cook­ing Time 1 hour 10 min­utes

2 pieces of lo­tus leaves

500g gluti­nous rice

250g pork belly

2 Chi­nese sausages

5-6 pieces of mush­rooms, soaked and sliced into thin slices

25g dried prawns, soaked to soften 30ml of oil left over from fry­ing pork belly 60g shal­lots, peeled and finely chopped 30g gar­lic, peeled and finely chopped


40ml light soya sauce 20ml dark soya sauce 20ml oys­ter sauce 20ml se­same oil 10g sugar

A pinch of salt Half a rice bowl of wa­ter

• Soak lo­tus leaves in a sink or big basin with wa­ter un­til it soft­ens. This usu­ally takes about 20-30 min­utes. Then trans­fer the leaves to a pot of boil­ing wa­ter. Put a plate on the leaves to keep the leaves down. Let it boil for 10 min­utes. Re­move and drain.

• Wash rice. Soak rice in wa­ter for 20mins. Re­move and drain.

• Blanche pork belly with boil­ing wa­ter for 20 min­utes. Re­move and Drain. Cut into 0.5cm slices. Deep fry pork belly un­til golden brown. Set aside.

• Fry Chi­nese sausages. Cut into thin slices. Set aside.

• Sauté dried prawns with left­over oil and fry for 5 min­utes.

• Add mush­rooms and fry for 5 min­utes.

• Add pork belly and Chi­nese sausages and fry for 5 min­utes • Trans­fer to a bowl and set aside.

• Heat up 2 tsp se­same oil and add gluti­nous rice and fry for 2 min­utes.

• Add the com­bined sauces and fry for 2 min­utes, or un­til well mixed.

• Trans­fer to a bowl and bring it to steam for 20mins.

• Stir lightly and trans­fer to the lo­tus leave. Dou­ble wrap with 2 lay­ers of lo­tus leaves. Steam for an­other 30 min­utes.

• Cut open and gar­nish the top with fried shal­lots , spring onions and red chill­ies (op­tional), and serve.


Recipe adapted from The Malay Kitchen Recipes for Ther­momix

Serves 12

Prep time 10 min­utes Bake time 45-60 min­utes de­pend­ing on oven

4 eggs

150g sugar

180ml veg­etable oil

250g Cavendish ba­nanas (use over­ripe ba­nanas for best re­sult)

180g plain flour, plus ex­tra for dust­ing 1 tsp bak­ing pow­der

1 tsp bak­ing soda

sea salt gula me­laka glaze

50g gula me­laka (melt over a dou­ble boiler) a pinch of sea salt

• Pre­heat oven to 150°C. Grease a loaf tin (10 cm x 23 cm) with oil and lightly dust with flour. Set aside.

• In­sert but­ter­fly whisk. Place eggs, sugar and veg­etable oil into the mix­ing bowl.

• Add ba­nanas, mix 15 sec­onds/speed 5.

• Add plain flour, bak­ing soda and bak­ing pow­der, mix 45 sec­onds/speed 3. Trans­fer bat­ter into pre­pared loaf tin.

• Dec­o­rate the cake with thinly sliced ba­nana (op­tional).

• Bake in pre­heated oven (150°C) for 45-60 min­utes or un­til a cake tester skewer comes out clean when it is in­serted in the cen­tre of the cake.

• Re­move cake from the oven and im­me­di­ately brush the sea salt gula Me­laka glaze over the top of the cake while the cake is warm.

• Al­low the cake to cool in loaf tin for 10 min­utes then trans­fer to a cool­ing rack to cool com­pletely. Slice and serve.


Recipe adapted from Easy Meals for the Fam­ily Recipes for Ther­momix

Serves 12

Prep time 10 min­utes Cook­ing time 1hour 5 min­utes

150g rice flour 30g wheat flour 1.6 litres wa­ter 2 tsp salt 40g shal­lots

25g dried shrimps, rinsed

40ml oil, plus ex­tra for greas­ing

4-5 mush­rooms, soaked to soften, cut into thin slices

60g Chi­nese sausages, cut into thin slices 400g radish, grated

1 tsp chicken stock pow­der (op­tional)

2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp spring onions, chopped

1 tbsp fresh red chill­ies, chopped

• Add rice flour, wheat flour and 200g of wa­ter to­gether. Add salt and mix. Let it stand for 10 min­utes. Strain with fine mesh strainer. Grease 5 alu­minium foil cake moulds (11cm each) or bak­ing tin with oil and set aside.

• Place shal­lots and dried shrimp into mix­ing bowl, chop 10 sec­onds/speed 6. Scrape down the sides of mix­ing bowl with spat­ula.

• Add oil, mush­rooms and sausage, sauté 5 min­utes/120°c/speed stir.

• Add radish, 400g wa­ter, chicken stock pow­der and sugar, cook 10 min­utes/varoma/ speed stir.

• Add re­served flour mix­ture, mix 1 min/speed 2. Trans­fer the bat­ter into the pre­pared bak­ing tin. Grease bat­ter sur­face with oil and use a spoon to flat­ten the sur­face.

• Place 1 litre of wa­ter into the mix­ing bowl, boil 8 min­utes/varoma/speed 1.

• Set the Varoma into po­si­tion, steam 30 min­utes/varoma/speed 1. Care­fully open Varoma lid, gar­nish with chopped spring onions and chill­ies. Serve warm.


Recipe from Shiok­man Recipes.

Serves 8

Prep time 10 min­utes Cook­ing time 35 min­utes

90g tapi­oca starch 90g rice flour 340ml wa­ter

2/3 tsp lye wa­ter 220g gula Me­laka 500ml wa­ter

6 pan­dan leaves screw pine 300g grated co­conut 1/2 tsp salt

6 pan­dan leaves screw pine • Add tapi­oca starch and rice flour to wa­ter and mix well.

• Add lye wa­ter, mix well and set aside.

• Boil gula me­laka in wa­ter with pan­dan leaves un­til gula me­laka com­pletely dis­solves. • Re­move pan­dan leaves and sieve the gula me­laka wa­ter to re­move any sed­i­ments.

• Stir the flour mix­ture be­fore adding to the gula me­laka wa­ter.

• Stir mix­ture with a whisk over low flame un­til it thick­ens and smoothens.

• Re­move from flame and pour the mix­ture into a lightly oiled tray.

• Steam the kueh for 30 min­utes.

• While the kueh is steam­ing, pre­pare an­other tray lined with pan­dan leaves.

• Add the grated co­conut over the pan­dan leaves.

• Sprin­kle salt and mix well.

• Place more pan­dan leaves all over the grated co­conut.

• Steam for 10 min­utes.

• Re­move both trays from steamer af­ter steam­ing has com­pleted

• Set aside to cool down.

• Use ice scream scoop to scoop out bite-size kueh or cut with knife or scis­sors and coat with the steamed grated co­conut. Serve.

Gluti­nous rice Ba­nana cake with sea salt gula me­laka glaze

Steamed radish cake Kueh Ko­sui

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