The other day, I was at the Malay stall in my office canteen when I saw something that made me snigger in the way movie villains do — with eyes squinted to a slit as I smiled a slow, evil smile.
But first, a bit of background. This Malay stall has been the reason that I’m known to be a bit of a weirdo in my workplace: I actually quite like the canteen food. Every lunchtime, my colleagues would dive across the road to eat at the foodcourt or coffeeshop opposite, or hop into a cab towards a nearby shopping mall — basically to flee in terror of the culinary offerings on our 7th floor. But not me.
I love the nasi padang at the Malay stall. I love its yummy sambal goreng, beef rendang, potato wedges with ikan bilis, sambal sotong, stir-fried green beans, tahu goreng, and a mee rebus that just can’t be beat. In fact, I credit my daughter E’s ruddy birthweight of 3.66kg to this sumptuous Malay spread, which I ate practically every day when I was pregnant with her.
That’s not all. Every day at around 3pm, the super illustrious stall pours forth a whole different spread for tea time: curry puff, roti john, kueh kueh, hamburgers, samosas, just to name a few. In my mind, the cooks behind this stall are virtual geniuses. Everything they make is just pure gold — until, that is, the day when I cracked that villainous smile.
The stall had just served up cream puffs. And there, on the counter, was a platter of puffs that should be more accurately described as “poofs”. Instead of looking perky and round, they were so flat they looked like they got sat on by an elephant.
Now, I’m not normally the sort who would dance all over other people’s shortcomings. But I had just recently come out of a grand, ego-bruising series of baking disasters, and seeing how even this stellar food stall could create such comical duds not only brought me some relief, I felt downright victorious.
Okay, one of the secrets to making good puffs is using bread flour because, according to Shirley Corriher’s BakeWise, its higher protein content creates a better puff that won’t collapse. This recipe for cream puffs, which I found in a Hong Kong cookbook called Everyday Treats, turned out really well and, yup, it uses bread flour.
But you can bet I won’t share this secret with the Malay stall. Sometimes, you gotta keep things down in order to feel up. *Evil smile*