In my x years of cooking, I’ve only known one way of cooking chinese bbq roast pork (char siu) – and as the name implies, I would roast it in my oven. The result is often a very tasty but slightly dry char siu. However a very good man known as The Food Canon shared his family recipe for a wok-cooked char siu. There were warnings of a nightmarishly difficult to clean wok after but it wasn’t going to deter me. I did think that if I ruined my wok, I’d just have a get a new one. I needed to try this method out no matter what. Needed, not wanted, needed!
Essentially, this is a twice-cooked roast pork. Braised first in its marinade, then quickly crisped up and charred under a hot grill. Can anyone say yum?
The result was most wonderful – super moist, sticky, caramelly roast pork and with a little modification to the braising sauce (I ran really low on it), I also came up with a great cheat’s drizzling sauce. Served with a plate of freshly steamed jasmine rice and a side of garlic chinese broccolli, this was one gold-class comfort meal.
I used pork belly this time, which even the hubs (gasp!) found to be too fatty. I’d recommend using a good strip of pork loin instead. Something I’ll try again soon. But you know what they say, fat is flavour, and this pork is so fattily flavourful!
Oh, and my wok wasn’t ruined at all. Hot water and dishwashing liquid did the job just fine. Happy days!
CHINESE BBQ ROAST PORK – WOK STYLE
Adapted from The Food Canon
1kg pork belly strips
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp chinese cooking wine
1 cup water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1. Marinade pork strips with all of the ingredients except water and oil for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. To a heated wok, add the oil, then add pork belly strips in one layer. Seal the pork for about a minute, then add all the marinade and water and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the pork is tender. Remove pork strips from the wok and lay it out on a baking tray in a single layer.
3. Place tray under the grill and char the pork for about a minute on each side.
4. If the braising liquid has reduced too much and there isn’t enough to make up a sauce, add another cup of water to braising liquid, add a couple tablespoons of hoisin sauce, stir and simmer till thickened and voila! – you have sauce.
5. Slice the pork up, drizzle with sauce and enjoy!
I had an amazing time in Japan and one of the most memorable things that my friends and I did was to spend an afternoon with a local named Taro. Taro-san owns a business that provides food-loving tourists a chance to learn and help prepare a typical Japanese home-cooked meal right in his own home. If you didn’t know any locals in a foreign country, chances are that you will not have any opportunities to enjoy a home-cooked meal or see the inside of someone’s home. We got both!
There are several options when booking with Haru Cooking Class- named after Taro’s most adorable 3 year old daughter Haruko. We chose to go shopping with Taro at the Nishiki Market (this is additional to the regular cooking bit), where we peppered Taro-san with curious questions about the local produce.
We then took a stroll through shops and laneways before hopping on a bus to his home. Taro-san speaks English very well and we enjoyed conversations about local culture and language and he asked quite a few brain-boggling questions on the use of English grammar. We take for granted what we know as ‘natural’ speech in English but when we had to explain the technicalities behind it, it’s TOUGH! Kudos to all the English teachers out there!
Sorry I digressed. With Taro’s class, you get hands on experience preparing and cooking authentic home-style miso soup, tamago roll (egg), stir-fried veggies and side dishes. However the star of the show was the Kobe steak. We sat cross-legged on Taro-san’s living/dining room floor and marvelled at the journey our pieces of Kobe steaks took to make it Kobe-certified. There’s even a website that tracks which farm and breeder the specific Kobe beef originated from. (Every Kobe beef/cow is assigned a registration certificate and number) Yup, they are serious about their Kobe beef! Real serious!
We helped to slice, season and cook the various dishes but left the handling of our precious Kobe beef to Taro-san. I have never eaten such amazing melt-in-the-mouth steaks cooked simply with salt and pepper. Soooo gooood!!! The whole meal and experience was fantastic and I highly recommend anyone visiting Kyoto to attend a class with Taro-san. You won’t regret it!
But wait there’s more! Taro-san is also quite an inventor.
He designed this oil dispenser which allows you to evenly and lightly oil the base of your cooking pans without over-pouring oil – as I often do! He generously gave each couple a dispenser to take home but this is available for sale on his website. I haven’t put what I have learnt in his class into practice yet, but just writing this post makes me want to make up a batch of fresh miso soup pronto!
For more information on Taro and his fun-filled cooking class, visit his website.
Taking a break from my Japanese holiday ramblings to share this delicious recipe with you. When I go for dim sum (or yum cha, if in Australia), there are a few standard items which are must-haves. Steamed prawn dumplings (har gow), bbq pork buns, braised chicken feet (I’m sure some of you are cringing at the thought of this, but it is one of my favourites) and steamed pork dumplings (siu mai).
At a dim sum (yum cha) restaurant here in Melbourne, you’d have to pay about $4.50 a serve (usually 3 to 4 small siu mais in a mini bamboo steamer). If you were to make this at home, it’s about $6 – 7 for 35 to 40 large dumplings. Feeling a little ripped off? Well, go ahead and make some at home then. The best part is that these dumplings can be frozen and steamed from frozen. You can eat all 40 dumplings in one sitting of course, I’m not judging…but I wouldn’t recommend it!
Most recipes recommend using round wonton wrappers but I like this version that uses square wrappers. Watch this video and be amazed at how easy it is to form the dumplings. Your dumplings will look pretty pro at the end of it. Enjoy!
STEAMED SIU MAI (PORK DUMPLINGS)
Makes about 35 – 40
350g (3/4 pound) minced pork, preferable with some fat in it
220g (1/2 pound) raw prawns, peeled, deveined (coarsely chopped)
2 stalks of spring onion, chopped finely (both green and white bits)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp corn starch
2 tsp finely diced carrots
1 packet of wonton wrappers (about 40 in a pack)
1. In a mixing bowl, add pork, prawns, spring onions, soya sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, mirin, white pepper, salt and corn starch together, mix thoroughly.
2. To wrap the dumplings, watch this video. Using a square wonton wrapper, dip your finger in water and wet all four edges. Place a tablespoon of pork mixture in the middle of the wrapper, fold all four corners together. Hold the dumpling in a cupped hand, fold in the edges sticking out on the sides while using cupped hand to shape the dumpling. Flatten and even out the top of the dumpling with a knife. Garnish with a tiny pinch of carrots.
3. Lay a sheet of parchment paper at the bottom of a bamboo steamer, arrange siu mai, leaving some space in between to avoid sticking.
4. Bring water to a boil over high heat in a saucepan/wok that is big enough for the bamboo steamer to sit on. Cover and steam for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm.
Dumplings can be prepared ahead and is suitable for freezing. Give an extra 2 – 3 minutes if steaming from frozen.
January 26 is Australia Day. It’s a day of BBQs by the beach, picnics in the park, summer music concerts and this year, it also includes watching scream queen Azarenka beat smiling assassin Li Na at the Australian Open. Not quite patriotic I guess unless you count the thong throwing contests or men painted in blue and wearing nothing but the Australian flag, throwing around an inflatable kangaroo. Ah Australia…
However, nothing is more Australian than this…
…the infamous Vegemite, dreaded by many but loved by many more. I grew up loving Bovril and Marmite. And it was a no brainer that I switched to Vegemite when I landed on Aussie shores years ago.
It’s not appealing to many and I can imagine why – it’s dark brown, doesn’t smell very nice and super salty. Made from yeast extract (what?? I don’t even know what that means)…it can be quite a potent spread for an amateur.
I love this stuff, especially on generously buttered toast with a light scraping of vegemite. (Yes, please do not treat Vegemite like your regular peanut butter or nutella spread where more is merrier). It’s great also with cheese toasties and some people put a little in sauces and gravies.
Vegemite Chicken is another great way to use Vegemite. My hubby will not go anywhere near my Vegemite toast, but this dish is now in his list of ‘yes’ food. In fact, he requested for it this time!
Trust me, it’s good. You’ll hardly taste the Vegemite but it sure gives the dish an added depth of flavour. Imagine honey soy chicken but with more power!
Try it to believe it. I’m sure many of you will be using that long-abandoned jar of Vegemite in your pantry after this.
Adapted from Almost Bourdain
650g chicken wings, split and without tips
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp Vegemite
Toasted sesame seeds for garnishing (optional)
1 tsp Vegemite
1 tbs honey
1 tbs light soy sauce
1 tbs Shaoxing wine
A dash white pepper powder
1. Marinade chicken for at least 3 hours or overnight.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan on high heat. Add chicken wings and stir fry till lightly brown on all sides. Set leftover marinade aside.
3. Add in honey, dark soy sauce and vegemite to the chicken, stir fry and mix well. Add in marinade, coat chicken well and simmer till the sauce is thickened, dark and syrupy.
4. Taste and if required, add a splash of light soy to taste.
5. Serve with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, steaming hot white rice and a side of stir fried veggies. Perfect.
The new year celebrations have come and gone. Many of us have returned to work and the Christmas break seemed so long ago. The gyms are packed full of people attempting to keep to their new year resolutions of losing weight, getting fit etc etc. January is probably the month where carb intake is the lowest due to enthusiastic weight watchers who stuffed one too many roasted spuds and christmas pudding. Don’t quote me, i’m making stuff up, because I am one of those who tries very, very hard to go the non-carb or low-carb way.
Safe to say, I haven’t been very successful. When I’m after a quick and easy one dish meal, I tend to turn to rice or noodles. Hey I can’t help it – I’m asian!
So I try to be as healthy as possible, loading the dish with more vegetables and protein. This cabbage and chicken pilaf is a quick and easy one-pan meal. If you’re really not in the mood for cleaning up either, you can eat directly from the pan too – no one’s judging!
A pilaf is a rice dish (usually, but not always of Indian influence) cooked with vegetables and broth. It’s versatile, so you can chuck in protein like chicken or other meats or seafood. A way to describe it is like an Indian paella? Just with different flavours and spices and much less labour intensive and time consuming.
Simple ingredients, cooked in 30 minutes or less! Great mid-week meal.
CABBAGE & CHICKEN PILAF
3 fillets of skinless and boneless chicken thighs, sliced
1/2 a head of white cabbage, coursely shredded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1 1/2 cups of long grain white rice (you can use basmati rice too)
2 cups of unsalted chicken stock
2 tsp of curry powder
1 tsp of ground ginger
1 tsp of ground cumin
salt & pepper to taste
light soy sauce to taste (optional)
In a 30cm fry pan or cast iron braiser, heat a splash of vegetable oil. Brown chicken pieces until just lightly browned.
Add in ground ginger, cumin, curry powder, garlic and rice. Stir to mix ingredients well and ensure rice is well coated with spices. Add in cabbage, mix well and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add in chicken stock and frozen peas. Mix through and cover pan. Cook for about 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Season to taste. Sprinkle with crispy fried shallots before serving (optional).
Coconut custard spread – otherwise known as kaya – is what I consider the jam of Southeast Asia. If you haven’t tried kaya before – it is creamy and easily spreadable in texture and fragrant with coconut and screwpine (pandan) flavours. When kids were tucking into sandwiches or toasts with PBJ in the US, marmalade or marmite in the UK and vegemite in Australia, we had kaya.
Kaya toast is what we enjoy having for breakfast or even as a snack whenever we’re back in Singapore. Thinly sliced crustless bread, lightly toasted and spread with kaya and a melting slab of butter – now that’s how we roll! It’s so popular that there are even kaya toast franchises all over Singapore – Ya Kun and Killiney Kopitiam…just to name a couple of the big boys.
Here’s a picture of a Ya Kun kaya toast meal – complete with soft boiled eggs and coffee. Oh my, I want some right now.
The good thing is that kaya is widely distributed across the globe, which means if I’m craving for some downunder, I’m not far from a store that sells it. However, one of the things my mum-in-law left behind from her last visit to Melbourne earlier this year, was her recipe for homemade kaya.
Unlike the store bought kaya, this version is not as sweet and the texture is not as processed. Kinda rustic and quite delish! Now I’ll share the recipe with you, but it was just me scrambling to jot down notes while mum was speeding through the process. Like any other home cook, mum’s recipe is all about estimation, so when I say medium bowl that can fill a dozen eggs, it means just that. I can’t give you any more detail than that!
My mum-in-law’s homemade kaya
12 large eggs (or fill up a medium size mixing bowl)
1 bowl of granulated sugar (same size bowl as the eggs)
1 x 270ml can of coconut cream
6 screwpine (pandan) leaves
1 tbsp of wheat flour, dissolved in 1 tbsp of water
1. In a medium metal mixing bowl or pot, beat eggs for about 2 minutes.
2. Cut up the screwpine leaves into small (about 2cm) pieces. Process the leaves in a food processor with 2 tbsp of water. Strain blended leaves through a clean muslin cloth. Squeeze the living daylights out of the pulp to get all the juices.
3. Add screwpine juice, sugar and coconut cream to the eggs. Place the pot or bowl in a water bath on simmer. Ensure the depth of water in the bath is level to the egg mixture in the bowl.
4. Simmer and stir the mixture gently and continuously until it is thickened. (About 20 – 25 minutes) Yes, elbow grease and patience is required.
5. Add wheat flour mixture to the custard, stir and cook for another 5 minutes.
6. Cool and store in jam jars or air tight containers.
There’s quite a bit of confusion when it comes to the identification of the root vegetable that is found in this dish. In Southeast Asia, we call this a yam cake which will probably mislead all my American friends to thinking it’s like thanksgiving-style sweet yams. Nah-uh. Firstly, yam as we know it in Southeast Asia is really taro. The yam that is used by my Northern Hemisphere friends for thanksgiving is known in Southeast Asia as sweet potato. Confused yet? In Australia, most people know what I’m referring to when I say yam, or taro. And sweet potato is simply, sweet potato.
For the sake of my own sanity (and probably yours too), I’ll refer to this dish as a taro cake. Commonly found in Southeast Asia as a savory snack – steamed, with loads of fried shrimp topping like the one featured here, or sliced up and pan-fried. The latter style is also common in dim sum / yum cha restaurants.
My personal preference is for the steamed version with a generous amount of the crisp topping consisting of fried shallots, dried shrimp, spring onions and red chilies (it’s the best part!!). The dense, savory cake is packed full of cubed taro and more dried shrimp. Best eaten warm with chili sauce and sweet caramel soy sauce (kecap manis).
My mouth is watering as I write this. Darn.
STEAMED TARO CAKE
Recipe from Rasa Malaysia
For the cake:
• 1½ bowls yam, diced into 1-2cm cubes
• 1 bowl rice flour
• 2 tablespoons wheat starch
• 2 bowls water
• ½ bowl dried shrimp
• 5 shallots, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon five spice powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon white pepper
For the topping:
• deep fried shallots (you can buy packs of ready fried ones in Asian groceries)
• spring onions, sliced finely
• red chillies, sliced finely
• dried shrimps, chopped finely and shallow fried till crisp
(I do not have quantities for the topping, prepare as much or as little as you want (I love it, so I have an abundance of it) – it’s a must-have for this dish. Yummy!
- Heat a pan over medium high heat, and fry the shallots and dried shrimp until they become aromatic. This should take about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the cubed yam to the pan, and fry with the shallots and dried shrimp mixture until cooked and brown. Best way to test – eat a piece of the taro to make sure it’s cooked through and no longer al dente.
- In a separate bowl, mix the rice flour, wheat starch, salt, pepper, five spice powder and water, and stir until it forms a smooth paste.
- Add the flour mixture into the pan slowly, stirring continuously until a thick paste forms.
- Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl/plate and steam over high heat for 45 minutes, or until cooked.
- To serve, sprinkle generously with deep fried shallots, chopped spring onions, sliced chillies and chopped dried shrimp. Drizzle with chilli sauce and kecap manis.
Bean curd puffs, also known as tofu puffs or ‘tau pok’ to many southeast asians are one of my favourite variants of the humble bean curd. The healthier version of the bean curd or tofu is dense and has very high water content. The puff version is deep fried, hollow-ish and dry which is very much like a sponge and when cooked in sauce or soup, it soaks up all the wonderful flavours and is totally delicious. I love them in soups, in laksa, sliced and stir fried or in this case – stuffed!
Stuffed bean curd puffs is considered ‘street food’ and is quite commonly found in Singapore or Malaysia food centres. The puff is split in half, lightly toasted and then filled with healthy goodies like julienned cucumber, bean shoots and slices of boiled egg and served with a creamy satay (peanut) sauce. The freshness of the cucumber and bean shoots, the crisp outer tofu shell and the nutty yumminess of the satay sauce is simply a divine combination.
It’s so easy to prepare, very cost-effective and rather healthy as a meal in itself – unless you’re like me where I am over-generous with the satay sauce and I totally drench the little puffs. Oh yum. Many people enjoy this dish as a starter, but it’s surprisingly satisfying as a main. A great summer dish.
Stuffed Bean Curd Puffs
Recipe for 4 as a starter or 2 as main
1 packet tofu puffs (about 14 – 16 pieces)
100 g beans shoots, blanched
1/2 cucumber, julienned
2 large hard boiled eggs, sliced
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Slice the tofu puffs almost all the way through, lightly toast or grill on both sides. Stuff the toasted puffs with equal amount of cucumber and bean shoots, then top with sliced egg and chopped peanuts. Serve immediately with a side of satay sauce.
I used ready made satay sauce this time, but if you fancy making some yourself, here’s a quick and easy recipe from a previous post.
Want something quick, healthy and delicious? This is a variation from the ever popular San Choy Bow (pork and lettuce wraps) and it is super easy to prepare. I used enoki mushroom (also known as golden needle mushroom) because I love its thin, springy texture.
Basically, if you’ve got pork mince and a variety of vegetables (a good mix of textures) – you’re good to go. I used water chestnuts and bamboo shoots (both canned) as they go really well with the pork and they also add crunch and sweetness to the dish. And of course, the enoki mushroom.Yum yum.
Go for your life, mix and match! That to me is the best part of cooking.
Pork and Enoki Mushroom Lettuce Wraps
300g pork mince
200g enoki mushrooms
100g water chestnuts (about 6-7), diced
70g canned bamboo shoots, shredded or diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp of minced ginger
1 small head of iceberg lettuce
crushed peanuts or cashews for garnish (optional)
For the sauce:
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chinese cooking wine
ground white pepper
1. Separate lettuce leaves and trim any limp/floppy edges so they are like nice little cups.
2. Heat a wok over high heat, add sesame oil and stir fry garlic and ginger (they burn very quickly so keep watch!) – about 20 seconds will do.
3. Add mince, fry for about 3-4 minutes breaking up any lumps, then add water chestnut, bamboo shoots and mushrooms.
4. Add all the sauce ingredients, stir and cook for another minute.
To serve, spoon a portion of the pork mixture onto a lettuce leaf, top with crushed nuts if desired, roll or wrap it up and eat! Simple!
This summer in Melbourne is a true reminder of the song by Crowded House – Four seasons in one day. From blazing hot 38C days to chilly 15C. To make the best of it, I enjoy myself by cooking and eating cool summer salads to rich, warming soups all in the same season. Awesome isn’t it?
On one of those stinking hot days (i’m not very good in extreme heat – picture Oscar the grouch scenarios) I really didn’t feel like cooking or doing anything for that matter but I really wanted a light, healthy and delicious lunch. So despite the non-desire to cook, I left behind my personal indent on the couch and moved sloth-like to the kitchen to whip this dish up. And I was glad I did. I love dishes that require such minimal cooking but yield great results. There’s no sweating over a hot stove either – thanks to whoever invented electric kettles and microwave ovens!
PRAWN, FENNEL AND TOFU SALAD
20 medium prawns, shells removed (I used frozen ones)
150g fresh firm tofu (bean curd), cubed
1 small fennel, sliced finely
1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced finely
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp crispy fried shallots (available from asian stores)
handful of fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley), leaves picked
100g glass noodles (bean thread vermicelli)
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
Prepare dressing by whisking lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, sesame oil, vinegar and ginger until all the sugar has dissolved.
Cook prawns – you can boil them in a pot or cook them in a bowl of water in the microwave for 5 minutes (or until cooked through), drain and set aside to cool.
Place glass noodles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave aside for 10 minutes, then drain and cool by running through some cold water.
Assemble salad with all of the ingredients including cooked prawns and noodles except the fried shallots.
Toss salad with dressing, then top with fried shallots. Serve cool. Yum.
Yesterday was the last day of chinese new year. I missed it completely – not that I was going to do anything special but at least I won’t look like a doof and continue greeting friends with an enthusiastic ‘gong hei fatt choy’ (typical chinese greeting wishing others prosperity for the new year). This year’s ‘celebration’ for my half-white hubster and me included…hmm…nothing. The only thing that saved the dismal chinese heritage in me was the re-creation of one of our favourite chinese new year goodies – pineapple tarts.
Calling these cookies a tart can be very confusing because they are not tart-like in any way. Okay, the original version which I used to make may resemble a tart (somewhat). This was what I did back in London – using a shot glass, coke bottle cap and a knife (creatively unprofessional but hey, it worked!)
Until I get my hands on the actual pineapple tart mould (only available in Singapore/Malaysia), I shall only attempt this new version which is rolled up like a mini pillow – with the buttery, crumbly pastry encasing a little cocoon of sticky pineapple jam. Anyway, these pineapple tarts were lucky. Their existence (albeit a short one) came close to being nulled. I was ambitiously planning to make them in time for the first week of chinese new year. I even bought the pineapples but procrastination took over and the pineapples sat in the bags they came in for a week in the muggy summer heat, and rotted away. Ew…not nice.
I didn’t really want to disappoint the hubs – pineapple tarts are one of his faves – so I went and got new pineapples the following week and got down to it. With hands covered in dough and jam, I finally churned these pineapple pillows out. Those of you who are Australia Masterchef fans will know who Billy is. He’s the queen of desserts and I thought it will not be a bad move using his recipe. And it wasn’t a bad move. The pastry which is what makes or breaks the tarts, turned out the way I wanted it – all buttery and crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth-y.
The jam making process was straightforward enough – no dramas there, and I heeded Billy’s advice to pre-roll the jam before delving deep into pastry rolling and shaping. It seriously helped cut back on time and the potential mess it could create and the pre-rolled jam looked all cute and ready to play their part.
Considering I had 15 days of chinese new year and only managed to bake one batch of pineapple tarts, perhaps I should start planning for Easter now. What do people bake for Easter anyway?
Adapted from A Table for Two
Pineapple Jam Filling:
3 baby pineapples (or 2 cans of shredded pineapples)
200 gram sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 tbsp honey (or 150g liquid glucose)
2 tbsp wheat flour ( or all purpose flour)
1. Slice and grate pineapples till fine. You can use a food processor do grate it.
2. Strain the grated pineapple till dry.
3. Let it simmer in a pot till the juice dries up. Add sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick and clove.
4. Stir till the pineapple is thick and dry. Add honey (or liquid glucose)
5. Stir till the pineapple becomes sticky and jammy.
6. Add wheat flour. Continue to stir for about 10 minutes.
7. Leave to cool and shape into small balls.
250 gram butter
50 gram icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg yolk (for glazing)
350 gram plain flour (all purpose flour)
50 gram corn flour
IMPORTANT: YOU MUST first roll the pineapple jam filling into balls, resembling a silkworm cocooon. Set aside on a plate.
1. Cream butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until light. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, until well combined. Add vanilla essence and salt and whisk until fluffy.
2. Fold in sifted dry ingredients (plain flour & corn flour) and mix to form a dough. It should be a light crumbly shortbread texture.
3. Roll a tablespoonful of dough into a 5-7cm long tube in your palm, then gently press down with index finger to flatten the dough into an oblong shape, around 0.5cm thickness and 3-4cm wide. You will get the hang of it after a few trials.
4. Place the rolled-out pineapple jam ball on the edge of the strip and roll the dough to wrap around it to form a small elongated roll. Do not overlap pastry. Place the roll on a greased baking tray. Repeat until all dough mixture and jam filling is used up.
5. Preheat oven at 180°C. Use a fork and draw lines on top of the tarts. Brush the rolls with beaten egg yolk. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks before storing in an airtight jar.
One of my favourite daikon radish dishes is this – Singapore style soon kueh (turnip dumplings). The original dumpling has a savoury filling made from what is known as a chinese turnip or jicama. However using the daikon was stemmed from the fact that I lived in the UK where turnips are mostly swedes which were not suitable and there were no jicamas in sight. The daikon is versatile and its texture is similar and makes for a good substitute.
I bought a ginormous daikon recently and was intending to cook it in a soup but a bout of peckishness and craving made me change my mind and I rolled up my sleeves for some kneading and moulding action.
I’ve made this dumpling before with a different recipe for the pastry and I wanted to try out a different recipe that is known as the ‘crystal’ version. This meant that the skin of the dumpling is translucent when cooked rather than the opague version that I made before.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t the best recipe, because I found the pastry to be a little too tough and chewy. A good crystal dumpling is nice and translucent with a soft skin that has a slight chew. Having said that, the dumplings were still yummy and the hubs and I shared a large plateful for dinner, with loads to spare for breakfast. It’s probably a strange idea for many of you that we have the same kind of food for dinner and breakfast. Probably like having cereal for dinner – which by the way is becoming quite norm for young people in Australia! (Source: some morning show in Australia, can’t remember which one)
The truth is that in Singapore, these dumplings are usually eaten more as a snack (morning or afternoon) and sometimes as breakfast. I don’t follow rules very well and decided I wanted them for dinner. The hubs just eats whatever I cook and so breakfast food for dinner it is! Yay!
In comparison to the two pastries (crystal and opague), the crystal version is a lot easier to work with as it starts off sticky but ends up clean and easy to mould. The other one was much softer and fiddlier (is there such a word?) but it was also softer and less chewy after it’s been cooked.
Might give a different crystal pastry recipe a try next time. For the opague version and filling recipe, go to my soon kueh post.
CRYSTAL DUMPLINGS (Pastry recipe)
Makes about 20-24
375 g Wheat Starch
180 g Tapioca flour
450 ml Boiling water
3 tbsp Vegetable oil
Oil for greasing
Put wheat starch and tapioca flour into a mixing bowl, pour in boiling water and mix quickly with ladle or big spoon. Cover and leave aside for 15 minutes.
Add in oil and knead into a pliable dough. Roll out in a cylinder about 1.5 inches in diameter. Cut with a sharp knife into 3/4 inch slices. Dab a little oil on both sides of the slice and roll out gently into thin round shapes. Cover the rest of the dough with a damp cloth while working to prevent them from drying out
Place 2 teaspoons of filling in the centre of each slice of dough and fold in half. Seal the edges by pressing together.
Steam dumplings for 15-20 minutes and brush with oil after removing from steamer. Serve with crisp fried shallots, sweet caramel soy sauce (kecap manis) and chilli sauce.
It’s my last week at my current job (woo hoo!) and a huge part of me is looking forward to lounging around, cooking, baking, more lounging, watching TV, more lounging around, eating and sleeping next week. I don’t expect to be hired again straight off the bat, so a little me time is in store. Yay! I have a number of things planned for me time. Baking – yes. TV watching – yes. Curb my impulsive Scoopon, Groupon purchases – yes, yes, yes! Between hubby and I, we have purchased five things via scoopon and groupon in the last month. It’s getting out of hand! Help me!
One of the scoopon deals is a 3-hour cupcake workshop – I’ll be sure to keep you updated on that. I’ve made cupcakes many times before but a proper class might be loads of fun! Can’t. Wait.
Today’s post is still on sweet bakes, but not the cake or frosting kind. Hong Kong style egg tarts. I’m not a big fan of egg custard tarts. I do enjoy one at the occasional yum cha lunches (dim sum for some of you) and once in a blue moon, I may just buy one from a chinese bakery. However I promised the hubs that I will bake him some egg tarts (about 3 weeks ago) and I finally fulfilled that promise. Egg tarts come in two different forms. One has a shortcrust butter pastry base and the other a more flaky puff pastry base. I don’t mind either – I’ve had really good versions of both before and I’ve had really bad versions as well.
I came across this post where a fellow blogger, Christine from Hong Kong had special requests to translate her Chinese recipes into English. That to me is a sign that the recipe must be a good one. And I’m glad she translated her recipe so I could give it a try. And I did. And it was good. Real good.
This is a shortcrust pastry style tart. A good egg tart to me has a buttery, slightly crumbly but firm tart base with a soft, just-set custard that is not too sweet or dense. If you over bake these tarts, it might be rock hard and yucky. If you under bake it, the insides including the custard may be too runny or not set properly. Christine had wonderful tips on how to bake the tarts to perfection. (I’ve included her tips below – if you do make them, follow the instructions!)
The tarts turned out beautifully. Buttery shortcrust pastry with just the right amount of crumble. The custard was perfect – not too sweet, just firm enough to hold its shape but still jelly-like, soft and creamy. I loved the taste so much, I broke my single egg tart consumption history and had two of them at one sitting! These tarts are best eaten freshly cooled from the oven. The twenty minute wait (for the tarts to cool) I made the hubby endure was quite torturous but he promptly inhaled the tarts soon after. Not a crumb left.
Thanks Christine for the recipe! And for adding to the inches on both of our waistlines.
HK STYLE EGG TARTS
Recipe from Christine’s Recipes
For the crust:
- 225 gm plain flour
- 125 gm butter
- 55 gm icing sugar
- 1 egg, whisked
- a dash of vanilla extract
Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer over medium speed until the mixture is smooth, fluffy and light in color. Add in whisked egg, half at a time, beat over low speed. Add vanilla extract, mix well.
Sift in flour in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions with a spatula, and make sure all ingredients combine well. Knead into a soft dough.
Roll out the dough to a 1/2 cm thickness. Cut dough with a cookie cutter that is just a bit smaller than your tart tin in size. Line dough in the middle of tart tins. Lightly press the dough with your thumbs, starting from the bottom then up to the sides. While pressing the dough, turn the tart tin clockwise/anti-clockwise in order to make an even tart shell. Trim away any excess dough.
For the custard:
- 3 eggs
- 110 gm caster sugar
- 225 gm hot water
- 85 gm evaporated milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Add sugar into hot water, mix until completely dissolved. Whisk egg with evaporated milk. Pour in sugar water. Mix well. Sift egg mixture to get rid of any foam. Carefully pour egg mixture into each tart shell.
Baking the tarts:
Preheat oven to 200C. Position rack in lower third of oven. Bake tarts for 10 to 15 minutes until the edges are lightly brown.
Lower the heat to 180C. Keep an eye on them. Once you see the custard being puffed up a bit, pull the oven door open about 2 to 3 inches. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the custard is cooked through. Just insert a toothpick into the custard. If it stands on its own, it’s done.
Extra baking tips:
- Placing tarts on the lower rack in the oven cooks the crusts easily and prevents the custard from heating up too quickly.
- At the very last stage, pull the oven door open a few inches. This is to avoid the custard from being puffed up too high. The custard will collapse once they are cooled down and you want to prevent this from happening.
- To check if the custard is set, stick a toothpick in the custard when it’s almost ready and if the toothpick stands on its own, the custard is set. The custard may still look a bit on the soft side, but if the toothpick stands, it’s good! Trust the toothpick!
It’s been more than two months since my Vietnam trip, and I still can’t get over how good the food is (and how cheap!). Yes, we have plenty of Vietnamese restaurants here in Melbourne, and many of them are considered to be authentic. However, nothing beats being in the motherland of pho and enjoying a steaming bowl of Viet yumness for the low, low price of $2. Reality hits really hard when you go for a meal here in Melbourne and a bowl of noodles is at least $10. Ten big buckaroos! And that’s just the minimum at the best of times.
It doesn’t make it any easier having moved from London where most of the time a simple takeaway cooked meal is about 6 quid. I know with conversion, that’s about $9.00 but it’s still a single-digit number!! I’m really bad with numbers (i’m sure my dearest hubby is nodding vigorously now) so when it’s single-digit, it’s good. Anyway, I digress – back to dreaming about Vietnamese food.
My brother-in-law (S) and his then fiancee, now loving wife (M) took us to this restaurant called Rat Huế (which means truly Huế). We were not in Huế then, still in Ho Chi Minh City. However S & M swore that this is THE place for Huế cuisine. We would never have found the place if not for their local knowledge. Tucked away in a back alleyway, Truly Huế is where locals go for their dose of central vietnamese fare.
We started off with this wonderful little steamed rice bites. They’re little – the size of a chinese sauce dish. Topped with what I think is minced smoked fish of some sort. The steamed rice cake part is rather bland but the fishy bits and the sauce that you drizzle over is what makes the dish so amazing. The flavours are clean and the texture of the rice cake is soft with a slight chewiness to it. What a perfect little starter.
Aside from the steamed rice cakes, we had a couple other starter dishes. Another version of the rice cakes, except it comes wrapped in banana leaves. Also yummy, but I kinda preferred the novelty of scooping the rice cake out of the tiny dishes. And also, a Viet meal isn’t quite complete without rice paper rolls.
Now comes Bun Bo Huế (Huế style beef vermicelli). The stock is made from cooking beef bones for a long time with aromatics like lemongrass, chilli and shrimp paste. It’s usually spicy and always delicious. The power packed soup base is what makes the dish so amazing. I could slurp on this all day long. We also tried a crab meat version of the noodles, also with a very tasty stock, and crab balls. Yum!
Accompanying the noodle dishes were the usual suspects – fresh bean shoots, basil leaves and mint leaves. What was new to me was the brown noodle-like pile next to the bean shoots. Apparently they are shredded banana flowers. I never knew you could eat banana flowers. (Actually, how does a banana flower look like? Time to google it!) They didn’t have much flavour but added much fibre and texture to the noodle dish. Ah…such wonderful memories….Truly Huế.
4E Le Loi, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
My wonderful man and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary last month. Having just settled back in Oz, with our stuff still in transit, with my future in the working world still in limbo and with our savings dwindling a little – we thought a quiet little home-made celebration was in order.
There’s nothing better or more satisfying than to cook the hubby a meal that he craves for. Thanks to a programme on SBS called Flavours of Singapore, we were both gawking longingly at a recent episode featuring Singapore Chilli Crab and that gave me the idea to cook the dish for our anniversary dinner.
The challenge was getting mud crabs from the market. This dish works best with big, fat and juicy mud crabs, but they are not as common as Blue Swimmer Crabs and as expected, I could not find any. So these would have to do.
Fortunately, the blue swimmer crabs were of good size and beautifully blue. Look at those colours!
Cleaning crabs is not as daunting a task as you may imagine. It was tricky having hands full of crabby bits and taking photos, so I don’t have step by step ones to show you. I’m sure there’s a youtube video somewhere out there that you can follow.
I love watching the crabs change colours as they cook. They turn into a gorgeous shade of vermillion and not to forget – the amazing aroma!
After trying out a few recipes, I find this one to be most authentic. The key to good chilli crab is in the sauce. The sweet, slightly spicy sauce lightly laced with egg chiffon is what makes the mess from eating crabs worth its while.
The plus point of eating at home meant we could do away with table manners and niceties and lick, slurp, smack our lips and fingers all we wanted without a care. It doesn’t make for a very romantic anniversary meal, but we totally loved it.
Happy Anniversary babe. Thanks for being my best friend, lover and partner. Maybe chilli crabs could be an anniversary tradition from now on eh?
SINGAPORE CHILLI CRABS
adapted from Almost Bourdain
3 medium swimmer crabs, cleaned and quartered (two mud crabs would have been better!)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp chopped ginger
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 chilli, seed removed and finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 tbsp tomato ketchup (don’t diss it, it’s an essential ingredient!)
4 tbsp Sweet Chilli Sauce (I used Thai sweet chilli sauce)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tsp cornflour
parsley or spring onions for garnishing
- In a very hot wok, add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and fry the crabs until they have turned orange, about 8 – 10 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside.
- Add a little more oil to the wok if necessary and fry garlic, ginger, chilli and onion until fragrant.
- Mix tomato ketchup, sweet chilli sauce, water, lime juice and corn flour in a bowl.
- Add the sauce mixture to the wok, along with the crabs, cover and bring it to a boil. Feel free to adjust the seasoning by adding more ketchup, chilli sauce or lime juice, according to your preference.
- Drizzle the lightly beaten egg into the sauce. Stir through.
- Garnish with parsley or spring onion and serve with fried mantou (chinese steamed buns) or rice. The buns are handy for mopping up every last bit of that yummy sauce.
This is one meal I will have in my food memory bank for a long time. It came highly recommended by my brother-in-law. He was best man at his buddy’s wedding but really wanted us to check this place out. He even listed the must-try dishes for us. Cuc Gach Quan is one of the city’s hidden gems, literally. We had the taxi driver take us to the converted triple storey terrace house.
We arrived early around 7pm and the ground floor dining area was already abuzz with locals tucking in to home-style Vietnamese food. The restaurant is quirkily set up with mis-matched tables, chairs and stools. We were ushered to the top floor via a mini bridge over an indoor pond, up a flight of super steep steps surrounded by hanging pots of fresh herbs.
The funky top floor consisted of an array of wooden tables, chairs, couches and a huge wooden bed in the middle of the room, complete with antique lamps, fans and old-style crockery stacked in a corner. It felt like you were eating at grandma’s house.
The food, as is the decor, is a true representation of “home style”. The dishes were rustic, simple and absolutely delicious. We picked from the list of recommended dishes and they all turned out to be winners.
Fried fish with green mango. Crispy fish pieces with a tangy, salty, fish-sauced based dressing and a generous topping of fresh green mango. Top marks for texture and flavour! Hubby who’s not a fan of fish with bones still intact, loved the mango and dressing while I savoured every piece of delicious fish.
Crispy tofu with lemongrass and chilli. See those bits? They were crunchy bits of fried lemongrass and chilli. The tofu was fried to perfection – crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. The lemongrass and chilli crumble were the stars of the dish though. They were fragrant and tasty and went really well with the neutral taste of tofu. I couldn’t stop till every little lemongrass crumb was consumed.
Stir fried zucchini flowers. Never tried zucchini flowers cooked this way before. I’ve only tried the Italian style stuffed deep fried flowers. The zucchini flowers were much smaller, and very tender. This dish was fresh and simple. No sign of garlic or any other aromatics, just a plate of wonderfully cooked vegetables. I could eat this all day.
Sour clam soup with dill. This changed my world. It was refreshing, with a great balance of tartness and sweetness. The surprise ingredient in this was the fresh green starfruit. Not something we can get easily in Australia, but as I learnt in a cooking class later (post coming soon), the starfruit can be substituted with pineapple. This is to-die-for.
Aside from the wonderful and delicious food, there’s also a theme of reuse and recycle. No, no, not the food - all that is fresh and served only once! No recycling there. I was referring to the pre-loved furniture (think antique, but not quite as polished), the crockery (most were chipped and old, but they weren’t too grubby), and if you ordered a cold drink, in place of the regular plastic drinking straw, you get a trimmed stem of a water spinach plant (kang kong)! All nature friendly and very exciting for a first timer like me.
If you’re ever in Ho Chi Minh City, this place is a must. Loved, loved, loved it!
Cuc Gach Quan
10 Dang Tat Dinh, Q.1
Sai Gon, Viet Nam.
I’m starting quite a few posts with ‘easy’ recently. What can I say? I like simple, home-cooked meals and if it’s as fuss-free as possible and yielding good results, I’m not saying no!
This particular dish is one of my regulars. It’s not only easy to prepare, it’s delicious, comforting and hubby usually has a look that says ‘oh yes please!’ when I even mention it. There are loads of different green curry recipes out there, some more complicated than others with the preparation of the actual curry pastes from scratch and gathering of exotic ingredients etc.
This one’s just a matter of putting together chicken pieces, vegetables and just the few vital ingredients below. You’ll need fish sauce, palm sugar (or regular sugar is fine), coconut milk and green curry paste. That’s it! I like the Mae Ploy brand of Thai curry pastes, and my Thai friends highly recommend them too, so I know I’ve got the right stuff.
First you brown the chicken pieces in batches, I’ve got about 8 chicken thigh pieces in this recipe. Once lightly browned on both sides, plate it and leave it aside.
You can use most typical ‘curry-friendly’ vegetables. For a thai green curry, I recommend onions, aubergines, carrots and basil.
Once the chicken is browned and set aside, in the same pot / wok gently fry up the onions. When they are lightly cooked (not browned) and translucent, add in the curry paste. Make sure not to skip this step. By pre-frying the paste, the oils from the paste is released and you get a more robust release of flavours.
After frying the paste and onions for about 2 minutes, return the chicken back to the wok, stir and coat it with the paste which would have been loosened up and creamy.
Once evenly coated and smelling wonderful, add the can of coconut milk. The whole can, that’s all the liquid the dish gets, and it’s going to make some lip-smacking curry sauce. So pour it all in.
Mix well and let it simmer for about 5 – 10 minutes, then add in all the vegetables except the basil leaves. Add the sugar now if you’re using. I recommend it as it gives the dish a slight sweetness and it evens out the spice hit a little.
Once the vegetables are cooked through (should take about another 10 minutes or less), throw in the basil.
Mix well and voila! Serve with a bowl of steaming jasmine rice. Yum yum!
EASY THAI GREEN CHICKEN CURRY
8 pieces of chicken thighs with bone
2 tbsp Mae Ploy Thai Green Curry Paste
1 x 400ml can of coconut milk
1 tsp palm sugar (or if you’re using regular sugar, just add to taste)
a few dashes of fish sauce, to taste
1 large aubergine, cut into medium chunks
1 carrot, sliced
1 small red onion
a handful of basil leaves
1. Brown chicken pieces on both sides in heated pot or work with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Plate up and leave aside.
2. Add onions to the wok and cook till translucent (about a minute or so) and then add the curry paste. Fry the paste and onions for another minute or so till the paste is loosened up and fragrant.
3. Return chicken pieces to the wok. Stir to coat the chicken in the curry paste, then add the coconut milk. Mix well and let it simmer on medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes or until chicken is about 3/4 cooked.
4. Add the vegetables, palm sugar and fish sauce to taste, stir through and simmer for another 6-8 minutes. Or until veggies are cooked through. By now, the chicken should be done. To check, pierce the chicken to make sure the juices are clear.
5. Stir through the basil leaves right before serving.
My brother-in-law finally proposed to his gorgeous other half, and they’ve decided to have their wedding in Vietnam where they currently live and work. It’s very exciting news! Not only for the lovely couple but for me as well…I’ve never been to Vietnam, and I’m sure it will be an amazing and beautiful experience.
Until then, I thought it would be a great idea to join fellow bloggers in a monthly blogging event called Delicious Vietnam. The founders of this event A food lover’s journey and Ravenous Couple put this together so food enthusiasts and bloggers alike are able to come together in the blogosphere to share and explore the wonderful flavours of Vietnamese cuisine.
Aside from Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls, I have never tried making vietnamese food at home. It always just seemed easier to pop into a local vietnamese restaurant and order my favourite steaming bowl of beef brisket pho.
With this event, I thought it would be nice to cook one of my other favourite Vietnamese dishes. Banh Xeo – a southern Vietnamese recipe. This is a rice flour crepe flavoured with coconut milk and turmeric and is usually made with pork, prawns and bean sprouts. The savoury crepe is crisp and fragrant,(coconut milk in a crepe mix – the Vietnamese sure know how to do it best!!) along with succulent prawns and fresh bean sprouts and eaten with the sweet and tangy Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce) – this dish is certainly a winner.
Instead of sliced pork or pork belly, I used chinese sausage (lap cheong) which gives a more caremelised and sweet kick to the filling.
Usually eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves and other herbs like basil and mint, Banh Xeo is a great sharing starter. However I decided to make it a main dish, and simply shovel the deliciousness sans lettuce leaves into my gob. Yum yum.
Be patient while making the crepe, cook on medium heat and give the crepe enough time to crisp up. The crispy bits make the dish!
Adapted from Southeast Asian Flavours
1 cup of vegetable oil
3 chinese sausage, cut into thin slices
500g shelled king prawns
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced yellow onions, sliced
2 cups bean sprouts
Nuoc Cham (dipping sauce) - the best recipe I’ve tried so far
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1-2 bird’s eye chilies, cut into very fine rings
1 clove garlic, minced finely
- In a large bowl whisk together the rice flour, turmeric powder and salt. Add water and coconut milk and whisk until mixture is smooth. Set batter to rest for 30 minutes.
- Heat up a 10-inch non-stick pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and then add one portion of sausage, prawns, onions and spring onions. Stir fry until prawns are half done, turn down the heat and ladle 1/2 cup of batter into pan. Swirl pan to coat bottom evenly. Add bean sprouts over half the crepe. Drizzle a little more oil around outer edge of crepe.
- Cover pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove cover and continue to cook until edges begin to brown. Loosen crepe from bottom of pan with a soft spatula. When bottom turns light brown and crispy, fold crepe to encase bean sprouts.
(I found that by pushing more of the prawns to one side of the pan before ladling the batter – the same side where the sprouts go – allows the crepe to be less heavy on the side that you need to flip over. This avoids breakage and produces a much prettier crepe)
An Aussie friend of mine once asked me about my heritage and I mentioned that I hailed from a long (and very distant) line of Chinese migrants from Fujian. Of which my Chinese dialect would be Hokkien. “Hokkien?” he asked, “As in the noodle?”
Alas, many people are only aware of the Hokkien noodle, which is basically the regular yellow, wheat-based egg noodles and not of the province in China or the dialect they speak. Hokkien is a dialect widely spoken in southern Fujian, Taiwan and several parts of Southeast Asia.
Just as the spoken hokkien language in Southeast Asia is a variant from the original, dishes that were cooked were also slightly modified as it passed through the generations. However, I’ve never visited China, much less Fujian, so I wouldn’t have a blinking clue as to what an ‘original’ dish is like. All that I am familiar with are dishes that my parents cooked (while I watched and learnt) and I know they’re hokkien-style because they said so. Who am I to argue right?
My dad used to make this dish which in hokkien is called ‘Dau Yew Bak’ and I loved drizzling the dark, caramel-y soy sauce on my steamed white rice. Even if there weren’t any pork or egg left, I would have been happy just eating plain rice with the sauce. That’s how obsessed I was…is…
The flavours are deceivingly complex (you know it’s not just dark soy in that thing) but the dish is easy enough to prepare and only has a few ingredients. The key spices are cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorns (cloves are sometimes used too, but I didn’t have any) and fresh garlic cloves.
Right, when you start frying the cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorn and five spice powder together, be prepared to be hit by the most beautiful aroma…
Add the pork, create the sauce…and wait. That’s the most difficult bit…the waiting. The whole house smells delicious but you have to wait.
So I waited…and admired the gorgeous lilies that a friend / recent house guest gave me…and waited some more.
Then add the hard-boiled eggs, coat and colour the eggs evenly with the sauce, simmer some more…wait some more…
And voila! All the waiting is worth it. Tender, tasty pieces of pork, egg and that sauce, that sauce…on rice. This is my happy meal.
670g of belly pork, cut into 1.5 inch chunks (I used a mixture of belly pork and pork loin)
1 head of garlic, papery skin peeled off, smashed lightly
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
2 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon, 3 inches in length
1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice powder (optional)
4 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of oil
2 – 3 cups of water (depends on how light or strong you prefer the sauce)
4 – 5 hard boiled eggs
Marinade the pork for 20 – 30 minutes with:
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon chinese cooking wine
1. In a heavy based pot, heat up cooking oil. Add star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, garlic and five spice powder (if using). Fry till fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the marinated pork and all the marinating liquids. Fry for about 10 minutes. This process is to get the meat browning. Add dark soy, light soy and sugar halfway through. Get the sauce caramelising.
3. Add water. Mix it well, lower heat, cover and let it simmer and braise for about 30-40 minutes or until pork is tender. Add the eggs in and coat them with the sauce to get an even colour about 20 minutes into the braising process.
Serve with steamed rice.
Have you even given a chicken an exfoliating scrub and massage? I have!
First they’re all a little loose and wrinkly…so you give it a nice sea salt scrub massage. How luxurious…rub…rub…rub…
Eh…voila! Post exfoliation chicken skin is smooth and shiny. Now you know it really does work on our face!
I’m not crazy I can assure you. I was just preparing to cook the ultimate favourite dish of my original homeland…yeah I have made one too many homes now. Singapore’s pride and joy – Chicken Rice. Otherwise known as Hainanese Chicken Rice. I first learnt how to cook this dish from a friend who is Hainanese, so I guess it’s considered somewhat authentic…somewhat.
The essentials to good chicken rice is the tenderness of the poached chicken and the fragrance of the rice.
So, back to my chicken. Having been exfoliated, stuff the chicken’s cavity with thick slices of ginger and spring onion. Bring a pot of salted water to boil (with enough water to cover the bird), immerse the chicken breast side down and let the pot come back to a boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Make sure there’s no major boiling action…just slow, slow simmering. This produces juicy, tender chicken. Just the way it should be.
There will be scum. Lots of it. If I hadn’t exfoliated the chicken, there would have been way more scum. Skim the scum off with a fine sieve or other fancy gadgets you may have.
Once cooked, dunk the chicken in an ice bath. Watch the ice melt helplessly…but leave it in the bath for about 10 minutes.In the meantime, cook the rice (instructions below) with the chicken stock, garlic and screwpine (pandan) leaves. Let the fragrance emanate through the whole house, sit in the corner with hungry hubby and wait patiently. Or leave hungry hubby alone in the corner, and head back to the kitchen to prepare homemade chicken rice chilli sauce. No no…not cheating and getting it from a jar this time.
The chilli sauce is an important factor to this dish. Along with dark soy sauce…it takes the simple, poached chicken and rice to a whole different level. It is a must have…otherwise, you’ll just have regular poached chicken and rice. It’ll still be delish I’m sure, but I’m a chilli freak.
Oh, aside from crispy deep fried chicken skin, this is about the only non-fried chicken skin I would actually eat. (If it’s not too fatty)…so this is when you’ll truly appreciate the scum-free, smooth skin of the chicken. Yummers.
FOR THE POACHED CHICKEN:
1 whole chicken (about 1.8kg), preferably organic
Course salt / sea salt
5 inches of fresh ginger, sliced
2 stalks spring onions
light soy sauce
1. Exfoliate chicken with the salt till the dead skin bits are gone and what is left is smooth, shiny skin.
2. Stuff ginger and spring onions in the chicken’s cavity.
3. In a big pot, boil some salted water. Immerse chicken breast side in, make sure there’s enough water to cover the chicken. Let the water come back to a boil, lower heat and let it simmer slowly on low for about 45 minutes.
4. Once done, lift the chicken out of the stock and immerse in ice bath for about 10 minutes. Let chicken cool completely before cutting / de-boning it.
5. Once de-boned, drizzle lightly with sesame oil and light soy sauce. Garnish and serve with rice.
FOR THE RICE:
3 cups of jasmine / long grained rice, rinsed and drained well
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 stalks of screwpine leaves, washed and knotted
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cooking oil (or chicken fat if you have some)
6 cups of chicken stock (which is why you need to cook the chicken first!)
1 tbsp of chicken stock powder (optional – but I find that it adds more flavour)
1. In a hot pan, heat the oil, add the garlic and fry till fragrant (but not browned!) add the rice, salt and stock powder and fry till the rice is slightly translucent.
2. Place rice in rice cooker, add the screwpine leaves and stock and cook as per usual. (Same way you’d cook rice in a pot if you do not have a rice cooker)
FOR THE CHILLI SAUCE:
2 – 3 large red chillies which are less spicy (I used the super spicy small ones)
2 – 3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp of chicken stock
a generous pinch of salt
1. Whiz everything up in a blender and hurrah we have chilli sauce.
Once upon a time, a little boy was given some yummy chinese-style chicken glutinous rice and he ate and ate and ate…till he could eat no more. He did not realise that glutinous rice expands quite a lot in the belly…and so he became a quite ill. He swore never to eat glutinous rice again. Little did he know that more than twenty years later, his beloved wife would make him a new, shiny and happy glutinous rice convert again. Ha!
I personally really enjoy lor mai fun (glutinous rice) – which is usually steamed with marinated chicken, mushroom and chinese sausage. There are variations of Lor Mai Fun, which is usually served as a dim sum dish. Some are steamed in a small bowl and served turned out like a jelly mould, some are steamed in lotus leaves which gives it an additional aroma and some are just mixed though and steamed.
With the lack of small bowls and lotus leaves, I picked option three.
This is definitely not a last-minute-plonk-stuff-together kinda meal, there’s some planning ahead required. Not something I’m used to doing, but I really, really wanted some Lor Mai Fun, so I had to get organised.
Paid off. Big time. Not only did I enjoy every morsel of my savoury childhood snack, hubby got to re-live his enjoyment too, minus the major tummy-ache. Smiles all round.
STEAMED GLUTINOUS RICE (LOR MAI FUN)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
When I say I have therapeutic ‘me’ time while I’m cooking…making gyozas has got to be one of the top few most therapeutic for me. It’s a little like creating pockets of food origami. All pretty yet edible. Very satisfying on many levels.
Ok, to start things off, I bought a batch of horrible gyoza wrappers. It was frozen and some were totally stuck together after defrosting. Horrible. Ech. I could have made my own gyoza skins but I wasn’t mentally prepared for that…plus I had just paid good money for those wrappers, I wasn’t about to throw in the towel on them. So I persevered…and I’m glad to say I only lost 2 of them in the battle. However, you’ll notice a little french tip manicure look on them. Those were the frozen bits. Note to self: don’t ever buy frozen wrappers!
Dip a finger into some water and run that along the edges of the wrapper before pleating the wrapper from one side. Grab a little edge of the wrapper, make a little fold by pulling it towards the left.
To cook the dumplings, place the flat side down in a frying pan with a little bit of oil. Let the bottom of the dumplings brown. Turn the heat down if it gets too brown too quickly. The dumplings char quite easily.
Once the water is totally evaporated and the dumplings are all nicely steamed. Remove from heat, and start cooking the next batch. Or you could just start eating…
PORK AND CHIVE DUMPLINGS
Ingredients, makes about 22 dumplings
300g minced pork
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
100g chinese chives, chopped
light soy for seasoning
a light drizzle of sesame oil
Just taking a break from my greek food trail. Here’s a recipe which I recently tried and loved. Bonus feature – worked very well in my slow-cooker, which meant chucking in the good stuff in the morning before work, and returning to find a simmering pot of five-spiced infused, melt-in-the-mouth braised beef. Fab!
This dish is similar in flavour to the commonly found braised beef brisket in Chinese restaurants. Often served in a claypot or as a single meal with steamed rice. The base of this dish is a fragrantly spiced beef stock – seasoned with soy sauce and the wonderful natural juices of braised beef, ginger and spring onions.
Wonderful and warming – perfect for a cool evening.
Slow-cooked Chinese style braised beef
Adapted from BBC Good Food
- 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- good thumb-size piece fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
- 1 bunch spring onion, sliced
- 1 red chilli , deseeded and thinly sliced
- 1½ kg braising beef, cut into large pieces
- 2 tbsp plain flour , well seasoned
- 2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
- 2 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 500ml beef stock
- Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan. Fry the garlic, ginger, onions and chilli for 3 mins until soft and fragrant. Tip onto a plate. Toss the beef in the flour, add 1 tbsp more oil to the pan, then brown the meat in batches, adding the final tbsp oil if you need to. It should take about 5 mins to brown each batch properly.
- Add the five-spice to the pan, tip in the gingery mix, then fry for 1 min until the spices are fragrant. Add the sugar, then the beef and stir until combined. Keep the heat high, then splash in the wine or sherry, scraping up any meaty bits.
- Pour the beef mix in the slow cooker (which should be heated up by now), add in the soy and stock (it won’t cover the meat completely), bring to a boil on high then, switch to a low setting and cook for at least 6 hours.
Many people are wary of using the slow cooker because of the fear of leaving an electrical appliance switched on at home. The slow cooker, as its name implies, cooks on a low heat and in my own experience has never over-boiled or spilled or caused any hazards. Just remember to switch it to medium/low before you leave the house. It’s easy and convenient and produces the best slow-cooked meals.