Monday, June 29, 2009

Sesame Prawn Toast

This was my contribution for my children's play date during the school hols - Sesame Prawn Toast.

I made these because I had a hunch there would be too many 'kiddy' dishes for the children and not enough 'grown-up' food for the adults. And I was right! The other mommies brought doughnuts, cocktail sausages, chicken nuggets and cookies. Sigh. Mommies ... always putting our children before ourselves ;)

And kids being kids, they made a beeline for the doughnuts and cookies at the word, "Go!" Afterward, they attacked the sausages and nuggets as soon as they polished off the sugary stuff.

So it was just as well my dish didn't interest them - "Eeeks!" they said ... when I told them it was sesame and prawn on the toast - else we adults would be left with nothing to eat! I was really happy to see that my friends liked what I made. The original recipe called for the bread to be fried in oil. I made a few of them this way, but at the same time, sent another batch straight to the oven. Verdict? We all preferred the healthier, fuss-free, oven-toasted version! 

It was about 4 in the afternoon when we had them and it made for a wonderful, light hors d'oevre. We washed it down with freshly brewed coffee and a good dose of adult conversation. How I love play dates! For 2 hours, the kids have fun (turning the house upside down) while the mommies take a breather. And the world is at peace.

(adapted from Sallie Morris' Easy Thai Cookbook)

For the prawn paste
- 6 medium sized cooked prawns (shelled, deveined and boiled briefly)
- 6 water chestnuts, peeled and chopped very roughly
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 3 coriander stems
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp corn flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- salt and pepper
- 2 tsp light oil (or if you really want flavour, lard in place of oil)
- small dash of sesame oil

You'll also need
- 6 slices of bread (a day old, crusts removed, cut into triangles)
- 2 tsp white sesame seeds

1. In a food processor, blend all the ingredients for the paste.

2. Spread the paste on the bread triangles and scatter sesame seeds all over. Press the seeds down lightly so that they adhere to the paste.

3. Place the bread into the oven toaster and toast for about 10mins, or until the bread turns a light golden brown. 

4. As I was taking them to the play date, I only toasted very lightly the first time. Then, when it was time to eat, I re-toasted them again to a deeper brown. Best eaten warm and toasty ... for lack of a better word!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kong Bak Pau (Pork Slices With Steamed Buns)

My mother-in-law has been feeling a little poorly of late. Now that she has somewhat recovered, she asked if I would make her some Kong Bak Pau which she loves. Of course I gladly obliged.

I was really busy this week, so I bought the steamed buns from the supermarket instead of making them.

As such, the only "work" that came with making this dish was the pork marinade/preparation. And that too, was quite straightforward. 

I made a large portion for dinner tonight. It was nice to have something different for a change - an Oriental hamburger, if you will. I steamed the pork for a tad longer so that the meat would be more tender. 

Take heed though, eat this only once in a blue, blue moon. This is one dish that celebrates the fat AND the skin! Yup, calories and fat galore! You have been warned ;)

(my own as well as some adaptation from here)
- 700g pork belly
- 2 tbsp dark sauce
- 3 tbs oyster sauce
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tbs ketchup
- 1 tbs of Hua Tiao wine or other good alcohol
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 small lump rock sugar
- pinch of of salt
- 2 bulbs of garlic
- 2 large slices of ginger
Some people add 5 spice powder, cloves or star anise. It's up to you. My children don't like the taste of these, so I omitted them. 

1. Wash the pork and blanch it in boiling water for about 1 min. This will remove odour and 'clean' the meat. Allow it to dry.

2 Using the tip of a knife, poke the skin side of the pork. Make many superficial pokes. 

3. In a skillet, heat up some oil (I added a splash of sesame oil to my vegetable oil). Pan fry the pork all sides for about 1min each, especially the skin. Make sure the meat is lightly browned.

4. Allow to cool and drain of excess oil.

5. Cut meat into slices of about 1cm thick and about 5cm wide. Put them together with all the ingredients and mix throughly till well coated.

6. Leave in fridge to marinate for at least 3 hours. I marinated mine for 5 hours.

7. When ready to cook, remember to take the chill off the meat first.

8. Place meat in a plate or tray. Discard all the garlic and ginger, but pour the marinate sauce over the pork. I used a pressure cooker, so I placed the meat in a metal baking tin and pressure steamed for only 40mins. The meat was really tender by then. However, if you are using the conventional method of steaming, I think you would need to steam for at least 1 1/2 hours to get the meat really tender.

9. Just before eating, steam the mantou for 5-8mins until soft and hot. Put a pork slice in each mantou (like a burger!) and drizzle with some sauce. Eat immediately.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thai-Style Steamed Fish Mousse

I made this dreamboat of a Fish Mousse today, thanks to the abundance of Red Snapper fillets my Granny gave me. Fish Mousse, or Otah, as it is more popularly known locally, is one of my all-time favourite food. I could live on it and bread alone! Yum yum!

Well, today, I chose to steam it the Thai way (instead of grilling the Malay/Indonesian way) because I was so busy rushing out some work. Steaming was the fuss-free and safer option (read: no chance of burning).

I cut the Red Snapper fillet into chunks and mixed them in with some fish paste I bought from the market. The result was a fragrant, spicy Fish Mousse which was oh-so-perfect with the crusty French loaf I bought this morning. I am salivating just thinking about it! 

The texture was quite different from the Otah commonly sold in shops - firmer, and with lots of bite ... the fish chunks were beautifully tender and flavourful. I can't believe I am already thinking of Round 2 - the grilled version! 

- 1/2 cup thick coconut milk (the thick cream you get from the first press)
- 200g fish paste
- 200g firm, white fish fillet (cut into chunks)
- 2 tbsp chilli paste* 
- 2 tbsp fish sauce (if your fish paste is already salted, you may reduce this to 1 tbsp)
- 2 tbsps corn flour
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 4 kaffir lime leaves (shredded very thinly)
- dash of pepper
*I make my own using lemongrass, garlic, candlenuts, shallots, fresh chilli, oil and salt.

You also need
- banana leaves to hold the fish mousse (use 2 sheets per cup/boat, one leaf on top of the other, grains running in opposite directions to make them stronger, and fasten with toothpicks or staples)
- shredded chinese cabbage
- red chilli for garnishing 

1. Blanch the banana leaves to soften them. Once they are pliable, fold them into cups or boats (like I did). I really feel that banana leaves are indispensable if you want to achieve an authentic taste.

2. Mix all the ingredients well.

3. Place shredded cabbage at the bottom of the banana cups/boats.

4. Pour fish mousse into banana cups/boats.

5. Steam on high for 15-20mins or until skewer comes out clean.

6. Garnish with shredded red chilli.

Stirfried Mixed Veggies

Whenever I peruse a restaurant menu, I will roll my eyes at Stirfried Mixed Veggies or Stirfried Seasonal Veggies. I really feel these are euphemisms for Stirfried Expiring Veggies, or Stirfried Odds and Ends, which you pay an outrageous price for. Any restaurant owner reading this, no offence ;P It's my personal opinion.

Anyway, today I made Stirfried Mixed (ahem) Veggies with the following ingredients:

* 3-day old firm tofu (tau kwa) - half of a large square, cubed.

* 4-day old bean sprouts - just 2 pathetic handfuls left in the bag. 

* 1-week old brinjal which I unearthed from the chiller (you can run but you cannot hide ... muahahaha) - cubed.

* 2-month old dried cuttlefish strips (still plenty from the last time I made radish cake, but these keep well) - just a handful.

* 1-week old spring onions (just 1 miserable, wilting stalk left) - chopped.

To these "expiring soon" ingredients, I added 1 chilli (deseeded and sliced) and 2 shallots. I fried everything lightly in minimal oil, garlic, salt and a small shaving of belacan, which you can substitute with other flavourings, I suppose - perhaps ikan bilis (anchovies) powder or chicken stock granules?

And voila! Yummilicious Stirfried Mixed (ahem) Veggies, which don't look their age! LOL.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Choux Pastry Part 2 - Profiteroles

I am feeling as light as a choux puff! Why? Because this second batch of choux pastry I made is even better than the first! I guess practice does make perfect :) I allowed the choux dough to dry-mix longer during the stirring stage and I think that accounted for the wonderful airiness of the puffs this time.

(Left) You know your choux puff is done right when it is light, airy and has a large cavity on the inside, (Right) Filled with ice-cream ... and the melting starts NOW!

Today, I made profiteroles with the choux pastry. There was a tub of ice-cream in my freezer which I had bought specially for this. It was such a hot, humid day and cold, creamy profiteroles were the perfect way to beat the heat.

However, (no) thanks to the heat, I had an uphill task taking photos! The ice-cream and chocolate sauce melted like butter on warm toast. On top of that, everyone else was pestering me to let them start eating, with the perfect excuse - "but they are melting!" Grrr ... excuse me, but I don't relish working under intense heat (pun intended). But then, can you blame them, really? Just look at these decadent babies!

Drizzled with chocolate sauce. How do you say no to that?!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Choux Pastry Part 1 - Cream Puffs

I have been itching to try my hand at making choux pastry ever since I watched Martha Stewart teach Lindsay Lohan on her show. It was a queer episode, to say the least - The Domestic Goddess imparting baking tips to The Party Animal. What the ...? Anyhow, it didn't matter what they talked about, it was the profiteroles which were the reason why I watched on. Like, holy yum!

I have always had a love affair with all things made of choux - cream puffs, profiteroles, eclairs ... you name it. I figured if I could learn to make choux pastry myself, I would never have to go to Beard Papa ever again. Which means lots of $aving$ because my cream puff cravings come quite so often. I just love the sight of choux puffs, don't you? They are so pretty!

Don't be deceived by their dainty looks, though. To make choux pastry, you need loads of arm power. Thankfully I am not lacking in that department, thanks to swimming and also from carrying my kids. Haha! The pastry needs to be stirred vigorously, non-stop ... until you achieve a thick, creamy consistency, not unlike good quality mayonnaise.

I made my creme patissiere a day earlier and left it in the fridge, as I just didn't want to do too many things at the same time. Speaking of creme patissiere, I reduced the amount of corn flour in my recipe by a smidgen and it worked out beautifully! I actually took a moment to admire the final result - smooth and silky, and looking like it had just crossed the threshold of liquid to solid. It was a gamble reducing the flour, but baby, if it ain't dangerous, it ain't fun ;P

So back to the choux. You need to get all the ingredients measured out and ready to go, cos once you start, it's rock n roll all the way. Stir! Pour in the flour! Stir! Pour in the egg! Stir! Pour in the next egg! Stir! You get the drift.

It is best to pipe the choux mixture onto a lined baking tray when it is still warm, to help them rise better. I didn't have a piping bag, so I improvised with a regular, clean plastic bag (those transparent type). Just scoop all the choux mixture into the bag, tie it up tightly and snip off a corner. Tadah! A piping bag!

I piped my puffs petite, small enough to pop them whole. Remember, choux puffs are fussy lil divas. You bake them, then you need to give them their space and time to cool off slowly, with the oven door slightly ajar. It takes an extra hour or so after baking, for them to be ready for filling (real prima donnas, I tell ya). Cool too quickly and they will collapse. So, indulge them. For when they are ready, they will indulge you. That, I promise you.

After filling up the choux with creme patissiere, I chilled them again for 20mins because cream puffs taste blah if they are not cold. Just dust some icing sugar lightly before serving.

And believe you me, they were so, so good! Yes, a visual sight to behold, but more importantly, light, airy puffs filled with cold, smooth, sweet custard that glides effortlessly down your throat ... pure ambrosia.

After placing the Cream Puffs on your serving plate, chill them. When ready to serve, dust with icing sugar. Notice the puff does not look as nice as the ones on the first photo? That's because these were piped in a regular ball, as opposed to a swirl. Swirling gives the puffs a prettier shape.

(adapted from here)
- 1 cup water
- 55g unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 120g plain flour
- 3 large eggs + 1 large egg (beaten lightly)

1. Place the water, butter and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. When the butter is completely melted, remove from the heat and add the flour all at once.

2. Mix rapidly with a spatula until fully combined.

3. Place the mixture on the stove over a low heat and dry mix for about 5-6 mins. The dough should be soft and but not sticky. If there is a thin white crust at the bottom of the pan, it means the dough is sufficiently dried.

4. Transfer to a bowl and spread to cool. Let the dough cool slightly.

5. Add the 3 eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next.

6. Add the last egg a little at the time to control consistency. You do not want a mixture that is too runny, else the choux puff will not hold its shape. If the mixture looks right to you, stop adding the egg. The dough should be smooth, shiny and as thick and heavy as mayonnaise.

7. Preheat oven to 190 degree celsius. Cover a large baking tray with parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag with the dough. I used a regular clean plastic bag.

8. Pipe the dough into small balls about 2 to 3 cm in size. I find the puffs look nicer when the piping is done in a 'swirl', as opposed to a neat round ball. If your swirls have 'peaks', press them down gently with your finger (dipped in water). Otherwise, the peaks will burn as they bake. As Martha said (of the peaks), "Not acceptable!"

9. Brush the top with the egg wash (I saved a little bit of egg and mixed with water).

10. Bake for about 35 minutes or until well puffed and golden. Shut off the heat, leave the oven door slighlt ajar, and let the puffs cool slowly for about 1 hour. The puffs may collapse if they are cooled too fast.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ngoh Hiang (Pork Rolls) - Q&A

After I wrote about my Ngoh Hiang post, I received a few emails with queries. Some of them are:

Anyway, here goes:

1. Can I add carrots?

2. Can I use chicken instead of pork?

3. Can I add use onions instead of leeks?

OK, hang on ... before this goes on, you can add anything that floats your boat. You're the one eating it! LOL. As long as you don't add ingredients which turn the Ngoh Hiang skin soggy, you can use whatever ingredients you like. I have made vegetarian rolls for my husband using mashed up (firm) tofu, enoki mushrooms, carrots and onions. So let your creativity rule.

If you're looking to make around 6 pork rolls (about 15cm long, thereabout), you can use these approximates, which I made yesterday for my mother-in-law. Below is a pictorial explanation. After you've made the rolls, fry until crisp and golden brown.

What you'll need
- 300g minced pork (or any minced meat you prefer)

- 2 cloves garlic, minced finely

- 6 water chestnuts, chopped roughly

- 6 medium sized fresh prawns, shelled, de-veined and chopped into small chunks

- 2 stalks leeks (the white part only), sliced thinly OR substitute with 2 stalks spring onions, chopped*
* I actually used both leeks and spring onions this time round.

- 1 tbs soy sauce

- 1 tbs fish sauce

- dash of sesame oil

- dash of pepper

- 1 small egg, beaten lightly

- Ngoh Hiang skin (sold in large, folded sheets at dry goods shops ... you have to cut them to size before rolling)

Related post: Teochew-style Ngoh Hiang (With Yam).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Century Egg Congee (Pi Dan Zhou)

My children love a good bowl of Century Egg Congee everytime we eat at dim sum restaurants. Actually, me too! I had some century eggs and salted eggs on hand, so today's lunch was a no brainer. Besides, I was busy helping the Husband crunch numbers (how I hate math), so I had absolutely no energy to whip up anything fancy-schmancy!

(for 2 adults and 2 children)

- 1.5 cups of jasmine rice (I am referring to "rice cups" here)
- 3 cups of water (I am referring to "cups" in the baking sense)
- 2 or 3 cups of chicken stock (depending on what type of rice you use, cos some grains need more fluids to soften and break down)
- dash of sesame oil
- 300g pork ribs (blanched in boiling water to remove odour and scum)
- 1 salted egg, hard boiled, peeled and cut into small cubes (save the yolk for garnishing)
- 2 century eggs, peeled: 1 to be cut into small cubes, the other sliced for garnishing
- spring onions, chopped
- ginger, finely sliced
- dough fritters aka you2 tiao2 (optional)
- 2 or 3 dried oysters (optional), if you want a richer taste

1. Boil blanched pork ribs with rice grains and a dash of sesame oil, until the latter breaks up into mush. If you want a richer taste, add 2 or 3 dried scallops. I cooked the congee using a pressure cooker and it took me only 10mins.

2. Add salted egg whites into congee and stir. Taste. It should already taste rich and velvety at this stage. Add some salt if desired.

3. Place century egg cubes into serving bowls. Add in some shredded pork (from the ribs - they should be boiled till tender and easy to shred with your hands).

4. Scoop congee into serving bowls. Garnish with century egg slices, salted egg yolk, spring onions and ginger slices. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Spaghetti Aglio Olio

The year was 1998. The place - Grand Hotel Francia e Quirinale, in the Tuscan spa town of Montecatini. 

In the hotel's restaurant, among other gastronomic delights, my Husband and I were served the most delectable Spaghetti Aglio Olio we have ever tasted. Honestly! 

Without a doubt, the chef had used the highest grade olive oil, pasta and cheese. The fusion of the 3 ingredients, amplified by the spice of bird's eye chilli, was extraordinary. So simple, yet so divine. I will never forget the way my taste buds danced during that meal. It was one of those memorable occasions where the food really made a statement.

Today, I made Spaghetti Aglio Olio to satisfy an afternoon craving. Sigh ... I am depressed and stuck at home, remember? So, eat I will! Meh. 

(from everywhere ... this is a classic!)

- 2 cloves of garlic, minced

- A few springs of fresh parsley* (just the leaves), chopped very finely
* Since Italian parsley is not available here, I used English parsley

- 1 bird's eye chilli, deseeded

- Freshly grated Parmesan*
* Always grate your own because pre-grated ones in packets just won't do

- Extra virgin olive oil*
* I know any Italian reading this will go into fits, but I really like the ones sold by Carrefour under the Reflets de Provence range *feeble grin*

- Spaghetti 
* I used Barilla Spaghettini cos they cook fast ... perfect for instant gratification!

1. Boil water to cook pasta. Make sure you salt the water well.

2. In a skillet, heat up a generous portion of extra virgin olive oil (pour about 3-4 rounds of the skillet). Over a low flame, add minced garlic and allow flavour to infuse. Do not let garlic brown.

3. Throw in the finely chopped parsley leaves.

4. Throw in the chopped chilli.

5. Drain the pasta (make sure it has been cooked till al dente), saving a little pasta water.

6. Toss the spaghetti into the skillet and mix all the ingredients till all strands are well coated. Add a pinch of salt, if required. Add a little pasta water if too dry.

7. Grate Parmesan cheese over the pasta. For a cheeselover like me, I grate like there is no tomorrow. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! 

Buon appetito!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Soft Honey Dinner Buns (Trying To Be A Hokkaido Milk Loaf)

Hokkaido Milk Loaf is all the rage. It supposedly has a really soft and cottony texture. I haven't made it but it's on my to-do list.

Yesterday, I re-visited the Soft Honey Dinner Buns recipe because I had some honey I really wanted to finish off. I actually have a soft spot (pun intended) for these Soft Buns because their sweetness comes from good ol' honey and not sugar. So, not only do they taste yummy and moist, they are nutritious too.

Taking the cue from Hokkaido Milk Bread which uses cream (which contributes to its softness, I think), I tweaked the Soft Honey Dinner Buns recipe to 1 cup fresh milk + 1/2 cup whipping cream (instead of the usual 1 1/2 cups fresh milk). And they turned out pillowy soft. Perhaps I will experiment upping the cream portion next time. Yes, there will be a next time!

I made some plain, some with cheddar cheese and some with cinnamon sugar. My brood devoured half the buns the moment they came out of the oven. I also had some with tuna for brekkie today. Addictive, this bread.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sweet Niblets (Corn and Prawn Fritters)

"SWEET NIBLETS!" I am sure Hannah Montana would agree!

This is a post for the broken-hearted. Which I am. I just parted with almost $5oo to fix my car ... due to a minor accident. Boo hoo! I'm still blue when I think of the damage. Nonetheless, I am thankful that we are all ok.

I have been car-less since yesterday, and will be so for the next few days. Which means I will be staying in, and that only translates to more cooking, baking and EATING! Ah yes, I've already made (and chomped on) quite a few things since yesterday afternoon.

Since I have a broken heart to mend, you can expect loads of fatty, comfort food appearing on my blog. If you're not into deep-fried, artery-clogging, calorie-laden grub, DO NOT read on. You have been warned ;P

A few years ago, I chanced upon this Corn and Prawn Fritters recipe in TODAY's food section. I happened to have the ingredients required and made these sweet niblets on a whim. It was love at first crunch, and as they say, the rest is history.

I've made them many times over - as finger food for guests, or a movie marathon snack for the family, or like today, a salve for my battered heart. Sob.

(by Amy Van, TODAY newspaper)
Serves 4

- 150g fresh prawns (shelled, deveined and chopped into small chunks)
- 2 ears sweet corn (peeled, washed, kernels removed from cob*)
* Hold the cob upright and cut the kernels straight down with a sharp knife
- 2 shallots (peeled and chopped)
- 1 stalk spring onions, chopped (I substituted with finely sliced leeks, which I feel, lend a sweeter taste)
- 1 red chilli (seeds removed, sliced or chopped)
- 300g flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 375 ml water
- Oil for deep-frying
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste

1. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add salt and pepper. Slowly stir in water to obtain a thick batter (batter should slowly drip off the spoon).

2. Add prawns, shallots, sweet corn, spring onions (or leeks, in my case) and chilli to the batter. Stir until well-mixed.

3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drop 1 tbsp of batter into the oil, one at a time, until the skillet is filled up. Make sure your have sufficient space in between fritters so that they don't stick. Flip the fritters to ensure that both sides are browned. Fry in batches.

4. Remove the fritters from skillet and drain on paper towels (I find tempura paper better).

5. Serve with dips, although they are lovely on their own.

Now excuse me while I eat my heart out (pun intended).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kow Kei (With 3 Eggs In Stock)

Kow Kei Soup

If you're familiar with Chinese cuisine, you will know that Kow Kei is a vegetable oft eaten to improve one's eyesight. Now, what exactly is Kow Kei? I scoured the Internet and from what I gathered, it is the Chinese Wolfberry plant - also known as Gou Qi, Red Medlar, Boxthorn, Kei Chi or Goji. Am I right? Anyone out there who can affirm this, I would be most grateful ;)

This morning, there was an abundance of Kow Kei at the market. Every vegetable seller had large bundles of it displayed at their stalls. I didn't need much goading into buying some because they were going for a song.

As you know, we only eat the leaves of the Kow Kei plant. So first, you need to strip the leaves from the stems. Then you wash them and drain the excess water. 

See the Extreme Makeover: Kow Kei Edition below.

"Before" - bedraggled and unkempt.

"After". Complete with glow.

Now, Kow Kei is just like Spinach. In their raw form, they may look like a daunting pile. But once you start cooking them, they wilt to a fraction of the original. So load up, else you might not even have enough for one serving! I bought 600g (I think) ... a big bundle ... and it was good for 3 adults and 2 kids.

I have been making Kow Kei Soup for many years now (see my very first photo). It hardly needs any skill: boil the leaves in diluted stock, throw in a handful of Chinese Wolfberries and before turning off the flame, stream in 1 beaten egg. Season with salt or pepper if desired. 

Since I had a large stash of Kow Kei today, I divided it into 2 batches: one for the regular soup (for my kids) and another for trying out something new. Surprise surprise! My Internet search brought me back to Camemberu, one of my favourite food bloggers :) She had featured a dish she tried at Hua Ting (at Orchard Hotel) - Kow Kei with 3 different eggs in stock, and it looked so yummy I just had to try replicating that. 

With no recipe on hand, I just did whatever I thought would work. LOL! I am open to suggestions, if anyone has tips on giving this dish its X-factor ;)

Having said that, I was really pleased with the final result. I will definitely make this again, for the ménage à trois of the eggs was oh, so seductive! I love all kinds of eggs! I could eat eggs everyday. Come to think of it, I do! Well, almost.

Kow Kei (With 3 Eggs In Stock) - Home cooked version ;)

(Serves 3 adults)

- Kow Kei (about 300g gross weight), strip the leaves from the stems. Discard the stems.
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic
- 1 handful Chinese Wolfberries
- 1 salted egg, separate yolk from white
- 1 chicken egg, lightly beaten
- 1 century egg, cut into cubes
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Dash of sesame oil
- Vegetable stock (or chicken stock, if you prefer)

1. Fill water in a saucepan (about half full). Bring to a boil, then throw in Kow Kei leaves. Boil for 8-10mins, or until leaves turn tender. Do not cover the saucepan, as veggies tend to turn yellow. Not pretty.

2. In a skillet, add about 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Throw in whole garlic cloves and fry till fragrant. Discard the garlic. You only want the flavour. Add in dash of sesame oil.

3. Add in vegetable stock and Chinese Wolfberries. Bring to a boil over a very low flame.

4. When stock comes to a gentle boil, add in salted egg yolk. Use a spatula to mash yolk into coarse bits.

5. Next, stream in lightly beaten egg as well as the salted egg white. Note that I did not add any salt to this dish because the salted egg (in addition to the stock) provided enough seasoning, for me at least. 

6. Make sure your flame is very small, so that the eggs do not overcook and become tough. They should have the texture of soft-boiled eggs – a little runny and very silky. You should turn off your fire as soon as your eggs go into the stock. The heat from the stock is enough to cook the eggs.

7. By this time, the Kow Kei would have been cooked till tender. Drain them and put them onto a serving plate. 

8. Pour the stock/egg mixture over the blanched veggies. Top with century egg cubes and serve.

Here's to bigger, brighter eyes! *bats eyelids*

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Salmon In Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki sauce again ... this time with salmon, another favourite in our home. It takes about 1.5mins to cook each side. Make sure you cut the fish into similar-sized steaks so that they cook through at the same time. We had this with rice and a side dish of stirfried veggies. Even my baby managed to finish up the small slab of salmon (at the top of this pic). Simple fare at the end of a very, very tiring day. 

*collapses onto bed*

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ngoh Hiang (Pork Rolls)


Due to some email queries from readers, I have done a related "Question & Answer / Recipe" post here.

* * * * *

My friend from New Zealand paid us a visit today. She is in Singapore for a relative's wedding and very much wanted to see my children, especially my baby son, whom she had only seen in photos. Since she came by in the afternoon, I made Ngoh Hiang, which I thought would be great for a savoury teatime nibble. 

I had a small portion of pork + prawn filling left over from making Guo Tie, so I added a few more prawns, water chestnuts and an egg (to bind and add moistness). Teochew Ngoh Hiang is slightly different from the Hokkien version in that we load up on water chestnuts and add yam paste. I omitted the yam this time because my kids don't really like the taste of it. That's the beauty of cooking, isn't it? There are no hard and fast rules where taste is concerned ;) So, do whatever floats your boat.

When it comes to wrapping Ngoh Hiang, you've got to remember that the beancurd skin is extremely salty. You can get around it in 2 ways:

1) Go light on your seasoning of the filling, so that the saltiness of the wrapper makes up for the blandness, or

2) Season your filling as you normally would. Then, using a clean damp cloth, wipe the wrappers a few times (both sides) very gently. Make sure your cloth is damp and not wet, else your wrappers will turn soggy. Rinse the cloth thoroughly after each wrapper has been wiped. Squeeze dry and go on to the next. 

I have made Ngoh Hiang both ways and I prefer the first. However, to make the wrapper more pliable, sprinkle some water (just a little) to wet it. As such, it's advisable to have a small bowl of water by your side. To seal the rolls, just run a wet finger along the edges. The skin will stick. 

Always fry the Ngoh Hiang seam-side down first. You don't need a lot of oil for the skin to crisp. Just use enough so that they don't stick to the pan.

It was wonderful to meet up after so long! We chatted over our savoury afternoon snack, and just let the kids play as they pleased. Today, I made the Ngoh Hiang a little more petite than usual, so that the children could devour the rolls using their grubby lil hands, like churros ;)

And devour they did! I think they were feeling peckish by then. The Ngoh Hiang was crispy on the outside and very juicy on the inside, thanks to the egg binder. For dips, I had a saucer of sweet black sauce (the thick, gooey type) and another of sambal chilli. Frankly though, they were hardly required, for the Ngoh Hiang was perfect on its own.

L, if you're reading this, it was phenomenal seeing you guys! I'm glad you all enjoyed the food. Wish you were staying longer, though :( I promise I will make Kong Bak Pau the next time you come visit us :D

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Guo Tie (锅贴) / Gyoza / Pot Stickers

I was given a packet of gyoza wrappers by my neighbour today. Yup, the same one who always gives me food. I thanked her profusely because she had unknowingly helped answer the million-dollar question on my mind, "What are we having for dinner tonight?" Mommies (or Daddies) who cook for the family will empathise. Some days, you just don't feel like stepping into the kitchen.

Today was one such day. I was in half a mind to buy back dinner, but then the thought of sizzling hot Guo Tie tempted me like the forbidden fruit. And I caved in. 

*hangs head in shame*

Hey, you can't blame me, really. These are mean little parcels of YUM. Known as Guo Tie / Gyoza / Pot Stickers (until Teflon came along), they all refer to the same thing: juicy, succulent dumplings! 

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Bet The English Bard never in his life expected those lines to apply to dumplings ;P

So, making the filling was the easy part. I made 2 versions: pork + prawn and cabbage + leek. It took only 20mins to prepare them. 

For Pork + Prawn
- Add finely chopped water chestnuts, minced garlic, spring onions to minced pork and fresh prawns (chopped up into bits).
- Season everything with soy sauce, fish sauce, corn flour and sesame oil.

For Cabbage + Leek
- Salt the cabbage first (about 1/2 tbsp salt for every handful of shredded cabbage) ... yes THAT much salt! The salt will draw the water out from the cabbage.
- Wait 15 mins before squeezing out all the water from the cabbage (you do NOT want moisture in your dumplings otherwise they will turn soggy).
- Add water chestnuts to squeeze-dried cabbage and shredded leeks. 
- Season with sesame oil.

And that was the easy part. Now, on to the tedious bit - the wrapping of the Guo Tie! No wonder dim sum restaurants charge an exorbitant S$5+++ for a plate of 4. I wrapped for a good 45mins and produced a paltry yield of 24 dumplings. 

Pork + Prawn meets Cabbage + Leek ... like playing Reversi.

"Dumplings huddled for a pow wow," I thought to myself while photographing this. Sometimes, I amuse myself to no end *cue hysterical laugh*.

For the dipping sauce, julienne some ginger finely, and add them to a saucer of black vinegar. Check out the lovely hue of jade visible from the translucent dumpling skin!

Well, the Guo Tie turned out surprisingly good, especially the vegetarian one. It was crunchy and sweet, thanks to the winning combo of cabbage, leek and water chestnuts. Heavenly! In fact, we all preferred it over the nice-but-predictable meat version. Hurray! Another vegetarian dish the family can all enjoy.

But for now, I need a good scrub to get that grease out of my hair before giving my achy breaky back a good rest. Would you pay $30+++ (~ S$35.60) for 24 dumplings? I'm mulling over that one.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

I had a reader from Italy visit my blog a few days ago. Just seeing that Italian flag appear on my visitor tracker map sparked off a whole slew of happy memories. Of all the European countries, I am fondest of Italy. I have visited the country 5 times, used to learn and speak (halting) Italian, and love all Italian-made products (sigh ... expensive taste, I know). I love the food, culture, history and people. Is it any surprise that my eldest child was "Made in Italy"? ;P

Anyway, I have this thick and heavy book - The Complete Italian Cookbook (by Carlo Bernasconi and Christian Teubner). My husband bought it for me years ago, knowing my love for all things Italian. I count it as one of my favourites, among the things he has given me. I still take this book out from time to time, just to pore over the gorgeous photos, or to re-read recipes. As such, it is well-thumbed, with many pages flagged :)

Seeing that reader from Italy made me whip that book out again. After flipping through briefly, I spotted the page on Spaghetti alla Carbonara, one of my beloved pasta dishes. I realised I haven't had it in a while, and suddenly yearned for a taste of that eggy-cheesy-smoky flavour. Well, the good thing about knowing how to cook is, you can satiate your cravings quite easily. So, I made it for dinner :)

Since there are scores of recipes for Spaghetti alla Carbonara on the Internet, I shan't list it here. My only word of advice is, use the freshest, best quality ingredients your money can buy. I know this should always be the mantra, but it is especially crucial for simple dishes, for you'll have nothing to disguise the taste of inferior quality ingredients.

After making the spaghetti, I gave my "Made in Italy" daughter a quick lesson in plating it. I can't remember exactly who said it, but I think it was Jamie Oliver. He said pasta should always stand proud on the plate, in a pretty mound. I couldn't agree more! It riles me whenever I see pasta served as a floppy, sloppy, mangled mess smothered in waaaay too much sauce. That would be Char Kway Teow. So, always use a pair of tongs and the right dish to plate your pasta.

At first bite of my Spaghetti alla Carbonara, I had a "Remy Moment". Remember when Remy (in Ratatouille) took a bite of strawberry and another of cheese? Sparks all around? Well, it happened to me. I had fireworks on display. It was eggy and cheesy and full of umami. Perfetto!

So, to that Italian reader who was the reason why I had a most scrummilicious pasta dinner tonight, if you are reading this, "Mille grazie e ci vediamo!"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Garlicky Oven Wedges

I love the taste of oven-roasted potatoes. Whenever I make my favourite Salt-Roasted Chicken, I automatically throw in potatoes. Now, I am extremely particular about using the right type of potatoes for every dish. For roasts, I always use the Russet. For curries and stews, Brastagi. For salads, baby redskins. Using the wrong type of potato can ruin a dish - for eg, using Russet potatoes for stews will leave you with a pot full of mush. So the moral of the story is, ladies and gentlemen, know your spuds!

Today, I made something a lil different from my usual roasted potatoes to go with my chicken. I made Garlicky Oven Wedges. Say it with me now: "GARLICKY OVEN WEDGES!"

Ingenious, whoever came up with this recipe.

I first saw it at The Purple Foodie, who adapted it from Lottie + Doof, who adapted it from Cook's Illustrated. See, food makes the world go round! Anyway, lemme tell ya, I was completely sold because of ONE word - "Garlicky". Mmmm Mmmm!

This being my first attempt, I made the wedges ahead of roasting the chicken because I didn't quite know what to expect. I chose to go lighter on the salt because I wanted to top the wedges with freshly grated parmesan (which in itself is salty). I also omitted the garlic powder and cayenne pepper, preferring to boost the flavour of the roasting oil by adding more minced garlic.

Thankfully, everything went smoothly and the wedges came out gorgeous AND delicious. I had to shoo my kids out of the kitchen because they were helping themselves too liberally to the spuds! The aroma was incredible, really. Together with the parmesan, the wedges were finger (and plate) lickin' good. Yup, my daughter licked the plate clean - I kid you not!

(adapted from here)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 Russet potatoes, each cut into 12 wedges
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I reduced this to 1/2 tsp fine salt)
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I reduced this to just a pinch)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (I omitted this)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I omitted this)

1. Preheat oven to 225 degree celsius. Combine the garlic and oil in a large bowl and microwave until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer 5 tablespoons of the oil (leaving the garlic in the bowl) to a rimmed baking sheet, tilting the sheet to coat.

2. Add the potatoes to the bowl with the remaining oil mixture and toss to coat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and microwave on high power until the potatoes are translucent around the edges, 3 to 6 minutes, shaking the bowl to redistribute the potatoes halfway through cooking.

3. Combine the cornstarch, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the hot potatoes and toss well to coat. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake, turning once, until deep golden brown and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes. I grated parmesan cheese over the fries before serving.

Salt-Roasted Chicken

I stumbled on a Salt-Roasted Chicken recipe some 4 years ago. Since then, I've adapted it and cooked this again and again to raving reviews every time. My kids love eating it while I love the simplicity of making it. It's so easy it's unbelievable. For that reason alone, I make roast chicken every other week. I think everyone has their favourite roast chicken recipe, but this is mine, hands down.

It starts off with just 1 chicken, 1 level spoon of salt and some garlic. Errr ... and that's it. No oil, no herbs, no fancy-schmancy seasonings, nada. It's so effortless it's almost a sin to claim any credit!

After washing the chicken, salt it, including the cavity. Next, stuff in as many garlic cloves as you can into the cavity before sealing with a toothpick. The garlic will perfume the entire bird while the salt works to dry up the skin to a crackling crisp.

You can truss the bird before roasting, but I normally don't. Face the bird breast side up, and roast in a 240 to 260 degree oven (I crank it up all the way to 260 for mine). After the juices run clear and the bird is nicely browned, let it cool for at least 15mins before serving. You need to let the juices redistribute within.

This is a good time to make the gravy. Using whatever juices and oils left in the roasting pan, add a rice bowl of chicken stock. Bring everything to a boil and add some diluted corn starch a minute before turning off the flame. This will thicken the gravy. Pour the gravy through a sieve to get rid of any charred bits.

I usually throw in potatoes for roasting. BUT today, I made Garlicky Oven Wedges, which oh, deserve a separate blog entry of their own!

The best part of this dish is, evidently, the eating. Tender, moist chicken that goes well with rice, potatoes, pasta or buns. It's versatile, easy and absolutely delish. The second best part of this dish is the garlic cloves which were sealed and "pressure cooked" inside the cavity. They are as creamy as potatoes and oh, so aromatic! Just pop them whole, out of their skins, and relish that mealiness. Pure bliss for garlic fanatics like me.

And yes, I am so in need of mints right now.

Recipe(adapted from here)
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 tbs salt
- As many unpeeled cloves of garlic as you like

1. Wash the chicken.

2. Dry the chicken.

3. Salt the chicken, including cavity.

4. Throw in as many cloves of garlic as you like, into the cavity. Then seal with a toothpick.

5. Place the chicken breast side up, in a baking tray. Surround with potatoes* if you wish to make this a one-dish meal.
*For potatoes, it helps if you semi-cook them prior. Just cut into bite-sized chunks, drizzle very little oil and microwave them (covered) on high till they turn a little translucent around the edges. They will cook through during the roasting.

6. Roast for 50-60mins or until the juices run clear and the chicken has browned to a crisp.

7. Allow to cool for at least 15mins so that juices can re-distribute.

8. Make gravy using the residual juices in the roasting pan by adding 1 rice bowl of chicken stock. Bring to a bowl and add a little diluted corn starch to thicken. Sieve through to remove charred bits. Serve chicken with gravy on the side.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Peach Tart (With Creme Patissiere)

Following the accidental success of this, I decided to make another Peach Tart. That half-opened can of peaches is still very much alive in my fridge and I don't know when we'll ever finish them up. I peered into the can again today and I couldn't see the bottom. Do they self-replenish at night, I wonder?

This time, instead of making individual tartlets, I went for 1 large tart for sharing. I also chose to a make it like a French fruit tart, using Creme Patissiere. I simply adore Creme Patissiere. It's such an elegant custard, don't you think? Velvety smooth and luxe, and ever so delicate. That's why I practically live for choux puffs - for that delectable custard in the centre.

I got my Creme Patissiere recipe from here. However, I halved everything because I didn't need so much of it for my shallow 6-inch tart shell (which I made using frozen pastry sheets - another item I have to use up pronto). I also reduced the vanilla extract to a teensy drop because I didn't want it to overwhelm everything else.

I blind baked the tart shell as I went about preparing the custard. It was very straightforward and I managed to get the desired consistency without much challenge. I nicked a dollop after it cooled down and IT. WAS. SUBLIME.

Afterward, I proceeded to fill the baked tart shell with Creme Patissiere and arranged the peach slices in a rose petal formation, prompting my daughter to exclaim, "How pretty!" Indeed it was: the sunny colour of golden peaches atop a bed of rich, regal custard. Edible art, I say.

The assembled tart was chilled for a good 3 hours before I served it at tea time. And what anticipation there was when each of us took our first bites. It was wow, wow and wow! The slight tartness of the peaches contrasted beautifully with the creamy sweetness of the custard, while the tart shell gave each bite a delightful crunch. Best of all, the Creme Patissiere was refreshingly cold, providing a welcome relief from the insane afternoon heat. Trust the French to come up with these exquisite morsels of heaven.

(adapted from here)
Yields approximately 1 rice bowl of custard

- 1 cup milk (236ml)
- 2 egg yolks 
-1/4 cup caster sugar (55g)
- 1 drop vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp cornflour 
- 1 pinch salt (only if not adding butter, or using unsalted butter)
- 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, for additional shine and firmness

1. Whisk together egg yolks, 1/4 cup milk (60ml), sugar and vanilla extract. Mix in cornflour and salt (if using).

2. Bring the remaining milk to a scald in a saucepan. Pour the hot milk in small stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk as you pour (very important). Once incorporated, pour everything back into the saucepan.

3. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until it thickens and firms up. Remove from heat and whisk in butter if using.

4. Pour the hot custard into a bowl and plunge the bottom of the bowl into another larger bowl of iced-water to cool, give it a whisk occasionally. Once it reaches room temperature, cover the surface of the Creme Patissiere with cling film to prevent a skin layer forming. Alternatively, fill the Creme Patissiere into a piping bag fixed with a star or round nozzle, twist the open end to seal up the cream. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.