Brain Food – For the Brave

Monday, 22 November 2010

Pig brains used to be a popular food for Chinese. The practice has died out more or less, but I thought it would be nice to have a record of how traditional Double-Boiled Pig Brain Soup is made. And also Pig Brain Omelette, which is the photo on the left. Doesn't look too bad, does it? The other photos, however, are a bit gruesome, to be honest. So, if you're squeamish, you should not read this post. Did you get that? Repeat:

GO AWAY IF YOU'RE SQUEAMISH!

This post is for those who are brave, or those who have a bit of Hannibal in them. If you think you're one of them, please continue reading. Or come back later if you just ate.

Thai Basil Chicken

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Why are fat people fat?

The finger has pointed at sugar, carbs, fat, high-fructose corn syrup, metabolic rate, genes, not having breakfast, having a heavy dinner, having a late dinner, some virus (!), fast food, packaged food, soft drinks, portion sizes, depression, boredom, childhood obesity, hormones, mixing with other fat people, lack of information, lack of education, lack of exercise, lack of will power, etc, etc.

Anything and everything under the sun that can be blamed has been.

Sesame #$!☠&☠^♠‡!!! Balls

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

I tried making sesame balls last Saturday. You know, 煎堆, those deep fried glutinous rice balls coated with white sesame seeds. Thought it should be quite straight forward. Make a dough with glutinous rice flour, plus a bit of rice flour and sugar. Roll into little balls. Wrap with peanut butter (a stand-in for more traditional stuff like red bean paste). Dredge in white sesame seeds. Deep-fry over low heat. Easy peasy.

So, the little balls were deep-frying away when I noticed that they were going from round to pear shaped. That meant the balls weren't heating up and expanding evenly. Which was a bad sign but I didn't know at the time 'cause it was my first time making sesame balls. Suddenly, 'KABOOM!' One of the sesame balls exploded three feet into the air and shot out of the pot . . . . Ok, I exaggerate. A sesame ball did jump out but it was more like a dull 'boom!' Still, there was hot oil on my right hand. 'Aaaaargh!' I dropped the spatula immediately, turned off the stove, and darted to the tap. As I rinsed my hand, two more sesame balls exploded spectacularly, shooting out of the pot like cannon balls. I made another dash, this time to the freezer for some ice to put on my poor hand. My face was hit as well but it didn't feel as bad as the hand which had been next to the pot. I guess the oil had time to cool down a bit as it flew through the air towards my face. (Or maybe the skin on my face is really thick?)

Soothed and calmed by the ice, I surveyed the kitchen through my oil speckled glasses. There was oil everywhere on the floor and walls. The ceiling was spared but 'ground zero', the top of the stove, had a big puddle of oil. There were bits of peanut butter and white specks of flour here and there. #$!☠&☠^♠‡!!! I got some ointment for burns from the first aid box, grabbed an ice cold coke from the fridge, and scooted out of the disaster zone.

Safe in the living room, I started googling 'exploding rice balls'. Yup, these culinary missiles had attacked and claimed many victims before. A lot of unwary kitchen warriors, like me, had been caught by surprise. The enemy came out of nowhere; we had no time to run or hide.

An hour later, my hand stopped burning as the ointment took effect. I went back to the kitchen to clean up, thinking I should call it a day. There were fragments of Sesame Ball on the counter top, actually looking quite good with just the right shade of golden brown. From a solid little lump, the dough had expanded into a ball with a hollow in the middle, before detonating and exploding into fragments. I popped one of said fragments in my mouth . . . . Hey, it's good! It was still crisp after my hour-long recuperation, and it wasn't oily. If only it hadn't exploded, it would have been perfect.

Believe it or not, I decided to have another go after tasting the fragment of sesame ball. I almost succeeded, I thought. I figured the rice balls exploded because there wasn't enough oil, the oil was too hot, I wasn't stirring enough, or all of the above. All I had to do was add more oil (stop stinging!), keep the temperature really low, and stir more. In went the remaining raw rice balls, and . . . . out came the hot oil onto my hand. My right hand, again. 'Aaaaargh!'

Surrender? Hell no.

I tried again the next day. This time, I had a towel draped over my right hand! Plus a different recipe which mixed boiled, cooked dough with raw dough, and used only glutinous rice flour, without adding rice flour. The balls still exploded, but they stayed in the pot instead of blowing up completely. Hey, that's an improvement!

The fourth attempt was a combination of the first two recipes. A mix of raw and cooked dough, that was made with rice flour and glutinous rice flour. And the balls were wrapped with an air pocket inside instead of without. The results are what you see in the photos. Not too shabby, I think, even though they were little ones around 6 cm wide. Did you know those made by pros are as big as footballs? Like this one:



Notice the oil is so hot it's smoking? Yet the rice ball doesn't explode. If it did, it would really have gone 'KABOOM!' I might try making one that big one day . . . but only after I put on the protective gear worn by people who clear landmines!

Check these out:
Dry Chicken
Curry
Roast Chicken
with Mixed
Herbs
Soya Sauce
Chicken
Thai Basil Chicken

SESAME BALLS (煎堆)
(Recipe for 32 pieces)

240 glutinous rice flour
40 g rice flour
4 tbsp sugar (or 6 tbsp if not using filling)
¼ cup white sesame seeds, placed in a bowl for dredging
150 g filling, e.g. red bean paste or lotus seed paste, optional
vegetable oil for deep-frying

Stir rice flour and glutinous rice flour till evenly mixed. Dissolve sugar in 140 ml hot water, stirring till water is warm, not hot. Add to flour. Mix well. Gather 85 g of wet dough (some flour would still be dry). Make into small discs. Cook in boiling water till floating. Mix with raw dough whilst still hot but cool enough to handle. Knead till evenly mixed. If necessary, add a bit more warm water or glutinous rice flour so that dough is not too dry or too sticky. Roll into a ball and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes. This allows the flour to fully absorb the water added.

Divide dough into 32 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Keeping balls not working on covered, fill with chosen filling, around 1 tsp, as in this video:



Make sure there's air in the dough, i.e. don't wrap dough tightly round filling. If there's no filling, it would be just an air pocket inside the dough.

Dredge filled rice balls in white sesame seeds. If rice balls are dry, dunk quickly in water or pat surface with a bit of water before dredging. Press gently so that sesame seeds stick well.

In a pot or wok, add enough oil to cover sesame balls, about 4 cm deep. Heat till oil is moderately hot. Test by putting an uncoated wooden chopstick in the oil. If there's no reaction, wait a few more seconds. If there's rapid sizzling and big bubbles, turn off heat to let oil cool down slightly. If there're small bubbles and gentle sizzling around the chopstick, the oil is just right. Reduce heat to very low. For gas stoves, the flame should be slightly flickering or just steady. Add glutinous rice balls, not too many so that all can move around freely. Fry till Sesame Balls start floating, gently pressing any that doesn't expand evenly to get a round shape, with a spatula against the wok/pot or another spatula. After rice balls start floating, increase heat to medium. (If the heat is too low at this stage, rice balls would be too soft and chewy inside.) Sizzling should increase from slow to moderate speed, but not too rapid. Stir gently to ensure even browning.

Keep stirring and frying till rice balls are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels and cool down. Serve.
.

Soya Sauce Chicken – With Rose Essence Wine

Monday, 1 November 2010

Shucks, I just realized something.

I should have garnished the chicken with rose petals instead of spring onions since it was made with rose essence wine, 玫瑰露酒.

Well, it's too late now 'cause the chicken is all eaten up.  

Dang! Should have thought of it earlier . . . .

OK, please put your imagination cap on and imagine succulent soya sauce chicken with rose essence wine on a bed of rose petals . . . pink, of course . . . .

Authentic Cantonese 豉油鸡 must have 玫瑰露酒. Otherwise, it just doesn't have the floral fragrance that comes from the roses in the wine.