Braised Chicken with Chestnuts

Thursday, 15 March 2012


My mother always used dried chestnuts, so I'm clueless about prepping fresh ones. Using my common sense, I figure boiling should be the right method for tackling fresh chestnuts' shell and peel. It seems like the obvious thing to do, right?

Ikan Tempera (Nyonya Sweet & Sour Fish)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Previously on Kitchen Tigress, in the episode on Kueh Bengka Ubi in 90 Seconds, Mac wanted to eat fish.

Babi Masak Assam

Friday, 23 September 2011

Compared to Shermay Lee, who supposedly began learning Peranakan cuisine when she was 5 years old, Wee Eng Hwa was a very late starter. She began learning Nyonya cookery at the relatively ancient age of 47. Fortunately, she had two advantages over the self-proclaimed culinary child prodigy. One, she could see what was in the wok without standing on a chair. Two, her sifu has been guiding her for some 20 years. Shermay's, even if you believe her marketing spin, kicked the bucket after lesson one.

Not LKY's Babi Pongteh

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Cast your mind back, all the way back to when you were 5 years old. Do you remember anything much?

Would you believe a 5-year-old child is capable of learning how to cook, and remembers what she's learnt when she's a 28-year-old adult? Would you believe a 5-year-old can be instilled with a passion for cooking?

Sayur Lodeh

Monday, 22 August 2011

It was Cook a Pot of Curry Day yesterday because, to cut a long story short, some mainland Chinese with a delicate nose had asked his Singaporean Indian to stop cooking curry. Indignant Singaporeans protested in unison when they heard the story. How dare they tell us not to cook curry! It was a wonderful excuse to tell the mainland Chinese where to shove it, all in the name of protecting the national identity. Before long, Curry Day was organized via Facebook.

There are curries, and there are curries. If it had been a Malay, Nyonya or local Chinese cooking curry next to the mainland Chinese, there probably would have been no dispute. But Indian curries are different when they're not adapted to suit the tastes of the Singaporean Chinese. They have a pungence that's far more powerful than Malay, Nyonya or Chinese-style curries. Chinese Singaporeans call it 'the Indian smell'. For those who don't mince their words, 'smell' may be replaced with 'stink' or 'pong'

Buddha's Delight (罗汉斋)

Monday, 20 September 2010



It was my mother's birthday a few days ago. To commemorate her, I made a big pot of Buddha's delight (罗汉斋) or, if you prefer the less elegant name, chap chai (什菜). It was a dish she always made for our first breakfast of the Chinese New Year.

Noodles with Red Wine Dregs (红糟面线)

Thursday, 9 September 2010

A few weeks ago, I made some chicken with red wine dregs (红糟鸡). As I was writing about how effective red yeast rice extract was in lowering cholesterol, I looked at the photos I had taken. And I started to get worried. The red yeast stuff looked so . . . red!

Maybe there's something wrong with photos?


I went to the fridge and looked at the real wine dregs. Nope, there was nothing wrong with the photos. The dregs were really that shade of fire engine red. I rubbed my tummy, feeling rather uneasy.

Yikes! It must be Sudan Red!

Sudan Red, a carcinogenic industrial chemical dye, is found in a lot of red colored food products.

Remember the salted eggs recall a few years back?

Sesame Duck

Friday, 1 January 2010

2009's gone. Just like that, phffft!

Time for some new year resolutions?

Heheh, resolutions are not for me. I never keep them, so there's no point in making any. Actually, I don't even remember what they are by February!

I prefer new year wishes, which are much better than resolutions. Just wish, no resolve needed.

What do I wish for?

Oh, you know, the usual stuff. Lots of money, the more the better, so that I can buy everything that can be bought.

And, because money can't buy everything, I also wish for love and good health.

PhotobucketCan I have all the money, love and health I want and still be unhappy?

OK, just in case that's possible, I wish for happiness as well – an unlimited amount. (Obviously, I've read all the stories about people making wrong wishes after they find a lamp, bottle, or monkey's paw.)

And since it's no fun being rich, loved, healthy and happy alone, I wish you all the money, love, health and happiness that you would ever want.

Happy New Year, everyone!

The first recipe I'm sharing in 2010 is sesame duck. It's like chicken stir-fried with sesame oil (recipe here) but tastes very different. Nicer and more sophisticated, I would say, because duck has a richer, more complex flavour, and we don't eat it very often.

Duck can be quite dry in a stew but this recipe gets round that by chopping up the duck into small pieces. This allows the stewing sauce to get right into the meat, keeping it moist and tender.

There's plenty of galangal added, which makes a fantastic complement to the duck's gamey flavour. sesame duck is one of my favourite duck recipes and, you know, we Teochews know a thing or two about cooking and eating ducks.

SESAME DUCK (麻油鴨)
(Recipe for 4 persons)

½ duck (about 1 kg)
80 g ginger, washed and julienned (I never peel ginger but you can if you want to)
80 g galangal, washed and sliced 2-3 mm thick
4 big cloves peeled garlic, washed and thinly sliced
1½ tbsp sesame oil (plus a few more drops when serving)
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tbsp dark soya sauce
3 tbsp light soya sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp sugar
200 ml water

Rinse duck and remove skin and fat around the bottom. Chop into small pieces about 2 x 1 inches (5 x 2½ cm). (If you go to the market, you can get the duck chopped up when you buy it.) Heat a wok till very hot. Add 1 tbsp sesame oil and ginger. Stir-fry over medium heat till ginger is lightly golden. Add garlic and the remaining ½ tbsp sesame oil. Continue stir-frying till mixture is golden brown. Increase heat to high. Add duck and stir-fry till it changes colour and wok is very hot again. Add wine, dark soya sauce, light soya sauce and oyster sauce. Stir till well mixed and sauces are absorbed. Add 100 ml water and stir to deglaze the side of the wok. Tuck galagal slices around the duck. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low.

Put sugar in a small pot (don't use non-stick) and cook over medium heat. Swirl melted sugar around the pot and continue heating till it bubbles and looks like dark honey, when it's no longer sweet and before it turns bitter. Next, stand back from the pot and add 100 ml water. If some of the caramel solidifies, continue heating till it melts again. Add caramel liquid to the duck stew. There should be enough liquid to almost cover the duck.

Check that the stew doesn't get too dry and stir once every 20 minutes or so. Add a bit more water if any duck pieces are not in contact with the stewing sauce. Taste after 1 hour and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Duck's ready after 1¼ hours of gentle simmering, a big longer if you like it really soft. The sauce should be reduced but still watery, covering 60-70% of the duck. To serve, remove duck pieces to a serving bowl, skim off oil from the sauce, then add the sauce and a few drops of sesame oil to the duck. Or you could keep the stew in the fridge, covered, and remove the hardened fat the next day. Reheat thoroughly with a little bit of water added, and you have a better tasting stew than the previous day.

Kong! Bak! Pau! – Pork Belly with Steamed Buns

Friday, 20 November 2009

PhotobucketThe monsoon season this year has started earlier than usual. It's been pouring by the bucketload practically every day for the past couple of weeks. And the weatherman predicts rain daily for the next 10 days! Wunderbar! Nice! Provided I'm not caught in traffic which jams up because of the rain, I really love this weather. It's a great change from the usual heat and humidity in sunny, tropical Singapore. I don't do it now but when I was a kid, I loved playing football with my brothers in the rain. Sliding and splashing around in a wet, muddy field was so much more fun than kicking a ball when the ground was dry and hard. Definitely worth the good scolding for getting our clothes muddy! In the rain, even walking home from school was fun 'cause we could stomp through puddles of water. Of course, that dirtied our white canvas Bata school shoes and got us another good scolding. Mind you, the fun didn't end when the rain stopped. After a heavy downpour, the lungfish in the pond next to our house escaped with the overflowing water, so we had to rescue them. These were fish which had lungs and could breathe air. Weird, eh? They could survive on land for quite a long time and were always wriggling vigorously on the ground when we found them. Unfortunately – or fortunately, from their perspective – they weren't very palatable, so we just chucked them back in the pond. The rainy season also brought lots of tadpoles in water puddles, which we caught and placed in glass bottles. It was fascinating watching them grow legs and eventually turn into tiny little toads.

PhotobucketThat was then, this is now. Older, sedate and aware of lightning risks, I don't run around in the rain any more. I love curling up with my cats (that's Princess Mel in the photo) for a snooze when a heavy downpour cools the hot, humid air. Or sitting next to an open window with a cup of tea, feeling the rain on my face. Back when we were catching fish with lungs, we had a corrugated zinc veranda which made a real ruckus when it rained. And the wave pattern in the zinc roof created a water curtain with strings of rain. It was very relaxing listening to the thundering rain and watching the shimmering strings of water. No such sound and visual effect now, I'm afraid.

There's one thing rainy weather always does to me no matter how old or young I am. It makes me really hungry! So hungry it's a good time to eat a piping hot stew. Not just any stew but a pork belly stew which might be too rich and filling when the weather is hot. Some call it Lor Bak (滷肉), others call it Kong Bak(扣肉). Or Dong Po Rou (東坡肉) or Tau Yu Bak (豆油肉). All these are pork belly braised Chinese style but the ingredients vary depending on personal preferences. I love the one I make because it has lots of vinegar to cut through the richness of the pork. And onions, garlic and ginger slowly cooked and caramelized in a dark, thick sauce. They are unrecognizable by the time the stew's done but these black blobs of stuff are, trust me, more delicious than the pork. I enjoy the stew with either rice or Chinese steamed buns, and every single bite is worth the extra time on the treadmill come payback time. Before I pay back, however, I wash everything down with a cup of strong Chinese tea and have a good snooze. Can't exercise right after I eat, right? Later lah.

Check these out:
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Tamarind Pork
(Babi Assam)

Spareribs with
Dried Tangerine
Peel
Spareribs
with Fermented
Black Beans
Drunken Chicken and
Soft-Boiled Eggs

Tamarind Pork

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

PhotobucketI love Chinese food, and I love Malay food. So it's no wonder that Nyonya dishes that combine the best of these two great cuisines are my perennial favourites.

Babi assam – meaning tamarind pork – is a prime example of how the Straits Chinese or Peranakans combine Chinese and Malay flavours.

Fermented soya beans from China are melded with common Malay ingredients – tamarind, shrimp paste and chillies – in a slow, long simmer.

Claypot Fish Head

Friday, 11 September 2009

PhotobucketClaypot fish head is like a reliable friend. It turns out beautifully every single time and never fails you. No real skill is called for. It just needs a bit of time. It reheats very well and in fact, tastes better reheated. You can cook it early in the day and when you, and maybe some friends, are ready to eat, it's there for you. It's highly adaptable to your requirements. Just add more pork, Chinese cabbage and bean curd when there are more people at the table. If you have one or two ingredients missing, add more of what you have. And you keep adding . . . until there is so much delicious stuff in one pot, there is no need for anything else. Like truly good friends, one is enough.