5-Minute Cantonese Porridge (Congee)

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Forget cooking Cantonese porridge the traditional way. That takes way too long.

On the stove, simmering raw rice in lots of water or stock till it breaks down and forms a smooth, thick gruel takes 2-3 hours.

In a slow cooker, the process is an overnight job.

Chwee Kueh (水粿; Steamed Rice Cakes)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

There're several types of steamed cakes made with rice flour. If you want to learn how to make these traditional delicacies, chwee kueh would be a good start. It doesn't take long and the ingredients are cheap, so you don't waste much time or money if you fail.

The first step in making chwee kueh is mixing the batter. The main ingredient is rice flour but that alone would make a rather hard kueh. To soften it, you need to add some starch. Some people use tapioca flour; I prefer a mix of cornflour and wheat starch. Of course, the amount of water in the batter is crucial to the success of the steamed kueh. If the ratio of water to flour/starch is wrong, the steamed cake will be too hard or too soft.

Portuguese Egg Tarts (葡式蛋挞)

Monday, 13 May 2013

 photo MOV_0892_00012portugueseeggtartsYour egg tarts look more like curry puffs! That's what one reader says about Rasa Malaysia's Portuguese egg tarts.

Indeed, her tarts don't have any of the signature black burn marks. To me, what's supposed to be the custard looks more like an omelette . . . or maybe quiche filling.

Do you know what's wrong with Rasa Malaysia's recipe?

Soon Kueh/Turnip Dumplings (II)

Monday, 30 July 2012

Making 笋粿 is a hell of a lot of work! There, I've said it before anyone moans about soon kueh being a hell of a lot of work. Even if you have a food processor, which I don't, and you're not making a video of the whole process, which I was, all that stir-frying and rolling is still a lot of work. Are you counting? I just said "a lot of work" three times . . . make that four times.

Bak Chang (肉粽; Meat Dumplings)

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

My mother made two types of 粽子 every year, kee chang and bak chang. The former is quite straightforward; it's just glutinous rice and lye water wrapped in bamboo leaves. Bak chang, however, is extremely varied in ingredients, seasoning, cooking method, and shape depending on which part of China your family is from. For us – we're Teochews – there're two types indigenous to our culture. The more elaborate type, called 双烹, has a small ball of sweet red bean paste wrapped in leaf lard. My mother always did the simpler type without the sweet red bean paste. The filling is 100% savory with fatty pork belly, chestnuts, mushrooms, dried prawns and fried shallots.

10-Minute Kaya (II)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

To enjoy a kaya toast brekky at home:

1. Make kaya in 10 minutes using the recipe here, up to one week ahead. On no account make kaya the traditional way which involves a double-boiler and stirring for hours on end. If you have a lot of free time, I suggest you bathe your dog, read a book, or take a nap.

2. The night before the kaya toast breakfast, remove eggs from the fridge to let them come to room temperature.

Kueh Bengka Ubi (II)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

If you can buy ready-grated tapioca and ready-squeezed fresh coconut milk, it'd criminal not to make kueh bengka ubi. It is so easy, so quick, so good.

It's hard to come up with tips for making kueh bengka ubi because the Malay/Nyonya cake is really straightforward. Even after eating lots of kueh to fuel my brain, I can think of only a few which anyone with some common sense/knowledge would know:

Orh Kueh/Steamed Yam Cake (II)

Monday, 28 May 2012


If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is my video worth? Let's see . . . .

length of video = 5 minutes 10 seconds = 310 seconds
frames per second = 25
total no. of frames/pictures = 310 x 25 = 7,750
1 frame = 1,000 words
7,750 frames = 7,750,000 words

Pulut Inti

Saturday, 14 April 2012

What do pulut inti, kueh kochee, pulut chawan, lopes, ondeh ondeh, kueh salat, pulut tataa, kueh doldol, kueh bengka pulut, and kueh wajek durian have in common, apart from all of them being Nyonya kueh-kueh?

The 10 kueh-kueh are all made with coconut, and glutinous rice or glutinous rice flour. Yet they're all different as can be in texture, taste and look.

Orh Kueh/Steamed Yam Cake (I)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Making good orh kueh starts with choosing yam that's light for its size. Lighter ones have less water, and less watery ones are nicer because they're more fluffy, powdery and fragrant.

Next, be generous when trimming the yam. The outer parts are usually waxy and tasteless, especially when the yam is a dud. I usually cut 2-3 cm off the top and bottom, and 1-2 cm off the sides.

To enhance its fragrance, the yam should be fried and then seasoned lightly with salt and five-spice powder. Don't let the yam brown or it'd be leathery.

10-Minute Kaya (I)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

If you google "kaya hours of stirring", you'll find people (like here and here) who really do stand beside their pots of kaya, stirring away for hours on end. I greatly admire their patience, dedication and tenacity but sadly these are virtues I don't possess. So I make kaya the quick way, in 10 minutes.

Soon Kueh/Turnip Dumplings (I)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Success at last at making the dough for soon kueh! It was my seventh attempt and sixth recipe. How's that for perseverance? As I kneaded the dough, I felt quite sure that this time it would work. And it did, beautifully. Mind you, I had spring roll wrappers standing by in case the dough failed again.

What was wrong with the five recipes that didn't work?

Spring Onion Pancakes (葱油饼)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Spring onion pancakes – 葱油饼 – are a common street food in China and Taiwan. Available any time of the day, they're particularly popular for breakfast.

Contrary to its name, spring onion pancakes are an unleavened, fried bread, not pancakes. And "葱油饼", strictly speaking, means spring onion oil pancake. But I guess it's good marketing to omit the word "oil"!

A good 葱油饼, best enjoyed hot from the pan, is crispy and flakey outside whilst the inside is chewy, interspersed layers of dough and spring onions.

There're only four ingredients – flour, spring onions, oil and salt – but when done well, freshly fried spring onion pancakes are absolutely delicious, especially when they're washed down with sweet soya bean milk or teh halia.

Ginger Cake

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Imagine a soft, tender cake that's filled with the spiciness of fresh ginger, mixed with the slight bitterness of treacle.

The cake is not too sweet, so you can taste the trace of cinnamon, cloves and black pepper in the background.

The colour is a dark, gorgeous mahogany that looks rich but, when you take a bite, the cake is quite light.

Mmmmm . . . what could be better than a slice of ginger cake on a rainy day? Let me see . . . . A slice of ginger cake on a sunny day! Or cloudy day. Or any day  regardless of the weather!

The recipe I use is from David Lebovitz. It's a stir and mix cake that requires no beating or creaming at all. It's dead easy and done in a jiffy. Absolutely nothing can go wrong if you measure the ingredients correctly, set the timer, and a meteor doesn't hit your house.

No-Steam Chinese Turnip/Radish Cake – Lor Bak Ko

Saturday, 19 September 2009

PhotobucketI got hold of Jacky Yu's cookbooks a few days ago, and have been poring over his recipes as bedtime reading. Who's Jacky Yu (余健志)? He's chef extraordinaire from Hong Kong and founder of Xi Yan Private Dining Restaurant. Famed for his originality in contemporary Chinese cuisine, Jacky Yu combines ingredients and techniques across different regions in China, South-East Asia and Japan. His signature dish is Chicken in Hot and Spicy Sauce (口水鸡), a traditional Sichuan cold chicken dish which he has made famous by adding century eggs. You know where he gets his creativity from? His mother! That's right, his mother is also quite inventive, so it's all in the genes. According to the son, Mum's Turnip Pancake (妈妈萝卜餅) was invented by his mother. Of all the recipes in his three cookbooks, this is the only one he attributes to Mrs Yu. That's gotta mean it's good, right? I must say it sounds quite original. The recipe's like Lor Bak Ko (萝卜糕) but it doesn't involve steaming, and has glutinous rice flour added. Usually, Lor Bak Ko is made with only rice flour, without any glutinous rice flour. And it's steamed, then pan-fried when it's cold. I reread Mrs Yu's recipe in both Chinese and English (the cookbooks are bilingual) to make sure there wasn't a mistake. Nope, it says 'Scoop turnip batter onto pan. Fry until both sides are browned.' It goes on to explain that the amount of glutinous rice flour should be 1.5 times plain rice flour. Like mother, like son; both of them break rules.

I woke up this morning and decided to try Jacky Yu's Mum's Turnip Pancake. That's what happens when I spend a couple of hours reading cookbooks before going to bed. Also makes me hungry late at night, but that's another story. So, does the recipe work? Is it good? Yes, it works. Yes, it's very, very good, and different. It's like a cross: 80% Cantonese Lor Bak Ko and 20% Nian Gao (年糕). Inside, it's soft, smooth and just a wee bit sticky and chewy. Outside, it's way, way more crispy than normal steam-and-fry Lor Bak Ko. Eaten piping hot, it goes C-R-U-N-C-H when I bite into it. For me, that's the killer part. I've never had steam-and-fry Lor Bak Ko that's so crispy. From now on, it's bye-bye traditional Lor Bak Ko and hello Mum's Turnip Pancake. Next Chinese New Year, I'm having Mum's Turnip Pancake and renaming it Lor Bak Nian Gao. Saves me the trouble of having both Lor Bak Ko and Nian Gao, which are traditionally eaten during the Chinese Spring Festival.

18 February 2010 update – here's a photo of the nian gao I bought for the Chinese New Year:



Check these out:
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Spareribs with
Fermented Black
Bans
Char Siu Pau
(Roast Pork Buns)
Yam Kueh
Kong! Bak! Pau!

Cream Scones

Saturday, 5 September 2009

PhotobucketI can't remember what was the first Chinese dish I ever cooked. I started helping Mum in the kitchen from the age of . . . oh . . . nine? ten?

It's hard to say exactly when or what I first cooked something totally by myself. Baking, however, was different. Mum never baked, so I picked up baking only when I went overseas to study, and there was an oven in the common kitchen.

My foray into baking was gentle and gradual. I started as the kitchen hand for my neighbour who was an avid and experienced baker. Her pièce de résistance was apple pie in which I performed a crucial albeit non-baking role.

French Toast

Sunday, 30 August 2009

PhotobucketThere used to be a Hilton Hotel in Hong Kong, where Cheung Kong Centre now stands. It was a pretty nondescript hotel in Central and most people probably never thought of it once it was gone. Neither would I except that was where I had the best French toast ever.

The French toast  was really special because it was crispy. I've had good French Toast elsewhere but the crispy part was always missing.

After the Hilton Hotel was torn down, I had no idea where their chefs went, so that was the end of crispy Hilton Hotel French Toast. And the beginning of homemade French Toast.

When I first made French Toast, it was bland, it shrank after it was fried, and it just wasn't crispy.

Over the years, I've tweaked the recipe many times. I started with just eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla extract and bread. Now, cream cheese is a key ingredient. It keeps the texture creamy and "custardy", and stops the bread from shriveling after it's cooked – provided the bread isn't oversoaked. It also adds depth to the flavor, which is enhanced with a splash of dark rum. Most importantly, it's crispy with a sprinkling of sugar caramelized under the grill. And it's not oily because it's not fried.

I now have the perfect French Toast for a weekend breakfast or even dessert. Yay!

FRENCH TOAST
(Recipe for 2 persons)

4 slices stale sandwich bread, thick-cut (I use Gardenia brand's Junior White)
regular-cut sandwich bread would turn soggy and not make good French toast
2 eggs
40 ml milk
20 g cream cheese
1 tbsp fine sugar
1 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp butter at room temperature
1 tbsp fine sugar (for sprinkling)

Depending on the type of bread used, the amount of egg mixture and soaking time required may vary. Please adjust as necessary. For dense bread, a few slits in the middle and a regular rather than thick-cut would help speed things along. The bread should be thoroughly saturated with the eggy liquid without turning soggy. If necessary, cut the bread in the middle and check.

If possible, make egg mixture the night before so that flavors have time to mingle and develop. Stale bread is essential; fresh bread turns soggy and shrinks after it's grilled. Let some butter come to room temperature before starting to cook.

When you're ready to make toast, preheat grill to 230°C, and line grill tray with parchment paper.

Put cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat till smooth. Add dark rum, vanilla extract and milk in stages, beating till smooth after each addition. Add eggs one at a time and – you guessed it – beat till smooth.

Remove bread crust. Do it by hand if you have time; jagged edges turn really crispy. Cut each slice into four pieces. Soak bread thoroughly in egg mixture, turning over half-way so that both sides are evenly saturated. Do not let bread get soggy.

Place bread on grill tray. Dot each piece with butter – just a bit, not too much. (You could put butter on a knife, then push small blobs onto bread with a tapered chopstick. Or, if you're making a lot of toast, make a small piping cone with parchment paper, then use it to pipe the butter. Third option: Keep butter chilled and hard, then shave with a vegetable peeler directly onto bread.) Sprinkle bread with sugar, right up to the edges.

Grill with the door closed till bread is golden brown or even slightly burnt, then repeat butter-sugar-grill procedure for the other side.

Enjoy French Toast piping hot with its best buddy, maple syrup. Or drizzle with melted butter and honey and serve it as dessert. How about a light coat of icing sugar, some fresh fruits and cream or ice cream? I'm sure that'll win you lots of 'Ooh!' and 'Aah!'