Ginger Milk Pudding (薑汁撞奶)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

薑汁撞奶 is a Cantonese pudding made with ginger juice and buffalo milk, plus sugar to taste. Without steaming, baking, gelatine or agar-agar, the milk is able to solidify into a custard just by mixing with some ginger juice. Sounds really easy, right? Hey, the devil is in the details!

Hong Kong Egg Tarts (港式蛋挞)

Monday, 15 October 2012

The best tool for flattening pastry dough isn't a rolling pin but a plate. Just place a round blob of dough between two plastic sheets, then press it evenly with a flat-bottomed plate. Peel off the top sheet of plastic, then flip the dough into a tart mould.

Sui Gaw (水餃)

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Dried sole is a crucial ingredient in sui gaw. It's grilled or roasted till dry and crisp, then pounded so that it's not too small (you wouldn't be able to taste it) nor too big (would be gritty). Added to the filling, dried sole gives sui gaw a unique toasty flavour. And if the stock is simmered with a few chunks of the dried fish, that's even better.

Har Cheong Gai (Prawn Paste Chicken)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

How many ways are there to fry chicken?

More ways than there are to skin a . . . c-a-t. (Shhhh! Don't let the kitties hear us.)

Every culture has its own version of fried chicken. That is the chicken's destiny. That is why it crosses the road.

Image

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

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.

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?

Paper-Wrapped Chicken

Sunday, 4 September 2011

I hadn't had 纸包鸡 (Paper-Wrapped Chicken) for such a long time I'd forgotten what it was like. I couldn't see the point of wrapping chicken in paper and then deep-frying it. Surely the chicken would steam in its own juices underneath the paper shield? So why not just steam it? Or deep-fry without the paper?

On the other hand, I liked the idea of unwrapping little parcels of food because that would be like unwrapping presents. And I thought maybe the paper served a purpose I couldn't see by theorizing. So I had a practical session and . . . . 'Wow! Hello there, Chee Pow Kai! Where have you been?'

Diced Chicken in Spicy Fermented Tofu Sauce

Friday, 12 August 2011


One day, whilst shooting the breeze with me somewhere, an ang moh acquaintance said he had a tattoo. Without any encouragement on my part, he rolled up his sleeve to show me the Chinese word on his arm. He seemed quite proud of it, and I was all prepared to 'Oooh!' appropriately (whilst running my fingers gently over his bulging biceps *wink wink*). Instead, when I saw the word he had chosen, the beer I was drinking took a detour into my lungs and up my nose. My face turned red; I thumped my chest; he thumped my back; it was a while before I could stop coughing. By then, Acquaintance probably suspected there was something wrong with his tattoo 'cause I was laughing and gesturing at it even as I choked on my drink. Indeed, there was, for the word on his arm was "腐".

Fried Glutinous Rice

Thursday, 21 July 2011

I've been eating glutinous rice for about a year now, in place of the non-sticky variety. I steamed some one day 'cause I was out of regular rice, and I haven't looked back since. It's more fragrant than regular rice though the quality does vary from brand to brand. I've tried three so far, and my favourite is Golden Pineapple; the other two being New Moon and Golden Phoenix. I can't say if Golden Pineapple is the best brand in the market, but it's good enough to stop me from looking for something better.

Non-sticky rice can be steamed or boiled but the sticky one can only be steamed. If steamed without the rice sitting in water, it should be soaked for several hours, which was what I did when I was a sticky rice novice. Of course, I didn't always have several hours' foresight into when I wanted to tuck into a bowl of piping hot rice, and hunger made my brain tick.

Prawn Paste Chicken

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

I could smell the fermented prawn paste once the bottle was open. Phwoar! This is potent stuff!

It wasn't belachan, which is quite harmless until it's toasted or fried. Nor was it Penang hae ko, which is absolutely benign because it's got lots of sugar.

What I had was har cheong, a liquid prawn paste made in Hong Kong. It was a very appetizing grey – oh yum! – and the label on the bottle said, so reassuringly, 'Cooked [sic] Before Eating'. Thanks for the warning! You bet I will!

Your first whiff of har cheong might make you think of a rotting rat or, as a friend puts it ever so nicely, a mortuary with no power supply. But once you take a deep breath – be brave! – you'll get the aroma that explains why fermented prawn paste is cherished in Malaysia, the Phillipines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, and some parts of China. That's, what, easily several hundred million people? Oh hang on, I almost forgot Singapore. That adds another few million who eat lots of belachan (but don't make any).

Har Lok (干煎虾碌, Dry-Fried Prawns)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Remember har lok? It was the prawn dish that ruled the scene before (relative) newbies like cereal prawns and butter prawns usurped its throne.

Steamed Pork Ribs with Pickled Plums

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Ribs again, after the last post on coffee pork ribs? Well, that's all I have in the fridge.

The last time I shopped was more than a week ago, before Chinese New Year. I tried to stock up last Sunday but there wasn't anything fresh at all. The market and supermart were all clearing their leftovers from before the holidays. I'm guessing they'd be clearing their old stocks till this weekend, so I'm following suit. No one's fobbing off stale stuff on me!

After feasting on "heaty" goodies like steamboat and bak kwa, it's time to rebalance the body by eating more "cooling" stuff like fruits and vegetables. And for meat devotees who must eat an animal part or two everyday, pork ribs steamed with pickled plums is a good option. According to traditional Chinese medicine principles, frying or roasting meat makes it "heaty" but steaming doesn't. And it's even better if the steamed meat is paired with pickled plums, which is a strong "cooling agent".

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.

Pear Sweet Soup (银耳雪梨糖水) – Cantonese Health Food

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Cantonese sweet soups or 糖水 are usually served as a dessert, but they're not like desserts in any other culture. Everyone regards desserts as an evil temptation that they should avoid as much as possible, except the Cantonese. To them, desserts aren't indulgent or sinful but a necessary health tonic for the body. That's right, desserts are a health food! Isn't that an awesome idea?! Forget the nasty stuff like wheatgrass and flax seeds. Heath food Cantonese style is what you want!

Prawns with Red Fermented Beancurd

Friday, 30 October 2009

Photobucket
Most people use the words prawn and shrimp interchangeably, or think shrimps are small prawns and prawns are big shrimps. To add to the confusion, some countries use one or the other terminology almost exclusively. In the UK, Australia and Singapore, for instance, prawn is far more common but Americans prefer shrimp.

Steamed Pork Ribs with Fermented Black Beans

Thursday, 15 October 2009

One of my favourite dishes is steamed pork ribs with fermented black beans, a standard item at dim sum restaurants. But I don't like ordering it when I'm on a Sunday dim sum pig-out, because I like to eat it with rice. All that savory, fragrant and umami goodness from the ribs just begs to drench a bowl of steaming white rice! But I can't have rice during a dim sum pig-out because it would take away tummy space for the other goodies, right?

*sigh . . .*

Prawns with Salted Egg Yolks

Friday, 25 September 2009

PhotobucketSome dishes are so easy, it doesn't make sense to order them when eating out. Might as well save the money for something that's really complicated or has some secret recipe which can't be replicated at home, right?

Prawns with salted egg yolks is one such easy peasy dish. It doesn't take a genius to guess what the ingredients are. Nor does it require a great chef or domestic god(dess) to pull the ingredients together into a great tasting dish. Any home cook with minimal kitchen skills can do the job adequately.

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!