Teochew Ngoh Hiang

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

I can never get enough of ngoh hiang, the deep-fried meat rolls that are full of the fragrance of five-spice powder and yam, the sweetness of prawns and pork, and the crunch of water chestnuts. The salty beancurd skin wrapped around the filling adds to the aroma and, more importantly, it stops moisture from escaping, keeping the meat roll moist and juicy. Mmmmm . . . .

What makes Teochew ngoh hiang Teochew? It's the yam, which Hokkien ngoh hiang doesn't have. Of course, the Teochew version is far superior, in my totally unbiased, impartial opinion.

Crispy Bean Steamed Cod (豆酥鱈魚)

Monday, 28 November 2011

This is steamed cod served with a topping made with hot bean paste, crispy beans (豆酥), garlic and spring onions. The fish is moist and oily. The topping is crisp and fragrant.
This is a ball of crispy beans, aka 豆酥, the main ingredient in the topping. The taste is a bit like natto.
The ball has to be broken up and pounded into coarse bits.  

This is the video that shows how to steam the fish and make the topping.
Ladies and gentlemen, good luck. . . .  . . .  . . .  . .  . . . . .

CRISPY BEAN STEAMED COD (豆酥鱈魚)
Source: Adapted from 阿基師
(Recipe for 4 persons)

800 g black cod cut 3-cm thick, rinse, debone and slice into 8 equal size pieces
any white fish such as threadfin, sea bass or red snapper would do too
½ tsp salt
2 tsp white rice wine
1 sprig spring onion, wash, trim and cut 5 cm long
4 slices ginger
4 tbsp 辣豆瓣醬 (hot bean paste)
5 tbsp vegetable oil
45 g 豆酥, pound/grind into coarse bits, 1-2 mm
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, peel and mince very finely
1 sprig spring onion, wash, trim and cut ½ cm long

Preheat plate by steaming over rapidly boiling water for 3 minutes. Sprinkle salt and rice wine on fish. Mix thoroughly. Spread ginger and spring onion on plate. Place fish on ginger and spring onion. Cover and steam over medium-low heat till just cooked, 7-10 minutes. Check that fish is totally opaque inside by flaking thickest part with chopsticks. Remove from heat. Discard ginger and spring onion. Baste fish with liquid in the plate.

Whilst fish is steaming, stir-fry hot bean paste in 5 tbsp oil over low heat till fragrant. Strain oil onto crispy beans. Mix well. Set aside till fish is cooked. If pan/wok is not non-stick, wipe clean with paper towels. Keep drained hot bean paste for other dishes, such as 麻婆豆腐 or 回锅肉. If pan/wok is not non-stick, wipe clean with paper towels.)

Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil till moderately warm. Add crispy beans, minus excess oil (which may be used as for drained hot bean paste). Stir-fry over low heat till colour changes slightly, removing bubbles if any. Add garlic. Stir-fry till mixture is lightly golden. Taste and add some drained hot bean paste if too bland, or pinch of sugar if too salty. Turn off heat. Add spring onion and stir through. As residual heat dissipates, beans and garlic should turn just golden brown. Spread mixture evenly on steamed fish. Serve immediately with rice.

Fried Wontons

Monday, 17 October 2011

Fried wontons are different from wontons in soup, apart from the fact that they're fried.

The filling for boiled wontons should have dried sole (大地鱼, aka 铁脯). The fish is toasted till brown, crisp and fragrant, then chopped into little bits. If it's not available, deep-fried shallots are a good substitute. With either of these ingredients in the filling, wontons cooked in soup would have a rich, intense aroma they wouldn't have otherwise. In Hong Kong, the motherland of Wonton Soup, the stock used is made with dried sole, amongst other things.

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?

Lotus Seed Sweet Soup (蓮子爽)

Saturday, 10 September 2011

I was buying lotus seeds when a fellow aunty shopper who was waiting for her turn asked me how the dried seeds should be cooked.

Whilst I pondered the question (and sized her up), she told me hers were still hard after soaking overnight and simmering for two hours!

Ah yes, my mother had warned me about that. I said to the lady (after deciding she wasn't trying to sell me something), "You mustn't let lotus seeds touch cold water, otherwise they won't soften. You have to wash them in hot water and, when you put them in the pot, the water must be boiling." By soaking lotus seeds in hot water which became cold overnight, she had violated the golden rule: no cold water!

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?'

Tau Suan

Saturday, 27 August 2011



If you know what tau suan is, you probably know that 'tau' ('豆') means beans. What about 'suan'? What does 'suan' mean?

Kiam Chye Ark

Thursday, 25 August 2011

When I was looking at recipes for Itek Teem, I was surprised at the number of ingredients used for the Nyonya soup. Various Peranakan adaptations of Kiam Chye Ark had pig's trotters, assam skin, brandy, nutmeg, and even sea cucumber. These were on top of the kiam chye (pickled mustard greens), ark (duck), pickled plums, and tomatoes found in every recipe, Nyonya or Chinese. It all seemed a bit over-the-top to me, adding so much stuff.

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'

Minced Pork Stir-Fry with Ketchup & Fermented Black Beans

Friday, 19 August 2011

Minced pork stir-fried with fermented black beans is one of the standard items served at places that sell Teochew porridge. It's different from other fbb-based recipes because it's got a good amount of tomato ketchup, a decidedly non-Teochew ingredient which, I suspect, my cousins in China don't use. But ketchup actually goes well with fbb's salty fragrance, adding a distinct dimension not found in fbb dishes that are more traditional.

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".

Pork Stir-Fry with Sesame Oil

Sunday, 7 August 2011

I stir-fry pork with sesame oil; so did my mother, my mother's mother, my mother's mother's mother . . . . I'm guessing that since sesame oil was invented discovered in China, which was supposedly some 2,300 years ago during the Three Kingdoms period, Chinese have been cooking pork in it one way or another. 

The version I make is with garlic, ginger, light soya sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine and salt. I've done it so many times I can practically do it with my eyes closed.

Gong Bao Frog Legs

Monday, 20 June 2011

Back when I was a little girl and living in a kampong, I would jump with joy whenever it rained at night. Why? Because my father would go frog hunting, and there would be a big pot of frog porridge for supper – Teochew style, of course; none of that sticky Cantonese stuff like in Geylang!

The frogs my father caught were wild and, of course, live. If my memory serves me correctly, he didn't use any bait or special equipment except a torchlight. He basically just reached out and grabbed the ones that were croaking the loudest.

(If you're a frog reading this, remember not to croak too loudly when it rains, and my father is in your neighbourhood. And you should leave this blog post immediately, because you really don't want to read the next bit.)

Steamed Fish Head

Saturday, 28 May 2011

What do char kway tiao, or luak, bak chor mee, and Teochew style steamed fish have in common, apart from being Teochew?

Don't know? What if I remove steamed fish from the list, and add or nee, chai tow kway and yam mooncakes? Is it obvious now?

Ladies and gentlemen, all these Teochew dishes have lard – lots and lots of glorious lard!

Baked Cod

Monday, 16 May 2011

In 1950, New York Times science editor Waldemar Kaempffert wrote an article about what miracles the world might see in 2000. At a time when modems hadn't been invented yet, he predicted that access to The New York Times would be possible 'in your home, in the streets, in the trains and cars that carry you to your work, in the bargain basement of every department store'. Video phone calls, TV via phone lines, and faxes that cost next to nothing were also predicted. As was hair removal cream, though it wasn't foreseen that said cream would become a taboo for men: they'd rather die before they let anyone know they use it!

Herbal Mutton Soup

Thursday, 7 April 2011

My mother cooked just about everyday, and not once did she cook mutton, lamb or goat anything – not once. Hence, my knowledge of cooking anything that goes 'Meh-eh-heh!' or 'Baa-aaa!' is pretty paltry. I learn on the job which is, if you ask me, a fun way of learning.

I cooked some lamb chops once. Said chops were marinated with pineapple juice, fresh rosemary and salt, then pan-fried till medium-rare. The chops were delicious but I had a small problem. You know how lamb chops have bones that are curved? I couldn't brown the curved part which had no contact with the pan. Lamb chops served in restaurants are completely seared though, as far as I can remember. How do they do it? Grilling or roasting wouldn't work because the meat would be overcooked by the time the bit which curves inward is brown. The only way I can think of is with a blow torch! Or maybe frying with lots of oil, like almost deep-frying?

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).

Steamed Garlic Pork Ribs

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Let's see . . . I've done pork ribs with orange, coffee, red yeast wine dregs, fermented black beans, teriyaki sauce, and pickled plums. That's quite a lot already but here's one more: Steamed Garlic Pork Ribs. Yup, tonnes and tonnes of garlic; heaps of garlic; garlic galore!

Compared to the other recipes, steamed garlic pork ribs is really simple, using garlic as its flavouring agent.

Hmm, a bit too simple, perhaps?

Nope, don't worry. As Leonardo da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Don't underestimate the plant that sprouted from Satan's left foot as he was evicted by his landlord.

Chinese Rojak

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Once in a while, I go on a binge eating session at a hawker centre to indulge in the "fun stuff". It's a low-carb pig-out so that there's as much variety as possible. Everything is, on its own, not very filling but when they're eaten together in one sitting, leave my friends and I barely able to move. A typical session may see us digging into barbecued stingray, barbecued crabs, stir-fried clams, fish soup, oyster omelette, chendol, ice-kacang and ngoh hiang. Anything else . . . ? Oh yes, we mustn't forget our fibre, so we'd have a plate of fruits and veggies in the most fun way possible – rojak!