Cereal Butter Prawns (II)

Monday, 13 August 2012

Tips for making cereal butter prawns:

I've come across recipes that use oat which, if you think about it, isn't crisp before you cook it. So you fry it in butter and it's supposed to crisp up? No way! It just turns into a soggy mess. When you see recipes that use oat, run!

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

Sambal Ikan Bilis (II)

Monday, 9 July 2012

Ini ikan bilis; ini kacang.

"Beep beep beep! KT has reached maximum capacity of her Behasa Melayu."

What?! That is so not true. I know lots more Malay words . . . like, um, nasi lemak, mee rebus, ayam, ikan, babi, pulut, pisang goreng . . . .

No, it's not just food words I know. I can count up to 10 in Malay, and I know colour words like hitam, hijau, merah, puteh and biru. I have to confess though it's food, like kacang puteh and nasi kuning, that helps me remember the colour words.

Fried Spring Rolls (Video #135)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Regular readers of this blog would know I made my first cooking video last week. So why is this video #135 instead of #2? Heh . . . heh . . . heh . . . . Because I'm following a Chinese custom.

In the old days far, far away in China, an abundance of male heirs to carry on the family name was considered good fortune. So much so that if someone had only one or two sons – which was tantamount to a tragedy – he'd say he had 11 or 12. IOW, it was how many he actually had, plus 10. Hence, the eldest son became #11, and the second son #12. Note that the creative accounting applied to sons only. It was perfectly alright to have only one daughter, or even none at all.

XO Cognac Fried Chicken Wings

Monday, 13 February 2012

I have a friend who knows a thing or two about food. He doesn't cook but he's a discerning eater. If he says a restaurant is good, then it's either very good or at least above average. His restaurant recommendations never disappoint me, and I have total trust in his opinion.

One day, this friend of mine asked me to bring him some bak chang made by his mother. He was living in New York at the time, and I was going to visit him for a couple of days.

Smuggle some comfort food to the other side of the planet for a dear old friend? No problemo.

I hopped along to his mother's place, and Aunty gave me six bak chang to hand-carry to her son, plus another six as reward for the bak chang mule.

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.

Sambal Ikan Bilis (I)

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The good news is, anchovy stocks have doubled because their predators – the type that doesn't have legs – have declined sharply in numbers. This is where we, the two-legged predators, need to step up our efforts. Eat more anchovies, people!

I don't know about you but I don't need much persuasion to eat sambal ikan bilis. The salty little fishies and deep-fried peanuts make a perfect ménage à trois with the sweet and spicy sambal.

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.

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?'

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).

Thai Stuffed Chicken Wings

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

If you hate bones as much as this chap who's gritting his teeth, and staring daggers at the person who's making him gnaw his food like Bo, then . . .

Korean Sweet Crispy Chicken (Dak Kang Jung)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Fried chicken coated with sugar, chilli flakes, candied ginger, toasted peanuts and sesame seeds – how does it sound? Dak Kang Jung (Sweet & Crispy Chicken) hails from Korea and, like most Korean food, subtlety ain't its middle name. I don't usually like meat that's sweet but it's a different story when it's also spicy and nutty.

Dak Kang Jung has so many layers of flavour that it's hard deciding what I like most about it. I love the ginger 'cause it's sweet and chewy. No wait, I love the peanuts that are so fragrant, and sweet and spicy at the same time. Yup, the spiciness from the chilli flakes is really good. But so is the spiciness from the candied ginger. Oops, I almost forgot the chicken. Yes, there's juicy, succulent fried chicken, but it's redundant 'cause the stuff sticking to it is so good. Oh hang on, it's better with chicken. Nah, it's just as good without chicken . . . . See what I mean?

Cereal Butter Prawns (I)

Friday, 25 February 2011

Melt some butter and, when it's bubbling nicely, grab a few sprigs of curry leaves and rip off the leaves (with style, of course). Toss 'em in the wok, together with a roughly chopped up cili padi. Stir vigorously, knocking the spatula against the wok now and then. (Not sure what the knocking is for but that's what chefs do. Maybe it's a man thing?)

Butter, curry leaves and cili padi are all ingredients with pretty strong flavours but they complement rather than overwhelm each other. Each stands its ground, yet works with the other two to create a killer combination loved by young and old alike.

Pandan Leaf Chicken

Friday, 18 February 2011

Whenever I see Pandan Leaf Chicken, I'd remember the lunch I had with my Australian boss in a Thai restaurant in Melbourne. That was a long time ago, when Australians probably weren't as familiar with Thai food as they are now.

One of the dishes we had was Pandan Leaf Chicken and, as I chatted away, Boss did something that I still remember now. He picked up a piece of fried chicken, unwrapped it, and put the entire pandan leaf in his mouth – no chicken, just the stiff, wiry leaf!

My eyes widened in horror and my mind went, 'WHOA! WHOA! YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT!'

Coffee Pork Ribs

Monday, 7 February 2011

I'm not a coffee addict. I have only seven cups a day . . . .

Just kidding, folks. I have three, max; most days I have two. I always have one first thing in the morning, sometimes with a couple of cream crackers for dunking. On days when I'm a good girl, that's the only coffee I'd have.

My favourite coffees are macchiato (espresso with a dollop of steamed milk) and romano (espresso with lemon zest) when I want 'proper' coffee. I also like latte, for washing down cookies or cake, but that's more like coffee-flavoured milk rather than coffee. Whatever coffee it is, it's always without sugar.

I love food that's slightly bitter, from bitter gourd to bitter chocolate, and anything made with coffee such as coffee cheesecake and coffee candy. Pork ribs deep-fried and coated with coffee? Yeah, baby, yeah!

Orange Glazed Ribs

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Mandarin oranges are a symbol of good luck. Come Chinese New Year, many homes are decorated with mandarin orange plants decked out with lucky ornaments. And crawling from house to house collecting ang baos wouldn't be possible without a pair of orange mandarins.

Given mandarin oranges' importance to Chinese traditions, it's a shame these good luck fruits aren't used in any popular CNY recipe. You know, like pineapples are in pineapple tarts.

Salted Crispy Chicken (盐酥鸡)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

It's chicken; it's deep fried; and it's got lots of seasoning. How can 盐酥鸡 – salted crispy chicken – not be a winner? It's practically the king of nighttime street food in Taiwan, loved by young and old alike.

Eat your heart out, KFC, in the land of 盐酥鸡. (Hey, it rhymes!)

Using a recipe from the Taiwanese cookery teacher here, the 盐酥鸡 I made yesterday bore the classic hallmark of street food – it made me quite thirsty! Hah, so it really had the feel of night market food! There was quite a lot of salt in the seasoning, as well as sugar and spices which masked the saltiness. 盐酥鸡 isn't something that should be eaten too often, I guess, but it makes a great occasional nibble.

Besides being heavily seasoned, good salted crispy chicken must be, as its name says, crispy.

Sugared Yam (反沙芋)

Sunday, 2 January 2011

What do I like that's sweet, made with yam and Teochew? If you think it's the most well-known Teochew dessert, sorry, you're wrong. Nope, it's not Or Nee, 芋泥. It's Sugared Yam, 反沙芋, which is deep fried yam (or taro to Americans) coated with recrystallized sugar. Compared to Or Nee which uses steamed yam, 反沙芋 is lighter but more fragrant.

I first had 反沙芋 at Putien, a Heng Hwa restaurant. As I was enjoying the soft, powdery yam sweetened with a crunchy coat of sugar, I thought there was something decidedly Teochew about the dish although I wasn't in a Teochew restaurant. A quick check on the Internet confirmed my suspicion. In fact, there was no mention at all that 反沙芋 might be a Heng Hwa dish as well.

The key to a good 反沙芋, or any yam dish for that matter, is yam that's really powdery and fragrant. Pick those that have lots of red veins inside, said my grandmother who was a genius at choosing yam. Besides veins, weight is also a good indicator. Light ones are good because they have less water and therefore more starch. Half the battle is won once a good yam is selected.

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.
.

Pork Belly Braised with Red Fermented Beancurd

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

If you like strong flavours, you'd like the Hakka way of cooking pork belly.

The fatty cut is marinated with red fermented beancurd and Shaoxing wine, deep-fried, then braised in the marinade along with fried ginger, shallots and ginger and wood ear fungus.

Don't forget to cook more rice when you make this Hakka dish!