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.

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.

Kueh Bengka Ubi (I)

Monday, 15 August 2011

I was going to say it takes five minutes to put together a kueh bengka ubi (baked tapioca cake). But, thinking about it as I write, I'd say it takes only 90 seconds if, unlike me, you're not reading the instructions at the same time, and chasing cats out of the kitchen.

Yup, one and a half minutes is all kueh bengka ubi takes, or I'll eat my hat. Baking time is not included, btw, so please don't say it takes you an hour, and then tell me to eat my hat with sambal. Neither is shopping time or washing up. And I reserve the right to change this agreement any time I like, in whatever way I like. I assume your arms and legs are fully functional and . . . .

Hey, I almost forgot I don't have any hats!

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.

Mee Siam

Friday, 24 June 2011

Prostitute, as in to put one's abilities to base or unworthy use. There was a man who refused to prostitute himself: Ong Teng Cheong, President of Singapore, 1993-1999.

As the Head of State, Ong Teng Cheong was entrusted with the task of protecting Singapore's past financial reserves. He had the power to veto any withdrawal – in theory.

In reality, President Ong didn't even know how much reserves there were until 1996. He got the information only because he asked, and kept asking for three whole years. Then in 1998, the state-owned Post Office Savings Bank and the national reserves it was holding was divested without even his knowledge, never mind consent. He had to remind the cabinet that the divestment without his permission was against the Constitution of Singapore. And there were no procedures for the protection of past reserves. So he went about setting up the procedures, and that took him his entire six-year presidential term.

Sambal Udang

Monday, 13 June 2011

It wasn't just any ordinary sambal udang. It was Sambal Udang made with a recipe from Cooking for the President.

Who was cooking for which president? That'd be Mrs Wee Kim Wee cooking for her husband, as told by their daughter, Wee Eng Hwa.

Sambal udang was the first recipe I tried from Cooking for the President – Reflections & Recipes of Mrs Wee Kim Wee.

How was the Wee family recipe for prawns smothered in chilli paste?

It was excellent!

Pandan Chiffon Cake (I)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

I'm in the mood for a local cake, and no cake is more local than Pandan Chiffon. I start by comparing recipes from Epicurative, The Best of Singapore Cooking, The Raffles Hotel Cookbook, and the four featured by ieat. I put everything in Excel with the amount of flour in every recipe standardized to 100 g, and all the other ingredients adjusted proportionately. (Yup, I'm a geek, and proud of it.) Here's the spreadsheet (strictly for geeks like me):

Once I'm comparing apples and apples, it's obvious The Best of Singapore Cooking has heap loads of everything, from coconut milk to oil, egg whites, egg yolks, and especially sugar and baking powder. Every . . . single . . . thing! Hmm, doesn't seem right. BSC – out!

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!

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.

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".

Thai Basil Chicken

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Why are fat people fat?

The finger has pointed at sugar, carbs, fat, high-fructose corn syrup, metabolic rate, genes, not having breakfast, having a heavy dinner, having a late dinner, some virus (!), fast food, packaged food, soft drinks, portion sizes, depression, boredom, childhood obesity, hormones, mixing with other fat people, lack of information, lack of education, lack of exercise, lack of will power, etc, etc.

Anything and everything under the sun that can be blamed has been.

Chicken with Rice Wine Dregs

Thursday, 12 August 2010

I was wandering round my favourite hangout in the neighbourhood – aka supermart – when I noticed some cookbooks in the fruits and vegetables section. Instead of being tucked away in some obscure corner, they were occupying prime real estate, right under my nose.

If you want the customer to buy something, put it where he's bound to walk past, at eye-level. This is one of the oldest tricks of supermarkets.

True enough, I stood amidst the apples, oranges and Russet potatoes and started browsing the cookbooks.

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.

Teriyaki Ribs

Thursday, 1 July 2010


A man and woman got into a lift together. She greeted him by saying, "T-G-I-F."

He smiled at her and replied, "S-H-I-T."

She looked at him, puzzled, and said again, "T-G-I-F."

He acknowledged her remark again by answering, "S-H-I-T."

The woman was trying to be friendly, so she smiled her biggest smile and repeated, as sweetly as possible, "T-G-I-F."

The man smiled back at her and once again replied with a quizzical expression, "S-H-I-T."

The woman finally said, 'T-G-I-F – thank God it's Friday, get it?"

Garlic Bread

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

I've finally found a rustic baguette, or baguette à l'ancienne, in Singapore. Compared to the regular loaf, the rustic, traditional version is given a much longer fermentation. This gives the crust a darker colour and a rich, nutty aroma. It also makes the crumb – the white part of the bread – soft, chewy and really flavourful

When I was living in Paris, I used to stroll to Champs-Elysées most Sundays – took me all of five minutes – and grab a baguette a l'ancienne for breakfast. Most bakeries in central Paris were closed on Sundays but the really touristy areas had the odd one open.

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.

Carrot Cake

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

PhotobucketCan a cake be moist yet light at the same time? Isn't that like asking a woman to be skinny and curvy? Yes, ideal women do exist, and so do ideal cakes.

I'm not that into cakes and neither is the rest of my extended clan. We find most cakes too rich and filling, especially after a heavy meal. And our meals are always heavy when we get together!

But there's one cake that has everyone's approval: Angela Nilsen's Carrot Cake, from The Ultimate Recipe Book. We love it 'cause it's really moist yet really light. No one needs any strong Chinese tea to wash down this yummy babe!

Saba Shioyaki (Grilled Mackerel)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

PhotobucketI had a little birthday party today. It was a small, cosy affair with just the birthday girl, two of her buddies and me.

Everyone at the party loves fish, so I made a fish dish, saba shioyaki. The fillets, grilled and seasoned sparingly with sea salt, turned out beautifully although it was only my second time DIYing saba shioyaki.

When I made my first attempt last night, I didn't feel too confident. Mum always said fresh is best but the mackerel I had were frozen and shipped all the way from Norway. I was also afraid my little toaster oven might not be hot enough for a charred and crisp outside whilst keeping the inside juicy and moist.

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

Xi Yan's Kou Shui Ji (口水鸡) – Drool Worthy Recipe

Monday, 9 November 2009

PhotobucketI'm not sure what Kou Shui Ji (口水鸡) should be in English. This is a Jacky Yu (of Xi Yan Private Dining) recipe, which he has named Chicken in Hot and Spicy Sauce. But I think that's a bit too generic. Sounds like Kung Pao Chicken, which is completely different. '口水' actually means 'saliva' and '鸡' means 'chicken'. Hence, '口水鸡' is sometimes translated into 'Saliva Chicken'. Ho . . . hum, I don't like that either. The translation is a bit too literal and direct for me. I'm leaning towards Sichuan Drooling Good Chicken, meaning it's way better than 'finger lickin' good" fried chicken. What do you think? Kou Shui Ji is indeed drool worthy, especially with the addition of century eggs, which are not found in the original Sichuan version. It's Jacky Yu's personal touch and once again, it's a brilliant adaptation. The spicy and fragrant sauce brings out the creaminess of the century eggs, which adds a different textural dimension to the dish. And provides a nice contrast to the crunchy Sichuan peppercorns and peanuts. But if you're not into century eggs, by all means leave them out. With or without the scary looking black eggs, the poached chicken is really yummy with the sauce and condiments. I like this dish so much I have a bottle of the sauce mixed and ready to be used with just a few shakes. I drizzle it on not just chicken but also pork, prawns, squids and instant noodles. This is my Homemade Sichuan Miracle Sauce. It's good for everything!

Other Jacky Yu (Xi Yan) recipes:
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Prawns with Red
Fermented Beancurd
Crispy Pork Ribs with
Dried Tangerine Peel
Tomatoes in Sesame
Wasabi Sauce
No-Steam Radish Cake
(Lor Bak Ko)