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.

Pickled Green Papaya

Monday, 24 October 2011

The world is divided into two parts: those who love pickles, and those who hate pickles.
....... . . . .. ... . . ... . . .... . .. . . . . . .

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?

Babi Masak Assam

Friday, 23 September 2011

Compared to Shermay Lee, who supposedly began learning Peranakan cuisine when she was 5 years old, Wee Eng Hwa was a very late starter. She began learning Nyonya cookery at the relatively ancient age of 47. Fortunately, she had two advantages over the self-proclaimed culinary child prodigy. One, she could see what was in the wok without standing on a chair. Two, her sifu has been guiding her for some 20 years. Shermay's, even if you believe her marketing spin, kicked the bucket after lesson one.

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'

Sambal Kangkong

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Do you know that there's a connection between kangkong and the God of Fortune, aka 财神爷?

I'm guessing you don't, so here's the story:

3,000 years ago, China was ruled by an emperor who knew diddly squat about everything. As with all useless emperors, he had a wicked concubine, and his was called 妲己.

One day, 妲己 pretended to be ill and said she needed to eat 比干's heart to be cured. 比干 was the good guy who was trying to set the useless emperor on the right path, so the concubine – actually a 'fox spirit' in human form – wanted to get rid of him.

Stuffed Tau Pok

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Working out the recipe for Chinese rojak didn't seem like work since it didn't involve any cooking. In fact, stirring and tasting was my kind of entertainment. Once I figured out how it was done, I wolfed down a huge bowl of fruits and vegetables. That was my '5 a day' as per doctor's orders, in one shot.

I then made a bucketload of the sauce, and kept some chopped up fruits and veggies in the fridge. When I felt like having rojak, all it took was 30 seconds. Rojak had never been so good and quick.

The readymade supply didn't last long and soon, I had to whip up another batch. This time, oh boy, it seemed like a lot of work!

Making the tamarind water was a real pain 'cause it was too thick for the strainer, so I had to pick out the seeds one by one . . . by one . . . . I counted up to 127, then started chanting, "Om . . . ."

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!

Dry-Fried Bitter Gourd

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

There're two types of bitter gourd in my neck of the woods: big and small. I think some health freaks enthusiasts buy the small ones to make juice? Ewww . . . . They look really bitter – the gourds, not the fr . . . sorry, health enthusiasts.

Bitter gourds that are really bitter have hard, narrow ridges and are darker green. The less bitter ones are relatively softer, less green, more yellow, and have wide ridges. The bitter gourds I cook are the big ones that, over the years, have become less bitter. I used to sweat them before cooking but that's not necessary now.

Spicy Pickled Cucumbers

Saturday, 5 February 2011

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I don't know if pickles are part of 'normal' eating for other people but they are for me. In these times when everyone is oh-so-busy, is it necessary to make your pickles? Oh yes it is, when I eat the amount I do! Some folks polish off ice-cream by the tub; I inhale pickles by the truckload. To each his/her own, I guess.

I love achar, my favourite amongst tart and crisp preserved veggies, but making it takes some time. When I want something easier, I go for Jacky Yu's Sichuan style cucumber pickle.

Unlike Nyonya achar, Sichuan style pickling doesn't involve grinding and frying spices or roasting Photobucketpeanuts. A few tablespoonfuls of hot broad bean paste, chilli oil and white sesame oil provide all the oomph needed.

Unscrew a few bottles and pour. How easy is that?

And if I want it even easier, I could opt out of cutting up the cucumbers. A few hard whacks from the cleaver would suffice, which is how it's done by the northerners. They, unlike the southerners, prefer a less fussy approach when it comes to food. Sounds like fun, doesn't it, smashing cucumbers with a big knife?

You could, of course, eat pickles as a condiment. A few slices with any meat – braised, roasted, whatever – would be quite nice. Or you could do what I do. Have a heap of pickles with a few slices of meat.

SPICY PICKLED CUCUMBERS
Source: Xi Yan Cuisine II, Jacky Yu
(Recipe for 12 portions as a side dish)

1.2 kg cucumbers
1 tbsp salt
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
4 tbsp hot broad bean paste
2-4 tbsp chilli oil, to taste
250 g sugar (1¼ cups)
300 ml vinegar (1¼ cups)
4 tbsp white sesame oil

Cut about 2-3 cm from top of cucumbers. Rub cut side of each top against cut side of each cucumber till milky substance appears. Discard tops. Rinse cucumbers and dry with paper towels. Trim tails and cores. Cut into batons. Mix with salt. Leave to sweat for ½ hour. Rinse and dry with paper towels. Mix with all other ingredients and refrigerate, covered. Wait 12 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Pickle may be served after another 12 hours.

Nyonya Achar

Sunday, 9 January 2011

I learnt how to make achar from my landlady's maid who, when she came and cleaned my place every week, occasionally left me little gifts in the fridge. I'm usually too shy (yes, really!) to ask anyone for recipes but I liked her achar so much that I did. She not only wrote it down for me but also – bless her! – brought all the ingredients to my place and showed me how.

Years later, after I bought The Best of Singapore Cooking, I realized that the written recipe she had given me was from Mrs Leong Yee Soo's cookbook. What she actually made, however, was quite different – and better – than Bibik Leong's, with less oil and more sugar. I guess it's important to "season to taste", which was what I did when I recreated the achar recipe I had forgotten because it wasn't written down. That's why I'm writing it down now!

Poached Spinach with Salted and Century Eggs

Saturday, 2 October 2010

There're a couple of vegetables I refer to as Chinese spinach, and yin choi (苋菜) is one of them. I think the proper name is Amaranth or, more specifically, Amaranthus dubius. But please don't take my word for it 'cause I'm not very good with plant names. I just eat them . . . the plants, not the names. Oh yes, eating is my forte!

I love yin choi because the texture is smooth when I cook it with minimal oil, unlike other dark green veggies which can be gritty. It goes very well with dried anchovies, and yin choi in dried anchovy stock – with maybe some fishballs or pork meatballs – makes a quick, delicious soup. Or it can be stir fried with dried anchovies that have been fried till crispy. That's also quite nice.

When I'm tired of pairing yin choi with dried anchovies, I use a mix of century and salted eggs. And the veggies are poached, a nice change from soups and stir fries. I love the dish 'cause it's fresh tasting and there's hardly any oil. I first had it in Chinese restaurants and after ordering it several times, I decided to hack the recipe. I thought it should be an easy dish to make at home, and I was right. It's just poaching a few leaves. How difficult can that be? Sometimes, I use yin choi; other times, I use kow kei (枸杞, aka boxthorn and matrimony vine) like the restaurant version. Nothing to it at all.

Have I stopped ordering poached spinach in restaurants after poaching the recipe? Nope, 'cause I really like the dish. Besides, we should always eat lots of veggies whether we're eating in or out, right?

Recent posts:
Buddha's
Delight (罗汉
斋, 什菜)
Spicy Poached
Pears
Durian with
Sticky Rice
Roasted Cauliflower

Buddha's Delight (罗汉斋)

Monday, 20 September 2010



It was my mother's birthday a few days ago. To commemorate her, I made a big pot of Buddha's delight (罗汉斋) or, if you prefer the less elegant name, chap chai (什菜). It was a dish she always made for our first breakfast of the Chinese New Year.

Caramel Popcorn

Friday, 9 April 2010


A tub of popcorn costs $6-7.

Richard B. McKenzie, in a book titled Why Popcorn Costs So at the Movies, estimates there's a 1,300% profit margin on movie popcorn in the US.

In Israel, it was recently proposed to outlaw overpriced popcorn (link here). Will the Israeli parliament pass the law and set a precedent? Well, I'm not holding my breath.

For me, it's not how much I pay for the popcorn but the hordes of people at the cinema. I like movies during weekends but I don't like the weekend crowds. Easy solution: DVDs and DIY popcorn.

Weekend + movie + popcorn – crowds = happiness.

Roasted Eggplant with Sweet Miso – Nobu's Recipe

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

PhotobucketSo, I was saying yesterday I had two more enormous eggplants in t1he fridge. Well, there's none left now. I've cooked both with the leftover miso paste which I had used to make Miso Cod. I was going to leave one but I was afraid it might get cold and lonely in the fridge . . . haha. I was wondering if I made too much but after I tasted a piece of the slightly charred eggplant, the thought flew out the window. It was mmm mmm mmm mmm MM! The miso enriched with mirin, sake and sugar was awesome with the smoky, lightly burnt eggplant! It was much more distinct than in the Miso Cod dish since eggplants have a more neutral taste compared to cod. I was planning on keeping some for tomorrow – baked eggplants are delicious cold – but before I knew it, I was wiping the last drop of miso from the plate with the last bit of eggplant! As I savoured the final morsel of sweet and soft eggplant, I suddenly remembered Mum used to make steamed eggplants dressed with Chinese fermented soya beans. I must say this Nobu version is much better. I think the mirin, sake and sugar orchestrate a rounder and more mellow flavour compared to Chinese fermented soya beans performing solo. I'm definitely getting more eggplants for a Japanese encore.

Check these out:
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Bitter Melon
Soup with Chicken
Stir Fried Eggplant
with Chicken
Sichuan Spicy
Kung Pao Prawns
Chai Poh (Preserved
Turnip) Omelette

Sam Leong's Batter

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

It was about two years ago when Sam Leong, celebrity chef and kitchen honcho of the Tung Lok group of restaurants, showed off his batter recipe on a local TV program. I got round to testing the recipe recently – better late than never, right? – and I must say it worked very well. I made a pile of fried onion rings for a group of professional judges – my 11 nieces and nephews – who showed universal approval by polishing off everything in five minutes. They even ate the bits of batter that had broken off. That’s gotta mean they really liked it!