Chwee Kueh (水粿; Steamed Rice Cakes)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

There're several types of steamed cakes made with rice flour. If you want to learn how to make these traditional delicacies, chwee kueh would be a good start. It doesn't take long and the ingredients are cheap, so you don't waste much time or money if you fail.

The first step in making chwee kueh is mixing the batter. The main ingredient is rice flour but that alone would make a rather hard kueh. To soften it, you need to add some starch. Some people use tapioca flour; I prefer a mix of cornflour and wheat starch. Of course, the amount of water in the batter is crucial to the success of the steamed kueh. If the ratio of water to flour/starch is wrong, the steamed cake will be too hard or too soft.

Pickled Green Papaya

Monday, 24 October 2011

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

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

Chai Poh Omelette (菜脯卵)

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

PhotobucketMy mother didn't make chai poh omelette (菜脯卵) very often, because chai poh wasn't a regular item in her pantry. So, I can't say I have a fabulous recipe which was passed on from my mother, and which I will pass on to my daughter. This is a recipe I came up with for friends who think that chai poh omelette is de rigueur when they come to my place for Teochew porridge.

My recipe combines the elements that I like in a French omelette – fluffy, creamy and not too oily – and a Chinese omelette – fragrant and aromatic because it's fried till golden brown, unlike its anemic French counterpart.

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!