Archive for the ‘Chinese New Year’ Category

When my brother in Canada announced that his eldest of 4 sons was getting married, we felt elated at hearing the news. That was Nov 2018. With the cold and dreary Canadian winter (ahem … Alberta to be precise), the low-keyed garden wedding was beautifully executed.

Since the garden prenuptial was purely a Canadian family affair, families from afar did not get the feel of the joys of that matrimony. Knowing this brother of mine, he’s not one to fall short for such plan. Let’s put it this way … he’s not an ‘alang-alang’ guy. LOL!

One fine morning we all got up to reading a pleasant message from my brother via WhatsApp

We’re going to Kyoto for the wedding!

So desu ka?

So desu ne!

I was over the moon with that news …

If you’re wondering, why Japan? Well, my brother has embraced a new addition to the family. His daughter-in-law-to-be is a stunning Japanese 😉

By the way, Japan has always been one of the countries I have bookmarked. Coincidentally, it’s also the destination I have promised my younger son with a sworn statement, swearing my promise to bring him to the Land of the Rising Sun, one fine day… Here’s the story if you missed it : My ‘Japanese’ Boy

A Damper!

Just as we were feeling euphoric with the news, our ecstasy suddenly fell flat southward. Alas, the cruel force of gravity! Our joys were short-lived because there was not going to be a trip to Japan. Sob! Sob! Instead, the Japanese contingent preferred to travel to the Land of the Hornbills! So much for my Japanese dream … sigh!

Another stumbling block was the Wedding date: 30th January! It’s the month-end close and coupled with the unceasingly intense news coverage of the pandemic Covid-19. Ai yai yai! So how?

Well, I could choose not to make the trip, but the thought of missing such event that occurs once in a lifetime was just unendurable. So, geared with my laptop et al, I booked my flight and hotel. Hubs and BIL booked theirs separately.

Exit Miss Piggy, Enter Stuart Little

We touched down Kuching International Airport exactly on the first day of the Lunar New Year. While the family were enjoying scrumptious Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner, we had to make do with the mediocre Emirates meals on air. The 24-hour flight and transits covering 4 airports and 3 continents had left me feeling absolutely knackered and groggy. To add salt to injury, 3 of 4 of our check-in luggage went missing, or rather, they did not arrive in the same plane as our ETA, therefore, we had to go through the hassle of filing reports of our missing baggage. At that point, I could not wait to have a nice warm shower and jump into a comfortable bed. Luckily the hotel shower was excellent and the bed was very clean and comfortable. I was in slumberland in no time at all.

Oh by the way, the 3 luggage arrived the next day.

Working Holiday

In between working and delivering my reports, I thought some free moments could be spent with my family or friends, but I was wrong. The time zone difference of 7 hours was the most challenging factor. When I was free, it was already midnight M’sia time and time to hit the sack. This was the mode I had to endure for the next 2 weeks …

I must thank my hubs and especially my younger sis for being the protector of my tummy while I was on “lockdown” in my hotel room

All I needed to tell them was what I craved and hocus-pocus, my wish was granted. Ha ha …

Wedding Day: Morning

The day arrived when the Lands of the Hornbills and the Rising Sun became ONE.

The beautiful bride and the handsome groom exchanged their Holy Matrimonial vows with their unyielding “I do” and promised to be true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for they will love and honour each other until death do them part.

Amen to that!

With teary eyes of joy, families from near and far flocked together and rejoiced in jubilation. 

 

Teary-eyed moment between Mum and Daughter

Congrats Kanoko. You’re next … 😉

Wedding Day: Afternoon

While the melodic morning bells chimed and made way for the fiery afternoon crackers, we adjourned for the traditional Tea Ceremony at the groom’s uncle’s house with a “light” brunch. 

A Wedding tea ceremony is the epitome of respect and gratitude by the newlyweds towards their parents and elders by serving them tea.  It also symbolizes that the bride and groom officially belong into a new and extended family. 

Wedding Day: Evening

My sisters, a niece and I were the first to arrive and therefore we had the first glimpse of the banquet hall without any mortal in sight.

Oh no, we were not trying to be prying “kaypo“, but we were there early as ‘duty managers’. Lol!

Duty calls. The early birds at their work station 😅

Once upon a moment, very immaculate, absolutely quiet and empty …  Sssh… ssshh..

The empty banquet hall was slowly filled with guests, one by one, filling each table to the brim, and zing, boom, bam, the roof caved in and the noise began!  Forget whispering to your neighbour because you would never get your message across to the recipient correctly 🙂

Bless me Your Grace for I have sinned …

The party began with the clamourous and deafening Yuuuuuummmm Seng!

The Prosperity Toss

What an appropriate dish to serve as we were still in Chinese New Year mood.

The higher the better, the messier the table means you have done your part in shouting at the top of your lungs, the blessings of good luck, fortune and happiness. Toss High! Lo Hei! 

Reunion of Family and Friends

Although it’s the Bride and Groom’s day, it was, without a doubt,  an opportune day of reuniting with long lost relatives and friends. My brother must have invited his entire year school mates that evening.  Buddies whom he had not met for more than 30 decades came from near and far!  It was practically a class reunion.  I bet the boys felt 17 again …

Likewise, it was great meeting cousins and relatives whom we have not met in donkeys years!

Only an event as such, could bring us together.

And by the way, I shared my fair share of reuniting with long lost friends whom I have not met since Primary school, since Form 5 and since Form 6.  They have evolved to be successful ‘towkay’ and ‘towkay neos’. One owns the chain of Curry House restaurants throughout Sarawak, one an acclaimed Music teacher and one ‘Superman’ in the person of the Most Hallowed, His Grace, the Archbishop of Sarawak!  I was so thrilled and blessed to have met them all in one evening!

Cheers!

 

Family Bonding

Luckily, I was not the one getting married. A wedding day is a very exhausting affair akin to a full time job with full-blown overtime albeit for a day! Been there, done that. Ha ha …

It was a BIG relief when the party’s over and we’re back on the normal track.

Although I was physically in Kuching for 3 weeks, it was a working ‘holiday’ for me for 2 weeks . I had only one week of ‘me-time’, therefore, it was very precious.  I had consciously chosen to spend more time with my siblings, reminiscing the good old days. There were too many stories to share in too short a time.  We knew Mum and Dad were with us throughout because we could not stop talking and thinking about them.  How else could we be here without them, right?

As we grow older, we’ll find the only things we regret are the things we didn’t do, and one of the things is making the most out of visits to our elderly relatives.

They’re not getting any younger and so are we.

Life is too short so let’s make the most out of it.

Live SIMPLY

Laugh OFTEN

Love DEEPLY

The truth is, a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by the headcount at dinner table, but by the tradition you help family members create; the memories you share, the commitment of time, cares and love you show to one another.

Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as ONE.

Have a Blessed Weekend!

Cheers!

Of Red and Tortoises

My Mum and siblings know it!

Every trip to Kuching, Mum or one of my sisters would buy at least half a dozen of the red, soft, sticky and chewy Chinese pastry filled with mung bean paste for our brekkie. This is one of my must-haves whenever I am in Kuching. The cake (transcribed from the local dialect, ‘kueh‘ ) is moulded to resemble a tortoise shell. 

Remember Grand Master Oogway, one of the characters from DreamWorks animated film, Kung Fu Panda? His character is a tortoise and his name, “Oogway” is the English approximation of the Chinese word for ‘turtle’. In the film, Oogway is shown to be highly venerated for his wisdom, tenacity, knowledge and experience. He is considered a sage (a legendary icon with profound wisdom). 

Here’s one of my favourite quotes *wink*

  

And by the way, tortoises have one of the longest lifespans of any animal. They are known to have lived longer than 150 years, therefore, by equating Red + Tortoise, we arrived at the most powerful equation. In Chinese culture, the colour red symbolizes joy and happiness, whilst the tortoise is traditionally used as a symbol of longevity, power and diligence

Not Red but all-natural Orange Tortoise

Traditionally, Ang Ku Kuehs are prepared during Chinese New Year as offerings to the Chinese deities, as well as auspicious occasions such as a newborn baby’s first month (muah guek) or birthdays of the elderly to symbolize blessings for the child and good fortune and longevity for the elderly.

In modern times, the colour red is no longer restricted to special occasions. These sweet pastries are commercially available all year round in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and Southern parts of Thailand. The two main components in Ang Ku Kueh (AKK) are the skin and the filling. The skin is made from both glutinous rice flour and sweet potato whereas the fillings are usually pre-cooked mung bean paste or grounded peanuts and sugar. The oval-shaped AKK is the result of the imprintment of the tortoise-shape mould used in shaping the sweet pastries.

Here were some photos I took during my last trip to Kuching in August last year. These were taken during the Annual Kuching Food Festival.
   
 

With the mass production of the AKK all year round, I am very certain food dyes are liberally used. I am not a fan of using food colouring in my kitchen, hence, my homemade Ang Ku Kueh will definitely not be Red.

Here’s the result of my all-natural Orange Tortoise Cakes. (Note the colour orange was the result of my using orange sweet potatoes)

  

This recipe is an adaptation of Nasi Lemak Lover’s AKK recipe with several modifications, as to the ratio of glutinous rice flour to sweet potato, reduced sugar and I added a pinch of salt and excluding food colouring. I did not use hot water as I was preparing the AKK in my Thermomix

Ingredient A

  • 180 g mung beans (rinsed with several changes of running water and soaked for 4 hours)

Ingredient B

  • 3 knotted pandan leaves

Ingredients C

  • 100 g sugar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 30 g corn oil

  

Ingredient D

  • 1,000 g water

Ingredient E

  • 220 g sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut in chunks 

Ingredients F

  • 170 g glutinous rice flour
  • 5 g rice flour
  • 15 g sugar
  • 20 g corn oil

Ingredient G

  • 80 g water

  

Ingredient H

  • 700 g water

Additional ingredients

  • Some corn oil
  • Some glutinous rice flour

How to prepare 

   

  1. Place A and B in the Simmering Basket (SB). Place E in the Varoma Dish (VD). Add D. Steam for 45 min/ V/ sp 2
  2. Remove SB and VD. Add the slightly cooled A without B into the TM Bowl. Add C. Blend for 45 sec/ sp 7.  Scrape the sides of the inner bowl and remove the dough into a clean bowl. Cover and set aside.
  3. Place the slightly cooled E into the TM Bowl. Blend for 5 sec/ sp 6. Add F and very slowly pour in G.   Mix for 30 sec/ sp 4. (Note, it is crucial at this stage to check the consistency of the dough. If it is too thick, add water; if too thin, add glutinous rice flour). Knead the dough further for 2 mins. Tip the dough out onto a clean bowl
  4. For the amount of ingredients I used in this recipe, I could make 18 AKK. Use your fantasy on how to put the mung bean filling in the sweet potato dough. I used a measuring spoon of a bit more than 1 Tbsp sweet potato dough and 1 Tbsp of mung bean paste. Try to form a ball and place the ball onto an AKK mould, which was pre-dusted with some glutinous rice flour. Press lightly with your hand and knock out the AKK on both of the long sides of the mould. Immediately sit the AKK on a greased banana leaf
  5. Repeat the process until the doughs are completely used up.  Pour H in the TM Bowl and set the dials to 30 mins/ V/ sp 2.  Once the temp reaches Varoma at approx 22 mins, reduce the temp to 100 deg C. Place the AKK on the Varoma set (Dish and Tray) and stack the Varoma set above the TM Bowl. Continue steaming until done.

   
  
 

Verdict: This was the first time I made Ang Ku Kueh which were not red but all-natural orange tortoise cakes! I have read several recipes, both conventional and thermomix way of preps on the net. Most of them sounded too good to be true. ” … cool the dough and shape in x balls …” or “… weigh each dough and shape in balls … ” or “… divide the dough into x balls …” . Balls? What balls? Honestly, I wished I could do that! Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) made her AKK for the first time and yet she could roll the skin dough into balls (yes, balls!) as well as the mung bean paste. Now, why couldn’t I do that? The sweet potato-glutinous rice flour dough was not easy to handle at all. I added a bit more GRF but dared not go overboard, lest the dough would be too hard and overly tough and chewy. I wanted a soft yet subtly chewy dough, so I ended up scooping the dough with a measuring spoon of 1 Tbsp and tried making a ball on a greased clean plate. Did it work? On the plate, yes, but not on my palm, so no balls. LOL!. Same thing for the mung bean paste. I had to add a bit more oil to make a ball. It was tedious task handlng the “balls” 36 times (skin and filling). I was so craving for AKK and when I finally made it, I was in 7th Heaven, but …..I would NOT suggest eating the AKK hot or warm, ie just coming out from the steamer (Varoma set). It was too soft and the skin was not at all chewy. It was like biting through a gelatinous pastry. Uh-uh! At that point, I was really disappointed and thought the recipe was a big, flat flop! And then I read on fatboo’s blog that the AKK can be kept without refrigeration for up to 3 days; and if they are refrigerated, to re-steam for 5 mins prior to serving. Did I follow the rule? Yes and No. I kept my orange tortoise cakes un-refrigerated for up to 24 hours only, not 3 days. Thanks to fatboo, the AKK tasted sublime the next day, like it should be – soft and chewy with the right balance at the same time. The glossy skin was absolutely fab! I did not even brush extra oil on my little orange tortoise cakes. Likewise, I was really glad I reduced the amount of sugar for the mung bean paste. It was bang on the money, not overly sweet. The subtle pandan flavour and the aroma from the banana leaf were undescribable. Just too nostalgic.

   
 

I had about 10 leftover pieces left. Since I am not used to leaving foods un-refrigerated for longer than 24 hours, I placed my precious orange tortoise cakes in the fridge. I did not re-steam the cakes because if I did, it would be a vicious circle. So I ate a piece of AKK in its cold refrigerated state. That was a BIG mistake! The skin was not chewy anymore. The sweet potato texture became more dominant. The filling was fantastic, though. In hindsight, I should have left the AKK un-refrigerated for 3 days. I guess that’s hinting me to make another batch of these Tortoise cakes, regardless the colour very soon *wink*

Ang Ku Kueh is Hokkien Chinese and is literally translated as Red Tortoise Cake. This sweet Chinese pastry is ubiquitous in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand all year round. For this, I’m linking up this local delicacy to April Tea Time Treats: Local & Regional Recipes hosted by Lavender and Lovage and The Hedgecombers

  

Have a great week!

Cheers!

I was at an Asian store recently with my younger son, and was browsing the shelves in great detail, much to his chagrin.

C’mon, Mama! Don’t take too long. It’s so boring here. Let’s go…

Shhh!! I’m busy here…

 Pfff!

And then…. bingo! I was bewitched by one particular item on the shelf.

This!

  
I was beaming when I saw the familiar looking cookies and my son was delighted I finally found something after striding around for ages on end. Phew! While at the cash counter to pay for my items, the cashier looked up at me and smiled broadly 😃

He said, “You must be a Malaysian, right?”

Huh? How can you tell?” I asked

Because only Malaysians buy the pineapple jam cookies“, he replied with a huge smile on his face 😃

Store-bought vs Homemade

While home, I had a closer look at the plastic case and noticed the Malaysian flag on it. Ah…. that’s why!
 

  

By the way, I did not buy the jam tart because of the flag. I was, infact, as blind as a bat when I reached for the cookies at the time. Now the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

First thing’s first, the tart was crumbly from the first bite. It sort of of melt-in-the-mouth, but there was an unpleasant flavour. It must be the E-number artificial food colouring. No wonder, the pastry was too yellow for my liking. The pineapple paste filling was the stingiest I have ever seen. I could not remember how it tasted like at all, because there was almost nothing filled inside the pastry to draw a taste test. I tasted only the crumbly artificially-buttered-and-coloured pastry, which was quite off-putting, if you ask me.  On the contrary, I must admit that the shape and linear pattern on the cookies were rather impressive. 

  

 
With a lot of effort, we finally finished the store-bought pineapple tarts for more than a week. Then I challenged myself to make my own pineapple tarts from scratch. BUT, I was pampered by a blogger friend, Miss B, when she came to my house last year to pass me a packet of 500g of Redman Pineapple Paste all the way from Singapore (thanks, Miss B). Honestly, that was the best pineapple paste I have tasted ala store-bought. It was not too sweet with natural pineapple flavour and perfect consistency for making pineapple tarts. By the way, I tweaked the paste by spicing it up with some cinnamon and clove powders. Not a lot but just enough to enhance the Nyonya-ness of the paste. LOL!

Here were the results of the store-bought vs homemade pineapple tarts.

I was definitely feeling Goliath-ish that day 🙂

   
  

I have made pineapple tarts before and had always used the same recipe, however, this time, I used another recipe from a friend because I had half a kilogram of pineapple paste! I tweaked her recipe according to personal preference and availability of ingredients

Ingredients

  • 550g plain flour ( I reduced to 450g)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 350g butter (I used 250g cold butter because that’s what I had left in the fridge!)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp castor sugar – fine (I reduced to 1.5 Tbsp)
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence (I did not use)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp hot water (I did not use)
  • A few drops of yellow food colouring (I definitely did NOT use)
  • 500g Redman Pineapple paste (I added freshly ground cloves and a pinch of cinnamon powder and wore rubber gloves to knead the mixed spices into the paste)

Glazing/ Egg wash

  • Mix 1 egg yolk with 1 Tbsp condensed milk

Method (how I usually prep and assemble my tarts without using any flashy tart moulds)
The night or day before: Make equal size pineapple balls using a measuring spoon of 1/2 Tbsp each. Place onto a clean flat plate/ dish and cover with a cling film once done, and let rest in the fridge overnight or until ready to be used
   

1. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl

2. Knead cold rock solid butter into flour with finger tips until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

3. Add in egg yolks and continue kneading until a pastry is formed. It does not take long at all

  
4. Rest the pastry in the fridge for at least 30 minutes

5. Use a measuring spoon of 1 Tbsp to scoop the pastry and flatten it with the palm of your hand. Place the ball-shape pineapple paste in the centre of the flattened pastry. Close it up and form shapes to your preference. I shaped mine in a slightly rectangular form to represent the shape of a pineapple.

  

 6. Brush each tart top surface with the prepared glazing mixture

7. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 18 minutes and apply the egg wash for a second time. Continue baking for 5 minutes.

   
 8. Done!

   
    

Verdict: One thing’s for sure, store-bought pineapple tarts cannot beat homemade ones. The freshly baked cookies with the subtle aroma of the spiced up paste smelt amazing coming out from the oven. With the ‘new’ recipe I have used, it’s not as crumbly as the store-bought tarts. The baked pastry was mildly crispy on the outside but crumbly in the inside. BUT, the filling was top notch generous! In hindsight, I should have used the ingredients which I have used in my original recipe, with icing sugar, less egg yolks plus a bit of egg white and I noted that the percentage of butter to flour should be in the region of 60% or more. Only then I can shout out that I have made 99.9% melt-in-the-mouth pineapple tarts! For now, it’s 90% melt-in-the-mouth. But hey, who’s complaining? There are 4 pineapple cookie jar monsters in the house. The tarts gone in a jiffy!

  

  

Bonus

500g of pineapple paste was a LOT! There were 30 orphaned and naked pineapple balls left. Lol!

With no pastry left, the smart alec in me bought a roll of store-bought puff pastry and made 30 round-shape and 30 star-shape dough. I placed each pineapple paste on the round disc shape dough and topped it up with the star cap. They looked stunning, just like mini edible Terracotta Army . Ha ha ha..! I was so excited with my creative self.

  
 

Then I baked them in the oven….. BUT… I was in for a rude shock!!

Ring-a-ring o’ roses

A pocket full of posies

A-tishoo! A-tishoo!

We all fall down…

  
 

The puff pastry really puffed up and toppled every pineapple ball.

The poor fallen warriors. Lol!

And then the determined me quickly put them back together, while they were still hot.

   
  

Now, don’t they look pretty together?

Verdict: With not enough pastry to encase the paste, the taste of the tart was chewier when baked because there was more pineapple paste to chew on. Guess what, I crazily LOVED the taste and texture, and so did my 3 guys. Not the real McCoy, but it was only a quick fix to make use of everything. Waste not, want not 😜

The pineapple tart is one of the many favourites of all cookies served during Festive occasions in Malaysia and Singapore. Its definitely one of my favourites. With Chinese New Year round the corner, I am linking this post to Cook and Celebrate: Chinese New Year 2016 hosted by Yen from GoodyFoodies, Diana from The Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids 

  
Have a fantastic weekend!

Cheers!
 
 

 

 

 

 

Two months ago, we had a small CNY pot-luck reunion with some closed friends.  The pot-luck was decided at the eleventh hour as we had planned to dine at a restaurant, hoping for a larger turnout. Since most of the invited friends had scheduled prior appointments with their families and friends for separate reunions, the planned quorum dwindled further. 

 

Then one of the girls suggested meeting up for a simple pot-luck reunion at her house. The rest of us were thrilled because the lady-of-the-house is a fantastic cook and I kid you not! Not only that, she is a Jane of all trades and ‘master’ of all, which completely defies the figure of speech, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” 

  

 

As you  can see from the photo collage, we were well fed with simple, purely homemade yet fantastically delicious dishes!  The lady-of-the-house made the absolutely delicious Yee Sang (Prosperity Toss) and tasty Pan Mee (with noodles she made from scratch!).  She also baked a flawless pandan chiffon cake, almond/ cashew cookies, chocolate mousse and kueh sepit (not in photo).  I brought my signature dish, Ngo Hiang.  My friends, X, brought a meringue cake and C brought a bowl of minced mix ingredients and a packet of frozen gyoza wrappers or gyoza skins.

 

It was the last item that ‘pushed’ me to write this post. Thanks, C for “reminding” me 😉

 

By the way, it was a good thing that C did not bring pre-wrapped gyoza‘s.  That way, we all had the opportunity to learn first hand crimping of the gyoza’s from … who else? The lady-of-the-house herself!

  

 

Not the First and Definitely not the Last

 

This was not the first time I have cooked a dish that turned out into something else quite differently but completely edible, like so …

  

 

Making yaki gyoza or guo tie or wo tieh or potstickers has been at the back of my mind for a long, long time. The origin of this dish is Chinese. In China, they are called jiaozi.  The Japanese word gyōza indicates that the word is of non-Japanese origin and was derived from the Shandong Chinese dialect giaozi. There’s 2-in-1-method of cooking gyoza. First they are shallow fried with a small amount of sesame oil in a hot pan or wok until  brown crusts appear on the flat base, and then a small amount of water (or cornstarch mixture) is poured over the dumplings, with the pan or wok covered. The liquid helps to steam the dumplings, creating a texture contrast of the thin crispy bottom and soft and juicy upper part, typical of Chinese cuisine.

 

Why I chose to use the word gyoza is because the ingredients I used as filling were more Japanese than Chinese.  I’m also referring to them as  potstickers, because it’s an English word and a lot easier to pronounce.  Anyway, “pot stick” is the literal translation from the Chinese word guōtiē.

 

Grievous Mistake 

 

I have made a calamitous error when purchasing the gyoza skins or wrappers. I knew the wrappers should be round and not square.  The square ones are used for making Wonton. Without reading the label, I placed the round dumpling wrappers in my shopping basket.  I was a happy bunny that day. 


Finally


I’m gonna make potstickers!! Yay!  


My sons were looking forward to the tasty finger food.  They were thrilled and couldn’t wait for the end result!

 

BUT wait a sec … there’s a difference in the thickness of the wrappers! Gyoza skins are generally thicker than the delicate wonton skins, hence, making them more suitable for frying.  It was a shame I bought the thinner and delicate dumpling skins used for wrapping sio bee or siu mai (popularly served at dim sum restaurants).

  

 

Hmmmm….. I had already marinated a bowl of minced filling for the gyoza.  There was no turning back.  The show must go on!

 

Splashing Plan B !

 

With the flopped original plan of making gyoza or potstickers, I told my clearly disappointed looking boys that there was not going to be any dry finger-food-type gyoza but a wet and soupy dumpling soup! If only you had seen their faces and heard their remarks …

 

I told myself that if the Potstickers won’t stick then I had to transform the dish into something equally appetising, hence, Plan B was put into action 🙂

 

Yup, a splashing runny dumpling soup!

   

 

Ingredients –

  • 300g minced chicken
  • Napa cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1/2 Leek, finely diced (or 2-3 spring onions)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cm Ginger, finely grated
  • 1/2 Carrot, grated
  • 5 cm Daikon, grated
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp sushi and sashimi soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Thai spicy fish powder ( in lieu of bonito powder)
  • 1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine ( in lieu of mirin)
  • 1 Tbsp corn flour
  • Freshly milled white pepper
  • Salt, to taste

1 packet (250g) Round dumpling skins

For the broth

  • 1 big carrot, washed and cut in very thin rounds
  • 2 stalks celery, washed and remove stringy outer layer
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
  • 3 cm ginger, bruised
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chilli (optional)
  • Sesame oil
  • Shaoxing wine
  • Dried Coriander (I did not have fresh coriander that day)
  • 1/2 a chicken stock cube
  • Coarse Sea Salt to taste 
  • Freshly milled white pepper to taste 
  • 1.7L Water, boiled in electric kettle
  • Water, boiled for cooking the dumplings 

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least one hour 
  2. Remove the minced mix at least 15 to 30 mins before starting to wrap the dumplings
  3. In a soup pot, throw in the cut carrots, celery, 2 cloves garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander and chilli. Pour in the boiling water into the pot.  At this point, you can smell the fragrance and aroma of the herbs and vegetables whiffing past your nostrils
  4. Season the broth with sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, salt and white pepper
  5. Cook the broth further until boiled 
  6. In another pot, boil enough water to cook the dumplings per serving. Note: this water is NOT the broth for consumption, but just to cook through the dumplings separately.
  7. Ready to serve.  Place 8 to 10 pieces of dumplings in the hot water. The dumplings are cooked when they start floating to the surface. Scoop the dumplings, removing as much water as possible to a serving bowl. Then scoop the broth picking up some carrots, celery, chillies and coriander and transfer to the serving bowl.

Et voila!

 

Verdict: Without a word said, my boys slurped their bowls of  dumpling soup clean. I think that’s translated as “Thumbs UP” 🙂

Be warned, though, of the spicy filling (spicy fish powder) and the extra chilli in the broth. The extra garlicky flavour differentiates the Gyoza soup with a twist from the milder wonton soup. I will definitely make these again 😉

I’m linking this post to Little Thumbs Up April event “CHICKEN“, organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of my little favourite DIY, and hosted by Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe 

 



Have a great weekend!

Cheers!

It is really amusing to observe a toddler’s reaction when eating a piece of tofu (soybean curd) for the first time.

His face changed and grimaced. “Yuck!” I remembered that was what my older son said when he first tasted tofu. He was 3 years old then. His younger brother said exactly the same thing at his age. Even worst. He spewed everything out, with a contorted face.

Okay, maybe they were the wrong audience to feed those white spongy, tasteless thingy, BUT… kids don’t lie. Remember? 😉

Masking the Curd

I must admit soybean curd on its own is downright bland. That’s why my Mum made us “like” eating tofu by masking and dressing it up when we were younger. She won, because we absolutely loved and still adore Mum’s stuffed fried tofu “tauhu sumbat” with either meat or veg filling. I’d love to replicate Mum’s tauhu sumbat here in Belgium, but deep fat frying of the curd is not what I would venture into in my own kitchen … as yet. I’m sure my boys will be bowled over by the stuffed tofu. Yes, 100% !

On the other hand, I’ve whipped up a much healthier version of steaming the tofu and made a glossy gravy of sesame oil, oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, cooking wine, salt and pepper to taste and corn flour as thickener to go with the once-upon-a-time bland tofu.

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Or simply a bowl of clean healthy soup with cubed tofu and meatballs. And by the way, I made those tofu from scratch! You can check out how I made the soymilk the ‘traditional’ way (no soymilk maker then) and transformed the milk into soybean curd by using s secret ingredient here.

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My boys have grown into teens now and their palates and cravings have also evolved over the years. They want more spices and flavour in the foods they eat. I’m glad for them because I’m a spicy person when it comes to eating, hence, it makes cooking a lot easier for me 😀

The best ‘mask’ yet for a tofu dish is the unbeatable Mapo Tofu dish. I have had these in many Chinese restaurants, and I have always loved the smooth tofu and the heat that comes with it, however, the “heat” is not as spicy as I would love it to be.

So I decided to make my own fiery Mapo Tofu.

Here you go!

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Who or What the hell is Mapo?

Mapo tofu bluntly means ‘pockmarked elderly lady’s soybean curd’. It doesn’t sound very flattering, but the origin of the story dated back to the late 19th Century in Chengdu, the Provincial Capital of Sichuan in SW China. There may be little variations to the details of the story being told, but here’s one I learnt from a Chinese lady who used to run a mini Asian store near where we lived. I told her I wanted to make an authentic platter of mapo tofu dish and I wanted to know of the special ingredients that went in the dish. She was very helpful and immediately told me that the Pi’xian doubanjiang is one of the compulsory ingredients in the dish. I bought a bag of the spicy Sichuan Pixian fermented broad bean paste.

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Then her eyes twinkled and she asked me if I knew why the dish is called Mapo Tofu. I love listening to stories and I was looking forward to her story 😀

Here’s what she told me, “Once a upon a time there was an elderly woman by the name of Mrs Chen. She is said to have pockmarks on her face. She ran an eatery, mainly selling vegetarian dishes, on a route travelled by porters who were carrying heavy loads. Many stopped at her stall for her food. One day, a hungry labourer who had no money to pay for his meal, stopped by at Mrs Chen’s food stall. He barter-traded with Mrs Chen his rapeseed oil (similar to canola oil) and some meat in exchange for lunch. She created and tossed what were available, and topped the tofu-minced meat with infused chilli oil, and THAT was when the Mapo Tofu was born”, as in “Ma” meaning pockmarks and “Po“, which is the first syllable of “popo” meaning an elderly woman or a grandma.

What an interesting story!

Hot and Fiery and 7th Heaven!

According to Wikipedia, a true Mapo Tofu dish is powerfully spicy with both conventional “heat” spiciness and the characteristic “mala” (numbing spiciness) flavour of Sichuan cuisine. The characteristics considered to be the most defining of authentic Mapo Tofu dish must include the following seven specific adjectives:

1. numbing (from the Sichuan peppercorns)
2. spicy hot (from the dried chillies, chilli oil, chilli flakes, doubanjiang)
3. hot temperature (cooked on high heat)
4. fresh (from the fresh ingredients used – meat, spring onions, tofu, garlic, ginger)
5. tender and soft (from the tofu)
6. aromatic (from the stir-fried aromas of the spices)
7. flaky (melts in the mouth)

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As a bonus, I got this recipe from the friendly Chinese lady at the store. She only mentioned the ingredients used but not the measurements. Most unfortunately, she no longer works at the store and I have no clue where she is now, but I am very grateful for the recipe she had briefly shared with me.

Ingredients

Dried chillies (I used 4, cut in halves. Not for the faint-hearted. Be warned!)
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
Medium-firm soybean curd, cubed (I used 500 g)
Vegetable oil (again pure guestimate)
Minced meat (The choice of meat is yours. I used a mixture of pork-beef mince)
Fermented chilli broad bean paste (Sichuan Pixian doubanjiang) – I used 2 Tbsp
3 garlic cloves, finely diced (this one she mentioned)
Small knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced (“agak-agak”)
3 stalks spring onions, cut on the bias (yes, 3…)
Chilli-sesame oil (I used 2 Tbsp)
Chilli flakes (optional – depending on how hot you can take it!)
Salt and sugar (optional)

Cornflour Mixture
Chicken stock or water (this is pure guestimate!)
Light soy sauce
Chinese cooking wine (I used Shaoxing wine)
Cornflour

Note: For Vegetarian version, replace minced meat with water chestnuts, wood ear fungus or any vegetables of your choice.

Method

1. Dry roast/ toast the dry chillies and Sichuan peppercorns in a wok over a medium-high heat stirring continuously for a few seconds. Thereafter, I set aside 2 halves of the toasted dry chillies and transfer the rest to a pestle and mortar and grind finely. Let cool.

2. Prepare the cornflour mixture in a bowl by adding wine, light soy sauce and stock or water.

3. In a pan of water add the cubed soybean curd. Cover and bring to the boil. Drain. Set aside.

4. Add some oil in the wok over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of the ground toasted chilli and Sichuan peppercorns. Cook for a few seconds, stirring well up to the point where you see a thin wisp of smoke. Remove the peppercorns while retaining the oil in a small bowl.

5. In the same wok, add the minced meat. Stir fry for a couple of seconds over a medium- high heat.

6. Add the diced/ minced garlic and ginger. Continue stir-frying until fragrant.

7. Add the doubanjiang paste and the 2 halves of the toasted dry chillies. Stir-fry.

8. Pour in the cornflour mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

9. Add the cubed tofu, prepared chilli oil and chilli-sesame oil. At this stage, taste to check if salt or sugar is required. Bring to the boil and then immediately turn off the heat. Transfer to a serving plate

10. Finally, sprinkle the toasted ground peppercorns and garnish with spring onions.

Here’s my version of the famous Sichuan Mapo Tofu made by a Malaysian in Belgium 😀

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Enjoy!

Mapo Tofu is a very light yet tasty dish with the level of heat that can easily be adjusted to one’s preference. I’m linking this post to Bangers & Mash’s The Spice Trail with the theme “Temple Food

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With my chosen herb in this recipe, I am submitting this post to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs

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Mapo Tofu can be eaten anytime of the year. I don’t mind having this dish served at Chinese New Year lunch or dinner. For this, I’m submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb 2015)” hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

I’m also sharing this post to Cook and Celebrate: Chinese New Year 2015 organised by Yen from Eat Your Heart Out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.

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Tasty Tuesdays with HonestMum



Have a great weekend!

Cheers!