Archive for the ‘Chinese’ Category

1st November this year fell on a Tuesday. I could have made a bridge for a longer “weekend”, but could not due to my workload at work 😦

I was glad to break off work for that one day that week for a yearly family reunion, hosted by one of my SIL’s. While driving to my SIL’s, we stopped at a friend’s house. I received a text message from F that she was giving away some of her ‘harvests’ in her garden. 

Guess what? I hand-picked the chillies in her garden. They were so, very, very fresh! She wanted only the red ones, so I helped myself to the green chillies. I didn’t mind the ‘raw version’ at all, because I knew if I left the chillies wrapped in absorbent paper in the lower drawer of the fridge, the chillies would ripen. 

And I was right!

10 days later, some of the birds’ eye chillies had turned to a lovely bright orange-crimson colour. And I knew exactly where some of the chillies would end up into 😉

Thai Chef vs Me

There was one Wednesday that I took a day off and brought my 2 sons out for lunch (Note, both boys had half-day school / Univ on a Wednesday). We went to a Thai resto near our place. 

For starter, I ordered Tom Yum Goong (TYG) for us. It was a good TYG, but I missed that Oomph in their soup. It was a wee bit too lame. 

Saturday came, and TYG was in the pipeline for our lunch menu.

So here it was, my version vs the Thai Chef’s. 


And not only that, I made my TYG in my thermomix! 


To be honest, I could eat my TYG all day without anything else that day, because it had been a while since I last made the soup! I looked back at a post I wrote; it was in March this year when I had friends over. You can read it all … Here 🙂

Because I love bold-tasting soups, I thought of a way to totally infuse the aromatics in the soup first before proceeding further. Be warned! It’s a highly seasoned soup that hits the palate and warms the heart without burning, if you know what I meant 😉

(Note: This is my own recipe using my preferred method – tried and tested – after a few trials and errors).  

Please be aware that some measurements are not given as only you will know how much or how little you want to put in the dish. Remember, “Ut quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum” or what is food for one man may be bitter poison to others. 

Ingredients A

  • 2 cm piece galangal
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 lemongrass
  • 2 coriander roots

Ingredient B

  • 5 g cooking oil / coconut oil

Ingredient C

  • 1,500 g water

Ingredients D

  • Lemongrass, bruised and halved
  • Shallots, halved 
  • Galangal, sliced
  • Bird’s eye chillies, lightly bruised
  • Kaffir lime leaves, lightly bruised with the fingers

Ingredients E

  • Fish sauce, to taste
  • Homemade chilli paste, eyeball for colour, taste and flavour
  • Salt, to taste 

Ingredients F

  • Prawns, shelled 
  • Mushrooms, sliced 

Ingredient G

  • Lime juice, to taste
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved or whole

Ingredient H

  • Fresh coriander 

Steps –

  • Place A in the TM bowl. Grind 5 sec/ sp 10  * 2

  • Add B. Sauté for 3 mins/100C/ sp 2 
  • Place D in SB and add C. Cook for 15 mins/ 120C/ sp1


  • Remove the SB and tip the aromatics in a bowl. Set aside for garnish later.

  • Transfer F in the SB. Cook for 4 mins/120C/ sp 1 or until the prawns are cooked. 

  • Remove the SB and set aside the cooked prawns, mushrooms, etc
  • Add E. Cook further for 5 mins/ 120C/ sp 2


  • Add G. Stir for 1 min/ R/ spoon
  • Assemble a serving bowl with prawns, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, some slices of galangal, bird’s eye chillies, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Garnish with H.
  • Done!


Happy 1st Anniversary!

I made the TYG to go with my Nasi Ulam and baked spiced chicken. Our Saturday lunch was the bomb, by the way, with full-blown explosion of flavours. Yup, my kind of food 🙂


There’s no better way to celebrate my first year anniversary of owning the thermomix than sharing with you some of the dishes I have conjured the past 12 months using my most used kitchen gadget today!

And as they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘ …


IMPORTANT NOTICE : Please be aware that I’m neither a Consultant/ Advisor nor an employee of Thermomix.  I am NOT paid anything from any parties. I just happened to own a thermomix and love doing what I’m doing and will continue doing so. 

Happy Mid-Week ya’ll!

Cheers!

The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival is a statutory holiday in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet. It commemorates the life and death of the famous scholar and China’s first poet, Qu Yuan (Chiu Yuan). The festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month (Double Fifth) on the Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, hence, the date varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar. This year, the festival falls on 9th June, 2016. Although it is not a public holiday in most parts of the world, most Chinese around the world celebrate the festival by preparing the most iconic food of the festival, the sticky rice dumpling. There’s no wonder the Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Dumpling Festival (Note: there’s a sad legend behind this Festival at the end of this post)



Journey of Love

Making the sticky rice dumpling, or most popularly known as Bak Chang (meat dumpling) in the lingo I am familiar with, has always been at the back of my mind since time immemorial.  

And since time immemorial, I have been drooling looking at photos of one of the dreamiest dumplings on my planet of food list. 

I have been telling myself for years, “I must make these dumplings“… BUT… Zilch!  To be honest, it’s not difficult  to make Bak Chang, but the laborious cum tedious process was the stumbling block. IF only I had kitchen helpers …

When my Mum and big sis came to visit me two summers ago, I was thrilled. I told them that we could dedicate an entire day making  my sought-after glutinous rice dumplings.  No probs, promised Mum and sis 🙂

Labour of Love

There are many different varieties of Bak Chang ~ Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Nyonya… gosh, I’m out of breath now … and the list goes on, still. Therefore, in my opinion, there is no one rigid way to making these dumplings. The filling for the dumpling varies, which can be customised to one’s preference. For instance, some people may like a bit of sweet in their savoury Bak Chang, using fatty pork belly instead of lean meat or some colour in their glutinous rice (from white to blue tip to black … Hmmm…sounds like the belt grading systems of Taekwondo or perhaps Tang Soo Do or Jiu Jitsu? Lol!). Well, I am not fastidious about all that. I don’t care! Just give me the Bak Chang, please.  

By the way, I was glad to observe Mum and big sis conjuring the magnificent Bak Chang live in my kitchen two summers ago *wink*

I showed them the ingredients for our Bak Chang. Both ladies nodded their heads, but Mum winced when she looked at the dried bamboo leaves. She was not use to using the flimsy-feel of the bamboo leaves. Mum used to wrap her Bak Chang with the sturdier and fragrant giant pandan leaves, which were in abundance in Sarawak and Kalimantan.  Big sis had no issues with using the bamboo leaves because she had made Bak Chang in KL and Batu Pahat. Phew

I captured the 2 sifus with the camera on my iPhone. While Mum chopped cloves after cloves of garlic and shallots, big sis did all the stir fries. Every single ingredient was treated individually and separately.

The dried bamboo leaves were soaked with several changes of water overnight. On the day of use, new water replaced the overnight water. Again, several changes of water took place until the water ran clear. Each leaf was dabbed dry with a towel. The cleaned bamboo leaves were then set aside until they were ready to be used.


The glutinous rice was washed and soaked for at least 2 hours. The shallots were fried first until crispy and were removed with a slotted spoon leaving the aromatic oil in the wok. Then my sis stir fried plenty of chopped garlic in the same oil  until fragrant and she added the pre-soaked glutinous rice. The rice was seasoned with salt, chicken granules, freshly-milled white (Sarawak) peppercorns, light soy sauce, mushroom oyster sauce, freshly-ground dry-roasted coriander seeds and 5-spice powder, all to taste. She then quickly mixed and stir-fried the glutinous rice and added half of the crispy shallots. Note, the rice must not be completely cooked.

In another pan, my sis added some cooking oil and fried some chopped garlic until fragrant. She then added the minced pork and diced pre-soaked shiitake and seasoned with light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, mushroom oyster sauce, a little drizzle of sesame oil, freshly-ground coriander seeds, 5-spice powder, freshly-milled white pepper, salt and a dash of sugar, to taste. Finally, she added the remaining crispy fried shallots.



The dried shrimps were pre-soaked before they were quickly stir-fried. The peanuts were boiled. Then there were store-bought vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts and, yes… chickpeas, too!  That’s the beauty of homemade rustic Bak Chang 😀

A Picture is worth a Thousand Words …

Thank you dearest Chefs for being the BEST kitchen helpers in the whole wide world. Love ya LOTS!


The journey of love continued with the boiling of the wrapped Bak Chang in a big pot of boiling water. A bit of salt was added to the water and a batch of Bak Chang was submerged in the boiled water. 

These Bak Chang were boiled for at least 3 hours and then hanged briefly to dry before consuming


The End of a Gruelling Journey: The Moment of Truth …
Tada!


Honestly speaking, it was beyond BombDiggity yummy inside AND out!


I wish to relive that journey of love on my own some day… Perhaps in my thermomix *wink*

Too bad, though, two years on, I’m still drooling at the photos of my Mum’s and sister’s glutinous rice meat dumplings!  *blush*

Pinch

Ouch!

Oh by the way, the Bak Chang froze brilliantly. You need to steam them for at least half an hour or more until they are warmed through. 

It made excellent wholesome breakfast or a quick lunch, high-tea or dinner. 

Mum and sis, thank you so much for taking my offer. You have succeeded in banishing my longstanding torments of craving for this thingie, here, in my very own kitchen! I’m sure you would have made the Bak Chang differently in your own kitchen, but with my simple and challenging bag of ingredients, we have managed to incorporate a bit of China in the tetrahedral-shaped glutinous rice savoury meat dumpling ~ Hakka (minced meat and boiled peanuts), Teochew (crispy fried shallots and 5-spice powder), Nyonya (ground coriander seeds), Hokkien (dark soy sauce and chestnuts). What more could I ask for 🙂

Making Bak Chang is by no means an easy chore. It entails a string of well-thought and structured process.

I salute to all of you out there in making this annual repertoire of one of the most arduous and relentless products seemingly easy looking.

A Sad Legend Has It … 

(Adapted and modified from Beijing International “A Sad Story Of Qu Yuan” and the Wikipedia)

Have you ever wondered the connection between eating the glutinous rice dumpling with the Dragon Boat Festival? Well, I was one of the people who actually wondered about it, so I delved a bit further and read about the legend of the Chinese poet, Qu Yuan (or Chiu Yuan).

Qu Yuan was the number one advisor of the kingdom of Chu, however people were jealous of his position which also affected the King’s trust in him. The King unheeded his advice which resulted in the King’s death. The new King continued to enjoy the luxury life full of scandals and corruption. He thought Qu Yuan was a nuisance and a hindrance in his kingdom, so he was exiled. During that period, Qu Yuan wrote many patriotic poems.

One day, Qu Yuan met a fisherman, who never cared about the country and was quite satisfied with his life. The poet thought that the people only cared about themselves and not the future of the country. For the poet, it was meaningless to live, so he killed himself by drowning in the Miluo river.  The fishermen tried to rescue him but the body was never found.

In order to keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, they beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles.  They also threw rice into the water both as a food offering to Qu Yuan‘s spirit and also to distract the fish away from his body. However, the legend continues, that late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends and told them that he died because he had taken himself under the river. Then, he asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon.

These packages became a traditional food known as zongzi (Bak Chang or glutinous rice dumpling). The lumps of rice are now wrapped in leaves instead of silk. The act of racing to search for his body in boats gradually became the cultural tradition of dragon boat racing, held on the anniversary of his death every year on the fifth day of the fifth month (equivalent to Thursday, 9th June, 2016 in the Gregorian calendar)

Happy Duanwu Festival !

Happy Dragon Boat Festival to all celebrating!


Enjoy your Bak Chang 🙂

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!

Kuching has transformed quite tremendously since our previous trip in 2008! The newest shopping mall then was The Spring at Kenyalang Park. Now there were several malls burgeoning the city ~ Plaza Merdeka, CityOne Megamall, Hills Shopping Mall, Boulevard Shopping Mall, Green Heights Mall, etc. All those were new to me when I was back in Kuching last month! With Kuching slowly becoming a concrete jungle, my geography of the city has gone a bit haywire.

We were really fortunate to have a reliable and faithful chaufeuress in the person of my younger sister. Thanks, sis for showing us around and the fact that you took leave from Day 1 of our stay in Kuching, made our trip remarkably easy and comfortable.

Save the Best for Last?

Our ETD was in the evening of 27th Aug. I told my Mum and sisters that ~ as far as possible ~ we wanted to stay away from ‘heavy’ meals at least one day before our departure to avoid embarrassing moments while flying. It wasn’t easy for the boys to shun good foods everyday, so they ended up having a rather heavy porky dinner at Oinks! the night before. My older son was techinally knocked out (TKO) after the heavy, slap up oinky dinner. He slept through the entire morning the next day (our last day in Kuching!!). So did my younger son. LOL!

At around noon on the day of our ETD, my younger sis drove us ~ hubby and I ~ excluding the boys around a residential area. I had absolutely no clue where my sister was bringing us to. We thought she wanted to stop by at her colleague’s house, and yes, she did stop, only to find a parking spot in front of a rather hustle & bustle looking private open car porch smack in the centre of a residential area at Pisang Road West!

  
 

It was a double~storey corner unit terrace house, with red lanterns and fake fire crackers dangling as decorations in the open car porch. Wasn’t Chinese New Year celebrated in February? I was curious. My sis didn’t say a word..

The spiked gates were wide open, beckoning us to walk into the open car porch. Then I noticed the familiar sight. I almost screamed with elation! My sister had saved the best for last! She brought us to lunch one of my favourite local dishes ~ Hakka pounded tea rich or more popularly known as Lui Cha (Fon).

Lui = Pounded or crushed

Cha = Tea

Fon = Rice

  
 

The owner and chef are a husband-and-wife team. I would not have believed the long-haired, biker/rocker-look Mr Lee was the chef! He certainly cooked up a jolly tasty Lui Cha Fon!

   
  

By the way, it was the first time my hubby tasted Lui Cha. His first impression was “Yuck! Green soup with rice and toppings! What the heck am I eating?!” And boy, was he in for a surprise! He had to eat his own words because he actually finished everything! He said the lunch was a discovery for him. He didn’t like the first spoonful but the taste slowly became more and more favourable. It was definitely an acquired taste.

   
  

And we licked our bowls completely clean! Yummy!

Verdict: We ordered the regular bowl at RM5 which I regretted at hindsight! I should have ordered the BIG bowl at RM6! It was a light vegetarian dish. Mr Lee and his wife served the Lui Cha with brown rice garnished with 6 “treasures” (cangkuk manis, long beans, chai por, tau hu, Chinese cabbage and roasted peanuts) which was one treasure shy of my Homemade Lui Cha Fon from scratch 😜

Homemade Lui Cha Fon from scratch by yours truly! 🙂

 

7 “treasures” accompanying my homemade Lui Cha Fon

 
 

Honestly speaking, the fact that my Ang Moh  (Caucasian) husband was able to finish the entire bowl showed that the Lee’s Lui Cha Fon was not done the authentic and classical or traditional way which would be a lot more bitter and bland. The Lee’s pounded tea rice was lightly enhanced which complemented the tasty minty tea soup. That’s the twist and they played their cards well (commercially).  They have converted many Lui Cha haters to lovers with their tasty Lui Cha Fon.

And please don’t forget to try their coconut jelly for RM 2 a pot. It was cool and refreshing. Perfect while waiting for your hot tea rice to be served or superb as dessert. Forget about coming after 1.30pm. The Lee’s are opened for business from 10 am to 2pm only from Mon to Sat.

FYI, I will definitely go back there for the BIG bowl. I have warned my sis 😜
 

Cheers!

I must confess that I was a hopeless, pathetic cook when I moved to Belgium permanently in 1995. I was a nervous wreck in the kitchen not knowing how to start…. until I watched Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook which was aired on BBC1 on weekday mornings. To be honest, I could relate myself to one of the categories of “useless” cooks, “Can’t Cook!” *blush*

One of my utterly useless kitchen disasters was baking a swiss roll cake for the first time that turned out leather-hard and completely un-rollable. It was meant to be a surprise for hubby’s birthday, but alas, hubby didn’t get to see a rolled cake because it went in the dustbin! And then I wanted to slow cook a pigeon which I got from my late MIL. The pigeon was freshly hunted when I first got it, but I froze the bird when I got home. Well, that’s OK because I was not in a hurry to make a meal out of the bird then. When I finally wanted a bird meal, I took the pigeon out from the freezer and dumped it in the slow cooker and filled the cooker with water that literally drowned the bird! No matter how long I cooked the bird, it remained hard rock frozen! So in went the bird in the bin!

There was no such thing as internet then. Or maybe there was, but I did not own a PC, and smartphones were unheard of then. Luckily, there were several “ancient” ways to refer to recipes, id est, recipe books, magazines, my prized helpline – Mummy dearest – and of course the multitude of cookery channels on the telly!

Being a newbie in a non-English speaking country, BBC was a big relief for me, because (1) BBC1 had loads of back-to-back cookery programs and (2) the programs were in English!! Yay!!

Ready, Steady, Cook!

Strange, but true, I first saw James Martin, one of the Chefs on Ready Steady Cook, prepared this ancient Chinese technique of smoking chicken in a wok in 20 minutes! He used only 3 ingredients – uncooked rice, sugar and tea – as the smoking mix.

>>> Fast forward 

Thanks to RSC, I have done several tea-smokings in my kitchen, in the meantime, and have experimented with different spices, herbs and proteins : tea-smoked salmon, duck, chicken and turkey.   

Here’s one I made recently, tea-smoked chicken thighs with Asian ingredients.

  You need –

  • 1 kg chicken thighs/ cutlets, skinned
  • 3 Stalks Spring Onions
  • Root Ginger, sliced (skin on)
  • 1/2 cup Hua Diao Rice Wine
  • Mushroom Soy Sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • Sesame oil

Marinate the chicken overnight in a ziplock bag.  

For glazing – 

  • Water
  • Honey

 

The next day, boil 500 ml water in an electric kettle. Remove the marinated chicken on a plate. Add the marinade in a pan and pour in boiling water. Cook the gravy until simmering hot. Add the chicken pieces in the pan. Boil the broth with the chicken until bubbling hot. Season to taste. Total cooking time should be at least 30 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces and transfer them to a colander to release any excess liquid. 

Glaze the chicken pieces with the honey water. 

Next prepare the tea-smoked ingredients –

  • 1/2 cup uncooked fragrant rice 
  • 1/4 cup mixture of light brown and palm sugars (or the less expensive white sugar works well, too)
  • 6 sachets of Jasmine tea with petals (as a matter of fact, any type of loose tea leaves will do)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Sichuan peppercorns 
  • 1 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
  • 4 dried chillies
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • Heavy-duty aluminium foil 

  

Toss and mix the ingredients on a heavy-duty aluminium foil.

 

Add rinds of one lemon and place the aluminium foil in a wok. A wire rack is suspended above the tea-smoked mix.  

Heat the wok on medium to high heat, covered, until a few wisps of smoke escape from the lid. Then transfer the honey-glazed chicken pieces on the wire rack.   

Keep smoking the chicken for 45 minutes to 1 hour  (Note: I have an induction stove-top, hence  the longer smoking time

Ta-da! 

 Serve the tea-smoked chicken with home-made pickled red onion and some salad leaves. Yums!

   

My 100% home-made summer platter of tea-smoked chicken with pasta, pickled red onion, chunky guacamole and salad leaves

  
 

Verdict: As this is an indoor cooking (with an outdoor mindset), always pre-cook and season your proteins before smoking (or steaming) them. I found  marinating the meat overnight makes the meat more flavourful. The tea-smoking method is not a cooking method but is simply a technique to infuse the proteins to another level of imbued fragrance of smokiness.  It is important not to pre-smoke too long as the final result will be shamefully bitter, literally speaking. 

The selections of spices and herbs are just endless. For instance, Duck goes well with star anise, lemon and orange zests and five-spiced powder.  Salmon goes well with dhill, mixed peppercorns and lemon rind, Lamb with rosemary and thyme, and etcetera.  The sky is the limit and of course, most importantly, think out of the box and get out of your comfort zone and enjoy! And by the way, I’m learning all the time 😉

With “TEA” as the oddball and key ingredient in this recipe, I’m hopping over to the blog-hop event at Little Thumbs Up (July 2015 theme: TEA) organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of my little favourite DIY, and hosted by Cheryl of Baking Taitai

   

I’m also sharing this post over at Cooking with Herbs for July: BBQ, hosted by Karen of Lavender & Lovage

With Summer in mind, this indoor smoking technique with an outdoor mindset, is perfect for the July Tea Time Treats with the theme “BBQ Fodder“, hosted by Janie of The Hedgecombers

    
It is with deep regret to have learnt that this is the last time Lucy at Supergolden Bakes will be hosting one of the coolest and most flexible blog-hop challenges. I wish her all the best and success in her new job. Congratulations, Lucy. I have enjoyed reading her blog and have drooled over her most amazing bakes! Without much ado, I’m linking this post at  #CookBlogShare 

 

    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!