Archive for the ‘Shellfish’ Category

A normal Saturday lunch in my household is usually a quick and hassle-free one, using available ingredients in my kitchen larder, fridge and freezer.

Last Saturday, however, my fridge was unusually, bare. I had a few stalks of spring onions, with parts of the greens turning brown, two small carrots, a green chilli and 8 small witloofs (Belgian endives) that I bought the previous week or two. Okay, veg was taken care of. Now, the protein. I walked down the basement where the freezer stands under the stairs. I started rummaging the compartments of the freezer for any interesting proteins that caught my eye.

Bingo!

I found not one, but two!! ‘Hidden’ somewhere in one of the freezer compartments, were 2 packets of prawns; one, with shells intact, and another, without. That was a gem of a find, I must say. I must have bought excess packets of prawns when I had friends over for a Laksa feast not too long ago.


Nope, I was not going to make Laksa again, so I had to put on my thinking cap. The first thing that came to my mind was curried prawns, but that would be too boring as I have cooked that on several occasions. Furthermore, I was missing some vital ingredients, so definitely no curry prawns 🙂

The Books That Saved My Day

As a matter of fact, I did not have to look far at all. In March, I had placed orders for 2 Thermomix Cookbooks. I had wanted to order more books, but due to the exorbitant shipping costs from Asia to Europe, I had to weigh my priorities. I contacted the “Suppliers” who immediately sent snapshots of the Table of Contents of a few Cookbooks. I was in love with 2 of the Cookbooks! “I just got to have them!” . Some friends wanted to know why I needed to buy the Cookbooks when I can already cook most of the Malaysian dishes. Erm …. Some dishes typical to West Malaysians are only starting to gain popularity in Sarawak and Sabah. When I was a kid growing up in Kuching, chwee kueh, pan mee, otak-otak, pulut tai tai, lo mai gai, lu rou fan, etc were unheard of. I grew up eating dishes I knew best : kolo mee, midin, mani chai, kueh chap, umai, kompia, kampua mee, Sarawak laksa, manok pansoh, terung dayak, ka chang ma, belacan beehoon, teh C special, linut, tomato kway teow, tumpik, kek lapis Sarawak … Well, I am pretty certain these dishes were unknown to our West Malaysian friends a decade or two ago, too. When I had my first taste of pan mee and chwee kueh in Belgium some 3 years ago, prepared by a friend who hails from KL, I could not get enough of those dishes, id est, if I’m craving for them, I’ve got to cook them myself. Likewise, after a long and hard day at work, I get home feeling like a ton of bricks raining on me. Then I would need something quick, fresh and nourishing and the pre-defined steps in the TM Cookbook is an absolute blessing. 

When the Cookbooks arrived in April (different delivery dates), I was over the moon. I have tried a few of the dishes already from both books. Last Saturday, I picked out one dish from each Cookbook. With two 500g-packet of frozen prawns ready to be consumed, I went straight to the Seafood section of the Cookbooks for some inspiration.

There were a few prawn dishes in the Cookbooks, but those 2 recipes caught my attention. I had all the ingredients, or almost! They are ridiculously simple to make, but will they taste ridiculously awesome?

Let’s find out …

From the Daily Asian Cookbook (DAC), I chose Crispy Stir Fried Prawns, pg 69


From Annie Xavier’s TM Cooks, You Relax (vol 1), I chose Tamarind Prawn, pg 54


The Battle of the Prawns. Bring ‘em on …!!

The DAC came with a cook chip, which made cooking a breeze. For the Crispy Stir Fried Prawns, I used the prawns with shells intact (without heads, though). I thawed both packs of prawns until it’s manageable to de-vein the shelled ones. The peeled prawns were all clean and good to go.

By the way, I followed the recipe from the DAC to a tee,


And here’s the result …


For the Tamarind Prawns, I had to modify Annie’s recipe a bit as her recipe calls for 250g prawns with shells and heads intact, while I had a 500g–pack of peeled and de-veined prawns. I did not double the other ingredients either, as I know doubling the measurement of sugar, for instance would result in a way-too-sweet dish, which will not be appetizing at all. I used dark brown sugar, by the way. I also used the sweet type of dark soy sauce, hence, I had to adjust the taste as I went along.  On the other hand, I used concentrated cooking tamarind  while balancing the sweet and sour flavor that I really wanted in the end.


And here’s the result, although not as dark as Annie’s version.

I garnished the prawns with some left-over spring onions and one thinly sliced green chillies.

My Verdict?

I followed both recipes using almost exactly the same ingredients with small modifications to the quantity according to desired taste. My family loves seafood, hence, serving prawns to them was not an issue. 

Now the taste test. I steamed Jasmine rice to go with the prawn dishes. I also cooked Belgian endives with carrot using the DAC recipe for Stir-fried cabbage with carrot.

After some munching, there was total silence….

I asked the guys which prawn dish was their favourite.

This?


Or this?


Annie’s tamarind prawn has a darker colour. I’m guessing that she used the saltier version of dark soy sauce. I did not have that soy sauce. Instead, I used the Thai version of dark soy sauce, which is similar to the Indonesian kicap manis. In order not to end up with an overly sweet dish, I had to adjust the amount of the soy sauce. My dish ended up quite saucy which went well with the plain steamed rice, so no complaints there. I also like my dish with a bit of heat, hence, the garnishing of the green chillies was Da Bomb!

The dishes were placed next to each other on the dining table. Like holding a pair of L-shaped metal dowsing rod, both my boys pointed their fingers in opposite direction to the platters infront of them at the same time, meaning, the guys had absolutely no preference to dish A or dish B. 

Both dishes were equally scrumptious. One was sweet and sour. I added green chillies to unite the trinity of flavours as well as for colour. At first I thought 12 garlic cloves were a lot for 250 g prawns (see, it’s not possible to double the quantity of garlic with my 500 g prawns! Important is to use your intuition and creativity), but I’m certain Annie knows what she’s talking about. We absolutely LOVE the garlicky taste, which was not too overpowering as the garlics were crushed/ bruised and not finely chopped.  After all, the dish is called Tamarind Prawns and not Garlic Prawns 😉

The other dish was lightly savoury with a hint of heat coming from the dried chillies.  The guided cooking for the crispy stir fried prawns was spot on where taste, timing and texture were concerned. Maybe next time, I will increase the quantity of dried chillies 🙂 

Guess what? I have bookmarked both the recipes and have classified them as “Tried and Tested” 

 

Blessed Pentecost!

Cheers!

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Most people think that all curries are very hot. This is NOT true.

There are many variations of curry, from mild to fairly hot to extremely hot, from sweet to sour-ish, from green to yellow to red, from light (“dry”) to thick (“wet”) curry, from vegetarian to seafood to meat curry.

Curry was anglicised (adopted) from the Tamil word “kari”, meaning – simply – “sauce” and curry powder, is (unfortunately) a Western notion of a commercially prepared spiced mixture 😀

The most traditional South Asian curries are paste-based and definitely homemade. Even the powder form are home blended to attain the best result and aroma.

Malaysian curry is quite complex, using several different fresh herbs and dry spices as opposed to some curries using only dry spices or fresh herbs, one or the other. Malaysian curry is largely influenced by the flavours of Southern India while at the same time, intermingling with flavours of South East Asia, which can be rather hot, but fragrant. Curry leaves are commonly added to enhance the flavour of the curry dish. Then there’s the Nyonya curry which includes a secret ingredient, the belacan (dried shrimp paste). Potatoes and fresh tomatoes are often added as final touches to a tasty Nyonya curry. Sometimes pandan leaves (screw pine leaves) are used to aromatize the curry dish.

Being a curry person, I love all kinds of curries. A curry dish is really quite simple to cook.

For this post, I’m concocting a curry dish with prawns using fresh herbs of my choice. No dry spices. This curry dish includes flavours of South East Asia – lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, ginger, coriander roots and fresh turmeric besides the inevitable ingredients of fresh chillies, shallots, onions and garlic. I did not blend the ingredients into a paste but kept them apart for texture.

1. Fragrant prawn curry_ingredients for sauté 

I used 2 lemongrass (lightly bruised and halved), a handful of kaffir lime leaves (shredded), 3cm piece galangal (sliced), 5cm piece ginger (minced), 6 coriander roots (minced), 3cm piece fresh turmeric (minced), 1 large onion (chopped finely), 4 shallots (chopped finely), 4 cloves garlic (minced) and 2 fresh chillies.

Wait a sec…only 2 chillies?

Well, I did use something else! Something I always have in my fridge.

I added a teaspoon each – to taste of course – of the shrimp paste (which is actually NOT belacan, but fried dried shrimps in bean oil, the Thai way), Malaysian curry powder AND last but not least, the “fiery” Mae Pranom Shrimp Flavor Crushed Chillies. Really, a little goes a long way 😉

2. Fragrant prawn curry_shrimp paste + curry powder 

 And of course, the star of the dish – the Prawns!

3. Fragrant prawn curry_raw prawns 

If you have counted the number of prawns on the plate, that’s how many prawns I used for this curry dish. Thirty-three prawns 😀

Let’s get started!

Here’s how I cooked my fragrant prawn curry.

Remember there was no curry paste? So what went in first were the chopped ingredients – the onion and shallots. Sauté until fragrant, then add all the minced ingredients – garlic, ginger, coriander roots and fresh turmeric. Keep stirring and then add in the slices of galangal, shredded kaffir lime leaves, curry powder, shrimp paste and the fiery crushed chillies. Then in went 400ml can coconut milk, the lemongrass, potatoes and fresh whole chillies (slit lengthways). Season to taste.

4. Fragrant prawn curry_sauté_paste

Cook for a few minutes to amalgamate the ingredients in the curry or until the potatoes are par-cooked, then add 3 tomatoes (skinned) and quartered.

5. Fragrant prawn curry_sauté_tomatoes +potatoes 

Simmer for 2 minutes before adding the prawns

Well, we all know that it is a sin to overcook prawns; that’s why I left the crustaceans last to complete the curry dish. Stir to combine the prawns in the curry sauce. Simmer for a few minutes more.

6. Fragrant prawn curry_sauté_prawns raw

You will know if the dish is ready when the potatoes and prawns are cooked, and when the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Give the dish a final taste before plating up.

 7. Fragrant prawn curry_sauté_prawns cooked

Worth repeating …

 8. Fragrant prawn curry_plate up1

 10. Fragrant prawn curry_plate up3

9. Fragrant prawn curry_plate up2

This fragrant prawn curry was so good that I will definitely cook it again for sure. It was just perfect the way it should be. I try to avoid using sugar in my curries (which is very common with Thai or Vietnamese curries). I really thought it was not necessary to add sugar as the rich coconut milk gave the dish a subtle sweet taste; furthermore, my other half detests sweet curries.

Oh by the way, both my sons had second helping that day…

Need I say more? 

I rest my case 😉

I am submitting this post to Little Thumbs up with the March 2014 theme using “PRAWNSas the main ingredient hosted by Moon of Food Playground. The LTU blog-hop project is organised by two very talented and superwomen, Doreen from my little favourite DIY and Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids.

 

Have a super week!

 

Cheers!

Okay, so technically, spring has begun, but with the blizzards, heavy snow, low temperatures and cold weather of late has made my brain go haywire.

Where are the snowdrops and daffodils? Where are the birds chirping in the trees? For God’s sake, I’m still wearing my winter clothing….. in spring!

I read in our local newspaper that large parts of Europe and North America are experiencing these extraordinary cold climes due to the dramatic melting of the Arctic sea ice.  While it’s getting “warmer” in the Arctic, we are experiencing “Ice Age”!! That, is the symptom of global warming, with the icy cold air blowing from the Arctic to the south.

Scrat is cute, however, I am not dreaming to be an obsessive acorn collector for the rest of my life. LOL!

Dreaming of warmth

A month or two ago, my brother who lives in Canada went ice fishing with his family.  So cool!  I would love to try my hands being an ice angler, sitting on the stool in a heated cabin and catch my day 😉

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Following are pictures of my sister-in-law and my nephews with their perches and whitefish….

1a. Ice fishing_Gull Lake_the boys1b. Ice fishing_cozy cabin

1c. Ice fishing_Kiaw + boys1d.Ice fishing_Ian and his catch

OMG! You wouldn’t believe how much I miss eating fresh fish! To be precise, I miss eating a good plate of “umai” (raw fish salad – the way it’s done in Mukah, a tiny fishing village in Sarawak!). I hope my sisters in Kuching are hearing me loud and clear. That’s one of my eat list in my next trip, Sis 😉

The fish has got to be fresh, super fresh and cut into thin slices or small pieces. Add some chopped bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced turmeric leaf (daun kunyit), chopped lemon grass, shallots, fresh ginger juice, calamansi juice or lime juice, and salt to taste. Finally, garnish with roasted sago and fresh coriander.  Mmmmm…YUMMY!

So, we don’t have super fresh fish where I live now, but my craving of fish was immense.  I cheated. I bought a bag of frozen tilapia, thawed the fish and transformed them into fish balls. LOL!

2a. Fish balls_tilapia

I was dreaming of a good glug of warm soup!  That’s right. Steamboat (Chinese fondue or Hot Pot)! Chris, if you’re reading this, the post is late, as usual 🙂  This was meant to be posted on the weekend we got back from Rome, the same weekend you had your steamboat as well!  How telepathic.  Ha ha ha!

The Hub of the All-In-One

A Steamboat meal is one of the easiest to prepare.  It’s a great way to break the ice. Did I just say, “ice”?

The only tedious process is the mise en place or prep work of cutting, chopping and slicing the components that go in the hot pot, i.e., meat, fish and vegetables.

Some of the ingredients are pre-cooked, but most meat, seafood and vegetables are raw.  The Steamboat does the cooking for you.  Just throw in the uncooked or raw ingredients and switch the steamboat on high.  The broth will bubble and cook the uncooked and make the soup a lot tastier with the amalgamation of natural bursting flavors from the meat and seafood.  Sheer delight!

My pre-cooked components were the homemade fish balls, homemade chicken meat balls, quail eggs and rice vermicelli.  My raw items were chicken breast meat, beef, prawns, button mushrooms, broccoli and carrots.  There are no hard and fast rules to the ingredients for a homemade Steamboat. The only rule is your creativity and let your imagination run wild with you, but of course the lavish ones would include abalone, lobster, wonton, crab balls, yong tau foo….  The list goes on and on….

3a. Steamboat_fish + chix balls, vermicelli and veg3b. Steamboat_condiments

3c.Steamboat_quali eggs, mushrooms, spring onions + chilli sauce

Steamboat_table 2013

The Hot Pot or the Steamboat is the hub or the centerpiece on the dinner table, usually on the eve of the Chinese New Year.  I am so pleased with my almost 18-year old Hanabishi Steamboat. This was one of the gifts I got from my eldest sister when I moved to Belgium in the autumn of 1995.  At that time, I did not see the importance of the gift (sorry, Sis), which had been stashed away in a cupboard for some years.  My cooking skill then was at sub-zero level.  That’s correct. A Steamboat meal requires almost no cooking and that’s how bad I was.  Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! 😦

Big Sis, I thank YOU from the bottom of my heart for the gift.  I can tell you that the Steamboat has been sailing on every cold journey in Flanders.  It’s the warmest gift ever. Kam Sia!

4a. Steamboat_holy grail4b. Steamboat_centrepiece

 

Spice Up

Since my Hot Pot does not have a divider, I made a non-spicy but flavorsome home-brewed soup base. All you need is plenty of water. I used 5 to 6 litres of water. Throw in the roots of fresh coriander, star anise, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, an onion pricked with some cloves, some black peppercorns, a large carrot, ginger and a small to medium sized daikon.  Season the soup base with salt and pepper and chicken stock cube to taste. I brewed the soup base until it was cooked and used this same soup base to boil my homemade fish and chicken meat balls, which made the soup base even tastier.

Because I chose for a non-spicy soup base version, I made some chilli sauce to go with the soup. It was spicily fantastic that fired up the ears and brains of my three guys. LOL!

All you need is the Mae Pranom Shrimp Flavour Crushed Chilli (or bird’s eye chillies), chopped coriander leaves including the stems, kaffir lime leaves, lime or lemon juice, minced lemongrass, Shaohsing rice wine, light soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and salt to taste.  This has been my no-fail chilli sauce.  It really spiced up my bowl of steamboat soup. I was in 7th Heaven 😛

5a. Steamboat_bowl of soup + chilli sauce

It may look like an under-nourished meal, but trust me, after two rounds we were stuffed!

The Day After

There were plenty of leftovers of the uncooked components. It was too much for the four of us.  The next day, I transformed the leftovers to an appetizing plate of quick stir-fry.  Nothing went to waste at all

By the way, here’s our day after meal. Simply Ho Chiak!

6a. Steamboat_leftovers transformation16b. Steamboat_leftovers transformation2

Have a great weekend!

Cheers!

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