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To the best of my memory, while I was growing up, I managed to never try the classic Hakka dish of tea rice (lei cha fan), a kind of Hakka herbal ochazuke. My mother is half Hakka and half Cantonese. Most of the food we ate was Cantonese. I actually think the Hakka dish that most commonly appeared on our table was stuffed tofu (and miscellaneous stuffed vegetables, usually bell peppers). Mom only really got into the pickling thing relatively late, that I recall. We have enough seasonal fresh vegetables back home that pickling foods was often just a flavour-enhancer, or something specific for a recipe later down the line. More importantly, our food already used a great deal of fermented (primarily seafood) products anyway, and just about any food item that could be dried and stay dead, roughly in that order. (Oh, unsmelly salted fish, where art thou?)

Both of us have been buried under work lately. My eating habits have gone to bits, and Seth's belly is still delicate enough to require careful, mild eating. Comfort food is required. We both like tea rice from various cultures, and I had these mustard greens pickling with leeks the past couple of weeks. The general idea behind Hakka tea rice is topping steamed white rice with various fresh and pickled vegetables, and a protein, if available, before pouring on a ground herbal tea mix. It's meant to be rustic and filled with simple flavours (although versions in Malaysian restaurants these days can get kind of posh). I definitely didn't have the herbs or the time on hand to grind up my herbal tea, but I did have good genmaicha, which has all that lovely toasted rice and green tea flavour.

You're probably wondering about the kimchee. Well, on St. Patrick's Day, I made a batch of chocolate stout cakes, and was also looking to make more kimchee. I wanted to try making a kimchee that wasn't Chinese cabbage, and we'd just bought a large bag of baby mustard greens. So I used some of the chocolate stout and molasses that went into the cake as my liquid base for the kimchee seasoning, and threw that into a jar with mustard greens and chopped leeks. I must admit, it smelled awesome going in, like barley miso, very earthy and hoppy. It still smelled like barley miso after a week. When I sampled some of the pickled greens, they had taken on a mustard green noir profile almost. Actually a little strong even with plain congee, and that's where I got the idea it would taste great stir fried with something. My original idea was to sprout some bean mix and stir fry it with that, but chicken is faster.

The final result, rice topped with stir fried chicken and green tea, was everything we needed to pick us up after a really long day. It wasn't too filling, but it made us feel content. I'll probably only make this occassionally, as I only get a craving for this many particularly earthy flavours in one bowl only occassionally, but it is a nice taste to remember.

Mustard Green, Leek & Molasses Kimchee
1 big bunch mustard greens (kai lan) or ½ bag baby mustard greens, chopped into bite-sized pieces
½ stick leek
3 tbsps rice flour
1 tsp Korean chilli flakes
2 tbsps molasses
1 cup dark stout
½ cup water
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp rough salt

1. Mix greens and salt in a ziploc bag. Marinate for 6 hours, shaking the bag every hour or so to evenly distribute the salt.
2. Rinse and dry greens at least twice. Try to get out as much salt as possible.
3. Bring stout, water, molasses, chilli flakes, garlic, ginger and rice flour to a gentle boil. The paste should thicken before you turn off the heat. Let cool.
4. Layer greens and kimchee paste in a jar (with lid), leave about an inch or two off the top for fermentation. Cover jar loosely with its lid.
5. Keep jar in a warm, dark place for about 3 days, or until bubbles actively start to form in the paste. Tamp down the pickles with a clean spoon or chopstick every day, to release bubbles.
6. Refrigerate. They're best eaten after a week of maturing. Good pickles almost never die.

The Stir Fry
2 chicken breasts (thinly sliced)
½ stick leek
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 cup pickled mustard greens with pickling liquid (from above)
2 tbsp cooking oil

1. Marinate chicken and mustard greens. Set aside.
2. Heat leek and garlic in oil on high flame until fragrant.
3. Add chicken. Stir fry until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Add about a tablespoonful of water at a time if the 'sauce' is too thick.
4. Serve chicken on top of steamed rice, with or without green or oolong tea poured on top (like a soup).
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For New Year's, I wanted to make food that represented who my husband and I are as people, and the things that we cherished and loved. This was supposed to be our Christmas dinner, but I've been fighting allergic rhinitis for an incredibly long time now, pretty much well before my birthday. In the run up to Christmas, I had an actual cold as well, so I would make bold declarations about baking and cooking, then wind up on a couch with a cat on top all day. We had many cheese and cracker dinners all the way to New Year's.

This is my attempt at explaining the lack of fresh produce in my final dinner of 2012. Only the pre-frozen bison meat was bought well in advance for its purpose. All the other foods that went into this meal were things we had preserving around the house on December 31. Quite as a result, I didn't use any salt in our food, as everything else was well-seasoned. Seth accidentally overestimated ingredients in the mulled wine he made for Christmas, which produced the wonderful spice wine liquer I used as the base for our meatball sauce. The lemon balm was the stuff I accidentally grew all year in my EarthBoxes instead of the herbs I wanted, which became a nice end-of-year pesto. The soft, densely-flavoured kimchee has been steeping away in my fridge for at least six months. The mentaiko was a fish roe pickling experiment that insufficiently dried, even though it was salted enough to keep. The cinnamon sugar was sugar left over from rolling around spice cookies, kept with a couple of cinnamon quills in a jar that did not make it into the pot of mulled wine. Really, everything that ended up in these dishes was a splendid accident. For that reason, anything that can or could be replaced by something wonderful and local to your household should be!

The only other exception was the salted egg I used in this recipe, which ripened right on New Year's Eve in its jar (in the basement). This was entirely the first time I ever tried salting eggs, chicken eggs n this case. I was absolutely terrified something would go wrong and the eggs would spoil over 21 days. Instead, when I peeked into the salting jar, the brine smelled sweet, simply of a thumb of fresh ginger, star anise and cloves I'd added for extra flavour. The first egg I cracked had a perfectly lovely orange yolk, solid from salting, and a rich, cohesive white. It barely spread out, sitting at the bottom of the bowl like a fried egg with still-translucent whites. I seriously can't wait to use this stuff in other foods around the house.

Bison Balls in Mulled Wine Sauce
Ingredients A:


1½ cup ground bison (cold)
½ cup instant oatmeal flakes (soaked overnight in cold milk; don't drain off milk)
1 tsp lemon balm pesto
1 raw salted egg (whites only; reserve yolk)
1 tsp cinnamon sugar
Enough oil or butter for panfrying

Ingredients B:
½ cup mulled wine (or red wine with ¼ tsp garam masala)
1 knob butter
1½ cinnamon sugar

1. With moist hands or a mixing spoon, stir ground bison until the fibres of the meat break and everything resembles a smooth, workable paste.
2. Add the rest of A, except the frying fat. Stir until well combined. Form meat paste into teaspoon-sized balls.
3. Fry meatballs until suitably cooked. Set aside. Reserve pan drippings.
4. Add B to pan drippings. Bring to low boil on medium low heat.
5. Serve meatballs with sauce.

Spaghetti in Mentaiko-Horseradish Cream with Kimchee
Ingredients:


2 serves spaghetti
2 sacs mentaiko
1 tbsp horseradish cream
2 tbsp half & half or cream
1 tbsp butter
½ cup kimchee (chopped fine)
2 stalks spring onion (sliced fine)
1 raw salted egg yolk (halved)

1. Cook spaghetti according to manufacturer's instructions.
2. On medium-low heat, bring everything except mentaiko and egg yolk to low simmer. Turn off heat.
3. Slice mentaiko and integrate thoroughly into cream sauce.
4. Mix in still-hot pasta until well combined.
5. Serve, topped with half a salted egg yolk on each pile of pasta.

Winter Stew

Jan. 2nd, 2013 01:37 pm
vampyrichamster: (Default)
As we hit the colder parts of the year, I've come to appreciate a simple stew I began throwing together a couple of months ago. I like regular stew well enough, but there often is no way to make just enough for two. I could reuse chilled and frozen portions all year, but this quickly gets dull. I've also been on a fish binge of late. Fish, more than chicken or beef, holds up really well to quick cooking, especially if say, you've forgotten to defrost something in good time, which I do often. My preference, just for the colour, is salmon or rainbow trout, but any fish you enjoy in broth works.

The stew I make uses a few other ingredients I've come back to enjoy -- konnyaku, which has such a lovely, jelly-like texture that resists mild boiling, and fu, whose peculiar bread-like texture softens in the milk broth but doesn't quite disintegrate. Tofu adds slivers of soft silkenness, while carrots can be cooked fast enough to be tender bites of sweet and bright. What brings everything together though, is the milk, miso and seafood broth. Seafood in particular for the umami flavour, which balances out nicely with milk for richness. I add a teaspoon of honey to round out the overall sweetness at the end. Temper the fishiness of your broth with a tablespoon of ginger juice (or minced ginger) if you like. Especially if you are using soymilk for the broth, this really brings out the warmth and heart of the dish.

Ingredients:

1 fillet of salmon (cubed)
2 cups fish broth
1 - 2 cups milk (preferably soy)
2 tsps white miso paste
1 tsp honey
1 carrot (cubed)
3 leaves Chinese cabbage
¼ block silken tofu (sliced)
1 handful fu cubes
¼ cup konnyaku jelly (cubed)
2 scallions or ½ leek (sliced thin)
½ cup sliced glutinous rice cakes/mochi (optional)

1. Over medium-low heat, bring broth, milk, carrot and cabbage to a gentle simmer. If using rice cakes, add them at this stage.
2. Dissolve miso paste separately in about 2 - 4 tablespoons of hot broth or water.
3. When carrots are tender, add fish then miso paste and remaining ingredients, honey and fu last.
4. Once fish is cooked to your preference (I like mine medium rare), turn off heat and serve stew warm. The stew goes well with steamed rice, though if you are already using rice cakes in the stew, this won't be necessary.
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I seem to be in a dumpling-type mood lately. Maybe it's the cooler weather, but there is something pleasing about eating a plump, round dinner when it gets cold. I tend to prefer dumplings in soup, but stir-fried dumplings come a close second. I think it comes from really liking spaetzel with lots and lots of butter. I've been experimenting with the possibilities of tamale flour lately, as the refined texture seems to lend itself really well to smoother, less 'rustic' cornmeal dumplings. It has the advantage of being quicker to work with than normal flour dumplings, and is also more resilient to long cooking.

Later this evening, I am going to try pounding my own mochi from scratch (with real steamed glutinous rice) for torture's sake, then toast it, slather it in indecent amounts of butter and shredded toasted nori, then serve it to us. But I did want to get down my recipe for the cornmeal dumplings as a reference first. It's gluten-free, and can be as egg and dairy-free as one wishes. Dorian, my beloved food inspector cat, is at this very moment approving of the gluten, egg and dairy free version (posted below), because he's... like that.

The kale part to this recipe came about partly because I was craving greens, and wanted to try cooking curly kale, which is a very pretty vegetable. Curly kale is also deeply resilient to long cooking. Unfortunately, cooking does wilt the curls, but it's definitely a less thickly vegetal kale than the Asian versions I usually have.

Cornmeal Dumplings )

Stir-fried with Kale )
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Comes with this prefacing comment from the spouse: "Oh, my god. The food is so good!" (dying space marine noises in the background)

It is even a white sauce on white rice, which makes this a totally Swedish dinner. I know it would taste so much better with brown rice, but I didn't have any of that lying around. Most of the flavour comes from my attempt at mixing together a Creole mustard. Although I was afraid it would come out too spicy, once mixed into the sauce, it mellowed out rather well. Because I don't generally keep cream around the house lest I use it all in tea, which by the way is perfectly alright to do, I use a cream substitute I learned from my mother. This involves gently curdling a bit of milk in lemon (or lime) juice. The result is a soft, lightly sour curd suitable as a cream or sour cream substitute. It goes particularly well in stroganoff.

Read more... )
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I pulled together these cookies by wanting to make some sugar cookies I saw at the back of a box, and deciding about halfway through I wanted to do something with the lovely blackberry honey and meadowfoam honey I got from HMS Beekeper. The blackberry honey, which I originally bought to make minted honey tea for my sore throat, is bold and rich, and not at all delicate. The aftertaste is strongly blackberry, but without the tartness. I had really hoped it would come out more in the baked product, but it didn't. The meadowfoam honey, which Bryon, HMS's owner, strongly recommended for baking, does indeed hold well under relatively high heat. It's sweet, spun sugar candy-like flavour works well with biscuits. I would use it again, if I ever needed to make more honey cookies.

I'd originally used about half the cardamom indicated below, which didn't pull through for me after baking. Occasionally, I'd get a whiff of astringent green spice when I opened the oven or stirred the batter, which quickly faded. Also, this is definitely a cookie to eat warm rather than store in a jar. While warm, the edges are crisp, leading to the creamy, crumbly delicate center. When stored overnight, the cookie is soft, crumbly and mellow overall. It's still nice, just not as texturally intriguing. The warm version strongly reminds me of my mother's touch-me-nots -- baked meringue discs with dollops of sweet custard on top. Mmm!

Read more... )
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Way back, I posted a version of kimchee a Korean friend gave us once. Since then, I have experimented with all kinds of different kimchee recipes to get a particular flavour I remember from the Korean restaurant near our house in KL. After a few years of trying stuff, I finally came up with a flavour I really liked. The secret to good kimchee is that there is no substitute for Korean chilli powder. It's the actual floral-fruity perfume of the chilli powder that opens the tastebuds in kimchee for me. Substituting it with other kinds of chilli powders or flakes gives the wrong scent and the wrong colour. I get my Korean chilli powder from Hmart, which has online orders and home delivery, as well as various sizes of chilli powder packs in varying levels of spiciness.

My entire opinion on fermented foods hinges on the idea that it is tasty. I've heard the health stuff one way or the other, but my final verdict on the subject is that it's tasty. Fermented foods were a big part of my taste vocabulary growing up. At least half of the Chinese/Malay dishes we ate at home or outside contained belacan, spiced fermented shrimp paste, which lends a distinctly pungent, warm aroma and flavour to foods. [livejournal.com profile] scanner_darkly once described a dish of water convulvulus fried in belacan I ordered as tasting like car exhaust, but there are more ways to cook it I have yet to experiment with. If I wasn't so afraid of making my kitchen smell like oil and fermented shrimp for the next year, I would probably make belacan fried chicken, a treat I still sometimes crave.

Many fermented foods in Malaysia were treats, or daily foods. Mom got on the miso bandwagon early, long before it was popular, so I had miso soup regularly as a kid. Chinese cuisine invented tofu, soy sauce and salted bean pastes, so these flavours naturally influenced my taste in food as an adult. Soy sauce is the main flavouring of my household. The Kampar chicken biscuit (does not contain chicken) is a savoury-sweet cookie considered a regional specialty in Malaysia, whose main flavouring is fermented, salted tofu. Cincalok, another regional specialty, is basically dried prawns in the runoff from washing rice, which, if done right, actually smells fresh and pleasantly shrimpy with the sweetness of rice (otherwise, it just has the most incredible pong). One of the most coveted fermented flavours in Malay food comes from fermented durian, tempoyak, which is like, double the pungent, nostril-stopping action. My favourite thing from the Ramadan markets is sweet potato shoots cooked in coconut milk with tempoyak, if it can be found. It's salty, pasty and ideally a little sour, with the richness of durian.

The only fermented food I've found a little too strong for me has been Thai fish sauce. Used sparingly, in Thai cooking, balanced with other flavours, it's awesome. As a flavour on its own though, it's like the stiff, peaty, fermented swamp water quality of Seth's preferred whiskey.

Kimchee is possibly the only pickle I've ever had time to make. A little kimchee, a bowl of rice and an egg on top is a quick meal when I'm particularly busy. The leftover kimchee liquid is a marvellous marinade and a great base for savoury pancakes. I tend to make small amounts, about one month's supply for a single person, as I'm the only person who eats it in my house. No vats, sterilization or specialized jars required.

Kimchee ver. 2.0 )
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Earlier in May, I got this craving for fried rice vermicelli, which I don't think I'd made in almost a year. Since I can't really make small portions of this dish, I used to freeze individual servings to eat over the week. It really helped when my schedule was crammed with work, and is quick to reheat even while frozen. The version I make is mostly vegetarian, though it is definitely possible to augment its flavour with fish sauce, some eggs and almost any kind of meat. The choice of vegetables that go into this is pretty flexible. Any kind of Asian green vegetable would work in this. Mushrooms can be replaced by bamboo shoots, if anyone is averse to mushrooms, or some other crunchy vegetable. The kind of tofu is also up to the cook's imagination. Everything from plain strips of deep fried tofu puffs, firm seasoned tofu to sliced vegetarian meats is a go, in any combination.

It's like college students' noodles, just more homemade, and no MSG.

(Speaking of which, I need to get me a big box of instant ramen to slowly absorb like a killer slime, because I am an adult.)

Vegetarian Fried Rice Vermicelli )
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Since I began making soto, I've been trying to recapture that wonderful flavour of Indomie Soto Flavour. As fond as I am of my mother's style of soto, I've always found the flavour a bit too clear and clean, but I couldn't quite figure out what was missing. There was a missing richness to the soup, even if the soup was made from strong, bone-derived broth, and as tempting as it is to order a 30-case of Indomie to lunch on for the next 3 months, the greasy, nummy, MSG-ness is probably not in my best interests. (All married now. Kinda need my hair to stay on my head.)

I started poking around online, and found that some cooks favoured adding a touch of coconut milk into their broth. A few experiments later, I finally came up with a soto that wasn't exactly Indomie, but sure came darn close. Coconut milk does round out the flavour, adding a new dimension to the broth. I've also tweaked a few things, using whole cumin and coriander seeds, which makes those savoury spice flavours all the more prominent.

Read more... )
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How did I not discover this comforting, wonderful drink sooner? It combines all that is good about creamy steamed milk and subtle, spiced cookie flavours.

Ingredients:

1 cup milk
A tiny pinch of allspice and cinnamon

Method:

1. Gently warm milk in a small saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. (Don't bring it to boil!)
2. When milk is thoroughly hot (after it starts developing a thin skin over its surface), whisk milk until frothy.
3. Pour into serving mug.
4. Scatter spices on top (like ashes on the surf!). (Yes, I had to try to fit that in.)
5. Stir. Serve.

Great for cold, cold days.

Tea Eggs!

Nov. 21st, 2008 12:55 pm
vampyrichamster: (Default)
'Cause they're a treat!

I actually like making tea eggs on a regular basis. Like hard boiled eggs usually do, they keep fairly well for about a week in the fridge, and they're ready to be chopped into salads, toppings, stuffings and munched on for a snack. The sauce the eggs need to be steeped in is its own perpetual machine. Once you've made tea eggs once, the sauce can be frozen for as long as you need it around. Further batches can be made with the defrosted sauce, and additional ingredients can always be added to top up the remainder. The same sauce also does wonders for steeping other boiled proteins - shelled boiled peanuts, tofu cubes, boiled beef or chicken - just not fish.

When I first started making this, I ended up making huge batches because I followed my mother's recipe for lots of 24 eggs and up. The recipe below should work for 6 - 12 eggs.
Tea Eggs )
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It all started with this buther's shop on Mission. They had all kinds of Asian-friendly trappings: swimming crabs in tanks; slabs of salmon on ice; bright, healthy cuts of beef brisket; a wall of freezers with actual frozen fresh grated coconut - and a great big pile of lean chickens, skin on, never frozen, with fat that looked a fine yellow and cornfed. The people who worked there spoke Cantonese when I wandered in. By my estimation, a busy butcher's shop/fish monger with Cantonese-speaking staff has a higher chance of doing wonderful things, like chop crabs into easy-to-ravage parts, and sell proper stewing cow meat for five spice beef brisket. The nice Uncle behind the counter gave me a large whole chicken and 2 pounds of skinless chicken breasts (denture pink!) for $11.

One of the first things I probably learnt to cook, after scrambled eggs and tomato and cheese sandwiches, was roast chicken. Thanks to a mother who firmly believed whole chickens were better and fresher than those things that come out of plastic boxes, I wound up with a lot of roast chicken dinners and chicken soup lunches in college. A whole roast chicken lasts a single college student staying alone a long time, especially if you're smart about rationing how you re-cook the leftovers. I learnt to make mashed potatoes fairly quickly after that, because mashed potatoes and gravy are terribly comforting.

The recipe I use for making roast chicken is something I borrowed wholesale from my mother. I made it for dinner last night. Based on rough calculations of the correct oven temperature in Fahrenheit, based on the same mathematics that failed me for three terms straight in college (I wound up with a degree in computers), I ended up re-roasting the blasted thing 3 times. The chicken turned out great, barring a charred wing tip. The (massively) roasted bird was the juiciest chicken I'd ever had in my life. I swear, after roasting it the third time, I was ready to find a dried husk in the oven - instead, the chicken was not only still totally moist and tender with a bit of bite, it was semi-submerged in juice that overflowed past the onions I'd used to prop the whole thing. In fact, when I cut into the perfectly paper-thin skin, there were pockets of juice between the seams of meat.

There was a lot of meat. We will be having roast chicken-derived dishes for the next 3 days.

I served it with its own juice as a gravy, over mashed potatoes with sour cream and parsley. When I reheated the leftovers for lunch today, I liked it so much, I was compelled to write a post to share it with you. (Not the carcass - it's a mess. Will words do?)

Afi's Mother's Roast Chicken

She'll probably say it's not hers.

Recipe Follows )


Mashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Parsley

You can peel the potatoes if you prefer that. But you do know that half the nutrients in a potato is in its skin, right?

Recipe Follows )
vampyrichamster: (Default)
Stir frying is one of the simplest, quickest, most gratifying forms of cooking I know. The range of foods that can be prepared with this style is far more extensive than virtually any other form of cooking, requires little effort, takes up a tiny amount of time, provides nutritionally-balanced one-dish meals and mostly saved me from starving on ramen throughout college. Please refer to the table of contents below for quick links:

Table of Contents )

A Basic Stir Fry (How to Go About It) )

The Wok )

The Meat )

Fish )

Marinading )

Saucing )
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Blame it on my severe love of tinned cream of mushroom as a kid, but cream of mushroom soup is one of those things that just really tingles my toes and comforts my ills. I usually like to make a large batch of soup and freeze it, so I can slowly gnaw -- I mean slurp, yes, slurp -- my way through the stash for weeks. Button mushrooms are the standard for this recipe, but you can really substitute this with any other kind of mushroom, or even mix them around. Oyster, portobello, golden or even straw mushrooms add variety and texture to this soup. One of the benefits of leftover mushroom soup is that it also makes a great base for most creamy mushroom sauces and gravies. It is very possible to throw some soup onto pasta, for example, to get an instant al funghi. Put it over some pan-fried meat or fish for an instant mushroom sauce. For a real lazy person's delight, stir in some cooked rice and meat (or an egg), throw on some shredded cheese, warm it all up in the microwave until the cheese melts, and you have a functional casserole. (The last dish featured at least once a week in my diet between the last two years of high school and the first four years of college.)

I made this by adding herbs I found around my garden into the stock -- not exactly a bouquet garni, but it definitely added flavour. You may use any variety of herbs you prefer, including chopped herbs and pre-mixed powdered herbs. I used the coriander stalks leftover from the leaves I retained for garnish, some bay leaves and a stalk of marjoram as a bouquet garni. The idea is to get flavourful herbs that will make the soup taste better the longer the soup is stored. If you are using powdered herbs, add them to the mushrooms and skip 3 and 5. It is further possible to vary this soup by chopping in some chives, potatoes, chicken or white fish meat to add texture and flavour.

Cream of Mushroom Soup )

Afi's Mushroom Toast

Compared with mushroom soup, mushroom toast was a relatively recent innovation in my diet. It is still another form of comfort food though. It makes a great snack, and makes a nicely filling quick meal too. The mushrooms can be variegated or substituted with tomatoes, avocadoes, preserved artichoke hearts, bell peppers or tinned fish or meat. Once again, button mushrooms are the standard, but you can substitute this with oyster mushrooms or portobello mushrooms, if you prefer. In case you're wondering, this was my dinner tonight.

Mushroom Toast )
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Now here's a bit of breakfast food I tend to miss quite a bit from back home. In Malaysia, you may be able to purchase lodeh with nasi himpit (compressed rice cubes -- think of them as a square, tighter form of onigiri without the vinegar) for breakfast from the same places that sell nasi lemak. I still remember how I'd have this when I was a kid every time I had to visit the old National Registration Department in Shah Alam. The basement of the complex the NRD was in had lots of breakfast places, because the NRD office would require one to line up for queue numbers at something like seven in the morning, so everyone would head there for a number and a form, and find breakfast in the area. There was this one place we'd go to that specialized in nasi lemak and lodeh. I loved getting my rice cubes, scooping on my vegetables and then topping it all with the most gloriously oily deep fried egg. It's that sort of fried egg that only a place with a hot, greasy skillet or wok can pull off, edged in the most delightfully crisp lace of brown carcinogens. This is, by the way, my favourite method of cooking an egg.

Lodeh itself is a real comfort food. The gently stewed soft Chinese cabbages, carrots and slightly jelly-like texture of the glass noodles, in a milky gravy that's just gorgeously creamy yellow from the turmeric, makes it a very kind dish on the stomach when you can't take much else (and had it up to here with rice gruel and soups -- nice though those dishes are in themselves). Originally, one would use a mixture of water and coconut milk, which can be hard on the cholesterol, and unfriendly to people with allergies to coconut. I prefer to use a combination of dairy milk and a bit of coconut milk for flavouring, which offers a mild, sweet flavour. It should further be possible to substitute dairy with soy, which would work out well with the tempeh and tofu that can be added to this dish. This dish can be as vegetarian as one wishes.

Nasi himpit refers to a Malay dish of boiled rice compressed into squares. After cooling, it is further cut into cubes and usually served with curry or rendang. It is derived from ketupat, which is made by weaving a square case out of coconut leaves (giving the cooked rice the fragrance of coconut) and generally served to guests during festive occasions. I found this pretty nifty recipe for simple nasi himpit using a square baking tin. Alternatively, Adabi makes instant nasi himpit, which can be easily boiled in water to create enough impressive (and authentic) nasi himpit in abundance. Finding instant nasi himpit might take some work, however, as one would have to look up a pretty complete Asian grocer carrying Southeast Asian goods, or alternatively purchase this product online. You don't really need nasi himpit to go with lodeh though. Regular steamed rice will do just fine. I've also tried this with molded and cubed polenta, which turned out to be awesome. The custardy polenta holds it shape well when served in the thick, creamy stew.

Steamed Rice via Microwaving )

Sayur Lodeh )
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Our crop this year included a satanic bumper supply of silverbeet (chard). Satanic only because such a useful, nutritious vegetable can only apparently be grown in abundance, and therefore harvesting, cleaning and preparing food from it also happens in abudance. Three kilogrammes of raw cut fresh chard produces about 4 cups of shredded blanched leaf matter, and slightly over half a large stock pot of stem-based stock. Thanks to the unfathomable slowness of my cooking methods, preparing all of the above took about 3 hours. Prior to a shower, I smelled exactly like a giant blanched stalk of spinach. And we still have chard growing in reserve.

The only consolation is that silverbeet makes a great poor man's spinach, and shines in virtually any dish where spinach can be replaced with its cheaper counterpart. One of these dishes is saag paneer, or Indian creamed green vegetables in cheese. Palak paneer specifically refers to the variation of this dish made with Indian spinach (amaranth), a tender, delicate vegetable that we've just never been able to grow successfully. Saag paneer (made with any other kind of green vegetable) should be the proper name for this dish I'm describing, but again, due to the price of spinach, many Indian takeaways can and do get away with replacing their spinach for silverbeet and still call their stuff palak paneer.

But, enough of the spinach politics for a minute. The sane among us would probably prefer to make this dish with either tinned or frozen shredded spinach. It's faster, more convenient, and there's none of that growing-from-scratch business. You can, if you so choose, also buy a few large bushels of spinach (of any kind), hack off the roots, barely wilt it in boiling water, and chop it finely in a blender.

If you can't find paneer, the delightful Indian cheese that crumbles like feta but doesn't smell or taste nearly as disastrous, it is possible to substitute it with any good soft cheese that will reasonably hold its shape when lightly warmed. It is entirely possible to lightly coat the cubed paneer with corn starch or flour, and panfry it first, for added flavour. My favourite substitute is Kiri cheese (Laughing Cow cheese -- such a favourite childhood snack). This cheese magically holds its shape under heat, absorbs the flavours of the sauce, and remains rich and creamy forever. I've never tried frying Laughing Cow, but as it does withstand grilling in an oven pretty decently, there's a probability it can tolerate some mild flouring and panfrying.

My recipe for saag paneer is about as unorthodox as it gets, thrown together from various Indian and improbable ingredients. Creamed spinach was a real treat as a kid though. It was great for dinner, with rice, and went well with nearly every kind of meat dish there was.

Saag Paneer )

Liver Pate

Aug. 13th, 2007 10:38 pm
vampyrichamster: (Default)
I have two good reasons to have homemade liver pate. The first is that many store bought pates are not halal (but yes, this recipe has optional wine in it, go figure), which makes it difficult for my family to eat. The second is that however we look at it, pate that's been stored in a chiller for up to a month or more, loaded with preservatives, just doesn't skim the bare minimum of flavour that comes from freshly made pate. When made well and stored properly, homemade pate can last up to about 2 weeks in the fridge too. It's absolutely essential that the chicken livers used for this recipe are purchased as fresh as possible, and cleaned just as thoroughly. However well-meaning your supermarket is, please go to a reputable butcher for the livers, because you just never know where the market stuff's been.

You'll also notice that this authentic recipe stolen from my mother uses Chinese glutinous rice wine to flavour and boil the livers. The specific wine being used, Hua Chiew, has this gorgeous rice wine perfume, slightly floral, very sweet and heady. This is the wine of choice used in virtually any dish requiring wine in my house. One can just as easily substitute this with any other sort of wine or water, though I seriously would not recommend boiling the livers in animal broth, as this dish has to be preserved in the fridge for a fairly long time. It's further possible to influence the flavour of the livers by infusing aromatics and flavourings into the liquid you're boiling the livers in.

Read more... )
vampyrichamster: (Default)
Been helping my mother out with making Chinese dumplings (jiaozi in Chinese, gyoza in Japanese) over the last hour or so. This is the second time I've learnt to fold dumplings, and both times, I've had all the dexterity of a hamster (DEX -10). They were definitely not very pretty, and it took me a while to adjust the amount of filling. Mom was pretty strict about "exactly one teaspoon!", seeing as how I underfilled a lot at first to make the folding easier. We made minced chicken and vegetable dumplings, but you can mess around with the type and ratio of meat and vegetables as you'd prefer it. Nicely seasoned minced vegetables alone or with minced mock abalone/mock roast duck/vegetarian sausage would make nice vegetarian dumplings.

Filling )

Folding )

Cooking )

Storage )

Chinese Steamed Egg Custard )
vampyrichamster: (Default)
Over the last few months, I've been having the oddest craving for yellow chicken curry. Specifically, the cheap, heavily watered down kind they sell with roti jala and murtabak during Ramadan in the tiny plastic bags where one is lucky to receive a pea-sized cube of potato. My version of the curry is high on the coconut milk and dramatically more generous with the ingredients, because hey, I have to eat something.

Yellow Chicken Curry (Malay Style) )

Curry Laksa (Variant) )
vampyrichamster: (Default)
Yesterday, Mum and I decided to wander aimlessly in the Chinese area of Perth till we hit something. We discovered Emma's Yong Tau Foo, which is deceptively named, because it's a major yong tau foo (tofu or vegetables stuffed with meat paste) supplier but also a huge Asian grocery emporium. That was the first place in Perth I'd seen anyone selling tsuyu in 2 litre bottles, and in a few brands too. We bought tsuyu, man tou and far too many dumplings. Their frozen section is surreal for the vast array of dumplings it holds. Then we wandered into a large tofu maker's store and bought far too much tofu and vegetarian char siew (roast meat), which is great in fried vermicelli dishes. And then we somehow stumbled into Atlantic Seafood, which is some kind of seafood heaven on earth in this country of vapid seafood counters. They even had goldfish for $20 floating around with the perch in a fish tank liable to scare the fish fiend friends, which I haven't seen sold as food since the last time I was in Indonesia. ([livejournal.com profile] eekers, ask Su about fried gurami when you can...) We walked in just as they fished out a dead snow crab from their tank, and we got a good deal on that, a mackerel tail for fish balls, a different kind of mackerel for steaming and some flower crabs for baking. I'm going to put up the recipe we used on the snow crab, because it's really simple and horribly good.

Steamed Hua Chiew Crabs )

Chicken Porridge with Two Kinds of Preserved Eggs )
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