Saturday, 31 January 2009

Itek Tim (Nyonya Hot and Sour duck broth)

Other than Itek Sio, this is another famous Nyonya duck recipe which is a broth with duck pieces, pickled mustard green, souring ingredients including tomatoes and fresh chilli added at the end of cooking to give the heat. A very nice soup, hot and sour with pieces of slightly salty mustard, fantastic for this very cold and damp winter weather.

1 kg of duck, legs or half a duck, cut into large chunks or can leave leg whole, remove any thick layer of fat or remove all the skin if you like the broth to be very lean.

around 300g of pickled mustard* (without the liquid)

3 medium carrot - cut into 1 cm thick (carrot is not traditional but I like it, it gives a nice sweeter flavour to the soup)

2 pieces of assam skin (Malaysian dried and sliced sour fruit like similar to taste like tamarind) available in most chinese supermarket like this

4 pieces of chinese pickled sour plum in brine, see this

1 thumb size ginger, sliced

2 large tomatoes about 200g in total, cut into wedges

1 large red chilli, cut into very thick slices

about 3 litres of water


  1. Cut the pickled mustard into very large chunks, then soak with plenty of water for about 2 hours before cooking. This is to remove the salt or the soup could be too salty.
  2. Take a large stockpot, fill with fresh water and bring to a boil. Put in the ginger, assam skin, sour plums, carrots and the duck pieces, heat high and bring to boiling again and let it boil for few minutes vigorously, remove any scums on top. Then turn the heat down and gently simmer for about 45min - 1hr.
  3. Add in the drained pickled mustard and bring to a boil then heat low and simmer for another 45 minutes or so so till the duck is meltingly soft and the mustard is softened but not mushy. Can leave till ready to eat, ok to cook in advance.
  4. Add in the tomatoes and chilli just before eating. Taste the soup if it is not too salty, if a bit too salty add more water, then bring to a boil and add in the tomato wedges and chilli and simmer for about 5 minutes. I find 1 large red chilli is enough heat for this soup, don't be tempted to add too much.
  5. Ready to enjoy on its own or with rice.
* This is the kind of pickled mustard I use, don't use those in a tin. The one I got is in a big plastic tub I got from Wing Yip. Can use pickled mustard with or with leaves.

Tofu and mince with black bean sauce

This is very similar to Mapo tofu but with a Cantonese flavour and there is no chilli bean sauce for this recipe. I think it is as nice as Mapo. Don't use black bean sauce in a jar for this recipe, it's not right.


about 400g of chinese tofu, cut into small squares
100g of minced pork*
1 tbsp of fermented black beans (more if you like it a bit salty), roughly chopped
1 large red chilli, chopped
1 small piece of ginger, chopped about 1 tbsp
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tbsp of cooking oil
about 2 tsp of light soy
about 2 tbsp of shaoshing cooking wine
1/2 cup of unsalted chicken or pork stock, if not use water
1/2 to 1 tsp of sugar to taste
1 - 2 tbsp of oyster sauce, to taste
pinch of ground pepper
1 rounded tbsp of cornflour, mix with a little water
2 -3 tsp of toasted sesame oil
2 - 3 stalks of spring onion chopped

  1. Heat the oil till very hot, add garlic, mince and dash of soy sauce stir till the meat is browned and very dry i.e. no more liquid remaining in the pan.
  2. Add ginger, chilli and black beans and stir fry till fragrant. Add a splosh of cooking wine stir then add in stock or water, sugar and oyster sauce to taste.
  3. Bring the liquid to boil then add in the tofu pieces. Simmer for few minutes then add in the slackened cornflour to thicken.
  4. Heat off and add in pinch of ground pepper, spring onion and sesame oil.
* You can also sub pork with beef or chicken
For vegetarian use chopped shitake or normal mushroom, can also add some chopped bamboo or finely chopped carrots.

Sunday, 25 January 2009


It's been sometime since I last posted. I will be back soon once I got most of my deadlines out of the way.

Anyway tomorrow the 26th Jan is Chinese New Year, the year of the Ox.



By the way 'Gong Hee Fatt Choi' does not mean happy new year it means 'wishing you prosperity and getting rich', a phrase every Chinese especially businessman will like to hear.

The actual phrase for happy new year is 'xin nian kuai le' (i.e. in mandarin) or 'sun nin fai lok' (Cantonese).
In northern part of China is 'chung jet kuai le'(mandarin) 春節快樂 meaning happy spring festival.

Here are some traditions and customs relating to food and superstitions if your don't already know.

Before the new year the house must be spring cleaned or redecorated to clear away clutters, dirt and anything unwanted or considered no good so to bring in the new leash of live and new hopes for the new year. The house is nicely decorated and lots of cakes and biscuits are prepared for visitors during the festive season. Banners of good luck charm or word of good wishes/good lucks posted everywhere, usually red.

Chinese New Year always fall on the 1st day of the 1st lunar month (正月)

Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days + New Year's Eve
NY Eve (除夕) - In many Far East countries this is the day/night to buy flowers or kumquat (or any small citrus tree) full of golden fruits to decorate the house (like an oriental Christmas tree), flower markets open till very late at night. Anyone who buys kumquat tree usually hangs 'lai see' or empty red packets all over the tree like Christmas tree ornaments. It is a big day when all family members will gather together to have a big feast and wait till midnight to welcome the new year. The Meal is as elaborate if more than a Christmas meal, with a table full of best food the family can afford. Usually there is fish, meat, vegetable etc.... If permissible, fire crackers will bang all night long to chase away any devils.

Day 1 - The New Year begins from midnight, from this hour to dawn many will pray to their ancestors or to their gods for blessings. Many family will eat some traditional food for breakfast or for the whole day:
- Noodles - kept as long as possible to symbolise long life
- Glutinous rice dumplings soup - a sticky chewy dumplings, sweet or savoury to symbolise all the family will stay together happy, no arguments and no separations.
- Glutinous rice cake - a sweet sticky steamed chewy cake, to symbolise life is sweet and family will be together happy.
- Many cantonese like to have savoury turnip cake (mooli cake) to replace the sweet glutinous rice cake
- in some part of China or many Chinese like to eat pot sticker dumplings as they look like the old chinese gold ingots, to symbolise prosperity.
In our family, we usually have a meat free day and eat only stir fry monk's vegetables 羅漢齋 and sweet glutinous rice cake slices fried with beaten eggs for breakfast. Then there is the morning rituals of the youngsters greeting the older members of the family in various traditional ways, and married couples will give children red packets 利是 (Lai See) filled with money. RED is big for new year, it is the colour of luck, it's seen and used everywhere. Then the rest of the day will be visiting member of the families usually the senior member and friends and relatives will come to visit your home. These visits are called 拜年 (Bye Nian). Children will get Lai See everywhere they go from married friends and relatives. Then there may be more fireworks and lion dance. The whole day goes on and on with people coming and going and lots of noise. Also another thing about day 1 in my family and others is no one is allowed to use the broom to sweep the floor it's is considered very bad luck (sweeping away any good luck and new blessings), we are only allowed to clean with a wipe or clothe.

Day 2 - Day 2 is quieter. Usually married daughter will visit their parent's home with her family. Businesses will pray to their God for blessing.

Day 3 to 4 - Nothing much happening. Usually day 4 people will go back to work and children back to school.

Day 5 - is to celebrate the God of wealth and many will eat pot sticker dumplings as a symbolism.

Day 6 - a normal day

Day 7 - is to celebrate a common birthday for everyone called 人日 (yan yak) in cantonese or (ren le) in mandarin. On this day many will eat a raw fish salad 魚生 (yu sung) or ceviche Chinese style.

Day 8 - normal day

Day 9 - some celebrate and pray to their God of Heaven

Day 10 to 14 - normal days

Day 15 - last day of New Year 元宵節 (yuan siu jet), traditional food is usually something round to symbolise the rounding up of the new year, glutinous rice balls (dumplings) sweet or savoury are very popular and a feast to finish as dinner. That night people especially children will carry a lanterns everywhere they go. In the old day, this was a very good day to look out for a date! Fire crackers and lion dance in some places to end the new year with a bit of noise and colour.

* Throughout the 15 days you can still go Bye Nian to any of your friends and relatives.

Lucky food:

Fish - usually whole with head and tail to symbolise 年年有餘 (nian nian you yee) i.e. you will have surplus of all the good things every year and also this symbolises everything you do will have a good start and finish

Anything that sounds fatt in Chinese (fatt sounds like 'getting rich' in Chinese) like fatt choi a black hair like fungus usually cooked with shitake mushroom, dried oyster or sea cucumber.

Many Cantonese like pig's trotters cooked different ways, some with fatt choi. 'hand' or trotter symbolises one or two cantonese phrases meaning whatever you do will be successful.

Cantonese like deep fried sweet dumplings with ground peanut and sugar filling to symbolise the old gold ingots 金元寶

Melon seeds or pumpkin seeds - with the shell some red and some black are eaten all new year season.

Sweet meat - candied fruits and nuts are very popular to symbolise the coming new year will be sweet and lucky.

Rice cake 年糕 - Cantonese like the sweet steamed glutinous rice cake like the one described above. In northern part of China I think (not to sure) rice cake is a lump of slightly salted plain rice cake, cut into pieces for stir fry or soup.

Raw fish salad 魚生 (yee sung) - only on the seventh day.

And not forgetting, mandarin, tangerine or any golden small citrus are a must during new year to symbolise prosperity. When family and relative doing their bye nian they have to bring some with them to greet the family with the golden fruits (prosperity) and some lai see (red is luck)

Hope you like reading the above.