Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Rojak is a Malaysian/Indonesian/Singaporean/Bruneian snack salad with a black/brownish pungent dressing. This black/brownish dressing dominantly contains a black shrimp paste called petis udang or hae ko (in Hokkien). I have not seen this paste on sale in UK for many years but recently I have seen this brand (picture below) in most larger Chinese supermarkets including online from Wai Yee Hong.

This shrimp paste is nothing like the pinkish brown solid shrimp paste called belacan or kapi for curries or stir fried kangkong. Petis udang's texture is similar to marmite. It is made with a shrimp shells stock reduction and it can be sweet with added sugar or palm sugar. This petis udang I bought recently is quite different from what I used to have in the far east years ago, it seems much browner than jet black and it is a lot more sweeter than I remembered. The taste is ok.

The two common uses of petis udang is making rojak or use a condiment sauce for sour fish assam laksa like this recipe.

Rojak is one of my favourite S E Asian snack. The dressing can be a bit pungent, once you got over the smell it is very very tasty. The salad is made with a mixture of fruits, vegetables, tofu, fried bread dough etc.... Some people will add a reconstituted squid like this or another favourite is deep fried prawn fritters.

Here is my version without the squid.

Recipe will feed two hungry person. See this picture for the salad ingredients.

Cup each of (approx. more or less does not matter)
  • cucumber - cut into bitesize
  • fried tofu - very firm tofu freshly fried and cut into bitesize
  • bean sprouts - blanched then drain
  • kangkong (water spinach) - blanch for a minute then cut, if not available can use a crisp lettuce but not blanching
  • jicama/yam bean/mangkuang - peel then cut into bite size (if not available can use Chinese pear or crispy eating apple)
  • you tioa/ yau ja gwai/ Chinese crueller/ Chinese doughnut (if not available can use freshly made croutons) - for the you tioa if not freshly fried, put in the oven to crispen up before cutting
  • Pineapple - fresh is better

for the dressing:

1/2 tub of udang petis
40 - 60 ml fresh lime juice or juice from limau kasturi (Malaysian small green lime)
2 - 4 tbsp of grated gula melaka or gula jawa (both brown palm sugar) or Thai light coloured palm sugar.
1/2 tsp - 2 tbsp fresh red chilli paste (chilli pounded or blend in mini blender) - to your taste
1.5 - 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp of dry roasted belacan or dried shrimp paste - optional for a more stronger tasting and umami dressing. I happened to find a ready roasted powdered belacan last week which is less pungent and save the house smelling for days. See the packet on the picture above.
4 - 5 tbsp ground roasted peanuts

* If you are lucky enough to get other S E Asian fruits, you can also add green mango, starfruit or jambu air (rose apple), see descriptions on this post.

More ground peanuts for garnish


Prepare the salad ingredients

To make the dressing first mix the udang petis with chilli paste then little lime juice at a time to dilute the udang petis. Then mix every together.

Mix the dress with the salad ingredients.

Sprinkle on lots of ground roasted peanuts. Enjoy

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Savoury Zhongzi (五香鹹肉糭)

It's Dragon Boat Festival (Duan Wu Jet 端午節) again on Thursday 28th , which falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of Chinese lunar Calendar every year. Duan Wu Jet always celebrated by the racing dragon boats and eating rice dumplings or Zhongzi 糭子.

No idea whether there will be any dragon boat racing anywhere in UK. I love zhongzi, it's a rice package normally wrapped by bamboo leaves with glutinous rice, meat, mushroom etc... It's a full meal on its own, great to eat anytime of the day, any day of the year, not just Duan Wu Jet.

I was in Chinatown last week and saw the dumplings selling for nearly £3 each! Such a rip off!

For the ingredients the most expensive possibly the salted egg yolks if bought but I had DIY salted eggs which saved me few pennies. Also I used DIY dried chestnuts, dried near last Christmas when fresh chestnuts were cheap.

Yesterday I spent several hours making these yummy rice parcels. Like most Chinese I always make loads, some will be given to friends and family and some keep in fridge to be eaten within the next few days and the rest will go into the freezer.

This recipe is typical Cantonese style - Five spice savoury zhongzi.

For the rice dumpling here is the list of prepared ingredients and a slideshow showing how to wrap the dumplings. This recipe will make around 35 dumplings.

2kg of glutinous (sticky) rice, soaked seasoned (see below)
1.5 kg Salted pork with five spice (see recipe below)
600g split (skinned) mung beans
70g dried marinated shitake mushrooms (see preparation below)
18 - 20 salted egg yolks (optional if not available)
450 - 500g dried chestnut (see preparation below)

about 80* pieces of bamboo leaves (*extra in case some torn or imperfection)
some cotton string for tying the dumplings

few pandan leaves boil with the dumplings give a very nice flavour (optional)

Method see slide show below.

A. Salted pork with 5 spice

1.6 kg of pork (belly or shoulder with or without skin)
4 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 heap tbsp of sugar

4 tbsp of five spice

Cut pork into thick slices, rub with salt and sugar then keep in the fridge for 2 - 3 days. Night before use, take the pork out and rinse of all the excess salt. Cut into small chunks and mix with five spice, keep in fridge ready for use tomorrow.

B. Making shallot/garlic oil

Finely chopped about 4 - 5 shallot (walnut size) and 4 - 5 cloves of garlic, then fry with 1/2 cup of oil till shallots and garlic turned light golden brown. Turn heat off, the shallot and garlic will continue to turn a darker brown. Leave to cool.

C. Soaking and blanching bamboo leaves

Soak the leaves night before with a clean bucket. Next day blanch in boiling water in several batches for about 8 minutes each batch till the leaves are softened. Then soaked in clean tap water ready for use.

D. Prepare the rice

Soak the rice at least 5 hours or night before, drained thoroughly. Then mixed with 8 tbsp of the shallot/garlic oil (with bits), 2 tsp of salt and 4 tbsp of light soy sauce.

E. Prepare the mushroom

Soaked the mushroom with warm water till softened, cleaned and cut into slices. Squeeze of excess water and marinate with 1 tbsp of shallot/garlic oil and dash of light soy.

F. Prepare the dried chestnuts

Soak the chestnuts night before. Next day boil with clean water, simmer for about 30 -40 minutes till softened. Drain and remove all skin. Large pieces can be broken.

G. Prepare the split mung beans

Soak for about 1 hours or till softened, drained and ready to use.

H. Salted egg yolks

Can use bought/DIY salted eggs, use only yolks. White can be retained for steaming minced pork or making egg flower soup. For a cheaper options can DIY you own salted eggs, will post recipe in later post. If not available can leave out.

Other popular zhongzi fillings:

soaked dried shrimps
soaked dried scallops
chinese sausage (lap cheong)
whole skinned raw peanuts
roasted and ground peanuts

There are also sweetened zhongzi with red bean paste or lotus seed paste as the filling. Sweetened zhongzi the rice is usually has lye added to make the rice looks yellow with a lye flavour.

Jia Chang Tofu (家常豆腐)

Jia Chang tofu is fried tofu braised in a spicy sauce with a little meat and maybe a simple vegetable like bamboo shoot, a common Sichuan dish. I have noticed most people described this dish as 'homestyle tofu' which is not really correct. The two words Jia Chang (家常) though is the same writing as 'homestyle' in Chinese but when talking about Sichuan Jia Chang it means this is a type of cooking or flavouring like fish fragrant (魚香 yu xiang ) or numbing spicy (麻辣 ma la). The only thing homestyle about this dish is all the ingredients are common in most Sichuanese kitchen.

There are many 'homestyle tofu' recipes but not Sichuan Jia chang tofu.

This recips will feed about 3 - 4 people as a meal with other dishes

Ingredients are approx. More or less does not really matter.

500g firm tofu (firmer the better)

125g pork, cut into thin slivers
125g bambaoo shoot, sliced

1 tbsp of chopped garlic
1 - 2 tsp of chopped ginger
1.5 - 2 tbsp chilli bean sauce
about 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
dash of light soy
some sugar (to your taste) I find 2 tsp is about right
1 - 3 tsp medium hot red chilli, roughly chopped (if you don't like too spicy can leave out)
1 tbsp of cornflour mix with few tbsp of water
dash of sesame oil
about 3 - 4 stalks of spring onion (chopped)
1.5 cup of unsalted stock or water
cooking oil


  1. Cut tofu into 8 - 10mm thick slices in triangular shape or rectangular shape. Lay these on kitchen paper to absorb any excess water for a while. Then fry with oil till golden both sides. Normally these are deep fried but I fried them with 5 - 6 tbsp of oil in several batches.
  2. In a clean work heat about 1 - 2 tbsp of cooking oil, add ginger and garlic fry for about a minute then add pork and fry till browned, add chilli bean sauce follow by bamboo shoot and stir fry for a while then add dash of cooking wine and chilli. Add in the fried tofu and stock/water and bring this to the boil. Let the tofu braised for about 10 - 12 minutes till the tofu pieces have abosorbed about 3/4 of the liquid. Taste if salty enough if not add dash of soy and sugar to taste. Add dash of sesame oil and slackened cornflour to thicken. Then stir in 3/4 of the spring onion, plate up and sprinkle on the remaining spring onion.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Twice Cooked Pork (回鍋肉)

Twice Cooked Pork (回鍋肉Hui Guo Rou) means cooked meat is returned to the pot to cook. This tasty stir fried pork is probably one of the many well known Sichuan dishes.

The origin of Twice Cooked Pork has different stories:

- This is from Wiki's writer 'The dish is said to have originated from the Qing Dynasty, while the Qianlong Emperor toured Sichuan. Qianlong demanded a feast in every stop that he made, and, when he approached one particular village, the villagers fretted. The crops had not been harvesting well that year and there may not have been enough to host the emperor. Fearing prosecution, the villagers hastily dumped their leftovers into the pot, cooked them again (thus "twice cooking" them) and served the resulting dish to the emperor. To their surprise, the emperor enjoyed it, and so the "twice cooked pork" became a famous Sichuan cuisine.'

- There is another possible story relating to the traditional Chinese (not just Sichuanese) custom. When family visit graves to pray to their relatives, one of the offering is boiled pork. This pork is taken home later to eat as a blessing or they are too poor to waste any good meat. The meat is bland so Sichuanese used their local flavourings to make it tasty by slicing the pork then frying with chilli bean sauce, sweet bean sauce or hoisin sauce and other ingredients. It has then become a popular family recipe, every family may have their own preferred recipe.

The cut of pork used also has different opinions. Some insist on using belly and some used shoulder pork or leg meat with skin and fat attached. I like pork belly myself. There are two typical recipes one similar to mine (with or without vegetables) and the other includes fried and sliced tofu with Chinese cabbage.

This is my recipe:


400 - 450g of belly pork with skin (in one piece)

about 80 - 100g celery (thin slices)
about 180g sweet pepper (any colour or mixed, cut into bite size)
2 stalks of spring onion (sliced)
about 1 tbsp chopped garlic (2 - 3 cloves)
about 2 tsp chopped ginger
1 - 1.5 tbsp of chilli bean sauce 辣豆瓣醬 (to your taste)
1 - 1.5 tbsp of sweet bean sauce 甜麵醬 or hoisin sauce (to your taste, hoisin sauce can be saltier than sweet bean sauce)
1 - 2 tbsp cooking oil

  1. Cover the pork in cold water and bring to a boil then turn the heat to minimum, put the lid on and simmer very gently for about 25 - 30 minutes. Remove any scum during boiling/poaching.
  2. Take the meat out, rinse and plunge in cold water to cool. Remove pork pat dry and cut into very thin slices.
  3. Prepare and set aside the vegetables and other ingredients.
  4. Heat the wok with a little oil till hot and fry the pork slices till the meat is lightly browned. Take the meat out of wok, set aside.
  5. See if there is enough oil (about 1 tbsp) left if not add a bit more, add garlic and ginger stir fry till fragrant then add chilli bean sauce and sweet bean sauce stir and then add the celery and sweet peppers. Stir fry till vegetables are slightly softened then add the meat back in and stir fry till the meat is well coated with the sauce. Add spring onion stir and ready to eat.
**If you are not sure how much sauce you preferred add less first then after the meat is added, taste if you need more chilli bean and/or sweet bean sauce.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Pearl meatballs (珍珠肉丸)

This is a Cantonese dim sum. The glutinous rice looks like little pearls studded all over super scrumptious meatballs. You can find these in many dim sum restaurants, they are dead easy to make at home.

Recipe will feed 2 very hungry people to 4 light eaters.


150g of glutinous rice or sticky rice

300 - 350g minced pork
100g raw peeled prawns, chopped
10 - 12g dried shitake mushrooms (about 2 - 3 mushrooms), soaked and finely chopped
2 tsp of grated ginger
1 egg white, beaten
1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
1.5 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp of sesame oil
1 tbsp of shaoshing wine
pinch of ground pepper

about 3 tbsp of chopped spring onion
few sprigs of coriander, chopped
about 5 peeled and chopped water chestnuts (about 1/4 cup when chopped), best use fresh. Can sub with chopped carrot

  1. Soak the rice for 3 - 4 hours. Then drain thoroughly for use.
  2. Mix B together and leave in the fridge for 1 - 2 hours. After that mix in C.
  3. Divide the meat mixture into 18 - 20 portions and roll into meatballs.
  4. Coat the meatballs with as much rice as you can
  5. Put meatballs on a shallow dish or a paper lined bamboo steamer and steam for about 20 - 25 minutes or till the rice is cooked (translucent) and fluffed up like spiky pearls.
  6. Eat immediately while hot on its own or dip in any of your favourite sauce, soy, chilli etc...... Any left over can be re-steamed, don't microwave or the rice will be chewy.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Steamed tofu with shrimp paste flavoured pork - 鹹蝦豬肉蒸豆腐

You may know Thai or Malaysian shrimp paste (kapi or belacan). Do you know there is also a Chinese shrimp paste or 'hum ha jiong' 鹹蝦醬? It's a pinkish brown, soft and smooth paste in a jar. I use Lee Kum Kee brand. It's not cheap about £5 a jar but it's a nice treat. The paste will turn browner once opened and kept in fridge but does not affect the quality, will keep perfectly ok for a long time in the fridge. It is very pungent like kapi or belacan (like smelly socks), just don't take a deep breath if the opened jar is near you. Once mixed with other ingredients like this featured recipe it is very delicious.

My favourite use of this paste is mixed with pork and steamed with plain Chinese tofu. This paste is also very good for stir frying kangkong (water spinach) or Chinese spinach (spinach with stalks). Also very good adding a tsp or two to Chinese savoury pancake mix.

Here is a picture of my favourite shrimp paste pork and tofu.

Recipe will feed 3 - 4 people.


500g of Chinese fresh tofu, medium soft or firm
300g of pork, sliced
2 tbsp of Chinese shrimp paste
2 tsp of sugar
1 medium size red chilli
1 tbsp of sesame oil
1 heap tsp of cornflour

2 stalks of spring onion (chopped)
1 tbsp of ginger (chopped)
more chilli (optional)

1 large steamer
1 deep dish

  1. Mix pork with shrimp paste, sugar, sesame oil, chilli and cornflour for at least one hour.
  2. Cut tofu into large chunks and lay pieces on a deep dish. Leave for few minutes and drain off any excess liquid.
  3. Lay marinated pork on tofu and steam for about 20 - 25 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle on chopped spring onion, ginger and chilli. Enjoy with plain rice.

Sweet and Sour Pork - 菠蘿咕嚕肉

Sweet and sour is one of the few very early and famous fusion dish created by Cantonese restaurant many years ago mainly for the Western customers.

In Cantonese this dish has a weird name called 'goo-loo yuk' (咕嚕肉), yuk = meat. I am still puzzled by the word 'goo-loo', if any reader knows better than I do, do let me know. There are various assumptions:

- some said it's to do with it being so delicious, people sees this dish they started to make funny noises salivating and rumbling of tummies, sounds like 'gooloo gooloo'

- some said it is to do with the tossing and turning of the fried pork pieces in the sweet and sour sour in the wok

- some said when the restaurant presented this dish to the Western customers, they were so excited and talking excitedly, the conversation sounded like 'gooloo, gooloo' to the non speaking Chinese waiter/waitress. Don't ask me to explain why :)

This dish is firm favourite not only to Westerners also most Chinese and others in the whole world. No further introduction is required. If you like sweet and sour you will like this.

There are so many variations of sweet and sour recipes. Normal recipe is to coat the meat in batter and deep fried. The sauce must be sweet and sour and looks appetising, sweet and sour ingredients can be anything. The battered pork should remain crispy coated with the S&S sauce. Accompanied vegetables usually onion, sweet pepper and many with pineapple like this recipe.

Here is my recipe, enough for 3 - 4 people with one of two other dishes.

A. For the pork balls
300 pork (any tender pork) **
2 tsp of light soy
pinch of ground pepper
2 tsp of sesame oil
1 beaten large egg white, or 1 very small whole egg

60 -70g of cornflour
1 tsp of baking powder
1 tbsp of white distilled/malt/ white rice vinegar
pinch of salt

2 cups of cooking oil for frying (or use deep fat frying)

B. For the sauce
4 - 5 tbsp of tomato ketchup
1 tbsp of Chinese black rice vinegar or any other vinegar or lemon juice
1.5 tbsp of oyster sauce or 2 tsp of light soy (oyster sauce is more flavourful)
2 - 3 heap tbsp of sugar
1 - 2 tsp of chilli sauce
1 heap tsp of cornflour
0.5 cup of water or stock or pineapple/orange juice

C. Vegetables
1 medium onion
1 - 1.5 cup of pineapple chunks (best use ripe fresh pineapple)
1/2 medium size red pepper
1/2 medium size green or yellow pepper

1 tbsp oil for cooking sauce

1 hollowed out pineapple for decoration


  1. Cut pork into chunks about 2 x 1.5 cm. Marinate the pork with soy, ground pepper, sesame oil and egg. Leave to marinate for at least one hour.
  2. To prepare the pineapple, cut off 1/3 of the pineapple lengthwise and hollow out the pineapple flesh with a small knife (curved knife is best). Keep 1 cup of the flesh for this dish, remaining for other use.
  3. Mix the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  4. Cut the vegetables and pineapple into bite size.
  5. Heat wok or frying with oil till hot and keep temperature around medium heat.
  6. Mix cornflour with baking powder and salt then stir into the meat with the vinegar, mixed till all combined.
  7. Once oil is hot enough, test by dropping a little batter into hot oil, if sizzle it's ready. Spoon meat pieces one by one into oil and deep fried for few minutes till the batter is brown and crispy. Do this in few batches. Drain on kitchen paper and keep in warm oven.
  8. Once you have finished deep frying. Pour oil into container. Wash wok.
  9. Add 1 tbsp oil in wok and heat till hot and stir fry with onion for about a minute, then add sweet pepper stir fried for another minute then add pineapple follow by the sauce mix, cook till sauce thickened, hot and bubbly. Add in the battered pork toss quickly so the batter will remain crispy. Put some in a pineapple case and the rest in a plate, eat while hot with plain or egg fried rice.

** You can sub pork with chicken, spare ribs in small pieces or firm fish. Deep fried fish takes less time.

If you really dislike deep frying, just marinate the meat and 2 heap tbsp of cornflour and shallow fried till brown in a pan and continue with the sauce. You will need around 1/3 more meat.