Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Spring Rolls

This is a follow up to the wrappers made on this post. I have made these wrappers many times now and they still work. Last week I ran out strong white flour so I used plain flour, it wasn't as good the wrappers were easier to break. I can now confirm the stronger (higher protein contain) the flour the better. The other thing I also found out was they are not very good to wrap after in the fridge for few days, the wrappers become brittle and split easily. I will amend the wrapper making post saying they are good to keep in fridge.

I will now show you a standard way to fill and wrap spring rolls.

You can use any fillings you like. I find raw meat is so much easier to wrap than bits of loose filling. Do not use anything with very high water content, the rolls will split and spit during frying.

Here is a standard recipe I do use frequently.

Filling: (This will make about 20 rolls using the homemade wrappers)

450g (1 lb) of minced pork
1 medium egg
about 12 - 15g Wood ears or tree ear 木耳
2 small carrot
about 3 - 4 sprigs of spring onion
about 2 tsp grated ginger
2 tbsp of fried crispy shallot (if you have some)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
pinch of freshly ground pepper
small pinch of salt
about 1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp cornflour (corn starch), more cornflour is needed if the mixture is wet.
if you like spicy you can add some chopped chillies
if you have some fresh or canned water chestnuts, you can add some just chopped roughly

  1. Soak the wood ear till softened and expanded 3 - 4 times. Clean and finely shredded. Easier way to shred wood ear is too roll it up then shred.
  2. Grate the carrot using a cheese grater. (about 1 cup loosely packed)
  3. Rinse the spring onion and squeeze out any excess water then chop. (about 1/3 cup chopped)
  4. Now put all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Best way is to use your hand, keep squeezing and mixing till all combined and the mixture is quite firm. If you don't like the touch of raw meat use gloves.

Now make a flour and water paste for sealing the spring rolls. Use about 1 heap tbsp plain flour mix with water. The mixture should be runny.

To deep fry the spring rolls, I normally use a wok which uses less oil. Or you can use an electric deep fat fryer. Heat the oil till hot before adding the spring rolls. If using wok need to keep turning the spring rolls till done.

Once fried serve immediately.

If you are frying a big batch or serving these rolls at a later time, after frying keep the rolls in single layer in the oven around 120 - 130deg C.

How to wrap spring rolls. See slide show.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Tea smoked chicken 茶熏雞

Chinese Tea smoked chicken is not new, celeb chefs over here in UK have been doing it for years.

This smoked chicken I am doing here is how Chinese would normally do it. To ensure the chicken is full of flavour I marinated (brined) it for almost 36 hours. The chicken is steamed then followed by smoking. No oven roasting is necessary.

As you can see the chicken is beautifully golden brown and rich in smoke flavour. The marinade/brine also penetrates the meat which gives it a lovely flavour at the same time keeping the chicken very juicy.

This smoking method can either use whole chicken or chicken portions.

For this recipe I am using a whole chicken around 1.75kg.

Marinade (brine):

about 150ml shaoshing wine
about 50 ml light soy sauce
300ml water
1.5 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorn
2 star anise
4 - 5 peppercorns (lightly crushed)
1 thumb size ginger (no need to peel just thinly sliced)
2 stalks of spring onion (sliced)

Put the chicken in a zip lock bag, add marinade. Seal the bag. I used double bags just in case there is any leakage. Keep chicken in the fridge. Turning twice a day.

Before cooking take it out 30 - 40 minutes earlier to bring it to room temp. Take the chicken out and remove every bits of spices. Ready for steaming.

For the left over marinade, I boiled and strained it. Use it for noodle soups or add to any stir fries.


I used a dish to collect any cooking juice then rest then chicken on a rack so the juice will not touch the chicken. The steamed meat juice has a lovely flavour, can be used as sauce or stock.

Steaming time depends on the weight of the chicken, the chicken is not ready to eat after steaming, it will continue to cook while smoking. If you just like to steam and serve the chicken without smoking add another 10 - 12 minutes steaming time. To steam the chicken, when water is boiling turn the heat to medium. Very high heat steaming the meat outside will cook rapidly and turn tough before the inside is cooked.

For just cooked meat with a slight hint of pink keeping the chicken very moist, how the Chinese would like,
- 10 minutes/500g weight

If you like your chicken thoroughly cooked without any pink at all,
- 15 minutes/500g weight

When the chicken is done take it out and straight onto the smoker soon as you can. For whole chicken make sure to drain the juice from the carcass inside, ready for smoking immediately.

Use a wok/large old pan/steel stove top steamer, all with a lid. I used the same steel steamer that steamed the chicken for the smoking. Double or triple lined the dried 'smoker' with large pieces of foil.

Then make up a smoking material:
2 heap tbsp sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp rice
1 handful of Chinese tea, about 5 tbsp (I used Ti Kuan Yin tea 鐵觀音)

Make the mixture then spread on the foil

Put a rack on top of the smoking material, or in my case I used a steel steamer I put the rack on the steamer. Put Chicken on the rack and put the lid on. Turn the heat up to medium and soon you will see white smoke, then turn the heat down to low. I could really smell the flavour coming out of the tea. Smoke the chicken till golden brown. Do make sure you take care of the smoke alarm while smoking and turn the cooker hood fan on. There shouldn't be too much heavy smoke lingering your kitchen that you may need the fire extinguisher anytime. Do not leave the kitchen unattended while smoking.

Smoking time:
about 15 minutes (medium smoked)
20 - 25 minutes (deep rich colour and flavour)

Here is a picture when the chicken has just put on the 'smoker' while the smoking material beginning to puff up white smoke.

If you have a glass lid for the 'smoker' you will soon see the chicken will turn yellowish after 5 minutes the colour will get deeper and deeper.

This is when the chicken started to brown. As you can see there is still heat and some steam to continue cooking the chicken while smoking.

This is when done after about 20 minutes. Heat off and let the smoke settles for few minutes before taking the chicken out. As you can see there is not a lot of juice dripped on the steamer. The chicken has turned very deep golden brown. Leave the chicken to cool and rest before chopping the Chinese style or carving.

Here is the charred material left. It has turned black and very hard. Just chuck it job done.

The cleaning part of my steel steamer after smoking was very easy, just a little cream cleanser it's sparkling again.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Steamed savoury sticky rice pudding 筒仔米糕

I had some of the stewed pork 滷肉 left and it is great to make 筒仔米糕 'tong zi mi gao' which is a savoury rice pudding/dumpling. It's again another speciality of Taiwanese snack or small eat (小吃 'xiao chi'). This rice pudding is similar to zhongzi, a lot easier to make without having to know how to wrap with bamboo leaves. Traditionally it is made with bamboo cup that looks like this. Now normally with rice bowls or pudding cups/basins.

Very simple and easy recipe. For this recipe you need 5 small pudding basins or rice bowls (I used 1/4 pt plastic pudding basin)


250g glutinous rice (sticky rice)

about 1 cup of stewed pork 滷肉
3 - 4 salted duck egg yolks (if not available can use 2 hard boiled eggs fresh or stewed like as per stewed pork recipe), can also leave out if you don't like egg.

1.5 cup of water flavoured with 3 - 4 tbsp of the stewed pork meat sauce, if there is not much sauce sub with 3 tsp of light sauce + 2 tsp dark soy + 2 tsp fried shallot oil or sesame oil + pinch of ground pepper.

a little cooking oil

  1. Rinse and soak the rice for about 2 hours. Drain of excess water.
  2. If using salted duck egg yolks, cut in half. If using hard boiled egg cut into thick slices or quarters.
  3. Make up the flavoured liquid.
  4. Grease the pudding basins or rice bowls with cooking oil.
  5. Put a piece of egg on the bottom of the basin, then add 2 - 3 tbsp of stewed meat. Press with spoon so there is not air gap. Then add enough rice leaving about 0.5 cm room for the rice to expand. Using a spoon again press the rice down so it is not loose.
  6. Fill the basin with flavoured liquid just up to the level of the rice.
  7. Steamed at high heat for about 30 - 35 minutes till cooked through. Heat off, leave in the steamer for about 10 minutes to cool a bit before serving.
  8. Can either serve with or without turning the rice pudding out. Eat on its own or very nice with a spicy sweet and sour sauce. Recipe see below.

Here is a picture showing the different stages of filling the rice pudding.

And this is when they come out of the steamer.

I tried to turn them out of the basin, and they got a bit stuck on the bottom, so a bit lumpy and not a very nice picture. Never mind.

Here is the recipe for the sweet and sour sauce.

about 1/3 cup sweet chilli sauce
about 1/3 cup tomato ketchup
1 heap tsp miso paste
a little light soy to taste
1 - 2 tsp sugar to taste
3/4 water
1 heap tsp cornflour

Mix everything together till no lumps. Best mix miso first with a little water before mixing with the rest of the ingredients. Heat till thicken.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Sichuan potato salad 凉拌土豆

This potato salad is very nice as a side dish or eaten on its own. I made this reasonably mild not swimming in chilli oil like how the Sichuanese would have done so hot it will burn and numb the tongue very rapidly.

Salad is simple to make. Use non floury potato. The potato is either sliced paper thin or cut into match sticks. I used a mandoline which took less than 2 minutes. For this recipe I used 4 medium-small potatoes about 350g total. Once sliced or shredded rinse the starch off and soak for 5 - 10 minutes till potato is firm. Then boil a pan of salted water, add potato when water is boiling, cook for 4 - 5 minutes till potato is tender but still crunchy. Drain then mix with the dressing while hot. Leave to cool and the potato will absorb most of the dressing. Serve warm or cold, sprinkle with more spring onion and sesame seeds on top.

For the dressing:
2 tsp - 3 tbsp chilli oil (much as you can stand the heat)
0.5 tsp ground sichuan pepper (best freshly roasted and ground)
2 - 3 tbsp light soy sauce
1.5 tbsp Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 stalks spring onion (finely chopped)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
0.25 tsp chicken stock powder (optional) or if you have some homemade chicken stock add about 1 - 2 tbsp. For vegetarian use vegetable stock.