Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Pajeri nanas (pineapple curry)



It's been a while since I last posted a Malay recipe. This is what I made last week with opor ayam (creamy chicken). The pineapple was spicy, sharp and sweet, the chicken was mild and creamy, perfect match. This pineapple curry is one of my favourite curry, very tasty. If you like curry and sweet & sour this is for you.

Recipe is quite simple. All you need is a fresh pineapple** and some standard curry spices.

Ingredients:

Spice paste
about 125g shallot or red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 small chunk of ginger
1 heap tbsp dried shrimps*, soaked with a little water for few minutes, keep the soaking water
1 - 2 finger size red chilli

*vegetarian can leave out dried shrimps

about 800g fresh pineapple, cut into chunks

1 small piece of cinnamon or cassia bark
5 - 6 whole cloves
5 - 6 green cardamoms
2 whole star anise

3 tbsp curry powder (I used Malaysian meat curry powder - serbuk kari daging, you can use any reddish looking curry powder you have at home). If the curry powder is really hot use less
chilli powder (optional, if you like really spicy)
about 2 tsp paprika (not smoked), optional this will give the curry a reddish look without the spicy heat with extra chilli powder
1 tsp salt

about 1/4 cup or 5 - 6 tbsp of cooking oil, you can use less oil down to 2 - 3 tbsp this may not give you a reddish looking oil floating on the sauce which looks pleasing to the eye
some sugar (optional, add some if the pineapple is sharp)

about 4 tbsp coconut milk (optional, with or without coconut milk the curry is still very tasty, coconut milk gives a more rounded flavour)

2 - 3 tbsp kerisik*** (roasted fresh or dessicated coconut, then pounded or ground in a blender till fine)

water


*** Kerisik helps to thicken the sauce and also gives a nutty flavour. If you could not be bothered to make kerisik, can leave out curry still tastes very good.


Method:
  1. Blend the spice paste ingredients till smooth with a mini blender, can add the dried shrimps soaking water to help blending.
  2. Heat about 1/4 cup of oil in work then add whole spices stir for a while then add blended spice paste, curry powder, paprika and about 1 tsp salt, stir for few minutes till the paste has thickened and becoming very fragrant.
  3. Add in the pineapple, give it a stir for about a minute.
  4. Add enough hot water to nearly cover the pineapple, about 1 - 1.5 cup. If you like coconut milk add now. Let the liquid come to a rapid boil. Taste if you need more spicy heat, if yes add some chilli powder. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 - 18 minutes or till the sauce has reduced and thickened to the consistency you like. While simmering the sauce may spit, so best to put the lid on ajar so steam can escape helping the sauce to reduce.
  5. When nearly done add kerisik.
  6. Finally taste to see if you need sugar and/or more salt.
Nice serve hot or cold. Nice with plain rice or Malay turmeric rice. I had this with fresh bread lovely too.

This curry is also great with added chicken pieces (raw or cooked) or king prawns (shrimps). If using raw chicken pieces add at the beginning, for cooked chicken or prawns add at the last few minutes.

** If you don't know how to peel and core a fresh pineapple here is a method.

Kidney and liver rice wine vermicelli noodle soup 腰肝麵線


Rice wine and sesame oil vermicelli noodle soup 麻油酒麵線 is a celebration dish, very popular with Fuzhou 福州 and Hokkien (Fujian) 福建 people. Many after-birth mums will eat this, not sure if the doctor will recommend if the mum is breast feeding because it has oodles of rice wine added, for centuries many Chinese mums had eaten this so I don't see how bad it could be. This noodle soup is also common for birthdays and CNY. It is great if anyone has cold feet or get cold easily and for winter too because it has lots of ginger and rice wine. One bowl of this will keep you warm for hours. Not recommended if you have high blood pressure problem.

For this wine vermicelli noodle soup I used pig's kidney and liver. Pig's kidney and liver are treasured by Chinese they are usually more expensive than any pork meat in the far east. In the western world many people don't like them so they are really cheap. I bought a pair of decent size kidneys and about 1 lb of liver for less than £1.20, cheap as chips. If you hate offals you can also cook this noodle soup with just chicken, very tasty too.

The noodles used is not the common type it's very fine wheat vermicelli which is salty. It's called mien sien 麵線 or mee sua in Hokkien. Here is a video how these noodles are made. It's amazing how the dough can be stretched to make these silky fine noodles. If you are to buy any try to choose one which is handmade. Here is a picture of the one I used. It's very fragile and will break easily.


For the wine it is best to use homemade rice wine, if you don't have any can use Shaoshing or other plain Chinese rice wine. Homemade rice wine is usually sweeter and less alcoholic, so you can add more. I made rice wine with just cooked glutinous rice and rice wine yeast ball. Have not seen any red yeast rice 紅麴米 around would love to get some. Red yeast rice makes better wine quite deep red like red fruit juice.


Here is the noodle soup recipe.

kidney and liver vermicelli noodle soup 腰肝麵線


Will feed 4 - 5 people.


To prepare the liver
pig's liver about 300g, cut into thick slices
1 tbsp shaoshing wine
2 tsp of light soy
2 - 3 tsp of ginger juice (grate some ginger and squeeze the juice)

Marinate the liver for about 20 minutes, then drain off the marinade

To prepare the kidney
1 pair of kidneys about 400 - 450g
1 heap tbsp salt
1 heap tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tbsp vinegar

1 tbsp shaoshing wine
2 - 3 tsp ginger juice

Slice the kidney into half to reveal the veins, carefully trim off all the veins. Rinse then mix with salt, cornflour and vinegar and leave it for about 1 hour. This will draw out the strong kidney smell/flavour. If you don't mind it strong you can skip this step. After 1 hour, rinse the kidney. Score the kidney on the skin side (outside layer), in criss cross pattern (this will give a nice shape after cooking), then cut into thick slices. Rinse the kidney again and soak in fresh water for about 10 - 15 minutes to remove the salt and vinegar. By now the kidney should be quite clean without the strong flavour most people don't like. Drain and marinate with shaoshing wine and ginger juice for a little while then drain off the marinate before cooking.


The rest of the ingredients

about 15 - 18g of woodears木耳, soaked, cleaned and shredded
about 50 - 100g of ginger (if you like mild use less ginger, I normally use 100g or more. It's up to you how much you like ginger), shred the ginger very fine.
3 - 4 tbsp good quality 100% sesame oil like Yeo's or Kadoya (do use one with a strong nutty flavour, Lidl sesame oil is not good enough)
1 - 1.5 cup of shaoshing wine or 1.5 - 2.5 cups homemade rice wine or 3/4 cup of shaoshing with about 1 cup homemade rice wine
enough water or chicken stock to top up the soup, about 3 - 4 cups, more wine less water/stock.
1 pack of handmade salty wheat vermicelli 麵線 (mee sua), about 70 - 80g per person


Cooking:

  1. Stir fry shredded ginger and woodear with sesame oil for about 2 minutes at medium heat till very fragrant.
  2. Add in the liver and kidney and stir fry for about 2 - 3 minutes.
  3. Add wine (shaoshing or homemade wine) and enough stock/water. Heat high and bring this to the boil then heat off. There is no need to add salt or soy to season the soup the vermicelli is quite salty.
  4. Boil a large pot of water, when the water is bubbling rapidly, put in the noodles, handful at a time, this will cook very quickly. Soon as it softened take it out with a spider skimmer or slotted spoon and divide into portions put into soup bowls.
  5. Add hot soup straight away and serve. If you think it is not salty enough then add salt or light soy after you have tasted it.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Beijing Pizza 韭菜糊餅


韭菜糊餅 Jiu Chai Hu Bing


Some people called this Beijing pizza, it's an old Beijing style snack 'xiao chi 小吃', made with a thin crunchy cornmeal crust topped with Chinese chives (garlic chives), egg and a little dried shrimp for a more savoury flavour. Very tasty.

Pictures are a bit fuzzy due to the hot steam.


Here is the recipe - make an approx. 1 x 25cm round pizza (pancake)

Ingredients:

about 80 g cornmeal, coarse or fine (coarse cornmeal gives a harder and crunchier crust)
about 70 - 80ml (g) of boiling water*, if using cold water use around 60 - 70ml
about 1/4 tsp salt

* you can also use cold water, I find hot water makes the cornmeal absorbed more water making the crust less gritty.

1 heap tbsp of dried shrimps, soak for few minutes and finely chopped (if you don't like dried shrimp can leave this out but it does give a lot of savoury flavour to the pizza)

2 eggs, beaten
cooking oil

about 125 - 150 g Chinese chives or garlic chives 韭菜 (gau choi in Cantonese, jiu chai in Mandarin), finely chopped
a little salt
a little ground pepper
a little sesame oil

Method:
  1. Mix the cornmeal and pinch of salt together then mix with water. Leave to rest for 10 - 15 minutes so the cornmeal can absorb the water.
  2. Add about 2 - 3 tbsp of cooking oil to wok or frying pan, fry the dried shrimp at medium high heat for about 1 - 2 minutes till it is no longer too fishy smelling and getting a bit brown. Turn the heat to high, and drizzle in beaten egg while stirring to form fine bits of scrambled egg. When the egg is set heat off.
  3. Mix egg and shrimp mixture with chives, seasoned with a little salt and pepper.
  4. Using a cold dry frying pan (I used a 30cm non stick frying pan), sprinkle the wet cornmeal onto the pan and spread it out/press with a soft spatula or fingers to form an even thin crust. Then spread the green mixture on top. And drizzle a little cooking oil around the rim of the crust. Lid on and let this cook at medium heat for about 6 - 8 minutes or till you feel the lid is really hot (need the steam to cook the chives) and the bottom crust is golden brown or you may see the crust lifting up around the rim. Then it is ready to transfer onto a plate. The crust is quite solid so it is quite easy to move it.
  5. Sprinkle with a little sesame oil and more ground pepper if you like. Cut into wedges and serve straight away.
sprinkle the crumbs on a cold pan

spread it out evenly

sprinkle on the chive and egg mixture

cover and steam cook /fry

when ready crust may lift up around the rim

Monday, 22 February 2010

Fried nian gao (egg fried sticky rice cake)


This is a simple breakfast common during the CNY season. Nian gao will harden after a few days, most people will fry it with egg to soften the cake and also given it a nicer flavour. Sometime if I have sweet potato and/or taro I would use them to sandwich nian goh and dip in egg to fry which is also very tasty too.

Here is just a simple fried nian gao with egg. Dead simple to make.

Cut some nian gao into slices about 5 - 6 mm thick.

Beat 1 or 2 eggs with a little sugar. You need about 1 large egg per rice bowl of nian gao. If anyone who finds the beaten egg very difficult to stick to the nian gao read on.

Heat a little oil in a pan or wok,

Fry few slices of nian gao without coating with egg till both sides beginning to get hot and soften, then dip into the egg and fry again. This you will find the egg will stick much better. If you still find the egg coating is too thin, dip into egg again after the last coating has set

Fry till the pieces are golden brown.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

CNY Day Seven Auspicious food (人日 七菜羹)

Most Chinese are very superstitious, I know we are a weird bunch, many of the things we do and eat around CNY can all relate to some meanings, mostly something to bring auspicious lucks. Any thing bad is usually avoided or not permitted like no sweeping around the house during the first few days of CNY, this will sweep away any lucks!. Bad luck food is stir fried squid 炒魷 because another meaning for (chow yau 炒魷) is being fired or lost your job, a very bad karma for these days.

Yesterday (Saturday) was the 7th day of CNY, referred to as everyone's birthday, see this post. This was another important day to celebrate with auspicious food. Normally I have raw fish salad or Yu Sang but I could not find any good quality tuna and don't fancy salmon. So opt for other food common for this day.

Because it is the 7th day, it is lucky to eat either 7 different auspicious dishes or made a dish with 7 vegetables. With these 7 different vegetables every one selected usually means something to bring us luck or prosperities. These seven vegetables can either use to make a rice soup or congee 七菜粥, seven vegetables soup 七菜羹 or use all in one single stir fry dish. Different people may use different vegetables, all up to you if you are superstitious enough to link each vegetable to some meaning.

The 7 lucky vegetables I selected were:
  1. Lettuce (sung choi 生菜), this symbolises growing wealth (sounds the same in Cantonese as sung choi 生財). Another meaning is very lively (in Cantonese is sung sung mang mang 生生猛猛). I used iceburg, any other lettuces is acceptable too.
  2. Celery (cun choi 芹菜), this symbolises hard working (in Cantonese is cun lo 勤劳)
  3. Leek (da suan 大蒜), symbolises someone is clever with money (in Mandarin is hui suan chen 會算錢). I could not find Chinese leek so used English leek.
  4. Spring onion /scallion (chong 蔥), this symbolises someone is very clever or smart (in Cantonese is chong ming 聰明)
  5. Chinese chives or garlic chives (gau choi 韭菜), this symbolises something good lasts ever after (in Cantonese is cheon cheon gau gau 長長久久)
  6. Carrot or mooli 蘿蔔, these two vegetables are normally called chai tao 菜頭 in Teochew which sounds simliar to (how chai tao 好彩頭) meaning bringing good luck. I used carrot.
  7. Coriander (yuen sai 芫荽), this symbolises serendipity (yuen fen 緣份)

Phew!!! These superstitions are giving me a headache.

So if any of you is Chinese and your mum or granny cook with these vegetables on this day you know why.

Here is what I did to these vegetables to make a thickened soup 七菜羹. Cut, chop or dice these vegetables into small pieces as picture shown below. Also prepared some tiny meat balls (around 125g) using marinated pork mince (ground pork) with some soy, sesame oil, ground pepper and cornflour. With all these also some beaten eggs, 2 for this case.



Boil about 1 litre of chicken stock (can also use pork or vegetable stock) till hot, then add celery and carrot. Simmer till vegetables are tender then add meat balls, Chinese chives, lettuce and leek. Simmer till tender. Then seasoned soup with a bit of light soy, pinch of salt and ground pepper. This is followed by thickening the soup with cornflour 2 - 3 tbsp slackened with some water, thickness to your liking. Bring the liquid to rapid boil, then drizzle and stir beaten egg into the soup to form egg ribbons and stir in coriander and spring onion. Heat off and drizzle with some sesame oil.

Here is the result. Very tasty too and quite simple to make.


I also had soup noodles yesterday. Noodles are lucky for any birthday, to symbolise long life. Will post the recipe later.


Happy Late Birthday to ALL!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Soy Sauce Poached Chicken 豉油雞 and Master Sauce 鹵水


I love poached chicken, the meat is so juicy and tender. That is why I love Hainanese Chicken rice. Another of my favourite is soy sauce chicken (See Yau Gai 豉油雞). This poaching liquor is a mixture of light soy, dark soy, sugar and spices normally referred to as master sauce (lu sui 鹵水). Chicken poached with this sauce is a lot more flavourful than just poaching with water or plain stock like Hainanese chicken.

I normally poach a whole chicken, if you like you can also use chicken pieces.

Quite a simple recipe, to poach one whole chicken the essential tool is a large pot which can fit the whole chicken in with a bit more extra room.

Next is to get a flavourful plump chicken preferably free range, organic or corn feed. Night before (or 24 hours before) you are ready to make this poached chicken rub the chicken (1 whole chicken) with about 1 tbsp salt , 4 - 5 tbsp light soy and 1 tbsp sugar. Keep the chicken in a zip lock bag with the marinade and leave in the fridge overnight. The flavour will penetrate the meat inside and also tenderise the chicken making it very juicy. Before you are ready to poach the chicken take it out at least one hour before to warm to room temp. Then put the chicken in a pot of rapidly boiling water and blanch at low heat for 2 - 3 minutes, this will reduce impurities oozing out into the master sauce. Discard the water and rinse chicken if there are impurities sticking on the body. You can blanch the chicken while the master sauce is simmering. If you are not too worry about impurities in the master sauce you can skip the blanching. I skip this step when I feel lazy.

Here is how to make a pot of master sauce or lu sui 鹵水. This sauce is re-usable again and again. There are restaurants or families who have kept lu sui going for years and years. To reuse just top up with any ingredients needed. The longer you use it the more complex the flavour will become. This sauce is so flavourful after a few poaching with meat, great as a sauce just drizzle on rice or any noodles.

Other than chicken you can use lu sui to poach any meat you like or hard boiled eggs and firm tofu. It is best to keep at least 2 different lu sui, one for lighter flavoured meat and the other for stronger flavoured meat. Lighter flavoured meat like chicken and pork also use the same for eggs and tofu. Stronger meat flavoured meat like duck, beef, lamb and offals.

To make this from scratch:

Master sauce or lu sui 鹵水

a. Make a caramel - Caramel gives a reddish brown colour to the meat, better than just using dark soy sauce. Put 1/3 cup of plain sugar and 4 tbsp of water in a small sauce pan. Heat till sugar has completely dissolved into a clear liquid. Continue cooking till the sugar beginning to turn yellow, heat turned to minimum and gently heat till the sugar has turned medium golden brownish red (a touch darker than golden syrup) heat off immediately. You need to watch this very closely, 1 or 2 seconds late the sugar can get too dark and tastes bitter. The syrup will continue to darken a bit more, when you see the colour has turned a nice reddish brown colour, gently pour in a little water (best use boiling water). the sugar will boil rapidly. Then a bit more water and stir, continue doing this till syrup stops bubbling, then pour in more water. Total water added is about 1 cup water or a bit more does not really matter. If any sugar did not dissolve at the bottom of the pan, turn the heat back on and heat till dissolved.

Ingredients for the lu Sui (this will make about 2 litres)

One portion of diluted caramel as above
about 1.5 cup light soy sauce (or more if you like more salty taste)
about 0.5 cup dark soy (or more if you like darker)
40 - 50 g Chinese rock sugar lump
1/3 cup Chinese cooking wine
about 1.25 litre water

Spices

2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns

2 tsp of black or white peppercorns (lightly crushed)
1 few inches long cassia bark or cinnamon stick
1 - 3 dried or fresh red chillies, cut into half and removed seeds
3 - 4 whole star anise
5 - 6 cloves
1 small piece dried mandarin/tangerine peel 陳皮
(about 3 - 4 cm wide)
3 - 4 pieces liquorice root 甘草 (optional), yellowish looking dried bark, available in most Chinese supermarkets)
1 chunk of ginger, sliced about 40g
2 sticks of spring onion (scallion), use the white part only


Method:
  1. You can wrap all the spices with a muslin clothe before adding to the pot but I never bothered. Put all the ingredients in a large pot and let that come to the boil then lid on and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Now this sauce is ready for poaching chicken or other stuff. Have a taste, if you like it saltier can add more soy (light or dark for colour too) or simply add a little bit salt. If you like sweeter, add a little bit more rock sugar.

Poaching Soy Sauce Chicken - See Yau Gai 豉油雞

Let the lu Sui come to a rapid boil. The sauce should be just over 1/2 full, any more or you may have an overflow when your put the chicken in. Lower the chicken in (blanched or raw). The chicken must be totally submerged in the sauce, if not enough liquid add a bit more water with or without some more soy sauce. If too much sauce remove some. Lid on and let it simmer for about 10 - 12 minutes or till the temp. of the sauce has reached about 82 - 85 deg C. Heat off, lid on. Cover the pot with some clean large towel or blanket (keep the pot away from the stove in case you set the towel or blanket on fire if you coincidently turn the heat on), covering with towel or blanket is to preserve the heat especially making this in the winter or cold kitchen (or put the pot in a polystyrene cool box). Let this sit for about 40 minutes for a medium size chicken, longer if the chicken is large. The chicken will be cooked but may have a little redness near the bone, some people like it this way because it is very juicy and tender. If you like the chicken completely cooked through without any redness at all, remove the towel, put the pot back on the heat and simmer very gently for about 10 minutes. Heat off and leave it for another 15 minutes or so. By then the whole chicken should be thoroughly cooked through and still juicy. Take the chicken out and let it cool before cutting.

Serve Chicken with rice or noodles (wheat or rice noodles), pour on some of the flavourful poaching sauce. Can add steamed green vegetables or few slices of cucumber or lightly blanched bean sprouts. If you like spicy have some chilli oil, homemade ginger chilli sauce (see this post) for dipping.




Taking care of Master Sauce, lu Sui 鹵水

Strain any leftover master sauce with muslin cloth or a very fine sieve to remove any impurities and spices. If the sauce has thickened (gelatinous), warm before straining. Then briefly boil this till boiling. Heat off and let it cool completely. Then pour into container or plastic bag and freeze till you are ready to use again. Can also keep in the fridge up to 10 days before using again. If there is a lot of fat on the sauce, put this in the fridge overnight, remove the fat then freeze.

To reuse, top the sauce with more water and any of the ingredients you feel is lacking. Keep this going you will have a complex flavoured matured master sauce that is treasured by many people.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Buddha's Delight or Monk's Vegetables 羅漢齋

On the first day of CNY many Chinese. especially Cantonese, will go meat free. Many will cook an assorted vegetarian dish using dried vegetables, edible fungi, tofu products and fresh vegetables. This dish is normally referred to as Buddha Delight or Monk's Vegetable, in Chinese is 羅漢齋 (lo han zai) or simply 齋菜 (zai choi).

This dish is the custom in my family for this day every year. My mum would cook a massive pot of this waiting for us at around 5am in the morning, we would eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I never get tired of it, sometime we also cook this other times in the year. Ingredients can vary depending on what are available at home and the season. On the first day of CNY, this dish is always special because mum would put in as many ingredients as she could get.

After I moved to England, I would only cook this if the first day of CNY fallen on the weekend or if I had taken a day off work. There are some ingredients which can be hard to find over here than in the far east or limited at the Chinese grocery store near me.

Here is one I cooked last Sunday. I normally eat a large bowlful of this on its own or with a little rice. There are so many ingredients all mixed together. Every bite is different, different texture and different taste of individual ingredients, all amalgamated with a lovely red fermented beancurd sauce.




For the dried ingredients I currently have at home, they are as per pictures below (recipe quantity as they are shown)



髮菜 fatt choi (essential for CNY because fatt choi sounds like 'getting rich' in Chinese. This is a fungus not commonly seen in Chinese restaurants in the west. It's like black hairs.)

粉絲 glass noodes / mung bean threads / cellophane noodles

腐竹 beancurd stick (soaked and cut into bite size)

香菇 shitake mushrooms (removed stem, soaked and sliced into bite size)

金針/黄花 dried lilly buds (once soaked, check and remove any hard stalk, tied each into a knot if you have time)

紅棗 red dates / jujube dates (pitted and cut into half or quarters)

雲耳 cloud ears (once soaked tear into bite size)

All dried ingredients, soak till softened using tap cold water. Shitake mushrooms and bean curd sticks will take the longest. Do soak them for 1 - 2 hours till softened. Others will take about 20 - 30 minutes. Reserve the soaking water for shitake mushroom.


For the fresh ingredients, I added

黃芽白/ 大白菜 Chinese leaf /Chinese cabbage/ napa cabbage, cut into pieces, about 2 large handful

紅蘿蔔 carrot (sliced), 1 medium size

笋 bamboo shoot (sliced), about 150g


** If I have any of these ingredients I will add some:

慈菇 arrowhead bulbs, look similar to water chestnuts, the skin is creamy white and quite thin. Not commonly found or eaten in the west. This vegetable is only available late autumn to winter time

白果/ 銀杏 gingko nuts (with shell, peeled vacuum pack or in a tin)

蓮藕 lotus root, fresh

荸薺 water chestnuts


麵筋 Chinese seitan (steamed or fried)


豆泡 fried puffy tofu


baby sweet corns (fresh or in a tin)


straw mushrooms (fresh or in a tin)


sugar snap peas / mangetout
s


Here is a picture of all ingredients (including fresh ingredients) soaked, cleaned, cut and prepared.


For the rest of the ingredients: (the amount shown above, you need)

about 7 - 9 cloves of garlic (about 1/2 bulb), chopped

2 walnut size shallot, chopped

about 3 - 4 small squares/ 1.5 large squares (40 - 50g) of red fermented beancurd 腐乳/ 南乳 (hong fu ru/ nam yee), mashed with 2 tbsp of the red pickling juice

2 - 3 tbsp light soy sauce (to your taste)

ground pepper (to your taste)

few tsp of sesame oil

1 tbsp of cornflour (cornstarch), mix with a little water

about 1/4 cup of cooking oil (less if you preferred down to about 3 - 4 tbsp)

water


The amount shown will make quite a large pot enough to feed 5 - 6 people.


Method:
  1. Heat oil then add garlic and shallot and fry for about 2 minutes till fragrant. Then add mashed fermented beancurd and stir for few minutes till fragrant.
  2. Add shitake mushroom and beancurd stick, add enough liquid (mushroom soaking water and plain water) to cover them, lid on simmer/ braise for around 10 - 12 minutes till tender. Add more water if required
  3. Add cloud ears, carrot, Chinese leaf, lily bud, red dates and bamboo shoots. Stir, lid on and simmer for around 5 - 6 mutes till vegetables are tender. Add more water if required. Season with enough light soy sauce.
  4. Add the remaining cellophane noodles and fatt choi. Split them up as you put them it. You need quite a bit of liquid for the noodles to absorb while they cook. If not enough add more water. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes till bubbly hot, do not cook too long or the noodles will be very soft. Then thickened with slackened cornflour, and lastly add enough sesame oil and ground pepper to taste.

** keep adding water as you cook along, so the vegetables can braise and steam. I add about 1.5 cup liquid in total

Always add in the longest to cook items first then the rest, can add in stages.


Every family has their own recipe and what ingredients they like most or must have in this dish. This recipe I have shown you was how my mum and now I would cook this. There are people who also like to add dried oysters and oyster sauce, we never do in my family IMO it's not vegetarian anyway.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Celebrate CNY Eve with Fu gui Ji 富貴雞, aka Beggar Chicken


Our New Year's Eve dinner highlight was a Fu Gui Ji 富貴雞, commonly known as beggar chicken (乞丐雞 chi gai zi) or (叫化雞 jiao hua zi). I preferred to called it Fu Gui Ji 富貴雞 for this occasion because fu gui 富貴 means fortune and prosperity.

This beggar chicken recipe started a long time ago in Hangzhou 杭州, China. The story was a beggar stole a live chicken from a village. He was found out and the owner chased him. He got panic and buried the chicken in some mud. Later when he come back, he dug out the chicken, without bothered to clean the chicken, he bbq it on open fire with its feathers and mud still on it for a long time. When he cracked open the mud he was surprised how fragrant and tasty the chicken was. He then told his friends and words started to spread throughout the village, so this method of cooking chicken (obviously with cleaned chicken later) become very popular. Everyone referred to this as Beggar Chicken. Sometime later, the Emperor happened to visit this town and heard of this dish. He tried it and was really impressed. He renamed it as 富貴雞 Fu Gui Ji because it sounds better and fit for the Emperor. This recipe then spread very quickly to other parts of the country and abroad till now.

I have no idea if the story is true or how close it is compared to all the other stories being told so far about this recipe. Beggar chicken is featured in many Chinese kung fu movies and stories about the Shaolin drunken master / beggar monk 濟公 (Ji Gong) who loved to cook chicken this way.

Today this recipe is a lot more elaborate with a richer and tastier stuffing, many include some expensive Chinese herbs. Ingredients for the stuffing vary quite a lot depending on the chef or cook. The name of this recipe can be any of the three Chinese names mentioned earlier.

Some restaurants and enthusiasts still prefer to use wet clay and straws to cover the chicken and bake in open wood fire as close to its original story and recipe. Some insist on certain type of clay from certain part of China and also mixing dried clay powder with wine to give that extra flavour.

I have only made this chicken once long time ago and has forgotten most of the procedures, so I have to look up my recipe book again.

I have no idea where to get the right clay or if any clay is toxic free. So the alternative for homemade recipe is to use a plain flour pastry.

Lotus leaf is essential IMO as the inner layer wrap to give a lovely flavour. Get fresh leaves if you are lucky to find some, if not dried is fine too. Dried lotus leaves are easy to find from many large Chinese supermarkets. If you cannot find lotus leaves can sub with banana leaf or just put the chicken in a plastic roasting bag.

This recipe has a wow factor if you make it for friends or dinner party. The cracking of the harden clay or flour dough crust is fun too. For the chicken get a flavourful chicken, free range or organic if possible I bought a free range corn fed chicken for this. For individual portions, poussin or cornish hen is suitable each guest can crack their own chicken crust to review the jewel inside.

This is how I made this chicken yesterday. There is no cooking skill required. Just advance preparation and bung in the oven for few hours.


Ingredients: (for 4 -5 people as part of various dishes meal)

Chicken and marinade

1 medium size chicken for 4-5 people or 1 smalll chicken for 2 - 3 people or few poussins/ cornish hen, you can also use guinea fowl

3 tbsp light soy (to your taste and also size of chicken)

4 tbsp shaoshing wine (or less with smaller chicken)

some ground pepper

1 tbsp sesame oil (or less with smaller chicken)


Method:

  1. Rinse the chicken then remove the leg bones and wing bones. Then crush the breast bone and back bone with your hand or a rolling pin. See slideshow. This is to make the chicken looks less bony, pliable and easier to wrap. If you can not be bothered to debone the chicken it's ok too.
  2. Marinate the chicken for 1 - 2 hours.


Stuffing


1 chunk of ginger, shredded
2 – 3 star anise
1/2 tsp five spice powder
pinch of ground pepper
about 150g good quality smoked bacon, shredded (or you can use about 120g of shredded pork with few tbsp of diced or shredded Chinese air dried ham 金華火腿 or any European or American air dried ham. Chinese air dried ham is impossible to find in the West due to import problem)
about 4 -5 dried medium shitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced
small handful of woodears, soaked and shredded
some bamboo shoot, roughly chopped (I don't have this yesterday, so left out)
few Chinese red dates (jujube dates), stoned and sliced
few tbsp of goji berries

See slide show for the array of ingredients for the stuffing


Method:
  1. Once you have prepared all the ingredients, put in a mixing bowl and pour in the chicken marinade juice. Mix.


Wrapping materials and method:

2 whole lotus leaves, if dried reconstitute by boiling till softened, rinse then squeeze/wring out as much liquid as you can without breaking the leaf.

1 large enough plastic roasting bag or some large (turkey) aluminium foil

For the pastry: Mix together 750g of plain flour (all purpose) with 2 tbsp of salt and around 400 - 415 ml of water to form a stiff dough. Once mixed leave for a while to rest then knead till smooth. Put aside for later use. The amount of pastry required depends on the size of chicken, this qty is for a medium size chicken.

Some cotton strings


Wrapping method:

  1. Cut away the hard centre core of the 2 pieces of lotus leaves. lay them flat and overlapping each other without showing holes, splits or openings.
  2. Put the chicken on top. Put stuffing inside the carcase and inside the legs.
  3. Fold the legs across and on top of the breast. Do the same thing with the wings. Then wrap the chicken with the leaves. Tie with strings.
  4. If you have roasting bag I would recommend you use it to wrap the lotus leaves parcel. Roasting bag gives a much better protection from juice leakage and evaporation of steam to soften the pastry. If you don't have a roasting bag, wrap the lotus leave parcel with several layers of foil. Be generous with the foil to fully and tightly wrapped the chicken parcel. Ensure you make all folding ends facing one side.
  5. Then roll out the pastry into a large sheet (about 5 - 6mm thick) big enough to wrap the chicken parcel. Put the chicken parcel on the pastry with folding ends of the plastic bag or the aluminium wrap facing down. Then wrap with the pastry, seal edges with a touch of water, make sure you seal the folding ends properly. Then turn the complete parcel upside down with the plastic/aluminium foil folding ends facing upward and pastry folding ends facing downwards. The whole thing was heavy and looked like a huge loaf of bread.
  6. Put it on a greased baking tray (greasing is necessary just in case the pastry will stick if juice running out). Bake at high temperature around 200 deg C for 30 -35 minutes then turn it down to around 170 deg C for another 1 hours 30 minutes for a small chicken or 1 hour 45 minutes for medium chicken. For single portion using poussin or cornish hen, bake for 20 minutes on high heat then another 45 - 50 minutes medium heat.

Once the chicken is cooked. Crack it open with a hammer or rolling pin then remove all wrappings and enjoy.

Here are some cracking and opening pictures.


For this Chinese New Year Eve dinner, we hammered the crust 3 times first with 3 cheers, one for health, two for luck and three for prosperity. It was rather fun.


Because the crust was a bit chewy I used a pair of scissors to cut the crust.


Getting down to the lotus leaf layer.


Revealing the star of the show. Not very pretty.


There was quite a bit of juice. Some had seeped through into the pastry making bottom part of it quite gooey, and steam also made most of the inside pastry a bit chewy. Once the crust was opened we could smell the fragrance right away. When the chicken was finally revealed, it did not look like the prettiest presentable chicken but the flavour and taste was really really good and the chicken was tender, the stuffing and meat juice were yummy. The smell of this chicken did linger in the room for quite a while.

I will definitely make it soon again. Will use roasting bag next time for minimum juice leakage.


To maximise the use of the oven, I had baked a loaf of bread (while at high temp) and a fruit cake (at lower temp) while baking this chicken.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Happy Tiger New Year


新年快樂!
Happy New Year!


福虎和你拜年!
Greetings from Lucky Tiger!



The following phrases are Tiger greetings. May sound a bit stupid translated to English, but quite sweet in Chinese.


福虎年祝你財源滾滾

Lucky Tiger wishing you rolling in with money in the coming year

發得像肥虎

Properous like a fat tiger

身體壯的像頭虎

Strong as a tiger

愛情甜的像虎奶

Love life sweet as tiger’s milk

好運多的像虎毛

Good lucks many as tiger’s hairs

事業蒸蒸像大虎!

Career/business flourishing like a roaring tiger



You may like to read some CNY traditions from last year post

Friday, 12 February 2010

Red bean and coconut sticky rice cake 椰汁紅豆年糕


This coconut flavoured sticky cake/pudding with cooked red beans is another Cantonese favourite for CNY. I made some the other day but I have to say I much preferred the old fashioned plain brownish rice cake. Here is a recipe if anyone is interested.

This recipe will make 2 puddings using 1/2 pint (about 250ml) pudding basins (metal or plastic) or other containers.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup red beans (aduki beans) + water
150g glutinous flour
50g rice flour
180 - 200g light brown sugar
100ml coconut milk
50 - 75ml water (less water if you like a firmer texture)


Method:
  1. Soak beans overnight then boil with some water (enough to cover the beans and some more) till softened. When cooked the beans should be quite dry. Take about 1 cup of this cooked beans
  2. Mix other ingredients together then gently stir in the cooked beans. Pour into 2 greased pudding basins or containers.
  3. Steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

As you can see I have put some red beans on the bottom of the basin, I find it makes the bottom bit too soft and gluey, so if anyone trying this recipe don't do that, just mix all the beans into the mix.

Crunchy peanut crescents 油角仔


Yau kok zai 油角仔 are crunchy peanut crescents, a very popular snack for CNY especially Cantonese. I have been making these since I was a kid, it's a must have this time of the year. I like to make mine really tiny, it's labour intensive I quite enjoyed making them.

They are crunchy inside out, so can keep for several weeks in airtight container.

For this recipe, this will make about 75 tiny crescents or less if they are bigger.

Ingredients:

dough:

300g plain flour (all purpose)
15g cooking oil (or melted lard), I like to use 50: 50 cooking oil and lard
15g melted lard (or you can use oil, lard tastes better and pastry is crunchier)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs (beaten)
some water

Filling:
125 - 150g roasted peanuts (preferably non salted), larger crescents use more peanuts
about 30g dry roasted sesame seeds
60 - 80g sugar (more if you like it sweet up to 150g), 60 - 80g sugar is not very sweet at all how I like mine

4 - 5 cups of oil for deep frying, best use fresh oil

*I normally roast the peanuts using raw peanuts with skin, dry roast in a wok using medium low heat and keep stirring for about 9 - 10 minutes till golden brown. You can also roast in the oven but I find dry roasting in a pan/wok the flavour is better. After roasting, put them in a colander, leave to cool for few minutes till cool enough to handle, then put the colander in the sink (dry) or on a pile of newpaper. Keep rubbing the peanuts with your hand and also rubbing them against the colander, this will release and pulverise the skins gradually falling out of the colander which you can clean up later.

For the sesame seeds, use raw seeds and dry roast in a pan/wok at medium heat for few minutes till light golden brown.




Method:
  1. Make the pastry. Mix sugar and salt into the flour. Add fat and oil then rub till combined. Then pour in the beaten egg, mix with a fork or spoon first then by hand. If the dough is dry add water a bit at a time. Mix till all the dry crumbs are absorbed leaving a clean bowl. Form the dough into a lump by gentle pressing. Do not knead the dough. Cover and leave it to rest for 20 - 30 minutes at room temp. If you make this in a very warm weather, put the dough in the fridge for about about 15 - 20 minutes.
  2. Then prepare the filling. Put everything in a food processor and blitz till fine.
  3. Cut the dough into 2. Roll out one piece first with some dusting of flour. Thickness of the dough needs to be quite thin, around 1.5 - 2mm.
  4. Use a round cutter and cut out the dough into small rounds. For tiny crescents use 2.5 inch (6cm) cutter, for larger crescents use maybe a 3 inch cutter.
  5. Take out the cut out pieces, mix leftover with the other fresh piece of dough and do the same again, rolling and cutting. You can also use the last leftover dough, squeeze together and roll again till finish.
  6. Put the cut rounds aside and cover.
  7. Take one piece, slightly damp half of the round facing you with water. Add about 1 tsp of filling (for tiny crescent only, large crescent use more filling), try not to put too much filling or it will be difficult to seal. Fold over and press the edge firm to seal and press it quite thin. If there is any filling overflowing to the edge, remove some by shaking it out and seal as normal.
  8. Make sure no split open edge at this stage. Then start crimping.
  9. Keep wrapping and crimping all other crescents till finished. Will take a while especially if you are not too experienced. Keep the finished crescents covered to prevent drying out.
  10. Heat the oil till medium hot, put one crescent in to test. If you see lots of tiny bubbles the oil is hot enough, continue adding in about 1/4 of the whole batch. If using less oil, fry fewer one at a time. Once the oil is hot enough keep the heat at medium low. Keep the crescents moving and flip over if necessary. The crescents need to be fried till crispy and crunchy all through, so they will take a while about 10 minutes (or more for larger crescents). If oil temp. is too hot, they will brown quickly on the outside and still soft inside. Fry the crescents till medium golden brown. Take them out and drain on paper towels.
  11. Once cooled put in airtight containers. Will keep for about 2 weeks (if they lasts that long!)

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

New Year Rice Cake 年糕

Rice cake or nian gao 年糕 is something nearly every Chinese family will have for CNY. The two words 年 nian and 糕 gao rhyme with the Chinese greeting phrase 年年高升 nian nian gao sheng, literally translated as higher year after year or simply you will prosper year after year. So eating nian gao is considered lucky for the coming year.

There are different nian gao, the Northerners have white plain rice cake made with plain rice (see this post), similar to Korean rice cake and normally cook with other things to make a savoury dish or rice cake soup.

The Southerners like Cantonese have sweet sticky cakes made with glutinous rice flour. There is a little story about why these sticky sweet cakes are made. Any Chinese (Taoists) with praying Gods at home will know this. On the 12th lunar month and 24th day which was the 7th Feb in 2010, the Kitchen God/Stove Master (Zao Jun 灶君) will leave Earth to Heaven (I wondered if Zao Jun needs Scottie to beam him up :)). He is to report to the Heavenly Grandfather (天公 Tian Gong) or more commonly referred to as the Jade Emperor (玉皇大帝 Yu Huang Dadi), the activities of every family on earth making note of who has been good or who's naughty (sounds a bit like Christmas and Santa, doesn't it?). Good people will be blessed and anyone with a bad report will be punished for the coming year. In order to sweeten him up and shut his mouth, people have being making these sweet and sticky cakes (or other sweet cakes) as offerings for centuries. So you will find nian gao on every Zao Jun's praying table/ praying area in many Taoist Chinese homes from the 24th day /12th lunar month for at least a week till Zao Jun's coming back to Earth on the 30th which is New Year's Eve. In order to welcome Zao Jun back to earth with good news and blessings, every family will be busy cleaning the house and making all sorts of sweet cakes and biscuits, to start a new year.

If you go to Chinatown or any Chinese grocery stores you will see many different nian gao at this time of the year. Some are made with a mould (mold) to look like a golden carp/fish, usually white with golden red. Fish is a symbolism for abundance and the colour golden red is lucky and also symbolises wealth (gold). The other more common nian gao is made with a simple cake mould like this I have made.



This cake is very chewy and sticky when fresh (within a day or two after making) and after that it will become firmer and harder. So you can eat it while it is still chewy and sticky or firm and hard later. Once the cake gets harden, re-steaming or frying in slices will soften the cake. There isn't a lot of taste to this cake, there are people who don't like it at all. I am one who love it a lot. I like it especially when it has gotten hard, sliced and dipped in beaten egg and then fry till golden. Delicious.

My mum used to ground buckets of soaked glutinous rice herself with an old fashioned stone grinder every year. Then made around 20 - 30 cakes, steamed them overnight or at least 8 - 10 hours. These cakes were for the family and relatives as gifts. Those were the happy time.

Now I just buy glutinous rice flour. Not as good flavour as with freshly ground rice though, but that will do for me. My mum's recipe always with plain white sugar, the long hours of steaming will caramelise the sugar and make the cakes reddish brown.

Here is a short cut recipe. The sugar is caramelised first before adding to the cake mixture, this will shorten the cooking time. This nian gao will freeze very well, so I normally make a few and keep some in the freezer for many months supply.


Hung Tang Nian Gao 紅糖年糕
(caramelised sticky rice cake)

This recipe is for one cake only, use any cake tin without a loose bottom or a pyrex dish or any container that will hold around 1.25 litres or 2 small 600ml disposable aluminium tins (takeaway containers). The total cake mix is around 1 litre.


Ingredients:

250g sugar + 1/4 cup water + 1 cup or 250ml water (this is to make the caramel)

500g glutinous rice flour
200 - 250ml water (more water, softer the cake)
50g sugar
2 tbsp cooking oil

a little oil for greasing the tin/pan/dish


To dec the cake (optional)

few soaked Chinese red dates or jujube dates
some skinned almonds. I used Chinese South Almonds 南杏仁, they are prettier than std almonds IMO.


Method:
  1. Put the 250g sugar with 1/4 cup water in small sauce pan, heat at medium heat till sugar dissolves (shake the pan slowly), till you get a clear syrup. Continue cooking till the sugar syrup bubbling up rapidly. When the syrup started to change colour turn the heat right down and continue heating till it has become light reddish brown, heat off. Any more heat the caramel will be too dark and burnt and it will taste bitter. Let this cool for about 1 minute then gradually pour in the 250ml water little by little. Be careful the first few drops of water hitting the hot caramel will make it boil rapidly. When the boiling subsides, pour in the rest of the water in one go. If some of the caramel did not dissolve, put the heat back on stir till dissolved. Let this cool for a while.
  2. Put the glutinous flour, caramel, the next 200 - 250ml water, sugar and oil together in a mixing bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon till no lumps. Let this mixture sit for about 1 - 2 hours if you have the time, this will improve the texture and flavour slightly. If you are in a hurry can steam right away.
  3. Grease the tin/dish with oil. Stir the mixture and pour into the tin/dish.
  4. Steam for 2 - 3 hours. The longer you steam the darker the colour of the cake. Once the cake is ready, put on some dates and almonds for decoration. Push the dates into the sticky cake so they will stick firmly.
  5. Alternate method is to pressure cook the cake this will save you time and fuel. Put a rack in the pressure cooker and add about 4 cm deep of water and put the cake on the rack. Pressure cook (steam) for about 1 hour 15 minutes, turn the heat to low once steam is coming out of the cooker's steam vent. Pressure cooking will caramelise the cake very quickly. The downside with pressure cooking is the cake can boil and bubble up so make sure the cake tin you use has plenty of room for expansion. The rising cake will subside and you will end up having a cake with an ugly/uneven surface like this picture below.
  6. Once the cake is cooked leave to cool then put in the fridge or somewhere cold overnight or longer to let it firm up a bit before trying to get it out of the tin/ container. It' s very sticky when fresh, will stick very firmly to the cake tin/container. Once harden up a bit it's much easier to take out. If it sticks very firmly, ease the edge with a spatula and pull the cake out with a bit of force. Do worry you will not damage the cake much.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Candied lotus seeds 糖蓮子


During CNY many Chinese will have a box of candied fruits and nuts at home to welcome friends and families when they visit and also given them as gifts. Popular candied stuff like candied lotus root slices, lotus seeds, red dates (jujube), kumquats and winter melon.

Candied lotus seeds (tang lan zi 糖蓮子) are popular especially for any family wishing to have kids because the word lotus seeds in Chinese rhyme with having more children.

Candied lotus seeds are quite yummy if you don't count the sugar. It's not that difficult to make. If you want to try here is the recipe.

Ingredients: This recipe will make about 2 cups

1 packet of whole skinned lotus seeds about 170 - 180g
1/2 tsp bicarb (baking soda)

3/4 cup sugar
about 1 cup of icing sugar, sifted (confectioner sugar)


Method:
  1. Soak the lotus seeds for at least 10 hours or till the seeds are plump without any wrinkles. Then take each seed and lightly squeeze the brown end to check if there is any greenish/brownish stem inside the seed in the centre, if there is you have to remove it because it is very bitter. Use a sharp small knife and scrape the bitter stem out, careful not to break the seed into 2 halves, best to keep the seed whole. If you are lucky you may find about 10 in a packet, sometime there could be more, so be warned this can be time consuming and boring. It's worth it once you have done that.
  2. Rinse the seeds and put them in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them and a bit more. Add in 1/2 tsp of bicarb. Bicarb helps the seeds to soften more quickly. Let the water boil then turn it down to low and simmer for about 15 - 25 minutes. Do check regularly the water can boil over easily. Check the seeds for doneness around 15 minutes onwards and every 5 minutes later if required. Check the seeds are just tender yet still very firm without the skin starting to break, once tender turn the heat off. This is important you do not want the seeds to overcook, or it will turn into mush during boiling or at the later stage when boiling with sugar. Drain the cooked seeds and spread them out on a tray or plate to air dry for 2 hours or overnight. The longer the better.
  3. Put the sugar in a small saucepan with 5 tbsp of water. Let this boil at medium heat till sugar has completely dissolved when you get a clear syrup. You can swirl the pan about to move the sugar. Continue boiling till the sugar bubbling up rapidly and when it started to turn yellowish.
  4. Pour in the lotus seeds all at once without stirring. Continue cooking at medium heat. You will see a lot of liquid drawn from the seeds. Then stir gently without breaking the seeds or just move the pan about. Let the syrup reduce to about 1/2 or when the syrup looks thick and glossy but still runny. Do not let the syrup dry up too much or the seeds will stick together, also cooking the syrup for too long can overcook the seeds and make them really soft and turn into mush.
  5. Use a slotted spoon remove the seeds, shake off excess syrup, and pop the seeds onto a bed of sieved icing sugar. Let the seeds generously coated with icing sugar and put on a plate or tray in single layer, sieve a bit more icing sugar on top of seeds, let them air dry for 1 day or more till the coating looks no longer wet. Quicker to dry in a warm place or a warm airing cupboard. Then they are ready. For gifts pack them with pretty gift bags, preferably reddish or pinkish, red is lucky colour for CNY.

Dried skinned lotus seeds

Cooked seeds let to air dry

Coat with icing sugar

Monday, 8 February 2010

Chinese dumplings - Jiaozi 餃子


I love Chinese dumplings and I am sure many of you too. There are hundreds of different kind of Chinese dumplings, from quite small and dainty to golf ball size, so many different methods to wrap, so many different types of pastry and infinite types of fillings. Dumplings can be boiled, steamed, fried or deep fried. And different parts of China have their own different recipes.

Southerners' dumplings:

Cantonese - har gau 蝦餃, sui mai 燒賣, wonton 雲吞, sui gau 水餃, goon tong gau 灌汤饺 etc...
Chaozhou 潮州 - fun guo 粉果
Hakka 客家 - cha guo 茶果


For the Northerners, dumplings are normally referred to as as Jiaozi 餃子 here are some different types and names.

Shanghanese - xiao lung bao 小籠包, potsickers 鍋帖, etc...
Sichuanese - hong you chao shu 紅油抄手, zhong sui jiao 鐘水餃, all dressed heavily with a spicy chilli oil sauce
Beijingnese - boiled dumplings 水煮餃子, these dumplings are also the most common in many parts of Northern China.

** If you need further explanation on some of the above dumplings and names let me know.

I had posted recipes for wontons and har gau but not any Northern Chinese style jiaozi on this blog.

Not to get into too much details with different dumplings, I will continue this post with a simple Northern style jiaozi recipe, with simple wrapping method and a classic filling.

The most important tool for making jiaozi is the rolling pin. Standard English rolling pin can be a bit too large (thick) for this job, try to get a Chinese jiaozi rolling pin which is about the same width as a bloom stick with both ends a little bit taper. Indian roti rolling pin is also good for this job. I got this rolling pin from London China Town.



This recipe will make about 40 - 50 pieces, enough for 2 - 3 hungry people or 4 normal appetite

pastry
300g strong white flour (bread flour)*
1 tsp of salt
150 - 170ml water

filling
300g minced (ground) pork
350 - 400g Chinese leaf (napa cabbage), chopped
1 heap tsp salt
about 3 - 4 stalks of spring onion (scallion), chopped to about 1/3 cup
a little over 1 tbsp of light soy
1 tsp of sesame oil
pinch of ground pepper
1 heap tsp of cornflour (corn starch)

garnish
some chopped spring onion
some sesame oil

Dipping sauce
one large chunk of ginger / 4 - 5 cloves of garlic
1 tsp sugar
3/4tsp salt
1/4 cup black rice vinegar (like Chinkiang)

* you can also use plain flour (all purpose) to make the pastry, bread flour pastry is a little more chewy which I like better.





Method:
  1. To make the filling, mix Chinese leaf with salt and leave aside for about 15 minutes while you mix the dough, then squeeze the vegetable with both hands to release as much liquid as possible. Discard liquid. Mix all the filling ingredients together. I like to mix with hand by squeezing till everything gel together.
  2. To make the dough. Put flour in a mixing bowl. Dissolve salt with water. Pour nearly all the water in, mix to form the dough. Keep mixing, if the dough is really dry add more water bit by bit, till all the dry flour is absorbed into the dough and the mixing bowl is clean. Cover and leave to rest for about 15 - 20 minutes. Then knead till smooth. Cover and rest again for about 5 - 10 minutes. Then cut the dough into half. Roll each piece of dough into a long sausage, dust with a little flour if required, cut the dough into 20 - 25 pieces. Dust the pieces generously with flour, then flatten each piece, set aside. Roll the other piece of dough, cut and flatten. Dust all the pieces with more flour if required to ensure they do not stick later.
  3. Take one disc of dough, roll it out very thin. The rolling method is right hand holding and rolling the pin, left hand holding the piece of dough and slowly rotate the it. Put a bit more pressure rolling the edge of the dough. Keep doing the rolling and turning of the dough till you get the right size you want. See slide show.
  4. Put some filling on the rolled out pastry, if the inside edge is really dry dab with a touch of water, normally it is not required to wet the edge to seal.
  5. Gently fold half the pastry over. Press the edge of the pastry with both thumbs. See slideshow. You need to press very firm to ensure good seal, you may get a thumb print and indentation in the middle of the dumpling. The dumpling is done, simple as that. No fancy pleating or crimping. Dust a tray with flour before you put the dumplings on, also best to lightly coat each dumpling with a little flour too so when you put all together on the tray they will not stick to each other. When you have made all the dumplings you can now cook them.
  6. Normal Northerner's style is to boil these dumplings which was what I did. I will show you other methods of cooking with other jiaozi. Boil a large pot of water, when the water is boiling rapidly, continue on high heat, put the dumplings in one by one. Try not to crowd the pan, best cook half first then the rest later. Gently stir the dumplings so they do not stick together. Some dumplings may stick to the bottom of the pan, lift them up gently. Wait till the dumplings all float onto the top and water is rapidly boiling again, the dumplings are now cooked. Take them out with a slotted spoon or a Chinese spider skimmer.
  7. Put on serving plate, sprinkle with some spring onion and sesame oil. Sesame oil gives a nice flavour to the dumplings also helps the dumplings from sticking together.
  8. Eat these dumplings while hot with the dipping sauce. To make the dipping sauce, either use ginger or garlic as the base flavour, with ginger finely shredded or garlic chopped, mix with a little sugar, salt and black vinegar. If you don't like this vinegar dipping sauce, you can use soy sauce, chilli sauce or chilli oil.
Any left over can put in the fridge, when needed fry with a bit oil to golden brown.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Yeung Ji Gum Lo 楊枝甘露


Here is another request from a reader for a recipe.

Yeung Ji Gum Lo 楊枝甘露 is a cold Chinese dessert created by some Hong Kong restaurant in the '80. It's quite a refreshing dessert soup which is creamy, sweet and fragrant from mango and pomelo. Very simple to make, all you need is gather the ingredients and mix everything together. The key ingredients are mango, pomelo, sago pearls, mango ice cream and cream/milk.

In Hong Kong you can get Mango icecream easily but may be a bit difficult in UK. If you can find some that is great if not can use mango sorbet. Otherwise just use a good vanilla icecream with ripe mango puree.

Pomelo is an oriental large grapefruit. In Chinese it is called 柚子 (yu zi). You can find this citrus fruit from Autumn to Winter in most Chinese supermarkets. You may find them in your local Lidl (in UK) from Nov - Feb too, cheaper than Chinese supermarkets. To eat this fruit you need to peel the rind and the skin each segment. Most of the 'honey' pomelos you find in UK come from China and has a sweet and sour taste.

For mango best use ripe, sweet and fragrant type.

For sago pearls use ordinary or the large type. The picture above I used large yam flavoured pearls which have a light purple colour, it was rather nice.



To make this dessert here is the recipe: you can change the qty of any ingredients the recipe is just a guide

Ingredients: will make 2 - 3 bowls

1 - 1.25 cup of diced ripe and sweet mango
0.5 - 0.75 cup peeled and shredded pomelo
1 cup of single cream /coconut milk /or just cold milk for slimmers
3 - 4 scoops of mango icecream/ mango sorbet/ 50:50 vanilla icecream with mango puree
few tbsp of cooked sago pearls, per instruction on the packet
Extra cold milk for thinning down if required
Some crushed ice for extra cold dessert

Mix cream/milk with icecream, can use a blender or just let the icecream/sorbet started to melt before mixing. Add fruits and sago pearls. If you like more creamy add more cream or ice cream if not add extra milk to thin it down if you find it too creamy. Add crushed ice if required.

If you like it very very thick and creamy, you can add some whipped cream. I find too much cream whipped or single cream is quite sickening, just icecream and full cream milk is good enough for me.

This recipe is very flexible, just add any amount of each ingredient the way you like it. Many recipes add sugar I find this unnecessary.

If you want to be really posh you can add some cooked bird's nest 燕窩.



I don't have a very nice picture to show. The picture above was made long time ago without ice cream I only used cream and milk.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Zha Jiang Mian 炸醬麵 - Fried sauce noodles


Zha Jiang Mian 炸醬麵 is fried sauce noodles, I called it Chinese spag bog. These noodles are very popular in most parts of Northern China, especially Beijing.

Koreans are also fan of zha jiang noodles, similar name called jajangmyeon. The sauce Korean used is not the same as Chinese, similar flavour but made with black beans called chungjang.

Chinese zha jiang sauce is dark brown, salty, sweet and very fragrant. The main sauce ingredient for the sauce is sweet bean sauce (sweet flour sauce) 甜麵醬 and/or yellow bean sauce 黃醬. I like the sauce a bit spicy so I always add some chilli bean sauce (douban jiang) 豆瓣醬. The sauce mix is fried till caramelised in plenty of oil till fragrant. If you use only a little oil you won't get the same flavour.

Other than meat, fried or marinated firm tofu can be added. Some people like to add shitake but not common.

I really like Zha Jiang sauce a lot. It keeps really well in the fridge. A convenient sauce for quick noodles anytime of the day or night or when I don't feel like cooking.


Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

For the sauce:
450 - 500g minced (ground) pork (beef works really well too)
3/4 cup sweet bean sauce (another name is sweet flour sauce) 甜麵醬, or yellow bean sauce 黃醬, or 50:50. I used Mong Lee Shang brand sweet bean sauce
1.5 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 heap tbsp chilli bean sauce (douban jiang 豆瓣醬), I used Pixian douban
3 - 4 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 chunk of ginger, finely chopped (qty to your taste, I like more about 3 heap tbsp chopped)
3 - 4 stalks spring onion (scallion) use white part, chopped. Can also use 1 - 2 shallots
2 tsp sugar
2 - 3 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1/3 - 1/2 cup of cooking oil

** If using yellow bean sauce add more sugar. Some yellow bean sauce can be very salty so use less than 3/4 cup

Method:
  1. Heat oil till quite hot then add ginger, garlic and spring onion (or shallot). Stir for about 1 minutes then add sweet bean sauce, chilli bean sauce and dark soy. Stir fry and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes or more till the oil has separated to the edge of the wok and the oil has become reddish brown colour. The sauce should now be very fragrant.
  2. Add meat and break any lumps. Keep stirring for few minutes till bubbly hot then add sugar and wine. Turn heat down and simmer for few more minutes, keep stirring sauce to prevent sticking. Cook sauce till thicken.
If you don't like too much oil can skim after cooking. Use this fragrant oil for other cooking or use for Chinese noodles/ Sichuan salad to replace chilli oil.


For the vegetables:
Finely shredded some cucumber and carrot.
Blanch some fresh soy beans (frozen), I don't have soy beans so used garden peas
Beat 2 eggs and make into very thin omelette, then shredded

Can also use other vegetables like raw or lightly blanched bean sprouts, cabbage (white or red), blanched pak choi etc.


For the noodles:

Use dried or fresh wheat noodles. Cook as per instruction. For fresh homemade noodles try this recipe.


To put the dish together, boil noodles. Put some in bowl, then top with vegetables and meat sauce.

Everything all mixed together