Monday, 30 May 2011

Back to basics - crispy fried garlic 炸蒜米

炸 (zha) = deep fried
蒜 (suan) = garlic
米 (mee) = normally this word is rice, but in this context it means tiny pieces.

Crispy fried garlic like crispy fried shallot is very common in S E Asia. Chopped garlic is deep fried till golden it is not bitter but has slightly sweet, caramelised and strong garlicy flavour and deliciously crunchy.

Only two ingredients are needed, plenty of garlic and cooking oil.

For this recipe I used 300g peeled garlic and  about 1-3/4 to 2 cups of cooking oil (any type of bland cooking oil, peanut, sunflower, mazola, canola etc..)

Peel garlic and hand chopped till very fine. Be patient with the chopping you will get there after a while. Do not chop garlic with electric blender or food processor, this will easily blend it too fine the resulting fried garlic will stick together into lumps and the fried garlic is chewy rather than getting tiny nuggets of crispy garlic.

Put oil in a 8 inch saucepan or wok, heat till moderately hot. Add all the garlic all at once. Keep the heat at medium for about 5 - 10 minutes till the temperature of oil has risen and oil is bubbling nicely but not too rapidly. Keep stirring. After that turn the heat down to medium low and continue stirring and scraping the pan. You should see a good stream of steam rising. If little or no steam the temperature of oil is too low, turn heat up slightly. If the garlic pieces browning rapidly around the edges the heat is too high.

At first the the colour is like this.

When it becomes lightly brown like this turn the heat down to low. Watch it carefully to avoid overcooking or burning.

When the colour is like this, it is done. Turn the heat off. Stir a bit more and leave it to cool

When cooled the colour will be much deeper and crunchy.

Once cooled if the garlic is not crunchy, return to the stove and heat briefly till oil is hot again. Turn heat off and leave it to cool again.

Use this crunchy garlic with the oil as condiment or use to flavour anything you like. This is an essential condiment in my family for steamboat to flavour the soup and as a dipping sauce with soy sauce. It is wonderful with any noodles, dried with a sauce/ kon low, stir fried or soup noodles. I also use it for blanched green vegetable or yau choi 油菜 with oyster sauce,

I have converted many of my kwai lo friends who think fried garlic is nasty and bitter. Give this a go if you like garlic. It is seriously additive.

Keep this fried garlic with the oil in glass jar. Will keep at room temperature for about a week or longer in the fridge to remain fresh, flavourful and crunchy.

Pearl barley, water chestnut and fu chook (beancurd stick) dessert soup 薏米馬蹄腐竹糖水

Pearl barley = 薏米 yee mee (Mandarin) or yee mai (Cantonese)
Water chestnut = 馬蹄 ma tee (Mandarin) or ma tai (Cantonese)
Beancurd stick = 腐竹 fu chook (Mandarin or Cantonese)
Sugar water (or more appropriately as sweet dessert soup) =  糖水 tang sui (Mandarin) or tong sui (Cantonese)

Sweet soup or tong sui is Cantonese speciality eaten as dessert.  Tong sui is as common as savoury soup for Cantonese. Soups play a very important part of Cantonese diet. There are hundreds of different tong sui recipes, this featured recipe is one of the very common familiar to most Cantonese and mostly available as home cooking not common in restaurants. Just few ingredients boil with plenty of water and flavoured with sugar. Simple and tasty, warm or cold.

Normal ingredients are pearl barley, water chestnut, beancurd stick or sheet, and gingko nuts if available. It's not easy to find gingko nuts over here so I always leave them out.

Gingko nuts = 白果 (bai guo in Mandarin, bak goa in Cantonese) or 銀杏果 (yin xing guo in Mandarin, not a common term for Cantonese)

Proportion of ingredients:
Pearl barley*: 1 cup
Fresh water chestnuts: 1.5 cup, in small pieces
dried fu chook: 1 - 1.5 cup break into smaller pieces
gingko nuts if using: 1/2 cup
water: about 10 cups
sugar: use normal granular sugar or Chinese rock sugar, add enough to own personal taste

I normally used tiny pearl barley bought from the Chinese supermarket, you can also use English barley available from any supermarkets.

To prepare the ingredients.
  • Soak pearl barley for 30 minutes or 1 hour till softened. Soaking will shorten cooking time. If not just rinse and boil.
  • water chestnuts, use fresh rather than tinned/canned. Fresh water chestnuts have more flavour. Peel them, rinse and crush with the back of a cleaver to small pieces or cut into slices or small cubes. 
  • For the fu chook use normal stick type or flat sheet called 三邊腐竹 san ben fu chook. If using the flat sheet type make sure it is brittle/crunchy when dried, the flexi type is fu pei 腐皮 for wrapping like spring roll sheet not for boiling. Break the fu chook into small pieces. Soak if you preferred I never bothered. 
  • If using gingko nuts, remove shell like any nuts, peel off inner skin (browny colour) and remove inner core stem that looks green. This inner core stem is very bitter. You can also buy de-shelled and peeled gingko nuts in vacuum pack, do check the inner stems are removed too. 
Put all ingredients (except sugar) and cold tap water in a large stock pot or pressure cooker. Boil/simmer till pearl barley and fu chook are soften for about 2 hours on the stove or  about 1 hour with pressure cooker. Sweeten with sugar. Serve hot, warm or cold after chilling in fridge.

This dessert soup is very soothing, great for anyday. We love it when the weather is warm. The pearl barley and fu chook are very soft, slip down very nicely and the nuggets of water chestnut remain crunchy after boiling.

There is also a savoury version of this soup. Add a piece of pork and/or several pieces pork bone to the ingredients. Boil till tender. Remove pork when cooked, sliced and dip with soy sauce or chilli sauce. Season soup with salt  instead of sugar. 

Lap cheong rice 臘腸飯

This simple rice is something I can indulge quite often since I know how to make my own lap cheong. DIY lap cheong is so much cheaper and I know there are no hidden ingredients or preservatives. The is a simple meal, steamed lap cheong with rice and some steamed/blanched green vegetable. To add more flavour I added a dollop of ginger spring onion sauce.

Cook rice using a rice cooker or on the stove by absorption method. When the rice has nearly absorbed most of the water leaving about 5 - 6mm depth of  water on top, place as many lap cheong on the rice. Covered and continue cooking the rice till done and leave to rest for about 15 - 20 minutes. By the time the rice is cooked the lap cheong will be cooked by the steam on the rice and some juice from the lap cheong will penetrate and absorb by the rice give it a nice flavour.

Lap cheong can also be cooked by steaming separately if you preferred for about 12 - 15 minutes.

I used standard lap cheong and spicy lap cheong, cut into half before cooking. When cooked, thinly sliced diagonally before serving with rice.

To go with this I made some yau choi 油菜 using pak choi. Yau choi is Cantonese way saying blanched green vegetable. Boil about 1 - 1.5 cup of water add about 1 - 2 tsp cooking oil when water is boiling add vegetable, stir and cook for about 1 - 2 minutes till tender.  Other Chinese green is also great with this like choi sum, kai lan 芥蘭( this will cook a bit loger) or gai choi  芥菜 (fresh mustard green, chunky veg with a mustardy flavour) or broccoli. If you prefer to steam the veg, toss with a little oil before cooking. Oil will make the vegetable greener and glossier, blanched or steamed. Many Chinese restaurants will add some bicarb to the blanching water this will make the vegetable greener for longer, for home cooking this is not necessary.

Ginger spring onion recipe:

4 - 5 stalks of spring onion
1 large chunk of ginger, about 40 g
1 tsp of Knorr chicken stock powder (essential IMO to give the right taste, but if you don't like it leave it out)
1/2 - 1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of each of ground sichuan pepper and white/black pepper
5 - 6 tbsp of cooking oil


Chopped the ginger and spring onion by hand or using a mini blender to a paste.
Mix all the ingredients together, heat in a small saucepan for 1 - 2 minutes till fragrant.

This sauce is also very good with Hainanese chicken rice or smear on chargrilled/ roasted meat. 

Friday, 20 May 2011

Sichuan style spicy lap cheong 川味麻辣香腸

Chuan wei ma la xiang chang (in Mandarin) 川味麻辣香腸

川 = Sichuan    味 = flavoured    麻 = numbing
辣 = hot   香 = fragrant    腸 = sausage

Lap cheong (Cantonese)/ la chang (Mandarin) 臘腸

lap / la  臘,  in Chinese this normally means wax but in this context it means cured.
cheong is Cantonese for sausage, in Mandarin it sounded as chang.

I have been making my own lap cheong many times now I no longer buy them anymore. Using a manual meat grinder and sausage making adaptor to fill the lap cheong makes the work so much easier.

For a change of flavour I added a lot of spices to make these Sichuan spicy lap cheong. The resulting lap cheong are somewhat like Chineasy pepperoni or chorizo

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Tea smoked cured belly (bacon) 茶熏五花肉

Ever since I made tea smoked chicken I am hooked. The meat has such deep rich flavour and texture of  meat is so tender and juicy. I now tried tea smoked belly. As expected the flavour and texture is excellent. This is probably the best piece of porky I have made. The meat is cured with soy sauce and spices, the curing salt makes the meat a lovely pink colour.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Braised daikon and carrot 素燒蘿蔔

Su shao luo bo 素燒蘿蔔

Luo bo 蘿蔔 (萝卜) this can mean either daikon (mooli or oriental radish) or carrot.
Su 素 is vegetarian
Shao 燒 in cooking terms can mean boil, bake, roast, braise or stew. It's confusing I know!

This braised mixed root vegetable is rather tasty. I can eat this happily and don't miss any meat at all.


400 - 500g daikon or mooli
350 - 400g carrot
2 clove of garlic, chopped
small piece of ginger, chopped
dash of light soy
dash of dark soy
dash of cooking wine
some regular or vegetarian oyster sauce
a little sugar to taste
mix 1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch) with a little water
cooking oil

  1. Peel daikon and carrot. Cut into chunks, rotate and cut vegetable into irregular triangular chunks called goon dao pian 滾刀片 in Chinese. 
  2. Heat about 1/4 - 1/3cup of oil till moderately hot, add the vegetables. Stir at high heat, keep stirring till vegetables are slightly browned on the surface, about 10 minutes. Remove most of the oil and leave about 1 tbsp in the wok. Frying carrot and daikon does not absorb much oil at all. Using this much of oil is important to remove the strong mustardy smell and peppery taste of daikon.
  3. Push the vegetables to one side. Add garlic and ginger, stir till fragrant. 
  4. Add dash of light soy and dark soy (for colour). Stir and add dash of wine and add about 1/2  - 3/4 cup of water. 
  5. Stir and cook vegetables till tender. If liquid is drying fast before vegetables are tender add more water.
  6. Add some oyster sauce and a little sugar to taste. 
  7. Thicken sauce with slackened cornflour.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Stir fried blistered green chilli 虎皮尖椒

Hu pe jian jiao 虎皮尖椒

I was pleased to find some large green chillies from the market. I asked the store keeper if they are spicy he just shrugged his shoulders how helpful! In the end I bought a handful (just over 1/2 lb) to try in case they are not as nice as I thought. These chillies were quite long about 12 - 15cm long.

I love Sichuan Hu pe jian jiao 虎皮尖椒 or stir fried blistered green chilli but it is not easy to find the right type of chillies. Here is my chance to try this recipe with these green chillies. The name of this dish is translated as tiger skin pointed chilli. Tiger skin here refers to the blistered or charred skin of chillies.

Hu pe jian jiao 虎皮尖椒

For the recipe, remove the stalks. Cut a slit near the stalk, remove the white pith and shake off the seeds. I then cut the chillies into half.
Heat the wok without any oil till very hot. Throw in the chillies, stir fry till chillies are charred/blistered with black spots.

Push the chillies to one side of the wok or pan, heat some oil and add about 1 heap tbsp of chopped garlic, stir till fragrant.
Add 1 rounded tsp yellow bean sauce and 2 - 3 tsp chilli bean paste (douban jiang), stir and mix with the chillies.
Add a dash of cooking wine and sprinkling of ground Sichuan pepper.
Add a little water, stir for a short while.
Add some sugar to balance the flavour. Done.

The green chillies were quite mild. Together with the chilli bean paste the completed dish was spicy enough for my taste. Tasty!

note: If the green chillies are very spicy, sub chilli bean paste with yellow bean sauce or sweet bean sauce 甜麵醬. Taste the chillies before stir frying to select the right sauce.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Old granny's potato 老奶洋芋 - Yunnan style bubble and squeak

I often find similarities between western and oriental food like this stir fried potato which is similar to rustic English bubble and squeak (not the cake shaped type). Here to introduce to you a classic home cooking from Yunnan called lao nai yang yu 老奶洋芋 or old granny's potato. The reason why old granny or lao nai 老奶 is named after this is because this potato dish is soft suitable for grannies with no teeth.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Tomato egg fried rice 西紅柿蛋炒飯/ 蕃茄蛋炒飯

Simple lunch today, tomato and egg fried rice. Tomato and egg are such good combination, universal favourite. I am sure there is at least one dish made with tomato and egg in every country. Just Chinese dishes I can count at least half a dozen classics with just two simple ingredients like:

Stir fried egg and tomato 西紅柿炒雞蛋/ 番茄炒蛋
Omelette crepe and tomato soup 番茄煎蛋湯/ 西紅柿煎蛋湯
Tomato and egg geda soup 西紅柿雞蛋疙瘩湯
Tomato and egg drop soup 番茄蛋花湯/ 西紅柿蛋花湯
Steamed tomato and egg custard 番茄蒸蛋/ 西紅柿蒸蛋
Tomato and egg omelette (Chinese style) 番茄煎蛋/ 西紅柿煎蛋
Tomato and egg jiaozi dumpling 西紅柿蛋餃子/ 蕃茄蛋餃子
Tomato and egg fried rice 西紅柿蛋炒飯/ 蕃茄蛋炒飯

Tomato and egg fried rice is very simple. There are two versions, one with tomato ketchup and this recipe is just with fresh tomato. Tomato is best using red but very firm tomato, soft tomato gives a mushy and unappealing fried rice. I always use on-the-vine tomatoes more meaty, colourful and flavourful. Ensure the rice is quite dry. Soft mushy rice or wet rice never made good fried rice. Loosen the rice before cooking. Keep the heat as high as possible to avoid rice sticking or rice stewing with the tomato. Heat wok with an even layer of oil till smoking (but not smelling burning) will ensure non stick wok fried rice.

Ingredients:  this recipe is enough for two or 1 very very hungry person

about 2.5 cups of cooked rice, loosen (best use overnight rice)
2 eggs
2 - 3 firm and red tomato, cut into small pieces
1 - 2 clove garlic, chopped
some chopped spring onion
dash of soy sauce
pinch of ground pepper
some cooking oil
dash of sesame oil

  1. Add a little soy sauce to egg, beat. 
  2. Heat some oil and swirl around the wok or pan. Wait till smoking, pour the egg spread it out thin, wait for few seconds till set and lightly brown on the bottom then keep stirring to break up the egg. Fry egg till surface is a bit brown, this gives lots of flavour. Remove. 
  3. Add a bit more oil and garlic. Stir till fragrant. Add rice stir till heated through. Add dash of light soy and pinch of ground pepper. 
  4. Stir in scrambled egg and tomato pieces. Stir for a short while till heated through. 
  5. Add chopped spring onion and dash of sesame oil. 
  6. Sprinkle a little chopped spring onion as garnish. 

Friday, 6 May 2011

Homemade chilli sauce with ginger

Yesterday I spotted a whooping bag (almost 1.3 kg) of red chillies for quick sale at the Chinese supermarket for a mere £3. The chillies were a little off their best, slightly wrinkly but still looking pretty good. I have to take the lot home, too good to leave it. What a bargain! I always buy chilli sauce because fresh red chillies are quite expensive over here around £10/kg normal price, it does not make economical sense to make my own. Having bought this bag of chillies I was excited to make a batch of chilli sauce again.

This chilli sauce recipe is really simple, just need a liquidiser to blitz, boil and bottle. The sauce is similar to sriracha sauce.

Ingredients: based on 1kg chillies, this will make just over 4 cups

1 kg of red chillies
2 to 2.25 cups of white vinegar or cider vinegar
1 cup sugar or 250g light colour palm sugar
1 heap tsp pectin powder (about 1/2 sachet) or gelatin powder
1.5 - 2 tbsp salt
120 - 140g ginger

If the chillies are mild you can add some hot chilli powder or boost it with some bird's eye chillies or scotch bonnet. Taste the chillies first before adding super hot chillies or chilli powder. Also bear in mind the ginger will also give a good bite of heat.

Pectin or gelatin helps the sauce to thicken or set. If you don't like to add this boil the sauce for longer to reduce.

Over here in UK, pectin powder (Silver spoon brand) is available from Morrisons, Asda and Coop. Waitrose has Tate & Lyle brand

  1. Remove chilli stalks, slit open and remove most the seeds but leave the white pith (this white pith is packed with heat) and cut into small chunks. Leave the seeds on is fine if your liquidiser is powerful enough to ground the seeds. . 
  2. Peel and cut ginger into small chunks
  3. Depending on the size of your liquidiser, blend the chilli and ginger in 2 - 3 batches. Divide the vinegar and add this to the chilli and ginger before blending. 
  4. Blitz to a smooth puree. Smoother the puree smoother the resulting chilli sauce.
  5. Pour into a large pot. 
  6. Mix sugar, salt and pectin/gelatin together. Add this to the blended chilli.
  7. Boil at medium to low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring most of the time. Do watch the mixture. If it starts to boil it will bubble rapidly and spit red sauce all over the cooking area. If you like to take a short break from stirring, cover with a lid ajar. 
  8. When the mixture has thickened like thick tomato soup it is ready. 
  9. While the sauce is boiling prepare the bottles or jars.  Clean, sterilise and dry the jars/bottles. I boiled used jam jars and lids then dried in a warm oven.
  10. Fill the chilli sauce while it is still hot into hot/warm jars/bottles. A jam jar funnel (also need to sterilise) makes the job easier. Screw on the lids right away. Once cooled a vacuum will form inside the jar making it air tight sealed. 

This sauce will keep for a long time in a cool and dark cupboard up to a year if jars/bottles are properly sterilised and sealed. 

Once opened keep in the fridge.