Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hakka Rice Cooker Salt Baked Chicken 客家盐焗鸡

Asian Style Christmas Bird?

Few months ago my eldest brother sent me an email introducing the Salted Chicken which was a trademark of Hakka Cuisine. This dish reminded him of the salted steamed rice wine chicken (客家盐酒鸡) our mum used to cook for the Chinese New Year eve dinner when we were kids. Ever since our mum suffered from Alzheimer's and was admitted to a nursery care, we no longer had the chance to taste this dish. We missed that unique home brewed sweet rice wine flavored chicken. The sticky rice wine (自酿米酒) was home brewed by our mum. Her rice wine was popular among our relatives and friends for use in home cooking, especially well sought after in the Chinese after birth confinement diet。But it is sad I no longer have the chance to learn from my mother L

Seeing me getting interested in cooking and started off this food blog, my brother suggested me to learn up our Hakka cuisine and shared in this blog too. I reckoned this was a good idea and started to surf for related Hakka recipes, and then I came across this creative and modern way of making Hakka salted chicken.

The traditional Hakka cooking method used parchment paper to wrap up a whole chicken, then buried it in a wok full of fried coarse salt and simmered till it was cooked; very arduous. This one however requires only a rice cooker to do the magic. This lazy people way of salt baking may not show the true flavor of Hakka Salted Chicken but it is surely a simple and healthy way to cook a chicken without compromising much on the taste.

Because I had a small rice cooker, I could only cook size 9, chicken. Instead of the whole chicken you can also opt for parts such as drumsticks or wings. I had attempted using chicken, wings and drumsticks. They all tasted flavorsome and not greasy. I served this chicken with Hainanese chicken rice. Of course no chicken rice is complete without the special chicken rice chilies, isn't it? J

Hakka Salt Baked Chicken 客家盐焗鸡 - Featured in Group Recipes 30/12/2010
This year, we celebrated our Christmas at Hahei Camp site with limited utensil and a very basic kitchen; I had used this recipe to make our very own Asian style Christmas birds for our Christmas dinner. J

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tang Yuan (Sweet Glutinous dumplings) 汤圆

Yesterday 22nd December was what we Chinese call 冬 至which is translated in Englih as Winter Solstice. On this day in Northern hemisphere is the shortest day and longest night but we over in the Southern hemisphere experience the longest day and the shortest night of the year instead. Chinese believe after today the day will get longer and longer and this generates"Yang qi" a.ka. Positive forces so it should be celebrated. Hence, to some Chinese especially those in the mainland China, celebration for this day is even more important than the Chinese New Year (冬至大过年). If you are keen to find out more on the history, I will leave it to the experts to do the explanation, here's the link.

Frankly I didn't understand the reason of celebration until I wrote this post. What in my memory since I was a small kid was on this day my mum would make Tang Yuan (glutinous dumplings) and asked us to eat. She said once we ate the Tang Yuan then we would get older by a year. I couldn't believe I did buy her saying when I was small and ate as many as I could so I could grow up faster. But I doubt I would want to eat any now if the saying is true! J

Tang Yuan (Sweet Glutinous dumplings)  汤圆
There are mainly two types of Tang Yuan one with filling and another without, which was the one I used to eat since I was small. Tang Yuan is not difficult to make at all, in fact it is the easiest Chinese dessert to make. Still, we got it wrong for the first time when I made this with hubby.

The first year when we were married, we did not go back to home town to celebrate with our parents. Hence, he suggested making Tang Yuan on our own as he is a Tang Yuan fan. At that time I had little knowledge about cooking. I wasn't sure what flour to use for the Tang Yuan and suggested to ask mother-in-law for advice, but JS said he knew how to make it. I still could recall we spent whole night kneading the dough, added coloring to the dough and kneaded into many nice colorful round balls, but when we boiled them, the rice balls could not float even after being boiled for a long time (cooked Tang Yuan would float). In the end we realized we had produced a whole pot of bouncy rice balls instead of sticky chewy Tang Yuan, but why?

Then we decided to give my mother-in-law a call to find out why. Only then we realized we had used the wrong flour to make Tang Yuan! We had used rice flour instead of glutinous flour! This is the biggest joke that I always tease him all the time. How bouncy the rice balls we had you might ask? If you run out of ping pong balls then you can try to make this as replacement J

Well, this time with Auntie Ah Lan around, we won't end up with bouncy rice balls, in fact we get to enjoy the real authentic Malaysian style Tang Yuan, nice round glutinous dumplings in sweet rock sugar soup. This recipe that I'm sharing is without filling, which is very basic and can be prepared anytime of the year not necessarily on winter solstice.

Actually to the Chinese, Tang Yuan with its round shape symbolizes reunion which is why it is also one of the main desserts served during Chinese New Year when all family members get together in a family reunion. Besides, it is also served on wedding day. The groom and bride customarily must feed each other Tang Yuan and they are not allowed to chew the dumplings, instead they are asked to shallow whole so the rice balls would remain intact to symbolize togetherness.

 For firmer and chewy texture of Tang Yuan, best knead the Tang Yuan in advance and left overnight to rest.

Making Tang Yuan is also a great bonding time, the kids especially love the idea of kneading the rice dough because kneading the glutinous rice dough is similar to play-doh, and you can see how Ming Ray enjoyed his Tang Yuan play-doh with his auntie.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kuih Sago( Steamed Tapioca Pearls Cakes) 椰丝西米糕 - Featured in Group Recipes

Wanna a slice of gluten free sweet and chewy Nyonya kuih?

This is another blissfully easy and delicious Nyonya kuih recipe, Kuih Sago. Sago, also known as Tapioca Pearls, is made of tapioca. Tapioca Pearls is one of the common South East Asian dessert ingredients, widely used in Malay, Nyonya and Thai desserts.

This recipe was verbally taught by a Malaysian cashier whom I met at my regular Asian grocery store. It happened that one day she showed me the kuih which she made for her colleague as birthday treat and asked me what the proper name was for the kuih in Malaysia which she couldn't recall. I was of no help to her as I had no idea what the name for that kuih was. But since she said the main ingredient was sago, I guessed it must be Kuih Sago. She mentioned that the kuih was super easy to make, just "mix and steam", so it prompted me to give it a trial.

I made this last Saturday and brought over as dessert to our regular Penang families dinner gathering. I used green Pandan flavor sago. Alternatively you can use white sago added with some coloring.

These snowballs like of luscious gluten free kuih , can be a unique Christmas dessert recipe too.
Kuih Sago 椰丝西米糕 - Featured in Group Recipes 21/12/2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Yum Hoi Mang-Pu (Thai Mussel Salad) 泰式青口沙拉 - Featured in Group Recipes

Spice up with this healthy fresh flavor with a snap of fingers!

"Yum" is a type of salad in Thai cuisine. Speaking of Yum, I would never forget this super hot and spicy Thai signature appetizer, which I had in Phucket, Thailand some years ago. To Malaysian standard, I'm considered highly tolerant with spicy food. However, the explosive taste of the yum talay (Seafood salad) we got from the street vendor had incredibly blew my head off; it was so spicy it made my eyes water, my nose run and my head sweat! Well, I guess this is the true Thai way of serving Yum, to feature the bold Thai flavors J

Only 3 main steps to prepare this no fuss starter, merely toss in all cooked seafood, seasoned with salty fish sauce, zested up with sour lime juice and topped with fresh herbs of coriander, mints, shallots, sliced onions, tomatoes and last but not least the main gem that spices up the whole dish, the bird eyes chilies. With all these ingredients mixed well , just dish and serves! :-)

There are many variations of Yum Talay, you can make any combination of seafood that you have on hands like poached squids, shrimps, scallops and other shellfish.

Yum Hoi Mang-Pu (Thai Mussel Salad) 泰式青口沙拉 - featured 17/12/2010
Even though Yum was generally served as starter but we made it into a sumptuous main dish for our dinner. For this recipe, I used mussels and squids.  As for the herbs, fresh from my garden to table J
Fresh coriander and mints from my garden

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stir Fry Water Spinach (Pak Bung Fai Daeng) 酱炒蕹菜 - Featured in Group Recipes

Flying Water spinach?

Water spinach a.k.a. Morning Glory is known as Kangkung in Malay. This vegetable is easily available in South East Asia (SEA) and is considered one of the cheapest vegetables as it thrives naturally with little care. I was surprised to find this vegetable here in Auckland. Recently, the price for this vegetable dropped drastically; I suppose the warm weather of summer is the main factor for the abundance supply of this veggie.

There are a few renowned street foods in SEA which feature this vegetable. Malay Cuisine has a dish called Sambal Belacan Kangkung (Chili Shrimp paste stir fried water spinach). As for Thai the signature dish for water spinach is Pak Bung Fai Daeng (Stir-Fried Red Fire Water Spinach), which is Thai's most popular way of stir frying the water spinach. I reckon the dish must be so ordinary and simple that inspires some of the Thai street vendors to come out with more entertaining idea in stir frying the dish in an acrobatic way by literally "flying" it in the process of serving the dish. You can check out this Flying Morning Glory in YouTube.

Well, with the electric coil stove in my kitchen, I couldn't fire up my wok in red flame and the kitchen was too small for me to demonstrate the flying dish, yet it still tasted delectable nevertheless. J

Stir Fry Water Spinach (Pak Bung Fai Daeng) 酱炒蕹菜 - Featured for Dec 15th

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bak Chang (Savoury Rice Dumpling) 咸肉粽子 - Featured in Group Recipes

I know now is not the right time to introduce glutinous rice dumpling, as Dumpling festival
(端午節) which traditionally is celebrated in June (fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese lunar calendar) was long overdue. However, since we migrated to NZ we didn't have a chance to eat nice Malaysian made Bak Chang (in Hokkien) a.k.a. zhong Zhi粽子.

Even though we could get sticky rice dumplings here in Asian shops but they were mostly Mainland China flavoured, the taste was very much different from the Malaysian style savoury rice dumplings. Thanks to my Taiwanese classmate Lily and Linda, I got to taste Taiwanese flavour bak chang too. Nevertheless, we still missed Penang Nyonya bak chang, especially those made by Ray's auntie. Hubby loves her bak chang very much, he can wallop 4 sticky rice dumplings in one go!

With Chef Ah Lan around, of course Bak Chang was one of the long overdue order placed with herJ. Even though this was not rice dumplings time, we still managed to get the right ingredients to make them. I suppose this sticky rice dumpling has been blended in our daily meal and no longer served as seasonal meal.

Bak Chang (Savoury Rice Dumpling) 咸肉粽子- Featured for Dec 10th
To many, the making of Bak Chang is rated at difficult level, especially on the wrapping and tying parts. The wrapping method involves making 2 sheets of bamboo leaves into a cone shape, stuffing in the fillings and wrapped into pyramid shape and finally secured with hemp. It is really not as easy as it sounds. If any one of the steps isn't done properly, then the bak chang will slip open while being boiled. I had attempted to wrap 5 dumplings and had one fell out. L But as a beginner with passing rate of 80%, I reckoned it was not a bad start after all, wasn't it? I believe practice makes perfect, I hope gradually I will master it.

Below is the video clip showing the making process and the right technique of wrapping bak chang.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kuih Talam (Coconut Tray Cake) 娘惹香草糕 - Featured in Group Recipes

Microwave Kuih Talam?

This is another classic Nyonya dessert. Kuih is a common local Malaysian word for all Nyonya and Malay desserts. This popular kuih not only is one of Malaysian all-time breakfast favorite but also serves as great party snacks. This steamed coconut flavor rich dessert comes with top white layer made from coconut milk and rice flour and the bottom green layer is made from rice and mung bean flour with natural green coloring extract from pandan leaves a.k.a screw pine leaves.

The instruction in the original recipe suggested cooking time of 1 hour, requiring slow simmering or double boiling in the kuih thickening process before steaming. I reckoned this traditional way of thickening process was quite time consuming. It struck my mind whether I could adopt the same microwave method that I applied in coconut egg jam, Kaya making to speed up the process.

I gave it a try with the microwave method on my first tray. My first attempt was not as impressive as I was trying to find out the right time required to microwave-cook the batter to the right concentration before placing it into steaming tray for steaming. I over heated the green layer resulting in the green layer batter was over thickened and lumpy.

However, since I had another half tin of coconut cream to experiment further, I proceeded with my second attempt. This time I knew that I shouldn't heat the green batter for more than 4 minutes in total and each session no more than 1 minute. It should be stirred constantly after every time it is taken out from the microwave. As for the white coconut cream batter, it only took about 2 minutes to thicken. I repeat the heating process more often with last minute at 30 seconds interval. The result, as can be seen from the photo, is a nicer smoother batter for both the green and white layers. J

I didn't expect my little picky boy appreciate this classic kuih so much.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Too Thor Th'ng (Pig Maw Soup) 猪肚汤 - Featured in Group Recipes

Nyonya Cuisine – Part 4

I hope the title won't put you off straight away. I know not many people dare to consume animal offal. I shy away from most of the organ parts such as liver, intestines too. But for pig maw (pig stomach) it can be really nutritious especially for Chinese women after giving birth. During month long of confinement period, pig stomach soup a.k.a. "Too Thor Th'ng" in Hokkien is one of their main dishes to consume. As the Chinese believes eating different parts of animal will benefit the corresponding parts of our body (以形朴形). Hence, eating pig's stomach is supposed to 'replenish' the stomach of women who have just given birth. This pig maw soup is another Penang Nyonya delicacy. This soup is also one of the signature soups served during Chinese New Year.

Initially, I thought only Chinese eats pig stomach. In fact Chinese eats nearly every part of a pig! But after some Google searches, I was surprised to find out that pig maw (a.k.a. Hog maw) is also served in Western cuisine especially in Italian, Scottish and Pennsylvanian Dutch. Other than pig maw, the next most important ingredient of this soup is cracked peppercorns of white peppers; hence some call this soup peppered pig stomach soup. With the pepper in the soup it brings out the heat thus perfect to warm up your body to counter the cold weather. The Northern Hemisphere is currently in the winter months so it can be a great timing for the "Northern Hemisphereans" to try this out.

Too Thor Th'ng (Pig Maw Soup) 猪肚汤 Featured in Group Recipes 7/12/2010
 The making of the soup is easy but the preparation is a tricky one especially in the cleaning of pig maw. If you are not familiar with cleaning pig stomach, you will end up with a smelly soup. So, how to clean the stomach?

Below is my highly experienced cook- Chef Ah Lan demonstrating the correct way to wash the pig maw. I must warn you first, it may look gross to some of you. Don't watch it immediately after your meal J

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Baked Hoisin Sauce Chicken Wings 海鲜酱烤鸡翅 - Featured in Group Recipes

Finger licking good?

This is yet another simple recipe kids are sure to love. This recipe also demonstrates a healthy way to prepare kids' favorite chicken meals by oven baking rather than deep frying which can be quite oily. I used chicken wings because they were on special; however you can use drumsticks with this same recipe.

The wings are truly inviting with their caramel skin appearance, aren't they?

Baked Hoisin Sauce Chicken Wings 海鲜酱烤鸡翅 - Featured in Group Recipes 4/12/2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Penang Loh Bak (Sausage Pork Roll) 槟城五香卤肉

Nyonya Cuisine – Part 3

Loh bak (Sausage Pork Roll) is another famous Penang Nyonya food. It is also one of the Penang well known hawker delights easily available at many Penang street stalls or night markets sold as finger food. Usually they are sold in a combo platter of loh bak which includes, prawn fritters, fried bean curd (taukua) , five spice hard boiled eggs, century eggs, and slices of cucumber.

Recalling my school days, I used to eat Loh Bak as supper after late night shopping with friends at night markets. We used to order a combo plate and sit down to share this little snack before heading home. To many Penang families, it can also be served as an entree in a multi-course meal especially during festive celebrations or sometimes even wedding dinners.

I'd been thinking of making this for quite a while now; I had even bought the bean curd sheets but just had not got the right time to make it. With Auntie Lan , our Nyonya expert around, how could we not ask her to make this Nyonya dish while she's still with us? J So, again let me feature my guest chef showing off her Nyonya cooking skills.
However, we were unable to come out with the same loh bak taste as back home. This was because I couldn't find one of the main ingredients that's called Sengkuang in Malay or "bangkuang" in Hokkien which was a kind of sweet root vegetable. When I wrote this post, I tried to Google for English name; it gave me a Spanish word Jicama and Yam bean. I was surprised to read that some refers to it as turnip. I guess for our next trial we can either use water chestnuts or opt to use turnip as replacement.

My auntie said you can also make this into vegetarian version by replacing the meat with Yam. Vegetarian Loh Bak (斋卤肉)which has another name "Huang Jiang" in Teochew is one of the many vegetarian dishes prepared by her during the 1st day of Chinese New year. This day is also regarded as vegetarian day and following the Chinese customs we are to start off with vegetarian meals.

Penang Loh Bak  槟城五香卤肉

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Budget & Healthy Eating Christmas High Tea

Surprise Christmas High Tea

Last Friday was our monthly Healthy Eating on a Budget seminar; it was the last cooking class for year 2010. We were looking forward to learn new Christmas recipes but surprised by our lovely cooking instructor Cushla with a table of fabulous Christmas feast. Not only that, she even made each and every one of us a gorgeous hand knitted Christmas sock with flavorful aromatic mix in it.

I had been attending this cooking class for over a year since last November. I'm truly grateful to North Shore Women Center who organizes such meaningful classes, not only I get to know various ways of budget and healthy cooking and knowledge of Western Cuisine, I get to know a charming group of Kiwi ladies.

I was happy to learn that the cooking class acquired new funding and was going to resume in February 2011. On behalf of all the ladies I want to express our gratitude to Harbour Health who sponsors this program. Last by not least, I would like to thank our gorgeous instructor Cushla Marsh for her time and patience in sharing her skillful cooking with us.

Below are some of the highlights we had last Friday, the quality of photos was not so impressive because this was a surprise party I was not prepared with a proper camera.

Read on for the Christmas recipes by Cushla and hope these will help to add some new ideas to your Christmas meals.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Taucheo(Soya Bean paste) Ling Fish 豆酱鲮鱼 - Featured in Group Recipes

Teochew Cuisine – Part 2

This is another Teochew dish our auntie used to cook for us back home in Malaysia. When I saw Ling fish steak which was also Ray's favourite fish were on special, I wouldn't miss the chance to grab them.

Furthermore, this fish was not available in Malaysia so it would be great experience for our Auntie. I'd asked auntie to cook her specialty Taucheo (bean paste) fish which we missed so much.

If you'd like to have some extra kick of hot and spicy fish, you can use Sichuan chili bean paste instead or add some chilies into the sauce.

Taucheo(Soya Bean paste) Ling Fish 豆酱鲮鱼 - Featured in Group Recipes 1/12/2010


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