Saturday, September 12, 2015

Master Class with BBC Celebrity Chef Rachel Allen

A great start to the weekend comes in the form of fun bakes with Rachel Allen.

Collaborating with BBC Lifestyle, Rachel Allen is visiting Singapore for the 5th time and I'm honored to receive an exclusive media invite by BBC Channel to attend cooking master class with BBC Lifestyle conducted by her.

BBC Celebrity Chef Rachel Allen returns to TV screens on BBC Lifestyle (Starhub Channel 432) with a new series - Rachel Allen: All Things Sweet - as she indulges in her passion for delectable desserts.

BBC Celebrity Chef Rachel Allen returns to TV screens on BBC Lifestyle (Starhub Channel 432) with a new series - Rachel Allen: All Things Sweet - as she indulges in her passion for delectable desserts.

She recreates mouth-watering morsels from her same-titled cookbook and shares some sweet-making secrets in the class. The recipe in the class is flavor-filled Banana, Ginger and Golden Syrup Bread, and Chocolate Peanut Brittle Butter Cookies.

I brought Kattie along as I knew she will enjoy the fun. And indeed she is. She is so hyped throughout the class and cracked good jokes too. Chef Rachel recognized her as the 'relaxed assistant' as what Kattie named herself. This Irish TV chef is quite a fun person.

All thanks to Palate Sensations for the nice and fully equipped kitchen. Everything was nicely arranged upon our arrival. All we need to do is to whip away with the flow.

The recipe is not difficult to follow. The Banana Bread is just mix, pour over, and bake. Result is really nice. The whole kitchen smells so good. Look at this happy girl with her bakes.

My favorite part is the crunchy peanut brittle. Kattie did it very well. The peanut brittle was nicely and evenly coated with caramelized sugar.

I can't tell you how much love I had for those caramelized crunchy peanut brittle. I had been eating em' while the butter cookies still baking in the oven. I don't think I can wait. Haha..

When I popped some peanut brittle into my mouth, I told Chef Rachel that "Kitchen is how kitchen supposed to be like". She laughed and she popped some into her mouth too. 

This is the end result baked by Chef Rachel. The ginger taste is at the strong side. It needs to be reduced slightly as the ginger powder in Asia is probably stronger than those in UK.

This Chocolate Peanut Brittle Butter Cookies. Too good and too addictive. I feels like Christmas!

From impressive afternoon tea goodies to irresistible treats for the little ones, I believe Chef Rachel Allen's All Things Sweet cooking tips will entice to rediscover the joy of baking. Probably I should take a look at her cookbook soon.

There's always room for something sweet :)

All thanks to BBC Channel and Palate Sensation for the hospitality. We had fun and we had a great experience.

Corn Chowder (玉米浓汤)

Corn Chowder is one of the ultimate comfort food. I had been cooking this soup for many times and I never gets tired of it. I guarantee you, this hearty home-made bowl of soul is easy and delicious.

Since my whole family loves this soup, I see no reason for not sharing this recipe. This recipe makes super comforting chowder and it's easier than you think to make. This Corn Chowder soup doesn't use milk, flour and corn starch. The starchy and the thickness comes from the potatoes. It's real stuff.

If you wants to make it more of a meal, you can add abit of fish or seafood in it. Probably crab meat, chunks of prawns, or even smoked fish.

This recipe feeds 4 soup portion. But if you are adding some seafood chunks, this recipe serves 3 as a meal.

  • 1 pack Sweet Corn Whole Kernels (380g). ** SEE NOTE
  • 2 Big Russet Potatoes, diced ** SEE NOTE
  • 1 Big Yellow Onions, chopped
  • 200g Bacon (about 8 slices)
  • 400ml Chicken Stock ** SEE NOTE
  • 200ml Water
  • 50g Butter
  • 100ml + 50ml Whipping Cream
  • 1 Fresh Red Chilli, finely chopped (optional) ** SEE NOTE
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Some chopped parsley for garnishing
Note :
1. Sweet Corn Kernels might be in a pack or in a can. No specific brand required. I use Del-Monte is because the packing is easy to open. This brings laziness to the next level. Haha... Anyway, you just have to be more alert when you purchase it. There's sweet corn whole kernels and sweet corn cream style. Don't get the wrong one. If you want, you can use fresh sweet corn and cut the kernels on your own. But taste result will vary. Frozen corn kernels might be a good alternative too.

2. If your potatoes are too small, use 3 potatoes instead of 2.

3. It's undeniably that chicken stock gives better flavor to the soup. But if you don't have chicken stock at home and you are not fussy about it, you could just use water. The existence of rendered bacon gives good flavor to the soup too.

4. Adding red chilli in the chowder will surprise you. I always do that. Chilli in the soup will bring your overall corn chowder taste to another new level. But for this particular time, I forgot about my chilli. I only realize my red chilli still sitting in the fridge AFTER I finished cooking my corn chowder! *Grrrrr!!*  If you are feeding kids, and worrying the existence of the chilli, then, you can choose not to add them in.

  1. Prepare all the ingredients - Chop yellow onions, dice potatoes, cut bacon into small pieces, remove seeds from chilli and finely chopped them. 
  2. A tablespoon of cooking oil (or lard if you have some at home) on the saucepot, throw in all the bacon pieces. Let it render under low flame, stirring it occasionally to prevent sticking at the bottom, otherwise it will get burnt easily. Render until all bacon pieces are all brown and crispy. Refer to picture. Remove some bacon bits from the saucepot, set aside for topping later. Leave the rest in the saucepot. 
  3. Add chopped onions into the saucepot and cook together with the bacon pieces under medium low fire, stir well, let it cook until onions are fragrant and soft. 
  4. Set aside 1/4 portion of sweet corn kernels aside. Pour the balance 3/4 sweet corn, chopped red chilli and diced potatoes into the saucepot. Stir well and cook for about 5 mins. 
  5. Add in 400ml chicken stock (or water). Once it is boiled, let it simmer under medium low fire for about 8 mins.
  6. Pour the soup into the blender and blend until smooth. You can roughly blend them if you prefer the less smooth soup texture. Pour the blended soup into a pot. Add 200ml water into the blender to 'rinse' the balance soup in the blender. Pour it back to the pot. No waste. Add in the remaining 1/4 sweet corn kernels. Stir. Let it simmer under dead low fire for another 5 mins. You have to keep stirring the soup so the soup doesn't stick to the pot.
  7. Add in 100ml whipping cream, salt and pepper. Stir and taste. 
  8. At this point of time, go whip up 50ml chilled whipping cream until stiff peak, keep it in the fridge for later use. However, this is absolutely optional. You can do away without whipped cream topping if you want it less fancy.
  9. To serve - Reheat the soup. Add in 50g Butter and give it a good stir. The butter will give the soup a very good gloss and nice buttery fragrant that you won't be able to resist. Top with whipped cream, chopped parsley and crunchy bacon bits. 
Ingredients are easily available at the supermarket. This corn chowder is absolutely fuss free.

Rendering bacon pieces under low flame. This takes abit of patience. Please ensure that you are stirring it occasionally to prevent from sticking at the bottom and ensure every bacon piece are well cooked. I use lard in replace of cooking oil. I love lard. It gives really good flavor.

Render Bacon pieces, add in chopped onions. Add in diced potatoes and corn kernels, add chicken stock, and simmer away. It's easy and it's not difficult to follow when there's photo shown here.

Next, blend the soup into smooth texture, add cream and butter. That's it. Easy.

As I mentioned above, to make it a meal, you can add seafood into the soup. And Oh.. don't forget to grab some bread to go along with. What you see here is a good combination of Corn Chowder, Romaine Walnut Salad, Nordic Sourdough with butter, and some chips to go along. This is my weekend lunch! Mad love!!!!

You could tweak the recipe by adding extra diced potatoes onto the blended soup, give it a good 5mins slow simmer before adding the cream. Leave it there untouched. The diced potatoes will soften by the remaining heat from the soup. This way, your chowder will good chunk of potatoes bites.

Maybe this recipe can be a generic recipe across other soups or chowder as well. Just replace corn kernels with leek and some celery, you will have Leek Soup. Replace corn kernels with fresh peas, and you will have peas soup.  It doesn't matter. The idea is really to be as hearty and as homely as possible. Right?

You know what? I hate it when some western-food-wannabe casual dining place serves me f**ked-up canned soup diluted with water and thickened it with corn starch. Urghh!!!

No more canned soup. Eat the real stuff. Try cooking corn chowder at home now!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Beef Brisket Clear Soup Stew / 清湯牛腩

Beef Brisket Clear Soup Stew is a very popular Cantonese dish. Sweet and beefy in taste, soft and tender meat and clear soup with hints of spices. It may looked like a normal dish, the scent and fragrance of the soup from hours of simmering is lip-smackingly delicious.

Undeniably, the clear beef brisket soup has such a strong umami flavor that you cannot resist but finish it to the last drop.

In my hometown Kampar, we do have this soup serve alongside with dry noodles. In Hong Kong, this dish is easily available, especially the famous Kau Kee Beef Brisket Soup Noodles. Asians have plenty of ways of cooking their version of 'beef stew' or 'beef soup', while Cantonese prefers this clear soup version. However, different family will have different preference in the type of spices added into the soup.

I stewed this pot, and I served 6 adults along with fluffy white rice. Yumms!

(Source : Chinese Food Recipe with modification)
  • 650g Beef Brisket 牛腩
  • 200g Beef Shin 牛腱
  • 6 Water Chestnut (Optional) 马蹄
  • 10 Beef Balls (Optional) 牛肉丸
  • 1 White Radish 白萝卜
  • 1 tbsp Shao Xing Wine 绍兴酒
  • 2 stalks Spring Onions 葱
  • 40g Old Ginger, sliced 老姜
  • 2500ml Water 水
  • Sea Salt to taste 海盐
Spices for the soup
  • 1 Bay Leaf 香叶
  • 10g Rock Sugar 冰糖
  • 1/2 tsp Fennel Seed 小茴香
  • 1/2 Szechuan Pepper 川椒
  • 1 Cinnamon Bark 桂皮
  • 4 Cloves 丁香
  • 2 Star Anise 八角
  • 1 piece Licorice Root 甘草
  • thumb sized Sun-Dried Tangerine Peel 老陈皮
  1. Preparation - Cut meat into pieces and white radish into big chunks. Give the spices a quick rinse. Soak tangerine peel till soft, scrape off the whitish part. 
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add brisket and shin into the boiling water, simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, drained, rinse the beef pieces and the saucepan to get rid of the scums. 
  3. Heat a pan with some oil, fry sliced gingers till fragrant. Add in the rest of the spices, shao xing wine, rock sugar, beef brisket and beef shin. Stir well. Add in water and bring to a boil. 
  4. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 30mins, scoop the scums away (if any) and add in 1 stalk of spring onions. 
  5. Add in white radish and beef balls, continue to simmer under low fire for another 30mins (or more), covered. Check the tenderness of the beef brisket and beef shin to your likeliness
  6. Turn off the heat, add salt to taste. Let the soup continue to 'cook' under it's own temperature, for another 30mins.
  7. To serve, reheat the soup, scoop onto the bowl, sprinkle spring onions and serve with fluffy white rice.
This recipe is very forgiving. You can choose to use only beef brisket if you doesn't like beef shin. I added some beef balls into the stew because my big boy Max would love to have em'. Water chestnut can add extra sweetness to the stew. I happened to have some at home, so, I just conveniently add some in there.

I got my beef brisket, beef shin and beef balls from Chinatown wet market. Beef brisket cost S$10 per kg. Good deal eh.

The variety of spices I used is quite alot. But if you don't have all of them in the list, you can opt out some of them. However, ginger, spring onions, szechuan pepper, rock sugar, tangerine peels are essential. Otherwise, you won't be able to get even the right flavorful taste of the broth.

I didn't remove the ginger skin. Ginger and ginger skin has health benefits. I'm sure very little people knows that leaving the skin on your ginger is better for you. Ginger skin doesn't only makes the dish taste better, it aids in digestion by improving absorption of essential nutrients and helps to break down the proteins in your food. Of course, for some cosmetic reasons on certain dishes, I will still remove the ginger skin :)

Fusing with the lean meat into one, the brisket has generated a heavenly consistency. I brewed the soup for 30mins, and the flavor of the spices is all over the soup. I don't the spices to over-powered and covered the beefy taste, because beefy sweetness is eventually what we want. So, I removed the strong flavored spices star anise, cinnamon bark, cloves and licorice root from the soup. You can also do the same or if you prefer stronger spices flavor, you can leave the spices in the soup all the way.

Now, I am able to make this beef brisket clear soup stew at home anytime. To me, the best part about cooking is that you are willing to make something from scratch, and your loved ones enjoy eating it.

I find this soup absolutely suitable for all-year-round dish. The soup is clean, slightly sweet, intensely beefy. Surely will cook it again in near future.

What's next for me to explore? I don't know. I shall think about it :)

Happy cooking!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Pandan Coconut Butter Cake (班兰椰香牛油蛋糕)

To me, the flavor of Pandan is wholly unique and indescribable. The butter cake is nicely perfumed with the scent of Pandan leaf and coconut, but taste wasn't overpowering. Pandan and Coconut? Yes! They are perfect match!

I received a request on Friday night, asking me to make a cake for one lovely auntie who's celebrating her 84 years old birthday over a Soka Gathering. Idea strikes me, and I drafted this recipe on a paper on a friday night at 11.55pm before I forget. I tweaked the ratio using my all-time-favorite Butter Cake that I've posted back in 2012, and I get started with my baking preparation.

This cake is really overwhelmed with response from fellow beautiful aunties and uncles who tasted my Pandan Coconut Butter Cake this afternoon. Both Facebook readers, friends who had been WhatsApping me for the recipe, yes I know. I've rushed this recipe for you guys now as promised.

This cake is really yummy. I can't help it but wanting to share to everyone. It's so moist, fragrant and flavorful. Me and Max only get share a small piece because fellow aunties and uncles snatched the whole cake within a few minute when the birthday auntie says "Wah! Very delicious leh!". That's how overwhelmed it is.

There is no need to frost the side of the cake at all. Sometimes less is more. And that's how I feel.

This makes large cake and good for you to bring it to a party. Please read all the notes and steps that I've written. Those details are there for a reason.

  • 250g Salted Butter, room temperature
  • 5 Eggs, large sized and in room temperature
  • 150g + 50g Castor Sugar
  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Bicarbonate Soda
  • 1 tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (Optional) 
  • 50ml Coconut Cream
  • 20ml Concentrated Pandan Juice *See Preparation Note
  • 25g Desiccated Coconut
Whipped Cream Topping
  • 1 tsp Corn Flour
  • 1 tbsp Water
  • 1.5 tsp Castor Sugar 
  • 100ml Dairy Whipping Cream
  • 50ml Coconut Cream
  • some grated fresh and firm coconut flesh
  • some green lime zest
  • some edible sugar flowers as deco (Optional)
Preparation Note
- You will have to prepare the concentrated pandan juice way in advance, at least 5 hours. The reason is because you need time to allow the pandan juice to set before you can get the best out of the best that sunk at the bottom.
  1. Buy a bunch of Pandan Leaves (aka Screwpine Leaves). It cost me about 20cts from the wet market. 
  2. Wash Pandan Leaves clean and snip them into pieces. 
  3. Dump pandan leaves into the juicer, add a cup of water and blits away. 
  4. Strain the pandan juice, covered, and keep them in the fridge to set for few hours. I left mine in the fridge untouched overnight.
  5. When the pandan juice is set, you will see two layers. The dark greenish colored concentrated pandan juice will sink down. That dark green part is the part we want for the cake. 
- Yes. It's tedious to make your own concentrated pandan juice. You can choose to use the bottled  pandan paste that you can conveniently bought it at any Phoon Huat or Supermarket. But you know? It taste different. You can go ahead and use it. The choice is your's.

The dark greenish concentrated Pandan juice sunk at the bottom after it's left in the fridge overnight.

Method - for the Cake
  1. Pre-heat oven at 175 degree, fan OFF. 
  2. Prepare 8 x 8 inch square baking pan. Line the base and the side nicely.
  3. Separate egg whites and yolk 
  4. Sieve flour together with baking powder and bicarb soda.
  5. Mix both concentrated pandan juice and coconut cream together in a small bowl. 
  6. Cream butter and 150g castor sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in extra virgin coconut oil (if you have it), beat for awhile, and followed by adding egg yolks, one at a time. 
  7. Put in half of the sieved flour, mix on low speed until they are half mixed. Add in pandan juice and coconut cream mixture in 2 additions until well incorporated. Mix in the balance flour. As long as the batter is mixed well, stop it. Do not over-work the batter.  
  8. Beat egg whites until soft peaks, gradually add 50g castor sugar in 3 additions until egg whites achieved stiff peak.  
  9. Take 1/3 of the egg whites, fold into the batter. Take another 1/3, and repeat the folding process. 
  10. pour the mixed batter to the balance to the mixing bowl where the balance 1/3 egg whites is. Continue to fold it until well mixed. Be gentle. We need to retain the egg whites bubbles as much as we can. 
  11. Pour batter into the lined pan, level, and bake it for 1 hour or until skewers comes out clean. Leave cake to cool completely, use clingwrap to wrap it well and put them into the fridge overnight to let the whole cake infuse. Butter cake taste better overnight :)
Method - for the Whipping Cream & Decorations
  1. Ensure Whipping Cream is always in chilled condition. This is the first thing you need to check.
  2. In a small saucepot, add in corn flour and water. Stir well on a very low heat. It will turn sticky and gluey very quickly. So, you will have to remove it from the heat once it starts to thickened and quickly pour the thickened corn starch onto the castor sugar. Continue to stir until the castor sugar is melted.
  3. Prepare bowl of ice water, get another clean and dry bowl, sitting on top of the ice water, pour 100ml of whipping cream. Whisk till soft peak.
  4. Add in the thickened corn starch mixture into the whipping cream and continue to whisk till stiff peak is achieved. Keep it in the fridge. 
  5. In another clean and dry bowl, sit on top of the same ice water, whisk 50ml coconut cream till stiff peak.
  6. Take out the whipping cream, combine both whipping cream and coconut cream together, put it back to the fridge for later use.
  7. As part of the delicious topping, I grate some firm coconut flesh coarsely using my microplane, and then sprinkle a tsp of castor sugar on top of the grated coconut. 
  8. Grate some green lime zest to create another level *fwoh* to the overall taste of the cake and it gives nice color contras to the grated coconut too.
  9. To assemble - I want my cake to look clean and showcase the beautiful pandan color of my cake, So, I trim the side of the cake. However, trimming is absolutely optional. Spread the cream on top of the cake generously. Push the cream to the edge, but leaving some space to avoid cream touching the side. Sprinkle grated coconut flesh evenly and top with green lime zest for the color contra. You can stop here, or you can add more decorations if you wants. 
Note : This is a fresh whipping cream with coconut cream. Fresh whipping cream always taste delicious, not as heavy and rich as buttercream, and they are absolutely not as stable as other cream. They must be chilled all the time. I added some corn starch, wanting to delay the melting time of the whipping cream. You can add gelatin of course, but I didn't do that this time. Always remember this point. This whipping cream is NOT stable. Never attempt to put the cake under room temperature and leave it unattended. The whipping cream topping will melt. If you want sturdier cream as topping, then, you have to change the topping recipe to suit your individual preference.

The side of the cake is trimmed to showcase the nice green color. 

Grating my coconut flesh using Microplane. 

And not to forget the nice touch of green lime zest. 

The result of this cake..... Simple, old-fashioned flavor. Combination of Pandan and Coconut, this definitely won't go wrong. Adding Extra Virgin Coconut Oil gives extra flavor to the cake. It's like, instead of adding coconut essence, I would recommend you to add Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. They smells amazing and they are genuine stuff! I use Coconut Oil for cooking too. But if you don't have em' at home, then you can choose not to add. It makes no sense for you to buy a bottle of Coconut Oil just because you wanna use 1 tsp for this cake.

I like my cake to be less complicated and unpretentious. Although cake decorations will create good impression to your guests and wow them, but the cake must be delicious! Good flavor and texture must be the first priority! Share this recipe if you agree with me. Hahah.

I love the topping. The white snow flakes melting away, the greens came alive. It's like... Winter turning into Spring! How lovely!

 Look at this beautiful white hair auntie. She's 84 this year. Her sweet smiles melts my heart away :)

As long as the fellow seniors are happy, my effort is worth it for sure :)

Happy Baking everyone!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Laksa Lemak / Nyonya Laksa

Seafood-rich and creamy coconut milk curry-like gravy with a lingering spice kick, enjoy together with noodles and the rest of the fresh ingredients. Ahh... That's the bowl of warm, gently spicy comfort noodles I want now. If you are celebrating Singapore SG50, cook this! Make Laksa Party!


For those who stayed in Singapore or visited Singapore before, I'm sure you love Singapore Laksa, or Laksa Lemak, or also known as Nyonya Laksa, which is a popular Peranakan dish. The Peranakans are ethnic Chinese who settled in the British Straits Settlement back in the olden days.

However, as most recipes go, several variations of Laksa's were tweaked to their individual liking and can be found in different parts of hawker centres and food courts in Singapore. Although there's arguments says that Katong Laksa serves the best and iconic Singapore Laksa. They are good, but I personally feels that it could be better. I shall leave it to you to do the judgement. I shall focus more on this recipe.

This is Alan's recipe, produces thick and flavorful gravy, not as watery as what you expect at the store-bought kind. This recipe is absolutely good to host a Laksa Party at home. It feeds about 6 to 8 adults. This dish includes plenty of Southeast Asian combinations. Dried shrimps, fish cakes, cockles, coconut milk, daun kesom, chillies, lots of spices and everything nice.

Before everything else, as I was told, Rempah (also known as spices) is the soul of a good bowl of Laksa Lemak. Rempahs can be prepared way in advance, even a week ahead or so. Whenever you want to have so good bowl of soul food, you have your rempah's ready in the freezer!

So, for the first, let's begin with preparing the Rempah.

Ingredients (for Generic Rempah)
  • 70g Red Chillies, remove seeds
  • 10 Dried Chillies, soaked in hot water until soft, remove seeds
  • 5 Candlenut / buah keras
  • 110g Shallots, peeled, sliced
  • 25g Garlic, peeled
  • 20g Ginger, sliced
  • 10g Turmeric Root, sliced
  • 10g Galangal, sliced
  • 4 Stalks Lemon Grass, only slice lower 1/3 whitish portion
  • 5 Bird's eye chillies / cili padi (Optional)
Method (for Generic Rempah)
  1. Chop and blend or pound all spice ingredients together into a fine paste. (See Photo)
  2. Heat up generous amount of cooking oil over medium low heat, gently saute blended spices until fragrant. The spices should darken considerably, starts to glisten as the oil begins to separate from the paste. We identified it as pecah minyak stage for our rempah cooking. 
  3. When generic rempah is cooked, leave it completely cooled, air-tight and store it in the fridge for tomorrow use. Or if you are using it much later, do keep it in the freezer. 
Bird's eye chilli / cili padi is absolutely optional. I prefer to be more fiery. So, I added some of them in the rempah mixture. 

Second..... the Prawn Stock. You need some fresh prawns from the market for ideal result.

Ingredients (for Prawn Stock)
  • 1kg Fresh Prawns
  • 1 tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 500ml + 1000ml Water
Method (for Prawn Stock)
  1. To prepare the prawns - 1st, snip off the thorn on the prawn head. 2nd, snip off the eyes. 3rd, remove those dirts inside the prawn heads. 4th, remove the shells and deveinned. 
  2. Keep half amount of the peeled prawns meat well, wrapped, in a fridge for next time use. I'm using it for other dishes. While another half of the peeled prawns, blanch it under 500ml of boiled water until the prawn is just cooked. Keep both cooked prawns and boiled water for later.  
  3. In another stove, a pan heated with a tbsp of cooking oil, add in prawn heads and prawn shells. Pan fry under medium heat until they turned color and the prawns aroma is all over your kitchen. Keep an eye on it, do not burn it. 
  4. Pour 500ml of boiled water that you used to blanch prawns, and additional 1000ml water. Turn it to medium high heat, let it boil. Lower down the heat and let it simmer for 15mins.
  5. Transfer the prawn stock together with the prawn head and shells into the blender. Blits till fine, carefully strained, like making bisque. And prawn stock is ready to use.
Things to take note. Snipping away the prawn eyes and remove dirts inside the prawn head is VERY IMPORTANT. Prawn eyes and dirts are bitter. If you are going to blitz those prawn shells and heads for prawn stocks, you must remove them from the prawns. Otherwise, your whole pot of prawn stock will have bitter aftertaste. My mom used to own a prawn noodles stall when I was very young. This tips is her great advice. I would't wanna take the risk. I will listen to her.

Thirdly... the Laksa Gravy. You can only do this when your generic rempah and prawn stock is ready for use.

Ingredients (for Laksa Gravy)
  • 400g Generic Rempah (as above)
  • 1.5 tbsp Coriander Seeds / ketumbar
  • 100g Dried Shrimps
  • 1 tbsp Toasted Belacan Powder
  • 800ml Fresh Coconut Milk
  • 1500ml Prawn Stock (as above)
  • 6 sprig Daun Kesom / laksa leaves
  • 3 tbsp Sugar, adjust to taste
  • 2 tsp Salt, adjust to taste
  • 2 tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 16 Fish Balls
  • 10pcs Tau Pok, snipped into strips
Method (for Laksa Gravy)
  1. On a small pan, start off with dry-frying the coriander seeds until they are aromatic before milling them into fine powder. The recipe ask for 1 tbsp coriander seed, but I used 1.5 tbsp instead. Sift the milled coriander powder as we only need those fine coriander powder for the gravy. Coarse coriander seeds that doesn't pass through the sieve, and this explains why I use 1.5 tbsp instead, because some will be discarded. 
  2. Dried shrimps needs to be washed and soaked for awhile before grinding them finely into floss using a food processor. 
  3. With a big pan, heat up some oil, add in generic rempah, coriander seeds, dried shrimps, and toasted belacan powder. Fry till fragrant.
  4. Add in prawn stocks and bring to a boil. And followed by coconut milk to create the base. Add more water if needed as you have to build your own preferred gravy consistency. 
  5. Add in daun kesom to the gravy. This gives another level of dimension to the laksa gravy. Add in salt and sugar at this point of time. Give it a taste. Make sure you adjust to the saltiness and sweetness to your individual liking.
  6. Strips of tau pok are then added to soak up all that wonderful richness from the broth. Also, you can add in fish balls at this time to allow it to simmer together. Do this on medium heat for a few minutes and then switch off fire. Do not cover the pot with lid.

Lastly, prepare the rest of the condiments and assembling.

Ingredients (for Condiments and Noodles)
  • 800g to 1kg Rice Vermicelli
  • 500g Cooked Prawns (prepared as above)
  • 300g Bean Sprout
  • 3pcs Large Flat Fish Cakes
  • 4 Hard Boiled Eggs, assuming one portion of laksa only need half eggs
  • 500g Fresh Blood Cockles (weight with shell on)
  • 2 to 4 sprigs Daun Kesom, julienned
Please buy the freshest blood cockles from the market on the same day. Bring home and remove from the shells on your own. Try not to buy those that's sold in bags that shells had been removed for your convenience.

For those who wants some special sambal chilli to go along, as shown on the picture, here's my recipe that I've created on the spot just before the Laksa Party begins.

Special Sambal Chilli (Optional)
  • 70g Generic Rempah
  • 20g Dried Shrimps, washed, soaked, flossed
  • 50g Shallots
  • 3 tsp Sugar
  • some shallot oil
In a pan, put everything together, sautee until fragrant. And now, with everything is ready, the Laksa Party begins....

To Serve
  1. Blanch one portion of rice vermicelli as well as beansprout over a pot of hot boiling water. Drain the water thoroughly before pouring the noodles onto the bowl.
  2. Ladle some hot Laksa gravy onto the noodles. Arrange some fish cakes, hard boiled eggs, blanched cockles on top. Add more laksa gravy over the ingredients if you prefer. 
  3. Garnish with julienned daun kesum, and serve along with some sambal cili immediately. 

The recipe is complicated as it uses alot of ingredients. But I assure you that you will be able to make this a success if you follow my recipe, and let me walk you through the proper preparation of every element. I have to thank Alan for his detailed recipe for sure. He gave me so much insight to this noodle dish.

As an optional idea, you can cut up the noodles, so that the whole dish can be slurped up with a soup spoon, without the need for chopsticks. It's up to individual's preference.

The laksa gravy is thick. I like it that way. This way, the noodles are well binded together with the laksa gravy when eating.

Now that I've tested the recipe, and proven that it works! I would encourage you to do the same, re-invent it to suit your astoundingly acute palate.

You want a bowl right now?

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I definitely will recreate this recipe again and again.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hakka Steamed Salted Chicken / 客家蒸盐鸡

Everyone is waiting for this recipe. It looked easy by looking at the photo. I mean... c'mon! It's just salted steamed chicken! But let me tell you, to make this right, you need abit of patience here.

This is my grandma's dish. My mom continues the dish. Recipe I'm sharing here is the same as the one my grandma taught. But I improve the cooking method to achieve better tenderness of the chicken after me and my mother talked about it. As shared by my grandma, there are two types of Hakka Salted Chicken. One was the Hakka Baked Salted Chicken. Another one, is Hakka Steamed Salted Chicken. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's I was told.

This.... I cooked this 2 years ago. Using eunuch chicken (太监鸡)  that I got from Malaysia. Thanks to my mom for arranging that. The meat is muscular and flavorful, and the color of the skin is *fwohhh* I can eat this everyday!

And this, I used Kampong Chicken (甘榜鸡) that I got from Sheng Siong Supermarket, as that is the best chicken I can get at that point of time, and I brought this salted chicken dish to Edith's place for gathering. They love it!

And this, I used Malaysia imported bald neck kampung chicken (光径甘榜鸡), bought from one of the farm market in Choa Chu Kang Farm Mart. Very nice texture. Worth my trip to Choa Chu Kang for sure.

My mom's steamed salted chicken always tastes the most comforting. With the simplicity of this dish, the quality of chicken used is really important. Free-range or Kampung Chicken is a must. I make this dish for many times, and I never get sick of it. They may looked ordinary, but I guarantee you that this is really yummy to eat. To make this dish, you need a good bird as a whole. As you can see, there's a difference in results when you use different types of chicken. I would not want you to buy the ordinary fresh white fat chicken for this dish. When the dish is simple, you need to ensure that the ingredients used are the best.

Be fearless my friend. Just buy the whole chicken and give this a shot!

  • 1 whole bird of good Kampong Chicken, weight about 1.5kg
  • 60 grams of Sea Salt (or 50g table salt)
  • 2 stalks of Spring Onions
  • 3 to 4 thick slices of Ginger
  • Enough water to cover the chicken, Probably 2.3L to 2.5L, depends on the size of your pot.
  1. Wash and trim away visible fats from the chicken. Chop away the chicken feet. Stuff ginger and spring onions into the cavity of the chicken.
  2. Find a slim and tall pot that can fit in a chicken nicely. Bring water to a boil. Once water is boiled, hold the chicken head (refer to photo), soak the chicken body into the boiling water. With your hand still holding the chicken head, lift the chicken up, and soak it into the boiling water again. Do this for 4 times before you release the chicken head and let the chicken submerge into the water completely. By doing this, water will go into the chicken cavity, and hence, the whole chicken will be well cooked. Water level must completely cover the chicken.
  3. Immediately turn the fire into dead low and slow, lids on, and leave it there for 5mins. Remember to set timer. Do not go over 5 mins. 
  4. After 5 mins, heat off. Leave it there untouched. Set timer for 1 hour. Walk out of the kitchen and go watch your TV show. If your chicken is 1.7kg or anything bigger than 1.6kg, please make it another 10mins or so. You have to gauge the time yourself. For 1.6kg chicken, yes... 1 hour is just nice.
  5. Use a pair of chopsticks, carefully and gently remove the chicken from the pot and place the chicken to the big tub, and fill with running tap water to cool down the chicken. Try your best not to bruise or tear the chicken skin. 
  6. When the chicken is cooled down abit on the surface, put the chicken into a tub of ice-cold water to further cooling process until chicken is completely turned cold. Drain. 
  7. Chop away chicken neck. And then chop chicken into half (refer to photo). And then, apply both halved chicken piece with generous amount of sea-salt evenly on the chicken until all sea salt is used up. Salt the chicken neck too. They can be eaten. But I don't encourage you to eat the skin for the chicken neck tho. Do not get freaked out by the amount of salt I use. Be adventurous. Just do it.  
  8. Leave the chicken sit on the tub or a plate. Let the chicken sit there uncovered to air-dry while it gets marinated for at least 12 hours. 

Things to note....

I usually leave the chicken sit on my table top for upto 4 to 5 hours. And then, I cling-wrap it and keep it in the fridge until tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, I just take the chicken out of the fridge, chop it into pieces, arrange it on a plate. If you are eating the chicken neck, remember to remove the chicken neck skin before chopping them.

My grandmother will steam the chopped chicken for quite a number of minutes before she serve the chicken to us. But the chicken will shrink and over-cooked and not so nice looking in presentation. Chicken juices will also released from the chicken too. So, I've modified this method. Instead of steaming it over brave fire, I steam the chicken without fire. It means, I bring the steamer into a boil. Off the fire, put the chicken into the steamer, covered, and let the remaining heat from the steamed water to warm the chicken for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken dish and serve with some spring onions as garnishing. The chicken is just warm, and nice to eat. Infact, this dish can be served under room temperature. When I'm feeling lazy, sometimes, I will skip the steaming process, since the chicken is already cooked. Chicken piece will remain juicy and tender. 

1.6kg chicken vs 60 grams of sea salt sounds like a horribly salty drama. But I assure you, this is just right. You need to have enough salt to marinade the chicken for at least 12 hours. During marinating process, some salt will drop and end up on the plate. In short, you are not eating 60 grams of salt for sure. It will kinda diminish over the marinating time. Marinating upto 12 hours is to ensure you produce deeply flavored salted chicken. But if you are making it on the same day, please prepare it early in the morning and you can have it for dinner too. Bear in mind, sea salt taste better and less salty. Ordinary table salt is saltier and I don't like it.

Please take note - Do adjust the salt usage and the cooking time according to the size of your chicken.

This recipe is simple and homely. It doesn't require complicated ingredients. I urge you to try it at least once. You will then know why I kept repeating this dish at home. It's convenient as it allows me to prepare this dish ahead. Sometimes, I cook the whole chicken on day 1, eat half of the chicken on day 2, and freeze the other half of the chicken for another day. It's convenient.

For my friends who adore my Spring Onions and Ginger Oil as an optional accompaniment to this dish. Thanks for loving it. My grandma's recipe do not have this optional accompaniment to go along with this steamed salted chicken. Because I love it, that's why I prepare it to go along with the chicken. It's absolutely optional. And now, here's the recipe.

Spring Onions and Ginger Oil
  • 100g Old Ginger
  • 25g Spring Onions (or more), chopped
  • 2 tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • ½ tsp Salt, or more to taste
  • ½ tsp Sugar, or more to taste
Blitz ginger into paste in a food processor. Heat up 2 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil on a frying pan.

When the oil is hot enough, add in ginger paste. Fry well for 2 to 3 mins.

Add in spring onions, sugar and salt. Give it a quick stir. Heat off, set aside to infuse. Easy!

On a side note, I know and I foresee, after I posted this recipe, there will be alot of readers will ask me about the cooking time. Ask me if the chicken will be cooked completely, since I'm just letting the chicken sit in the boiled water for 1 hour only. If you followed my recipe before, you will know that I do not share something that doesn't work on me. If you follow exactly what I said, the chicken will gives you well cooked, juicy and tender meat result. But if you are new, not adventurous, and still cannot trust me completely about the cooking time, then, I would suggest you to slightly overcook the chicken. There's nothing right or wrong. It's just your own preference.

Happy Cooking!
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