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!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mushrooms Lor Bak Png / Taiwanese Braised Pork Rice Bowl (香菇滷肉飯 / 台湾滷肉飯)

Braised pork rice bowl, generally known as Lor Bak Png (aka Lu Rou Fan 滷肉飯) is always one of the well known rice dish in Taiwan. Ask around Taiwanese, all of them can tell you their love for Lor Bak Png. For the first time I went Taiwan, I had Lor Bak Png, I'm absolutely in love with it.

I'm actually salivating when I'm writing this post. Darn!!!

There's a difference between Lor Bak Png in the Northern Taiwan and the Southern Taiwan. Northern version uses five spice powder, cinnamon powder and fried shallots for extra pungent. While Southern Taiwan prefers original taste. No spices are added usually. They only depends on fried shallots and the taste of the fresh meat. Southern Taiwanese loves sweet, and this also explains Southern version of Lor Bak Png will use more sugar than the Northern Taiwan version.

The one I'm cooking here, is Northern Taiwan version with the addition of mushrooms. Recipe adapted from a Taiwanese Braise Pork Recipe Book written in Chinese.

There's some rules you need to know before you cook this dish.
  1. If you think this dish will make you put on weight, skip it.
  2. If you think this is unhealthy, skip it.
  3. If you want to substitute this recipe with minced meat, this is not the right recipe for you.
Life is short. Just keep calm, cook it and eat it!

Please do not use minced meat for this recipe. To have better chewy texture, we need to use pork belly cut into small cubes. The amount of fattiness in the meat must be adequate. Fatty vs Meat should be 2 : 3 ratio. You must have sufficient fat meat to provide sufficient fats to the entire dish. If you look at my photos, you will know what I'm trying to tell you.

Good braised meat can only be achieved if the soya sauce used is good. I don't know what can you get at your area, but please buy Taiwanese premium soya sauce as first choice. If not, buy premium first draw soya sauce (like me).

I choose to cook this version of Lor Bak Png with mushrooms is because I could imagine how delicious it would be by just reading the recipe book. I couldn't wait to cook, and I couldn't wait to tell you how delicious it is. This recipe serves about 8 or upto 10 servings of rice bowl. If you have a small family like me, you can cook full recipe, eat half, and keep the other half for next day or even the day after.

  • 100g Dried Chinese Mushrooms (香菇)
  • 500g Pork Belly, skin on (三层肉)  ... See Note*
  • 80 ~ 100g Pig Skin (新鲜猪皮)  ... See Note*
  • 50g Pork Fats (新鲜肥猪肉) ... See Note*
  • 100g Shallots (小葱头) or 40g Fried Shallots (炸葱酥) ... See Note*
  • 80g Red Onions (红葱头)
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced (蒜头), optional
  • 650ml Water (水)
  • 150ml First Draw Soy Sauce (头抽) (I used Lee Kum Kee)... See Note*
  • 1 tsp White Pepper Powder (白胡椒粉)
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt (海盐)
  • 1 tsp Five Spice Powder (五香粉)
  • 20g Rock Sugar (冰糖)  ... See Note*
  • 1 pc Star Anise (八角)
  • Coriander
  • Pickled Daikon
  • Boiled eggs, optional
Note :
  1. Some over-friendly butcher will cut away the skin for you when you buy Pork belly. Please make sure you buy the pork belly with skin on it. 
  2. Ask butcher for fresh pig skin. Usually they will give it to you for free. Extra pig skin gives extra collagenous chew to the entire dish. But if you cannot get it, you can choose not to add pig skin into this dish. 
  3. Pork fats is important. DO NOT skip this. 
  4. 100g Shallot, peeled, sliced, fry, and it will give you estimation of 40g Fried shallot. That's what it means. You just got the estimation.
  5. I don't have Taiwanese soy sauce with me. So, I just make do with Lee Kum Kee first draw soy sauce. You can use your preferred brand first draw soy sauce, First draw soy sauce is tastier and soy sauce taste is heavier. 
  6. Do not replace rock sugar with sugar. You need rock sugar for this dish. Rock sugar and sugar taste different. 
The Lee Kum Kee First Draw Soy Sauce that I used for this dish.

  1. Soak dried mushrooms till soft or overnight. Squeeze away excess water, dice mushrooms.
  2. Cut pork belly into small pieces.
  3. Wash pig skin, use knife to scrape away the excess fats on the pig skin. Cut pig skin into small pieces. 
  4. Cut pork fats into small piece. In a saucepot, throw in the pork fats pieces, under slow and low fire, let the pork fats render on it's own. Give it a stir occasionally to prevent it from sticking together. When the pork fats bits turned pale golden, it is done. Remove pork fats bits for later use and set aside the pork oil or we called it Lard. You only need estimated 3 tbsp pork oil for this dish. The rest of the oil, keep them well in the fridge. You can use it next time for any stir fry dish. Especially stir-fried noodles. WoohH!!!
  5. Shallots preparation mentioned as per above NOTE. peeled, sliced, fry.  
  6. Red onions, just finely chopped them and set aside.  
Cooking Method
  1. In a wok, heat up 3 tbsp Pork Oil / lard, add in chopped red onions and garlic. Fry till fragrant, 
  2. Add in mushrooms, fry until you can smell the mushrooms aroma. Add more oil if needed. 
  3. Add in pork belly, fry until the meat turned white (almost 80% cooked). 
  4. Add in soy sauce, fry until the soy sauce is slightly caramelized.
  5. Add in the rest of the seasoning. Fry until the dish gives good aroma. Add in water. 
  6. Once water is boiled, reduce to slow and low fire, covered. Let it slowly cook for 30mins.
  7. After 30mins, add in fried shallots and about 2 tbsp amount of crunchy pork fat bits that you reserved earlier, give it a stir. Add a little more water if necessary. Let it simmer another 15 to 20mins. Set aside for serving later. 

To Serve : Pour a scoop of braised pork over a bowl of piping hot steamed rice. Garnish with coriander and pickled daikon if you prefer. Braised hard boiled eggs on the photo is optional of course :)

Braised pork dish is very forgiving. You can braise a pot. Keep them well. Reheat it again when you feels like eating. Infact, if you can leave this pot of goodness overnight, it would taste even better on the next day. When you intend to cook this braised pork at home, be warned that you need to cook extra rice.

This braised dish will give you very little and thick sauce. To achieve the desired effect, you will need to understand this part. Although slow braising could reduce the water level, but what thickened the sauce is the natural collagen that comes from the pig's skin. This also explains why extra pig's skin is added to be braised together. The translucent pieces of pig's skin is braised to perfection is an absolute delight to savor.

Oh yes. For those who wants to know how I prepare the eggs. But this is NOT how Taiwanese Lor Bak Png eggs supposed to look like. Taiwanese Lor Bak Png eggs is hard boiled eggs. I prepared this eggs to eat with the braised pork rice bowl is because Max wants it.
  1. Add a tsp of vinegar in boiling water. Cook eggs for 5mins. 
  2. Remove eggs from boiling water after 5mins and put eggs into the ice-cold water and let eggs cool down into ice-cold temperature before removing the shells. 
  3. Soak eggs into soya sauce mixture (1 part soya sauce, 1 part mirin, 1 part water) for a day. 

This dish is simple but yummy. It gives wonderful flavors and aroma. I know it's sinful, but I you don't have to eat it everyday right? It's a rare occasion indulgence. Haha.. Just take everything in moderate.

I would highly recommend you to try replicating it. I love it! I love the pig skin! And I'm sure most who had tried it would agree too!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

TeowChew Png Kueh / TeowChew Glutinous Rice Dumpling (潮州饭粿 / 潮州红桃粄 )

Beautiful pink hue rice flour skin wrapped with flavorful glutinous rice. Pressed on a nicely designed peach shaped wooden mould, and then steam the dumpling to perfection. You can eat it freshly steamed, or pan-fried. It's up to you.

I have a long list of kuehs' and dumplings to make. But first, I wanna make TeowChew Png Kueh.

Max told me that he doesn't really fancy Png Kueh. He felt that it is a super thick skinned tasteless kueh. I frowned when I heard how he described it. But I just braved myself to do it, even though I knew he probably won't appreciate it.

In Tradition, almost every TeowChew family will make Png Kueh for festive season and also part of the religious offering. There are white and pink version of peach dumpling. White is commonly used as offering to the ancestors, pink is used during religious praying session. In Malaysia, there's still certain TeowChew family practicing the Png Kueh's color differentiation for different purpose. But in Singapore, white colored Png Kueh almost doesn't exist anymore unless they are making it on their own at home.

This lovely pink peach shaped dumpling has two versions, differentiating different clans.

The TeowChew version's pink peach shaped dumpling is wrapped with flavorful glutinous rice filling, called 潮州饭粿 / 潮州红桃粄. The HorPor Clan (河婆) version's pink peach shaped dumpling is wrapped with crushed toasted peanuts with sugar, and this sweet dumpling is identified it as 桃粄.

Max like it pan-fried. The crusty layer of skin gives aroma, served with sweet dark soy sauce, some toasted sesame, I personally preferred to add some chopped coriander and chillies for richer in flavor. Yummm!!!

It's quite a challenge for the first time, without anyone guiding me. I need to factor in the overall taste of the Png Kueh as a whole. The skin is almost tasteless. The glutinous rice filling is savory. Both skin and filling will be eaten and chewed together in my mouth. And so, the filling must be more salty than the savory glutinous rice that we usually cook for plain eating. And this is how we balance the overall taste.

I also imagined that the Png Kueh to be pan-fried, serve with sweet black soy sauce and chilli. Sweet black soy sauce has slight saltiness, and so does chilli sauce. Hence, the saltiness of the Png Kueh itself cannot be over-powered, but at the same time, it must be flavorful, robust and aromatic. In Singapore, yes, we eat it this way. But in other places, maybe they eat it plain. If you love it in plainly steamed Png Kueh rather than pan-frying, I'd suggest you to add another half tsp of salt on your glutinous rice seasoning.

This Png Kueh is lightly pan-fried. The skin is not as thick as those selling out there. The filling is firmly pressed during wrapping, and hence, filling is fully packed, to ensure every chew gives mouthful of flavored glutinous rice. Max is totally sold by my Png Kueh. He says he'd changed the way he feels about Png Kueh. Hahaha...

You want a bite?

For Png Kueh, you need to plan ahead. Glutinous rice and chinese dried mushrooms need to be soaked overnight. So, here, I will tell you my preparation process to shorten your actual day's chore.

DO NOT get freaked out by my long writings. I'm just trying to give you as much details as you probably need. This recipe makes 20 to 22 dumplings. But it also depends on the size of your dumplings, and how thick or how thin your dumpling skin is. My dumpling skin is 45 grams each dough, and wrapped up 40 grams of glutinous rice filling.

(Source : Authentic Chinese Dumplings published by Famous Cuisine Publishers, with modification) 

The Skin Dough
  • 400g Rice Flour
  • 80g Tapioca Flour
  • 1 tbsp Caster Sugar
  • 560ml Boiling Water
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 2 tbsp Cooking Oil
The Glutinous Rice Filling
  • 360g Glutinous Rice, soaked overnight
  • 60g Chinese dried mushrooms, soaked overnight
  • 25g Dried Shrimps
  • 12 Shallots
  • 1 can of Canned Braised Peanuts
  • 1 heaped tbsp Premium Oyster Sauce
  • ½ tsp Sesame Oil
  • 3 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 1½ tsp Sugar
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1½ tsp White Pepper
  • 6 tbsp Water
Serving Suggestions
  • Sweet Dark Soy Sauce
  • some toasted sesame seeds
  • some chopped coriander
  • some chilli sauce or sambal or whatever chilli you prefer
Note : The original recipe ask for 600g Rice Flour and 100g Tapioca Flour. But at the end of the day, I have 20% dough leftover, and no more filling left. So, I discarded the remaining dough. And so, if you are like me, prefer thinner skin and thicker filling, this recipe above gives you the right amount of dough with the right amount of filling. But if you prefer thicker skin just like those store-bought dumpling, do add 20% of everything for your dough recipe.

Preparation (The night before) 
  1. Walk to the supermarket and get everything I need. 
  2. Wash and soak glutinous rice. Do the same to the chinese dried mushrooms. 
  3. Peel shallots, rinse, pat dry with kitchen towel, pack it in a plastic bag. Throw it in the fridge. 
Preparation (Actual Day) 
  1. Rinse and soak dried shrimps for 10mins. Chop up dried shrimps using chopper.
  2. Snip away mushrooms stems, discard. Cut mushrooms into small pieces. 
  3. Chop up peeled shallots using chopper. 
  4. Open up a can of braised peanuts. Discard the braised sauce. We only need the peanuts. 
  5. In a bowl, mix all the seasoning together. 
  6. Drain soaked glutinous rice, place it on a large plate, steam it for 25 minutes. Uncover the lid and splash some water on the glutinous rice every 10 mins steaming interim. Set aside.

To cook the Filling
  1. In a pre-heated wok, 4 tbsp cooking oil, saute shallots and dried shrimps over low heat until fragrant. 
  2. Add in mushrooms, stir fry briskly over until well combined and heat through. 
  3. Add the steamed glutinous rice, turn to low heat. With your spatula, break the lumpy glutinous rice.
  4. Pour in seasoning, stir and toss well. Ensure all glutinous rice is well coated with the seasoning. Stir in braised peanuts. Stir well.
  5. Dish out. Transfer the glutinous rice to the steamer and steam another 10mins.
  6. Remove from steamer and leave to cool. Cover it up with a wet towel to prevent the top layer of the glutinous rice from drying out.     
Steaming, stir-frying, and steaming... This process is to ensure glutinous rice is evenly flavored, evenly cooked, bouncy, chewy, and yet not overly cooked. I don't like mushy glutinous rice. It is easy to over cooked it. But it is not easy to cook it just right. Some people choose to let the rice cooker to do the job. I'm anal quite particular. So, do it the way my mother taught me, and it never fails me so far, although there are more steps to follow.

You can get braised peanuts from supermarket. I used Narcissus brand. I think it taste pretty good.

To prepare the Dough
  1. In a mixer, add in rice flour, tapioca flour, sugar and salt. Mix well. 
  2. While the mixer is still moving, add in boiling water and cooking oil in the flour mixture in two intervals. Half boiling water, mix, half cooking oil, mix. And then, half boiling water, mix, half cooking oil, mix. And when I said boiling water, use boiling water. Don't give me warm water and expect it to work. You need boiled water to "pre-cook" the dough here. 
  3. Add a drop of red coloring, mix. Observe the change in color for your dough while mixer is doing the job. Is that the pink hue you want? If yes, continue to let the mixer to mix. If no, add more coloring. Do remember to add coloring abit at a time. You don't want to over-power the color. 
  4. Continue to let the mixer mix until the dough turned entirely pink. 
  5. Transfer the pink dough into a big bowl, and this is where you need to do it manually. Knead the dough with both palm until dough is smooth. 
  6. Evenly divide the dough into small portions, cover it with wet cloth to prevent dough from drying. My individual dough is about 45g each.

To wrap and form the dumpling
  1. Form the dough into ball shape, then, make a hole, flatten it with your fingers, to create a "bowl" shape. 
  2. Spoon in some glutinous rice filling, wrap well. My filling is about 40g for each dumpling. Firmly press the rice filling abit, so that they are packed together and you will be able to do the wrapping easier. If there's holes here and there, patch it with some extra dough pieces. It's fine. Patches would be hardly seen because it is steamed dumplings. Do it the way you prefer.
  3. Dust the mould with a little tapioca flour, knock the excess tapioca flour out of the mould. Dust the wrapped dumpling with a little tapioca flour too if you want. Dusting the mould is tedious. I only dust the wrapped dumpling. It works also. 
  4. Put the wrapped dumpling into the mould, press it firmly with your palm and invert the dumpling. 

To steam and serve
  1. Arrange dumplings on a greased steaming tray or a plate.
  2. Steam the dumpling under medium heat for 10mins or until it is cooked. If your dumpling is bigger in size, steam it for another 1 or 2 minutes. 
  3. Transfer steamed dumpling into a plate and leave it cool abit, then, grease the dumpling with some cooking oil on top to prevent them from sticking to each other. 
  4. Serve the dumpling hot from the steamer or slowly pan-fry it to achieve crust on the skin, accompanied with sweet dark soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds, and some chilli sauce if you prefer.  

The recipe request it to be steamed under high heat. And yes, usually, some people do that. But I realized that steaming the dumpling over high heat will probably over-steamed it and eventually, the dumpling will somehow disfigured. The beautiful flowery pattern on the dumpling will "melt-away". I believe you've seen disfigured store-bought ang ku kueh before don't ya?

This is my peach shaped wooden mould. I got it from taobao, the china shopping website. I love it and it is probably one of the nicest peach shaped mould I've found so far.

Look at the result. Isn't it lovely? It has nice round sexy butt! Max says ... "我的饭粿有屁股的!!!" Hahaha..

The medium heat steaming gives good result in retaining the nice flowery pattern on the dumpling. Absolutely lovely! However, the skin will turn abit hardened when dumpling is cooled. Just re-steam it before serving, and the skin will turn soft again.

For this first attempt, the result was satisfactory, although I do prefer the skin to be slightly softer. But again, it depends on what's your expectations on the end result. I'm quite happy with it for now. But I will continue to seek improvement. When it comes to cooking, imaginations do comes in.

TeowChew, Hor Por, Hakka, GuangDong and HuiZhou. They are so near to each other. That probably explains why there's a similarity in their traditions and cuisines. Not only the peach shaped dumpling. For example, Hor Por style Mochi 河婆客糍粑 and Hui Zhou style Mochi. They are the same. But in different shape. In Singapore, we identified it as "Muah Chee" 麻糍, in Japan, it is Mochi.

There are so many types of kuehs, dumplings and small eats to learn and explore. I'm quite into it. Are you one of them?

Monday, March 23, 2015

客家板麺 Malaysian Hakka Pan Mee

Do you prefer Pan Mee or Mee-Hoon-Kuay?

Some says they are the same. Some argues that they are different, but that's due to the shape of the noodles. Pan Mee (
板麺pronounced as Ban Mian in mandarin) is a Hakka-Style noodle, originating from Malaysia. Some translate it as "flat flour noodle", while some, translate it as "board noodle".

Flour hand-kneaded into dough traditionally torn into smaller pieces of dough by hand, but such laborious work is conveniently replaced by machine that can produce variety of shapes. Pan Mee typically served in soup, together with dried anchovies, minced pork, mushrooms and leafy vegetables. In my hometown, 树仔菜 (aka pucuk manis / manicai 马尼菜) is used.

My grandmother used to cook this delicious noodles for us. Usually she will let us have our choices of Pan Mee or mee-hoon-kway, and she will prepare the dough accordingly. That's one of the sweetest childhood memory. All she need is pack of flour, some anchovies and vegetables. She can cook up a comforting bowl of soup dish for everyone in the house. My grandmother has 12 child. My mom is the youngest, the last amongst the 12th. I haven't even tell you the number of grandchild she have. You can imagine that now. My grandmother is a wonder woman!

Because this is a very simple noodle soup dish, the soup plays a very important role in the preparation of Pan Mee. I've seen variations in soup base preparations. But for my grandmother, she use only dried anchovies and soya bean for the soup. Yes. Only two ingredients, but it makes great and flavorful soup base. Sometimes, the simpler it is, the better it taste.

I'm very straightforward and I'm not afraid to tell you. I don't have my grandma's exact recipe. I only vaguely remember what are the main ingredients my grandma use. I found Alan's recipe is the closest to my grandma's simplicity. So, I just followed, but with minor modifications.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
(Source : Alan, with slight modification)

for Soup
  • 65g Dried Anchovies (aka Ikan Bilis 江鱼仔)
  • 180g Soya Beans (黄豆)
  • 10 cups of water
  • 1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
for Noodles
  • 250g Plain Flour or All-Purpose Flour 
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 5-7 tbsp water, adjust according to dough texture
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil 
  • flour for dusting
for Minced Meat Sauce
  • 300g Minced Pork (绞肉), preferably ground pork belly
  • 4 Chinese Mushrooms (香菇), soaked till soft, cut into strips
  • 2 Black Wood Ear Fungus (黑木耳), soaked till soft, cut into strips
  • 4 cloves Garlic, peeled, chopped finely
  • 5 Shallots, peeled, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 2 tbsp Dark Soya Sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Oyster Sauce, adjust to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp Sugar, adjust to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 1 tsp Corn Flour, to be mixed with mushroom soaking water
other ingredients
  • a bunch of 树仔菜 (aka pucuk manis) or Choy Sum 菜心 or any of your favorite green leafy vegetables that serves 4 sharing. 
  • 4 Eggs
  • Fried crispy anchovies 
  • Fried crispy shallots (optional)

  1. For the soup, there are some Pan Mee sellers likes to add pork bones into the soup to create extra sweetness. Some uses soya beans, some don't. But the general rule is... dried anchovies should be there.
  2. My grandma will only provide minced meat sauce and eggs when her budget allows. Eggs are usually cracked onto the soup and cook together with the noodles. It would be too costly for her to add eggs on every serving. 
  3. I personally prefers 树仔菜 (aka pucuk manis), but when first preference is not available, I shall go for my alternative Choy Sum 菜心.
  4. Fried crispy shallots is optional. But most Pan Mee stalls provide this topping. 

Method (for the soup)
  1. Give dried anchovies and soya beans a quick rinse.
  2. Soak soya bean in hot water for 20mins. Using both finger tips, rub away the skin from the soya beans. This is quite tedious. You can choose to skip this step if you are feeling lazy. 
  3. In a large soup pot, add 2 tbsp of cooking oil, add in anchovies, stir fry anchovies till fragrant. 
  4. Add in water and prepared soya beans, and bring to a boil. Lower flame to simmer with lid on for 20mins. Season with salt, turn off flame and leave to steep. 

Using both finger tips rub away the skin from the soya beans.

Stir fry anchovies till fragrant before adding in water. Fried anchovies will give you more flavorful soup.

Method (for the noodles)
  1. Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Form a 'well' in the middle and crack in the eggs.
  2. Add cooking oil and begin to combine everything together, adding water slowly by individual tablespoons until a non-sticky dough is obtained
  3. Dough needs to be kneaded repeatedly until smooth and uniform in color. 
  4. Cover dough with cloth and set aside to rest for 30 to 40 mins to relax the gluten. 
  5. After resting the dough long enough, go back to the dough by first dividing the dough into 4 portions. 
  6. Using pasta machine, process individual dough portions by repeatedly laminating and thinning the dough into elongated flat sheets before cutting into taligatelle-like strands. Dust some flour on the noodles to prevent noodles from sticking together. If pasta machine is not available, simply roll dough with rolling pin, on a flat surface dusted with flour, into elongated sheets before folded the dusted sheets slightly and cutting into strips. 
  7. If you are making mee-hoon-kuay, simply hand stretch the flat sheets dough into desired free-style shapes accordingly.

Method (for the meat sauce)
  1. In a saucepan, heat up 2 tbsp cooking oil. Add chopped garlic and shallots, stir-fry until shallots turned translucent and aromatic. 
  2. Add minced pork followed by all seasoning and stir-fry until meat is cooked and uniform in color. 
  3. Add in mushrooms strips, black wood ear fungus strips, and some mushroom soaking water. Stir well and cover with lid. Leave to simmer over medium low heat for 10mins. 
  4. Add some corn starch mixed with some mushrooms soaking water to thicken the sauce. 
  5. Dish up, covered, and set aside. 

Everything is prepared for the meat sauce.

Meat sauce is well cooked and in uniform color.

Method (to cook pan mee)
  1. Prepare two heavy saucepan. One side is 2 ladle cups of boiled water, another side is 2 ladle cups of soup base. Bring both to a boil
  2. Add a serving of noodles into the boiling water saucepan, cook noodles for a minute. Transfer half-cooked noodles into the soup base saucepan, and add a serving of vegetables. Adjust your cooking time accordingly.
  3. When noodles are cooked, crack an egg into the middle of the pot and leave it with lid on briefly for about 20 secs for the white to cook slightly.
  4. Ladle everything into a serving bowl, try not to break the yolk. Garnish generously with one portion of meat sauce, fried crispy anchovies, fried crispy shallots and serve!
You can, of course skip the part of using boiling water saucepan. You can just throw in your noodels and just cook it in the soup straightaway. However, the noodles will make your soup broth looked cloudy and thickened a little. I personally prefers to half-cook the noodles in boiling water first, as this step allows me to have nicer and clearer broth.

Pan Mee... Long, flat striped noodles.

While mee-hoon-kuay is free-style shaped flat dough by simply hand stretch the flat sheets dough in organic forms. There's no rocket science. Everyone can do this. To me. it should look homely and comforting. There's no rules here.

Look at my Pan Mee soup. The soup is quite clear and less cloudy compared to those selling outside. Although there's extra effort in cooking process, but this will make your noodles taste better in overall.

In Kuala Lumpur, Klang Valley, there's a popular version of Pan Mee that is prepared dry version. Everything is the same, just that they are without the soup, fiery dry chillies flakes are added, topped with some spring onions and stirred into noodles. That's another great way of enjoying Pan Mee.

Maybe next time I will try making dried version of Pan Mee.

I love this soup noodles. I think everyone should make this at home at least once. This just involves a few ingredients, and I guarantee you that this is a great bowl of comfort food, and something easy to prepare for weekend lunch for family.

So.... do you prefer pan mee? or mee-hoon-kuay?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Annielicious Food Blogspot is 3 now!!!

Dear Readers, 

Today marked the 3rd year anniversary ever since I started writing Annielicious Food Blogspot.

For those who know me, you will know how hard I'd been trying to find work / life balance all along. For those who doesn't know me, for your info, I have a full-time job, and blogging recipes will only happen over the weekend. The intention of writing this blog is for my personal record, my way of penning down some of my tried and tested recipes, hoping to share knowledge with my future children (if I'd ever have one). If I'd grow old one day, I would worry that I'd forgotten what I've added into the dish and I'm not able to do knowledge transfer to my child.

And so, I never thought my recipes could go any further. But, I started to feel the change in society. Modern women's doesn't walk into the kitchen as much as our parent's era do. Eating out is so convenient nowadays. But I'm a person who always believes in... as long as there's food on the dining table, your family members will come home for you. 

I asked myself how much I could do to change it? At least some little effort from me? How I could encourage fellow young women's in this modern society to cook and bring some joy to their family? I thought, maybe improve my way of writing my blog to ensure every details are recorded down? I don't know. But this might be one possible or better way to encourage readers to start cooking. But at the same time, things are getting tougher when my I set expectations on myself in writing recipes. I read more, I learn more, and I'm still learning. And you guys are the one who gave me the reason to do this. 

My writing is not detailed enough is something I worry always. I don't know why. But if you wonder what I did in order to come up with a recipe post? Read this :
  1. Finding the right weekend schedule to cook (I'm not a full-time blogger)
  2. The right time to go to the right place or market to get the fresh ingredients (Sometimes I need to run a few places just to gather all the specific ingredients I wanted), 
  3. The right amount of food to prepare for the total hungry tummies,
  4. The right cooking or baking heat and time (Especially first attempt on new dishes or bakes),
  5. Penning down every possible details in the kitchen to ensure nothing is forgotten later,
  6. Take photos of every preparation and cooking steps, while ensuring my food is not over-cooked (I have poor memory sometimes),
  7. Wishing for the best natural light to take better photos (If the sunlight is not good on that day, it kills the photo taking, and it's as good as killing me!), 
  8. Photo taking must be quick, so as to ensure hungry tummies doesn't eat cold dishes, 
  9. Time spent on photo editing and writing every details on the blog (It's quite time-consuming actually).
  10. Proof-reading before hitting the "Publish" button, so as to ensure no wrong information is written (although I admit that I didn't do proof-reading during busy times)
  11. Did I left out anything?
The road is never easy, but till now, I'm still learning.... 

I'm surprised that I'd actually able to persevere until now, and still, continue blogging recipes. But looking back, I don't think this blog is possible without these people :

My Husband, Max - He is the driver who drives me around to source for ingredients without even complain once until today. He is the supporter, the encouragement, the guinea pig, the audience, the judge, and my biggest fan! He would finish all the left-over food that I cooked. He spoilt me with lots of kitchen toys, wash all the dishes after I messed the kitchen (this is unconditional love!). He can even go all way out to buy good ingredients for me wherever he go. The time when he lugged 1kg of Prosciutto Di Parma from Germany. Ohh... I love this man more than my life!

My Mother, Mdm Chai - She gave me lots of classic recipes, cooking tips that doesn't teach on cookbooks and online. Her recipe always appear on my blog if you noticed. She taught me lots of lessons in life that can never be found in textbooks. She's my absolute inspiration and aspiration!

My Mother-In-Law, Mdm Leong - She always loves promoting my cooks and bakes to her friends. Although sometimes I couldn't understand why she'd want to give-away my failed bakes (yes, I do fail sometimes, I'm not afraid to tell you.), but I know she'd probably feels proud of her daughter-in-law who bake, cook, and write. 

Alan, Travelling Foodies - This guy is the best (male) cook that I've ever met in SG so far. Very detailed and precise person in cooking and baking. I've learnt alot from him. And not to mention, he'd probably the one who's there to listen to most of my nonsensicality and ranting through the entire 3 years of blogging. Developing a strong friendship is never easy and it takes alot of effort. Thank you for being with me through good and bad times, my friend. I love you man! 

Wendy, Wendyinkk Blogspot - This woman is amazing! She's my most respected recipe blogger ever! If I were to nominate someone to go for Master Chef competition, she would be the one. We have complicated relationship here. She is my school-mate, my senior in Secondary School Girl's Brigade. Her mom knows some of my family member during our young days. Back in 2012, we found each other on Facebook, we reunite, and she is the one who encourage me to start writing down my recipe on blogspot. She taught me alot along the way. She seems to know everything that I can't even find it online! She pushed me hard to learn even more! I love you Wendy!

All Readers - Thank you for loving my recipe. Knowing that my recipe may not be the best, but you guys choose to believe me and give it a try. Everytime when I receive feedback from you guys, telling me how much your family members enjoyed the food, it makes me smile, and all the tough times (being a recipe blogger) is all gone. With both palms pressed together, I thank every one of you. 

Coming forward, I wish I would have more time to come up with more recipes and many more years to come. It is about how much I could do to encourage women in the society to cook and bring joy to their family. Thank you everyone for loving me. 

Lots of Love, 
Annie Mok

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