Saturday, July 19, 2014

Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chips Cookies

A whopper of a deep dark chocolate cookie packed with chock full of chocolate chips. There's no reason to resist eating this cookies. Absolutely delicious, and by far the best cookie recipe I've ever used! There's nothing short of SENSATIONAL!!!

Incase you don't know.... Now this, my friends, is what I called chocolate cookies :)


The glass of milk is not just a prop. It is a necessity for this. A bite of chocolate chips cookies and a sip of milk? I'm totally on board. It's just heavenly! These are the chocolatiest cookies I'd ever come across.


I adapted this recipe from Nigella Lawson, but tweaked abit. It makes 12 big cookies or make it 14 if you want your cookies to be slightly smaller. I urge you to make full recipe. Because this is so good, I guarantee you, it won't keep long. But if you are only feeding 2 to 3, you can bake half the dough and freeze the other half. Just form the cookies dough into balls, freeze the cookies balls on a little tray. Once they're hard, just bung them in a freezer bag, seal, and stash it back in the freezer. You could bake them unthawed at a later date.

Using good chocolate is important. The logic is simple. If you use good chocolate, you will get good quality chocolate cookies. This is what I call an investment. And it's worth it. I used Hershey's brand chocolate chips and chocolate powder for this.

Recipe

  • 125g Dark Chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
  • 150g Plain Flour
  • 30g Cocoa Powder (Sieved)
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Bicarbonate Soda
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 125g Soft Unsalted Butter
  • 75g Soft Light Brown Sugar
  • 50g White Fine Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Large Egg (cold from the fridge)
  • 320g Dark Choocolate Chips (semi sweet is preferred)

Method 

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, fan ON. 
  2. Melt the 125g dark chocolate in a heatproof dish over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool. 
  3. Put the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. 
  4. Cream the butter, fine sugar and brown sugar in another bowl. Add the melted chocolate and mix together. 
  5. Beat in the vanilla extract and cold egg, and then mix in the dry ingredients. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips, mix well. 
  6. Divide the cookies dough into two portion. Wrap them with cling wrap, and shape them. (Refer pics below)
  7. Put the shaped cookies dough into the fridge and refrigerate it for 20 mins.
  8. Cut the dough into equal piece, remove the cling wrap layer and shape the cookie dough. (Refer pics below) Place shaped cookie dough on a lined baking sheet about 6cm apart. Do not flatten them. 
  9. Cook the cookie dough for 18 to 19 minutes, testing with a cake tester to make sure it comes out semi-clean and not wet with cake batter. If you pierce a chocolate chip, try again. 
  10. Leave to cool slightly on the baking sheet for 4 to 5 mins, then, transfer them to a cooling rack to harden as they cool.  

The secret of this recipe is simplicity and good quality ingredients. Do bear in mind.


Step 5 - Mix wet and dry ingredients together, and stir in the chocolate chips. Look at the sinful mess!


Step 6 -  Divide the cookies dough into two portion. Wrap them with cling wrap, and shape them.


Step 8 - Cut the dough into equal piece, remove the cling wrap layer and shape the cookie dough. No mess!


Place shaped cookie dough on a lined baking sheet about 6cm apart. Do not flatten them.


You cannot go wrong with this recipe. They are so easy and absolutely delicious! Max requested me to bake 30 pcs for him to bring to work next time.


Do I have to say more? It look and taste nothing short of perfection. This is definitely a MUST TRY recipe.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hakka Abacus Beads (客家算盘子)

I love Hakka Abacus Beads (客家算盘子). Not only that, I love everything else that has springy and chewy food. If you are as much of a taro fans as I am, then, you will find these an absolute delight in a way they're served.

Abacus Beads, literally Taro Gnocchi, with a dimple in the centre resembles abacus beads shape. This dish has symbolic wealth meaning and Chinese loves to prepare this dish during Chinese New year. When abacus beads stir fried with other ingredients and condiments, the dimple in the middle also helps contain the ingredients that flavour it. This traditional is really delicious.


Last year's Chinese New Year, I wanted to make this dish. But you know, CNY task is overwhelmed and I barely have time to rest. So, I only get to cook this dish about 2 months ago. 

If you have eaten Hakka abacus beads or you know how to make them, you will know that this dish requires alot of manual labour and patient. But, when you see your family dig in with their happy smile, I think it is all worth-while.


Ingredients are easily available at the market. You don't have to worry too much. Some Hakka family will add pork into the stir-fry. I want to keep it simple and I didn't wan't to make it a heavy meal. So, I'd just go along with the basic ingredients.

Of course, you can add or take away any stir-fry ingredients which you don't like. But for abacus beads recipe, please try to stick to it. It's abacus beads. We use taro for the gnocchi. Pls don't ask me questions like "Hi, can I use sweet potatoes instead?" or "Hi, I don't like taro. What about using Potatoes as a substitute? Do you think it works?"

Sorry ah. To me, traditional is traditional. I never try fusion style before. As much as I could, I will try to stick to original way. And I love originals.


This recipe serves 4 as lunch, or upto 6 as a starter or tea-break snack.

Ingredients

For the Abacus Beads
  • 650g Taro
  • 200g Tapioca Flour
  • 120g Hot Boiling Water
  • few pinches of Fine Salt
For Stir-Frying
  • 8 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 5 Shallots, minced 
  • 2 tbsp Cai Pu / Choi Po (菜谱)
  • 40g Dried Shrimps, soaked, minced
  • 15g Dried Cuttlefish, soaked and cut into thin strips 
  • 30g Dried Mushrooms (about 4 to 5pcs), soaked overnight and sliced 
  • 30g Wood Ear / Dried Fungus, soaked, julienned 
  • 6 tbsp Cooking Oil for frying
  • 1 tsp Salt, 1 tsp Pepper and few dashes Fish Sauce to taste
For Garnishing
  • 2 Red Chilli
  • some Coriander 
  • some Spring Onions
Method - For the Abacus Beads
  1. Taro - Skinned, washed, cut into cubes. Steam the taro for 15mins until they are soft and cooked. You may use a chopstick to poke through the taro to check if it is cooked or not.
  2. Once taro cubes are cooked, transfer the taro cubes into a large mixing bowl, add in few pinches of salt and with your quick motion, roughly mash the taro with the potato masher. I didn't mash my taro thoroughly. Because I want to remain the "bite" taro texture for my abacus beads.
  3. Add in half the tapioca flour, continue to mash and mix them while the taro is still hot.
  4. You will soon realized that it's getting tough to mix it with potato masher. This is the time when you need to use your palms into it and give it some mixing and kneading.
  5. Add half amount of boiling water, continue the the kneading, add in the remaining tapioca flour, knead, add remaining boiling water, knead so as to form a nice dough.
  6. Make dough into small but even balls. Use your tiniest finger to make a dimple in the centre of each ball to resemble abacus beads. My finger is rough and big. So, I use the edge of the sieve as a tool to create those nice dimples on the dough to achieve evenly sized and can be evenly cooked later.
  7. Boil a large wok / pot of water. Slowly and gently, dd the abacus beads into the boiling water, VERY gently, stir to prevent them from sticking together. Boil for about 15mins to 20mins or until the batch floats on the boiling water.
  8. Prepare a pot of ice cold water. Remove the cooked abacus beads from the boiling water with a strainer, put the abacus beads into the cold water.
  9. Drain the abacus beads with a colander. Coat the abacus beads with 2 to 3 tbsps of cooking oil to prevent sticking. 

Method - Frying the Abacus Beads
  1. Heat cooking oil in wok on high heat
  2. Add garlic, shallots, dried shrimps and dried cuttlefish, stir fry until fragrant. 
  3. Add Cai Pu, mushrooms, wood ear and continue to fry for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. 
  4. Add salt, pepper, fish sauce. Give it a quick stir. 
  5. Add in the abacus beads and gently stir-fry for about 2 minutes. 
  6. Add in half portion of spring onions, coriander and red chilli. Stir through for another minute. 
  7. Taste, and more flavour (salt, pepper, fish sauce) if needed. Stir through. 
  8. To serve, dish abacus beads in a shallow serving dish or casserole. Garnish with the remaining chilli, spring onions and coriander stalk.

Note : The success to make the abacus beads is to mix and knead it while it's hot. I know kneading the abacus dough while it's hot may be challenging. But when you get the hang of it, your hand will somehow immune to the heat and you will be able to do it pretty fast.

Step 6 - Make dough into small but even balls. Use your tiniest finger to make a dimple in the centre of each ball to resemble abacus beads. My finger is rough and big. So, I use the edge of the sieve as a tool to create those nice dimples on the dough to achieve evenly sized and can be evenly cooked later.


The texture of the abacus beads that I'm trying to achieve is springy, but with the starchy fragrance of taro on every bite. My abacus beads looked rough, as I only roughly mash my taro. This is how I maintain the taro "bite" texture for each gnocchi.


Step 7 - Boil a large wok / pot of water. Slowly and gently, dd the abacus beads into the boiling water, VERY gently, stir to prevent them from sticking together. Boil for about 15mins to 20mins or until the batch floats on the boiling water.


Stir fry the abacus beads as per instruction. Remember - Keep it simple. DO NOT add too much condiments or any ingredients that has heavy flavour. Or else, you won't be able to fully savour the fragrance of the taro when you eat them.


On a side note, do not let the cooked abacus beads stand in the cold water for too long. For best texture and flavour, stir fry the cooked abacus beads as soon as possible after they have been boiled. My friend told me that I can store cooked abacus beads in airtight container, keep it refrigerated until I need to stir fry them. I have not tried keeping them in refrigerator before. But I think it probably works.

Max loves it. He asked if I can cook this more often when I'm free. I think, his request could tell how good this dish is.


This dish is an absolute textural delight. The lightly chewiness of the abacus beads, loads of flavorful goodness and mushrooms and the sudden burst of crunchy freshness from the greens. I don't have to say more.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Real Cream Of Mushrooms Soup

I've always loved cream of mushroom and I honestly think this is the best one I've ever had.

I love the intensely earthy flavours in this smooth cream of mushroom soup recipe. I wanted something thick and creamy, but not heavy. I've cooked this mushroom soup for at least 4 times. It's indeed a keeper.




Here, I used 4 types of mushrooms. From the left, fresh Shitake mushrooms, Portobello mushrooms, white button mushrooms and Chinese dried mushrooms. These are real stuff!


If you find it tedious of buying so many types of mushrooms, do consider to skip Portobello mushrooms and replaced by Brown button mushrooms. Whatever it is, please don't skip Chinese dried mushrooms. With the existence of Chinese dried mushrooms, this pot of mushroom soup will give absolutely wonderful depth of earthy flavour. Otherwise, I swear that fresh Cremini or Porcini mushrooms is the best alternative too.

Ingredients
(Source : Noobcook.com, as reference)
  • 50g Butter
  • 2 Yellow Onion, chopped finely
  • 1 Russet Potato (Optional)
  • 2 tbsp Plain Flour
  • 1L Chicken Stock
  • 300g Portobello Mushroom
  • 300g Fresh Shitake Mushroom
  • 250g Fresh White Button Mushroom
  • 5 to 6 pcs Dried Chinese Mushrooms, soaked overnight, chopped finely
  • 4 to 5 Sprig Thymes or Sage
  • 150ml White Wine
  • 150ml Double Cream / Dairy Whipping Cream
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
for garnishing
  • some extra whipping cream
  • some spring onions or fresh parsley
Method
  1. Do a quick rinse to the mushrooms. DO NOT soak the fresh mushrooms in the water. Chop Chinese mushrooms into fine pieces. Roughly chop the rest of the fresh mushrooms. 
  2. Heat a large stock pot over a medium heat and melt the butter. Add the chopped onions, give it a few stir. Add in diced potatoes and chopped Chinese mushrooms, give it a good stir, place a lid on top and let it sweat gently until the onions are softened, translucent and shrunken.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute more, then gradually stir in the stock. 
  4. Add the mushrooms and bring to the boil. Looking at the total amount of 1kg mushrooms, it may seems like mushrooms overwhelmed. But they will shrink considerably when they are cooked. 
  5. Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for about 20mins, until the mushrooms are tender. Stir in the thymes.
  6. Remove 1/3 portion of the chunky mushroom soup, set aside. 
  7. Pour the remaining 2/3 portion of the mushroom soup into the blender or food processor, whiz until smooth. 
  8. Return the smooth blend and chunks back to the soup pot and stir in the white wine.
  9. Add cream and season with salt and pepper. 
  10. Warm through, without boiling. Ladle into bowls and garnish with drops or swirls of cream. Enjoy! 
Note :
  1. The existence of flour is to thicken the soup.
  2. By adding potatoes is to give the soup a good overall body, so as to reduce the usage of cream. However, adding potato is optional. 
  3. Remember to chop the Chinese mushrooms finely, so that it will cook well, as it takes longer time to cook and gives flavour faster.

Add the chopped onions, give it a few stir. Add in diced potatoes and chopped Chinese mushrooms, give it a good stir, place a lid on top and let it sweat gently until the onions are softened, translucent and shrunken.


Add the mushrooms and bring to the boil.


Remove 1/3 portion of the chunky mushroom soup, set aside. Pour the remaining 2/3 portion of the mushroom soup into the blender or food processor, whiz until smooth. After that, return the smooth blend and chunks back to the soup pot.


 Stir in the wine and finally, add cream and season with salt and pepper.



When Max's friend came to my house for lunch, I noticed that they stopped talking when they were having the soup. Hahaha... One of them couldn't raise her head to talk because she kept saying "Oh man@ This soup is so good!"

Another one, text Max and chase me for the recipe. She says "This is so so so much better than the one at The Soup Spoon!"

I'm glad that they liked it so much. 



Say NO to canned mushroom soups! No more salty and cream overload mushrooms soup! Say YES to the real thing!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bone Broth / Super Collagen Soup - (骨胶汤 / 胶原蛋白汤)

So you want to look young and radiant?

Forget about Botox! Drink Bone Broth for amazing skin! This magic pot of collagen soup could make your skin looks great!

This prolonged cooking of bones in water will give you results in a broth rich in nutritional constituents that promotes strength, nourish, help to prevent bone and connective tissue disorders and improves collagen level in your body!

Take a look at this real stuff. My bone broth produces a rubbery gelatin when chilled.



Home-made broth made from bones produces as much more nutritious gelatin that contains a wide range of minerals and amino acids. Most commercial gelatin products are made from animal skin and often contain MSG and something else that we might not know. Well. I'd prefer to consume real stuff, and cheaper too.

I prepared the soup in advance, chilled it. And I use the bone broth for some comforting noodles soup over the weekend. Of course, you could drink the soup just like that. Without noodles. It's up to you :)



Who doesn't know the goodness of collagen? I'd say, every woman should know! Collagen is the same as gelatin. It's just that the word Collagen used for its form when found in the body, and gelatin refers to the extracted collagen that is used as food. Gelatin is rich in amino acids. Although it is not a complete protein itself, it provides many amino acids and therefore decreases the amount of complete protein needed by the body.

Now, let me tell you where can you find collagen in nature and you could forget about botox. You see collagen almost everyday. It's in the skin, bones and joints of animals! For those people who say NO to pig skins, you totally have no idea how much collagen they have in there.

Ingredients
  • 2 Huge Pork Bones 大猪骨
  • 2 Chicken Carcass 鸡骨/鸡壳
  • 20pcs Chicken Feet 鸡脚
  • 200g Ground Nut / Raw Peanut, 花生 (Optional)
  • 4.5L Water 
  • Salt to taste (Optional)
Method
  1. Pre-soak the peanuts overnight (or at least 5 hours) before use. Remove the skin from soaked peanut by rubbing it hard with each other. The reason is because I would prefer my soup to have a clearer broth. Peanut skins gives your soup darker color. Rinse the peanuts until water runs clear.
  2. Rinse pork bones, chicken carcass, chicken feet, parboil them for 3 to 5mins. Rinse again.
  3. In a big soup pot, add in everything except salt. Bring to a boil for 10mins. Then reduce heat and simmer the soup over low heat for 4 hours. 
  4. After simmering the bones for several hours, remove all the bones and strain the broth. I wanted clear broth. So, I strained the broth 2nd time through a very fine hair sieve. You should get about 2L broth after strained. If you are drinking it fresh, lightly salt it. If you are keeping it as a stock for future use, it salt it only when you reheat it for consumption.
Let me tell you my way of sourcing collagen. This! All the bones here! Go ahead and add more bones if you want. No strict rules here. Adding pork hooves is awesome idea too. Trust me! :)


This is a pot of powerful soup. When you cook the bones, it breaks down the collagen and it becomes easily digestible. I added peanut in there, because peanuts gives extra nutrients. But if you are adding peanuts into the soup (like me), please please please pre-soak your peanut overnight and wash them well. If not, your soup will turn dark color. Peanut skin gives you dark soup.

If you have Crockpot or slow cooker at home, do use it. Cooking the broth on low setting is an easy way to cook broth for a prolonged time. Do bear in mind that it is a must to remove the surface scum that arises occasionally during the cooking process to achieve nicer tasting and clear looking broth.


NOTE
  1. Par-boiling and rinsing the bones before cooking and simmering the broth at low low heat is important. It helps to produce a clear broth as it greatly reduces the amount of residue in the liquid.
  2. The broth should be set to cool until the fat hardens on top. Then, remove the fat and refrigerate the broth. It will keep well in the refrigerator for a week, or upto a month in the freezer. 
  3. If your broth is properly prepared, it will gives you a rubbery, jellylike consistency broth due to the high gelatin content of the collagen. It is a great idea to prepare in advance, reheat it as a simple nutritious drink, or like me, use it for noodles.  
And if your broth looks like jello after it is chilled, YOU ARE A ROCK STAR!!! 


I reheat the jello-like bone broth to cook up some noodles here. It's simple, delicious, nutritious, and you don't need instant noodles anymore!


Ahhh!!! I love collagen! God knows how much! Look at the broth!


This is a super collagen soup. My grandma once told me that this super collagen soup is really good for complexion!

It's beauty soup. Please drink more!!! Haha...


You may also like Chicken Feet Peanut Soup (花生鸡脚汤)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cheesy Dogs Stuffed in Spicy Wings

Fancy some fun and yummy finger food? What about cheesy dogs stuffed in spicy wings?

This cheesy dog stuffed wings is spicy, delicious, chewy, crunchy and appetizing.

This is a great party food for everyone. I did this a year ago and I only get to post it now. Max asked why didn't I make more. He says 8pcs is miserable. My response to him is "Good thing comes in a small package". Sounds like a diamond shop advert tho. Hahaha...


There are various types of stuffed chicken wings recipe online. Mine is the laziest. You don't have to work hard on the stuffing at all.  Just get a pack of cheesy dogs, and stuff em' into the boneless mid-joint wings. It's effortless! But of course, I won't pretend that this is easy. You have to put in effort to remove the bones from the mid-joint wings.


The only imperfection about this dish is that the cocktail cheesy dogs that I've got from the supermart is not as cheesy as I expected tho :(

To make the wings even more delicious, I mixed some spicy sauce, dumped the wings into a large mixing bowl and give it a toss, so that the chicken wings are well coated with spicy sauce to enhance it's taste.

Ingredients
(Source : Annie of Annielicious Food)

  • 8 pcs Mid-Joint Wings
  • 8 pcs Cocktail Cheesy Dogs

for marinade

  • 1 tbsp Corn Flour
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • dashes of Pepper 

for frying

  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 6 to 8 tbsp All-Purpose Flour

for sauce

  • 1 tbsp Nando's Chilli Sauce (I think Thai chilli sauce would be a very good alternative too)
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp Mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Honey

for garnishing

  • Sesame Seed 
  • Parsley
  • Lemon slice / wedge

Note : 
You can adjust your preferred spiciness level - be it mild, medium or even suicidal level by adding some chopped chilli padi. Mine is just mild spicy. Max can't take too spicy food. And I kinda feels bored sometimes :(

Method

  1. Clean mid-joint wings, pat dry with kitchen towels. With a small and sharp utility knife, give a small cut at both end of the mid-joint. Carefully remove the bones from the mid-joint.
  2. Marinade the boneless mid-joint wings with corn flour, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper for about 30mins. 
  3. Stuff the cocktail cheesy dogs into the mid-joint. 
  4. Dip marinated wings into lightly beaten eggs, and then coat the wings in flour until well coated. Do this one at a time. 
  5. Heat oil in a deep skillet or deep fryer. Deep fry wings until crispy and golden brown. Drain on paper towel. 
  6. In a large mixing bowl, mix Chilli sauce, Tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Mayo and Honey together. Throw in the fried chicken wings and give it a good toss. Ensure all wings are evenly coated. 
  7. To serve, sprinkle some toasted white sesame, some parsley and a slice of lemon to squeeze on top of the wings to give the wings some tang before you eat. 


Removing bones from the mid-joint wings might not be the easiest task. But it's definitely worthwhile when you see your family eating them happily.


Marinade the chicken, and then stuff the cheesy dogs in it. You don't have to cut the cocktail cheesy dogs. The length of the cocktail dogs is about the same as mid-joint wings.


When wings are ready for frying. I'd prefer simple frying coating. Just flour and eggs. I don't even salt my flour, because I knew I'm gonna toss some spicy sauce on top of the fried chicken wings at the later part. If you intend to skip the spicy sauce, do add some salt and pepper on the flour.


By looking at the end result, I knew you would agree that this is definitely convincing :)




If you've tried this recipe at home, ask your kids for review. If your kids tells you they don't like it, they would be lying :)

I hope you like it!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Fried Nian-Gao Balls / Sticky Rice Cake (炸年糕球)

Bored of eating the usual fried nian-gao every year? What about this new way of enjoying nian-gao? This is it... I make them into nian-gao balls!

It's great and addictive snack for Chinese New Year. It's crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Max and my mother-in-law was impressed when I serve them this. Max even says "Ohhumm... I'm eating nian-gao like a boss! This is so good!".... this really makes me cracked up!


I fried nian-gao last year (See recipe here). I sandwiched the nian-gao with sweet potatoes and yam. That's the usual way of frying em'.

This time, I don't do it for a party or something. I just did it for our own consumption. And I'm looking into something something that is easy to eat, less messy and can be kept well. So, I improvised my Fried Sweet Potato Balls (炸番薯蛋) into fried nian-gao balls instead. One side is sweet potato dough, the other side is taro dough. Yummm!!!


This recipe makes 40 balls if it is at the size of a golf ball, or up to 50 balls if it is smaller. Depends on how big you want the nian-gao balls be. I got 50 pcs from this recipe.

Ingredients
(Source : Improvised from my Fried Sweet Potato Balls (炸番薯蛋) recipe)

  • about 500g Sticky Rice Cake 年糕 (use hardened sticky rice cake)
  • enough oil for deep-frying

Taro Dough
  • about 220g Taro 芋头 (I use Thai Taro)
  • 210g Glutinous Rice Flour 糯米粉
  • 1 tbsp Rice Flour 粘米粉
  • 15g Corn Flour 玉米粉
  • 65g Sugar 糖
  • 1/4 tsp Salt 盐 
  • 2 tbsp Corn Oil 油 
  • 2 tbsp Water 水

Sweet Potato Dough
  • about 220g Orange Sweet Potatoes 橙色番薯 
  • 210g Glutinous Rice Flour 糯米粉
  • 1 tbsp Rice Flour 粘米粉
  • 15g Corn Flour 玉米粉
  • 65g Sugar 糖
  • 1/4 tsp Salt 盐 
  • 2 tbsp Corn Oil 油
  • 2 tbsp Water 水

Additional Note : There are readers feedback that the dough is dry. It's very much depends on the moisture level of your steamed potatoes and steamed taro. If your dough is dry, just add more water and oil.

Method
  1. Cut nian-gao into desired cube size. 
  2. Skinned sweet potatoes and taro, cleaned, cut into big chunk. Steam both sweet potatoes and taro until soft. 
  3. In a big bowl, mash the potatoes. And in another bowl, mash the taro.  
  4. For Taro dough - Add in mashed taro and the rest of the taro dough ingredients into mixer bowl. Let the mixer do the work. If you are using hand, mix all ingredients together and knead lightly to form a smooth dough. If you think there's a need, do add another tablespoon of oil to make the dough more smooth.
  5. For Sweet Potato dough - Same. Add in mashed potato and the rest of the mashed potato dough ingredients into mixer bowl and let the machine do the work. If you are using hand, it is the same. Just knead lightly to form a smooth dough. 
  6. Pinch a small piece of taro dough, and a small piece of sweet potato dough (about 1 tsp each).  Joint them together. With both palm, roll and form into a smooth ball. Flattened the dough and wrap a piece of nian-gao cube at the center. Roll into a ball. Pinch more dough to cover the holes if needed.
  7. Heat up oil in a wok, with low fire. Once fire is heated well, put the balls into the wok, estimate about 6 to 8 balls each time, slowly fry until it turned golden brown. This should take about 3 minutes.  Remove and drain on a paper towel.
  8. Repeat the frying process until all nian-gao balls are done. Serve immediately.
NOTE :
  • DO NOT discard the sides of the nian-gao cuts. I didn't waste any single piece of my nian-gao bits. They can be gathered and can be wrapped into balls too. This is how I make 50 nian-gao balls out of my 500g medium sized nian-gao :)
  • When wrapping the nian-gao with the dough, try to make sure that every corner of the nian-gao are well covered with dough. If not, the nian-gao might burst and leaked out of the dough during deep-frying process.
  • If you intend to make the nian-gao balls bigger, the deep-frying time will be longer. To ensure you are not eating half-cooked dough, do fry it slowly under low fire to let it slowly cook in the pool of oil.  
Here, get ready two sets of ingredients for two different dough.


Pinch a small piece of each dough and joint them together. 


Flattened the dough and wrap a piece of nian-gao cube at the center. 


With both palms, gently roll them into a ball. Pinch more dough to cover the holes if needed. And here, you will have taro and sweet potato flavor dough.


You can use one type of dough only if you think two flavor is too tedious. However, I felt that two flavors joint together makes great taste. I love this recipe and I like this way of eating nian-gao. The 'crust' stays crunchy quite long and it kept well too.

If you intend to make them in advance and store them, follow this method :
  1. Fry the nian-gao balls until cooked (pale golden color). Drain and set aside to let it cool. 
  2. Once nian-gao balls are cooled, pack them into a sandwich bag (preferably air-tight of course).
  3. Store them into the fridge if you are eating them in 2 to 3 days time OR if you are eating them after a week or so, store them into the freezer - Thaw it overnight before you reheat it. 
  4. To reheat : Deep-fry room temperature nian-gao balls under medium low fire until golden brown color. Serve immediately. For this step, you can use air-fryer to do the work if you don't want to deep-fry. It's just that the result of air-fry would be dryer and the crust will tend to turn harder.
Since you are going to reheat the nian-gao balls before serving, always remember that you only need to achieve pale golden color on the 1st fry. The 2nd fry (reheat) will then fry until golden brown and crispy.

For me, I prepared the whole batch, I serve 10pcs fresh, gave 20pcs away and and keep the balance 20pcs in the fridge for next time. Deep-fried food intake need to be controlled. This is a great way to prepare your nian-gao balls in advance. Just re-heat it before you bring them to the party as part of the party snacks. I'm sure your family and friends will love it.


This new way of eating nian-gao will definitely change the way you feel about eating sticky rice cake during Chinese New Year! Do give this auspicious traditional food a try! :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hong Kong Poon Choi (香港盆菜) - (AFF - HK / Macau #4)

In conjunction with Chinese New Year and this month's Asian Food Fest, I decided to cook up a storm for my family! Haha! It's the well-known Hong Kong Poon Choi (盆菜) a.k.a. Big Bowl Feast, or some called it Basin Feast. This dish is typically a combination of many dishes, stacked all the dishes in wooden, porcelain or metal basins layer by layer.


Poon Choi is a traditional type of dish originating from Hong Kong New-Territory (新界), there's a place called Wai Chuen (围村) a.k.a. Walled Village. This is where Poon Choi invented by early settlers in New Territories, and residents in villages regarded Poon Choi as their village's traditional dish. But now, Poon Choi can be found everywhere in different parts of Hong Kong. You can even find it in Malaysia and Singapore too. But even so, most of the Poon Choi's promoted by fellow restaurants and hotels are already modernized and commercialized. Not surprisingly, urban people likes to eat commercial food. Where else that serves traditional Poon Choi other than Wai Chuen (围村)?

.... cook it at home! :D

Poon Choi is a large portioned dish which suitable for a communal meal. You won't see people eating Poon Choi in just 3 to 4 pax. This unique dish is usually served whenever there are rituals, weddings, festivals, ancestor worships, and other local events as a village dining culture. This is how Poon Choi becomes traditional dish of walled village, because this one-pot dish makes people gather together. And because of this, people regard Poon Choi as a great idea for Chinese New Year reunion dinner too. Because this is the day the family gathers.

Although there's no strict rules on what to serve in Poon Choi, but traditionally, the basic (white radish, bean sticks, pig skins, braised pork belly, braised mushrooms, chicken, hand-made fishballs, and fried fish) are there. But people nowadays mixed up both Poon Choi and Treasure Pot. They literally put whatever they like in there. If I didn't add abalone and roasted duck in the pot, I'd consider my Poon Choi is fits the name of "traditional walled village Poon Choi".

Poon Choi is about fresh ingredients found in the village. They don't have abalone and roast duck. This dish supposed to be dry at the top, and wet at the bottom. While Treasure Pot is about braising expensive dried seafood together and make it a pot treasure. Braised treasure pot is a whole pot of dish drenched with thick and flavorful sauce.

Now, you hardly could differentiate between Poon Choi and Treasure pot already. Simply because they are commercialized.


It is indeed a crazy quest for me. But, after I gathered some info from my fellow Hong Kong friend Sara who grew up in walled village, my chef friend, and some reading about Poon Choi, I go ahead with it courageously. But this is really alot alot alot of preparation and work. Tedious!

There are 12 dishes in the basin. Counting from the bottom, we have white radish, fried bean sticks (tau kee 豆支), fried yam, braised pig skin, braised pork belly, braised mushrooms, steamed chicken, roasted duck, hand-made fish balls, fried fish fillet, pan-fried prawns and abalone. If I count in the blanched broccoli, it would be 13 of course.

This recipe makes a portions of medium sized Poon Choi. This portion of Poon Choi can serve 5 monsters, and 6 to 7 comfortably. If you are serving some additional dishes and a pot of soup on the table too, go ahead! You can serve 10 pax. No problem :)

Ingredients and Method
(Source : Info gathered from Hong Kong friends, chef, and some online reading)

White Radish (1) and Bean Sticks (2) (鸡汤烩萝卜+支竹)
  • 1 White Radish (白萝卜), about cut into big chunks, about 500g
  • 400ml Superior Chicken Stock (鸡上汤), see recipe here. If not fussy, use pre-packed one.
  • 1 pack Pre-Fried bean sticks (支竹), locally we called it as tau-kee (豆支), snip into pieces
Method : In a saucepot, add chicken stock and white radish, bring to a boil. Once it is boiled, lower heat to medium low heat and slowly simmer until the radish is half tender. About 15 to 18mins. Add in bean sticks, cook until all bean sticks just turned soft. Add more chicken stock if required.


* * * * *
Fried Yam (3) (炸芋头)
  • 300g Yam (芋头), cut into pieces.
Method : In a saucepot, heat up enough oil for deep frying. Fry the yam pieces until brownish at the side and the yam is soft enough.

* * * * *
Braised Pork Belly (4) & Pig Skin (5) (焖三层肉+猪皮)
  • 500g Pork Belly (三层肉), cut into big chunks
  • a few pieces of pig skins, not raw pig skins, but those yong-tau-foo kind of pig skins.
  • 50g Fermented Red Beancurd (nam-yu 南乳) 
  • 3 cloves Garlic (蒜头), minced
  • 2 tsp Red Sweet Sauce (红甜酱)
  • 350ml Water (水)
  • 1 tsp Sugar (糖), depends on individual tastebud. So, this is optional 
Method : In a wok, heat up some oil, add in minced garlic and fermented red beancurd. Fry till fragrant. Add in pork belly, fry for 2 minutes. Add water, sugar, red sweet sauce, stir and bring it to boil. Once it is boiled, turn to very low heat, slowly simmer the pork for 25 to 30mins until the pork is tender. This can be done a day in advance. Once braised pork cooled, pack well, keep it in the freezer. When ready to serve, heat it up, add in pig skins, simmer for 2 minutes, and it is ready.


* * * * *
Braised Mushrooms in Chicken Broth (6) (鸡汁烩冬菇)
  • 8 to 10pcs Chinese Mushrooms (冬菇), soaked well, drained
  • 2 cloves Garlic (蒜头), minced
  • 600ml Superior Chicken Stock (鸡上汤)
Method : In a saucepot, add some oil, fry garlic till fragrant. Add in mushrooms, fry for a minute. Add in chicken stock, bring to a boil. Once it is boiled, turn to very low heat, slowly simmer the mushrooms for 30 to 40mins or until the mushrooms is tender. Add more chicken stock if required. This also can be done a day in advance. Once mushrooms cooled, pack well, keep it in the freezer. When ready to serve, heat it up.

* * * * *
Hand-Made Fish Balls (7) (特制手打鱼蛋)
  • 150g Fish Paste (鱼肉), shop-bought
  • 100g Minced Pork (猪肉碎)
  • 1 to 2 Water Chestnuts (马蹄), chopped
  • ¼ thumb sized Mandarin Peel (果皮/陈皮), soaked till soft, scrapped away the white part, finely chopped
  • some Spring Onions (青葱), chopped
  • ¼ tsp Fine Salt (盐)
  • ¼ tsp Pepper (胡椒粉)
  • ¼ tbsp Tapioca Flour (木薯粉)
  • 3 to 4 pcs Ice Cubes (冰块)
Method : In a big bowl, add in fish paste, minced pork and ice cubes. Using a pair of fork, give it a good mix vigorously, until the mixture turned gluey. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Prepare a big bowl of ice water with ice cubes. One hand grabbing the fish paste at one side, and holding a spoon at another side, form fish paste into fish balls, place it on the plate. Once plate is full, gently soak the whole plate of fish balls into the ice cold water. Let it soak for 30mins, and remove from water. Boil a pot of water and cook the fish balls. Once fish balls floats up, and they are done. Soak fish balls in cold water will make the fish balls more bouncy.


* * * * *
Steamed Chicken (8) (白切鸡)
  • ½ Kampung Chicken (甘榜鸡)
  • 1½ tbsp Salt (盐)
  • 1½ tbsp Rose Wine (玫瑰露) 
Method : Clean chicken, pat dry with kitchen towel. Rub chicken with 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp rose wine. Let it marinade for 30mins. Steam the chicken for 20mins. Let the chicken cool for 10mins. Rub the chicken with another ½ tbsp salt and ½ tbsp rose wine.


* * * * *
Pan-Fried Fresh Big Prawns (9) (干煎新鲜大虾)
  • 4 to 6 pcs Fresh Big Prawns (新鲜大虾)
  • pinch of Salt (盐)
  • dash of Pepper (胡椒粉)
Method : Clean prawns, deveined, pat dry with kitchen towel. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. Heat up some oil, pan fry the prawns under medium low fire until cooked.

Fried Fish Fillet (10) (香炸鱼柳)
  • 1 piece Halibut or Dory Fish Fillet (鱼柳), you can choose frozen fillet.
  • 2 tbsp Plain Flour (面粉)
  • 1 tbsp Tapioca Flour (木薯粉)
  • ¼ tsp Fine Salt (盐)
  • ¼ tsp Pepper (胡椒粉)
Method : Clean fish fillet, pat dry with kitchen towel. Cut into big pieces. Rub with salt and pepper. Mix Plain flour and tapioca flour together. Coat fish fillet pieces with flour and deep fry till golden brown.

* * * * *
Abalone (11) (鲍鱼)
  • 1 canned abalone (罐头鲍鱼), or you can use mini abalone. 
  • ½ tbsp Abalone Sauce or Oyster Sauce (鲍鱼酱 / 耗油)
  • ½ tbsp Tapioca Flour (木薯粉) 

Method : There are two ways. If you are not fussy, just open the can, take out the abalone, slightly heat it up, slice, and put it on top of the Poon Choi. If you are fussy, like me, peel off the label from the can. Put the can into a pot of hot water, bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 5 hours. Slow cooker is a good help for that. If you are dealing with mini abalone, 3 hours is good enough. When ready to serve, use half of abalone brine water from the can, add ½ tbsp Abalone Sauce or Oyster sauce, in a sauce pan, bring to a boil. Use another 2 tbsp abalone brine water, mix with tapioca flour, pour in and cook until the sauce thickened. This is to drizzle over the abalone later.


* * * * *
Roast Duck (12) (烧鸭)
¼ Roast Duck (烧鸭), cut into pieces.

Method : Shop-bought will do. I don't feel guilty about it.

and optional.... Some blanched Broccoli (野菜花)as garnishing.

Poon Choi's appearance is attractive. They are eaten layer by layer instead. But usually impatient diners may "stir up everything" in the middle of dining. For assembling the dish, radishes, bean sticks, is at the 1st layer. Yam and pig skin is at the 2nd. Braised pork is the 3rd. Braised mushrooms is 4th. And the final top layer would be meat, seafood and expensive ingredients such as abalone. This contributes to the attractiveness of the Poon Choi appearance. Garnish using broccoli has become common, and I did that too. It gives the Poon Choi a better color appearance.


The top ingredients are relatively dry. Such as seafood and meat are placed on top, while other wet ingredients, which can absorb sauce well, are assigned in the bottom of the basin. This allows sauces to flow down to the bottom of the basin as people starts eating from the top. This attentive design of layering the ingredients also contributes to the taste of the whole dish.

When the Poon Choi is ready to serve, put it at the stove, using the LOWEST heat, slowly heat up the Poon Choi while eating, to keep the entire dish warm.


Damn!!!

This is one of the longest recipe EVER! I feels so stressed when I'm writing this post. Haha.

You know what? Poon Choi was considered a test for chefs during olden days, because it requires long cooking time, standing in that wooden stove (now kitchen), it requires a great deal of patience, fire control and the cooking taste too. Now I finally understand...


Other than the Treasure Pot (Braised Mushrooms and Pig Trotter with Sea Cucumber) that I did last year, this is probably one of the best Chinese New Year Dish that I've ever prepared. It is tedious, but it is not mission impossible. All you need to do is to get it well planned ahead.

My family loves it! My parents in law eat like a monster. My husband have no time to respond to me when I talk to him because he's too busy eating. And my mother, she totally changed the way she think about commercialized Poon Choi that she always saw at the flyers given out by restaurants.

I have to thank my fellow Hong Kong friend and my chef friend who had guided me alot to make this a success. Thanks buddy! I'm glad that I did it and I'm feelin' accomplished! :)

Do try it out!

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest ( Hong Kong + Macau ) – Jan+Feb Month hosted by Annie of Annielicious Food

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