Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Green Tea Glutinous Balls

I am a big fan of Asian desserts and I can give up my piece of cake for anything made of coconut, sago and peanuts. The last time I went back to Malaysia, I overstuffed myself with everything that was available at the open air market, from the chewy glutinous rice flour cakes filled with peanuts to steamed layered rainbow coconut Malay 'kuih'. Mango pudding and sweet yam and taro coconut sweet soup ('Bubur Cha Cha') are more of an elegant kind which are normally served after a meal at the restaurants and no matter how full I am from the main dishes before them, I always have room for these type of delicacies!

However, as these Asian desserts are normally steamed, deep fried or boiled and served with fresh coconut flesh and milk, they must be eaten within hours from the time they are made or else the ingredients will spoil and the textures will become tough and dry.

Rice, Glutinous Rice, Green pea and cornstarch are normally the flour used to form the dough of any outer layer of the Kuih-kuih while the fillings are either toasted coconut cooked with the palm sugar ('Gula Melaka'), roasted and ground peanut with sugar, red bean & green bean paste or local fruits such as mashed banana, mango, jackfruit and the tuber family of vegetables like yam, taro and sweet pumpkin.

All the ingredients needed can easily be located here, except for the freshly grated coconut flesh which gives the best touch to any steamed dessert and without it, the dessert itself is simply plain and uninteresting. The frozen ones tend to be dry and has an icy taste to it. Instead I opted for the dried dessicated unsweetened coconut, which I prefer toasted beforehand.

I took this green tea idea from the Japanese mochi and although my first attempt was not easy and the sizes were not very uniform, I tried to roll the cooked glutinous rice dough as thin as possible before the filling and it was good according to my taste master, Missy E. I couldn't resist of trying 2 fillings as I had red bean paste and crushed peanuts on hand. Other than the rolling part, the filling and enclosing of the balls part were not as difficult as I thought. And I believe continuous practice is required to achieve the thin outer layer and perhaps the quest for a better stretchable dough as not to put me off in making this dessert again.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recipe of the Day: Cold Vermicelli Salad

Summer days are here and all are green outside. Roses are blooming under the strong sun and strawberries are popping out in the farms! I never enjoyed the heat when I was in Malaysia but now, doesn't matter much as long as the air conditioning is working and there is water to run a full day shower all day long!

Hot days means salad days in my kitchen. All sorts of dips and dressings suddenly filled up the fridge side doors, ready to be used at anytime. I always prefer those with tangy and herb infused ones over the creamy ones, and also to assure myself that I don't go overdipping in the fattening Ranch and Thousand Island.

I love to make this Thai inspired salad for parties as it is easy and clean, without any sauce nor need for elaborate preparation. The important ingredients are lime juice and fish sauce, which works miracle together as it marries the taste of saltiness and tangy well without any oily smudge on the mouth and acts as an appetizer to the palate. Mung Bean vermicelli is used instead of the rice stick as it gives crunchiness and absorbs the dressing better. Alternatively, shredded cabbage and shallots can be substituted for the vermicelli. Cilantro is the next important thing to add as it gives the most wonderful aroma and color to this salad.


4 tied bundle of vermicelli

Juice of 2 limes

Cilantro, finely shredded

1-1/2 tbsp Fish sauce

15 cooked shrimps, shell removed


1)Boil water in pot and cook the vermicelli till soft, about 7 to 10 minutes. Drain under running cold water for 1 minute and put in a big mixing bowl.

2)Add in both the lime juice and fish sauce into the vermicelli. Mix thoroughly.

3)Scatter the cilantro all over and mix again.

4)Add in the shrimp .

5)Taste. Add extra fish sauce if required. Chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and best if overnight.

6)Take out and mix again and leave till room temperature before serving.

Serves: 3 to 4 persons

Monday, May 26, 2008

For Once Monday is a good day!

Old habits die hard. Or should I say Never dies!

Perhaps I am more moody than alot of people and when I don't like something, I mean it seriously. Monday is totally not my day and I dare proclaim it 'Don't call me day' to all my friends and sometimes, family members.

Since today is a public holiday, I want to be fair and say that this Monday is not bad afterall. I guess it is more to do with my state of the mind that Curry is around to pick up after the kids while I can lie on the couch with my fading colored toe nails and feet up in the midday and blog away while stuffing both ears with headphones swaying with Fergie and her 'Big Girls Don't Cry'! And also quenching my thirst with a bottle of Corona.... now how relaxing is that?

It takes other peoples' comments to make me realize that I have turned into a Domesticated cat and prefer to purr and curl up in my comfort zone than straying outside my boundaries. On a holiday like this, other people will either be at some place enjoying the sunshine or visiting somewhere interesting. But me.... the one who spent her own Mother's Day half day in bed and dreaming away would rather do the same thing all over again. Perhaps this is what they call self-content or probably lacking in life and death by complacency. At times, I fear for not having enough fun with my life and thus spoiling all funs too for my kids and Curry and yet I am reluctant to be more adventurous with our plans. A day at the pool is my kind of fun but not camping out in the woods, so I can already forsee that my kids will not venture any further than where I am unless I make the effort too!

We will see if another good Monday will come again and maybe, try out things more rugged and natural than my soft comfy fiber sofa! Till then, I am enjoying my beer and the rest of my 'relaxing' Monday.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Home Bound Break

Memorial Day Weekend is here and the BBQ grills are rolled out in most neighborhoods. I guess with this year's spike in prices of gas and everything else, to spend the dollars on gas grills seems to make more sense and worthwhile than to feed the vehicles for travels away from home. Conversations this long weekend seems to emphasize on the high prices of everything rather than remembering the fallen ones who had sacrificed their lives for the peace and solidarity of the human kind.
The recent announcement of American Airlines to charge $15 per baggage checked really boggles my mind as to whether we can travel anymore these days without the need to give up good hotels and limit the activities at the destination of travel in order to get to there in the first place. Checked baggage with limited amount and weight is part and parcel of every air travel and travelling light is not a practice that Americans can live with and to impose such ridiculous charge, isn't it daylight robbery? I can live with the increase of prices in food and gas, but some ideas just makes us all feel so taken advantage of!
So what is a family of 4 like mine to do on a long weekend when travelling far and over the continents is not an option? Easy, invite good friends over to have a good meal together, laugh away the day with drinks and wine and still be happy at the end of the day without spending a penny to go far away for a break. Life can still be enjoyable if we have the right company and even though we may have to pinch a bit of here and there, not being able to travel far and wide is not a big deal afterall. A trip measured and limited is never going to be fun but a good day within our own compound when everyone enjoys themselves without much consideration for the dollars and cents is more relaxing than any traffic and overstuffed compartments above your head in the airplane!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Summer Plans

Missy E will be off school soon and I am feeling the pinch. After a peaceful 10 months with lots of guided activities, craft lessons and shifted responsibilities of entertaining and chaperoning my kid to her class teacher, I am suddenly in a limbo as to what shall I do when the summer holidays comes. Will I still have the patience to go through the whole weekdays with 2 kids, 14 hours to be exact, after deducting their nap and sleep time? Will my summer days be filled with children's activities only and never will I get to read a complete novel again?

We are all creature of habits and I am so used of having Missy E being out of the house for 8 hours each week, within reach and yet not in sight while Prince D clings on to me and quietly learns to play on his own and I get to do my stuffs, even little and yet still something done for the day. Summer camps only last for 1 week for her age group and still another 2 months to go before her new school year begin.... sigh.

Although there are many activities available at the mercy of the green dollar for the summer months, to enrol her into too many might just give her the jitters and makes her think mum really doesn't like her being home! Don't get me wrong, I love my kids but if there is an easy way out, I am always open to suggestions as no one will ever understand the peace of having one kid only at home at one time and to have some quiet time to do things with attention and concentration, is simply priceless to a stay home mom. Perhaps I should remind myself that they grow up fast and I should relish the moments and forget about all the whinings and tantrums as part and parcel of motherhood. Summer here I come!!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Layered Meat (Chiu Chow Chinese Piggy's Ears)

Frugality is a Chinese thing and the same goes with its usage of every part of a specific ingredient in its cooking. In Hong Kong and China, there are eateries which specializes in catering in one or limited types of animal only, using up every part of the anatomy to create mouthwatering dishes that kind of blinded the gross parts from the consumers. Although I am not an adventurous person, my palate for certain things begs to differ. As long as something is not poisonous, not scary to the eyes and mind, cooked and tested, I can eat it. And of course, presentation is everything.

My father in law makes this Pig's ear dish every year when he comes to visit. From my search of its origin, it is noted amongst the Chinese Chiu Chow cuisine. And the Cantonese kind of adopted this dish as their own, where you can easily locate these interesting swirls of chewy and crunchy goodness at any Chinatown eateries that sells the ubiquitous roast pork and chicken that hangs at the front counter.

The main secret to this addictive and appetite teaser is the sauce that cooks the pig's ears. It just won't do with the usual soy sauce as there are certain spice and herbs added to this special Marinade Sauce that gives the meat the pungentness that complements its taste. Nothing is complicated about this dish except for the tying up of the ears, which is required to form the swirls. After twisting and turning the twine around 4 ears, I believe pigs are stubborn animals!


3 or 4 pig's ears


3.5 cups water

1/2 cup of Marinade Sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)

1/4 cup light soy sauce

1-1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1-1/2 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 star anise

2 thumbsize knob of ginger

5 leaves of scallion

Dipping Sauce:

6 cloves of grated garlic

1 tbsp vinegar


1) Clean and wash the ears. Roll up each piece of ear from the pointed corner & randomly tie the twine around each, going in a circular motion from one end to another end.

2)Boil the ears in water for 15 minutes to soften it and cleanse the smell. Discard water and drain the ears and leave the twine intact.

3)Put all the sauce ingredients into a large simmering pot and add in the ears and simmer on low heat for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, depending on the number of ears.

4)Remove from sauce and rinse for 10 seconds with cold water and let cool. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour as this dish is served cold.

5)Cut the twine and slice to 1.5 cm slices and arrange on plate.

6)Prepare the dipping sauce by adding the vinegar to the garlic.

Serves: 4 persons

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Green Tea Bagel

Perhaps yeast and flour haven't made it to my plate yet as everytime I set out to bake with them, something totally different turned out! Your first reaction might be.... is that a donut? No wait, it looks like a bagel. Well, it was a donut when it first came out of the oven, soft and pillowy and after a few hours in the open, the texture turned to bagel like... crusty on the outside and chewy soft in the inside. Talk about phenomenon in my baking!

I want to have my cake and eat it too person, and so when I located a baked donut recipe, I was happy for the fact that I could skip the oil frying and resort to baking with greased pan only. That is the irony with baking, you feel accomplished in doing it and yet when savoring it later, the guilt set in and you wish you never made it in the first place.

All ingredients were ready to go and tweaking everything seems to be my specialty nowadays and so I set out for my green tea powder and red bean paste, hoping to create something of a Japanese Asian flair. And after a whole week sitting in its box untouched, my mixer finally found its place on the kitchen countertop and was put to use. True with its description, the mixer did its job nicely in mixing and kneading the donut dough and my hands and biceps were saved from a day of kneading. However, the rolling out and shaping of the dough did required a bit of elbow grease as the dough was pretty stretchy after 2 sessions of proofing and rising. 2 shapes were attempted, the ring with hole and complete round ones with fillings wrapped in and baked together. The green tea powder was subtle and I had to use a total of 8gm to get the right color.

Straight out of the oven, it really tasted soft like the real donut you get at those donut shops and I went on to glaze a few of the ring ones with red bean paste and sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds. Now I know why the recipe said 'eat Immediately' as a few hours past, my so called baked donut became chewy bagel. The taste was still good and I thought it will look pretty good with salmon and cream cheese and saved the unglazed ones for lunchboxes and teatime next week. It is always a good thing to bake mini versions of everything as the kids love it and munching on these bagels with sweet topping complemented by my Sunday cup of coffee and newspaper isn't a bad thing either.

Baking is a learning process and you never know until you make it. Perhaps the author of the recipe omitted something from the recipe or maybe I read the instructions wrongly. Nevertheless, I am still happy with the end result, be it a donut or bagel, as long as it is edible and fresh in taste, it is still an effort worth bragging about!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Love them and they Love back

For the past 2 days, my body ached and my mind bewildered while my eyes prefer to shut all the time. It is the worst time to be sick when you are a mum and being the full day caretaker of your kids! My kids always looked up to me, the Mighty Mom who roars when things are in a mess, got crazy rolling in their play tunnel when she wants to be crazy like them and serves lunch and dinner on time everyday! But for the last 2 days, I was lame and simply mindless on whatever I was doing. Resting on the couch was all I wanted but resting my mind is not something I can do, as Missy E and Prince D can really turn the whole house upside down within minutes. And when I am helpless, I start thinking of the worst scenarios... what if I fainted? what if something is really serious brewing inside me? what if my flu spread and all of us are sick ? The "What If...." makes me long for people from home. I cannot help but wish that I have more of my extended family members around to take the kids for the day and be around when I need company most.

The 2 days went by slowly and the kids felt caged as they were running for their shoes when Curry open the door for the evening stroll. However, they were exceptionally good for the said 2 days, Missy E being the leader in line, lead Prince D up and down in the house, chatting and giggling away in their own language while I really dozed off on the sofa for hours , half resting and half jerking up to sudden screams and yells of the kids. At times, Missy E would come check on me, putting a blanket over me as if I was one of her dolls while Prince D came patting my hand with his mischievous smirk! As if they understood that I was so disabled and they took their turns to comfort me with their little touches and smiles.

Although the house was in a mess after their unsupervised play, I let them off this time. To have them love me during my sick hours was all that I treasured. I am proud of Missy E for being a good daughter and Prince D, simply being himself, goofy and yelling 'MAMA!' all the time. Even though I was sick, those "MAMA" sounded so warm and filled with love!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Recipe of the Day: Crispy Chicken with scallion Oyster Sauce

I managed to get hold of some new Japanese magazines and there were lots of fresh and light recipes to try out. Summer months in Japan can be hot and their dishes emphasizes lighter versions with more greens and less gravy. I like the idea too as vegetables and fruits tend to give a cooling effect to the palate during hot days and indeed taste better served with a light dressing over it.

I normally use scallions as garnish but this dish has it mixed and coated in the chinese Oyster sauce with toasted white sesame seeds to form the thick dressing on the fried chicken pieces and cabbage. The whole stalk of the scallion was used as we like the white pungent part too.

The cabbage is cut into shredded pieces by first cutting it into half and lying one half on the chopping board, cut from top to bottom, starting from the edge with the thinnest slice possible. Continue till the required amount and separate all the strands to form shreds.


2 pieces of chicken quarter (thigh and drumstick meat), deboned and cut into strips
1/3 of a small cabbage, cut into shredded pieces
3 to 4 tbsp of cornstarch
oil for deep frying
4 to 6 leaves of scallion, cut into small parts

2 tbsp Oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds


1)Pat dry the chicken meat with paper towel and season with pepper.
2)Heat oil for deep frying. Coat the chicken meat with cornstarch and deep fry in batches for 3 to 5 minutes, reducing the heat when it is browning too fast. Always complete deep frying one batch before adding the next batch. Use paper towel to absorb grease from the chicken.
3)Mix the sesame oil with the oyster sauce and add in the scallion.
4)Blanch cabbage in boiling water for 1 minute. Lift up and drain dry in colander.
5)Arrange cabbage on bottom of plate and then chicken pieces. Spoon dressing on top. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve.

Serves: 3 persons

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May Bento Days (1)

As with the warmer days of spring, I try to spend less time in the kitchen laboring over the stovetop and spend more time doing things outside. And I find cooking extra at one time and freezing some of it for later meals is the most easiest way to detach myself a bit from the kitchen. I kept a small bowl of the steamed taro pork from last week hidden in the freezer and used it for the Bento today.

For dishes with sauce and dark gravy, the taste only gets better after overnight and in this case, over the week. Another short steaming in the wok and with sprinkle of scallions, it looks as good as it was first cooked. The cabbage is a very nutritious vegetable with multiple vitamins and fiber and blanched in boiling water for just 30 to 45 seconds and drained, it retains its crunchiness and a good substitute for lettuce. Curry's diet and his over emphasis on including lots of vegetables in his food has kind of overtaken my way of preparing food and instead of throwing in the baby tomatoes, I put in some raw carrot sticks, with a little bit of ranch dressing.

It is already the 5th month of the year and is it me or same with everyone else, that I feel the spring and summer months come and go by very quickly and yet the winter days seems to last forever! Every year and after each winter, my mood is lifted that I will never see it again for the next 9 to 10 months and yet these months seems to be so short with too much things to accomplish and finish up before the next snowflake drop again.

Just these past 3 weeks, we have seen and heard too many human tragedies already and it makes me think whether the world is coming to an end soon as mother nature seems to be throwing its fury everywhere through major rain, flood, earthquake and tornadoes. I agree with the environmentalist and Al Gore's stand that we, human beings have in a way caused the global warming effect. Even though nature itself has its own natural occurences and evolution over the times, we cannot deny that man's science and development have a hand in forming on how lives are lived on earth and with waste, over pollution and over de-forestation in the name of development which have affected the balanced content and proportion of air, gas and water around us, we cannot blame it all on nature anymore.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pandan Shortbread Cookies

Happy Mother's Day.

What does a mother really want on this special day? For me, I want everything to be simple and nice. No stress and no screeching surprises scream from the kids. And a moment of silence when I can reflect, relax and have my cup of tea in peace and a bite of the most simple of all sweet things... the cookie.

Curry got me a cake mixer and I am very happy as I no longer see myself abandoning my interest in baking anymore and with a red one, my passion for mixing and kneading will only grow! My only dilemma now is where to put it as my countertop space is so limited and the mixer is still sitting in its box till now!

My old high school friend, MegJoe as she fondly referred herself to these days, is so passionate about the English Jane Austen novels that I sometimes think that she is a reincarnation of Jane Austen herself! I used to be a romantic soul myself and during my university times in England, my girlfriends and I never missed a BBC production of any of the classics from Jane Austen despite having tonnes of coursework to finish off. We love to feast our eyes on the ever dashing looking Englishmen characters of the 19th century while the heroine wondering amongst many suitors and the final chosen partner is always the unexpected and a far cry from all the conventional choices!

MegJoe loves pandan and wanted cheese too. But these 2 ingredients cannot exist along well in one entity and to use both together means skimming on one to make room for the other. But nothing is impossible as in the love of the quiet and handsome Mr. Darcy and carefree and stubborn Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice and so I thought of something easy and possibly the easiest to make among all the things in the Bake galore so far.

Shortbread cookies originated from Scotland and although not English thoroughly, anyone visiting England will surely carry a pack or two of these lovely buttery goodies back as souvenirs. I added Pandan flavor to half of the shortbread dough and retained the other half in its original buttery color. The filling is sweet cream cheese frosting, piled on daintily and not overflowing to create the right bite. I used Lingonberry jam to fill the little mirror part. In line with MegJoe's fondness of the pretty and ladylike, I used a lace eyelet mold to create the subtle design on the cookies before the baking.

Shortbread, as its name suggests, is very Short...meaning buttery and crumbly in the language of the baking world. Its dough is not difficult to work with and it is best to mix the butter and sugar while the butter is still cool to the touch and by the time it is rolled and shaped, it will have already reached the right room temperature. Pandan paste has a stronger concentration than pandan essence, hence I used only 1/2 of a teaspoon which resulted in a pretty green with subtle sweet smell. A sweet cream cheese filling balanced off the richness of the buttery cookies and true to its core, it melts in the mouth with a lingering butter taste to the palate.

I think I am right to say that all Mothers love things simple and nice. After all those pregnancy months, laboring, caring and nurturing, life cannot get any more simpler than having a quiet time with a cup of tea and a piece of cookie. MegJoe, I hope you like this one and may you enjoy your day with your 'Mr.Darcy' and his clan.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A day of Reflection

Mother's Day is this weekend. Despite all the usual naggings, complaints and sometimes exhaustion from all this motherhood thing, I feel fortunate to have healthy kids and I am still able to juggle everything around their top priority needs. At times, I would just want to stop everything and be lazy and yet I feel a sense of guilt creeping into my head and heart, knowing that I have wasted precious times and days with them if I didn't do anything beneficial for them in a day.

Becoming a mother is indeed the biggest change in the life of a woman. From the moment when the pregnancy test kit turned purple to the time when they were born and grow up to adults, we mothers never get a rest day... mentally or emotionally and sometimes physical strength is also contributed when kids of our own start their own family and we had to share the diaper changing and bottle feeding all over again!

Mothers come in all kinds, some are happy go lucky, some are rigid with their kids' upbringing, some are still looking for other mommies to guide them on how to raise their kids, some are liberal, some are old fashioned but one thing is common.... we all have the motherly touch of compassion for the kids efforts of learning and forgiveness for all their wrongdoings around the house. Missy E may turn me nuts at times with her non stop mumbling and talking but at times, she makes me laugh so silly that I forget my mommy's principles. Prince D managed to get hold of the marker pen and scribbled on the sofa cover and after a scolding from me, his days go on without any effect. To sum it up, I label kids as the joy and trouble to all mommies.

The current news of the cyclone effect on Burma hits my nerve and I felt so sorry for the people there who are in desperate need of help and yet their ruling government prefers to upkeep their pride and prejudicing against their own people. Sights of children and mothers holding out their hands for food and the screaming and crying of survivors for those who were lost is a very sad moment. Those who survived only goes through fear now of either dying slowly of hunger or disease outbreak and for a mother to see her children to go through this is more painful than death itself. I am not a very religious person but I am praying that these people will get the help without further delay.

For Mother's Day, I ask only for the simple things in life, good company, good food and a little peace and quiet moment of my own to reflect and become a better mom. Happy Mother's Day to everyone.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Recipe of the Day: Chicken and Tomato Stew

On a cold spring day, the appetite yearns for something warm with lots of gravy to pour over that bowl of rice. Perhaps the tomato season has started early this year as I see so many kinds available and couldn't resist the ones on the vine that comes neatly packed in the plastic container.

Like most kids, I grew up picky on vegetables and fruits. Capsicum is never my choice and I still don't eat it today. I was not into tomato and carrot then but nowadays I kind of like them alot, knowing that my ageing metabolism and nutrients intake should emphasize on taking them everyday of the week and also they give a nicer color to any dishes.

Luckily Missy E loves everything and except for beetroot and its redness that gives her a squemish feeling, she would chow down even the bland broccoli. As for Prince D, lets just say he is too young to understand the goodness of vegetables and prefer only his peas at the meantime.

I used the Chinese Preserved Bean Curd ('Nam Yue') to form the gravy. Curry is a big fan of both the spicy chilli preserved bean curd ('Fu Yue') and 'Nam Yue' and if he ate them straight from the bottle, he gets the same eyeball look from me as he would have given me with my durian binging! Well, what can I say except that both of us are made of different genes and the best pair of 'opposite attract' couple.

After blending into the tomato, the strong smell of the preserved beancurd kind of dissipated and made the gravy color appetizing. The taste is actually good if you like a light and healthy dish with lots of gravy. The tomatoes were cooked till soft and you can feel the juiciness at every bite.


2 pieces of chicken quarters(Thigh & Drumstick) meat, deboned and cut to chunky pieces (about 450g)
5 small tomatoes, cut to 8 sections each
2 cubes of Chinese preserved bean curd (red 'Nam Yue')
3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 thumbsized knob of ginger, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tsp water
salt & pepper
Cilantro for garnish

1)Heat oil in pan. Stir fry the minced garlic, ginger and shallot for 1 minute on high heat.
2)Add in the preserved Bean curd and mash up in the pan and add in the chicken. Coat evenly and stir fry for 2 mins and cover with lid and turn down heat and let sit for 5 mins.
3)Add in the tomatoes and distribute evenly around the chicken. Add in the water. Simmer for 7 minutes till the tomatoes turn soft. Add salt and pepper.
4)Add in cornstarch mixture gradually to required thickness. Simmer further for 2 mins.
5)Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice.

Serves: 3 persons

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

May is beautiful

White Blossoms

Scarlet Firethorn

Japanese Crabapple Tree Blossom



Violet & Tulip

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Steamed Taro Pork (Hakka Chinese 'Woo Tiu Q Nyuk')

To the Western world, all Chinese people is Chinese. Partly true but there are different ethnicity amongst the Chinese and I am from the Hakka group. As much as I want to interact in the Hakka language, Curry who is Cantonese and absolutely has no patience in picking up any other dialects has made me into a Cantonese speaking human being, and naturally my kids only know their father's dialect.

Recently I have been in contact with friends who are of the same origin as me and although we joke around in typing the Hakka phonics through emails and instant messages, it felt so close to home. This kind of brought back the Hakka side of me, especially in my favorite topic... food!

I have always wanted to make this dish but as with all the older generations of every ethnicity, our grandparents and parents never record the recipes of their cooking and it will be very rare these days to see a youngster of the family standing besides the house cook learning every secrets and ingredients that goes into a dish. So, one is only to accumulate as much info from the older folks by word of mouth before there is no one else left to tell the secrets of all these good food that truly represents one's ancestors and origin.

What seems to be laborious and difficult to my standard when I was a young lass then has actually turned very interesting and achievable now as I have learnt all my way through the wok and spatula for this past 7 years away from my own Hakka family in Malaysia. With observation, determination and a positive attitude, one can make traditions too in a family and I am thankful to my cousin Agnes in Malaysia who helped me gather info on the ingredients for this dish and I am honored to record it for future cooking aficionados of my extended Hakka clan.

I used ordinary pork cuts with minimum fat as I was conscious of the high fat content in pork belly in the original recipe and I couldn't locate one too in my store. The taste is equally authentic as I used the most important ingredient that gives the distinctive flavor to this dish, which was the Chinese Preserved Tofu ('Nam Yue') and also taro, of which in my opinion is very good and slightly sweet in the mouth after it was steamed till soft.

1.5 lbs to 2lbs of pork sirloin (with fat part attached)
5 cubes of Nam Yue

1 medium sized taro, cut into slices and halved (yield about 12 to 16 pieces)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 small shallots, minced
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp 5 spice powder
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
Lettuce for garnish

1)Poke holes around the pork sirloin and marinate with 3 tbsp dark soy sauce for 1 hour.

2)Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in frying pan on medium heat. Fry the taro and turn for 5 minutes. Lift up and use paper towel to absorb oil on taro surface.

3)Cut the pork sirloin meat into 3 or 4 parts and pan fry in the same pan for 10 minutes, turning sides at 5mins. Take out and let cool before cutting into thinner slices of 1 inch thick(yield up to 12 to 15 slices).

4)Combine the Nam Yue, cooking wine, garlic & shallots, 1 tbsp of black soy sauce & light soy sauce, sugar and 5 spice powder in big bowl. Add in the meat and marinate and coat evenly.
5)Use a medium size bowl to arrange the taro and pork slices alternately and compact. Pour in marinate liquid into bowl. Set up wok and boil water. Once water is ready, turn the heat down to medium.
6)Place bowl of taro and meat in steamer and steam for 1hr 30 mins to 1hr 45 mins (adding more water for steaming along the way), depending on the amount of the meat. Or till the taro is soft enough and the meat is tender and breaks off easily when touched.
7)Let sit in the same bowl for 10 minutes. Arrange the lettuce in another bowl or high rimmed plate. Take the lettuce plate or bowl and turn around and put on top of the taro and meat bowl.
8)Turn the taro and meat bowl upside down so that the contents are now in the lettuce bowl/plate. Slowly release and the contents will stay compact and arranged.

Serves: 4 persons