Singapore Laksa新加坡叻沙xīn jiā pō jiā lè shā

cover1The flavors of this popular Southeast Asian street food are bold and simply addictive. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of this delicious spicy noodle soup because it has many different varieties across the region. In Singapore, the “Katong” version or Nyonya Laksa, is believed to have been created after the interaction between the Peranakans with the local Singaporeans.

I have adapted the recipe by reducing the amount of the coconut milk. The end result is a creamier version of laksa without the dominant flavor of coconut milk but the flavor is still iconic and authentic.

Serve 4 to 6

  • 800g                               fresh thick rice noodles usually used for laksa, or use 500g dried thick rice noodles粗米粉

Laksa broth

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • shrimp heads and shells from 300 g of shrimp新鲜整虾
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup coconut milk椰奶

Seasonings:

  • 3 tablespoons  fish sauce鱼露
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar白糖
  • 1 teaspoon             salt (more to taste)

Laksa paste

  • 8-10                shallots, peeled小红葱头
  • 30g                  dried shrimp soaked in warm water for 15 minutes小虾干
  • 12 pieces       candlenuts石栗
  • 6 large dried red chili, soaked in warm water until soft
  • 8g                    ginger生姜
  • 15g                  turmeric root or use 5 tablespoons of turmeric powder姜黄
  • 8g                  galangal or use 3 tablespoons of galangal powder高良姜
  • 1 large lemon grass stalk cut off about 1-inch from the bottom and break into pieces香茅
  • 1 handful       laksa leaves (Vietnamese Coriander)水蓼, for substitute, use mint or equal parts mint and cilantro
  • 1/3 cup          cooking oil

Toppings:

  • 300 g  shrimp keep the shells and head for stock
  • 10 -15  fried Tofu Puffs cut into half 豆腐泡
  • 2 cups          beansprouts豆芽

Garnish:

  • laksa leaves

 Method

Preparing laksa paste

  1. Place all ingredients in food processor. Pulse a few times and then grind into smooth paste. You may need to scrap the bowl few times to make sure everything is ground finely. Add a bit more oil if you needed to get it goingIMG_4983

Preparing laksa broth

  1. Preheat a large heavy-bottom pot. Add cooking oil. Carefully add the shells and heads from the shrimp and stir fry until they turn orange in color. Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to let it gently simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Strain the stock and discard the shells.

Ready to start serve Laksa – blanch the bean sprouts and shrimp

  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Blanch the bean sprouts for about 10 seconds, drain and then run through cold water quickly.
  2. Bring another fresh pot of water to a boil. Cook the shrimp until they turn pink and then refresh with cold water. Set aside.

Putting laksa paste and laksa broth together to make the Laksa Sauce

  1. Preheat a large heavy-bottom pot. Add laksa paste (there’s already oil in there). Stir fry until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent the paste catching at the bottom of the pot. Pour in the Laksa broth (shrimp stock). Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to let it gently simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Stir in the coconut milk. From this point on, you don’t want to let it come to a hard boil or the coconut milk with turn frothy. Add Tofu puffs and let it gently simmer for 10 minutes to let them soak up the gravy. Season the broth with sugar, salt and fish sauce.

Cooking the noodles:

  1. Bring a bit pot of water to a boil. It takes about 15 minutes to boil the noodles if you use dried rice noodles. If you are able to get packaged fresh thick rice noodles, just quickly blanch them in the boiling water.

 Serving

  1. Portion the rice noodles in a large bowl.  Arrange cooked shrimp and bean sprouts on the noodles. Generously ladle the hot laksa sauce over and sprinkle in more laksa leaves
  2. Serve immediately

Tips

You can make laksa sauce and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

 

 

Chinese Zucchini Pancakes糊塌子hú tā zǐ

cover 4.jpgThese savory pancakes made with summer zucchini are quick and easy to make and so delicious! They are perfect for a snack, an appetizer, breakfast or a light meal.

It doesn’t have to be zucchini though, it can be any vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, even lightly blanched broccoli. And you can add some meat or seafood too if you want to make fancy pancakes.

 Serve 2-4

  • 1 Zucchini (about 350g), washed and grated by using the coarse side of a box grater西葫芦
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 spring onions, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon white peppercorn powder 白胡椒粉
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon, caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • ½ tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Dipping sauce,

  • Light soy sauceIMG_4261.jpg

Method

  1. Wash the zucchini clean and dry it with a kitchen towel. Grate the zucchini using the coarse grate side of a box grater.IMG_4262.jpg
  2. In a large bowl, mix the grated zucchini with ½ teaspoon of salt. Let sit for 15 minutes, and you’ll see visible zucchini juice at the bottom of the bowl, which we will keep. Now mix in 2 eggs, minced spring onions, ¼ teaspoon white peppercorn powder, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, ½ teaspoon sugar, and ½ cup plain flour. If you feel like you need more flour (this could depend on the size of the eggs, for example), add it 1 tablespoon at a time. The final batter should look like similar to regular breakfast pancake batter. Let the batter rest for another 15 minutes.
  3. Now heat a pan over medium heat, lightly brush the bottom with some cooking oil, and pour some batter into the pan (make the pancakes whatever size you like). Sprinkle sesame seeds (optional) over the top and cook each side until lightly golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Repeat until you’ve used all the batter.
  4. You can serve with a simple soy dipping sauce, chili oil, or whatever other condiments you like. With a bowl of hot sour soup or congee, they make a perfect, healthy light meal.

 

 

 

Fried Sun-dried Pork with Crisp-Fried Kaffir Lime Leaves泰式青柠叶猪柳tài shì qīng níng yè zhū liǔ

cover1Think of kaffir lime leaves as the Asian equivalent to bay leaves. Kaffir lime leaf is a key ingredient in Thai cooking as well as other Southeast-Asian cuisines. It is probably one of the most aromatic of all herbs and a wonderful addition to many Thai and Southeast-Asian stir-fries, soups and curries. The thick leaves are dark green and shiny on one side, and pale colored and porous on the other.

Kaffir lime leaves can be purchased fresh, frozen or dried from Thai or Vietnamese food stores (some Chinese food stores carry them while others do not). In Asian food stores, you’ll find them either in the fresh produce section alongside the other herbs, or in the freezer section. A few of the larger regular supermarket chains in North America are also starting to sell lime leaves—look for them in the fresh herbs section.

Note that dried lime leaves are not as aromatic or flavorful as fresh or frozen. One package of fresh lime leaves will last you a year or longer, and they freeze well. Take one or two leaves out as you need them, then wrap up the package and return it to the freezer until next time.

Serving 3-4

  • 450g   pork loin, cut into 5-cm-long strips
  • 1 and half teaspoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Maggi Seasoning sauce (or simple use light soy sauce)美极鲜或者生抽
  • 2 teaspoons            caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon             white peppercorn powder
  • 2 cups cooking oil
  • A handful of kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass, finely sliced

Method

  1. Clean the pork, cut into long strips and put int a mixing bowl. Add 1 and half teaspoon of fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of Maggi Seasoning or light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sugar and ½ teaspoon of white peppercorn powder. Toss well and marinate for 10 minutes. Arranged the marinated pork on a baking tray and leave to dry under the sun (or in a warm oven with a temperature of 40°C) until dry on the outside. This takes about 1 hour. Do not over dry the pork or it will be too dry and tough.
  2. Clean the lemongrass, remove some outer tough layers. Finely slice the lemongrass and put into a bowl.
  3. Place a wok or frying pan over medium heat and add 2 cups of oil. Leave until the oil is hot. Fry the pork by three batches until golden and cooked through. Stir regularly with a spatula. When done, remove the pork and place them in kitchen towel-lined plate to help remove excess oil. Separately fry the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass slices in the same wok over medium heat until crispy. Remove and drain. Place cooked sun-dried pork on a serving dish.
  4. Get a small fresh sauce pan and scoop into 2 tablespoons of oil from the wok which was used to fry the pork and herbs. Turn up the heat. When oil is hot, combine 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce (or Maggi Seasoning sauce) and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a bowl and mix well. Pour the mixture into the wok, then quickly add into fried lime leaves and lemongrass. Toss to coat well. This whole process takes about 1 minute. Remove and arrange attractively over fried sun-dried pork on a serving dish. Ready to serve.

 

 

Steamed Eggplant with a Garlicky Dressing凉拌茄子liáng bàn qié zǐ

cover3This eggplant appetizer is absurdly easy to make yet surprisingly satisfying. Try to use straight thin purple skinned eggplants, known as Japanese or Asian eggplant – they have thin delicate skins and the flesh is sweeter.

Serves 2-4,

  • 3-4         (500g)                                  Asian eggplant 紫皮长茄子
  • 1/2 tablespoon                          Garlic cloves, minced蒜末
  • 1 tablespoon         Ginger, minced姜末
  • 1 tablespoon         Spring onion,葱末, green parts only
  • 2 tablespoons                        Cooking oil

Seasonings

  • 2 tablespoons      light soy sauce生抽
  • 1 teaspoon          Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon          caster sugarIMG_3853.jpg

 Method

  1. Cut the eggplant into 8cm-long strips. Pile the eggplant strips in a bowl that would fit inside your steamer basket.
  2. Place the bowl in your basket and steam over high heat for about 20 minutes after water in the pot is boiled. In the meantime, combine the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl.
  3. Remove the eggplants from the steamer basket and file them in a serving dish and top them with ginger, garlic and half of the spring onions.img_3858.jpg
  4. Heat the oil in a pan until it is very hot. Carefully pour the hot oil over the garlic, ginger and spring onions. Pour the soy sauce mixture over the eggplant. Gently stir in the seasonings. You may cover the dish with clingy film and let it cool off in the fridge for about 20 minutes before serve – this is optional.
  5. For garnish, sprinkle the rest of the spring onions.

Baked Pork Loin with Thai Sweet & Sour Sauce烤猪柳kǎo zhū liǔ

coverOne of my favorite easy dinners has always been this easy baked pork loin – its hearty, rich and delicious, super easy to make, and so delicious. Since pork loin has little fat, it can become tough very quickly when overcooked. Marinating or brining pork loin before cooking will always help to soften the pork tenderloin and keep it from drying out. Searing the pork before baking not only helps to lock in the pork’s juices, but also makes it taste great and give you a perfect crunchy texture. And you can top it with any of your favorite sauces you like.

Serving 3-4

  • 500g                             pork loin
  • ¼ cup + 1 tablespoons                   olive oil
  • 1/3 teaspoon                             sea salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon                              ground pepper corn

Thai Inspired sauce

  • 1 tablespoon                            olive oil
  • 100g                                          French Beans or asparagus, minced
  • A half of the Red Bell Pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons                          light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons                            Lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon                             palm sugar or brown sugar
  • ½ tablespoon                            corn starch (optional, it helps thicken the sauce)IMG_4648.jpg

Method

  1. Rinse the pork loin under running water, pat dry with kitchen towel. Mix 1 teaspoon of freshly ground sea salt and black peppercorn, ¼ cup of olive oil in a bowl. Mix well. Place the pork in and have it marinated it for 4 to 12 hours.
  2. Now let’s sear the pork loin. Place one tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Once the oil is hot, place into the pork loin over medium heat. Fry till both sides golden. This takes about 6-8 minutes.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 175℃ .  Place the seared pork loin on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. Once done, remove the pork loin out and let it rest for 8-10 minutes before cutting. The resting part is important as it allows residual heat keeps cooking and helps lock the juice in the meat.  The perfect cooked meat looks a little bit pink in the middle, but that’s perfectly all right.
  4. IMG_4657.jpg
  5. In the meantime, let’s make the sauce. Heat the oil in another frying pan, fry ¾ of the minced beans or asparagus and pepper for 2 minutes over low heat. Add light soy sauce, lime juice and palm sugar. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Pour the sauce into a bowl.

.IMG_3669.JPG

6. Cut the pork loin into thick serving pieces and place them into a serving plate. Pour the sauce over the pork loin. Ready to serve.

 

 

Guizhou Ribs馋嘴排骨chán zuǐ pái gǔ

cover1The satisfying spicy ribs just crumbled off the bone, and with all of those savory seasonings as an added bonus. It is inspired by a trademark dish from Three Guizhou Men, my all-time favorite restaurant in Beijing that offers authentic Guizhou Cuisine. Guizhou Province borders Sichuan thus is similar in that the food is spicy. Unlike Sichuan food though, it does not prominently feature those numbing peppercorns. The food tends to be mildly sour instead.

 Serves 4-6,  

  • 1500g   pork spareribs 整条猪肋排

Seasonings

  • 1 tablespoon                           coriander seeds香菜籽
  • 1 tablespoon                           white peppercorns (or use the same amount of white peppercorn powder)白胡椒粒或者白胡椒粉
  • 1 teaspoon                               salt
  • 1 tablespoon                           light soy sauce生抽
  • ½ tablespoon                          dark soy sauce老抽
  • 10 – 12 cloves                         garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup                                       fresh coriander stems and roots, minced香菜梗
  • 2 tablespoons                         Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon                           cooking oil

Toppings

  • 1 tablespoon                           Cooking Oil
  • 8-10                                           mix of green and red chili, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons                         Fermented Black Beans干豆豉
  • 2 tablespoon                           Seasonings made as indicated above
  • 1 tablespoon                           light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon                         sugar
  • ½ cup                                        water
  • 3 tablespoon                           unsalted peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup                                         Coriander leaves, roughly chopped, for garnishingIMG_4168

Method

Make the Seasonings

  1. Wash the ribs and pat dry with paper kitchen towel. To make the meat absorb the seasonings better, you can use a sharp knife to remove the membrane from the back side of the ribs. Line up a baking try with aluminum foil. Place the ribs on top of the tray.IMG_4170
  2. Place the peeled garlic, coriander seeds, peppercorn seeds, fresh coriander stems and roots, salt and Chinese cooking wine in an electric blender. Pulse until finely minced.
  3. Scoop out two tablespoons of the seasonings. Set aside for later use for cooking toppings.

Marinate the ribs

  1. Now let’s coat the ribs with the rest of the seasonings, then Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil on top of the ribs. The oil helps lock the moisture of the meat when it is cooking in the oven. Cover the ribs completely with another layer of the aluminum foil. Place the baking tray in the middle rack of the oven. Set aside for about 60 minutes.

Grill the Ribs

  1. Turn the oven on and bring it up to 180C°. And bake for 2 – 2.5 hours till the bones are exposed. The slow cook time ensures the seasoning flavours are to be very absorbed by the ribs.
  2. Remove the aluminum foil on the top of the tray. Bake the ribs for another 30 minutes (no need to cover the ribs). The ribs are ready to serve when it is nearly falling off the bone.

Cook the toppings

  1. Place a sauce pan on the stove. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil over low medium heat, add chopped chili peppers and stir fry for a few minutes, add into 3 tablespoons of fermented black bean, stir fry for another 2-3 minutes, add into 2 tablespoons of toppings, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ tablespoon of sugar, 1tablespoon of light soy sauce and ½ cup of water. Once it starts boiling, turn off the heat. The toppings is done.
  2. Place the ribs on a serving plate. Arrange toppings and peanuts. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Cook notes

  1. The Seasonings can be made ahead and refrigerated for two weeks.
  2. You can always make large quantity of the slow cooked ribs ahead of time (until step 5) and store it in the fridge or freezer. When ready to use, just place the desired amount of ribs and bake another 30 minutes then add freshly cooked toppings.

 

Pork Belly and Kimchi Stir-Fry韩式泡菜五花肉hán shì pào cài wǔ huā ròu

cover1The dish is insanely simple to make yet out of this world satisfying! The ever so popular kimchi, the national pickle of Korea, is also praised as a probiotic food. It makes the dish more digestible, nutritious and flavourful, as well as breaking down toxins. If you don’t like pork belly, then by all means switch to pork tenderloin or a lean pork of your choice. However, added oil will be necessary when using a lean cut.

Serve 2-4

  • 1-2 tablespoons    cooking oil
  • 200g  pork belly, very thinly sliced, 五花肉肉片
  • 100g                         golden mushroom金针菇
  • 100g                        bamboo shoots (optional)
  • 2 to 3 cloves          garlic, peeled and sliced (optional)
  • 200g kimchi (available at most of the Asian markets or click here for home-made kimchi) 韩国泡菜
  • 2 to 2.5 tablespoons light soy sauce生抽
  • 1 tablespoon         caster sugar白糖
  • 1 tablespoon          corn starch (mix it with 2 tablespoons of water to make water starch)           玉米淀粉
  • 3-4 sprigs              green chives韭菜, cut into pieces of 5cm in lengthIMG_4528

Method

  1. Slice the pork belly as thin as possible or buy pre-cut ones from the store.
  2. Heat a frying pan or wok over high heat. While the pan is very hot, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and pork belly – adjust the amount of cooking oil depending on the fattiness of your pork belly. Stir fry until turned pale, for approximately 5 to 6 minutes.  You should see some fat being cooked out of the pork belly at this point.
  3. Add the bamboo shoots, garlic, golden mushroom and cook for 2 minutes, then add kimchi into the pan, stir fry for another 2-3 minutes. Mix well. Add 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue to cook for another 1 minutes. Stir into the water starch (by mixing 1 tablespoon of corn flour and 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl). Fry for another 2-3 minutes till the sauce thickened.
  4. Turn off the heat. Add sliced green chives. Mix well.IMG_4535
  5. Ready to serve.

Notes

  1. If you use a store-bought kimchi, make sure to check the ingredients. I use home-made fermented kimchi that’s free of MSG and excessive sugar. Click here for recipe.