Red-braised Lion’s head Meatballs红烧狮子头hóng shāo shī zǐ tóu

cover.JPGLion’s head meatballs are one of the crowning glories of the cooking in the beautiful Lower Yangtze  River region of China. The essential trick for this recipe is to cut the pork by hand. The legend says that the meatballs resembled lion’s heads as they are made from hand-chopped, coarse and chunky meat. I have never been struck by the resemblance. But I adore the dish because of its interesting texture, tender meat and exquisite sauce. You can replace the red-braised sauce by simmering the meatballs in a clear broth.

Serves 4-6

For the meatballs

  • 450g                     ground pork ideally made from pork belly (30% fat in minimum) and cut by hand猪肉末(5 到7成瘦)
  • 6                            water chestnuts荸荠 (skin removed and coarsely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon     spring onion (white part only),葱白末
  • ½ tablespoon    ginger, minced姜末
  • 1/3 teaspoon    salt
  • 1 tablespoon     sesame oil香油
  • ½ tablespoon    light soy sauce生抽酱油
  • ¼ teaspoon        ground white pepper 白胡椒粉
  • 1 teaspoon      caster sugar白糖
  • 30g                      water starch (1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 20g water)水淀粉
  • 4 cups                 cooking oil for deep-frying

For the braising sauce

  • 1 teaspoon        chiankiang vinegar镇江香醋
  • 1 teaspoon      caster sugar白糖
  • 1 tablespoon     dark soy sauce老抽酱油 (optional)
  • 1 cup                  water
  • 1 and half tablespoon    corn starch淀粉 ( mix with 3 tablespoons of water)

Bok Choy (optional) 青菜 (poached or quickly stir-fried) 白灼或者清炒的青菜芯, for decorationingredients

Method

  1. Put the meat in a mixing ball. Add all the ingredients (except water starch and cooking oil). Mix the ingredients by stirring in one direction so that all the fibres of the meat will line up, making it very smooth. Add in water starch and mix well by stirring in one direction until all water are incorporated.IMG_5612.JPG
  2. Now let’s shape the meatballs. Pick a handful of walnut-sized mixture. Keep slapping the mixture against the inside palm of the other hand, then slap it back to the original hand. Repeat and do it for 4-5 times. This helps meat become springy and sticky in consistence. Now shape it into a ball. Repeat to make rest of the meatballs.IMG_5613.JPG
  3. Now let’s deep fry the meatballs. Pour the oil in a wok and turn up the heat to high. When the oil becomes very hot, add a few meatballs (do not crowd the wok. Otherwise the oil temperature would drop down too quickly and meatball would stick to the bottom of the wok). Cook over high heat for a few minutes. Then use a spatula to gently nudge the meatballs then flip each of the balls to the other side. Continue to cook for a few more minutes until brown/golden. Remove the cooked meatballs. Deep fry the rest of the meatballs.IMG_5614.JPG
  4. The last step is quick. Get a clean work. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil (use the leftover from deep-frying process) over medium high heat. Return all the meatballs, add the braising sauce including 1 teaspoon of chiankiang vinegar, 1 teaspoon caster sugar, 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (if you prefer darker and shining meatballs) and 1 cup of water. Bring it to a boil. Turn the heat to medium. Move around the meatballs to ensure they are evenly coated with sauce. Let it simmer for 5 minutes. In the meantime, use a small bowl to mix 1.5 tablespoon corn starch with 3 tablespoons water. Add the mixture into the wok. Turn the heat to HIGH. The starch helps make sure all the meatballs evenly coated with the sauce. Turn off the heat once you see it becomes less watery and sauce has thickened. IMG_5616.JPG
  5. Place pre-cooked bok choy on a serving plate. Place onto all the meatballs. Drizzle with the remaining sauce in the wok.IMG_5618.JPG

 

 

Thai Basil Chicken泰式鸡肉碎tài shì jī ròu suì

cover 2.JPGThis famous Thai street food can be such a hearty meal even though it takes no more than 15 minutes to prepare and cook. Do not confuse the Thai basil (holy basil) with its Italian cousin (sweet basil). The Thai holy basil has small, narrow leaves, purple stems, and pink-purple flowers with distinct, spicy and anise-clove flavor.

Serve 2-4

  • 3 tablespoons   cooking oil
  • 3 cloves              garlic, minced,蒜末
  • 2                          small shallots, thinly sliced 小红葱头
  • 3                          bird chili or any 1 big red chili, thinly sliced,
  • 1                          yard-long beans (optional), cut into smalls sections in 1cm
  • 250g                   ground chicken鸡肉
  • 1 teaspoon         fish sauce鱼露
  • 1 tablespoon     light soy sauce生抽
  • ½ tablespoon    dark soy sauce 老抽 (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon         caster sugar白砂糖
  • 1 bunch              fresh Thai holy basil (use leaves only)泰式九层塔IMG_5359

Method

  1. In a wokover high heat, add the oil. One the oil is hot, add garlic and shallots and fry for 1 minute then add chilies and long beans, and fry for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrance and softened.IMG_5480.JPG
  2. Add the ground chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes, breaking up the chicken into small bits. Turn down the heat if you need a longer time to break down the ground chicken.Turn up the heat, add the sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Stir-fry for another minute. Add the basil and mix well. Stir fry for 1 more minute. Remove the wok from the heat. Ready to serve with rice.IMG_5481

Tips

  1. Substitute the ground chicken with ground pork or sliced chicken. The flavour will remain the same.

 

Twice-cooked Pork回锅肉huí guō ròu

cover.JPGThe classic Sichuan dish is named after its unique cooking process. “回huí” indicates returning. Twice-cooked pork means that the pork should be cooked twice. Firstly pork is boiled in water until nearly cooked – a simple yet smart method to help lock in the moisture resulting in juicy meat, then use Doubanjiang (fermented bean paste), fermented black soy bean (Douchi), ginger, garlic and side ingredients to stir-fry for flavoring.

 Serves 3-4,

 For boiling the pork,

  • 350g pork belly, with skin still attached带皮五花肉
  • 1 walnut-sized ginger, thinly sliced姜
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns 花椒
  • 1 Leek (white part only), sliced 大葱 (葱白)

Returning the pork

  • 1 tablespoon  cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon Minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Doubanjiang (fermented bean paste)郫县豆瓣酱
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black beans 豆豉
  • 2 Garlic sprouts, sliced蒜苗
  • 2 red chili (optional), sliced
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons light soy sauce生抽
  • 2 teaspoons sweet bean paste甜面酱
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar 白糖

IMG_0358Instructions

  1. Place pork belly in a large pot with enough cold water to cover. Add ginger, garlic, leek and Sichuan peppercorn seeds. Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes. If you are cooking a larger amount, cut the pork belly into sections around 15 cm long. Transfer out and set aside to cool down.IMG_5301.JPG
  2. Smash the head of garlic sprouts and then cut the head part and leaves into 1.5 inch sections. Remove the seeds of red pepper and cut into pieces too. Heat up around 1 tablespoon of oil in wok, fry the pork belly for around 1-2 minutes (Tips  #2 below) until they begin to loose oil and slightly brown.IMG_5302.JPG
  3. Move the pork slices out and leave oil only, fry ginger and garlic until aroma. Place doubanjiang and dou-chi, fry for another half minute. Return pork slices and give a big stir fry to combine well. Add red pepper, fry for another half minute. Lastly, place garlic spouts, light soy sauce, sweet bean paste and sugar. Combine well and transfer out immediately.IMG_5303.JPG
  4. Serve with steamed rice.

Tips

  1. You can boil a larger amount for example 600g once and keep the left half for another stir frying in following 2 days. Cool down completely and keep in refrigerator, covered with plastic wrapper.
  2. If the pork belly is fatty, fry for a longer time to reduce the fat it contained. However, if the pork belly is with lots of lean meat, do not over-fry it. Otherwise, the slices will dry out.

 

 

Pandan Chiffon Cake 班兰戚风蛋糕bān lán qī fēng dàn gāo

IMG_5197The celebrity chef Nigel Lawson was recently quoted that Pandan leaves are the next big food craze in the US and UK. This unique Southeast Asia plant, which are found in the backyards of many Malaysian homes, has a sweet fragrance that is likened to vanilla. Its extracted juices are the natural food colouring that is commonly used in some popular Southeast Asia desserts. It is also an essential ingredient for making the famous Singapore Chicken Rice.

 Makes one cake (use 25cm cake tin),

 For batter,  

  • 6                                         egg yolks (use very fresh egg weighting at 60g each, room temperature) 蛋黄
  • 100g                    caster sugar 白砂糖
  • 2 tablespoons     pandan juice (freshly made from pandan leaves + 2 tablespoons water)新鲜班兰汁
  • 1 teaspoon          vanilla essence 香草香精
  • 1 teaspoon          pandan essence斑兰香精
  • 115ml                 sunflower oil (canola oil or corn oil is good too)植物烹调油
  • 140ml                  coconut milk 椰奶
  • 200g                    cake flour 低筋面粉
  • 2 teaspoons         baking powder 泡打粉
  • 1/4 teaspoon       salt

For meringue 蛋白糖霜,

  • 9                                         egg whites (use very fresh egg weighting at 60g each, room temperature) 蛋白
  • 100g                    caster sugar 白砂糖
  • 1 teaspoon    cream of tartar 塔塔粉IMG_3400

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170℃. I use an oven thermometer to make sure to get the exact temperature. Use oven function of ‘Fan Plus’. Place the rack in the lowest level of your oven.IMG_3500
  2. First let’s make the pandan juice. Pandan leaf is not a juicy plant. To ‘squeeze’ the juice as much as you can, thinly cut the leaves then add them in the food processor with two tablespoons of water. After it comes a paste, place in a cheese cloth. Then squeeze the juice out in a bowl.IMG_3455
  3. Now let us cream the egg yolk. Place egg yolks into a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to whisk the yolks on medium speed (30 seconds). Gradually add into sugar and beat on high speed until the eggs have tripled in volume resulting a nice and light batter. This takes about 5 minutes.IMG_3456
  4. Add into wet ingredients Mix into the corn oil, coconut milk, pandan paste, vanilla essence. Sift into the dry ingredients of cake flour, salt and baking powder. Gently fold them into the beaten eggs until you can’t see flour anymore.IMG_3459
  5. Now let’s make meringue. Use an electric mixer, beat the egg whites over medium speed for one minute. Then add Cream of Tartar and whisk for one more minute. Then gradually add the sugar and beat over high speed for about 5 minutes.IMG_3460
  6. Now that the batter and meringue is done, It is time to mix them both together. Add one third of the meringue to the batter and mix it with a spatula so that you get a light green batter which is easy to fold. Then add the rest of the meringue to the batter and GENTLY fold the mixture in.IMG_3462
  7. Before you pour the mixture into the tin, give your batter bowl a few sharp blows by banging it on the table. This will get the big bubbles to rise to the top and burst.IMG_3437
  8. Now pour the mixture into the cake tin slowly making sure that as many of the big bubbles burst while the batter flows over the rim of the cake tin. Remember pouring the batter into the same portion of the tin and you will see that the batter flows around the tin without trapping more air. IMG_3463
  9. Now put the cake into the oven. Make sure that the oven thermometer shows 170 °C and put the cake tin as lowest in the oven as you can. It is critical to have more heat at the bottom than the top or else the top will brown, crack, become dry and start to sink before your baking is done. At around 15 to 20 minutes, you cake would have risen and start to crack. The entire baking time takes about 55 minutes.IMG_3464
  10. Once baking is done, overturn the cake and let it cool. Use a funnel to elevate the cake. This is important because if the cake is too close to your tabletop, condensation takes place and you will spoil the surface of the cake. To speed up the cooling process, you can drape a wet towel over the cake tin. This takes about 60 minutes. Once your cake is cooled, it’s time to remove it from the tin.FullSizeRender
  11. Use a sharp knife and with one movement separate the sides of the cake from the tin, pressing your blade as firm as possible on the cake tin.IMG_3493

 

 

 

Pineapple Tarts 黄梨塔huáng lí tǎ

FullSizeRender (00A).jpgIt is the time of the Year! With the Chinese New Year around the corner, you can find pineapple tarts just about everywhere in Singapore or Malaysia . Every bakery that churns them out is claiming that it’s tarts are the best. But I found out today these melt-in-mouth homemade tarts with buttery crumbly pastry and fresh homemade pineapple jam are the BEST I’ve had so far. It calls for simple and fresh ingredients with minimized use of sugar. No preservatives added at all.

 Makes 100 pieces  

Wrappers

  • 510g                    plain flour/all purpose flour 中筋面粉
  • 350g                    unsalted butter
  • 100g                    condensed milk 炼乳
  • 2 egg yolks         room temperature

Homemade pineapple filling (pineapple jam)

  • 3       ripe pineapples
  • 250g      granulated sugar 白砂糖 (adjust the amount of sugar by 20% based on the ‘sweetness’ of you pineapple)

Method

Step 1  make pineapple filling/jam

  1. Peel the pineapples. Cut away some of the core but not totally remove it (By leaving small part of core so the jam has some bites in.) Cut into small cubes. Put 1/4 of the pineapples into a blender till it becomes puree (do not add water). Do the same with the rest of pineapple cubes. Sift the pineapple puree so to remove some of the juices. Don’t throw the juices away – the byproduct makes a couple of glasses of good fruit juice.Photo 11-1-17, 6 19 32 PM.jpg
  2. Cook sifted the pineapple puree in a wok or sauce pan over medium heat for about 10 minutes till juice almost evaporates. Now add in sugar. The mixture will turn watery again after sugar added. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon for about 15 minutes till it becomes a thick paste.Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 60 minutes. Stir from time to time to avoid burning. Scoop out the pineapple jam into to bowl and let it cool completely. Scoop a small portion (10g) and use your hand to shape it into a ball. If you find it is too watery to difficult to make it into a ball, just place the jam the fridge for a few hours then try again.Photo 11-1-17, 9 39 22 PM.jpg

 Step 2   make the wrappers

  1. Sift the flour. 面粉过筛. Cut the butter into small cubes. Use your fingertips to rub butter in the flour till the mixture resembles bread crumb. Add into the mixture the egg yolks and condensed milk. Use your hand to combine them together till it becomes a soft dough. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes.Photo 11-1-17, 9 41 01 PM.jpg

Step 3   Assemble

  1. Divide the pineapple filling/jam into 100 portions (8g each) and roll them into a small ball
  2. Roll the dough into 100 portions balls (10g each) and roll them into a small ball
  3. Flatten a piece of the dough ball, place a pineapple jam ball in the middle. Bring the edges together and press tightly to seal. Roll it in between your palms to shape it into a ball.
  4. Use a paring knife, cut the criss-cross shape on the top to create pineapple pattern. Or use any fun or desired small-size cookie cutter or pastry cutter that you happen to have at home.
  5. Place all the little pastries on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  6. Apply egg wash with a brush. Try to brush the entire pastry ball including top and sides.
  7. Preheat the oven to 165℃. Place the baking try in the upper deck of the oven. Bake for 24 minutes or till they become golden brown.
  8. Cool completely before enjoying.Photo 11-1-17, 6 21 24 PM.jpg

Shanghai ‘Smoked’ Fish上海熏鱼shàng hǎi xūn yú

cover1.jpg

This appetizer, served cold, is one of the most famous fish dishes in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Any mild-flavoured, firm-fleshed fish such as carp or pomfret is ideal to cook the dish. It’s not actually smoked, though it looks like it has spent some time in a smoker, which likely explains its name.

Serves 3-4

Fish and marinade

  • 1-2 pomfret or carp (about 800g)           鲳鱼或者青鱼、鲤鱼
  • 3-4                    spring onions, cut into small sizes香葱
  • 1 walnut-sized ginger, thinly sliced姜
  • 4 tablespoons  Chinse cooking wine料酒
  • ½ teaspoon     salt盐
  • 2 cups              cooking oil for frying烹调油

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons    dark soy sauce老抽
  • 1 tablespoon      chinkiang vinegar 镇江香醋
  • 1 tablespoon    light soy sauce (optional) 生抽
  • 2 tablespoons    caster sugar 白糖
  • ½ cup                 water

IMG_4816Method

  1. Slice the fish into 1-inch-wide strips. Discard the fish head. Place the fish in a bowl. Add into the marinade. Mix well. Let it marinate in a cool place for at least 30 minutes and up to a couple of hours.IMG_4847
  2. Pour off and discard the marinade including ginger and spring onions. Pat dry the fish slices with kitchen towel. Pour the oil into a wok and place it over medium heat. When the oil becomes very hot, add half of the slices to the wok, being careful not to crowd them. Gently shake the wok to keep the fish from sticking. Don’t turn the slices over often, as they will break up once they are cooked. Instead, wait until one side is golden brown before gently flipping them over. Fry the other side until golden and remove the cooked fish to a clean plate. Repeat with the rest of the fish.IMG_4848.JPG
  3. Get another clean wok or sauce pan. Pour into all the ingredients for the sauce. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Toss the fish in the sauce. Use chopsticks to gently move around the fish in the wok so they are evenly coated with the sauce. Cook for a few minutes. Turn off the heat. Place the fish on a serving plate. Serve when it has completely cooled off.IMG_4849.JPG

 

Potstickers锅贴guō tiē

cover.jpgPeople tend to think that  potstickers are simply the pan-fried version of dumplings. But that is not the case. What distinguishes this delicacy from dumpling or Japanese Gyoza is that they are wrapped with the hot-water dough. The brilliant idea courtesy of northern Chinese home cooks heats up the flour, expands each tiny fleck, and moistens the flecks completely so that we get something more supple and tender than anything made with cold-water dough.

Yields 45 potstickers,

Make wrappers

  • 250g          plain flour 中筋面粉
  • 100g          hot water in 80℃
  • 30g          water in room temperature
  • A pinch of salt

Make filling

  • 250g           ground pork
  • 1/2 teaspoon      salt
  • 1 teaspoon      sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon   dark soy sauce老抽
  • 1 tablespoon     light soy sauce生抽
  • 1 teaspoon       sesame oil香油
  • 1 tablespoon     Chinese cooking wine绍兴酒
  • A pinch of ground white pepper (optional)
  • 125g           chopped yellow (or green) chives (or vegetable of your choice)

Make crepe batter 锅巴

  • 1 tablespoon     cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon    plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons    water in room temperatureingredients.JPG

Method

  1. First let’s make the dough – add the flour and salt in a bowl. Gradually mix into the hot water with the flour with chopsticks to form flat flakes. Only then should you add into the cold water, which will turn mixture a soft dough. Tip the dough out on a lightly floured surface and, using your fingers and palms, knead for 5 minutes. Put the dough back to the bowl, cover it with cling wrap and leave to rest for 20 minutes.IMG_4693.JPG
  2. Secondly, we can start making the filling. Cut the yellow chive into 0.5cm-length small pieces. In a separate mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients together.IMG_4694.JPG
  3. Thirdly, let’s make the wrapper and assemble. Divide the dough into three pieces. Pick one piece and cut it into 15 equal pieces. Simply use your hand to pick up each piece and pound it into the floured surface to make a small circular disc. Then using a rolling pin to smooth out each disc until it’s about 7cm in oval shape. You can add some flour to the rolling pin to keep the wrappers from sticking.IMG_4695.JPGFullSizeRender
  4. To wrap the potstickers, hold a wrapper flat in one hand, place one tablespoon of the fillings in the center of the wrapper with the other hand. Spread out the filling in the wrapper but do not push hard to avoid the filling to spill. Fold and pinch the edges together, leaving a 1-cm opening at both sides. Repeat with rest of the wrappers and filling until all are done.IMG_4696.JPG
  5. To make the crepe batter by simply combine flour, cooking oil and water in a small bowl. Now let’s cook. Arrange as many potstickers in a nonstick frying pan as it will fit without squeezing – though they should touch each other. Turn the heat to high. Gradually pour into the Crepe Batter from one side of the pan. When the batter starts boiling, turn the heat into low-medium. Cover the pan and cook for about 8-10 minutes.IMG_4698.JPG
  6. Remove the lid, hold the handle and gently shake the pan. The cooking is done when all the potstickers can be easily moved around when being shaken in the pan. Cover the pan with a big round-shape serving plan. Flip the pan. Then you will now have ‘one’ piece of the potstickers.IMG_4699