Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wonton Noodle @Mak Mun Kee, Hong Kong

Wonton noodle.
This is a must-have when in Hong Kong. It can be found in almost every street corner in HK.
This shop, 'Mak Mun Kee' is very well known for its wonton noodles. Its wonton is a densely packed parcel with succulent prawns. How do they get the prawns to be so springy?? The soup has a hint of seafood stock (could be some dried fish or dried scallop) and the noodles chewy with a definite bite. This combination is a magical dish for me. I would gladly go back to HK just for this!
A bowl of this cost HK$22 and it is worth every penny.

Mui and Yin had the 'shui jiao' dumpling noodles and they loved it too.

It is a no frills eatery, menu on the wall and a very limited choice of dishes.

We loved this delicious braised beef brisket and tendons. The tendons were cooked to perfection and literally melts in the mouth. Our only complaint was that they don't serve rice with it. It would have been prefect with rice, lots and lots of rice to go with the incredible gravy.

Braised pork leg with nam yee, fermented bean curd. Good too but a little too salty and we all preferred the beef tendon (a good source of collagen).

A simple blanched veggie.

Mak Mun Kee is located along Parkes Street in Jordan (right next to the Australia Dairy Co which is very popular for its western style breakfast).
Open daily from 12 noon to midnight.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Maiden Flight On Air Asia

Phew! Three cities in 6 days took a toll and I had to take a rest after the holiday. Slept for more than 14 hours straight to make up.

This trip was planned more than two months ago by Pit and her daughter, Yin. They arranged all the booking of air tickets and hotels through the internet. All Mui and myself had to do was pack our bags and be at the airport on time.

Almost like a guided tour but better, as it was tailored to our own itinerary. This was my first flight with Air Asia and was very apprehensive as the airline has a reputation as the airline that not only enables everyone to fly but also to wait and wait and wait and…

The wait never happened, in fact we were at least 15 minutes ahead of schedule on both flights between Kota Kinabalu and Macau. Both flights were operated by an Airbus A320 with a no frills interior but where it matters most, spacious leg room.
Syabas, Air Asia, keep up the good work!

A nasi lemak dinner that cost Rm 8. Quite tasty though.

Since we arrived early in Macau, we were able to catch the last Star ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui at 8.30pm (with a stretch of marathon running along the way!).
Arrived Kowloon just before 10pm and views of Hong Kong taken from where we disembarked at the Tsim sha Tsui 尖沙咀 terminal.

Been to Hong Kong numerous times but the last time I stepped on Hong Kong soil was almost two years ago on a short transit stop from Chengdu, China. The sight of this city was still so breathtaking and for Yin, first time to Hong Kong, this must surely had been exhilarating.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Braised Chicken With Arrowroots

One of my many favorite cny dishes. This is one dish that doesn't need much seasoning or extras to make it good.
Very simple but delicious, with each ingredient complimenting one another to make this dish special, especially as arrowroots are usually found only during the cny season in this part of the world.
I would make this dish as soon as I could find the arrowroots in the market, buy enough and then ration to last until chap goh mei.

Braised Chicken With Arrowroots
1 chicken or 4 thighs, cut into small pieces
500g arrowroots, peeled and half or quartered

2 Chinese sausage, cut into pieces
3 - 4 leek, rinsed off grits and cut into same size as sausage

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

~Season chicken pieces with some light soy sauce.

~Add 2 tablespoon of cornflour and mix well.

~Heat 3-4 tablespoon oil in the wok and brown chicken pieces. Drain.

~Leave about a tbsp of oil in the wok, add the sausage and garlic and fry till fragrant.

~Put the arrowroots and browned chicken in and add about a cup or two (depends on how much gravy you like) of stock or water.

~Bring to boil and lower heat to simmer.

~Simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken and arrowroots are soft.

~Add the leek and cook for 2 -3 minutes.

~Add salt or soy sauce to taste.

~Dish out and serve hot with steaming white rice.

These are the last of the veggie and will have to wait another year for the next dish/date with these tubers!

Leaving for Macau, Hong Kong and Shenzhen later today for a few days of eating and shopping binge. Hopefully be back with many good chows!!

Happy Chap Goh Mei to all ! (which is tomorrow and we'll be in HK :D)


Monday, February 18, 2008

Fa Cai Fried Rice

I love fried rice, to cook and to eat. Especially at this time when the fridge is packed with so many ingredients to choose from.
This dish was made in between the busy mahjong sessions. Quick and easy but extremely delicious. This is truly a feast in a dish packed with all the festive's essence.
More liau than rice :P

As the exact amount of ingredients in this dish isn't crucial, I do not specify the amount so you are free to experiment - add or omit, entirely up to you.
These are the many goodies I found in my fridge...

Fa Cai Fried Rice
~overnight cooked rice, loosened
~fresh prawns, peeled and diced
~chinese sausage, thinly sliced
~carrots, peeled and diced
~pumpkin, peeled and diced
~dried prawns, soaked and chopped
~leek, sliced
~fresh mushroom (shitake, button or enoki), cleaned and sliced
~yam, peeled, diced and deep fried (I used the 'khew nyuk' leftover yam)
~celery, diced
~red pepper, de-seed and diced
~garlic, chopped
~big onions, peeled and diced
~oyster sauce
~light soy sauce
~sesame oil
~salt and pepper

Heat oil in a hot wok.
Add the chinese sausage, onion and dried prawns then garlic and fry till fragrant.
Add pumpkin, yam, carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes until veggies soften.
Add fresh prawns and leek.
Push these to one side of wok (take out if wok too small), add another 1-2 tablespoons oil and add eggs.
Keep stirring to break up the eggs, add rice and put in the rest of the fried stuffs.
All these are done over very high heat so constant stirring and tossing is essential to avoid burning.
Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt and pepper to taste.
Lastly add the red pepper and celery to give an extra crunch and sweetness to this special fried rice.
Dish out and sprinkle some chopped spring onion to garnish.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cheats Vegan

First day of Chinese new year for many (especially the Chinese Buddhists) is a time for vegetarian dishes (zhai cai 齋菜). That makes sense after the sumptuous reunion feast the night before. We also do vegetarian but not strictly, tend to cheat here and there.
This so-called vegetarian dish 'loh han cai' (羅漢齋) is a must on our first day. A myriad of ingredients combined to create a distinct dish fit for the king!
Every household has its own version of this classic dish and most of the time it is not vegetarian because big chunks of siew yuk or some form of meat are added.
Dried mushrooms, ginkgo nuts, dried oysters (non-vegetarian but with great sound 'hau si' means 'auspicious things or events'), sweet bean curd sheets, lily buds, carrot, black fungus, mung bean vermicelli (tang hoon), red dates, Chinese cabbage, fatt choi (black moss), etc.
All these ingredients soaked, drained and saute individually with oyster sauce and then stewed together in a chicken stock broth seasoned with oyster sauce (some add nam yee, red fermented bean curd) over low heat until all the flavors come together in a most delicious yummy mash!

And K made a cashew nuts salad which is also not entirely vegetarian as chicken strips are used but still light and easy on the palate and stomach. Very refreshing.

K's braised shiitake mushrooms. 100% vegan!


Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's evening

We don't celebrate Valentine's day. But we do know that that's the day not to buy flowers or eat out! Rm15 per rose! That's almost the price of half a roast duck! Daylight robbery!
Anyway, having said all that, when Don came home this evening with these cakes for us, we were speechless and so, so touched.
Thank you, Don, for making this day, 14th Feb. special. You are our valentine too.

Chocolate cheese cake and chocolate heaven.
A little late...but better than never - Happy Valentine's to all!

Salmon Yee Sang 鱼生 (raw fish salad)

I think I better get this posted before the chap goh mei (15th day of the lunar new year when the new year celebration officially ends) so that you can also 'lou sang' without having to dig too deeply into your pocket!

Yee sang is a must-have CNY dish for us not only because it is sooo auspicious but it also tastes sooo good. The word yee (fish) means abundance and surplus. Sang means raw or lively. So yee sang literally means “raw fish” and symbolizes abundance, prosperity and vitality. What more can you ask for?

This recipe was adapted from Amy Beh's vegetarian dish featured in the Star newspaper many years ago. Since then, we have been doing it every year and it is a big hit with the whole family.
It requires a little more preparation but it is really well worth the effort.
No coloring, no preservatives, no msg and it is super delicious.

Traditionally, this was eaten on the seventh day of new year when the fishermen in Guangzhou celebrate their new year but nowadays, it is served all through the new year season.

Salmon Yee Sang
~2 cups white radish, shredded and soaked in cold water
~2 cups carrot, shredded and soaked in cold water
~1 cup green mango, shredded
~50g spring onions, shredded and soaked in cold water
~1 red chili, shredded
~2 cups pickled papaya, shredded
~6 pickled leeks, shredded
~2 cups pomelo wedges, peeled and separate the sacs
~4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
~20g young ginger, finely shredded
~1 pair yao char kwai, sliced thinly and deep-fried until crispy (I substituted
this with homemade deep fried crackers made of flour, nam yee, sesame seed, salt and water)
~1 cup sweet potato, finely shredded and deep fried
~1 cup yam (taro), finely shredded and deep fried (not in the original recipe but I added this cos I love yam and it has an auspicious sound 'wu tao' means 'good beginnings' )
~2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
~3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, pounded coarsely
~200g chilled sashimi-grade salmon, thinly sliced
~1/2 lime

~100g plum sauce (original recipe - 300g)
~1 tbsp apricot jam
~3 tbsp lime juice
~1 tbsp honey (original recipe - 3T which I found too sweet)
~1 tbsp sesame paste
~1 tsp sesame oil
~1/2 tsp salt or to taste
~1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder, put into a red packet

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a low simmering boil. Leave aside to cool completely before use.

Drain the shredded carrot, radish and spring onion well. Arrange the shredded ingredients attractively on a big, round serving platter. We used a huge 50 cm serving glass plate for the 14 of us!
Squeeze half a lime over the fish slices and arrange them on top of the shredded ingredients.

To serve, pour the sauce over the yee sang and sprinkle with the five-spice powder, the sesame seeds and roasted peanuts.

This is the fun part when we toss the salad together with chopsticks, wishing everyone good fortune, good health and greater success and lift everything higher and higher.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

David's Lotus Root Soup

Today we have a special guest blogger!
She is none other than my dearest sis. Mee Fung from the US of A. I have been bugging her for recipes as she and her hubby, David are great cooks.
Surprise! Surprise! She not only sent the recipe but with picture attachments and a write-up too! It took me a while to figure out how to transfer from the e-mail to the blog...totally techsavvy-less :)
Finally, here it is...a very appropriate dish too for this cny.

After a hard and tired day of shopping, my sisters and I came home to an aroma of good home cooking. Unexpectedly David had prepared a wonderful meal for us all. All five of my sisters were pleasantly surprised when the 1st course - Lotus Roots soup was served. Every single one of them was ranting, raving, indulging, having second and third until it was all gone. The rest of the courses were a blur. (Not a blur for me though, I still remember the steamed patin - a fresh water fish in light soy sauce. Sooo good! Jo.) So, on the eve of their departure, I bought them each a couple of bags dried sole fish to add to their jam-packed suitcases.

That was about ten years ago when they were all here in California for a visit. No, actually they were here to shop! No Disneyland, no Knott’s Berry Farms, no Universal Studio, no Hollywood, no Sea World…just good old fashion shopping and eating.

Ten years later, with the urging of my sister, Jo, I finally put this recipe together in writing. Although this special soup is David’s all time favorites and we have prepared it thousand of times, I never thought of writing it down. Yesterday was my chance when I found some soaked sole fish, octopus and peanuts sitting on the kitchen counter (guess who did it?). I thought, well, this is a good opportunity to get started. I grabbed a pen, a piece of paper and pulled out my tiny little camera and started working. When all is said and done, I have a written recipe and some pictures to share!
Believe me, not only this soup is easy to make but delicious and the aroma is incredible. No kidding, just ask any of my five sisters, they will tell you. (of course, they are not bias!! :P)

1 lb pork meat
½ a dried sole fish
Handful of dried octopus (softened -about one rice bowl)
1/3 cup of dried red beans
1 cup of uncooked peanuts (with skin on)
2 sections lotus roots
Chicken feet (8) – optional
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 tbsp smashed ginger

Soak peanuts, sole fish and dried octopus separately in water for a couple of hours
Cut pork into small cubes, sprinkle some salt.
In a pot, bring water to a boil add pork and ginger.
Cook for about 10 minutes then add the rest of the ingredients (except salt).
Bring to boil and turn burner to low and simmer for 2 hours.
Add salt to taste.
Before serving, retrieve lotus roots, cut crosswise and return to soup.
Bon appetit.

Mee Fung and Jo

Monday, February 11, 2008

Khew Yuk (pork with yam)

My first culinary inspiration must have come from my parents because I can still recall my father preparing the famous traditional Hakka dish called 'khew yuk' - a dish which combines pork belly slices with yam (taro).
This dish has a long and tedious process of preparation so it is only worthwhile to do a big batch at one go and share among family and friends.
That's one reason why he only made it during festive seasons.
I have watched him prepare this dish many times before but have never had the inclination to do it myself until last year...
But my dad didn't leave behind any recipes, he just went with his grey cells and taste buds, so I was at a loss as to how go about preparing this dish without him to consult.
Asked a few friends until I hit the jackpot... Mrs. Loh, a fantastic cook for traditional Hakka dishes and a good friend.
The kind soul that she is, came to the house and guided me through the whole process step by step.
Her version is very similar to my Dad's (almost identical except for the candied mandarin orange).
She came over and we did 10 bowls for this cny!
And with her consent I share with you this fantastic recipe:

Hakka's Khew yuk
Makes about 8 big chinese soup bowls

6 kg pork belly (cut into 3 long chunks, go with the grain)
4 kg yam
Oil for deep-frying
300g garlic, chopped
50g shallots, chopped

500 gm nam yee (red fermented bean curd) - get the one packed in this small brown jug

100 gm chit pian (candied mandarin orange), minced
1 - 1 1/2 tablespoon five-spice powder

1-2 star anise, optional
1/2 cup brandy or 'mei kuei lu' (chinese rose wine)*

300g crushed rock sugar, dissolved in 1L hot water

light soy sauce

dark soy sauce

To prepare the yam:
1) Peel and cut into 4 cm x 6 cm and 1 cm thick slices.
2) Rub the pieces lightly with light soy sauce.
3) Deep fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain and keep aside.

To prepare the pork:
1) Blanch pork in boiling water for about 5 minutes and drain.
2) Cut each piece lengthwise about 6 cm wide.
3) Rub light and dark soy sauce all over the pork.
4) Deep fry in hot oil until skin turns brown and crispy. Drain.
5) Soak the fried pork in water until the skin soften.
6) Cut into 1 cm thickness.
7) Marinate pork pieces with a tablespoon of num yee, 4-5 tablespoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon shallots, 1/2 T 5-spice powder and 2 T chopped chit pian.
8) Save about 3-4 T each of garlic and chit pian for the final assembly of the dish (to sprinkle on the bottom of each bowl before assembling the meat and yam).

Sauce: (the most crucial stage - either make or break the dish)
1) Heat 5 T oil and fry the remaining garlic and shallots until fragrant and light golden in color.
2) Add nam yee, constantly stirring, smashing it up until it turns fragrant and the oil rises.
3) Add in the rock sugar water, chit pian, the rest of 5-spice powder and soy sauce.
Now taste - it should taste a tad more salty, sweet and intense than the final result you want because the steaming will dilute the sauce a little.
Bring to boil. Let it cool.
Add the brandy.

To assemble:
Ready 8 bowls.

~Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of garlic and a pinch of minced chit pian at the bottom of each bowl.
~Spoon a tablespoon of the sauce into each bowl.
~Dip a piece of pork and yam into the sauce and place them in a bowl side by side with the pork skin facing downwards.
~Repeat until each bowl is filled.
~Place the leftover-odd sizes pork and yam on top of the assembled bowls to form a dome shape.
~Spoon the remaining sauce equally onto each bowl.
~Steam for 2-3 hours (depending on the age of the piggy used :p).

This dish can be made 2 to 3 weeks in advance. When cooled, wrap tightly in foil and plastic, and store in the freezer.

To serve, re-steam for 30 minutes or more. Take an empty same-size or larger bowl, place mouth-to-mouth on top of the bowl of khew yuk, hold the two bowls firmly with both hands and turn over quickly so that the khew yuk now sits in the empty bowl with the pork skin-side up.

Wanted to post this before the lunar year but just didn't manage to get the lengthy instructions done in time. I hope this post is not too late for you to try out the recipe before chap goh meh (15th day of the lunar year).
Good night.

Edit: *My brother called and corrected me that our dad used the chinese cooking wine called 'mei kuei lu' (rose wine) and not brandy.
I wasn't sure which one is a genuine good quality brand (so many imitation these days) so brandy was a safer option. Do use the rose wine if you can be sure of its quality, more authentic :D

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

CNY @ Square Table

We will be taking leave from blogging for the cny period. Won't have much time to cook or to post.
The reason being, we will be very busy with our yearly ritual, that is round-the-clock construction of the Great wall of China on the square table :p
Mahjong plays a very big role on this auspicious holiday in this family because this is the only time in the year that we find ourselves together with free time to play this game. In a way, this actually makes the game so much more appealing and eagerly awaited.
Our stake is so meager that it is embarrassing to play with anyone other than the family (can be winning the whole day and still can't earn enough to cover the cost of a decent meal!). Definitely no inflation here. I don't think it is going to be any different this year. It is more a game for the family to gather around to catch up with one another and share the past year's happenings as we don't get to see each other that often during the year.
We always start on new year's eve immediately after the reunion dinner to get re-acquainted as we tend to forget the game after not playing for a year.

So here I am, taking the bricks out to dust and clean, preparing for the opening act.

Hello, familiar faces. Good to see you and so glad to be together again.

With these, let us wish you and your family loads of good health, wealth and harmony
plus all of these...


Gong Xi Fa Cai (Congratulations and be prosperous )


Sui Sui Ping An (Peace year after year)


Nian Nian You Yee (surpluses and bountiful harvests yearly)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tang Yuan 湯 圓

I made these over the weekend. Love doing these leisurely.
After they are done put the whole tray into the freezer and let freeze for an hour or so.
Once frozen, pack them in plastic containers. They can be kept for a month or so.
To cook, just pop into boiling soup and wait for them to float to the surface, don't have to defrost .

300g glutenious rice flour
1 tablespoon undiluted pandan extract (I used fresh screwpine leaves)
a dash red food coloring

Mix the rice flour with water until it forms a soft pliable slightly sticky dough (easier to mould around filling when dough is slightly wet. If too dry, it tends to crack ).
Knead for 5 minutes to get a chewier texture.
Divide into 3 portions.
Add a tiny drop of red food coloring in one, pandan extract in the other and mix well.
Leave for about 30 minutes.

200g roasted peanuts
50 g toasted sesame seeds (black and white)
icing sugar to taste

Put peanuts, sesame seeds and sugar in a blender and blizt until almost the texture of peanut butter (more like crunchy peanut butter).
Test and see if the filling can be moulded to a small ball the size of a chickpea.
If it crumbles add some butter to bind.
I like to leave some sesame seeds whole for a slight gritty texture.
Mould into small balls.

To assemble:
Take a small ball of rice dough (about the same size as the filling).
Flatten it and place the small ball of peanut butter in the center.
Wrap dough round the filling and roll into a round ball (as round as possible please.
The rounder the tang yuan the more unity and harmony in the family :D)

2L water
red dates
dried longan meat
2-3 slices ginger
rock sugar to taste

Boil water with red dates and ginger, simmer for about half an hour until fragrant.
Add rock sugar to taste.
When ready to have the dessert, put fire to high, add the tang yuan.
When tang yuan rise to the top of boiling water add longan meat, cook for another minute and off the fire.
Dish out and enjoy with family.

Note: Tang yuan can be filled with tau sau (red bean paste), sesame seed paste or no filling at all. Soup can also be savoury with chicken stock.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Rosemary And Garlic Roast Chicken

This is a recipe from WW "Simply Delicious" Cookbook which I came across while browsing the internet.
Roast chicken probably is the easiest food to dish up when you need a bit of in-between time to watch your favourite program (at this moment it is the American Idol initial audition!).

Preheat oven to 180C
Prepare the bird (I used 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks). Take off most of the the fatty skin, towel-dry and marinate with salt and pepper. Coat chicken pieces with about 2 tbsp flour. Brown in a tbsp or 2 of hot oil. Drain and place in a heatproof casserole. Sweat 1 big thinly sliced onion in the same oil. Drain and place together with the chicken pieces.

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp dried chopped rosemary
2 cloves garic, cut into thin slivers
1/2 tsp salt

Mix vinegar, garlic, mustard, olive oil and rosemary together in a bowl.
Spread this sauce over the chicken and put into the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until chicken pieces become golden brown.
No need to turn, stir or whatever. Just sit back, relax and watch your favourite program!
The sauce was amazingly delicious with a very rich creamy texture although no cream or cheese were used. Prefect for telly dinners.