Salted Vegetable Duck Soup (咸菜鸭)– A Quick and Easy Way to Prepare This Traditional Soup Dish

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INTRODUCTION

This is a soup dish that I have always craved for it。 It is rather extraordinary as not many Fujian Chinese soup dish are as sour as this dish。 However, it is a well liked dish that most Chinese households would have their own recipe for this soup and every household will claim that theirs is the best. Though it is commonly thought of a Hokkien/Teochew/Peranakan (dialects) cuisines. however, to be more precise, it  is a Fujian province soup and even in People’s Republic of China, they have recipe for this soup.

When I was young, the soup were only prepared when they were big festivals or religious prayers. The main reasons were that ducks were relatively expensive and will only be served at big festivals. In addition, during religious festivals, lots of food were cooked and it is unlikely to finish all the foods in one day, this soup which is sour was less prone of turning bad if keep for a day or two as most households do not have refrigerators in the 1960’s. Thirdly, duck is very difficult to cook, traditional way will need braising of duck until the meat are soft and tender and the flavour of the salted vegetable starts to penetrate into the duck meat. Therefore, it is cooked only occasionally.

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Traditionally, the duck meat were braised for hours before it can be served. It is also a common belief that the soup be left overnight to become even tastier. However, with the introduction of new cooking equipment, the cooking time have cut short considerably. I have used one hour to cook this dish and get the same taste that my mum would have prepared for at least half a day. For this illustration, I have used pressure cooker that cut short the time considerably. However, previously, I have also use rice cooker (soup function) to cook the soup and slow cooker to boil overnight. However, the best equipment is still the usage of pressure cooker followed by rice cooker and finally slow cooker.

The most basic ingredients of this soup are ducks, salted vegetables, Chinese preserved sour plums and gingers. Ginger is a must because it will counter effect the cooling effect brought by the consumption of salted vegetables.  Chinese generally discouraged consumption of preserved vegetables as it will introduce “wind” to the body. All other ingredients are side ingredients which in my humble opinion are optional.

To make it even more sour, cooks are using tomatoes (which appeared to be an essential ingredient now), asam kulit (tamarind slices), vinegar, lemon and marinated lemon. Other more common ingredients are dried mushrooms, garlics and red carrots. There are also recipes in the internet that have  chilli, brandy as their ingredients!!!!!

For me, a good bowl of soup should be sweet (from the meat broth) and sour (not extremely sour) with a blend aroma of ginger and salted vegetables. Meat must be tender and soft.



WHAT IS REQUIRED ….

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  • 500 g of salty preserved Chinese Mustard
  • 1 kg of duck meat  (about half a whole duck  and de-skinned if preferred).

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  • 50 g of red carrots cut in small pieces
  • 10 small dried mushrooms soaked in water
  • 3 big whole garlics
  • 100 g of gingers (peel off the skin)
  • 100 g of tomatoes cut into big pieces
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 3 sour plums that can easily get from Chinese provision shops.
  • 6-8 cups of water (estimation)

Note:

Only the salted vegetables, duck, gingers and sour plum are the main ingredients. All other ingredients are side ingredients which are optional and a matter of personal preferences. Volume listed here are also for reference only as it is rather hard for you to get an exact 1 kg duck.. so full flexibility here.

It is advisable that you soak the preserved vegetable first before you cook the soup. I would rather soaked the salted vegetable for a longer time to reduce the saltiness and if the final soup is not salty enough, I will add salt to the dish. I usually soak the vegetable for at least half an hour.



STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • Layer your ingredients (except tomatoes)  between salted vegetables and meat and other ingredients . Why it is not a must but I have the habits of layering the ingredients to ensure the meat were well seasoned by the ingredients)
  • Add 6-8 cups of water or about 1.5 times the height of your ingredients. Note: if you are using pressure cooker, you can use this amount of water. However, if you are using rice cooker or stove to boil the soup, you may need at least 10 cups of water until the meat get tender and soft. It is ok to start with this volume of water and if the volume of water is not enough, you can add water along the way.
  • For pressure cooker, select “meat function” and it will took approximately 25-30 minutes. After cooking, let it rest in the pot for at least 15-30 minutes as it will continue to cook. BE CAREFUL WHEN HANDLING PRESSURE COOKER.  For rice cooker, select “soup function” and if after the first cooking, the meat is still or tender, you can select another round of soup function and stop when the meat have your required tenderness.  I usually cooked this before I went to bed and the next day, every thing is perfect.
  • When done, add in the fresh tomato and close the lid and rest for another 10 minutes before serving.

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  • Preferably served hot with rice .

 


CONCLUSION

  • This is a rather short post on one of the traditional Chinese soup dishes – Salted Vegetable Duck Soup. The reasons for the exact combinations of these two main ingredients are unknown. Possibly duck needs time to braise and salted vegetable can withstand long hour of braising. Ginger is a must, in my humble opinion to get rid of the meat raw smell and also have to role of preventing gas formation when consuming preserved vegetables. Sour plum is the traditional ingredient to make this soup sour though the present method have resort to the use of tomatoes, lemons, tamarind slices and etc. All other ingredients are optional and quantity can varies according to your own preferences.
  • Traditionally, the soup was cooked over charcoal stoves where you need at least 2 to 3 hours or longer to get the desire meat texture and soup flavour. However, with the pressure cooker as in this illustration, the cooking time have cut down considerably and it is easier to control the quality of the soup. Rice cooker soup function is another alternatives than can be considered.
  • While the soup is tasty and nice, excess consumption is not  recommended as this soup is consider as cooling according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. In addition, those with stomach acidity will also need to watch out the volume of consumption.

Hope you like it. It is not as difficult as what it is thought. It is a bowl of soup that I could never resists and you should be proud to modify the recipe to suit your families taste buds. Happy trying. Cheers.

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What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 25-7-2013

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On 25-7-2013, Chicken rice served with sweet kernel corn and mushroom soup.

As I have not cook chicken rice for quite a while, I have decided just to have a one dish dinner – Hainanese Chicken Rice. You can refer here for my detailed write up on the preparation of Chicken rice. Alternatively, you can refer to Guaishushu’s Facebook page for simple pictorial instructions.

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If you really observe the first picture, do you realize something are missing? Yes, two things were missing!  A very important garnish vegetables, cucumber slice. I always find that without cucumber slice, the whole chicken rice is missing something. Do you agree with me?

Secondly, there is a lack of green vegetable today. Usually, I would have a plate of blanched vegetable to go with it but because today is Friday, I have finished all the green vegetables in the fridge, Haha. I have said before in my earlier post, usually Sunday to Tuesday or Wednesday are leafy green vegetables and Thursday to Saturday are usually beans, melons or roots type of vegetables because it can be kept longer. We do marketing once a week and I am a rational cooker, I cooked based on First In First Out principle… I don’t usually cook impulsively..

 

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As I have additional chicken stock from simmering the chicken, I have decided to open a canned kernel corn and turned it into a corn soup. When I made the cake yesterday, I have some egg whites left and I just stir and “throw” inside the soup. It become a simple soup like the one you have in the chicken rice store.

Usually, when I cooked chicken rice, I will cook more than what is required. The rationale is that it take some efforts to prepare chicken rice, why not prepare some more. In addition, any left over chicken rice can be “recycled” and is a top choice for fried rice. Since it is already “marinated” rice and you need not to add much condiments and oil when you fried it.

Other than frying overnight chicken rice, we used to make it into chicken porridge for next day’s breakfast. After simmering the chicken, if you still have the chicken stock left, just keep it. In the next morning, just throw in the left over chicken rice, any chicken meat left (of course de-boned and possibly shredded into floss), add in a bit of condiments, it will become a bowl of chicken porridge.

Will it harm you to eat overnight food?  I do not want to think about it and as long as it is properly kept with no possibility of contamination, it should be ok. How about how grandparents or parents? Is it not the Westerners used to heat up frozen foods that were prepared well in advance?


Other than the above, the project of the day included the following:

 

Impromptu Ixora Birthday “Cup Cake”

Preparing an impromptu birthday cake for one of my internet friends who “requested” me to “bake” a birthday cake for her and wish her happy birthday over the internet. This cake is decorated with ixora flowers which is abundant in Malaysia and Singapore.. Do you mind if someone posted this cake to your timeline wishing you happy birthday?

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Butterfly Cupcake

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This is an extremely simple cup cake recipe. Add all ingredients and mixed well, bake and you get the cake. It was served with cream and strawberry jam as the basic cup cake have very little sugar. it was dusted with sugar powder. Do you think it will taste nice?


Rose Cake

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This should be a celebration cake but need further modifications. I am doing  in a rush and therefore  the workmanship is really terrible. Haha.


Modified Version of Raas Malai

This is a dessert originated from India and an extremely popular in South Asia. It was served in wedding ceremony and other important festival occasions. Traditionally, the raw ingredients are paneer (Indian Cheese) and milk. The recipe is adopted from http://free-advertising-ey.blogspot.it/2013/07/raas-malai-sweet-from-bangladesh.htmlk with some modifications to suit the Chinese taste buds. Modifications include reducing the use of spices such as cinnamon, cardamon and etc.. In addition, strawberry were added.

 
As this dessert look milky and cheesy, I have decided to let my kids try out the dessert exposing them to more international cuisines. The preparation are rather coincidence. This afternoon when I have over whipped my cream, I thought I might as well used this over whipped cream to make the dessert. I added fresh milk to the over whipped cream and heat until it boiled. Knowing that my kids will not really like spices like cardamon, cinnamon , I have decided to tailor it to a more Chinese taste buds. I meshed 5 ripe strawberries and add to the milk and let them boiled together with the milk.

As for the cheese balls, I have used mozarella cheese to make it instead of paneer or cheddar cheese. I meshed 2 strawberries, added to the cheese, added 1 tablespoon of water and shaped it into small balls. My balls are rather small compared to the authentic because I know my kids wouldn’t be able to take such a big cheesy ball.  I dropped the balls to the cool milk and put in the fridge. During serving, I found it too creamy (possibly due to my over whipped cream), I have further diluted with cold fresh milk and cut slices of fresh strawberry to go with it.

 

Verdict: Extremely nice sweet milky soup with strawberry flavour. As long as you like milk, I do not think you have any reasons not to like it.

As for the cheese balls, my girls can take all but my boys feels a bit too rich and salty to him. As for me, I loved the cold milk but for the cheese balls, one or two should be Ok but not too much as when I was young, Chinese were not exposed to ” cheesy things”…. Haha.. I will say those who like cheese, go ahead and make this milky desserts.. It is just delicious.
 

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LASTLY, HOPE YOU LIKE THE POST TODAY!  AND HAVE A NICE WEEK END.

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Hey, This is not Italian Meat Rolls, It Is Chinese Meat Rolls Called Ngoh Hiang

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INTRODUCTION

This post is sharing the Chinese version of meat rolls or Ngoh Hiang. It is different from the meat roll in Western cuisines such as the Italian meat rolls. Usually, minced meat (usually pork) and prawns were used and wrapped in a dry bean curd sheet.

Meat roll is an extremely popular dish for Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese households. The number of recipes available are the same with the numbers of Chinese grandmothers meaning every household have their unique recipe and all claims that theirs is the best. Depending on the dialect groups, meat rolls can be also be called ngoh hiang (five spices or 五香) or lok bak (卤肉)or hay g’ng (虾卷)

This recipe of mine, again is based on my recollection of what my late mother have prepared and the various meat rolls that I have tasted throughout the years.  I have purposely prepared this  meat roll for the noodle dish Lor Mee, a common Hokkien dish in Penang.

Usually, we prepared more meat rolls than required and stored in the refrigerators. When we wanted to serve the meat rolls, we will re-heat it.  Chinese meat rolls traditionally are commonly prepared for religious ceremonies or important house gatherings. The process  of preparation can be slightly laborious and usually ladies in the house were called to help with the preparation.

 


MEAT ROLLS OR NGOH HIANG DEFINED

As per Wikipedia: 

Ngo hiang (Chinese: 五香; pinyin: wǔxiāng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: ngó͘-hiong), also known as heh gerng (Chinese: 虾卷; pinyin: xiājuàn; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: hê-kǹg) or lor bak (Chinese: 五香滷肉; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: ngó͘-hiong-ló͘-bah) is a unique Hokkien and Teochew dish served in many of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore’s hawker centres and in Cebú in the Philippines, in addition to its place of origin in eastern China. In parts of Malaysia the dish is known as loh bak or lor bak.

It is essentially a composition of various meats and vegetables and other ingredients, such as a sausage-esque roll consisting of minced pork and prawn (or fish) seasoned with five-spice powder (Hokkien: 五香粉, ngó͘-hiong-hún) after which it is named, rolled inside a beancurd skin and deep-fried, lup cheong, cucumber, century egg, ginger, deep-fried egg, deep-fried beancurd, fishball and many others. It is usually served with chili sauce and a house-special sweet sauce. Many stalls in Singaporean food courts and hawker centres sell fried bee hoon with ngo hiang; this combination is common for breakfast and lunch. In Indonesia, people enjoy ngo hiang with sambal sauce. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngo_hiang)

 


WHAT IS REQUIRED

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  • 1 kg of minced meat – In this illustration, I have used minced pork. However, minced chicken breast can also be used.
  • 250 g of prawns cut into small chunks – you can also mince the prawns. I have opted to use chunked prawns instead of minced prawns as  I would like to have some prawns being seen in my meat rolls.
  • 200 g of fish paste (optional). I have used this to enhance the seafood fragrance and improve the binding properties of all materials inside the meat rolls.
  • 4-5 spring onions chopped into small pieces
  • 1 big onion chopped into small pieces
  • 10 water chestnuts peeled and cut into small pieces. The purpose of water chestnuts is to let the meat rolls have some feel of crunchiness when eaten.

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  • half cup of corn flour – purpose is to enhance the springiness of the meat roll;
  • 1 cup of wheat flour – purpose is to enhance the stickiness of the ingredients. Without wheat flour, the meat rolls can be rather loose.
  • 1 egg – purpose to increase the stickiness and fragrance of the meat rolls.
  • 1 tablespoon of salt 
  • 3 tablespoons of light soya sauce to taste
  • 2 teaspoons of five spices powder (optional). Though the name is called Ngoh Hiang (five spices), my family seldom put these spices as our family members do not really like the aroma. However, most of the meat rolls that I have tasted do put these spices.
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oils
  • 5 teaspoons of white pepper
  • 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 12 sheets of bean curd sheets of 6 inches x 6 inches big

 


STEPS OF PREPARATION

Mixing the ingredients…….

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  • In a big mixing bowl, place all ingredients together. Use a big spoon to stir until all ingredients are well mixed. As some of the ingredients can be very fine (such as five spice powders, white peppers and etc.), you can also add the ingredients in stages if you find that it is difficult to mix well by putting all the ingredients all at once.
  • The final picture is the well mixed minced meats and it is considered as well mixed when the colour is even and consistent. The minced meat can be rather sticky due to the addition of egg and wheat flour.

 


Rolling the minced meats…

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  • In a flat surface, place a dried bean curd sheet. Use a wet hand to lightly pat the bean curd sheets. The purpose is to make it more flexible as too dry the bean curd sheets can be easily broken.
  • Placed about 150 grams of minced meats on top of the dry bean curd sheets.
  • Make a small roll, fold in the sides, used some of the minced meats or water to apply to the sides and corners of the bean curd sheets. Roll the minced meat until the end of the bean curd sheets. With the minced meat or water at the sides, it will help to  bind the bean curd sheets together.
  • If you runs out of bean curd sheets, you can shape the remaining into a ball and deep frying it. Please refer to the section below “When you runs of bean curd sheets”.

 


Steaming the meat rolls….


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  • In a steamer, place some water and bring to boil.
  • Transfer the meat rolls to the steamer and steamed for 15 minutes. Use a skewer/toothpick to penetrate one of the rolls and ensure that the skewer/toothpick  comes out clean.

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Deep frying the meat rolls……..

This step will involve frying the meat rolls. However, if you do not want the meat roll to be deep fried, you can also served it after steaming by cutting into small slices. Traditional ways of preparation will require the meat rolls to be deep fried such that the bean curd sheets will become crispy and golden brown.

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  • In a deep pot, have some oil until smoking hot. As a test of whether the oil is adequately hot for frying, place a wooden chopstick into the hot oil. If bubbles start to come out, it means that oil is ready for frying.
  • Place the meat rolls into the hot oil and deep fried until golden brown. Note that as the whole roll is already cooked, therefore the purpose of this step is just to ensure that bean curd sheets are crispy and the color is golden brown, therefore, the timing of the deep frying is rather fast usually less than  5 minutes.
  • Take out the meat rolls and place it in a plate with an oil absorbing paper on the plate.
  • Cut into small pieces when serving. Condiments can include sweet chilli sauce or plum sauce.

 


 

 

 

 

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What would happens if you runs out of bean curd sheets….

It is rather difficult to estimate the exact quantity of bean curd sheets that you need. At times, you may run of bean curd sheets as not all rolls are of the same sizes. In that case, you can shape the minced meats into small balls and roll it in the biscuit crumbs before deep frying (steps as above).

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  • Have some biscuits and grind it as fine as possible. Add some corn flour to the biscuit crumbs.
  • Shaped the minced meats into small balls and roll the balls in the biscuit crumbs.
  • Placed in the hot oil until the skin of the balls turns golden brown. Take out and place in an oil absorbing paper.

 


CONCLUSIONS

Meat rolls are a common household dish among Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese.  There are many recipes and each family will claim their is the best. Making meat rolls can be laborious but the moment you put it in your mouth, the taste is worth every efforts preparing it. Meat rolls are usually prepared for religious ceremonies and is served in restaurants as one of the cold dish. It is also used for noodle dishes such as lor mee. A detail post on the preparation of lor mee will be released soon. Preparation of lor mee will require  the use of these meat rolls  and meat balls as the ingredients.

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Hope you LIKE the post to day. Have a nice day and cheers.

 

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CCC – Cheesy Cassava Cake–A Modified Version of The Traditional Nonya Kuih Bengka Ubi

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INTRODUCTION

Tapioca or cassava is a staple root widely consumed in regions like Africa, Asia, Oceania and etc. It is easily propagated and commonly found in South East Asian countries. Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are the top three exporter of tapioca in the world.

Tapioca or cassava cake is a very common household cake of any races (be in Chinese, Malay, Indian or other races) in Singapore and Malaysia. However, in the Peranakan cooking, Kueh Bengka Ubi is one the most famous items in its cuisines.

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There are generally two methods of making cassava cake, by steaming or baking. Chinese preferred to have its cassava cake steamed, as soft as possible and served with shredded coconut (at times this is needed as the cake are so soft and smooth that it is shapeless). On the other hand, the Nonya preferred to bake the cake using charcoal stoves or ovens. Usually, the baked cassava cake have a slightly burnt crusty top and the body is yellowish in colour and texture is rather “elastic”. It is very aromatic with a mixture of fragrances from pandanus leaves, coconut milks and eggs.

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CHEESEY CASSAVA CAKE

This recipe is my own without making reference to any recipes in the internet. As usual, I have prepared based on what I think is workable, memories on the cake that I have tasted before and one or two attempts a few months back.

This cake is different in its texture and its taste. Besides the normal fragrance of the traditional cassava cake, the  cake have a rich and cheesy fragrance. In addition, as you can infer from the pictures above, the texture is moist but not soggy or sticky. In fact, you can cut it into any shape that you want.

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The incorporation of cream cheese had made the cassava cake smoother and creamier. It helps to heighten the flavour of the eggs, coconut milk, butter and the cassava original flavour.

I have used small sago balls to enhance the texture. Grated cassava, under high heat can turn very sticky and subsequently become very chewy. The additions of sago balls somehow will help to sooth the texture making it even smoother.

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WHAT IS REQUIRED

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  • 100 g of sago balls – soaked in water (Volume of water should be about 2 times of the sago ball and note that the balls will expand)
  • 150 g of butter
  • 200 g of cream cheese
  • 250 g of granulated sugar

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  • 4 eggs
  • 200 ml of thick coconut milks
  • 1 kg of finely grated tapioca or cassava. You can buy in the market and grate it yourself. If you want to grate it yourself, you will have to use the food processor to chop it as finely as possible, and then you can proceed to use  a blender (instead of an cake mixer) to perform the following steps. You will need to put in your chopped cassavas, eggs, coconut milks and blend it to as smooth as possible).
  • Red and green (pandanus) colouring (optional) – I have resorted to the use of red and green colouring this illustration as I find that the traditional cake are rather dull in colour and I want my cake to look more colourful and appetizing.

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • Pre-heat your oven to 180 degree Celsius.
  • Get ready a 8 inch x 8 inch baking tin. Slightly grease the tin with either butter or cooking oil. Dust some wheat flour if necessary.
  • In the mixing bowl, beat your butter, cream cheese and sugar using medium speed until evenly mixed. Note that the purpose of this step is not to let you have a fluffy cake like other cake recipes. The beating here is mainly a mixing step, a step to ensure that the butter and cream cheese are evenly mixed.

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  • Once well mixed, add in your eggs one at a time and followed by the coconut milk. You should only use low speed for this simple mixing purpose. Scrap out the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl to ensure that there are not cheeses sticking to the bowl.
  • At this stage, you will notice that the mixture become more and more watery which is normal and hence SPEED SHOULD BE LOW as long as mixing can be performed.

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  • Add in the grated cassava and soaked sago balls. “Beat” at the lowest speed possible. You will see that after 1-2 minutes of slow mixing, the liquid start to disappear as it was further absorbed by the sago balls.
  • Separate into approximately 4 equal portions. One portion with red colouring, one portion with green colouring and the other two portions maintain the original colour.

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  • Pour the uncoloured portion of the batter to the tin, followed by green and red portion. It is entirely up to readers as to what design you want your cake to cook like. For me , I have opted to have some simple big stripes design. As the batter is not very watery, it is rather easy for you to design your pattern.
  • Baked using 190 degree Celsius for about 30-45 minutes or until set. Until set means when you push the baking tin, the centre of the cake does not “vibrate”. Another test is that you insert a skewer in the centre of the cake, the skewer come out clean. However, as this is a cassava cake, cassava when hot can be slightly slimy and as long as you taste it is not raw, the cake is consider as cooked.
  • Leave the cake in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Cutting of cake is  best done 3-4 hours after baking to ensure that centre of the cake is completely cool. As long as when you cut the cake, there are some cake stick to the knife, your cake is considered as not cool completely.

  • Serving suggestions – you can serve with shredded coconut with white sugar and hot tea or coffee.
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CONCLUSIONS

  • This is a modified recipe by incorporating cream cheese and sago balls to the traditional cassava cake. The main aim is to smoothen the cake texture and make the cake creamier along with the fragrance of eggs, coconut milk and cassava.
  • Resulting from the modification, this will be totally different from the traditional cassava cake that you may have tried. It is soft, slightly springy and with cheesy coconut fragrance.  The shredded sugar coconut with heighten the palate and reach another higher dimensions.
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  • It is easy to cut into your desired sizes and looks presentable in tea party as a snack items.
  • If you think that you are a professional Nonya cake baker, you should try and tell me what is your opinion. If you are new to pastry making, this is one item that will not ruin your confidence.

Hope you LIKE it and have a nice day. Cheers

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Let’s See How An Asian Make The Tomato Pasta Sauce From Scratch ….

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INTRODUCTION

This is the homemade pasta sauce from scratch. I learned this many years ago from one of my French friends staying in Paris, France. When I visited her, she is preparing the pasta sauce and I can vividly remember certain steps in the preparation but sad to say, I can’t really recall the happy time we had during the dinner.

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This post will consist of two parts:

Part 1  –  the making of homemade pasta sauce and

Part 2 – the making of baked pasta with pineapple

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PART I – MAKING OF HOMEMADE PASTA SAUCE


WHAT IS NEEDED

This recipe is adequate to make tomato pasta sauce for at least 6 persons and have about 600 grams left for baked pasta.

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  • 1 kg of tomatoes 
  • 2 big size capsicums (preferably red in colour but green colour is acceptable) – optional 
  • 3 big stalks of celery – optional and in this illustration, I did not include this 
  • 3 large onions 
  • 6 chicken franks – optional
  • 500 g of fresh button mushroom (can be substituted with canned mushrooms) – optional 
  • 500 g of minced meat (beef or chicken or pork). In this illustration, pork was used.

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  • 20 cloves of garlic 
  • 30 grams of butter (can be substituted with olive oils)
  • 1 tablespoon of Italian dried herbs 
  • 100 grams of mozzarella cheese 
  • 10 tablespoons of tomato ketchups (optional, for “colouring” purposes) 
  • 1 pack (about 300g) of pasta of your choice. 
  • Seasoning (Salt, black pepper, sugar)

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PREPARING THE RAW INGREDIENTS……..

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  • Clean the tomato and all other raw ingredients.
  • In a big pot, bring some water to boil. Place the tomato into the hot water and let it boil for a few minutes or until the skin slightly peeled it off. Note that as long as the skin start to break, you can transfer to the cold water as mentioned below.
  • Get ready a pot of icy cold water. Place the tomato in the icy cold water.
  • Peel off the skin by hand which is rather easy.

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  • Cut opened the de-skinned tomato. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
  • Use your hand to squeeze off the seeds and/or juices into a clean container.
  • You can either throw away these juices or keep it as tomato juices. It is okay to drink the seeds as it is very fine and slippery.
  • Set aside the tomato flesh for future uses.

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  • Traditional way of making pasta sauces do not really utilize food processors. However, I have opted to use food processors to cut short the braising time.Traditionally, all items were julienned or cut into small chunks for the cooking.
  • Use the food processors to cut the garlic and onion in small chunks (need not to be overly fine since you are going to braise them), set aside.
  • Use the same blender to blend the red and green capsicum or celery (if any). For celery, you will need to de-skin the celery first before you put into the blender. The red and green capsicum and celery will help to add volumes and flavour to your pasta sauce. If only tomato is used, it may be too sour.

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  • Cut the chicken franks into small chunks. This is optional and rather “Asian” taste. I have put this because my kids love to eat chicken franks.
  • Cut your button mushrooms into thin slices. Canned mushrooms works equally well.
  • Minced meat of your choice. Traditionally, beefs were used. As I do not eat beef, I have substituted with minced pork or at times minced chicken. I have bought the ready made minced meat from the supermarket.
  • Grated mozzarella cheese. I have opted to buy the grated mozzarella cheese but it is not necessary at all. If you have un-grated cheese, you can just cut a slice (without grating) and put it in the sauce later. It will melt subsequently.

THE COOKING BEGINS…..

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  • In a big pot, put the butter and let it melt.
  • Add in the chopped garlics, stir fried until it turns slightly brown or the aroma start to emit.
  • Add in the chopped onion and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  • Add in the chopped green and red capsicums and stir fry for another 2 minutes.

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  • Add in the chopped tomato and bring them to boil under high heat.
  • Once boiled, turn to medium heat and let the mixture simmer for at least half an hour.
  • Add in seasoning and herbs and let them boil for another 5 minutes. Seasonings can include pinches of sugar, black pepper and salt. As for the Italian herbs, I have bought the over-the-counter dried herbs which consist of basil, oregano, garlic, thyme, red bell peppers and parsley.
  • If you just want pure pasta sauce without any meat. You can stop here and you can keep it in sterilized containers and keep for at least a month in the fridge. The steps that follows are meat sauces for the spaghettis or other pastas.

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  • Add in your minced meat and cooked for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add sliced mushrooms and chicken franks.
  • As this is home made pasta sauce, the colour will very much depends on the types of tomato that you bought. In Singapore and Malaysia, it is rather hard for you to find Roman tomato, we can just use whatever tomatoes we have. However, the colour may not be that appealing, you can add in bottled tomato sauce to make the colour darker. In addition, it will help to enhance the flavour of the pasta sauce.

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  • Continue to boil for at least 10 minutes, add mozzarella cheese and once boiled, off the heat and your home made pasta sauce is ready.

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COOKING THE PASTA…..

This is rather standard and you should read the instructions of the packaging for the pasta that comes with it.

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  • In a pot with about 2 litres of water, add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil (olive oil) and pinches of salt. Bring to boil under high heat.
  • Add the pasta and continue to boil for 8-10 minutes or till desired texture.
  • Drain away hot water and pour some cold water on top of the pasta for one minute.
  • Drain, add in pasta sauce and garnished with parsley or any other desired herbs  and it is ready to serve.

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CONCLUSION

  • Home made pasta give you the a full flexibility of adapting the ingredients and herbs to your family taste buds and health objectives. Most ingredients are substitutable and trial and error or mix and match appeared to be the best approach to design your own favourite pasta sauce. I have also opted to use food processor in the preparation process and that have cut short the preparation tremendously.
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For my readers from Western countries, since baked pasta and pasta sauce are more popular in your countries, tell me if you think the pasta is yummy and if the baked pasta will suit your taste buds.

Hope you LIKE the post and have a nice day. Cheers.

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Blanching Vegetables in Chinese Cooking – 利用汆烫准备可口的中式的”菜”肴

 

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INTRODUCTION

Traditional Chinese cooking don’t usually use the blanching method for cooking its vegetables. Usually, they stir fried with oil in a hot wok or frying pan. 

My mum will usually take out a frying pan, put in some oil, stir fry the garlic or shallots until golden brown, throw in the vegetables, add seasonings, stir fried for another 1-2 minutes and scope in the plate for serving. That is rather traditional and applicable to almost all types of vegetables. The disadvantages of using oil for stir flying vegetables are that the vegetable’s will lose its color and some vitamins will lose in this process.

In most restaurants, realizing that the color of the vegetables will turn less appealing and that the texture will be compromised, the chef will usually blanched the vegetable before stir frying the vegetables. This will  cut short the stir frying time so as to preserve its greenish appearance and some of the vitamins.

In this post, I will share with you the various combinations that you can prepare your vegetable dish using the water blanching method without stir frying but the dishes are equally tasty. 


WHY THIS POST

My son, aged 7 have a slightly high body mass index and was requested by the school authority to participate in the weight reduction program. Knowing that the school is concerning about his weight issue, I have decided to alter my methods of cooking and one of which is by blanching the vegetables instead of stir frying the vegetables. The first meal (blanched kailan with oyster sauce)  was well received by my family members and the whole plate of vegetables were being snatched by my son, daughter and wife within 5 minutes of putting in the table. Seeing such a good response from the family members, I have decided to explore more vegetables and with as many types of dressing as possible..In the next 9 meals that I prepared, I have created different dressings with different vegetables and to my delight, they don’t really notice the difference and my son have requested for more vegetables..


 

BLANCHING METHOD DEFINED..

According to http://chinesefood.about.com,

“Blanching is a process whereby the food is briefly plunged in boiling water for a moment. Sometimes it is then immediately transferred to ice water to stop the cooking process. This technique is commonly used with Chinese vegetables prior to stir-frying. The goal is to bring out the color and flavor of the vegetable without overcooking.source: (http://chinesefood.about.com/od/glossary/g/blanch.htm)”


BLANCHING OF CHRYSANTHEMUM GREEN ILLUSTRATED

In this post, I will share with readers one vegetable dish that I have prepared for my dinner today – Chrysanthemum green with Chinese black vinegar dressing (春菊拌浙醋)。Measurements were intentionally omitted as it is just vegetables plus seasonings all of which can be adjusted to individual tastes.

Chrysanthemum green is a type of vegetables that are quite common in Korean, Japanese , Taiwanese and Cantonese Cuisines. It can be eaten raw but the stems can be slightly tough. It can be stir fried, blanched or cooked in soup or appeared as a garnish in some Chinese dishes like Taiwanese oyster pancake.

 

WHAT YOU NEED

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  • Some chrysanthemum greens (you can chopped the stems into smaller pieces)
  • Some cherry tomatoes
  • Some sesame seeds, fried onion for garnishing
  • Some light soya sauce, black vinegar or lime juice, sesame oils (onion oil), salt, sugar

 

STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • Wash the vegetables and set aside. As this preparation only deal with blanching, you may wish to soak the vegetables in the water for a longer while to clear all unseen particles and chemicals..
  • Take out a container or salad bowl and put in your condiments. In the above picture, I have included some shredded chili, fried onions, Chinese black vinegar, salt, pepper and sesame oil.
  • In a frying pan, put in some water. Add in pinches of salt (as you can see the white patch next to the red color patch) and a few drops of onion oil (cooking oil also can be used). This feel drop of oils are very important to preserve the color of your blanched vegetables and to keep the juices in the vegetables.
  • When the water is boiling, throw in the chrysanthemum green and let it boiled for about 3 minutes.


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  • Add in the cherry tomatoes and blanched for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Sieve the blanched vegetables and transfer to the salad bowl or the mixing container. Note that I have by passed the step of blanching the vegetable in some ice water as the dish will be served immediately after it is prepared. However, if you prefer, you can dip the blanched vegetable in ice water of about 1 minutes to preserve its crunchiness (not necessary depending on type of vegetables) and color.
  • Stir until well mix and transfer to another plate. Sprinkle with sesame seed and best served hot with rice.

The dish is simple and as chrysanthemum greens are a bit tough, you can blanch it longer and cut into smaller pieces. This dish is full of vitamins and the Chinese black vinegar dressing is just like the French dressing in French cuisines. Of course there are oriental elements such as sesame oil and black vinegar that make it taste like Chinese cuisines. Should I have lime (kalamansi with me), I will use it instead of black vinegar. It is fully flexible be it type of dressings, toppings and vegetables.


VARIATIONS

For the sake of oil less cooking, there are many Chinese vegetable dishes which can use the blanching method instead of traditional stir frying method.

Blanching method of Chinese vegetable dishes like the Western cuisine’s salad preparation is a matter of finding the right combination of vegetables and dressings. Chinese are less prone to eating the vegetables freshly picked (raw), therefore in order to promote healthier eating habitat with minimal amount of fats possible, an intermediary step is to blanch the vegetables .

The following table shows different types of Chinese vegetables that I have ever cooked using the blanching method and different dressings used. Both the list of vegetables and dressings are endless and are open to all types of combinations depending on the chef’s creativities.

Vegetables Meat  (protein)
Kailan
Minced pork
Pak Choy Meat slices/strips
Choy Sim Chicken breast
Broccoli Prawns
White Stem Pak Choy Shredded chickens
Chrysanthemum Greens Pork /chicken floss
Capsicum Baby Shrimps
Celery

Anchovies
Tomatoes Egg omelet strips
etc., etc., etc.  (endless) etc., etc., etc.  (endless)
   
Something to bite Seasonings
Sesame seeds Black Vinegar
crunched nuts Lime/kalamansi juice
Japanese rice seasoning sprinkle Mayonnaise+Tomato sauce (‘000 island)
Macadamia Salt
Chopped chili Sugar
Chopped fresh garlic MSG (if you preferred)
Fried garlics or shallots Onion Oil
Pine seeds Pepper
Dry mushrooms stripes Belachan (shrimp paste)
Shredded century eggs Oyster sauce
etc., etc., etc.  (endless) etc., etc., etc.  (endless)

SAMPLE DISHES

The pictures below are some of the dishes that I have prepared for my family as detailed in “what I have cooked today series”. The preparation are basically the same, blanching and mixed. You can also see more in the linked – PINTEREST BOARD-VEGETABLE DISHES HERE

Blanched mix vegetables with prawns (杂菜虾球)

 

Blanched Baby Kailan with Oyster Sauce (

耗油小芥兰)

Blanched White Stem Pak Choy with anchovies (

小银鱼白菜)

Blanched Broccoli with Minced Pork (

肉碎西兰花)

 

 

 

 

 

Blanch Tri-color Capsicum with Chicken Breast (

三色柿子椒拌鸡柳)

Blanched baby Pak Choy with minced pork (

肉碎拌小奶白)

Pak Choi with Oyster Sauce (

耗油上海青)

Blanched Chye Sim with meat floss (菜心拌肉松)


CONCLUSIONS

In traditional Chinese cooking, blanching of vegetables is generally not common. The exposure of Western Cuisines have made me come out with this fusion which I believed will be acceptable by both Asians and non-Asians. Without stir frying, the vegetables can be equally tasty.

While this resembles salad in western cuisines’ term but it have elements of oriental cooking due to the type of condiments used. It will definitely healthier because fats intake will be limited and more vitamins will be retain in the vegetable resulting from shorter cooking time. It will also eliminate the fear of eating raw vegetables which is supposed to be even more nutritious.

My favorite dressing is a type of dip for my fried fish (light soya sauce + chili + lime juice + shredded garlics + bit of sugar). For me , it blends equally well when I used it for my blanched vegetables. I like to prepare this if I want to lose weight and of course this is an acquired taste. You can invent your own dressing and you will be surprised that how well received blanched vegetables are if the dressings are right!

Why don’t you try my favorite dressing and let me know what you think?

What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 6-6-2013

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On 6 June 2013,

White rice served with :

1. Minced meat fried with mushrooms and candied winter melon 香菇冬瓜条炒碎肉
2. Blanched Kailan with pork floss  芥兰拌肉松
3. Blanched mixed vegetables and prawns 杂菜虾球
4. ABC Soup ABC 鸡汤

The minced meat fried with mushrooms and candied winter melons is actually the leftover fillings from wrapping my rice dumplings. I have add a bit of water and treated as a dish. It is actually very tasty and kids love it (of course, rice dumpling without glutinous rice).

Another is a common Malaysian household soup called ABC soup. It is a soup that usually include red carrots, onions, potatoes and tomatoes. Sometime, baby corns were added. When I search the soup in the Internet, there are no confirm literature on the origins and meanings of ABC soup. There are belief that it represent Vitamin A (for carrots), Vitamin B6 (for potatoes), Vitamin C (for tomatoes) that is how the name arises.

I personally have another way of interpretation. As ABC soup is a common Malaysian Chinese Soup and also called luo Song Tang (Borscht of
Eastern European Countries), the soup is clearly  influenced by European Countries cookings. As carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, baby corns are traditionally not common cooking ingredients in Chinese cuisines, ABC can mean to refer Ang mo (Caucasian) ways of cooking. In addition, the cooking method of putting all vegetables in a soup is another clear indication that it is Ang mo cooking. Therefore, in my humble opinion, ABC soup  should refers to soups commonly cooked by the Caucasian during the Colonial Times . Instead of using the term Ang Mo, ABC alphabet were used.