What I Cooked Today Series (Special Post)- 2013 Mid Autumn Festival

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INTRODUCTION

I have not forgotten about this series –  “What I Cooked Today Series”! I have discontinued for a while because I am a vegetarian and the dishes were usually cooked by my mother in law who is visiting me. Therefore, I can’t claim the credit of the dishes cooked if I posted it.

Well this series will be starting soon in one two weeks time after end of my vegetarian diet. This year, I have calculated wrongly about the starting date of my diet, therefore, I am having slightly more than 2 months of vegetarian diet and it was pointed out by my neighbour when I keep on rejecting her meat dishes. She asked curiously why the diet is so long this year, she said it cannot be ! I asked my wife to recalculate again and yes, we are wrong as both of us are not that concern about anniversary dates.

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Yesterday is the Mid Autumn Festival, one of the very big festivals for the Chinese worldwide. Even People’s Republic of China’s government have declared this day as a holiday in recent years. Usually, in big festivals, family gathering and get together is very important.

I only confirmed to invite my nephew’s family for dinner yesterday morning and I told them that I would only cooked what I have at home. As they are my very close relatives, I need not really concerned about what I should cooked as he have been staying with me for the past few years. I did not have the time to plan for the meal as I have to take care of the kids and I have to rush out my report for Eight Treasure Porridge.

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I only started cooking at 4.00 pm in the afternoon. I looked at the fridge, I have some tofu, one pumpkin, one luffa, some chicken fillets, some asparaguses, minced meats, chicken thighs, drumsticks and fish fillets.

What influenced my dish menu last night was what I perceived what my family members like to have. I know anything soft and silky will be welcomed by them, so tofu and pumpkins would be good choices.

While the family always have bitter gourd with minced meat, but luffa with minced meat is something new to them. In addition, my kids loved luffa so luffa with minced meat was in the menu.

Preparing these two dishes had resulted some mesh pumpkins, minced meat and tofu left, therefore, I have decided to turn these 3 ingredients into  a dish.


PORK STUFFED LUFFA (丝瓜酿肉碎)

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This is a dish adapted from pork stuffed bitter gourd (苦瓜酿肉碎). The luffa was first de-skinned, and cut into 2 cm chunks. Make a hole in the centre and set aside. Minced pork were marinated for about 10 minutes with sesame oil, corn flour, light soya sauce, flavour enhancers, sugar, pepper, chopped coriander leaves and chopped winter vegetables. Stuff the minced pork into the hole of the luffa chunks, placed it in a serving plate nicely and put a goof berry on top of minced meat for garnishing. Before steaming, put some water in the plate of the meat stuffed luffa. (A bit of water is important as it will speed up the process of cooking the luffa. The luffa will be “water bathed” causing it easier to get cooked). Steamed for about 20 minutes or until your luffa is soft.  More juices will be secreted out and these gravy was very tasty as it was essentially a meat and vegetable broth.  You can put some corn starch to thicken this juices if desirable.

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TOFUS SAIL IN PUMPKIN SEA (豆腐金瓜海)

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I have to admit that I do not know how to name this dish. Since it looks like a seas of mashed pumpkins, I  named this as “tofu sail pumpkin seas”. Firstly, I cut opened a pumpkin, de-seeded and steamed the pumpkin until the pumpkin was soft. I then scratched out the pumpkin flesh, put some sesame oils, salt, mushroom concentrate, mixed well and let the mashed pumpkin to cool.

Two packets of tofu’s were cut into 8 pieces and arrange in a serving plate. I used a teaspoon to make a hole on the tofu, put some mashed pumpkins to cover the hole. Use the remaining pumpkin to put beside the tofu and steamed for about 10 minutes. Surprisingly, the tofu and pumpkins really blends well.

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MINCED PORK FRIED WITH MASHED PUMPKINS AND TOFUS (山寨蟹粉豆腐)

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From the above two dishes, I have some mashed pumpkin left , some tofu left (from making a hole in the tofu cubes), some minced meat left (as I have prepared one package of minced meat for the luffa dish, therefore, I still have about half of the minced meat left). With these 3 ingredients, I have decided to mash the tofu and fried these 3 ingredients together.

I first stir fried some spring onion (white part) in a frying pan of hot oil until aromatic, followed by the minced meat and once the meat was 50% cooked, add the mesh pumpkin and mesh tofu. Stir fried for another 2-3 minutes, add white pepper, sugar, light soya sauce and salt and it become a rather presentable dish..like the famous Shanghai dish, “Tofu With Hairy Crab Roe”. Therefore I have named this dish in Mandarin the “Fake Tofu With Hairy Crab Roe”.

The dish was very tasty and smooth, it is well liked by the kids because of the aromatic spring onions.  I have placed the cooked dish in the empty shell of the pumpkin for serving.

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BLANCHED ASPARAGUS WITH CHICKEN FILLETS (芦笋鸡柳)

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This is really an easy dish.

Asparagus were de-skinned (depends on whether it is too mature or not) and cut into same length. Chicken fillet were first cut into the desired sizes, marinated with sesame oil, pepper and light soya sauce for about 10 minutes,

Have a pot of boiling hot water, drizzle a few drops of cooking oil and pinches of salt. Get ready a serving plate and put some oyster sauce on the plate.  Blanched the asparagus in the hot boiling water for 3 minutes and dip in icy cold cooked water.

Place these asparagus neatly in the serving plate on top of the oyster sauce. Coated the chicken fillet with some corn flours and blanched the chicken fillets in the hot boiling water for about 5 minutes. Scoop out and placed on top of the blanched asparagus. Sprinkled some fried shallots on top of the chicken and the dish was done.

This was definitely an easy and healthier dish as it involved no frying like the traditional method. Though I did not taste the asparagus but I can tell you that it was sweet as all the juices were being sealed inside the asparagus via blanching method of cooking.

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CENTURY EGGS WITH PICKLED GINGER (皮蛋酸姜)

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This dish was usually treated an appetizer in Chinese full course dinners and did not really need any preparation. As I have quite a lot of pickled ginger left from my demonstration in Guaishushu’s Page, therefore, I have decided to prepare this dish as an appetizer. You may want to learn about how to prepare the pickled gingers HERE.


POMELO (柚子/文旦)

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When I was young, we did not celebrate Moon Cake Festivals with pomelo.

However, in recent years, it seemed that it is very common that pomelo became one of the festival fruit  during the  Moon Cake Festivals. I checked the internet, pomelo have the syllables as “have kids” (有子)in Mandarin, therefore, having pomelo means that it will bring you luck in conceiving a kid. Well, definitely not for me.

It is my usual way to de-skin my pomelo like what is in the picture to make it easier for my kids to eat. Therefore, all my kids loves to eat pomelo as they do not need to peel the internal white membranes separating the lobes in the fruit. They have been pampered, Unlike me, I never like to eat pomelo when I was young because of the difficulty to peel of the internal white membranes.


GREEN DATES (甜枣)

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This is nothing to do with this festival. I just spotted in the supermarket a few days ago and I really love these green dates. I always called it mini apples. In my humble opinion, it taste like apples and is a one bite size. I am able to finish one box within a day. I don’t know but I do believe it is a very healthy snack, much healthy than any carbohydrates and sugar loaded snacks. Yesterday, it was served together with pomelo after dinner.


MOONCAKES (月饼)

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I have a few boxes of moon cakes and I have decided to  serve a durian moon cake that my nephew gave me from the international “Three” Seasons Hotel.  However, I am rather disappointed with the moon cakes. Put in bluntly, it is just pure durian flesh wrapped in snow skin. When you eat the moon cakes, it is very soft and just like when one is eating fresh durian (though it don’t taste that fresh any more after so many days).

It was definitely not cheap and my nephew told me even after discount, one small moon cake cost SGD 12. I honestly believed that should I received the moon cake earlier, I will be able to replicate the moon cake  .. and how much is one durian is this season? May be 3 durians for SGD 10?  Well the one below is equally disappointing as they have incorporate orange flavour in the lotus seeds fillings.

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Lastly, I hoped that you like my cooking adventures today and unlike previous festivals, I have cooked something very simple. In other festivals, majority were meat dishes and I managed to locate an old picture in my Facebook to share with you. This was taken by one of my nieces in 2012 to celebrate Chap Goh Me (元宵)during Chinese New Year.

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Have a nice day and cheers.

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What I “Ate” Today (家常便饭系列)…. 17 August 2013- Special

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You may be surprised about this title! In fact, the title is not correct either. What I am going to post is not “what I cooked today” or “what I ate today”. It was a gathering at one of my relative’s house and she had cooked some Chinese dishes that are not common among Fujian or Guangdong Province.

My relative is from Jiangxi Province and therefore the food that she cooked were rather different! As you all know, Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese are descendants of immigrants mainly from the South Eastern Coastal Fujian and Guangdong Province.


JIANGXI CUISINES

Per Wikipedia:

Jiangxi (Chinese: 江西; pinyin: Jiāngxī; Wade–Giles: Chiang-hsi; Postal map spelling: Kiangsi, Gan: Kongsi) is a province in the People’s Republic of China, located in the southeast of the country. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south and east, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to the northwest. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiangxi)

As compared to Nanyang Chinese (Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese), in a household meal, they are more dishes but with a smaller portion. For us, we will usually serve 3 dishes and 1 soup, for them the dishes can be as many as 6-12 dishes. Today, the host is kind enough to cook us 7 dishes (excluding desserts and sweet soups). Jiangxi dishes were rather spicy (chilli hot) and as my kids were having meals with us, for some dishes, they have to prepare both the spicy and non spicy version.

Note than I am currently on a vegetarian  diet and since I did not told them in advance, I have taken my meals before joining them.  Therefore, I did not join them for meals.


SPICY AND SOUR SHREDDED POTATOES (酸辣土豆丝)

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Yes, this is my favourite. Potatoes were julienned into thin strips. There were then soaked in cold water until all the starch were gone. This will make the potatoes “crunchy” and water have to be changed regularly. Look at the thin strips, these were all manually done. They were then stir fried with spring onions, black vinegars and chilli. This is something that I have yet to share the cooking illustrations with readers but I can assure you it is something simple yet the taste is superb. Kids are fighting for this.


BRAISED BEEF (酱牛肉)

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I do not know if there is any translation of this dish. It is basically beef braised in dark soya sauce (and herbs and spices). It was then air dried. If it was kiln dried, it will become smoked beef. This is a form of meat preservation that can be commonly found in many parts of China. My relatives have prepared these meat in China and brought it over.

I still remembered  when I was stationed in Changchun, China about 10 years ago, one of the past time is to buy some braised chicken drumsticks and ate it in the hotel. It is delicious and thinking about it make me drooling. Depending on the regions, the preservations can be sugar based or salt based.


TOMATOES FRIED WITH EGGS (番茄炒蛋)

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A common household dish in China. Besides stir frying, another way of cooking this combination is making it into a soup.

Tomato is not a common vegetable in my  traditional house cooking. Tomatoes are considered vegetables imported from other countries (though this may not be true any more). This is evidenced in its Chinese name literately translated as Western Persimmon (西红柿)or Foreign brinjal (番茄)。In Hokkien dialects, it was called Caucasian Brinjal (angmokio)!  Therefore, my mom seldom cooked tomatoes in the house.

As my girl is a tomato fanatic, this will definitely her top choice. However, as my boy is tomato phobia, this is definitely a good dish to make my boy eating tomato.  Though he is a tomato phobia but he is an egg fanatic. I usually requested that if he wanted to eat 2 tablespoons of eggs, he will need to finish 1 tablespoon of tomatoes. Haha


STEAMED CHINESE SAUSAGE WITH CHINESE BLACK FERMENTED BEANS (腊肠蒸豆豉)

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The Chinese sausages were prepared by my relatives in China and brought it over. You can hardly find any fats in the Chinese sausages. Before I am on my vegetarian diet, I have tried the sausages before and it is delicious.

The Chinese sausages were cut into slices, steamed with Chinese black fermented beans and chopped garlics. May be after my vegetarian diets end, I shall cook this. Good thing about having this post is that it can remind me of what I should cooked when I run out of ideas.


PIGTAILS PORK BELLIES SOUP (猪尾猪肚汤)

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I never have this combination before, pork bellies plus pigtails. The reason is because both meats have different cooking times. You know pork bellies are rather difficult to cook until soft. So, it is not easy to cook this soup. Even if you used pressure cooker, both items will have to be cooked separately. There is no vegetables or white peppers. It is pure meat broth!

If you ask me whether it is yummy or not, of course, I can’t tell you directly because I did not taste it. However, from my years of cooking experience, I can tell you that it is a good soup because the soup had turn milky meaning all the gelatine from the meat have been dissolved in the soup/broth.

Don’t believe me, freeze it and you will see that it become jellish and you can use a knife to cut it into small pieces. Teochew dialect group also have a dish that after braising certain meat for a long time, they cut the meat into very small pieces, freeze the broth and become a jelly. The jelly was then cut into small pieces and served as cold dish (猪头粽)


STIR FRIED CHINESE WATER CRESS (清炒西洋菜)

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I remembered when I told my mother in law and wife to stir fry water cress previously, they are against it as they always used water cress to cook soup. It is generally true that most Chinese dialect groups like to boil soup with this vegetable. However, when I travelled to China, I always have stir fried water cress in restaurants. Usually, this vegetable were stir fried using garlic without any other ingredients.

Try and tell me whether it is nice or not! Remember that you have to stir fry the vegetables using high heat, otherwise, it may be bitter.


STEAMED KUDZU FLOUR COATED PORK WITH PUMPKIN (南瓜米粉肉)

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When I asked for the name of the dish, I was told  “namguamifenrou”. However, I can’t find any rice vermicelli or Beehoon. Later she explained the 米粉 is not rice vermicelli, it means “rice flour”. Though the name is called rice flour, the coating of the meat can be any types of flour. It can be corn flour, sweet potato flour, potato flour and etc.…But today the flour that she used is kudzu flour (葛根粉). Again this is brought from Jiangxi and she disclosed that this was made from wild kudzu roots.

Kudzu has many health benefits and among them are relief symptoms of postmenopausal women, reducing alcohol intake, alleviating cluster headaches, managed metabolic syndromes etc. etc. etc. In Singapore, we do have a type of Chinese instant flu medicine called Kudzu soup (葛根汤) that you consumed when you have a fever and it is believed that it will help to reduce your body temperature. You may want to know more about kudzu from here.

Coming back to the dish. Meat were seasoned and coated with kudzu flour. The meat was then placed on top of the pumpkins and steamed under high heat until the pumpkins were soft. The purpose of the flour is to retain the meat juiciness in the process of steaming. Any meat juices that escaped will dripped into the pumpkins those flavoured the pumpkins.

Lastly, I want to convey my sincere thanks to my relatives who cooked us a sumptuous meal and we really appreciate that.

Hope you like the post today and I find this post is meaningful to share with readers about other different types of Chinese cuisines.

Have a nice day and cheers.

What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 24-7-2013

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On 24-July 2013, white rice served with:

“Three cup” chicken  三杯鸡
Bok Choi chicken soup

贸白菜鸡汤

Hokkien Style Fried Prawn Mee 福建炒虾面

For tonight’s dinner, there is nothing to shout about. When I am preparing dinner, my nice neighbour gave me a big bowl of Hokkien Style Fried Prawn Mee. As this can be a dish by itself, I have decided to stop preparing any more dish since both adults will be eating the prawn mee and the children had their favourite Bok Choi soup and some sweet chicken called “three cup” chicken.

Three Cup Chicken (三杯鸡)

The main ingredients of three cup chicken is Thai basil (九层塔)。Most people misunderstood that “3 cup” chicken is cooked with 1 cup of wine, 1 cup of soya sauce and I cup of  sesame oil. However, if we follow that assumptions strictly, it will be extremely oily with very high salt content. Therefore, to master the making of 3 cups chicken, the measurement of oil and soya sauce should be reduced accordingly. As a general rule of thumb, soya sauce volume should be half the volume of wine but twice the sugar volume. In another words, assuming that the sugar unit is 1cup, then soya sauce volume with be 2 cups and wine will be 4 cups. Note that no water is used in the cooking and medium heat is used to braise the chicken until the liquids dries up. Thai basil is added 2 minutes before you off the heat.

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Wild Hibiscus Tea (洛神花茶)

Besides the above dishes, I have boiled some Roselle/Rosella/Wild Hibiscus Tea (洛神花茶)。I usually boiled a very big pot which is very concentrated and dilute it when I want to drink. I like the drink as it is extremely thirst quenching and inhibit carbohydrates intake.

If you are interested to know how to make the drinks, its benefits and etc., you can refer to the post –

“Game To Try Some “Wild Hibiscus” Tea………….?(洛神花茶)

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I have also used some to make into some ice sticks which I usually have one after my dinner.

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When you boiled the drinks, don’t throw away the rosella flowers. The boiled flowers can be eaten as snacks but for me, I have used it to make “banana rosella” smoothies. (you can refer to the above link and see how the boiled flowers look like)

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Lastly, for lunch , I have cooked roast duck Bee Hoon from the duck bones of the roast duck that we had yesterday. I used the duck bones to make the broth, add some Bee Hoon, mushrooms, shredded duck meat, some dry bean curd sheets and egg omelettes stripes. The good thing about this dish is that there is not need to add seasoning and the broth is very sweet already. That used up all my duck bones and now left  2 drumsticks. Is it not funny that we have eaten all “bones” without eating the meat? I told readers before, both my wife and my kids do not like meat and yesterday is one of the blue moon days that I bought the whole duck. Therefore, I have to think of a way to “dispose off” the entire duck.. Haha..

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Hope you like the post today. Good night.

Special – What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 22-7-2013–Korma Chicken (科尔马鸡肉)

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UPDATED POST ON 16-2-2015 – Update with another set of images since i cooked the dish today.

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On 22 July, 2013, white rice served with:

  1. Korma Vegetable and Chicken       (蔬菜及鸡肉科尔马)
  2. Blanched Ladies Finger                 (青烫羊角豆)
  3. Chinese Cabbage (Napa) Soup       ( 大白菜汤)

To day, I have decided to cook Korma Chicken and Vegetable to expose my kids to curry dishes. As per my daughter’s request, no additional dishes were needed since she said she liked the dish and they have the Chinese Cabbage (Napa) soup which I cooked for lunch.

I agreed with her and just blanched some ladies finger to go with the Korma dish. If you want detailed pictorial instructions on cooking the Chinese Cabbage (Napa) Soup, you can follow the link above to Guaishushu’s Facebook Page.

 


KORMA CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES

 

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INTRODUCTION

I first tasted Korma chicken during my university days in Kuala Lumpur. It was in a Malay store  and when I take the first bite, I immediately fell in love with it as it is not spicy hot and the chicken is full of coriander fragrances. It had always in my mind because unlike other chicken curry dishes, the curry is beige in colour (depending on the spice mix) as opposed to the reddish yellow colour.

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Korma is actually a dish from South or Central Asia such as India and Pakistan. It is essentially cooked with a variety of spice powders of which the two most important spices are coriander  powder and cumin powder. It differ from the normal curry spice mix in that the ratio of turmeric powder is very small whereas for curry, the major portion of the spice mix is turmeric thus causes the dish to be yellowish in colour. In Malaysia, the Korma was cooked and thickened with coconut milk as compared to India and Pakistan where yoghurt were used. Nuts and peas  (such as cashew nuts and almonds) usually added to further thicken the gravy and enhance the taste.

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WHY THIS DISH

Recently, I found that my kids start to like curry dishes. However, before they eat the curry dishes, they will get ready a cup of cold water, take the curry chicken, dip into the cold water and start eating it. They still cannot take spicy hot food that were cooked with chilli. In view of this, I am thinking of letting them to try some Malay and Indian dishes that were not spicy hot. The first thing that comes to my mind is Korma chicken (ayam kurma in Malay). Therefore, last Saturday, when I frequented one  of the Indian Muslim spice stalls in Geylang Serai Singapore, I asked the same lady who gave me the Sarawak Laksa spice mix to pack me one Korma spice mix. You can read my previous “spice encounter” HERE.

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Another reason that I cooked this dish is for purposes of contributing to a food community in Google Plus whereby members were encouraged to contribute halal dishes during the month of Ramadan.

I love to eat Korma chicken. However, today, I have used more vegetables than meat in my Korma.  As my kids don’t really like to eat meat, hence I have used about 5 vegetables to make the dish. Should it be called a vegetable or chicken Korma is entirely up to you since it have almost equal portion of meats and vegetables in the dish. Smile

As this Korma dish uses small chicken chunks from drumsticks and vegetables, it is rather easy to cook, as such braising is consider not really necessary as compared to the traditional braising of lamb or big chicken pieces.

 


KORMA DISHES DEFINED

As per Wikipedia,

Korma, kormaa, qorma, khorma, or kurma is a dish originating in South Asia or Central Asia which can be made with yogurt, cream, nut and seed pastes or coconut milk. It is a type of curry.

It is a characteristic Indian dish which can be traced back to the 16th century and to the Mughal incursions into present-day Northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Classically, a korma is defined as a dish where meat or vegetables are braised with water, stock, and yogurt or creamy azid (the name is in fact derived from the Hindi and Urdu words for “braise”). The technique covers many different styles of korma (azid).

The flavour of a korma is based on a mixture of spices, including ground coriander and cumin, combined with yogurt kept below curdling temperature and incorporated slowly and carefully with the meat juices. Traditionally, this would have been carried out in a pot set over a very low fire, with charcoal on the lid to provide all-round heat. A korma can be mildly spiced or fiery and may use lamb, chicken, beef or game; some kormas combine meat and vegetables such as spinach and turnip. The term Shahi (English: Royal), used for some kormas indicates its status as a prestige dish, rather than an everyday meal, and its association with the court.

 


WHAT IS REQUIRED?

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  • 1.5 cups of tomatoes cut into big pieces;
  • 1.5 cups of onions cut into big pieces;
  • 1.5 cups of potatoes cut into big pieces;
  • 1.5 cups of carrots cut into big pieces;
  • 1.5 cups of celery cut into big pieces;
  • 750 grams of chicken tights cut into big pieces;

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  • 200 gram of Korma mix (readily available in most Indian provision shops or spices stalls). However, If you can’t get hold of the ready mix Korma spice, the two most spices are coriander powder and cumin powder in the ration of about 4:2. All other spices shall include cardamom, anise powder, fennel powders, turmeric all of which shall need a 1-2 teaspoon only).
  • 1 cup of yoghurt (optional but I have used it as I like the korma to be rich in flavour but slightly sour).
  • 2 cups of fresh coconut milk .
  • 1/2 cups of cooking oil or ghee or butters.

 


STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • In a big mixing bowl, put the Korma spice powder and gradually add in water until it form a paste.
  • Have about 2-3 big tablespoons Korma spice mix and marinate for at least 15-30 minutes. As the chicken is quite small, therefore 15-30 minutes is deemed sufficient.

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  • In a big pot, put some cooking oils and fried the Korma spice mix until the fragrance starts to permeates the space.
  • Add 3 big cups of water, stir until the spices are well mixed.
  • Bring to boil until high heat. Note that as this is quite concentrated, you have to constantly stir it until it boils. This is to avoid the spice getting burnt in the bottom of the pot. Once boiled, turn the heat to medium or slow heat.

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  • Add in the potatoes, celery, carrots and onions and boiled for about 10 minutes;
  • Add in chicken chunks and boiled for about 20 minutes;
  • Add in tomato and boiled for another 5 minutes;
  • Add in yoghurt and coconut milk, seasonings (salt and sugar). Once boil, off the heat and let it sit in the pot for at least 5-10 minutes to let the ingredients further absorbed the gravy.
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves or mint and served with hot rice. Drizzle more yoghurt or coconut milk on top of the dish if necessary.

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CONCLUSIONS

  • Korma dish is a common dish among the Indian households in South and Central Asian. it is equally popular in Malaysia and Singapore especially among the Malay and Indian races. It is a form of curry dishes of which the main spices are coriander powder and cumin. It differs from curry in that the proportion of turmeric is very small and it can be cooked without chilli those making it rather “kids friendly”. The gravy were usually thickened with yoghurt or coconut milks and at times nuts such as cashew nuts and almonds were added.
  • The dish that were illustrated today uses lots of vegetables including celery which is not a common vegetable included in the curry dishes. However, celery is definitely a good choice as it could withstand rather long hours of cooking though the strong celery flavour were masked by the strong Korma aroma. As I have use drumstick meat, it is rather easy to cook and the texture is soft as compared to the breast meat.

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Hope you LIKE the post today and cheers.


 

 

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