What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 1-8-2013

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On 1 August 2013, white rice served with:

1 Blanched broccoli and asparagus with chicken fillets 芥兰芦笋鸡柳
2 Oyster mushroom and button mushroom chicken soup 双菇鸡汤
3 Minced chicken fried with pineapple stripes 凤梨炒鸡丝

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All dishes were cooked with chicken today.

I bought a chicken, as I don’t want to keep it, I just blanched the fillet and breast for the vegetable dish, use the drumstick and other bones for making the soup and part of tights to fry with pineapples. Dish are rather common and nothing really worth mentioning it. The chicken soups looked a bit oily and if I want i can just froze it and scrap away the oil to make it clearer.

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As I have coated the chicken breast with corn flowers, it is unusual that my girl loves the meat. She is a “herbivore” and asking her to eat meat is really a challenge to me. For this dish, she fight with her brothers for the meat..Haha, gradual transition from herbivore to omnivore.

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As I have some black glutinous rice and barley that I bought over from Sarawak, I have prepared Black Glutinous Rice and Barley Sweet Porridge (血糯薏米甜粥). The way of preparing it is rather Chinese style. Red jujube were added to further increase the mineral content. This dessert is beneficial to women who are having their menstrual periods as all ingredients were packed with iron. Black glutinous rice is rather difficult to digest and therefore inclusion of barley will help to improve the digestions. To make it even smoother, you can blend the porridge, and some milk or coconut milk or cream.


Lastly, as I have some leftover bread , I make it into some simple bruschetta. I especially loved the toasted herbs bread with the freshly cut tomato seasoned with Italian herbs.

Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.

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What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 30-7-2013

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You may be surprised that today I am having some western meals. In fact, I have never cooked western meals before. This should be one of the very first full course meals that I have prepared. Well, today is my son’s birthday and I just want to expose him something different. In addition, my girl is crazy about baked potatoes and I thought why not I “try” to cook them something what they like…… 


MENUS

Soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup (with fresh sweet corn kernel and button mushroom slices

 

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Entree

Tomato salsa (served with kiwi fruit cubes and sprinkle with mozzarella cheeses and Italian herbs)

 

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Main Dish

Grilled halibut with lemon cream sauce; and

Asian style grilled chicken breast with Japanese sweet barbecue sauce

Side dishes: Baked potato and sweet corns, buttered broccoli and asparagus and cocktail sausages

 

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Dessert

Durian Cheese Cake

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I am really not good in preparing western meals and I have well underestimated the time of preparation. We only can had dinner by 7:30 pm and I am really exhausted by then.

The kids loved the food especially the grilled halibut. For this dish, I have seasoned it with Italian herbs (oregano and basil), salt and bit of butter. I topped with some mozzarella cheese and grilled it for about 15 minutes.  I used the “juices” secreted out from the fish to make into cream sauce and it is exceptionally sweet without any seasonings and condiments.

As for the Asian style grilled chicken, apparently they don’t really able to appreciate it because I have used chicken breast instead of chicken thigh meat. They are complaining a bit hard and fibrous. I may have over grilled the chicken breast.

The girls are complaining that the serving is too huge for them. However, she managed to finish the baked potato. A really simple side dish and personally I loved it. I have to say I never knew that baked potatoes tasted so good as I usually order fries rather than baked potato or meshed potatoes. This was requested by my girl specifically she wanted baked potato.

The cream of mushroom soup was good. Initially, I was thinking of using the ready made cream of mushroom soup. Since I have some canned mushrooms and some cream at home, I have decided to make my own cream of mushroom soup. I butter fried the chopped onions and garlics, add chicken stocks, fresh kernel corns and mushrooms and let it boiled until the onion were very soft. Thereafter, creams were added to thicken the soup. That was a hit also.

As for the dessert – durian cheese cake. I have prepared it about 2 days ago and it is really a very rich and creamy cake. It is very nice but both me and my wife have eaten in guilt. Usually, for 1 piece, 4 of us shared and for my kids, they don’t really have sweet tooth and after one two bites, they just stopped. Frankly speaking, for an 8 “ cake , after 2 days, I still have 4 pieces left (after 2 pieces given to my neighbours). I am in the process of compiling the post and will share with readers very soon.

Lastly, hope you like the post to day. A lighter note before I end, while I am writing this, I heard my boy told her auntie  (my wife’s sister} that one of his birthday wishes is  that “there will be endless supplies of sausages and eggs”, his favourite foods … Such a simple wish… Haha.

Have a nice day and 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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What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 16-7-2013

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On 16th July 2013,

Pasta with home made tomato sauce.

Today, I have cooked my pasta sauce from scratch (meaning from tomato). I learned this when I visited one of my French friends in Paris many years ago. I am in the process of compiling a post on this dish and will be shared with readers soon. In the post, you will see how Guaishushu transformed the  pasta sauce to the Asian liking using herbs widely used in this region. Did you notice both the Tabasco sauce and the Asian Chilli sauce? I have not parsley but I substitute with Chinese celery, do you think the taste will blend?

Being home cooked sauce, the color are always not that “appealing” but the taste is definitely worth you to make an effort to cook,

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Did you see the brownish color drinks? These drinks are herbal drinks for cooling the body. It is chrysanthemum (菊花)and prunella vulgaris (夏枯草)flowers tea. You can refer to this post for the picture for the fresh flowers. Is it not a funny combination that having a Western pasta food with Chinese herbal drinks?

Besides cooking this dish, I am baking an uniquely Sarawak (in Island of Borneo) buns called the Sarawak butter buns. The name Sarawak was added in order to avoid confusions with other butter buns commonly found in other parts of the world. Sarawak butter bun is unique because it has an aromatic buttery fillings. I will share the recipe in one to two days time.

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Hope you like the post today and have a nice day. Cheers.

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Hi, Let Start Cooking the Laksa …. An In Depth Analysis and Pictorial Procedural Description Of The Famous Sarawak Laksa (Part III)

PART III   COOKING THE SARAWAK LAKSA

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Part I and Part II are rather “theoretical” and this post will show you the practical steps to prepare the Sarawak laksa.

To make a delicious bowl of Sarawak Laksa, besides having some good laksa paste that I mentioned in Part II, there are few important things that you should note in your course of preparation. The process of preparation is rather laborious and I will list out the steps and unlike other posts, you should consider follow the order of steps here to save your time of preparation..


WHAT YOU NEED?

In this post, the units or quantities listed out here is for about 15 bowls of laksa and you should reduce it accordingly after taking into considerations the number of persons and personal preferences.

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  • Fresh Prawns or Shrimps (1kg)
  • Chicken Breast (0.75kg)
  • Coconut milk (500g)

For coconut milk, you can use fresh or packet coconut milk. If you like it more milky (lemak), you can add in more coconut milk. If you are health conscious, either substitute it with evaporated milk or don’t add any milk at all. Have you ever heard that this delicacy is a “cardiologists nightmare”?

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  • Thin Rice Vermicelli – 1 kg (about 2.5 packets commonly sold in the markets)
  • Home-made laksa paste or ready-made laksa paste  – 1.5 kg (2-3 big packets commonly sold in the markets)

Do you know that to qualify a dish as laksa, the noodles must be either thick or thin rice vermicelli in it? Curry Mee is not a laksa as per definition of laksa here. At home, we do eat it with instant egg noodles ..Smile

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  • Calamansi (about 20-30 pieces)
  • Some Sambal Belachan
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Coriander leaves and Chinese celery chopped into small pieces

One of the most important condiments in this dish is Sambal Belachan, a type of condiments made from shrimp paste. You can know more about belachan here. That is why sometime Sarawak Laksa is called Sarawak Sambal Laksa. I have buy the over-the-counter sambal belachan in Singapore and the taste just blends especially well with the soup.

If you have kids at home and they do not take spicy food, actually, when making the Laksa Paste, you can ignored chilli as an ingredients. So the laksa broth or soup that you cooked will not be spicy and you can let your kids have this. When you are eating on your own, just have one big scope of Sambal Belachan in it, the taste will be similar with those paste that have chilli in it..

MAY BE I SHOULD CONSIDER MAKING  LAKSA PASTE FOR SALES TO CHILDREN OR SILVER AGE MARKET.   THEORITICALLY, SARAWAK LAKSA WITHOUT COCONUT MILK AND TOO MUCH OIL SHOULD BE CONSIDER AS A HEALTH FOOD SINCE IT IS FULL OF SPICES AND HERBS…Smile

The coriander leaves that you see in my picture is the type sold in Singapore and West Malaysia. Traditionally, in Kuching, Sarawak, coriander “seedlings” were used. However, it is harder to get it nowadays. In my old days, as one of my brothers do not like the strong smells of coriander leaves, we use Chinese celery instead. Until today, I still have the habit of mixing these two leaves as a garnish for the laksa.


THE COOKING BEGINS…

If you don’t want to add seasonings like “axinomoxo”, then try to follow these steps as it will save you time and seasonings! Joking.

Step 1 – Blanching the Chicken Breast

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  • Clean your chicken breast, boil your water and put in the chicken breast. The minimum amount of water required will be at least to cover the chicken breast. But you can use more water as it will be used later.
  • Use medium heat and boil for about 20 minutes until cooked. Don’t cook too long because you breast will be juicy as all the juice will be in the soup.
  • Traditionally, in Kuching, chicken breasts were used because it is easier to hand shred and with less bones. However, you can also use the whole chicken. If this is the case, you have to use high heat to bring the water to  boil, submerged your chicken and simmer for 30 minutes. Once cooked, dip in ice cold water. You can refer to my post on chicken rice here.
  • Hand shred your chicken breast  and set aside for use.
  • Remember to keep your “chicken stock” for future use.

Step 2 – Blanching the prawns

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  • Clean the prawns. Blanch the prawns with the chicken stocks in Step 1.
  • Personally, I prefer to blanch the prawns with shells at it will keep all the juices. If you shell the prawns, the blanch prawns will be less tasty.
  • This process will take only about 5 minutes. Sieve the prawns and set aside the “prawns and chicken stock”.
  • As long as the prawns are cool, shelled the prawns and devein it. If you found that the prawns are dirty after you devein it, use some cooked water to clean it.
  • DON’T THROW AWAY THE SHELL, keep it for next use.

Step 3 – Making of additional Prawn Stocks

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  • In another pot, put in some more water and boil the prawn shells until the color starts to turn whitish. If you don’t need that much of soup, continue using the stock from Step 2 to cook the prawn shells.
  • The stock in the first picture is the prawn + chicken stock as mentioned in Step 2 (from blanching of chicken breast and the fresh prawns).
  • The stock in the third picture is the prawn stocks from boiling the prawn shells;
  • Look at the color of the stock, the milky color means that the soup is very concentrated and you can just take a spoon and taste it. It will be very delicious. A side note, if you are not cooking Sarawak Laksa, when you shelled the prawns, just keep it in the fridge until a sizeable amount, then use this step to cook the prawn stock, then you can use this stock to cook the Hokkien Prawn Mee or Penang Prawn Mee!
  • If you are concerned about the chicken oil and if you have time. Put in the fridge and let the oil solidify, just throw the oil away.

Steps 4 – Cooking the Laksa Soup

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  • Put the home made laksa paste into the stock from Step 2 and 3. Bring to boil, add in coconut milk and other condiments. Off the fire immediately when it start to boil again. Otherwise, the coconut milk will turn into coconut oil and your laksa broth will be spoilt.
  • Remember that if you are afraid of having high cholesterol, use evaporated milk instead. How much coconut milk to add is very much depends on your personal preference. I remember when I was young, my parents sometime cook laksa without coconut milk….
  • Besides adding salt as a condiments, I have the habit of putting fish sauce instead.
  • Note that the color of my laksa broth is very bright because I use only fresh red chilli. If I used dry chilli, the color will be darker.
  • Cooking laksa will definitely yields quite a lot of oils. Just scope it away before you use the broth.  Like chicken stock, you can put in the fridge for 2-3 hours, let the red oil solidify and throw that away. Heat up and serve. In that case your stock will look quite dull (brownish in color).

Step 5 – Making the Egg Omelets

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  • Break the eggs, put a few drops of cooking oil, use fork or chop stick to slightly beat it until all the yolks and the whites are completely mixed.
  • Have a hot pan, pour some egg mixture into the pan. Either use a spatula to spread them evenly. You can also do this by twisting your pan slight in a circular motion.
  • As soon as the egg mixture is firm in the bottom and you can smell the fragrance of fried eggs, just scope up the omelets, let it cool and shred in fine long pieces.
  • Note that if you are using a non stick frying pan, there is no need for you to use oil for frying as long as your pan is very clean and free from any food particles. You can also add a few drops of oil to the egg mixture before you pan fried them.
  • THIS STEP CAN BE PERFORMED IN BETWEEN ANY STEPS BETWEEN STEP 1 AND STEP 4

Step 6 – Blanching The Bean Sprouts and Rice Vermicelli

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  • In a frying pan, fill in some water and drip a few drops of cooking oil. Bring to boil, blanch the bean sprouts (approximately 5 minutes). Sieve the bean sprouts, set aside for later use.
  • Use the same water to blanch the rice vermicelli. That will take about 10-15 minutes depending how soft you want it to be. The process can be shortened if you have soaked the uncooked rice vermicelli before hand.
  • Once you  sieved the rice vermicelli, quickly put it under running tap water (or if you don’t like to drink from tap water, use some cold boiled water) for about 2 minutes.The purpose of this step is to ensure that you have some springy rice vermicelli instead of soggy rice vermicelli that stick together.
  • The few drops of oil also have the role of ensuring that the rice vermicelli would not stick together. In addition, that small amount of oil will help you to “preserve” the color of your bean sprouts. It will look fresher instead of cook.
  • If you cannot stand the tails of the bean sprouts, you can hand picked the tails before you blanched them. For me, I usually hand picked the tails but when I run of times, I will just eat with the tails!!

  • This step is best carry out before you serve the guest.

Step 7 – Assembling and Garnishing

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  • After a few hours of ordeal, you should start to “regret” making this dish!  Lets have a quick recap of all the ingredients before serving.
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  • You should have blanched rice vermicelli, blanched bean sprouts, chopped coriander leaves and Chinese celery, cooked Sarawak Laksa broth, blanched prawns, shredded chicken breasts, stripped egg omelets, calamansi and sambal belachan.
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  • Take a bowl and assemble the ingredients following the sequence as in the picture (from left to right then to second row…) This, I believe will be the best presentation of your Laksa Sarawak. While the rice vermicelli have submerge in the soup, your prawns and the color egg stripes are sitting happily on top of you reddish gravy, Do you think it is appetizing.

 

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CONCLUSIONS

  • In Part 1, the definition of Sarawak Laksa, its uniqueness and the popularity have been discussed HERE.
  • Part 2 dwelled into the details of making the Sarawak Laksa Paste with a list of all major raw ingredients, its procedures and a comparison analysis between recipes. Please refer HERE.
  • Part 3 detailed how Sarawak Laksa should be prepared.
  • Hopefully, this will benefit those who are keen to learn more about Sarawak Laksa and for those who are overseas, as all these spices are mostly imported from Middle Eastern countries, you can start making the paste using the powder form purchased from Indian stores. In that case, you will not worry about the kitchen equipment required, how to cook and grind the raw materials, it will at least cut short half of your time. I believed that this is also what our manufacturers in Sarawak is doing.
  • This is a long post that dealt with lots of research, reading and testing. If you found that it is useful, please forward to your friends. I will be most happy to answer any queries they have. Any factual findings that are not accurate, please drop me a line to let me know.
  • Appreciate your time reading this series and ENJOY YOUR HOME MADE SARAWAK LAKSA…  

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