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.

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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Prawn noodles? Hokkien noodles?… No, it is Singapore Hokkien Fried Prawn Noodles (新加玻福建炒虾面)

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INTRODUCTION

The title of this dish will have to be very exact! It should be called “Singapore Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodles” or “Singapore Hokkien Hay Noodles”.

Singapore has to be included because it is uniquely Singapore and you can’t find elsewhere, not even in Malaysia.

The word “Fried” have to be used because it had to differentiate the Penang prawn noodles which is a soup based noodles as explained below.

Hokkien” have to be included because “prawn mee” alone can mean the soup version of prawn mee famous in Penang whereby you used the prawn broth and to make the soup and usually served with watercress (kangkong), pork ribs and blanched prawns.

   Pic courtesy of : http://kaka-penang-prawn-mee.blogspot.sg/p/prawn-mee.html

Omitting the prawns and Singapore will become Hokkien Mee, and it can refer to another type of noodle dish that was commonly eaten in Kuala Lumpur usually fried with black sauce, cabbages, prawns and pork.

  Pic courtesy of:  http://ieatishootipost.sg/2011/07/restoran-ahwa-kl-hokkien-mee-in.html

Today’s post is about Singapore Hokkien Fried Prawn Noodles which shall look like this:

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Readers who wanted to have a more detailed distinction of various prawn noodles can refer to the explanation here.


PRAWN NOODLES DEFINED

Wikipedia defines:

Hokkien mee refers to fried noodles cooked in Hokkien (Fujian) style. Hokkien mee is served in many Southeast Asian countries (mostly Malaysia and Singapore) and was brought there by immigrants from the Fujian province in south easternChina. In Singapore, Hokkien mee refers to a variant of the Penang version of Hokkien hay mee. The dish uses the same egg noodles and rice noodles used in Hokkien hay mee, but is stir fried in lard and served dry. The main ingredients are shrimps and small pieces of sliced pork. It is usually served with lime and sambalchilli.” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokkien_mee)

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WHAT IS NEEDED?

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  • Half kilogram of prawns – Wash clean, pluck the head and set aside. Keep the heads for making prawn stock. You can consider collecting raw prawn heads from cooking other dishes and keep it until a sizeable amount and start to make the prawn broth. (If desired, sotong or squids can be added in addition to prawns)
  • 400 grams of pork belly cut into thin slices (optional, can be substituted with chicken slices)
  • 5-10 large fish balls or fish cakes cut into slices
  • 4 eggs – beaten and set aside

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  • 300 g of bean sprouts – wash and set aside
  • 300 g of Chinese chives – cut into 1 inch length and set asides
  • 3 small onions cut into small slices and some chopped spring onion (optional). You can consider adding in chopped garlics as well.

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  • Some yellow noodles (300g) and some rice vermicelli (about 150 g)
  • Some calamansi for garnishing
  • Some sambal belachan to use as condiments

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

Preparing the prawn stock……

The success of this dish is very much depending on the prawn broth. The prawn broth should be thick, no fishy and tasty. Generally, you may wish to keep all the prawn heads from the meals that you have prepared previously. The more prawn head you have the better will your broth be.

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  • In a pot, place some water with 2 spring onions and some ginger slices. The purpose of adding these is to get rid of the fishy smell associated with the prawns.
  • Bring the water to boil under high heat, add prawn heads and shells and boiled until the prawn heads are cooked. This is rather fast and needs may be less than 5 minutes.

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  • Sieve and transfer all prawn shells to a food processor.
  • Blend the prawn shells until fine or small chunks. Place it back into the earlier prawn stocks
  • Boil for about 30 minutes under medium heat.
  • Sieve and the prawn stock are ready for next use.

Cooking the noodles….

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  • In a hot frying pan, put some cooking oil. Throw in the chopped shallots, spring onion and fried until golden brown. It is my practice that I add salt and white pepper at this juncture. Essentially, salt will increase the temperature for frying and pepper that were fried will emit a better aroma;
  • Place the ingredients in this order. Pork belly, fish balls, chives. Fried for about 3 minutes until all the ingredients are well mixed. It is ok if the meat is not cooked as it will continue to cook in later processes.
  • Note: Traditionally, lard is used for cooking this dish, however, due to health reasons, vegetable cooking oil were used instead of lard. Of course, there will be a compromise in taste but the taste difference wouldn’t be that obvious.

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  • Sieve the prawn stock into the pan and let it boiled for 1-2 minutes.
  • Throw in the yellow noodles and rice vermicelli and let it cook for another 3 minutes.

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  • Add bean sprout and beaten eggs to the pan. The beaten eggs will serve as a thickener to the noodles gravy and add an additional fragrance.
  • Add additional seasonings if necessary (fish sauce, mushrooms concentrate, white pepper etc.… ) and mixed well.
  • Boiled for another 2 minutes and let it rest in the frying pan for another 10 minutes before serving. This will let the prawn stock have adequate time to penetrate the noodles and rice vermicelli. Note that the noodles and rice vermicelli will expand. Should you find that there is too dry, just add in some hot water and stir to make it slightly watery.

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  • Sprinkle with deep fried onion  and chopped spring onion or Chinese celery.
  • Usually served in a plate with lime and Sambal Belachan.

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CONCLUSION

  • Singapore Hokkien Prawn Noodles are unique in Singapore and should not be confused with Penang Prawn Noodles and Kuala Lumpur Hokkien Noodles.
  • Using the prawn heads to make prawn stock is a good way of maximizing the recovery of the prawns. Save the prawn heads from other dishes, make the prawn stocks and used it to cook the noodles. This will be very tasty and not much seasonings were needed. Chicken bones can be  added to make it a much tastier broth. Traditionally, lard is used for the dish but this is not encouraging because it may cause coronary complications. 
  • The noodles cooked should be soft and moist with a fragrance of meat (pork or chicken) and prawns. The lime makes the dish slightly sour and adding chili will bring the taste to another higher level of enjoyment!

Lastly, hope you LIKE this sharing and do try to make the dish and let me know whether it suit your taste buds.

Have a nice day. Cheers.

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