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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Auspicious Day With Auspicious Porridge–Eight Treasure Porridge (八宝粥)

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INTRODUCTION

It is such an auspicious day that I am writing this post. I swear it is not pre-planned. Today is Mid Autumn Festival aka Moon Cake Festival, it is a festival that is celebrated by all Chinese worldwide. As request by one of the Google communities, I have written a brief write up on Mid Autumn Festivals HERE which you may want to have some casual reading.

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The cuisine that I am going to post today is a vegetarian dish called 8 treasure porridge (八宝粥). There are so many versions of this one pot dish in the internet but the recipe that I am going to share is from my kind neighbour. She liked to cook this porridge and after I tried it for the very first time, immediately I fell in love with it. Since then, I had liked to cook this dish in important festivals such as Chinese New Year Day where the whole family were supposed to be on vegetarian diet for one day.

I have cooked this yesterday not because of the festival, but because I craved for the porridge since I am still on my vegetarian diet. I gave two boxes of the porridge to my daughter’s schoolmates mother, she immediately asked for the recipe when she reached home. She commented that the taste of the porridge was totally different from what she had tasted in the vegetarian stalls.

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I did not know where my neighbour get the recipe but I found that there are certain ingredients that we used were not found in other 8 treasure porridges sold by the vegetarian stores. Both the ingredients were mock meat acceptable to all vegetarians and without these two ingredients, the taste will definitely be different.

As this was our dinner last night, I did not have much chances to take pictures and the poor lighting make the picture a bit disappointed. But trust me, this is a very different 8 treasure porridge and it is definitely good for casual dining or a presentable dish in important Buddhist religious occasions.

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WHAT IS REQUIRED

Though the name is 8 treasure porridge, however, we tend to have more than 8 ingredients and I do not think all my ingredients are in the picture.  I should have used 11-12 ingredients here. Most of the ingredients are nuts and a few ingredients and some mock meat.

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  • 1 cup of uncooked rice – not in picture (白米)

  • 1 cup of jujube (红枣)

  • 1 cup of peanuts (花生)- soaked

  • 1 cup of cashew nuts (腰豆)

  • 1 cup of lotus seeds (莲子)- soaked

  • 1 cup of gingko nuts  (白果)- soaked

  • 1 cup of red carrots (cut into cubes) (红萝卜)

  • 1 cup of dried mushrooms (soaked and cut into cubes) – not in picture (冬菇)

  • 1 cup of mock duck (must have) – (素鸭)

  • 1 small packet of “fat Choy” or “black moss” (发菜)

  • 1 packet of about 2 sheets of mock goose (素鹅)(must have)

  • 6-8 cups of plain water (if not adequate, you can add in water later)

IMG_6543 Mock Duck

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Please do not ask me why they were called mock duck or mock goose, frankly, I do not know. While the shape is difference, the taste is nothing like duck of goose. Both are made of wheat gluten, oil, soya sauce, sugar, salt and packed with proteins. They do have their distinct flavour but I can’t describe exactly what is the flavour. They can generally found in Chinese grocery stores that sell vegetarian supplies. These two items are the two most important ingredients in this porridge and without it, the taste will be different.

 IMG_6561 “Fat Choy” or “ Black Moss”

This a type of moss now commercially cultivated in the Gobi dessert and Chinese Government do place a restriction in harvesting the moss. The meaning of having these mosses signifies prosperous since the syllables in Chinese name is the same of both “Fat Choy” and “Black Moss”. I hereby quote what Wikipedia had explained about this moss.

“Fat Choy (Nostoc flagelliforme), also known as faat Choy, fa cai, black moss, hair moss or hair weed is a terrestrial cyanobacterium (a type of photosyntheticbacteria) that is used as a vegetable in Chinese cuisine. When dried, the product has the appearance of black hair. For that reason, its name in Chinese means “hair vegetable.” When soaked, this vegetable has a very soft texture which is like very fine vermicelli.” (Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_choy)

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

Preparing all other ingredients

  • Clean all ingredients (except mock duck and mock goose) and you may want to soak the peanuts and lotus seeds (if you buy the dry type). Cut into almost the same size as the peanuts and set aside for the later use.


Frying the mock goose

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  • In a frying pan, have some cooking oil under high heat, fry the mock goose until crispy. When cooled, cut into thumb size pieces and set aside for the later use. (Note: While it is good to have minimum oil in the cooking, however, without performing this step, the fragrance will not be there. However, you can try using “air fryer” but I am unsure whether the taste will be the same.)

  • Depending on your preference, you can use the same oil to stir fry the mock duck, gingko, lotus seeds, mushrooms, carrots etc. for a few minutes such that the mock goose and mushroom aromas blends with the other ingredients. Set aside for later use. This illustration bypassed this step to minimize the usage of cooking oil in the porridge and the taste will not be compromised much.

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  • Clean your rice and place in the rice cooker. Add in all other ingredients except “fat Choy”. Select porridge function for cooking the porridge.

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  • Just a few minutes before the porridge function was done, add in fat Choy and seasonings. Suggested seasonings are light soya sauce, salt, sugar or other flavour enhancers. Note that some of the ingredients already have some seasonings, please take some porridge out for tasting before you put the condiments.

Note that you can also use pressure cooker but remember to select the porridge function if it have. Alternatively, I have ever cooked the porridge over the stove and in this way it is easier for you to monitor the desire texture of your porridge though the cooking time may be longer. As long as all ingredients are soft, the porridge is considered as done.

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  • Best served hot with “you tiao” – a type of Chinese plain dough fritters or additional crispy “mock goose”. Both these are optional.

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CONCLUSION

As I have said earlier, I fell in love with this special porridge when I have my first bowl years back. I  am confident you will like it too. Bookmark this page for your future usage. You may want to cook it during Chinese New Year like me!

Hope you like the post today. Cheers

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If you are looking for more CHINESE NEW YEAR COOKIES,  you may want to visit this post summarizing all relevant Chinese New Year Cuisines.

Chinese New Year Cookies21


For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit this blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE .

 

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