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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Don’t “Gaduh” over “Gado Gado”–Indonesian One Dish Salad, Gado Gado

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INTRODUCTION

I used to travel a lot when I am in the corporate world. Most of the time, I need to travel and stay in the hotel by myself and at times, the trips will stretch to weeks or months. I still remember my 2 years secondment to Hong Kong and Shanghai, more than 80% of my stay was in the hotel. Room services was very common and cafes at the hotel become my “dining hall”. During these times, one of my favourite order was the “look-alike” home cooked was gado gado since the food was served with peanut aka satay sauce. Of course, other favourites in the hotel will include Singapore Hainanese Chicken rice and Singapore Fried Bee Hoon (新洲炒米粉)。

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That is how I first got in touch with gado gado. Gado gado in essence is Indonesian’s salad with peanut sauce. However, unlike Western salad, it is a one pot dish, meaning one can have gado gado as the main meal.

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Gado gado in Indonesia means plural for “mixing” action and it shall not be confused with “gaduh gaduh” in Malaysia which means heated arguments.

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There are a few versions of Gado gado in Indonesia depending on which part of Indonesia you are in and this version is called “Gado Gado Siram” which was what I usually have in hotels and Indonesian Restaurants. Essentially, vegetables were cooked separately, put together in one plate and add some peanut sauce were poured on top, mixed and served.

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PREPARING OF PEANUT SUACE (Serving of about 5-6 adults) 

What is required

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Ingredients A

  • 50 grams of chilli powder (or dry chilli)

  • 100 grams of garlics

  • 40 grams of galangal (blue ginger)

  • 40 grams of lemon grass

  • 1 tablespoon of cumin powder

  • 1 tablespoon of coriander powder

(You can either use the powder form of the above ingredients or use its original form of raw ingredients)

Ingredients B

  • 500 grams of peanuts (coarsely ground)

  • 10 tablespoons of castor sugar or gula melaka (coconut palm sugar)

  • 5 tablespoons of cooking oils

  • Pinches of salt

  • Pinches of turmeric powder (optional)

  • 3 big tablespoons of tamarind paste (assam)

  • 5 cups of water

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Steps of Preparation

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  • Use a food processor to blend all the ingredients (except powder ingredients) in “A” until fine. Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle to pound the non-powder ingredients until fine as in the picture. 

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  • In  a big frying pan, add the cooking oil and stir fried the ingredients as in A until fragrance. Add in tamarind, water and remaining ingredients B (coarsely chopped peanut, sugar, salt) and bring to boil.

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  • Reduce heat and simmer until the sauce thickens and oil start to appear on top of the peanut sauce. Off the heat and stir in pinches of turmeric powder (optional) and add some hot water if the peanut sauce is too thick. Set aside for later use.

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PREPARING THE SIDE INGREDIENTS

No quantities will be stated here as it is very much depends on your personal preferences.  Most ingredients are substitutable except the most common and must have are long beans, fried tau kwa). I did not prepare all the ingredients as I am having it by myself  and I will not be able to  finish if I used all the ingredients. However, I will list out the other side ingredients.

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  • Peanut sauce (as mentioned above)

  • Some long beans (cut into 4-5 cm) – blanched

  • Some bean sprouts – blanched

  • Some kangkong (convolvulus) – blanched

  • Some hard boiled eggs – cut into half

  • Some taukwa – deep fried and cut into slices – See below

  • Some cucumbers _ julienned into small chunks

  • Some lettuce – chopped

  • Some Empiring/Melinjo crackers (Indonesian padi oats crackers)-optional

Not in the pictures above

  • Some cabbages – blanched

  • Some potatoes – boiled and cut into cubes

  • Some lontong (rice cakes) – cut into small pieces

  • Some prawn crackers  (keropok udang)

  • Some tempeh (soya bean cakes) – cut into small pieces – optional

  • Fried Shallot.

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Deep Frying the Taukwa

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  • Marinate the taukwa (drier version of bean curd) with some salt, white pepper and coriander sauces. Deep fried under medium heat until the skin is crispy yet the inside is soft. Cut into small pieces and set aside for future use.

Blanching The Vegetables

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  • In a wok or frying pan, put some water, drizzles of oil and some salt and bring the water to boil. Add in beansprouts, green beans and kangkong (convolvulus) in this order. Take out and set aside for later use.

 


ASSEMBLING THE INGREDIENTS AND SERVINGS

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  • Arrange the lettuce on the serving plate and place all blanched vegetables , taukwa, eggs on top of it.

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  • Pour the warm peanut sauce over and garnish with Melinjo or prawn crackers and additional fried shallots, if desired.

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CONCLUSION

  • This is a rather simple dish to prepare except a bit laborious. However, it is a healthy dish as it is packed with vegetables and I like to eat it as a one dish meal.

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  • Only pour sauce over the vegetables before serving otherwise, the peanut sauce may become watery due to the water excreted from the vegetables. If the sauce is too thick, add in some hot water and heat it up. Warm sauce is always preferred. For left over sauces, you can freeze it and used for other noodles dish (Satay Bee Hoon) or as dips for Satay.

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

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Eating “Rat’s Shit”? You AreTotally Gross! –Vegetarian Fried “Beethyemak” Rice Noodles

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INTRODUCTION

Beethyemak (“米大目”) is the name stated in the package of rice noodles that I bought from the supermarket. It is also called “Loh Su Fun” (“老鼠粉”) in Cantonese literally translated as  “Rats flour” …In my Chawan dialects group, it was called “ngiao chu sia” (”老鼠屎“) literally translated as “Rat’s shit”. My mother in law who is a Teochew, called it “ngiao chi ni” (“老鼠奶“) literally translated as “Rat’s milk”..

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If you ask me what is the English translation? I will just translated it into a type of rice noodles taken in different form of the shape of disgusting “worms”. Apparently, it was shaped liked a “rat” .. Does it? I don’t know! I looked for some write up for this noodle dish and I managed to get a Chinese description in http://www.baike.com , the Chinese equivalent of Wikipedia. What is written is:

“米苔目是闽南语,又叫米筛目,漳州龙海特色小吃,是用米和番薯粉做成的。制作米苔目的工序颇为复杂:先要将米浸泡磨成米浆,然后放进布袋加压脱水成“饭脆”,将“饭脆”加入番薯粉,揉搓成饭团,再把饭团做成细条状,放到锅里煮熟捞起后用冷水冲洗,使之滑嫩。米苔目加入糖水、刨冰,可以做成冰凉可口的甜品,咸吃则可以用乌醋拌食或放入柴鱼熬煮成汤,再加入爆香的作料;像河粉一般热炒的米苔目很有嚼劲。 米苔目现在是闽南地区以及台湾著名的美食。” (Source: http://baike.baidu.com/view/68002.htm)

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I have used Google Translation to translate and this is what I got:

“Mitai Mu is the Taiwanese language, called m mesh , Zhangzhou Longhai snacks, with rice and sweet potato flour made. Making process is quite complex Mitai Mu: Soak the rice milled rice milk first and then put into a pressure dewatering bag “rice crispy”, the “rice crispy” adding sweet potato powder , rub into balls , then made ​​into balls thin strips, into the pot boiled picked up after the rinse with cold water to make it smooth and delicate. Mi Taimu added sugar , ice, can be made ​​into delicious cold desserts , salty food, you can use the black vinegar mixed with food or put dried fish boiled into soup, then add the spices until fragrant; like rice noodles stir-fried rice general moss mesh very chewy. Mitai Mu is now southern region as well as Taiwan ‘s famous cuisine.”

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Well, if readers can understand, it is best. However, if you can’t, I think that is unfair to you and I will try my best to translate for you.

“ Beethyemak is the name in Mingnan (Fujian or Hokkien) and the “thye” can also be translated or treated as “sift” in Hokkien. It is a famous snack in Longhai County, Zhangzhou (People’s Republic of China) and it is made of rice and sweet potatoes flour. The manufacturing process is rather complicated. Firstly, the rice grain have to be soaked and ground into rice batter, These are then put in a bag made from cloth. A heavy object is then placed on top of the rice batter to exert pressure and squeeze out the water making it to become a drier batter. Sweet potatoes flour are then added and mixed well. It is then made into long stripes by pouring the batter into the hot water. When cooked , the noodles are immediately dip in cold water such that the texture will be smooth and springy. To serve as a dessert, syrups and crushed ices were added to beethyemak . For savoury dishes, beethyemak can be stir mixed with black vinegar。 It can also be cooked with Bonito broth, and garnished with aromatic deep fried garlics or shallots. It can also be stir fried like Horfun (Kway Tiao) and both noodles have almost similar textures. Beethyemak is now a famous cuisine in the Mingnan (Fujian) area and Taiwan.”

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I have been eating this noodle dish since I was young. Because of the name “Rat’s shit”, psychologically, I do not really like it. In addition, when I was young in Kuching, Sarawak, the Beethyemak is mostly made from pure rice flour. The texture is rather coarse and tasteless. It is not until when I came to Singapore that I started to like Beethyemak. The Beethyemak in Singapore is more springy and if properly cooked, it taste better than rice vermicelli or Kway Tiao (another flat type of rice noodles). 

This noodle is not easy to prepare as compare to rice vermicelli or Kway Tiao. You can either cook it in soupy version or stir fry it.

For stir frying, if you want to maintain the shape, the oil for frying will have to be quite a lot. Otherwise it will stick to your frying pan making it hard to fry. The purpose of this post is to illustrate how to stir fry this noodle dish, the ingredients can be anything from prawns to meat to the vegetables of your choice.

Again, as I am still on my vegetarian diet, this dish will be a vegetarian version. But remember, you can always add meats, prawns, fish cakes etc. of your choice. In addition, you can always used the same method to fry rice vermicelli and Kway Tiao or Horfun.

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WHAT IS REQUIRED

There will be no quantity stated here and you have full flexibility to change the ingredients. This illustration is the vegetarian version and please add in any other ingredients that you like.

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  • Some cabbage cut in slices

  • Some black fungus – soaked and cut into small slices

  • Some tofu puff – cut into small square cubes

  • 1 package of Beethyemak rice noodles (about 500 grams – servings of 4-5 adults)

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  • Some eggs, lightly beaten

  • Some celery – cut into small cubes

  • Some mock meat – cut into strips

  • Some dried mushrooms – soaked and cut into strips

  • Some shredded gingers and/or shallots and/or garlics

  • Condiments of your choices – light soya sauce, dark soya sauce, flavour enhancer like mushroom concentrate, white pepper, salt)


STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • Put one to two tablespoons of cooking oil in the frying pan. Add in shredded gingers and mushrooms (non vegetarian version can put in shredded shallots and garlics) and stir fried under high heat until the fragrance starts to spread.

  • Add in cabbage, stir fry for one minute and follow by celery, mock meat, tofu puffs, black fungus, stir fry until well mixed. Add in half a cup of water (estimate) and let it cooked for one – two minutes.

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The above garnishes of spring onion for picture taking purposes, Religion vegetarian cannot have spring onion in the dish.

Note

  • The purpose of adding the water is to soften and cook the vegetables. Remember, unlike stir frying rice vermicelli, the water has to be minimal as the noodles are rather wet and will not be able to absorb any more water.

  • If your are frying with meat, meat will be the first item to be stir fried followed by hard vegetables (carrots, cabbage, celery etc.), leafy vegetables and tomatoes in this order.

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  • Add in the noodles and stir fry until well mixed. Add in dark soya sauce, light soya sauce, pepper, salt and flavour enhancer. Stir fry until well mixed. Add in beaten eggs and fry until all the noodles were coated with the eggs.

Note:

  • In this illustration, I have purposely used this method of adding the eggs to the noodles. The purpose is to let the eggs coating the noodles. If you do not like the moist soft egg coated noodles, you can prepare the omelette and cut it into strips. You can refer to Vegetarian Tom Yam Bee Hoon for making of omelette strips. The difference is this way of frying noodles will result in moister noodles.

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  • Add in tomatoes and and stir fry for another minutes before scoop out to the plate for serving. Best serve hot with your preferences of garnishes such as coriander leaves, freshly cut chilli or Chinese celery leaves.


CONCLUSION

This noodle dish looks easy to prepare but in fact, it need some practise. The challenges is to ensure the noodles are well coated with eggs and not stick to each other or soggy. To get this texture, the following points have to be taken into considerations:

  • The heat has to be high heat throughout the stir frying. Therefore action have to be fast. If you can’t handle, this, you have to use at least medium heat. High heat is required to ensure that all the fragrances of gingers/shallots/garlics mix well with the noodles and any moisture or water contents dries up quickly. With this, there is less chance for the noodles to get soggy.

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  • There is always a trade off between the look of your final cooked noodles and the amount of cooking oil used. You have to chose whether you want to have a healthier dish (using less oil) but an uglier dish (may be a bit out of shape as some of the noodles may stick to your frying pan). If you want to have an impressive non stick noodles, you will have to use quite a lot of oil to achieve that effect.

  • Unlike fried rice vermicelli and Kway Tiao, the water used for simmering the vegetables or side ingredients cannot be too much, otherwise, your noodles will be soggy and stick to the frying pan. If you have accidentally added too much water, you would rather let the water dry up first (meaning cook a bit longer) rather than having some soggy noodles.

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  • If you do not like moist egg coated noodles, you can use egg omelette strips.

  • All side ingredients in this illustrations are optional and substitutable. Please use what you like to fry the noodles. I have raid my fridge to come out with this and is a vegetarian version. Otherwise, I would have added pork belly meat, prawns and even some dry shrimps. So, use whatever that your family likes to cook the noodle dish.

  • Though all ingredients appeared to be optional, however, the selections will usually based on the colour of the side ingredients and a good combination of colour will make the dish looks appetizing. I usually used tomatoes or carrots for orange, chillies for red colour, choy shym or leafy vegetable for green, dried mushrooms or black fungus for black,  and corns or eggs for yellow colour. This minute detail of colour combination will make this simple dish becoming a presentable dish.

  • Remember that this method of cooking is equally applicable to fried yellow noodles, rice vermicelli, Kway Tiao, Pad Thai and etc..

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

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Vegetarian Pizza Is Just As Tasty ! Simple And Basic Vegetarian Pizza Preparation

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INTRODUCTION

I loved pizza. Pizza is one of the most common food that I ordered when I have meals in Western Restaurants. I love pizza for its dough and cheese. It is a comfort food that I can easily eat an 6 inches diameter pizza. However. I have never really ever prepare pizza since I start my baking 15 years ago. I am thinking that since I have made bread, cakes, muffins cupcakes etc., why don’t I make my own pizza?

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In my Facebook group : Food Bloggers and Foodies United, one of the bloggers Ms Ainy Wajahat from Pakistan have posted some pizza recipes and I promised here that I will bake some pizza. Therefore, I have based on her recipes to make the dough. For the toppings, since I am still on the vegetarian diet, I have used mostly vegetables found in my fridge.

Initially, I intended to make my own pasta sauce. Somehow, as I am too tired that afternoon, I rushed to a provision store nearby and bought a can of ready made pasta sauce. You can read the making of Pasta Sauce from fresh tomatoes HERE.

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Instead of preparing it  in the traditional round shape pizza, I have opted to make a rectangular shape pizza which is easier for me to bake and cut for later serving. I made the dough in the morning and intended to have the pizza for lunch, somehow, the family members decided to go out for lunch, therefore, I froze my dough in the fridge and only made the pizza during dinner time.

Making pizza is really simple and at times, I just wonder why shall I pay so much for pizzas that were sold in the eating outlets.

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WHAT IS REQUIRED

Dough – Recipe adapted from Ainy Cooks

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  • 500 grams plain flour

  • 30 grams butter (at room temperature) or olive oil or ghee or normal cooking oil

  • 300 ml of water

  • 1 egg

  • 1 teaspoon of salt

  • 1 tablespoon of instant yeast

Toppings

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  • Some Enoki mushrooms (cut into half)

  • Some fresh mutton mushrooms (shredded)

  • Some fresh sweet corns

  • Some green capsicums (shredded)

  • Some sausages (for my kids portion)

  • 1 tin of pasta sauce about –about 500 grams

  • Abundant of mozzarella cheeses or cheddar cheeses or goat cheese or other cheeses of your choice. 

The ingredients here are for reference only. You can add a whole range of your preferred vegetable such as tomatoes, pineapples, preserved olives, celeries and etc..

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • In a big mixing bowl, place all materials except butter/ghee/cooking oil/olive oil and use a dough hook to mix until well mix. Add in butter and continue to beat until the dough is smooth. Let it proof for at least 1 hour or until the dough size double. Use a cling wrap or a wet towel to cover the top.

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  • Lightly grease a baking tin and pre-heat your oven to 200 degree Celsius.

  • Punch your dough in the centre to let the air escape. Lightly knead and use a roller pin to roll into  a flat piece resembling the shape of the baking tin. It will be about 0.5-1 cm thick for the dough to cover all the tin area. Make it as even as possible.

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  • Use a fork to lightly make some holes on top of the dough. As this is a big piece of pizza, this is to let the air to have some holes to escape.

  • Spread some pasta sauce on top of the dough

  • Fill the top with your choice of vegetables  and meats, if desired. sprinkle some Italian herbs mix such as basil, oregano etc..

  • Sprinkle sparingly with mozzarella cheese or other cheeses with your choice.

I have make half of the pizza as vegetarian and another half into ham and sausage pizzas for my kids.

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  • Bake your pizza in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the bases are cooked and cheeses have melt.

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  • Cur into your desired size and shape and best serve hot with your choice of additional sauces such as Tabasco sauces, mayonnaise or just plain.

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CONCLUSION

This was one of my very first basic vegetarian pizza that I have made  with great success. The post was very short because it deals with basic pizza preparation. More variations will come and Guaishushu will tailor the taste to the very Asian taste such as curry and etc.. However, that shall have to wait after Guaishushu finishes his vegetarian diet.

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

newmarvelousmondays-button

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Agar Agar is not the same as Agak Agak… Agar Agar is Red Algae !!

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INTRODUCTION

Agar Agar is a Malay word for red algae, apparently it has been accepted as an English word. It is hard for a lay man like me to explain agar agar, so  as usual, I will quote Wikipedia’s explanation of agar agar for reader’s understanding.

Per Wikipedia:

“The word “agar” comes from agar-agar, the Malay name for red algae (Gigartina, Gracilaria) from which the jelly is produced. It is also known as kanten, China grass, Japanese isinglass, Ceylon moss or Jaffna moss. 

Agar-agar is a natural vegetable gelatin counterpart. White and semi-translucent, it is sold in packages as washed and dried strips or in powdered form. It can be used to make jellies, puddings, and custards. For making jelly, it is boiled in water until the solids dissolve. Sweetener, flavouring, colouring, fruit or vegetables are then added and the liquid is poured into moulds to be served as desserts and vegetable aspics, or incorporated with other desserts, such as a jelly layer in a cake. “ (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agar)

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Agar agar is one type of traditional dessert commonly found in Singapore and Malaysia. It is easy to prepare and is a common item being served during Chinese New Year and other festivals. To make it requires no complicated kitchen utensils, just need to boil and mould. Traditionally, households used dried agar agar as shown in this illustration as the raw ingredient. However, in recent years, most households have started to use agar agar powder instead of dried agar agar.

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Traditionally, due to the lack of weighing scales, sophisticated kitchen utensils and written recipes, housewives usually prepare agar agar based on words of mouth using common kitchen items such as cups as the unit of measurement.

I was told that previously, the recipe is 1 cup of soaked agar agar will requires 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. I liked this type of simple ratio recipe, however, when I tried out, it just turned out to be extremely sweet and tough.

Well, that type of recipe may not be acceptable nowadays since we have so many resources available. In olden days, the challenge to make a good agar agar is to get hold of the correct ratio of water to agar agar. The end product shall be slightly chewy and not to soft like the current jelly. In order to achieve such texture, housewives some times dried their agar agar under the sun. They believed that the less water content in the agar agar, the better it is. In fact, some house hold cut it into one bite size, dried it under the sun until it is very chewy, store in a container and eat it as a snacks or sweets!

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In recent years. preparation of agar agar is not entirely based on texture since all ingredients can be measure rather accurately. It is rather easy but the challenge had shifted to the colour combination and moulding. If you have the relevant mould, you can create your own design based on your creativities. One of the most trendy agar agar moulding will be agar agar moon cake where the agar agar were mould into a moon cake shape. Inside the agar agar moon cake, there is a yellow colour balls resembling the egg yolk.

Again that is deal with planning, making and moulding. It can be rather stressful if there are no prior planning on the colour selection and mould selection. Of course, it can be as simple as just a single colour one flat piece of agar agar. The taste will definitely be the same but of course it is less impressive to your guest.

This illustration will only provide you with the simplest layered agar agar procedures. You can chose your own colour and shape of your mould. I have use some heart shape mould and the colour is purely selected for this illustration only. At home, we will not go until this extent and usually have one to two colours plus 2-3 layers of agar agars.

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NATURAL COLOUR SELECTION

There are a lot of natural colour available and you can totally throw away the artificial colouring, if you wish. Suggested colours are:

  • White and milky – condense milk, coconut milk, fresh milk
  • Chocolate – instant coffee paste, chocolate  paste or powder
  • Red colour – red colour dragon fruits paste
  • Yellow – mango paste
  • Green – pandanus paste
  • Violet or blue – pea flowers
  • Purple –black currant drink
  • Red – strawberry paste
  • Dots in the agar agar –  dragon fruits

Besides the above colours, many varieties of cut fruits can also be included. For example, yam cubes with coconut milk is a good combination. Coffee with milk is another welcoming combination to make into agar agar. Canned Longan or lychee with black currant flavoured agar agar is also a presentable dessert. All this is very much depend on reader’s creativities to prepare one that is acceptable to the guest or family members.

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WHAT IS REQUIRED

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I have intentionally left out the quantities as it is best that you follow the instruction on the the package of agar agar that you bought. Be it dried agar agar strips as shown above or agar agar powders, they will have detail instructions on the quantity of water required. It is best that you follow these instruction as every brands of agar agar will requires different liquid to reach the desired textures.

  • 1 package of agar agar strip (about 38g)
  • Some water (refer package)

  • Some sugar (refer package)

  • Some permitted food colouring of your choice or the type of natural colouring ingredients as mentioned above.

  • Some moulds of your preference

  • Few leaves of Pandanus leaves – bundled (optional)

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • Wash the dried agar agar by soaking in clean water for 1-2 minutes.

  • In a pot, put in the water as stated in the package and add dried agar agar. Use medium heat to bring the water to boil. Continue stirring until all the agar agar are dissolved.

  • Add in the required sugar into the agar agar solution and stirred until dissolve. Turn the heat to the minimal. You just need the heat to prevent the agar agar from solidifying while you do the layering. Alternatively, you can put your agar agar in a big basin of hot water.

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  • Take out some container of your choice, add in your preferred colouring and  pour into the mould.

  • Once done, put it in the freezer or chiller or under the fan and once it is set on the top, you can pour the second layer. How long will it take will depends on your room temperature, the concentration of your agar agar and the types of you container. For my today’s illustration, it is rather fast because the container is very small and my agar agar is quite concentrated.

  • Repeat the same for different layers until all the agar agar were used up.

  • Put in the fridge for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove from the mould, cut into your desired size and shape and put in your preferred serving plate.
  • Best served cold as a dessert.

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CONCLUSIONS

This is extremely simple. It is best that you based on what is stated in the package label to prepare the agar agar. Different brands will have different instructions.

Though this illustration is using traditional dried agar agar, you can use agar agar powder instead. The price for both dried agar agar and agar agar powder is rather economical and in my humble opinion, it is still a good choice of snacks or desserts. Variations are many and you have full flexibility to choose your desired flavour, colour and moulding. You guest will surely be impressed by your creativities.

Try this traditional Asian dessert and I am sure you wouldn’t regret preparing it. Hope you like the post today. Have a nice day and cheers.

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Nostalgic Soup Than Can’t Erase From My Mind–Chinese Style Potatoes Soup

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Updated Post on 9-10-2014

I have prepared the soup again today and have some new picture taking. However, today when I prepared the soup, as I am running out of time, I have decided to by pass the sautéing of the starch and onion. I put everything in the wok, boil until the meat is soft and add the starches. Of course, it was not as fragrant as what my father have prepared but it saves some times.. Kids start to like this starchy soup. Personally, I prefer the yam or taro version but shelve the idea as kids still dislike the taro.

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INTRODUCTION

I seldom have soup recipe in this blog except salted vegetable duck soup, a well known traditional Chinese soup for Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese.  Of course I have many other soup preparation illustrations such as bitter gourd and pineapple pork rib soup, double mushroom chicken soup, sweet corn pork rib soup and many more at Guaishushu’s Facebook Page under the index start with “S”.

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Today, I will share this special soup which is a comfort food with nostalgic and sentimental feelings for me.  I am still in doubt its origins and totally unsure if other families are cooking this soup, not at least my circles of friends. It is hope that via this post, some readers will be able to tell me the origin of this soup!

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This is a “strange” soup cooked by my late father. Not even my late mother cook this soup as she said it is a bit laborious to cook this soup.

In fact, the ingredients and cooking method have influences of both oriental and western method of cooking. Talking about this soup, I am sure my brothers and sister in laws can recall about the soup. It can either be cooked with taro or  potatoes. What we usually cooked is with yam or taro and I knew my sister in laws still cook the taro version of this soup as at today.

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The potato version of soup what is always in my mind. When I told my mother in law that I wanted to cook this soup, she looked at me unbelievably and she thought that I am cooking ABC soup, a soup that were cooked using carrot, potatoes and onions. I told her no, it is a pure potatoes soup!

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WHAT IS REQUIRED

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  • 250 g of potatoes cut into big chunks

  • 250 g of onion cut into a quarter

  • 250 g of pork ribs

  • 6 cups of water

Thickening starch

  • 50 g of sweet potatoes flour

  • 400 g of water

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • In a big soup pot that can accommodate at least 10 cups of water, put some water adequate to cover the pork ribs.

  • Blanch the pork ribs until the outer layers is slight cooked. Throw away the water.

  • Wash the pork ribs under running water to get rid of any blood clots and add in the cut potatoes. Add in 6 cups of water and bring to boil under high heat. Once boiled, turn to medium heat and continue boiling until the potatoes and meats are soft. This will take 15-20 minutes. You can just let it boil until your next step is ready. Change to low heat if necessary.

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  • In another sauce pan, add in 1 tablespoon of oil, add in the cut onions and fried until the fragrance of onion start to spread.

  • Put in the sweet potatoes starch and cook under low heat, Stir fry until the flour turned into a lump and become colourless. Note that the main reason of cooking this way is to give the flour some flavour of onions. If you add directly to the soup, you will find the flour in the soup is flavourless. Well that is how my late father cooked and I do agree to it.

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  • Transfer your cooked starch to the soup and continue boiling until the meat and potatoes of your desired textures.

  • Add seasonings of your choice (flavour enhancer such as mushroom concentrate, pepper, salt, light soya sauce etc.).

  • Bring to boil and once boiled, off the heat and garnish with herbs of your choice. Preferably served hot with rice.

WHY THIS SOUP IS UNIQUE?

The soup has the oriental elements because it is cooked with normal cooking oils used by Chinese home cooking (instead of butter or olive oils) and pork ribs and flavour using the Chinese condiments. In addition, the thickening is using Chinese cooking ingredients sweet potatoes starch. It is definitely more watery and less creamy than Western soup! The final soup still maintain the shape of the potatoes, pork ribs and even onions. It complements the dryness of the white rice.

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On the other hand, it is unusual for Chinese to use potatoes to cook soup. Besides ABC soup, most Chinese households do not use potatoes to cook soup. Besides this unusual ingredient, Chinese soups usually do not use thickening agents in soup with the exception of some special soups such as shark fin soups and sweet and sour soups. The soups, in traditional sense should be watery and clear (or whitish colour due to the meat essence in the both). Thickening agents are used in many Chinese dishes including braised dishes, noodle dishes , vegetables dishes, egg dishes, bean curd dishes but not in soup dishes.

For purposes of further illustrating this soup may have Western influences, I have took out portion of the soup and added plain flour (wheat flour as you used for making cakes) and some creams.

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This is what the end product looked like and in fact, my kids do not mind this soup after adding of cream and wheat flour. My boy says that the soup is very creamy like cream of mushroom soup that he used to have in Western restaurant.

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CONCLUSION

Having a post on this particular soup brings me  lots of fond memories and sentimental feelings, making me wanted to know more about my late father. We did not really communicate much due to very traditional Chinese family upbringings whereby we were not encouraged to ask about what the adults are doing. Communication was always unidirectional. However, if he was still available, I would know how to tackle the issue and “fished” out his thoughts!

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It is a soup that none of friends knew. It is neither Western or Oriental style of soup. It is a mixture of both. Where my late father learned the cooking of this soup was really a mystery (in my humble opinion). He hailed from China and could not read or spoke ABC not to mention exposure to Western cuisines. The only remote reason that I could think of was due the influence of British colonization of Sarawak until late 1940’s  and at that time, he was a teen.

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Hopefully by having this post, some of my readers from any  parts of the world can share with me, if you have ever tasted exactly soup cooked in this manner and what do you think is the origin of the soup. It is also hope that my readers will try out this soup and let me know if it suits your taste buds. Thanks and have a nice day.

 

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  • For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX (updated as at 8 June 2014)  here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit the blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE to keep abreast of my future posts.  

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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.