Saturday, September 29, 2007

Foochow Chicken Mien Xien (Sou Mien)

Mien Xien or Xien Mien (Suo Mein in Foochow) are very thin white noodles. Mien Xien or Mee Sua (in Hokkien) cooked with Chicken Soup is a signature foochow dish. Almost every foochow grew up on this.

Chicken Soup Mee Sua (Sou Mein) make their appearances in almost all occasions big & small. And I really mean ALL ocassions BIG & SMALL ~ from childbirths and confinements, 1-year-old to 99-year old birthdays, and on weddings. On my wedding, I was fed this from the time i did my makeup up to my in laws' house. Even the groom & their 'brothers' were not spared from this. Greg & his 'brothers' were stuffed with this when they came to pick me up as the bride.

Sou Mien is also breakfast, lunch or dinner, and whenever I am too lazy to cook. I'm just glad it's one of Greg's favourite dish and he rarely gets tired of it. This is how you do it:

a) Chicken Soup

1.2 to 1.5 kg of free range chicken/chai yuan chicken, washed and cut to small pcs
8 pcs of dried shitake mushrooms (soaked in room temperature water till soft)
small handful of thornberries (goa zi)
10 pcs of red dates (hung zhoa)
4-5 slices of ginger
2tbsp of sesame oil
6-8 cups of water
1/2 cup of foochow red wine (special wine of sourish taste, fermentation of red rice and glutinous rice)

1)Heat wok with sesame oil. Add ginger and fry till fragrant. With high heat, add mushrooms and then chicken and fry, stirring for a 2-3 min. Add foochow red wine (get the best quality you can grab hold of. Usually homemade). Cover and boil for 5 min or so.

2) Boil the water in a big pot, water should come approx only half of pot as we are adding chicken mixture to it. Add red dates and thornberries and continue boiling.

3) Add chicken mixture. Let it boil. Once boiling turn the fire down to small and let it simmer for at least one hour for flavour to come out.

b) The Sou Mien

About 30-40 gm per person. Good quality sou mien is characterised by lightness and thinness. Thick ones are usually not as good tasting. Mee sua must be cut into bunches of 15-20 cm long and twisted into circles, then sun dried well for at least a full day and kept in tupperware. Good quality sou mien are separated upon cooking. Lesser quality ones tend to stick into one big lump.

Boil a small pot water and add sou mien. Let the noodle boil for a min or so or water boils until foamy. Strain and dish it out and place in individual bowls. Pour hot boiling chicken soup over noodles. Give lots of soup. Arrange chicken pcs and mushrooms on top. Serve with your favourite soy sauce and more red wine. This dish smells so good especially if the red wine is of good quality.

This dish has a very significant meaning to me. Not only it is Mum's favourite, my great grandma (Tui Ma) cooked this so well. As a child bride who came from China and having a 3-inch feet lady as a mother-in-law, Tui Ma was a lady who had gone through immense hardship. Yet, she was such a loving, giving and gritty lady. She was someone who never complained about who had not done enough for her, but instead she worried about if she had done enough for all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

She readily extended her love and generousity to all those around her including her neighbours and friends. Most importantly, she was the first person in the family to accept Christ and thus making us the fourth generation, and including my cousin Chris' children, the fifth generation of Christian in this land. Such blessed gift she had given us!

I had the pleasure and honour of knowing her up to about 7 years old. But I still remember the last bowl of foochow suo mein she had cooked for me. We arrived in Sibu to visit her and in a way, saying our farewells. She got out of her sickbed and cooked the bowl because she knew I loved it. She left us in 1982 after fighting colon cancer. But she is still the most loved and well respected person in all our hearts. Such a blessing she was to all who knew her!

Nee is On the Go Again!

Nee is finally feeling better today after a week's bout of flu. You should have seen her. She was really knocked out then.

Today she came up to me and told me that she wanted to make a few things.
I said what? You shouldn't be doing anything. Take the whole day off. Relax. Watch your TVB.
I should have known better. I should have known she would be up to something.

You have to know something about foochow women. They can cook 24 hours a day and they delight in it. It's not something we can ever understand.

Today a female friend of ours mentioned that foochow women are known to be 'gritty'. They are tough. My father concurs. He said he's seen foochow women jump out of bed straight out of confinement to feed the ducks, feed the chicken, kill a duck, cook a duck, feed the children, and plant veges behind the house, and cook dinner. It's almost like a one woman show.

If Nee was a traffic light, there would be no red light on her. So just now, she held up a glass and grinned at me:

It's a freakin' soya bean drink! I don't know how she squeezed that out of those beans!
And it tasted like the real thing. Fresh and without any of that raw 'green' aftertaste.

And that wasn't all. She went into the kitchen and came out with this:

Freshly Fried Scrunchy Munchy Crispy Wispy You Cha Koey!
My breakfast will be heavenly tomorrow!

Homemade Taiwan Style Noodles

Noodles represents are one of main staple in Chinese food, second to rice and in some places especially the northern part of China it is eaten more than rice. Essentially there are 3 categories of noodles ~ wheat ones (mien), rice flour ones (hor fun, koay teow, mee fun thin and thick) and mung bean starch (vermicelli). The wheat ones have many varieties and the difference lies mainly in the ratio of flour, water and/or eggs, and the thickness and treatment. Egg noodles are basically wheat and egg to make noodles like yee mien. There are those with egg/s and water added to flour such as oil noodle (you mien), kolo mee, cantonese lo mien, mee pok, taiwan noodle, ban mien, heng hua pa mee. There are also noodle made with just flour salt and water which is how some xien mien are made. La Mien and knife shaved ones of course are totally different ball games. There are just too many varieties.

Freshly made Taiwan noodle

Many would just buy ready made noodles from stores but unless you know the person making them, you dont know really know what goes into them. Many would used alkaline water to give noodles a certain crunchiness (that is why bought noodles sometimes has a funny smell) and also just plain egg whites with lots of water. Egg whites are bought from people what wants to throw them away like bakers making layer cakes.

To be honest, there is not that many real hand made noodles as some eateries claim to made, most have machines to help. Unless you see the Ta Mien See Fu at work with his long bamboo stick hang onto a ring screwed to the wall and he literally sits and jumps on the bamboo stick to press his dough. Of course La mien (hand pulled noodles) is hand made and so are some ban mien.

My little pasta maker (Pui Nam Cheong in India street charge me RM100 and by the time i got to the end of the street, it only costs RM60 ~ Totally ripped off)

Making your own noodles is really not very difficult but the results is healthy fresh yummy noodles. But you should invest in a little pasta maker which cost like RM60 to RM80. One of our favourites at home is Taiwan style noodle. This type of noodles is very smooth in texture, has a nice bite yet it is on the softer side.

Freshly cooked noodle

300g of flour
(high protein if you like it more hard and chewy; key or plain protein if you like it softer)
2 no of big eggs
80-100gm of water (please adjust according to the flour you use)
1 tsp of salt

1) Mix all ingredients together with hand or mixer and knead (like washing clothes) into dough. Add more flour if too wet.

2) Divide the dough into 2 portions and roll it out into a square, sprinkle some flour on both side and run it through the noodle maker to make sheets (use the sheet making part), starting from largest (No 1 for my noodle maker) to No 3 or No 4. (I usually stop at 3 because I like my noodles thicker). With each no, run it through twice. Sprinkle some flour each time you change no. If sheets get too long, cut into ½ or 1/4 before running through next no. The sheets will look shiny after a few runs.

3) Cut sheets into strips using the noodle maker (the noodle making part) or by hand. Sprinkle each portions of noodles with flour to prevent sticking together. Remember this dough is softer.

4) Fold up the strips nicely waiting to be cooked. Preferrably cook immediately upon making. This noodle is the nicest and freshest this way.

5) Boil a pot of water, add some oil, loosen the noodles and cook til the strands start floating up. Take it out and wash with water to get rid of flour, dunk in back into hot water again for like 2-3 sec.
Can be used for Taiwan beef noodles, Taiwan pork rib noodles, Ma Lak Mien, Hot and Sour Noodles.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Neptune's Castle

Early on this year, I was given the honour of making a birthday cake for two very special little gals, Rhiana and Natalie. They are two gorgeous loveable little gals who are best friends and their birthdays are like 3 days apart. They specifically want Aunty Nee to make their cakes because i accidentally got a peep into their birthday party plan (I almost could not believe how methodical they are), computer typed out with list of food, games, venue and time and last item birthday cake. They are only 10.

But the catch was it has to be a castle, an under the sea castle called Neptune's Castle. I broke into cold sweat as I was only given one week's notice. I loved the challenge but worry if I did a lousy job I would disappoint the gals. SOS was sent out: Greg with his clay molding skills and Aunty Terry for ideas on buttercream and fondant.

This was the end product:

Two 10" American chocolate cake and layers of chocolate ganache staked on top of one another, followed by one 6"American Chocolate cake and finally two ice cream cones to top off. Cakes were creamed and the sea creatures, plants and features of the castle were shaped separately and stick onto the cake with buttercream.

Greg was really good with the shaping. His artistic sense came in really handy. So the cake is actually a joint effort by Aunty Nee and Uncle Greg to be exact. The gals yelped when they set eyes on the cake. Think they will remember their cake for a long time to come.

Everyone deserve to have their favourite cake for their birthdays. That is why i love baking. Cakes are delights. They put smiles on faces. They put shines in eyes. They give fond and happy memories. And I'm glad the gals were happy with their cake.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

An Inconvenient Flu: I am a Flu Bug!


A word of warning. Flu bugs around. I'm one of them. Caught it last Sun. Signs are coughing, nasal congestion, fever and extreme tiredness.

Al Gore is right! Weather is going haywire!

Morning can be so hot and humid and came mid afternoon thunderstorm, the rain drops so big looks and sounds like hail storms. Never really see such extreme in Kuching!

But weird hor. Still can blog! This thing is extremely addictive! I better go do my class and go home and go on hibernating! Stay away from Me! (not our blog, i mean in person)

Watch the Trailer: Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kick Yo Mao Sak and Eat Your Food!

It gets quite exciting whenever you find really authentic food in Kuching. There's this shop called New Happy Cafe in Petanak. It sells authentic Foochow Food. Their famous dishes are Chow Chai Bee Hoon and Foochow Noodles. We are not going to rate this place cause this IS already the best in Kuching!

Most good restaurants and eateries have very interesting and passionate owners. This is definitely one of them.

"Kick Yo Mao Sak and eat your food!!!" Not bad. This fella can spiak England.
(Translation:Keep your mouth shut)

This Uncle is 65 and he zooms up and down, taking orders and occasionally stop by tables to chat. His wife does the cooking.

Anyway, the Chao Chai Bee Hoon is thick bee hoon cooked in Chao Chai soup (This is foochow version of perserved mustard like ham choi or mui choi. Chao Chai is Foochow). According to Uncle, he has to treat his Chao Chai first and he buys the most expensive Foochow red wine to cook his soup. All his fresh fish and prawns are express ferried all the way from Sibu! This is the menu:

Patin and Tapah fish and King Prawns are the highlights.

Chao Chai Bee hoon with Tapah fish. The fish is so fresh that they can still jump out of the bowl. The soup is so sweet and nicely sour befitting the definition of Choa Chai. Each bowl cost RM12.

The King Prawn version. See the prawns? They're as big as my arm! This bowl costs RM18.

The owner's concept is that he only give the best and he believes that his patrons do not mind paying more for quality. Well, he is right. We would wince at the bill but still happily pat our tummies after the meal.

By the way, the owner is actually a very nice guy lah! He came up to us and told us that he'll be letting go of the business by year end as his children had all grown and wanted them to stay with them in KL. So hurry up guys! You still have till December for authentic Foochow noodles! Dont miss it!

Happy Mid Autumn Festival

Last piece of Mooncake left over in Nee's Mooncake Marathon ~ Lotus with salted egg yolk

The Chinese in the world has their fair shares of celebrations and festivals. Mid Autum Festival or sometimes called the Mooncake Festival originates from the time the Hans wanted to overthrow the Mongolians. As the Mongolians (Yuan Dynasty) keep tight watch on the peoples' activities, the Hans formulated a way of passing messages on rebellion stuffed in little cakes. These little innocent cakes got pass the soldiers and the Hans rose during the night of the full moon which is Mid Autumn and the Mongolians were overturned.

These little cakes are what we see today as MoonCakes abeilt that they come in so many sizes, forms, shapes and tastes. As Chinese, I do believe in many of its values and traditions. Mid Autumn Festival as one of them had given many many of us very fond memories of childhood and lanterns and moon cakes. Do keep up this tradition. Dont give it up just because you are in places where this is not important. Dont forget to pass it on to our children. Give them their fond memories. Instill their roots!

This is also a time for family. As the chinese always says "Raise your head you see the full round moon, then bend down to remember home and family". So Remember them. We cant see all of you tonite but you are in our prayers and thoughts. This is our little message in the little mooncakes.

Happy Mid Autumn Festival! May God grace you with good health and a happy heart!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Steaming Titanic!

After our KL trip, we cant get rid of the yummy steamboat taste. It lingers. Well, it haunts us!!
So to celebrate the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, we had my in laws (my mum and dad still away in Shanghai) and say yi's and family and 2koo over for wat else: Steamboat (Chinese Version: Fire Pot). Well, I m going to kill two birds with one blog. You can take this as a guideline for your steamboat as well.

Greg: This is what Nee prepared. It wasn't just any steamboat, it was a Super Steaming Titanic!!!

Let's see. Got fresh mackarel fishballs - all homemade. Slurrrrp! Saliva coming out like waterfall!

Got teochew style fish noodle. Made of fresh mackarel fish into a fish dough before cooking. Slurrrrp! Absolutely my favourite! This can be one soupy dish by itself.

Nee: Will blog about this recipe soon. Fresh homemade noodles which had not failed to get raving comments.

You can do a assorted platter of vegetables with fish paste made fresh ~ ladyfingers, chillis, shitake mushrooms, bittergourd, egg roll fish cakes, fish cakes in beancurb sheets.

Same fish paste can also be made into Hakka Style Yong Tau Fu ~ I deep fried the pieces here, if you are conscious about fats, steam it will do.

Other items, you can get fresh from market depending on whats good that day:

Red snapper and prawns

Shabu shabu style lamb and beef thin slices. You can pre ordered this from your butcher and in my case, Good old Choice Daily. This is a must! Dont go for any other cut when it come to steam boat

Pork balls ~ BAtu Kawa Old Township is good. Pork slices ~ according to my butcher, hold your knife at 45 deg to slice and seasoned slightly with salt. Meat is more tender that way. Well he is right! What can i say! This fellow looks so cold he hardly smile like he will chop you up if you ask too much but he is a nice bloke and his meat is the cleanest. Located at 3rd mile this store called Agriculture.
Beef Tripes ~ should have cooked it up first!

Dont forget your greens, mushrooms series. Greg the lazy bum just could not be bothered taking photos. Men! Vegie is vegie what is there to talk about.!

Finally the almighty Soup base. I formulated a NEE's herbal version (had about 25 ingredients) with bones and a whole kampung chicken. Don worry i took my list to chinese sen sei he says nothing clashes or is poisonous. So guys if you get a tummy ache it is not the soup ok! Somehow in a weird way, it turns out smelling like bak kut teh but luckily it did not taste like it. No MSG required cause it has so many things. You can use simple chicken base with pork bones or beef bones with just ginger, garlic, red dates, thornberry, yu zhu, sham si and dang shen. Guarantee sweet tasting! Cant give you my exact version. Think need some improvement. Guinea pig anyone?

Like Aunty Terry will tell you. Freshness and Quality is important! You dont have to make everything from scratch. Just buy really fresh ingredients. This firepot is for those of you in London, USA and Canada. Heard it is snowing in Canada already. Oooh, imagine hot steaming steamboat!!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Grand Mooncake Finale

Oops! Nee did it again!
Tonite is a very special nite. It is the eve of the mooncake festival. And we are prepared.
Nee has finally reached the end of her 3-week mooncake marathon. Tonite, her factory shot out the last batch ready for distribution. Ngai Tee! 100 pieces already this season!

Nee says: I swear I will not make another mooncake until next year.
Greg says: What is that? Until next year is as good as making it again.

Tonite the moon fairy will make a special appearance in the neighbourhoods near you. The moon fairy will be distributing mooncakes to close friends and relatives nearby, accompanied by her celestial flying Gu Chia Leen driver. Translation: bullock cart

Making their special debut tonite:

Snowskin Mooncake

The baked series group photo

Baked Mooncake with Mung Bean & Red Bean Filling with kuachee
Lotus with Salted Egg Yolk filling

Nee's mooncake factory is now officially closed!

A Special Message to Everyone We Know

Hi All, especially to the ones who know us (friends and relatives) from faraway places! We know you've been dropping by our blog quite frequently (we have a way of knowing muahahaha), and we're happy that you did.

We get a kick out of comments posted by our readers, even if they are just a simple little hi. So, if you haven't done that yet, please click on the comments link below and type us a little message to encourage us! Keep on reading and keep coming back more often!

DAD's Birthday at Taiwanese Ting's Noodles

Nee: For our Taiwanese fixes, we usually frequent this Taiwanese noodle shop in Kuching located opposite Grand Continental Hotel. It's called Ting's Noodles. Well, Chiang, not Ting Sim Nee's noodles ah.
Greg: The first thing that you will notice about this shop is the cook, who is also the owner.
He looks like one of those Iron Chefs, always ready to chop something up. He wears a Karate Kid headband that holds his Afro together. Quite a character.

These are the only shots which I could manage without being too upfront about it. Just in case he might chop me up. It was difficult to take good shots. He moves fast. It's like shooting wildlife on National Geographic.

The shop is supposedly famous for its Taiwanese noodles. One of my favourite is Pork Rib Noodles.

(Yummy slurrrpy salivating like waterfall!)

Nee: There are also other varieties, among which are the famous Taiwan Stew Beef Noodles (which is nice and flavourful but sometimes the meat cut can be quite tough), Beef Brisket noodles (which can be cooked spicy or just plain chinese wine, I like the chinese wine version but cant eat too much cause it gets a little gelak as you can only taste Brisket and wine), Dan Dan noodles (which is nice but dont compare with authentic Szechuan style cause no such ommp..). Prices of single bowls range from RM3.50 to RM8.00

It does have very nice side dishes though ranging from RM1.50 to about RM 4.50. Favourite are like Taiwanese sausage and pig ears with a nice garlic, szechuan style sauce. I like their pickled seaweeds, onion pancakes, Shui Jiao (Dumplings boiled and pan fried)

Greg: yummy sausage made of previous blogger who went too close

We were celebrating my Dad's (Nee's Father in law) belated birthday that night. So we ordered few main dinner dishes, instead of the noodles and side dishes.

Drunken Chicken (behind) and Smoked Tea Duck!

Szechuan Style Brinjal

Nee: There was also another Lamb dish. Stewed ones which is the highlight for me. Shank cooked to perfect tenderness but still attached to bone finish with nice sweet sourish dark sauce. You know why there is no picture.

Greg: I guess the shop is really famous for its noodles. Most of the other dinner dishes were just so so.

And finally we end the night with Nee's Fresh Strawberry Cake!

Sweeeet Baby!

Nee rates:

Service 9/15: Waitresses cant introduce and explain their dishes well. You need to be a frequent to know what to order. If Lady Boss is around, it could be better. Chef character even though sitting next to us for a while could not be bother (should have told him we are blogging)

Environment 12/15: Clean with Chinese style decoration. Like the fact that you can see the Chef working in the open concept which means kitchen is generally clean.

Food 45/60 Noodles are generally good but their dinner dishes are really only so so as you can see in picture. Edible nice but not something I would rave about.

Value for money 7/10:We pay about RM75 for all the dinner. Portion very small.

Overall 7/10

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