Saturday, November 3, 2007

Kuching Hot Pot

Last nite, Nee went out for a wild girls' nite out. I was left alone at home to fend for myself. (NEE: Poor baby! Complaints a lot hor). I had leftover butter prawns & leftover Salted Vegie Duck soup, which still tasted excellent - cos I was really hungry & it was a rainy evening. So while I was eating the leftovers, I thought about Nee & her girlfrens at Sahara eating BBQ Pork Ribs & the whole range of meat galore. We'll blog about that one day.(NEE: Hmmm wonder if he is missing me or the food!

Inside the Hot Pot

Anyway back to Hot Pot. It's a claypot specialty shop where everything comes inside a claypot except the drinks. The place is located near Kingwood Inn & it's directly across the road from the KMC swimming pool.

I do not know why people cook in clay pot. Of course clay pots have their purpose. I guess it can achieve a higher temperature & is able to keep things hot for a longer time. But I was thinking more like where did claypot cooking come from, and I suspected that it could have originated more from practicality rather than creativity. Meaning, they could have come from the clay age, so it was more of convenience rather than the ingeniuity to use it for certain effects. And maybe as time goes by, it came to be used only for certain things. But having said all that, it's just a guess. Don't bet on it cos I tend to be very shallow about anything to do with cooking.

So Nee & I had our Friday lunch at Hot Pot. We took a look at the menu and ordered the most interesting sounding drink - Papaya Lemon drink:

I think it came only with papaya colour cos all we tasted was orange. FAIL.

This was our table number. I was beginning to worry that it's an indication of things to come. The drink was a bad start, maybe the worst was to come.

The shop's specialty was Lamb claypot. So we ordered that.

Lamb with spices and herbs (House Special) ~ Small RM8/pot. This dish is strongly recommended by the very clean looking Taukay who actually dresses like he works in the office. The lamb claypot is good! Very herby and spicy, and the lamb taste blend in beautifully. However, Nee would prefer if they can kind of strain the herbs and spices out a bit more. (NEE: I keep on biting into those peppercorn, chillis & celery, and the soup should be slightly thicker. Maybe I am expecting stew.)

Assam Curry Fish Meat ~ Small RM10/pot

We had a choice of fish head or fish meat. Apparently they cook the sauce first then add the fish before serving. Spicy and sourish, fitted to be called assam. But we find it slightly on the artificial side like those packet assam curry premix. Fish is fresh though like they claimed. None of those fishy smell.

Beancurd ~ Small RM5/pot. Very so so. Just oyster sauce, cornflour thickened and pour onto a piece of tofu, topped with lettuce.

Generally, we would rate this place about 6.5 - 7/10

Food 38/60 The lamb is good and the rest is very common and not exactly so well cooked. There must be a reason why people cook in claypots and in this case we don't see the reasons cause all food are cooked separately in normal pots and transfer to claypots. So only selling gimmicks!

Enviroment 11/15 The place is very clean. Decoration minimal.

Service 12/15 Food comes fast enough. And the Taukeh friendly enough and patient enough to explain his products. Good!

Price 8/10 Not expensive considering there is fish and lamb.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Salted Vegies Duck Soup (Xien Chai Ya Tang)

When someone has good appetite, even the most normal food is appetizing. With poor appetite, even the most elaborated food is not good enough. Xien Chai Ya Tang is really a very normal dish, but it is very appetizing, very good even when you don't have the appetite. The soup is clear and the taste is on the saltish-sourish side.

I normally feel a little guilty cooking this because of the Salted Veges (The Xien Chai/Humchoy). I always feel that preserved items from China are hmm.. how should i put it...not very comfortable. My father-in-law always tells scary stories about preserved stuff with overloaded chemicals. So I was really excited when Aunty Terri blogged about her Xien Chai recipe. I tried it and it turn out really good. I dont think i will ever buy any Xien Chai outside again.

Here's what you need to do:

1 no of small duck (approx 1.5kg or so), cleaned with salt and chopped to pieces
1.5 litre of water
2 medium stalks of homemade Xien Chai, cut in 3 parts
2-3 no of local tomatos, sliced
1/2 bulb of garlic, washed and leave as whole
1 small pc of ginger (about thumb size), scraped skin and smashed
3-4 pcs of sour plums (more if you like it more sour)

1) Boil water. Add garlic, ginger, sour plums and Xien Chai to boiling water.

2) Add duck to boiling water. Let it boiled. Then turn to simmer til duck meat are soft but still in intact.

3) Add tomatos right before serving and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes for flavours to release

4) You can place soup mixture in claypots and boil it over fire if you want to keep it warm for longer. And it looks better as well. I dont add any salt, msg or pepper.

Nice and warm on rainy and chilly days. It has been raining non-stop everyday in Kuching now. Rainy season has arrived! Well, come to think of it, it has been a weird year. It has practically been raining the whole year.

Terri's Homemade Xien Chai

My Xien Chai (Aunty Terri, Pass or not?!)

4-5 bunches of leafy mustard green or Kua Chai
Some Salt
Water used for washing rice

1) Wash and clean Kua Chai well and wipe dry. Sun dry for two days or so.

2) Rub the leaves with salt. And place in a nice clean bowl with lid. Pour the cloudy water used for washing rice into the bowl to soak the vegies. Cover and soak for 3-4 days. Check to make sure all parts are soaked.

3) When it is ready, i just wash it a little and place in a clean covered bowl and store in refridgerator.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bread and Buns Tests

Nee's Wholemeal bread and loaf
In bread making, there are essentially three major dough variations ~ the bread dough for breads, sweet bun dough (used to wrap or with some other flavouring) and sponge & dough method (can made both breads and buns).

Homemade plain white bread. Cut into thick slices, perfect for French Toast.

Floss Rings made from sweet bun dough. Looks like spider legs. Many of our buns are made from this dough

Generally, bread and bun making uses high protein flour also called the bread flour (recent price increase from RM2.20 to RM3.00 per kg. *Sigh*), sugar, yeast, milk powder (optional) & salt as dry ingredients. Liquid like water & milk, eggs and finally fats like shortening or butter or cooking oil can be added. Recipes will generally vary depending on the portions added.

Of course, there are also other variations in the recipes which can create a whole range of bread items such as the American donuts, Italian pizza & foccacio (which usually incorporates fresh herbs), Turkish pita, English muffins, French bread, baguettes & cobs, danish & croissants. I love the smell of fresh bread and of course the smell of the house after baking breads and buns. Hmm so homey!

However, there are a few tips that can help to ensure good results:

1) Use castor sugar as granules are bigger which allow longer kneading.

2) Use cool water to make bread and bun because with long kneading, cool water will prevent the yeast to take reactions causing the rise in dough. Icy water will increase proofing time later on. Best is cool.

3) Do not put in the entire measurement of water called for in the recipes all at once. Always leave about 10% which can be incorporated later after the dough has formed. This is because different flours take in different amount of water.

4) Knead for about 15 to 20 minutes. The dough is only ready if it passes the film/membrane test. Take a little dough from bottom and roll into a little ball, stretch the dough gently until a thin membrane is formed without breaking. Repeat for the dough from the top. Thin film/membrane shows that the gluten in the dough had developed. If membrane broke easily, continue kneading for another 3-5 min. Repeat test.

5) Good shaping method will ensure nice end results especially buns (we do not want wrinkly surface). The roll and pull towards you motion can smoothen dough.

6) When proofing/resting, always keep dough in enviroment that is free of moving air like fan or air conditioner. Flowing air will cause the dough to dry out. Keep it covered with cloth that has water sprayed on (not wet, just slightly damp).

7) Usually, most recipes will ask you to proof till the dough double in the bulk or to wait for XX minutes or hour. But that is not the entire story. Depending on where we are baking, the proofing time do vary. Warm and humidity Vs Cold and dry has a distinct effects on the proofing time. The best test for me is the Poke Your Finger Test. After about 1/2 hour to 45 min of proofing, gently poke your finger on the dough. The dough will not sink and the finger mark will spring back ever so slowly. If the mark springs back very quickly, the dough is not ready. Wait for another 20 min to repeat the test.

8) Always use preheat ovens to bake. Bake till golden brown. 165 deg cel with fan is a good temperature. Baking usually take about 12 to 15 minutes for buns and 30 to 45 mins for breads. 45 min for bread that is baked with a covered top.

I had make a fair bit of blunders so hopefully, these tips will help. And of course there are surely things that I dont know. Let's share! Happy baking!

DAY 3: Nee Makes Explosive Buns

Today is the third & final day of Nee's leave from work. These were her projects for today.

I'm not sure if the Mexicans ever made any buns.

But there's one named after them.

The Mexican Bun.

In KL they call them Roti Boy. I call them Roti Bomb. They are huge. Apparently, the buns were made by Chinese immigrants in Mexico. That explains the name.

And this is the Polo Bun. It looks like an American Pineapple hand grenade.
I'm glad Nee is going back to work tomorrow. It's getting more & more dangerous in the kitchen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Apprentice

Nee was supposed to learn some kind of secret Foochow cooking from Yi Poh (Grand Aunt) in Sibu this week. But something came up & the trip didn't materialise.

So with 3 days of leave at her disposal, she had nothing to do. And when that happens, it's a scary thing for me. She starts calling me up at work, acting silly and making silly noises. I don't see how she can be full-time housewife one day. I know it's her dream & ultimate life ambition, but somehow I can't imagine how she'd survive the boredom.

Anyways, today, on her second day, she did something that very few people have ever done before. Foochows are known for the thickness of their skin. This is the mother of all thick skin. Today, Nee became an apprentice at New Happy Cafe.

The shop serves very original Chow Chai Bee Hoon but the owner will be leaving soon. And so Nee took it up as a quest to conserve this authentic Foochow dish before it's lost forever. She became an apprentice for one day!

Nee always look like this when she has some cooking projects to play with.

For the Koreans, everything they use must come from Korea. Similarly, for the foochows, everything must come from Sibu.

Sibu big headed fresh water prawns still in their Sibu plastic bag shipped all the way from Sibu. These prawns are so full of Sibu that they probably speak Foochow.

Just like Sibu Foochow children, you can see that they are really well fed.

Aunty cutting the Sibu prawns without mercy with a pair of Sibu scissors.

Die until cannot die oredi.

The cooking ingredients are arranged in a strictly predetermined order to allow for speed cooking. The aunty can practically cook blindfolded. Her hands already where to go & what to

Chow Chai. The mother of all ingredients.

The Great Aunty of Chow Chai shows how it's done.

Ready to be served. The prawns died an honourable death worth the sacrifice.

Adding the final touches before being served.

The apprentice apprenticing & kaypo-ing.

The Boss - Uncle Augustine.
Haiya. Today not really making money because got apprentice disturb my business.

Greg & Nee presents
A Ting Sim Nee production of
The most original & most highly authentic
Foochow Chow Chai Bee Hoon

Nee's rendition of Chow Chai Fish Soup.

The shop will change hands on 23rd December. Go soon & try it out because there's no telling how authentic it'll be after that. It's open 6.30am-4pm daily. It closes at 1pm on Sundays & public holidays. The location can be found here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tomato Kuey Tiaw (Special)

With those massive price increase in almost everything in Kuching, Greg and I decided to resort to order Special for everything, since the price of normal is close to special anyway. Tomato Kuey Tiaw/Mee is another very Kuching thingy. When Mag and Hon came for a trip two years back, they said you Sarawakians cooked mee with tomato sauce, must try. In KK, my Aunt Linda for some interesting reasons brought us to eat this and the cook is from Sarawak (like we missed Sarawak only after two days).

There are couple of famous Tomato Kuey Tiaw/Mee (in Hokkien: Keo Chap Mee or Kuey Tiaw) places in Kuching. CK loves the Sekama ones and Hui Sing Garden Hawker Place has very nice ones too. It is really quite a nice dish if you like that sweet-sourish taste combined with nicely fried Kuey Tiaw or Mee.

CI and Ad: If you guys miss this, here is the recipe!

The Kuey Tiaw:
1 packet (approx 250 gm) of Kuey Tiaw/ Hor Fun
1 teasp of minced garlic
2-3 tbsp of dark soya
1-2 tbsp of cooking oil

1) With highest heat your stove can manage, heat wok with oil, add garlic and Kuey Tiaw. Toss with two metal spatulas. Add soya and continue tossing until Kuey Tiaw 'gets the wok's heat'. Dish out on the serving plate.

The Sauce:
5-6 tbsp of tomato sauce (less if you like it less sour and vice versa)
1 tbsp of light soya
1 -2 tbsp of cornstarch with 2-3 tbsp of water
1 tbsp of sugar
1 teasp of salt
pepper to taste
msg (optional)
3 1/2 cups of superior stock (can use 1 no chicken stock or 4 cups of water boiled with soup chicken and pork bones and 1 small stock of spring onion for more than an hour)
100gm of chicken meat, sliced and seasoned with salt, pepper and cornstarch
3 no of dried fungus, soaked and sliced
2 stalk of choy sum
10- 14 nos of pork balls/fish balls/fish cake slices (optional 1)
small piece of char siew (optional 2)
8 to 10 pcs of medium prawns, shelled and deveined (optional 3)
8 to 10 pcs of deep fry fish fillet (optional 4)
1 tbsp or more of cooking oil
1 tbsp of minced garlic

2) Heat the same wok with extra oil. Add minced garlic. Fry till fragrant not burnt. Add chicken meat, fungus and optional 1. Continue stir frying.

3) Add superior stock. Boil mixure. When boiling, add choy sum and optional 3.

4) Add tomato sauce, light soya, sugar and cornstarch mixture. Boil till sauce thickens. Salt and pepper to taste, more cornstarch if you like sauce thicker.

5) Scoop sauce onto fried kuey tiaw/mee, topped with Optional 2 and/or 4.

6) Serve with pickled chilli sauce with dark soya.

Jaep Che

Greg and I are very lucky to have many Korean friends in Kuching as there are quite a population of them here. Koreans are here to work and/or learn English. So I thought must also be kiasu a bit and start learning something Koreans from them. Language is really not my thing, so I settled on cooking. A while ago I took a few classes from Moon who insisted that she can't cook very well but can try. So we exchanged, I spoke English with her while she taught me cooking (as if I can speak anything else to her, so it was a good bargain for me!)

Koreans are very special. When I visited Moon's kitchen, almost everything is made in Korea. She actually transported a special chiller for Kim Chi all the way from Korea. Rice cookers are also from Korea. Even the kids' clothes, school bags & stationeries were all brought in from Korea.

This is one of the first few dishes I learned from her. Easy to cook yet so delicious.

180gm of Korean sweet potatos starch noodles, also called transparent noodles
200gm of beef like sirloin, rump (for panfry), sliced into strips
5-6 no of medium dried shitake mushrooms, soften with room temp water, squeezed water and sliced
1 bunch of spinach, cleaned and cut
1 no of medium carrot, peeled and sliced to thin strips
1 no of medium onion, sliced to rings
1/2 no green pepper, 1 no of egg (pan fry and sliced), some zucchini (all optional)
1-2 tbsp of Korean soya sauce
some roasted sesame
1-2 tbsp of sesame oil
vegetable oil for pan frying

1) Prepare marinade for beef: 1tbsp of sugar, 1/2 tbsp of sesame oil, few shakes of black pepper, 1 tbsp of honey, 1 tbsp of honey, some salt, 1/2 teasp of minced garlic, 1 tbsp of cooking sake, 2 tbsp of korean soya sauce. Marinade and set aside

2) Prepare marinade for shitake mushrooms: 1 tbsp of sugar, 1/2 tbsp of sesame oil, 1/2 tbsp of honey, salt and pepper and 1/2 teasp of minced garlic, 1 tbsp of korean light soya. Marinade and set aside.

3) Prepare a pot of boiling water. Blanch noodles for about 5-8 minutes. Drain. Wash under running water like washing clothes for about two runs or so to rid the starchy smell of the noodles. Drain well and place on a big plate.

4) Prepare another pot of water and blanch spinach with a little oil for about 2-3 min. Dish and marinade with some salt and sesame oil and sesame seeds.

5) Pan fry with oil all other ingredients, one at a time and arrange around noodles.

6) Add sesame oil, soya sauce, sesame seeds and salt to taste. Mix all ingredients well with chopsticks or tongs. Serve.

Serve with Kim Chi. We had this for dinner with Samgaetyang and Mrs Chung's Kim Chi. I learnt Kim Chi from Moon (I love Moon's version and she is from the romantic Cheju Island). The Koreans are so nice, they supply me with endless quantity that I never get a chance to properly make my own yet.

Like Japanese ingredients, we can hardly find Korean ingredients in Kuching except maybe at Choice Daily. Our supply are usual from Jalan Ampang, KL where there are many Korean residents. And the price in KL is definitely cheaper. For example, Sweet Potato noodles cost about RM25 in KK but only about RM10 -12 in KL.

Nuffnang Ad