Friday, November 9, 2007

The Real Thing: Foochow Preserved Vegetables (Chow Chai)

My Great Grandma (Tui Ma) came from a generation of superwomen. During those days, you buy nothing & you make everything. So if you have to rear, plant, sow & make everything yourself, imagine the amount of living skills & knowledge you'd have if you live in that era. You'd be a walking & living encyclopedia. With that kind of skills, you'd even be able to fight crimes & save the world from hunger.

I never had the chance to acquire all this from my Tui Ma. But fortunately for me, there's my Grand Aunt, Yi Po. She inherited all my Tui Ma's superpowers. And I shall learn all & everything from her & rule zee vorld!!! MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!! (That sounded like Greg for a while there)

Usually early on in the year, when the vegetable crops were in abundant, Tui Ma would sun dry and preserve them to make Chow Chai, which can be taken at the end of the year. She would pack them tightly in clay URNS (Horror beyond horrors, it's the URN again!!!!) and place a few clean wood as stoppers, flip it over on a bowl and let it sit for a whole year. Imagine, preserved like that for a whole year.

Preserving vegetables and also pickling them is a common practice for many Asians like Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. Some of this process is simple while others involve a huge amount of work. All this ensures that there will be freshest possible food and vegetables on the table during those cold winter months when nothing much grows.

All this really amazes me - the ingenuity of all those ladies that have gone before us and their love for their family to provide a good nutritious meal at whichever time and season of the year. God does have a specific role for women~ to love and nurture their husbands and families. They have done it well, & this always makes me reflect on my self to do as well as they have.

Chow Chai is considered as simple perserved vegetables with a sour taste, which is really appetizing to eat. In my previous blog, i gave the theory of making this item. The steps are actually really simple.

1) Clean well and sun dry some mustard greens (kua chai) for a day or so. Choose the fresh leafy ones. If you have the longish type, it is even better. No need to be too dry as no water will be added.

2) Rub some salt and Ang Chow, which is the residues separated from the Foochow Red Wine during the fermentation process of making Foochow Red Wine. Rub generously like 3 no of Kua chai with 1 1/2tbsp of salt with 1 heaped tablespoon of Ang Chow.

3) Place in a clean bowl with tight lid such as pyrex type. Sprinkle some salt on top to prevent mould from growing. Cover and leave in a cool place for a week or so.

4) Chow Chai is ready when it turns dark green-yellowish and taste really sour.

5) Before eating, wash the chow chai well and rid of the ang chow. Chop to small pieces, and i mean CHOP, not blended. Season with some Foochow red wine and keep in airtight container. You can freeze some portion to ensure freshness.

So give it a Go! Give it the Greg-&-Nee-on-the-Go kinda Go!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mum's Lemon Chicken

In every western country including Australia, there are Chinese restaurants. And in every one of these western-Chinese restaurants, they serve two mistakes. One of them is Sweet Sour Pork (Ku Lo Yuk) and the other is Lemon Chicken (Ling Mong Zi).

I do not why or how this came to be but it seems that these two dishes are always there upfront on the menu. They are like the national anthem of the western-Chinese restaurants.

When I was still a young & attractive student studying in Melbourne Uni, I was always served with this crappy delight in the infamous Oriental Chef. Usually the chicken is tasteless, and the only thing that has a taste is the recycled oil. They should call it Sweet Sucky Sour Pork & Lemon Sucky Chicken.

But thinking back now, my mom could have super-spoiled me with her own version of lemon chicken. Her recipe is a little bit different. It's not one of those pour-pathetic-lemon-with-cornflour-sauce-over-deep-fried-chicky type. Here's how it goes:

2 pieces of chicken thigh meat deboned

Marinade Sauce:
1 teasp of salt
1/2 teasp of pepper
1 tbsp of sugar
2 tbsp of maggi seasoning sauce
1 tbsp of light soy

Batter for Frying:
1 egg, beat lightly
2 tbsp rice flour + 1/2 tbsp plain flour + 1/2 teasp of baking powder with some water as frying batter. More water if you like it thinner.

Lemon Sauce:
1/3 cup of water
1/2 no of good quality fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp of maggi seasoning sauce
1 tbsp of light soy
2 tbsp of sugar
1 tbsp of cornstarch
Leftover marinade sauce

1) Clean and season the chicken chop/thigh with marinade sauce. Set aside for at least 3 hours.

2) Strain and coat with egg, then the frying batter.

3) Heat wok and add chicken once the oil is hot enough. Deep fry with medium fire to cook the chicken. Turn to high for the last one min or so to golden brown the chicken chops. Cool slightly and chop to slices.

4) With a small pan, boil sauce. Finally add strained Lemon juice. Tip: Add lemon at the end as lemon loses its flavour if overboiled. Add some more sugar if you find it too sour.

5) Serve separately or pour over chicken slices.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

When I Got Home From Work...

Today, as I was driving home from work in my car, I wondered about what Nee is whipping up in the kitchen. I can't help it but sometimes my imagination just runs wild. I wonder what kind of animal is she cooking this time & what kind of culinary experiments is she up to.

You can't blame me for being so paranoid. Just look at this. She bought this apparatus a while ago.

I put the red background to intensify the effect heheh.

I mean, what should I be thinking?

They remind me of the ancient Chinese Warriors & their efficient weapons of mass destruction.

So when I got home today, I brought my shoes into the store room as usual. But when I got in there, something was amiss. There was an eerie feeling. Immediately, I caught something at the corner of my eye!

It was The Urn!!!!

All shall revealed to you in due time! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Twice Cooked Pork (Hui Wor Rou)

Why Twice Cooked? The meat is first boiled, sliced, then stir fried. It is therefore cooked twice. Hence, Hui Wor means Back to the Pot. This dish is a signature Szechuan dish which is very nice especially with rice. Greg's verdict: "Excellent!"

400 to 450 gm of pork meat with some fats (san cham/pork belly or pork hind leg meat)
1/2 litre of water
4 slices of ginger
1 stalk of spring onion
1 tbsp of Hua Tiew Shaoxing wine

1) Boil the water, ginger, spring onion and wine mixture and add pork meat (entire piece). Boil for approximately 15 minutes to almost cooked (can still see a little portion of red). It's very important to control the boiling as the meat will be cooked again later. Overcooking will cause the meat to be too chewy and stringy.

2) Slice the half cooked meat into thin slices. Set aside.

2 no of big red chillis or 1/2 red capsicum/bellpepper, sliced
2 no of green chillisor 1/2 green capsicum/bellpepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tbsp of minced garlic
2 tbsp of hot broad bean paste (Szechuan tou pang jang)
2 tbsp of sweet bean or sweet soya sauce
1 teasp of sugar
1 tbsp of light soya
1 tbsp of dark soya

3) Heat wok with 1 tbsp of cooking oil/Szechuan pepper oil, add minced garlic and on high fire, add boiled meat pieces. Stir fry for a min or two.

4) Add the hot bean paste. Continue stir frying till the meat is even coated with paste.

5) Add chillis and onions. Finally the sauces. If sauce is too thick, add with 1 tbsp of water.

6) Stir fry till chillis and onions soften. Do not overcook. The whole stir frying should take less than 10 minutes over high heat. Dish and serve.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Egg Tarts Part 1: (Sweet Short Pastry)

Egg Tart (Tan Tart) is a very Chinese/Asian thing which is very popular in Hong Kong, Macau & southern parts of China. Of course wherever there are Chinese communities such as in Malaysia, Singapore, or even Australia, you will see these little munchkins. Apparently, it is translated from the English version of Custard Tarts. This is usually taken at dim sum or yum cha places and of course the 3.30 pm teabreaks.

There are basically three types of egg tarts. Egg custard fillings with:

Sweet Short Pastry (Sweet Pastry/Sweet Tart Pastry) ~ This is a butter, flour, sugar with eggs or water for richer taste pastry. A good sweet short crust must be short, i.e. crumbly/sandy, and rich with the butter aroma. This crust is easy to make, hence more commonly seen in Malaysian bakeries.

Suo Pi ~ This pastry is made with what I call the Asian Puff Pastry method, which is slightly different from the Western way. The egg tarts made with this pastry are flaky and there is a certain crispiness and shortness to it. My mum's old recipe book uses Lard and that is supposedly the most original way but ehmmm...dont think we want to have clot arteries before 40.

Portuguese Style ~ This version is made popular in Macau, originating from Portugeuse Pastries de nata. It uses the Western Style Puff Pastry recipe and making method, which involves, folding and rolling the dough spread with butter several times to create layers upon baking. The Portuguese version has richer egg filling that is very soft and a burnt caramelised top.

Sweet Short/Tart crust is the simplest form of egg tarts. The casing is basically a sweet shortcrust pastry which is nice and crumbly with a cookie-like taste to it. The fragrant comes from the butter rich crust.

200 gm of plain flour
115 gm of butter
45 gm of icing sugar
10 gm of milk powder
1 no of small egg or 1/2 no of big egg

1) Cream butter and sugar til sugar dissolved.
2) Add egg. Continue creaming slightly.
3) Add sifted dry ingredients. Mixture will become dough like and would not stick on hand or beater.
4) Roll into equal balls and mould into tart casings.
5) Fill with strained egg tart fillings and bake at preheat oven of 180 deg celcius without fan for about 20 to 25 minutes til egg filling set.

Egg Tarts Filling

This filling is soft and tasty for Sweet Shortcrust and Suo Pi Egg Tarts. Do not overbake the filling.

1 no of egg
75 gm of water
25 gm of castor sugar
20gm of milk
3 gm of cornstarch
few drop of vanilla essence

1) Boil water and sugar til bubbly.

2) Add milk, pre-stirred with constarch. Let mixture cool to around 45 deg cel. Tip: For baking, egg will released an optimum flavour at this temperature. I normally checked with my baking thermometer. You can just dip you finger in it and it should feel lukewarm.

3) Add eggs and vanilla essense and stir well.

4) Strain mixture.

The filling is ready to be used. Enough for 6-8 no of Egg Tarts.

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