Friday, November 23, 2007

Salt Baked Chicken

Yim Gud Gai (Cantonese translated direct Salt Baked Chicken) is a traditional Hakka signature dish. Chicken meat baked with salt (yes, salt) interestingly gives very tender and moist results in the texture.

In terms of taste, it is not supposed to be salty as the name would suggest. The taste is usually from the different flavours that can be added onto it. This dish can be cooked with chinese herbs like dang gui, red dates & thornberry. To have a local twist, we can bake the chicken in salt and banana leaves. And some would do it plain with just rice wine, sesame oil, salt and pepper.

It is actually quite easy to confuse it with the traditional Beggar's Chicken, which is cooked wrap in a salty dough and would require a hammer to crack it open after cooking. Yim Gud Gai is much simpler in the number of steps. Last week Dad bought this dish all the way from Ipoh from one of their famous store called Aun Kheng Lin (Riceballz's blog talks quite extensively on this shop). So picking up some ideas from this shop, I did mine as follows:

1 no of small spring chicken or small free range chicken, approx 1.2 kg
3 pieces of dang gui, washed
4-5 pieces of red dates, washed
1 teasp of thornberry, washed
1/2 to 3/4 tbsp of salt and pepper (edited)

3 pieces of large baking paper (grey or white), big enough to wrap the whole of chicken in 6 folds
2-3 kg of coarse salt

1) Clean chicken well and delete the head and neck portion, stuff chinese herbs in the cavity of chicken. Pat dry and rub the whole chicken with salt and pepper. Set aside to marinade for an hour or so. Wrap it up in the baking sheets, sealing up the chicken really well. (I did mine in two layers only and the paper was a little burnt, which then transmit the burnt flavour onto the chicken, we both liked that. But if you don't want it that way, i would suggest 3 pieces and a final layer of aluminium foil)

2) Put more than 1/3 of the 3kg salt in a old big wok with a steeper slant. You would not want to cook this in an expensive wok or pot as heating will cause the wok to brown slightly. Steeper slant will help reduce the amount of salt used.

3) Put the wrapped chicken on top of the salt, with the tummy side up, and cover the rest of the chicken with more salt. Cover and bake over medium fire for 45 mins to 1 hour depending on the size of chicken. I did mine for 35 mins and it was slightly under cooked around the thigh area. So please do try longer.

4) Dig out the chicken from the salt. Be careful that you dont accidently tear the paper off and let the chicken touch the salt. You will have really salty chicken if that happens. Uncover and test by piercing the thighs and if juice flows out then chicken is clear it is done. Cool slightly before chopping and serving. Another wonderful point about this recipe is you can serve it as a cold dish.

Another really easy way of baking this chicken is with banana leaves. Place layers of banana leaves on top of salt. Rub chicken with a little salt and pepper. Cut chicken across back and flatten against leaves. Line with some more layers of banana leaves, then cover completely with salt. Bake for 45 mins to 1 hour. You will have juicy chicken with a tinge of banana leave flavour.

Salt, leaves, chicken

Leaves, salt and szechuan peppercorn

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tapioca Kuih (Bingka Ubi)

I think of all Nyonya Kuih out there, this is the easiest to make. Tapioca Kuih is a nice snack, which you can either bake or steam. And the same recipe will apply for either one. It is also a good item to make if you are asked to contribute for any charity food sales as ingredients are cheap, making is fast and can fetch about 50 sen per piece. Unlike most Nyonya Kuih, which must be consumed within a day or two after they are made, you can actually store this longer in the fridge and pan fry it when you want to eat.

1kg of grated tapioca, can use either the whitish or yellowish tapioca
200 gm of thick coconut milk, pure or squeeze from 1 no of coconut with less than a cup of water
220 gm of castor sugar
75 gm + 2 tbsp of tapioca flour
2 tbsp of plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
80 gm of melted butter

1) Buy your own tapioca and shave off the skin. Ask your coconut grating shop whether they can grate for you like they grate coconut. Some shop may refuse to do it until they are almost at closing time because they do not want the hassle of washing their machine. This is the best method of doing it as our own chopper will not be able to give such fine results. In Kuching you can purchase grated tapioca from the coconut grater in Tabuan Jaya Market for RM1.8 per kg.

2) Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir everything till they're all combined. Wash your hand clean and use your hand, doing the scope and stir motion to achieve even mixing. Lastly add melted butter. If the mixture feels tight when stirring, add some water (about 1/2 cup first to try).

3) Grease a 10 to 11 inch cake tin with cooking oil. Pour mixture in. Place in a boiling steamer and steam over medium fire for about 35 to 45 min. Test for doneness. If you see water on top of kuih, dont pour away. It will settle as the kuih cooled.

4) Completely cool before cutting. Serve in square or rectangular slices. Good Tapioca Kuih is soft yet chewy. Too hard or soft is no good.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Giant Flower

Auntie Ghim Ai dropped by the house today to pass us this thing.

Nee was ecstatic about it. That's about how she looks when I give her flowers on special ocassions. Maybe I should consider giving her something like this the next time.

Well, this one's a giant brocolli plant with leaves as tough as sandpaper. I don't know where my aunt got it. It looks like it came from outer space.

My aunt mentioned something about a special way to cook those almost inedible leaves. I'l leave that for Nee to explain cos I catch no ball.

This one's ripe already for cooking. I wasn't so sure about that, but that's what my aunt said.

My aunt also gave us the little Brocolli shoots. It looked like it was drying up already so we had to do something fast.

Comparatively, it seems hard to believe this little bugger can grow up to be the giant plastic looking plant with those huge thick rubber leaves.

When I grow up, I wanna be just like you!

And so we quickly went to work.

I think it really needed some real chicken shit. So we gave it some.

Done. We'll do a report one day when it becomes a giant plant. Then we'll do some brocolli recipes for 2 months.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Grandma Food: Kuching Porridge

We've been overeating for quiet some time now and usually when we do that, our internal biological alarm will go off.

"ALERT! The cache is now full. We will not accept any more deposits. Please make your withdrawals quickly. Emergency - Need detox."

And when this happens, we have to eat grandma food - Porridge! When I was young, I always equate eating porridge with drinking water. Porridge is about 80-90% water if I'm not wrong. So basically, it's drinking water until we're full. But it's a different kinda full. It doesn't last.

But as we grow older & closer to the grandma category, we tend to appreciate porridge more. It has a very soft & clean feel about it. It cleanses the system.

In Kuching, most of the porridge stalls open only in the morning, for old people to eat I guess. Some operate at nite. So usually around noon, they are non-existent.

But there is one particular place in Padungan where you can enjoy this water-meal with all the traditional condiments & dishes to go with it. I think it's teochew if I'm not mistaken.

Can you read mandarin? We were so hungry that we forgot the name of the shop.

This shop is not bad. You can tell by the number of people there. And this shop has been around for quite a long while already. The last time Nee & I were here in 2004, we were still dating. We ate porridge while holding hands.

This is how it works. You'd have to go all the way to the back & point what you want.

There's quite a lot of choices and they're all quite authentic, simple, traditional dishes.

Then the auntie will scoop them for you & then bring them to your table.

We took a few of the egg-based dishes.

And also a few of the pork-based ones.

The vege type dishes.

Ka-cha Ka-cha anchovies are such just a nice contrast to the soft porridge.

I ordered Teh-C assuming that it was the small hot one. It came as a big Teh-C-Peng. Imagine I had to swallow all this water after two bowls of porridge.

Let me tell you. It was so good and that was last Friday. Tonite, we had porridge at home again.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Homemade Kaya

Kaya is a very Malaysian and Singaporean jam, made out of coconut milk. Almost everyone in this country grew up with this jam, at the time when strawberry, raspberry jam are not even heard of in this country. Kaya spread on toasts is a common delectable breakfast item.

Today people actually franchise this item. Kaya and Toast are opening everywhere. There are kaya puffs, kaya toasts and kaya buns. People get kaya (translation from Malay ~Rich) from kaya. My dear hubby has been bugging me (yes he is quite good at bugging) for this whenever he has toasts for breakfast. So I decided to indulge him. I refuse to buy kaya from stores because they have what Auntie Terri calls "addictives that are allowed".

Homemade kaya is not as hard to make as kaya makers would tell you. It is as simple as throw-it-in-a-pot and voila you get kaya. Maybe not so simple but definitely close to that simple.

185 gm of thick coconut milk, i.e. the first squeeze
400 gm of castor sugar
2 tbsp of brown sugar, use the reddish brown type, will give kaya the colour
5 no of large eggs
5-6 pandan leaves, washed, cut and tied in bundles

1) Stir coconut milk with sugar and brown sugar til sugar almost dissolved.

2) Add in beaten up eggs. Continue stirring til all mixture is evenly mixed.

3) Add pandan leaves. And start cooking over medium fire for about 3-5 minutes stirring all the time til mixture is warm. Turn to low medium fire and continue stirring. Be careful of the pot bottom sides. Stir til mixture starts to thicken, about another edited: 12-18 minutes (not too long because kaya maybe too dry).

4) Edited: Strain throught as sieve into container/s that you will be keeping kaya in permanently. Cool before you close lid.

Things to watch out for:
Use a heavy pot so that mixture will not be easily burnt.
Please do not cut down on sugar as the caramelisation will help to smoothen the mixture. Spread and use sparingly if you must.
Cooking fire must NOT be big and mixture must not be boiling bubbling. Slight bubbles on side is ok. Keep on stirring. If too hot the fire will cause the eggs to be overly cooked and thus separated causing the mixture to be lumpy and eggy.
Dont change containers. Kaya turns bad easily if you change containers.

Nuffnang Ad