Saturday, December 1, 2007

Rich Chocolate Brownies

There are so many varieties of Brownies in the market these days. The pure choc ones, choc ones added with nuts, choc ones added with cheese and nuts or even fruits. So with all those twisted variations out there, the question is - what exactly is a Brownie?

Interestingly, if we look at any Western baking or cook books, Brownies is not under cakes. They are under slices, biscuits or cookies. A lot of Asians take brownies as cakes and the problem is they make it so cakey. I have seen people calling square chocolate cake as brownies. What an insult to brownies!

It is true that there are some cakey brownies recipes in the baking world. But a good batch of brownies are signified with a very moist centre and a crusty top. It is usually not very high nor fluffy.

Also, it's usually made in square or rectangular tins and served as square slices with minimal decorations. It's almost like a grab-and-go piece of food item. We personally prefer rich brownies which is crusty on the top and slightly gooey in the centre. And brownies are supposed to be moist enough to lean towards gooey.

A good batch of brownies is not easy to make. This is the one item in the Chocolate range that took me quite a while to understand. Problems usually lies in the baking especially the baking time. I always have a tendency to worry about underbaking. Because of that, it pushes me to overbake!

Don't follow baking instructions blindly like a robot. Always watch with your own eyes. Check after 20 minutes. You must stop baking once the skewer comes out with moist, wet pieces clinging on it and this is usually taking about 20 to 35 minutes.

If your skewer comes out clean, your brownies is gone. If it comes out wet completely, it is not done. But do understand that once you take it off oven, it is still cooking internally. So it cannot be underbake.

Brownies should not be decorated with extra chocolate ganache topping because it is the crusty top that makes it special. But I do get a lot of requests for that. It's fine if you do because it will just add to the richness.

NEE's Lavish Choc Brownies

For Christmas, you can do a Brownies and decorate it up with loads of nuts like hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and fruits like strawberry and raspberry for a Christmasy feel. The look & taste of it will certainly wow your guests. (Whisper) No one will know it took only less that an hour from preparation to baking and another 15 -20 minutes to decorate it up.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ngo Hiang Rolls ~ 5 Fragrant Rolls

Ngo Hiang Rolls, (Wu Xiang in Mandarin) meaning five frangrants, are very typical Teochew celebration dish. It is seen during Chinese New Year and most Teochews would do this for big occassions. I guess it is a little like Sua Mien for the Foochows. Nowadays, Ngo Hiang can be found everywhere at wet markets, chinese hawkers selling kuihs, and also roast meat and chicken rice stalls.

However, Ngo Hiang used to taste especially fresh with fish/prawns, with pork and mushrooms, and sweet with the water chestnuts/mengkuang. The traditional ones from a long time ago used to have a special fragrant as you bite into it. It used to have something like a motherly taste there. Somehow that taste had gone missing in the ones today. In the world of fast pace and quick money, I guess food has gone a little bland.

I learnt this from Aunty Yeo who is a Teochew. And yesterday, i bit into my own Ngo Hiang and found that long lost taste again. Sweeeet, baby! And it's really not difficult to make as well.

You'll need 500 to 600gm of minced pork. Normally I like to choose my own piece and ask to butcher to mince for me.

300gm of prawns, shelled/ mackarel fish, flesh only, smashed with chopper and lightly chopped.

150 gm of water chestnuts or mengkuang (Di Kua in mandarin), cut to small cubes and squeeze out excessive water.

5 no of big mushrooms, cut to small cubes.
2 stalks of spring onions, chopped.
1 tsp of 5 spice powder
1/2 tsp of salt
3 heaped tablesp of plain flour
1 no of egg lightly beaten
1 big pc of bean curd sheet

1) Clean and prepare all ingredients separately. Mix them together in a big bowl. Add eggs and all the powdered ingredients. Stir rigorously till glutten develop. Slap against a clean metal plate a couple of times. Set aside.

2) Prepared bean curd sheet by wiping them with a piece of clean wet cloth as some bean curd sheets are salty. Cut the big piece lengthwise into 20cm wide sheets.

3) Spoon meat mixture onto the smaller sheets about 2 cm from the edges. Roughly roll into a swiss roll log of two rounds without sealing the sides. Cut the sheet. Set the roll aside. Continue on till all the meat is used up. You should be able to get about 10 rolls or so.

4) Return to roll no 1. By now the meat would have wet the beancurd sheet. Unroll slightly and reroll into a firm round sausage folding in the two sides. Do that with the rest.

5) Place in a steamer lined with aluminium foil or banana leaves and steam on med-hi fire for 10 minutes.

6) Typically, Teochew would eat theirs deep fried after steaming, cut to thin slices and dip with chilli sauce. You can eat it as it is after steaming or store in refridgerator for future use. You can also cut and put on top of noodles/maggi mee or eat with rice.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

An Inspiring Dog Story

Two dogs in the middle of the street. One dies. What does the other one do? Read here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Return of Excessive Food!

These are Hainanese chicks.

And this is Hainanese chicken.

I did a little bit of internet research. Yes, Hainan Chicken Rice did originate from the island of Hainan in Southern China, but somehow seafood seems to be more popular there.

You might have noticed. Nee has been quite quiet for the past week. At one time, I was looking for her & found her buried under a huge pile of student assignments. Don't worry, she's alive, and you'll still have her blog to read.

For the first time, she's actually putting in more effort into her work than her cooking. Today, she has just submitted her IR report as a pre-requisite for her upcoming IR (Professional Engineer) exam this coming December.

And as retaliation, she came back to cooking in full force today.

Hainanese Chicken Rice with Salted Vegie Soup & Ngo Hiang. Ngai Tee! I think I married a restaurant. It looks like I'll be having this for quite a while.

Greg: What am I having for dinner?
Nee: Hainanese Chicken Rice.
Greg: How about lunch tomorrow?
Nee: Hainanese Chicken Rice.
Greg: Dinner tomorrow?
Nee: Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Ngo Hiang (Five Fragrance)

If this Hainanese chicken can talk, she'll probably say this, "You'd better think this is better than the chickens in the shop cos I went thru hell!!!"

Wait a minute. That sounded more like Nee talking.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Puppy Power 4: Updates

It's been a while since we really got down to visit my in-law's pups. We were wondering how they were doing. So we dropped by one afternoon to have a peek.

Much like the speed of development in Kuching, we were shocked to find this.

Hoolamak! It's a single-storey detached bungalow! It's bigger than Ting Pek Khing's T2!

My father-in-law actually got someone to built a house for those 3 wittle pups of his. It looks like those 3 pups are really moving up fast in high society & luxurious living.

They've all grown a little more than last time now.

Ah Beng's black patches have decided to travel to the other continents on his body & become spotty.

Ah Seng is slowly maturing in to a Hong Kong pop idol.

And Ah Khiong remains the same.

And they're still as psycho as ever when they see me. Oh look! It's the same pair of pants I wore on my last visit. No wonder they're just ripping it apart.

Here they are, enjoying their new home.

Then out of nowhere Ah Khiong decided to show me a David Copperfield trick.

It was escape from Alcatraz.

Like that also can.

I think we really need to fatten up this little thing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Chicking Eating House

Hainan chicken rice is one of the best things ever invented by man. In fact, it is the most appreciated contribution from the Hainanese community ever to humankind.

In Kuching, as in elsewhere, it's not difficult to find good Hainanese Chicken rice that rocks. One of the places that we often go back to is this one.

It took us about 4-5 times going there to actually realise that the name meant Chick King as in King of the Chicks. p/s I think that's his Royal sposs car there.

They've definitely made an effort to zhng the interior of the shop.

It even has it's own customised cooling system.

Simply ingenuous!

What else can you say to that, except, COOL.

When you're there with a few friends, it pays to order for a group. Otherwise they will skimp on the chicken for one person.

They gave us a generous half a chicken for 3 persons.

The best part about Hainanese Chicken Rice is that they make the chicken look & taste as tender as fish.

16 & 17 sucks. The brown onions on top give it a very bitter burnt taste.

I never thought much about the side dishes here. After all, we came here for the chicken. But Nee ordered their Thai Style Tofu (No. 12).

It came looking like this, which was pretty gorgeous. Fried crispy tofu in sweet sour sauce.

We took a bite & agreed that it was the best thing we've ever had in a long long while!

NEE: To be completely honest, this place would score about 7.5 to 8 out of 10. This is because like any Hainan Chicken eating places nowadays, somehow I find the chicken a little bland and tasteless. Somehow, the chickens are not as nice and sweet as it used to be. Sad ya. The vegie dishes always have the tendency to have burnt red onions topping. Other than that, everything else is nice. Definitely can try.

Post Christmas Crepes: A Recycling Project

Today is exactly one month to go before Christmas! Tis the season of joy - the joy of eating to be more exact. Yes, we're guilty. We've already started our year-end binge-ing two weeks ago. It started with a small family get-together, then it snowballed into an annual dinner & more family anniversaries. The snowball is still rolling, and we're still eating.

I am not worried about what to eat for Christmas. The worry is more with over-eating. And of course after every Christmas there will be plenty of leftovers. And the idea of throwing away food is not practiced in this part of the world. Growing up, we have always been constantly reminded by either our mothers or Sir Bob Geldof of the starving kids in Africa.

So this is a little Post-Christmas food recycling project.

170 gm of plain flour, sifted
1 cup of milk (can be low fat)
1 cup of water
2 no of large eggs
2 heaped tbsp of melted butter
1/2 teasp of salt
1/2 teasp of baking powder
some butter for the frying

1) Put the flour, salt, baking powder in a bowl and add milk and water gradually as you stir the mixture to a even batter.

2) Lightly beat eggs and add to batter. Continue stirring.

3) Add melted butter. Continue stirring to an even smooth batter. Strain through a sieve for any lumps.

4) Heat a 7 to 8 inch skillet. With medium fire, add 1/2 tbsp of butter. When butter bubbles, add a scoop of batter. Turn skillet slowly so that batter can flow evenly around the skillet into a thin round piece. Leave cooking.

5) Check after a min or two to see if the bottom is lightly browning. If the top bit looks cooked, i.e not wet, add filling and roll into a swiss roll like log. Dish out, fold the two sides down and place in a cupcake cup.

Suggested filling:

Leftover roast/steam/boil meat like chicken, beef or lamb

Vegies and Fruits like avocados, mangos, cucumber, tomatos

Mayonaise added with some lemon juice and condensed milk to enhance flavours

Sweet fillings like blueberry, strawberry, raspberry with fresh whipping cream or banana and red bean (my favourite)

Crepes is savoury so any sweet or savoury fillings are nice. I did mine over the weekend with chicken, mango and mayonaise. Greg says: 'Saliva coming out like waterfall.'

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mango Pudding

Mango puddings are famous yum cha desserts. We would generally finish up a yum cha session with this yummy goody.

This is an elusive dessert, well, at least it is to me. I had to make it four times to get to the way we like it. The first time was not mango-ey, second time not solid enough, third time not smooth enough. Greg almost begged me not to do it anymore. He is even eating mangoes in his sleep. Luckily, mangoes are lining along the streets of Kuching at this time of the year. So they are not overly expensive experiments.

Good ripe mangoes are the key to good mango puddings. I have tried so many types and even though it's hard it is to say so, Ting Pek Khing's Ming Khiong Garden has mangoes suitable for this purpose. They call it the Golden Mango, which is commonly seen in Australia during summer. This mango is so sweet and fragrant. And they are going fpr RM 8 to 10/kg. Awfully expensive Ting Pek Khing style!

200gm of mango puree
1 tbsp of lemon juice

1) Slice mango from bottom up (the fatter part where it hangs) to prevent pulp from developing.
Add lemon juice and puree with a hand held blender/chopper.

300 gm of evaporated milk
400 gm of water
125 gm of castor sugar (more if your mango is not so sweet)
3 tbsp of instant jelly
1 tsp of agar agar powder
1/2 tsp of vanilla

2) Put all ingredients in this group in a pot and heat up over medium fire, stirring along to melt sugar.

3) Right before boiling point, add puree. Continue stirring til mixture is hot and at boiling point. Turn off fire.

4) Cut some small mango cubes and add into the mixture. Scoop out and place into individual molds or ramekins. Cool before putting in fridge. Chill for at least 3 hours.

5) Serve with cream or evaporated milk in ramekins or dish out and place on individual plates.

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