Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chinese Crispy Roast Pork (Siu Yook)

If you still remember a while ago, my fellow foodie, Jo, got us the meat poking device which is supposedly used to make this dish. Our first try was with a recipe from a Chinese cookbook from some shop. It took us 3 days of seasoning and vinegar rub, then followed by scouring with the device and finally baking on both sides. It should have been obvious to us then cos it didn't turn out as well as we would have liked. First and foremost, after 3 days in the fridge (sounds a little gross now that I think about it), it is just impossibly non-pokeable. So our crispy pork turned out crispy in some parts & flat in the other areas. The crispy part did not stay light crispy for long as well. Eversince then, this dish has been so elusive to me.

I tried the same method another time with one day chilling and it didn't work either. If you know what siu yuk is all about, it has to be so tasty that the pork fat and meat just blend together as you bite into it and the skin, oh myyyy is the highlight, should be crispy, crackling yet light. If you can hear the lond crackling in your head as you bite, then that is tough crackling not light crackling. I would say this is easily the best best way of eating pork belly. The best of course can be found in Hong Kong normally. I have not been able to find a match in Kuching, except maybe Mr. Ho's Fine Food.

And then, last week, lightning struck. I thought of trying out a new method (poke first, seasoned, chilled overnight to dry and poke again to be safe and roast), so I ordered my pork belly and tonight, my dear readers, is SUCCESS! I was ecstatic about 3 hours ago & still am. My crispy pork turns out almost perfect (pardon the less than modest attitude). But seriously, if Hong Kong is 10, mine is 8.5-9 because there is one little section twice the size of a 50cent coin which didn't puff up well. Other that that, all is crispy light and tasty. And it was still crispy after it came out of the oven for 45 min later for dinner. Will check again tonight. If it's still light crispy then I will award myself with the 9. To Greg it was perfect because I gave him the perfect section. Our friend, Chiang Hon came over to pick up a cake and he tried it, loved it, took a picture of it. Mind you, he claims that he normally does not eat fatty pork.

I remember Terri did a crispy pork post too. I double checked my method with hers and picked up one very important tip. Chuck it in the oven and let it bake for almost one hour & I did just that, closed my eyes and prayed for the best. And it worked.

So here it is, Nee's Crispy Pork:

1.2 to 1.5 kg of pork belly

1) Order one nice slab of pork belly. It's a little difficult to buy slabs off the rack in the market. I ordered mine from Butcher's Deli, Stutong. They are pricey but they know what I was talking about and gave me a good piece with even layers of fat and meat. This is important because if the belly has too much meat or fat, the result in term of taste and roasting will not be good.

2) Clean it well. Wipe it dry and start poking and scouring the skin layer. Really POKE! Imagine your worst enemy while you are at it. I pressed the skin with that poking device, a fork and a carving fork till tiny holes can be seen all over. Scour it too. My maid helped half way through. Don't underpoke!

3) Turn it over to the meat side. Scour the meat lightly. Season with 1 tbsp of salt, 1 teasp of black pepper and 1 teasp of five spice powder. Bring the seasoning up to the top skin layer as well. Pat skin dry with some kitchen towel and apply 1 tbsp of white vineger and rub all over the skin layer.

4) Place on a baking dish. Keep it in chiller overnight, uncover to dry the skin and let the seasoning seep in.

5) Turn up oven to highest, my oven is 250 deg cel, non fan. Place the rack on the higher part of the oven, nearer to heat. Chuck the meat with the baking dish into the oven and roast for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 min if your meat is bigger or till the meat looks dry and puffy. Check at half an hour to let out smoke (i was worry about setting fire in my oven) and turn the baking dish around for more even baking. Cool slightly before cutting. Serve with pickled chillis and soya (Greg thought this wasn't necessary at all. He ate it just like that).

For that little part that does not puff well, my theory is:
1) the area is slightly underpoked or
2) not dry enough or
3) that section was slightly concave so the wetness actually flowed and contained in that area during baking and hence making it slightly underpuffed.

To the experts out there, please advice! Anyone? A Terri, Ganache? I saved that little section by pan frying the skin side down. Well, it turned out crispy as well, albeit a little different kind of crispy, more like frying crispy, not puffing crispy. Better than wasting it rite?!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Repost and Edited: Our Daily Bread ~ Wholemeal

I am doing a repost on our wholemeal bread because I made some improvements to the original recipe. This is something that I will consistently do from time to time, especially when I can find ways of making the recipes better. It's sort of like a software upgrade.

I've noticed that I've been getting rather interesting readers lately which included those who really wanted to know if my recipes work. Much as I appreciate such straight-forwardness, ehmmm... I don't really know how to answer these questions with tact.

I have to say that I'm a self-professed perfectionist when it comes to my food. As Greg would attest, I get into a very lousy mood if my dishes do not turn out the way we/he/I like them. Then he would see me staring into space with the-world-is-so-lousy look on my face. My sweet hubby is always very patient with me and he would say "Hey, look. You are not a professional chef. That is homemade bah. You know, housewife standard. And you are not even a full-time housewife, you're working for goodness' sake. You are even barely a semi-housewife." Whether that made sense or not, but it does make me feel better.

So, you can be rest assured that the recipes on this blog have all been tested, tried, experimented, cooked & baked before by me personally, fully eaten, tasted, critic'd and digested into our tummies and we think they are nice at that point in time. Well, at the very least, whatever I put up had worked for both Greg & me in terms of what we thought was good.
There are actually many dishes in my draft folder which I think could be improved further and done better. And they will stay there till I am ready. I will also try to give as much detail as possible so that you don't have to go through the same pitfalls like I had too. All I can say is they are honest recipes. So if it doesn't work, there could be many reasons, some of which may be related to personal cooking skills, experience and availability of certain ingredients.

Of course, there may be recipes which we've already posted, but to later realise in my sleep that there's one or two more additional steps which can make it better. For example, the Red Bean Creme and the just edited Kaya, and now the wholemeal bread. But of course, we're doing the best that we feel we can. You may not necessarily agree with the standard of our recipes, but you can always use it as a guide and to improve them to your own taste and standards. Anyway, that is what cooking and eating is all about ~ personal pleasure, taste and touch.

Anyway, we hope that you've been enjoying the recipes that we've been putting up here. They're sincerely from the heart, & for sharing with all of you dear readers. I would also like to thank the many of you out there who has shared your successes from your attempt in using the recipes from this blog. I really appreciate your appreciation! You guys are the gems!

Original post:
I have finally gotten back to making bread for the past two weekends after feeling very guilty about buying wholemeal loaves for quite sometime. Commercial bread and buns tend to come with artificial agents such as bread improver and bun softener. Although I have no idea what they are but they sure don't sound very attractive to me. The commercial bread also uses shortening as fat because they are cheaper and they don't harden after the bread cools.

I love my own bread goodies even though it may not be so professionally done. Greg thinks that looking at my bread gives him the same comfort as looking at his own pillow. It's almost like a soft toy to him. Many times, he'd rather hug than eat them. I can understand that, cos homemade bread is just so nice because of its freshness.

Did you notice that bread and buns from shops tend to be fluffy, silky smooth and airy? I think this is the effect of the additional ingredients. My bread and buns are fluffy but they are slightly more compact. That's the way we like them - compact & country-like. We just realised that we could last longer on 2 pieces of our own bread than 4 pieces of the commercial ones.


Make 2 loaves
600 gm of bread flour or high protein flour
125 gm of wholemeal flour, wetted
50 gm of castor sugar
1 1/4 heaped tbsp (with proper measuring spoon) or 15-16 gm of instant active yeast
10 gm or 1 tsp of salt
300 to 350gm of cool water/water cum milk
60gm of corn oil/butter (you can use shortening if you want. It makes the bread silky or butter)

1) Sift bread flour into the mixing bowl. Rinse wet the wholemeal flour by running water over the flour on a sift. Squeeze up the water off the wholemeal flour. Add wetted wholemeal flour, instant yeast, salt and sugar. Turn to Speed 1 to gently mix all ingredients even.

2) Slowly add about 80% of your liquid (water/water+ milk) followed by fat (the oil/shortening or butter). Turn to speed 2 (med-hi) and beat till all ingredients come together into a dough.

If it's too dry, add a little more from the last 10% of the liquid. Remember: Don't pour the whole amount of liquid all at once, as depending on your flour water absorption level, you may end up with a very wet dough. Add liquid a little at a time. The dough must be able to leave the side of the mixing bowl and it should not stick to your hand.

3) Continue beating on high for 10 to 15 min. Do the thin film/membrane test to check for readiness.

4) If dough is not quite developed yet, & the mixing bowl is already warm, take the dough out and hand knead it rigourously for a little while before shaping into a round, tight dough. Cover with clean cloth to rest for 20 min or until dough double in size. Resting at this stage makes it easier for shaping later. Divide into 2 and rest for another 10 min.

5) Shape the dough into a long (width wise) rectangle and roll towards you into a log/swiss roll shape. Place in well greased baking tin (19cm X 11 cm X 11 cm) and rest for another 1 hour 30 min to 1 hour 40 min (depending on heat and humidity) or til it rises about 90% of the tin height. Do the finger poke test.

6) Preheat oven to 165 deg cel fan forced. Bake for 25 to 30min till golden brown. Take out loaf and let it cool before cutting.

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