August 21, 2011

Ginger Candied Kumquats

A restaurant friend gave me a bag of freshly picked kumquats in exchange for some of my homegrown Kaffir lime leaves. Kumquats are small citrus fruits that look like miniature oranges. You can eat it whole with the skin and it has a tart and bittersweet flavor. It is popular to the Chinese as the word, Kumquat in Cantonese means, "golden orange", as it is a symbol of prosperity and is popular during the Chinese New Year to give as gift or displayed around the house. It is great as a spread on toast--it's marmalade with a nice twist!
1 lb kumquats
1-inch fresh ginger, minced (or 1 tsp. ground ginger)
1 cup water
1½ cups sugar
a pinch of salt
1. Wash and dry the fruits well. Using a small knife cut into halves and remove seeds with the tip of knife or toothpick.
2. In a heavy saucepan, add water and sugar and bring to boil to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the ginger, salt followed by the kumquats. Let this cook for another 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low to simmer. Let this cook uncovered until the liquid has reduce down until it barely covers the fruit, and the fruit is covered with the sugar syrup.
3. Remove from heat and transfer fruit and syrup into tightly sealed glass jar and store in the refrigerator. They are ready to serve with your favorite toppings on dessert.
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August 19, 2011

Fragrant Claypot Chicken Rice

This is a simple rice dish to make if you want something quick and nutritious--all it takes is a rice cooker! This dish reminds me of the famous Kampar claypot chicken rice in Kuala Lumpur. It is cooked in small earthen claypots. The other specialty to this dish is the crispy fried salted fish served on top of the rice.

1 measuring cup of rice, washed and drained
5 chicken thigh meat, cut into pieces
10 dried Shitake mushrooms, presoaked
¾ cup chicken stock, or water
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
3 small shallots, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
some fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. Chinese wine
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. soy paste
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
½ tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. cornstarch
1. Marinade chicken with wine and pepper in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix the marinade ingredients and set aside.
2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and fry the ginger, shallots and garlic until fragrant and lightly brown. Lower heat to medium and add in drained rice and fry until the rice is fragrant and has absorbed most of the oil. Pour rice mixture into the rice cooker.
3. Replace pan to stove and add remaining oil and fry the mushroom for about 5-8 minutes, add in the chicken and stir to mix with the mushrooms and fry over medium heat for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add in the marinade sauce and mix well to coat chicken pieces completely.
4. Arrange chicken mixture on top of rice and pour in the chicken stock or water. Turn on the rice cooker to cook the rice and chicken, about 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with fresh cilantro and chilli sauce.

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August 13, 2011

Mango Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This is my 200th post since I’ve started this blog two years ago. To celebrate the occasion, I made this dish. This appetizer is a savory and refreshing dish found in most Chinese restaurants. It also makes a wonderful light main course as the lettuce is cool and crisp--great for a delicious hands-on summer fare! It takes very little time to prepare and it is perfect for any occasion. This is my version of it, hope you like it.
4 pieces of chicken thigh meat, cut into small pieces
1 can (8oz) whole Chinese water chestnut, chopped
1 medium mango (ones from Mexico are yellow skin and crunchy)
small bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 head of butter lettuce or iceberg (washed and drained dry)
1 small shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. oil
2 tsp. minced ginger
2 tsp. Hoisin sauce
1 tsp. Sesame seed paste
1 tsp. cumin powder
1½ tsp. cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste
black and white sesame seeds
hoisin sauce
1. Mix marinade in a bowl and season chicken, leave in the fridge for an hour. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add in minced shallots and fry until it is translucent, stir in the marinated meat and fry over medium heat until meat is not longer red and cooked.
2. Add in the chopped mangoes and water chestnuts and give it a good stir. Cook further for another 10 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. To serve, lightly spread hoisin sauce on a piece of lettuce and mound a spoonful of the chicken in the center. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Cook's Tip: Substitute water chestnut with jicama if not available.
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August 8, 2011

Legendary Engagement Roast Chicken

One afternoon, I met an old friend from my meet-up group at our local cafe. Over a cup of coffee, we got to catch up with what's going on in one another's lives and sharing cooking ideas and recipes. She was sharing some of her secrets about how to roast a perfect and moist chicken. A lady in the next table overheard our discussion and told us this amazing story about the legendary Engagement Chicken. It is a home-roasted chicken dish, which appear to cause boyfriends to propose marriage. The recipe was developed by Kim Bonnell, a fashion editor at Glamour Magazine. In 1982, Bonnell gave the recipe to her co-worker, Kathy Suder to prepare for her boyfriend and soon afterwards, the couple was engaged. The recipe made the rounds in the office and soon three other women in the office were offered marriage proposals soon after making the dish for their boyfriends (Excerpt from Wikipedia) 
Wow! This must be a magical and charming dish to present to your future suitor. First come chicken, then comes a marriage proposal--how cool is that! Well, our mother's was right---the way to a man's heart is really through his stomach. I am sure this is only true for some people.
1 fresh organic chicken, (5 lbs)
3 fresh lemons, cut into wedges
2 onions, sliced in into thick chunks
2-3 pre-cooked small red potatoes, quartered
1 whole garlic, cut into halves (skin intact)
some fresh rosemary and thyme
¼ cup olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp. dry white wine
1 cup good quality chicken stock
Roasting pan
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Pat chicken dry chicken with paper towel (this will give a crisp skin when roasting). Rub the cavity with salt and pepper, and add four lemon wedges, fresh herbs, and garlic into the chicken cavity.
2. Tie the legs with strings and tuck in both the wings. Pour half of the olive oil over the chicken, rub all over with salt and sprinkle pepper on the surface.
3. In a separate bowl, add the leftover lemons, onions, potatoes. Toss well with the rest of the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange this mixture around the roasting pan. Bake in the oven for 1 hour 45 minutes. Test for doneness with thermometer (190°F) or when juice runs clear when cut between the leg and a thigh. Remove the cooked chicken onto a serving platter, cover with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
4. Return the roasting pan on top of the stove over medium heat. Pour in the wine and scrape with a spoon to remove any browning on the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and flour, stirring to mix the flour with the liquid until the sauce thickens. Pour the sauce into a gravy saucer and add any juices that collect under the chicken. Remove the herbs from the cavity and carve the chicken onto a platter and serve with the onions, and lemons on the side.
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August 7, 2011

Steamed Fuzzy Melon, Dried Scallops with White Sauce

My dear friend, Wendy brought me a lovely gift box of Chinese dried scallops from Hong Kong. Dried scallop is a type of dried seafood product made from the adductor muscle of scallops. It is rich in calcium and minerals, and it is used in Chinese cuisine for soups, congee, or braised with other meats and vegetables. This is one of my favorite dish using dried scallops and fuzzy melon. Fuzzy melon or "mo qua" is a sweet and mild squash that has a fuzzy feel on the surface.

1 fuzzy melon, scrape skin lightly with spoon
6 whole dried scallops, soak for at least an hour
1 egg white, lightly beaten
¼ cup chicken stock
1 tsp. cornstarch, mix with a little water
Steaming tray
1. Cut fuzzy melon into 1¼-inch thickness across in rounds. Use a teaspoon and gently scoop the surface in the middle to remove the seeds. It should be deep enough for the whole scallops to sit on top.
2. Heat a steamer rack with water to a rolling boil. Remove the dried scallops and place in a bowl and place in the steaming tray. Do the same with the melon rounds. Steam for 20-25 minutes to cook the dried scallops and melons. Remove and set aside.
3. Arrange the cooked melon on the dish and place each rounds with a cooked scallop.
3. Heat a frying pan with a teaspoon of oil over medium heat. Add the cornstarch and enough chicken stock to make a white sauce. Bring to a light boil and stir in the egg white and cook for 1 minute. Remove and spoon sauce over melon. Serve immediately with rice.
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August 5, 2011

Mee Rebus

Mee Rebus is a Malay-Indian (Mamak) style noodle with a spicy potato-based gravy. It is another popular hawker's delight in Malaysia. The term, "Mamak", is an expression used in Malaysia to describe the Indian Tamil Muslim community and culture.

Ingredients: (serve 4-6)
500 gm fresh yellow noodles, blanched (substitute for spaghetti if not available)
1 lb prawns, shelled (keep the shells for stock)
Curry spice: (grind together)
1 medium red onion, chopped
1-inch piece of ginger
2-inch piece of galanger (or 2 tsp. galangal powder)
5 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. coriander powder
1-2 Tbsp. chili powder (adjust to your taste)
2 tsp. cumin powder
2 tsp. turmeric powder
3 sprigs Indian curry leaves
1 Tbsp. tamarind paste (or Sinigang tamarind mix powder)
salt and sugar to taste
4 Tbsp. oil
2 medium sized sweet potatoes (peeled, boiled and mashed)
6 cups prawn stock (made by boiling unshelled prawns)
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 cup coconut milk
1 stalk lemon grass, cut in halves
Bean sprouts, scalded
4 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
2 small potatoes, boiled with skin on and quartered)
Fried tofu, fried and sliced
Spring onions, chopped
3 lemon or limes, sliced
20 shallots, sliced and deep fried
2 red chillies, sliced
1. In a saucepan, heat a tablespoon of oil and cook shelled prawns. Remove and slice into halves when cool enough to handle. Return pan to the stove and add another tablespoon of oil and fry prawn shells until fragrant. Add in 6 cups of water and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Remove stock and set aside for later.
2. Heat a tablespoon oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Stir fry the curry ingredients, curry leaves, and lemon grass until fragrant about 10-15 minutes.
3. Drain prawn stock into a larger pot and bring to a boil. Add in the curry paste, mashed potatoes, tomato sauce, tamarind paste, and coconut milk. Stir well to mix. Lower heat to simmer on low for another 15 minutes until gravy is smooth without lumps. Add a little more water or chicken stock if it is too thick, but not too much. Season to taste with with salt and a pinch of sugar. (The taste is should be spicy and lightly sour)
4. To serve, place blanched noodles and bean sprouts into individual bowls. Pour hot gravy on top and garnish with tofu, eggs, potatoes, and lime. Note: Serve with sambal chili on the side for added spiciness.
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Turmeric Chicken

Tumeric or kunyit is a rhizome that is much favored for its healing properties. It is a native plant found in tropical areas in South Asia and only the root and leaf are used as a spice in curries and other Middle Eastern cuisine. The root has a deep-orange yellow color and is often sold fresh or in powdered form. Sometimes, you can use as an alternative to saffron spice, which is an expensive spice.
When I was pregnant with my son, an older Indian neighbor gave me this recipe. It is believed that a mother after giving birth is significantly weak during the labor process where a great deal of blood is lost. Thus, besides having to eat nourishing foods, rest is crucial to a speedy and healthy recovery for the mother. Hence, this is one of the recipes that she recommends and to this day, I sometimes cook it as a regular dish.
Ingredients: (serve 2)
4-5 pieces of skinless chicken thigh meat (or 1 small organic chicken)
10 shallots, peeled
4-5 stalks lemon grass, cut into 2-inch
8 fresh turmeric or 2 Tbsp. tumeric powder
10 peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp. sugar
Salt to taste
Oil for cooking
1. Cut chicken into serving portions and wipe dry with paper towels. Season with some salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Pound or blend lemon grass, shallots, and peppercorns into a fine paste. Add sugar and season chicken pieces. Wrap in plastic paper and leave it in the refrigerator for about 4-6 hours or overnight.
3. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry on both sides until crispy and cooked inside. You can also grill or bake in the oven if you prefer.
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August 1, 2011

Stir Fried Bitter Melons with Prawns

Occasionaly, I have craving for bitter melons or bitter gourds in English. I must admit, bitter melons are not for culinary cowards as not everyone will have a palate for it. Most people are put off by the name and those who have tried it probably find it to be quite unpleasant. If it is cooked right it is quite delicious as it is a matter of acquired taste. Speaking of tastes, bitterness is one of the five basic tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and salty). In fact, bitter melon is a fruit and not a vegetable, and is perhaps the most bitter of all Asian vegetables. It is an oblong shape, with a light to medium green in color. The surface has irregular ridges and bumps that looks like warts. It is commonly cooked with beef or chicken, with strongly flavored ingredients such as black bean sauce, and other spices to neutralize the bitterness. Surprisingly, the bitterness does not impart on other ingredients, but rather give it a savory after-taste. My mother used to make a soup with meat as she believed to cleanse the blood and help lower cholesterol. Go ahead, and try this unusual healthy food---you might just like it!
1 medium sized bitter melon
¼ lb medium prawns
2 tsp. black bean sauce paste
2 tsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp cornstarch mixed with a little water
1 tsp salt
pinch of sugar
1. Cut bitter melon in half and use a spoon to remove the seeds and white rind in the middle. Slice into ¼-inch thick. Put in a bowl and rub the bitter melons with the salt. Le it sit for about 5-8 minutes. Gently squeeze the salt out and rinse off with water. Drained well.
2. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add in the bitter melon and fry for about 8-10 minutes. Remove to a plate, return pan and heat 1 teaspoon of oil and fry the garlic, followed by the prawns.
3. When the prawns are almost cooked, stir in the sauces and bitter melons, continue to fry until the sauce has incorporate with the prawns and bitter melons. Season and adjust seasonings to your taste. Add in the cornstarch mixture to thicken. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 5-8 minutes (add some more liquid if you like more sauce).
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