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Fish Congee Recipe (Cod)

Friday, March 27, 2009 | Labels: , , , , | 17 Comments »

Although it is already officially spring, the weather is still rather chilly and there's nothing I love better than having a hot bowl of congee on a cold day. Allow me to continue my current love affair with congee with my cod fish congee today. I sliced the cod really thinly and marinated the slices in some Chinese rice wine, sesame oil and soy sauce - as the fish slices are only cooked for a short while in the congee, the marinade is important for a sweet and fragrant flavour.


Most cultures have different versions of a dish and congee is no different at least throughout Asia - in Japan, congee is called okayu (お粥) and is considerably thicker in texture than the Chinese version. In Korea, congee is referred to as simply juk and is almost the exact same pronounciation for congee in the Cantonese dialect. The Malays and Indonesians refer to their version as bubur which is cooked almost the same way as the Chinese versions but tend to have stronger flavours.

Steamed Ling Cod with Goji Berries Recipe

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | Labels: , , | 11 Comments »

I have featured Chinese steamed fish before on this blog, but this time I decided to add a little twist to an old favourite of mine, I added a handful of goji berries to the fish before steaming.


Growing up in the city of Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia), I had absolutely no idea what a 'real' fishing trip constituted- let me share a harrowing experience I had when I unwittingly accepted a friend's invitation to go on a party boat to catch giant squid. Yes, these squids' heads are as big or bigger than a human head - so their namesake, giant squid is not a joke. Anyways, apparently the seas were rougher than expected that night and I seriously thought I was going to fall into the black ocean and meet a watery end. Firstly, the entire party boat was filled with fishing fanatics - the winds were billowing (howling like a banshee almost) and the sea was so choppy, it was indeed a terrible terrible experience and a litttle embarassing as well since one of the boat hands had to kindly accompanied me throughout the experience and tried his best to comfort me. Well, my friend had to stand at the side of the boat to fish for the squid and I refused to stand so close to the water so my dear friend put me in the care of the kind (and rather puzzled) boat hand since I was on the verge of tears most of the time. Looking back, I guess it can be vaguely described as 'funny' BUT as always, time always puts a positive glaze on most incidents no matter how bad they were at that time - notice I used the word 'most', there are always exceptions to the general rule. I still recall my law professor telling us this wise statement, there are so many general rules in the study of British law BUT of course there are even more exceptions.


Anyway, back to the subject at hand, Goji berries, also known as wolfberries or lycium barbarum are tiny sweet-tasting red fruits around the size of a raisin. The Chinese people have been growing and consuming these fruits since thousands of years ago and these tiny fruits are believed to possess a myriad of healing properties. I steamed my ling cod the usual way that is with ginger slices and green onions and added the berries for a delicate layer of extra sweetness. I used a bamboo steamer to steam my fish - I highly recommend getting a bamboo steamer as it is so versatile and is easy to clean as well.

Congee with Pork and Preserved Eggs Recipe 皮蛋瘦肉粥

Monday, March 23, 2009 | Labels: , , | 13 Comments »

Congee with pork and preserved eggs is a perennial classic Chinese comfort food that I will never tire of. However, do note that preserved eggs are an acquired taste as well and most Western palates might not be used to it at first, these are preserved duck eggs that are black in colour with an almost greenish looking yolk and are sold cooked. The texture of the white is almost jelly-like and the greenish yolk is a little My mom and I both love to have these preserved eggs with pickled ginger, very delicious!

Anyways, I woke up extra early today to go to the Asian grocery store and my efforts did not go to waste - I bought some freshly fried Chinese crullers (essentially fried dough) or otherwise known as 'you diao' or 'yao char kwai' (油炸鬼) in Mandarin and Cantonese respectively.


I served my congee with a lot of green onions and cut-up 'yao char kwai' on the side!

There is an interesting tale about the origins of this popular Chinese snack - translated from Cantonese, 'yao char kwai' literally means deep-fried ghosts! There was a very famous and valiant general during the Song Dynasty by the name of Yue Fei (岳飛) and as with a lot of righteous heros, his was a tragic story. His demise was brought about by an evil Chinese court official by the name of Qin Hui who created a plot together with his evil wife and manipulated the weak Chinese emperor into ordering the wrongful execution of General Yue Fei. Hence, legend has it that the evil couple met an oily fate in hell where they were deep-fried as ghosts over and over again to pay for their sins against the legendary General. I still remember my dad telling us this story when we were little and we would giggle while nibbling on the crispy and fragrant cruellers. That is why, he said the Chinese crullers are always sold in pairs, they are essentially two dough strips stuck in the middle.


Well, interesting origins aside, Chinese crullers make the perfect accompaniment to congee. Apart from congee, I also love dipping the crullers into soy milk or red bean dessert soup. Although I did manage to catch some freshly fried crullers, they are of course not as tasty as the ones I'm used to in Malaysia but they do make reasonably acceptable subsitutes!

Stir-fried Udon Noodles with Chicken and Mushrooms Recipe

Saturday, March 21, 2009 | Labels: , , , | 5 Comments »

Noodles are a very vital part of the Asian diet - I use noodles a lot in my cooking repertoire and I really can't imagine how my culinary life would be without these versatile ingredients! May I present another winner (at least in my books) from Tastes of Home's humble (and rather messy) kitchen - my udon noodles stir-fried with chicken and mushrooms. Chicken and mushrooms make a perfect pair, this combination can be used to be served with rice or noodles. Today, I chose to pair them with some whole-grain udon noodles. I just adore the chewiness of Chinese mushrooms complemented by the natural 'sweetness' of the chicken.


These noodles are cooked in oyster sauce, soy sauce and the chicken broth left over from the boiling of the chicken thighs, hence the noodles are oh-so-fragrant, infused if you will with the natural flavours of the chicken that sadly is hard to reproduce with chicken stock or chicken granules. However, in the interest of saving time in today's short-cut world, I am guilty of using chicken powder from time to time when I'm in a pinch. What I love about cooking is that I can improvise on whatever ingredients are in my freezer or fridge to create new dishes or rather new versions of popular dishes. Regular readers of my blog would observe that almost all my recipes include the use of garlic, however, this time I eschewed garlic in favour of shallots, well not because I got a ground-breaking idea BUT because I simply ran out of garlic! What a travesty for a food blogger to not have garlic - well, lame jokes aside, the shallots did not disappoint and added a sweeter fragrance to the dish. Finally, I added a few drops of sake for another layer of fragrance to the noodles.

Spare Ribs Congee Recipe

Sunday, March 15, 2009 | Labels: , , , | 21 Comments »

Congee is undoubtedly a top comfort food for most Asians - especially for the Chinese people, we have congee when we're sick, when it's cold but sometimes just because we like it. This is a centuries-old practice and one will be hard-pressed to answer just exactly when the tradition of cooking congee or rice gruel began. Based on my own deductions, I believe that congee was invented due to the hard times that a lot of peasants in China had to go through. In days gone past, rice was a very precious commodity and not everyone had the luxury of cooking a full pot of rice. Hence, congee was probably invented as the dish uses much less rice but at the same time is most satisfying. Congee is also likened to a thick rice soup and over the course of time, this popular rice-dish has been improved upon and we have all sorts of different congee e.g. pork congee, chicken congee, seafood congee and the like. Note however, that this is my opinion i.e. a statement of opinion if you will and not a statement of fact so please don't quote me - hehe. I suppose that this is my little disclaimer if you like.


Comforting and tasty at any given hour of the day, congee is especially a popular breakfast item as well as for supper. Lately, it has been rather cold here and since I had some spare ribs lounging about in the freezer, I decided to cook myself a steaming hot pot of spare ribs congee. Congee can be dressed up or down so to speak, plain congee is good on its' own with certain condiments or congee can be cooked with a myriad of ingredients for different flavours. Interestingly enough, I was never a fan of congee when I was younger - I think it was because everytime I was sick, I was made to have congee instead of rice by my parents and congee started to have 'sickly'-connotations to me. Now, however, I do crave a steaming bowl of congee more often. Congee is also very simple to make - throw all necessary ingredients into the pot and just boil away!

Mom's Sweet and Spicy Prawns Recipe 酸辣蝦 & An Introduction

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | Labels: , , , , | 14 Comments »

Mom's cooking is always the best and the tastiest and for me it has 'feeling' or 感情 in Chinese. It's pretty intangible and quite difficult to measure or describe in absolute terms - you know how you can only feel and not be able to measure? Anyhow, to me, mom's cooking will always be the best - far surpassing any fine dining experiences or dishes using the rarest of ingredients - food is not only to satiate one's physical hunger but also does immeasurably for one's soul. It is hence very fortunate indeed for me that my mom is quite an excellent cook and I can write this post without feeling too pretentious! Funnily enough it was my dad who taught my mom how to cook after they got married.


On a side note, I'm always very flattered that you (my dear readers) and some of my dear friends think I can cook very well.

Without further ado, may I present mom's prawns cooked in a very appetizing sweet and spicy sauce. 蝦 or prawn/ shrimp in Chinese sounds the same as 哈 which represents laughter (ha ha) in Chinese, hence a prawn dish is a must during festive seasons especially Chinese New Year. As most of my readers may know, the Chinese are huge fans of auspicious sounding dishes - hence a dish of tasty prawns are always cooked to start off the new year just right with peals of laughter ringing in the new year.

Malaysian Street Food Part I

Friday, March 06, 2009 | Labels: | 18 Comments »

This time I'm not posting a recipe but instead I thought some of you may be interested to learn a little bit more about Malaysian street food - delicious bites readily available back home. Considering the fact that I have mentioned my love and literal lust for them numerous times, I think it is time to show rather than talk about some of my favourite street food or hawker food as we call it back home since a picture is worth a thousand words or so they say.

I still vividly remember a friend of mine telling me though that a meeting is worth a thousand pictures - so I guess in this case, the right word to use would be tasting since we're on the subject of food. Anyhow, I digress - below are some pictures I took while being back home and this post is most mouth-wateringly difficult to write especially when I'm typing on an empty stomach!

Cuttlefish with Water Spinach in sweet peanut sauce


This is pretty much standard fare in most Chinese fast-food 'restaurants' - I use this term loosely though, most of the time it's just a stall with tables and chairs set up on the walkway or pavement next to the street. Cuttlefish is simply boiled and served up with water spinach (also boiled) in some sweet and tangy peanut sauce. I truly love this dish - the skill is in the timing of boil where the cuttlefish bites are supposed to be just right or al-dente if I may. Delicious!

Fried Thick Noodles Hokkien or 'Fu-kien' Style


As the name of the dish implies, this style of cooking noodles originates from the Fujian province in China, this is has however become a very popular Malaysian street food and it's not difficult to guess why. Imagine thick egg noodles cooked with a variety of seafood and meat in fragrant garlic and dark soy sauce with a lot of wok breath. Now, I am not entirely sure who coined the term 'wok breath' but I guess this is the closest way to translate 'wok hei' in Cantonese. This refers to where the dish is cooked under very high heat (no electric stoves please) with the flames dancing about in the wok itself. It is very fascinating to watch and this is also the reason why I have not attempted this dish at home as unfortunately wok breath is sorely lacking from my electric stoves!

Another 'secret' to the unique fragrance of these noodles are deep-fried pork fat - the fats are deep-fried at high temperature to a crisp and sprinkled atop the noodles, very unhealthy but VERY tasty.

Prawn Noodles

See the huge prawn sitting prettily atop the noodles? Well, those huge prawns were bought by my dad to add to our noodles specially so no for RM6, you don't get such huge prawns!

The bustling corner of the shop where the prawn noodles are sold

These noodles are cooked in a shrimp or prawn-based broth that is usually made out of chicken or pork, prawn heads, prawn shells (yes!) and other 'secret' ingredients that most sellers will simply not divulge. Add in a healthy dose of MSG perhaps! We have been visiting this particular stall for more than 10 years now, and the dear seller has yet to disappoint. My family is quite particular with street food, not just any hawker or seller will do! The broth is rather spicy but very flavourful and the noodles are usually cooked with prawns (hence the name), water spinach and you may even request to add an egg if you so desire.

Ipoh Soup Noodles (Sa Hor Fun)



These noodles originate from Ipoh, which is the capital of Perak - one of the 14 states in Malaysia. The majority of the population in Ipoh is of Chinese descent and if you have the chance, you should definitely visit this town which is about an hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of the country. This particular 'restaurant' is located in Seapark, Petaling Jaya, if you're interested in the address, do leave me a comment or email me. I have again saved the best for last - this is my absolute MUST-HAVE when I go back home, and I have this a few times at least when I'm there. The smooth flat rice noodles are served in a shrimpy broth that is both flavourful and extremely delicious plus this is not spicy (for those of you who have low tolerance). The shrimp wontons are absolutely amazing - home made wonton skins guarantee great bites minus the floury taste that one sometimes gets with factory made skins. These skins are made fresh daily and finally when you're there, you HAVE to order their famous oyster sauce chicken. The oyster sauce is specially made and it tastes much much better than store-bought ones. I think when we were little, my siblings used to fight over who gets more chicken though my dad always orders a lot - so that proves my point.

Have a healthy and tasty natural dessert, the papaya fruit or betik in the Malay language - nutritious and very yummy, I like mine with generous squirts of lime. Since these papayas are pretty small in size, I can easily eat one on my own. This reminds me of the time when my youngest brother and I decided to challenge ourselves to each eat half a watermelon (yes the HUGE ones) with a spoon - we did manage to finish the challenge but needless to say, we couldn't look at watermelons without grimacing for quite a long time.


This concludes my first attempt at introducing Malaysian street food to my non-Malaysian readers - and perhaps for my overseas Malaysian readers, a chance to reminisce about the once taken-for-granted now oh-so-precious Malaysian hawker food. My attempt is rudimentary at best and if you have any great recommendations on street food back home, please do spill!

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