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Spicy Tuna Puffs (Short-cut)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | Labels: , , , | 4 Comments »

I'm back with another 'cheater's recipe' for puffs, spicy tuna puffs this time- if you don't have the time (or inclination) to bake from scratch, these should be right up your alley.  Admittedly, I have not been baking much (from scratch) recently as well but since I wanted to try making some spicy tuna puffs, the ready-made sheets turned out really handy.  The spicy tuna filling I used in today's puffs is something that is commonly seen in a lot of Malaysian bakeries and is probably a result of a clever combination of western and local flavours.  I added some chopped shallots, chilli peppers, lime juice and mayo to some canned tuna and voila, easy and appetite-inducing spicy tuna puffs that were devoured pretty quickly I may add.

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I just love how puff pastry lends itself so well to both savoury and sweet fillings, the possibilities are just endless.  If you prefer a sweet version, do take a look at my blueberry turnovers.  Sometimes, it feels really good to cheat (at baking that is!) - apart from the speediness, I feel it gives me more room to experiment with different fillings as although doable, it is quite a production to make puff pastry from scratch at home, at least for yours truly who is no pâtissier.  But, if you insist, do take a look at my foray into making puff pastry at home complete with my step-by-step photos.

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Tamago (Egg) Nigiri Sushi Recipe (卵焼き) with Photo Tutorial

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | Labels: , , , | 5 Comments »


It's been such a long time since I've made sushi and I finally got around to using my makiyakinabe (Japanese for roll-bake pan literally) that I bought expressly for the purpose of making tamagoyaki for nigiri sushi.  This is my little brother's favourite sushi and I have been promising him I would make some even before he returned for the summer holidays.  Now that he is leaving and going back to the UK actually tomorrow (sob!), I finally got around to making the sushi yesterday.  I know, I am such a procrastinator!  Anyhow, I was glad I did, not only for him but also because it was quite fun and it reminded me of how much fun it was to make sushi.  It was my first time however at tamagoyaki and trust me, I was not totally sure if I would be able to make a decent one.  I am glad to report that I think I made a decent version :O (though there is always room for improvement) and I hope my little photo tutorial helps if you attempt to make some for the first time.

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This sweet-tasting omelette sushi is not only appetizing, but they look quite pretty too don't they? I always thought that the nori (seaweed) strip binding the egg and rice together made the sushi look like little gift parcels with the nori strip as the ribbon.  Anyway, they are just so pretty to look at and trust me and although a little time-consuming, making sushi at home is so rewarding - not only for the delectable and gorgeous results but the process itself is just so fun.  On the other hand, making the tamagoyaki was a little daunting at first but I soon got used to it, I think that the small size of my pan also helped as I only needed to use a pair of chopsticks to roll the egg layer as my other hand had to hold the pan steady.  Once you get the hang of it, you'll probably look forward to making the vibrant omelette rolls again and again.

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By the way, I think tamago sushi is a great 'starter-sushi' for kids especially since the flavours are not exotic at all and the egg is fully cooked.


Chinese Red Bean Steamed Buns/ Bao Recipe (豆沙包) with Step-by-Step Photos

Monday, September 26, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Chinese steamed buns or baozi/ pao are one of my favourite Chinese inventions to put it lightly - yes, I love steamed buns that much.   I have always been intimidated when it came to making my own at home though, I remember trying a bao recipe ages ago when I was still in secondary (high) school and the dough didn't even come together, I'm not sure if it was the recipe or if it was just me.  Anyway, I'm so happy today to share with you a fool-proof, guaranteed recipe for making soft, fluffy and toothsome Chinese buns.  The dough is a basic recipe that I adapted from 'Dim Sum' and the possibilities are endless with this one, you can make savoury buns, sweet buns like today's red bean version or use the ever popular lotus paste and even kaya (coconut jam) which is more popular in South East Asia.

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For my last steamed bao feature, I received quite a few questions from some readers and I have tried addressing your questions under my usual 'notes feature' below.  I did cheat a little for today's recipe in that I did not make the red bean paste filling from scratch, if it's available in ready-made form where you are, I totally recommend using it as making your own can be time-consuming especially if you don't use a whole lot of red bean paste.  On the other hand, making my own steamed bao at home is always rewarding for me, there is just nothing like freshly steamed bao right from your very own wok.  This recipe is also very easy to follow and I've also included step-by-step photos, only one round of proofing is required and the rest of the steps are very straightforward.  So, I hope you'll take the plunge if you haven't already and try making your very own handmade baos at home. 

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Stir-fried Ramen Noodles with Fish Cakes and Mushrooms Recipe 鱼饼炒面

Friday, September 23, 2011 | Labels: , , , | 4 Comments »

If you've been around for a while, you may notice that I am a noodle fanatic amongst other things :O.  So I was thinking to myself that it was high time for me to feature one of my favourite noodle dishes, the very humble ramen stir-fried with some vegetables and protein (of your choice).  I don't eat ramen much nowadays but every now and then, there is a craving and who hasn't succumbed to ramen especially while cooking for one although I of course do not recommend it on a daily basis.

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Instead of the usual cooked- from- a- packet ramen, I decided to make it a little 'fancier' and stir-fried the noodles with some shitake mushrooms and fish cakes in fragrant mushroom dark soy sauce.  As stir-frying ramen can be rather delicate as well, eschewing a wok this time and using a non-stick pan will make life easier.  If you go the traditional route and decide to use a regular Chinese wok, do remember to have the wok almost smoking before you add the oil (as usual) and do not overboil the ramen to avoid the noodles from turning overly soft as we will be cooking them twice.  For this dish, I would not recommend for you to use the 'regular' ramen you get from grocery stores, the ones from the Asian grocery stores taste much better and have much better texture, or maybe it's just my Chinese taste buds acting up.  Anyhow, you can use this recipe for other noodles like whole wheat pasta, regular Chinese egg/ dried wheat noodles and the list goes on. 

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Doenjang Jjigae 된장 찌개 - Korean Soy Bean Paste Soup

Friday, September 23, 2011 | Labels: , , , | 4 Comments »

Today's post is an extremely simple yet highly representative dish of Korean home cooking, doenjang jjigae or soy bean paste stew which I thought would be perfect with fall at our doorsteps (although I am now in tropical Malaysia, towards the end of the year, with the monsoon season arriving, we have a lot more rain which does make the weather slightly cooler :O).  As with a lot of classic dishes, there are just so many interpretations, each delicious in its' own way - the version I am sharing today is actually a 'vegetarian' version of sorts (of sorts since I used fish stock) but traditionally seafood or meat is added to the stew itself.  To make my vegetarian doenjang jjigae a little 'meatier', I added some chopped up shitake mushrooms.  The mushrooms are first stir-fried with the aromatic doenjang in sesame oil, then fish stock and the rest of the ingredients are added, do note that you should add the ingredients in order of how fast they cook. I really liked the texture of the zucchini in the stew while the vibrant yellow shade of the zucchini helped brighten up the earthy stew as well.

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Doenjang which literally means thick paste in Korean is rich in vitamins, minerals and flavenoids. Doenjang is essentially fermented soy bean paste - a culinary icon in Korean cooking, just like its' spicy counterpart, gochujang is also popularly used as a dip with raw vegetables at the dining table. It is also often mixed together with gochujang to produce ssamjang (which is sold separately as well in convenient packages), another highly popular Korean condiment. Doenjang imparts a uniquely rich and earthy flavour to stews and sauces, I guess an easy comparison would be miso which tastes a little more delicate.  For a more non-traditional dish that uses this popular Korean condiment, do take a look at my doenjang pork satay recipe.

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All in all, a delightfully simple and comforting stew that you can whip up anytime from your own kitchen!

Malaysian Spicy 'Kam Heong' Bamboo (La La) Clams Recipe

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | Labels: , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

After featuring dessert recipes for the past few posts, I thought it was time to bring out the smoky woks :O.  Today's feature is the uniquely Malaysian 'Kam Heong' method of cooking and if you've been around for a while, you may notice that yours truly is a big fan.  This is an extremely aromatic dish and is spicy, savoury and sweet at the same time so expect fierce flavours and clean plates, seriously not kidding, springy and fresh clams cooked in such fiery flavours make this seafood dish highly addictive.  I have to emphasize again though that you really have to use fresh curry leaves and not the dried variety as the unique fragrance is hardly present in the dried versions, fresh curry leaves are usually sold at Indian grocery stores as their namesake implies, they are used a lot in curries.  This dish combines Chinese, Indian and Malay culinary styles and ingredients in a most delicious way and you'll really need to try it to believe it. 

Malaysian Kam Heong Bamboo Clams (Spicy) 金香炒拉拉

By the way, after ordering this dish in a few restaurants, I noticed that certain restaurants like to add a significant amount of sugar to this dish which I think is totally unnecessary - when the Chinese say that a dish (especially seafood) is 'sweet', it is definitely not the sugary sweetness we are referring to, but rather a natural sweetness or freshness 鲜 that can probably be associated with 'umami'.  Although sugar is often called for in a lot of authentic Chinese cooking, it is more a 'hidden' flavour so to speak, that is to say, sugar is often added to bring out the other flavours and just a tiny bit is used - which is of course a moot point if we are talking about certain dishes like say, sweet and sour pork etc.

Malaysian Kam Heong Bamboo Clams (Spicy) 金香炒拉拉

Just in case you were wondering, 'kam heong' literally translates to golden fragrance from Chinese and is probably one of the many example of Chinese dishes that are named auspiciously.  The Chinese have a penchant for naming their dishes with catchy and auspicious sounding words since time immemorial and I really think this dish is aptly named, the golden hues of the dish comes that from the curry powder and the unmistakable fragrance of this incredibly aromatic dish fit the name perfectly.

Malaysian Sweet Potato 'Donuts' - Kuih Keria Recipe (with Step-by-Step Photos)

Monday, September 19, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 18 Comments »

As you know, I've been busy tying up a lot of loose ends for the migration of this site to its' brand new domain, and I have been working late into the night trying to make sure everything is up and running - probably not that much work for someone more technically sound but ugh, unfortunately for me, it's a lot of googling and trying my best to understand all the complicated (to me) html codes.  I'm glad though that the new name seem to have went down well with you guys and I am rather excited, almost as if I were starting a brand new blog.  Hopefully, this is just one of the many positive changes coming through in life, there will be more changes coming up on the horizon and of course, I wish that everything would be 'positive' but then, we shall see. It's hard for me to divulge right now, but when the time comes, I will definitely share the good news with you.

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Alright, back to the feature today, 'kuih keria' is a very popular Malaysian sweet 'cake' and resemble mini-donuts although the texture is really nothing like regular doughnuts - kuih keria is essentially deep-fried sweet potato batter that is coated with a simple sugar syrup.  This was my first time making any sort of 'kuih' at home and yes, the simplicity made it very attractive to try out as I suspect I'm not much of a 'kuih' expert.  Anyhow, these turned out really well and were very easy to make - I had fun too making these together with mom and it was quite amazing to see the mini donuts take shape in my little kitchen.  Unlike 'regular' desserts, kuih is served anytime of the day and are popular morning, mid-morning, after-lunch, mid-afternoon (you get the idea!) snacks in Malaysia.  While living in Malaysia, I took these for granted of course and I remember having violent cravings for kuih while in the US despite not being much of a kuih-eater while living back home. 

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So, for my fellow Malaysians living abroad, I hope this easy recipe will help cure your cravings a little and for my dear readers who are not familiar with kuih, I think this is the perfect 'starter' kuih.  Last but definitely not the least, for those of us living at home, there is still nothing like homemade kuih keria - I prefer it as I only use fresh oil for frying, I use the freshest ingredients and I can adjust the texture of the kuih myself.  A final note, only make these when you have company because these are very addictive and you may find yourself finishing up the whole platter!


Please join us!

I am also sending this entry to Muhibbah Monday, a blog event created by 3 Hungry Tummies which will be hosted by Shaz of Test with Skewer for September 2011.  This is an event which rounds-up Malaysian recipes/ food blog posts each month.  Check out the links for more details.

Enter my current Cookbook GIVEAWAY here.

Sugar Cheese Buns (Tangzhong or Water Roux Starter Method)

Sunday, September 18, 2011 | Labels: , , , | 10 Comments »

A little reminder: Please don't forget to enter my GIVEAWAY for "The Breath of a Wok" cookbook to celebrate my recent move and change of name to Smoky Wok. :O


If you have been following this blog for a while, you may notice that I am a huge fan of baking using the Japanese 'tangzhong' method.  This is always a guaranteed method for producing 'pillowy' soft and extra fluffy homemade bread.  There are so many ways you can use this method in your baking and if you have to yet to  try this method, I'll recommend for you to try it as soon as you can especially if you've got a craving for Japanese/Asian style buns and there's a lack of a good Asian bakery around you.  I can only say that I wish I 'discovered' this method earlier while I was living in the US as living in San Diego, there is really a lack of good Asian bakeries.  Although I am now back in Malaysia, and there are Asian bakeries galore- there is still nothing like the smell of homemade bread in your kitchen and not to mention the blissful satisfaction you get when your baking endeavours produce such soft, fluffy and just utterly delicious bread.  For this, I'll have to thank Christine of Christine's Recipes for her lovely posts on this method that really inspired me to try this method of baking bread at home.
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For today's feature, I made some simple sugary cheese buns, the sweet and slightly savoury flavours from the cheese were perfect together while the fluffy, pillowy tangzhong bread provided the ultimate 'base' so to speak.  If you are a bread-making newbie, do not fret - I used to be one too, not that long ago in fact and if I could produce such bread (by hand, mind you) seriously, anyone can.  It is not a difficult process at all though it may be a little time-consuming as you will have to prepare the starter (I usually leave it overnight to use the next morning) and if like me, you are not using a bread machine, the kneading part may be a little messy.  I may be a little weird but I actually relish and enjoy the kneading process as I find it rather therapeutic.  Also, keep in mind that there will be 2 rounds of proofing required and 1 shorter resting time for the dough so as you can see, patience will be a virtue.

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I promise you that the results will be more than worth it - you'll know what I'm talking about when you sink your teeth into the delightfully fluffy buns you just took out of your oven! :O

I am also sending this post as an entry to the weekly Yeastspotting event hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast Blog.


"The Breath of a Wok" Cookbook Giveaway to celebrate the new 'SMOKY WOK'!

Friday, September 16, 2011 | Labels: , | 94 Comments »

Dear Readers,


I have been posting in a flurry and honestly I have been spending quite a bit of time tying up loose ends since I started the move to my new custom domain since last night.  To be honest, it is quite exciting and exhilarating but also a little nerve-wracking!  I am also very happy that most of you have responded positively on the new name and as a little token of my heart-felt appreciation, I am giving away one new copy of the popular and beautifully photographed "The Breath of a Wok" by Grace Young since I am always droning on and on about wok breath in a lot of my recipes and I thought it was a fitting first giveaway for the brand-new 'Smoky Wok'.


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To join in, simply do one or all of the following (each 'task' can be considered a separate entry):

1.  Simply leave me a comment here (with your name and website if you have one);
2.  'Like' the Smoky Wok  facebook fan page and let me know by leaving another comment here;
3.  Share this link on Facebook and let me know; and
4.  Follow me on twitter and let me know here.

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE and will close on October 8th, 2011.  A winner will be randomly picked so please check back then to see if you've won.  Looking forward to your entries!




Chicken Lettuce Wraps Recipe 生菜包鸡

Friday, September 16, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 16 Comments »

I have always wanted to make chicken lettuce wraps at home for the longest time and finally got around to it when I saw some extremely fresh iceberg lettuce at the local grocery store a few days ago.  For the filling, I diced some chicken thighs lightly marinated in some five spice powder and stir-fried it with some shitake mushrooms, Chinese pickled radish (choy po) and green onions in oyster sauce, Chinese rice wine and some soy.  Water chestnuts are usually added as the latter provides crunchy texture but for today, I wanted a little something more flavourful hence I used pickled radish which is not only crunchy but has deep savoury flavours.  You really need very fresh iceberg lettuce for this dish as the lettuce is a big part of the dish itself, the lettuce has to be crisp and 'sweet' to complete this easy chicken dish.

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The filling alone actually went pretty well with rice but really, it tastes much more refreshing wrapped in the crisp iceberg lettuce leaves.  These are great served as part of a main Chinese dinner or as appetizers, your guests will enjoy making their own little lettuce parcels at the table.  If you have the time, you can also deep-fry a handful of rice noodle sticks, break them up and serve them on the side for your guests to sprinkle onto their chicken wrap right before eating.

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As you may have noticed, the name of this blog has just been changed to "Smoky Wok" and is now on its' brand new custom domain.  The name change has been mulled over for a while and I hope this did not take you by too much of a surprise, anyways apart from a new name and a new domain, I will still be featuring easy (mostly) Asian homecooking recipes so nothing much will change apart from constant improvement, that is.  I do hope you continue supporting this blog and I really appreciate your support thus far.  The new name is a play on how in almost all of my Chinese recipes (that require a wok) I constantly tell you to 'heat your wok till almost smoking' :O.




Change of Name & Moving!

Thursday, September 15, 2011 | Labels: | 15 Comments »

Dear Readers,

I have finally decided to change the name of this blog from "Tastes of Home" to its' new and cuter (?) name,  SMOKY WOK as you can probably gather from the changed title above. I have always wanted to switch to my own custom domain as after a while, always typing 'blogspot' seemed a bit tiresome, but somehow the name stuck and I really came up with "Tastes of Home" a few years ago as I was just so homesick!

Now that I have moved back home to Malaysia (just in case you didn't know), it's almost like starting afresh again so as my blog is a creative extension of myself, I wanted it to have a brand new name as well.  I came up with this new name, bouncing ideas off my family members and I thought since I almost always tell you, dear reader to 'heat wok until almost smoking' in almost every Chinese recipe I feature, I thought it would be a fun name, I do hope you agree.

If you are my fellow blogger friends and have so kindly provided link love to "Tastes of Home", I will really appreciate it if you could take some time to change the name of my blog but do note that the links will still work (phew!). 

Meanwhile, if you type in the old url, you should be automatically directed to the new domain (http://www.smokywok.com/), just to add, you will be doing me a huge favour as well if you care to update your bookmarks with the new domain. :)

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Thanks & Happy Cooking!

Jen
xoxo

Carbonara Bow-Tie Pasta with Thyme Recipe

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | Labels: , , | 6 Comments »

It's a wonder why I never thought of cooking with bow-tie pasta - they just make for such a pretty picture, don't you think?  Anyways, today's feature is a very easy homemade carbonara pasta dish lightly adapted from the famous Jamie Oliver.  Although I have watched his cooking shows for a long time, this is only my second time trying out his recipes and I'll have to say he did not disappoint.  Before I go on and describe the recipe, if you are a carbonara purist, please consider if you want to continue reading as Jamie advocates the use of cream (yes, sacrilegious I know!) in the sauce together with the traditional egg yolks and grated parmesan cheese :O.  Whenever I attempt to make carbonara from scratch at home, I do admit that I am on my highest alert in the kichen as achieving a sauce of perfect consistency and gloss can be rather tricky,  you'll have to time the boiling of the pasta, preparation of the sauce and the frying of the bacon pretty closely but I think the addition of the double cream probably helped make the task easier this time around.
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I really liked the consistency and shine of the sauce while the sweet thyme provided an additional fragrance.  I used streaky bacon instead of pancetta and I could not help but drain most of the bacon oil away before mixing in the pasta although Jamie advocates to mix the pasta right in with all the oil.  That may probably have been over-greasy for me, just one or two tablespoons of oil left in the pan were more than enough to 'perfume' the pasta with the fragrant thyme and smoky bacon flavours,.  This is a quick and easy answer to homemade carbonara and should be treated as such, 'authentic' probably not but most importantly, it was delicious and I'm glad my guests agreed...phew!

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Thank Jamie!

Tuna and Kimchi Kimbap (Korean Rice Rolls) - 김밥

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Kimbap which literally means rice in seaweed (bap means rice while kim/ gim means seaweed), is one of my favourite Asian snacks which I should mention is also very easy to put together and very portable, hence it's immense popularity as picnic or lunchbox food.  Although there are some usual ingredients you may find in a kimbap, like omelette strip and the vibrant yellow pickle (danmuji), you can really tailor-make the ingredients in these rolls according to what you fancy.  For today, I made a tuna and a kimchi version where I used canned tuna flakes with omelette strips, softened carrots, cucumber and just replaced the tuna with some chopped up cabbage kimchi in the other version.  You can also add minced beef stir-fried in some soy and sesame oil or fishcakes so really, making kimbap is like a playground for your culinary creativity.

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The main differences with sushi just in case you were wondering is that much less rice vinegar is used to dress the rice, the ingredients are cooked and sesame oil is added to kimbap which is definitely absent from its' Japanese 'look-a-like'.  To me, kimbap is heartier and is also easier to eat as a dipping sauce is not needed whereas sushi usually has more delicate flavours that are highlighted with the requisite dipping sauce.  I do hope you will give these a try and really, kimbap is not 'Korean sushi'! :O.

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Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

Sunday, September 11, 2011 | Labels: , , , | 6 Comments »

Everyone has a type of chocolate chip cookies that they like in particular right? Some like it soft and chewy while others (like me!) prefer them crispy although I have to admit I liked these cookies that I just made quite a bit as well.  These cookies were also incredibly easy and straightforward to make unlike the slightly more complicated 36 brown butter chocolate chip cookies that I made (again) earlier in the week.  Apart from having to be careful while browning the butter, you'll have to wait an excruciating 36 hours for the dough to rest before baking.  Sometimes though, you may just want a bit of instant gratification (well this is relatively instant) right?  I highly recommend today's recipe for those times - actually my brother who is a huge fan of chocolate chip cookies said he preferred today's version as he thought the browned butter made the cookies a little 'too aromatic' - well go figure! I thought, hey wow, I can bake these with much less work so I'll probably just stick to these from now since he is the person who eats most of the cookies anyway.

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For today's easy cookies, you do not have to rest the dough at all and instead of using chopped chocolate, I just returned to the basics and used store-bought chocolate chips.  I do find using chopped chocolate a chore sometimes as I tend to get chocolate all over the place while chopping - maybe I just don't know the secret method yet for chopping chocolate without bits scattering all over so do enlighten me if you know how.  This will be my go-to recipe for fast chocolate chip cookies from now onwards and I have already been reminded to bake another batch for the brother to bring back to England when he returns to university after the summer holidays :O.

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Pan-fried Egg Tofu with Fragrant Pork Topping

Friday, September 09, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 7 Comments »

If you have been following this blog for a while, you may recall that my favourite brand of Chinese cooking sauces i.e. Yuen Chun was introduced to my family kitchens by my late maternal grandmother.  Recently, I have been thinking of her more than usual and of the times we shared, limited as they were.  However, she was a very good cook and my mom constantly shares tales of all the delicious dishes she enjoyed in her childhood courtesy of my late grandmother and so I thought it fitting to share my version of a dish that she enjoyed, just a very simple Chinese home-styled dish of tofu with pork.  I 'updated' it by replacing the regular tofu with egg tofu which were pan-fried for added texture and also added abalone sauce and Shaoxing rice wine to the pork topping.

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If you have not tried egg tofu, I would say that it is the more flavourful version of regular tofu which I find rather bland to be honest.  These tofu are usually sold alongside the regular tofu in the refrigerated section and are usually sold in vacuum sealed tubes.  You can also modify this dish by merely steaming the tofu which is just as tasty but with pan-frying, you'll get some crispiness to accompany the silky smoothness of the tofu, so it is entirely up to you.  I was very pleased with the results - the umami flavours in the abalone sauce complemented the fragrance from the Chinese rice wine really well and brought the savoury flavours in the pork a few notches up.  I do wish my late grandmother had a chance to taste the sauce, I'm very sure she will approve, but I do feel comforted that I am in a way continuing the culinary tradition she started in our family.

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This post is a part of my series of Yuen Chun Recipes, an ongoing project on this blog.

Chinese 'Nam Yu' (Red Beancurd) Spare Ribs Recipe 南乳排骨

Wednesday, September 07, 2011 | Labels: , , | 6 Comments »

Today's feature is one of those Chinese dishes that can be listed under the 'acquired taste' category.  Spareribs marinated in a pungent, savoury and oh so aromatic red fermented beancurd mixture, then dusted in some flour and deep-fried to crunchy, reddish perfection, sounds perfect to me! (?) The main star of this dish is the red fermented beancurd or 'nam yu' (pictured below) in Chinese which is one of the many condiments you will find in most Chinese households - the texture of the beancurd is creamy and rather like cheese but do be warned that it has a distinctly different taste profile from regular cheese.  The fermented beancurd combines very pungent savoury, slightly smoky and fragrant flavours - nam yu is essentially beancurd that has been fermented in a mixture of red rice, wine and five spice powder (usually).  Again, this is really a condiment that you will have to smell and taste for yourself - but don't make a decision at first whiff or taste, the flavours of nam yu are rather complex and this is a Chinese condiment in my opinion that has distinct layers in taste - the initial pungence, then the savouriness (umami), smokiness and even a slight sweetness.

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Anyway, I do hope that you will give this condiment a try someday and as for my fellow nam yu fans, I am guessing that this dish does not need much more introduction from yours truly.  I think the secret to this dish is really the length of time you marinade the ribs for - definitely important to make sure that each crunchy bite is full of flavour. For the marinade, I mashed up a few cubes of nam yu then added a tiny bit of soy sauce to bring out the saltiness further, a splatter of rice wine and a tiny bit of sugar.  For the dusting, I used a mixture of rice flour, potato starch and corn flour before frying the ribs on medium-low heat until they were done.  This dish is very easy to prepare although the frying does require a bit of time and maybe mess (?), but this pungently delicious dish is totally worth and if you are a nam yu fan, I'm sure you'd agree.

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Chinese Salt Pepper Prawns/ Shrimps Recipe 椒盐虾

Sunday, September 04, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 10 Comments »

Dishes,Salt pepper prawns are probably one of the easiest and most delicious ways of preparing prawns the Chinese way and is almost always a popular fixture in most menus of Chinese restaurants everywhere. As with most dishes, there is always more than one way of preparation, I've had salt pepper prawns slathered in batter then deep-fried and I've also had more 'delicate' salt pepper prawns in that the prawns are not coated in heavy batter before frying. As to which version I prefer, it really depends - I like both versions on different days but for today's feature I am sharing the version sans the heavy batter. The prawns have to be rubbed with salt and marinated for at least 1 hour, preferably more if you have the time as this really makes quite a bit of (positive) difference to the final dish.  The fried prawns are finally coated in an incredibly aromatic mix of sautéed garlic, green onions and bird's eye chilli peppers, more salt is added if required and the dish is done.

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If you haven't already noticed, the Chinese love their prawns and it's not only because prawns make good eating but also because prawns in Chinese are pronounced the same way as laughter (虾 means prawns while 哈 means 'ha'), hence you will usually find a lot of prawn dishes during festive seasons especially during the lunar new year. Ringing in the new year with laughter sounds very appealing does it not? This is definitely an easy way to cook prawns at home - straightforward as it is, do keep in mind the following:

1.  Buy the freshest prawns you can (this is probably a no-brainer) :P
2.  Don't overcook the prawns (in my opinion, this is the irreversible sin when it comes to cooking prawns/ seafood)
3.  Don't overcrowd your wok/ pan while frying, do the frying in batches (I know it's more work but it's worth it, sometimes impatience can overcome you, I've done it before too though I've always regretted it later when the prawns don't turn out as crispy)

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Chinese Winter Melon 'Slow Fire' Soup ~ 冬瓜老火汤

Saturday, September 03, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 11 Comments »

It's been awhile since I have featured one of my absolute favourite Chinese comfort foods, the ever-nourishing and soothing slow-fire soup or 老火汤 for those of you who read Chinese.  Slow-fire soups are a genre of soups usually Cantonese in origin and as the name implies, you have to boil or rather simmer this soup for hours before it is considered done.  Usually there will be a kind of protein, a meat of some sort, chicken or pork are popular choices, boiled with a type of vegetable or even peanuts all combined with a myriad of Chinese dried goodies including dried scallops, red dates, maybe a herb or two and the list goes on.  For today, I am presenting the classic favourite of winter melon soup and you know what? I find that no matter where I am living, while suffering the humid heat in Malaysia OR while living in cooler weather in the US and UK, slow-fire soups are welcome anytime or maybe is it just me and my crazy soup-loving ways?

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Anyways, the main 'star' of this soup is the winter melon, apart from the soothingly mild flavours it gives, I love eating the melon wedges as well.  I prefer to use chicken with winter melon instead of pork as I think chicken provides a slightly 'cleaner' and clearer flavour profile while the Chinese Yunnan smoked ham, dried scallops and red dates provide perfect savoury accents to this traditional Chinese soup.  The Chinese believe that these slow-fire soups are not just soups but are more like tonics.  This again comes back to the concept of balance in one's body as the Chinese believe - winter melon soup is thought to bring down heat in one's body and so is especially suitable in the hot weather although I must admit, for me, this is an all-weather comfort food.  It is also incredibly easy to put together, you just need to put all the ingredients in one pot and simmer for a few hours - how easy is that?  Of course, do keep watch on the simmering soup just in case AND never add additional water while boiling which will be a guaranteed way of irreversibly messing up your precious soup :O. 

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Imitation Shark's Fin Dumplings in Broth 鱼翅 (仿) 灌湯餃

Thursday, September 01, 2011 | Labels: , , , , | 9 Comments »

This is probably one of the few instances where I prefer to use the imitation version as compared to the real thing - this time when it comes to the infamous Chinese delicacy of shark's fin.  Without launching into all of the whys, I'm just pretty much on the same page with much of the rest of the world on the consumption of this 'delicacy'.  Admittedly, when I was probably too young/ too ignorant (?) I did have my fair share of shark's fin, ask any Chinese person and he or she would probably  have tasted shark's fin someway or another.  Anyway, for today's feature, I made the faux version of one of my favourite dim sum dishes - 'sharksfin' dumplings, a mixture of pork and shrimp laced with some toothsome 'sharksfin' makes up the filling while the addition of fresh bamboo shoots gives us more texture.  These dumplings or 灌湯餃 are usually first steamed then served together with a luxurious yet clear broth instead of being boiled nowadays.

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These dumplings are extremely popular especially in the Guangzhou/ Hong Kong/ Macau area (to the south of China) and my version is actually a simplified version as traditionally, these dumplings were actually served with the broth inside the dumplings, much like Shanghai's famous 'xiao long baos' with slight variances.  For the broth, I used homemade chicken broth which I clarified a few times as I wanted an extremely clear broth add added some abalone sauce for an added touch of luxury.  Anyhow, these dumplings combine savoury, 'sweet', umami flavours with great texture from both the 'sharksfin' and fresh bamboo shoots - these little morsels are sure to please and will definitely be popular with you and your guests alike.  On a side note, if you can't find fresh bamboo shoots where you are, go ahead and substitute with canned water chestnuts.

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This post is part of my Yuen Chun Recipes, an ongoing project on this blog.


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