ALMOND CHICKEN SALAD WITH PARMESAN CHIPS

Hello July! More than half a year has zoomed past (just like that?) and this is the last recipe for my collaboration with Sadia. Looking back, it was a brisk and enlightening process to develop five recipes, and to share my recommendations for preparing different chicken parts for certain cooking techniques. Starting from steaming, deep frying, pan frying, to poaching chicken today:D

Before this collaboration, I was a huge believer in handpicking fresh foods for cooking. Fresh foods = great taste. 

I hardly near the frozen food aisle at all, unless I have a party to hold and that's my solution for quick snacks. Generally, they are tasteless on their own, padded with salt to bolster how they supposed to taste in its freshest state, or has a distinctive odd, stale taste. 

In all honesty,  I was hesitant to make that move to try frozen chicken. However, as they all say, "you never try, you never know". So I kept an open mind gave this a go. You may have already guess it, this chicken turned out to be a pleasant surprise. With proper steps to thaw them, and toss them with minimal, and complimentary flavourings and ingredients, this sceptical mind of mine was convinced that frozen chicken can be salivating and tasty comparatively to its fresh counterparts. The best part that made me relieved was having the control of portioning the quantity for a meal without any wastage. As long as you thaw the appropriate amount needed, you can keep the remaining in the bag and reserve for other days! Also, this is a simple way of sustaining the anti-disposable culture!

So today's recipe is lunch for one, especially if you're embarking a high protein diet like I do right now! Chicken fillets and broccoli are my best friends for supporting this diet. They are always available, sweet on their own, and most importantly they're easy; a dollop of butter, a pinch of salt and pepper will easily beef them up from great to amazing. No sweat. 

Instead of boiling chicken fillets in water, switch to poaching them in almond milk with sweet yellow onions chunks. Any type of milk will do the job right! On the other hand, toss the bouquet of florets in the bubbling, pastel yellow melted butter in a separate frying pan. Then pour water over florets and cover the pot to soften them. 

If you decide to treat yourself with something savoury, sinful, and crunchy on a Friday, this little parmesan chip will fulfil that craving. So please go ahead! Combine grated parmesan, cayenne pepper and white chia seeds, stay away from adding salt as parmesan is awfully rich itself. 

Enjoy!Xx

-Ally

Time 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 2-3 Sadia Chicken Fillets with Tendons 
  • ½ yellow onion
  • ¾ cup almond milk
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon pink sea salt flakes
  • Black pepper
  • 2 slices toasted bread of your choice (optional)

Parmesan chip (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons parmesan, grated
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white chia seeds

Preparation

  • Thaw 2-3 pieces of chicken fillet with tendons.
  • Slice chicken fillets into half, lengthwise (this thickness will speed up cooking process, and also help us to check whether the fillets are fully cooked)
  • Cut the stalk off the broccoli head and cut each floret lengthwise.
  • Chop yellow onion into small chunks.

Cooking directions

  • Pour in almond milk, onion chunks in a small stock pot. Submerge chicken fillets in the almond milk mixture, poach them over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes. Season with black pepper to taste before turning heat off.
  • Once chicken fillets are being poached in the almond milk mixture, scoop them up and shred them in a small bowl. Do not dispose the remaining milk mixture in the pot. Pour 50ml of the it in a cup and set aside.

  • Add unsalted butter into a separate frying pan over medium high heat. Once it starts sizzling, add florets and stir fry for 30 seconds. Season with sea salt and add water. Cover the frying pan with a lid and turn heat high for 1-2 minutes or until florets have softened.

  • For parmesan chips, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Pour it over a non-stick egg skillet over low heat. Use the back of a tablespoon and pad it gently to spread it out. The mixture will melt completely and hardened within 2 minutes. Use a chopstick to gently push in the edges, and flip it over. Cook the other side for 2 minutes or until it is golden brown.

  • Plate florets and shredded chicken. Break parmesan chip into crumbs over salad and drizzle the 50 ml almond milk over.

Notes:

  • Watch out for the heat while poaching chicken fillets. Lower the heat before almond milk starts foaming and reaches to the brim.
  • As parmesan has its natural fat and sodium content, do not add any oil and salt while making the parmesan chip. It will result to a greasy, salty and soft piece of cheese.

What is poaching?

Poaching is a type of moist-heat cooking technique that involves cooking by submerging delicate food in a liquid, such as water, milk, stock or wine. Cooking under a low temperature between 140 °F -180 °F, it will show small bubbles forming at the bottom of the pot.  

 

TOMATO CHICKEN SOBA

Many colleagues of mine are working mums, but I will say they are super mums. The idea of them making diligent efforts at work to be competent and rushing back home to prepare dinner for their family is undeniably admirable.

When we are racing against time, it's effortless to order take outs, or in Mandarin we call it 打包 (da bao) food home for the family. Convenience is key, which results to busy individuals relying on outside food to fix their three meals. Nevertheless, nutrition is still paramount. A conscious, considerable, small effort to prepare a less salt and less oil for one out of three meals in a day, makes a slight impact to our bodies and wellness over time. 

Therefore, it takes baby steps to brighten our weekday dinners with a simple, healthy Tomato Chicken Soba that can be served in a jiffy. This process is streamlined so that it takes no more than 30 minutes.  A sweet tasting dinner is what we are looking for, and kids love it!

In this recipe, fresh, juicy tomatoes and chicken steaks go for a steam,  and that makes the step to prepare a dressing sauce totally redundant, which is commonly required in other dry noodle recipes. 

The steaming process forms a crimson pool of natural tomato sauce, with gold spots glistening on the surface. It has more than enough sauce to drizzle over cooked soba straight away.

This is why we should always go fresh, don't rely too much on store bought tomato sauces for the sweetness.

Soba is another essential ingredient added to my kitchen recently. The nutty flavour noodle is made from buckwheat flour, its thickness is pretty similar to angel hair pasta. That means it takes less than 8 minutes to cook them!  

Here are the reasons why I start stocking up Soba:

  • A low calorie diet (doesn't mean you need less): Soba is great source in protein, iron,  and fibre. 1 cup of cooked noodles boosts 24% manganese a woman needs a day.
    • Manganese is essential for healthy bone growth and structure, especially increasing the mineral density of the spinal bone. 
    • Manganese-activated enzymes help in the metabolism of cholesterol, amino acids, and carbohydrates. 
    • Alleviate the PMS, headaches, depression and irritability to a considerable extent.
  • Gluten-free (wheat-free option) However, do read the food labels to ensure that the soba is made up of 100% buckwheat flour.
  • Versatility. Perfect on its own with a dipping sauce when it's chilled, or heat it up and stir-fry it with whatever protein you like. 

If you are considering to switch from wheat pasta to soba noodles, you'll be missing out on the B-complex vitamins, iron and selenium found in wheat pasta. Pair soba with a protein, be it chicken breasts, beancurd, fish or add steamed or sauteed vegetables as sources of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.

Reference for frozen chicken boneless leg meat in Singapore

Reference for frozen chicken boneless leg meat in Singapore

Reference for frozen chicken leg steak in Hong Kong.

Reference for frozen chicken leg steak in Hong Kong.

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 3 Chicken Leg Steak (approx. 900g)

Marinate for the chicken

  • 2 fresh tomatoes on vine
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree (Hunt’s)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1.5 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Chinese shaoxing wine
  • 1 tbsp water

For the soba

  • 270g dry soba noodles, (approx. 1 packet)
  • 1 cup frozen edamame beans
  • ½ large yellow onion
  • ½ bulb garlic
  • ½ spring onion (optional)

Preparation

  • Take out 3 frozen chicken leg steaks from the packet and place them a Ziploc bag. Seal the packet and put remaining pieces in the freezer for future use. Place the Ziploc bag in a container and put it at the lower compartment of the refrigerator to thaw for 1 hour. Dispose thaw liquid away.
  • Remove skin and fats from chicken leg steaks, and slice them in big chunks. (The size of chicken chunks will shrink when they are steamed)
  • Put frozen edamame beans into the microwave oven for 2 minutes. Remove beans from pods. Set aside in a bowl.
  • Cut tomato into chunks. Crush garlic cloves.
  • Slice yellow onions and spring onions in thin strips.

Cooking directions

  • In a mixing bowl, pour in tomato chunks and chicken chunks.
  • Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl. Pour into mixing bowl and add crushed garlic. Combine everything well.
  • Place tomato chicken chunks into a steaming tray. Steam chicken over medium heat for 13-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, fill stock pot with 3 bowls of water over medium heat. Once it starts boiling, put in soba and cook for 5 minutes. Drain cooked soba noodles and put them in a bowl of ice water to cool the soba, this stops soba from cooking further. Use chopsticks to separate soba in strains.
  • Portion soba, edamame beans, yellow onion strips in individual bowl. Scoop one ladle of steamed tomato chicken over soba. Garnish with spring onions to serve. Toss well and enjoy.

Notes:

  • When cooking soba, 5-6 minutes is suffice for thinner strains. For thicker soba, it will be about 7-8 minutes.

Enjoy!Xx

-Ally

THAI STYLE CHICKEN WINGS

Perspiration. Flu. Itchy Eyes. Cold cough. Muscle aches. These symptoms combined with the fury heat in Singapore is an assemblage of a disaster. No matter how bulletproof the plan is to prevent this unknown virus recently, my body machine still broke down last Saturday. Mission failed.

Every time illness comes knocking on my door, greed and wrath are activated stronger than normal days. 

Use poison to fight poison...

Use poison to fight poison...

In Mandarin they call it 以毒攻毒. 

I was desperate for the spicy sensation, and that's how these Thai Style Chicken Wings came about. Half of the time, I couldn't taste, but I could smell to mix this potent concoction. 

Putting this post together post quickly, mid joint wings were selected for the thin meat and stretched skin surface at their natural form. I drew my inspiration from the recipe of authentic Gai yang (ไก่ย่าง), the Thai word for grilled chicken and gave it a twist by squirting limes and crashing lime leaves for the zesty after taste. 

Oven-bake them, grill them or pan-fry them until the brown edges of the wings hardened, the sauce bubbled and turn sticky, you are good to go! For myself, I chose to pan-fry them to cut down the cooking duration and also because I don't own any oven and griller (at the moment).  To cook for a large group, these bag of frozen mid joint wings adds value to a lower price you pay such that their taste are comparable to the fresh ones when I experimented this recipe on both types of wings. 

They are absolutely the friendliest, finger licking good choice for any family potluck or gathering. No one is mindful of those hungry-looking beasty eyes, barbaric dining and that mess of bones scattered everywhere. But of course, we always have those with manicured fingers or lazy ones who go for the fork option and struggle to eat the wings in their daintiest way. Well, there are no strict rules in this eat world. Seriously, let your guest choose either way that make your day.

Oh yes, this poison is a true indulgence especially when a group of individuals is under the weather and wanting to taste something really badly to release those cold beads of sweat! This applies to those who were literally under the hot weather and suffered from a sun burn too.

Who says porridge is the only comfort food for sick people? 

This is a reference of the mid joint wings available in Singapore grocers. 

This is a reference of the mid joint wings available in Singapore grocers. 

This is a reference of the mid joint wings available in Hong Kong grocers. 

This is a reference of the mid joint wings available in Hong Kong grocers. 

Time: 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 1kg mid joint wings (about 25 wings)

Marinate for the chicken

  • 2 lemon grass
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • Juice of 1 seedless large lime
  • 2 red padi (small red chilli)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp Chinese shaoxing wine
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1½ tbsp brown sugar 
  • 1 tsp sweet dark soya sauce (optional)
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns (optional)
  • 6-8 lime leaves (optional)

To serve (optional)

  • 1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
  • Chilli padi, chopped
  • Coriander leaves, chopped

Salad (optional)

  • 250g Indonesian green beans, whole
  • 4 small cucumbers, lengthwise
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 fresh apricot, sliced

Salad dressing

  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Preparation

  • Place frozen mid joint wings in a container, put them at the lower compartment of the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Open the bag of wings and set aside on a plate. Dispose thaw liquid away.
  • Use only the bulb of the lemon grass (the white portion is usually tender) and grate them. It will be form approximately 1 teaspoon of grated lemongrass.
  • Smash garlic cloves using the side of a cleaver. Do not remove garlic skins.
  • Crush lime leaves to make the flavour and fragrance more potent

Cooking Directions

  • Remove mid joint wings, smashed garlic and lime leaves from the bag into a large bowl. Set aside 1/2 portion of marinate liquid in a separate bowl. Dispose ziploc bag and remaining marinade liquid. 
  • Add 30ml water portion and 3 tablespoons marinade liquid into a frying pan over medium high heat. (This process will destroy any harmful bacteria)
  • Once marinade mixture starts boiling, add 10 mid joint wings to the pan (depending on how big is the pan). Let them cook for 3 minutes on one side, flip them over to cook for another 2 minutes. Add smashed garlic and lime leaves into the pan.
  • Notice that the liquid starts to dry up after 5 minutes, turn to low heat and cook the wings for another 2 minutes on each side to achieve a slightly charred surface.
  • Repeat step 2-4 for the remaining mid joint wings. 
  • Scoop mid joint wings on a serving plate, dispose charred garlic and lime leaves. Sprinkle white sesame seeds, small chilli and coriander leaves.

Notes

  • Do not recycle or reuse marinate liquid used on raw meat once it has taken out at a room temperature over an extended period of time. 
  • Using a portion of marinade is safe for cooking, also remember to boil it first before adding raw poultry. https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/marinades.html

FATHER'S DAY | HAINANESE PORK CHOP

Hainanese Pork Chop is a familiar, household dish to most Singaporeans. Ask anyone to name you three Hainanese dishes, the top answers will likely be

1. Hainanese Chicken Rice

2. Hainanese Pork Chop

3. Hainanese Beef Noodle Soup

This delicacy is an exemplar of a East meets West fusion in the early days of Singapore, whereby Hainanese chefs married five spiced powder, tomato sauce, worchesterchire sauce etc; using what's available in kitchens, hotels and ships owned by the British. Certainly, it has left a significant mark in the country's repertoire of must-try signature dishes.

The pork chop is served in slices, accompanied by sizzling thick red sauce and vegetables on top to keep it moist and saucy. I remembered having the first bite 12 years ago when Daddy Chow brought us for Hainanese Chicken Rice at Golden Mile Thien Kee Steamboat restaurant. Although Hainanese pork chop was served as a side, it caught my attention due to its presentation.

"Aren't pork chop grilled and served as a whole?" I wondered.

Unlike western pork chop, the Hainanese served them in generous thick chunks and they hardly turn soggy in the special sauce. My eyes lit up when I ate it, and totally ignored the chilled chicken. Without holding back, one piece just came after another with one bowl of fragrant chicken rice in hand. Brown on the outside, pinkish white on the inside was the exact combination imprinted in my mind. Better still, they weren't greasy at all. That won my heart!

With all that said, here's my version of Hainanese Pork Chop I cooked for my Dad (who is also a fellow Hainanese). We ate them in a East meets West style, where pork chop was wrapped in romaine lettuce, inspired by Korean BBQ alongside Scottish craft beer as part of our dining experience😁  The aim is to finish this homely pork chop with a same amount of satisfaction but at a reduced calorie intake with the absence of white rice.

Cooking this dish can be an overnight or an hour's affair, depending on how much time is given to marinade the meat for its richness in taste. A potential challenge is to slice up the crusty light brown pork chop, witness the right softness of the meat and guarantee that it is cooked within 3 minutesJust 3 minutes of attention, no distractions, otherwise these pork chop may turn to thick black cardboards and go to waste. 

Oh, just be cautious while flipping the meat over. I learnt my lesson not wearing an apron and ended up with scalding spots on my thighs when the meat just slipped through the chopsticks. *Ouch*

For vegetables, I opted for canned peas and corns instead of frozen ones because the smell and taste of frozen ones were too strong for me no matter how the sauce tried to cover them. 

HPC 1-12.jpg

Time 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 400g pork collar steaks (2 slices, 1/2 inch thick)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/2 cup corn 
  • 1 large red onion
  • 12 pieces cream crackers (Hup Seng brand) 
  • 2 bunches baby romaine lettuce 
  • 1½  cup vegetable oil for deep frying

Marinate for the chicken

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar 
  • 1 tbsp potato starch with 1.5tbsp water
  • 1 tsp fermented bean paste
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp 5 spiced powder

Sauce

  • 3 tbsp tomato sauce/ ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp potato starch mixed with 1.5 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce 
  • 200 ml water 
  • Pepper to taste

Preparation

  • Refer to the same method of defrosting poultry written in the previous blog post.
  • Place cream crackers in a ziploc bag and seal it. Use a rolling pin/ pestle to roll over them into crumbs. Make sure the crumbs are not too fine/ in powder form. Transfer crumbs into a wide bowl and set aside. 
  • Use reverse blunt side of the cleaver or mallet to tenderise the pork collar steaks by pounding it across evenly. 
  • Whisk two eggs in a wide bowl to amalgamate the yolks and whites. Set aside. 

Cooking directions

  • Add marinate ingredients to the pork collar steaks and rub them evenly. If time is not a constraint, put them into a Ziploc bag and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Otherwise, dip both sides of each pork collar steak into the egg wash. Then, coat it with cracker crumbs. Use tip of the fingers to press the steaks in the crumbs to ensure it is evenly coated. 
  • Repeat step for another pork collar steak.
  • Pour vegetable oil into a frying pan over small-medium heat. After 1 minute, drop a few crumbs to test the temperature. If the crumbs start sizzling, slowly slide in one slice of pork collar steak, make sure it is completely submerged. 
  • Fry for 1 minute on each side or until it turns golden. Flip over carefully using a pair of tongs.
  • Turn up the heat and let it fry for 1 minute. This process will lead the pork collar to be less greasy in texture and taste. Set aside pork collars on a kitchen towel in a plate to let it cool. 
  • For the sauce, scoop 2 tbsp of the remaining oil (without crumb debris) used earlier, and add to a separate sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions to the pan and fry for 30 seconds. 
  • Add the peas and corn to the onions, combine well for 1 minute. Turn down the heat slightly, pour in Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, oyster sauce and pepper. Mix well and add water to the sauce. 
  • Let the sauce simmer for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the pork collars with a cleaver about 2cm lengthwise.
  • Add 2 tbsp of potato starch mixture at a time to sauce, swirl the mixture slowly and constantly till it gets thicker. Turn off heat and pour it over pork slices.
  • Serve pork chop with baby romaine lettuce. Wrap two slices of pork chop in lettuce each time.  Enjoy with beer!

Notes

  • After potato starch mixture is added to the sauce, do not stir too much as it will form clumps
  • Once the sauce is done, do not leave it for more than 5 minutes as it forms clumps as well. Add potato starch mixture to the sauce only when pork chop is ready to serve.

Enjoy!Xx

- Ally

HPC 1-11.jpg

MOTHER'S DAY | FERMENTED BEAN PASTE GINGER CHICKEN (TAUCHO, GINGER CHICKEN)

Mother's Day is just a few days away and the inevitable question pops up every year.

"What should I do for my mum this year?"

Before going wild with ideas or witnessing a dip in my bank account, I curled up on the same spot of my couch in my usual oversized tee and recalled my mum's love language the night before. 

Out of all the love languages, the most dominant language for her is Acts of Service. Yes, that's it! "Actions speak louder than words" means a lot to her, especially for a homemaker who is swamped by daily responsibilities as a caregiver to my poh poh (granny) whilst running errands to keep the home functioning smoothly no matter rain or shine. This tough lady needs a break for a day. Hence, doing something like taking over the her role to cook a meal for the family will simply express my appreciation and love to her on Mother's Day. 

I grew up assisting her in our narrow, long kitchen that can accommodate only three people in between the stove and kitchen counter. Four is definitely a crowd. Many times, the unfortunate fourth member would be chased out for being a hindrance, hahaha. Mummy Chow and I would stand back to back, where I learnt the different techniques of handling poultry and vegetables, and passed her the specific ingredients she asked for while she was cooking behind me. After years of cooking sessions, I am now independent to prepare a decent meal and master the flavours in some of her signature dishes! Hoorayyyyy~~~

As positive as I am feeling today, I wanted to surprise and prove to Mummy Chow that her girl is competent to cook and gain her shifu's acknowledgement. Earlier, I've prepared her favourite fermented bean (tau cho) paste ginger chicken. She once told me that steaming is one of the recognised cooking methods to taste the tenderness and juiciness of this white meat. Shhh....you're in luck today! In my experience as a young, serious and curious home cook, 17 minutes is the golden figure to guarantee the succulence of the steam chicken. Of course, watching over the heat is another point to note (which I'll be sharing below).

What makes this fermented bean paste ginger chicken a highly requested dish in the Chow's family dinner menu is the sauce. The sauce oozes effortlessly from the paste made up from this particular fermented bean paste (鲜枣豆酱王), hand pounded old ginger, sesame oil and oyster sauce. Despite a wee bit oily, my goodness, it goes addictively well with cooked rice and mee sua. Therefore, please cook another half a cup of rice on top of your usual consumption:D

Another key to note is the choice of ginger. Old ginger has a deep yellow appearance with a sharper, and more woody taste which is suitable for a rich, flavourful and spicy sauce. On the other hand, young ginger carries a lighter yellow tone, with a tinge of sharpness in taste, preferably for brewing tea, or making pickled ginger in my opinion. I've experimented both types of ginger for this dish, the taste of young ginger was weaken by the fermented bean paste, losing its presence and intended purpose for it. But the pungent old counterpart stood strong in its taste and marries the other strongly flavoured ingredients.

So if everyone is a fan of ginger, go for the former!

Lastly, I am elated to announce my first collaboration with Sadia for this recipe. Watch this space for more recipes in the upcoming months! 

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken 
  • 5 Chinese dried mushrooms 
  • 1 tbsp goji berries
  • 100g old ginger 
  • 1 tbsp fermented bean paste (tau cho)
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing wine
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • ½ spring onion (cut into thin strips), optional

Preparation for the chicken

  • It is best to plan your meal a day ahead! Place the frozen chicken in a container at the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, away from other foods to avoid cross contamination. 
  • The container collects the thawed liquid which has to be poured away before cooking. Thawing the chicken in room temperature can allow bacteria to grow. 
  • Fill a small pot with 3 cups of water and let it boil. Meanwhile, chop the chicken into individual parts with a cleaver. Cut off excess fat at the lower parts of the chicken. 
  • Rub all the chicken parts with salt thoroughly and add them into the boiling water for 2 minutes. This is to wash away blood spots of the chicken. Scoop chicken parts in a bowl. 

Preparation for other ingredients

  • Wash the goji berries 
  • Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl of water for 5-10 minutes. Pour away water, and slice mushrooms into thin strips.
  • Peel the skin of the old ginger and chop it into small chunks. Smash ginger chucks with the pestle till the they are flatten and juice surfaces. Caution: Keep your eyes away from the mortar while pounding as the ginger juice may splash and hurt your eyes. 

Directions

  • Pour 2 tbsp sesame oil over chicken parts and toss them till they are evenly coated. Arrange them neatly on to a steaming plate.
  • Mix pounded ginger, fermented bean paste, shaoxing wine, oyster sauce and the remaining sesame oil together. Spread the paste over the chicken parts.
  • Add mushroom strips and goji berries on top of the chicken pieces. Steam them over medium heat for 12 minutes. Then lower the heat slightly for another 5 minutes. Use a fork or a chopstick to check whether the chicken parts are cooked and tender. If it pierces through the meat easily, turn off the heat. 
  • Sprinkle spring onions over the chicken parts. Serve it with rice and drizzle plenty of sauce over to savour!

Enjoy! Xx

-Ally

 

 

MEATBALLS SPINACH PORRIDGE

Tried and tested. Twice this time! A year ago, spinach rice porridge with meatballs was added to my list of Asian home cook recipes. It is dead simple and power-up meal to make for family. The Chow family name it the Popeye's porridge. When I was young, Popeye the sailor man was one of the cartoon series I was hooked. Gone were the days when I binge watched Popeye's video tapes during school holidays, episode after episode. So Mummy Chow took the chance to name this rice porridge after Popeye and convinced us to each finish two bowls of spinach porridge which supposedly help us grow stronger and smarter like Popeye.

Her brilliance works. I actually believed what she said and asked for more than two with the urge to become stronger to wrestle with my dad. Imagine 5 people could finish 4 cups of white porridge! All in all this recipe has been stuck in my head for 20 years, and the second time making this pot of goodness was different than the original. 

Instead of using Thai Jasmine Rice (which most Asian families consume as a staple), red rice was used to achieve a nutty flavour in the rice porridge. The unpolished grains is rich in fibre due to the bran, and it helps fight asthma (a problem I encountered in my late teens), reducing fine lines on the skin, firms up skin and minimise the damage brought on by our day to day exposure to UV rays. A natural anti-wrinkle remedy isn't it? 

century egg and salted egg.jpg

Oh, the final touch to this pipping hot porridge is the natural salt from 4 big heroes: century egg, salted eggs, braised peanuts and fried anchovies. They go beautifully well to sweeten the rice porridge, and there's no need extra seasoning was added to the porridge towards the end.  Each of them has a distinctive fragrant and taste. Let any Asian do a blind taste test, they will identify them quickly, anytime. Also, I like my anchovies to be slightly on the dark brown side, with a charred taste but absolute crisp. 

Staring at the sizzling rice porridge under over hot fire is one of the kitchen frustrations when the stomach starts shouting for attention. The stare down lasted for 20 seconds, just 20 seconds will do. With the risk that my tongue might get burn, I slurped the porridge gingerly and served myself the first bowl with a huge portion of fried anchovies.

* One trick to prevent yourself from a burning sensation on the tongue, simply use a porcelain spoon to scoop the corner of the porridge in a clockwise direction, the temperature is just right to taste this porridge without having to gently blow it. If there is any leftover, keep it in an air tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Heat it up over high heat and the result is no less than before.

Ingredients ( serves 4)

  • 1 cup red rice
  • 2 salted egg
  • 1 century egg
  • 10 stalks Chinese round spinach
  • 200g minced pork
  • 1 can braised peanuts
  • 3 tbsp ikan bilis (anchovies) 

To marinade meatballs

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • ½  tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp corn flour

Condiment

  • Fried baby ikan bills (anchovies)

Preparation

  1. For pork balls, combine the seasoning with the minced pork and mix it with a tablespoon to form a huge ball in a bowl. Slam the ball of minced pork 5 times to get the QQ texture. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. Scoop 1 big teaspoon of meat and roll them to balls in between palms. 
  2. Pluck spinach leaves and set side. Pluck away root of the spinach, and break the stem in three parts.
  3. To remove the clay and rice husk from the century egg, rub the surface off the egg in its plastic bag. The coating will break slowly and you’ll be able to see the white shell without making your hands dirty. Then, take the egg out of the bag and rub the surface gently while rinsing it under water till the clay has been fully removed.
  4. Gently crack the egg on the edge of a hard surface (a bowl, or the sink) and peel the shell. 
  5. Repeat step 3 when handling salted eggs. Crack open salted eggs and separate yolks from egg white into 2 bowls. Cut salted yolks 
  6. Slice century egg in small chunks and set aside.

Directions

  1. Pour red rice on a strainer and wash the grains thoroughly. Drain the grains, pour into a small stock pot and filled with it up with 6 cups of water. Set it to boil over medium heat for 20 minutes. 
  2. Check the hardness of red rice after 20 minutes, if it is still hard and starts drying up, add another two cups of water and let it boil for another 10 minutes. 
  3. While porridge is boiling, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil onto frying pan (sunny side up size) over medium heat for 1 minute. Add ikan bilis and fry for 5-7 minutes or until they turn golden brown and crispy. 
  4. Once red rice has soften, add spinach stems and meatballs in the center. Scoop porridge on the outer corner inwards to cover pork balls and spinach. Close lid and let it simmer for 6-8 minutes. 
  5. Open the lid and add spinach leaves, century egg and salted eggs. Add braised peanuts from the can only, dispose the sauce away. Turn down the heat and stir porridge gently to combine. 
  6. When salted egg chunks have turned light orange, pour salted egg white to the porridge. Gently stir porridge for 30 seconds once the egg white swirls are formed. Turn off heat immediately. 
  7. Serve porridge in bowls and sprinkle fried ikan bilis on top. 

Enjoy! Xx

- Ally

SANITY | CHINESE WHITE RADISH SOUP WITH DRIED SEAFOOD

Hello everyone! Amidst of adapting to the new work environment, reminding myself to buck up and deliver my work to meet others' deadlines, I neglected my own sanity. Unsurprisingly, I spent most of time dealing with people's expectations, to impress, to prove my self-worth, and why I was hired for the right reasons. The constant battle of doing things that helped me survive but not thrive have became more evident whenever family and friends started asking me how have I been. It's scary and fatiguing when I realised I began to lose a little part of myself with a slightest change in my lifestyle within two weeks. 

My usual weekends weren't the same anymore, I desired for sleep-ins to recharge and I stepped away from the kitchen *Yawns*. Thus, leaving this space untouched. Then again, the only person given the power to control one's happiness is ourselves. Whining and self-pity aren't corrective actions to cheer me up, but cooking does! Going grocery shopping, planning the preparation, hearing the crisp when I slice vegetables and taste testing are ways of interacting with food and definitely therapeutic. Intuitively, when I want to indulge in comfort food, I immediately look up for Mama Chow's everyday soup recipes; the remedy she uses when someone in the family is yearning for some TLC on a bad day😌 ❤️

And according to Diana Henry, a chef and food writer, people take soup when they're having tough times, its something you give them in times of troubles, in times when they need to be comforted. Understanding, here, soup signifies an enormous care and attention someone can receive inside out. Certainly, I am one of those soup lovers who gets perk up by a bowl home cook soup, knowing that I'm getting essential nutrients for recovery. 

If you are having a rough day, embrace the challenges at work, but filter them at home, well at least during dinner time. Distract yourself by preparing this Chinese white radish soup. I can guarantee you that those blues held inside will evaporate once your tummy is warm and truly satisfied. Then, lift your chin up, let go of those dull feeling, and tackle today's challenges. Continue to be the long-standing warrior and fight your own war. Remember to find your zen in the state of being a busy 🐝 

So I'm sharing one of my favorite soups prepared by Mama Chow- Chinese white radish (Daikon) soup, commonly served for meals in Teochew households. It's perfect for lazy cooking- putting all ingredients in a pot and let it simmer for at least 4 hours. 

Pork ribs lay the sweet foundation for the soup base. The key character -Chinese white radish softens over hours of simmering and accentuates the soup flavor. Not forgetting the side characters (dried oysters, squid and red dates), they enhance the richness to the soup, saving us from adding additional seasoning. While chewing onto the dried seafood, they alerted my sense of smell as the aroma surfaced gradually, the longer I chewed. 

Ingredients

  • 1 Chinese white radish
  • 500g soft pork ribs
  • 15 red dates (available in Chinese medical hall)
  • 1 dried squid (available in Asian supermarket)
  • 12 dried mussels (available in Asian supermarket)
  • White Pepper

Kitchen Equipment

  • Large stockpot
  • Small pot
  • Chopping board
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Knife
  • Kitchen scissors

Preparation

  • To blanche soft pork ribs (to remove excess fat and bacteria), fill up 3/4 of the small pot with water, let it boil over medium heat. Pour in pork ribs and let it boil for 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and scoop them up. Run them over water again.
  •  Fill up 3/4 of the large stock pot with water, let it boil over high heat. 
  •  Meanwhile, peel white radish and chop them in large chunks. As it softens and shrinks over hours of simmering, it is important to have it in large pieces for visibility and soft crunch.
  • Remove the pen (bone-like) of the dried squid. Wash and rub away salt and dirt of the dried squid and mussels gently with your thumb. Use the kitchen scissors and cut only dried squid in small pieces. 
  •  We don't want to remove all the rich sodium of these dried ingredients that contribute richness to the soup. So let them soak in water for 5-10 minutes to soften.

Cooking

  • Once water starts boiling in the large stock pot, gently add in pork ribs. Then, add the radish chunks, dried seafood (including the water they were soaked in, you don't want to throw it away) and red dates. Cover the pot, let it boil over 20 minutes.
  • Be mindful to check the soup every 15-20 minutes. Open the lid on the pot and check the water level. If it is reduced, fill up more hot water till it covers the ingredients. Having proper control of the heat from time to time will affect the taste of the soup. Once the soup has boiled up to the surface of the pot, turn down to low heat immediately. Half cover the pot with the lid and let it simmer for the next 2-3 hours.
  •  Turn off the heat first if you're serving in a few hours time. Heat up the soup and season with a pinch of pepper for an extra kick to the taste. 
  • Serve it with rice, flour noodles or just the soup as a main dish will be superb for your taste and tummy!

Enjoy! Xx

 

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY | ROASTED PORK BELLY PIZZA

Roasted pork belly (烧肉) is the ultimate temptation mama chow can never resist. When she heard the crunch of the belly skin while chewing onto the tender belly meat for the first time, she was determined to learn the recipe. Within a few days, she figured out the simplest way to roast it using common condiments in every Asian's kitchen. With her cleaver in hand, she chopped the overnight seasoned, sizzling roasted pork belly along with that sexy crack, crack, crack...we knew she succeeded😁

From that day onward, mama chow always served her roasted pork belly during prayers in all smiles, made batches of seasoned pork belly for my grandma, and shared her recipes to her sisters. Having to share what she loves is a total joy to her. So on this Mother's Day, I'm inspired to learn how to roast that sinful pork belly and serve it as a pizza to celebrate this special occasion. Pizzas are the perfect social food that bonds family over the weekends when everyone has a bit more time. A glass of white wine to pair with pizzas will be an ideal setting for everyone to relax at home and pick up where we left off. However, a pizza dough take hours to set right? What I did was to replace pizza dough with wraps! If you are a thin crust fan like me, you're in good hands😉 

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 12 Mission 6-grain/ original wraps
  • 2kg Pork belly
  • ½ bunch Chinese baby spinach leaves
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 2 onions
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 250g Mozzarella
  • 3 stalks cilantro aka chinese parsley
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1½ tablespoons curry powder
  • 1½ tablespoons sesame oil
  • White pepper
  • Tomato paste (for a red base, optional)

Kitchen Equipment

  • 2 chopping board (for meat and vegetables separately)
  • Cleaver (for slicing pork belly)
  • Vegetable knife
  • Small pot
  • Convection oven
  • 3 skewers
  • Pizza cutter
  • 2 pair of plastic gloves
  • Frying pan
  • Tongs

Preparation

Pork belly

  • Fill up half of the small pot with water, turn on medium-high heat and bring to boil. Gently put in pork belly for 2-3 minutes to kill active bacteria.
  • Scoop up pork belly onto a big bowl and wash it with running water. Set aside and let it cool.
  • Chop garlic into chunks.
  • Put on plastic gloves, slice pork belly into half. Rub garlic, oyster sauce, sesame oil, pepper and curry powder all over pork belly. Make sure every inch of pork belly is evenly coated.
  • *Refrigerate overnight in the middle compartment for the pork skin to dry out. This ensures the sexy crackling to be perfect when you roast it next day. Alternatively, refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.

Toppings

  • Combine cream cheese spinach leaves together, mix well till it forms a nice paste texture. Refrigerate it.                                                                                                                        
  • Cut onions into half and slice them in thin strips. Peel zucchini in thin strips. Dispose its core and skin. 
  • Chop cilantro into chunks.

Cooking

  • Bring out pork belly and let it sit for 20 minutes, to bring it to room temperature before cooking. Meanwhile, preheat oven at convection setting for 10 minutes at 250 degree Celsius.  
  • Pan fry pork belly on a frying pan over medium heat. Use a pair of tongs to hold and sear each side of the pork belly for 1-2 minutes until it turns sizzling light brown.
  • Turn off heat and set them on the baking tray. Use skewers to pierce and join 2 slabs of the pork belly, make sure it stands on the baking tray.  
  • Insert baking tray on the middle rack in the oven and roast it for 20 mins for the first round. After 20 minutes, check the skin and sides of the pork belly, and insert back into the oven on the top rack to roast it for another 10-12 minutes. 
  • Bring out pork belly and let it cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spread 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese and spinach paste over each wrap. Add zucchini and onion. 
  • Put on plastic gloves and dice roast pork belly. Add diced roasted pork belly on the wraps followed by a generous amount of Mozzarella. Put wraps back into the oven on the middle rack for 5-8 minutes.
  • Use a pizza cut and cut wraps into quarters. Sprinkle chopped cilantro and serve.    

The significant role Mozzarella plays in merging endless toppings of different gourmet ingredients together, turns every pizza to be undeniably presentable and salivating. Everyone kept asking for more! Alternatively on lazy days, pick up roasted pork belly on your way home and have this delicious pizza ready in minutes!

So give our local must-have delights a twist, instead of having rice to pair with roasted duck or char siew, indulge them in a wrap. 

Here's one of my favourite Chef Adam Liaw's "Quick and Easy" recipe.

Roast duck, cucumber and onion wraps (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, cut into batons
  • 4 large spring onions, finely shredded
  • 4 Mission Original Wraps
  • ½ cup of Hoisin sauce
  • ½ Cantonese roast duck

Cooking

  • Slice the duck into pieces and remove any bones.
  • Heat the Mission Original wraps according to the packet instructions.
  • Spread a little Hoisin sauce over each wrap and arrange duck, cucumber and spring onion on top.
  • Wrap and serve. 

Happy Mother's Day to all supermums, for being independent, strong, fearless, selfless, fighters from then and now. Mama chow, thank you for being you and I'm extremely blessed to be your daughter.💐😘

Lots of love. Xx

 

POST WORKOUT | MINCED BEEF BURRITO

Finally I'm lifting 50kg for my squats this week😅  This is a major achievement and I'd never imagined myself to lift at my weight. Though I managed 2 reps this time, small improvement is still improvement. Four months ago, I started a power lifting routine every twice a week. At first, I was a little skeptical about lifting heavy weights, that it might result to bulking, losing feminine curves and looking stumpy (cos I'm pretty short). Then, I would possibly call a girlfriend for help to remove my sports bra after gymming, take an extra minute to fit into my skinny jeans, and stop wearing crop tops. But... this was the old me overthinking the worst case scenarios that could happen. So Ryan corrected my misconceptions by explaining the benefits for females to attempt power lifting. Seeing how close I am towards my gym goals today, the current me totally found myself silly coming up with those absurd excuses back then hahaha

So what's powerlifting? It comprises 3 main exercises. Squats, bench press and dead lifts. The benefits of powerlifting are

1.  Build lean muscles

2. Burn body fat

3. Maintain female physique

4. Shame those guys who lift lighter than you in the gym hehe😜

Normally for myself, I complete 4 sets for each exercise. Start warming up with an olympic bar (approximately 20 kg) for 10-12 proper reps. Check your posture by looking at the side mirror, make sure your back is straight and your knees are not over your toes when your squat. Laying a good foundation at the beginning will help train your muscle memory. 

Subsequently, you may try the following exercises for the full body workout:

Squats (Using olympic bar in the weight cage system)

  • First set:  8 x 25kg
  • Second set:  6 x 30kg
  • Third set:  4 x 35kg
  • Fourth set:  2 x 40 kg 

Bench press (Using dumbbells) 

Do you know this exercise is a stimulant behind ladies working their ass off to achieve the impression of fuller breasts?  

I've seen slight changes to my pecs around my chest, it works😁  However, this exercise does not increase the breast size, but the pec size, where pectoral muscles located behind the breast tissues can better support for the breasts and pushed them forward a bit. This creates a deeper cleavage😉 

  • Four sets of 6 x 3kg (in each arm)

Deadlifts (Using a barbell)

  • Four sets of 8 x 25kg 

The aim is to train our strength, the heavier we lift, the stronger we are physically and mentally. Bear in mind that lifting heavy weights shapes proper posture and keeps us motivated throughout the journey in pursuing our #bodygoals to look physically healthy and desirable💪🏻  

Of course with the hard work I put into my workout, I can eat whatever I want to keep sane! So after a typical gym session, Ryan and I will patronise Guzman Y Gomez for their mouth-watering burritos. Time after time, we were addicted to tasting rice, beef and cheddar cheese, all at once in just a bite, and we decided to create a version of our own beef burrito this week! 

Ingredients (serves 3)

  • 300g minced beef
  • 100g Emmental cheese
  • 1 carrot
  • ½ zucchini
  • ½ bulb garlic
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 3 gluten free wraps
  • ¼ cup white rice
  • ¼ cup brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

Kitchen Equipment

  • Big frying pan with a lid
  • Toaster/ Microwave oven
  • Vegetable Peeler
  • Chopping board
  • Vegetable knife
  • Spatular
  • Rice cooker
  • Can opener

Preparation

  • Combine white and brown rice grains in a rice cooker pot, add 2 cups of water in it. Stir rice and water continuously. Rub the rice grains between your fingers. The water should turn murky by now. Drain the water and add 2 cups of water to the rice grains. It is important to wash away surface starches of the rice grains. Add coconut oil into the rice mixture before cooking. 
  •  Add egg white, sesame oil and white pepper to the minced beef. Marinate and mix well. Cover minced beef with a cling wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  • Peel zucchini in thin strips. Dispose its core and skin. Peel and dice carrots and garlic.  
  • Open the can of kidney beans. Wash and drain in a bowl. Side aside. 

Cooking

  • Take out minced beef from the refrigerator to let it sit for 20 minutes, to bring it to room temperature before cooking. 
  • Add olive oil on the big frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry diced garlic until it turns slightly golden brown. Add in diced carrots and kidney beans and stir well with garlic for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add minced beef into the frying pan. Use the tip of the spatula to separate the block of meat into pieces. Once it turns from red to brown, add oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce and 1 cup of water. Mix well. Cover frying pan with the lid and simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes until it forms a thicker sauce. 
  • To serve, start with 1 scoop of rice as the base followed by the minced beef mixture. Finally add zucchini strips and sprinkle Emmental cheese before putting into the toaster for 3 minutes. 

Enjoy! Xx

 

 

 

 

 

24 | FLOUR NOODLES CHICKEN PUMPKIN SOUP

Guess who just turned 24 this week? It’s……….ME💃🏻 There ain’t no confetti, partying or drinking this time, just purely spending quality time with loved ones over scrumptious meals, and feasting on home cook dinners by special ones. It’s a day where blessed wishes from friends made me feel special and valued in their lives. Yet I did feel a sense of guilt when I received birthday messages on my WhatsApp, from people that I have forgotten their birthdays. Truthfully, I am bad with remembering birthdays, maybe I can only remember...let me count…less than 10 people birthdays?😔 I know, it’s awful, but that’s something I should put more attention by checking my Facebook birthday reminder this year. 

Speaking of relishing my birthday joy over scrumptious meals, many of which I ordered were absolutely marvellous and sinful. From wasabi calamari to lobster cheese fries and pork belly yakitori, oh nom nom… I could feel that my food baby had resurfaced in just three days. So I woke up 7am today, got myself running shoes on and ran for a good 3.2km by redeeming myself. The perspiration has indeed sparked off good, positive vibes that encouraged me to feel stronger and healthier on a cheat week. To repair myself after a normal workout session, I will normally prepare chicken pumpkin soup! 

Unlike soups that take 5-6 hours to brew, this warm and comforting bowl takes 2-3 hours-depending on it’s richness. If we aim to savour a thick flavour, the length of time to brew soup over low-heat is key. The trick to serve soup on time for meals while retaining the genuine taste of each ingredient is to stir-fry them before leaving them to slow-cook. If we are serving the soup for dinner, start preparing it early around 3pm. Let it simmer over low heat and we still can get our other things done in the mean time. Dinner still can be ready by 6pm!

Mummy chow and I co-created this hearty chicken pumpkin soup, it is easy and requires 5 steps to complete this dish. This soup serves a balanced amount of protein, anti-oxidant fibre the supports our eye health-especially at this era where we spend long hours on our electronic devices. The diversity of sweetness from the chicken and vegetables married well over hours of slow cooking, and Tuscan herb spice mix was the only herb added towards the end.

In the past, I firmly believed the notion of adding seasonings to enhance flavours of a dish, otherwise everything tastes bland and meh. Then in recent months, seasoning becomes optional when I purchased great quality ingredients and started simple cooking. It is all about simplicity, and that's the key I become more confident in my cooking, and appreciate the natural flavour of each ingredient.

I would say this is an ideal dish for a lazy stay home day also. It serves as a companion whenever I am binge watching episode after episode of iZombie alone in this rather chilly weather🌧🍵😌.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 chicken legs
  • 4 celery sticks
  • Celery leaves (for garnishing) 
  • 200g Japanese pumpkin
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 packet of flour noodles (mee sua)
  • Olive oil
  • Sesame oil

Kitchen Equipment

  • Vegetable knife
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Chopping board
  • Small pot
  • Big stock pot
  • Ladle
  • Chopsticks

Preparation

  • Fill up half of the small pot with water, turn on medium-high heat and bring to boil. Add chicken legs and let it boil over 2-3 minutes to kill the bacteria active at that time. Scoop up, side aside to cool, and pour away water. It’s an important step for food safety.
  • Peel carrots, pumpkin, celery sticks and onion. Cut them all in thick chunks. 
  • Chopped celery leaves into small pieces

Cooking

  • Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil in large stock pot over high heat. Add carrots, pumpkin, celery sticks and onion. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes till they turn slightly golden brown. 
  • Fill up ½ of the large stock pot with water, add in chicken legs, let it boil for 10 minutes. When the soup brings up to its boiling temperature, scale back the heat and bring it to simmer for 3-4 hours. It ensures even cooking, which gives you more control knowing that the ingredients are all cooking at the same steady rate. 
  • Check on the soup from time to time and give it a stir using a ladle. Make sure all ingredients soften and the colour of the soup has turned from clear to light orange. Sprinkle Tuscan herb spice mix to taste before turn off heat. 
  • Before serving, boil the flour noodles in a small pot. Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in each plate. Scoop flour noodles on plate and toss them evenly. 
  • Scoop up 2 ladles of soup and pour over flat rice noodles. Place chicken leg and vegetables over and around the noodles. Sprinkle chopped celery leaves on top. 

Enjoy!Xx

 

SPICE UP YOUR LIFE | MA LA YONG TAU FOO

Life teaches us many lessons. I learnt some and told myself: “don't repeat same mistakes anymore”. But then, there were lessons I still refuse to learn. One of which concerns eating spicy food😜😜  

Speaking of spicy food, the spicier it is, the more appetising to me. When there isn’t a drop of soup nor single noodle left in my bowl, it's a sign of shiok-ness (awesomeness), satisfaction and—normally—spice!😌

Unfortunately, spicy food has never spared me any mercy for my throat and digestive system. Even after years of awful experiences following the notorious McSpicy, I’d tell myself: “A McSpicy won’t kill… it’s okay... my stomach can take this”. Every time I’d step into McDonald’s and order I’d say this to myself and indulge in some McSpicy goodness. Future Alicia is left to deal with the aftermath.

Regrettably, future Alicia normally gets sent straight to the battlefield (toilet) after spicy foods. The odds are not good. 50% of the time: survival😝. The rest of the time: bed-ridden for several days. Still, I can never steer clear of spiciness hehe. However☝🏻, I’m learning (albeit slowly) to be more sensible by managing the spiciness level according to how much my stomach can handle.

I'm a sucker for spicy food and Sichuan ma la (an oily, spicy, tongue-numbing Chinese spice blend which consists mainly of Sichuan peppercorns and chilli peppers) is my biggest craving for dinner despite the unbearable heat these days. So, last weekend mummy chow and I prepared our freshly homemade Yong Tau Foo (a Hakka Chinese cuisine comprising tofu and an array of vegetables stuffed with minced meat or fish paste mixture) with ma la sauce that we bought off the shelf. I believe ma la sauce to be an essential condiment if you like cooking Asian stir-fry. Just a dash the sauce harmonises with any type of meat or vegetable, and makes the dish looks so much more inviting.

The amount of ma la sauce I state in this recipe is for a moderately spicy and slightly savoury taste. I’d recommend accompanying the dish with plain white rice. Stuffing the fish and meat mixture into the vegetables (brinjal, green pepper, red chillies and ladyfingers) is a slightly tedious step, and will require some time and patience—you’ve been warned 😈. However, seeing your whole pot of Yong Tau Foo get polished off in the blink of an eye makes it all worthwhile!

Alternatively, for a quick cook with similar results, get store-bought Yong Tau Fu from an Asian supermarket. Usually a pack include the ingredients I've listed below with fish stuffing.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 200g fish paste
  • 150g minced pork
  • 6 lady fingers
  • 6 red chillies
  • ½ of a brinjal
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 packet golden mushroom 
  • 1 tablespoon black bean mala sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chilli crisps mala sauce
  • 1½ teaspoon Shao Hsing Hua Diao Wine (Chinese rice wine)
  • 1 teaspoon corn flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parsley 
  • 1 slice of dried fish skin (optional)
  • 5 black fungus (optional)
  • 3 bamboo shoots (optional)
  • 1 packet of glass noodles (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted peanuts (optional)

Kitchen Equipment

  • Chopping board
  • Vegetable knife
  • Butter knife
  • Small pot
  • Stock pot

Preparation

  • Fill up half of the small pot with water, turn on medium-high heat and bring to boil. Add in the dried fish skin to soften it and bring out its natural oils. Turn off heat after 5 minutes, then cut the skin into thick strips. 
  • Pour away the water from small pot. Then place in the eggs and cover with more water (cover by about 1 inch). Add in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil over medium-heat, then cover for 8-10 minutes—while they continue to cook.

While the eggs are boiling...

  • Cut away roots of the golden mushrooms,sSoak glass noodles, fungus, and golden mushrooms in a bowl of cold water
  • Combine fish paste and minced pork. Add in pepper, Hua Diao Wine and corn flour. Mix well and set aside.
  • Slice bamboo shoots and brinjals into chunks
  • Cut away stem, calyx and shoulder of green pepper, chillies and ladyfingers. Remove seeds and placenta from green pepper and chillies. Caution: Use a knife to scrap out the seeds, do not touch them (avoid finger burn). Alternatively, wear a glove. 
  • Cut green peppers in quarters. Cut a small opening into the chillies and ladyfingers (for later stuffing).

Back to the eggs...

  • Turn off heat, drain water from small pot, cool the hard-boiled eggs in water, peel then cut into halves.
  • Use a butter knife to push the fish and meat mixture into green peppers, chillies and ladyfingers. As for brinjal, spread it on the surface. 

Cooking

  • Fill up half the Stock pot with water, turn on medium-high heat. Gently pour in all the vegetables, let them cook for 8-10 minutes. The stuffing in the vegetables should turn white and solid before when done.
  • Drain, add in 2 tablespoons of chilli oil from the chilli crisps ma la sauce, turn on medium heat. Add the black fungus, bamboo shoots, fish skin, and glass noodles. Stir fry for a further 2 minutes.
  • Add stuffed vegetables, black bean ma la sauce, chilli crisps ma la sauce and 1/2 cup of water. Mix well, lower heat, cover and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes. 
  • Remove cover and turn off the heat. Before serving, sprinkle a generous amount of toasted sesame seeds, peanuts, and chopped parsley. 

Tip: While indulging in this hot and spicy Yong Tau Foo, remember to have a cup of beer/milk to cool down your burning tongue🔥, and tissues for wiping your sweat💦.

 

POPEYE | SPINACH RICE PORRIDGE

Sometimes I wish I could turn back time. Back to my childhood days. I would return from pre-school and a nutritious meal would be already sitting there waiting for me to devour. Mummy Chow would fetch me after class and pique my curiosity about what she had prepared for dinner along our way home… the joys of reminiscing.

Throughout pre-school and primary school, I had hardly any commitments or responsibilities. I found great joy in simply going home after school and having a lovely meal already prepared. Never having to worry about cooking for myself or calorie counting, and knowing that every dish mum prepared was wholesome and nutritious. I was, and continue to be, blessed to have a mum like her. 

As I moved on into my late teens, after-school commitments started shaping my life. As a result, home-cooked meals were replaced with eating out and socialising. Eating out became a habit, I’d frequent hawker centers and fast-food restaurants—cafes were not the trend yet heh. I didn’t consider the high salt or oil intake, and over time I started feeling queasy and unhealthy. Compounding this, I was feeling guilty about not returning home for proper, family meals. 

Now as a working adult, my working hours—once again—allow me to get home to eat with Mummy Chow. This time however, I’m cooking too. I'm also trying learn the ropes of all her dishes. I may not play a big role in the cooking process at home, but I’m always inspired by how well my mum cooks in our tiny kitchen. Most importantly though, I love having family dinners again. I love the dinner conversations and the bonding we have over mum’s comforting, home-cooked food.

If I could go back and talk to younger teenage me I’d try to explain why eating out is an option to turn down in place of a family dinner. Yes, it’s convenient and helps to curb our hunger pangs almost instantly, but those meals will not nourish us in the long run. We have control over what we consume, and need to listen to what our bodies are lacking to make healthy choices to eat foods that’ll keep us nourished long into our twilight years. 

So this brings us full circle, to today’s recipe. A vital part of the body that requires nourishment is our bones and a good supply Vitamin K is essential to maintaining bone health. This next dish has plenty of it: Spinach rice porridge

Mummy chow created her version of Spinach rice porridge when I was just four years old. Back then, she realised I disliked vegetables, but also noticed that I was glued to the TV when watching Popeye the Sailorman (I wanted to be taller and stronger). Using her maternal cunning, she persuaded me that I would be as strong as Popeye if I could finished one small bowl of Spinach rice porridge. Challenge accepted! In the end, not only did I enjoy the taste, I cleaned out the bowl every time. Mummy Chow succeeded. (Conclusion: Spinach rice porridge kicks ass!)

So here it goes. Like Popeye, I turn to spinach for a power-up! The spinach creates green marble swirls in the rice porridge, giving it more interesting appearance and texture. To boost the tastiness and provide a bit of protein we also add dried scallops and pork balls. For a little more richness and a moderately salty flavour we add a salted duck egg and some dried anchovies (aka ikan bilis), with this natural saltiness no additional seasoning is required. A comforting, home-cooked Spinach rice porridge is easy to digest and I’d highly recommend it if you’re having some digestive upset because it’s very wholesome and settling for the stomach. 

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • ½ bunch baby spinach
  • 4 dried scallops
  • 1 salted egg, separated
  • 100g minced pork
  • 1½ fish cake
  • 25g dried anchovies
  • 1 cup of white rice
  • Olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon white peppper
  • 3 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce

Kitchen Equipment

  • Chopping board
  • Vegetable knife
  • Small pot
  • Small skillet
  • 2 Wooden ladles
  • Fork and Spoon

Preparation

  • Cut baby spinach into three parts (roots, stems, leaves)
  • Dispose the roots, pluck stems into 3 equal parts. Separate stems and leaves into two bowls
  • Cut salted egg yolk into small chunks with a spoon. 
  • Marinade mince pork with sesame oil, fish sauce, white pepper and egg white. Refrigerate it for 20 minutes. 
  • Slice fish cake into thin strips
  • Use a small pot, add 2 cups of water to the rice. Stir rice and water continuously. Rub the rice grains between your fingers. The water should turn murky by now. Drain the water and wash rice grains for another round, then drain again. It is important to wash away surface starches of the rice grains, so as to achieve a clean, less clumpy texture of the rice porridge. Then, add 5 cups of water to the rice

Cooking

  • Boil rice over medium heat and add in dried scallops
  • Bring the water and rice to a boil, add in spinach stems
  • After 15 minutes, lower heat to a cheery simmer. As rice water turns murky and rice grains are cooked, add in spinach leaves.
  • Take out minced pork from refrigerator. Roll them into small pork balls by using a teaspoon. Slowly add pork balls and salted egg chunks into small pot. Add 4 cups of water into the rice porridge where the water level is slightly above the pork balls. Continue to let it boil over small heat for the next 20-30 minutes.

While rice porridge is boiling, let’s start cooking the garnishes (fish cake strips and anchovies)! 

  • Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the small skillet over small heat. Add in fish cake strips and stir fry with a wooden ladle for about 4-5 minutes till they become golden brown and crispy. Scoop out and put aside for later.
  •  On the same skillet, add in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Pour in dried anchovies and fry them for 2 minutes. Let them cook under hear for 2-3 minutes to make sure that they are evenly cooked. Stir them continuously to prevent them from getting charred. Once they’re crispy and their aroma starts to diffuse, turn off heat and scoop out anchovies.
  •  Back to the rice porridge, use another wooden ladle to stir and mix the porridge from the bottom up. Scoop out a pork ball, use a fork to cut into half and check whether it is fully cooked. If cooked, and spinach has turned soft then turn off the heat. 
  • Sprinkle a handful of fish cake strips and anchovies on the rice porridge, add a dash of white pepper, and voilà dinner is served. Enjoy!

Tip

The consistency corresponds to the rice-water ratio. I like my porridge to be at medium consistency, where it is not too watery. So 1 cup of rice to 9 cups of water will suffice. The more water added to rice, the more watery the rice porridge will be.

Keep an eye on the rice porridge and stir occasionally to prevent rice porridge from clumping together, or burning to the bottom of the pan. 

Enjoy!Xx

NEW YEAR IN SCOTLAND | CHICKEN RICE

Howdy Guys! I was just counting on my fingers and realised six weeks have passed in the blink of an eye. This post is clearly overdue as I returned from Scotland shortly after New Year’s Day. Although I’ve not been back for long, I'm already having vacation withdrawal symptoms. I want to escape the unpredictable weather patterns here in Singapore. One moment rain is pelting the corridor of my office. Ten minutes later, sunny skies and soaring humidity. I dread having to do outdoor video productions at the moment, soaked with rain or perspiration—or both. I miss the walks in Scotland. I’d wear layer over layer… over layer, and stay toasty and dry all day. Now only a cotton dress and umbrella are my options to combat the wet heat of Singapore, hehehe. I miss Scotland :(

Back in December, I spent my New Year’s in Banchory, a quiet and beautiful town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Taking time off from work and visiting a whole new setting gave me the perfect opportunity to reflect on what I’d achieved last year, and on the potential solutions to rectify lingering problems. I planned out my next steps for continually self-improving in 2016. After twelve splendid days with the luxury of a huge larder of food and plenty of time to cook meals, I felt refreshed, revitalized and well prepared for the new year ahead.

It was quite a pity when I only got one chance to hike up Banchory’s local hill, Scolty. However, it was a gorgeous day: mellow rays falling tenderly on my skin, a light refreshing frosty breeze, and a small forest of snow-coated trees!

After our adventure up Scolty I decided to treat everyone to a Singaporean staple: Chicken Rice. This home recipe was passed down by my grandma, who is Hainanese. Every Chinese New Year and Dumpling Festival, she'd wake up early in the morning to prepare her own special version of Chicken Rice, and a wide spread of other foods for prayers. Over the years of observing and assisting her, I realised how important time management was. For example, you need to know what to cook first and to prepare last so that everything can be plated in time for dinner. With this in mind, I give you the following recipe and instructions :)

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 1 small ginger root
  • ½ cabbage, in small chunks
  • 1 stalk of parsley, chopped in quarters
  • 2 cups of jasmine rice
  • 2 cubes of chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 cucumber, sliced (for serving)
  • 8 baby tomatoes, halves (for serving)

For the paste

  • 3 ginger root, chopped in large chunks
  • 2 stalks spring onions, sliced in strips bulb 
  • ½ garlic, chopped
  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Chilli flakes

Kitchen Equipment

  • Cleaver (for chicken)
  • Vegetable knife
  • 2 chopping boards (one for chicken, one for vegetables; to avoid cross contamination)
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Food Processor
  • Large pot/pan for the stock ~Stockpot (should be able to fit the whole chicken submerged in water)
  • Small pot/pan (for cooking up the ginger and garlic side accompaniments)
  • 6 toothpicks (to hold the stuffed chicken together)

Preparation

  • Fill 3/4 of stockpot with water, bring to boil
  • Peel 1 root of ginger and 1 head of garlic, pound with pestle/mortar until till juice flows out. (This will be the stuffing for the chicken.)
  • Peel remaining ginger and chop into large chunks
  • Cut away the fat from the chicken and remove the pores (using the other chopping board)

Cooking

  • Bring water to the boil in the Stockpot, before adding the cabbage and chicken stock
  • Put stuffing into chicken (including pouring any remaining juice from the mortar) 
  • Use toothpicks to seal up the chicken. Turn the chicken upside down to ensure stuffing doesn't flow out. Slowly dip it into the Stockpot by holding onto the wings. Ensure water level practically covers the chicken, otherwise add more water into the pot. 
  • Let it cook for 30 minutes (still at a boil). Use a toothpick/skewer to pierce the top of the chicken to check if it’s cooked. If the toothpick is warm, then turn over the chicken cook for another 30 minutes. 
  • Once chicken is cooked, bring it out from the pot and place it in a plate of ice cubes to let it cool down for 10 minutes.
  • Rinse jasmine rice, add in 3 cups of chicken broth. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from the ice plate, pull out the toothpicks and scoop out stuffing. 
  • Cleave chicken into slices (usually I’ll debone them also for a fuss-free eating)
  • Drizzle sesame oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley on top of the chicken slices.
  • Season remaining chicken broth with pepper.

Pastes to accompany chicken

  • For the ginger and spring onion paste, first add in large chunks of ginger into the food processor and add a generous amount of avocado oil. Blend the mixture till smooth.
  • Pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil into frying pan and add in spring onions. Stir fry them   till soft.
  • Pour in ginger paste and stir fry it with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and serve. Next, on a serparate bowl, add 2 tablespoons of chilli flakes and chopped garlic by the side to serve.

When eating

Dip chicken with a choice of either the ginger & spring onion paste, or chili & garlic paste. As the chicken may taste a little oily for some, I strongly suggest adding some refreshing cucumber and tomatoes.

Tip

If you are preparing this for dinner, I would encourage that preparation starts around 3pm. This gives you enough time to slice, chop, and pound everything before 6pm (3 hours total). Finally, be mindful that the chicken has to be entirely cooked (no pink shades) before serving. Undercooked chicken is a prime candidate for food poisoning. Please let’s not let this happen!