Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tomato Fried Egg 西紅柿炒蛋

Being a childhood dish that was served regularly with the endless supplies of freshly laid eggs and tomatoes from the garden, this has to be the simplest and most delicious dish in the world for me. Very few ingredients are needed but  they do need to be the absolute best! A little sugar and sea salt is all you need to bring out the natural flavours of the two main ingredients and you will have another family favourite in minutes. Less is more? Absolutely! We all think this will be great on toast, just replace the cooking oil with butter instead! 
P.S Tomato goes by the name 番茄 (fanqie meaning foreign eggplant) or 西紅柿 (xihongshi meaning red persimmon from the west) in Chinese.

serves 4 as part of a Chinese meal
you'll need;
5 free range or freshly laid eggs
3 vine ripen tomatoes or freshly picked from your garden
1 spring onion, finely sliced (optional)
dash of soy and white pepper
sea salt and sugar to taste

Slice tomatoes and set aside.

Season eggs with a little soy and white pepper then beat vigorously for a few minutes. This is a very important step!

Heat up 4 tbs of oil then pour in the beaten eggs, stir it around til about 70% cooked, remove and set aside. It should be fluffy and light!

Reheat wok again then add the sliced tomatoes season with a little salt and sugar, fry for a minute then return the par cooked eggs and mix well. Some hot stock can be added for a delicious tomato and egg soup at this stage!

Sprinkle some spring onions over and serve it as part of a Chinese meal.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Just A Little Prettiness 8

The sky was changing from pink to mauve then a bright orange before decending into darkness. We managed to capture a few moments of how our normally unremarkable streetscape turned into something quite beautiful. An equally beautiful name is given in Chinese to described the beautiful sky when it is painted in such stunning manners - 晚霞 (wanxia) - roughly translated as the late afterglow.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fried Mustard Greens With Chicken Fat 雞油炒芥菜頭

For every successful meal; we need some good supporting casts to compliment the main dishes and this is a very good example of such casts. Mustard greens has to be one of the most versatile Asian greens around - It can be pickled, stewed or stir fried. Just a little chicken fat can turn a simple dish into something quite special, sadly in this health conscious age less and less restaurants are using animal fats in their cooking. This goes wonderfully with braised pork or other rich stews.

serves 4 as part of Chinese meal;
you'll need 500g of mustard greens, washed and sliced
1 tbs of chicken fat or peanut oil
2 tbs of chicken crackling 
a knob of ginger, julienned
1 large chilli, cut into long strips
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup of chicken stock or vegetable stock
dash of Chinese cooking wine
salt and white pepper to taste

Have you ingredients ready.

In a hot wok, saute ginger, garlic and half of the chillies with chciken fat for 30 seconds then add in the mustard greens. Add the rest of the ingredients and fry on high heat for a minute or two, be careful not to over cooked the vegetable.

Dish it up, top with the other half of the chilies and scatter the chicken crackling over.

I served it with braised pork knuckle with Chinese black vinegar and plenty of steamed rice.

How To Render Animal Fat

A liitle chicken/pork fat goes a very long way, it adds a wonderful aroma and luxurious mouthfeel to any stir fry dish. Before you go "No way I'm going to eat that!", think Hainanese chicken rice, KL hokkien noodle, potatoes roasted with duck fat, pastry made with lard and the list goes on. You only need very little of this liquid gold and it should not be consumed on a daily basis of course.
P.S pork and duck fat can be rendered the same way.

The wonderful by product - crunchy crackling.

Place chopped chicken fat and skin with a little water in a pan, slowly bring it to a simmer.

Once the water has evaporated, the fatty bits will start to fry in their own fat.

Let it render very gentle til fatty bits are golden. Drain cracklings and store fat in a jar.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Midweek Pasta - Spaghettoni With Italian Sausage And Tomatoes

This has turned into a tummies' favourite in the past month. A very simple but delicious meal that can be whipped up in minutes but do make sure you get the best ingredients you can lay your hands on. You can make the 'sauce' before hand and just cook the pasta when you are ready to eat. Feel free to use any good quality sausages of you choice or use a selection of different colour cherry tomatoes for a more colourful dish. Do people seriously buy Continental pasta sauce?
P.S I do find spaghettoni works best with this dish

serves 4
you'll need;
500 g of good quality Italian pork sausages, casing removed and browned
2 large tomatoes, blanched, skinned and chopped
a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, sliced
3 chillies, sliced
250 g of baby spinach
few sprigs of sage, chopped
1 packet of spaghettoni, cooked til al dante
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Have all the ingredients standby.

Saute garlic, shallot and chilies with olive oil for a minute.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Next mix in the cooked sausage meat and continue to cook on medium heat, add in half of the chopped sage and check for seasonings.

Mix drained pasta with the 'sauce', baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and half a cup of the pasta cooking water.

Serve immediately with some chopped sage, a drizzle of olive oil and grated parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Guest Post - Braised Lion Head Meatballs 紅燒獅子頭

My lovely friend Kenny from Chic Eats has just requested a guest post for his wonderful blog over our chat on MSN after seeing one I did for Velva. I am extremely touched to be given such honour but the only problem is - it has to be posted on his birthday which is a few hours away (I'm typing this while we are chatting). I have chosen an everyday dish that will shine at any fancy banquet and hopefully it will be good enough for our foodie birthday boy. 福如東海,壽比南山!Do spend some time exploring his blog, it will be very useful if you are planning a trip to Hong Kong and Taiwan soon!
Please read on before calling the RSPCA as endanger animal parts were not used in the dish! This is a classic dish from Zhejiang Province in China; there are many versions from other provinces, when it comes to lion head meatballs this is the version that I know and love best. As with many other Chinese dishes, poetic names are often given,  in this dish the meatballs are supposed to resemble the lion heads and the cabbage leaves the lion's mane. You may stew the cabbage together with the meatballs but I like them to maintain the refreshing colour and crunch to lighten up this otherwise a very rich and dull looking dish. 
P.S The water chestnuts give these 'melt in your mouth' meatballs a wonderful crunch and by frying the rock sugar first will ensure a sauce with a very desirable colour time after time.

serves 6 as part of a Chinese meal
for the meatballs;
1kg minced pork (30fat/70meat)
1 can or fresh water chestnut (227g), chopped
1 egg
1.5 tbs of grated ginger
2 spring onions (white part only), chopped
dash of soy
dash of white pepper
dash of Chinese cooking wine
dash of sesame oil
6 Chinese cabbage leaves, halved lengthwise and blanched just before serving
peanut oil for deep frying
rice flour for dusting

for the sauce;
2 star anise
5 slices of ginger
2 spring onions (white part only)
4 tbs of rock sugar, crushed
1/2 cup of light soy
2 tbs of dark soy
1/2 cup of Chinese cooking wine
1.5 l of water or chicken stock
corn flour solution

Place meatballs ingredients in a large bowl, using your hand with a circular motion mix everything til well combined. Throw the meat mixture against the side of the bowl several time to get a nice firm ball.

Divide mixture into 12 equal size balls and dust each meatballs with some rice flour.

Deep-fry meatballs in batches til golden, drain well.

Heat up 3 tbs of peanut oil in a pot and add in the rock sugar, stir for a few minutes til sugar dissolves and turns a nice caramel colour. Add in the garlic, ginger, spring onions and star anise and continue to fry for a minute of so. Pour in the stock and add the 2 types of soys and Chinese cooking wine.

Return the meatballs into the broth and simmer on very low heat for 2 hours. Thicken the sauce with a little corn flour solution when it is done.

Wrap each meatball with a piece of Chinese cabbage leaf and pour the sauce over. You'll need plenty of steamed rice with this.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guest Post - Spicy Boxing Chicken With Chili And Lime Dipping Sauce

When my new blogger friend Velva from Tomatoes on the Vine  asked me to do a guest post for her beautiful blog, I jumped at the opportunity. To repay such an honour given to me, it is only fitting if I create something special that she would love and the result is Spicy boxing chicken with chilli and lime dipping sauce. Make sure you visit her wonderful blog and check out her beautiful photographs and mouthwatering  recipes! This is perfect as a beer snack, finger food for your next party or as part of your next Thai meal.
P.S This was created during our recent weekend in Anglesea.

you'll need;
1kg of chicken wings, separated into winglets and drumlets.
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4 coriander roots, roughly chopped
small knob of ginger, roughly chopped
a tbs of fish sauce
a tbs of oyster sauce
dash of white pepper
rice flour for dusting
peanut oil for frying
First prepare marinate by pounding the chopped ingredients til a rough paste is achieved, set aside

for the chilli and lime dipping sauce;
5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 coriander roots, roughly chopped
4 bird chillies, roughly chopped
2 shallots, roughly chopped
2 tbs of white sugar
2 tbs of fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
For the dipping sauce; pound chopped ingredients to a rough paste then mix in the sugar, fish sauce and lime juice. Check for seasonings, it should taste sweet, sour, hot and salty. The sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

with a sharp knife cut around the thin end of the drumlet til the the skin and sinew is separated from the bone.

Pull the meat down with the help of a knife if needed and you will get a little chicken lollipop. Repeat with the rest.

With the winglets, loosen the 2 thin bones with a sharp knife then pull the bones out, pull the flesh down to the wing tip end.

Marinate the chicken pieces with the prepared paste, fish sauce, oster sauce and white pepper for at least an hour.

Dust the marinated chicken pieces with rice flour and fry in batches til golden and crispy.

Serve fried chicken pieces on a large platter scattered with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes with the dipping sauce.

Dry-Fried Green Beans 乾煸四季豆

This Sichuanese export is so delicious that you are able to order it from any Chinese restaurants these days. Despite being one of my favourite dishes, I seldom order this when I dine out as I find the deep frying process used in restaurants makes the dish too oily and lacks the smokiness it should possess. Nevertheless, this is an extremely easy dish to prepare at home. Omit the pork for a vegetarian version and it will still be very tasty.
P.S For vegetarian version saute a tbs each of chopped garlic, chili and ginger before adding the beans.
Adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop's Sichuan Cookery

serves 4 as part of a Sichuanese/Chinese meal
you'll need;
1 kg of french beans
100 g of minced pork
50 g of yachai or Sichuan preserved vegetable
3 spring onions, chopped
dash of soy
dash of Chinese cooking wine
dash of sesame oil
peanut oil

This is what yachai looks like.

Dry-fry beans in batches with a little oil til wilted and a little charred.

They should look something like this :)

In a smoking hot wok, brown minced pork with a little oil.

Next add the yachai and beans, fry for a minute then add soy and Chinese cooking wine and spring onions. Continue to fry for a minute or two, check for seasonings. Drizzle a little sesame oil before serving

I served this as part of a Sichuanese meal together with fish fragrant eggplants.

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melbourne, victoria, Australia