14 Jan 2015

wonton or suigao?

Remember those bland wontons I made sometime last year? I think I have redeemed myself this week. Based on the notes I made after the first batch, I think these ones are just as good as my dad's. I was a bit more generous with the seasoning and remembered to add the oyster sauce this time! My dad reckons adding a bit more oyster sauce would better, but my mum and I agree that it is fine as is, since they both like to dip it in chilli and soy sauce later.

Whilst eating dinner last night, my mum said, "Look at these, they're not wontons, they're massive. More like suigao to me." This made me question which one were these. If I were to compare the wontons I've had in Malaysia, then mine would be "on steroids" because the ones in Malaysia are so tiny whereas mine has at least two bites (suigao sized). From the same Chowhound post, I found out both fillings differ according to regions in China too. The ones we make at home lean on the Cantonese version suigao minus the bamboo shoots - which is how my dad differentiates the two. Last time he also said that the wrapping is also the same, except for wontons, the excess skin is pinched together at the end to form a money bag shape.

If I were to be asked whether these are suigao or wontons? I'd still call them wontons because it's what we call it at home. But perhaps ours is a fusion...

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my dad's wantan (wonton)     serves a party
adapted from my dad's recipe passed down verbally

The wantan recipe below makes a lot, so if you re intending for a smaller meal, you can either choose to scale down or freeze the remaining meat for up to one month for future meal/s.

600g prawn meat (of the shelled and deveined kind)
600g pork / chicken mince
5 pieces dried shiitake mushrooms*
3 pieces dried wood ear fungus*
1 kg wonton wrappers

30g (3 level Tb) potato starch
28g (2 1/2 Tb) sesame oil
15g (2 1/2 heaped tsp) sea salt
15g (3 heaped tsp) chicken stock powder
15g (1 Tb) oyster sauce
8g (1/2 Tb) shaoxing wine
3g (1 tsp) sugar
white pepper, as little/much as you like

[The day before]
Soak shiitake mushrooms and wood ear fungus in a large bowl of cold water overnight. 

[On the day]
Squeeze water out of the shiitake mushrooms and remove the stalks (add to the chicken stock if you want). Slice thinly then finely chop. Drain water from wood ear fungus, slice thinly, then finely chop. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Slice prawns in half, then roughly chop. Add to the mushrooms.

Add mince and seasoning to the bowl and mix until everything amalgamates. This will take anywhere from 5 - 10 minutes of solid mixing with your dominate hand**. Transfer to a container and wrap until needed.

[To serve]
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.

Wrap the wantan. Don't wrap them too early in advance because the skins will start sticking to each other.

Add wantan to the boiling water. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. When they float to the top, they are almost ready. Allow 30-60 seconds more. Scoop them out with a shallow sieve. Serve with some broth or transfer to a plate/bowl.

Serve wantan with egg noodles and blanched asian greens. Ladle in hot chicken stock. Garnish with spring onions, coriander and fried shallots. Sprinkle some white pepper on top.

*The amount of mushrooms and fungus, more or less, doesn't really matter. For reference, I used 100g shiitake and 70g wood ear (after draining).

**I find it helpful to wear a food/thin plastic glove

9 Jan 2015

my favourite dish

[Long post! May be tltr.]

Lo and behold! My favourite Vietnamese dish, cơm bò lúc lắc...the one thing I order most when we eat out at local Vietnamese restaurants. I've probably tried it at a dozen of places, but only one place makes it to my liking. Over the course of a year (my second/third attempt here) with some initial Google research, I tried to recreate the flavour from the restaurant, but I never made it..! I don't know if it's a secret ingredient* or if some of my measurements are wrong, but along the way I created my own version. 

If you do follow on and read through the recipe, you will realise the wok needs to be washed so many times you may not even want to make this dish to begin with. (But that's mainly because I was cooking with two pieces of beef.) Heck, I may have even complicated a simple Vietnamese home fare but this is how we have been enjoying it at home.  

I took a "long cut" here and have chosen to cook a slab of beef, steak style instead of using diced beef cubes. Why? I find that it gives me better control of the doneness and reduces the sauce from the meat juice. I also think the wok will need to be washed as regularly since the batch size will need to be smaller (if using diced beef). My dad and I have tried cooking this with diced beef last year but we found it become too saucy to our liking. This may also be attributed to the maximum gas heat we have at home. As we prefer the beef in this dish to be on the drier side, I have opted to use a slab of beef instead. Feel free to use already diced beef if it suits you better. 

The recipe and method documented is how I currently make it at home. I'm still fine tuning it as I go, but the measurements below have passed family standards. Feel free to use it as a guide and adapt it to make it your own.


P.S. From prior research, I found out this dish is called "shaking beef" in the US. "Shaking" comes from the Vietnamese translation of lúc lắc, the action of shaking the wok/frying pan to quickly cook the beef. Well, if you asked me, I think it sounds more exciting than the English translation of "stir fried diced beef cubes with tomato rice" we have in Melbourne.

P.P.S. Check out my sister's blog A Wag Away which details Bobby's (our labrador) antics. I always get a good laugh from her posts. Their instagram account is here.

P.P.P.S. The toasted coconut waffle recipe has been updated!

*With some new googling, the answer may be rice wine vinegar (?!) I'll give it a shot next time and edit this post.

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cơm bò lúc lắc (stir fried diced beef / shaking beef)     serves 6

2 pieces (about 1kg) beef skirt
1-2 (spanish) onions. cut into squares
cooking oil, as required

beef marinade
60g oyster sauce
25g fish sauce
5g sugar
a dash of sesame oil
black/white pepper, as required

stir fry sauce
20g clear honey
25g light soy sauce
15g fish sauce
dark soy sauce, as required (optional)
black pepper, as required

tomato fried rice
3 rice cups raw rice, cooked and cooled for half a day/overnight rice
3 large eggs, beaten
20g tomato paste (optional - mainly for colour)
tomato sauce / ketchup, as required (mainly for colour)
sea salt, as required
white pepper, as required
chicken stock powder, as required
cooking oil, as required

Marinade/stir fry sauce: Mix ingredients together in separate bowls. Set aside.

Beef: Trim excess fat/veins off the beef. Coat with the beef marinade, wrap and refrigerate for 30 - 60 minutes. 

(I don't know if this next bit is even necessary...but just in case...)

Fried rice: Heat a wok and add cooking oil. Swivel the wok so the oil coats the base and sides. Pour out excess oil onto a bowl for later. On medium heat, add the eggs and quickly stir it in a circular motion (like making scrambled eggs) until it sets. Allow eggs to dry a little before adding rice. Increase heat to high. Toss rice to mix with the eggs. Continue tossing and season as required. Transfer to the rice cooker to keep warm when done.

Beef (cont.): Heat a wok and add cooking oil. Swivel the wok so the oil coats the base and sides. Make sure the wok and oil is smoking at this point! Carefully add the cold beef and cook until bottom becomes brown. Be careful of oil splatter (because the marinade contains water)!! The beef will burn/char a little bit, but it is ok! Flip and cook underside until it is browned. You may need to add more oil if the wok becomes dry. 

Transfer cooked beef on a plate and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Don't worry about it cooling, because you will need to cook it again. 

If you have another piece of beef to cook, wash the wok and start again. 

Drain excess beef juice. Cut beef against the grain and then into bite sized chunks. Drain excess beef juice. If you don't mind getting your hands a little bit dirty, squeeze out excess beef juice (optional).

As the cold beef was cooked on high heat, the middle is still raw/rare. This is optimum because it can be cooked again quickly without the meat becoming tough.

Repeat with the other piece of beef.

In a smoking, oiled wok, add half (if you have time, cook a quarter batch at a time for better flavour) of the beef and onions. 

Stir fry until beef is cooked then add half of the stir fry sauce, toss, tasting as you go. Adjust seasoning and finish up by cracking in some black pepper before dishing up!

Clean the wok and repeat with the remaining beef cubes.

Do not add too much sauce in one go as I did here. Not only will it make the beef cubes salty, it will make the beef too saucy. If that happens, under season your next batch and mix in the over seasoned batch when ready. (I also forgot to add onions in this batch, oops.)

Serve in a lettuce cup with tomato fried rice, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Dig in!

6 Jan 2015

char siu chicken

Baked chicken wings are delicious and there are hardly occasions where there would be leftovers. Savoury sweet and sticky, what's not to like? Back in the day my parents would occasionally use Lee Kum Kee's char siu sauce, but we haven't been buying for a while because we make our own. I can't remember the exact taste of the LKK sauce, but I wrote it tasted very similar to it in my notes.

I had an epiphany last night and thought it would be brilliant to use the sauce for chicken thigh fillet. There's no bone meaning I didn't have to get my hands dirty and I'd be able to eat sooner, since cooking time is greatly reduced. Taste wise, both are the same but the pan fried version is more saucier compared to the wings which are drier. I've left notes below, so you can decide which version you like best.

P.S. I bet you thought this was teriyaki chicken. 

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char siu chicken     serves 4

2-3 pieces of chicken thigh fillet
sea salt, as required
white pepper, as required
cooking oil, as required

char siu sauce
125g tomato sauce
60g hoisin sauce
40g clear honey
30g light soy sauce
20g mirin
10g brown sugar
1 tsp dark soy sauce (optional)
1/4 tsp five spice powder
1 clove garlic, finely grated*
a dash of sesame oil
maltose**, melted, as required (optional)

Trim excess fat off chicken thigh fillets, cut into two if necessary and make slits in the thicker part of the meat. Season with salt and white pepper. Cover and leave in the fridge until needed, but take out meat 10-20 minutes before cooking***.

For the sauce: Combine all ingredients except for the maltose in a small pot. Bring to the bowl whilst stirring. Set aside.

When chicken is golden brown on both sides, reduce heat to low. Add 60ml sauce (about 3 Tb / 1/4 cup) and top with a small teaspoon of melted maltose. Gently shake the pan and flip to cover chicken in sauce. Set aside.

Wash the pan before cooking the remaining batch.

To make baked char siu chicken wings: double the sauce and use 2 kg wings for 4 - 5 serves. Marinate wings overnight. Bake at 180 degrees celcius for 30-40 minutes and increase heat to 200 degrees celcius for 15-20 minutes or until done. During baking, turn wings over at least once. When finished, brush some melted maltose on each wing .

*I used an oroshigane (Japanese grater) from Daiso to grate the garlic, but if you don't have one, the small holes on the box grater/microplane are ok too.  

**Maltose can be found in most Asian grocery stalls. It's a very sticky sugar syrup (like glucose) that looks like honey but is faintly sweet. I use it certain dishes to give it a shiny/glossy look. Don't bother trying to measure it, because it'll stick everywhere. Instead, pour a glug of it on a microwaveable bowl or small pan and clean the edge of the container with a wet spoon. Gently heat maltose until it melts. Maltose hardens upon cooling, so you may need to reheat it again.

***I like to steam fry; heat a pan with cooking oil, add chicken and a splash of water. Cover and cook on medium heat until the underside is golden. Uncover, flip and cook until underside is golden. Wash pan before cooking another batch.