Monthly Archives: March 2014

Penang Fried Kueh Tiao (My Style)

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This dish brings back fond childhood memories. My mum used to cook this on weekends more as a reprieve from cooking up a storm during the week, but for me, it was a heavenly treat for the tastebuds. Soul food if you know what I mean.

I learnt this from my mum, who learnt this from her mum, a true blue Peranakan (Straits Chinese) who hailed from Penang and wore the Kebaya every day and chewed betel nut during her spare time. I am proud of my partial Peranakan heritage (my dad is pure Chinese) and I hope to be able to pass on whatever tradition that still remains to my kids.

This rice noodle (kueh tiao) dish is considered peasant food as the ingredients used are cheap and easily available. There is no meat or seafood in it. An egg thrown in in the olden days was already considered luxurious. However the taste is something altogether. The wok hei (literally meaning the aroma from the wok) is key but is also something I can’t replicate 100% at home. I don’t have a large hob burner like those the hawkers use. But nonetheless, the taste doesn’t disappoint.

In order to meet the nutritional needs of my family (not to mention tiny picky tastebuds), I have added chicken slices, prawns and fishcake into this dish, just to make this a complete one dish meal. If I had it my way, I would have ditched the meats, upped the amount of minced garlic and chopped preserved turnip and added freshly pounded chilli paste to the dish.

The key to the success of this humble dish is heat control and speed. Have all your ingredients and sauces lined up within arm’s reach so that you don’t break a beat. I also cooked this in 2 batches to ensure that the flavours get through. My wok isn’t big enough. If you have a huge one (bigger than 40cm in diameter), go ahead to do this in one shot.

Ingredients
serves 4-5 pax
800g fresh kueh tiao (if using dried ones, after soaking in water, it should yield the same weight)
200g beansprouts
100g chopped preserved turnip(Chye poh, available at most asian supermarkets) you can omit this if you can’t find it
200g Chinese Chives (a key ingredient, you can substitute with spring onions but the taste will be different), chopped into 1 inch chunks
5-6 cloves of minced garlic (I like my garlic, you can reduce to 3-4 cloves if preferred)
*200g chicken breast or de-boned thigh, sliced thinly into strips marinate with light soy sauce ahead of time
*12 medium sized prawns , marinated with a little salt just before cooking
* 2 pieces of fishcake (around 100g), sliced into strips
3 medium free range eggs, beaten up
Dark soy sauce

* denotes optional items

Method
1. Heat wok up. It must be hot before you add the oil. I used extra light olive oil. Any vegetable oil will do. Pour enough to coat a thin film over the base of your wok.
2. Once heated through (not smoking), add half the garlic and half the chye poh and fry till fragrant and slightly browned.
3. Add the half the chicken and prawns if using, stirring constantly till just cooked.
4. Add half the kueh tiao and dark soy sauce. Mix well. It should coat each strand of the noodles to yield a nice brown colour, around 4 tablespoons of dark soy. Remember to stir constantly. Flame should still be medium to high.
5. Push the kueh tiao to one side of the wok. Pour half the beaten eggs into the empty side of the wok. Let it set a while longer before mixing the kueh tiao with the eggs.
6. Add half the beansprouts and Chinese chives and stir through. Turn off the heat after about 3-4 minutes. The beansprouts and chives should just about lose the raw taste but still crunchy and firm.
7. Dish out into a holding pot and repeat the same process with the remaining ingredients.

If you are using dried rice noodles, follow the instructions on the package. After draining out the water, add some cooking oil to the kueh tiao to prevent clumping.

Bon appétit!

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The Perfect Scone

It’s the term break. We had a fun filled morning of water play and the eldest got her ears pierced too.

We had to come back after lunch so that I could take a conference call. So much for a day off.

There was still some time left after my call. By now, it had started to rain heavily. So what better way to spend the afternoon than to bake.

When I first saw the way Gordon Ramsay had named this recipe, I was like, yeah right. Perfect scones. Easy for you to say. But nonetheless after reading it through, it did sound easy enough.

The girls and I couldn’t agree on the topping so we added both our favourite things – chocolate chips and dried cranberries. A very easy to follow recipe using common ingredients that many kitchens will probably have. I followed the recipe to a T except for the amount of topping. That one I went by sight 😆

The end result – a nice golden crust like a biscuit, and soft and fluffy in the inside. It really is the perfect scone. Much as Mr Ramsay had promised. This recipe is from the book Gordon Ramsay’s Secrets.

INGREDIENTS

250g self raising flour (I needed another 15g more to get a less sticky dough)
1 teaspoon baking powder
A good pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
45g butter (note to self, use 60g next round for a more buttery taste)
1 large free range egg ( I used 2 medium eggs)
100ml of ice cold milk, and a little more for brushing
50g sultanas (I added mini choc chips and dried cranberries without bothering the measurement)

DIRECTIONS
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a large bowl. Add the butter in little pieces and rub it using your fingers and lifting the flour up high so you aeriate it. When the butter is incorporated the mixture should look like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the caster sugar, then the sultanas (if you are using them).
3. In another bowl, beat the egg with the milk. Pour about three quarters into the flour mixture and quickly mix together with a large table knife, adding extra egg and milk mix as necessary to give a soft, but not sticky dough. Do not overmix -the quicker and lighter the mixing and the higher your scones will rise.
4. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and very gently roll with a rolling pin or pat out with your fingers to a 2-2.5cm thickness. using a 6cm cutter, press out as many rounds as you can. Gently re-shape and lightly roll the trimmings to cut out a couple of more rounds if you can.
5. Place the rounds on the lined baking sheet, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle gently with extra sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden brown.
6. To check that the scones are ready, lightly squeeze the sides of one – the dough should be springy. Slide off to a wire rack and cool. Eat the scones within an hour or so of baking while still warm.

I didn’t bother rolling out the dough with a rolling pin. I just pat it down to the thickness I wanted. The girls wanted hearts and stars so we used cookie cutters for those. The balance of the dough, I just re-shaped into a round and cut wedges and squares.

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Chicken and barley vegetable stew

It’s been a while since I last posted something. The new milestone in my eldest child’s education has me knackered and low on creative juices. And she is only at primary/elementary/grade school. What do they do with kids these days??? Sheesh.

So naturally, I crave comfort food these days. A stew, slow cooked in a heavy cast iron pot does the trick. And it really doesn’t take much brain juice to make a decent stew, one that had my kids lapping it all up and asking for more, and the adults relishing each morsel of gravy drenched steamed rice that accompanied the stew.

Recipe (enough to feed 5-6 pax)

3 chicken drumsticks and 3 thighs
1 carrot chopped into large chunks
2 medium sized onions cut into wedges
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
3-4 potatoes, cut into large chunks
Pumpkin
Celery
Handful of cauliflower
Handful of sugar snap peas or mangetout,
Half a cup of frozen corn kernels,
Half a cup of pearl barley
Water
Oyster sauce
Light soy sauce
Pepper

I browned the onions and garlic then seared the chicken. Prior to cooking, I marinated the chicken pieces with some salt and pepper. Once the chicken is a little brown, I added the hardier vegetables like the carrots and potatoes, pumpkin and barley, followed by some water and the sauces. I adjusted the sauce and water level as I went along. I left that to boil for about 10min before bringing it to simmer with the lid on for the next 30min, stirring occasionally. Just before turning off the heat, I added the corn, cauliflower and mangetout, brought it to a boil then turned off the heat. By now, the potatoes and pumpkin would have disintegrated somewhat to yield a thick gravy. If you prefer a thinner gravy, you can thin it out with some chicken stock or water. If you like to still be able to eat the potato chunks, I suggest saving half of the potatoes to be added only towards the last 15mins.

If you want something tangier, add tomato wedges at the end together with the mangetout and cauliflower. You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Paired with hot steamed rice or soak up the gravy with some crusty bread….mm…mm…mmm. Food for the soul.

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