Fried Tang Hoon (glass noodles) 炒粉丝

Fried Tang Hoon 20160518 (1)

Tang hoon, also called vermicelli, glass noodles, 冬粉 (dong fen, meaning winter noodles), is a light version of bee hoon, typically made from some kind of starch. Most commonly found are ones made of mung bean starch, often referred to as ‘mung bean thread’. Compared to bee hoon, which is made of rice, tang hoon is finer and more delicate. Further, it looks glassy and transparent when cooked, hence the name ‘glass noodles. Tang hoon is tasteless on its own, making it a versatile addition to many dishes. It can be used to add textural interest to soup or gravy, as a side dish when stir-fried, or as in this recipe, as a meal by itself. Common ingredients for stir-fries include some combination of chicken, fried or dried shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, fish cake and bean sprouts. It is merely a matter of preference, variety and choice. I added a hefty dose of pepper in my version; go easy if you do not care for it as much.

 

Fried Tang Hoon 20160518 (2)

Ingredients
2 packets tang hoon, soaked till soft and drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, diced
2 eggs, beaten
½ carrot, julienned
Handful of bak choy leaves

Sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 oyster sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
½ cup vegetable stock
1 tsp pepper

Instructions
1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in wok. Add garlic and shallots. Stir-fry till golden.
2. Add carrots. Fry till nearly cooked through.
3. Add bak choy leaves. Fry till wilted,
4. Add tang hoon and sauce. Stir to combine well. Lower heat to medium.
5. When liquid is mostly absorbed, add eggs to side of wok and leave untouched till eggs are half-cooked. Break up egg and mix into tang hoon till eggs are cooked through.
6. Garnish with green onions. Serve with dollop of belachan.

Serves 2 (as a meal)
Serves 4 (as a sidedish)

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Braised Eggplant and Minced Pork

Eggplant and Pork 20160517 (1)

Plump, firm, bright purple in colour – ‘Eggplant’ as it is widely known here in America, commonly called ‘Aubergine’ in Europe, and liltingly called ‘Brinjal’ in my homeland in South-East Asia, is rather bitter when raw but easily absorbs flavours used in the cooking process. Its versatility is evidenced by its widespread use in varying cuisines around the world, using a range of preparation techniques. Here is one of my staple recipes using only a handful of ingredients that are easily found in my pantry. Asian eggplants which are elongated in shape are easily available here and is what I have used, cut into 2″ x ½” strips. If using oval-shaped ones, they can be cut into semi-circular pieces, ½” cubes or any shape that is easy to eat. Braising allows the eggplant to slowly soak up the sauces, giving it a complex, rich taste.

Ingredients
2 medium-sized eggplants, cut into 2″ x ½” strips
½ lb minced pork
5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, mincedEggplant and Pork 20160517 (3)
Cilantro, to garnish

Sauce
4 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) or dry sherry
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon black vinegar
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pepper

 

Instructions
1. Prepare sauce and mix well. Set aside.
2. Heat a little oil in a wok. Add pork into hot oil, breaking up the pieces Eggplant and Pork 20160517 (2)constantly to prevent clumping.
3. When pork is half-cooked, add a little more oil and reduce the heat.
4. Add garlic and eggplant. Cook till eggplant starts to wilt at the edges, about 2-3 minutes.
5. Add mushrooms and cook for 1 minute.
6. Add sauce and bring it to a boil, stirring to coat eggplant in the sauce. A little water (no more than ½ cup)  may be added if sauce is insufficient.
7. Reduce heat to a medium simmer and cover till eggplant is fully cooked and sauce has mostly been absorbed.
8. Garnish with cilantro.

Serves 4

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Pork Rib Soup

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Mark Twain was onto something then. Bay area weather is unlike anything one would expect. Merely 2 weeks ago, temperatures were in the high 70s, daring some souls to meekly bring out t-shirts and flip flops, tempting the fickle clouds. This past week had all running back to Uggs and recycled fleece, heaters kicking into gear. The thing about making soup over a stove is that it warms up the kitchen and living room quite nicely, at the same time filling the house with homely aromas. Sweet corn is coming into season here (10 for $5), and sweet corn is my middle name. This is a clear soup, naturally sweetened by rib bones, dried cuttlefish and sweet corn. Root vegetables offset the pork protein. Gogi berries are not usually added but they were in my pantry. They are the cause of the slightly reddish tinge in this otherwise colourless soup.

Pork Rib Soup 20160513 (7)

Ingredients
1 lb pork back ribs
2 carrots, coined
2 ears of fresh corn, broken into 3″ sections
1 lb winter melon, cubed
1 potato, cubed
(optional) 1 dried cuttlefish, for flavouring
(optional) Handful gogi berries

Pork Rib Soup 20160513 (1)

Instructions
1. Blanch pork ribs. This will ensure the soup is clear and free of debris.
2. Bring a fresh pot of water boil. Place blanched ribs and cuttlefish into boiling water.
3. When pork is nearly cooked through, add carrots, potatoes and gogi berries for about 2 minutes.
4. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Add soy sauce to taste if desired.
5. Add winter melon and increase heat for 3 minutes till melon is just cooked through. This delicate root turns becomes bitter when overcooked.

Serves 4

 

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Celery with Chicken and Cashew nuts

Celery Chicken 20160512 blogA twist on the classic ‘Cashew Chicken’.  This dish features celery as the main ingredient, making for a healthier option. Season the chicken well, according to your personal taste. A dash of paprika or turmeric adds a more exotic flavor. Chili powder offers a spicy kick. The small amount of protein will go a long way in enticing the palette. Picky eaters will forget they are eating vegetables.

Ingredients
1/2 lb chicken, cubed, and lightly seasoned with cornstarch and pepper
3 cups celery, diced
A handful of roasted cashews
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
3 cloves garlic, sliced

Instructions
1. Fry garlic till just about to turn golden.
2. Toss chicken and quickly fry till half-cooked.
3. Add celery, starting with stems which take more time to cook than leaves, if any.
4. Season with soy sauce and oyster sauce. Lower heat and cook for 1 minute.

Serves 2

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Winter melon (冬瓜 dong gua) soup

These pale-fleshed, spongy gourds are commonly eaten during winter. Low in calories, it has a mild and refreshing taste. A week ago, the Asian supermarket was selling 2-lb slices at incredibly reasonable prices, despite being an unusual crop for this time of year. I was recovering from a bout of ‘heatiness'(阳 yang); this ‘cooling'(阴 yin) gourd in a clear soup was just the ticket. Nonetheless, I added a bit of ginger(阳) into the soup to balance the yin(阳). The seeds, which can be candied, and often eaten during Chinese New Year, are easily scooped out with a spoon before cooking. This is a versatile plant; nearly every part can be eaten except for the skin and roots.

Winter melon soup.a

Ingredients
2lb winter melon, skin and seeds removed and cubed
2lb pork bones for stewing
2lb chicken bones for stewing or 2tbsp chicken stock powder
3 stalks celery, cut into 1″ chunks
1 carrot, cut into rough chunks or faux tourné
1 dried scallop, softened in hot water and separated
1″ ginger, sliced lengthwise
1 shallot, sliced lengthwise

Garnish
Luncheon meat, cubed or Ham, cut into strips
Cilantro, finely chopped

Instructions
1. Blanch pork bones to remove foam and rinse quickly.
2. Place pork and chicken bones in 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
3. Add carrots, celery, scallop, ginger and shallot.
4. Boil for about 20 minutes.
5. Add winter melon and cook till transparent.
6. Garnish with ham and cilantro to serve.

Serves 4

 

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Traditional Baked Mooncakes 月饼

Mid-Autumn Festival Mooncakes 中秋月饼, commonly just called ‘Mooncakes’月饼 are traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Shared with friends and family while celebrating the abundance of harvest, the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the four most important Chinese festivals and falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month in the lunar calendar. These round-shaped cakes symbolise unity and harmony, although modern day mooncakes come in a variety of shapes.

Stories abound regarding the origin of the mooncake. The account I grew up with tells of notes hidden in the sweet cakes that Han Chinese rebels, led by General Zhu Yuan Zhang 朱元璋, used to coordinate against the Mongols. The rebellion ended the Yuan Dynasty in 1368.

Mooncake moulds come in wooden and plastic versions. Wooden moulds must first be ‘seasoned’ by air-drying well to ensure there is no moisture trapped in the wood, then soaking completely in oil for 1-2 days and air-dried again. Peanut oil is traditionally preferred but I suppose other types of vegetable oils could be substituted. Thereafter, the mould should not be washed or rinsed in water.

After experimenting with proportions and ingredients, this recipe is what I will be using for a while. It makes about 8 regular-sized mooncakes, 3″ (8cm) in diameter.

Ingredients for the Filling
860 grams ready-made mooncake filling paste (eg. lotus paste, red bean paste, etc)mooncake after
300 grams plain or all-purpose flour, sifted
180 grams golden syrup (I prefer Lyle’s Golden Syrup, available at Cost Plus World Market)
1½ tsp alkaline water (lye water)
15 tsp olive or vegetable oil
1½ tsp vanilla extract
Optional:
10-16 tsp melon seeds or pine nuts
Salted duck yolk, cooked, whites removed (1 per mooncake)

Other Ingredients
Plain flour for dusting work surface, rolling pin, hands and dough
Egg wash (1 egg and 1 tbsp water, lightly beaten and sieved to remove bubbles)
Mooncake mould (100g mould, 3″/8cm diameter)

Making the Dough
1. In a large bowl, add golden syrup, alkaline water, olive oil and vanilla extract. Stir till well combined.
2. Add in sifted flour and mix to just form a soft dough. Do not over knead.
3. Wrap dough with cling wrap and leave to rest for 30 min, but about ideally 2 hours 醒面. This helps the dough harden slightly and become more elastic, making it easier to work with.
After waiting, lightly knead to smoothen it.mooncake before
4. Divide dough into 35g pieces and shape into balls.

Making the Filling
1. Divide the filling paste into 60g pieces. Optional: Add 1-2 tsp of melon seeds or pine nuts to each piece. Shape filling pieces into a ball.
2. If making filling with salted egg yolk, adjust weight paste so that the total weight of the yolk and paste is 60g. Wrap filling paste around the yolk and shape into a ball.
3. Make the same number of filling pieces as there are dough pieces.

Assembling and Mooncake
1. Roll the dough over some flour. Dust rolling pin with flour. Flatten each dough into a small disc.
2. Place a piece of filling within a disc of dough (skin) and wrap, forming a smooth ball.
3. Lightly dust the wrapped mooncake ball with some flour. Place it in the mooncake mould and press firmly. Invert the mould and tap a few times to eject the mooncake.
4. Place mooncake on a floured baking tray lined with parchment paper.
5. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
6. Spray some water on the mooncakes.
7. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Bake for 10 mins.
8. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 20 minutes.
9. Brush the mooncake evenly with egg wash, including the sides. Remove any bubbles that might have formed during the brushing process. Bubbles tend to ruin the appearance of the final product.
10. Return to oven and continue to bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.
11. Leave the mooncake to cool completely. Wrap in parchment paper and store in air tight containers. Allow 1-2 days for the oil to seep back out 回油, resulting in a softer and shiner skin.

Makes 8 regular-sized mooncakes

Adapted from Traditional Baked Mooncakesmooncake cut

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