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

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

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

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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The Imitation Canine

leaping dog

from “Funny Pictures”

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
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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Chai poh 菜脯卵 (Salted Radish) Omelette

I wasn’t in the mood to cook today. It was a good thing I have eggs on hand. And chai poh.
Chai poh 菜脯 is salted radish, easily found in asian supermarkets. Very commonly found accompanying teochew porridge. Well, good thing I have some one hand too. Chai poh neng 菜脯卵, or salted radish omelette, is easy to make and traditionally has only 1 ingredient – you guessed it – eggs. I added shallots and ginger here because I wanted fragrance from the shallots, and heat from the ginger.

½ handful of chai poh
3 eggs, beaten
2 shallots, chopped finely
1″ ginger, chopped finely
salt/pepper to taste

1. Rince chai poh several times in water to remove some of the saltiness. Squeeze dry and remove as much water as possible using paper towels.
2. Heat up some oil and stir try chai poh. This is to give it a slightly crispy texture, hence you want it as dry as possible. Note that it will never become completely crispy!
3. After about 30 seconds, add shallots and ginger. Fry till fragrant.
4. Prepare beaten eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Go easy on the salt as chai poh is already salty.
5. On high heat, add beaten eggs. Swirl eggs around pan evenly. Solid whites should form quickly around the edges. Lower to medium heat after about 5 seconds.
6. Allow eggs to cook. Spread eggs around if necessary to keep it even.
7. Flip or fold the omelette, depending on your preference, and cook till done.

Serves 2

Cai Po Neng

image courtesy of noobcook

The magic of love

Kate and Pippin

from “Kate and Pippin, an Unlikely Love Story”

Steamed tofu with minced turkey

steamed tofu and turkey.jpgWe needed a quick dinner tonight, for today we are watching “Sunday in the Park with George” by Stephen Sondheim and we have 2 hours to get to the theatre. A peek into the fridge and I came up with this steamed tofu dish served over steaming rice.

12oz / 350g firm tofu
10oz minced turkey
1/2 green onion
2 water chestnuts, finely diced
1/2 salted egg including yolk, finely diced
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp sesame oil

Serves 2

Finely chop 1/2 of the green onions. Thinly slice the other half and reserve for garnishing.
Add chopped green onions, water chestnuts, salted egg to minced turkey. Roughly combine with a few stirs.
Add cornstarch, sesame oil, a dash of salt and pepper. Mix well.
Cut tofu into 8 cubes. Scoop out a teaspoon from the centers, creating a well in each cube of tofu.
Fill the wells with turkey mixture.
Steam for 10 minutes.
Garnish with remaining green onions.

Drizzle 1 tbsp soy sauce/1 tsp oil mixture over tofu before serving.

Roasted broccoli and mushrooms

wpid-20141117_195424.jpgEasy weekday dinner with minimal clean up! Can also be served as an easy appetizer.

1lb broccoli, cut into small florets and stemmed
4 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
3 tbsp oblige oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp sea salt
Grated cheddar cheese (or any hard, sharp cheese)

Serves 4

Toss broccoli and mushrooms with olive oil, salt, cumin seeds in a large bowl.
Bake for 20 minutes in 425F, less for crunchier florets.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese.