Teochew Ngoh Hiang

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

I can never get enough of ngoh hiang, the deep-fried meat rolls that are full of the fragrance of five-spice powder and yam, the sweetness of prawns and pork, and the crunch of water chestnuts.

The salty beancurd skin wrapped around the filling adds to the aroma. More importantly, it stops moisture from escaping, keeping the meat roll moist and juicy.

Mmmmm . . . .

Crispy Bean Steamed Cod (豆酥鱈魚)

Monday, 28 November 2011

This is steamed cod served with a topping made with hot bean paste, crispy beans (豆酥), garlic and spring onions. The fish is moist and oily. The topping is crisp and fragrant.
This is a ball of crispy beans, aka 豆酥, the main ingredient in the topping. The taste is a bit like natto.
The ball has to be broken up and pounded into coarse bits.  

This is the video that shows how to steam the fish and make the topping.
Ladies and gentlemen, good luck. . . .  . . .  . . .  . .  . . . . .

CRISPY BEAN STEAMED COD (豆酥鱈魚)
Source: Adapted from 阿基師
(Recipe for 4 persons)

800 g black cod cut 3-cm thick, rinse, debone and slice into 8 equal size pieces
any white fish such as threadfin, sea bass or red snapper would do too
½ tsp salt
2 tsp white rice wine
1 sprig spring onion, wash, trim and cut 5 cm long
4 slices ginger
4 tbsp 辣豆瓣醬 (hot bean paste)
5 tbsp vegetable oil
45 g 豆酥, pound/grind into coarse 1-2 mm bits
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, peel and mince very finely
1 sprig spring onion, wash, trim and cut ½ cm long

Preheat plate by steaming over rapidly boiling water for 3 minutes. Sprinkle salt and rice wine on fish. Mix thoroughly. Spread ginger and spring onion on plate. Place fish on ginger and spring onion. Cover and steam over medium-low heat till just cooked, 7-10 minutes.

Check that fish is totally opaque inside by flaking thickest part with chopsticks. Remove from heat. Discard ginger and spring onion. Baste fish with liquid in the plate.

Whilst fish is steaming, stir-fry hot bean paste in 5 tbsp oil over low heat till fragrant. Strain oil onto crispy beans. Mix well. Set aside till fish is cooked. Keep drained hot bean paste for other dishes, such as 麻婆豆腐 or 回锅肉. 

Wipe pan/wok with paper towels. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil till moderately warm. Add crispy beans, minus excess oil (which may be used as for drained hot bean paste). Stir-fry over low heat till colour changes slightly, removing bubbles if any. Add garlic. Stir-fry till mixture is lightly golden. Taste and add some drained hot bean paste if too bland, or pinch of sugar if too salty. Turn off heat. Add spring onion and stir through. As residual heat dissipates, beans and garlic should turn just golden brown.

Spread mixture evenly on steamed fish. Serve immediately with rice.

Fried Wontons

Monday, 17 October 2011

Fried wontons are different from wontons in soup, apart from the fact that they're fried.

The filling for boiled wontons should have dried sole (大地鱼, aka 铁脯). The fish is toasted till brown, crisp and fragrant, then chopped into little bits. If it's not available, deep-fried shallots are a good substitute. With either of these ingredients in the filling, wontons cooked in soup would have a rich, intense aroma they wouldn't have otherwise. In Hong Kong, the motherland of Wonton Soup, the stock used is made with dried sole, amongst other things.

10-Minute Kaya (I)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

If you Google "kaya hours of stirring", you'll find people (like here and here) who really do stand beside their pots of kaya, stirring away for hours on end.

I greatly admire patience, dedication and tenacity but sadly these are virtues I don't possess. So I make kaya the quick way, in 10 minutes.

Soon Kueh (Turnip Dumplings) (I)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Success at last at making the dough for soon kueh! It was my seventh attempt and sixth recipe. How's that for perseverance? As I kneaded the dough, I felt quite sure that this time it would work. And it did, beautifully. Mind you, I had spring roll wrappers standing by in case the dough failed again.

What was wrong with the five recipes that didn't work?

Lotus Seed Sweet Soup (蓮子爽)

Saturday, 10 September 2011

I was buying lotus seeds when a fellow aunty shopper who was waiting for her turn asked me how the dried seeds should be cooked.

Whilst I pondered the question (and sized her up), she told me hers were still hard after soaking overnight and simmering for two hours!

Ah yes, my mother had warned me about that. I said to the lady (after deciding she wasn't trying to sell me something), "You mustn't let lotus seeds touch cold water, otherwise they won't soften. You have to wash them in hot water and, when you put them in the pot, the water must be boiling." By soaking lotus seeds in hot water which became cold overnight, she had violated the golden rule: no cold water!

Paper-Wrapped Chicken

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The paper in 纸包鸡 serves a purpose (other than containing the chicken).

It gives the chicken the best of two worlds: steaming and deep-frying.

Because the meat juices have nowhere to escape, the chicken is extremely juicy, much juicier than paperless deep-fried chicken could ever be.

Tau Suan

Saturday, 27 August 2011


If you know what 豆爽 (tau suan) is, you probably know that 豆 means beans.

What about 爽? What does 爽mean?

'Suan' means sticky soup, which may be savory or sweet. I guess '爽' is another word for  '羹'.

Cooking for the President has an alternative explanation that's quite interesting. 

Kiam Chye Ark (Salted Mustard Greens and Duck Soup)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

When I was looking at recipes for itek teem, I was surprised at the number of ingredients used for the Nyonya soup.

Various Peranakan adaptations of kiam chye ark had pig's trotters, assam skin, brandy, nutmeg, and even sea cucumber.

These were on top of the kiam chye (pickled mustard greens), ark (duck), pickled plums, and tomatoes found in every recipe, Nyonya or Chinese.

It all seemed a bit over-the-top to me, adding so much stuff.

Sayur Lodeh

Monday, 22 August 2011

It was Cook a Pot of Curry Day yesterday because, to cut a long story short, some mainland Chinese with a delicate nose had asked his Singaporean Indian to stop cooking curry. Indignant Singaporeans protested in unison when they heard the story. How dare they tell us not to cook curry! It was a wonderful excuse to tell the mainland Chinese where to shove it, all in the name of protecting the national identity. Before long, Curry Day was organized via Facebook.

There are curries, and there are curries. If it had been a Malay, Nyonya or local Chinese cooking curry next to the mainland Chinese, there probably would have been no dispute. But Indian curries are different when they're not adapted to suit the tastes of the Singaporean Chinese. They have a pungence that's far more powerful than Malay, Nyonya or Chinese-style curries. Chinese Singaporeans call it 'the Indian smell'. For those who don't mince their words, 'smell' may be replaced with 'stink' or 'pong'

Minced Pork Stir-Fry with Ketchup & Fermented Black Beans

Friday, 19 August 2011

Minced pork stir-fried with fermented black beans is one of the standard items served at places that sell Teochew porridge.

The dish is different from other fbb-based recipes because it's got a good amount of tomato ketchup.

Ketchup goes well with the salty fragrance of fbb. It adds a sweet and sour dimension not found in fbb dishes that are more traditional.

Diced Chicken in Spicy Fermented Tofu Sauce

Friday, 12 August 2011

Fermented beancurd is good stuff. It's gotta be. Otherwise, it wouldn't have survived war, peace, and technological upheavals for more than 2,000 years.

Fermented beancurd is salty, creamy and aromatic. It may be used as a seasoning, or eaten as it is with porridge or rice.

Tired of salting meat with soya sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and plain old salt?

Try fermented beancurd.

If you like chicken, and if you like fermented beancurd, you'd like chicken stir-fried with fermented beancurd. I'm sure of that, like I'm sure your mother is a woman.

DICED CHICKEN IN SPICY FERMENTED TOFU SAUCE (香辣腐乳鸡丁)
(Recipe for 4 persons)

400 g boneless chicken leg, wash and dice 2 cm
Marinade
1½ tbsp white fermented beancurd's pickling liquid
⅓ tsp salt
½ tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1½ tbsp water
Stir-fry
1 tbsp white sesame oil
1 piece ginger, half thumb size, peel, wash and slice thinly
3 cloves garlic, peel, wash and slice thinly
3 bird's eye chillies, wash, trim and slice diagonally 3 mm thick
3 sprigs spring onion (white part), cut 1 cm long
30 g white fermented beancurd, mash
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
Finishing touch
3 sprigs spring onion (green part), cut 1 cm long
¼ tsp white sesame oil

Mix chicken with marinade ingredients till all liquid is absorbed. Marinate for 15 minutes or longer.

Heat 1 tbsp white sesame oil till very hot. Add ginger and stir-fry over high heat till lightly golden. Add garlic, chillies and spring onions (white part). Stir-fry till garlic is also lightly golden. Add fermented beancurd and stir-fry till fragrant. Add chicken and stir-fry till wok is very hot. Drizzle with wine and stir through. Drizzle with 1 tbsp water and stir through again. Add 2 tbsp water and continue stirring – a few minutes would do – till chicken is just cooked (totally opaque and firm), and sauce is reduced and slightly thickened. Or leave sauce a bit watery if not eating within 10 minutes, because it thickens as it sits.

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Turn off heat. Sprinkle with spring onions (green part). Stir through. Sprinkle with ¼ tsp sesame oil. Plate and serve immediately.

Pork Stir-Fry with Sesame Oil

Sunday, 7 August 2011

I stir-fry pork with sesame oil. So did my mother, my mother's mother, my mother's mother's mother . . .

I'm guessing that since sesame oil was invented discovered in China –  supposedly some 2,300 years ago during the Three Kingdoms period – Chinese have been cooking pork in it one way or another. 

The version I make is with garlic, ginger, light soya sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine and salt. I've done it so many times I can practically do it with my eyes closed.

Gong Bao Frog Legs

Monday, 20 June 2011

Back when I was a little girl and living in a kampong, I jumped with joy whenever it rained at night.

Why?

Because my father would go frog hunting, and there would be a big pot of frog porridge for supper – Teochew style, of course; none of that sticky Cantonese stuff like in Geylang!

The frogs my father caught were wild and, of course, live. He didn't use any bait, or special equipment except a torchlight. He basically just reached out and grabbed the ones that were croaking the loudest.

(If you're a frog reading this, remember not to croak too loudly when it rains, and my father is in your neighbourhood. And you should leave this blog post immediately, because you really don't want to read the next bit.)

Teochew Steamed Fish Head

Saturday, 28 May 2011

What do char kway tiao, or luak, bak chor mee, and Teochew style steamed fish have in common, apart from being Teochew?

Don't know? What if I remove steamed fish from the list, and add or nee, chai tow kway and yam mooncakes? Is it obvious now?

Ladies and gentlemen, all these Teochew dishes have lard – lots and lots of glorious lard!

Herbal Mutton Soup

Thursday, 7 April 2011

My mother cooked just about everyday, and not once did she cook mutton, lamb or goat anything – not once. Hence, my knowledge of cooking anything that goes 'Meh-eh-heh!' or 'Baa-aaa!' is pretty paltry. I learn on the job which is, if you ask me, a fun way of learning.

Har Cheong Gai (Prawn Paste Chicken) (I)

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

There're many types of fermented prawn paste. I could smell this one once the bottle was open.

Phwoar! This is potent stuff!

It wasn't belachan, which is quite harmless until it's toasted or fried.

Nor was it Penang hae ko, which is absolutely benign because it has lots of sugar.

Steamed Garlic Pork Ribs

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Let's see . . . I've done pork ribs with orange, coffee, red yeast wine dregs, fermented black beans, teriyaki sauce, and pickled plums. That's quite a lot already but here's one more: Steamed Garlic Pork Ribs. Yup, tonnes and tonnes of garlic; heaps of garlic; garlic galore!

Compared to the other recipes, steamed garlic pork ribs is really simple, using garlic as its flavouring agent.

Hmm, a bit too simple, perhaps?

Nope, don't worry. As Leonardo da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Don't underestimate the plant that sprouted from Satan's left foot as he was evicted by his landlord.

Chinese Rojak

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

I was busy stirring bowl after bowl after bowl of rojak sauce last weekend, trying to find one that I liked.

The first mistake I made was with the tamarind water. I followed the rojak recipe in The Best of Singapore Cooking, mixing a walnut size blob of assam with 80 ml of water. That totally spoilt the sauce/dressing 'cause it was way too watery.

Cereal Butter Prawns (I)

Friday, 25 February 2011

Melt some butter and, when it's bubbling nicely, grab a few sprigs of curry leaves and rip off the leaves (with style, of course). Toss 'em in the wok, together with a roughly chopped up cili padi. Stir vigorously, knocking the spatula against the wok now and then. (Not sure what the knocking is for but that's what chefs do. Maybe it's a man thing?)

Butter, curry leaves and cili padi are all ingredients with pretty strong flavours but they complement rather than overwhelm each other. Each stands its ground, yet works with the other two to create a killer combination loved by young and old alike.