Stuffed Tofu Puffs


I don’t like tofu. In fact I don’t like anything made from soybean, I find its smell off-putting.

That means I don’t take soybean milk and soybean pudding (tau-foo-fah) as well. Yes, I am a weird Chinese.

But, I love fermented soybean products. Soy sauce and fermented beancurd are my friends. My scientific explanation is that once its fermented, that “tofu smell” is not there anymore so I am no longer put off!

So anyway, this is one dish that I make very often but do not touch at all! It is my version of yong-tau-foo or stuffed tofu puffs. I make this for Terry because he is not a weird Chinese like me!

If you don’t like tofu like me, substitute tofu for okra (ladies fingers), eggplant, capsicum and other vegetables that can be stuffed! It also works well with tofu sheets.

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet tofu puffs
  • 100 g lean pork mince
  • 100 g prawn flesh, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • Dried squid, about the size of a tablespoon or two, soaked and chopped fine
  • Ginger, about 1cm, peeled and chopped fine
  • A quarter of a large onion, chopped fine
  • 2 – 3 large dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped fine
  • Seasonings: sesame oil, salt, pepper and fish sauce

Method:

  1. Apart from the tofu puffs, mix everything together until you get a well combined mince mixture.
  2. Season with soy sauce, salt, pepper and fish sauce.
  3. Sample half a teaspoon of mixture, microwave for 20 seconds to cook and taste. Re-season if necessary.
  4. Slice each tofu puff to make an opening.
  5. Stuff with half teaspoon of mince mixture each and press gently to “seal”. If you made too much mince mixture, don’t worry, freeze it in a container for later.
  6. On medium heat, pan fry stuffed tofu puffs, mince side down until browned.
  7. Brown each side of the stuffed tofu until crispy.
  8. Serve hot with rice or noodles.

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Assam Laksa Fix


 

Like most Malaysians, I looooove Assam Laksa. Not to be confused with Curry Laksa, Assam Laksa has no cream and is not even a curry at all.

Assam Laksa consists of thick rice noodles in a spicy and sour fish broth, often served with slices of cucumber, onion and pineapple. Sometimes a dollop of Malaysian shrimp paste (hae ko or petis udang) is added too.

Recently I discovered an easy way for an Assam Laksa fix at home – instant laksa soup paste!

In a saucepan, I mix 800 ml of water with the whole packet of laksa paste, plus approximately 100 g of mackerel fish flesh. I used about half a can of mackerel in natural oil, de-boned and mashed. To make my assam laksa broth more flavourful, I also add in one tablespoon of the natural mackerel oil, a handful of vietnamese mint leaves (daun kesum) freshly plucked from my garden, a few dashes of vinegar and fish sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes and my assam laksa broth is done.

I like my assam laksa with lots of fish pieces, sliced cucumber, onion, pineapple (have to make do with canned ones), hard-boiled egg and a dollop of shrimp paste. Not as good as those from Penang but decent enough to ease my craving. MMmmmmm……..

 

Pork Mince with Shiitake Mushrooms, Wood-Ear Fungus and Preserved Radish


I sort of made this recipe up myself.

I thought it will be nice to have juicy pork mince with chewy shiitake mushroom, the slight crunch of wood-ear fungus and preserved radish in a mouthful. And so that’s what I did!

It turned out to be very nice.  Versatile too. It can be served with rice or as a topping on noodles. It keeps very well in the fridge because it’s basically without a sauce. I usually prepare a large portion and store it in an airtight container in the fridge to be consumed over a few days. A very handy “stand-by” dish  😉

Ingredients:

  • 150 – 200 g lean pork mince
  • 4 – 5 shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft and sliced
  • A handful of wood-ear fungus, soaked and sliced finely
  • 2 – 3 pieces of preserved radish, rinsed and chopped finely
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and chopped finely (I ran out of fresh chilli so I used half teaspoon of chilli powder)

Seasonings:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark sweet soy sauce
  • A pinch of salt
  • A few dashes of fish sauce
  • A few shakes of white pepper powder

Clockwise from upper left: shiitake mushrooms, wood-ear fungus, garlic and preserved radish

Method:

  1. Marinade pork mince with the seasonings for at least an hour or overnight.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a frying pan.
  3. Stir fry garlic and pork mince until cooked, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add in chilli or chilli powder then radish, stir fry a minute.
  5. Add in mushroom and fungus, stir fry for a minute.
  6. Taste and season with additional soy sauce and dark soy sauce if necessary.
  7. Stir fry for another 5 minutes, season and taste as you go.
  8. Remove and serve hot.

Pandan Chiffon Cake


Morning markets in Malaysia have abundance of these chiffon cakes to sell. I used to eat pandan chiffon cake for breakfast almost every morning when I was a kid. To the extend that I don’t fancy it anymore. Sure chiffon cakes are light, soft and fluffy but I begin to find it dry, bland and like eating a piece of sponge!

20 years down the line, I am craving for the cake I had for breakfast so often as a kid. The asian bakeries here sell chiffon cakes at ridiculous prices because it is “rare”!

So I consulted the 21st century oracle that is Google and found this recipe that is reasonably do-able and produces a soft, fluffy and fragrant pandan chiffon cake. And surprisingly moist too. Definitely better than those I ate as a kid.

You will need 1.5 cups of self-raising flour and 3 bowls/containers to organise the following ingredients:

Bowl A

  • 165 ml (1 small can) coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons pandan essence
  • Half teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Green food colouring (until a light green colour is achieveed)

Bowl B (Mixing bowl)

  • 6 egg whites
  • Half cup sugar

Bowl C (Large mixing bowl)

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Method:

  1. Heat up the oven to 160 degrees Celcius.
  2. Start by preparing the ingredients of Bowl A in a container, stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. Seperate 6 eggs – yolks into a large mixing bowl (Bowl C) and whites in another large bowl suitable for mixing (Bowl B), and add sugar accordingly to each bowl.
  4. Bowl A: Using an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form. Keep in the fridge.
  5. Bowl B: Beat the yolks and sugar until pale and triple in size.
  6. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in flour into yolk mixture gradually until well combined.
  7. Pour ingredients in Bowl A into Bowl B (yolk mixture) and stir to combine.
  8. Slowly and gradually, gently fold in the egg whites (Bowl A) into Bowl B until well combined. Careful not to deflate the mixture too much.
  9. Pour batter into a 12-in round cake tin and bake immediately at 160 degrees Celcius for 50 minutes on middle rack.
  10. Cool the cake upside down for at least an hour.

Yes, you read the last step right. It is very important to cool the chiffon cake upside down to ensure it stays light and fluffy after cooled instead of squished due to gravity. Therefore, it is essential to have a special chiffon cake pan that is somewhat like a ring cake pan.

The chiffon cake can rise very high in the oven and if you cool it upside down, it stays at this height after its cooled

I don’t have a chiffon cake pan and I have used a regular spring-form round cake pan. Sometimes my chiffon cake held together as I invert it to cool upside down, but a few times it fell from the pan flat! So I didn’t take the risk to invert it this time and my chiffon cake is a little squished at the bottom. It turned out quite decent nevertheless.

Not so high anymore!

Note to self: Buy chiffon cake pan!

Prawns in Tamarind Sauce (Assam Prawns)


My granny used to make this dish and I always licked the plate clean. Even sucked the tamarind sauce out of the prawn shells. Perfect with rice.

May be I had too much of it growing up, I don’t really dig assam prawns anymore. But it is still one of my favourite dishes to make for dinner because it needs almost zero preparation. Un-shelled prawns works best.

Ingredients:

  • ~10 large prawns, shells intact or 12 – 15 medium un-shelled prawns
  • ~ 3/4 cups tamarind paste
  • ~ 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

Method:

  1. In a bowl, mix tamarind paste, dark soy sauce and sugar.
  2. In a frying pan, heat cooking oil and pour in sauce mixture.
  3. Let it bubble gently until slightly darkened and reduced. Taste and add sugar or soy sauce to balance the acidity of the tamarind.
  4. Add in prawns, stirring until sauce becomes caramelised and reduced and prawns are fully cooked.
  5. Serve with hot rice.

The tamarind sauce is actually a clever way to camouflage the fishy smell of prawns that are no longer fresh. So next time, if you discover a batch of prawns in the back of the fridge/freezer which you totally forgot about, don’t throw them out, make assam prawns 😉

Chilli Crabs


Chilli crabs, a must order dish in Singapore. I haven’t tried the authentic Singaporean chilli crabs before but this version must be somewhere there (hopefully). A super-easy chilli crabs recipe from my recipe guru Fariza. Sweet, sour, juicy with a hint of spice – definitely a crowd pleaser. The best thing is, all the ingredients are probably sitting in your pantry as we speak.

Terry is a BIG fan of crabs but I have always avoided crabs at the supermarket like a plague because I don’t know what to do with them. I guess the clamps and shell and the size scared me! Terry must be craving for crabs really bad because one day, he bought 4 live crabs at the Avondale morning market while my back was turned buying onions! It was really cheap he said. Thank goodness for Fariza  😉

Even armed with Fariza’s recipe, I still had another problem. I didn’t know how to prepare the crabs for cooking. I have frozen the poor crabs to death from the day before and determined to just do it. I was surprised at how easy it actually was! With the crab’s belly facing upward, I stuck the knife’s tip into it’s behind, held the top shell down with it and pulled its body upward. Voila, the top shell separated revealing the juicy flesh. I halved each crab symmetrically and rinsed everything. Now let’s start cooking!

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 1 kg of crabs (4 medium-sized) – cleaned, top shell removed and halved
  • Half cup sweet chilli sauce (I used Thai sweet chilli sauce)
  • Half cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (I used meat curry powder)
  • 1 teaspoon chilli paste or 1 fresh red chilli chopped fine (optional)
  • 2 medium onions – one sliced, the other chopped fine
  • 1 inch bulb of ginger – sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic – chopped fine
  • 2-3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons water

Method:

  1. In a medium saucepan, stir fry garlic, onion, ginger and chilli paste (if using) on medium heat until soft. 
  2. Turn to low heat, cover with lid and let it fry on its own as you prepare sauce mix.
  3. In a bowl, mix sweet chilli sauce, ketchup, curry powder and add water until you get a thick soup consistency.
  4. Pour sauce mix into saucepan, stir and turn to high heat.
  5. As the sauce boils, add in the crabs, stir gently so that crabs are covered or smeared with sauce.
  6. Add in sliced onions (no need to stir in), turn to low heat, cover and simmer until crabs turn pink. If you find sauce is too thick, add some water.
  7. Serve hot with rice or fried mantou buns.

The verdict – really yummy chilli crabs, Terry approves! I love the chilli sauce with a hint of curry and the rich flavours from the crab juices. Excellent with rice or bread. Crabs can now be on my menu thanks to Fariza 😉

Try this easy chilli crabs recipe yourself!

P.S. This fits the plan perfectly too (evil grinnnnn….)

 

Bread Winner (Part 2 – For The Win!)


Picking up from Part 1, I have solved the problem of stone hard buns by increasing the water content in my dough. The challenge now is to make it taste more like bread than muffins. How do you make it soft, springy and chewy like the buns they sell at the bakeries? I knew it wasn’t the kneading or the yeast or the type of flour. But what else?

I looked somemore and found this recipe for butter buns. The picture looked very promising so I decided to give it a shot, with some modifications. I added a few tablespoons of sugar and used self-raising flour instead. My logic tells me – more raising agents leads to more raising of the dough and hopefully a lighter bun.

Butter Buns from roxannagreengirl.com

This time, the dough was soft but not as wet as the no-knead recipe I tried in Part 1. So I was able to make more decent looking buns. It was slightly sticky initially but as I carefully push, roll and folded it with my fingertips around the mixing bowl, it became easier to handle with time. The buns were very tasty and buttery. However, it only remained soft when its hot. Though it departed from the muffin texture, it is still not springy or chewy. I suspected that using self-raising flour (baking powder) had a role to play in this as well. So probably all-purpose flour was better.

Sighs, I was ready to give up bread-making by then.

After a short discussion with a friend who also is an avid baker, he pointed out that I have been using basic white bread loaf or dinner rolls recipes. While what I really wanted was sweet buns. He suggested that I look at Asian sweet buns recipes instead. Which didn’t really convince me because the ingredients and steps are very similar. But it gave me a new perspective.

Then finally I landed on this blog which talked about a special water-roux method to make soft buns. Apparently, ever since a Chinese cookbook published this method, it became wildly popular among the Chinese and Asian baking community. The blogger explained that a water roux is basically one part flour and 5 parts water, cooked at 65 degrees Celcius. The gelatinisation of the starch when cooked with water gives the springy soft texture to buns, the blogger claimed.

Finally!

I was convinced! So I decided to incorporate this water roux into the butter bun recipe I used above since I am confident the recipe yields good flavour. And I used all-purpose flour this time.

I was relieved to read further in forums that the water roux doesn’t need to be cooked exactly at 65 degrees Celcius. See, I don’t have a kitchen thermometer. One member of the forum pointed that as long as it cooks in low heat without boiling until a thick paste is formed, all is good. Because this is my first attempt, I incorporated only a minimal amount of the water roux paste to see if it really works. Please note I used proper measuring spoons for this recipe. This makes 16 fist-sized buns.

So, here we go again:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 4-5 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Water Roux paste – 1 tablespoon flour and 5 tablespoons water

Method:

  1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup water and set aside.
  2. Make Water Roux paste – dissolve flour in water in a small saucepan, heat it on low and stir until it thickens into a paste, like a thick, creamy soup. Do not boil! Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt. Make a well in the middle.
  4. In the well, crack in the egg, pour in butter, yeast solution and water roux paste. Stir everything with a spoon to incorporate. Never mind lumps.
  5. Pour in milk slowly, until a soft dough is formed. You do not necessarily need a whole cup of milk for this.
  6. Using fingers, gently push, fold and roll the dough around the bowl to incorporate the ingredients. It feels a little sticky.
  7. Continue to lightly knead by rolling and folding in the bowl (I was lazy to clean up a flat working surface) for 15-20 minutes. Very good exercise!
  8. The dough is ready when a dent made by a finger on the dough springs back slowly.
  9. Cover with cling wrap and let rise for an hour in a warm and humid place. I usually rise my dough in the oven (not switched on), with a baking tray filled with hot boiling water in the bottom rack.
  10. After an hour, the dough would’ve doubled in size. Roll and fold to push out the gas.
  11. Roll into 2-inch diameter balls and arrange in a greased baking tray, about an inch apart.
  12. Cover and let rise another 30 minutes, the balls would have conjoined at the edges.
  13. Brush bun tops generously with melted butter and bake at 200 degree Celcius for 20 minutes or until tops are browned.
  14. Brush bun tops again with melted butter for a soft crust right after baking.

The verdict….

The buns were soft and springy….YES!!!

After cooling down, I poked the buns and was extremely happy that they were still soft and fluffy….YES, YES!!!

I bit into one of them and they are chewy and tasty….YES, YES, YES!!!

For the win!

The water roux paste is a miracle! The next day, the buns are still soft to the touch but not McDonald’s burger buns soft. Microwaved them for 20 seconds, and they turned fluffy again. Although still not as light and fluffy as the buns in bakeries but definitely a huge improvement. Maybe next time, I will increase the portion of the water roux paste and cut down or readjust the amount of milk and/or flour to accommodate. Hopefully this will increase the lightness and fluffiness.

Practise makes perfect!  🙂

Try it…!!!