The key to cooking chicken is to do it very slowly and gently. That way, the juices will all stay within and not lose itself to being a dry papery hunk of meat. Especially so here, the chicken has to be braised tenderly, so that as it cooks, it absorbs as much flavour from the broth as it possibly can, giving you an exquisitely fork-tender and succulent mouthful of poultry goodness.
This depends on how much chicken you’re making, but for about two people, here’s what to do:
- Into a good pot, toss two cloves of garlic, skinned on and smashed once, three cloves, two bits of star anise, a modest stick of cinnamon, a good dash of white pepper, a small pinch of whole black peppercorns, and a crack of sea salt.
- Also, add a teaspoon of pure sesame oil, two tablespoons of light soy sauce and one tablespoon of dark soy sauce.
- Place your chicken parts in and fill the pot with water, so that the poultry is just about half submerged. Turn the hob on to the lowest heat setting. Put the lid on leaving a small gap and let it simmer away gently for about an hour, or slightly longer.
- Toss in carrot batons and mushrooms in the last 5 minutes if you want, and adjust seasoning of broth with sea salt accordingly. If having with hot steamed rice, make sure it’s saltier than usual.
Try this with pork belly.
It’s been a long long hiatus that I’ve taken. I blame Instagram. Grainy photos behind retro-esque filters and uninspired dishes. In any case, I’m hoping this entry won’t be like the last one – the last one for a long while.
So I guess from now, I’ll be using more than a couple of Instagramasised photograph. Fingers crossed that’ll work out well.
Alas! The first of the list is Instant Mee Pok! Mee Pok (translated from Chinese dialect as ‘thin noodles’) is a flat egg noodle used a lot in Singapore to make Fishball Noodles and Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles. They say the first creators of pasta were actually the Chinese; Italians apparently discovered it much later. In any case, Mee Pok is usually cooked fresh and unless you buy them fresh from the market or make them yourself, you won’t get a chance to have them this far from East Asia. But, but, BUT! I stumbled upon a pack of dried instant Mee Pok at Chinatown last week. Well, it isn’t quite exactly the same thing as its fresh counterpart, but I’d say it comes pretty damned close.
I am a happy boy.
(Follow me on Instagram @skinnynigel or #skinnynigel)
There’s a reason fish and chips exists: the combination of fish and potatoes is quite a thing of marriage. In any case, like Haddock on Smash or Unbattered Pollock & Chips, this fish and potatoes recipe is very much asian – Battered spicy beancurd-marinated sutchi fillet on sesame mash of potatoes, carrots and white radish, with sweet gem lettuce and calamansi.
- Set peeled and sliced potatoes, carrot and radish away to boil. When done, drain and let it steam dry in the colander for about 5 minutes or so. Then, mash with a knob of butter, a splash of milk, salt, pepper and a few drops of sesame oil.
- Marinate the fish fillets with spicy beancurd and dust with self-raising flour. Be sure to pat dry the fillets before doing this. Deep fry till golden brown. Cool on a cooling rack laid with kitchen towel.
- Serve all together with fresh leaves of sweet gem lettuce and half a calamansi for squeezing. Golden brown fried sliced shallots with the mash is a HUGE bonus.
This post should have been written months ago during the Lunar New Year season. Reason being this dish is always on the table at the annual family reunion dinner. ‘Leek’ in Mandarin is suan, which sounds just like the equivalent of the word ‘count’. In essence, it’s an auspicious dish to consume during the festival celebrating luck and prosperity. That aside, leek and pork is a lovely combination.
- Cut up the vegetable to thin slices, diagonally. Separating them to loose strands gently.
- Do the same with a carrot, or pass it through the coarse side of a grater.
- Prepare the pork this way.
- In a hot skillet with a tablespoon of vegetable oil, toss in minced garlic and fry till fragrant.
- Add in the vegetables and fry about with a small splash of water. Lower the heat.
- When the leek is almost completely softened, add in the pork.
- Turn up the heat and stirfry everything together by adding water in small quantities, frying till dry-ish each time.
- Adjust seasoning accordingly with light soy sauce.
- Serve with hot steamed rice.
Right, so I’m absolutely terrible at following recipes because I always try to challenge my palette by estimating proportions of ingredients as opposed to licking the tried-and-tested quantities right off the spoon of a recipe list. The result: mild inconsistency and no record of numbers in teaspoons and measuring cups. No surprise with this recipe, all I’ve got is the list of ingredients.
Sayur Lodeh is essentially like a lovely savoury, coconutty, vegetable curry. Sayur means vegetables in Malay; no idea what lodeh is.
For the spice blend:
- chilli paste
- belachan (shrimp paste)
- lemon grass
- dried shrimp
- coriander powder
- chilli powder
- vegetable oil
- coconut milk
- long beans
- To prepare the spice blend, in a mortar and pestle, or if you’re awesome and own a food processor, smash the aforementioned ingredients in, tasting as you go along until you get the taste spot on. You should be aiming for a concentrated mixture of the finished product. Make sure you have enough for the entire pot of stew you’re planning to make. As a gauge, it should be enough to coat the vegetables comfortably.
- In a pot with the vegetables and tofu, pour enough water to just submerge the veggies. Bring to a boil.
- Add the curry paste and mix.
- Let it boil away for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft, before turning the heat down to a simmer.
- Put the lid half on and let it simmer for 45 minutes. This will cause the curry to reduce a little, intensifying the flavours.
- Add coconut milk, and water if needed. Bring to the boil again before turning heat off.
- Adjust seasoning with salt accordingly.
- Serve with hot steamed rice or Fried Rice Noodles.
Another one to add to the vegetarian recipe list, this is a great dish to whizz up if you wanna have both pasta and that salty Asian flavour.
- Usual drill, set your fusilli boiling away in a pot.
- In a hot skillet with a tablespoon of vegetable oil, toss in minced garlic and fry till fragrant.
- Add torn mushrooms and cubed hard-skin tofu, frying till golden.
- Tear in a handful of gem lettuce for the texture of sweet crunch. Turn of the heat.
- Drain pasta, and together with a small bit of pasta-cooking water, add to the skillet.
- Add a teaspoon of oyster sauce and mix up well.
- Season accordingly with soy sauce and white pepper powder.
- Plate up and garnish with finish sliced fresh chilli, and a small crack of black pepper.
Back home, I remember having this on only two different kinds of occasions. One, during morning breakfasts at the local hawker centre before heading to the grocers’ market, and two, while having a BBQ, as a carbohydrate accompaniment for the lead-acting chicken wings.
In any case, last week, I managed to get hold of some dried rice noodles (affectionately known as bee hoon back home), courtesy of my friend and neighbour Joanna. In attempt to recreate the subliminal dining experience of Fried Bee Hoon, I’m clueless about the proportionate and quantities of the ingredients. But I’d like to highlight the important processes around getting the right noodle-texture – not too soft and not too stringy.
- Before getting down to doing anything, put the kettle on. Then, submerge the desired quantity of dried rice noodles with hot hot water, letting them soften until they are soft but still firm. If unsure, make a guess, what you’re aiming for is that the noodles feel about 5-10 minutes away from being cooked (in a pot). This is absolutely crucial.
- While that’s going on, prepare all your ingredients e.g. carrots sticks, sliced onions, minced garlic, slices of ginger, beansprouts, etc.
- Next, stir-fry all the ingredients in a large wok with an appropriate amount of vegetable oil. Garlic, onions and ginger going in first, frying till fragrant, then the rest of the veggies. Once they’re done, turn the heat down low.
- In a small bowl, make a mixture of fish sauce, light soy sauce, white pepper, dark soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. (TIP! I’m not certain of the quantities at all, but as a guideline, fish sauce is VERY salty, and sesame oil can be overpowering in flavour so don’t use too much. Also, dark soy sauce is to give the lovely deep brown colour to the noodles but using too much can be overwhelming as well. A peppery kick is essential so don’t skimp on the white pepper.)
- Dump the drained rice noodles into the wok together with the cooked veggies, and then pour in the sauce mixture.
- With CHOPSTICKS or tongs, toss continuously till the end of the cooking time, gently but surely, from the bottom up.
- For the texture of the noodles, add water in small quantities, bringing to the boil first with a higher heat before steaming the noodles with a low heat. Do this continuously until you get the perfect texture – not too soft and clumpy yet not stringy and wire-like at all.
- For the flavour, taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly until you’ve got what you think is right for you.
- Serve it up with a fried egg sunny side-up, and with sliced red chilli. Or if you’ve thought ahead, pickled green chilli.
Don’t be afraid that of cooking too much at a go, saving it in the fridge overnight and having it the next day makes it more moist, and some say taste better.
Before coming to London, my mother feared for my lack of cooking knowledge, and she mentioned in brief this trick I could do with a rice cooker. It basically just involves dumping everything into a rice cooker, vegetables towards the last five minutes so they maintain their crunch. It’s funny how I’m only doing this after two years away from home.
Some vital seasonings would be:
- slice of ginger
- white pepper
- salt and/or soy sauce
- sesame oil
- dark soy sauce
- pinch of sugar
I guess the best part is that you’re allowed to experiment. Don’t worry, any error should be rectifiable with an addition of salt or soy sauce after.
Asian-fried spaghetti of pork cubes, sugar snaps and egg, with cumin, oregano and chilli.
- The usual drill. Set the pasta away to boil in a pot.
- In a hot skillet and a little oil, fry minced garlic till fragrant.
- Toss in pork cubes and sugar snaps.
- Add in crushed cumin and oregano.
- When pork is almost done, move all to the side of the skillet. Add some oil in the pan and crack in an egg. Beat it erratically and let it cook in chunks.
- Toss in sliced chilli.
- Mix everything together and season well with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.
- The pasta should be done by now. Drain and add to skillet. Stir everything together into a party of lovely colours.