Finding my roots

I rarely cook Chinese dishes even though I live in a home where we have Chinese food everyday. My dad has tried teaching me, but I always fail in getting the flavour right. He remarked that it’s because I suppressed my “inner-cook skill*” due to my dependance on measured ingredients. I think it’s mainly because we have different taste buds :P

(*My dad always assumes that all Hainanese have innate cooking skills)

I will be moving into my new home in a few months time with my soon-to-be husband. My future husband is a typical Chinese who favours Chinese food over everything else and can’t live without chili. I can never understand his preference considering we have a lot of good non-ChineseAsian restaurants all over the Klang Valley but this guy will pick a bowl of fish head meehoon over a plate of spaghetti anytime.

So I figured that I need to learn some Chinese dishes, pronto. The first person I asked for help was of course, my dad.

For the basics, he taught me his own Hainanese Fried Meehoon recipe which was really easy to cook. His secret ingredients: oyster sauce and brown sugar.

He stood next to me giving me directions on what to pour into the wok but never gave me measurements – “just agak-agak (estimate) the sauces, then you need to taste it with a spoon. If it’s a little salty, has a light sweetness with a hint of peppery taste, you are on the right track.”

So after 10 minutes, here’s my Hainanese Fried Meehoon:

I sent the above picture to my fiancĂ© and he asked me, “Singapore Fried Meehoon?”

(-___- “)

Looking forward to recreate familiar dishes at home with my parents before I move out. Otherwise, there’s always Google ;)

Mid-Autumn Festival

The mid-autumn festival in KL isn’t a grand celebration like in China but we do love our mooncakes (and lanterns!) and exchange them as gifts during this festival.

I love red bean paste mooncakes more than anyone in my family while they prefer lotus paste mooncakes with salted egg yolks — so it works out fine for all of us! However, no one in the family were keen in buying mooncakes this year so I took the effort to google recipes in order to bake my own batch of traditional mooncakes.

My first batch was from Christine’s recipe but they turned out hard, cracked and burnt. I may have baked them for too long in the oven.

I didn’t give up hope so I made further research & decided to test on this recipe. The verdict?

Yummy browned mooncakes!

I did not alter the recipe so you can refer to hers for instructions. I made lotus paste & red bean paste (both pre-packaged) mooncakes with melon seeds.

I do have a few tips which I gathered from other blogs that helped me in baking mooncakes:

1. Preferably, let the dough rest, wrapped in cling wrap, in room temperature, for at least a day before making them.
I have tested using it after 3 hours but the skin was tough. I had to wait 3 days after baking for the skin to soften. I made another batch after 1 day, and the skin was softer and tastier but had to wait for the next 2 days after baking for the right texture to set in. I also made a third batch on the third day of ‘resting’ and the skin softened a day after baking.

2. Spray water onto mooncakes before placing them into the oven to prevent cracks.
This extra step worked well for me. If you noticed in the picture, I do have rough-textured mooncakes that look like cracks but it’s actually my method of covering the paste with the dough. That brings to my third tip.

3. Once the paste is covered with dough, smoothen out any breaks that formed on the skin.
I’m not patient when it comes to smoothening the dough, but if you want nice looking skin, go for this step! I also recommend placing the smoothly formed texture onto the mould’s imprint and the folding (where the outer edges of the dough meet) as the base of the mooncake. I’ve tried vice versa & found too many imperfections on the imprints.

4. Watch carefully over your mooncakes as they bake in the oven.
Depending on your oven, the skin might bake faster than the suggested time. My first baking period was 10 minutes, and after which I let them cool down for another 10 minutes before brushing with egg wash. I baked them for another 8 minutes to obtain the glossy texture. Both baking periods were done in 200 degrees C. Just watch them very closely and you won’t get burnt mooncakes.

There are many precautions to take but mooncakes are really not difficult to make.

If you’re planning to make a batch, have fun!

The magnificence of a rice cooker

I heart my rice cooker. It was a gem when I was a student because I could cook almost anything in it – santan rice, nasi briyani and red bean soup! To you university students who will be/are living off-campus, bring a rice cooker along with you!

It’s still a gem now, of course, but I rarely use it to cook other foods except rice. The only time I cooked in my family’s rice cooker was pumpkin rice with chicken. It was a really good recipe but I lost it :(

While in the office today, I thought about my rice cooker days and decided that I should cook tomorrow’s lunch with it. I didn’t think much of the ingredients so I grabbed whatever I could from the kitchen to cook something simple.

I didn’t measure anything as I estimated the ingredients based on my own experience, but briefly:

1) Cut 1 chicken breast into cubes.

2) Pour light soya sauce (more) & dark soya sauce (less) onto chicken cubes. Add in white pepper and mix thoroughly until chicken cubes are fully covered in the sauce. Let the chicken marinade for at least 20 minutes. While you wait, wash the rice and proceed to chop some garlic (I used 2 cloves).

3) Once 20 minutes are up, heat up oil in wok and fry the garlic until aromatic. Put in the marinated chicken cubes and cook together with the garlic until it is almost done, then add in about 1/2 cup of water. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes. If the chicken is not cooked yet, don’t worry, we will be cooking them again in the rice cooker.

4) Place the chicken (together with the sauce) into the rice cooker with the washed rice. You don’t need to put much water into the rice cooker so do a rough estimation yourself based on what’s required. Stir the uncooked rice and chicken together and let the rice cooker do the rest of the job! :)

The smell is heavenly when the rice is about to be ready and the taste is not bad too! However in future, I would add a pinch of salt, spring onions and mushrooms.

If you have a rice cooker recipe to share, let me know!