Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stir-fry Gai Choi With Shiitake Mushroom and Salted Fish

There are several bitter and pungent vegetables that I love to eat like bitter gourd, chicon (Belgian Endive), and Gai Choi/Kua Chai is one of them. I can assure you, is like eating mustard instead of seeds, you're eating the fleshy and thick stems and pungent leaves. I also like wasabi... ☺ According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), bitterness is good for cleansing gallbladder, liver, kidneys, etc.

This Chinese Mustard Cabbage appeared mostly in soups, stir-fries and pickled as salted mustard leaves. The size is very large... sometimes you can find as big as human head! One thing weird about this Mustard Cabbage was it has lots of holes which means ... worms, well, most of the time. I remembered my mom used to remind me to look for wriggles even after the vegetable washed. I don't know why but that's how most Asian people recognised this vegetable. Yep, no joke about it! I'm lucky the piece I bought as pictured here is clear of worms but still with holes here and there on the leaves! That's why is best to soak the leaves longer in water to get rid of this pest and also dirt. Usually, I will soak the leaves in warm water with vinegar for few minutes, rinsed and drained in a colander.

To cook this vegetable is quite easy... For soup, I used a whole head. I easily could finished that amount in one sitting but I tried to constraint myself from doing so ☺. For stir-fries, I usually use about 4 large outter leaves for 2 persons because the leaves emerged smaller as you peel towards the heart of the cabbage. So, you need to adjust the quantity accordingly.

Stir-Fry Gai Choi With Shiitake Mushrooms and Salted Fish
Serves 2-3

2-4 leaves Gai Choi (Chinese Mustard Greens)
4 pcs Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, soaked until soften & drained
10 g - 20 g Salted Fish (any type will do) (optional)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 pc Carrot-julienned
Some Water or Chicken stock, about 1/2 - 1 cup (optional)
Oil for cooking
Salt to taste (optional)

1. Wash the Gai Choi leaves (Chinese Mustard Greens) thoroughly from grits and drained. Cut or tear into bite size pieces. Set aside.
2. Cut the softened Dried Shiitake Mushrooms into strips.
3. Rinse the Salted Fish from excess saltiness. Pat dry with kitchen papers. Sliced into small pieces of 5 cm,
4. Heat a wok/pan with some cooking oil. When pan is really hot, add in the minced garlic. Stir until fragrant.
5. Add in the Salted Fish and fry until it's golden brown and crispy.
6. Then the sliced mushrooms strips and julienned carrot. Stir for a moment.
7. Add in the Gai Choi, stir quickly and add in the Chicken Stock or Water. Let it simmer until the vegetable soften to your liking. * When I'm using salted fish or Chicken stock, I don't add any more salt. Adjust the taste accordingly.
8. Dish out and serve with rice.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Easy Crispy Garlic Coriander Rice

I missed eating Garlic Rice for unknown reason but with sore throat, my family advised me not to take too much fried food. I'm getting better now... thank you for all your get well wishes! I hope I won't get this problem for awhile since more festive seasons coming soon. I don't want to be left out... ;-) So, I thought why not using my pre-fried garlic crisps and add into boiled rice instead of frying the rice. I always fried some extra garlic or onion crisps and keep that for later use. The addition of coriander gives extra fragrant to this rice dish. Since, it's just add-on dish, I even mixed 2 extra types of herbs - Basil and Tumeric leaves :-) For the Tumeric version, I julienned fresh tumeric root and chiffonade the leaves. Just before serving, I add in the herbs and stir the rice well. Then I served the rice with Stir-fry Gai Choi with Shiitake Mushrooms and Salted Fish (as in the pic).

Easy Crispy Garlic Coriander Rice
Serves 2

1 cup Rice, washed & drained
2 tbl Olive Oil
1-2 tbl Minced Garlic
2-3 tbl chopped fresh Coriander Leaves


1. Cook the rice according to manufacturer's instructions. Keep warm.
2. Heat olive oil in another pan in medium heat. When hot, add garlic and stir fry until fragrant and golden brown - about 1 minute.
3. Remove pan from heat and stir in chopped coriander leaves.
4. Pour the garlic -coriander mixture into the freshly cooked white rice. Stir to mix well.
5. Serve garlic-coriander rice on it's own or as accompaniment to meat and other fish dishes.

If you want even faster, you can pre-fry the certain amount garlic crips in advance and bottled with the oil as well. When you need it, just add into rice or any dishes that you want. Besides Coriander, you can also use other herbs like Basil or Italian Parsley.

In this recipe, I used Basmathi rice. You can use Jasmine rice.


Tomato Chicken Stew

After a week of bad coughing, sneezes and lack of sleep, I really need something to perk me up. Something spicy and sourish yet doesn't hurt my sore throat (big grin), to get back to my usual self... I had to cook the deboned chicken breasts & drumsticks I bought before expired. My brain still shrouded with sleepy lambs as I typed this entry and I still need to finish the antibiotics... urghhh! Please excuse me if there's typo error... :-D Outside, it's raining heavily and windy since yesterday morning. I don't mind though... it helps to cool down the hot weather several days ago. After this, I'm going to make a cup of hot cocoa... hmmm... maybe a jug?

Tomato Chicken Stew
Serves 2-3

500 g Chicken, chopped into 5 cm pieces (or drumsticks/breast meats)
Pinch of Salt & Tumeric powder

1/2 cup Oil (for shallow frying)
2 nos Onions, sliced
1 small can Tomato Purée
2 nos Tomatoes, quartered
1 tbl Sugar or to taste
1 tbl Salt or to taste
Some Water

Spices (ground/blend finely):
6 nos Shallots
3 cloves Garlic
6-10 Red Chillies, seeded
1 pc Lemongrass (use the plump white portion only)
2 cm knob of Ginger, skinned

1. Rub chicken with a pinch salt & tumeric powder. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a deep pan/wok over medium fire/heat. When hot, fry the chicken in batches for 5 minutes. Remove chicken, drain on kitchen papers and set aside.
3. In the remaining oil, stir-fry the ground spices until fragrant and oil separates - about 3 mins.
4. Add sliced onions and stir-fry until they start to soften - about 1 minute. Stir in tomato purée and bring to a boil.
5. Add chicken and mix well. Pour some water to cover the chicken by 3/4 (about 2 cups). Bring to a boil.
6. Reduce fire/heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add quartered tomatoes and continue to cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender and gravy is thick. Season to taste with salt and sugar. Garnish with chopped spring onions or coriander.

Notes: This is a Malay style stew. As with stews, it tastes better the day after. Prepare it a day ahead and warm up to serve. You can serve with rice, fried rice or even on pastas.
If you like really hot, you can replace the chillies with Dried Red Chillies but soak it first, remove the seeds and then ground/blend together with other spices.

Hope you like it... :-)

Tomato Chicken Stew

This is a mildly spiced Malay style stew. As with ...

See Tomato Chicken Stew on Key Ingredient.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My First Award!!!

Oh my goshhh! I felt like an Academy winner or something :-D I couldn't believe it, really! Thank you so much to Ivy of Kopiaste To Greek Hospitality, a brilliant lady with scrumptious recipes and adventures, all the way from the country of my favourite composer Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, Mario Frangoulis, delicious food, frappé, kafe Elliniko and who will feed you until have to crawl home :-D Your award really made my day after almost 1 week my family were sick with sore throat, sneezes, aches, you name it. I even lost my taste in food after all the antibiotics, pills...argghhh. When I'm finally back in front of my laptop, I had to pinch myself when I read the message from Ivy. Your award made my blurgh ... arghhh ... medicine no longer tasted that bad now :-D I'm going to complete the antibiotic course too (big innocent grin). Now, about this award...

This Brilliant Weblog Award is given to sites and blogs that are smart and brilliant both in their content and their designs. The purpose of this award is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.

The rules of this award are:

1. When you receive the award, post about it on your blog.
2. Name the blogger who gave you the award.
3. award the diamonds to seven (7) other bloggers.
4. Link to them in your post and ...
5. Let them know that you are passing this fabulous award onto them.

To spread this brilliant honor, I am awarding the Brilliant Weblog Award to the following bloggers in random order for their contributions and knowledge, not only for their love of food, cooking, creating/styling but also their quests to share the best places to enjoy the cuisines they loved. In addition to that, their links with the food also promotes the culture and heritage of their countries which is brilliant as well:

Tamami of Coco and Me
Nilmandra of Soy and Pepper

Such power of Internet that brought all of foodies around the world to unite as one for the love of food? :-D Until today, I'm still amazed each time I sit in front of my computer as if our world is inside my 2.75 cm x 32.5 cm x 22.7 cm ... c'est incroyable!

Thank you again to Ivy for the award. You really made my day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stir-fried Chayote Leaves With Prawns in Prawn Stock

First time I saw this plant years ago, I don't even know what's the name. There's no indication on the price label either. I only knew it's definitely edible and it's organic because it came from a reputable organic food supplier! Price? Real cheap... a bunch serves 2-4 persons. One day, I saw a staff of the organic farm arranging the shelves. I 'pounced' on her... well, not really but I did interrupted her work and asked her what's the name of the vegetable I'm holding in my hand. She asked me to wait so she could check with the staff of the supermarket. Huh? Gasped! "Excuse me??? Aren't you supposed to be a staff of the organic farm?" I asked. " Yes... but my job is only to arrange the produce on the shelves when the items reached the supermarkets. I don't know what's the name of this vegetable but the supermarket staff said it's from a pumpkin of some sort..." she replied.

Blunder!!! Sometimes, I don't know why there's no proper labeling of produce at supermarkets. Instead of printing the labels as 'Japanese Vegetables' or 'Vegetables 007', why not their correct name? I'm sure there are item descriptions in the invoices... Anyway, with a hunch I asked again, "Is this vegetable called Dragon's Beard ?" With her confused look, " I think so." Alright, to avoid more confusions, I thanked her and grabbed 2 packs of my 'vegetable 007'. I pitied her, really. How could a company being so ignorant of informing their staff their products? Furthermore, this vegetable is not 'Japanese Vegetables' but originates from South America! At least get the name right.

Close up of Chayote Leaves: Tight tendrils and spear-like leaves.

All that aside... this vegetable I'm so obsessed about is none other than edible leaves of Chayote (Cha-yo-tay). Chayote is known as Buddha's Hand Gourd' and the leaves are called 'Dragon's Beard or Whiskers' by Mandarin speakers. It sounds so fancy, exotic but with all the tendrils and spear-like leaves (after comparing pictures of Dragons of all sorts) it doesn't look any resemblance to any parts of dragon whewww!!! I like the look of the Chayote fruit though. Sometimes, it looks like boxing glove, a punched mouth of a puppet or a mouth without a denture...LOL! There are many ways of cooking the Chayote and its leaves.

Normally, I would stir-fry the fruit/gourd with dried shrimps, eggs and transparent noodles (cellophane noodles/ glass noodles/ mung bean threads)... just like hairy gourd (Fuzzy gourd/Mo Kwa). It's delicious in soups and desserts as well. As for the leaves, I preferred to stir-fry it with pounded chilli paste or sambal belacan with dried shrimps or fresh prawns. Sometimes, I would add fresh coconut milk to the chilli mix like Masak Lemak... :-D But today, I have to skip that idea because my guest is enemy to chillies! So, I just stir-fry the leaves with garlic, fresh prawns and some prawn stock which I made from prawn heads and shells I reserved from previous recipe.

Stir-fry Chayote Leaves with Prawns in Prawn Stock

2 packs of Chayote Leaves (about 300 g)
3 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 pc Carrot- slice thinly
100 g Fresh Prawns - peeled and deveined
300 ml Prawn Stock (you can substitute with chicken stock)
Shaoxing Cooking Wine
Some Kuzu starch/ Cornstarch mixed with a some water
Cooking oil


1. Wash and trim Chayote Leaves an discard hard stems. Trim the tendrils shorter if it's too long. We don't want to get choke here...:-D.
2. In a hot wok/pan, heat some oil and fry the garlic until fragrant.
3. Add in the prawns. Stir a bit until they turn slightly pink and cook evenly.
4. Add in the Chayote leaves.
5. Pour in the stock and stir evenly.
6. Cook until the vegetables are tender to your liking.
7. Add few dash of Shaoxing Wine.
8. Just before serving, pour in the starch mixture. Give a good stir until the gravy/sauce thickens to your preferred consistency.
9. Dish out and serve hot with rice. You may sprinkle some shallot crisps if you like.

Note: You can omit the starch mixture if you don't like thick gravy. It tastes just as great in plain. I preferred to use kuzu as thickener than cornstarch because when the dish is cold, the gravy doesn't turned watery. Also, it has no perceptible taste compared to Cornstarch.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Last Of The Mooncakes...

I'd been busy these weeks... eating and delivering mooncakes to my family! Actually, shhhhh... most of time eating them! Burphhh! I just couldn't help it... hehehhehe... anyway, it's a once a year event that I always looked forward to. I know it's a very lame excuse but it works all the time Hah! Ok, I managed to took some photos before the last batch of mooncakes before they end up in my bottomless pit. This mooncakes are another interesting version because the outer layer is made from agar-agar with fillings of chocolate, durian (yep, that heavenly, spiky fruit that caused Andrew Zimmerman cringed!), coconut, dragon fruit (pithaya), etc, etc, etc.

This range has Sweet Corn, Pandan, Chocolate Mocha, Coconut, Durian, etc. The shape is oval with some chinese characters of 'Flower', 'Moon' and I couldn't remember the 3rd character :-P. The size is about W 4 cm x L 5.5 cm x 3.5 cm H... the weight? Goes in with just one gulp!

Here's how the Chocolate paste filling for the Mocha looked inside. Not as nice as the Traditional Mooncake with Salted Duck Egg yolk inside. The manufacturer firstly creates the base, add the filling and then fills up the mould with Agar-Agar - so the end result is like the pict! With this Agar-Agar mooncakes you need to consume them within 4 days, if not the product would turned stale or mouldy. So, it needs to be kept in refrigerator all time.

This is my new addition of mooncake containers. The outer cover is made of wood but the drawers were of thick boards. To stop the little drawers from falling out, a pair of longer than your usual chopsticks act as stopper. Cool eh? Overall, I like the unique Japanese concept for this year. I wanted to buy another set but it was no more available as the festival was coming to an end... :-( I wanted an extra because I'm thinking of converting the container into tea set keeper. Well, looks like I have to wait for next year then :-D

These are the drawers with the mooncakes inside. Since it's a limited edition, I can't choose mooncakes of my choice. Some edition comes with a container of chinese tea leaves - if not mistaken is oolong tea.

Well, until next year with another batch of new mooncakes. Now, I want to eat them before it's gone from the plate! I wonder if other foodie bloggers from other countries has such festival to honor the Moon? I would really love to know about it!


Monday, September 8, 2008

Cakes From The Moon!!!

Yes! It's that time of the month again each year according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the 8th Moon and 15 days of the Mooncake Festival! For 2008, this special date falls on 14, September, 2008 around Autumn Equinox or Mid-Autumn festival. This is the only time of the year I can taste lots of mooncakes that no longer made in rounds but in squares and other beautiful shapes with assorted flavours too. Besides the traditional flavours there are also Toffee, Black Sesame, Coconut, Mango, Dragon Fruit (Pithaya), Black Forest. Raspberry, Cheese, Lavender to Tiramisu! Goshhh, and the beautiful boxes that you have to put in those mooncakes as gifts to friends and families. For me, I like to collect the boxes or containers of this mooncakes as well. What I did with the tins and boxes? I kept my precious tea leaves like Pu Erh, Oolong, Gyokuro, Sencha and my teacups. Here's a little samples of the 2008 Mooncake collection available in my country and you can find more information about this festival celebrated by Asian Chinese wherever they are. These are baked mooncakes. I hope to post other types of mooncakes which made from Agar-Agar and Mochi, etc with mango, chocolate, litchee, yogurt fillings!

The boxes that came with the mooncakes.

This is Osmanthus Mooncake. Next to it is one of my Yixing Zhu Ni teapots, it's a special commemorative piece (I forgot what's the translation of the carvings of Calligraphy on its surface.) The size is for 2 people and as big as my clenched fist... I love having Green Tea and Oolongs in Red Clay teapots.

Side view of the mooncakes with ridges... behind the mooncake are 2 of my antique handmade and handpainted tea cups collection.

Inside of the Osmanthus Mooncake with single egg yolk (Salted Duck Egg), peeled melon seeds and osmanthus flowers mixed with Lotus Seed paste. The little streaks/dots are the flowers.

This one is Chestnut With Jingsa...

The brownish part is Chestnut puree/paste with melon seeds. The centre is mashed egg yolk from Salted Duck Egg. This mashed method is called 'Jingsa'.

There are many choices of mooncakes available until I got confused! You can read the following links here and here - you will see what I meant :-D Oh, also the colorful lanterns made of papers or plastic. I also like the Mooncake Moulds used. The intricate patterns of the moulds were carved out from a block of wood that made each mould an art itself! I'm going to get some and frame it up! Antique Mooncake Mould are expensive due to it's handmade process. Nowadays, I'm not sure if it's hand carved or machine carved but there are many choice of moulds available. You can even find plastic moulds, great for Mooncake Jellies and comes in shapes of Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse and Winnie The Pooh! Surprisingly, Malaysia has been noted as largest variety of mooncakes supplier. For this year, this company is my favourite!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tuna Steaks on Soba Noodles

Few days ago, I bought a piece of Tuna steak Sashimi grade quality. Lean and not sinewy at all which is fantastic. It's been quite awhile I didn't cook tuna but I ate a lot when I'm at Japanese Restaurants or any of those Kaiten style or fast sushi franchisees. Back home in my country, I used to frequent one called Sushi King but since few years ago they no longer serve Tuna dishes on their Kaiten and also their menu. I assumed it's the price of tuna that Sushi King discontinued it from their menus (?) So, now I'm a regular customer at Sakae Sushi. Tuna, unlike Salmon can't be farm bred... well, almost. They need to move about constantly even with their massive weight in the sea to have that lean and myoglobin enriched tissue muscles which were highly sought after. Most of this Tuna available in Europe supermarkets came from Indonesia. Sometimes, if lucky you can get air-flown tuna which is more expensive than frozen ones. This applied to air-flown Salmons as well. For Salmons, my preference is from Norway... of course, best if you can get genuine wild salmons! Now, we have major problems of overfishing tunas as well as other species of marine life... :-( It's not a joke or prediction. I think those inland lakes suffered the most from human exploitations. I haven't tasted farm-bred tunas even though there are farmers who bred bluefin tunas out there. For sure, the taste would be different and like farm bred salmons there would be health problems. Anyway, let's be prepared to taste farmed tunas which could be around the corner... :-|

In the mean time, here's a dish I cooked using the tuna chunk I bought from the wholesaler who had some left from a buyer because they need only some amount for their restaurant. 

Tuna Steaks On Soba Noodles

300 g Tuna Steak
200 g Soba Noodles (Buckwheat Noodle) 
6 stalks Spring Onions, sliced thinly
1 clove Garlic, crushed or finely chopped
3-4 tbl Fish Sauce
2 tbl Sweet Chilli Sauce
2 tsp Palm Sugar, grated or Soft Brown Sugar
1 tsp Sesame Oil
4 tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 nos Lime- only for juice
20-30 g Coriander, chopped or Flat Parsley

1. To make dressing, place the lime juice, fish sauce, chili sauce, sugar, sesame oil and garlic in a small bowl. Mix well.
2. Heat olive oil in a griddle pan. Add the tuna steak and cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side or to your preferences. Remove and keep warm.
3. Cooked noodles according to manufacturer's instructions or boil it until softens. Drain well. In another bowl, add half of the dressing. half of spring onion  and coriander to the noodles and gently toss together.
4. Cut the tuna steaks into even cubes, slice it or roughly shred the steaks using  a fork like I did.
5. Place noodles in serving plates and top with tuna. Mix the remaining dressing with balance of spring onion and coriander. Drizzle over tuna and noodles. Garnish with lime wedges.

Note: If you prefer, you can serve the tuna steaks whole with noodles of your choice on the side. Besides using soba noodles, you can try other noodles as well like thin wheat noodles, egg noodles or pastas...


Monday, September 1, 2008

Orange-Cured Salmon With Szechuan Pepper

I had this thing about salmon... I only eat raw, smoked or cured salmon but not the cooked salmon. I don't know why... LOL. I think it must be the smell of cooked salmon that seemed unpleasant to my taste. This recipe is frequently demanded by my family when we hosted dinner or lunch with friends. I like to made this when I'm invited to dine with friends. It's always a welcome and never failed to ask for recipe. I love is the Szechuan pepper gave a a subtle tangy/lemony overtones with pleasant tingling sensation in your mouth. The oranges give a sweet and sourish taste which masked the smell of salmon as well... LOL. I wonder if this recipe will work for Hákarl... errrr I don't think so... LOL :-|

Orange-Cured Salmon with Szechuan Pepper

2 nos Fresh Salmon fillets with skin on (cleaned & pinbones removed)
2 tbl Coarse Sea Salt
2 tbl Ground Szechuan pepper
3 tbl Granulated Sugar
2 nos Oranges - sliced thinly into rounds
Cling Wrap

1. On a clean flat surface - table or kitchen top, unroll a piece of cling wrap, bigger than the fillets. After cleaning & removing pinbones from the salmon fillets, lay a fillet with its skin side down on the cling film/wrap.

2. Mix the dried ingredients in a bowl. Rub the mixture on the fillet, gently rub it in (like massage :-P ) on the surface and the sides. Do the same for the other half of fillet.

3. Arrange the orange rounds nicely on the half fillet on the table. Now, carefully, put the other half of fillet with flesh side on top of it. If you have any left over sliced oranges, arrange on top of the fillets...

3. Now, the tricky part... wrap the cling film over the 2 fillets tightly (but not too tight until the salmon flesh squished). Make sure the ends are wrap or twisted firmly to avoid any side leakage later on. Put the fillets on a tray (large enough to fit the whole fillets) and another tray on top of it. Press it down with a heavy object. Put it in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight before serving (I preferred the later.)

Note: You can use a wrapped brick as weight or tie up the 2 trays with strings so that the fillets are pressed snugly in between the 2 trays. If you can't find Szechuan pepper, you can use Sansho (sold in little green labelled bottles @ japanese corner or shops) or replace it with grounded black pepper is just as delicious.

4. After the curing is completed, you will see the salmon's flesh shrunk and changed to darker color and the package filled with orange juice. Remove from the fridge (don't forget removing the brick if using one :-D

Remove the Cling Wrap slowly... On a clean cutting board, sliced the cured salmon fillets thinly or the thickness of your choice. I prefer to cut diagonally like cutting sashimi. Arrange nicely on a serving platter, sprinkle with some herbs like dill, chilli flakes, spring onions or minced flat-parsley. Serve as appetiser along with some sliced toasted bread or baguette and lime/lemon wedges. You can serve individual portions with some oranges as decorations as I did... drizzle some mixture of balsamic vinegar-olive oil at the side.

One more thing... If you are using only one fillet, split the curing spices into 2 portions. Keep the other half for later use. Sometimes, when I'm lazy I used sushi grade salmon fillet without skin (actually I preferred this way - no wastage.) For this, I will use only 1 orange and arranged sliced oranges around the fillet because it's a small chunk and cured the same way in the fridge. The same if you use 2 small salmon fillets. Just adjust the curing spices accordingly and stack the pieces together.



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