Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pasta puttanesca recipe

This delectable Italian pasta dish is so easy to make yet it is bursting with flavours from anchovies, tomatoes, capers, olives, herbs combined with the sweetness of onions and a bit of heat from some chilli peppers. It can be done within less than 30 minutes which is perfect if you need to whip up something substantial for dinner. It's comfort food in my opinion, the kind where you want to sneak away in a corner and devour the entire bowl of pasta by yourself cozing up to a good novel. I'll definitely be making this again as either a main meal or a side dish and I think it should complement a roast perfectly.

1lb pasta, cooked to al dente (with a bite) ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (plus 1tbsp butter, optional) 1 medium onion (~ ¾ cup), peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, crushed/diced
1 28-ounce/800g can diced (or crushed) tomatoes or 2 pounds fresh Roma tomatoes
½-1 cup parsley, chopped, plus ½ cup extra for garnishing
20 olives/¾ - 1 cup roughly chopped olives, sliced or roughly chopped
1 2-ounce can anchovies,drained and chopped
100g baby capers/1 3- to 4-ounce jar capers /, washed and dried
2 tablespoon basil, chopped (optional)
½-1 tsp red pepper flakes/chilli powder freshly ground black pepper to taste salt (optional) to taste- I added about 3/4 tsp, didn't need much seasoning as the rest of the ingredients were already salty
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional) reserve about 3 tablespoons for pasta water

Put 3 – 4 quart wide-bottom saucepan or Dutch oven on stove top, turn heat to medium. When pan is hot, add oil and butter, then add onion and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Turn heat to medium low and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft (6 – 8 minutes).

When onion is soft, add anchovies to onion mixture. Sauté for 30 seconds or so; the anchovies will begin to dissolve.

Add red pepper, olives, ?basil, parsley, capers, oregano, and tomato. (I usually add about ¼ - ½ can of water to make the sauce a bit more liquid, but you can skip this and add pasta water at the end). Bring sauce to boil, then turn down to a simmer for 8-10 mins.

When you judge that the pasta is within a minute of being done (for me this is usually at the 8-minute mark), drain pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water. Return pasta to pot and place over low heat.

Taste sauce for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Add sauce to pasta and stir to combine or transfer into the pan with the puttanesca sauce for a minute or two, stirring so it absorbs some of the liquid in the pan. If sauce is too thick, dilute with some of the pasta cooking water. Toss with the chopped basil.

Serve pasta. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese if you wish and chopped parsley leaves.

Note: You can make the sauce before the pasta finishes cooking.

Char siew recipe

This is all time deliciously sinful bbq meat that every Asian household craves from time to time. It's lovely eaten with steamed white rice or wonton mee or even or it's own. I've done this recipe numerous times (thanks to Rasa Malaysia) and it has worked perfectly each time. However, I think this attempt might have been the best so far as the pork came out juicy and succulent and very moreish especially with the crispy caramelized bits. The pork that I used had just the right amount of fats and lean meat so every mouthful tasted like pure heaven. If you don't have a barbecue grill like me, you can broil it in the oven in the last 10-15 minutes to achieve the similar smoky charred effect. This marinade recipe is also good with pork ribs and chicken, I've even omitted shaoxing wine for halal guests and it still turned out rather well. It's a wonderful recipe that has been a favourite in my family so far; one that I will continue making in years to come.


1 lb pork butt (cut into 4 pieces)
3 clove garlic (finely chopped)
1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil

Char Siu (Char Siew) Sauce:

1 1/2 tablespoons maltose
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rose wine (玫瑰露酒)
3 dashes white pepper powder
3 drops red coloring (optional)
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil


Add all ingredients in the char siu sauce in a sauce pan, heat it up and stir-well until all blended and become slightly thickened and sticky. (It will yield 1/2 cup char siu sauce.) Transfer out and let cool.

Marinate the pork butt pieces with 2/3 of the char siu sauce and the chopped garlic overnight. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil into the remaining char siu sauce. Keep in the fridge.

The next day, heat the oven to 375 degree F and roast the char siu for 15 minutes (shake off the excess char siu sauce before roasting). Transfer them out of the oven and thread the char siu pieces on metal skewers and grill them over fire or broil it in the oven. Brush the remaining char siu sauce while grilling until the char siu are perfectly charred. Slice the char siu into bite-size pieces, drizzle the remaining char siu sauce over and serve immediately with steamed white rice.

Cook’s Notes:

You don’t have to roast the pork in the oven if you use an outdoor grill. As I used the stove top to char the char siu, I roasted the char siu in the oven so they were cooked. It’s impossible to cook the char siu by using the stove top alone. You can roast the char siu thoroughly for 25-30 minutes in the oven. It’s best to use the S-shape hook and hang your char siu at the top layer of the oven, with a roasting pan or aluminum foil sheet at the bottom for the drips.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hakka yong tau foo recipe

500g fish paste
250-300g minced pork
1 head of garlic, cloves separated
6 spring onions, white part only chopped

Marinade for fish paste:
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp garlic oil
2tbsp cornflour
2 tsp baking powder in 1/8 cup water
1/2 tsp pepper

Marinade for mince pork:
1/4 cup (62.5ml) icy cold water
1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 tbsp garlic oil
0.625 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp cornflour

Sauce (for 10 pieces):
1-1 1/2 tbsp taucheo
3 cloves garlic, chopped
5cm knob ginger chopped
1 shallot chopped
1 tbsp chopped spring onions, white part only
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp wine
1 tbsp oyster sauce or to taste if too sweet
1 tbsp soy sauce or to taste if too sweet
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
1/2 cup stock
dash of pepper
Corn starch slurry for thickening sauce

For vegetables and tofu preparation:
Slice tofu pok (bean curd) through the center or poke a hole in the center to form a pocket to tuck in the stuffing paste later.

Slice bitter gourd into ½ inch thick slices, remove white core. This leaves an empty ring in the middle to be stuffed with stuffing paste later.

Cut Chinese eggplant [aubergine or brinjal] into 1½ inch slices. Then cut across in the middle with even thickness to form an opening for stuffing later, be careful not to slice all the way through .

Slit ladies fingers and red chilies lengthwise in the middle, remove seeds and veins (for stuffing later), be careful not to slice all the way through.

Chopped spring onions, garnish


1) Pound garlic and spring onions into a paste and set aside.

2) For fish paste, pound it and dip your pestle into the fish sauce and continue pounding until it becomes sticky. Combine the marinade ingredients except baking powder and water and add to fish paste. Stir in one direction until sticky. Microwave a small piece and adjust seasoning.

3) Oil hands and form balls and throw them back into the bowl to remove air until they are nice and firm.

4)Add baking powder to water, mixture will foam and add to fish paste. Set aside.

5)For mince pork, mince the pork in a food processor then pound it until a paste is form. Add 2.5 Tbsp water (a Tbsp of water at a time) to get a smooth paste. Stir in one direction.

6) In a separate cup, mix together the remaining water, fish sauce, salt, sugar, oil, cornflour and baking powder.

7) Remove the pork paste from the food processor and put in a big bowl. Pour the liquid mix to the pork paste and stir well slowly until the liquid is absorbed into the paste (use either your hand or a fork). Oil hands and form balls and throw them back into the bowl to remove air until they are nice and firm.

8)For the taste test...microwave or boil a teaspoon of the paste. Season to taste with more salt or sugar.

9) Combine the minced pork, fish paste, garlic and spring onions and mix them together. Stir in one direction until sticky. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

10)Rub some water or oil onto palm of hands and spoon and stuff the vegetables and tofu pok with paste. Make sure it is neat and clean with butter knife.

11) Heat up some oil in a wok on medium heat and deep fry the yong tau foo pieces until golden brown. Drain on paper towels,

12) For sauce, heat up some oil and saute garlic, shallots, green onion and ginger until fragrant. Add the sauces and stir until aromatic. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to boil. Simmer for 5 mins. Adjust seasoning.

13) Thicken with corn starch slurry. Add in the yong tau pieces. Let it braise for about 15 mins on low heat. Dish out and serve hot garnished with spring onions.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chinese red bean pancake

What it is suppose to look like:

The first time I tried a similar recipe, it didn't turn out well. In fact, it was a major disaster. The red bean fillings burst in the wok and the pancake unfolded. And the batter wasn't crispy at all. I was quite disheartened with the final product of the dish and really envied those fine dining Chinese restaurants which served up scrumptious crispy red bean pancakes during reunion or wedding dinners.

This time, I spotted another recipe which was more promising. I attempted it again but this time, I made my own red bean paste using a pressure cooker which helped save a lot of time. I was really delighted by the taste and texture of the red bean paste. It's not as refined or smooth since I used an immersion blender as compared to the traditional method of passing it through a fine sieve. However, I think the texture is quite favourable as you get to chew on the grainy red bean bits in the paste. I think I could have improved on the batter as I could have made it thinner and thus it would have been more crispy. The outside edges were very crispy but the inside was more of a soft doughy 'ham chin peng' texture. But at least my red bean filling was generous; or maybe I was being a bit too greedy and overstuffing the mixture. It was a much better improvement compared to my first attempt so hopefully I can refine this recipe in the future.


50g plain flour
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp custard powder
130ml water
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 tbsp (approx 120g) red bean paste, divided into 2 equal portions
20 pinenuts, toasted (optional)

Combine all batter ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix with a hand whisk until well blended and is a thin runny consistency. Divide the batter into two equal portions.

Meanwhile, take one portion of the red bean paste and place it between 2 pieces of clingwrap. Then, with a rolling pin, lightly roll it into a flat square piece and put aside. (optional step).

Lightly grease a large flat non-stick pan with a little cooking oil. Pour in one portion of the batter. Turn and tilt the pan to allow the batter to run evenly to the edge to form a thin layer of pancake. Cook over a gentle low heat for 2 minutes or until the pancake is cooked. Do not allow the pancake to brown.

Use a turner/spatula to lift pancake onto a plate. Do the same for the other portion of the batter to make a second pancake.

Spread one portion of red bean paste across the centre of each pancake. Remove one side of the clingwrap and flip the red bean paste onto the centre of the pancake, and peel off the other side of the clingwrap. (optional step).

Scatter pinenuts over the red bean paste, if used. Fold the near end of the pancake over the filling. Tuck in both the sides. Smear a little beaten egg along the edge and fold the remaining flap over to seal the pancakes.

Deep-fry the pancakes in hot oil until golden brown and crispy. Once they puff up, do not move them around to prevent them from bursting. Remove the pancakes with a perforated ladle and drain on several layers of paper towels.

Cut the pancakes into slices and serve hot.

Red bean paste recipe


450g red beans, washed (can be soaked at least 3-5 hours or overnight, cover with water, to shorten cooking time)
3 screwpine (pandan) leaves, shredded and knotted
1 litre water
3 tbsp cooking oil/lard (?75-150ml)
550g castor sugar


Cook red beans and water in a pressure cooker for 35-40 minutes until beans have softened. Remove beans and drain. Process the beans in a blender until smooth.
Heat oil in a wok or deep saucepan and add in the sugar. When the sugar has melted a little, pour in blended bean paste.
Cook on low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved completely. (Melt lard and heat it till hot in a wok, stir-fry 1/4-1/3 of the sugar till melted. Then, add in the bean paste and stir-fry/mixing in the remaining sugar little by little till incorporated. Continue stir-frying till the paste becomes thick and can stand in peaks).
Keep cooking and stirring the paste until it is thick and dark brown and the paste leaves the sides of the pan. Cool and use the red bean paste as required.
Note: Stir constantly as the red bean paste may burn.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Acar awak recipe

Acar awak recipe adapted from Florence Tan

This recipe is absolutely tantalizing and bursting with the aroma of spices. It is a Nyonya pickled vegetable dish that can be eaten with rice or on its own as an appetizer. The dish is very pleasing on the palate and you get a combination of sweet, sour, salty, spicy and the crunch from the roasted peanuts. Furthermore, it can be stored in the refrigerator for about 1 week so any leftovers are not wasted. The only downside is the prep; it involves cutting up the vegetables, making and frying the rempah and blanching/scalding each vegetable separately in a vinegar solution. Nevertheless, the outcome is extremely rewarding so I'll definitely be making this again.


225g cucumber, seeded and cut into 0.3cm wide strips of 3cm length (425-500g) -rub with 1tbsp salt into the cucumber strips and leave aside for 1 hour. Place marinated cucumber strips on a piece of muslin cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Spread the cucumber out on a try and sun for 2-3 hours. This makes it crunchy. (optional)
185g carrot peeled and cut into 0.3cm wide strips and 3cm length
350g cabbage, cut into small pieces/2.5cm squares
250 cauliflower florets
10 long beans cut into 3cm
15 french beans stringed and cut into 3cm
1 red chilli halved lengthways and seeded
1 green chilli halved lengthways and seeded
100g dried shrimp soaked in water and finely chopped
2 1/2 tsp salt
175g sugar (This was way too much, I added about 3/4 and even extra vinegar at the end)
75ml vinegar (I used about 125ml)
275g peanuts, roasted and coarsely pounded
4 tbsp sesame seeds, roasted

Scalding liquid:
600ml water 400ml vinegar 2tbsp salt 2tbsp sugar

Spice paste (finely grounded):
20 dried chillies, soaked in water and drained (I used 23) 20 shallots 3 cloves garlic (1 bulb) 3.5-4cm turmeric 3.5-4cm galangal 2 tsp belacan 3-4 stalks lemongrass 6 candlenuts

1)Bring water, vinegar, salt and sugar for scalding vegetables to a rapid boil. Blanch the vegetables, one type at a time: 1 min for turnip, 45 secs for cucumber (?2-3 secs for cucumber, 8-10 secs for other veg), 3 mins for carrots, 30secs for cabbage, 1 minute for cauliflower, 1 minute for long beans, 1 min for French beans, 15secs for chillies. Squeeze the cucumber and cabbage to get rid of excess water. Drain vegetables at once in a colander and set aside to cool.

2) Heat the cooking oil and sauté the dried shrimp until fragrant. Remove and drain.

3) In the same oil, sauté the spice paste until fragrant. Add the dried shrimp. Season with salt, sugar and 75ml vinegar. Adjust seasoning. Bring to boil and switch off the heat.

4) Add blanched vegetables, half of the peanuts and sesame seeds. Stir well and leave to cool.

5) When thoroughly cool, stir in the remaining peanuts and sesame seeds. Put in airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ayam percik recipe

Nasi lemak and accompaniments:

This well loved Malaysian grilled chicken is first simmered in curry and then grilled in a hot oven. I didn't have a charcoal grill so I used the oven broiler for a similar effect. The chicken was absolutely tender and so flavourful and the gravy was delicious to be mopped up with coconut rice/nasi lemak and other accompaniments such as ikan bilis, hard boiled egg, cucumbers. It's a well balanced meal that can easily feed a family of 4-5. I am definitely going to make this recipe again.

Recipe adapted from Chef Wan's Spicy Grilled Chicken/Ayam Panggang Percik


1 litre / 32 fl oz / 4 cups coconut Cream (Santan Pekat) (I used 650ml)
1 kg / 2 lb 3 oz Chicken, cleaned and halved lengthwise (mine was 1.075kg, I marinated it also with 1/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, few grinds of pepper and 2 tbsp soy sauce)
2 Lemongrass (Serai), bruised
½ tsp Turmeric Leaves, finely sliced
1 Tbsp Cumin Powder
1 Tbsp minced Garlic (I used 1 bulb)
1 Tbsp minced Ginger (I used about 3 tbsp)
1 cup water
2 Tbsp Tamarind Juice (Assam Juice) - mix Tamarind Pulp with hot water, strain (I used about 3 tbsp extra assam jawa)
Salt to taste (about 1 3/4 tsp, also added about 3 tbsp soy sauce)
Sugar to taste ( used about 4tbsp)
(I also added 2 cubes chicken stock)

Spice Paste Ingredients: - to be Finely Grounded

2 Tbsp dried Chili Paste (Sambal Cili Kering) – soften 6 dried Chilies in hot water, drain, and blend (I used 21 dried red chillies)
4 Shallots (Red Onion), peeled (275g shallots to thicken sauce)
3 Garlic cloves, peeled (1 bulb)
2.5 cm / 1 inch Ginger, peeled
6 cm / 2½ inches Galangal (Lengkuas or Blue Ginger), peeled, sliced and bruised
3 Lemongrass (Serai), sliced
10 Candlenuts
1 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
2.5 cm / 1 inch Turmeric, peeled
2 tbsp belacan, toasted (I added this)

Method (I differed slightly from the original recipe):
Marinade Chicken with minced Ginger, minced Garlic, salt, pepper, sugar and soy sauce for 1 hour.

Heat oil on medium heat and fry Spice Paste in a large pot until fragrant, about 15 mins or till oil separates from rempah.

Add in Chicken, Lemongrass, Cumin Powder, Turmeric Leaves, and Tamarind Juice and increase heat to medium, and stir until well coated. Cook chicken, stirring and turning occasionally for about 10 mins.

Add in Coconut milk. Stir through simmer for 30 minutes or until gravy thickens, stir frequently.

Add a little water to prevent sticking, but liquid level in the pot should always be as low as possible.

Remove Chicken from Gravy and charcoal or oven, and grill(broil) it for 10 minutes, basting frequently with Gravy from the pot.

Place Grilled Chicken on a serving plate.

Return pot to the stove and lower the temperature of the remaining Gravy to medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens.

When the Gravy is ready, remove from the heat and spoon over Chicken.

Garnish as desired with Turmeric Leaves and serve immediately.