Sweet & Sour Pork with homemade sauce - AFF Singapore Sep 2014

Wow! It's September! Asian Food Fest (AFF) has come a long way from last October where I had the chance to experience cuisines from many different countries in Asia and broadening my culinary exposure. If it wasn't for AFF, I don't think I would have the courage or motivation to attempt the different dishes some of which I've not even tasted before.

Actually I'm pretty excited about this finale month where the theme country is my home SINGAPORE! Singaporeans adore food, and you know it because when we describe our country to foreigners, we would speak so fondly and animatedly about all our favourite dishes, about our dining culture at hawker centres and coffee shops, about our food hunts to various parts of Singapore during weekends :p

Oh, how shall I begin? There's such a great variety of food based on ethnic groups and dialects and localised dishes and the fact is we don't have one agreed national dish. We have PLENTY :p I guess I shall not be too ambitious and stick to my favourite dishes instead (which I have a lot :p).

And first up, the classic Sweet & Sour Pork!


Sweet & Sour Pork is said to be one of the Singaporean's favourite "zichar" 煮炒 dishes at coffee shops and personally my number one favourite dish since young =D

Part-fatty pork encased in a light starch batter and deep fried to a crisp; vegetables quick stir-fry and toss with the pork and a sweet, tangy sauce typically a blend of vinegar, ketchup, sugar and water. Totally love the texture and taste!



I read from this book "Ask the Foodie" by Chris Tan, that traditionally the sauce of this dish is a blend of fruit juices and puree such as tomato and plum, then during the final cooking stage, vegetables and fruits are added to enhance the natural flavours. While it's definitely easy to just use commercial sauces like ketchup, I decided to try making the sauce using as many natural ingredients as possible.

Actually I had a bag of over-ripened red plums as well as some leftover honey cherry tomatoes sitting in my fridge for a long time. So I decided to put them to good use else most probably they would end up in the bin. From the book, it was mentioned that haw flakes are sometimes added to sweet & sour sauce to enhance the overall taste. First I blended the plums with the cherry tomatoes, then sift to get rid of any skin and seeds and finally cook with haw flakes, grated ginger, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and salt. Viola, sweet and sour sauce. To my surprise, the sauce tastes very pleasant with a fruity nuance, slightly tangy and sweet, very light and best of all, fresh without any added preservatives or chemicals.

This sweet & sour sauce is in fact very versatile, can be used as a dipping sauce or as a base to cook other sweet & sour dishes like sweet & sour fish or chicken. Taste can be adjusted according to personal preference.

Sweet & Sour Sauce

Ingredients
  • 200g red plum, very ripe, de-seeded and cut into small pieces
  • 100g honey cherry tomato, cut into small pieces
  • 50g haw flakes (about 6 tubes), minced
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp grated young ginger
  • Pinch of sea salt
 Steps
  1. Blend the red plum and tomato until smooth. Strain to get rid of skin and seeds.
  2. Place strained mixture into a small pot and cook using low heat.
  3. Add the minced haw flakes, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, ginger and salt.
  4. Cook until sugar and haw flakes are dissolved.
* Flavouring can be adjusted according to personal taste.
* Quantity is about 150-160g.
* Ideally the sauce should be used up immediately as the fruitiness lose flavour easily. It also cannot last long since there isn't preservatives. If necessary, balance can be stored in a sterilized glass jar and kept in fridge, and used within 3 days.


I used pork shoulder which is preferably well-marbled (fat is essential to this dish!). After marinating, coat with tapioca starch, and then deep fried 2 times, the 1st time at a lower temperature to cook the meat and 2nd time high temperature for the crisp texture (photo bottom left).

I've also attempted an air-fried version, where the pork was air-fried at 180 degree celsius for 9-10 mins, then 200 degree celsius for another 5-6 mins (photo bottom right).


The cooking stage - first stir fry the vegetables till onion is slightly translucent, then add the sauce and the pork. Toss quickly such that all the pork pieces are coated with the sauce. I didn't add any corn starch slurry coz the sauce I made is thick enough and I didn't think slurry is necessary. The idea here is to let the pork remain crispy instead of drenching in sauce and as a result turn soggy quickly.

Sweet & Sour Pork
(Serves 2-3)

Ingredients
  • 250g pork shoulder, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tsp chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
  • Dash of white pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 50g tapioca starch
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • Vegetables mix option (1) - 1 red onion, cut into wedges and 1/2 each red, yellow and green capsicum, cut into small pieces, 1 red chilli, cut into slices (optional)
  • Vegetables mix option  (2) - 1 red onion, cut into wedges, 1/2 cucumber, 1 tomato, 1/2 slice pineapple, all cut into cubes, 1 red chilli, cut into slices (optional)
  • 3-4 tbsp sweet & sour sauce
Steps
  1. Marinate the pork pieces, and chill in fridge for at least 30 mins.
  2. Coat marinated pork with beaten egg then tapioca starch. Set aside for 4-5 mins till coating sets.
  3. Heat up oil in pot medium low heat. Deep fry the pork pieces for a few mins, until slightly browned, drain and set aside. Repeat till all pieces are fried.
  4. Turn up heat to high, and deep fry the pork pieces for the 2nd time, till pork pieces turn golden brown. Drain and set aside.
  5. Air-fry option: Fry pork pieces at 180 degree celsius for 9-10 mins, then fry 2nd time at 200 degree celsius for 5-6 mins till golden brown.
  6. In a frying pan, heat up fresh oil on medium heat, add red onion and fry till translucent, add remaining vegetables and quick stir-fry. Add the sauce.
  7. Turn up the heat, add the pork pieces and toss very quickly. Off heat and best serve hot.


This was the version using vegetables mix of tomato, cucumber, onion and pineapple, and chilli.

This version using tri-colour capsicum and and red onion. Vegetables choice is to your preference, I love both versions. Avoid overcrowding with too much vegetables coz the star here is the PORK.


And this was using air-fried pork, which tasted just as good (to me). But hubby felt that the air-fried version was not as fragrant as the deep-fried one and preferred the latter (yep, the more sinful one).

Anyways, I know that from now onwards, I can count on my own homemade sauce for all the sweet and sour dishes I'm going to cook. Give it a try, it's worth the effort =D


I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #11 Sept 2014 : Singapore hosted by Life can be Simple.


Taiwanese Dessert Taro & Sweet Potato Balls 九份芋圆 - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

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Of all the Taiwanese food that we ate in Taipei many years back, hubby enjoyed this dessert 九份芋圆 from Jiufen 九份, a mountain area  in the Ruifang District of New Taipei City, the most. This Taro and Sweet Potato ball dessert is a traditional Taiwanese dessert made popular in Jiufen and hence most people refer it as 九份芋圆.
 
Honestly, I cannot remember how it tastes like, vaguely remember it as chewy and sweet? Since hubby likes it, decided to give it a try since the preparation is pretty straightforward.


Attempted only a very small portion because not sure if the homemade version is to hubby's our liking. So I just bought a piece of the yellow and orange sweet potato each, and a few pieces of baby taro that's in season now.

Basically steam till cooked, add sugar and tapioca starch and knead till the dough is smooth and slightly soft. Thereafter, cook in boiling water and serve with molasses syrup. For more elaborate version, some people serve the taro balls in red bean dessert soup and topped with black pearls and grass jelly.

*Update: According to Alan of Travelling Foodies, sweet potato flour would produce better results. Will be re-making with sweet potato flour soon for taste-test again. 






Taiwanese Dessert Taro & Sweet Potato Balls 九份芋圆
(serves 2-3; references Rumbling Tummy, Table for 2... or more, Meishijie)

Ingredients
  • 50g Taro + 10g sugar + 20g Tapioca Starch + water if necessary
  • 50g Yellow sweet potato + 10g Sugar + 20g Tapioca Starch + water if necessary
  • 50g Orange sweet potato + 10g Sugar 20g Tapioca Starch + water if necessary
  • 1 cup water + 2 tbsp Molasses
  • Grass Jelly (to your preference)
 ** sweet potato flour might produce better results (will be re-making and update again)
Steps
  1. Peel and cut the taro and yellow/orange sweet potato into small cubes, place them in 3 separate bowls. Steam until fork tender.
  2. Work with 1 bowl at a time (I started off with taro), leaving the other 2 bowls in the steamer to keep warm.
  3. Mash the taro with a potato masher and add sugar. Stir till sugar is melted. Then add the tapioca starch, mix till a rough dough forms.
  4. Turn the dough to a non-stick mat and knead the dough till smooth, non-sticky and medium soft, adding water if necessary.
  5. Repeat with the yellow and orange sweet potato.
  6. Roll the dough into thin logs and cut into small cubes using a dough cutter.
  7. Heat a pot of water, once water boils, add the balls and cook until the balls float. Cook for 1 min more, drain and place the balls in a bowl of ice cold water.
  8. Heat 1 cup of water with 2 tbsp of molasses.
  9. To serve hot, add the taro and sweet potato balls, and grass jelly or any other desired ingredients into a bowl, add some hot molasses syrup.
  10. To serve cold, prepare the molasses syrup beforehand and chill. Add the taro, sweet potato balls and grass jelly into a bowl and add the chilled molasses syrup.
  11. The taro and sweet potato balls must be eaten fresh to maintain the chewy texture. If not eating immediately, dust with some tapioca starch and chill/freeze till ready to use. 


The taro and sweet potato balls taste quite soft and chewy when first cooked, I prefer eating it with warm molasses syrup. The taste of taro and sweet potato is in fact quite subtle. Won't say I like it very much. I think I prefer eating glutinous rice ball (Tangyuan) as it's much more chewy than this.

I prepared the dessert in the afternoon and intended to serve hubby after dinner in the evening. Made the mistake of cooking and soaking the balls in the syrup and chilling them beforehand. By the time hubby ate the taro/sweet potato balls, the texture changed and not as chewy and soft as freshly prepared. I left some overnight in the fridge and the next day, the taro/sweet potato balls turned quite hard and not palatable at all. I should have chilled the taro balls in the fridge and cook them fresh just before serving. Guess I have to make it again to pacify the hubby, one of these days :p (Update: will be re-making with sweet potato flour).


I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.

Pepper & spring onion flatbread 胡椒餅 - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

Several years ago when I went to Taipei for holiday, I noticed this very interesting street snack called 胡椒餅 pepper and spring onion flatbread and was very curious about the taste. Unfortunately I was too full and had to give it a miss. Hence, AFF Taiwan offers the best opportunity for me to finally give it a try even though it may not be exactly the same.

The video provided by Joanne on Taiwan Duck is really useful and I was able to make the flatbread quite easily. The dough used is sort of like a master recipe for many Taiwanese street snacks such as spring onion/scallion pancakes, minced beef cake etc. The filling here is essentially spring onion/scallions, minced beef (or pork) and lots of black and white pepper.

I love how the flatbread turned out! It's crunchy on the outside and chewy inside with fragrance of the spring onion/scallions and juiciness from the beef and most important, the filling packs a fiery punch coz of the liberal amount of black and white pepper used. I could imagine the Taiwanese enjoying this flatbread during the cold winter nights. It could certainly warm up the body because I started sweating after eating a piece! Next time if I were to visit Taiwan during winter, I must buy one to try =D

Steps are easy.

Quick fry the minced beef with salt, black and white pepper. Mix with spring onion/scallion and add melted butter and sugar.

Add boiling water to flour, stir well and add more water to form dough. Knead till smooth and shiny. Rest for 15-20 mins and dough is ready to use.


Flatten dough into disc, scoop 1.5-2 tbsp of filling into centre of disc. Fold the disc in circular motion, pitch to make sure the dough is tightly closed up. Flatten the dough slightly. Not too much else the skin might break.

These flatbread could be frozen till ready to use.

Finally pan fry with a bit of oil, till both sides of the flatbread are golden brown.


Pepper and spring onion flatbread 胡椒餅
(makes 10 pieces - about 7cm each; reference Taiwan Duck)

Ingredients
  • 140g spring onion/scallion (I use 4 stalks local spring onion and 1 stalk China scallion)
  • 200g minced beef
  • 1.5 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 10g melted butter (I use unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 75ml boiling water
  • 75ml tepid water (I use 70ml)
  • Vegetable oil
Steps
  1. Heat up a frying pan on medium fire and quick fry the minced beef till beef colour changes. Add black pepper, white pepper and sea salt, stir well with the beef. Dish and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Chop up the spring onions and add to the minced beef. Add melted butter and sugar and mix all the ingredients well. Set aside.
  3. Place plain flour in large mixing bowl, add 75ml boiling water and use a chopsticks to stir the mixture.
  4. Gradually add the tepid water and stir till a dough forms.
  5. Turn the dough onto a non-stick mat and knead the dough till non-sticky, soft and shiny (takes a few minutes, texture feels like ear-lobe). Cover and rest dough for 15-20 mins.
  6. Roll the dough into a log and cut into 10 pieces (total weight of my dough is 389g, each piece of flatbread dough is about 38-39g).
  7. Flatten dough into disc, fill with about 1.5-2 tbsp of minced beef filling, close up the dough, flatten slightly.
  8. In a frying pan, heat up about 1 tsp of vegetable oil and pan fry the flatbread on both sides till golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel.
  9. Best serve hot.


I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.




This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Bake for Happy Kids and My Little Favourite DIY, and hosted by Diana from the Domestic Goddess Wannabe


Fragrant Pork with Garlic Sauce 蒜泥白肉 - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

I'm sure many people are familiar with Din Tai Fung restaurant 鼎泰豐 from Taiwan, famous for its Xiao Long Bao soup dumpling 小笼包. Most of the time people would focus mainly on the Xiao Long Bao, handmade noodles, fried rice etc, but there's one dish listed under "Appetizers" called 蒜泥白肉 (Fragrant Pork with Garlic Sauce) which I quite enjoy probably coz I love pork belly. 蒜泥 is minced garlic sauce and 白肉 is plain pork.

The garlic sauce is the main star here else it would not be called 蒜泥白肉. There are many variations to the preparation of this sauce; so I experimented by putting together quite an extensive list of ingredients and came up with my own sauce. Feel free to omit or add on any ingredients.

As for the meat, instead of just cooking/boiling the pork belly for 30 mins directly, I used a more tedious method of boiling the meat, off heat and then boil again, total of 5 times or till meat is cooked. I learnt from a cooking show that this method of cooking makes the meat more succulent.


At Din Tai Fung, the pork belly is sliced very thinly and wrapped around a cucumber stick and drizzled with the garlic sauce. Since my knife skill isn't up to par, I tried to slice the meat as thin as I could, around 2-3mm. Instead of simply serving with normal cucumber sticks, I sliced the cucumber into wafer-thin strips using a fruit peeler and rolled them up. Same goes for the carrot.


I chilled the meat and cucumber/carrot relish to make the dish more refreshing. The meat was moist and bouncy and oh-so-tasty with the sauce. The rolled-up cucumber/carrots were surprisingly refreshing and crisp, much tastier than if I were to cut them into slices or sticks. I must say the relish is an important enhancement to the whole dish as the meat and sauce itself is quite overwhelming to the palate.

Overall, quite an easy dish to prepare at home, this recipe is a keeper :)


Fragrant Pork with Garlic Sauce 蒜泥白肉

Ingredients
  • 550g pork belly
  • 3 slices young ginger
  • 1 stalk spring onion
  • 1 tbsp cooking wine
  • 2L water (or enough water to cover 2 inches above pork belly)
  • Cucumber and carrot relish (slice thinly using fruit peeler)
Steps
  1. Place pork belly, ginger, spring onion, cooking wine and water in a pot (covered). Bring to boil.
  2. Off heat for 5 mins.
  3. On heat and bring to boil again.
  4. Repeat steps (2) and (3) for 5 times.
  5. The pork belly should be fully cooked. To check, poke a chopstick into the centre of the meat, if juice runs clear, the pork is cooked. Else, repeat steps (2) and (3) one or two more times.
  6. Slice pork into 2mm thin slices and serve with garlic sauce. The dish could be served chilled or room temperature.
  7. Unused pork belly should be soaked in the brine water until ready to use to avoid drying.


Homemade Garlic Sauce 蒜泥醬汁

Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp premium dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soya sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chilli oil
  • 1 tsp Gochugaru Korean red chilli pepper flakes or Sichuan red chilli pepper
  • 1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery root (root part only, finely minced)
  • Parsley for garnish
Steps
  1. Heat up 2 tbsp of chicken stock in a small pan. Remove pan from heat once hot.
  2. Add garlic, ginger, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chilli oil and chilli pepper flakes and mix well till sugar is fully dissolved.
  3. Stir in spring onion and celery root. Garnish with parsley.


I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.


Taiwanese Street Snack Deep Fried Oyster Cake 台灣小吃炸蚵嗲 - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

The Taiwanese Street Snack, Deep Fried Oyster Cake (台灣小吃炸蚵嗲) bears a resemblance to one of our local snack - Fuzhou Hao Bing (福州蚝饼). However, other than the use of oysters as filling and the "UFO" shape, there are some differences between the two.

First, the batter. The Taiwanese version uses all-purpose flour with rice flour or corn starch, whereas the Fuzhou Hao Bing batter uses ground rice with soya bean (couldn't find much info about the exact recipe). And the fillings (besides oysters), the Taiwanese oyster cake uses mainly chinese chives, cabbage and spring onion, whereas the Fuzhou Hao Bing includes minced pork, chinese celery and some peanuts as topping.

I love to eat Fuzhou Hao Bing, there's a stall at Maxwell Market which sells quite decent ones and I would usually grab one piece when I go there. So for Asian Food Fest Taiwan, I thought of attempting the Taiwanese version just to taste the difference.

After searching on the net for recipes, I narrowed to two recipes by Taiwan Duck which has a video demo, and another on Xinshipu. Basic ingredients are pretty much similar except for the proportion. The video demo was really useful because the success of the oyster cake lies in the technique during deep-frying.



It took me eight tries before I could produce a decent oyster cake, almost wanted to give up! The technique seemed easy enough, coat a medium size ladle with some oil, add 2-3 tbsp of batter, add 1 tbsp of vegetables, add 2-3 oysters, cover with 2-3 tbsp of batter, dip the the ladle into very hot oil, once the oyster cake turns slightly brown, dislodge it into the oil and deep fry till golden brown. The thing was, I couldn't manage to dislodge the oyster cake from the ladle. The batter was totally stuck, total mess when I tried to pry the cake open!

Initially I used half recipe from Taiwan Duck, after five tries (used up all the batter), I thought perhaps the batter was too watery/thin. So I switched to the recipe on Xinshipu which has a thicker batter which was easily to manage. After two more tries, I finally managed to dislodge the oyster cake into the oil on the eighth try. Realised that if I coat the ladle with more oil, in fact not just coat but leave about half teaspoon of oil in the ladle before adding the batter and ingredients, the whole oyster cake could be dislodged into the oil much easily. In addition, had to reduce the amount of fillings so that it's much easier to handle.

But the problem with the oyster cake with the thicker batter, the texture was too hard and turned rubbery after a while. Yucks, no good. So I went back to the Taiwan Duck recipe, and with the newly mastered technique, yes, managed to produce six decent pieces of oyster cakes!

The oyster cakes were crispy on the outside and a bit chewy inside, I could taste the ocean with the oysters complemented by the aroma of the chives, cabbage and spring onion. Surprisingly quite bland. Good eaten on its own and equally nice with a sauce concocted of ketchup, oyster sauce, chilli and sugar.

It's really quite different from the Fuzhou Haobing which is much more flavourful, crispy and heavy. I could eat a few pieces of this Taiwanese oyster cake at one go but one piece of the Fuzhou Haobing is already quite overwhelming on the palate.

That said, the deep frying work was tedious, and the aftermath of it all, an oily and smelly kitchen :(
Gah, there were a lot of oil splatters especially when I added too much filling or didn't cover the filling properly with the batter. Perhaps once is enough.

Ingredients are simple - a batter of all purpose/plain flour, rice flour, finely chopped cabbage, chinese chives and spring onion and oysters (I bought frozen ones).

Like I mentioned, the key to successful oyster cake (at least to me), was having sufficient oil on the ladle to begin with. See the picture below, there must be enough oil on the ladle such that the oil surrounded the batter beneath and around. In this way, the whole cake could be dislodged easily into the hot oil after frying till slight brown.


Taiwanese Street Snack Deep Fried Oyster Cake 台灣小吃炸蚵嗲
(recipe from Taiwan Duck, yields about 6 oyster cakes with 3.5" ladle)

Ingredients
  • 12-18 pieces oyster (I use frozen, 2-3 oysters per cake)
  • 30g chinese chives
  • 60g cabbage
  • 25g spring onion
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Dipping sauce: 2 tbsp ketchup, 1 tsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp garlic chilli, 1 tsp thai sweet chilli, 1/2 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp sugar
Steps
  1. Rinse the oysters and thaw them in water added with 1 tsp salt. Set aside.
  2. Finely chop the chives, cabbage and spring onion, toss with 1 tsp salt. Set aside.
  3. Mix plain flour, rice flour, water and oil and stir till well-blended.
  4. Heat up cooking oil (sufficient to cover a ladle full of batter) in a deep pot till very hot (more than 160 degree celsius).
  5. Dip the ladle into the oil and remove, leaving about 1 tsp of oil in the ladle.
  6. Add 2 tbsp of batter into the ladle, spreading a bit, then add 2 tsp of the vegetables, spreading and pressing down. Next add  2-3 oysters. Finally cover the top with 2-3 tbsp of batter, make sure that the batter covers all the ingredients.
  7. Dip the entire ladle into the hot oil, make sure the batter is fully submerged. Swirl the ladle around.
  8. Once the oyster cake turns slightly brown, dislodge the cake into the oil with the help of a thin knife (I use butter knife).
  9. Deep fry till golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel.
  10. Best eaten hot, on its own or with dipping sauce.


I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.


This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Bake for Happy Kids and My Little Favourite DIY, and hosted by Diana from the Domestic Goddess Wannabe
 
 

Taiwanese braised pork on rice (滷肉飯 Lor Bak Png) - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

It's August! And the country for Asian Food Fest (AFF) is "Taiwan". We all know that Taiwan boasts of many colourful and varied cuisine/food choices and most people would visit the night markets to try different street snacks like 炸鸡排 deep fried chicken cutlet, 大肠包小肠 taiwan sausage, 珍珠奶茶 pearl bubble tea, 蚵仔麵線 oyster vermicelli, 甜不辣 tempura etc etc.
 
Personally I have mixed feelings towards Taiwan. Went there with hubby many years ago but somehow didn't enjoy ourselves as much as our Japan trips. Blamed it on the weather, should have gone during late Dec/early Jan where it's much colder but we chose Nov and it was still quite warm. Nevertheless, we tried many of the local dishes and certainly enjoyed eating through our holiday. Anyways, we've been talking about returning to Taiwan for the longest time, hopefully could materialise soon :p

I digress. The first dish that I'm attempting is the Braised Pork Rice Bowl, 滷肉飯 (Lu Rou Fan) or Lor Bak Png ( 福建/闽南 Fukien/Hokkien language) which is a comfort food among Taiwanese for its homely mum's taste. As my dialect is Hokkien, this dish bears a nostalgic resemblance to the 扣肉 kong bak or Pork Belly Slices in Dark Sauce that we grew up eating.

Ingredients used are quite similar as well, except for the addition of dried shrimps, fried garlic and fried shallots. But I must say the addition of these three ingredients indeed heightened the fragrance and taste of this dish! The gravy was so savory that I couldn't resist eating more rice! The meat glistering in oil and sauce was very flavourful and I'm one who couldn't resist the skin, fats and all. As the gravy and meat were quite salty, it's good to have some greens and pickled radish to help relieve the taste bud. It also seemed imperative to add hard boiled eggs and indeed, the eggs provided a different texture which complemented the dish really well.

When I told hubby that I was cooking this dish, he wasn't very keen, but after tasting it, he gave thumbs up! This recipe is certainly a keeper and I believe I will be cooking this dish from time to time :)


Taiwanese braised pork on rice (滷肉飯 Lor Bak Png)
(recipe reference: Taiwan Duck)

Ingredients
  • 500g pork belly, cut into 4-5mm thin pieces
  • 1 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked for at least 30 mins and coarsely chopped
  • 25g rock sugar (I use brown sugar in pieces 冰片糖)
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 pinch five spice powder
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fried garlic
  • 1/4 cup fried shallots
  • 1/4 cup rice wine (I use Shaoxing cooking wine)
  • 4 hard-boil eggs
  • Water (enough to cover all the ingredients by more than 1 inch)
  • Salt, to taste
  • steamed short-grain rice, blanched xiaobai cai (or any veggies of choice), Japanese pickled radish
Steps
  1. Heat a cooking pot on medium fire, dry fry the pork till slightly browned.
  2. Add the dried shrimps and stir fry for 1 min.
  3. Add the rock sugar, star anise and five spice powder, and stir fry for 1 min.
  4. Add the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, fried garlic, fried shallots, and half portion of the rice wine.
  5. Cover the pot and cook the food for 4-5 mins.
  6. Remove cover, add enough water to cover the ingredients by more than 1 inch.
  7. Add the eggs, cover the pot and cook for 30 mins on low heat, turning the eggs occasionally so that they absorb the flavours.
  8. Remove cover, add the other half portion of rice wine, cover and cook for 2 more mins.
  9. Serve warm with steamed rice, blanched vegetables and Japanese pickled radish.


I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.


Portobello Mushroom Burger & Yuzu Mint Soda

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There are some days I crave for comfort food like burgers but don't feel like eating meat or heavy stuff. The portobello mushroom burger comes into rescue! I love the meaty and juicy texture of portobello mushroom, how satisfying it feels to the bite, yet not overwhelming or sinful.

This burger is in fact inspired by the one I had at Grub Bistro at Bishan Park. Ate the burger there once and feel in love with it. Grub Bistro's serving comes in a regular size, whereas mine is a mini version because I prefer mini burgers which look so dainty and cute. Anyways, I ate 2 mini burgers at one go, so the calorie still added up -_-


Since I wanted mini burgers, the porbello mushroom I bought was medium size (about 2.5"), not those huge ones (4") or mini ones (1.5"). Got them at Sheng Siong supermarket; noticed that only Sheng Siong carries this particular size I wanted which matches the size of a tomato slice.

I also made my own burger bun in mini-size (using 65°C tangzhong method) so everything was matchy-matchy. If you don't want to make your own burger buns, can also buy those mini butter rolls or whole-meal buns by Gardenia and Sunshine. Those are about the same mini size too.



Needless to say, I love these mini portobello mushroom burgers so much! Love the combination of soft, fluffy bread with meaty, juicy portobello mushroom and the crunchy and refreshing vegetables. The taste of vinegar-based marinate with feta cheese and Japanese mayonnaise also complemented each other perfectly. After chomping 2 burgers at one go, I felt like eating more :p Good news is, I can always make them at home easily, without having to travel all the way to Bishan Park to satisfy my craving :)


Homemade mini burger buns
(recipe from 65°C汤种面包 by Yvonne C.)

Ingredients

Tangzhong
  • 100g bread flour
  • 500g water
  1. In a heavy bottom pot, combine bread flour with water until well-mixed.
  2. Heat the mixture over medium-small fire, stirring continuously.
  3. Cook the mixture till 65°C (mixture will become thicker and gluey and visible lines will appear).
  4. Remove pot from heat, cover the top of the tangzhong mixture with clingwrap (to prevent drying out) and let the mixture cool completely before use.
Burger buns
  • 210g bread flour
  • 56g plain flour or cake flour
  • 20g milk powder
  • 42g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6g instant dry yeast
  • 30g egg
  • 85g water
  • 84g tangzhong
  • 22g unsalted butter
  • Egg wash, sesame seeds, melted salted butter
  1. Combine bread flour, plain flour, milk powder, caster sugar, salt and dry yeast into a mixer bowl. Avoid putting the yeast together with the sugar and salt.
  2. Add egg, water and tangzhong into the mixer bowl. Start mixing the ingredients on low speed (using the dough hook).
  3. Once ingredients are combined, increase mixer speed to medium.
  4. Once gluten forms, add the butter.
  5. Knead the dough at medium speed until dough is elastic and smooth. (dough will leave the sides and bottom of bowl). To test if dough is ready, take a small piece of dough, stretch outwards into a rectangle. Dough will be elastic and translucent. When the dough breaks, the hole will be jagged.
  6. Tuck the dough neatly into a ball and place the dough into a large well-oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with clingwrap and leave to proof at room temperature for 40-60 mins or till dough doubles in size (in Singapore, room temperature is about 28 to 30 degree celsius with 70-80% humidity).
  7. To check if dough is proofed, coat forefinger with flour and stick into middle of dough and remove, if the hole remains, the dough is sufficiently proofed.
  8. Cut and weigh dough into desired sizes (Dough weight is about 540g. I made 4 mini burger buns about 38g each and the remaining dough made into sausage buns). Let dough rest for about 10 mins.
  9. Shape the dough into desired shapes (ball for burger/add filling and close for other buns) and let dough proof for another 40-60 mins.
  10. About 20 mins before dough is ready, preheat oven (top and bottom heat) at 180 degree celsius.
  11. Brush the buns with egg wash, sprinkle with some sesame seeds and bake the buns for about 12 to 15 mins at 180 degree celsius.
  12. When buns are baked, remove from oven and brush lightly with melted salted butter.


Portobello mushroom burger
(recipe reference: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/recipes/grilled-portobello-mushroom-burgers/RCP-20049669)

Ingredients
  • 2 portobello mushroom (medium size)
  • 2 mini burger buns (homemade or store-bought)
  • 4 cubes feta cheese
  • Coral lettuce, Japanese cucumber, tomato
  • Japanese mayonnaise
Marinate for mushroom
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/8 tsp parika
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
Steps
  1. Clean mushrooms with a damp cloth and remove the stems. Place on a dish bowl, gill side up.
  2. Combine the ingredients for the marinate and drizzle the marinate over the mushrooms.
  3. Cover the bowl and marinate the mushroom in the fridge for 1 hour, turning the mushrooms once.
  4. Lay a piece of aluminum foil over the wire mesh of Air Fryer, and fry the mushrooms for 10 mins at 180 degree celsius, turning over once. When turning, baste the mushroom with marinate to prevent drying out.
  5. Alternatively, place the mushrooms in a Happy Call frying pan and fry over small heat for about 6-8 mins, turning over once. When turning, baste the mushroom with marinate to prevent drying out. *** The mushrooms cooked using direct fire (HCP) will shrink a little, whereas using Air Fryer retains the size.
  6. To combine, half the 2 burger burns and lightly toast them in Air Fryer for 2-3 mins at 160 degree celsius. Once ready, spread some salted butter over the burger buns.
  7. Place 1-2 leaves of coral lettuce on the bottom halves of the buns, top with cucumber and tomato slices. Next, crumble the feta cheese on top of the tomato slices, follow by the portobello mushroom, gill side down. Drizzle some Japanese mayonnaise over the mushroom. Top with burger bun. Serve immediately.

Plate the burgers nicely and tadah! Atas-looking gourmet burgers in the house =D

I also made Yuzu Mint Soda to go with the burger. This drink is also inspired by the one sold at Grub Bistro :p

In a glass combine Japanese yuzu honey (or Korean Citron tea) with soda water, lots of ice cubes and 5-6 mint leaves. A refreshing drink, so quick and easy and absolutely perfect for our hot and humid weather :)



This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Bake for Happy Kids and My Little Favourite DIY, and hosted by Diana from the Domestic Goddess Wannabe