Archive for November, 2009

The Kway Teow Recipe Quest: Part 2

While eating dinner with a posse before catching a movie on Saturday night, I found myself introduced to a friend of a friend whose husband, it turned out, is from Malaysia. The poor woman, who quite possibly just wanted to enjoy a chilled night out at the movies sans hubby and kids, found herself shanghaied by a crazy blonde with manic eyes demanding what mix of sauce ingredients she uses in her Penang style Kway Teow. Despite her huddling away from me for the rest of the night, I consider the encounter a success – perhaps not socially, but most definitely culinarily! I discovered two things to aid me in my Quest: 1. the difference between Singapore Kway Teow and Penang Kway Teow (I’ve been trying to cook Singapore style when what I actually want is Penang style) and 2. the use of thick soy sauce as a key seasoning ingredient. You may remember my discovery in The Kway Teow Recipe Quest Part 1 that sweet soy sauce can also be called dark soy sauce in some recipes – well, when it comes to Penang Kway Teow, a recipe calling for ‘dark soy sauce’ may more often than not be asking for ‘thick soy sauce’, which is different again. Thick soy has an even thicker consistency than kecap manis and is also not as sweet but darker in flavour. It’s sold in large bottles (Cheong Chan Elephant Brand was the one I found) and was helpfully labelled as “Caramel Sauce”.

 So, the next recipe due to be tried is from  House of  Annie and insists that this should be cooked in single serve batches which makes sense but is a pain in the arse, not so much because of the extra time involved but because I want to eat it as soon as it’s out of the wok, not wait for another batch to cook! But I did end up doing it as per the recipe… how did it turn out? Is the Quest over? Read on for the recipe and the result… (more…)


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Beef with Cumin is a recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop’s brilliant Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, her engaging and delicious exploration of Hunan cuisine – the name of the cookbook refers to the fact that Chairman Mao came from Hunan. Hunan cuisine, also called Xiang cuisine, is one of the eight regional cuisines of China and is not one I was familiar with before coming across Dunlop’s book. The flavours are punchy, hot and bold which happens to be just the way I like my dinners! This dish is utterly beautiful, simple enough for a weeknight dinner but with the sort of flavours and textures that make your tastebuds really sit up and take notice. Dunlop’s recipe uses the traditional “passing through oil” technique to cook her beef; I on the other hand am in the same camp as Barbara over at Tigers and Strawberries who reckons that this technique is way too much fuss for a quick dinner as well as using heaps of oil, so below you will find the ingredients as per Fuchsia Dunlop but the technique as per Tigers and Strawberries. Serve with steamed rice and a veggie side dish; we had gai lan with garlic and black beans.

This is wonderfully lip-tinglingly spicy; my suggestion if you would like a nice warmth without the full on chilli heat is to use 1/4 chilli and 1/2 tsp chilli flakes – you’ll still get the lovely flavours of the dish. If you think you know what Chinese food tastes like, give this a go for something a bit different and utterly delicious. (more…)

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WARNING – deeply unauthentic and delicious recipe ahead

The original title of this recipe is Spag Bol al Dante which is not only a witty and amusing play on words (something I always appreciate) but the original instructions that go with the recipe are hilarious and definitely worth a read. Head over to Progressive Dinner Party and check out Nabakov’s devilled kidneys a la Sherlock Holmes recipe as well, it’s just brilliant and has very clever illustrations. I’ve made this sauce many times and it’s my weeknight go-to Bolognese recipe. Quite a few friends have also had this at our place and it’s always gone down a treat. Obviously if you’re not spicily-inclined, cut the chilli-garlic sauce down to ½ a spoonful for a subtle warmth. I just love this and can eat bucketloads of it – it’s actually my favourite Bolognese ever, even more so than any delicate slow cooked authentic version. I am still awaiting the lightening bolt from the moustachioed Italian Food Gods to strike me down in righteous wrath and indignation, but I’m hoping that they’ll hold off til I’ve had just one more bowl… (more…)

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Teage Ezard’s book Lotus: Asian Flavours is a beautiful read, but falls into the category of the ‘aspirational’ cookbook rather than something you’d turn to with 30 minutes on your hands and a standard pantry of ingredients available. Like many cookbooks of this calibre, there are really only one or two recipes that really got my attention… so its just as well that I had a nice friend at work to lend me the book rather than having to buy it! This was the first recipe from it that I made and it really was outstanding, with gorgeous punchy layers of flavours. To quote Resigned Husband: “I could just eat bowls and bowls of that sauce!” – it really is that good. My version of it changed a few things as you can tell by the title of the original recipe: Peppered wagyu beef with stir fried black beans, oyster mushrooms and garlic shoots. I decided to use a meat that didn’t require my entire week’s shopping budget to purchase and changed the veggies a bit – but the flavouring remained the same as the original recipe. If you were really scrambling for time, I think you could quite easily slice the beef, marinate it briefly in the Sichuan pepper & salt and kecap manis, stir fry and set aside and then proceed as per the recipe. My piece of rump ended up a bit overcooked, so I’ve adjusted the timing accordingly in the recipe.

Sichuan pepper & salt mix (called Prickly Ash) is a brilliant seasoning tool and I always have some in my pantry. Just dry toast 2 tablespoons of sea salt and 3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns til fragrant, cool and grind. It’s tops sprinkled over stir fries or Chinese-flavoured salads and forms an integral part of this wonderful dish.



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Kway teow is one of those dishes that, when done well, is an incredible mix of darkly sweet and spicy flavours and a glorious contrast in texture as the crunchy bean sprouts come together with the slippery noodles. When done badly, it’s bland, oily and congeals together in an unappetizing lump. I’ve previously made several versions of the dish, none of which have been particularly terrible but also not particularly excellent and none have had the flavour burst I’m looking for. Then I made a discovery – some recipes (depending on their country of origin) which call for dark soy sauce actually mean what we in Australia call kecap manis or sweet soy sauce. Revelation! Resigned Husband and I ate some very nice kway teow on the weekend and rather than guzzling it as per usual, we actually tried to think about what we could taste (and then guzzled it). We came up with kecap manis, sambal oelek and something slightly tangy at the end – perhaps fish sauce. So off to the trusty internet to search for recipes with those ingredients and a likely looking recipe (adapted slightly) was found at Lethal Poppy.

Unsuspecting friends have been invited over, home brew is chilling in the fridge and we’re ready to go! Read the verdict after the recipe… (more…)

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This incredibly simple and monumentally tasty fried rice seems to be a hit with everyone who eats it and is an often requested recipe at Soup Kitchen. If I’m making this just for us or friends, I also throw in a diagonally sliced long red chilli in with the onion/ginger at the start. I cut down a bit on the oil that Kylie calls for in the original recipe in Simple Chinese Cooking, just because I don’t think the dish needs it. The lop cheong is my addition to the recipe (along with the peas) and I think it makes it. Lop cheong is God’s gift to cured pork. All hail the Chinese sausage! (more…)

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I love coming home and cooking – I’m one of those nutters who genuinely can’t wait to cook the evening meal. But after being under the weather for a couple of days there is nothing better than having a glass of wine poured for me and an utterly delicious dinner created. This is a regular in our house – it’s more of a method than a recipe per se, as the ingredients can vary according to your taste. The main thing is not to overload the pizza! You want it crispy and crunchy, not… well, flaccid. Or floppy. Or limp. So if you’re going to add some cooked sausage or feta or whatever other topping you desire, crumble it into small pieces and add it in moderation. Let the glory of the garlicky base shine through! (more…)

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