Sunday, September 23, 2007
For the past weeks, I have been nursing this craving of mine. Before I delve into details of the dish, maybe I'll let you in on the root of this 'obsession'. You see, I'm a big fan of Korean Dramas; at least only the good ones. I can still count with my ten fingers, the number of K-dramas I've watched. I pick and choose and go by recommendations. My utmost favourite is still the food-themed My Lovely Samsoon. However, I recently watched a new Korean drama which I like just as much as My Lovely Samsoon. It's very much a romance comedy and it's called Fantasy Couple. It helps that the lead actor Oh Ji Ho is easy on the eye. So most of the time, it was just me drooling over the eye candy.... and something else in the drama - jja jang-myun.
Jja jang-Myun is simply black bean sauce noodles. The female lead loves this noodles and has it almost everyday. So you can imagine what I'd be doing when she slurps so enthusiastically in every episode. I find myself craving for the noodles she's having. Black though it might be, it still looked very appetising to me. From then on, it became my mission to find out where it's sold here in Singapore. But it wasn't an easy task - this noodles is actually a Chinese dish but the Koreans loved it so much that they adopted it and started selling it at Korean restaurants. I couldn't wait to try it so I thought I'd just make it myself. At first, I made it by instinct - mixed miso paste with soya sauce, mirin and the works. It was delicious no doubt, but I can't help thinking if the authentic one tasted like this.
So then I began searching for Black Bean Paste. I couldn't find it in normal supermarkets - they only had spicy black bean sauce or black bean sauce with garlic, which was different. And so you can imagine how I yelped when I was at Square 2 at Novena this week and chanced upon a Korean Supermarket. Before you could say jja jang-myun, I was already in the shop, checking out the aisles, hoping to find my black bean paste and guess what? There it was, in all its brown tub glory, shining and calling out to me. hahaha... I grabbed it excitedly and couldn't stop smiling. I loved the shop; wanted to buy almost everything!
Known as Cha Jang Mian in Chinese cuisine, these noodles are a rarity here. Thank God I love to cook. I mean it's times like these that I'm grateful for my enthusiasium for food. I don't think I would have bothered trying to learn how to cook it if I was a lazy punk who eats out all the time. So anyway, I found a recipe off the net and decided to try it. I went with the Chinese version. I don't know how much it differs from the Korean one, but I heard that it's actually the same so there.
I tweaked the recipe a bit because I didn't have all the ingredients at home save for the paste, garlic, ginger etc. I used chicken instead of pork and bean sprouts instead of zucchini. Oh, and I used Capellini instead of Chinese noodles. I think it would taste better if it was la mian (hand pulled noodles) I was using.
How did my virgin attempt at these black noodles go? Pretty well I must say. I was pleased with it. It was delicious and full of flavour. Sis commented that it actually tastes a wee bit like buah keluak (indonesian black nut). Maybe it did, but it was certainly tasty. The paste itself looked like buah keluak flesh actually! It was really black. But it's okay, I like black foods - come on, yes, at first the colour might be off-putting but at the end of the day, why care so much when it tastes so good? That's why me thinks squid ink pasta rocks too!
Ta-dah... Okay this noodle dish is rather easy. I'm just happy that I have a tub of Korean black bean paste sitting in my fridge because I know that I can cook some jja jang-myun anytime I crave for it!
Cha Jang Mein (Noodles with Black Bean Sauce)
Amount Measure Ingredient
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1/4 pound pork
1/4 pound raw shrimp -- optional
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
3 medium onions -- chopped
2 medium zucchini -- chopped
3/4 cup oyster, shiitake, or straw mushrooms -- chopped
1 cup cha jang (black bean paste, not sauce!)*
oil or shortening
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon water
fresh chinese noodles -- cooked
*Look for this at a Chinese or a Korean Market. No substitutes!
1. Cut the pork into small pieces. Mariate in soy sauce, rice wine, ginger,
and garlic. Set aside. If using shrimp, shell, devein and salt lightly. Set aside.
2. In a wok, over high heat, stir fry the onion and zucchini. Depending on
the size of the wok, you might have to do it in batches. Remove and set aside.
3. Heat the shortening or oil in the wok. The amount varies, depending upon
the amount of the black bean paste, but don't be too stingy with the oil.
Dump the paste in the wok, stirring quickly to avoid burning. Stir for
approximately 2 -3 minutes.
4. Add the pork and stir fry till it is cooked, approximately 1 - 2 minutes.
Add the vegetables and mix.
5. Add the chicken broth. Bringt to a boil.
6. Add the shrimp, if using, and mix.
7. Mix the corn starch and water. Add it to the wok and stir til thickened
8. Serve immediately over cooked noodles.
Friday, September 21, 2007
No wonder I haven't had the need to visit the doctor's. Just look at the amount of apples I consume! I know I've been posting alot about apples and I can't help it. They are truly such versatile fruits and they make such great desserts, oh, plus they pack a punch despite being low in calories.
I'm forever scouting around cyberspace, checking out worthy recipes and I got excited when I chanced upon an Apple Crisp recipe. Maybe I'm currently in an apple phase, so it jumped straight out at me. I just had dinner and was actually craving for something sweet and light. This Apple Crisp clearly looked like it could make me rather happy. So I made it.
It's pretty easy. It's just sliced apples with a oatey topping:
Totally digged the fact that it called for cinnamon. Love that spice. Anyone can make this recipe with their eyes closed. It's not much different from my previous attempts at Apple Crumble and Apple Cobbler. They're all actually the same, save for the different toppings required.
So there you have it, a fast, easy & light dessert that's not going to make you guilty at all.
All this Apple Crisp talk just triggered a sudden craving for apple chips. Oh man.... I want some now! I wonder if I can get apple crisps just by baking sliced apples? Nah, there's too much water content - it'll just get soggy, won't it? I should get myself one of those dehydrator contraptions. Apparently you can make dry fruit and keep them as snacks... Anyone has one? I'm pretty curious...
Container: 9 x 11 baking dish
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
- 6 cups sliced Granny Smith apples (approx. 6 med.)
- 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
- 3/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup quick oats
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter the bottom and sides of the baking dish.
Place the sliced apples in the bottom of the baking dish and spread out evenly.
Combine all the remaining ingredients together in another bowl and mix until well blended. The mixture should have a crumbly texture.
Sprinkle the crumbly mixture evenly over the apples. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until apples are tender when poked and the topping is golden brown and crispy.
Remove from the oven and serve while warm. Serve with a scoop of ice cream for an extra delicious treat
Sunday, September 16, 2007
When I was much younger, the main reason why I looked forward to the annual Mid-Autumn Festival wasn't so much the mooncakes that I would get to eat. I don't know about you, but back then, before electrical battery operated toy lanterns were the norm, my siblings and I would have a helluva time carrying paper lanterns with lighted candles. Perhaps it was my childhood fascination with fire. I remember fondly how I used to love playing with fire at home - i would play with wax and make shapes out of them, adding glitter and what not. All this was done secretly of course, with hope that my parents wouldn't catch me! It seems weird now, to think that I got a kick out of burning things, including tissue paper, and well, paper.
But at least, when it came to the Mid-Autumn festival, burning things became a tad more 'legit', at least in my terms. We would gather at the large playground just downstairs my block and burn heaps of dried leaves, adding in paper to keep the fire strong. There would be plenty of children lining up candles and lighting up the entire place. The atomsphere was lively. I miss those days. I'm not sure if children still do this nowadays. I'm getting nostalgic now am I?
It was fun, and we would chow down mooncakes after we've had our fun with the mini-bonfires that was to leave black unsightly patches on the concrete ground by the next day.
Locals will be very familiar with what I'm talking about and most of you should already know the story behind mooncakes and the reason we have this festival. Technically, there are two stories - one's a legend involving Chang 'Er. It's simply a story about a heavenly archer named Hou Yi who's famous for shooting down the ten suns that scorched the earth. One day, somebody gave him this magical pill of immortality and half is enough to make one immortal. His wife, Chang Er, however, ate it she supposedly flew to the moon after that. There are many versions of this story. Wikipedia has a few versions if you're interested.
Then there's the other story in which mooncakes were actually a mode of communication during a great war. Messages were passed secretly to each other via mooncakes.
Whether is it because of Chang Er or that war, it doesn't matter because I'm just thankful that mooncakes exist - I think they're amazing treats. The traditional mooncakes have a lotus paste filling and some have salted egg yolks. These days, however, there are much more innovative versions of mooncakes. There's ginseng and wolf berry mooncake, ice cream mooncake, durian mooncakes, oreo mooncakes and even liquer mooncakes. You name it, they have it. I've tried a whole variety of mooncakes but I still hanker for the traditional ones every year. There's just something about the sweet and salty combination of the lotus paste and the salted egg yolk. But of course, mooncakes are high in sugar and fat content, so I try to eat them in moderation. It's best to drink lots of Chinese tea to avoid getting a sorethroat.
I've never made mooncakes in my life. There was no one to teach me anyway. But yesterday, my fifth aunt invited me to her place to learn how to make some. We made snowskin mooncakes (one of my favourites by the way!) Snowskin mooncakes are usually eaten chilled and I love the soft and chewy texture of the skin. It's also much easier to make than the baked ones.
We made two types - red bean and green tea ones. My aunt bought the paste from Phoon Huat. The green tea lotus paste was green and she added some pumpkin seed for added texture:
Don't they look really green? I would make my own natural paste if I knew how!
Here's the red bean filling, which looks rather dark by the way! Oh, if you're wondering why they are all in round balls, well you have to shape them that way before you wrap them with the snowskin dough.
Once you've made your snowskin dough, flatten it out and place the filling in the centre and wrap it nicely round it, till you've concealed the filling.
You might want to measure the quantity needed for each mooncake before you proceed. Depending on what mould you use, you are advised to weigh how much dough and filling you need for one mooncake. To do that, simply fill the mould with some dough and then weigh it. Remember, you want your filling to be about 2/3 of the entire weight, and 1/3 for your skin. So you do the math and proceed from there.
After you've done that, you can begin shaping your mooncakes:
As you can see, it's really easy. Once you've wrapped the dough round the filling and get a nicely shaped round ball, coat it with more glutinous rice flour (kou fen). Once it's nicely coated, fit it into the mould and use your palm to press it into shape. After it's shaped, remove it from the mould by hitting it at an angle (about 45 degrees) both left and right and then turn it over and hit it again, making sure your hand is below to catch it!
Here's the end product:
Looks lovely eh? I love the shape!
This is how the red bean one looks like after it's sliced:
You see the ratio of skin to filling? Your skin cannot be too thick or else it won't really taste nice.
And there you have it, a fool-proof guide to making snowskin mooncakes!
It's really simple and I too was surprised. Now, the most important thing is to have a really good snowskin dough. We did two types yesterday but the first one wasn't as nice as the second one so I won't be putting that recipe up. The second batch was made using this recipe from a The Straits Times article featuring mooncakes. The article was dated September 2006 and it featured a couple who made snowskin mooncakes annually using their own recipe. My aunt and I tried this recipe and loved it. It takes a little more work though. You have to steam some of the flour. This is necessary because we don't cook the dough so the flour has to be 'cooked' somehow first, before we add the shortening and water. Also, you can get the fried glutinous rice flour from Phoon Huat. It's labelled 'Kou Fen'.
The dough that this recipe gives is rather elastic and ends up with a soft chewy mouthfeel, which I prefer. This is how snowskin should be. This recipe is a clear keeper I say. I'm thinking of playing around with colours and different fillings. Hehe, this is exciting.
The Mid-Autumn festival is nearing (starts on Sept 23 I think) so if you want to give some or simply have some fun, go make some! It's really yummy :)
115 Hong Kong Flour (steam for 15 mintues, leave to cool)
115 fried glutinous rice flour
210g icing sugar
1 tablespoon shortening
5 tablespoons cold water*
1 teaspoon banana essence
2 tablesspoons Hong Kong Flour (mix with 2 tablespoons hot water to form hot dough)
1.5 kg lotus paste
100g melon seeds (baked)
salted egg yolks (steamed)
Sieve fried glutinous flour and Hong Kong flour, add in icing sugar. Make a well in the centre, add shortening, banana essence, water and hot dought, and knead until smooth. Roll the dough and wrap lotus paste & egg yolk, press into moon cake mould.
Knock mooncake out from mould and serve.
*Note: Though the recipe states 5 tablespoons water, we needed to add alot more to get the right consistency so play by ear and make sure it's not too wet or dry. Also, feel free to use any filling you want. We went ahead with red bean and green tea lotus paste and it still tasted great. Be innovative!
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Thank God I don't own a deep fryer at home. There's no guessing if I'd end up having fish & chips or tempura for dinner everyday.
Truthfully, I find deep fryers useful; it is afterall, a huge time saver. Marinate your meats or chop up some onions, batter it, throw it into the large vat of hot hot oil and viola, you have something crisp and edible within minutes. I am not sure about you, but I've never been a huge grease lover. Sure, I enjoy fried foods, but if you ask me, I'd rather grill, than fry. Maybe it's just the health-nut in me speaking.
I do think that frying is fun actually, when you do it occasionally. The other time, I brought home the mini deep fryer we use at Amplify (when I cook food every Friday at Eden Lounge) because I wanted to fry some doughnuts using this donut mix I bought from Daiso. It's supposed to yield mini doughnuts. Well I don't know how mini they were supposed to be, but I made them small. The result was interesting - maybe I fried them too long, but it wasn't as light as I thought it would be. Maybe it's just the flour? I don't know...
Anyway, we got bored, so I suggested onion rings. I didn't have any onion ring recipe so I googled for one on the spot and came across a French Fried Onion Ring recipe that looked simple enough. After making the batter, we were all set to go. I'm pretty satisfied with the result, although I think it didn't look as pretty as the picture shown on the website.
Mine looked slightly deformed. But it tasted good anyway. I think I prefer the breaded kind like the ones sold at Carl's Jr and Burger King.
Didn't I tell you that deep frying is addictive? Soon after the onion rings were done, I felt like some home made potato chips so I sliced some and dropped them in the hot oil and viola:
I think they look perfect! Golden crisp potato chips. Yummy! Seriously, the way I handled the deep frying, it was as if I was a child given a new toy. But you know what, as much as I love these fried treats, I make sure I don't over do it. At the risk of sounding like an ambassador from the Health Promotion Board, I do advocate smart eating. haha... that said, I'll leave you with one more photo of the cute little donuts:
How often do you eat fried foods? And which fried food is your biggest weakness?
I find myself going at Old Chang Kee's fried sweet potato pieces whenever I see them. Maybe part of me thinks that it's healthy because it's sweet potato! I'm a huge fan of potato wedges too, the nicely seasoned ones (with paprika or herbs & spices) and calamari! While we're at it, might as well throw in tempura... Mmmm...
French Fried Onion Rings
3 large sweet onions
flour for dredging onion rings
1 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Peel whole onions and then cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Separate the slices into individual rings. Dry rings thoroughly with paper towels.
Dredge rings in flour until well coated and then place on a large baking sheet. (Rings can be dredged in flour placed on a plate or the flour can be placed in a plastic bag. If using a plastic bag, several rings can be dredged at a time.) After all rings are coated, set them aside and mix batter.
Combine all dry ingredients and stir until evenly mixed. Set aside.
Blend eggs, milk and oil and then add the dry ingredients. Beat until all ingredients are well blended.
Add 1 inch of oil to a deep pan and heat to 375° F. Dip flour coated rings into the batter and allow excess batter to drip off.
Place batter coated rings into the hot oil. Avoid overcrowding so that they can cook evenly. Fry until golden brown on the first side and then turn to cook second side. When both sides are golden brown, remove from the oil and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to allow oil to drain off.
Finished onion rings can be placed in an oven preheated to 300°F to keep warm until all onion rings are done and ready to serve.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Am I a food writer or a food blogger? Or am I just a blogger who blogs about food? How about me being a food-lover who just happens to love baking and cooking and writing all about it?
Having an identity that sticks with you everywhere you go can sometimes land you in amusing situations. Take for example a girl who said "hey! aren't you that brownie girl? The one who has a blog!". I find that very entertaining because then, soon after, the question I know will come next is, "so when can I try your brownies (insert other baked goods)?".
I just told a friend yesterday that alot of times, whenever I bump into a friend or an acquaintance, they never fail to remind me to bake a batch of brownies or cupcakes for them. So much so that alot of times I end up feeling guilty when I meet them next, and still have yet to pass them my sweet treats. Don't be mistaken - I love baking/cooking for people... haha, just that I can't help feeling bad when I haven't got the time to feed them some love.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but similar scenarios happen to most food bloggers. Known to be always on the prowl for delicious food, we are seen as a prime and rich source of information when it comes to food recommendations.
Somehow when I look back at that faithful day more than 2 years ago when I first hit the "publish" buttonon this blog, I find it so unbelievable. To be able to produce something that people actually appreciate and to have total strangers telling me that I inspire them to bake and so on. I think then, that the effort is definitely worth it.
The local food blogging community has also increased threefold over the past years and it is simply amazing when I attend makan sessions with these kindred spirits and end up chatting as if we're old friends. The first food blogger lunch I attended was in 2005 at Mag's Wine Kitchen. I fondly remember it to be a cosy do. There were not more than 20 of us at a table, enjoying good food and sharing cooking tips. They had one last year at Sage but I couldn't make it, so this year, when June announced that it'll be at Le Papillon on 1 September, I knew I couldn't miss it. It was a perfect opportunity to catch up with my fellow food-loving friends and also, enjoy some well raved-about french cuisine.
Held at Le Papillon, a cosy french restaurant at the Red Dot building, this dinner was something to talk about. Now, you know that I'm an undergrad with a tight budget so I hardly eat at places like this but I have heard good things about the food there so you can imagine my excitement when the day finally arrived.
A whopping 31 people attended the dinner and mind you, it's quite a huge amount, considering the size of the restaurant. We occupied more than half of the space and I do feel sorry for the other diners who might have been perturbed by our incessant loud chatter (passionate foodies think nothing of stretching their vocal cords especially when it's about that great dessert or char kway teow they sorely miss).
All right, enough of me rambling on. Here are the photos I took that night (mostly of the food):
This is superb butter. I think it's French butter. Pardon me, but I was kinda stupid at first - I thought it was meringue when they first served it. Haha, only when the fresh bread rolls came out then it finally dawned on me that it's actually butter. It was so good that I asked for more bread (which was a good move.. you'll know why later).
Before we started the meal proper, we were served this dainty serving of watermelon topped with feta (or goat's - from what i read at their website) cheese and a basil leaf. I heard voices from the tables all round that they're known for this. I knew why, the moment I put it in my mouth. Now I know why some places serve melon wrapped with proscuitto. The mix of sweet and salty brings about a good balance that brings the taste up several notches. I do believe that something that simple can be quite sublime as well.
Hokkaido Scallop Carpaccio and Barracuda Fish Mousse with Miso Cream
I honestly preferred the fish mousse - thought it was flavourful and went really well with the miso cream. I did read that those who had the beetroot (in place of the scallop due to dietary restrictions) thought it was nicer sans the scallop.
Jasmine Tea Perfumed Duck Consomme made with Fiji Water Foie Gras Tortellini
Ahh, this one I loved. When I got the menu via email from June the night before the dinner, this jumped off the screen. Foie gras tortellini just sounded so appetising. I seldom eat foie gras but my memories of it are all good. I just think it's an innovative way to serve foie gras - anyway, this way, you use less of it (more geese spared!). Couldn't quite taste the jasmine tea in the consomme though. Was really trying hard to concentrate on 'finding' it! hahaha but I loved it anyway.
Escargot with Herb-Garlic Butter Crust on Button Mushroom Gratinee Parsley Oil and Argula Salad
Bless the chef for his lovely idea of a herb-garlic butter crust. I am a huge fan of garlic and butter and I loved the rich blend of this on fresh mushrooms. Adored the different textures present. My only gripe was the non-existent argula salad or what constitutes it. Maybe it was for artistic purposes (perhaps the dish wouldn't look as good if there was a heap of argula at one side?). I just thought that if it was stated salad, there would be at least 3 or 4 leaves? Okay okay, let's not get bitchy here. :) Just a slight observation. Loved the dish anyhow!
Rigatoni Pasta Tossed in Crustacean Oil, Tiger Prawn, Shaved Bottarga and Parmesan Cheese
Another highlight of the evening. I love my pasta and was waiting for this and I wasn't disappointed. I'm going to sound like a total retard, but I've never tasted crustacean oil (ya ya, I know, it's just prawn/lobster etc oil, but still!). Apparently it makes the world of a difference to the pasta. It tasted a bit like fried dried shrimp. You know, the ones used in Chinese cooking. Hae bee is it? Anyway, I liked the pasta and the prawn. Super.
Char-grilled King George Whiting Fillet with Toasted Mustard Seeds and Saffron-Tomato sauce
Fish was oh-so-fresh that the flakes were kind of melting in my mouth. What an experience. Adored the saffron sauce, I think it went well with the fish.
Slow-Cooked Oxtail in Feuille de Brik Parcel with Truffle Butter and Jus Gras
Before they served this, there was blood orange sorbet which was quite all right. Nothing memorable I guess. So anyway, this oxtail dish was fun to eat. I know, what a childish way to describe such a delicate dish ya? But it really was! I loved that it was wrapped a la parcel with phyllo pastry and totally dig the truffle butter - goes absolutely well with bread!! See I told you the bread came in handy. Delish!
Passion Fruit Symphony - Souffle, Creme Brulee and Macaron
As always, no meal is complete without that sweet something and this was a perfect end to a wonderful dinner. I hardly have a chance to eat passion fruit so this was a refreshing and very palatable dessert for me. Loved the souffle and creme brulee. The passion fruit came through really well. I think the macarons were cute too! They were stuck on this small dainy cube of soft cake with passion fruit cream. Divine I tell you...
Truly amazing dinner I must say; it's a treat for the senses.
And there's another thing about Le Papillon that I love - their ambience and decor:
Check out the painted walls. It's so dreamy and idyllic I think. If only I had walls like that in my room!
This was an evening I enjoyed immensely and it did help that my table had some really fun and friendly people, most of whom I met for the first time - people like Denise of Hungry Hostelite and Ben of JiaLard. It was also lovely to hear Linda's interesting culinary experiences at her workplace and culinary school.
But wait, I haven't revealed the best part of the evening! That has got to be my 'windfall'. There was a lucky draw with sponsored prizes and I won myself a really cool Santoku knife. They didn't give me much information about the knife but here's what I copied off the net:
"Kitchen knife maker "SANETU" has produced Santoku knife using this great steel and Cocobolo Wood Handle. The ZDP 189 was newly developed by Hitachi for the ultimte professional use knives. It is made of super fine powdered steel alloy with high carbon (3.00) and high chromium (20.00) at HRC 64 to 66. This is the next generation steel excellent for edge retention, durability and it's also rust proof. The knife weighs 160g and has a blad thickness of 2mm."
Here's the knife!
So there you have it, my summary of the evening. Do check out the rest of the foodblogs for more pictures and their take on the dinner.
28 Maxwell Road
#01-02 Reddot Traffic Building