Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cold Century Egg Tofu

I need to slip in a cold dish recipe that is perfect for hot weather before summer days are officially over.

If you haven't heard of it before, the century egg is a Chinese invention made by preserving duck's eggs for several months (not for 100 years, despite its name). There's a rumor that the eggs are preserved in horse urine but that's bullshit (pun intended :-)) ....  the truth is these eggs are preserved in clay.

Admittedly, century eggs are an acquired taste. I love it and the Chinese eat it a lot - on its own, in porridge and apparently, this cold tofu dish is very popular in Taiwan, and the Japanese serve something similar called Hiyayakko.

I filed this under 30 minute meals but it will take you about 15 minutes max, to prep, serve and plate this dish, it's very simple. If you're Chinese or adventurous, it's yummy. If you're neither, I guess you'll have to take my word for it :-)

  • 1 silken tofu
  • 2 century eggs (diced)
  • 2 Tbsp Pork floss*
  • Spring onions, chopped (as garnish)
  • Cilantro (as garnish)
  • Toasted Sesame seeds (as garnish)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  1. Slice cold silken tofu into half, so that each slice is about 1/2 inch thick (see picture above) and plate it.
  2. Place century egg evenly on tofu.
  3. Sprinkle pork floss* evenly on tofu.
  4. Pour seasoning over tofu and add garnish (spring onions, cilantro, sesame seeds).
* Can be optional. I think the sweetness of pork floss adds nicely to balance the flavors. The only reason why we didn't have it in the picture is because half of my family liked pork floss and the other half objected to it, so we eventually left it out!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bún riêu (Vietnamese Crab Vermicelli)

I had my first hot, steamy bowl of Bun Rieu, two years ago on a cold Christmas Eve at our friends, L&K's home. 
It was the first time I have had home-cooked Vietnamese food and it felt like I was eating a whole new cuisine for the first time.

Not that I haven't had Vietnamese before, but my prior experience consisted mainly of slurping down MSG-laden beef pho soup but that is like saying I've had Mexican food simply because I've had Taco Bell. Not quite the same! 

So while I'm not Vietnamese and can't claim my recipe is truly authentic, I adapted the recipe based on tips from my Vietnamese friend L's tips so hopefully that counts for something. I also adapted from House of Annie's Bun Rieu recipe. I would say that this is a great dish to host a small dinner party of 6 people because it's easy to make and you make a huge pot of sweet, flavorful soup that can go a long way.

Bún riêu (Vietnamese Crab Vermicelli)


  • 1 packet of vermicelli
  • 1 lb pork
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1 lb crabmeat (Costco has a great deal.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 bottle of Bun Rieu sauce (Vietnamese crab paste sauce)
  • 12 cups of Chicken Broth
  • 4-6 large tomatoes, quartered
  • Fried sponge tofu (optional - I didn't have it)
  • Tamarind paste (to be honest, I didn't have this and it turned out ok.)
  • 1 packet Mung Beans
  • Cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  1. (A) Soak vermicelli in hot water at the start, while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. In separate pot, boil water and cook the vermicelli very quickly, drain and set aside.
  3. (B) Mix pork, crabmeat, shrimp, egg with 1 bottle of Bun Rieu sauce, so that they're thoroughly mixed.
  4. (C) In separate pot, boil chicken stock, tomatoes and tamarind paste (if you have it) and simmer until the tomatoes are soft.
  5. Add a few squirts of tomato sauce into the soup to add to the color of the soup.
  6. Form round meatballs and add to boiling soup.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. (D) To serve, add vermicelli in bowl, with raw mung beans. Add hot stock and meatballs to bowl (which should cook the mung beans) and garnish with some cilantro (and if you like a squirt or two of Sriracha chili) and a lime wedge.
Serves 6.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beef Steak Marinade & Zesty Steak Sauce

I was looking for a steak marinade recently and came across this recipe on All Recipes which called itself "The Best Steak Marinade". 

I was skeptical at this bold claim, but then, I got intrigued by one of the reviews:  "I wept with joy at the first bite. Do you know how hard it is to eat and cry at the same time? Yet, I pressed on. After that, I wept with sorrow, because there would be a last bite."

I thought this reviewer might be a little melodramatic but in any case, it's worth trying this recipe out.

My verdict?  This recipe is indeed very good, even though I did not weep - sorry, I'm just not prone to weeping while eating.  I've had a few good steak in my lifetime so I'm not sure this is "The Best" but it is certainly "One of the Best" I've had.

Enjoy the last few days of summer and try this recipe at your next BBQ!

A few other tips: 
  1. You don't need to break the bank to cook steak.  Read this very funny article by Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen on "How to turn Cheap Choice Steak into Gucci Prime Steaks" ... as she put it, "Do you know the joy of buying Choice and eating Prime? It’s like buying a Hyundai and getting a free mail-in rebate for a BMW upgrade!!!"
  2. Marinade overnight.  I guarantee you that all the goodness of the marinade will be infused into the beef and you might very well have someone weeping at your next BBQ!
  3. Pair with a zesty home-made steak sauce.  No bottled A1 sauce, please. I've included a recipe below that my friend, David, shared with me a long time ago. It's a sure winner.
"One of the Best" Steak Marinade - From this recipe
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: If you have rosemary or other herbs, add some as well. If not, don't sweat it. It'll be fine.

Mix all ingredients. Makes 1 cup. 

Note: I doubled the recipe to marinade 4 lbs of beef (London Broil) and it was just the right amount.

Zesty Steak Sauce 
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped up
  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Add diced tomatoes and cilantro into a food processor and process/pulse it for a few minutes.
  2. Add generous amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and pulse further to mix well.
  3. Finally, add salt (around 1/2-1 tsp) and pepper to taste.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Singapore Chicken Curry

Chicken curry is one of my favorite Singapore dishes. There is nothing more satisfying than a simple curry lunch dipped in crusty French bread, which is the way it's often eaten in Singapore.

My version of this curry is adapted from the Kurmah Chicken recipe from Mrs Lee's Cookbook.

  • 8 Chicken thighs, fats removed (leave skin on) mixed with:
  • 1 packet curry powder
  • 5 Tbs of coconut Milk
  • Minced ginger (4 thin slices, minced)
  • 5-6 potatoes, halved
  • 3-4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 10 Tbs of oil
  • 1.5 tsps of salt
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 2 Tsp of Sambal Belachan (I use the ready-made Glory Brand ).
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass (optional)
  1. Heat a deep frying pan (or wok) until oil and add 6 Tbs of oil. Stiry fry sliced onions over low fire until brown. Remove and set aside.
  2. Stir fry garlic and then remove.
  3. Add 4 Tbs of oil and stir fry chicken (without the coconut milk) for 5 minutes on medium then lower heat, and fry for 5-10 minutes until the oil comes to the top.
  4. Add the remainder of the coconut milk to the chicken mixture, tomatoes and potatoes and stir until all are coated in chicken curry.
  5. Add salt.
  6. Place the fried onions and garlic on the top of the frying pan and cover to simmer for about 20-30 minutes until the chicken and potatoes are cooked.  If you have lemon grass, add one stalk to the mixture as well for added fragrance.
  7. Taste and adjust with more salt if needed. Adjust curry if too thick by adding a bit of water or more coconut milk to thicken.
Serves 4-6

Friday, August 12, 2011

Itek Tim (Sour Duck Soup)

Itek Tim is one of the quintessential Peranakan cuisine that I love, especially on a cold day.

"Itek" means duck in Malay and this dish is a sour, tangy duck soup with preserved Chinese green mustard, tomatoes that gets better after the flavor has deepened after a few days.

I've provided the traditional recipe below, but I'll note that I omitted some ingredients because I didn't have them handy in my kitchen and also, I used a crockpot instead of slow cooking it over charcoal like they did in the old days. Two things that may make my dear bibik grandaunt turn in her grave!

But, I found the end result pretty close to my mom's cooking - but for half the effort!

I consider this a 30-minute meal as that's all it takes to prep the materials, throw them into the crockpot and cook for the next 8-10 hours.  This can be prepared overnight and be ready for dinner the next day, either as a one-dish meal with rice, or as part of a meal.

2-3 duck thighs, skin removed
2 pack Chinese green mustard (liquid drained, cut up)
4 tomatoes, quartered
1 thumb of ginger
2 pieces of tamarind skin*
2 sour plum*
Green chilies*

*omitted as I did not have them handy.

  1. Season duck with some brandy.
  2. Drain the mustard green of its liquid. You may want to wash it as it is salty.
  3. Add all other ingredients into the crockpot (except the chili).
  4. Add duck on top.
  5. Add enough water to just barely cover the duck (can be a little less as the vegetables and tomatoes will give out more liquid).
  6. Set on low and cook for 8-10 hours. 
  7. The next day, debone the duck and mix the meat into the soup.
  8. This dish should barely need any salt but you can adjust taste accordingly.
  9. Traditionally, you would break a few green chilis so that the soup becomes a hot and sour soup.
Serves 4-6


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Easy Chicken Stew

Want a delicious meal but don't want to do too much heavy lifting?

Try this easy recipe which only takes 30 minutes of prep time but slow-cook it overnight and you'll wake up to a wonderful aroma in the morning, and ready-made dinners for a few nights!

  • 6-7 chicken thighs, fats removed
  • 5 medium potatoes, each sliced into half
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, sliced
  • 1 bag of baby carrots
  • 1 onion, sliced and quartered
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 can of tomato paste
  • Chicken broth
  • Peas
  • Cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp Soysauce (Light)
  • 1 Tbsp Soysauce (Dark)
  • Salt & Pepper & sugar
  • Bay Leaf (optional)
 Equipment:  Crockpot


  1. Marinate chicken thighs with soysauce, 1 tbsp of salt and a dash of pepper.
  2. Heat wok with oil to medium heat.
  3. Add onions and fry. Then add garlic.
  4. Add chicken and stir fry until the outside of the chicken is cooked and slightly brown. OK if the chicken isn't cooked since we're going to cook it a long time in the crockpot.
  5. Add a bit of chicken broth to burn off the chicken drippings and add the tomato paste and mix well.

In the crockpot,
  1. Add potatoes first, then cabbbage and then carrots and bay leaf.
  2. Next, transfer the chicken with broth into the crockpot.
  3. Add more broth until half-way mark. You don't have to completely cover the chicken because the vegetables will give out more water.
  4. Set to slow for 8 hours. I usually do this overnight. 
  1. Once the stew is ready, remove chicken pieces and debone them. The chicken will fall off the bones.
  2. Remove the vegetables without the broth and set aside.
  3. Take the liquid stew and boil to reduce to thicken the stew. To further thicken, use some stew and add 2-3 tbsps of cornstarch, mix well and throw it back in.
  4. Add more salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar to taste.
  5. When stew is boiling, add frozen peas.
  6. Re-assemble chicken, vegetables and stew. 
  7. Serve with rice or egg noodles.
Prep time: 30 minutes     Cook time: 8 hours

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pandan Chiffon Cake

Can you bake a cake without butter and milk that is still moist and delicious?

Yes you can!

This Pandan Chiffon Cake recipe (adapted from House of Annie's recipe) calls for corn oil instead of butter and coconut milk and lots of eggs, and produces a fluffy, light and moist cake that goes so well with afternoon tea.

My all-time favorite cake which transports me back to my childhood in Singapore ... ahh, sweet nostalgia!

150g bleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder

8 egg yolks
140 g baking sugar

150 ml coconut cream/milk
3 Tbsp corn oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp pandan paste

10 egg white
60 g baking sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp cream of tartar

  • Kitchenaid Mixer (unless you want to develop strong biceps whisking all 10 egg whites to stiff peaks!)
  • Chiffon cake pan
  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg C. (175 F).
  2. Sift flour and baking powder (A).
  3. Cream egg yolks and 140g sugar (B) until it is creamy and thick.
  4. Add in sifted flour and baking powder, and all ingredients in (C) above into the egg yolk mixture and mix well.
  5. In separate bowl, whisk egg whites starting on slow and gradually increasing speed.
  6. When egg whites are whisked to soft peaks, add the remaining 60g sugar, cream of tartar and a pinch of salt (remainder of (D)). Continue to whisk until stiff peaks form.
  7. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture gradually and pour into an ungreased chiffon cake pan and bake 45-65 mins, or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean.
  8. When cake is baked, invert it immediately and cool down for 2-3 hours before removing.   

This is a lovely cake but can be a beast to master. My one takeaway is to be patient and not unmould the cake when hot!You'd do well to read through these 2 blog posts from the experts before you start.