December 24, 2010

Tong Yuen (Sweet Chinese Dumpling Soup)

In Malaysia, Tong Yuen (Cantonese) or Tang Yuan (Mandarin) 汤圆 is eaten on the Winter Solstice Festival (冬至) and Chinese New Years Eve. It's easy to get these Tong Yuen on the frozen aisle in Chinese supermarkets if you live in New York City. I do miss making them like I would with my grandma every year.

Me and grandma would pre-roll these Tong Yuen into balls the night before Winter Solstice Festival and Chinese New Year Eve. We cook them up in the morning before we proceed to cook up a feast for the family dinner. Tong Yuen does brings back fond memories of me and grandma so I decided to make them from scratch this year. I think me and grandma had only made Tong Yuen from scratch only a few times, we usually buy pre-made dough and would just roll them ourselves.

Traditional Tong Yuen are white (original dough color) and red (it's really more pink than red) but you can get creative and use other food coloring. Because I am making these for Christmas Eve, I made them white, red and green. Using pandan leaves is optional, but you know how Malaysian are --- pandan leaves is to Malaysians as vanilla essence is to Americans.

Tong Yuen dough:
2 cups sweet rice flour/mochiko
1/2 cup rice flour
7 oz. cold water
1/4 cup white sugar
Food coloring

Tong Yuen sweet soup:
8 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 inch ginger, bruised (more ginger if you like it gingery)
A few pieces of pandan leaves (optional)

Knead ingredients together into a pliable dough that won't stick to your hands. You can add more sweet rice flour/mochiko until the dough is not sticky. Divide them into portions. Add a few drops of food coloring into each portion and knead until well distributed. You can make as many color varieties as possible. Here, I made white, red and green. You can also mix these colored doughs together to achieve a marbled effect. Wrap up the dough with plastic wrap inside the fridge for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. The dough is much more pliable then.

To make the sweet soup, boil water, sugar, ginger and pandan leaves until a rolling boil. Then, turn the flame to low and let it steep for about 30 minutes. While you let the soup steep, start cooking the Tong Yuen.

To cook the Tong Yuen, roll them up into small balls about the size of a quarter. In a large pot, boil water until it's in a rolling boil. Drop Tong Yuen into the pot but be careful not to overcrowd them.

Cook them as you would cook pasta, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 5 minutes, at which point all of the Tong Yuen should float to the top. Drain Tong Yuen and transfer them to the sweet soup. Serve warm.

October 13, 2010

Easy Tarte Tatin

I love Tarte Tatin, an upside down pie created from the Lamotte-Beuvron region of France in the 18th century. There are different methods for making Tarte Tatin and this one is the easiest in my mind. It's one of the easiest apple pie to make. Tarte Tatin is best served with warm with vanilla ice cream or fresh cream. For a better presentation, you should make this in a round pie dish.

8 apples (preferably baking apples, I'm using Golden Delicious).
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon water
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
Frozen puff pastry sheet(s), defrosted

Core and cut apples in wedges (about 6 or 8). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To prepare caramel,  by heat sugar and water on a pan over medium heat. Swirl the melting sugar around. Make sure you don't stir the sugar and be careful not to burn your sugar. If it starts to brown really fast, lower the heat.

Do not walk away and do something else, you should always have your eyes on the sugar. Once it all the sugar melts and the syrup has a deep amber color, turn off the heat.

Add in butter and vanilla extract. Swirl it around until all the butter melts.

Pour the caramel on a casserole dish. It's OK that the caramel doesn't spread all over the bottom, since when you bake your apples it will turn more liquidy.

Arrange apple pieces on top of the caramel. Start with a single layer and once that's done, pack any leftover apple slices on top of the first layer. Bake apples in the oven for 40 minutes. Cover the apples with aluminum foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove apples from the oven. Pack apple pieces tightly by pressing them down.

Roll out puff pastry and put it on top of the apples. If you are using a large casserole dish, you might need two sheets of puff pastry.

Bake for another 20 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden brown.

Once the Tarte Tatin is cooled, invert it. I usually line my cutting board with aluminum foil then invert the Tarte Tatin from the dish.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or fresh cream. Yum!

September 25, 2010

Braised Eight Treasures

Grandma used to make this on special occasions when the family gathers around for dinner, especially during Chinese New Year. Some of these ingredients are auspicious for Chinese New Year because their names in Chinese are homonym for auspicious words. To me, this is just another delicious dish grandma made. I was in charge of cooking the Chinese New Year dinner for grandma in my teenage years. I wish I could still make this for grandma.

From left to right: (Top) Dried scallops, dried oysters, shiitake mushrooms and sea cucumber. (Bottom) Fat choy, giant topshells, Pacific clams and enoki mushrooms.

The dish is called "Braised Eight Treasures" because the eight treasures are sea cucumbers, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, dried scallops, dried oysters, giant topshells, Pacific clams and fat choy. Of course you can make this however many "treasures" you want but avoid four because it's inauspicious, although that doesn't really matter unless you have a very superstitious family. Sea cucumbers can be purchased dried or frozen. I usually just get the frozen ones because it's pre-cleaned. All you gotta do is rinse them and they are ready to be cooked.

4 cups sea cucumber (cut into 2 inch pieces)
3 inch ginger, bruised

3 cloves garlic, bruised
2 inch ginger, bruised
3 small pieces of rock sugar (or 1 teaspoon white sugar)
2 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
5 cups water (or chicken stock)
4 cups soaked shiitake mushrooms (cut off the stems)
1 package of enoki mushrooms
1 cup dried scallops
1 cup dried oysters
1 can (16 oz) giant topshells
1 can (15 oz) Pacific clams
2 cups soaked fat choy
Some chopped scallions for garnishing

You should prepare the sea cucumbers first. Once you thawed the sea cucumber, wash over cold running water until water runs clear.

Cut sea cucumber into about 2-3 inches pieces. It shrinks as it's cooked so be careful not to cut them into small pieces. In a pot, add ginger and enough water to cover 2/3 of the pot.

Once it starts boiling, add in pieces of sea cucumber. Cook for 2 minutes.

Drain the sea cucumber and set them aside. Discard ginger pieces.

Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger. Fry until it starts to browned, then add in shiitake mushrooms. Saute for a minute and then add in soy sauce, oyster sauce, rock sugar and water. Once it starts boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover and let it slowly braise for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add in dried oysters and dried scallops. Add another cup of water if it's too dry. Braise over low heat for another 30 minutes.

Add enoki mushrooms. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Then, add in sea cucumbers, giant topshells and Pacific clams. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.

Make a small dent on the middle of the pot. Add in fat choy and cook for about 2 minutes over high heat.

Dish and sprinkle some chopped scallions on top. Serve warm.

September 15, 2010

Steamed Meat Patty with Salted Fish

Steamed Meat Patty with Salted Fish (咸鱼蒸肉饼) usually uses ground pork but since I'm not too keen on pork, I'm using ground chicken breast instead. For those that like moist patties, you can use a combination of lean and fatty ground pork or even ground chicken from dark meat. This dish is delicious over a bed of warm white rice. Grandma would sometimes pan fry the leftovers, IF there are leftovers. :)

There are 2 different kinds of salted fish; "dry" and "wet". I prefer using the wet ones for this dish because it melts into the patty. Well, not "melts", but blends pretty uniformly into the ground meat whereas the dry ones are more fibrous. The bottle of salted fish above is what I used for this recipe. You might ask why I'm using a lot of ginger in this recipe. Besides giving this dish a nice aroma, the ginger also makes the salted fish less "fishy".

1 lb ground chicken
Salted fish
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon chopped scallion
1/2 tablespoon chopped ginger
1/2 tablespoon white pepper
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
3 inch ginger, julienned

Chopped scallions for garnishing
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

Set up your steamer. Place a metal rack in the middle of the wok or a pot. Add in about 3 inches of water. Cover your wok or pot and let the water boil over high heat. Lightly grease a baking dish (I used a glass pie dish).

Deboned, skinned and chopped salted fish. You can use up to as much as 2 tablespoons of chopped salted fish.

Mix everything except julienned ginger.

Form a large patty on the baking dish and sprinkle julienned ginger on top.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap. Steam for about 25 minutes over high heat.

Once the patty is cooked, topped with chopped scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil. Serve warm.

Steamed Eggs with Beech Mushrooms

Grandma used to just make plain steamed eggs (蒸水蛋) and we would eat it warm with white rice. The trick to make this silky smooth is not to over beat the eggs and also steaming them in very low heat. If you never had this before, it's like eating a savory flan.

You can make this recipe with or without mushrooms. You can also used minced meat. Adding mushrooms gives more substance to this dish and it's actually a pretty good alternative for those that are watching their calories. We're doubling the bulk of eggs and also using mushrooms, which are a relatively low calorie food. Also, cover the eggs with plastic wrap so that excess water will not drip into the dish, causing it to be overly watery.

4 eggs
400 mL water
1 cup brown beech mushrooms
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Some chopped scallions

Lightly grease a casserole dish. Set up your steamer. Place a metal rack in the middle of the wok or a pot. Add in about 3 inches of water. Cover your wok or pot and let the water boil over high heat. Once the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium.

Combine eggs with water, salt, white pepper and sesame oil. Beat the mixture lightly until well combined. Add the egg mixture and mushrooms on the casserole dish.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap. Steam for about 20 minutes or until eggs are set.

To serve, top with chopped scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil. Serve warm.

September 10, 2010

Turnip Cake (Law Bok Gow)

Law Bok Gow (萝卜糕) is one of the beloved dishes from dim sum restaurants. "Law Bok" in Cantonese means "daikon radish" and "Gow" means cake. Of course, "cake" in this instance is not referring to the quintessential American cakes. Law Bok Gow is more of a semi-firm savory pudding. Traditional Law Bok Gow is a steamed velvety "cake" studded with daikon radish, Chinese sausages, shiitake mushroom, scallions and dried shrimp. Law Bok Gow is to Chinese New Year as gingerbread cookies is to Christmas. While mostly served in dim sum restaurants, Law Bok Gow is an auspicious dish served during Chinese New Year. Law Bok Gow is sometimes referred to as Turnip Cake or Daikon Radish Cake.

This is a vegetarian/vegan version of the recipe. Dried shiitake mushrooms are used in this recipe (optional if you don't like its taste). Soak dried mushrooms for a few hours and then it's ready to be used. I omitted shiitake mushrooms when I was making this because Vance hates shiitake mushrooms. Other possible filling for Law Bok Gow are chopped Chinese sausage, dried shrimp and chopped scallions. The recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of filling so adjust as you see fit. Your main ingredient, however, should be daikon radish.

Daikon radishes, photo from Wikipedia.

I like to make my Law Bok Gow with roughly chopped daikon radish because I like to bite into pieces of daikon radish. You can chop them smaller if that is what you prefer. You might want to make Law Bok Gow the day before you plan to serve it because you have to steam it and then let it cool before slicing and pan frying it. Law Bok Gow is served with soy sauce or oyster sauce (or vegetarian oyster sauce).

Here's a tip for steaming. If you are steaming something for a long time, you might encounter instances where water inside your wok is drying out. Keep a pot of boiling water next to you when you're steaming so you can just pour hot water into the wok to replenish the water. This saves the steaming time because you don't have to wait for cold water to boil again.

2 cups chopped daikon radish
1/2 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 cup water
2 cups rice flour
1 teaspoon oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine

In a pan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute daikon radish and shiitake mushrooms. When the radish starts to turn translucent, turn off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool.

Combine water, rice flour, salt, white pepper, sesame oil and Chinese cooking wine. When the radish mixture had cooled, combine them and pour into a loaf pan (or a cake pan). You are gonna get a batter with the consistency of milk. That's normal. It will congeal as it steams.

Set up your steamer. Place a metal rack in the middle of the wok or a pot. Add in about 3 inches of water. Cover your wok or pot and let the water boil over high heat. Once the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium.

Place the loaf pan on top of the metal rack. Cover and let it steam. Check occasionally to replenish water. Let  it steam for about 1.5 hours. The cake is done if a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Depending on the cooking vessel, steaming time range between 1.5 hours to 2 hours.

 Once the Law Bok Gow is cooked, let it cool for at least 2 hours. You can just put plastic wrap on top of the Law Bok Gow and  store it inside the fridge for a few days.

To serve, invert the pan and cut the cake into squares. Cut to about an inch thick. The thicker they are, the less likely they will fall apart.

In a pan, heat some oil over medium heat and pan fry Law Bok Gow until it's browned on both sides

Serve Law Bok Gow with oyster sauce (or vegetarian soy sauce) or soy sauce.

September 8, 2010

Easy Creamy Mushroom and Bacon Fettucine

Got some fresh Fettuccine and Parmigiana Reggiano at Chelsea Market today so I'm making this for dinner. This recipe calls for brown beech mushrooms because I like to use them with bacon. You can, of course, substitute any mushrooms like sliced bellas. I love creamy Alfredo sauce but not too much with the calories that comes with butter and milk. Campbell's canned cream of mushroom soup (or cream of chicken) works great and is relatively low calorie.

This recipe is not low calorie but if you omit bacon (or use bacon bits), it should be fairly low. If you're not watching calories then go to town and use as much bacon as you want*. (*not responsible for clogged arteries and heart attack after ingesting this meal)

3 cups cooked Fettuccine
2 cups brown beech mushrooms
1 cup chopped bacon (about an inch wide)
1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom
1/2 cup water
Some Parmigiano Reggiano

In a pan, cook bacon without oil over medium heat. You should be rendering the fat from bacon and when the bacon starts to brown transfer them to a paper towel. Throw away most of the oil except for about 1/2 tablespoon. Don't clean your pan! You want those brown bits on the bottom.

In a bowl, combine cream of mushroom and water. Whisk until smooth. Sauté mushrooms over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Add the soup mixture into the pan and let it get all the drippings from the pan.

Once it starts to boil, add in cooked fettuccine.

Turn off the heat and mix well with bacon. You can reserve some to top the pasta. Serve with a few sprinkles of Parmigiano Reggiano.