Friday, July 30, 2010

Chinese Takeout

I was watching a sitcom where six friends were hanging out, eating Chinese food directly from the takeout boxes, when I thought "I miss Chinese takeout!". (Which is absurd, considering I now live in Singapore, where delicious, authentic Chinese food is an obsession.) Our favorite takeout meals - Wonton Soup, Chow Mein, Egg Rolls, General Tso's Chicken - were Americanized versions of dishes whose authenticity didn't really matter. Was it the ease of ordering a complete dinner, on days where the rest of my afternoons were spent ferrying the boys from soccer to tennis to baseball practices? Was it the thrill of reading your fortune from a little cookie, no matter how ridiculous the prediction was? Or was it that the food came ready-to-eat, packaged in neat, little rectangular boxes - no dirty dishes or greasy pans to wash?

Whatever it was, here's a recipe of another takeout fave, Honey Walnut Prawns. The version I made for dinner omitted the walnuts (I didn't want to bother caramelizing them, actually), so I just sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds on the dish instead. Make sure to pat the prawns dry after peeling and deveining, so the batter stays crisp.

Honey Walnut Prawns
adapted from website

500g medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup walnuts
5 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 cups oil
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup egg whites
2 Tbs honey
3 Tbs mayonnaise
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 Tbs condensed milk
1/2 cup oil

Rinse walnuts, then boil in 5 cups water, continually changing water until clear.When clear, boil with sugar until sugar dissolves.Heat 2 cups oil until almost smoking, then deep fry walnuts until they're shiny and brown, no longer golden.Place walnuts on cookie sheet, let cool.

Mix cornstarch and egg whites together to form a thick, sticky texture and mix well with Shrimp. Set aside.

Mix honey, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and condensed milk in a medium bowl until smooth.

Heat oil until boiling, then deep fry the shrimp until golden brown.Drain, then fold in honey mayonnaise mixture. Mix well, sprinkle with walnuts, and arrange on platter.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Far Away Home

Our summers are usually spent in Denmark, in a little cottage by the north coast. While our other holidays are driven by a list of sights to see, adventures to pursue, or new places to eat in, we arrive in our home away from home with no daily schedules planned in advance.

Some days are spent cleaning up the overgrown garden. (Thankfully, the weed whacker and lawn mower replaces the boys' PS3 obsession!) Another day could mean painting the wooden deck and garden furniture. (A good exercise in perseverance!) There are other days where we just wing it, hopping into the car to check out the other seaside towns and beaches. When the boys were little, they used to crack up laughing at these Danish road signs:

(this actually means Speed Control)

(and this means Bath + Toilet available)

At the harbour, little kiosks sell the freshest fish and seafood for lunch. The ubiquitous burger and hot dog stands are there too, as well as a sashimi bar and a Thai food stand (huh?). Step into the blackened walls of the Smokehouse and you'll find rows of smoked salmon, mackerel, herring, and fish roe. The butcher secures his place amidst the fish and seafood mongers, and touts his frikadeller as the best in town.

Here's a very old and traditional recipe for frikadeller, from the Danish food bible Froeken Jensens Kogebog (Miss Jensen's Cookbook), first published in 1901! She explains that the meatballs can be made from veal, beef or pork, or a blend of either two. The binding agent is most often flour, but eggs, breadcrumbs or soaked bread slices can also be used. Milk, cream, broth or water facilitates the binding. Salt and pepper provide flavor, but onions and different herbs can be added accordingly. A good meatball mix demands constant stirring of the ingredients, and the more you stir, the lighter and more moist the consistency becomes. Cook the mixture immediately though, as its shelf life in raw form is very short.

(Danish Meatballs)
for 8 persons

500g minced pork
500g minced beef or veal
3 teaspoons salt
1 large onion, diced
1 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
freshly ground pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, stirring constantly until you have a smooth consistency.

If the consistency is too runny to hold a shape, add more flour to the mix.

Heat pan to medium, add 50g butter and a splash of olive oil to pan. Using a spoon, scoop mixture and drop into pan. Turn heat to low and fry meatballs for about 5 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned. The meatballs can be flipped over a few times so meatballs are cooked thoroughly and evenly browned.

Serve with boiled potatoes and pickled red cabbage or cucumber salad.

For the cucumber salad, peel, remove seeds and slice cucumber thinly. Place in a bowl or colander and sprinkle with salt. After 20 minutes, discard extracted liquid and give the cucumber slices a good squeeze before placing in serving bowl. Mix about 3-4 tablespoons white or cider vinegar, 4-6 tablespoons sugar and freshly ground pepper. Pour over cucumber and chill before serving.

(At home, I serve the frikadeller with gravy which I make from the pan drippings, but this is not traditionally Danish.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Coconut Cream@Kulinarya

For today's Kulinarya Club theme of Gata (Coconut Cream), I made Guinataang Sitaw at Kalabasa (Prawns, Long Beans and Butternut Squash in Coconut Cream) with a twist, inspired by my brother-in-law in Vancouver. His addition of lemon grass adds another level of fragrance to the dish, and using grated fresh coconut with its juice naturally sweetens the broth.

Now for my twist within a twist (blame it on my watching Inception yesterday, which was about a dream within a dream within a dream), I marinated the prawns in garlic and cilantro, added some crisp-fried pork belly lardons, and baked the dish with a browned topping of ground peanuts and bread crumbs.

I usually make this guinataang gulay with a thick coconut cream sauce, and sometimes it can get cloying. This version was pleasantly light, and very flavorful.

As an option, I would add one or two long green chillies while cooking the vegetables for a spicier dish.

Masarap, Arnel. Salamat!

Guinataang Sitaw at Kalabasa
Prawns, Long Beans and Butternut Squash in Coconut Cream

1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 inch piece ginger, grated
1/2 stalk lemon grass, halved lengthwise

1 fresh coconut, meat grated, juice set aside

1 slice pork belly, boiled to soften, then diced
and fried crisp

500g prawns, peeled and deveined, marinated
in minced garlic and cilantro
1/4 piece butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 bunch long beans, cut into 3 inch pieces
200 ml coconut cream
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
handful of peanuts, ground
panko bread crumbs
peanut oil

Sautee onion, garlic and ginger in oil over medium heat.

Add prawns and crispy pork. Sautee until prawns just turn pink. Add grated coconut, coconut water and cream. Place lemon grass stalks into liquid. Bring to a boil.

Immediately add long beans and squash, fish sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and simmer on low heat until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.

When vegetables are done, remove lemon grass stalks, and transfer to a baking dish. Prepare crumb topping by combining ground peanuts, bread crumbs and a tablespoon of oil to bind. Sprinkle mixture over vegetables and brown under a broiler (watch carefully so you don't burn the topping).

Serve with steamed white rice and a slice of lime or calamansi.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


....and now on to Dessert! As you know, I am admittedly not a successful baker (evidence: my Streussel Sour Cream Coffee Cake post). But I will attempt to make desserts that require "simple" assembly, like those Ikea cabinets in the kids' rooms. By default, I am the official assembler of Ikea furniture at home, since the Husband loses interest (actually patience) when attaching Leg A to Base B with Screw 256 after Step 3. Years ago we moved to a new house in England and I decided to assemble the boys' bunk beds by myself. As I was hauling the finished product up, my neighbor's husband walked into the kids' bedroom and was so impressed that he brought in two cold brewskis. Men!

Here's a "simple" dessert adapted from bon appetit's comfort food issue.

Caramel-Apple Crisp

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
12 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
125 grams (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, diced

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
(use water if you don't want your filling to be sour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced

Whisk first 5 ingredients in a bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until small moist clumps form. Cover and chill.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Stir sugar and butter in large skillet over medium heat until smooth sauce forms. Add lemon juice and cook, stirring, until caramel is deep brown, about 5 minutes. (It is very important not to burn the caramel, or else it will turn bitter). Mix in salt, then apples. Toss until apples are evenly coated. Scrape apples and caramel into 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish; spread evenly. Sprinkle topping evenly over.

Bake crisp until apples are tender, sauce is bubbling thickly, and topping is golden, about 50 minutes. Let crisp cool 15 minutes before serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

In Transit

While in transit at the Hong Kong airport, we were hungry for decent-enough food as we landed at 5am. Even at this ungodly hour (for me anyway), travelers were already bustling about, rushing to departure gates, meandering through the few open shops, and queueing at Aji-sen Ramen! Slurping through a steamy bowl of noodles and gyoza soothes the cricks and twitches one develops after sitting mummy-like through the 12-hour transpacific flight. Oldest Son had the Japanese Curry Rice, and asked if I could replicate this when we got back home. After looking through a few recipes, here's my adapted version.

Japanese Chicken Curry Rice

3 whole chicken breasts, sliced into chunks
1 teaspoon curry powder (medium spicy)
2 onions, sliced thinly
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large potatoes, cut into chunks
2 cups water
1 small apple, peeled and cored, grated finely
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 cup coconut cream

Marinate chicken in 1 teaspoon curry powder. Set aside.

Saute onions in oil over medium low heat until golden brown, for about 30 minutes. The caramelized onions will help sweeten the dish when cooked. Turn up heat to high and add chicken pieces. Saute until browned.

Add the carrots and potatoes, pour in water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and add the grated apple, salt and 2 tablespoons curry powder. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Add ketchup and worcestershire sauce, pour in coconut cream and mix thoroughly. Let simmer for another 10 minutes. In the meantime dissolve 1 teaspoon cornstarch with a bit of water for the slurry. Add to sauce to thicken.

Serve over rice.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Back in a Bit

I've been away for a while now, cruising through the fjords of Alaska. We're back on land, with another week of adventure. I'll see you soon with new recipes!