Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Medley of Tastes

Looks can be deceiving. Hainanese Chicken Rice is a seemingly simple dish of poached whole chicken, with steamed white rice and cucumber slices, accompanied by sauces of chili, ginger and sweet soy. But that first bite is so full of flavor, a surprising medley of savory, spicy, sweet and fragrant tastes that define Singaporean cuisine.

Traditionally, chicken fat is rendered for its oil, in which the rice grains and aromatics are sauteed before steaming. Although the chicken fat does bring a richness to the steamed rice, I thought I would try and make a lower-fat version by using canola oil instead. Here's my adapted recipe from Terry and Christopher Tan's cookbook Shiok.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

1 large chicken
10 cups water
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
3 slices ginger
sesame oil

for the rice:
600g uncooked Jasmine rice
2 tablespoons oil (canola or peanut)
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 shallots, minced
2 pandan leaves, knotted loosely
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 2 pieces

for the chili sauce:
6 large red chilies, seeds removed
(keep seeds to make a spicier sauce)
2 birds eye chilies
4 large cloves garlic
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons calamansi or lime juice
2 tablespoons hot chicken stock
(from poaching chicken above)

for the ginger sauce:
100g ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon oil

thick sweet soy sauce
cucumber slices
cilantro leaves

In a large stock pot, add water, garlic and ginger and bring to a boil. Submerge the chicken in the stock, let simmer vigorously, partially covered for 25 minutes. Switch off the heat, cover tightly, and let stand for another 30 minutes.

In the meantime, wash and drain rice in a colander. Leave to dry well for about 10 minutes.

In a wok over medium heat, add oil and fry garlic, ginger and shallots until fragrant. Add rice and stir-fry until grains become translucent. Transfer to rice cooker, top with pandan leaves and lemongrass, salt and 4 cups of hot chicken stock (from your standing pot). Turn on your rice cooker and leave to cook. Remember to remove the pandan leaves and lemongrass before serving rice.

Lift out chicken from the hot stock, rub skin all over with sesame oil and set aside.

For the chili sauce, blend all ingredients well, add the hot stock and process until well combined.

For the ginger sauce, blend ginger, add oil and hot stock, then process until well combined.

Chop chicken into pieces, remove bones if desired. Serve with the steamed rice, accompanied by the thick soy sauce, chili and ginger sauces on the side. Garnish with cucumber slices. Season your hot stock with salt, sugar and sesame oil to taste, sprinkle some cilantro leaves, and serve as a side dish.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Birthday Treat@Kulinarya

When Jenn, Tressa and Maribel came up with this month's theme of Birthday Treats for Kulinarya Cooking Club, I imagined a buffet table filled with my favorites - a tangy adobo stew made with lots of garlic; a whole roast pig, lechon, with its wafer-thin, crispy skin; lumpiang ubod, fresh spring rolls made with hearts of palm; pancit palabok, rice noodles with a rich prawn gravy. I could go on and on!

For today's challenge, I decided to make Mango Tartlets, a favorite dessert from our family's buffet table. My easy version used pre-baked tartlets and a coconut custard (Martha Stewart's custard recipe), topped with diced Philippine mangoes that I caramelized with sugar, butter and Grand Marnier. What a treat (and it's not even my birthday)!


12 pre-baked tartlets

for the custard:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 3/4 cups coconut milk
4 large egg yolks

for the topping:
2 mangoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

In a medium saucepan (off heat), whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually whisk in milk, making sure to dissolve cornstarch. Whisk in coconut milk and egg yolks.

Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until just boiling. Reduce heat to low, cook for another minute, making sure to whisk well. Remove pan from heat.

Pour custard into tartlets, smooth top with spatula.

In the meantime, pour sugar in a pan and let caramelize over medium-low heat. When sugar has turned into a golden brown syrup, add butter, Grand Marnier and mix well. Add diced mangoes and mix until all of the fruit is coated well.

Spoon mangoes over filled tartlets and chill in refrigerator for about 4 hours. To serve, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Check out my fellow KCC members and their favorite treats here.


Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney, who are passionate about the Filipino culture and its colourful cuisine.

Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino Food as we do.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Test Kitchen

As you all know, not all recipes bring you the success that's evident in cookbook photos. I tested a recipe for Beef Rendang (an Indonesian/Malaysian beef curry), but while prepping the ingredients, I already had an inkling that the quantities and spices were wrong. I won't even bother posting the photo here, because it turned out to be one big yellow-green stew, and still gloppy after 3 hours of slow cooking. If you have a tried and tested recipe for Beef Rendang, I'd love to hear from you!

Thankfully, this next recipe for Char Kway Teow (Singaporean Fried Flat Rice Noodles), adapted from Food & Travel magazine, was a success! Make sure you have all the ingredients close at hand, as cooking is swift. If the noodles come compressed in a pack, loosen them up by hand for easier stir-frying. Char Kway Teow is best eaten immediately, to keep the noodles saucy but still springy (if you wait too long, rice noodles are like sponges, absorbing the sauce quickly, making the noodles limp). Serve with sambal chili paste and calamansi limes.

Char Kway Teow
Fried Flat Rice Noodles

500g kway teow (fresh flat rice noodles),
loosened and separated by hand for easier stir-frying
5 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons oil
250g fresh medium prawns, shelled and deveined
2 chinese sausages, sliced thinly on the diagonal
3 eggs, beaten
150g bean sprouts, tops and tails removed
100g baby bok choy greens, leaves cut into 2cm lengths,
stems sliced into strips
about 1/4 cup seafood stock or water

3 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons kecap manis or sweet dark soya sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce

Combine the seasoning ingredients in a bowl, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Fry garlic until fragrant, then add prawns and cook until just pink, stirring continuously. Move prawns to the side of your wok, adding some oil if necessary, then pour in the beaten eggs and stir vigorously for a minute.

Lower the heat to medium. Add the kway teow noodles and seasoning. Mix thoroughly. Add the chinese sausages, bean sprouts and bok choy. Stir fry for another minute. You can add a bit of stock at this point if the noodles are still slightly hard, or if you want a saucier dish. Toss well and serve immediately.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Carry On

And so the diet continues. The boys are craving red meat after a week of nothing but chicken breasts and fish fillets, so I thought I would make something tasty while still keeping our carb intake down (a thin sheet of pie pastry doesn't count, right?).

I've been making Quiche Lorraine from the New York Times Cookbook for many years now, and it has become one of our family favorites. This rich and creamy cheese, bacon and onion tart should distract the boys from their carnivorous cravings. Then again, Burger Shack's just down the road....

Quiche Lorraine
adapted from the New York Times Cookbook

Frozen Shortcrust Pastry
6 strips streaky bacon, diced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Preheat oven to 225 deg C. Following manufacturer's instructions, defrost shortcrust pastry and line a nine-inch pie plate. Bake for five minutes, remove from oven and set aside.

Cook the bacon until crisp and remove from skillet. Pour off all but one tablespoon of the fat and cook the onions until transparent. Set aside.

Sprinkle bacon, onions and two cheeses over the partially baked pie pastry.

Combine eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and pour over the bacon mixture.

Bake the quiche for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 175 deg C and bake for a further 10 - 15 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Slice quiche into 6-8 wedges and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Salad Days

Now that the holidays have come and gone, the food bounty savored, the wine and spirits sipped and swigged, it's about time for that dreaded Diet. It's the crash after a 20-day high. Denial sets in at first ("I'm just bloated"), then Withdrawal ("Should have packed that Marzipan Log..."), and then Reality ("three kilos in three weeks??").

So it's now, dangit, NOW!

I thought I would start to our diet with the Pesto Marinated Chicken Fillets recipe from Expat Kitchen. Skewered and grilled, it's lean and low-fat, but full of flavor from the pesto, garlic and lemon marinade. You can used store-bought pesto, but homemade always tastes better, of course.

Pesto Marinated Chicken Fillets
serves 6

4 chicken breasts, skinned and boned, or
15-18 chicken fillets
1 medium lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons pesto sauce (recipe below)
salt and pepper
pre-soaked bamboo skewers

Cut chicken breasts into cubed, bite sized pieces, or, if using fillets, pound into even thickness.

In a shallow dish or zip lock bag, add lemon, olive oil, garlic, pesto sauce, salt and pepper. Combine well.

Toss in the chicken pieces ensuring all are covered with the marinade. Leave to marinate for a minimum 2 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Ribbon the fillets onto presoaked skewers. Cook on the grill or grill pan until chicken is cooked through.

Serve immediately with a green salad, and some pesto or marinara sauce on the side.

To make pesto - in a food processor or blender add 2 cups packed fresh basic leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 1/4 cup pine nuts, 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Blend until smooth.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Winter Wonderland

We've just gotten back from our family holiday in Denmark. Before leaving Singapore we monitored the weather and kept our fingers crossed for snow, and as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for...

Yet there was something beautiful about all that. The vast, white, powdery fields and the tree branches outlined in snow were Christmas card perfect.

We spent much of our time indoors, warming up by the fireplace. Our meals were a highlight: breakfast of poppy seed bread with strawberry jam and danish cheese, scrambled eggs and chives on paper-thin slices of ham;

pickled herring in curry dressing on rye bread for lunch (chased down with schnapps and beer);

a savoury crepe filled with creamed spinach, smoked salmon and asparagus; foie gras on toasted walnut bread and arugula with grapes and sweet wine ;

a pork aspic with creamed cabbage and pickled red beets; and for dessert, ris a l'amande, a creamy rice pudding speckled with vanilla pod seeds and slivered almonds, topped with a sweet and tart cherry sauce. Delicious!

I wish I took pictures of all the other wonderful meals we had, but I guess I was just too busy eating!

Good food, good company, good memories!