April 7, 2010

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese Chicken Rice is a very popular Chinese dish. Like other traditional dishes, such as Spaghetti Bolognese, Curry Laksa and  Osso Bucco, everybody has their 'way' of cooking and serving it, but all still produce an extremely delectable and satisfying dish. 

After watching Poh Ling Yeow from Masterchef put her spin on the classic, I decided to try out her recipe at home. I found her technique made quite an oily dish, and felt very parched by the end of the meal! I endeavour to test many versions of making Hainanese Chicken Rice to familiarise myself with its components and come up with the best way for me to cook it - with efficiency and maximum effectiveness!

For this recipe, it is best to buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself. I found a video on CHOWHOUND that shows you how to do this - make sure you don't follow the step where she cuts the Maryland in half!

Serves 2:

For the Steamed Chicken:
- 2 Chicken Marylands
- 1 spring onion, roughly chopped
- 3cm piece ginger, grated
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1 tbs Shao Xing Wine
- 2 tbs light soy sauce
- ½ tsp sesame oil

For the Chicken Stock:
- 2 chicken wings
- 2 chicken breasts, skin removed, roughly chopped
- 1 chicken carcass
- 1 cup pre-made chicken stock
- 5cm piece ginger, thickly sliced
- 4 spring onions, green part only, roughly chopped

For the Rice:
- 2 tbs peanut oil
- Skin from one chicken breast
- Parson’s nose of chicken
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 2cm piece ginger, grated
- 1 cup Jasmine rice

For the Chilli Dipping Sauce:
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 red banana chilli, roughly chopped
- 2 tbs caster sugar
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- ½ tsp peanut oil

For the Ginger and Spring Onion Dipping Sauce:
- ¼ cup peanut oil
- 3cm piece ginger, finely shredded
- 2 spring onions, green part only, 3cm pieces, finely shredded

To serve:
- Sliced spring onions
- 3 large wombok leaves, trimmed and blanched
- ½ tbs deep fried shallots
- 2 tbs kecap manis

For the steamed chicken, fill a wok half way with water, place a wire rack on top, making sure water does not touch the rack (As a substitute, I placed a heatproof bowl upside down in the water in a large pot). Place a shallow bowl with the chicken pieces, on top of the rack (or upside down bowl). Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl to make a marinade. Pour marinade over and around the chicken. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

For the chicken stock, place all ingredients in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover the chicken bones. Simmer over medium heat for 40 minutes. Strain and set the stock aside.

Instead of using a cup of pre-made chicken stock like Poh, I added a couple of carrots, Chinese white radish and an onion to the stockpot for a more refined taste.

For the rice, heat peanut oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the skin and parsons nose, cook for 4 minutes. Then remove skin and parsons nose from the pan. Add garlic and ginger to the infused oil, cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly golden. Stir through the rice to coat in oil, and add 2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to the boil, cook partially covered for 5 minutes or until holes start to appear in the surface of the rice. Cover completely with the lid and turn heat down as low as possible. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove the pan completely from the heat and leave to stand, a further 10 minutes. Season to taste.

For the chilli dipping sauce, pound garlic and chilli in a mortar and pestle until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir through remaining ingredients until well combined. Spoon into a dipping dish, to serve.

For the ginger and spring onion dipping sauce, heat peanut oil in a small saucepan over high heat, place remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and carefully pour over the oil. Spoon into a dipping dish, to serve.

To serve, cut the cooked Chicken Marylands into pieces, arrange on a plate and top with spring onion. Spoon rice into a small bowl, packing it down tightly, and carefully flip it upside down onto the side of plate. Line a small bowl with the wombok leaves, pour in the stock and top with deep fried shallots. Place kecap manis in a dipping dish next to the other two sauces.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

 Poh's creative way of serving Hainanese Chicken Rice

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Parsley, Dijon and Chives

Lamb racks are just absolutely delicious. I found a great way to cook them in Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone, where the delicate pink flesh of a perfectly cooked rack shines against a lovely green herb crust - and it tastes just as amazing as it looks!

Serves 4:
- Two 1kg racks of lamb, well trimmed
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh chives
- 3 tbs Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 230°C. Place a large heavy frying pan over high heat. Sprinkle the lamb with salt and pepper. 

Drizzle 1 tbs of the oil into the hot pan and place 1 lamb rack in the pan, meat side down. Sear for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown on both sides. Transfer the lamb rack to a non-stick baking tray, meat side up. Repeat with the second lamb rack.

When both racks have been browned, transfer the baking tray to the oven and roast the lamb for 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of one end registers 55°C for medium-rare. Transfer the lamb to a platter to rest for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the parsley and chives evenly over a plate. Spread the Dijon mustard over the meat side of the lamb racks and then press the mustard-coated side of the lamb firmly into the herbs, creating a green herb crust.

Carve the lamb between the bones into individual chops. Place the chops on 4 serving plates, drizzle with the remaining 1 tbs oil and any accumulated juices from the lamb and the pan, and serve.

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Parsley, Dijon and Chives, served with a Desiree and Sweet Potato Mash

Mock Chicken and Vegetable Soup

To celebrate Lunar New Year on February 14 this year, I made a Mock Chicken and Vegetable Soup. The process was quite lengthy and time consuming, but well worth it in the end, because everybody seemed to enjoy it and went for seconds!

Many of the vegetarian dishes I cook, including this one, are made with my Grandma's dietry requirements in mind. She is a Buddhist vegetarian, which means that due to her beliefs, grandma does not eat meat, fish, eggs or plants that are botanical members of the Alliaceous family (onions, garlic, leek, chives, shallots). The former is because Buddhists are against the killing and consumption of animals, and the latter because as well as producing offensive breath and body odour, the plants induce agitation, anxiety and aggression. Thus they are harmful physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. For these reasons, I always need to find substitutes in cooking for flavour and texture.

I used Kylie Kwong's "Chinese Vegetable Stock" recipe, from her Simple Chinese Cooking book, as an inspiration for the base of my soup. I altered it by adding Fuji apples for sweetness and increased the ratio of vegetables to water for a more rich and luxurious stock. I also wanted to include Chinese white radish in the stock for its aromtic flavour, but since I left my grocery shopping to the very last minute, all the Asian groceries I visited had sold out of it!

This is a scaled down recipe of what I did:

For the vegetable stock (produces 12-15 cups):
- 1½ tbs vegetable oil
- 18 slices ginger
- 1 tbs sea salt
- ½ tsp white peppercorns
- 4 medium-sized carrots, peeled and sliced
- 8 sticks celery, sliced
- 2 Fuji apples, quartered
- 1 cup coriander stems and roots, sliced
- 6 litres cold water

To season the stock (for every 6 cups used):
- 1 tbs ginger, julienne
- 1 tbs light soy sauce
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp white sugar

Optional Step:
- 125g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 200g 'Vegetarian Little Chicken Nuggets,' thawed (found in the freezer at Asian groceries)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- Sea salt and cracked white pepper

For the vegetables in the soup, use a handful of each of your choice. Mine had:
- Shiitake Mushrooms, stalks removed and finely sliced
- Enoki Mushrooms
- Dried Black Fungus Mushrooms (pre-shredded), soaked in water and then drained
- Beanshoots
- Baby Corn, finely sliced lengthways
- Carrots, finely sliced and cut into a fine julienne
- Celery, finely sliced on the diagonal
- Snowpeas, trimmed and cut into a fine julienne

To Serve:
- Fresh lime wedges- Mint and Coriander, finely chopped

To make the stock, heat oil in a large stockpot, add ginger, salt and peppercorns, and saute over high heat for 1 minute. Add carrots, celery, apples and coriander, reduce heat and saute, stirring often, for a further 3 minutes or until vegetables are very lightly browned. 

Add water to the pot and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, skimming the surface with a ladle to remove any impurities. Turn down the heat until surface of the stock is barely moving and cook for 1 hour, skimming as required.

Remove stock from stove and strain through a muslin (or clean Chux cloth) into another pot. I don't have a muslin, so I placed a metal colander inside another pot and poured the stock into it. The colander collected all the larger pieces of vegetables. Then I ran a fine sieve through the strained stock to gather up the smaller impurities. Works just as well! If you don't want to use all of the stock yet, just store it, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To season the stock, bring to the boil in a pot and add the ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Stir to combine and taste as you go, adjusting the flavours accordingly.

Reduce heat, add the tomatoes and simmer for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the 'chicken' nuggets into small bite-sized pieces, heat vegetable oil in a seperate pan and saute the nuggets with a generous amount of seasoning until they are a lovely, golden brown colour. Add to the pot with the tomatoes.

When the soup is simmering again, add your prepared vegetables and let them cook for a further minute until just tender, then serve immediately.

If, like me, you are not serving the soup straight away, simply arrange the prepared vegetables on a dish so that everybody can choose what they want in the soup. Then ladle some soup into a separate, smaller pot and add in their chosen vegetables. When cooked, pour it all straight into a bowl to serve!

To serve, squeeze fresh lime juice over the soup and a sprinkle it with chopped mint and coriander - they give the dish a refreshing 'lift.'

Mock Chicken and Vegetable Soup - A Vegetarian's Delight!

April 6, 2010

Spiced Pork Kebabs

This recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver's "Pork Kebabs" from his book, Ministry of Food. When making kebabs, always ensure that your ingredients are cut to roughly the same size and thickness so that everything cooks evenly. Kebabs are so versatile in the way that you can either grill, barbecue or roast them, and experiment with different combinations of meat and vegetables. There are endless possibilities - chicken, beef, lamb, sausage, prawn, fish, tofu, mushrooms, capsicum, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, pineapple and onion, just to name a few!

Serves 4:
- 800g pork fillet
- 16 small mushrooms
- 2 zucchinis
- 1 medium red onion
- ½ cup rosemary leaves
- 2 lemons
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground paprika
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper
- Olive oil
- 2 tsp runny honey
- 8 skewers

If you're using wooden skewers, trim them down so that they fit into your griddle/frying pan and soak them in water for at least 30 minutes so they don't burn. Slice the pork into roughly 2 cm pieces. Cut the stalks off the mushrooms and, depending on their size, either leave them whole or cut into chunks the same size as the meat. Trim the zucchinis, slice length ways if they are very large and cut into portions like the mushrooms. Peel and half the onion, then quarter each half. Zest the lemons and finely chop with the rosemary. Mix with the cumin  and paprika and season well.

Scatter the spice mixture over a clean work surface such as a chopping board, flat plate or bench top. Drizzle the meat, mushrooms and onions with olive oil and roll them in the mixture. Skewer a piece of pork, followed by a piece of onion, mushroom and zucchini, and repeat until all the pieces have been used. Don't squeeze them too tightly on the skewers - if you leave little spaces, it means the steam and heat can get in there and cook everything. Drizzle the kebabs with oil and season again with salt and pepper.

While you are finishing off preparing the kebabs, preheat a griddle/frying pan on a high heat for 5 minutes. Then put your kebabs on the hot griddle and push them down gently. Cook for about 8 minutes in total, turning every 2 minutes so that you cook all four sides, until everything is golden, slightly charred and the pork is cooked through (use a sharp knife to cut into it and check it's ready). Once the pork's done, give the kebabs a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a tiny drizzle of honey. Cook for another 30 seconds, turning as you go.

To serve, put your kebabs on a plate and drizzle them with the lovely juices from the pan. Serve with lemon wedges and anything from dips, salsas, sour cream to salad, bread or rice.

 Spiced Pork Kebabs

April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Wishing everybody a joyful and safe break (or time at work for some) over the Easter weekend! Also, cheers to getting away with eating chocolate for breakfast! :-)

April 2, 2010

Oriental Fruit Salad

To keep cool on warm days, I make a large bowl of this tropical fruit salad and keep it in the fridge for a quick snack or dessert on hand that you simply ladle into a cup or bowl to serve.

You will need:
- 1 Can each of Jackfruit, Lychee, Rambutan, Longan and Palm Seed in Syrup
- 1 Can Almond Jelly
- 1 Can Basil Seed Drink

To serve (Optional):
- 1 Tray ice cubes
(The ice creates a runnier juice, but will dilute the sweetness. It is handy if you are serving the fruit salad immediately, as the ice will chill the ingredients faster)

You can use any combination of ingredients that you prefer. These tinned fruits can be found in Asian groceries and also in the Asian aisle of supermarkets (but are more expensive).

From top left, going clockwise: Jackfruit, Lychee, Almond Jelly, Longan, Palm Seed, Rambutan.

I also used a can of this delicious basil seed drink, which may appear unusual to many but is actually quite sweet and very refreshing.

To assemble, pour the juices from the tinned jackfruit, lychee, longan and rambutan into a large serving bowl. Then pick up each piece of fruit and tear it into bite sized portions as you add it into the bowl (I left the longan whole, as it is quite small already). For the jelly, use a knife to cut it into cubes while still inside the tin, and add to the bowl. Pour in the basil seed drink, palm seeds and the ice cubes. Finally, use a spoon to mix everything together and serve immediately. If, like me, you prefer it to be very cold, chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.

Oriental Fruit Salad - For a twist, add in a couple of shots of lychee liqueur!

Izakaya Den

Basement, 114 Russell Street,
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9654 2977
Food: Modern Japanese, Bar
Website: www.izakayaden.com.au
Date visited: 25th February 2010

Like a little girl and her favourite lolly store, temptation could not resist me from revisiting the mouth-watering dishes and funky vibes created within the walls of Izakaya Den (Read about it in my previous blog here). They are open until 12am everyday (closed on Sundays), accepting last orders at 11:45pm! Very handy for when you're after something quick and appetizing to eat after a movie, work or night out.  It never ceases to amaze me how the most simple of ingredients can leave such a great impression on the tastebuds. Now, time for me to stop rambling and let the photos to do all the talking :)

I love these cute little mismatched cups, used for drinking water! Also pictured are warm towels, traditionally provided for wiping hands with before eating.

The day's specials, which flash, on the wall, alternating with short flicks of Japanese animation.

Genmai Cha (Roasted Brown Rice Tea) -served in globes of tea cups that are designed to protect your fingers from the hot drink inside.

Kurobuta Pork Belly 'Kushi-Yaki' - Couldn't take my eyes of these as I watched them being grilled. The meat had a delicate charcoal flavour, with super silky bits of fat rendered into it.

Sakata Coated Prawns with Citrus Mayonnaise - Plump and juicy with a deliciously crisp coating, what is there not to love?

Marinated Octopus - There are 2-3 whole tentacles in each dish, they are grilled whole and then sliced. Surprisingly pleasant and tasty to chew through!

Crumbed Lamb Cutlet with Red Miso Sauce - We really got into the lamb, eating it like a drumstick, which just made the experience even more satisfying :-) Ok, honestly it was just too difficult keeping it steady with chopsticks! Wish I knew how to make the sauce, it's so tangy, but rich and refreshing at the same time.

Wagyu Bresaola and Daikon Noodle Salad - The daikon was amazingly sliced into the thinnest of ribbons to resemble noodles and has a crisp, fresh crunch when you bite into it. Cleverly partnered with the cured wagyu, which completed the dish with its intensity and saltiness. You really do have to try it to understand what I mean!

Ocean Trout Belly with 'Kasuzuke' - This was one of the day's speicials. Look at how shiny it is! Evident of how silky and tender the belly can be when cooked properly. It was served with kasuzuke, which in this case was cabbage, that has been pickled in a sake mixture that gives it a mild, pungent flavour.

Seasonal Baby Vegetables with Yuzu Kosho - Broccolini, Dutch Carrots and Squash were served with a Japanese sauce made from aromatic yuzu rind, spicy chilli peppers and salt.

This is the citrus fruit, Yuzu, which has many uses in cooking, predominantly in Japanese and Korean cuisine. It is what gives ponzu dressing, usually served with tempura, beef tataki and fresh oysters, its fragrance and tart flavour.

Houjicha (Roasted Green Tea) Ice Cream - This tasted much like green tea ice cream, but more mellow and slightly creamy. The sweet potato chips poked into it were so delicate and crisp!

Fuji Apple Millefeuille - what an ingenious creation, it was a bliss devouring this