A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
Guess what? It's the 4 Velveteers' Challenge again! This is an exciting month - firstly, we welcome 2 new Velveteers: Ken & Jaya to our club and join us in our challenge. Secondly, we are going to make TOFU from scratch, plain or flavoured, and create a savoury or sweet dish with it. For those of us who live in Asia, tofu is easily found at the local supermarket everywhere, but for those of us who live overseas, tofu is a rare commodity and even if we do find it in a local Asian store, the tofu doesn't tastes the same as we are used to (sometimes it also tastes funny and smells rather sourish too). So making this challenge is not only interesting for me but a useful recipe to learn. Initially I thought making tofu would be rather difficult but after some research on the Internet, I found it surprisingly easy. Now before we start making tofu, let's learn something about it.
Tofu or bean curd is a soft and cheese looking food (my father-in-law often referred it as Asian Cheese) made from coagulated soya bean milk. Traditionally, it is made using a curdling agent like nigari, a compound found in natural ocean waters, or calcium sulfate, a naturally occurring mineral. However, you can also make it using lemon juice or vinegar. After that, the curd is pressed into blocks.
According to wikipedia, tofu originated from China, during the Han dynasty to be precise. Li Shizhen (1518-1593), one of the greatest physicians and pharmacologists in Chinese history, wrote on methods of making tofu in Bencao Gangmu during the Ming dynasty. Tofu and it's recipe subsequently spreaded to Korea, Japan, Taiwan and other parts of east Asia.
For this challenge, I opted for lime juice as it is a fruit that is easily available in supermarkets in France. Making tofu at home doesn't require any fancy apparatus like you see in documentaries on TV. All you need is a piece of muslin cloth or a big handkerchief or some cotton kitchen towel and a container with holes like a sieve or strainer or you can punch some holes all over the sides of a plastic container. That's all you need - easy enough?
Homemade tofu is so fragrant and definitely taste better (yes, tofu has taste !). Since I used lime as coagulant agent, the tofu has a slight acidic flavour in it but once you make savoury or sweet dishes with it, you won't notice it anymore.
Now hop over to my next post to find out what I made with my homemade tofu.
From my experiment, I found out that the more acidity you use, the firmer the tofu. You can also make tofu using store bought soya bean milk (non-sweeten).
The 4 Velveteers
The 4 Velveteers was started by Pamela, Aparna, Asha, and Alessio, who are passionate about a new dish/ style of cooking/ cuisine and food in general. Each month, we will share with you our recipes, experiences & verdicts on our blogs. If you are interested in joining The 4 Velveteers! in our monthly adventure, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment.
Do, check out what other Velveteers have created:
Alessio - Recipe Taster with his Tofu mousse with sesame seeds & matcha green tea
Aparna - My Diverse Kitchen with her Tropical Home-made Tofu Smoothie
Asha - Fork, Spoon & Knife with her Mapo Tofu
Ken - Hungry Rabbit with his To fu or not tofu
Jaya - Desi Soccer Mom
Pierre & I are so proud of Little One: she got accepted for Taekwondo class. I know it's nothing special but she is only 3½ years old and the minimum age for this class is 5 years old with a few 4 years old accepted on a case to case basis. Last week, my friend, Sharon checked with the teacher if Little One could join his class together with her son. He was a bit hesitant about her ability to follow instructions, discipline etc. but he decided to give her the benefit of the doubt after Sharon sang praises about Little One. Needless to say, she was all excited and looking forward to this day, talking non-stop about it and practicing her karate chop-chop since last week. So at the tryout on Wednesday, wooed and impressed the teacher she did. When I went to pick her up after her class, he kept praising her and giving me his thumbs up, telling me that she is good as those 5-6 years old in his class. Woohoo! Way to go, Little One! Bullies, watch out! This one will kick your ass if you dare to mess with her. LOL!
To celebrate this occassion, I decided to experiment with the left over dough from my Chinese Steamed Buns. I was curious to see how the buns would turned out if I incorporated some beetroot juice into the dough. The dough was a beautiful pinkish red but after steaming, it lost all the red tone, leaving a dull blotchy looking bun. But with a few strokes of brush of beetroot juice over the hot steaming buns, we got ourselves that beautiful red bun again.
This time around, I tried it out with cheese fillings using Laughing Cow (La Vache Qui Rit). I would recommend to try these cheese: cream cheese, blue cheese (if you like blue cheese), Saint Nectaire, Mont d'Or or any cheese that could melt easily.
It is so surprisingly delicious. The Laughing Cow cheese which is normally very mildly flavoured tasted as strong as some of those strong cheese. Even my father-in-law was surprised. Be careful when eating it because the melted cheese is still hot and it simply oozes out of the bun when you take a bite of it. I'm not a very cheesy person but I love the taste of this creamy cheese filled buns so much that I'm going to make more of it for breakfast. It's so yummy.
I also would like to thank lovely Renee of Flamingo Musings and Asha of Fork-Spoon-Knife for these 2 lovely awards: Happy 101 & Honest Scrap. For being the proud owner of these awards, I have to share some honest things about myself. So here they go in no particular order:
I'm forwarding these awards to some of my favourite bloggers whom I got to know when I first started blogging:
Chinese Steamed Buns are called baozi or popularly known as bao, bau, pow, pau. They are plain or filled buns (bread-like/brioche made of flour) that comes in various forms, with a variety of fillings (meat or vegetarian). In its bun like form, it is quite similar to the traditional Chinese mantou. In the Chinese culture, we eat this for breakfast or as snacks in between meals or during a meal.
One of my childhood favourite bao is Birthday Buns made in the shape of a peach with a lotus-seed paste fillings. Why in the form of peach? Peach is a symbol of long life in the Chinese culture. When I was a little girl growing up back in my village, we used to live in a typical big Chinese household of 3 generations under 1 roof - grandparents, uncles & aunties, cousins. That was back in the 70s before all of us were relocated to our new spanking multi-storey like pigeon holes home HDB flat (Housing Development Board) in the city. But before that happened, my grandparents used to host grand birthday celebrations with about 10 tables or more at home on their birthdays each year. My cousins & I used to sneak into the kitchen during the celebration to help ourselves with another one of those delicious and beautiful looking birthday buns. Sometimes the cooks caught us and kick us out of the kitchen but sometimes, he would kindly give one to each of us before sending us back to our parents.
When Jamie of Life's a feast who is hosting this months Bread Baking Day throws a « Baking Bread for a Birthday Party! » theme, I thought this is a wonderful occasion for me to try my hands at making Chinese Birthday Buns to honour her birthday in January.
Eager to bring some peach bao to Jamie's birthday bash, I plunged into this task with zealous energy and concentration. Little did I know forming bao in a shape of a peach would be this hard. I tried several times to shape it the best I could but failed miserably; it always turned out like a round bun after steaming. Then I thought every party needs some party animals, so I decided to make some party animals for her instead.
Some recipes calls for bao flour or Hongkong flour (gives your bao a whiter colour than normal flour but Hongkong flour is very expensive if you live overseas), while others uses a traditional method which takes 3 days but gives a fluffy outcome. I opted for a simpler recipe that is very suitable for making home-made bao using plain flour (easily available) and the result is pretty good. And since I live in France now, I decided to give these bun a little twist in East meets West version. And please don't spit out your coffee or fall off your chair upon seeing my artistic work!
My little animal friends are so cute, aren't they. Guess what are they?
Mmm...these are so good. The caramel just simply oozes out and so did the nutella version. They are even better than the traditional version with red bean paste or lotus seed paste. But be careful when eating it, the caramel and nutella filling can be pretty hot!
And no, it's not a hamster or a mouse. I know it looks really like one but it supposed to be a rabbit. LOL! I personally think I've done quite a good job - not bad for a first try at creating an animal form bun. It could have turned out looking worse. LOL!
If you couldn't make the buns immediately after making the dough, you can let it rise in the bowl with a damp cloth drape over the bowl. And if you have any leftover dough, leave it in the bowl with a plastic film or in covered box in the fridge.
These buns can be kept covered in the fridge, or frozen. You just need to steam it again when you want to eat it.
Fish is a common sight during meal time in my home (well, at my mom's), something that I took for granted for many years until I started living in France. There, I started to miss having fish, not that France doesn't have fish at all, but because I don't know how to cook fish - steamed, pan-fried or oven baked. Luckily my in-laws came to my rescue. They love fish so I get my fix whenever we dine at their place. On the other hand poor hubby hates fish (too many bones he says!) and is a true red meat eater. However, he has since come a long way living with me - now he doesn't mind eating salmon once a week. Now that's a rare treat for me. If I want to eat any other fish, I will just have to cook it for myself and he will cook himself some other stuff. At least now I have Little One, it's nicer to cook for 2 than 1. Frankly speaking, I don't know how to cook for one.
My craving for this fish dish droved me to calling my mom from France for her recipe. As usual with all traditionnal Asian cooks (from grandmothers to mothers), there aren't any exact measurements - just a bit of this & that, no exact timing either. Like they say, once we have wok a few times in the kitchen, we'll do the same like our mothers & grandmothers. I know I did with some dishes, I stopped weighing and just know the approximate amount by eye.
So when my friend Emilie (was my classmate at Nantes' University) came and spent a week with us in May, she wanted to sample some of these delicious Singapore food that she heard me bragging all the time at the university. I thought this dish would be a wonderful representation of what home-cooked Singapore food is all about, besides the Char Kway Teow, Satay and my Mutton Curry.
The aroma of this dish is enough to make your stomach go growling - the mix of tomato, ginger & seasoning giving off a sourish sweet fragrant smell that fills the air. The fish is very tender and fragrantly immersed with the spices. Do not waste the sauce - it's full of flavour and goes very well with rice. My friend Emilie loved it very much.
Normally this dish is usually steamed with the above ingredients plus 1 or 2 sour/pickled plums, sprinkled with a tiny pinch of sugar. However if you don't have sour plums in your kitchen like me, it will taste as good sans it. If you like to have some spicy kick for your taste buds, put a few freshly sliced chili over the fish before putting it to steam. It tastes excellent.
For a prettier presentation, remove the steamed coriander and spring onion from the dish and just sprinkle some fresh ones on top right before serving. Some would even remove the fish, put it on a new platter, prepare fresh seasoning and pour it all over the fish and decorate it with fresh coriander and spring onions. As far as I'm concerned, I like it the way it comes out of the steamer.
One of the things I missed while living in France is my mom's home cooked food. Although I managed to recreate some of her dishes like assam fish, chili prawns, white peppered pork slices etc, I never quite managed to get her Fried Bee Hoon right. Whenever I craved for fried bee hoon, I would hint to hubby 'love, how about I cook fried bee hoon today?' His reply usually was 'erhm...I prefer your Char Kway Teow'. Usually when I pressed him further for an answer why he always avoid my fried bee hoon, he would give elusive answers... However one day I cornered him and finally got the cold hard truth: my bee hoon doesn't taste good. *sigh* So now that I'm in Singapore, I asked my mom to show me her secret in cooking such delicious fried bee hoon.
Bee Hoon (as known in Singapore, Malaysia & Indonesia) are rice vermicelli or thin noodles made from rice. They should not be confused with cellophane noodles, which is another type of vermicelli. Fried bee hoon is another favourite local home dish although one can find this too in the local food court. This dish is a meal by itself and it consists of vegetables, meat and/or seafood. It's basically a bit like Fried Rice in the sense that it is a flexible dish which can accommodate many ingredients that happen to be arround your kitchen. Best of all, it is easy to dish it up (or it's supposed to, anyway...). On a lazy Saturday or Sunday, my mom usually cooks a big pot of Fried Bee Hoon for lunch and just leave it on the table. We help ourselves to it whenever we want - be it for lunch, after lunch, tea time hunger or just eating it out of gluttony.
Serves : 6
I like the combination of the flavour of the fried bee hoon together with the vegetables and prawns. The bean sprouts give it a nice crunchy touch. The bee hoon is not too dry nor too wet - just right. The success of the fried bee hoon relies on the right amount of garlic - too much, it overwhelms the taste and aroma of everything, but too little, it becomes a bit bland.
This dish is very versatile - can be cooked with cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, bell peppers or french beans etc, seafood like squid or prawns, or pork, beef or chicken or sausages chunks. Some also add shredded omelette on top.
Alternatively, you can cook the bee hoon in hot water until it is cooked and then drain. Add it to the cooked vegetables.
We are back in Singapore. Woohoo! With the pandemic N1H1 flu, we did consider skipping Singapore this year if it got real bad... then again, it is a pandemic, so even if we stayed in France, we would still get it at some point. So we decided to just go ahead and not bother.
Flying back to Singapore via Singapore Airlines big jumbo plane - the A380 got hubby all excited like a little boy. To me, no big deal - just a bigger plane that can load more cattle in it, that's all. But I have to admit that the plane is indeed awesome to look at - big and beautiful. We chose the upper deck and hoped to get some empty seats around ours, hélas no such luck, it was fully seated. To top it off, passengers were coughing, blowing their nose left, right, front and back of us. My goodness, one would think in view of the pandemic flu, those who aren't feeling pink in health would either postpone their trip or wear a mask before coming on board. Sharing your germs is NOT the true spirit of sharing. Other than that, the flight went well, the Singapore Airlines service was excellent as usual and we got more leg room in this new plane. I liked their kids meal - Little One even got to keep her little red lunch box that came with it.
We landed on time and were greeted by my sister. My parents were waiting patiently for us at home and our dogs barked excitedly upon our arrival and Little One, for a moment, got all distracted by the dogs... but when she saw her 'ma ma' (or Ah Ma - "grandma" in dialect), she shouted out loud, jumped with joy and ran up excitedly to my mom with her arms wide open to hug her. The weather was very hot when we arrived but luckily for us, there were some rain to cool the hot weather off a little. Everything was going well till my family got a call from the Ministry of Health on Monday night informing us that I was quarantined due to a person sitting behind our row that had N1H1. So a nurse and a security guard, all masked up, came to my home, gave me some papers to sign, gave me instructions to isolate myself from my family members to avoid risk of contamination and take my temperature 3x a day. If everything goes well, I'm officially off quarantine as of Saturday 8 am. One more day to go... Hubby is dying to dine at his favourite Indian restaurant on Saturday as soon as my quarantine is over.
In the meantime, I got to indulge myself with my mom's delicious cuisine. Besides being treated with the freshly made lemon juice and other fruit juices every day, I also get to eat her yummy deep-fried chicken wings, curry fish, seafood curry, stir-fried sambal long beans (snake beans) and today's featured recipe: Stir-Fried Prawns with Salted Soy Bean. Boy, am I pampered.
You know I mostly blog about successful recipes, so yes, this one is delicious. Taste wise, it's quite similar to my mom's chili prawns however the taste and fragrance of the salted soya bean is more prominent.
The nice part about this dish is that even if you don't add curry leaves or chili or oyster sauce, it will still taste wonderful.
We got back to France 12 days ago and I find myself still adjusting to our daily routine and the weather. *sigh* Pierre and Little One don't seems to have any problem at all. Lucky them.
One of my goals when I came home for CNY (besides pigging out big time on local food, catching up with friends etc) is to watch my mom cooks all those delicious food and note them down so that I could redo them in France. Unfortunately my mom whipped up dishes faster than I could catch her doing it: one minute, the ingredients were all layed out on the kitchen counter, the next, they were all in the wok cooking ... or worst ... sometimes I didn't realised she had started cooking ... until the delicious aroma floated to my nose ... I rushed to the kitchen only to see the dishes all whipped up and laid on the table ready to be 'makan' (eaten). Maybe I should install a camera in the kitchen to spy on her cooking Anyway I was lucky to catch my supermom in action cooking up this delicious yet simple dish of hers.
Pineapple is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C and a good source of B1 & B6. Apparently the juice can also be used as a marinade and tenderizer for meat. Pineapple is actually composed of many flowers whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core and each fruitlet is identified as an 'eye'.
How to choose a pineapple?
Choose one that is firm, gold to brown skin, heavy for their size and has a fragrant sweet smell at the base. If the spiky leave gives way with a light tuck, it means it's nicely ripen. Avoid those with soft spots or bruised and darkened eyes - this means that the pineapple is past its prime. Avoid also pineapple that smells musty, sour or fermented.
We know sweet and shrimp go well together and this dish proves it once again (and is an quick and tasty way to add some fruits to your diet). My mom tends to not salt the dish enough for western taste-buds, but it's easily fixed.
Instead of prawns, try it with squids. It tastes equally good.
HAPPY NEW YEAR !
GONG XI FA CAI !
Today is Chinese New Year. On the eve, every Chinese family come together to have a reunion dinner and this year we are home for our very first reunion dinner with my family and we are having steamboat as usual. At the stroke of midnight, there's the usual small blast of firecrackers in the streets: although they are illegal in Singapore (like so many other things!), some still managed to obtain some and set them off to welcome the new year. Firecrackers are supposed to scare off evil spirits and attract the god of wealth to people's doorsteps.
Today before we set off for our "new year visits" (visiting relatives and friends), we will first wish our parents a good new year with prosperity and good health with a pair of mandarin oranges, and we will get a red packet from them as usual. Since I'm no longer single, we will also be giving my parents a red packet this year. Little One will get her very first red packet from all my relatives. She won't know the significant of it yet but she will get it in 2 years' time. For now, she would be more interested in checking all the goodies offered during this festive period and giving away her red packets.
Festivities are not over. The 7th day of Chinese New Year is known as 'Renri' (common man's birthday - everyone's birthday) - it is usually celebrated by tossing Yusheng' and make wishes for wealth and prosperity all year round. The 15th day - the last day of Chinese New Year - is celebrated by having a family reunion dinner again.
So I'm leaving my readers yet another simple dish to sample. Hope this will wet your appetite till I blog again.
I'm always surprised by how good this dish tastes - the nice aroma and crunchiness of the shallots mixed with the freshness of the prawns. The soya sauce and a dash of sugar heightens the taste and fragrance. This is succulent.
It feels so good to be home (my home in Singapore that is) with my family! As we decided to fly back for Chinese New Year, it will be Little One's and Pierre's first experience of what is Chinese New Year all about. The flight was a bit long but our daughter slept through most of it, although she was woken up a few times by the crying baby next to us. There are a few perks about flying with a baby however, namely cutting through the line to board and getting seats with extra leg room (sweet precious leg room...)
Little One found her new surroundings a bit strange at first but she quickly adapted and also warmed up to my family rather quickly. She loves playing balls with our family dogs and like to pat them - she even tried to hug and carry one of them. She adapted to the new languages very well and has even said new words in the last 3 days. On the part of my family, even my mom is learning a bit of French in order to understand what is Little One saying like gateau (cakes), l'eau (water), oiseau (bird) or dodo (sleep). She also loves my mom's cooking, as she polishes off her bowl at each meal all by herself. hahaha...I guess I'm not that a good cook afterall.
One of the dishes that I have been loving ever since I was a little girl (and apparently Little One and Pierre too) is this simple and quick White Peppered Pork Slices. I was over the moon when my mom made this the other night.
Deliciously good - the photo doesn't do this dish any justice. It's not exactly a good looking dish but I assure you it tastes better than it looks. Taste wise: a wonderful mix of pepper soya taste and smell with tint of pepperish hot (but not spicy hot). It's quite addictive - hard to stop at one. It's a bit dry so you might want to eat it with a "wet" side dish (i.e: not plain rice).
My mom always does her own ground white pepper. It is more fragrant and it stays that way for a long long time.
How to make your own ground white pepper?
Char Kway Teow (translated literally as "fried flat noodles" ), is a popular noodle dish in Singapore and Malaysia. The original version is stir-fried with pork fats and crisp croûtons of pork lard which gives its characteristic taste together with ingredients like cockles, egg, bean sprouts, slices of Chinese sausage and fish cake. Because of its high animal fat content, Char Kway Teow has a reputation of being an unhealthy dish. It began as a poor man's meal, but over time many more ingredients were added, making it one of the most loved dishes in Singapore.
This is my entry for Ruth's Presto Pasta Night. My recipe does away with the pork fat and is easier on the arteries.
This is the 2nd time I'm cooking this dish. The results this time around is better because I didn't overcooked my noodles. I just realized yesterday night that this dish is so simple and quick to fix. (why? once done, I only had two dishes to wash in the kitchen )
We usually eat this as main course by itself. On the taste side, it is a sweet and salty dish at the same time, and is very typical of the colorful south-east Asian cuisine that is prevalent around Singapore.
The above quantities serve about 10 people.
If you find that your noodles are a bit under-cooked at the end, add a bit of water and stir the mixture. Let it cook for a minute or two and check the noodles again. If it is still not cooked to your liking, add a bit more water to it and stir it. However do not overcook the noodle or else it will break into small pieces when you stir it.
In preparation of this dish, I omitted the Chinese sausages and squid but added some pork slices and more prawns. You can add beef slices in place of pork if you wish. Or totally leave out the seafood if you are allergic to seafood. And if you find it troublesome or difficult to do the egg part, you can skip it too. The dish will still hold the wonderful flavour.
In some other recipe, fish sauce is replaced by oyster sauce and light soya sauce.