Century egg

I remember my grandpa cutting these almost translucent century eggs using a piece of string. Why a piece of string? Because the centre is thick and sticky, a knife would not make a clean cut. Anyway, we used to have it chopped up and arranged nicely on a plate, with a little soy sauce; or chopped up finely, mixed with fresh tofu and a drizzle of chilli oil.

Hang on, you know these are real eggs right? Even though they look toxic, they are not laid by genetically supercharged hens or ducks. Much like durian, they may smell foul (ok, much less foul) but they taste great and add a distinct flavour to dishes. One of which is congee, made with lean pork.

Century egg and pork congee

Ingredients:

  • 3 century eggs (from Chinese grocery stores), roughly chopped
  • 200 – 300 grams lean pork, cut into small pieces or strips
  • 2 cups jasmine rice or 2.5 cups broken rice
  • chicken stock
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • sliced ginger and green shallots to serve

Method:

Wash rice. Add 3 cups of water and 3 cups chicken stock to the rice and cook in a rice cooker or the stove top. When the rice boils, add in the pork and century eggs. When the congee is done, add salt and white pepper and season to your taste. I prefer lots of white pepper (do not use black pepper ever!) Serve with finely sliced ginger and green shallots.

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CNY cooking

Chinese New Year falls on 14 February this year. For the Chinese, I suspect it’s just an excuse to eat yourself silly and stay up all night watching the fireworks. Since fireworks weren’t an option, we opted for eat-yourself-silly.

On the menu was four mains and one dessert. The mains were:

  • Cantonese-style steamed fish
  • Stir fried beef with vegetables in black bean sauce
  • Salt and pepper pork
  • White cut chicken with special dipping sauce.

I made the dessert earlier in the day – Portuguese tarts! No, not in the literal sense. These are the ones you usually see in yum cha restaurants – otherwise known as egg tarts. They were a winner with the boys.

I stupidly forgot to take pictures of the fish and the beef but here are the other two:

Salt and pepper pork is a Chinese restaurant staple, it was also the bane of my existence until I actually managed to make it properly this time. I could never get the coating right, but ended up using a combination of pre-packaged Indonesian coating for fried chicken and corn flour. The result was spectacular.

The white cut chicken was another proud moment. Mainly because I bought a 1.7kg chicken not realising that I didn’t have a large enough pot to cook it in. So I had to turn the chicken in the pot (with tongs AND chopsticks) once every 15 minutes or so until it was cooked on both sides. Painful. But it cooked beautifully in the end. The special dipping sauce was made of a variety of fail-safe ingredients – chicken stock, light soy sauce, minced garlic, ginger and shallots, plus sesame oil and a little bit of sugar. The chicken was cut up (another great feat, I have never in my life dissected a whole chicken) and chilled in the fridge for an hour before serving. It received lots of kudos from my guinea pigs.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Sweet mung bean soup with lily bulbs

Sweet what bean soup with lily what?

This is a typical sweet soup that the Chinese make during summer. Both mung bean and lily bulb are ‘cold’ in nature, so they are especially good for toning down the heat on a hot summer day. It’s also great for clearing those unwanted pimples (not that I have any 😉

You can get all the ingredients you need from a Chinese grocer. You only need 4 ingredients, or 3 if you don’t count water.

Ingredients:

Mung beans
Dried lily bulbs
Rock sugar (I use cane sugar lumps)
Water

First thoroughly wash the mung beans and  lily bulbs, you will regret it later when you find sand in your soup. Put both inside a pot, pressure cooker, slow cooker…whatever your favourite method of cooking is.

Then fill up the pot with cold water. If you are using a slow cooker, don’t fill up too much at the start, you can gradually add more water as the legumes cook.

Cook the mung beans and lily bulbs until they are both tender. I used a slow cooker, on high, it took about 4 hours. I stirred the soup a few times also. Put in the rock sugar last – use as much or as little as you like. Stir until the sugar is melted. Now it’s done! A piece of cake!

I like mine ice cold rather than scorching hot, so I wait until the pot has cooled and stick it in the fridge. Beats any ice cream.

Today, being Australia Day, we celebrated with snags, grilled onion, plus a nice summery peach and tomato salad. And yes, we ate it all on the coffee table!

Shanghai Dumpling Cafe – link

I know that not everyone who reads this blog reads my other one on Canberra restaurants. I don’t normally do this, but I have discovered a Shanghainese restaurant in Canberra that has just made my day. So if you ever come to Canberra, or live in Canberra, definitely give it a go!

The missing dessert

Glutinous sesame rice balls – the missing dessert from my 7 course Asian degustation:



Monday misery

I am thinking about ramen after reading this. The more I think about it, the angrier I get.

Canberra is tragically deprived of good Japanese food, especially ramen. Sure, there are lots of bad Japanese food, such as Sizzling Bento in Kingston with its pseudo ramen in a less than palatable broth, Mee’s Sushi in Manuka which shamelessly adopts two-minute noodles as ramen and charges an inexcusable amount for it, and Wagamama in Civic that serves fast Japanese food made by English apprentices rather than the authentic fare. To think that Wagamama is as good as it gets in Canberra…

Japanese ramen has Chinese origins. The word ramen in Chinese is pronounced ‘la mien’, which translates into hand-pulled noodles. It’s not as big in China as it is in Japan, but I do remember eating curry beef la mien inside street stalls in Shanghai when I was little. The noodle was sold by weight (the measurement was ‘liang’ = 50 grams), and would come in a rich curry beef broth with lots of coriander. The beef was thinly sliced and goes amazingly well with the herb in the curried broth. This is probably very different to Japanese ramen versions.

Talking about ramen is making me hungry. I think I will go eat last night’s dinner now. As for ramen, I will have to wait until Sydney.

**ETA**: We went to Wagamama last night for ramen (because we just couldn’t hold it out any longer). It was terrible. I had a chilli chicken ramen which came really fast but the quantity was measly. Ben had a Wagamama ramen which came nearly 20 minutes after mine and was just as bad. The quantity and quality were so lacking, in fact we went to Nando’s afterwards for a second meal.

The seven (six) course Asian degustation

Degustation is a culinary term meaning “a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods” and focusing on the gustatory system, the senses, high culinary art and good company.

Inspired partly by Masterchef and partly out of sheer insanity, I decided to make a 7 course Asian degustation. But due to time constraints (I started at 3pm and managed to finish at 7:30), it turned out to be a 6 course degustation. I did some preparation for the other dessert course, but it would have taken a little more time to put together – so watch this space!

Without much further ado, onto the menu!

The first entree is salad of beansprouts with sesame dressing on an egg net. This one is Korean-inspired. The beansprouts are blanched first then dressed in sesame oil, salt etc.


The second entree is Vietnamese pork meatballs with sesame-infused soy sauce and mayonnaise. I cheated with both the soy sauce and the mayonnaise – soy sauce is from the farmers market at Pyrmont in Sydney and the mayonnaise is the famous Japanese Kewpie brand. For those that are about to scoll at me for using store-bought mayonnaise, I did make my own the other day!


The third entree is steamed cabbage rolls in a light chicken broth. This Chinese dish consists of julienned carrots, shitake mushrooms and dried tofu sheets wrapped in steamed cabbage (wombok). The broth is made from no other than Campbell’s chicken stock (so good and so easy).


The first main course is Dong Puo Rou with tea egg. What is Dong Puo Rou you ask? It’s really just a fancy Chinese name for slow-braised pork belly. The eggs are cooked with star anise and black tea, giving it a special fragrance.


The second main course is chicken and potato coconut curry. Mum used to make this curry with curry powder from Shanghai, which had a special flavour. Western curry powder just don’t taste the same. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find it here, so instead I improvised and added coconut milk to the curry, making it a partly-Chinese, partly-Indochina dish.


The dessert is Japanese green tea mousse with ai-yu jelly. This one was a quickie – I used Japanese green tea mousse from a packet, and the jelly came in a can 🙂



Like I said, the second dessert course wasn’t prepared because I ran out of time, but will make it sometime this week!