Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chee Cheong Fun 猪肠粉

Chee Cheong Fun is a quintessential tim sum classic that is often thought to be hard to make. I found a method for home cooks that doesn't even require one to steam it. Just nuke it in the microwave! It can't get any easier than that right?

Ingredients: (makes 6 rolls)

  • 3/4 cup rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • cooking oil, to line container
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cooking wine
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil


Combine rice flour, water, salt and sesame oil in a container.

Oil a rectangle microwave-safe container. (I used the lid of the container). Pour the flour/water mixture into the container and cover the entire surface.

Nuke it in the microwave on high for 2 minutes.

Remove and roll. Pour the sauce over the rolls and serve.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sausage and Mushroom Pasta alla Carbonara

When I order pasta alla carbonara at a restaurant, my first question is always 'does this have cream in it?'. If the dish has cream in it, then I won't order it. Call me a snob, but if you've tried carbonara without cream in it, just like the Italians do it, you will never have the creamed version ever again.

I had my first taste of the authentic Italian pasta alla carbonara in Milan, when I was there for a music festival in 2008. At first, it took a while for my brain to even register that what I was eating was pasta alla carbonara because the Italian dish was completely different from what I was used to. Italians do not use bacon, cream or parmesan cheese in their carbonara. It seemed that bacon, cream and parmesan were American inventions. In Italy, carbonara is made with guanciale (cured pork cheek)  or pancetta (cured and spiced pork), eggs and pecorino cheese. It is a completely different dish altogether. The only similarity is that it is a pasta dish.

The Italian carbonara was creamy and light, unlike the carbonara that I was used to, because instead using heavy cream as the base for the sauce, the Italian version used raw eggs. I loved it! Raw eggs to cream the pasta - the Romans are geniuses!

Since then, I've never looked back. I always make my carbonara with raw eggs. Just remember, use fresh eggs, or there may be a risk of salmonella contamination. Try it,  you'll thank me later.

I'm substituting sausage for pancetta because I can't find pancetta anywhere. Mushrooms are my favorite, and I add them to anything that I'm not cooking for Jason (because he hates it).

Sausage and Mushroom pasta alla carbonara

Ingredients: (one serving)

  • 1 egg
  • 8 white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 box pasta, cooked according to the directions on the box
  • 1 Italian sausage, cut into bite sized bits
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of grated pecorino cheese (parmesan or romano are fine if you can't find pecorino)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

In a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, Italian sausage bits and the 2 (whole) cloves of garlic until the sausage is cooked. Remove the garlic cloves. (I just love garlic, so I minced them and leave them in there.)

Add the cooked pasta and mushrooms, and continue frying until mushrooms are cooked.

Remove pan from heat, and crack an egg into the pasta. Grate 1/4 cup of pecorino cheese onto the pasta, mix and serve. It doesn't look creamy, but it will be creamy when you eat it. Thank me later. :)

Raisin Bread

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 1/2 cup oat meal
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup milk

Proof the yeast by adding the yeast and sugar to the warm water. Wait for 10 minutes or until bubbles start to appear on the surface of the water.

Add 2 1/2 cups of flour, flax seed, oat meal, milk and raisins and knead the bread. Add more flour if needed.

Cover, and let the dough rise for 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size. 

After two hours, knead the dough again, and transfer into an oiled bread tin. Cover again, and let the dough rise for at least 30 mins.

After 30 mins, bake for 30mins in the oven at 375F.

Baked Ziti with Maple Sausage

Its pasta time again, because we have so so so so much pasta. When we moved into the new apartment in July, we had a grand total of 23 boxes of pasta. Yes, it's an insane amount of pasta for two people to stock, but we often buy things when it is cheap, so that we don't have to wait for sales and coupons. Cheapest box of pasta we ever bought - 59c from Wegmans!

So we have six boxes of ziti from Wegmans, bought when it was only 59c a box, and we finally use our first of these! 

Ingredients: (6 servings)
  • 1 box of ziti, cooked according to the instructions on the box
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 16 oz bottle of pasta sauce
  • 1/3 package cream cheese
  • 1 pound minced pork (or beef or chicken or turkey)
  • 2 maple sausages, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Pour half of the cooked ziti on the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish.

In a frying pan, fry the onions, minced pork and maple sausages until cooked. Add the onions/pork/sausages on top of the pasta in the baking dish. Pinch cream cheese into small balls and put the cheese balls on top and spread out evenly.

Fry the green peas and carrots until cooked, and add to the baking dish. Pour half the bottle of pasta sauce over the top.

Layer the remaining ziti over the top of the ingredients in the baking dish and top with the remaining pasta sauce. Spread the sauce evenly so that everything is covered.

Cover the top layer with mozzarella. I had some Mexican 6-cheese blend that I added on top too.

Bake in the oven for 20-30mins at 375F, or until the cheese melts.

Pad Thai with Tofu

Pad Thai is one of the most famous Thai dishes around. Unfortunately, good Pat Thai is so hard to find here, especially if you've tried the real deal - Pad Thai on the streets of Bangkok - which we both have had the luxury to have tasted. Being extremely frugal (we've eaten out less than five times since we moved in about 5 months ago) and adventurous, I decided to figure out Pad Thai.

Pad Thai is easy. There are only three things to Pad Thai. Vary the amounts and you'll have vastly different tastes of Pad Thai.

1. Fish sauce (salty) - soy sauce will not work, not in a long shot.
2. Sugar (sweet)
3. Tamarind (sour)

There are two things that I think Pad Thai should include. Unfortunately, I wanted to keep it vegetarian today, so I excluded the dried shrimps, and there is no chaipo to be found in Boston (if anyone finds it somewhere, please let me know.)

1. Dried shrimp
2. Dried preserved turnips (chaipo)

Enough of introductions, lets make some Pad Thai!

Tofu Pad Thai

  • 1/2 block tofu
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium clove shallot
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste/juice
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • half a packet of dried rice noodles
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup ground peanuts
  • 1/2 pound bean sprouts
  • 1/2 bunch of garlic chives/chinese chives (or green onions)
  • oil for frying
  • chili flakes (optional) to taste

some ingredients

Soak the dried rice noodles in cold water for about 10 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, tamarind paste and fish sauce.

soaked rice noodles

Cut your tofu into 1 1/2 by 1/2 inch strips and fry the strips of tofu in oil until they're all golden brown. While the tofu is frying, mince the garlic and shallots. Remove the tofu, and fry the garlic and shallots in the same pan (yes, I'm a fan of using less pans).

frying tofu

Add the soaked rice noodles into the pan, and add water 1/4 cup per time. Each time water is added, add some of the sugar/tamarind/fish sauce mix too.

add rice noodles to the pan

When the rice noodles are cooked, make a space in the middle of the pan, and crack two eggs into the pan. Fry the noodles with the egg.

When the eggs are cooked and incorporated into the noodles, add the bean sprouts, peanuts and chives/green onions. Fry for about 30 seconds more.

now just fry it for a little bit more

Squirt some lime juice over the pad thai, sprinkle more ground peanuts over the plate, and serve. In Thailand, they usually serve with a lime wedge, ground peanuts, sugar and chilli flakes on the side.

Tofu Pad Thai

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnarolls or cinnabuns, whichever you call them, were something we used to have when I was a child. No, nobody made it at home, but my mom buys these all the times. Sometimes there were even banana cinnamon rolls, walnut cinnamon rolls and raisin cinnamon rolls. Delicious! I'll save those for another day.

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 + 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon powder

Proof your yeast by putting the yeast and white sugar in warm water for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, there should be bubbles on the surface of the water. 

To the yeast/water mixture, add 2 1/2 cups of flour, mil and 1/2 cup of butter. Knead and add flour 1/4 cup at a time until it resembles a ball of dough. Cover the dough and let it rise for an hour or two.

In the meantime, add the cinnamon powder and brown sugar to the remaining 1/4 cup of softened butter. Set aside.

After an hour or two, roll out the dough into a long rectangle.

Spread the butter/cinnamon/sugar mixture over the entire surface of the rectangle. Roll the rectangle from the bottom to the top. 

Cut the roll of dough into 18 pieces, and lay each piece cut-side-up on a baking tray.

Bake in the oven for 25-30mins at 375F. Voila~ You have great smelling cinnamon rolls!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Roti Prata (Roti Canai)

I don't know what struck me to attempt roti prata. Maybe its because it is so delicious, and the frozen variety we find at the Indian supermarket is too expensive and doesn't taste as good. I know, a common trend for me is to make foods that I think are sold too expensively - first it was salted eggs, now its roti prata.

Anyway, roti prata is the Singaporean version of roti canai, its Malaysian counterpart. It is an Indian flatbread that is often eaten with sugar or curry, and has evolved into a versatile vehicle for variation. Back in my college days, we used to go to the 24hr Niqqi's behind Eusoff Hall at ungodly hours to sample all sorts of prata with a myriad of fillings. Banana, cheese, mushrooms - you name it. It might as well be an Indian ommelette!

My favorite prata is the plain prata, although I like the tissue prata too. The plain prata or prata kosong, as we call it, is to me, the most flavorful because it does not have other extra ingredients added to it to 'enhance' the taste. Same goes for tissue prata. (This is probably one of the few times I like plain things. I usually shun the word plain like a plague. Jason can attest to this!)

Ingredients: (makes 4 pratas)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup ghee
1/3 cup water
[I don't have ghee, so I substituted it with 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup canola oil.]

roti prata - Singapore's Indian bread

Mix the ghee and flour together. The flour should be flaky. Add the water to the mixture and knead for about 10 minutes. Add water teaspoon by teaspoon if it is too dry.

now let it rest for two to four hours

Let the dough rest for two to four hours. It will stretch better after this.

Remove the dough and place on an oiled surface. Knead it for another five minutes. Separate the dough into four equal balls and flatten out the balls with your palm. There are now two ways to do this - the roti prata man's flip, or just use a rolling pin and roll it flat. I did the latter (of course).

flat as flatbreads are supposed to be

After you roll it flat, fold the top side down, bottom side up, left side in and right side in. You will get something similar to a square, but with some air inside. Place this prata into a frying pan (no oil), and fry until it becomes golden brown. Do the same with the rest of the balls.

fold it!

fry it!

Serve with curry, or white sugar! I personally like curry AND sugar - call me greedy!

oh so so so good!