Descent into auntie-food (like lotus stir-fry)

Lotus root as a bit of a bad rep sometimes as being very traditional, and boring, and possibly not-food (I know some people who refuse to eat the lotus in soups as it is considered not-food and therefore not-edible).

Yes, I did get funny looks when I very excitedly found an ugly  potato-root-looking thing in the market. Yes, it was an effort to persuade Bigfoot that I did in fact want to buy this rather expensive thing that looked a bit like a petrified hotdog bun. But it was worth it in the end.

I didn’t think it was ugly at all. Or even auntie-ish. In the end, you can’t beat simple, tasty, and most importantly quick food  after a long day.

I swear it tastes good

Lotus Stir-Fry

Adapted from Just Bento’s version.

1 lotus root, peeled and sliced
2-3 cm ginger, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic (depending on size), chopped
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped into approx 1cm lengths

chilli flakes or whole red chilli, to taste – I used around 1/2 teasp red chilli flakes
1 teasp brown suger
1 teasp rice / balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablesp sesame seeds
1.5 tablesp soya sauce
2 teasp sesame oil
white pepper to taste

  1. Slice lotus root and leave it in some slightly vinegared water while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Fry ginger and garlic in oil until fragrant, over medium heat. Drain the lotus slices and add to the pain in a single layer, flipping as needed.
  3. Add chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, pepper, soya sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and vinegar. Cook until slightly caramelised.
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On the Clash of Cuisines

Bigfoot and I have this problem, in that he says all Chinese food is bland and I strongly, vehemently, and occasionally violently disagree with him. And I continue to politely suggest that his taste buds have been corrupted by a lifetime of curry powder and exposure to poor quality pork-free cantonese  food.

There is a whole world (of Chinese food) out there. And I will win this personal crusade. Bit by bit, fighting tooth and nail each step of the way.

After this meal, the score stood at 5,001:0 (me being the victor. Of course, I’m also the only one keeping score, but whatever).

Preconceptions vanquished

Szechuan Eggplant with Spicy Tauchu 

Adapted from Smokywok.

2 medium sized eggplants – cut into sticks
1 cm knob salted fish – chopped
5 (small) cloves garlic – chopped
Thumb sized knob of ginger – sliced
3 stalks spring onions – chopped into 1-2 inch lengths
2 red chilli – chopped
1 teasp szechuan peppers

2 tablesp spicy tauchu (bean paste)
2 tablesp soya sauce
1.5 tablesp sugar
2 tablesp chinese black vinegar
1/4 cup water

  1. Pre-cook the eggplant – either fry it for a couple of minutes in a wok, or toast it in the toaster oven for 5 minutes. I toasted mine.
  2. In a claypot (or a pot with a lid), fry with a little oil: salted fish, garlic, ginger, spring onions, chilli, and szechuan peppers.
  3. Throw in all the sauces and the pre-cooked eggplant. Stir it up and wait for the sauce to boil.
  4. Once the sauce boils, lower the heat to medium-low, and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the eggplant is cooked and the sauce is absorbed.

Lea’s Favourite Lala

Lala, I have missed you. Pipis (as they appear to be named here in Melbourne) are pretty similar. I do love my clammie types.

I was so excited that I didn’t take process shots. Oops. The process is pretty simple though.

Food like this needs no further introduction, though pretty pictures would probably endear it to more people. Without further delay, I present one of my favourite foods:

Oh lala I have missed you

Ginger & Spring Onion Lala (or Pipis)

Adapted from Rasa Malaysia’s ginger & spring onion crab.

600g lala / pipis
Thumb size knob of ginger
8 stalks spring onion
1 red chilli

1.5 tablesp oyster sauce
1/2 tablesp sesame oil
1/2 tablesp fish sauce
1/2 teasp sugar
1/2 teasp white pepper
1/4 cup water
1/2 teasp corn flour

  1. Clean your lala / pipis, if they aren’t already clean.
  2. Slice ginger into sticks. Chop the red chilli too. Finally, chop spring onion into 1-2 inch lengths, separating the white hard bits and the green bits.
  3. In a little oil, fry the ginger, chilli, and white parts of the spring onion until fragrant.
  4. Throw in everything else – sauce components, cornflour, green bits of the spring onion, and lala / pipis.
  5. Cover for 5-8 minutes with the heat on medium-high, until all the lala / pipis have opened.

More Easy Vegetables: Sesame-Sugar Long Beans

Easy vegetable recipes are pretty much my staple, with a throw-everything-in-and-fry omelette and rice.

Here is yet another one. Sometimes, dinner is for watching Masterchef Professional after a long day on Excel, rather than actually cooking.

Be lazy, lik ea bean

Sesame-Sugar Long Beans

Learnt it from my uncle, this works with any green / leafy veg

3-4 servings of green beans, chopped
2 tablesp sesame oil
1 teasp soya sauce
1 teasp sugar, brown / white
A dash of white pepper

2 thin slices of ginger – for blanching. They don’t even need to be skinned, just clean 🙂

  1. Boil some water in a pan, and drop in the two slices of ginger. Cover with a lid, and bring everything to a rolling boil. 
  2. Blanch the  beans for 30 seconds or so, taste one to check done-ness. If it’s how you like it (I like mine under-done), drain off the water and transfer to a bowl. If not, keep checking until it is cooked enough.
  3. While hot, pour all other ingredients into the bowl, and stir well. Taste. Adapt as you like.

Cure-All for All that Ails

Cure-all of the ancients. Need I say more?


Yum yum sniff croak

 

Fine, I will. This is what I have when I’ve caught a sore throat, flu, or anything else unpleasant (that still allows me to eat). It makes all stomachs happy and even third parties will attest to its healing properties.

It is also very comforting in winter when the world is cold and cruel outside. (Psychological medicine?)

Basic Chinese Porridge (Congee / “Chook”)

I always struggle to remember my basic Chinese porridge recipe just when I need it – when I’m sick and my brain is fuddled. So, when making it as a healthy person, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write everything down (finally!).  

If you’re not sick, serve congee with a couple of sides: for example, sweet soya sauce fried fish, or a stir fried vege. Something with a strong taste can be nice (though not sambal / curry in my view). Today I served with a simple sesame-sugar long bean side.

4 cloves garlic
1.5 cm ginger
1 egg
2 dessert spoons soya sauce
1.5 rice cups of rice
7.5  rice cups water
1 any type of stock cube – or fresh if you have it 🙂

A handful of peanuts – optional, I don’t usually add this, just tried it out today
Any extras – cubed meat / fish, prawns (peeled), or veg

Sesame oil
A dash of white pepper

Yield: about 4 – 6 servings, depending on how much you eat each time.

  1. Mince ginger and garlic, then fry in a pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the rice (unrinsed), water, stock cube, and peanuts if using. Simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes until it thickens. If it remains too thin, simmer with the lid off for a while.
  3. Add soya sauce, stir in.
  4. Crack in the egg, stir in.
  5. Add any extras – fish / meat, vege if using. Cover and simmer until fully cooked. Don’t stir! Add a little extra water if it is getting too thick.
  6. Sprinkle on a little sesame oil and white pepper, garnish and serve. I garnished with fried garlic flakes.
    Garnish options, if you have them on hand: 

    • Spring onion, chopped
    • Fried garlic
    • Fried onions
    • Fried ginger
    • Fish / chicken flosses
    • Fresh coriander
      …the list is endless!

Note: freezes well. Add a little water when you reheat.

As my “extra”, I added a little fish and mussels in a soya sauce-sesame marinade:

Fish and Mussels Soya Sauce-Sesame Marinade (for Chinese Porridge)

Inspired by Smoky Wok.

A handful of mixed fish cubes and mussels
3 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp sesame oil
1 teasp balsamic vinegar – I didn’t have Chinese vinegar, which would have been better
1/2 teasp sugar
A pinch of flour

  1. Mix everything up and leave it to sit while the rice is cooking. Then add during Step 5 (see above). 

On Asian Adaptations and Silken Tofu

I like silken tofu but I never know what to eat it with except soya sauce, spring onion + friends. Sometimes you need a little more kick than a peaceful meal of steamed silken tofu with soya sauce can provide.

Pre-sauce Post-sauce

Enter Szechuan inspired tofu.

Now, I hate Asian food adaptations as much as the next purist, especially because they are generally bland-ed down versions of the real stuff, but when you have just moved house and possess only half the necessary storecupboad staples, well, there isn’t really much else you can do.

Rest assured that at least this adaptation is far from bland.

A mess of peanuts

(Anyone else hate the words “silken tofu”?? Sounds so unappetising. I didn’t even know it was called that until a year or so ago).

Lunchtime!

Szechuan Inspired Tofu

No real source here – I checked out a couple of page for various other things then threw some stuff together. 

1 block silken tofu
1/4 cup peanuts, unsalted

4 garlic, peeled
1.5cm ginger, peeled
2 red chilli (or one large long red chilli)
1 tablesp kicap manis
3 tablesp light soya sauce
1 teasp white vinegar
1 teasp brown sugar
1/3 cup water
A pinch of flour – flour or cornflour are both okay

  1. Steam tofu!
  2. Meanwhile, put the garlic, ginger, and chilli in a chopper. Blend to a rough paste.
  3. Pour all the sauces into the garlic / ginger / chilli mixture, and let them all sit until the tofu is almost finished cooking.
  4. Toast the peanuts… for no more than 5 minutes! I used a toaster oven and burnt mine.
  5. In a pot, fish out most of the garlic / ginger / chilli and fry in a little oil over medium heat.
  6. When the ginger and garlic turns a little golden and becomes fragrant, add the rest of the sauce and 1/3 cup of water.
  7. Set the heat to high. Let the mixture come to a boil and simmer down until the sauce is black and reduced a little. Then, add the pinch of flour and stir until the sauce thickens.
  8. Pour sauce and peanuts over steamed tofu and serve hot, with rice.

Sweet like a Restaurant

You know how vegetables are always so much sweeter in Chinese restaurants? Sweet and crisp.

Crispiness aside, the sweetness aspect is a trick. Apparently they use ginger to sweeten the vegetable. Don’t ask me how that works, but it does.

Supposedly it’s because the ginger soaks up the “toxins” and other baddies, so the vege loses its bitterness. And you aren’t allowed to eat the ginger afterwards. You should discard it. It’s very bad for you. Tsk tsk.

Well, this all sounds very (NOT) scientific to me. But it does work, so what can I say. If you know why this works I’d love to hear about it.

Not bitter or squishy at all

In the mean time I’m going to continue enjoying the easiest vege ever.

Sweet and Crispy Chinese Vegetables – choose your sauce!

Source: one of my aunties told me

A bunch of leafy vegetables
4 slices of ginger – no need to peel it, just wash it well
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
A splash of sauce of your choice – fish, soya, oyster, anything really
A dash of white pepper, if you like

  1. Get some water in a pot. Drop in 2 slices of ginger and bring everything up to a boil.
  2. Blanch your vege, and then cool it in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.
  3. Fry the remaining 2 slices of ginger in a little oil. Add the garlic and keep going until it gets fragrant, but not too brown.
  4. Add the vege and  sauce of your choice, and give it a couple of quick stirs. Remove from heat immediately. Add the pepper if you want to.

Sugar in Strange Places

My brother doesn’t have sugar in his house. Say it with me “????!??!”

Marinade is marinating

That’s because I had nothing to say, my mind was too boggled. He doesn’t cook, that much we’ve established, but even people who don’t cook generally have a sachet of sugar floating around somewhere that they’ve pinched from a restaurant or something. Anyway, good for him, he is being healthy and sugar-free.

Taste of childhood

This meant that I Had A Problem, because I wanted to use sugar in my sauce.

Use white colour, crush well!

Solution: find the food in the house with the highest sugar content, and crumble that into the sauce. This happened to be the the icing of some gem biscuits. I used the white ones. I felt that pink or yellow spots in my sauce might not go down too well at dinnertime.

Well, at least I can add ‘resourceful’ to my CV now.

See what I mean about the microwave?

Steamed Tofu with Spring Onion

Inspired by Two Spoons, method taken from Rasa Malaysia (ish)

1 block of tofu – smooth silken type
3 tablesp light soya sauce
2 tablesp sesame oil
3 stalks of spring onion, chopped – I just took the green part of about 8, I used the base for something else
1/2 teasp sugar – or the tops of 4 gem biscuits….your choice
A dash of pepper
A dash of 5 spice powder

  1. Make the sauce – mix together the following: 
    • Soya sauce
    • Sesame oil
    • Spring onion
    • Sugar
    • Pepper
    • 5 spice powder
  2. Microwave on high for 20 seconds. Set aside in the fridge and let it sit there until you need to use it (probably not necessary, I was doing things ahead of time).
  3. Steam the tofu on a plate. Don’t microwave it, I did that, and the structure somehow disintegrated just a little bit.
  4. Pour sauce over hot tofu.

Boring words like Braised

Braised. Braised. Braaiiisseedd.

I don’t think it’s a very appetising word and would probably never order anything braised in a restaurant. But I wanted to play cooking with claypot again.

   

It makes you feel like you’re doing legitimate cooking when you could be making the same dish in a normal pan. What fun!

It’s about pretending to be cool in the kitchen, when actually you’re nothing more than a greedy food enthusiast who pretends to cook well (but doesn’t actually), and doesn’t like to tell people you cook because they might actually get you to cook something for them and then they would realise that you actually aren’t very good at cooking. They might berate you after that for having a food blog. Phew. Perhaps I won’t turn Publicise on after all.

Warm, dark, and handsome

Before you think I’ve cracked slightly, let’s move quickly on to the recipe.

Braised Tofu with Mushrooms (In a Claypot)

Recipe again adapted from Rasa Malaysia. This is pretty much my go-to website for Chinese-y type recipes. The original recipe is a porky version but mine is vegetarian. Except for the fishcakes I added afterwards, because certain males in my family won’t eat tofu and believe it causes them to grow breasts (it’s a myth everyone!!!)

1 packet of tofu, cut into cubes and drained
1 packet of fishcakes, sliced – totally optional, I added this later
5 Chinese dried mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablesp sweet soya sauce – it’s better to use kicap manis, but I used Chinese dark thick soya sauce because I didn’t have any. If you do this, up the sugar to 1/4 teasp
1/2 tablesp oyster sauce
1 teasp soya sauce
1/8 teasp sugar
1/4 cup water

2 tablesp water + 1 teasp corn starch – to thicken rather than anything else
A single chopped spring onion – I used more..I don’t like wasting half a packet
White pepper to taste

  1. Precook the tofu and fishcakes (if using). You can either deepfry, or stick it in the toaster oven (lightly oiled). If you toast it, flip it after it turns golden brown. Drain off the oil on paper towels.
  2. Heat the claypot (slowly) and dump in garlic and a little oil. Fry the garlic until it’s golden brown.
  3. Chuck in the mushrooms, tofu, and fishcakes (if using).
  4. Pour in all the sauces and the 1/4 cup of water.
  5. Cover the pot, and leave everything to braaiiisseee for 15 minutes over low heat.
  6. Stir in the corn starch mixture.
  7. Throw on the spring onions.
  8. Eat your warm, comforting meal from the claypot with rice.

A Sluggish Feesh

So I don’t have much to say about food this time. It’s tasty and consistent, that’s what you want from food. Nothing to scream about but always works, and is well received. Can I write about something else?

 

What if I write about how I’m fed up with icing sugar and don’t want to eat anything except hard cheese and grilled vegetables? Also, plain rice? This fish goes well with plain rice, in case you were wondering.

I’m sure this is temporary.

In other news, the weather is terrible. The haze is causing my eyes to squish themselves closed all the time (you know I’m scraping the barrel when I talk about the weather). Hence, general grumpiness has ensued.

My big yay of the moment: mooncake festival is coming up = I can get my favourite goldfish biscuits from Bee’s in The Curve. This year they are selling butterfly shaped ones too. I wish they sold these year round. I know they’re intended for little kids, and I don’t care. Boo to you, sensible grownups. I don’t like normal mooncakes very much. Especially not the yolks. Yes yes, come scold me now. I bite my butterfly biscuit at you. Pah.

Yes, I’m using a book as a plate. Your point being?

Fried Fish with Ginger & Soya Sauce

Originally from Rasa Malaysia. I don’t keep Chinese wine around, so I generally substitute for black vinegar (in this case balsamic, but others will do). It doesn’t make a difference to taste in my opinion, just top up the sugar a little to compensate.  This is one of the first (read – right now the only) fish I learnt how to cook properly.

1 decent sized fish – the one I used fed 5, with other dishes
2 inch knob of ginger, cut into strips
1 stalk spring onion, chopped – clearly I used more, not to waste the rest of the packet…

3 tablesp light soya sauce
1/3 tablesp balsamic vinegar – I usually have this on hand, this is instead of the wine
4 tablesp water
1/4 teasp sesame oil
2 1/4 tablesp sugar – I increased this, because I’m using vinegar instead of wine. You can go up to 2 1/2 tablesp
A couple of pinches of white pepper

  1. Fry Mr Fishy until he is brown and crispy. It’s better if you use a “real” fish, but fillet works well enough in a pinch.
  2. Mix up the sauce in a bowl.
  3. Fry the ginger strips in a little oil until golden brown. Remove from the oil.
  4. Using the same oil, add soya sauce mixture and heat until it boils.
  5. Pour the sauce over the fish.
  6. Sprinkle on the ginger and spring onion bits.

Note: don’t pour on the sauce until just before you plan to eat the fish, or the fish will go soggy and weird. Else you can pre-make the sauce and just heat it back up in the microwave for a bit before pouring over the fish and serving.