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.

Baked Real Whole Fish

Oh woe is me, for the want of barbecued fish but lack of a barbecue.

Photo 25-02-2013 18 47 45 Photo 25-02-2013 18 57 26

Sympathy not forthcoming, I resolved to remedy this disaster.

I ended up making baked fish with a Thai inspired sauce (what is it with me and Asian adaptations at the moment?? Note to self, please don’t let your angmoh side start getting in control of things here. If you start adapting classics like claypot chicken rice, part of you will die inside.)

Photo 25-02-2013 19 23 54

Anyway, not that it makes any of this it more acceptable, but I did note that this style of cooking = moist soft fish while retaining a nice slight char on the sauce flavours at the end.

Photo 25-02-2013 19 56 30

Thai Style Baked Fish

Method from Thaifood.About.com, edited to suit the flavour I wanted. 

Medium red snapper

10 cloves garlic
2 sticks lemongrass – white part only
1 small red chilli
1 green chilli
4 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp oyster sauce
2 tablesp fish sauce
3 teasp brown sugar
Zest of 1/4 of a large lime
Juice of 1 a large lime
A large bunch of coriander

Tin foil
An oven-safe dish large enough to hold your fish – to prevent drips

  1. Clean and scale your fish, if this hasn’t already been done.
  2. In a good food processor, dump in all the sauce ingredients except for the lime juice and the coriander.
    1. Add 80% of the coriander, reserving the rest for garnish
    2. Add half the lime juice
  3. Blend everything. Taste, and adjust lime juice and sugar as necessary.
  4. When you’re happy, roll out enough tin foil to encase the fish and drop the fish in the middle of it. Pack a couple of tablespoons of paste into the fish cavity. Slash the sides of the fish vertically a couple of times, and pack some paste into there too. Make sure paste coats both sides of the entire fish. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of sauce / paste for later.
  5. Loosely wrap the fish in the tin foil, and place in the oven safe dish. This prevents drippage and makes your life easier later on.
  6. Bake at 190 degrees C for around 20 minutes, adjust if your fish is bigger. Mine was a medium sized fish.
  7. Check if the fish is done (i.e., flesh inside the cuts on the side of the body is no longer translucent). If so, open the top of the tinfoil, pour in the rest of the sauce. Turn the oven to max / grill setting, and grill the exposed fish for around 5 minutes, or until the top reaches your desired level of charred-ness.

Triumphant Return, Green Chilli Powered

Can we all agree that green curry from a packet, while nice in isolation, does not by any stretch of imagination taste as good as green curry as eaten in Chiangmai, in a restaurant where no one speaks any English?

Green curry paste part 1 Green curry paste part 2And this is how we determine what went into the paste...because the instructions don't match what the chef did!!

Yes, I thought we could agree on this. If you don’t agree, may I ask if you have actually been to Thailand?

I always find it hard to choose my favourite type of food.  But when I’m in Thailand, Thai food is my favourite food. Don’t ever let them serve you the tempered down (pansy) versions of dishes – you must say “I like it spicy! Like Thai!”

Green curry paste!!! Get ready to stir The first bubbling The second bubbling

Of course, you must not forget to bring a bottle of charcoal tablets. Because as much as you may like it spicy like Thai, your stomach will probably begin to complain after your 5th straight meal of curry / tom yam / yum woon seng / spicy mango salad. Do not let that stop you. Bland meals are for the weak. Do not under any circumstances sell out and request the less-spicy-cos-I’m-a-useless-lame-foreigner version. 2 charcoal tablets after an extra spicy meal allows you to continue eating excessive amounts of chilli and coconut milk at every meal for at least 2 weeks straight.

The bubbling after meat

I’m not obsessed. Not at all.

This not obsessed nature led me to take a cooking class, and bother the chef by requesting that he teach me special dishes that were not on the class list. Well, he seemed more amused than irritated. He was definitely amused when I started taking pictures of the food every 5 seconds. Don’t forget, I’m not very good at remembering / following instructions.

Tadaa!

I also think cooking classes are an excuse for real chefs to dress up amateurs in silly looking clothes and laugh at them. Seriously, even he didn’t wear a chef’s hat – but he wouldn’t let me take it off!! Sighs.

Thai Green Curry

Learnt at a cooking class in Phuket. First rule: STIR ALWAYS!!

Green Curry Paste

3-4 green chilli padi (the small spicy ones!) – use more or less if you like
2 smallish cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 shallots, sliced
1 teasp galangal, sliced thinly
1/2 – 1 teasp ginger, sliced into matchsticks
1 teasp lemon grass, sliced
1.5 teasp kaffir lime zest – can be substituted with lime apparently
1 teasp fresh green peppercorns
1 teasp Thai shrimp paste, otherwise known as kapi / kapee

  1. Basically you just mash all these together with a pestle and mortar until you get a nice green paste which sticks to itself, and looks like pesto (see above pic). Or if you’re lazy you can probably give it a whirl in the chopper.
    The paste keeps for around a month in the fridge, probably longer if you freeze it. 

Green Curry

150 – 200g meat – mine was chicken, but I suspect any meat (beef, lamb, seafood) should be okay. Or you can make it vegetarian! 🙂
80g tiny thai eggplant – the tiny, round ones that look like beads
100g small round eggplant, cut into quarters – these are the size of a golfball
1/2 to 1 cup coconut milk – depends how you like it, I prefer 1/2 cup. Fresh would be the nicest
1-2 tablesp fish sauce – I like it with 1.5 tablesp, but it depends on your fish sauce
1-2 teasp white sugar – again, I used 1.5 teasp
2 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 tablesp thai/sweet basil leaves
1/2 red chilli, sliced into strips – for garnishing

  1. Stir continuously over medium-low heat, in a high sided saucepan:
    • 6 tablespoons of coconut milk
    • 1-3 tablespoons of green curry paste
  2. Wait until the mixture comes to a boil. Then add the rest of the coconut milk. Keep stirring!
  3. Put the heat up to medium-high. Keep stirring! Wait for the coconut to boil and bubble up.
  4. Add the meat to the bubbly coconut milk. Don’t forget to stir.
  5. Wait for the coconut milk to boil and bubble up again. Then, add the different types of eggplant.
  6. After a while, the coconut milk will boil and bubble up again – then season with the fish sauce and white sugar, as you like it.
  7. Let everything boil up again (are you seeing a trend here?), then add the kaffir lime leaves and basil leaves. You haven’t forgotten to stir, have you?
  8. Pour out into a bowl, garnish with the red chilli strips if you feel fancy.

Surprisingly easier than you thought, wasn’t it? 🙂

P.S. I do apologise for abandoning Happy Bellea for so long. But well, Christmas + wedding + Chinese New Year + moving house in quick succession = far too busy me. But, hello Melbourne!

If you expect more domesticity, prepare to be disappointed. It looks boxes started breeding rapidly then killing each other in my house. Box entrails everywhere.

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.

Sambalicious Greens

Random thought: asparagus looks more like fingers than ladies fingers (bhindi), in my opinion. Stubby, weird fingers, but still.

Ladies fingers (bhindi) look like talons that come off some strange and massive creature from a long distant past.

A pile of green

Sambal asparagus (well, sambal-anything really) is one of my favourite vegetables to eat in restaurants, but not to eat at home. Why? It’s more hassle than the garlic-oyster-sauce variety. But well, the result is worth it. And if you make loads of sambal  and store it like Rasa Malaysia suggests, then I suppose a sambal-vegetable should be faster than any other sort.  I’m an inconsistent sambal-eater at home, so I didn’t bother making extra.

Sambal necessities

As you might have guessed by now, you can make sambal-anything and it will still taste good. Mostly green veg will work the best (I think), but it would be nice with eggplant too. Perhaps pumpkin? I’ll have to try that.

I could eat only sambal asparagus for meals on end

Sambal Asparagus

Adapted from Rasa Malaysia. I reduced the sambal amount because I only wanted enough for this dish, so the proportions are just slightly different.

5 dried chillies
2 fresh chillies
2 shallots
1 clove garlic
1 teasp belacan

200g asparagus – use young asparagus, or peel it! I forgot and served unpeeled large asparagus, fellow diners were not amused
A few prawns – with the shell removed is easier to eat
1/4 teasp sugar
1/4 teasp fish sauce

  1. Blend the chillies (dried and fresh), shallots, garlic, and belacan into a thick paste.
  2. Fry the sambal in a wok in a little oil, until you smell the belacan (believe me, you won’t miss it. Open your windows).
  3. Add the prawns and stir them in quickly, then dump in the asparagus.
  4. Add the fish sauce and sugar, and stir in. Taste, and adjust as needed. Keep cooking until the asparagus is done through.

 

Vegetable Tirade

I have a belief. I do believe that vegetables should be present at every meal. I believe this very strongly and may proceed to proselytise if provoked.

You can provoke me by trying to feed me a meal in which there are no vegetables. Repeatedly. If you don’t realise you’ve done this then you are probably a prime target.

Obligatory pre-cooking shot

Based on my recipe track record here (which is a pretty accurate indicator of what I eat), I’m clearly not one of those mega health freaks that thinks that you should drink wheatgrass smoothies every morning and go on raw vegetable purges and whatever. I completely admire their dedication, but, seriously, have you tried wheatgrass? It has “grass” in the name you know, for good reason. I don’t like the taste of grass (as I’ve mentioned before in reference to broccoli). Grass is for creatures that are 4-legged and go moo.

Also, I could never pretend to be that health conscious because I like to binge on sugary things. It would be too hypocritical of me. Blah blah, sugar loading, yes yes.

Do you see the old man onion face??!!

Well. I believe there should always be there because I like vegetables. I believe that a lot of people would feel loads better if they decided to eat one (just one!) portion of vegetables with their meals. That’s like, the size of your fist. Not much! Well, I don’t have a big fist. If you don’t eat any vegetables and you eat a portion the size of my fist, I’m sure that’d be good enough?

Also, don’t you feel a bit ill if you eat a meal with only meat and carbs? Like sleepy, and heavy, and a bit like this?

JABBAAAA

Okay you caught me, actually I just wanted to put a picture of Jabba the Hutt in a food related post. Wahahaha.

Not how it's done in Vietnam, I'm sureLook it's modern art!Not burnt not burnt not burnt

But, you know. Vegetables don’t have to party it up all the time. Sometimes they can be demure, supporting cast members to a more dramatic dish.

That’s what I thought this was going to be, up until I realised I was walking to the rice cooker to get extra rice so I could eat more eggplant and plain rice.

Sorry excuse for an attempt at plating

Anyway, I realise I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here, but my point was that I made this dish in all of about 15 minutes because there was no vegetable dish when I sat down at the dinner table today (It wasn’t my turn to cook).  I thought it upstaged the chicken curry but perhaps I’m biased?

Note: it was curry from a packet. I don’t think anyone in my house knows how to make curry from scratch.

Jabba hungry

Grilled Eggplant with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce and Scallion / Cà tím nướng mỡ hành 

Adapted from Cooking Practice, I lazied it up and subbed for things I didn’t have (spring onions again).

2 long skinny eggplants
3 spring onions – I didn’t have this, so I subbed for half a small red onion. Spring onions would probably be better but onion was nice too.

1 tablesp fish sauce
1 tablesp water
2/3 tablesp sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped – I’ll probably increase this next time
A few drops of lemon juice – optional, or you could use white vinegar, or omit this altogether

  1. Chop the eggplants into sticks and soak in salty water for a bit. (This is the beginning of my cheating method, for the authentic Vietnamese method go back to Cooking Practice 🙂 )
  2. Prepare the sauce – chop up the garlic and chilli, and mix in the fish sauce, water, sugar, and lemon juice.  Taste it and keep adding to it until you like the taste. Leave it to sit.
  3. Oil up your eggplant sticks and toast them in the oven on the grill setting. This is cheating, you’re supposed to char them over a flame but I didn’t feel like working so hard. For the instructions relating to charring over an open flame, head back over to Cooking Practice. It took my eggplants between 5-10 minutes in the oven to cook.
  4. In the meantime, chop up your spring onions. By the time you’re done, the eggplant should be done.
  5. Heat some oil (about 2 tablesp) in a pan until it smokes. Drop in the spring onions and stir a couple of times, then dump everything on the eggplant sticks. Which you’ve now nicely arranged on a plate, right?
  6. You can either keep the sauce aside as dipping sauce, or pour it all over the eggplant. I did the pour-over because…I didn’t want to have to explain to my dinner companions that it was dipping sauce as they were only coming home at 9.30pm.