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.

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.

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.

 

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.

Rushed Jobs and Eggplants

When you have half an hour’s warning to make dinner, that’s most definitely when you should start getting creative and trying things you’ve never done before.  Not completely my fault, we didn’t have much in the fridge except for eggplant, garlic and onion. As well as the pre-requisite sauces you need for everything.

It’s alright. Happy surprises involving eggplants brighten up my day. It’s one of my favourite vegetables 🙂

Vietnamese Claypot Eggplant

Inspired by The Siracusas. I didn’t follow their recipe that well because I didn’t have most of the ingredients. Great blogger, well done Lea. So here’s a pretty heavily adapted version of their recipe.

2 skinny eggplants
2 tablesp soya sauce
2 teasp sugar
1 teasp paprika powder – I never ever have paprika powder, I guess I don’t really know what it’s for? It’s a bit mild and sweetish but not any defined flavour? Yes I’m a philistine. I used a little dark/caramel soya sauce
1/2 a small onion – I added this… (ok so this wasn’t my fault, the recipe calls for a couple of spring onions, chopped, and I didn’t have any so I subbed)
3 cloves garlic – and this… (this is totally new)
2 red chillies – and this. (this too….See a pattern here? Related to garlic and chilli?)
A few dashes of white pepper

  1. Chop the eggplants into sticks, and soak them in some salty water. Dry and drain.
  2. Cook the eggplants – you can deep fry them, I usually stick these things in the toaster oven for a bit, flipping after 5 minutes. Because I’m lazy and also scared of flying oil.
  3. To get rid of the oil, you can rinse the eggplants in hot water, or pat them with a paper towel.
  4. Break out the clay pot (or just a pot), and marinate the eggplants in there with all the other sauces, for at least 30 minutes. I hit about 15 minutes tops and it was enough.
  5. The recipe says you can cook it on medium heat with the top off for 5 minutes. I chose to dump it on the stove for 15 with the top on. Again, out of laziness. But I found that this made the eggplant get all nice and caramalised on the outside, so go for it 🙂