Dinner · Indian · Vegetables

Amy’s Napa Cabbage Curry

napa cabbage.jpgThis is a favourite dish in our household at basically at any occasion if we want something nourishing yet aromatic and fragrant. Paired with fluffy steamed jasmine rice, this dish is truly divine. The coconut curry truly blends with the rice and spices in a marriage of flavours ordained by the priests of food alchemy. The cabbage and tiny meat pieces add variety and texture, the roasted lemongrass saturates your mouth in a buttery dance, and the chilis are just enough to give you a kick without making you cry (except perhaps with tears of joy).

I usually use chicken cut into tiny pieces for this recipe and I always marinate the chicken beforehand with fish sauce, white pepper, salt, a little rice wine and a touch of soy sauce. Sometimes, I also add lime juice and oyster sauce, although I feel it is not so necessary. If you choose to use prawns, I recommend leaving the shells and heads on to add an amazing flavour to the curry. I personally love eating prawn heads, but trust me when I say prawn heads (often used to make prawn stock) is where all the flavour comes from!

Amy’s Napa Cabbage Curry

P1060298Ingredients

  • Chicken / prawns /meat substitute (marinated with rice wine, fish sauce, salt, pepper and dash of soy sauce)
  • Napa cabbage (cut side ways and chop into strips)
  • Lemongrass (cut into little bits)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • Lots of ginger
  • Lots of garlic
  • Cumin
  • Coriander seeds
  • Oil of choice
  • ½ cup coconut milk + ½ cup chicken stock (adjust depending on how much curry you want)
    Note: Please buy a Thai brand of coconut milk! I usually use Aroy-D. Tried Western ‘health’ brands and the taste is just not the same. 
  • Lime
  • Coriander (for garnishing)
  • Curry powder + touch of tumeric if you have it
  • 2 freshly cut bird’s eye chilli

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  1. Marinate the meat with the marinade sauce for a few hours / overnight.
  2. Dry-roast the cumin and coriander seeds till they pop.
  3. Put the onion and stir-fry till a bit limp with oil of choice (1-2 minutes)
  4. Put lemongrass and ginger, stir-fry till slightly brown- this releases the flavour in the lemongrass so it turns almost buttery to taste in the curry!
  5. Put chilli and garlic and stir-fry on medium heat 1-2 minutes till lightly brown.
  6. Put chicken and stir-fry lightly but not too much (about 50% seared is enough).
  7. Gradually put cabbage bit by bit and toss about till slightly wilted.
  8. Put coconut milk/ chicken stock mixture in gradually and let simmer gently; put curry powder and cayenne pepper if using.
  9. Garnish with coriander and squeeze lime juice on top.
  10. Serve with jasmine rice and slice of lime!

    napa cabbage curry.jpg


BONUS! Tips for cooking rice on the stove top!
I usually cook my rice in a small pot. I used to cook rice in a rice cooker but I find that unless you have an expensive, reputable one (ie. Tiger or Zojiroshi), the rice tends to come out dry and sad (yes, rice can be sad! and failed rice is something that makes me cry). I always double the water to rice, and I add in some chicken stock and Himalayan pink salt.

First, put to boil and when water is boiling, decrease heat to half. Just when all the water is almost evaporated, cover with lid, turn off heat and let the rice sit and cook gently from the heat of the pot. This additional step is what I found helps to not only prevent burning, but also makes rice soft, yet not too soft!

bowlofrice

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Dinner · Seafood · Vegetables

Vietnamese Shrimp Rolls: The Spring Edition

vietnamese rolls alone.pngHi! So here is my version of the Vietnamese Shrimp Roll a.k.a the Asian taco in our household. I changed things up a little to suit my tastes and the springtime weather. My version leaves a refreshing, herby taste in the month. Coupled with fresh shrimps, marinated garlic and fresh herbs, this dish is going to blow your mind in its simplicity and magic! It is really the combination of ingredients here built into a simple rice roll that makes for magical food alchemic goodness.

The trick to this recipe is to get your hands on freshly cut coriander, mint leaves and Thai basil. Also, to dip your shrimp roll into the sweet and sour sauce that just adds the perfect refreshing aftertaste.

For the shrimps, you do not need to use fresh shrimp, but it does help. Blanche the shrimp by putting the shrimp in boiling water for just about a minute with their shells on. Take out immediately when they turn pink. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp! You do not want your shrimp to toughen up. You can also use already cooked shrimp (I usually hate cooked frozen shrimp, but I make an exception for this recipe because it preserves the shrimp’s appearance better).

When I first did this recipe, I stir-fried it with the marinate but this does make  the shrimp shrivel up so it’s not so pretty. But it can be tastier. So I’d stick with blanching + marinating, so it’s like a shrimp salad.

P1060282.JPGAfter your shrimps are cooked, it’s time to slice them in half and devein them. Try not to skip this step as it helps the marinade to penetrate the pasty white shrimp meat better later. You will thank me!

After cooking the shrimp, marinate for 3-4 hours.

Assemble rest of items below in bowls, together with rice rolls and dipping sauce! I’ve included instructions for wrapping at the end of the post. 🙂

17797936_10154291922760286_1241067384_o.jpgMarinade for approximately 1 bag of shrimps: 

  • 1 shallot chopped into tiny pieces
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic (my policy for garlic is the more the merrier, so adjust to your preferences), crushed and chopped
  • 1 small piece ginger, chopped
  • 2 bird’s eyed chilli, chopped and deseeded (unless you want to suffer death by Chilli, then feel free to leave the seeds in. Personally, I just deseed the main part and leave some seeds on my cutting board)
  • 2 tbs Fish sauce approximately
  • 1tbs rice wine vinegar

Assemble in bowls:

  • Lettuce shredded
  • Cilantro
  • Mint leaves
  • Basil (Thai basil has a slightly different taste that accompanies this dish well)
  • Beansprouts!
  • Rice vermicelli (soaked in water till limp then cut into roll length pieces).
  • Chopped nuts (I use cashews/walnuts, although traditionally peanuts are used)
    Optional:
  • Thinly sliced carrots
  • Thinly cut cucumbers

dipping sauce.jpgVietnamese dipping sauce (makes 500ml)

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Same amount of hot water as sugar
  • 4-6 Chopped garlic
  • 2 Chopped bird eyed chilli (green or red)
  • 1tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 125ml fish sauce
  • 60ml Lime juice
  • Green onions/ coriander chopped into little bits

Mix warm water with sugar till dissolved, add other ingredients! This lasts about one week. You can freeze the remaining or you can do what I did, half the recipe and eat it three times in a row under the pretence of ‘recipe testing’ (actually not really a pretence. It was that good!).

Preparing Rice Rolls: Prepare a salad bowl of water next to the assembled ingredients. You are going to soak each rice roll in water for about 30 seconds till it is slightly soft to touch. When it is slightly translucent when put on your plate, it is ready to be wrapped! Don’t worry if it is too soft… it will dry up and become slightly sticky.

How to Wrap a Shrimp Roll

how to wrap a shrimp roll.jpg
Some wrapping tips:

  1. It doesn’t matter how many ingredients you have, but it’s essential to leave the ‘chunky’ bits like the rice noodles and beansprouts under or inside the lettuce to make it more compact.
  2. If you need the ends to stick, wet fingers and fold.
  3. After rolling sides, roll bottom then roll top as well, like a box.
  4. I like putting the marinade in with the shrimp. Those scallions are nom!Note: I haven’t found a way to dip it without spilling it. if anyone has tips on that, tell me! I know some people also cut their rolls in half after wrapping. I’m not sure how they prevent stuff spilling out there! Haha, tell me if you have any wrapping tips. I’m infamous for being a bad shish taouk/ taco wrapper, so this is not my strong suite.

Enjoy! Some people also enjoy it with a peanut sauce, but I personally like the freshness of this version. 🙂

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Still failing to eat shrimp rolls without things falling apart. One day, I will be able to apply the same skills to shrimp rolls as I have with art.
Dinner

Meal Prep: Amy’s One-Pot-Fits-All Claypot Rice

claypot rice dish.jpg

I often make this pot of rice during the weeks when I have to prepare dinner in advance for myself. It’s a good way to get rid of old ingredients in your fridge and avoid food waste. As such, a lot of this recipe is sort of amenable, depending on what you need to get rid of in your fridge. If you have old mushrooms, onions or vegetables you need to get rid of, give them a stir-fry and add them to the rice.

I love adding chilli powder, lime juice and lemongrass to add flavour. The cumin and coriander is also a must! I sometimes add cauliflower or enoki mushrooms for a variety of texture. I also love the little bits of taro that give it a more earthy tone. Although I cook it in a claypot, you can also cook it in a normal pot! That’s fine, too.

17902071_10154321323000286_1856996858_o (1).jpgAmy’s One-Pot-Fits-All Claypot Rice

Ingredients (makes 2-3 servings)

  • 1tbs Coriander
  • 1tbs Cumin
  • 1tbs Lemongrass
  • Lots of Garlic and ginger
  • 100g chicken chopped into little pieces, marinated with fish sauce, white pepper, salt, oyster sauce and rice wine
    Substitute with leftover pork, beef or meat of choice!
  • Lots of old mushrooms
  • Half an onion, chopped
  • ¾ Calrose Japanese rice + twice amount of water with 2ts chicken stock
  • Oil
  • Coriander and lime juice
  • Chilli powder
    I use a higher grade of chilli powder, which I actually would encourage you to try out. It’s worth the money. 🙂 
  • Lemon pepper
    I like Japanese Lemon Pepper with this array of flavours, but feel free to substitute this with whatever pepper of your choice.


Ingredients ‘on rotation’
:

  • Taro chopped into small pieces 
  • 3-4 chestnuts chopped
  • 2 Bird’s eye chilli deseeded and minced
  • Dry shiitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped up
  • Canned green peas
    Adds sweetness. I often use the liquid from green peas in the rice, to give it added sweetness.
  • Cauliflower
    I steam a few small heads cauliflower first while rice is cooking, then season with oyster sauce and cut it into small pieces.
  1. claypot.jpgDry roast coriander and cumin till they ‘pop’.
  2. Dry roast mushrooms in pan till slightly brown and put a bit of fish sauce. I find that dry-roasting mushrooms before putting oil brings out their flavour
  3. Put some oil and stir-fry ginger, garlic, lemongrass, onions, taro, chilli with the mushrooms and cumin for about 3 minutes till garlic is brown and onions are slightly limp.
  4. Meanwhile, cook rice in twice amount of water with 2tsp chicken stock and some salt
  5. Push mushroom mix aside in pan, stir-fry chicken lightly 1-2 minutes (not too much, just till slightly brown. You don’t want chicken to be too cooked and toughen). Mix everything and turn off heat.
  6. Add chestnuts and cover. Let cook by itself.
  7. Add mixture to rice and add a bit of lime juice to moisten.
  8. Season with chilli powder. Serve with coriander.

    17948493_10154321374835286_654450262_o

If you are meal prepping for the week, adding more moisture to the rice prevents it from drying out in the fridge. As such, I often add a bit of leftover curry, soup, lime juice or green pea ‘juice’ to moisten the rice a bit more than usual. Dry rice is a no-no for me, so this is a good tip to know if you want your claypot rice to ‘age with grace’!

This is what I call an ‘anything goes’ recipe, so there is no way to really make mistakes with it. Feel free to experiment and play around with colours and flavours. 🙂

bowlofrice.jpg

Dinner · Seafood · Spanish

Brothy lobster rice

Today, I present to you a guest post by my dear friend Lidia 🙂 She is a Spanish neuroscientist student living in Singapore who has lived in China and France, and is now married to Cantonese man. As such, you can imagine that she has tasted a wide array of cuisines! This is a recipe that she grew up with that she has kindly agreed to share with us.

lobster 1.jpgA successful Lobster and Rice is something sublime. It possesses a depth and complexity of flavour; you taste the sea in the freshness of the seafood. First, you start with the piping hot rice, but just as you have barely chewed it, you have already tasted all the flavours within the broth which is infused with the mild yet fresh sweetness of the prawns. You swallow, wishing that it never finishes, gets cold, or soaks up all the soup. Then, you start with the lobster, feasting your eyes on its myriad textures and the vibrant colour of its shell. A little more rice and then… a bite upon the immaculate, white body. Irresistible. Finally, you find a last bit of juicy meat hidden in the head and you suck out the last bit of broth, infused with lobster essence.

This dish is something everyone should enjoy at least once in their lives, and it is definitely worth all the trials you will have to go through before achieving the perfect symphony of flavours and textures!

Brothy lobster rice

Ingredients (for 2):

  • 1 lobster
  • 200 gr bomb rice (this is a Spanish short-grained rice that is perfect for the brothy rice dishes as the grain gets very soft and soaks all the flavors from the broth)
  • 1 small onion
  • ½ roasted red pepper
  • 1 big pear tomato, grated
  • Pinch of Saffron
  • Generous pinch of Spanish paprika
  • ½ glass of brandy
  • Chopped parsley (about 1 branch?)
  • 1.5 L shrimp fumet
    ½ kg of shrimps, hake head and bones from 2L of water, olive oil and salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

PREPARATION

Start with the fumet. Boil water with the shrimps and the hake for 10 minutes. Then take out the head and bones from the hake, add some olive oil and salt and add to the blender. After mixing percolate the fumet and keep it warm at very low fire.

  1. Chop the onion, the pepper and the parsley very thin. Grate the tomato. Measure the rice and prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Cut the lobster’s head from the bottom, between the legs, with a thin lace.
  3. Put a generous amount of olive oil in the stewpot where you are going to cook the rice. Brown the lobster and take it out. In the same oil, poach the onion and the pepper, then add the saffron, the tomato and the parsley and toss it for 2 minutes, medium fire.
  4. While the saute is getting ready, cut the lobster. Cut the head in two parts, and separate the queue.
  5. Add then the brandy, let it reduce and add the rice, tossing it. Sprinkle the paprika, place the pieces of lobster and spill the hot fumet.
  6. Keep it at high fire for 10 minutes, then reduce the fire and cook it 8 more minutes.
  7. Remove from the fire and savour immediately!

This recipe is a gift to the senses. Unforgettable!

lobster.png

desserts

Pandan chiffon cake

pandancake 1.jpg  Pandan cake is probably my favourite ‘cake’ growing up in Singapore. As a kid, I loved my cakes airy and fluffy. It really wasn’t until I came to Montreal was I able to savour the more traditional idea of cake in the form of cute patisseries (which are too overpriced and cloyingly-sweet in Singapore anyway). When I returned to Singapore in 2012, I was rather underweight and that perhaps amplified my sweet tooth to an umpteenth degree so much that cakes and all sweet breads took on an addictive quality. I fell deeply in love with my aunt’s moist and sweetly aromatic pandan chiffon cake, a recipe she has kindly written down for me to share with you!

pandan cake slice  For those unfamiliar with South East Asian spices, pandan is very commonly used in desserts, or even curries and in rice (cooked together with coconut milk or chicken stock). Cooked in curries or rice, these leaves are tied into a knot to release their flavour. It’s very hard to describe the taste of pandan. It recalls for me earthy textures and childhood memories of humid evenings heavy with the swirl of different smells emitting from the nearby hawker centres. It is a taste that I find irresistible and comforting, and I can’t quite think of a taste that comes close to it.

  We found pandan leaves in the local Vietnamese grocer (look for La Dua). If you cannot find fresh or frozen pandan leaves, look for pandan essence at your local Chinese supermarket.  Substitute the pandan juice for 2-3 drops of pandan dissolved in 50g of water. Although this recipe calls for 7 pandan leaves, you can tie the remaining pandan into a knot and cook it with coconut milk to make coconut rice or put them into curries. You can even put them into crepes as my husband does. Really, anything goes.

pandan essencePandan chiffon cake

  • 130g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 5 eggs, separate (70 g each)
  • 50g pandan juice from 7 pandan leaves
  • 90g coconut milk
  • 160g caster sugar(30g to add to flour mixture and 130g to add to egg whites)
  • 85g corn oil/sunflower oil
  1. Preheat oven at 180C.
  2. Cut 7 pandan leaves with scissors  and add some water to blend in a blender. Squeeze the pandan juice out of the blended leaves and filter the solution. Add pandan mixturewater if necessary to make 50g pandan juice.
  3. Sift plain flour, baking powder and salt together.
  4. Add egg yolks, pandan juice, coconut milk, sugar and oil to the flour mixture and whisk manually to get a smooth mixture.
  5. Set aside.
  6. Whisk whites in a mixer till foamy. Add the caster sugar and whisk till soft peak is formed.
  7. Scoop some whites and fold in the flour mixture. Then pour the flour mixture onto the rest of the beaten whites. Mix till well blended.
  8. Pour mixture into a 10 inch tube pan.
  9. Bake for about 50 min.
  10. Invert the pan once it is out of the oven.

pandancakepan.jpg

Indian · Seafood

Tandoori Baked Fish

tandoori fish.jpg
This is a dish we often enjoy! It’s a slightly different take on the Indian recipe. We often eat it on cold winter days. The subtle spice from the chilli burns your mouth, but the yogurt and soft fish balances it out, paired with aromatic jasmine rice! I often put the leftover liquid ‘sauce’ from the fish onto the rice and the blend of sweet, sour and spicy, soft and crunchy (from the nuts) can only be described as dimension-transporting, especially during the winter months. I highly recommend trying it out if you want to be transported to an earthy plane of herbs, spices and grounding aromas while a snowstorm surges outside.

In terms of ingredients, I use Tilapia fish because it blends well with Indian spices. I’ve tried using cod and I don’t recommend using it because cod does better with butter / Western ingredients. Same with the lime vs lemon thing: I am convinced lime goes better with Asian cooking and white fish, whereas lime’s slightly more intense sour flavour goes well with oily fishes like salmon or trout. In terms of the yogurt I chose, I actually found that out by accident! Plain yogurt is a bit bland for me and I dislike using sugar to sweeten things; using coconut Greek Yogurt adds that lovely sweet earthy taste which blends so well with the spices and the fish. Remember to buy Greek full fat yogurt over regular yogurt as it’s much creamier and less liquidity. 🙂

Tandoori Baked Fish

Main Ingredients

  • 2 tilapia fillets
  • Lime juice (I prefer to use lime over lemon because it has a more subtle flavour and compliments white fishes better)
  • Coconut oil /ghee / olive oil for basting
  • Cashews / Walnuts crushed

For Garnishing

  • Fresh lime to serve
  • Chopped fresh coriander leaves / green onions

Tandoori Paste
I usually make the paste with a mortar and pestle although you can also use a blender. I do think that stoneground spice pastes taste better. It’s up to you if it’s an available option or not.

sambal.pngIngredients for paste

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 ts cumin
  • Fresh ginger minced (I’m liberal… I usually chop a tablespoon)
  • 3-5 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 red bird-eye-chilli, deseeded and cut into small bits
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) coconut Greek Yogurt (or any flavour. I actually like to use coconut yogurt for its natural sweetness)
  • A pinch of rock sugar
  • A pinch of pink salt
  • Liberal amounts of white pepper

Dry roast the cumin and coriander first in a pan till they ‘pop’ for about 2 minutes. Usually you’ll know it’s ready when your pan starts making popcorn noises. Set aside. Grind rest of ingredients in a mortar and pestle, starting with the solids (ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander, cumin), then slowly adding a bit of yogurt till paste turns yellowish. I sometimes add some cayenne pepper or curry powder, as well.

tilapiaPrep:
– Rub fillets with lime juice and set aside while making spice paste
– Marinate the fillets with spice paste.
– Use a knife and cut little sideways incisions (about halfway through) into the fish so the spice paste enters the flesh and it cooks more evenly.
– Top fish with chopped nuts

Cooking

  1. Preheat the oven to about 375 Fahrenheit
  2. Cook fish in oven for approx 14-16 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. Occasionally baste your fish from time to time with oil every 7 minutes or so. At 12 minute mark, check incision to see if the fish is white on the inside. If so, cook a bit more.
  3. Serve with jasmine rice, freshly cut coriander / green onions and lime wedges. I like to serve mine on a banana leaf as well!

mortar and pestle

Seafood · Teochew

The best Fish Congee in the world

This is one of the classic recipes that my Singaporean roommate, Dina, and I developed together in Montreal, inspired by childhood memories of fish porridge and drawing from our limited knowledge of what actually went into it.

screen2bshot2b2014-09-092bat2b10-54-292bpmAs a child, I grew up eating Alexander Road’s famous raw fish porridge every Saturday morning. For the uninitiated, raw fish porridge consists of savoury mouth-melting fish that dissolves into your mouth, mixed with delicious creamy congee, freshly cut ginger and the spicy tang of chilli; a combination that can only be described as apotheosis-tic. When my husband and I returned to that place last year, the place had shut down after decades because of the raw fish ban in Singapore. We were very sad. However, it’s with some consolation that I present to you my take on the classic Teochew Fish porridge, with a Japanese, Cantonese and Western twist.
porridge.jpg
This is a dish that consists of many flavours, textures and colours. Fried scallions and green onions delivers a delightful crunch both crisp and crunchy; the fish melts in your mouth, mixed in with silky congee and the occasional starchy consistency of the potato. The century egg- a Cantonese inspiration- gives a strong flavour that balances out the milder soupy textures. All combined, this is definitely one of my favourite comfort recipes.

In terms of ingredients, I prefer to use Japanese rice because it makes for a smoother porridge. If you use other types of rice, it’s recommended that you blend it in the blender but I did not own a blender when this recipe was developed, and I think it turns out just fine. As for fish, freshness is not as important as how well the fish absorbs flavour. Frozen fish actually delivers a better texture for the porridge. I use frozen basa (tilapia’s softness is lost in this dish and cod/ sole do not absorb flavours as well as basa) marinated in ginger, oyster sauce, white pepper, a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce. I also buy century eggs that are already cooked, so not the ones coated in dirt but the ones pre-packed in boxes. Fried scallions are a must- do not skip it!


porridge.jpgIngredients (3 servings)

Marinade for fish:

  • Dash of oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil;
  • 2 inches of chopped fresh ginger
  • Lots of white pepper

For Porridge:

  • 3/4 cup Japanese/ short-grain calrose rice 
  • Chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 small potato cut into small wedges

For garnishing:

  • Fried scallions/onions
  • 1 century egg (They’re good in other things too although a bit strong to eat by themselves. People like to put it into bland things or even into steamed egg custard because it adds that needed punch)
  • Green onions, finely chopped
  • Liberal amounts of white pepper!

Prep (night before):

  • Marinate frozen fish* with oyster sauce, soy sauce, lots of white pepper, chopped ginger, and a dash of sesame oil

Recipe:

  • Boil Japanese rice in a lot of water > approximately 3x amount of water to rice to begin with. Add water halfway through if you see it becomes too dry; it should be mushy by the end.
  • Add about one chicken bouillon block to the soup directly.
  • Cut a potato into little cubes (I usually cut them into triangles so they absorb flavour better) and add it into the pot as rice is simmering. 
  • Turn the heat to about medium when it’s boiling and occasionally stir; let cook for about 20 minutes then turn to lowest heat; there should be some liquid but add more liquid if it’s not mushy enough. You want to make sure that there is a little bit of liquid so the rice doesn’t burn at the bottom.
  • Once porridge is at right consistency, add the fish and turn off heat and put on lid. Let the fish cook in the porridge by itself; if it overcooks, it may lose it’s elasticity and become rubbery.
    **A trick I learned growing up- they used to serve raw fish and we’d just cook it in the porridge which made for perfect fish!**
  • Cut a century egg and add half a century egg per bowl, garnish with green onions and fried onions.
  • Put lots of white pepper and lots of fried onions!