Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nyonya Chang

Here it is my very first bold attempt making this traditional Chinese classic or zongzi in Mandarin, chang in Hokkien and dumpling in English.  Frankly, I can't really believe that I have come this far making changs.  What satisfies me the most is I went about doing everything on my own without the accompaniment of any experienced elder.  I was all alone throughout the whole making process from buying the ingredients, cutting the meat, making the filling, tying the dumplings to boiling them.  To tell you the truth, I've never bought pork from a butcher before and obviously communicating with the not-so-friendly rough-spoken Chinese butcher in Mandarin is quite a daunting task for me.  I didn't even know what is pork belly called in Mandarin but luckily Google Translate saved the day. 

Of course, I find wrapping and tying the dumplings the most challenging task.  It all happened on a dark stormy night when rain was beating like bullets, lightnings were flashing rather frighteningly and thunders were booming angrily, I was all alone sitting in my living room wrapping and tying my dumplings.  Hey, I'm not making up the whole scene okay but coincidentally this was what exactly happened that night.

After my wife and kids slept, I went downstairs, quickly set up my work station and began wrapping my dumplings accompanied by nobody except for a few virtual elderly aunties who appeared on my laptop screen showing me the way to wrap and tie the dumplings.  While wrapping I was looking at the demonstration video clips via YouTube.  Very true, it's easier seen than done!  Immediately, I felt like giving up.  The first dumpling I tied crashed down on the floor scattering all the grains and fillings.  At that spur of the moment, my heart crushed and a surge of loneliness sipped in.  While I was cleaning up the mess, suddenly I thought of my mom.  How I wished she was beside me showing and guiding me how to tie dumplings.  However, I went on to pick the bits and pieces of the grains including my crushed heart.  Staying strong, I continued and and eventually pulled it through.  I am now on my third batch of my dumpling making project. Yipee!

Okay, now back to my nyonya dumpling.  I chose this recipe simply for the reason that it was Amy Beh's, a well-known celebrity chef and newspaper columnist in Malaysia.  With her accolades, I  thought how wrong could I go with her recipe?  Browsing through the ingredients and after having a word with my tua ee (eldest auntie), YES I was on the right track.  Based on my tua ee's input, I made slight modification to the recipe.  I made it sligthly more flavourful after I was told that the taste would be blander during the boiling process. 

Overall, I am absolutely glad that everything particularly the taste turned out well.  I benchmarked it with my tua ee's dumplings and what I got was to me that of what I have been eating all these years.  However, one setback, mine was not as nice-looking as that of my aunt's.  Hers was clean-looking with a striking blue hue on top whereas mine was rather murky and not that appetizing.  So, this leaves me with lots of rooms to improve.

Recipe - Nyonya Chang
Source : Kuali.com (Amy Beh)
Yields approximately 15 big dumplings


  • 700g glutinous rice 
  • Some screwpine leaves, cut into 4 cm lengths
  • Dried bamboo leaves, washed and boiled until soften 
  • Hemp strings for tying
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 5 shallots, minced (I used 7 shallots)
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • ½ cup oil 
  • 3 tsp preserved soya bean paste (tau cheong)
  • 7 tbsp coriander powder (ground ketumbar), mixed with 170ml water into a paste (increased to 8 tbsp)
  • 450g belly pork, skin removed and cut into very small cubes
  • 12-14 dried mushrooms, soaked and diced
  • 100g candied winter melon, diced (increased to 150g)
Seasoning (combined)
  • 3 tsp pepper
  • 5½-6 tbsp sugar or to taste (replaced with brown sugar, 6-7 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp thick soy sauce (2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce (2 tbsp)
  • 2½-3 tsp salt or to taste
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper


To prepare rice (I apportioned the rice to tinged some blue with the blue pea flower)
  1. Boil some water together with 30 blue pea flowers to get blue tinged water.
  2. Soak 200g of the rice with this water for at least 3 hours.
  3. Soak the rest of the rice with water at the same time.
To prepare the filling
  1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan, fry shallots and garlic until aromatic. Add soya bean paste and coriander paste. Fry until fragrant.
  2. Add pork, winter melon and mushrooms, and mix in combined seasoning. Fry until pork is heated through. Dish out and set aside.
To assemble the dumplings
  1. Drain the glutinous rice and briefly rinse the rice.
  2. Overlap 2 bamboo leaves lengthways then fold into a cone. 
  3. Fill in this order into the cone-2 tbsp blue glutinous rice, 2 tbsp filling, 2-3 tbsp white glutinous rice.
  4. Cover with a piece of screwpine leaf. Press down to compress the dumpling. Wrap into a pyramid shape. Tie tightly with hemp string to secure. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and sugar then put in the dumplings and immerse them completely. Cook in rapidly boiling water for 2-2½ hours. Remove the dumplings and hang them to drain off excess water.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fried Oyster Omelette

Fried Oyster Omelette is another famous street food in Asia.  It is said that this is a must-try hawker food when one visits Asia and this is the reason why this food has been constantly ranked as one of the most sought-after hawker food in Taiwan.  This Chinese dish is widely found in many parts of Asia including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.  Easily found in night markets, this is one heck of a dish to die for.  It is savoury, creamy, zesty, chewy, some gooey and some crispy! 

In Malaysia, it is commonly called Oh Chien, literally means fried (chien) osyter (Oh) in the Hokkien dialect.  This dish is easily available in any foodcourts in Penang and Malacca (where I'm currently residing). 

Needless to say, I really have weakness for this food where I got infatuated with it when I was seven, if I may recall.  I could still remember how my mom and my uncle used to occasionally bring back this food nicely wrapped in a sheet of plastic and newspaper.   Though closely wrapped, the aroma would somehow make its way out wafting the air and I would be like YES!  Mom knew very well that I loved it so much that she boldly tried frying one plate for me.  The result was quite shockingly disastrous where all I got was a big lump of starch clumped together.  I did not want to disappoint her, so I tried to pretend that it was okay and edible.  Somehow or other, my innocent expression failed to cheat and convince her!

Whatever it is, this dish is truly a comfort food for me until today.  The combination of omelette, starch, fresh oysters and sprigs of fresh coriander leaves with a zest of squeezed lime juice just blend so beautifully making the dish deliciously sublime and leaving you totally perked up.

Surprisingly, this dish is so easy to prepare.  Not many ingredients involved.  They are quite easily available except for the oysters where you may have to buy them fresh from the morning market and at times it could be hard to come by.   Preparation only takes less than 10 minutes and frying only eats a miniscule 5 minutes.  So, barely 20 minutes, a plate of vibrant looking and savoury Oh Chien is already sitting nicely on the table ready to fire your palate and appease your appetite.

I got the recipe from Kenneth Goh of Guai Shu Shu in which he gave a very well write up on the dish.  Of course, there are aplenty of them on the net but Ken's photos somehow caught my hungry eyes.  The photo shots were spot on.  The colours looked deliciously vibrant making the dish looked irresistibly tempting.  Everything was perfect, just the exact type of fried oyster I used to eat when I was just an innocent young boy.

So, for those of you who have not had this dish before, I highly recommend that you give it a try.  Certainly, you don't have to be physically here in Asia, just scroll down and you will have this delectable Asian treat right before you, in your humble kitchen.    

The Ingredients:
(makes one big plate, as per picture)
  • A handful of fresh oysters or defrosted frozen oysters
  • Some spring onion (chopped separately for the white portion and green portion)
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch or corn starch  or sweet potato starch
  • 1 tablespoon of rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 10 tablespoons of water
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Some sprigs of coriander leaves for garnish

The Steps:
  1. Defrost the frozen oysters completely, wash carefully in cold water and drain well.
  2. Mix the tapioca/corn/potato starch and rice flour together with the water to make a watery starchy solution.  Set aside for later use. 
  3. Heat the frying pan with 2 tablespoons of oil.  Stir fry the white portion of the spring onion and garlic until fragrant.  
  4. Pour in the starch solution until the batter is half cooked (about 15 seconds)
  5. Add in the beaten eggs and when the eggs are almost cooked, add in seasonings (fish sauce and white pepper).  Stir until well mixed. 
  6. Add in the fresh oyster and stir fry for another one minute. 
  7. Off the heat and garnish with coriander leaves or spring onions (the green portion)
Note: Best served hot as a snack with homemade garlic chilli sauce and squeezed lime juice.

 Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Curry Puffs (Karipap)

Curry puff is an Asian snack commonly found in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.  It is basically a deep-fried small pie made of pastry shell and stuffed with curried potato cubes and diced chicken meat.  I am proud to say that I grew up eating lots of them.  Needless to say, this is one of my all-time favourite childhood snacks.  Who doesn't love curry puffs, anyway?

Until today, this savoury snack is not showing any sign of slowing down or being forgotten.  It is still widely found in any Malay warungs (a small modest family-owned restaurant) or even in any makeshift stalls along roadsides selling pisang goreng (banana fritters).  These two local snacks are really like brother and sister.  Where there is pisang goreng, there is karipap, for sure. 

It is commonly eaten during breakfast or afternoon tea.  It goes really well with a cup of hot coffee/milk tea but I like it better with a glass of iced orange juice especially on a scorching afternoon. 

This is my first attempt making karipap and I am absolutely pleased with the outcome.  I personally like this recipe a lot, thanks to Sonia of Nasi Lemak Lover, who has quite made a name in food blogging, where Asian food is concerned.  I invite you to see her recipe here.  I especially love the pastry.  To me, this is the exact texture I have been looking for.  It's  smooth, cripsy and most importantly flaky.  Just like making pineapple tart pastry, two rules of thumb you have to follow in order to produce a flaky pastry, they are:
  1. USE cold butter and work quickly before the butter melts, so try avoid using your bare hands when mixing the flour and butter as we do not want the heat from the hands to melt the butter.  So?  Use fork;
  2. DO NOT knead the dough, quickly bind it together with your hands.
So, if you wish to give this recipe a try, here are the ingredients and method:

Curry Puff (Karipap)
makes about 15 big pcs 

185g all-purpose flour
35g rice flour
35g corn flour or tapioca flour
35g butter (salted)
35g cooking oil or vegetable oil
90g icy cold water

450g potato, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
200g chicken breast (cut into small pieces, marinate with 1/2tbsp curry powder)
1/2tbsp red chili powder 
1tbsp curry powder (chicken flavour)
3tbsp vegetable oil
3 sprigs curry leaves
1 cup water (+/-)
1tsp salt
1tsp chicken powder
1tsp fish sauce

To cook filling
1. Heat oil in wok, add in curry leaves and onion. Saute onion until translucent then add in potato.
2. Cook until potato has changed colour on the edges then add chicken breast, stir fry for 1-2mins then add in curry powder and chilli powder. Add water and bring to boil.
3. Add salt, sugar, chicken powder & fish sauce to taste, then turn the heat down and cook until potato is soften and the liquid has reduced and form a dry paste. Cool completely before use. 

1. In a large mixing bowl, bring 3 types of flours together and mix well. Set aside.
2. Rub in butter with flours until crumble, then add in cooking oil, to mix well.
3. Pour icy cold water over flours, mix thoroughly with a wooden spatula in the mixing bowl. Then, lightly knead till soft dough, do not over work. Cover dough with plastic wrap and rest for at least 15 minutes. 

To assemble- Divide and shape dough into 13g each ball. Then roll out each ball into a 8-10cm circle, wrap in potato filling. Pinch edges to seal, then deep-fry in medium hot oil until golden brown.