Pork Belly Bun 扣肉包 - AFF Singapore Sep 2014

Since young, one of my favourite food is Pork Belly Bun 扣肉包. There are two versions locally; an enclosed version (braised pork enclosed within a soft and fluffy bun/bao) that's typically sold at coffee shops, in those steamer racks together with char siew bao, chicken bao, siew mai, lor mai gai etc. Another version is wedging a sliced of braised pork belly in a "Ho Hup Bao" (similar texture to chinese bao, shape like lotus leaf) with some local lettuce, cilantro and red chilli, much alike a chinese burger.

I adore both versions and would savour each and every bite of the juicy and tender meat along with the fluffy sweet bun, even though I know these are very fattening.

Most enclosed pork belly buns sold at coffee shops are not nice these days, the meat usually too dry and hard, and the bun texture coarse and rough. However, there's one shop opposite Clementi Central specialising in baos and they sell excellent pork belly buns (as well as char siew buns). Their pork belly buns (enclosed version) are made slightly smaller than the average, bun texture is very soft and fluffy and the pork belly is succulent and melt-in-the-mouth. I can eat two to three pieces at a go! So whenever I have cravings for pork belly bun, that shop is the place to go.

The second version is usually homemade, although these days a lot of chinese restaurants and even cze char stalls sell them. The advantage of homemade is naturally the ingredients used, I could choose the best cut and freshest meat, and adjust the marinade and seasonings to taste (not too salty and heavy - there's one so-called famous brand of pork belly bao in Singapore which I think the pork belly taste too sweet and salty).

Here's the marinade for the pork belly. The pork belly was first blanched (to rid smell and dirt), lightly pan-fried (firm up the meat), cut into desired size then marinated, so that the flavours could be immersed into each and every slice of meat.

After marinating the meat for at least three hours, the pork belly slices were then steamed for about two hours. Yes, I prefer the steaming method because the meat juices were retained, resulting in very succulent and tender meat which retained the shape well and didn't disintegrate.

I tried braising the meat before but it's really hard to gauge the water and heat level and sometimes before the meat could be sufficiently tender, the water ran dry and I had to top up with more water which affected the overall taste and texture.

With steaming, I didn't have to add a single drop of water to the meat (see picture above where marinade just covering each slice of meat and steam like that). And from the picture below, the amount of liquid that was "purged" during the steaming, all natural juice from the meat.

Tedious part during steaming was checking the water level (for steaming) and topping up with boiling water to minimise disruption to the steaming process. On the right picture below, I used an electric cooker to steam the meat, had to top up water once. On the left picture, I used a steamer wok and had to top up water two to three times. The pork belly after cooked, is best left overnight for flavours to fully develop.

Forgot to mention about the "Ho Hup Bao". Usually I use store-bought ones which are readily available at the wet market and supermarket, but they can be made at home as well.

Pork Belly Bun 扣肉包
(reference: The Little Teochew, Delicious Asian Food)

  • 1 block of pork belly (about 700g)
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp huatiao cooking wine
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce (I use black bean soy sauce)
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp five spice powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 25g rock sugar
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  1. Blanch the whole block of pork belly in boiling water for 1 min. Drain and pat dry. Poke as many holes on the pork belly skin as possible.
  2. Heat up about 1-2 tsp of oil in a pan and pan-fry all the sides of the pork belly until each side is slightly browned and firmed up.
  3. Drain and let cool slightly. Cut the pork belly into 1cm thick slices.
  4. Mix all the ingredients for marinade thoroughly and pour them over the pork belly slices, make sure each slice is well-covered with the marinade sauce. Transfer to fridge for at least 3 hours.
  5. About 30 mins before steaming, remove the meat from the fridge to bring back to room temperature.
  6. Arrange the pork slices in a steaming tray and steam for 2 hours. *if necessary to top up water for steaming, use boiling water to minimise disruption to water temperature
  7. Off heat of the steamer, and let the pork belly slices sit overnight flavours to develop.
  8. Next morning, heat up the pork belly slices for about 10-15 mins and they are ready to be served.
  9. To serve, sandwich a slice of pork belly in a Ho Hup Bao, add a few leaves of local celery, cilantro and red chilli. Best eaten warm.

See how the meat is glistering in oil? Meat was totally succulent and melt-in-the-mouth with just the right flavour that I like (not too heavy). One bite and I know I'm in pork belly haven! I've served them many times during parties and gatherings and they proved to be favourites among my friends so I guess I'm not the only one who love pork belly bun =D

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #11 Sept 2014 : Singapore hosted by Life can be Simple.

Prawn Paste Chicken (Har Cheong Gai) - AFF Singapore Sep 2014

Besides Sweet & Sour Pork, another of our favourite Cze Char dish is Prawn Paste Chicken (Har Cheong Gai). According to ieatishootipost July 2014 poll on Singapore's Top 10 Cze Char food, Har Cheong Gai turned out to be the most popular! My Sweet & Sour Pork came in fourth only :(

Well, actually Har Cheong Gai is more of hubby's favourite. If I were to make a choice between Har Cheong Gai and Sweet & Sour Pork, the latter wins hands down =D

Ok, anyways, back to Har Cheong Gai, Dr Leslie Tay (ieatishootipost) also posted a recipe which according to him is the Cze Char version that he managed to put together after asking many chefs.

Using the same batter, I tried both deep-fried and air-fried methods to test the difference between the two. As far as possible, I hope to minimise deep-frying so if air-fried method could achieve a satisfactory texture and taste, I won't mind so much (and of course it depends very much on the hubby's preference).

For the air-fried version, the crust was more crunchy and heavy. Taste-wise the prawn paste was slightly subdued.
For the deep-fried version, the crust was crispy and light; and taste-wise the prawn paste came through more distinctly.

After hubby did the taste test, he was ok with both versions (unlike the sweet & sour pork where he felt that deep-fried version was better). I's also important to eat the chicken freshly fried because I tried one piece that was fried in the afternoon and naturally didn't taste as good anymore.

The preparation was fairly easy, just that I disliked the deep-frying part.

For the batter, I tried following the recipe as close as possible making very slight changes. Shrimp sauce is the key ingredient here; I bought my shrimp sauce from Hong Kong earlier this year. The recipe calls for potato starch but I ran out of it and substituted it with tapioca starch. Not sure if it would make a difference, would probably test it out next time.

For the marinate I was actually quite tempted to add some oyster sauce, but resisted because I was keen to stick to the recipe for a start.

Special mention, my new air-fryer grill pan came in useful. The batter didn't stick as much, unlike the original wire basket.

Prawn Paste Chicken (Har Cheong Gai)


  • 10 pieces chicken wings (about 700g), separated into winglets and drumlets
  • 2 tbsp shrimp sauce
  • 2 tbsp chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g tapioca starch
  • 1 small egg
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 50-60ml water
  1. Mix all the ingredients for the marinate and coat the chicken wings evenly.
  2. Mix all the ingredients for the batter and stir till smooth paste and add to the marinated chicken.
  3. Mix well, store in container and marinate the chicken wings for 8 hours or up to 2 days in the fridge.
  4. Deep-fry version: Heat oil on medium heat and fry the wings till golden brown. Drain.
  5. Air-fry version: Place wings on grill pan, cook at 180 degree celsius for 15 mins, turning once in between.
  6. Best serve hot.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #11 Sept 2014 : Singapore hosted by Life can be Simple.

Sweet & Sour Pork with homemade sauce - AFF Singapore Sep 2014

Wow! It's September! Asian Food Fest (AFF) has come a long way from last October where I had the chance to experience cuisines from many different countries in Asia and broadening my culinary exposure. If it wasn't for AFF, I don't think I would have the courage or motivation to attempt the different dishes some of which I've not even tasted before.

Actually I'm pretty excited about this finale month where the theme country is my home SINGAPORE! Singaporeans adore food, and you know it because when we describe our country to foreigners, we would speak so fondly and animatedly about all our favourite dishes, about our dining culture at hawker centres and coffee shops, about our food hunts to various parts of Singapore during weekends :p

Oh, how shall I begin? There's such a great variety of food based on ethnic groups and dialects and localised dishes and the fact is we don't have one agreed national dish. We have PLENTY :p I guess I shall not be too ambitious and stick to my favourite dishes instead (which I have a lot :p).

And first up, the classic Sweet & Sour Pork!

Sweet & Sour Pork is said to be one of the Singaporean's favourite "zichar" 煮炒 dishes at coffee shops and personally my number one favourite dish since young =D

Part-fatty pork encased in a light starch batter and deep fried to a crisp; vegetables quick stir-fry and toss with the pork and a sweet, tangy sauce typically a blend of vinegar, ketchup, sugar and water. Totally love the texture and taste!

I read from this book "Ask the Foodie" by Chris Tan, that traditionally the sauce of this dish is a blend of fruit juices and puree such as tomato and plum, then during the final cooking stage, vegetables and fruits are added to enhance the natural flavours. While it's definitely easy to just use commercial sauces like ketchup, I decided to try making the sauce using as many natural ingredients as possible.

Actually I had a bag of over-ripened red plums as well as some leftover honey cherry tomatoes sitting in my fridge for a long time. So I decided to put them to good use else most probably they would end up in the bin. From the book, it was mentioned that haw flakes are sometimes added to sweet & sour sauce to enhance the overall taste. First I blended the plums with the cherry tomatoes, then sift to get rid of any skin and seeds and finally cook with haw flakes, grated ginger, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and salt. Viola, sweet and sour sauce. To my surprise, the sauce tastes very pleasant with a fruity nuance, slightly tangy and sweet, very light and best of all, fresh without any added preservatives or chemicals.

This sweet & sour sauce is in fact very versatile, can be used as a dipping sauce or as a base to cook other sweet & sour dishes like sweet & sour fish or chicken. Taste can be adjusted according to personal preference.

Sweet & Sour Sauce

  • 200g red plum, very ripe, de-seeded and cut into small pieces
  • 100g honey cherry tomato, cut into small pieces
  • 50g haw flakes (about 6 tubes), minced
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp grated young ginger
  • Pinch of sea salt
  1. Blend the red plum and tomato until smooth. Strain to get rid of skin and seeds.
  2. Place strained mixture into a small pot and cook using low heat.
  3. Add the minced haw flakes, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, ginger and salt.
  4. Cook until sugar and haw flakes are dissolved.
* Flavouring can be adjusted according to personal taste.
* Quantity is about 150-160g.
* Ideally the sauce should be used up immediately as the fruitiness lose flavour easily. It also cannot last long since there isn't preservatives. If necessary, balance can be stored in a sterilized glass jar and kept in fridge, and used within 3 days.

I used pork shoulder which is preferably well-marbled (fat is essential to this dish!). After marinating, coat with tapioca starch, and then deep fried 2 times, the 1st time at a lower temperature to cook the meat and 2nd time high temperature for the crisp texture (photo bottom left).

I've also attempted an air-fried version, where the pork was air-fried at 180 degree celsius for 9-10 mins, then 200 degree celsius for another 5-6 mins (photo bottom right).

The cooking stage - first stir fry the vegetables till onion is slightly translucent, then add the sauce and the pork. Toss quickly such that all the pork pieces are coated with the sauce. I didn't add any corn starch slurry coz the sauce I made is thick enough and I didn't think slurry is necessary. The idea here is to let the pork remain crispy instead of drenching in sauce and as a result turn soggy quickly.

Sweet & Sour Pork
(Serves 2-3)

  • 250g pork shoulder, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tsp chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
  • Dash of white pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 50g tapioca starch
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • Vegetables mix option (1) - 1 red onion, cut into wedges and 1/2 each red, yellow and green capsicum, cut into small pieces, 1 red chilli, cut into slices (optional)
  • Vegetables mix option  (2) - 1 red onion, cut into wedges, 1/2 cucumber, 1 tomato, 1/2 slice pineapple, all cut into cubes, 1 red chilli, cut into slices (optional)
  • 3-4 tbsp sweet & sour sauce
  1. Marinate the pork pieces, and chill in fridge for at least 30 mins.
  2. Coat marinated pork with beaten egg then tapioca starch. Set aside for 4-5 mins till coating sets.
  3. Heat up oil in pot medium low heat. Deep fry the pork pieces for a few mins, until slightly browned, drain and set aside. Repeat till all pieces are fried.
  4. Turn up heat to high, and deep fry the pork pieces for the 2nd time, till pork pieces turn golden brown. Drain and set aside.
  5. Air-fry option: Fry pork pieces at 180 degree celsius for 9-10 mins, then fry 2nd time at 200 degree celsius for 5-6 mins till golden brown.
  6. In a frying pan, heat up fresh oil on medium heat, add red onion and fry till translucent, add remaining vegetables and quick stir-fry. Add the sauce.
  7. Turn up the heat, add the pork pieces and toss very quickly. Off heat and best serve hot.

This was the version using vegetables mix of tomato, cucumber, onion and pineapple, and chilli.

This version using tri-colour capsicum and and red onion. Vegetables choice is to your preference, I love both versions. Avoid overcrowding with too much vegetables coz the star here is the PORK.

And this was using air-fried pork, which tasted just as good (to me). But hubby felt that the air-fried version was not as fragrant as the deep-fried one and preferred the latter (yep, the more sinful one).

Anyways, I know that from now onwards, I can count on my own homemade sauce for all the sweet and sour dishes I'm going to cook. Give it a try, it's worth the effort =D

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #11 Sept 2014 : Singapore hosted by Life can be Simple.

Taiwanese Dessert Taro & Sweet Potato Balls 九份芋圆 - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

Of all the Taiwanese food that we ate in Taipei many years back, hubby enjoyed this dessert 九份芋圆 from Jiufen 九份, a mountain area  in the Ruifang District of New Taipei City, the most. This Taro and Sweet Potato ball dessert is a traditional Taiwanese dessert made popular in Jiufen and hence most people refer it as 九份芋圆.
Honestly, I cannot remember how it tastes like, vaguely remember it as chewy and sweet? Since hubby likes it, decided to give it a try since the preparation is pretty straightforward.

Attempted only a very small portion because not sure if the homemade version is to hubby's our liking. So I just bought a piece of the yellow and orange sweet potato each, and a few pieces of baby taro that's in season now.

Basically steam till cooked, add sugar and tapioca starch and knead till the dough is smooth and slightly soft. Thereafter, cook in boiling water and serve with molasses syrup. For more elaborate version, some people serve the taro balls in red bean dessert soup and topped with black pearls and grass jelly.

*Update: According to Alan of Travelling Foodies, sweet potato flour would produce better results. Will be re-making with sweet potato flour soon for taste-test again. 

Taiwanese Dessert Taro & Sweet Potato Balls 九份芋圆
(serves 2-3; references Rumbling Tummy, Table for 2... or more, Meishijie)

  • 50g Taro + 10g sugar + 20g Tapioca Starch + water if necessary
  • 50g Yellow sweet potato + 10g Sugar + 20g Tapioca Starch + water if necessary
  • 50g Orange sweet potato + 10g Sugar 20g Tapioca Starch + water if necessary
  • 1 cup water + 2 tbsp Molasses
  • Grass Jelly (to your preference)
 ** sweet potato flour might produce better results (will be re-making and update again)
  1. Peel and cut the taro and yellow/orange sweet potato into small cubes, place them in 3 separate bowls. Steam until fork tender.
  2. Work with 1 bowl at a time (I started off with taro), leaving the other 2 bowls in the steamer to keep warm.
  3. Mash the taro with a potato masher and add sugar. Stir till sugar is melted. Then add the tapioca starch, mix till a rough dough forms.
  4. Turn the dough to a non-stick mat and knead the dough till smooth, non-sticky and medium soft, adding water if necessary.
  5. Repeat with the yellow and orange sweet potato.
  6. Roll the dough into thin logs and cut into small cubes using a dough cutter.
  7. Heat a pot of water, once water boils, add the balls and cook until the balls float. Cook for 1 min more, drain and place the balls in a bowl of ice cold water.
  8. Heat 1 cup of water with 2 tbsp of molasses.
  9. To serve hot, add the taro and sweet potato balls, and grass jelly or any other desired ingredients into a bowl, add some hot molasses syrup.
  10. To serve cold, prepare the molasses syrup beforehand and chill. Add the taro, sweet potato balls and grass jelly into a bowl and add the chilled molasses syrup.
  11. The taro and sweet potato balls must be eaten fresh to maintain the chewy texture. If not eating immediately, dust with some tapioca starch and chill/freeze till ready to use. 

The taro and sweet potato balls taste quite soft and chewy when first cooked, I prefer eating it with warm molasses syrup. The taste of taro and sweet potato is in fact quite subtle. Won't say I like it very much. I think I prefer eating glutinous rice ball (Tangyuan) as it's much more chewy than this.

I prepared the dessert in the afternoon and intended to serve hubby after dinner in the evening. Made the mistake of cooking and soaking the balls in the syrup and chilling them beforehand. By the time hubby ate the taro/sweet potato balls, the texture changed and not as chewy and soft as freshly prepared. I left some overnight in the fridge and the next day, the taro/sweet potato balls turned quite hard and not palatable at all. I should have chilled the taro balls in the fridge and cook them fresh just before serving. Guess I have to make it again to pacify the hubby, one of these days :p (Update: will be re-making with sweet potato flour).

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.

Pepper & spring onion flatbread 胡椒餅 - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

Several years ago when I went to Taipei for holiday, I noticed this very interesting street snack called 胡椒餅 pepper and spring onion flatbread and was very curious about the taste. Unfortunately I was too full and had to give it a miss. Hence, AFF Taiwan offers the best opportunity for me to finally give it a try even though it may not be exactly the same.

The video provided by Joanne on Taiwan Duck is really useful and I was able to make the flatbread quite easily. The dough used is sort of like a master recipe for many Taiwanese street snacks such as spring onion/scallion pancakes, minced beef cake etc. The filling here is essentially spring onion/scallions, minced beef (or pork) and lots of black and white pepper.

I love how the flatbread turned out! It's crunchy on the outside and chewy inside with fragrance of the spring onion/scallions and juiciness from the beef and most important, the filling packs a fiery punch coz of the liberal amount of black and white pepper used. I could imagine the Taiwanese enjoying this flatbread during the cold winter nights. It could certainly warm up the body because I started sweating after eating a piece! Next time if I were to visit Taiwan during winter, I must buy one to try =D

Steps are easy.

Quick fry the minced beef with salt, black and white pepper. Mix with spring onion/scallion and add melted butter and sugar.

Add boiling water to flour, stir well and add more water to form dough. Knead till smooth and shiny. Rest for 15-20 mins and dough is ready to use.

Flatten dough into disc, scoop 1.5-2 tbsp of filling into centre of disc. Fold the disc in circular motion, pitch to make sure the dough is tightly closed up. Flatten the dough slightly. Not too much else the skin might break.

These flatbread could be frozen till ready to use.

Finally pan fry with a bit of oil, till both sides of the flatbread are golden brown.

Pepper and spring onion flatbread 胡椒餅
(makes 10 pieces - about 7cm each; reference Taiwan Duck)

  • 140g spring onion/scallion (I use 4 stalks local spring onion and 1 stalk China scallion)
  • 200g minced beef
  • 1.5 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 10g melted butter (I use unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 75ml boiling water
  • 75ml tepid water (I use 70ml)
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Heat up a frying pan on medium fire and quick fry the minced beef till beef colour changes. Add black pepper, white pepper and sea salt, stir well with the beef. Dish and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Chop up the spring onions and add to the minced beef. Add melted butter and sugar and mix all the ingredients well. Set aside.
  3. Place plain flour in large mixing bowl, add 75ml boiling water and use a chopsticks to stir the mixture.
  4. Gradually add the tepid water and stir till a dough forms.
  5. Turn the dough onto a non-stick mat and knead the dough till non-sticky, soft and shiny (takes a few minutes, texture feels like ear-lobe). Cover and rest dough for 15-20 mins.
  6. Roll the dough into a log and cut into 10 pieces (total weight of my dough is 389g, each piece of flatbread dough is about 38-39g).
  7. Flatten dough into disc, fill with about 1.5-2 tbsp of minced beef filling, close up the dough, flatten slightly.
  8. In a frying pan, heat up about 1 tsp of vegetable oil and pan fry the flatbread on both sides till golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel.
  9. Best serve hot.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.

This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Bake for Happy Kids and My Little Favourite DIY, and hosted by Diana from the Domestic Goddess Wannabe

Fragrant Pork with Garlic Sauce 蒜泥白肉 - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

I'm sure many people are familiar with Din Tai Fung restaurant 鼎泰豐 from Taiwan, famous for its Xiao Long Bao soup dumpling 小笼包. Most of the time people would focus mainly on the Xiao Long Bao, handmade noodles, fried rice etc, but there's one dish listed under "Appetizers" called 蒜泥白肉 (Fragrant Pork with Garlic Sauce) which I quite enjoy probably coz I love pork belly. 蒜泥 is minced garlic sauce and 白肉 is plain pork.

The garlic sauce is the main star here else it would not be called 蒜泥白肉. There are many variations to the preparation of this sauce; so I experimented by putting together quite an extensive list of ingredients and came up with my own sauce. Feel free to omit or add on any ingredients.

As for the meat, instead of just cooking/boiling the pork belly for 30 mins directly, I used a more tedious method of boiling the meat, off heat and then boil again, total of 5 times or till meat is cooked. I learnt from a cooking show that this method of cooking makes the meat more succulent.

At Din Tai Fung, the pork belly is sliced very thinly and wrapped around a cucumber stick and drizzled with the garlic sauce. Since my knife skill isn't up to par, I tried to slice the meat as thin as I could, around 2-3mm. Instead of simply serving with normal cucumber sticks, I sliced the cucumber into wafer-thin strips using a fruit peeler and rolled them up. Same goes for the carrot.

I chilled the meat and cucumber/carrot relish to make the dish more refreshing. The meat was moist and bouncy and oh-so-tasty with the sauce. The rolled-up cucumber/carrots were surprisingly refreshing and crisp, much tastier than if I were to cut them into slices or sticks. I must say the relish is an important enhancement to the whole dish as the meat and sauce itself is quite overwhelming to the palate.

Overall, quite an easy dish to prepare at home, this recipe is a keeper :)

Fragrant Pork with Garlic Sauce 蒜泥白肉

  • 550g pork belly
  • 3 slices young ginger
  • 1 stalk spring onion
  • 1 tbsp cooking wine
  • 2L water (or enough water to cover 2 inches above pork belly)
  • Cucumber and carrot relish (slice thinly using fruit peeler)
  1. Place pork belly, ginger, spring onion, cooking wine and water in a pot (covered). Bring to boil.
  2. Off heat for 5 mins.
  3. On heat and bring to boil again.
  4. Repeat steps (2) and (3) for 5 times.
  5. The pork belly should be fully cooked. To check, poke a chopstick into the centre of the meat, if juice runs clear, the pork is cooked. Else, repeat steps (2) and (3) one or two more times.
  6. Slice pork into 2mm thin slices and serve with garlic sauce. The dish could be served chilled or room temperature.
  7. Unused pork belly should be soaked in the brine water until ready to use to avoid drying.

Homemade Garlic Sauce 蒜泥醬汁

  • 2 tbsp chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp premium dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soya sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chilli oil
  • 1 tsp Gochugaru Korean red chilli pepper flakes or Sichuan red chilli pepper
  • 1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery root (root part only, finely minced)
  • Parsley for garnish
  1. Heat up 2 tbsp of chicken stock in a small pan. Remove pan from heat once hot.
  2. Add garlic, ginger, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, sugar, oyster sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chilli oil and chilli pepper flakes and mix well till sugar is fully dissolved.
  3. Stir in spring onion and celery root. Garnish with parsley.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.

Taiwanese Street Snack Deep Fried Oyster Cake 台灣小吃炸蚵嗲 - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

The Taiwanese Street Snack, Deep Fried Oyster Cake (台灣小吃炸蚵嗲) bears a resemblance to one of our local snack - Fuzhou Hao Bing (福州蚝饼). However, other than the use of oysters as filling and the "UFO" shape, there are some differences between the two.

First, the batter. The Taiwanese version uses all-purpose flour with rice flour or corn starch, whereas the Fuzhou Hao Bing batter uses ground rice with soya bean (couldn't find much info about the exact recipe). And the fillings (besides oysters), the Taiwanese oyster cake uses mainly chinese chives, cabbage and spring onion, whereas the Fuzhou Hao Bing includes minced pork, chinese celery and some peanuts as topping.

I love to eat Fuzhou Hao Bing, there's a stall at Maxwell Market which sells quite decent ones and I would usually grab one piece when I go there. So for Asian Food Fest Taiwan, I thought of attempting the Taiwanese version just to taste the difference.

After searching on the net for recipes, I narrowed to two recipes by Taiwan Duck which has a video demo, and another on Xinshipu. Basic ingredients are pretty much similar except for the proportion. The video demo was really useful because the success of the oyster cake lies in the technique during deep-frying.

It took me eight tries before I could produce a decent oyster cake, almost wanted to give up! The technique seemed easy enough, coat a medium size ladle with some oil, add 2-3 tbsp of batter, add 1 tbsp of vegetables, add 2-3 oysters, cover with 2-3 tbsp of batter, dip the the ladle into very hot oil, once the oyster cake turns slightly brown, dislodge it into the oil and deep fry till golden brown. The thing was, I couldn't manage to dislodge the oyster cake from the ladle. The batter was totally stuck, total mess when I tried to pry the cake open!

Initially I used half recipe from Taiwan Duck, after five tries (used up all the batter), I thought perhaps the batter was too watery/thin. So I switched to the recipe on Xinshipu which has a thicker batter which was easily to manage. After two more tries, I finally managed to dislodge the oyster cake into the oil on the eighth try. Realised that if I coat the ladle with more oil, in fact not just coat but leave about half teaspoon of oil in the ladle before adding the batter and ingredients, the whole oyster cake could be dislodged into the oil much easily. In addition, had to reduce the amount of fillings so that it's much easier to handle.

But the problem with the oyster cake with the thicker batter, the texture was too hard and turned rubbery after a while. Yucks, no good. So I went back to the Taiwan Duck recipe, and with the newly mastered technique, yes, managed to produce six decent pieces of oyster cakes!

The oyster cakes were crispy on the outside and a bit chewy inside, I could taste the ocean with the oysters complemented by the aroma of the chives, cabbage and spring onion. Surprisingly quite bland. Good eaten on its own and equally nice with a sauce concocted of ketchup, oyster sauce, chilli and sugar.

It's really quite different from the Fuzhou Haobing which is much more flavourful, crispy and heavy. I could eat a few pieces of this Taiwanese oyster cake at one go but one piece of the Fuzhou Haobing is already quite overwhelming on the palate.

That said, the deep frying work was tedious, and the aftermath of it all, an oily and smelly kitchen :(
Gah, there were a lot of oil splatters especially when I added too much filling or didn't cover the filling properly with the batter. Perhaps once is enough.

Ingredients are simple - a batter of all purpose/plain flour, rice flour, finely chopped cabbage, chinese chives and spring onion and oysters (I bought frozen ones).

Like I mentioned, the key to successful oyster cake (at least to me), was having sufficient oil on the ladle to begin with. See the picture below, there must be enough oil on the ladle such that the oil surrounded the batter beneath and around. In this way, the whole cake could be dislodged easily into the hot oil after frying till slight brown.

Taiwanese Street Snack Deep Fried Oyster Cake 台灣小吃炸蚵嗲
(recipe from Taiwan Duck, yields about 6 oyster cakes with 3.5" ladle)

  • 12-18 pieces oyster (I use frozen, 2-3 oysters per cake)
  • 30g chinese chives
  • 60g cabbage
  • 25g spring onion
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Dipping sauce: 2 tbsp ketchup, 1 tsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp garlic chilli, 1 tsp thai sweet chilli, 1/2 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp sugar
  1. Rinse the oysters and thaw them in water added with 1 tsp salt. Set aside.
  2. Finely chop the chives, cabbage and spring onion, toss with 1 tsp salt. Set aside.
  3. Mix plain flour, rice flour, water and oil and stir till well-blended.
  4. Heat up cooking oil (sufficient to cover a ladle full of batter) in a deep pot till very hot (more than 160 degree celsius).
  5. Dip the ladle into the oil and remove, leaving about 1 tsp of oil in the ladle.
  6. Add 2 tbsp of batter into the ladle, spreading a bit, then add 2 tsp of the vegetables, spreading and pressing down. Next add  2-3 oysters. Finally cover the top with 2-3 tbsp of batter, make sure that the batter covers all the ingredients.
  7. Dip the entire ladle into the hot oil, make sure the batter is fully submerged. Swirl the ladle around.
  8. Once the oyster cake turns slightly brown, dislodge the cake into the oil with the help of a thin knife (I use butter knife).
  9. Deep fry till golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel.
  10. Best eaten hot, on its own or with dipping sauce.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.

This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Bake for Happy Kids and My Little Favourite DIY, and hosted by Diana from the Domestic Goddess Wannabe

Taiwanese braised pork on rice (滷肉飯 Lor Bak Png) - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

It's August! And the country for Asian Food Fest (AFF) is "Taiwan". We all know that Taiwan boasts of many colourful and varied cuisine/food choices and most people would visit the night markets to try different street snacks like 炸鸡排 deep fried chicken cutlet, 大肠包小肠 taiwan sausage, 珍珠奶茶 pearl bubble tea, 蚵仔麵線 oyster vermicelli, 甜不辣 tempura etc etc.
Personally I have mixed feelings towards Taiwan. Went there with hubby many years ago but somehow didn't enjoy ourselves as much as our Japan trips. Blamed it on the weather, should have gone during late Dec/early Jan where it's much colder but we chose Nov and it was still quite warm. Nevertheless, we tried many of the local dishes and certainly enjoyed eating through our holiday. Anyways, we've been talking about returning to Taiwan for the longest time, hopefully could materialise soon :p

I digress. The first dish that I'm attempting is the Braised Pork Rice Bowl, 滷肉飯 (Lu Rou Fan) or Lor Bak Png ( 福建/闽南 Fukien/Hokkien language) which is a comfort food among Taiwanese for its homely mum's taste. As my dialect is Hokkien, this dish bears a nostalgic resemblance to the 扣肉 kong bak or Pork Belly Slices in Dark Sauce that we grew up eating.

Ingredients used are quite similar as well, except for the addition of dried shrimps, fried garlic and fried shallots. But I must say the addition of these three ingredients indeed heightened the fragrance and taste of this dish! The gravy was so savory that I couldn't resist eating more rice! The meat glistering in oil and sauce was very flavourful and I'm one who couldn't resist the skin, fats and all. As the gravy and meat were quite salty, it's good to have some greens and pickled radish to help relieve the taste bud. It also seemed imperative to add hard boiled eggs and indeed, the eggs provided a different texture which complemented the dish really well.

When I told hubby that I was cooking this dish, he wasn't very keen, but after tasting it, he gave thumbs up! This recipe is certainly a keeper and I believe I will be cooking this dish from time to time :)

Taiwanese braised pork on rice (滷肉飯 Lor Bak Png)
(recipe reference: Taiwan Duck)

  • 500g pork belly, cut into 4-5mm thin pieces
  • 1 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked for at least 30 mins and coarsely chopped
  • 25g rock sugar (I use brown sugar in pieces 冰片糖)
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 pinch five spice powder
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fried garlic
  • 1/4 cup fried shallots
  • 1/4 cup rice wine (I use Shaoxing cooking wine)
  • 4 hard-boil eggs
  • Water (enough to cover all the ingredients by more than 1 inch)
  • Salt, to taste
  • steamed short-grain rice, blanched xiaobai cai (or any veggies of choice), Japanese pickled radish
  1. Heat a cooking pot on medium fire, dry fry the pork till slightly browned.
  2. Add the dried shrimps and stir fry for 1 min.
  3. Add the rock sugar, star anise and five spice powder, and stir fry for 1 min.
  4. Add the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, fried garlic, fried shallots, and half portion of the rice wine.
  5. Cover the pot and cook the food for 4-5 mins.
  6. Remove cover, add enough water to cover the ingredients by more than 1 inch.
  7. Add the eggs, cover the pot and cook for 30 mins on low heat, turning the eggs occasionally so that they absorb the flavours.
  8. Remove cover, add the other half portion of rice wine, cover and cook for 2 more mins.
  9. Serve warm with steamed rice, blanched vegetables and Japanese pickled radish.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.