26 February 2013

Chinese Heritage: Stocks & Soups by Chef David Yip

I am a soup lover (mostly Chinese soups) and so does my family. I would usually cook soups 2-3 times a week, either slow-boiled or quick-boiled versions. The Chinese believes that soups, especially herbal ones are nourishing and beneficial to different parts of the body, depending on the types of ingredients and herbs used. To me, it's more of a comfort food; the soups provide soothing warmth to the stomach and body and feels so wholesome.

When I saw the Chinese Heritage: Stocks & Soups class conducted by Chef David Yip offered at Shermay's Cooking School, I registered immediately. So far, I've been relying on cook books and internet recipes to cook soups, but I reckoned it would be beneficial to learn from a master in traditional chinese cuisine.

And I was really glad that I attended the class. Chef David was humorous, and very generous in showing his knowledge and know-hows of the kitchen, throwing bits and pieces of gossipy anecdotes, giving additional reicpes, making the entire 3hr class very enjoyable.

The recipes demo-ed were:
  • Basic meat stock
  • Braised soy sauce chicken
  • Mui Chai pork
  • Basic fish stock
  • Snakehead fish noodle
  • Watercress soup
  • Double-boiled chicken with chinese herbs

The first soup we got to taste was the Double-Boiled Chicken with Chinese Herbs - Shou Wu 首乌. All along I had the misconception that Shou Wu is very bitter and would make the soup taste bitter, but I was so wrong! The soup was very fragrant, sweet and soothing. It was so good that most participants went for seconds, myself included. I am definitely going to cook this!

The second soup that we tasted was the Watercress soup. The watercress soup that I made at home usually tasted flat, either that or it had a strong "grassy" taste. But this was very mild, with a slight tinge of sweetness and subtle taste of watercress. I'm sure my family would welcome this.

Then we got to taste the Braised Soy Sauce Chicken and Mui Chai Pork. They were so yummy and the sauces were perfect with rice! The braised soy sauce chicken was stir fried to perfection with a glistering sheen, the meat was flavourful and so tender. And now I finally know how to cook Mui Chai Pork proper. The one and only time I cooked it, it was disastrous (too salty for consumption). These 2 dishes are also in my to-cook list now.

And the last dish we tried was the Snakehead fish noodle cooked using fish stock. The milky colour you see was not milk but protein "released" from fish (stock) after cooking for sometime. Some hawkers added milk to the sliced fish noodles these days instead of making effort to prepare fish stock. The soup was so yummy, no fishy taste or smell at all. It had a very natural sweetness, rich yet not heavy on the palate. The fish was perfectly cooked as well with very nice texture (slightly QQ but tender and remained intact without breaking).

I must say that I was very impressed with this class and it had been a while since I last enjoyed such an outing (me-time!). Chef David has 2 more classes upcoming but I don't think I can make it for those classes, next time perhaps.

18 February 2013

Yuzu Chiffon Cake

(This is a back-dated post, from Dec 2012).

During my Dec 2012 trip to Tokyo (I'm going to blog about it soon!), I managed to pick up some fresh yuzu from Tsukiji Jogai Shijo (Outer Market) at a steal. They were sold at 3 for 200 yen, which was about SGD1 each. One such fruit could probably cost $3-5 each at Meidi-ya or Isetan Supermarket? Actually I have yet to see them at these two supermarkets but heard from someone/somewhere that sometimes they do have stock.

Anyways, I grabbed 3 packs (9 yuzu) coz I absolutely love the taste or rather scent of yuzu. Like, I use only one brand of lip balm, which is the Yojiya yuzu lip balm; I always stock up 2-3 tubs when I go Japan. And the yuzu shower gel from Muji. And the yuzu honey drink. You get the drift :) I digress.

I reckon that a light chiffon would best bring out the essence of yuzu, (and I love chiffon cakes) so decided to bake Yuzu Chiffon Cake.

The curious thing about yuzu, its aroma is quite subtle as a fruit, it tastes extremely sour (more so than lemon), there's not much flesh and the seeds are huge. But once you zest the fruit, the aroma becomes more distinct, and when the batter (together with zest) is baked, the aroma turns intoxicating and I can get high sniffing on the chiffon! I guess people don't really eat the fruit in Japan, they are made into jams, drinks, cakes/pastries, or the zest used in cooking or sushi.

I baked 2 batches of yuzu chiffon cake (to use up all the fruit) varying the amount of fresh yuzu juice and bottled honey yuzu water. I found it necessary to add some honey yuzu water as the amount of fresh yuzu juice is not enough (need lots of yuzu!) in proportion to the cake batter.

Honey yuzu drink can be found at Muji, I think $2 per pet bottle. I checked the Paragon branch in Jan, it was out of stock; and stock likely to arrive in Feb (not sure). In Japan, it's 116 yen (about $1.50-1.60) per bottle. If you refer to the photo below, it's the one in the middle "Honey & Yuzu". The other brand is Minute Maid (found in most C-store in Japan), and another rarer brand is from JAL but I couldn't find it this time. Haha, see how I'm obsessed with yuzu drink?

An alternative of yuzu drink would be the Korean Citron tea (make enough quantity as the yuzu water in the recipe below and adjust sweetness accordingly). I have yet to test the recipe using Korean Citron tea so can't comment on the results of the cake.

Yuzu Chiffon Cake
(Yields TWO 21-cm chiffon cake pan)

Dry Ingredients
  • 225g Nissen Violet flour (This is a Japanese brand, can be found at NTUC Finest, Meidi-ya, Isetan, Cold Storage. Flour is very fine, good for sponge and chiffons. Alternative: top flour/cake flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder (I use double-acting, Phoon Huat)
  • 210g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp fine salt
Wet ingredients
  • 7 large egg yolks (60g nett weight eggs – Chews)
  • 110g oil (sunflower/canola/grapeseed – so long as neutral tasting, avoid olive)
  • 50g freshly-squeezed yuzu juice (about 4-5 fresh yuzu)
  • 130g yuzu honey juice (Muji pet bottle juice or make from bottled Korean Citron Tea)
  • Finely-grated zest of 5 fresh yuzu
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
Meringue (Egg whites mixture)
  • 9 large egg whites (60g nett weight eggs – Chews)
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 75g caster sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 165 degree celsius. Prepare TWO 21-cm clean and grease-free chiffon pans size.
  2. Dry ingredients: Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl. Add caster sugar and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. Wet ingredients: Combine egg yolks, oil, yuzu water, yuzu juice, yuzu zest and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk till blended. Set aside.
  4. Meringue: Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in electric mixer bowl. Beat on high speed till foamy, gradually add the caster sugar. Beat till stiff, glossy peak form. Do not over-beat.
  5. Add wet ingredients (3) into dry ingredients (2) and whisk gently together until smooth, do not over-mix.
  6. Add one-third of Meringue to the batter (5) and fold very gently until almost blended. Add the next one-third of Meringue and fold in likewise. Lastly, scrape all the batter back into the bowl containing the last one-third of Meringue and fold gently till just blended. Do not over-fold.
  7. Pour batter gently into the TWO chiffon pans. Bake immediately, do not delay. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes. Cover the top of cake with foil after 30 mins if it browns too quickly. When the cake is done, a cake tester/satay stick inserted into the cake will emerge clean.
  8. Remove cake from oven and immediately turn it upside down. Let cool completely before unmolding. Best serve the next day for flavours to develop.
* I baked TWO chiffon cakes at one go. If oven is too small, half the recipe for ONE cake. Batter must be used immediately, cannot be left in the open.

The yuzu chiffon turned out beautifully and it's even nicer than my signature orange chiffon cake :p LOL. I made 3 cakes in total, brought some to my office and some to hubby's office. Everyone commented that the cake was fluffy, tender and light, with an alluring aroma of yuzu.

Now, where can I get hold of yuzu to bake more of this cake?

15 February 2013

Casa Del Rio Melaka

Happy Lunar New Year!

I can't believe it's almost one month since my last update. Once again blogging has taken a backseat as I was busy with work, kid and renovation! Yep, going to have a minor reno to my kitchen and toilets and the exciting part is, I'm going to have a dry kitchen for baking! Yippeee! It's going to take 2-3 months and I seriously can't wait! I'm temporarily putting up at my MIL's place, and missing baking badly :( I guess I could make use of this period to get my blog up-to-date?

Anyways, this was a trip taken way back in Nov 2012. Hubby and I (and the kiddo) were invited to attend a wedding lunch at Segamat on a Sunday, so we reckoned we could do a stayover at Melaka on Sat and then make our way to Segamat the next day.

I had been waiting to stay at Casa Del Rio Melaka for the longest time and this was the perfect opportunity. It's located just next to Jonker Street which is really convenient. We were also pleasantly surprised that the hotel has an underground car park. Parking is usually a problem especially at Jonker Street area, so this time we didn't have to worry.

We were ushered to a lounge area and served a welcome ginger lime sorbet. It was really refreshing (after a 3hr drive) and instantly perked us up.

Felt good to relax at the lounge area while the front desk staff helped with the check-in procedures.

Front office.
The furnishings around the hotel is a fusion of Portugese heritage and Mediterranean colours, with an air of cozy and relaxed ambience.

After the check-in procedures were completed, we were shown to our deluxe river room.

View from entrance, with a corridor before reaching the bedroom.

To the left of the corridor is a walk-in wardrobe, leading to the bathroom.

The bedroom looked spacious and cozy.

Especially the king-size bed.

Side table and couch.

Study/work desk with stationary, magazines and books.

TV console with flat screen TV and sound system. The fridge and cofee/tea making facilities are hidden in the cabinets.

View from the bedroom area.

The bathroom was large, with an over-sized bathtub which dear son loved so much. He still talked fondly about the "hotel with bath tub and rubber duck" now.

Welcome snack in room, onde-onde, which was ehem, not very good (a bit too hard).

Small balcony overlooking the river.

We could see the famous Melaka attractions - Maritime Museum & Naval Museum and Melaka Menara Taming Sari (Taming Sari Tower).
Overall, the room was well-appointed and so cozy that we couldn't bear to leave the next day.
Breakfast was included in the room rate and served at The River Grill. It's a semi-buffet concept where some selections of food were available for self-service and a menu of breakfast items cooked-to-order, like waffles, egg benedict, bacon and eggs etc.

Freshly squeezed juices.

Wonder how honey dew juice tastes like? Didn't try it though.

They call it the "Bread Library" here, interesting.

Selection of spreads for the bread.

Do-it-yourself salad bar, very limited veggies though.
Some cheese and crackers.

Good selection of fruits; there was even a chef who carved the fruits on-the-spot.

Cereals and confit.

Fresh milk.

Nasi lemak and condiments.

Small selection of warm food like porridge, stir fried veggies, fried rice, steamed buns etc.

Condiments for the porridge.

I added some curry chicken, sambal ikan bilis, peanut, egg and cucumber to the nasi lemak. Sedap!

"Big breakfast" cooked-to-order. Love the sour dough bread especially!
I must say that the breakfast spread was quite sumptuous. In fact, didn't even need to order anything from the menu as the self-service spread was substantial enough.
The hotel grounds.

Infinity pool at level 3 of the hotel.

Lovely view.

If it wasn't for the bad weather, we would love to swim and chill out here.

A poolside bar serving light bites.

The pool staff was very friendly and even served us watermelon and water even though we were just taking a look at the pool and view.

Overall, we were very satisfied with the room furnishings, quality and service level of the hotel, and I believe this will be our choice of accommodation the next time we visit Melaka.