29 May 2014

Tofu & Sweet Corn Salad 玉米豆腐沙拉

This is another slimming recipe from the chinese book that I bought, "这样吃, 一定瘦!", 台湾生机饮食专家王明勇老师 ("Eat This Way, Slim Forever", by a renown Macrobiotic expert in Taiwan); it was also featured in a Channel U programme "饮食误区 Dietary Errors" by 王明勇老师 2 years ago.

Very quick and easy to prep just three ingredients needed, firm tofu (tau kwa), cucumber and sweet corn. As for seasoning, just sesame oil, sea salt and black pepper. Some days when I felt like eating light, I would eat it as a meal on its own. This could also be served as a warm side salad. Simple but fulfilling and best of all delicious; can taste the crunchy texture of the cucumber, juicy and sweetness from the corn, the warm and light texture of the firm tofu. Simple seasonings yet complimented the tastes of the ingredients well.

Tofu & Sweet Corn Salad 玉米豆腐沙拉
(serves 1-2)

  • 100g sweet corn kernels (I bought packet ones from Heinz), drained
  • 1pc Jap cucumber, cut into cubes
  • 2pc firm tofu (tau kwa)
  • Sea salt, to taste (I use Maldon sea salt flakes)
  • Black pepper, light sprinkle
  • Sesame oil, dash
  1. Slice the firm tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices, dry thoroughly using kitchen towel.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of cooking oil on medium heat in a frying pan.
  3. Pan fry the firm tofu slices until slight golden brown on both sides. Let cool for 5 mins.
  4. Place the tofu into a mixing bowl, use your hands or fork to break the tofu into small pieces.
  5. Add the cubed cucumber, corn kernels and seasonings to taste. Toss well.
  6. Best served warm.

26 May 2014

Black Fungus Thick Soup 高纤黑菜羹

Black fungus is a highly nutritious type of mushroom that is rich in iron and calcium and boasts of many therapeutic benefits such as aiding in digestion, conducive for discharge of toxins in the body, reduce cholesterol etc etc. It is a highly recommended food for people who are detoxing, dieting or simply looking at healthy eating.

I would usually stir fry black fungus with vegetables or braise with chicken. It's tasteless on its own, but the crunchy texture complements other ingredients very well.

This particular recipe is adapted from a chinese book, "这样吃, 一定瘦!", 台湾生机饮食专家王明勇老师 ("Eat This Way, Slim Forever", by a renown Macrobiotic expert in Taiwan). 王明勇老师 has also hosted a programme "饮食误区 Dietary Errors" on Channel U two years back that discussed about typical misconceptions about dieting and healthy eating. This recipe was featured in one of the episodes and I was very keen to give it a try. Then I saw the book on sale at Popular Bookstore and decided to buy it to learn more about proper way of dieting as well as healthy eating. A handful of recipes are included and this thick soup has become one of my favourite.

Basically this soup uses blended black fungus as a base without the need for any thickening agent like corn starch. Golden mushroom and root vegetables like bamboo shoots and carrots are added for some texture and crunch. Soup is seasoned with mushroom powder and when ready to eat, you can add a dash of sesame oil, pepper and even black vinegar for a little bit of tangy taste. Very quick and simple to prepare and yet very delicious. Suitable for vegetarians as well.

Black Fungus Thick Soup 高纤黑菜羹
(serves 2-3 pax)

  • 200g fresh black fungus
  • 1/2 pc bamboo shoot
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 packet golden mushroom
  • 600ml water
  • mushroom powder seasoning, sea salt to taste
  • sesame oil, pepper, black vinegar, chinese celery
  1. Reserve 4 pieces of black fungus. Blended the remaining into fine bits with 200ml of water. Set aside.
  2. Cut the 4 pieces of black fungus into shreds, the bamboo shoots into thin strips, julienne the carrot and golden mushroom into 3 sections. Set aside.
  3. Pour the blended black fungus into a cooking pot, add another 400ml of water. Bring to boil over medium heat.
  4. Once the soup boils, add the black fungus, bamboo shoots, carrots and golden mushroom. Cook over medium low heat for about 8-10 mins.
  5. Season with mushroom powder and sea salt to taste.
  6. Garnish with chinese celery, sesame oil, pepper and black vinegar. Best serve warm.

22 May 2014

Homemade burger with mixed herb bun and chicken & tofu patty

Dear son hates veggies so usually I have to spend extra afford to make him eat them. Most of the time I would simply cut up the veggies into small pieces and mix them into his rice; then he would grudging eat them with his favourite dish (like eggs and fried stuff). Sometimes I would add the veggies into dishes like meatballs or steamed egg, and once in a while I would make tofu veggie burger and he would chomp the entire burger unknowingly :p

This homemade burger made from mixed herb bun and chicken & tofu patty was inspired by Veronica of Peng's Kitchen who posted her recipe in FB group "Singapore Home Cooks". I have made similar tofu burger before but I like her idea of adding rolled oats into the patty as well as the mixed herb bun. So decided to create a slightly different version with ingredients I have in my kitchen. Hers was a vegetarian version whereas mine was not.

For the burger bun, instead of using rye and semolina (Veronica used bread, rye and semolina flour), I used bread, plain and wholemeal flour. Had wanted to use half and half bread flour and wholemeal flour but realised I had only a bit of bread flour left, well just made do with plain flour. The recipe used a straight dough method, mix all ingredients, knead into smooth dough, proof, shape, then proof again, and ready to bake.

The recipe can yield 6 buns, each dough about 85 to 90g. For one of the dough, I halved it to make 2 mini buns for dear son. My kitchen was filled with a whiff of mixed herb fragrance as the buns were baking, love it!

Mixed Herb Bun
(yields 6 buns, each dough weighing about 85-90g)

  • 35g bread flour (or 150g bread flour, omitting the plain flour)
  • 115g plain flour
  • 150g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tbsp Italian mixed herbs
  • 3g salt
  • 11g sugar
  • 6g instant yeast
  • 15g olive oil
  • 210-225g warm water
  1. Add all the ingredients except water into an electric mixer attached with dough hook.
  2. Add water bit by bit while the dough hook is kneading the dough.
  3. Knead until the dough is smooth, about 10-15 mins.
  4. Shape into a ball, place it into a slightly oiled big bowl and cover with clingwrap.
  5. Proof for 60 mins or till dough has doubled in bulk.
  6. After 60 mins, knead the dough to remove the air/gas.
  7. Weigh and shape the dough into desired portions and place each dough separated on a baking tray covered with grease-proof paper or Silpat mat. Cover and proof for another 60 mins.
  8. Preheat oven to 180 degree celsius.
  9. Before baking the buns, glaze with egg wash.
  10. Bake for 20 mins at 180 degree celsius.
  11. After 20 mins, remove from oven and glaze with salted butter to give a tinge of shine.

For the chicken & tofu patty, I used chicken fillet, egg tofu, broccoli, carrot, fresh black fungus, rolled oats and mozzarella cheese. This is a pretty versatile burger patty where many different types of ingredients can be added according to personal preference. For the cooking, can either coat with bread crumbs and pan fry for a crispy texture, or just pan fry on its own, or cook using air fryer. Can also prep the burger patty in advance, place the patties in air-tight box separating each patty using grease proof paper or plastic sheets and store in fridge overnight.

Chicken & Tofu Patty
(yields 5-6 patties)

  • 200g chicken fillet (about 4 pieces), minced
  • 150g egg tofu (1 tube), squeeze out from tube directly
  • 2 florets broccoli, finely chopped
  • 1/2 carrot, grated
  • 2 pc fresh black fungus, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp rolled oats
  • 3 tbsp mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Bread crumbs for coating
  1. Mix all the ingredients except bread crumbs together, making sure they are well mixed.
  2. Divide the mixture into 6 portions, roll into balls then flatten into patties.
  3. Heat frying pan on medium heat, pan fry patties as they are, or coat generously with bread crumbs then fry till golden brown on both sides.
  4. Serve with burger bun.

Dress up the burger with salad leaves, tomato, cucumber, mayonnaise or any condiments of your choice. For me, I like to drizzle some tonkatsu sauce for some tang as well. Yums!

The bun is not the fluffy and soft texture type, it's slightly chewy and hard probably coz of wholemeal flour used, but it went well with the patty, and I like the mixed herb taste.

As for the patty, I prefer bread crumb coating and pan fried so it's crispy on the outside and juicy and tender inside. The taste of veggie was masked by the tofu and cheese so picky kids who hate veggies won't even notice :p

Dear son's serving. He couldn't finish both burgers, ate one burger and half a bun of the other, and 3 pieces of the smiley face potato (whatever you call it) as a side treat. In case you are wondering, yes he removed the salad leaves and tomato. Well, at least he ate the burger and patty with no fuss at all.

20 May 2014

Medhu Vadai and Coconut Chutney - AFF Indian Subcontinent May 2014

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I didn't know that this particular doughnut-lookalike thingy sold at Indian food stalls is called Medhu Vadai or Ulundhu Vadai. I also didn't know that Indians usually eat it with a sambar or chutney. Somehow I liked the taste of it on its own and would just buy one piece for takeaway. Haha.

This time I'm all set to make it at home! And as usual, there are many variations to Vadai like Kurunai Vadai, Masala Vadai, Paruppu Vadai etc, the key difference is different types of lentils used I think. Anyways, I decided on Medhu Vadai made using Urad Dal since I still have half a packet left from the Thenkuzhal Murukku.

In addition, I also made a coconut chutney to go with the Vadai, seeing how easy it was from Wendy's attempt. Have never tasted coconut chutney before and very curious to know how it tastes like.

Basically just need to grind white coconut with some salt and water into a paste, then fry some black mustard seeds with Urad dal, dry chilli and curry leaves (this step is called tempering), finally add the tempered ingredients into the coconut paste.

To make Medhu Vadai, first step is to soak the Urad Dal for an hour. Thereafter grind it into a paste, add green chilli, onions, shallot, cumin seeds, curry leaves, salt and pepper. Mix well, shape into doughnut and deep fry.

Initially I was worried about grinding the Urad dal as I only have a small blender and it might not be powerful enough to grind the Ural dal into paste. Previously when I tried to grind the Urad dal (without soaking) for Thenkuzhal Murukku, it was very difficult and I took a long time to grind it into powder. This time, the soaking helped to soften it, so it was fairly quick.

The next tough part came during the deep frying. Read about the difficulty in shaping the Vadai into doughnut (as it would stick to the hand) from several blogs so I was apprehensive about it. I wet my hands with some water and it helped a lot in shaping, but it was very difficult to put the Vadai into the hot oil. I realised that the movement must be swift in sliding or gently dropping the Vadai into the hot oil. Was okay for the first attempt but a little tentative during the second attempt, ended up dipped two of my finger tips into the hot oil! Ouch :( Luckily it was just a little bit of the tips.

Medhu Vadai
(recipe from Sharmis Passions, halved the original recipe, yields 8 pieces)

  • 1/2 cup Urad Dal (about 100g, skinless type)
  • 1/2 piece Green Chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 Purple Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Curry Leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Cumin Seeds/Jeera, crushed
  • Dash of Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • Water, as required
  1. Soak Uradl Dal for 1 hour at least.
  2. Drain and grind it into a smooth and fluffy paste. Sprinkle water little by little if necessary while grinding.
  3. Once the batter is ready, add the green chilli, onion, shallot, curry leaves, cumin seeds, pepper and salt. Mix well and set aside. *The batter will be thick and sticky. When dropped into water, it will float.
  4. Heat oil in a pot/wok in medium heat. Wet your hands, take a small ball of batter and put it onto a plastic sheet (I use freezer bag). Pat and shape the ball into flat disc, and make a hole in the middle with a finger (helps if the finger is wet).
  5. Carefully slide or drop it into the oil. Fry the Vadai till golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain on kitchen towel.
  6. Best serve warm.

The recipe for Coconut Chutney is from Table for 2... or More. Will not be re-producing here, please hop over if interested :)

Now for the taste test. Yep, the Medhu Vadai tasted how I remember it to be, slightly crispy on the outside and bread-like inside, probably a little bland as compared to the ones from stall vendors. I like the bits of onion and curry leaves which were usually absent from commercial ones. It'll turn a bit hard when cold, but still nice to eat coz I like it :)

As for the coconut chutney, it's very unique! Creamy and milky, I love how the salt brought out the sweetness of the coconut, and the very crunchy bits of mustard seeds and Urad Dal.

When both Medhu Vadai and Coconut Chutney were eaten together, the combination was special. Couldn't describe how it tasted like, just all the tastes and texture mish-mashed. Interesting indeed!

I am submitting this to Asian Food Fest Indian Subcontinent Month

09 May 2014

Besan Murukku - AFF Indian Subcontinent May 2014

After making the Thenkuzhal Murukku, I decided to try another variation. When I was at Mustafa Centre, I saw rows and rows of different Murukku snacks and also premix Murukku powder available. The Murukku is very popular indeed, and I learnt that it is a traditional must-have savoury snack for festivals such as Diwali.

I guess so far I only know about and tried the very crispy version, Thenkuzhal Murukku also known as Mullu Murukku made using mainly rice flour with some Ural Dal (lentil) flour. There are other versions like Besan Murukku, Butter Murukku, Kai Murukku, Coconut Milk Murukku etc.

Decided to give Besan Murukku a try.

Besan Murukku is made using chickpea flour with oil, tumeric powder, fresh peppercorn powder, carom seeds, cumin seeds, baking soda, salt and water. I couldn't find carom seeds at the supermarket (forgot to buy when I was at Mustafa Centre) so omitted it. Added sesame seeds instead. Also used red chilli powder instead of peppercorn powder.

Basically mix everything together into a dough then squeeze the dough using the Murukku press and deep fry. This time, I used the single star shape disc which was much harder to squeeze. By the end of it, my palms were aching! The Besan Murukku was also harder to fry; had to fry at low heat because it browned very quickly and the insides still soft and not very crispy.

Besan Murukku
(recipe from Indian Khana)

  • 1 Cup Besan/Chickpeas flour (about 140g)
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp Sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
  • Pinch Baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 10 - 12 tbsp Water (or more as needed)
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  1. Add all the ingredients (except water) in a large mixing bowl. Use a whisk or spatula and mix well.
  2. Add water 1 tbsp at a time and fold the ingredients until they come together into a dough.
  3. Knead for a few minutes till soft.
  4. Heat oil in a pot on medium low heat. When ready to fry, turn to low heat.
  5. Fill dough into the murukku press and squeeze dough onto back of a ladle using the star disc.
  6. Fry in low heat until golden brown or when bubbling around the murukku stops.
  7. Drain on kitchen towel. Once murukku cools down, store in airtight container.

Didn't like the Besan Murukku as much as the Thenkuzhal Murukku. Perhaps I didn't knead the dough well enough or didn't fry the Murukku sufficiently (the dough was quite thick), some of the pieces were a little soft inside. It's also not as flavourful and fragrant :(

Nevertheless a good exercise. Will see if I can find another recipe to try, or probably move on to attempt the Medhu Vadai which I'm keen to try as well.

I am submitting this to Asian Food Fest Indian Subcontinent Month

07 May 2014

Burdock, carrot & cucumber salad

The weather has been so hot and humid recently that I tend to crave for light and refreshing salads during lunchtime.

One of my favourite salad is this burdock, carrot and cucumber salad. I've bought and eaten a similar one at a Japanese eatery at Liang Court before. Recently when I went to Tokyo I also saw this particular salad featured in a food magazine. I guess this is somewhat a modern Jap kind of salad because traditionally Japanese use burdock root to make a dish called kinpira gobō which is shredded burdock root and carrot braised with soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sesame oil.

Burdock known as gobō (in Japan) or 牛蒡 (locally or Taiwan/China) apparently has many health benefits and even medicinal properties. In local markets, we usually find the variety imported from China; the root is "aged" thus very hard and very fibrous; typically used to cook soups and seldom eaten on its own. At traditional chinese medicine halls, we can also find dried burdock (cut into thin slices) used for cooking herbal soups.

Variety imported from Japan is found only at Japanese supermarkets like Isetan and Meidi-ya. But still, they tend to be the more aged ones. For this particular salad, it's best to use young gobō which is very tender and sweet. Not sure if young gobō is imported or not, if not try to find the "youngest looking root" available. Whenever I go to Japan, I would buy a packet back since it's not easily available locally.

Ingredients are very simple, two young burdock roots (1 packet as seen in photo), one Japanese cucumber, one small carrot/half medium carrot, sesame seeds, Japanese mayonnaise and sesame dressing. The Jap mayo and sesame dressing can be found at major supermarkets like NTUC, at the Jap food section.

First, julienne everything. Then boil about 3 cups of water with 2 tbsp of vinegar (I use Japanese brown rice vinegar), blanch the burdock root for 30 secs followed by the carrot for another 30 secs. This step would remove the strong earthy smell of the burdock and also make both the burdock and carrot slightly tender.

Finally, just toss all the three ingredients with  2 tbsp of sesame dressing, 2 tbsp of Jap mayo and 1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds. The salad is ready to eat but I prefer chilling it in the fridge first to make it truly refreshing. I can have this salad over two meals with probably sandwich or some other carbo.Totally love the crunch and sweetness of the veg, complimented by the creamy dressing and aroma from the sesame seeds. Yums!

Burdock, carrot & cucumber salad

  • 2 stalks young burdock root (1 packet)
  • 1 pc Japanese cucumber
  • 1/2 medium carrot or 1 small carrot
  • 2 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp sesame dressing
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
  1. Julienne burdock root, cucumber and carrot. Set aside. *If the bottom section of the burdock root looks very hard and fibrous, I usually cut about 5cm away and reserve it for soups instead of this salad.
  2. Boil 3 cups of water in a pot, add 2 tbsp of brown rice vinegar
  3. Blanch burdock root for 30 secs. Add carrot and blanch for another 30 secs.
  4. Drain and let cool.
  5. Toss burdock root, cucumber and carrot together with the mayo, sesame dressing and sesame seeds.
  6. Chill in fridge before serving.

05 May 2014

Thenkuzhal Murukku - AFF Indian Subcontinent May 2014

The theme for Asian Food Festival in the month of May 2014 is Indian Subcontinent. Wow. Now this is challenging. I can count with one hand the number of times we ate any authentic Indian Indian food. Roti Prata doesn't really count since it's very much localised already; it's not even called Roti Prata in Indian, it's called Paratha with many variations. If we were to eat Indian food, we usually go for Naans with Aloo Gobi and Beef or Mutton Masala. We don't even like Chicken Tikka or Butter Chicken. I've not eaten any Briyani for ten years already I think.

That said, I love to eat Murukku and also the pastry that looks like doughnut, Medhu Vadai. In fact, I didn't even know it's called Medhu Vadai until now. I used to just point at the Indian food stall :p I heard that the Indians eat it with some sambar and chutney but I like it plain. I must be this weird chinese girl who buy one piece of Vadai to eat like that. Haha.

I digress. Since I like to eat Murukku, I've always wanted to try making it at home. So this month offers me the perfect opportunity to finally stop thinking and start making. As I read through different recipes and sources for information, I realised there are many variations to Murukku as well; different households also have their own ingredients and methods of preparation.

I got quite confused actually. After comparing several recipes, I can see that rice flour, butter, salt, cumin seeds, sesame seeds and Asafoetida or Hing are key ingredients. In addition, either Urad Dal flour or Gram flour would be added. I found out that Gram flour is Chickpea flour and Urad Dal is a lentil also known as Black Gram. So is Black Gram different from Gram? And then some ingredients have many different names? Arghhhh....

Anyways, I ventured to Mustafa Centre to get the necessary ingredients. I've been to Mustafa Centre many years back just to look see so didn't have much impression. But this time I went there with a mission to get stuff I need, and I was seriously overwhelmed and hopelessly lost there. There are sooooooo many variations, brands and types of ingredients that got me utterly confused. Luckily I brought along a list and engaged the help of the friendly staff over there who could tell me the exact aisles to go to (the place is big)! Not sure if these are the correct ingredients but whatever, I was so tired that I just selected whichever brands that look right.

I also got me this gadget, a Murukku press with 4 different discs. This is the only type I found, not cheap it cost $24.

I decided to use the recipe by Edible Garden because it looks simple enough with step-by-step pictorial instructions. The recipe says to use either urad dal flour or roast urad dal and grind it into powder. As I was thinking of making Medhu Vadai, I bought the urad dal (skinless) instead of the flour (couldn't find the flour version anyway). Pan fried a few tbsp of urad dal then grinded them using my small electric chopper. Not easy job as the urad dal is very hard and my chopper is too small/weak. Then sieve to get the urad dal powder.

First mix the rice flour with salt, urad dal powder and hing/asafoetida, then add small cubes of salted butter and rub into the mixture until it resembles coarse sand (there are some recipes that use melted butter instead). Then add cumin seeds and sesame seeds. Finally add water gradually and knead to become a soft dough. Initially I didn't add enough water (although the dough seemed soft enough), and it was very difficult to squeeze the dough out of the press. It became easier after sufficient amount of water added.

Frying the murukku required lots of practice as well. Initially I found the presser quite tough to use and I got many small and short pieces of murukku (I use the disc with 5 holes). But after a few tries, got slightly better. Some people squeeze the murukku dough onto the back of a ladle first before shifting the dough into the frying pan. But I found it easier for me to squeeze the dough directly into the oil. And the murukku cannot be fried for too long, once it turned slightly brown got to pick it up already else they would be over-fried and turned dark brown.

All in all, was quite happy with the result and the taste was not bad. Not too saltish, very crunchy and I love the taste of the spices. Hubby also gave thumbs up. I think I'll be trying other recipes using chickpea flour and make the spiral murukku using the star disc. Stay tuned!

Thenkuzhal Murukku
(recipe from Edible Garden)

  • 1 cup rice flour (about 170g)
  • 3 tsp urad dal powder (I use urad dal and grind into powder using electric chopper)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida/hing
  • 2 tbsp salted butter (about 30g)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
  • 1/2 tsp white sesame seeds
  • 9 tbsp + 1 tsp water
  • Oil for frying
  1. Mix the rice flour with urad dal powder, salt and asafoetida.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour mixture (1). Rub the butter with the flour mixture with the fingertips until it resembles coarse sand.
  3. Add the cumin seeds and sesame seeds and mix well.
  4. Add water gradually until the dough becomes soft, smooth and pliable. To test, place a lump of dough into the murukku press and squeeze, if the dough comes out very slowly and very hard to squeeze, the dough is not soft enough.
  5. Heat a pot of oil (enough to cover the murukku) till very hot, press/squeeze the dough into the oil using the murukku press in a circular swirling motion (I use the disc with 5 holes). Deep fry each piece of murukku for about 45s or till light golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and let cool completely.
  6. Store in airtight container.

I am submitting this to Asian Food Fest Indian Subcontinent Month