Tuesday, May 29, 2007

WTSIM.. stuffed vegetables - Yong Tau Foo

Yong Tau Foo w/ fermented yellow bean sauce

"Yong Tau Foo" literally means stuffed tofu. At least that's what my mum told me and that's the version I'm sticking to! It's a dish that few Malaysians and Singaporeans who grew up in Malaysia and Singapore will fail to recognise. According to wikipedia, it's a dish of Hakka origins, the Hakkas being one of the many chinese sub-ethnic groups in China. (But I've been told that there is a Hokkien version of this too.)

Originally it is a dish with tofu stuffed with fish mousse (aka fish paste) but my childhood memories of yong tau foo included all sorts of other stuffed vegetables including: okra, eggplant, mushrooms, bitter gourd and chilli. You name it, they've stuffed it. Traditionally, they're served in a clear chicken broth boiled with yellow beans accompanied by a bowl of rice or a plate of dry noodles. Non-traditionally, they're braised with fermented soy bean paste (tau cheong), oyster sauce and garlic or served with a big bowl of soup noodles like curry laksa. (yumm!)

The purists like my mum and dad would make their own fish mousse by blending fillets of spanish mackarel. The key ingredient to fish mousse is ice cold salt water for the texture to be soft but bouncy after cooking. I remember the days my mum and dad would spend hours arguing whether they should be using icy cold water or ice chips to 'get the texture right' so to speak.

Me? Pfft.. I'm no purist. I go for whatever's easy and satisfies my appetite.

So what did I stuff my vegetables with? A mixture of prawns, pork mince, coriander and garlic.

And what was my parents reaction when they heard that I had done that?

Mum: "Eh..? That's Hokkien style. Did you put in some salted fish? and what's with the garlic?"

Dad: "Why didn't you bring home some?"

Yong Tau Foo - the break all rules style.
Serves 6

Ingredients:
  1. Oil for pan frying
  2. Lots of patience for stuffing the vegetables
Filling:
250g fresh prawns, peeled and roughly chopped
250g pork mince (not too lean but not too fatty)
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of roughly chopped coriander (leaves and root)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 medium pinch of salt

1/4 cup of water chestnuts finely chopped.
  1. Place all ingredients (except the water chestnuts) in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Empty the contents into a large bowl and stir in the water chestnuts.
  3. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 30mins while you prepare your vegetables.
Vegetables:

I chose to use the following vegetables, but you could use it with pretty much any vegetable you fancy.
  • 1 Red Capsicum*
  • 9 fresh shiitake mushrooms (substitute with other mushrooms, if preferred)
  • 2 lebanese eggplants, sliced length ways approx 2.5cm wide and make an incision in between (but not all the way!)
  • 15 mini fried tofu puffs (substitute with other firm tofu if you wish), make an incision in between each little puffs or slice in half
  • 7 okras, slice the top and make an incision in between
  • 10 snake beans**

Preparing the vegetables:
  1. Capsicum - Remove the stem and chop into quarters.
  2. Mushroom - Remove the stem.
  3. Eggplants - Slice length ways approx 2.5cm wide and make an incision in between (but not all the way!).
  4. Fried tofu puffs - Make an incision in between each little puffs or slice in half.
  5. Okras - Remove the top/stem and make an incision in between.
  6. Snake beans - See below

*Capsicums are tricky to stuffed too, make sure you only use the corners for stuffing. Otherwise the filling will detach itself after it's cooked. ;)

**If you're wondering how I manage to stuff snake beans, take a look at the photo below

snake beans

Cute eh? If you do intend to use snake beans, I suggest you do the following as a pre-prep:
  1. Blanch the snake beans in salted water.
  2. Let cool and then tie away..
The photo quality's a bit of a mismatch, but I think you get the picture :)

instruction
  1. Make a small loop.
  2. Place the other end over the loop and then under.
  3. Snip off the loose ends.
Snake beans are a tricky vegetable to use for stuffing. Blanched snake beans are much easier to handle because they won't snap when you try to tie a knot!

For those of you thinking of zapping it in the microwave, DONT! The microwave will only cook parts of the beans and over cook other parts. Plus the juices from the beans drip out from the over cooked parts.. it's just unsightly. Plus you won't get the lovely green that I did from blanching :)

Stuffing the vegetables:

Remove the filling from the fridge. Using a butter knife, spread the filling into the gap of each in each vegetable.

You'll end up with something like this:

stuffed vegetables

Once all the vegetables have been stuffed, heat up some oil in a frying pan and cook the vegetables in batches until the fillings are cooked.

Cooking time depends on what you method you choose to enjoy your yong tau foos.

If:
  1. You like the soup and rice idea or the curry laksa idea, fry the yong tau foo until the filling is cooked and remove from pan.
  2. You prefer the braise method, fry them until the filling is just cooked but try not to over cook the vegetables in the process. You want to let the rest of the vegetables (especially mushrooms, eggplant and tofu puffs) cook in the bean sauce and absorb the flavours.

Pan fried yong tau foo & vegetables

Recipe:

1. Yong Tau Foo Soup

Simply heat up some chicken stock to boiling point, place your yong tau foo into the stock for reheating and serve topped with some chopped spring onions and a dash of white pepper.

2. Braised Yong Tau Foo (the way I like it)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp tau cheo/tau cheong (fermented soy bean paste)
1.5 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1/2 tsp corn flour
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp water
10 pieces yong tau foo
  1. Heat oil in a wok or medium sized saucepan.
  2. Lightly fry garlic until fragrant.
  3. Add the soy bean paste and oyster sauce and mix well with garlic.
  4. Add in the chicken stock and mix well.
  5. Add the pieces of yong tau foo and ensure that each pieces is well coated with the sauce. Lower the heat and let the vegetables simmer in the sauce for at least 15mins.
  6. Mix corn flour with water and pour into the wok. Stir until the sauce thickens.
  7. Remove from heat and serve topped with some chopped spring onions and rice.
Serves 2.

Notes:
  • This recipe makes enough to feed 6 if not more.
  • Don't attempt this unless you have a whole afternoon to spare. It took me the whole of Saturday (afternoon and night) to prepare and we ate it over 3 days in all the suggested methods stated in this post. :D
This month's Waiter, There's Something in My.. Stuffed Fruit/Vegetables (WTSIM) is hosted by Jeanne of Cooksister. Make sure you head over there to check out all the other great stuffed fruits and vegetables ideas.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A light sunday brekkie

A Light Breakfast

Sunday, 11:20am. It's almost lunch time, but I'm craving an eggs and toast breakfast.

We're up for a big lunch today. Alv's mum is making Hainanese Chicken Rice and I've got some Yong Tau Foos made up from yesterday.
What to do? (in a heavily accented Malaysian slang)
Maybe just one. One little poach egg, yolk a bit runny .. just the way I like it and a piece of bread from the Breadtop...

Ooh.. there's some baby spinach in the fridge!

MMmm....

------

Sunday Morning Songs:

Sunday, May 20, 2007

His Mum's Day

What do you call someone who cooks lunch for the boy friend's mum on Mother's Day but not for her own Mum?
A traitor?
Nooooooo........!!! But.. but.. me mum said not to bother coming home that day coz.. coz.. she wasn't doing anything....
That's the 64 million dollar question that's been on my mind the whole week. I saw mum on the Thursday before Mother's Day and asked if we were celebrating on sunday. She replied no and that she doesn't mind if I come home next weekend instead.

Now my mum is a very simple woman. She cares not for all the Valentine Day's, Mother's Day and what not days that the retail world seems to make a hoo-hah out of. So when she says she doesn't care, she usually means it. But I can't seem to get rid of this guilt that has been haunting me this whole week. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I (for some stupid reason) offered to cook lunch for Mother's Day for Alv's mum.

My colleague Jules teased me when I told her that I was cooking Mother's Day lunch for Alv's mum. She said.. "you mean your mother-in-law" to which I replied.. "NOT YET she isn't!"

To be honest, I've never ever cooked my own mum lunch or dinner. It's mainly because I moved out of home when I got my first "real" job and haven't been back since.. and that was years before I started being so interested in cooking and baking. My brother was the one who was gung-ho into cooking since he was young. My mum was priming him for work in the kitchen, until he turned his back on her and decided he wasn't interested in the hard slog. Lazy arse!

I've tried making up for it by bringing home some cakes and bikkies that I've baked on the odd occasions or when we have family dinners with my cousins and aunts... heck I even made her a really awesome birthday cake last year. But I guess it's kinda not the same, especially on a day like Mother's Day when you're suppose to be celebrating your own mum's day, not someone elses. Hmph...

Anyway, for "His Mum, His Sister-in-Law and His Aunt's Day", we had 8 big people and 1 little person over for lunch. The Menu for the Day was:
Tomato and Goat's Cheese Tart
Cajun chicken and Pear salad w/ Raspberry Balsamic dressing
Green beans and Sweet Corn Salad
Greek Salad
Marinated Mushroom salad

<>

Mixed Fruit Pavlova
Green Tea Sponge Cake (from Cake World)

The great thing about offering to cook lunch is.. I get to decide (selfishly) what sort of new recipes to try. *evil laugh*

Mother's Day Lunch


New recipe No 1.
I've been dying to try Tamasin Day-Lewis's Tomato and Goat's Cheese tart since I saw it in the Accidental Foodie and just never found an occasion for it. Not to mention that I needed enough people to help me finish it since Alv is not a big fan of cooked tomatoes or goat's cheese for that matter. This was 1 of the 2 things that caused me the greatest grief that day since a) I stupidly decided to make the shortcrust pastry myself (ie. without using my trusted food processor) and b) I had to settle for goat's cheese chevre (I used Milawa) when I should've been using goat's camembert. I couldn't find any at the delis The Glen nor Macro and it wasn't my Prahran Market day so I wasn't able to get any.

I haven't had much luck with making shortcrust pastry these days and that day was no exception. Let's just say I spent hours on trying to make the pastry and ended up with a crumbly mess (see above photo for crumbs). It was edible but a mess...Note to self: STICK WITH WHAT YOU KNOW BEST.

Apart from the mess I made, the rest was simple. Finely chop up some herbs (rosemary,thyme, oregano or sage) and 1 clove of garlic. Mix it in with 1/4cup of extra virgin olive oil (plus some salt and pepper) to create a sort of herb infused oil mix. Leave it over night to infuse. The next day, make your favourite shortcurst pastry (Tamasin suggests substituting the water component for some good olive oil.. this is where things went bad for me!). Slice up your tomatoes (about 6 small sized tomatoes) and goats camembert (about 4 x 125g blocks). Roll out your pastry into a tart pan and arrange layers of tomatoes and goat's cheese onto the tart. Brush with herb infused oil and bake in a 120deg oven for about 1.5hrs. Before you serve the tart, brush it again with the herb oil and serve with your favourite salad (in this case.. salads..)

Tomatoes & Goats Cheese Tart


New recipe No 2.
Bill Granger's Green Beans and Sweet Corn Salad from Everyday.

This has got to be my favourite salad of the day. One that I ate the most! It's the easy to prepare, simply heat up equal amounts of butter and olive oil (1 tbsp or so), toss in some spring onions (x 3, thinly sliced) and cook until it's soft. Add 1 clove of garlic (crushed) and stir, add corn into the pan and mix well with the spring onion and garlic mix. Finally, add in the chicken stock (125ml), toss in the beans and then cover the pan and let it cook for about 5 mins or until the beans are cooked. Season with salt and pepper before serving. It tastes absolutely delicious.

The cajun chicken, greek salad and mushroom salads were the only oldies on the menu. The Cajun chicken salad was one that I made two christmases ago. The idea with the pear and balsamic dressing came from my old housemate who had something similar at a close by cafe. The only twist this time round was rasberry balsamic vinegar instead of the usual balsamic vinegar. Mainly because Claire 'borrowed' my bottle of BV and never returned it.

The mushroom salad was simple sliced mushrooms marinated with some extra virgin olive oil, dash of white wine vinegar, 1 clove of garlic, chopped parsley and seasoned with salt and pepper. Pour it onto the sliced mushrooms and let it marinade for about 15mins before serving. The mushrooms just soaks up all the marinade, it's fabulous. And the greek salad. Well.. it's kinda obvious isn't it?

Mother's Day Salads
clockwise from Left to Right. 1. Greenbeans and corn salad, 2. Cajun Chicken and Pear Salad, 3. Marinated Mushroom Salad, 4. Greek Salad.


And the pavlova? Well, it's one of Bill's. Also from Everyday, it's a pav with yoghurt cream. Here's where disaster no 2. happened. Guess what I did/didn't do??? The biggest "NO NO" in making pavlova and meringues. I forgot to let the pavlova cool in the oven! Derr...!!

Did I hear you say "O.M.G. How could you not have known that..??"

Truth is, I knew but I forgot. And everyone was rushing me for dessert. I had left the pav to cook whilst we ate lunch and when lunch was done everyone was raving on about dessert. In the midst of the rush, I took it out and then forgot about it until I got all the fruits out and was about to slather on the yoghurt cream.. and saw the pav cracking .. Lets just say there were some bits of gentle (gentle because I was muttering under my breath) obscenities flying around for a while. In the end, I caved and served it cracked and all. Hah.. it all got eaten up amidst the complaints that it was too sweet.. hmph.. (I'm sure if you look carefully on the bottom left corner you can see some of the cracks I was talking about)

Pavlova

Ingredients:

6 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp arrow root
2 tsp white vinegar

Preheat oven to 180deg.

Whip egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Then add in the caster sugar 1 tbsp at a time while beating until the meringue is thick and glossy. Stir in cornflour, arrow root and vinegar and pile meringue onto a lined baking tray*.

Place pavlova in the oven and turn temperature down to 120deg. Bake pavlova for about 120minutes until the outside is firm but not browned. Turn oven off and leave pavlova inside to cool.

For the yoghurt cream, whip 250ml of cream and fold in 125ml of natural yoghurt.

Spoon yoghurt cream over the pav and top with your favourite fruits.

*Bill suggests drawing a circle on the baking tray for convinience.



Green Tea cake

Mother's Day cake courtesy of Auntie H.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

28

My favourite things

A poor attempt at being arty.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I'm so lucky!

Ellie's macaron's

Meet Ellie's delicious melt-in-your mouth macarons. I can attest to their melt-in-your mouth textures because I was the lucky recipient of a sample of the few remaining macarons that was left in Ellie's pantry.

I made a comment on Sunday night when I saw Ellie's post that I needed one, right away.. and before you know it, a few short messages on MSN later it was "Meet you in front of Coles tomorrow.." and less than 2hrs later. They were safely digesting in Alv's and my tummy. :)

These babies are first on my 'To-do' list. As soon as I find some time next weekend...

ps. My photo's don't do them justice. I was trying to take the most clear shot that I could in the shortest amount of time possible because someone in the background was repeating the phrases "Are you done with the photos yet...?"

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Taste of Yellow

Margarita (polenta) pizza

A Taste of Yellow is a blog event hosted by Barbara of Winos and Foodies. A Taste of Yellow invites bloggers around the world to create a dish using yellow coloured ingredients. This is an official event in support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation's Live Strong Day to raise awareness about cancer and support cancer survivors, their friends and family.

My yellow ingredients? Polenta and Cheese to create a Margarita style polenta pizza.. (what a dull name..LOL). I actually came up with the idea after coming across Lara's lovely pan-grilled polenta with blood orange and basil relish. I've used Lara's recipe for the polenta, so if you're interested in the recipe, you can find it here on Lara's site, Cook & Eat.

For the pizza, just pile on your favourite pizza toppings and away you go! Let your imagination go wild...!

Margarita (polenta) pizza


As Barbara said, cancer knows no boundaries. It does not recognise age, gender nor the sort of bad health habits that you indulge in. I would also like to share with you today, stories of my family and friends who have survived this ravage disease and of one who didn't quiet make it.

The first time I learnt the true meaning of this savage disease was when I was about 14 or 15 years old. My grandmother (Mum's mum) was living with us and one day by accident, I walked in on Mum dressing my grandmother and caught a glimpse of my grandmother's chest. I was so shocked that I didn't even hear my mum telling me to leave. She had to get up and literally 'shoo' me away. I still remember that day clearly. I don't recall what my mum said to me but I can never forget the day I discovered that my grandmother had only one breast.

Later on, mum told me that my grandmother had breast cancer when she was younger (I can't remember what age). Back then (If I had to guess, I'd say it would've been in the 50's or 60's), unless you were really rich (and my grand parents weren't), you pretty much have no chance of getting good medical treatment. Especially, not in our little town of Ipoh. When they had finally discovered it, it was too late and all they could do was a mastectomy to stop the cancer from spreading. My grandmother survived it only to fall victim to stroke and dementia.

My best friend in uni had a cancer scare too. Twice. C's mum passed away from stomach cancer when she was about 8. When she was 20 she found some lumps on her breasts. They told her it was malignant. Just cysts, they're harmless. But they removed it anyway, just in case.. because of her family history. All was good, until I found out a few years after, that she'd found more of them. This time, the doctors told her that they may have to remove her breasts and then follow with a breast reconstruction using fat tissues from her thighs and buttocks. We joked that she could ask for a B or C cup depending on how much fat she wanted to get rid off.

A few months after C had her first cancer scare, we found out that another of our close friends D was diagnosed with lymphoma. He went into straight into radiation and chemotheraphy. Started shaving his head because he was losing all his hair. I still remember that how much hair he loss, the amount of weight he lost and how fine his hair became. I remembered J, his best friend telling us that he cried when he found out that D had cancer. I think I remember shedding some tears too when I heard about D because we all knew that the really sad thing was, D's dad died of cancer too. If I remember correctly, D's dad passed away when he was also around 7 or 8 years old. D survived it. Though he was told later on that if it returns.... well.. we won't go there.

We found out early last year that a couple that we knew who just got married discovered that the husband had a very rare case of nostril cancer. I'm not sure of the details but back then he was told straight up that he only had 6 months to live. I haven't seen him for sometime now, but I heard that he also survived the disease. Beat the odds and is now doing very well in terms of health. Go CS!

Last year too was the year we lost a member of our family to cancer. My dad's younger brother, was diagnosed with late stages of cancer in the lungs (which later on spread to his liver) in the middle of last year. He was a few packets a day smoker and was also a bit fond of his liquor. My grand mother (Dad's mum) was devastated and flew back as soon as she could to be by his side. My dad followed soon after. I heard from Mum that he was a fighter til the end. He passed away late last year, just shy of 55 (I believe).

I must admit that I become a bit of a worry wart sometimes when I find little lumps that I didn't think were there before. When I lapse into moments of reflection, I try to prepare myself for the worse, knowing the history in the family and knowing that cancer's such a silent disease. I can only hope that should I encounter this disease, I will be as strong willed as my grandmother, my friends C, D and CS and Uncle F.

Barbara, I can't imagine what you are going through right now, but know that my thoughts are with you as you go through this battle.


livestrong