AFF Singapore: Hainanese Chicken Rice

If I were to choose a few meals to eat before I die, Hainanese Chicken Rice would be amongst the Top 3. I’m not sure when or how I fell in love with this dish (certainly not when I was growing up because Bintulu is deprived of good Chicken Rice), but I can tell you this is something I will never get sick of. In fact, if you want me to get really really fat, just serve me this everyday and I simply would not be able to resist it.

And my love for Hainanese Chicken Rice was reaffirmed during the year I did my Medical Elective in Singapore. For a month, I was stationed in a couple of hospitals and one day, a local friend brought me to this place called Boon Tong Kee, which is famous for its Chicken Rice. Yes I know Tian Tian is supposedly the best in Singapore but I met BTK first! Anyway, I remember there were 3 of us, and we polished off the whole chicken and then some. I’ve never had such smooth skin, such fragrant rice and such complex chili sauce. By the way they also do this superb tofu dish which you must try if you ever visit.

Not the best photo but this was from my last visit July 2013.

Anyway, from then on everytime I visit Singapore, I insist on going to Boon Tong Kee (a tip for you KL people: If you take Odyssey Bus to Singapore it brings you straight to the Balestier Road branch). I had since tried Tian Tian but it didn’t have the same magic. To each their own right?

So for this month’s Asian Food Fest, what else but Hainanese Chicken Rice for my first submission! This is not a difficult dish to make, but you do have to multitask. From start to finish, it takes about an hour give and take. As I’m the only one in my household who eats chicken, I decided to just go with half chicken so I can get 3 meals out of it. I didn’t go for fancy chicken either, just regular supermarket non-organic one because otherwise I will have to go for whole chicken. There is a trick to ensure smooth skin though, which I will mention later.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

This wasn’t the first time I made this dish, but compared to last time, I think I have nailed the rice! Adding the chicken fat and pre-frying the rice really does make a difference. I’ve also made my own chili sauce this time, which proved to be really easy if you have a blender.

Heaven on a plate.

Poached Chicken
Half Chicken
3-4 stalks Spring Onion
3-4 slices Ginger
2 Cloves Garlic, smashed
Water, enough to submerge chicken in a pot
1 tablespoon of Shaoxing Wine
1 tablespoon of Sesame oil

Clean the chicken and remove any stray feathers. Rub some salt over the skin and perform a little massage, the skin will be smoother if you do this.

Submerge chicken in a pot of water and add ginger, garlic and spring onion. Bring to boil and start removing the impurities on the water surface with a mesh strainer. Gentle simmer for about 10 minutes, then turn the chicken over and cook for another 10-15 minutes. You want the chicken to be just cooked, so remember to use really fresh chicken. If not, then cook for another extra 10-15 minutes to ensure food safety.

Once the chicken is cooked, lift it out gently and then submerge in a pot/large bowl of ice water. This helps stop the cooking process and also tighten the skin. Just before serving, drain all the water and rub the chicken with some Shaoxing wine and Sesame oil. Chop into smaller pieces.

The remaining broth will be served with the chicken rice after tasting for seasoning (just simple salt will do).

Chicken Rice
1 cups of Jasmine Rice
1 cups of Chicken stock from cooking chicken
Some Chicken Fat (I managed to trim off about 1 tablespoon worth)
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
Few slices Ginger
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 pandan leaves, rinsed and tied into a knot

In a pot, render the chicken fat, and then add sesame oil, ginger, garlic, take extra care not to burn them. Add rinsed rice and stir fry for a few seconds, then ladle in the Chicken stock, and place the pandan leaves on top. If you are using a rice cooker, you will need to move everything into the rice cooker pot. I usually cook my rice on the stove top so it’s a matter of turning the heat to lowest, cover and cook until all water is absorbed.

Chilli Dipping Sauce
3 large Chillies, chopped coarsely
1 Cili Padi i.e. bird’s eye chilli (optional), chopped coarsely
2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 small knob of Ginger, chopped coarsely
3 large Calamansi Limes, juiced into a small bowl
1-2 tbsp Chicken Poaching Liquid
1/4 tsp salt

Place all the ingredients into a food blender and blitz everything until a smooth paste is formed. Transfer into sauce dishes or a small bowl and set aside.

Topping and Garnish

Thick black soy sauce
1 stalk of spring onion, chopped (Can also use Coriander)
Several Cucumber Slices

You can assemble the Chicken rice according to your preference. As I was cooking for one, I arranged some cucumber slices on a large round place and place the chicken pieces on top, sprinkled some spring onion, then serve my rice next to it, with the chili sauce on the side. I also dish up a bowl of chicken broth garnished with spring onion. Needless to say, it was a satisfying meal.

Perfect meal!

The smooth soft chicken rice, tender meat, aromatic rice, tangy and spicy chili sauce, and the comforting light broth; I can’t think of a better homecooked meal. Though after this attempt, it will be a while until I do it again to keep my waistline where it should be.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #11 Sept 2014 : Singapore hosted by Life can be Simple.
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AFF Taiwan: Lu Rou Fan 滷肉飯

I have a confession: I’m obsessed with Taiwan as a country. The entertainment industry (I’m guilty of following all the current talk shows and my favourite is Kang Xi Lai Le 康熙來了), the food, the culture in general; but I have never been to this country! I think that one day when I finally set foot there I’ll probably cry tears of happiness. Not joking. I’ll definitely be stalking a few celebrities, and visit all the night markets that has appeared on TV. And most of all, I’ll definitely put on a few kilos with the growing list of food I want to eat in Taiwan.

But since this month’s Asian Food Fest is covering Taiwanese Cuisine, it’s a perfect opportunity for me to at least try my hand on some of these recipes. With Taiwanese cuisine, I can tell you that I do have to throw the Paleo diet out the window. After all, it’s all about rice, noodles, and even their ‘xiao chi’ is mostly gluten or grain based. Once in a while won’t hurt I guess. Not that I’m been super strict lately anyway as I’ve been eating out a little more often due to my workload.

But anyway, the number 1 dish I wanted to try was the super sinful Lu Rou Fan 滷肉飯 (Roughly translated to Minced Pork Rice). It’s one of the most talked about dish on talk shows and everyone seems to have their favourite. As I understand there are 2 types of Lu Rou Fan, one with very finely minced fatty pork, and the other type with diced pork belly. Knowing me, of course I prefer the latter. Just check this out:

This is Pork Heaven!

Lu Rou Fan is considered comfort food and is available pretty much everywhere. It can be enjoyed anytime of the day really and I’d say this makes for a perfect after party supper (not that I’m advocating having supper, or partying, for that matter). At its simplest form, it’s just meat over rice, although eggs are commonly added. Some places serve this with green vegetables, some with Japanese pickled daikon. But there’s no denying that this will please any porcine lover. Well it most definitely pleased me. Over and over again. I love cooking a huge portion for one. Hehe.

Cooking this is relatively easy, and I opted for the lazy method with my trusty Philips Pressure Cooker so the cooking time was significantly reduced. But I have typed out both lazy and traditional methods for you.

My Guilty Pleasure.

Lu Rou Fan (Recipe adapted from Lady and Pups)

500g of skin-on pork belly, cut into small dices (think of dicing thick-cut bacons)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
40g Rock Sugar
1/4 cup good soy sauce (I used a mixture of liquid aminos and dark soy, you might want to adjust the ratio depending on how dark your soy sauce is)
1/4 cup (45 grams) of Chinese rice wine
1 small stick of cinnamon
1 tsp of ground white pepper
1/4 tsp of five spice powder
1/2 cup of fried shallots (store-bought or homemade)
2 cups (710 grams) of water
5 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled

Pressure Cooker Method:

Dump everything except for the eggs into the pot and cook with pressure on for 30minutes. Release pressure and add hardboiled eggs, cook uncovered until the sauce thickens and reduced significantly. Season to taste.

Stove Top Method:

Heat non-stick pan and add pork belly (no oil needed, it’s fatty enough!) to cook for a few minutes until the fat is starting to render. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, then add soy sauce, rock sugar, cinnamon, rice wine, white pepper, fried shallots. Mix everything together and then finally add water and bring to a simmer. Cook for around 1 and 1/2 hour to 2 hours on medium-low heat until the sauce is thickened slightly and the pork is starting to get quite tender. Add hard-boiled egg and cook for 10-15 minutes further until the sauce is nicely gelatinous. You may need to add water during the cooking process if the liquid is reducing too fast.

Serve the Lu Rou over rice garnished with greens of your choice, and watch it disappear!

Come to mama! My Chinese zodiac is Boar so the Irony is not lost on me.

Meltingly tender pork, the aroma of 5 spice, savoury sweet sticky gravy, with perfectly cook eggs (I like my egg yolk just set or slightly runny). I served mine with some homemade pickled daikon for that extra bit of piquancy. Mmmm that was such a perfect meal.

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

AFF Philippines: Banana Ketchup

Even though I have quite a few Philippino friends, strangely I’ve never been introduced to the cuisine. Now that I think about it, I don’t even know whether there are good restaurants in Melbourne serving Philippine cuisine. Luckily, Mr Google has proven to be useful in this research and I’ve been learning tons about this cuisine. Of course, it’s not enough to just read about it. Tasting is paramount. And once of the most intriguing thing I wanted to try was Banana Ketchup. It’s totally unique to the country as an alternative to Tomato Ketchup.

The tomato ketchup was brought in by the Americans, but during World War II, there was a tomato shortage. This very clever lady Maria Orosa apparently created the banana version because there are always plenty of bananas in Asia. And soon this became a hit and til this day, many still prefer the banana version over tomato. It’s used in almost everything: burgers, omelettes, fries, meat marinade, even spaghetti!

As you know, making things from scratch is very much my thing (ditch the bottled stuff, you know) and I found a couple of recipes online which are easy to follow. In the end I chose Andrea Nguyen’s version because I have everything except for the annatto seed, which is actually optional just to add some colour to the ketchup. Some people choose to add red food colouring, but I don’t have a problem with yellowish ketchup as long as it tastes good! So here’s how I made my banana ketchup, Paleo-style.

Banana Ketchup

Recipe adapted from VietWorldKitchen

Olive Oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, mined
5 Chili Padi, chopped
1 generous tablespoon tomato paste
2 large ripe bananas, mashed (net 9 oz / 270 gr)
1/2 cup (120 ml) apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1 tablespoon Honey
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 Cloves
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos
1 bay leaf

Heat the oil over medium heat, add the onion and cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and chile, stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until aromatic. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is orange red and the tomato is no longer visible.

Add the mashed bananas, stir to combine well. Then add the vinegar, water, sugar, pepper, clove, salt, liquid aminos, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until thick like—ketchup! Remove from the heat, cool for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and cloves.

Use a mini food processor or blender to puree the mixture. Taste and add water to thin, sugar to sweeten, or vinegar to tartness. Transfer to a jar and use, or refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Done!

I’m glad I gave this a go because it’s so delicious! Now I understand why it’s so popular. Similar to tomato ketchup, it has the sweetness and tang, but there’s an extra aroma from the bananas and the addition of spice is such a brilliant idea. I made Frank try a bit and he’s now hooked. I think I might not need to replenish that Heinz ketchup anytime soon, as long as I keep buying bananas.

Next recipe post would be another Philippine dish which goes extremely well with the Banana Ketchup, so stay tuned!

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest – Philippines hosted by The Sweet Spot.

 

AFF Philippines: Fried Adobo Chicken Wings

I’m loving my new Philips Airfryer! Even though I don’t have a problem taking my time with cooking most of the time. It’s still great to have amazing gadgets like these to help enhance my kitchen experience. Especially now that I am increasingly time poor. The very first recipe I tried using this machine was the obvious: Chicken Wings.

A lot of questions have been asked about the Airfryer. Yes, it uses no oil and basically acts like a mini powerful oven, with precise temperature and time setting. Because it’s smaller, you don’t even have to worry about the dipping of temperature if you pull out the drawer to check on your food. Preheating takes less than 5 minutes, and cooking process is definitely speedy. It’s great for meat that has natural fat already such as oily fish, chicken and pork. Some things might need a brushing of oil before going in though (like if you were to cook something with breadcrumbs), but it is indeed a healthier way to cook!

Anyway, back to the Chicken Wings. Since it’s the Philippines month for Asian Food Festival, I have picked a Pinoy recipe for the Chicken Wings. Adobo is probably the most popular cooking method over there, and although generally the protein is simmered in the combination of vinegar, soy sauce and aromatics, there is also a dry version where the protein is marinated and fried indeed. So this time, I’ve adapted the recipe to suit the Airfryer and it turned out fabulous!

Fried Adobo Chicken Wings

Recipe adapted from Overseas Pinoy Cooking

Ingredients:

300g Chicken Wings, trimmed, cut to pieces on the joints
2 tablespoons Vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (Liquid Aminos)
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon peppercorns crushed
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and marinate the chicken wings for at least an hour to overnight.

Preheat Philips Airfryer to 160C, then airfry the chicken wings for 8 minutes on 160c, followed by 4 more minutes on 180C. Serves hot.

Without the Philips Airfryer, you could opt to bake in the oven or saute/fry in pan.

Yummy!

Chicken wings cooked this way are extra juicy and succulent, as oven does tend to dry out wings due to the longer cooking time. I will only cook wings this way from now on! Although the marinade is super simple, this turned out pretty delicious! The vinegar doesn’t come through too much, which is good. I actually added some lemon juice for extra tang. Finger-lickin’ good!

Close up.

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest – Philippines hosted by The Sweet Spot.