Saturday 29 April 2017

Claypot Fish Head in Huiji Waist Tonic 汇集砂锅红烧鱼头

Claypot dishes are here to stay in Asian families. As Chinese, we are just so used to the benefits of claypot cooking. The moisture and flavours are often optimised, resulting in many fragrant and delicious claypot dishes.  This Claypot Fish Head in Huiji Waist Tonic 汇集砂锅红烧鱼头 is another favourite amongst my family members. 

The weather has been unpredictable recently and many people that I know (including myself) are falling sick. In hope of boosting the immunity and energy level of my loved ones, I had deliberately incorporated Huiji Waist Tonic in this claypot dish. This would allow me to have the best of both worlds - fragrance, flavours and health benefits. I was sold by the ingredients that were used to make this non-alcoholic herbal tonic. Being 100% vegetarian, the bottle of goodness include cordyceps (虫草), ginseng  (人参), du zhong (杜仲), dang gui (当归), he shou wu (何首乌) and jujube  (大枣). This put me at ease as they're the usual ingredients I use for brewing Chinese tonic soups. I knew they would benefit my family. Moreover, the taste and flavour of my Claypot Fish Head in Huiji Waist Tonic 汇集砂锅红烧鱼头 had been interestingly enhanced, which came as a pleasant surprise to me! Can you see how the Huiji infused sauce beautifully caramelised the fish head? I didn't have to add much sugar to the dish...just 1 teaspoon. The natural sweetness from the jujube in the Huiji tonic did it all!

Ingredients (enough for 4 pax with rice) :
  • 1 fish head of about 1 kg (I used a red grouper fish head. Song fish head is also recommended.) 
  • 8 pcs dried mushrooms (soaked)(keep the mushrooms water for cooking use)
  • 4 pcs tau pok (cut into triangular halves)
  • 2 pcs tau kwa/beancurd (cut into quarters)
  • 1 carrot (chopped to chunks)
  • 100 gm broccoli 
  • a handful of chopped spring onions (for garnishing)
  • a handful of coriander (for garnishing)
  • 40 ml Huiji waist tonic (to be blended into seasonings when cooking)
  • 40 ml Huiji waist tonic (to be added before serving; after cooking)
  • 1/3 cup shaoxing cooking wine 
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 ikan bills stock cube
  • a dash of pepper
  • 8 thin slices ginger
  • 5 cloves garlic (pressed)
  • 1 coriander root
  • 2 tbsp tapioca flour
  • cooking oil

(tsp = teaspoon; tbsp = tablespoon) 

Method :
  1. Carefully rinse and clean fish head. Rub with a little salt and leave to drain.
  2. Coat fish head with tapioca flour. Be careful to only coat it thinly such that it would not get starchy when braised.
  3. Heat wok/pan with oil. Fry fish head till golden brown and set aside.
  4. Fry tau kwa (beancurd) till golden brown and set aside.
  5. Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in claypot at medium heat. 
  6. Saute ginger slices, garlic and coriander root till aromatic.
  7. Fold in tau pok, carrot chunks, mushrooms and give it a quick stir fry.
  8. Toss in fried tau kwa (beancurd).
  9. Use chopsticks to blend all seasonings and 40 ml Huiji Waist Tonic in a bowl. 
  10. Pour seasonings mixture into claypot.
  11. Fold in 3 cups water (use the mushroom water used to soak mushrooms earlier)(adjust water in accordance to your pot size).
  12. Add 1/2 pc ikan bills stock cube into claypot and allow to simmer for 2 minutes.
  13. Taste test to your satisfaction. Adjust seasonings in accordance to your pot size.
  14. Place fried fish head on top of ingredients in claypot.
  15. Spoon sauce onto fish head. 
  16. Cover lid and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (subject to claypot size) in low heat.
  17. Meanwhile, stir fry broccoli separately and set aside.
  18. When time's up, remove lid and arrange cooked broccoli into claypot. 
  19. Garnish with chopped spring onions and coriander.
  20. Serve claypot at dining table. Pour another 40 ml Huiji Waist Tonic over fish head and ingredients.
  21. Serve whilst hot with rice. 

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If you had observed the photos closely, you would realise how beautifully the fish head had been caramelised by the Huiji infused seasoning mixture. This Claypot Fish Head in Huiji Waist Tonic 汇集砂锅红烧鱼头 is surely a keeper for my family. 

If you are interested to know more about Huiji Waist Tonic, please click here. They are currently running a Mothers' Day bundle special promotion. A great gift to be considered for your beloved Mother & Wife.

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Masala Oven Grilled Fish 印度马萨拉蕉叶烤鱼

I have done many versions of oven grilled fish but nothing from the Indian cuisine. I was at Mustaffa Shopping Centre and came across many interesting spices. I was all excited to grab some and started whipping up my first Indian flavoured dish -  Masala Oven Grilled Fish 印度马萨拉蕉叶烤鱼

I have reiterated many times in this blog that I like using Barramundi (金目鲈) for oven grill. The fish meat remains tender most of the time. If you like the Indian tandoori and masala taste and smell, this non-spicy Masala Oven Grilled Fish 印度马萨拉蕉叶烤鱼 would not disappoint you. I marinated and grilled it in spices, herbs and coconut milk (I'll do it with yogurt next time :)). And wrapped it with banana leaf during grill. This' not a small fish...almost 1 kg...but not a difficult dish to cook. My family super loved it! The entire fish was gone before I knew it!

Ingredients (enough for 4 pax with rice and other dishes) :
  • 1 Barramundi (aka sea bass) of about 1 kg  
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp grounded black pepper or black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp tandoori masala powder (can use turmeric powder to replace)
  • 65 ml coconut cream or yoghurt
  • lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 15 pcs mint leaves
  • 20 pcs curry leaves
  • 1 stalk coriander (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or other cooking oil

(tsp = teaspoon; tbsp = tablespoon) 

Method :
  1. Clean fish and rub a little salt on the surface and inside of the fish.
  2. Roast mustard seeds in a pan or in the oven. They're ready when the seeds start to pop from the roast pan. If you are using black peppercorns instead of grounded black pepper, roast them too.
  3. Roast curry leaves in the same manner.
  4. Combine coriander leaves, mint leaves, coconut cream, salt, mustard seeds, grounded black pepper, tandoori masala powder/turmeric powder, lime juice and coconut/cooking oil in a blender and grind into a smooth paste.
  5. Treat banana leaf for use. Clean and hold the banana leaf over gas flame for a short while. After this process, the banana leaf would not break when fold.
  6. Spread treated banana leaf over a large plate and transfer fish onto it.
  7. Use a spoon to spread blended mixture onto the inside and surface of the fish.
  8. Insert a few pieces of mint leaves and curry leaves into the stomach of the fish.
  9. Fold and wrap fish and sauces in banana leaf. Use a woven string to fasten and secure.
  10. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes.  
  11. Pre-heat oven to 180C, Grill - Fan Assist mode.
  12. Put wrapped fish on a baking tray and send to bake at 180C between 25 to 45 minutes, depending on size of fish and thickness of meat. My fish was not fully cooked by 25 minute, it needed about 40 minutes. 
  13. Remove fish from oven when time's up. To check if fish is cooked, open up the banana leaf and insert a bamboo skewer into the fish meat, if the bamboo skewer comes out clean, the fish is cooked and ready to be served.
  14. Garnish and serve whilst hot with rice and other dishes. 

(scroll to bottom of page, click on "Print" or "PDF" icon for printer friendly recipe)

As what a friend aptly described this Masala Oven Grilled Fish 印度马萨拉蕉叶烤鱼, the banana leaf gave it fragrance, the coconut cream/yogurt tenderised the meat and the garam masala made it tasty. I can only say I couldn't agree with her more!

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Vietnamese Beef Pho 越南牛肉粉

The Vietnamese Beef Pho 越南牛肉粉 is my only "must order" dish from a Vietnamese restaurant menu. Why is this bowl of pho so close to my heart? In a cold winter years ago, my husband had been working in Poland for more than a month. I was meeting him in Frankfurt by the end of his assignment. Having eaten Polish food for the entire month, hubby was really craving for anything Asian. The first thing we did was dashed into a nearby Vietnamese eatery and oh my......that was totally unforgettable.....the first sip of the very intense and thick beef bone stock totally captured our taste buds and our hearts. It was so family, so comforting and so authentic, unlike anything we had in Singapore. It made us feel home! Especially so on a freezing cold Christmas eve in Germany....

After that experience, we still enjoy our Vietnamese Beef Pho in Singapore restaurants, but not quite the same anymore. The beef stock here is usually more diluted and the fragrance of the dissolved bone marrow not quite eminent.  As we know, there are 3 essential characteristics in Vietnamese Beef Pho 越南牛肉粉 - the broth/stock, the rice noodles and the herbs. In my humble opinion, the broth/stock should be of utmost importance of the 3.

I understand that there are 2 important elements to extract the goodness into the beef bones stock/broth. First being the layering of flavours. This can be done by roasting or grilling the onions and ginger prior to cooking. This process would allow the caramelisation of the onions and together with other spices, could build layers of flavours in the stock/broth. The second important element lies in the amount of time used to simmer the stock/broth. The simmering can only be done in very low heat to extract and dissolve the bone marrows from the beef bones. Hence, the minimum simmering time has to be 5 hours or more. It is said that the better restaurants use minimum 12 hours to simmer their stock/broth for Vietnamese Beef Pho 越南牛肉粉. There are no strict rules to follow, just how rich and thick we prefer our beef bones stock/broth. 

Ingredients for Beef Bones Stock/Broth (enough for 4 pax) :
  • 1 kg marrow rich beef bones 
  • Additional beef chunks or oxtail if your beef bones are meatless. (Not necessary if your beef bones are meaty like mine)
  • 1 large onion (peeled and halved)
  • 2 fingers sized ginger (peeled and halved vertically)
  • 3 pcs star anise
  • 3 pcs cloves
  • 1 pc cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp fennel powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (or to taste)
  • 2 tbsp rock sugar (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 pc beef stock cube (or to taste)
  • 3 litre water
  • cooking oil

Ingredients for Serving : Beef, Vegetables & Noodle (enough for 4 pax) :
  • 400 gm thinly sliced beef (approx. 100 gm per pax) 
  • 320 to 400 gm Vietnamese dried rice noodle (available in supermarkets)(approx. 80 to 100 gm per pax) 
  • 2 red chili (sliced and deseed; do not deseed if you prefer very hot and spicy)
  • 3 to 4 cups of bean sprouts
  • 3 to 4 cups of basil
  • a handful of coriander/cilantro 
  • a handful of mint leaves (for the fragrance)
  • 2 green limes (cut to wedges)

(tsp = teaspoon; tbsp = tablespoon) 

Method :
  1. Simmer beef bones and beef chunks in a pot of water at low-medium heat. Can put beef bones and chunks/oxtail in pot since onset. Allow to boil. 
  2. Upon boiling, further simmer for another 5 minutes before turning off heat. You would see scums floating in the pot.
  3. Pour scums and boiled water away. Rinse and clean all the beef bones and chunks till clean. This would allow impurities to be removed and resulting in clearer soup.
  4. Grill onions and gingers over open fire at gas burner or broil in oven for 30 minutes at high heat till charred on all sides.   
  5. Heat soup pot with a little cooking oil. 
  6. Fold in beef bones, beef chunks, charred onions and ginger into pot and toss to brown them a little in the heat.
  7. Add all the spices (i.e. star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, coriander powder, fennel powder) into pot.
  8. Add 3 litre water into soup pot and bring to boil.
  9. Turn to very low heat upon boiling point. 
  10. Add rock sugar.
  11. Cover lid and allow to simmer in very low heat for minimum 5 hours (I did almost 12 hours) until beef stock becomes rich, thick and fragrant. Top up water as and when necessary. The bone marrow would be dissolved and infused into the stock/broth through slow and low heat simmering. This cannot be achieved with high heat boiling. Be patient. 
  12. When time's up, taste test to satisfaction by adding seasonings such as beef stock cube, salt and fish sauce. Do note that the beef stock would only be rich with fragrance and flavours but not tasty before you add the seasonings. Adjust taste by adding seasonings to taste.
  13. Allow to simmer for further 15 minutes.
  14. When beef stock/broth is ready to your satisfaction, skim fats off surface of stock/broth. 
  15. Prepare to cook rice noodles in a separate pot.
  16. Boil water in separate pot and cook rice noodles in accordance to the package directions.
  17. To serve, place cooked rice noodles into individual serving bowls. Top it with thin raw beef slices, bean sprouts and herbs. Then use a ladle to pour hot beef stock/broth over the ingredients in the bowls. This should scald cook the beef for consumption with the pho.  
  18. Serve hot Beef Pho immediately with an accompanied bowl/plate of bean sprouts, lime wedges, cut chilli etc. 

(scroll to bottom of page, click on "Print" or "PDF" icon for printer friendly recipe)

Seriously, it is not difficult to cook Vietnamese Beef Pho 越南牛肉粉 at home. It just require our patience and time. And surely a worthwhile weekend treat for the family!