28 January 2016

Air Frying Seaweed Snacks for CNY

I am happy to add another feather to my cap.

Nice and crispy air fried seaweed snacks
Inspired by my Air Fryer group on FB, and following their instructions so generously shared, I attempted to air fry seaweed snacks. It is one of my daughter's favourite snacks during the CNY period and I would usually buy a few tubs of this snack each year.

It was delightfully easy to make; the recipe is simple and the AF made it even easier! I was ever so pleased with the results.

Now, my girl can have the seaweed snack homemade by Mommy and oil-free too.

Frozen popiah (spring roll) skin (from supermarket)
Large sheets of seaweed (ideally, the toasted ones for making sushi)
1 egg, beaten with some soya sauce (or salt or sugar, to your taste)

Thaw the pastry skin.
Seaweed pasted onto popiah skin and cut into strips
Brush each piece of pastry skin with the beaten egg and paste a sheet of seaweed onto it.
Cut into bite size strips.
Place into your AF at 180 degress for 3-5 minutes. You may check it midway, and toss it around a bit. Increase the air frying time if you have placed a lot of pieces into your basket and find that some pieces haven't crisped yet.

My husband appraised my snacks with a satisfactory nod and didn't realize I had used the AF and not deep frying with oil, until he walked into the kitchen and saw the AF sitting there cooking away. "No wonder it seems lighter and less oily than those bought outside."

My daughter too was more than happy with the snacks.

Another first, and another success.

18 January 2016

Homemade Authentic Bak Kwa or Barbecued Dried Meat

Three more weeks to Chinese New Year to welcome the year of the Monkey.

Continuing with my many firsts (baking bread, roasting turkey, making soap), I attempted to make Bak Kwa, also called Ro Gan or Long Yook, depending on your dialect. In English it is just called Barbequed (Dried) Meat, hopefully not to be confused with Char Siu.

I don't know why I decided to take the plunge to make Ro Gan this year. Guess I am becoming more adventurous. 

So with just one day's online research I picked a recipe that sounded authentic and homemade. I used the Bak Kwa recipe from Shanon who posts through her blog Just as Delish .

I liked Shanon's recipe because she tried it twice, once without grilling and once with. She preferred the one that she grilled. Also, Shanon's recipe does not use any hoi sin sauce, or char siu sauce, which in my opinion are flavourings made for the Western/ Caucasian market. I find food flavoured with hoi sin sauce or char siu sauce artificially sweet, with a distinct telltale taste of the sauce.

Even my homemade Char Siu never incorporates Char Siu sauce.

I did tweak Shanon's recipe just the tiniest bit, so here it is:
  • 1kg fatty Meat Mince - either Chicken, Beef or Pork (Fattier mince makes more tender, juicy bak kwa)
  • 120g Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice Powder (Shanon used 1 tsp)
  • 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce (I used Squid Sauce)
  •  3 tablespoons Light Soya Sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon Rice Wine (Shao Tsing) which I omitted
  • 3 tablespoons honey (I increased it to 4 tbsp but brought it back to 3)
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable oil 
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce 
  • 2 teaspoons Sesame oil 
  • Red food colouring - optional
  1. Thorughly combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover and marinate 8 hours or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 150°C (Shanon used 100 degrees, which I found too low and did not dry out my pork enough). Wash and dry flat baking trays. Line with aluminium foil.
  3. Place mince onto the tray then spread and press down to form a thin sheet over the surface of the tray to a thickness of 3-5mm. You can either use wet fingers/ wooden ladle to manually press it or you could lay a sheet of plastic or baking paper over it and roll it thin with a rolling pin. Try to keep the edges as straight as you can so you can cut into neat squares.
  4. Place the trays in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the meat has dried out - the surface is dry to the touch, most of the liquid has evaporated and is holding together without breaking (It's fine to be a little moist underneath the sheet). 
  5. Cut the dried meat sheet into squares with a kitchen scissors.
  6. Heat up your charcoal bbq or grill and grill each square until darkened and caramelised. It’s totally ok to have the tiniest hint of charring but keep your eyes on them because they burn quickly and easily.
  7. These Bak Kwa do not have preservatives, so it's better to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge with sheets of greaseproof baking paper between each slice of Bak Kwa. When needed, reheat Bak Kwa in grill or microwave.
Grilling over charcoal imparts smoky aroma to the meat

I made 2 batches of Bak Kwa. The first batch tasted good,  but I did not press the mince thin enough. For the second batch, my maid pressed the mince with her hands, making it a much thinner layer than mine. The second batch looked much more like the Ro Gan or Bak Kwa that you buy from the shops.

Many elderly people now say not to eat too much Bak Kwa due to concerns about the quality of meat, chemical colouring and preservatives used in making them.

As my family loves Bak Kwa, I can now serve them my homemade Bak Kwa with peace of mind.

15 January 2016

Chinese New Year of the Monkey 2016

Christmas has come and gone, and now we are set to welcome the Chinese New Year.

This is more of a checklist of things to be done, and I hope my current high energy levels continue as I am now ahead of schedule:

  • wash curtains
  • wash sofa covers
  • wash throw-pillow covers
  • cream-wipe leather sofa
  • clean balconies
  • power jet the driveway
  • wash mosquito nettings
  • put up decorations
  • wipe windows
  • wash all patios
  • wipe ceiling fans
  • tidy up garden
  • bake cookies
  • try to make barbequed dried meat
  • plan CNY menu and pre cook some dishes
  • throw out accumulated junk

I think those are the major CNY preps. Gonna get busier soon, therefor wishing those celebrating the festival a Very Happy Healthy and Successful New Year!

06 January 2016

Christmas Dinner 2015

So another year is coming to an end. Another Christmas to celebrate and to be grateful for.

This year, everything costs more. Malaysia is bearing the consequences of a very weak Ringgit, a crisis of confidence in the ruling government and PM Najib, introduction of GST in Malaysia, record low world oil prices and a slowing China economy. All bad news.

But hey, I'm no politician. So who wants to hear what I think about the government and the PM right?

So let's talk turkey.

After having roasted turkey from Maria's Cafe and Beacon Point, we decided that we like Maria's turkey better, but they don't roast turkey for Christmas anymore. And this year's roast turkey costs about RM450 for a 5 kg bird from most places I called to enquire.

I decided to take the plunge. Roast my own turkey.

First find the frozen raw turkey. Not so easy in Ipoh. The main supermarkets, AEON and Tesco don't stock frozen turkey for Christmas anymore, citing "halal" problems. Whatever. So then, what do I do? I texted a friend right in the supermarket aisle. And bless her, she told me she got her frozen turkey from InTrico. Ah, I know that place! So off I went to buy my turkey.

It was a giant of a bird - 6kg! InTrico didn't have anything smaller, and I didn't want to hunt elsewhere, and then risk my bird in InTrico being sold off. So I bought it.All RM228 of it.

And came home to my husband giving me a hard time about buying such a big bird, that we would have leftovers forever, blah blah blah. Not a very nice start to my first ever attempt at making a home roasted turkey. Oh well.

I scoured the internet and found a recipe that I liked from Simply Recipes; described as the family's traditional roast turkey year in year out. I liked the sound of that. And they cook the stuffing separately, because having the stuffing inside the bird makes it harder to roast the turkey evenly. I like that logic too!

Honestly it was rather nerve wracking roasting such a huge bird. I had to worry about defrosting it completely before roasting (which took 2.5 days) and then seasoning it and watching it (literally) roast whilst in the oven. Of course while the bird was cooking, I was cooking the stuffing and cranberry sauce, making pasta, cutting vegetables and getting the pumpkin soup started.

And in the middle of all that, my husband walks in and asks why I am roasting the turkey so early (it was about noon, and dinner was going to be at 7pm) Was I roasting it too early? Instructions said it would take at least 3.5 hours to roast.
Cranberry sauce

I am happy to report that the turkey turned out well, the stuffing was delicious and dinner (all home cooked) was a success.

Here's encouraging all of you to roast your own turkeys too! If I can do it, so can you.

 My son loved my cranberry sauce and the turkey gravy. My daughter, who usually complains that turkey smells funny, ate her turkey happily this year and said "No smell Mommy!"

Only spoiler, father in law said, "maybe next year you can cook the stuffing inside the turkey".
(He can, if he wants to.)