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Sunday Night Theme: Dumplings Cooked Two Ways

Pork Prawn and Chives dumpling wrapped pre-cooked

Sunday night’s theme was decided since last week, when someone suggested we should make dumplings, and the immediate reaction was “yummmm”, so dumplings it was! For this theme, we worked on the “many hands make light work” principle and thanks to the many hands, the wrapping of the dumplings were not as tedious as previously thought.

I have always remembered eating dumplings when I was little, and in many different forms. One of my favourite is Won Ton Mee (egg noodles cooked in either soup or black sauce with little yellow pork dumplings as its sides). I like mine dry (non-soup), with lots of flavoursome sauce and soft but chewy dumplings…yumm! We also eat them during Dim Sum, either in forms of Fried Wontons or Gao Jis (Chinese) – pan fried pork dumplings with white skin eaten with chinese vinegar and ginger. Yumm! I’m hungry just thinking about it!

For our dumplings, we made them out of pork mince, prawns, chinese mushrooms, ginger, chives (all diced well) and chestnuts as the main ingredients and seasoned well with salt, pepper, soya sauce, shao xing wine and combined together with corn flour. Then get in there and mix it with your hands (the only way to do it!) until well combined. If you want a more detailed recipe, then follow this blog here.

Dumpling mixture pork mince chives mushroom ginger

Then comes the fun part, making the dumplings! We used two different kinds of wrapping skin (no, we didn’t make them, we just bought them from the oriental store), wonton skin and gyoza skin because we couldn’t find the white dumpling skin.

For a full demonstration of how to wrap the dumplings you can refer to various youtube videos that are similar to how we made it. There are quite a few ways to go about making it, so choose one that is easiest or will suit you.


Otherwise you can take private lessons from Esthey who seemed to make a perfect one from the get go! Should have seen the rest of us struggling to get the dumplings look as nice as Esthey’s. She made it look so easy when she demonstrated it to us, but once it came to making mine, it just looked funny and out of shape.

Apparently the tricks are to:

1. Not to fill it up with too much filling (or they will fall out or not be able to seal properly)
2. Wet the edges of the skin with cornflour and water
3. When choosing to crimp the dumpling, only pinch the pastry on one side
4. To make it look pretty, make sure the pinches are heading towards the middle of the dumpling
5. You can tuck in the ends together to make it look neater
6. The shape you would want the dumpling in, is a crescent shape
7. Make sure you seal it well, or it will spill when its boiled, or pop when its fried!

I think we made about 110 dumplings that night, and it didn’t take as long as I had initially expected (well done to all the dumpling wrappers! ours didn’t look great in the beginning, but they certainly took shape at the 20th dumpling – so kudos!). Esthey pan fried half of the dumplings, and Sammy boiled the rest of them.

Pan Fried Dumplings

To complete the meal, we had soup (which Esthey boiled for a few hours with pork bones), noodles, and chinese cabbage. The dumplings didn’t sound like a lot, but they were GONE in a matter of minutes – they were that good! The boiled ones had enough flavour and they were not overdone (so it was nice and soft).

Noodles with Dumpling Gao Ji wantan Wonton soup chinese cabbage

The pan fried gao jis were the hit of the night…! They were cooked so well – crispy skin on the outside with yummy pork on the inside and dipped with Esthey’s amazing concoction of a dipping sauce (fried chilli, onions, dark soy sauce, soy sauce and red wine vinegar, ginger?). It was soooo good and tasty! Paired perfectly with our noodles.

Dipping sauce for dumplings

Now, if only our soup was perfect….! In our haste and hunger to feed the masses, we realized that the soup wasn’t enough, so we added more water to it, and started dishing them out into the bowls…only to realize that we didn’t add SALT. Wow, what a difference it would have made because the soup was so sweet…! But it didn’t matter much because the king of the dish was the dumplings, and they tasted so good that i forgot about the soup anyway!

Well done to Esthey for once again preparing, cooking and making all the little side dishes/dipping sauces etc, and then you beat everyone else to helping Aunty Kit wash up (if aunty kit wasn’t there, you’d probably would have taken over!) You are indeed, in many ways, a wonderwoman in my eyes 😀 YOU ROCK ESTHEY!

Pork and Chives Dumplings Gao Ji wrapped

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Malaysian, Savoury, Sunday Night Theme

 

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Sunday Night Theme: It’s all about the Pies

The theme for Sunday night was fuelled by a member in our group who was sick of Chinese food (*shock horror!*), so we decided to have something western and “supposedly” simple. I say supposedly because our dinners go from a traditionally simple idea, to full on elaborate meals requiring various side dishes making it a full blown banquet!

Sammy and I didn’t do ANY cooking this time round, which was a bit strange for us, but  a break is always welcome since we made Loh Mai Kai and Ji Dan Gao (post still to come) that same day! So if you’re looking for recipes, we don’t have any unfortunately, unless our friends who cooked are so inclined to share them with us. The food was delicious that night, and everything looked and tasted great! We had two different pies, made by two people, made in different ways (interestingly!).

This is the curry puff pie :D, looks like a pie from the outside, but tastes like a curry puff inside, made by Lisa.  They were made using a Pie Maker, hence the perfectly shaped and browned pie. If you are a pie lover, and need an additional appliance just to make up your bare kitchen, this is probably one for you! From what I observed that day, it was pretty simple to use. It comes with cutters so that you can cut your pastry the perfect size, then you fill it up with your filling of choice and then there’s another cutter for you to cut your puff pastry for the top of the pie, put them together, press them down like a sandwich press and voila! You have four pies! Amazing…!

curry puff pie pastry pie maker

The other pie (which was AWESOME by the way), was a beef and potato pie. The filling was stewed for many hours and the beef was so tender and tasty and the potato added to the creaminess of the pie. It was so good, I couldn’t help but go for seconds! Well done Lindsey!!

beef and potato pie

Lindsey also made her signature dish – the classic caesar salad with a twist. Both the salad and the beef pie were an adaptation from Donna Hay’s Fast, Fresh, Simple cookbook (best gift ever Lindsey!). This seems to be my favourite phrase, but “there is just something about that sauce!” but in this case, it’s the dressing that was a standout – it was creamy, yet complimentary to the fresh salad and even though there wasn’t any ‘real’ bacon or croutons, we polished the TWO large bowls of caesar salad clean! yuumm..always looking forward to Lindsey’s caesar salad!

Caesar salad cos lettuce bacon

And last but definitely not least, Michelle baked sticky date puddings (yea, I know they weren’t technically pies..but we’ll let that one slide :P). I don’t know where she got the recipe from but it was soooo good! It was one of the best desserts that I’ve tasted – it was baked perfectly, crusty on the outside but so moist and sweet and full of dates on the inside, and paired together with cold vanilla ice-cream – they were a match made in heaven!!

Sticky Date Pudding vanilla ice cream dessert

My goodness, I was so full that night, and hubby wasn’t there to eat my leftovers either…so, in reference to our topic our conversation that night…I definitely had a baby…a FOOD baby!! *pats tummy* Bring on Sunday!!

ps. Thanks to Deb for taking such awesome pictures for us 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Sunday Night Theme

 

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A childhood favourite – Loh Mai Gai (糯米鸡)

Growing up in KL, Malaysia, I have fond memories of the Pau man coming by our house in a bike, loaded with steamed buns (pau) with all sorts of fillings. Mum would often buy us some for our breakfast the following day, and she’d ask us what we want. I usually have moods for what I feel like having the next day, and some times, I choose to have the loh mai gai, which is glutinous rice with chicken.

We can’t find much of it here in Perth, I’ve only seen it at one of the stalls down at Spencer Village. The “loh mai gai” we get here is at the dim sum places, and its the Hong Kong (i guess) style, which comes wrapped in lotus leaf. So, when I felt like having some good old, brown coloured, non lotus leaf wrapped loh mai gai, I said to myself “I should try and make it myself”. So off I went to Dr. G, and I found some recipes. (I usually look up a few to compare ingredients, processes etc. and choose 1 that I can use/adapt).

So I found a recipe from Pig Pigs Corner. I used it as a reference for rice:water ratio, and also the steps involved. The others (ie amount of ingredients, sauces, flavorings etc.) was done pretty much by estimation and “feel” 😛

So 1st step was to prepare the ingredients. Soak the glutinous rice and the chinese mushrooms overnight. Also, you can marinade the chicken overnight, but I just let mine sit for about an hour. Marinate the chicken with garlic, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, soy sauce and some soy sauce (basically the same as the rice seasoning)

The next day, put the seasoning for the rice – chicken stock, soy sauce, oyster sauce, shaoxing wine, sasame oil and dark soy sauce into a bowl with the rice and let it steam for about 15 minutes.

glutinous rice loh mai gai

When the liquid is all soaked up by the rice, place the chinese sausages (lap cheong) on top of the rice, and let it steam for another 20 minutes or so (or until the rice is cooked).

Loh Mai Gai Lap Cheong Chinese Sausage

While the rice is steaming, prepare the other ingredients. Slice the mushrooms and fry them off. Then fry the chicken until its cooked through.

Loh Mai Gai Stir fry chicken and mushrooms

After the rice is done, remove it from the steamer. Then its time to assemble it. start with greasing some rice bowls (we didn’t have many, so I used ramekins instead). Then divide up the chicken, mushrooms and sliced lap cheong among the bowls. Then pack in the cooked glutinous rice and put it back into the steamer for another 30 minutes.

Assembling loh mai gai sticky rice

Steam Loh mai gai

When its done, overturn it onto a plate, and voila! utterly satisfying! 😀 A bit more laborious than the usual loh mai fan (糯米饭) I make, but oh so satisfying! 🙂

Glutinous chicken rice loh mai gai

(NB: Excuse the slightly grainy iPod pics, as our resident photographer was a bit busy last weekend!)

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Malaysian, Savoury

 

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Easy Dessert: Pandan Agar-Agar (Jelly)

Pandan-leaf agar-agar jelly green

I love simple dessert recipes – especially in this day and age where everyone is busy, has a full time job and not having much time to cook, let alone make dessert! We don’t usually have much dessert after meals and they are usually a treat.  The most frequent “dessert” that I remember eating in our family are fruits! Imagine my surprise knowing that Westerners have dessert (cakes, pastries, tarts) after meals most of the time 🙂

Sometimes, asian desserts are not too difficult to make, especially with modern technology and how everything comes in packets! I got this agar-agar recipe from a book that I picked up during one of my travels back home to Malaysia. Many times, I crave home made or bought kuihs and dessert so I thought that I’d try my hand at some of the local delicacies.

Malaysian Cakes and Dessert

I’ve chosen to make the Pandan Agar-Agar because it was quite a simple recipe and once you’re done, all you have to do is store it in the fridge and forget about it until dessert time comes! “Agar-agar” is from the Malay word meaning “jelly”, and is a tasteless dried seaweed. It is used in many Malaysian desserts and is usually sold in small packets of white powder (but I was told, that it can also come in bars, strips or flakes). Interesting fact about “agar” from Wikipedia – when it’s not used for desserts, it is used as an agent for growth of bacteria or fungi (like in a petri dish) because ” microbial growth does not destroy the gel structure because most microorganisms are unable to digest agar.” NO WAY! Interesting for a noob like me anyway!

Back to the dessert!

Ingredients:

500ml (2 cups) water
3 tsp agar agar powder
120g white sugar
100 ml Pandanus Juice
(above made out of 7-8 Pandan leaves and 100 ml water)
120 ml thick coconut milk
1 egg (beaten)

Method:

Making the Pandanus Juice

Pandan-juice leaves green
We had to use frozen Pandan Leaves that we bought from our local oriental store and they come vacuum packed. Sadly beggars can’t be choosers, but if you do have access to fresh ones (Melbournians!), use them!

Pick about 7-8 leaves, wash them and cut them into 2cm pieces. Then put them into a blender (NOT a food processor! Once again, learnt the hard way) with 150ml water and blend well and until completely pulverized. Then strain the mixture through a fine sieve and push out the juice as required. Discard the solids. This should give you about 100 ml of pandanus juice.

Making the Pandan Agar-agar

pandanus jelly pandan

  1. Combine the water, agar-agar powder and sugar in a pan and heat until its boiling. Once it boils, reduce the heat to a simmer and continue unitl the powder completely dissolves which will take about 10-15 minutes.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the Pandanus Juice, coconut milk and beaten egg together. Mix well.
  3. Pour the Pandan mixture into the agar-agar mixture in the pan and stir constantly until it comes back to a roiling boil. Once it reaches that point, remove the pan from the heat and pour it into a glass dish or cake pan (approx 16cm across).
  4. Set aside to cool completely. Then, place in the refridgerator to chill and set completely. You’d know that it’s completely set when it’s firm when you press down on it with a finger.
  5. Then cut it into any shape that you want! I used cookie cutters for mine 🙂 But you could, of course just cut it the quentessentially asian way by cutting diamond shapes.

Pandanus Jelly pandan agar-agar

I like how it automatically sets in 2 layers, makes it preetier…

It’s a really easy dessert to make and eat – it’s not too sweet and you could just pop a few in without even thinking about it 🙂 This plate was gone in about 5 minutes!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Asian Sweets, Cookbooks, Desserts

 

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The perfect way to start your day: Coffee and Crumpets

crumpets breakfast

We were first introduced to the whole concept of crumpets-for-breakfast when we came here to study, and picked them up at a local Coles or Woolworths for $0.99. We buy them coz they were cheap, not necessarily the best thing to eat for breakfast. They are usually hard by the time they get into our toaster, and they can taste like cardboard – I know, highly unappetizing for breakfast.

All this changed, until we tried crumpets at Crumpets, Victoria Park – they were soft, fluffy, piping hot from the frying pan – and topped with butter and honey, they were divine!! This opened up a whole new world, if we knew crumpets should taste like that, (brainwave!) we should so totally make our own! We didn’t really know how to even start making crumpets so we turned to Dr.G (our term of endearment for Google) and tried out a recipe the first time, sometime last year. It was a success and so easy to make! I’ve lost that recipe unfortunately, but we knew roughly what to do…so we invited a few friends over to make it for the second time.

Our recipe was adapted from Home Baking Cookbook which I got from Hubby for Christmas (he knows my heart, and my love for cookbooks – I’m surprised he got me something that I could really use, considering my cookbook collection is growing by the minute!)

Crumpet Recipe


Makes:
10-12 pieces
Preparation Time:
1 hour
Cooking Time:
1 hour

Ingredients
350g plain flour
3 tsp dry yeast (or 15 g fresh yeast)
1 tsp caster sugar
400ml warm milk
pinch of salt
Butter for greasing
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
125ml water

Method

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time because the mixture needs to be proofed about an hour before, so allow yourself about 2 hours before breakfast for both preparation and cooking time. I got up about 7am and started preparation, but while waiting for the mixture to proof, I got a whole lot of housework done, so time is never wasted!! I think my mum just fell of her chair reading this – my daughter up at 7am, cooking AND doing the housework!! 😛 God changes people in tremendous ways, that’s all I can say!

Back to the crumpets, first make the yeast mixture. The recipe asked for fresh yeast, but I used dry yeast instead (because that’s what I had). Mix the yeast and sugar together in a bowl then mix it in with room temperature milk (make sure that your milk is not too hot, especially if you heat it up in the microwave. Overheating the milk will kill the yeast! Trust me, I learnt it the hard way :P). Once you see it turning into a browny mixture, you know you’re on the right path (and the yeast ain’t dead). Leave it for about 5-10 minutes.

Dry-yeast yeast-mixture milk sugar

Then start working on your flour mixture – measure the flour out and add in a pinch of salt. Then when the yeast mixture has risen, create a well in the middle of the flour and pour the yeast mixture into it. Mix it around until well combined then cling wrap it and leave it in a relatively warm place for the mixture to proof and rise for an hour.

Flour yeast crumpets

When you return, it should have risen to about twice it’s original size (above). Then, combine together the bicarbonate of soda and water and mix it into the dough, you should now have a batter-like consistency (a bit thicker than pancake batter).

 

Batter-like consistency

Heat a frying pan with butter. Using Egg-Rings (or any circular pan and heat proof contraption!), butter the sides of the egg rings well and then pour the batter into about 3/4 of the egg ring (it will rise as it cooks, so try not to pour too much). Let it brown for about 2-3 minutes on low heat.  When one side is cooked (you will know when you can easily move the crumpet around), ease the egg ring off and this should be easy if you have buttered them well! Then flip them over to cook on the other side, which will be another 2-3 minutes.

crumpets cooked frying pan

They are best served piping hot with butter and honey/maple syrup. We couldn’t wait to dig in – but we couldn’t eat it alone s0 Sammy grilled some chipolatas and bacon in the grill (healthier option than pan-frying)…

sausages grill

Esther and Deb brought mushrooms, which we fried with butter in a pan…and hubby made coffee bought from our recent Dunsborough trip from Yahava Koffeeworks (Monte Cristo blend). It was a perfect start to a Saturday morning – with a busy day ahead of us, why not start it right? Everything fit perfectly – from the crumpets, to the crispy bacon and the yummy coffee 🙂

It was a great breakfast and even greater company – thanks for being our guinea pigs Esther and Deb! I’m sure there will be many more to come…!

Crumpets mushrooms bacon chipolatas sausages

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Breakfast, Cookbooks

 

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