Ayam Panggang (Grilled Chicken)

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The hallmark of a good roast chicken is crispy skin, right? Nah, not necessarily. Crispy skin requires hours of air-drying and I can't be bothered most of the time. It's good enough for me if the skin is nicely browned so that there's a 'roasty' aroma.

What? That's good but not very sexy? Ok, let's sex it up a bit.

Sambal Stingray (I)

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

I love banana leaves. Rice and curry taste so much better when it's on a banana leaf.

Banana leaves are fun, and I feel good using something that's disposable yet traditional and natural.

Who says only modern people are lazy?

Whoever first thought of using banana leaves as plates must have hated washing up, just like me!

The banana leaf in sambal stingray is the unsung hero. The sambal takes all the glory but even a good one would be even better with the banana leaf's subtle smokiness. Isn't the nicely charred leaf a perfect frame for the gleaming, red sambal? Sambal stingray without banana leaf just wouldn't be the same (though it's still better than no sambal stingray at all).

17 September 2012 Update

Here's my video guide for making sambal stingray:



SAMBAL STINGRAY
(Recipe for 3-4 persons)
Sambal (makes about 1 cup)
150 g shallots
75 g garlic
15 g ginger
40 g lemongrass, tender, non-bitter part only
50 g red chillies
15 g dried chillies
trim stems, cut 2 cm long, soak in warm water till soft, about 30 minutes; squeeze dry and discard water

15 g belacan (fermented shrimp paste)
roast at 150°C or dry-fry over medium-low heat till dry and crumbly
20 g tamarind paste
mash with 2 tbsp hot water, drain and discard seeds and pulp

½ cup vegetable oil
30 g palm sugar, roughly chopped
¼ tsp salt

1 piece stingray wing, 400-500 g
rinse and drain; cut a 2-3 slits in thicker end along the grain
1/3 tsp salt
1 piece frozen banana leaf
thaw and rinse; trim to fit baking tray
Garnish
calamansi limes, halved
red onion, thinly sliced
tomato or pineapple wedges
cucumber slices

Wash, trim, peel and roughly chop shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and red chillies as appropriate. Grind or pound with dried chillies and belachan till smooth.

Stir-fry sambal paste with vegetable oil over medium heat till fragrant and colour darkens, about 15 minutes. Add palm sugar. Stir-fry till dissolved. Add tamarind water and salt. Stir-fry till oil separates. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Remove from heat. Leave till cool.

You should have about 1 cup. Use about 1/2 cup for 400-500 g stingray. Remaining 1/2 cup may be stored for a few weeks refrigerated.

Preheat grill to 230°C (450°F). Line baking tray with aluminium foil. Lightly brush with vegetable oil.

Place stingray on baking tray, white side up. Season lightly with salt, including slits. Grill till 70-80% cooked, about 5 minutes depending on thickness of fish. Spread with sambal, thinly. Grill till top of stingray feels firm when pressed chopsticks, about 5 minutes.

Lift stingray from baking tray with a spatula. Place banana leaf in tray. Flip stingray onto banana leaf. Season lightly with salt. Grill till 70-80% cooked, about 7 minutes depending on thickness. Spread with sambal, thickly. Grill till fully cooked and sambal is sizzling and slightly charred, 5 minutes or so.

Slide foil, leaf and fish onto serving plate. Pull foil from underneath banana leaf and discard.

Garnish and serve immediately.

Chicken Satay & Peanut Sauce

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Do you know how satay sauce gets its tinge of yellow Turmeric?

Wrong! The golden hue comes from roasted peanuts, which have to be finely ground and boiled to release their colour.

The first round of satay sauce I made was too chunky because the peanuts were all roughly chopped as per the recipe.

Stuffed Tau Pok with Rojak Sauce

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Working out the recipe for Chinese rojak didn't seem like work since it didn't involve any cooking. In fact, stirring and tasting was my kind of entertainment.

Once I figured out how it was done, I wolfed down a huge bowl of fruits and vegetables. That was my '5 a day' as per doctor's orders, in one shot.

Salt-Grilled Salmon Head

Sunday, 13 February 2011

I have a great solution for people who don't eat fish heads because they don't like the eyes staring at them.

Eat the eyes first, then there's nothing to stare with!

When I made my very helpful suggestion to an ang moh friend who didn't like ocular animal parts, he thought I was kidding.

French Toast

Sunday, 30 August 2009

There used to be a Hilton Hotel in Hong Kong, where Cheung Kong Centre now stands. It was a pretty nondescript hotel in Central and most people probably never thought of it once it was gone. Neither would I except that was where I had the best French toast ever.

The French toast  was really special because it was crispy. I've had good French Toast elsewhere but the crispy part was always missing.

After the Hilton Hotel was torn down, I had no idea where their chefs went, so that was the end of crispy Hilton Hotel French Toast. And the beginning of homemade French Toast.

When I first made French Toast, it was bland, it shrank after it was fried, and it just wasn't crispy.

Over the years, I've tweaked the recipe many times. I started with just eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla extract and bread. Now, cream cheese is a key ingredient. It keeps the texture creamy and "custardy", and stops the bread from shriveling after it's cooked – provided the bread isn't oversoaked. It also adds depth to the flavor, which is enhanced with a splash of dark rum. Most importantly, it's crispy with a sprinkling of sugar caramelized under the grill. And it's not oily because it's not fried.

I now have the perfect French Toast for a weekend breakfast or even dessert. Yay!

FRENCH TOAST
(Recipe for 2 persons)

4 slices stale sandwich bread, thick-cut (I use Gardenia brand's Junior White)
regular-cut sandwich bread would turn soggy and not make good French toast
2 eggs
40 ml milk
20 g cream cheese
1 tbsp fine sugar
1 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp butter at room temperature
1 tbsp fine sugar (for sprinkling)

🌹 Depending on the type of bread used, the amount of egg mixture and soaking time required may vary. Please adjust as necessary. For dense bread, a few slits in the middle and a regular rather than thick-cut would help speed things along. The bread should be thoroughly saturated with the eggy liquid without turning soggy. If necessary, cut the bread in the middle and check.

If possible, make egg mixture the night before so that flavors have time to mingle and develop. Stale bread is essential; fresh bread turns soggy and shrinks after it's grilled. Let some butter come to room temperature before starting to cook.

When you're ready to make toast, preheat grill to 230°C, and line grill tray with parchment paper.

Put cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat till smooth. Add dark rum, vanilla extract and milk in stages, beating till smooth after each addition. Add eggs one at a time and – you guessed it – beat till smooth.

Remove bread crust. Do it by hand if you have time; jagged edges turn really crispy. Cut each slice into four pieces. Soak bread thoroughly in egg mixture, turning over half-way so that both sides are evenly saturated. Do not let bread get soggy.

Place bread on grill tray. Dot each piece with butter – just a bit, not too much. (You could put butter on a knife, then push small blobs onto bread with a tapered chopstick. Or, if you're making a lot of toast, make a small piping cone with parchment paper, then use it to pipe the butter. Third option: Keep butter chilled and hard, then shave with a vegetable peeler directly onto bread.) Sprinkle bread with sugar, right up to the edges.

Grill with the door closed till bread is golden brown or even slightly burnt, then repeat butter-sugar-grill procedure for the other side.

Enjoy French Toast piping hot with its best buddy, maple syrup. Or drizzle with melted butter and honey and serve it as dessert. How about a light coat of icing sugar, some fresh fruits and cream or ice cream? I'm sure that'll win you lots of 'Ooh!' and 'Aah!'