Cantonese Roasted Pork Ribs

April 21, 2011

Imagine sinking your teeth into a succulent piece of meat that is perfectly caramelized around the edges with a beautiful dark coating of savoury and sweet sauce.

It’s been years since I had Cantonese Roasted Pork Ribs like this. I know how good it can be but the last time I had it was in a Chinese restaurant in Malaysia. And it wasn’t that great. I found this recipe while visiting Chocolate & Zucchini and she made this with a recipe from another blog, belonging to a Chinese woman who lives in France called La Bouche Plein. The recipe was written in French but thank god for Google Translate.

It was worth braving the automated language translation engine – this recipe is legit. And so easy to do.  read more …


Braised Minced Pork with Chinese Five Spice

December 12, 2010
A bowl of fragrant deliciousness

This is the ultimate comfort food after a long and hectic day at work. Like everyone else, there are more days than I would like to admit where I was too tired to be bothered to cook. And on these days, I fall back to recipes that are simple, comforting and reminds me of home. This braised minced pork with Chinese five spice powder is easy and so delicious served on rice or even on noodles.

How easy can this recipe be?

Because the pork is all minced up, it doesn’t take too long to braise this dish at all. Go for a shower and by the time you’re ready, dinner is ready too – you just need to remember to also cook the rice before you hop into the shower. If you don’t like pork, this recipe also works well with minced chicken. Or turkey. You can even jazz it up with some vegetables too; preferred vegetables for this dish includes shitake mushrooms, carrots, green beans and potatoes, cut into the smallest pieces you can muster.

Here’s the ridiculously easy recipe: read more …


Malaysian Steamed Fish Custard (Otak-otak)

June 26, 2010

Remember a few posts back, I was posting a bunch of Malaysian recipes because I was having a ginormous Penang food cookout at home? This is one of those recipes and the last of the recipes from that event. Otak-otak is a Malaysian fish custard steamed with a spice paste wrapped in banana leaves. The type of fish used are usually white meat and firmer so they do not fall apart too easily; monkfish, halibut, cod, seabass and the likes. There are also variations of this recipe using other types of seafood – this is one of those variations using shrimps.

The spicy custard is key in making this delicious and also a certain kind of leafy herb called Daun Kadok or Piper sarmentosum. The locals in Malaysia sometimes substitute this herb for mint leaves because Daun Kadok has a rather minty profile but by substituting it with mint leaves, the minty profile is pretty much all you get because Daun Kadok also has a lemongrass and a green herbaceous profile that cannot be replicated. But in the event that you could not find this herb, go ahead and use mint. It would still be pretty good.

So, the French have their pates and terrines, the Malaysian have their Otak-otak and it is absolutely delicious to eat when spread on toasts, crackers and even with a steamy hot bowl of rice. To make otak-otak, there are basically three steps 1) POUND 2) ASSEMBLE 3) STEAM – and on we go.

Malaysian Steamed Fish Custard (Otak-otak)
makes 8 pouches

To be pounded:
10 shallots3 slices of galangal root
2 inches of turmeric root
5 dried red chilies, de-seeded
5 fresh red chillies, de-seeded
2 cloves of garlic
2 stalks of lemongrass, cut into small manageable pieces
1 tablespoon of fish paste, also known as belachan

Custard ingredients:
1 cup of coconut milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoon of rice flour, can be substituted with cornstarch or regular all-purpose flour
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt to taste

The filling of the custard:
150grams of shrimp, chopped into small chunks
Other options: Any firm fleshed white fish, shredded chicken breast, shredded beef and scallops
16 Daun Kadok  or Piper sarmentosum


  1. Pound the spices with a mortar and pestle until a paste is formed. You can also blend it in a blender but I am partial to hand pounding my spices simply because it just tastes better than mechanical blending. Something about synergistic transference of energy from the cook to the food and I do believe in that shit, don’t laugh. 🙂
  2. To assemble – mix the pounded spice with all the custard ingredients very well. A creamy, rich yellow batter will result from all the mixing and you’re one step away from steaming.
  3. To steam – take a sheet of banana leaf, softened in boiling water first, and lay 2 daun kadok at it’s base. Add some shrimps or fish in the center of the leaves and ladle approximately 1/4 cup of the custard batter. Slowly bring the sides of the banana leaf up and form a pouch, tucked safely with a toothpick. Repeat until the batter is all used up. If you do not have banana leaves, you can also use aluminium foils as well – just oil it a little bit before assembling all the ingredients in. Steam the banana leaf pouches in a steamer for 15 minutes. 

It’s ready to eat with some rice or with a slice of toasted baguette. Mmmm….

I made otak-otak before 3 years ago but this is definitely the better version. I gather it’s because I put a lot of love into it. 🙂

Vegetarians – you can omit the fish paste in the custard and also substitute shrimp with medium soft tofu. It is equally delicious.


Nasi Ulam ( Nyonya Herbed Rice Salad)

April 4, 2010

Happy Easter everyone!


nasi ulam

I’m celebrating my long Easter weekend by cooking Nyonya food and the first on my list was Nyonya Nasi Ulam, or loosely translated as Nyonya rice salad in Malay. Nasi Ulam is incredibly healthy and unbelievably addictive. It’s delicious with the aromatic herbs, richness of the toasted coconuts and pungent spices. Like most Southeast Asian recipes, Nyonya Nasi Ulam is a little tedious with a lot of preparation work because the herbs are required to be carefully and finely sliced. A sharp knife would be necessary in this case.

We use many different types of herbs in Nasi Ulam, it’s the herbs and the other dry condiments that makes this dish absolutely mouth-watering good. When my late-grandmother makes Nasi Ulam, my mother would eat large portions of it almost as if she has a bottomless pit because it’s so good with a bit of sambal belacan. I was lucky enough to have found a place where they actually sell the herbs I needed to make Nasi Ulam in Montreal! March Hawai you da bomb. I’ve found wild betel leaves (daun kadok), Thai basil (daun selasih), Vietnamese mint (daum kesom), mint, fresh lemongrass (serai), fresh kafir lime leaves, fresh turmeric, toasted grated coconut (kerisik) and whole bunch of unrelated ingredients for other Nyonya dishes. I was like a child in candyland. I was unable to find torch ginger flower (bunga kantan) and galangal leaves (daun cekur) but even without these two herbs, the Nasi Ulam was still delicious.

Making Nyonya Nasi Ulam requires patience because there is a lot of preparation work. All the herbs need to be sliced finely by hand and no machinery or magical tools can do the job for you. But the effort will be well worth it in the end when you are paid off with a huge bowl of Nasi Ulam that you can never seem to get enough of.

The ingredient list is longer than the method for this recipe. Let’s get to it:

Nasi Ulam (Nyonya Herbed Rice Salad)

Ingredients A:
4 cups of cooked rice
100gms dried shrimps (soak, dice, fry & cool)*** not used
100gms salted fish (cut small thin slices, fry and cool)*** not used
1 teaspoon belacan (shrimp paste)*** not used
4 tablespoons of toasted grated coconut
1-inch fresh turmeric (chop finely)
Salt, sugar and grounded black pepper to taste

Ingredients B (FINELY SLICED):
6 shallots
1 stalk lemongrass (serai – use the thinner end only)
1/2 stalk torch ginger flower (bunga kantan)*** not used
5 kaffir lime leaves (daun limau purut)
3 stalks polygonum leaves (daun kesom/laksa leaves/Vietnamese mint)
3 stalks mint leaves (daun pudina – chop finely)
3 stalks basil leaves (daun selasih)
4 galangal leaves (daun cekur)*** not used
12 wild betel leaves (daun kadok/Piper sarmentosum)

Some wild betel leaves (optional)
Some mint leaves (optional)
Toasted grated coconut (optional)

Cook’s note: This is the full recipe of Nasi Ulam, I’ve omitted some of the ingredients so that it would suit a vegetarian. Items omitted are marked with ***


    1. Cook rice until it is al dente and let it cool slightly.
    2. Combine all the ingredients in and mix well.

Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed.


Word of caution though, if you have manicured nails, you might want to book another appointment with your manicurist. All the slicing of these herbs, especially the turmeric, will dye your finger nails into the most unsightly colors. It’s no wonder I’ve never seen my late-grandmother with manicured nails, it just wasn’t practical.

This Nyonya rice salad is a perfect side dish to go with meats, fish and seafood. It is also good on it’s own with some sambal belacan or your favorite curry. I had my Nasi Ulam with some Chicken Gulai and Pineapple Kerabu.


Hainanese-style Chicken (Rice and sauce recipe below)

March 7, 2010

Today, I would like to share with you a curious method of preparing chicken that at a glance would seem like a case of food poisoning waiting to happen. But, it’s been done a gazillion times before by cooks like my maternal grandmother, who is half Hainanese anyway. She got this recipe from her grandmother.

You will never say boiled chicken is boring ever again after you try this recipe. The chicken is perfectly cooked through, soft, luscious and of course, delicious to eat. This is something that my mother would even make on a regular basis for dinner because it’s so easy. I am sure all of you would agree that most Chinese cuisine’s preparation time is always a drag. Long and tedious. But this is an exception to that. The only catch is you would need to plan this a little bit ahead of time, about 2 hrs ahead of time if your chicken is fresh and defrosted.

I did not make the rice to go with my chicken because I didn’t feel like having rice with the meal, strange as it sounds. But the recipe for the rice is below, for those of you who want to try the complete Hainanese-style Chicken Rice meal. Oh and before I forget, the chicken is usually served in room temperature.

So let’s get cooking.

Hainanese-style Chicken

1 1.5kg Chicken (cooking time do not vary, this method works with even a larger chicken)
2 cloves
1/2 star anise
8 garlic cloves, crushed slightly
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 sprigs of spring onions, tips cut off and left whole
2 big slices of ginger
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoon of salt

Enough water to cover a whole chicken in a very large pot.


  1. Clean your chicken with running cold water. Make sure to not poke any holes in the skin.
  2. Bring a large pot (big enough to hold your chicken) of water to boil. You need enough water to just cover over the chicken. A good way to do this is fill your pot with water with the chicken in it. Once you’ve got the right amount of water, take the chicken out and proceed.
  3. Before water starts to boil, add all the ingredients in.
  4. Once the pot starts into a rolling boil, put the chicken into the liquid slowly. The water should stop boiling when you do this. Close the lid of the pot and let it come to a boil again. When your lid starts shaking with huffs of steam angrily spouting from the corner like the picture below:
  5. You are doing good. Now, this is the ridiculous part. Turn off the heat completely and leave the chicken in for 1.5 hours. Do not open the lid, do not stir, do not shake, do nothing. Go read a book or shoot some zombies on your XBOX.

  6. After 1.5 hours, your chicken is ready. Prepare a large sink filled with icy cold water. Lift the chicken gently into the cold water, careful to not break the skin as it is very fragile at this stage, hot out of the pot.
  7. I like to give it a cold bath to stop the cooking completely and also to give its skin a very smooth and luscious texture. Cooling the chicken like this makes it easier to handle while you cut it up for serving. I leave it in the cold bath for about 10minutes

To serve, my grandmother usually prepares a yummy sauce filled with herbs to go with this chicken; I will too because I can’t get enough of it. It goes extremely well with the chicken and with rice.

Recipe for sauce and authentic Hainanese-style rice below.

Sauce for Hainanese-style Chicken:

2 tablespoon of Oyster sauce
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seed
2 cloves of garlic, minced finely
2 tablespoon of shallots, minced finely
1 stalk of spring onion, chopped finely
1 sprig of parsley, chopped finely
2 tablespoon of garlic oil and golden garlic bits (minced garlic + enough oil to cover in a small bowl + microwave 2-mins till golden brown)
3 tablespoon of chicken broth (from cooking the chicken)


  1. Mix everything together well.

Hainanese-style rice
Feel free to double or halve the recipe to feed more people.

2 cups of jasmine rice
1 tablespoon of butter
3 cloves of garlic, whole
2 stalk of spring onions, ends trimmed and kept whole
2 slices of ginger
2 Cloves
3 1/4 cups of chicken broth (from earlier)


  1. Rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Strain the liquid as much as possible.
  2. In a pan, melt butter and saute garlic until fragrant. Add rice and roast the rice with the butter and garlic. This will add a dimension of nuttiness to the rice when it’s cooked.
  3. When the rice turns slightly translucent while toasting, transfer it into a rice cooker and add the rest of the ingredients in until cooked.

If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can also cook this in a pot. Just make sure you lower the heat to a simmer/low when the rice starts boiling. Cook for 10 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and turn off the heat completely. Wait 5 minutes before serving the rice.

The left over cooking liquid from the chicken makes a good soup base to go with the meal. Add some carrots, shitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage and/or other root vegetables you like to eat and it’ll be a great accompaniment to the Hainanese-style Chicken Rice meal. 🙂

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