Sunday, 31 March 2013

Braised Pork Belly 魯肉

Braised Pork Belly or Lor Bah 魯肉 (can substitute with chopped whole chicken bone in).
Some ingredients used.
Scald the pork belly with hot water for a few minutes until they turn opaque and rinse well.
Marinate the pork and mushrooms overnight with all the spices and half the seasoning, optional.

Scald the pork belly with hot water for a few minutes until they turn opaque and rinse well. If you have time, marinate the pork and mushrooms overnight with all the spices and half the seasoning, except water and hard boiled eggs. The next day, bring it out from the fridge and onto the stove, add 2 tablespoons sugar and stir fry. Add water and bring to the boil. Lower flame and stew till tender. Adjust seasoning at the end of cooking.
Bring overnight marinated pork out of fridge and let it come to room temperature.
Fry whole spices over medium heat.
If you had not marinated the pork overnight, start from this step. Fry spices in oils till fragrant. Careful not to burn them as sesame oil tends to become bitter over high heat.
Brown pork on all sides and stir well to mix.
Add boiling hot water. Skim off the broth scum.
Add pork and sugar, fry till lightly browned. Add mushrooms, if using, at this stage. Add the mushroom water and top with hot water to this level (enough to cover meat completely plus more to cover eggs later) and then lower flame. Skim off the broth scum.
Skim off the scum as they form again.
The dish is sometimes named after this dark soy called Tau Yew Bah –  豆油肉
Add dark soy for colour and taste. Remove broth scum as you stew. Put on the lid during the whole stewing process over medium flame till pork and mushrooms are tender. Stir every now and then to prevent stew from being burnt. Skim off the excess oil near end of cooking.
Add 1 teaspoon salt to hard boil the eggs.
Hard boil the eggs for at least half an hour. Leave eggs in a bowl of cold water and peel off the shell when completely cooled. Add eggs to the pork when they are 1/4 cooked (meat is still tough at this stage and we really want to infuse the eggs with the stewing flavours).
Adding chilli is personal and optional.
Be careful when stirring - see I've broken an egg :(

Add tau pok (deep-fried soybean tofu puff) when meat is almost tender and adjust final seasoning. Stew till meat and mushrooms are tender and gravy thickens a little. Do not overcook the bean puffs. Total stewing time is about 1.5 hours more or less (chicken cooks faster, so be careful here). Turn off fire and keep covered for another 15 minutes before serving with steamed Jasmine rice, crusty French loaf or Chinese mantou (buns). Like most stews, they taste better the next day.

1 to 1.5kg Pork Belly (if substituted with chicken, needs to be marinated for an hour at least and some cornstarch and use lesser water when stewing).
Hard-boiled Eggs (as many as you wish).
10 Dried Shitake Mushrooms (optional, more if you like. reconstituted in hot water, drain and keep the water, rinse mushrooms well)
1 Whole bulb of Garlic, lightly bashed and peel off skin.
2 slices of Ginger.
2 Red Chillies, optional.
1 packet of Tau Pok (deep-fried Soybean Tofu Puffs).

6 tablespoons Dark Soy (豆油).
2 tablespoons Light Soy.
Ground White Pepper, to taste.
Sugar, to taste (about 2-3 tbs for 1 kg Pork).
1 teaspoon of 5-spice Powder (more if you like it spicy).

Whole spices:
5 – 8 star anise (depending on size).
1 cinnamon stick.
10 peppercorns.
Enough water to cover the meat plus more (about 2 litres plus).
2 tablespoons Veg Oil.
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil.

You can cook the pork belly whole and slice into thin rectangular shape to be sandwiched between the Chinese mantou. The gravy should be reduced till very thick and syrupy (may need to use more sugar). This is the Chinese version of Sliders. Serve with Taro fries :)

P.S. Chinese and Asian cooking uses a lot of guesstimation if there’s such a word. Always use lesser seasoning whenever you’re in doubt as you can add more later.

Happy Cooking :)

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Irrashaimase いっらしゃいませ

The minute you step into a Japanese restaurant, you are most likely be greeted with or get startled by a chorus of “irrashaimase” which loosely translates to “welcome” by the staff.

Japanese cuisine is one of my  favourite food in the world. The exacting standard that goes into the preparation and presentation of Japanese food, especially if you had seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is undeniably an art that literally takes years to master. While the meal I had was not prepared by a shokunin (a skilled craftsman, someone who does the same exact thing every day to the highest possible level in the never-ending pursuit of perfection), they were good value for money.

The last time I had my meal here was on Mother’s Day 2012. En Japanese Dining Bar, specialises in Okinawa cuisine. Their menu is, therefore, composed of authentic ingredients from Okinawa itself. En Japanese Dining Bar builds upon the concept of modern Japanese dining bars known affectionately to the locals as ‘Izakaya’, which is extremely popular among the cosmopolitan crowd in Japan. The one I visited is located in Bukit Timah Road, Singapore. Its sushi counter, a long bar table that seats 7 guests comfortably, also doubles up as a sake bar. There are three private tatami rooms tucked away in a quiet corner for utmost privacy. Fitted with sliding ‘Fusuma’ styled doors, it opens up to an intimate space equipped with audio and visual facilities. This time round, I chose to sit outside so I could take photos of my food without disturbing the other diners.

I went there with Jerry, my friend of a quarter century, lol… now you know I’m a dinosaur, too! We ordered the Beef Shabu Shabu & Ala Carte Buffet, requesting that the steamboat be served last.
After about 10 months, I am eager to dig in and rate the food! There’s the appetizers, salads, deep-fried dishes, grilled dishes, sahimi, sushi, maki, temaki, rice, noodle, dessert and of course the Okinawa cuisine and soba! Their menu is so extensive I wish I had an extra stomach. On hindsight, I deeply regretted forgetting to order their wafu steak!
En Japanese Dining Bar at Bukit Timah Road.
This time round I chose to sit outside, al fresco style, instead of the sushi bar, which is my usual and favourite seating at a Japanese restaurant.
I can’t really make up my mind if this is sencha, matcha or just another form of Japanese ryokucha.
Jerry requested Edamame – a preparation of immature soybean pods boiled or steamed with salt. Here, the edamame is ever so slightly salted, if any, and slightly undercooked for my liking.
Next came the seafood salad which had some assorted fresh sashimi fish. I would be very pleased if there were some octopus bits in it to create more texture on the palate.
Since there were only two of us, we’ve ordered more appetizers than mains.
Carpaccio is a dish of raw meat (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and served mainly as an appetizer. Here, we have beef carpaccio thinly sliced, drizzled with Japanese Shoyu, topped with sliced red onions, chopped scallions and a thin slice of lemon. The dressing was citrusy enough.
Pitan Tofu was served cold with some minced century egg white or egg black? What do you call the cooked albumen of a century egg?
The pitan was mashed and I suspect even sieved to produce such velvety texture. The orange sushi caviar tobiko of the flying fish gave some gustatory perception to an otherwise bland tofu. I enjoyed this dish very much – it is one item that I will always order when visiting here.
Assorted Sashimi - Hamachi (yellowtail tuna), Mekajiki (swordfish), Sake (salmon), Maguro (tuna) and one more fish which I do not know the name.
The word sashimi, meaning “pierced body”, has been integrated into the English language and is often used to refer to uncooked seafood emphatically fish preparations. Sashimi should be eaten before other strong flavours affect the palate, thus it is usually the first course in a formal Japanese meal, but it can also be the main course. Sashimi is normally eaten with a dipping sauce – Japanese shoyu with wasabi paste whilst certain fish like fugu is served with grated fresh ginger, minced scallions and shoyu.
Besides acting as a flavour, the reputed motivation for serving wasabi, Japanese horseradish root, with sashimi or sushi is the killing of harmful bacteria and parasites that could be present in the raw seafood.
Wasabi paste is sometimes mixed directly into soy sauce as a dipping sauce. Purists denounce the practice of mixing wasabi into soy sauce as they believe this to dilute the sharp hot flavor of wasabi. I like to mix the wasabi into the shoyu so as to infuse the soy sauce more subtly.
Japanese Gyōza - I would gladly trade this for wafu steak. Remind next time but Jerry wanted this, so…
 The Americans called these potstickers and the Chinese jiaozi but the most prominent difference of Japanese-style gyōza from Chinese-style jiaozi is the rich garlic flavour. Japanese gyōza is also very mildly seasoned with salt, soy and the gyōza dough wrappers are much thinner than other similar varieties.
Shiitake mushrooms – tasted woody and a tad dry since they were grilled.
Shiitake is considered a medicinal mushroom in the form of traditional medicine. It is cultivated in East Asia and consumed mostly in Asian countries. Albeit some people are allergic to mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms can produce high amounts of vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D supplementation has been reputed to improve bone mineral density slightly and may reduce cardiovascular disease risk but these are of questionable clinical significance. I like the “meaty” texture of mushrooms and my belief in their nutritional value expound why shrooms are a mainstay in my diet.
Kaki furai – as you may have guessed is oyster fry! With furai being the phonetical sound of fry in Japanese.
At En Japanese Dining Bar, big fat juicy oysters coated in egg and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) were deep-fried to stunning crunch and served with tonkatsu sauce.
Yakitori or Robatayaki?
The skin and flesh of the chicken wings were “butterflied” on the bamboo skewers and slow grilled to perfection. Minimal seasonings were used. The skin was crispy and the meat tender with sufficient juice, not overly dry as one would expect from barbecued food.
Tsukune pork meatballs.
Tsukune means kneaded by hand. Corn or potato starch are added to ground meat moulded into balls and then skewered. They are usually dipped into a sweet sauce called “tare” which is different from the teriyaki sauce and then grilled yakitori style. I’ve always appreciated handmade meatballs and En did not disappoint.
Kama Shioyaki.
The kama or the meaty collar of a fish came in the form of salmon. I would have enjoyed more if En had used Hamachi (young Yellowtail) or Buri (older Yellowtail) as the flesh is more tender, juicy and tastier than salmon. As is with tradition, the kama shioyaki here was served with a tiny mound of grated daikon (Japanese radish) and a wedge of lemon.
We ate like there's no tomorrow!
Jerry was wondering if I’m serious about the shabu shabu that’s yet to come. By now, I detect he would gladly agree if I’d suggested forgoing it.
Not a chance, Jerry!
Vegetables that goes well with shabu shabu.
The heavily marbled beef promises great taste! Indeed, after swishing them for a few seconds in the konbu broth, the delicate meat just melted on my tongue.
Delightfully tender.
Tada... beef and vegetables shabu shabu.
Do not over cook the beef.
Just a few swishes are all it takes.
There you go to the dipping sauce.
Delightfully tender.
With their version of mui choy, this Japanese garlic fried rice is uniquely fragrant!
Matcha ice cream to sweeten the deal.

We were full but we were not giving up. We just had to try their garlic fried rice. Everywhere else, all you get is garlic and egg fried with the Japanese short grains but here, the rice has more details. There were some bits of preserved vegetables not unlike the Chinese mui choy. I find it rather unique. The rice is definitely worth the struggle to stay on our gastronomic endeavour, the other dishes that we have not ordered today will have to wait. It would be very bad if my jeans’ button popped out and sent Jerry a blackeye :p

Jerry’s rating (out of 10)
food 6.5 to 7
service 7.5
value for money 8

I thought his rating for the food was a bit low but then again he may have more sophisticated tastebuds. As for me, this won’t be the last trip here.

En Japanese Dining Bar
River Valley Outlet
+65 6735 2212

Daily from 6pm to 8pm Enjoy 50% off Sushi and Sashimi.
Enjoy 30% off selected drinks.
Fri, Sat & Eve of PH 12am to 2.20am
Enjoy 50% off rice and noodles dishes and 30% off selected drinks

En Japanese Dining Bar
Bukit Timah Outlet
+65 6468 5710

$48++ /pax (Mon to Thu)
$52++ / pax (Fri, Sat, Sun, PH,PH Eve)
Lunch $48++ /pax (Sat, Sun, PH only)
$18++ /pax (6 years old to 12 years old)

Ala Carte Buffet featuring Sushi, Sashimi, Okinawa Cuisine, Hot Pot & MORE!
*Top up $35 per person to enjoy a 2 hour free flow (Selected Alcohol, soft drinks & juices)
Infomation of the operating hours and promotions subject to change without notice. Please do your due deligence.

Wishing all a meaningful Good Friday & Happy Easter in advance!

Happy eating

Friday, 29 March 2013

Ginger Green Onion Dipping Sauce

Ginger Green Onion Dipping Sauce for boiled chicken.
Ingredients to be put in a bowl:
4 tablespoons Scallion, minced (Green Onion, Spring Onion).
4 heap tablespoons Ginger, grated (use a zest grater).
1 – 1½ teaspoon Salt, to taste.
pinch of Sugar.
½ teaspoon Sesame Oil.
½ cup Oil rendered from Chicken Fats* has best flavour (or Groundnut/Vegetable/Shallot Oil).

1. Heat the oil in a small pot just until very hot but not yet smoking. If it smoke, let it cool a little then
2. Pour it over the scallion, ginger, salt, sugar and sesame oil. Be careful as they may crackle and splash.
3. Mix well and serve immediately with chicken dishes.
Good with any simple cooked chicken dishes – Boiled Chicken, Soy Sauced Chicken Wings, etc…
P.S. Don’t worry about the amount of oil used in this recipe as you will not be eating all the oil.
The layer of oil acts as preservative and allows you to keep the content for days/weeks in the fridge/freezer. Just warm up over low heat to revive when needed.

* Chicken Fats – the thick yellow fat found near the end of the cavity of Whole Chicken.
Save them each time you buy a whole chicken and do not need to use it that round.
Chicken Fats are good for flavouring Chicken Rice too.

Variation: You can also use Fried Shallot Oil (Fry sliced Shallots in medium hot oil till golden. Keep the crispy shallots for garnishing and use the oil for perfuming this and any other dishes like you would use sesame oil).

Happy cooking :)

Hainanese Chicken Rice 海南雞飯

Free Range Boiled Chicken.
HCR - Hainanese Chicken Rice.
1 large whole bird Chicken about 1.2kg to 1.5kg (Free range if possible).
4 stalks Scallions (tie 2 stalks into a knot so you have 2 portions).
1 huge knob Ginger, peel skin and lightly bashed (divide into 2 portions).
1 whole bulb Garlic, peel skin and lightly bashed (divide into 2 portions).
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil.
1 tablespoon Salt (and more for washing the bird).
Cilantro for garnishing.
English Cucumber, sliced thinly, optional.
Tomatoes, sliced thinly, optional.

1. Bring a big pot of water (enough to cover all of the chicken when immersed) to the boil with 1 tablespoon salt, one portion each of the ginger, garlic and scallion.

2. Rub some salt onto the skin of chicken when washing to rid smell and slime. Make sure the cavity is washed really well as bloddy inside ruin the chicken broth. Rinse well and drain on a colander.

3. Put one portion each of the bashed ginger, garlic into the cavity of chicken. Stuff one portion of the knotted scallions to prevent ginger and garlic from slipping out of chicken cavity.

4. Gently lower chicken breast side up into the boiling water and dip the chicken into the boiling water and lift it up again so that the hot water runs through the chicken cavity. Do this three times to ensure any remaining blood, if any, is washed out of the chicken. Skim the broth scum as they float on the soup later.

5. Reduce heat and let the chicken simmer in the hot water (not fast boiling, rather simmering hot), covered and cook for 20 minutes. Turn chicken breast side down and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes.

6. Turn off fire and let chicken sit in the hot water, covered, for another 30 minutes.

7. Remove chicken from pot. Brush chicken with 1 tablespoon sesame oil then put on a rack or plate to rest for at least 10 minutes. Keep this chicken broth for soup and cooking rice.

8. When chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces and arrange on a plate.

9. Mix half tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon light soy sauce and 2-3 tablespoons clear chicken broth in a bowl and drizzle some of it onto the chicken before serving.

10. Serve with Ginger Green Onion Sauce.

Tip: Malaysians chefs boil their chicken with fresh tumeric in the stock to produce a deep yellow skin.

Chicken Rice Chilli Sauce:
50g Red Chillies (deseeded, if do not like too spicy).
10g Chilli Padi (deseeded, if do not like too spicy).
30g Shallots, peeled.
30g Garlic, peeled.
30g Young Ginger, peeled.
½ cup Chicken Broth (from the stock you boiled the chicken, keep hot).
2 tablespoons Lime Juice (small calamansi limes not those used for Tomyum).
1 teaspoon White Chinese Vinegar.
2 teaspoons Sugar (more if needed, adjust to your liking).
Salt, to taste (as the chicken broth is already salted).

1. Pound both chillies, shallots, garlic and ginger in pestle and mortar or use electric blender and blend till fine.

2. Put pounded/blended ingredients in a big bowl and pour hot chicken stock into the bowl.

3. Stir in the remaining seasonings and leave aside to cool for at least an hour before using. Can make in advance, store in sterilised jar and keep in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Chicken Rice:
3 cups Long Grain (Old Crop) Thai Jasmine Rice, wash till water runs clear and drain in colander till dry about 15 minutes.
2 tablespoons Oil (rendered from fresh Chicken Fats by cooking them in a dry pot – or you can skim them from the top of the chicken broth – or vegetable oil).
4 Shallots, sliced thinly or chopped finely.
4 Garlic, sliced thinly or chopped finely.
3 slices Old Ginger.
3 pieces of Pandan Leaves, bundled.
1 stalk Lemongrass (use bottom white part, bashed lightly to release essential oil).
3 cups Chicken Broth (more if needed depends on how old the crop is).
Salt, to taste (the broth should be just salty enough so rice is fragrant).

1. Heat the wok with the chicken fats oil or vegetable oil, and stir-fry the shallots and ginger for a minute. Add garlic and stir-fry till lightly browned.
2. Add the drained rice and fry for 3 minutes, or till rice is coated with the oil and moisture is gone.
3. Transfer to electric rice cooker, add in the pandan leaves, lemongrass and chicken broth. Adjust salt to taste.
Tip For Lazy Way: Cook Chicken Rice as you would cook plain Jasmine rice but instead of using water, use the chicken broth and add salt according to taste. Throw in some garlic and ginger paste (see instructions from bottled ones for chicken rice bought from supermarket or Asian grocers), fried shallots, a bundle of pandan leaves and 1 stalk bashed white portion of lemongrass. If using this style, let rice sit in the stock for half an hour before turning on the rice cooker. The rice will look paler than the one that has been fried in the method given above. It is also not as oily.

Chicken Soup for serving:
1 tablespoon Preserved Winter Vegetables, rinse briefly and squeeze dry. (If you don’t mind the initial pungency, no need to wash).
1 box Silken Tofu, cut into small cubes.
White Pepper Powder, to taste.
Salt, to taste.
Soup Garnishings:
Some Fried Shallots.
Some Cilantro Leaves, chopped.
Some Spring Onions, dice finely.

1. Heat the chicken broth that you have cooked the chicken in.
2. Add in the rinsed Preserved Winter Vegetables and boil till the vegetables doubled in size and the soup becomes infused with its saltiness and sweetness.
3. Remove the vegetables with a perforated ladle (you can leave them in if you like to eat them – I take them away as my children do not like).
4. Add in the cubed tofu and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
5. Garnish and serve hot.
Limes and Chillies Photo credit: Google Images.
Chicken Rice - chosen as food that best represent Singapore!
Boneless Hainanese Chicken Rice.
Chicken Liver and Gizzrds.