Nyonya Chicken Curry & Mango Kerabu

WS and i invited some friends around for a Malaysian-themed dinner on Sunday, spending most of the afternoon in the kitchen preparing our dishes. it was good fun, both the cooking and the hosting. food-wise, we went for a Malaysian-Chinese theme because we thought that it would be a new experience for our american/ german/cypriot friends and would touch upon WS’s cultural roots.

Nyonya Chicken Curry with Potato

Nyonya comes from Baba-Nyonya, which refers to Chinese immigrants who settled in Malaysia and Indonesia in the 15th and 16th centuries. (Also known as Peranakan Chinese people.) These ethnically Chinese settlers generally assimilated into the local communities, adopting Malay customs and speaking Malay – often at the expense of their own Chinese language abilities! ‘Baba’ and ‘Nyonya’ are loan words from other languages; Baba referring to these Peranakan gentleman, and Nyonya, to the ladies.

Nyonya curry is different to Malay and Chinese curries in the way that it is a little more diluted (hence less creamy), and that it makes use of ingredients like lime juice for sourness that lends an extra dimension to the heat of the chilli and ginger. I can’t really eat very spicy foods despite wanting to be able to stomach it (!) so I loved this curry, made with the help of the Ayam brand Nyonya curry paste and coconut milk. i have helped to make curry paste from scratch and wouldn’t be able to do so without a proper food blender!

Mango Kerabu (mango salad) pre-mixing

Now this, this, is a new favourite of mine. Mango Kerabu, aka The Best Mango Salad You’ll Ever Have. Sadly I only got a shot of this before we mixed it all together with the dressing, but ok, I’m going to make it soon so I’ll update this post at a later date.

Mango Kerabu is very similar to Thai Papaya Salad, which makes use of green papaya. So instead of papaya, you use unripe mango. (There weren’t any purely green mangoes at the supermarkets so I went for the firmest one I could find.) This is a fantastically cooling salad comprising of shredded carrot, cucumber, mango, shallots and coriander dressed with a mixture of lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, a little bit of fresh red chilli (chilli padi), and a dash of white pepper. Portions are easy: 1 of everything! (1 medium sized carrot, 1 cucumber – you can omit the watery seed core though, 1 mango, 1 +1 shallots – oops i lied, and 1 bunch of coriander leaves!) as for the dressing, i would experiment with the ratios and volumes but i suggest lime juice: fish sauce is in a 1:1 ratio, and the rest is to your personal taste. If you prefer the dressing to be more tart, then up the lime juice though I suggest you also add a little more sugar just so that the sour is balanced with the sweet.

all right this entry doesn’t do Mango Kerabu justice so i’m going to write up a post on it another time, with a better picture of the salad mixed! 🙂 in the mean time, has anyone else ever made Mango Kerabu before? what kinds of proportions did you use for the dressing?

Advertisements

Karaage Chicken (Japanese Style Fried Chicken)

Japanese-style deep fried chicken!

Karaage – Fried Chicken, Japanese Style!

Karaage is surprisingly easy; I always use pre-packaged seasoning to marinate the chicken pieces. I recommend the Nisshin brand (the powder is called ‘Nisshin karaage ko’), which is more than enough batter for about 1.5 kg of chicken.

Method

1. Chop 1.5 kg of chicken breasts or thighs into bite-sized pieces. You can also use chicken wings or drumsticks but I prefer ‘popcorn chicken’ without all of the bones.
2. In a large ceramic tray or bowl, coat chicken in karaage seasoning powder.
3. Let marinate for half an hour. In the meantime, set up a wire rack or baking dish lined with paper towels – you will put your fried chicken on this later!
4. Heat a wok of oil or deep bottomed pot. Oil will have to be at least 5cm deep in the wok/pot. Use low-medium heat.
5. When the oil starts to shimmer (you’ll be able to smell it once it gets very hot), carefully use wooden spoons or tongs to gently drop in the chicken. *The oil is VERY hot at this point so you need to take care not to make any splashes. Use wooden utensils that you are comfortable with as these will not conduct the heat as much!
6. Deep fry the chicken in batches. Because the chicken is in bite-sized pieces, it will not take very long to cook – when it turns a lovely golden brown colour and is firm if you press against it with tongs/chopsticks, it is probably cooked. Take one out and slice through it if you want to test it.
7. Put cooked chicken pieces on your paper towel-lined trays so that the paper absorbs excess oil. Let this cool for a good 15 minutes.
8. Karaage is fantastic served with just about anything! I love it with mayonnaise and a dash of lemon! Other ideas: Thousand Island dressing (just mix mayonnaise with ketchup!), tartar sauce, barbeque sauce, mmmmmm. 🙂

Enjoy!

Spaghetti Carbonara

my healthier take on spaghetti carbonara with spinach and smoked ham

everyone loves a good simple pasta. now i think something happened to me when i was around 22 years old because i suddenly started craving for cream-based sauces despite having grown up on bolognese and seafood tomato pastas. (i think this change coincided with me moving to England so maybe there’s something about this country that makes me crave for cheese and cream?)

anyway, spaghetti carbonara is a go-to of mine when i am feeling really lazy because it is quite easy to cook! you can whip it up in half an hour, no problem. there are tons of great carbonara recipes out there, all of which are essentially variants of the classic combination of: olive oil, garlic, pancetta, eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano (=Parmesan, the French name) cheese, and spaghetti. following a recipe is all well and good if you want to try to replicate exactly the standard taste. but i think that’s a bit boring so here’s my ‘healthier’ take on spaghetti carbonara!

—————————————————————————————————

SPAGHETTI CARBONARA RECIPE for 2 portions

Ingredients

– about 250 grams of spaghetti, 200 grams if you have a smaller appetite
– 4 cloves of garlic
– approx. 80 grams of pancetta OR sliced bacon pieces OR sliced ham, which is what i go for a lot of the time because i often have leftover ham in the fridge from sandwich-making
– salt and freshly ground black pepper
– half a yellow onion, minced
– spinach leaves, amount depends on how much veggie you want to add! i say 150 grams is about enough
– olive oil

for the sauce: 2 eggs + 200 grams (about 4/5 of a cup) of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano/’Parmesan’ cheese + a little bit of milk, about 1 T

Method

1. In a small bowl, beat eggs and cheese well. Mix in milk, add salt (1 teaspoon) and black pepper to the mixture. This will form the base of the sauce. Set aside.
2. Boil pasta in salted water – the salt lowers the boiling point of the water; i’m not sure if it actually affects the taste of the pasta – does anyone know?
3. At the same time, in a frying pan fry the pancetta/bacon/ham in a little olive oil on low-medium heat. Use more oil for ham and less for pancetta/bacon as the fat will be rendered!
4. On low heat, add onion and garlic to pan. Fry until fragrant.
5. Wilt in spinach to the mixture. Everything will be smelling REALLY good at this point – we’re almost there!
6. When the spaghetti is done (do a taste test; spaghetti is usually done in 11-13 minutes), strain it but keep the original pot under the strainer so you retain some of the hot, starchy pasta water. You will need a good 2 tablespoons of liquid – no worries if you forget to retain the water; you can substitute with milk.
7. Add spaghetti to your frying pan of garlic, bacon, etc. Make sure it mixes well.
8. Switch off heat. Now take the first bowl of your eggy-cheese mixture, and pour it into the frying pan. Add the starchy pasta water (or milk) to the pan. Gently mix the pasta and sauce mixture; the heat of the pasta will cook the eggs without scrambling them.**
9. Serve on hot plates. Add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.
10. Mmmmmmmmm :). Eat up!

***For those who don’t like the thought of raw eggs – don’t worry, the eggs WILL cook and if it makes you feel any better, i’ve never had problems with carbonara despite having a weak-ish immune system :P. The trick is to make sure the pan is hot even though it’s not sitting above a flame, and to thin out the egg-cheese mixture enough with milk and water so that it cooks very quickly in the pan.

Fried Rice – Simple and Oh So Yummy

Image

Sheila’s Simple Fried Rice

i cook this whenever i have small portions of leftover vegetables and meat.

a lot of people think that you can only cook good fried rice with leftover rice. (and by ‘good’ i mean fried rice where the grains are fluffy yet separated, and not clumped together.)

i seldom use leftover rice though as i find that the rice dries out significantly in the fridge. you can still use freshly cooked white rice: just lift the lid of the rice cooker (or pot) and let the steam escape. use a wooden spoon to ‘fluff’ the rice and get rid of some of the excess moisture, then let cool for about 20 minutes before adding to your wok to fry what will become well-textured rice!

Ingredients (for 2 portions)
– cooked white rice, 3-3.5 cups depending on how much of an addict you are to carbs
– eggs, 3x and beaten
– ham or cooked sausage/meat/char siu (Cantonese-style honey roast pork), 1 cup
– garlic, 3 cloves, minced
– spring onion, 3 stalks, chopped finely
– vegetable oil for cooking

for the seasoning: light soy sauce, oyster sauce or sticky/caramel dark soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, sugar, white pepper.

optional ingredients: prawns (6-8x), sliced carrot (1/4 cup), or broccoli if you are desperate to get some green vegetables in there!

Method:
1. heat wok on low heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat thoroughly
2. add garlic to the wok, stir fry until fragrant. if you’re using prawns, add these in at this point and stir fry with a little soy sauce.
3. on medium heat, pour in eggs, scramble. while eggs are still runny, add the cooked rice and stir fry.
4. season with soy sauce and oyster sauce (or dark soy sauce) in a 1:1 ratio. i suggest 1/2 tablespoon of each!
5. stir-fry the rice, ensuring that it is mixed well with egg.
6. add cooked meats and carrot/choi sum/kai lan. continue frying until everything is well mixed. add 1/2 teaspoon of white sugar – this will help to bring out the flavours of the vegetables.
7. sprinkle in sesame oil and spring onions. add salt and white pepper to taste.
8. serve hot!